Monthly Archives: April 2011

Zen Running

I just spent 40 minutes completing the Gall Blaster level on Bit.Trip Runner…

Note: this is not the Gall Blaster level. I took a screenshot of the wrong level...

…yet not once did I get frustrated, or want to give up. Despite my many clumsy failures, all the times I crashed into walls or fell down holes, I never got fed up of trying. And when I eventually completed it, I didn’t just reach the finish line in one piece. I 100%-ed it. I got all the gold bars, hit all the crosses, and I bounced across the finish line like a rainbow powered pogo stick. I don’t know of any other game where I would be willing to spend so much time on a single level only to not just beat it, but get a perfect score out of it (on the first complete try).

It’s the music, of course. Bit.Trip Runner is easily the best music game I’ve ever played. Everything about the game is informed by music. Every obstacle, every pickup and jumppad, is quantised to the music. Even without the feedback of hitting the crosses, or falling down a pit, you know when you’re doing well because every button press is in time with the music. And brilliantly, this extends to the design of the levels too. Every level is full of repeating patterns – bounce up these steps, hit the jump-pad, duck under the pipe, then do it again – structured like a great piece of music.

But the key thing, the whole reason that I’m willing to spend 40 minutes on a single level in this game, is that the music never stops. When you hit an obstacle and get zapped back to the start of the level, the music doesn’t pause or break. It carries on, barely even acknowledging anything’s happened. This is a game which makes you feel incredible when you complete a level – bouncing across the finish line with your rainbow cape trailing behind you – yet completing the level is almost beside the point. For a game as hard as this, it’s remarkably easy to fall into a zen state where failures just don’t matter. It’s the experience that counts, not the outcome.

Loads of pictures


In keeping with my vague tradition of posting tons of pictures here, you can see my abortive trip up the West Highland Way with my brother here.

Incidental details begging to be expanded into their own story; no.27

From Grimoires: A History of Magic Books:

Barrett, described in one newspaper as ‘a miniature-painter, and an amateur of chemistry’, was better known in his lifetime for his failed ballooning exploits than his knowledge of magic. Three times in the year 1802 he drummed up a large paying crowd to see him attempt a balloon assent[sic?], and three times he failed embarrassingly. Regarding his attempt at Greenwich, one reporter complained, ‘at no public exhibition do we ever recollect such a complete want of management as at Mr. Barrett’s Balloon,’ while at Swansea the platform collapsed as he began to address the crowd, damaging his balloon, and causing injury to a number of spectators. He departed to the sound of hootings and howlings from the crowd. Reporting on this third fiasco The Morning Chronicle stated, ‘we hope it will be the last. In short, he does not seem to possess a sufficient knowledge of chemistry.’

Smith claimed some of these conjurations and talismans were culled from ancient manuscripts in the possession of the Mercurii, a secret magic society of which he was a member – perhaps the only one. However, one was also attributed to George Graham, a friend of Smith’s, who was a disaster-prone occult balloonist in the Barrett mould.

Love this book 🙂 Disaster-prone occult balloonists…

To be tied together by a story and a promise

At the risk of another short post linking to someone’s blog, this story blew me away. I love her writing so much, and to think that it was partly born out of this story…


this is fantastic…

I don’t believe in the power of love

Boom Bip’s blue eyed in the red room isn’t a particularly exciting album. It’s nice enough for the most part, but it’s unlikely to set anyone’s heart racing. That is, apart from the last song.

Here, Nina Nastasia’s vocals turn a mild mannered new age-y track into something hard and true. The second verse:

I listen to your breathing
it’s steady and it’s slow
we lie close to the ceiling
I think of children in our home
but the quiet in the corners
stirs me from the thought
I might leave tomorrow
to feel the joy of a new start

There’s something fierce and unflinchingly honest to her lyrics, a refusal to retreat into platitudes or comforting half-truths. It’s there in the first verse, “we do not talk of feelings, and you know I can’t pretend”, and of course the chorus, “I don’t believe in the power of love”. It’s a love song that deals with reality rather than the soap opera melodramatics of so many love songs, and that makes all the difference. If only she’d featured on every track on the album…

EP Elaboration: Suzumiya

Last one! I didn’t mean to spend so long on these. Anyway, Suzumiya…

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