Took advantage of the long weekend to try and get on top of my project. Still don't feel like I have a handle on it. After the last couple of weeks, I'll be happy if I can make it to Friday without having to travel to London again.


Yes. Yes, please.

Between the Resident Evil and Ace Attorney series I probably owe my soul to Capcom by now. This new game from Ace Attorney creator Shu Takumi (who also directed Dino Crisis 2) looks like it might just clinch the deal...


Wschod, another short film online

It's always pained me that so many great films by interesting film makers disappear into the ether, just because they're not feature length. So this new trend of short films being posted on the Internet after they've done the festival circuit is pleasing me no end - especially when it allows us to see gems like Wschód (East), a low-key, post apocalyptic story filmed inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone.

This is exactly the kind of science fiction I love - the kind that has a vivid, evocative setting, but that doesn't make the setting the focus, instead telling the story of those who live there. This thing's got atmosphere you can cut with a knife - and the simple, implicit storytelling totally hooked me.

Hat tip Twitch, of course.


Post 1000

So this is my 1000th post at Space Cat Rocket Ship, the blog with the slightly erroneous four word title that no-one knows quite how to space out or hyphenate.

The popular portrayal of a blog (at least by the newspapers that have so much to fear from them) is of a soapbox from which to try and inflict your views on the world; a sea of monologues readily available to all, but completely drowning one another out. I'm sure there are some people who have important things to say in particular niches who succeed in using their blog in just that way. I'm sure many more try, wonder why no-one reads their posts, and then give up.

Because I don't see a blog as a monologue. Even the most authoritative and well known blogs are clearly dialogues - their authors, commenters and communities all blurring together.

Space Cat Rocket Ship has kind of barrelled through the intertubes like the aimless rocket referred to in the header above. I first started reading blogs when my friend Disillusioned Kid began one of his own, and I clicked a few of the links in his sidebar. When leaving comments, I decided I wanted to be able to provide a space which would act as a kind of dynamic profile page, letting people know what kind of a person was visiting. I guess that's still the ethos behind this blog even now, as most of my posts here are fuelled by the desire to share something I think is cool and articulate why, or to post something creative that I've worked on.

I know some of you are interested in generating traffic to and/or monetising your blogs, but I'm quite happy knowing that a visitor coming to this blog for any one thing is probably going to leave disappointed after a while. Because, like I said, I see this place as a two way dialogue, and I like the fact that I'm just as, if not more interested in what you guys have to say.

So thank you to all my regular and irregular commenters, whether I first saw you commenting on Pinko Feminist Hellcat, read your Sunday Scribblings, found you through Blogging Against Disablism Day, grabbed your interest with one of my little freeware games, or just happened to be the landing pad for a random link clicking. Let's have another reunion at post 2000...


Thursday Comic

20th Century Boys, vols 2-4 - Naoki Urasawa

When Kenji was a kid, this wasn't what he expected the future to be like - running his family store, now a part of a national chain, while raising the baby his sister was unable to care for herself. No, Kenji had imagined a future of laser guns and an evil conspiracy to destroy the world - a detailed and fantastic future-history that he wrote down in a "Book of Prophecy" along with the rest of his childhood gang. Only, certain events are starting to seem rather familiar, and he's sure he's seen the symbol of this new doomsday cult somewhere before. Could it be that a member of his old gang is now actually trying to enact Kenji's absurd plans of global destruction?

I started reading this series on the back of a number of mentions from people who praised it highly, but did little to explain just what was so great about it, and I now find myself in the same position. Mystery, comedy, family drama, horror, science fiction, crime, action, period drama, epic, personal, all this and more. But more importantly, well characterised, well observed, well written, carefully plotted, and always intriguing you with new mysteries, even as others are solved when they've run their course. It's difficult to know just who to recommend 20th Century Boys to, except to say that this is a work of some skill and artistry, and you should definitely find out if it's for you.



Monday Movie: Evangelion 1.0

Half the world's population have been wiped out in a single cataclysm, and mysterious entities known as "Angels" are now trying to finish off the rest. Conventional weapons are useless against them, but an organisation called NERV has created a number of giant, armoured synthetic humans which can be piloted by a select few teenagers. Teenagers such as Shinji Ikari, who's already withdrawn and troubled before he's forced into violent confrontations with otherworldly monsters that leave him near death.

Conceived as a deconstruction of cartoon shows about kids saving the world in giant robots, Neon Genesis Evangelion acquired praise and cult status in the face of budget constraints and (at least according to legend) its creator turning on his fans. The first in this new series of four films, then, which aims to give Evangelion the visuals it deserves and a definitive version of its fragmented story, seemed like the perfect place for me to jump on the bandwagon.

Having said that, I can definitely see that this is a story perhaps better told in a more episodic format. This ninety minute film is dominated by a series of apocalyptic, edge-of-the-seat battles between Shinji and the angels, each one risking everything and bringing humanity to the brink. They're all extremely well done, but there's not that much space for a breather between them, and the human, deeply psychological story at the film's heart would definitely benefit from more low-key, everyday scenes to ground it.

Still, colour me impressed by what is deservedly a renowned classic of animation - an imaginative blend of biomechanical science fiction, pubescent angst and what looks set to be a Philip Pullman-style perversion of Christian mythology. Roll on Evangelion 2.0.


Look at Me

I'm playing Thief 2 on Windows Vista. IN YOUR FACE, Bill Gates.

(Got a little help from here.)


I've swapped the roles of these two characters back and forth a few times now.

I think I had it right to start with.


Monday Movie: The City of Lost Children

When a cult of one-eyed cyborgs decide to abduct the adopted little brother of circus strongman One and sell him to the evil genius Krank, they don't bet on One forming an unbeatable alliance with orphaned child thief Miette ("Crumb") and mounting a daring rescue. Then again, in their way stand not just the cyclops, but Krank's cloned brothers, Miette's criminal bosses (a pair of conjoined twins known as "The Octopus") and a number of highly-trained and deadly fleas...

Visually, La Cité des Enfants Perdu is breathtaking; conceptually it's bold and fearlessly quixotic; and even the most bizarre of its many characters and settings are easy to love. As an exercise in storytelling, it does fall short, cramming in too much too quickly, and allowing events to tumble forward with little sense of cause and effect. But if you're looking to be drawn into a vivid and fantastic alternate reality, this is quite the rabbit hole to get sucked into.


Not Over Yet

I'm willing to bet everyone in the UK had election burnout even before the polls opened, and it's not over yet. The Liberal Democrat's share of the vote increased slightly over the last general election, but because their support is spread over the whole country they actually lost a few seats in parliament. And yet, they're also the only party to emerge from the election with any power - not the power to rule, but the power to choose who does.

Given the huge gains made by the Conservatives, I think you could argue a Lib/Con coalition is 'the right thing' from a democratic perspective. Much as I hate David Cameron, I wouldn't hold it against the Lib Dems to take a piece of his government. What I would worry about is the longer term effect of the only truly progressive mainstream party getting in bed with the party of toffs and Daily Mail readers. In the next general election, might people then feel like the Lib Dems had nothing to offer anyone?

On a happier note, although I've stated before why I won't vote for the Greens myself, I think more left wing minority parties in parliament can only be a good thing, and I'm glad to see Caroline Lucas become the Green Party's first ever member of Parliament.



The polls close for the UK general election in a couple of hours. It should be no surprise who I voted for, but whatever the results, I'd be happy just to keep David Cameron out of Number 10.

I don't trust him with my rights. I don't trust him with healthcare, education or public transport. I know not to trust him with the nation's most vulnerable - who he's already attacked for knee-jerk votes. And I generally think he's a bigoted traditionalist who's succeeded at making other bigoted traditionalists feel like they're progressive and accepting.

Meanwhile, across the Channel, someone in my blogroll has something to say about what's happening in Athens.

Thursday Comic

20th Century Boys, vol. 1 - Naoki Urasawa

I picked this up based on its universal acclaim. There's a lot going on here, but the first volume seems to barely scratch the surface - and yet it's all so nicely handled that I'm really eager to see the rest of the iceberg.

I'm not going to say much about the series at this point, except that I'm definitely going to be picking up the next few volumes.


Yay Luther

Yesterday, if you asked me to name something starring Idris Elba that I was excited about, I'd have said Legacy. I don't really watch that much TV, and with the exception of the truly superlative (The Wire, The Shield, the new Battlestar Galactica - all shows that have ended, by the way) or the competently silly (Ugly Betty, Primeval) there's not really much on that I even like that much. So: the Beeb's new crime drama Luther. I watch it for Elba, and I'm already planning out in my head a negative review about how I wanted to like it, but...

So first of all, I see a lot of TV shows that try really hard to be cinematic and flashy and good looking. And pretty much all of them fail, and look all the worse for even trying. Except Luther, which, while it did occasionally manhandle me with the odd jump cut, is consistently beautiful, with wonderfully evocative photography of London streets.

Right, score one for Luther. Pretty. That's a plus. But none too bright, maybe? Well, maybe a bit. The plotting isn't as drum-tight as in, say, The Shield, but it works, and it does at least feed into its real strength: its characterisation, and its acting - especially Elba as the unstable, violent, brilliant, vulnerable and eponymous lead. In places where I wanted to doubt the show, Elba damn-well made me suspend my disbelief with his strong performance.

And when I wasn't doubting it, Luther felt fresh and dynamic. I was worried that this was going to be a formulaic detective show, firmly retreading old ground, a safe vehicle for its star, but it's actually more of a twisted take on the inverted detective story (as the writer explains here), where catching the criminal and solving the crime are less important than seeing the suspect enter a battle of wits with Luther.

Will episode 2 smooth the edges and maintain its stride? Well, I really bloody hope so. I'm always waiting and hoping for a British TV show to sweep me off my feet, and if I wanted to like Luther before, I really, really want to like it now.


So I used some of my muchly accumulated holiday time to take the last week off. I had intended to focus on being creative, but I think I kind of took a week off that as well. Still, it was nice to just relax and forget about everything.


"I want to fight you!"

Things start to get a bit strange for the fighter pilots of Cougar squadron, mercenaries fighting in a war between rival corporations, when their latest recruits turn out to be a group of eerie children. But it's only when two of these new pilots are shot down and killed that things become truly weird.

A spin-off from the Mamoru Oshii film that I've been dying to see for two years now, but which is only seeing a UK DVD release at the end of May, Sky Crawlers: Innocent Aces is an action-packed game of aerial combat that values thrills and excitement over simulation. Flying retro-futuristic propeller planes, there are no guided missiles, but instead a meter that fills as you fly close to an enemy, allowing you to trigger flashy manoeuvres that will put you on your target's tail. This is not only cool to watch, but also nicely places you in the role of a superlative ace.

The player's character is faceless, voiceless and defined only as male. As I wrote recently, this is par for the course in a lot of games that feel this is some sort of short cut to getting the player to identify with their role, but the silent protagonist of Innocent Aces is actually quite strongly characterised. His silence and his absence from the cut scenes mark him out as somewhat distant from the other members of his squadron. His mission objectives define him as an efficient, almost cold-blooded killer (although there is the option in one mission to show mercy to a fleeing, terrified enemy). And this is all intentional, as becomes clear once this character's role in the wider story is made obvious.

Missions are interspersed with traditionally animated cut scenes, which fit in nicely with the chatter during missions and seem right at home in the game. An example of how well these are handled is the way the first one doesn't crop up until after you've played the first short mission - something I wish every other game with cut scenes would do. Although these scenes occasionally display low production values, on the whole they're quite lovely, showing the gentle everyday lives of the pilots on the ground between the frantic action of the gameplay, with an emphasis on low angles that place beautiful cloudscapes in the background.

The music is an unconventional soup of folk, metal, electronica and ambient that manages to be atmospheric, thrilling or unobtrusive as the situation demands.

Innocent Aces runs through 17 diverse missions, without drawing anything out or retreading old ground with slight variations. It progresses through a relatively focused story, albeit with a few detours, and then stops when that story has been told. Now, I like the odd 80 hour epic as much as the next person, but there's also plenty of room for games that are short and sweet, a description that fits this one to a tee. Although, anything this fun and smooth to play naturally has a good bit of replay value, enhanced by the chance to unlock new planes, upgrades and achievements (in the form of medals).

My one criticism of Innocent Aces is that it seems like there's a deeply moving personal story in here that doesn't quite get told. Evocative themes of the beauty of flight and the exhilaration of air combat are conveyed through the pathological feelings of admiration and murderous impulse that one of the strange new pilots develops for the player character, but this keeps getting sidelined by a broader war story that has far less to offer. When it gets its priorities straight, Innocent Aces manages to be quite touching - but even when it doesn't, the game's still a bundle of fun.