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A night at the Ministry of Sound

Inspired due to certain recent events, I was motivated to go out on the night some more (up from ever at all). Namely, nightclubbing - I don't like alcohol so bars and pubs are really not my thing for partying. So last Friday I went to Ministry of Sound, my nightclub of choice. When I say "of choice" I don't mean to imply that I go there often, in fact I had only been clubbing in London once before, but MoS is definitely the best club for trance music, my favorite genre.

So I went there, and it was first and foremost to listen to the music and dance, which was great. But of course such outings are also an opportunity to experience some of the more naughty aspects of nightlife. Well... in my case more "observe" than "experience". So yesterday, when I was dancing on the club (dancing - I use this term loosely :P ), on one occasion there was a women on the edge of the dance floor, dancing alone for some time. She was average looking, more to the good-looking side than not, (but not so good as to be out of my league, like some other insanely hot women there). I found myself wondering what it would be like if I were to approach her whilst dancing and what her reaction could be. Maybe dance together for a while, in a relaxed, uncompromising way? Maybe dance, but in a more racy, lewd way? Grinding?
Of course all such ideas remained in my head... if I was an alpha male I might have approached her (or other women in similar situations), but I am far from that. There is still a lot of dorkiness within me (as well as naivety and inexperience), to so much as try something like that. That whole universe of unknown possibilities (be they a negative or positive reaction) is daunting to me. Even if it was a girl taking the initiative to approach me I would likely stutter in movements and have a rain of awkwardness cast over me. Mainly due to my character, but also compounded by the fact that trance music, in its electronic and techno-like essence, does not lend itself naturally to partner dancing, sensually or not. (unlike other music genres, like Latino and Brazilian ones).
It is unknown to me if this will ever improve, as it seems quite hard. But on the other hand, especially considering the total number of times *ever* I went out to dance in a club (very few), there has been some significant evolution... there was a time at a younger age that even just dancing on my own would take a huge effort of courage to overcome the shyness. (and it still would be so with the more intimate Latino/Brazilian music genres: Salsa, Merengue, Mambo, etc.)

This night out also marks the first time I was groped in a nightclub, 3 times in total... That would have been great if not for the fact that it was likely guys who did it all 3 times. First one a squeeze on my left pectoral and chest, second one a pinch on my upper arm, third one someone putting his hand on the side of my hips, for half a second or so... :S
I have no experiences or other stories to relate this to, to see if it happens that often or not, but considering this being London, I would not be surprised if it was the case...

Moving aside from lascivious things now, another happening yesterday is me being asked for drugs, also 3 times, lol. The first one was quite funny (in my naive noobness). A guy, in a group of 2 guys and 3 women (all in very early 20s or less), we are all dancing, and at certain  point, actually right after the climax of cool trance segment, he turns to me and asks "<something> <something> ecstasy...". I didn't quite get the whole sentence, since besides the loud music, he had a bit of an foreign accent. I thought he said "It's like ecstasy!" or something, considering the moment it was said in the music. So I said something like "Yeah, it is!"... Then I ask where is he from, he says Lithuania. I go back to dancing as the music is building up again. Thirty seconds it dawns on me "oh wait, Ecstasy!", LOL! (when the music gets less loud a minute or so later, I ask him, to clarify, if he was asking me if I had Ecstasy, and yeah, he was. So I explain I misunderstood him, I don't have Ecstasy to sell. Nor had I taken Ecstasy, cause he asks me that afterwards, lol)

So, yeah, that was my night at the Ministry of Sound. Still on my plans, when I next have the time, is to go to an actual psy trance rave/club/event. (I'll need to inquire where to find one, as these events are less common, and I wanna go to a good one, with a good DJ)

Gruppa Krovi - Blood Type

My blood type, pinned on the sleeve.
And my number and rank, there on the sleeve.
Wish me luck in the battles to come,
Wish me, now, please,

Not to lay there in the grass,
Not to lay dead in the grass,
Wish me luck in the battle,
Wish me luck... in the battle.


It's at the same time awesome that Stewart and Colbert did this rally, while also worrying that America got to such point where such a rally was called for... :S

Anyways, here are some of my favorite signs from Jon-Stewart/Stephen-Colbert 's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear!
Full gallery here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/10/30/the-funniest-signs-at-the_n_776490.html

This one reads: "Let's agree to disagree. And then have sex." I couldn't agree more :D
I went today to the first day of the Sci-Fi London Oktoberfest Film festival, to see "Technotise: Edit & I", a cyberpunk Serbian animation movie, based on a comic book of the same name. It was quite nice, it draws a lot from Ghost in the Shell, both in plot and visually (in fact there are quite a few scenes that seem like a direct homage, very similar to GITS).
A few comments after having seen the movie (although not very much related to the plot itself): 
  * Abel, the autistic guy (pictured right), looks a lot like a cross between Spike of Cowboy Bebop and Shaggy from Scooby Doo, lol.
 * I want a hoverboard!! So cool!, it's sorta of like a snowboard that you can ride everywhere :D :D And upside-down as well.
 But yeah, good movie, I might order the comic book for that one.

I also got a sneak peek of several Starcraft II trailers. Looking mighty impressive, although there were a few things that worried me:
  * WTF was Sarrah Kerrigan "hadouken" like attack on her fight with Zeratul? AFAIK she (nor anyone else in the SC universe for that matter) has that kind of powers. Telepathy and telekinesis yes, but not fireballs...
  * Why the hell does Zeratul go to invisibility with a puff of smoke? WTF? That doesn't look very technological.
I'm still keeping my fingers cross so that Starcraft II story won't suck...
  * Wasn't Sarrah Kerrigan black? Or mulatto and dark-haired at least?  Could have been my mistake though, do judge yourself. Just a curiosity, not something that bothers me though.

PS: I got a very visible and major SC II spoiler on the Wikipedia entry for Sarah Kerrigan. FUCKDAMNIT! :(

Testing twitterfeed....

Alright, twitterfeed looks pretty cool, lets see if this works...

And my life sucks again...

It seems my back pain has returned, and is here to stay. :( It has been happening gradually for a few months now, but in the beginning it wasn't that bad, and I was kinda hoping it was only temporary. But now because of it I've stopping going to the gym, dance classes, and some other exercise activities, and even just sitting in a chair is uncomfortable, especially for long periods of time. It's very much like before my operation. So, yay. NOT! :(

In other news, the noise in my room has been bothering me more (that's the noise from the busy street outside http://daiphoenix.livejournal.com/19952.html). I guess because since winter is gone, there are more people and cars on the street, so its more noticeable. Because of that, I don't see myself liking staying here for that long, so I've decided to look for a new place to live. This was actually roughly 3-4 weeks ago, and ever since I've been looking for new places, either rooms in a flatshare, or renting whole flats to start a new flatshare. But unfortunately (in part since I'm being a bit picky about the new place), it's being very hard to do that. Especially because, in the case of renting whole flats, due to tenancy laws, and the way estate agents operate here, it is extremely rare for a person to be allowed to rent a whole flat, and then sub-rent the rest of the rooms as you see fit. Instead, you need everyone for the flatshare beforehand, so that every tenant is signed on the contract. But if you don't know have friends or other people you know as flatmates beforehand to form the flatshare, and instead do it with strangers, there might be several sorts problems, and you can't just kick someone out if you see fit. So I'm unsure what do with regards to this, *sigh*.

So yeah, my life sucks again. :(

Heh, with all the good fortune I had in 2009, I was fearing something bad was gonna happen, and well, here it is. If I wasn't a rational person, I'd say fate had it in for me. My hope on the short term, is that if I do find a nice new place, I would sleep a bit better again, and maybe that would help by back issues. And also I hope that throwing large amounts of money at this, might help me find some doctor that know whats wrong, and how to fix it properly. But I'm not counting on it...

Stargate: Galactica

I've been watching the new Stargate series, and I gotta say, I'm hooked! My first impression was that it seemed like a half-baked spinoff, with second-rate actors, nothing more than a cheap imitation of a certain other gritty sci-fi series... But I gotta say it has been holding well so far, and I'm actually enjoying it a lot, perhaps even more than SG: Atlantis.

But I don't know how long my affection will last though, because I can already see indicators of stupid plot elements... so I fear it will trainwreck just as bad as Battlestar Galactica did. Well, maybe not as bad as Galactica, but still I think it will derail or wither down into crap. I can only hope it lasts as long as possible.

Some other miscellaneous comments (as of episode S1E13 - Faith) :

 * I wished the series didn't have the communication stones. It's a cheap plot device, and whenever the stones are featured the story is just stupid and full of unrealistic stuff. Why worry so much about Rush being the only genius scientist on board when you can use the stones to bring any of the brilliant scientists back at Earth (or elsewhere in the universe) to help out?? And having sex with someone while using the stones? Hello...?!? It's not your body, doing that is tantamount to rape. I wish they just didn't have the stones, which would also have the added benefit of severing ties with the rest of the Stargate universe, which for SG: Universe, I think might be a good thing. (characters from the rest of the Stargate universe might not fit well in this series)
 * Amazing soundtrack, very reminiscent of Vangelis and Blade Runner. Remember the episode where Destiny dived into the star? Breathtaking music and visuals!
 * Second Lieutenant Vanessa James perky and nipply boobs are just way too big for a combat soldier :(  She is just very unrealistic as a Marine. If they wanted to make such an obvious fan service Tits & Ass character, why the frak did they do it as one of the soldiers?? Such character could easily have been one of the many civilians... :S
 * The series may be even more of a copy of Battlestar Galactica than I first thought (that is, more than just the gritty style)... this could be either bad, good, or even both... we'll have to see.
* Did you know that the actor who plays Everett Youth (the military leader) is Portuguese born, from the Azores?... :P
This is a game memoires for Prince of Persia 2: The Shadow and the Flame. I played it when a kid, on a 386 PC, and it was a game I loved thoroughly, and definitely one of those that marked my gaming childhood.
So, because of that, I decided roughly 3-4 years ago to go down the memory lane and replay this game, and it was after recently finishing the replay that I decided to write this memoir entry. Now, the game itself is not that big, but the replay took a long time to finish due to several reasons. First, a technicality: making the game run in Windows XP with Soundblaster sound and not a PC speaker (the game is from the DOS era). That was actually fairly difficult, and I almost gave up and was instead thinking of playing the game in an old computer, but eventually I did manage to find a driver software that correctly emulated the old SoundBlaster sounds cards (took me more than a year to get to this point). Second, at some point I lost my saves due to some disk backup problems or something, and had to start from scratch, so there was a long hiatus until I decided to play again. Then on my second run I got all the way to the final boss, but then went into another hiatus because I couldn't figure out how to defeat him... even though it was not my first time playing!
But anyways.

Prince of Persia 2 was a really amazing game. Compared to Prince of Persia 1 (which was considered a good game, and which I also liked) PoP 2 was simply one level beyond. The first time I saw the game was in a 486 computer in one of my neighbors house, and I was dazzled. The game had amazing graphics for its time, they looked like actual photos or paintings (in was the 16-bit era, there wasn't much photorealism then). And as I went on playing, I was even more pleased. There was great diversity throughout the game in both levels, enemies, and puzzles. Level-wise there were palace rooftops, caverns, forgotten ruins, temples, dungeons. And unlike PoP 1 they were not just the same kind of graphic tiles with just a different colors, no, all of these levels had not only their own graphics, but their own kinds of traps, hazards, as well as enemies (like skeletons, snakes, wraiths, soldiers/guards), all of which acted differently. And even though the basic gameplay mechanics of PoP 2 were the same as PoP1, based on tiles, the way the levels were constructed in many cases looked a lot more natural and realistic than just a rectangular matrix of tiles (look at the first level for example, in the picture above). The puzzles were also more frequent, varied, and challenging, from the normal gate and floor button tile-based puzzle to the rarer special level-ending puzzles who where more challenging but quite well devised. So the gameplay was always fun and varied. And all of this, the levels, the background graphics, the puzzles, all of it integrated nicely with the underlying story of the game. For instance, I'll never forget the moment I figured out the cliff puzzle at the end of the lost ruins levels. I spent a couple hours trying to pass that part, until I realized that those platforms and structures that blended so naturally with the background and environment, might actually be there for a practical reason...
Oh, and the same thing with the music! I cant forget that. PoP2 had this beautiful central Arabian theme that was used in the cutscenes, and also several different variations of it, were cued-in in special events or locations during a level. In other situations you had other fine music tracks to add to the feeling of the game. And it sounded great even on PC speaker, a technical feat few PC games accomplished.
Prince of Persia 2 was just beautiful and great in all aspects of a game.

Also, a few comments on the newer Prince of Persia games. I eventually played Prince of Persia - Sands of Time, which was a good game, I liked, but it wasn't particularly memorable. I think the transaction to a more action-focused game, in detriment of the platforming and puzzle aspects, make it quite a different style of game. But I'm not even sure one could really bring the original Prince of Persia style of games to the modern times in a sensible way, maybe it only worked in the classic era. In either case, Sands of Time had a good background story, soundtrack and great, luscious environments and graphics, so that remained there.
On the other hand, as for the next games in the series, given this, I didn't even bother playing them, so I left it that...

Game Memoires: Xenogears

At last, I recently finished Xenogears (a PS1 RPG). I say "at last" since it has been more than 3 years(!) since I began playing this game. I started playing it after having finished Suikoden II, and I took so long to finish it due to a combination of having very busy periods with school and work, and also some long interruptions where I played other games. In fact, I played Oblivion during this period, as I yearned for an RPG with a more western,item&stats gameplay style, which, if I recall correctly, is the only instance where I played more than one RPG at once (ie, started one, without having finished the previous one).

Xenogears is quite a unique RPG story-wise, since it deals heavily with elements of psychology, society and humanity, religion, meta-physics, transcendence, etc. (as well as the usual staples of love, friendship, companionship), and there are very few RPGs like that, apart from its spiritual successors, the Xenosaga series. I am very fond of stories with such themes (my favorite movies are a good indication of that: Akira, 2001 Space Odyssey, Ghost in the Shell, etc.), and that is why after I learned about Xenogears, I decided to play it instead of Final Fantasy VII. Well, not "instead" but rather "before".

Aphel Aura -  Shevat sky citySo, in general, I found the game good, but not excellent. Part of this would be because I just didn't find the story to be really excellent overall, despite dealing with themes I find interesting. I can't say anything more concrete than that, as there wasn't any specific thing I found that was bad or that I disliked with the story. In the whole there just wasn't really good or remarkable moments, like for instance, the FF6 opera scene. (The Aphel Aura sky city chapter comes pretty close, but still...).
Now, part of it, I suspect, might have been due to translation issues. I have read in some other reviews that the translation wasn't the best. I don't know exactly what the problems with it where, but sometimes in the scenes with heavy dialogue, I did feel that the conversation was sometimes a bit strange or loopy. If that was because of translation issues or not, I don't know, but it certainly is possible, and Xenogears has *exactly* the kind of complex story and dialogue that really needs a spot-on translation, otherwise it gets really messed-up.

The other thing I didn't like (although to a lesser degree), was the gameplay, which I found quite dull. The non-combat/exploration part of the game is extremely linear, even for a japanese RPG. Except in a very few moments in the game, there is only one place that you can go to that is new or has new stuff.
More importantly, the combat part of the game was quite dull as well. Even though there are two fairly different combat modes, normal and mech, and there is great variety in melee attacks, magics, and abilities, there is very little actual strategy involved (again, even for a japanese RPG), such that instead of trying different attacks in different battles, usually one ends up doing the same melee attack over and over again (that attack being the one that deals the most amount of damage in the least time). That's because, even though some magics or abilities may deal more damage and be more effective than other more basic attacks, the *animation* for such magics is often so long, that it takes more time (in real life time, not gameplay time) than for example, doing two or three normal attacks - which combined do more damage than the single magic/ability attack, often even for magic users! So, one chooses a technically less effective strategy simply because it ends the battle sooner in real time. And given that is very cheap to heal characters, it is no problem to follow this less effective strategy. Only on boss battles do you have to be more careful, and even then, only on later bosses is the battle hard (or tricky) enough that you have to think of an alternate strategy other than just have everyone do melee attacks.
The RPG stats gameplay is also very bland. You almost always have money to buy most of the new weapon and armor upgrades when they become available, and throughout the game (except perhaps near the very end of the game) there are very few special items or weapons that give a significant edge in combat, as well as related side-quests.

Now, just to be clear, I thought the combat was *dull* but not particularly annoying or boring, and there is a slight difference. For some reason I was less annoyed with random encounters and all that stuff than in some other RPGs (maybe it was because combat was less frequent, I'm not sure). But rather the gameplay felt a little bit less than a game, and more like an interactive story, or book (which perhaps also contributed to me taking so long to finish the game).

One more thing I would like to say, is that the story is also quite complex in terms of plot elements, interactions, and its rather intricate array of characters and factions. Most games have one or two "bad guys/factions", at least at each given point during the game, but Xenogears is a whole different thing. For the most part of the game, there is something like 2/3 main nations on the world, plus another 2 nations on the sky, 2 different religious organizations (unrelated to the nations), some instances of appearances of demonic mechs wiping out whole armies, and for the most part of the game, you have little idea of what is the origin of these factions, and how they relate to each other. Same is true for characters, there are several different groups of antagonist characters, some of them you have a basic idea of which faction they are associated it, but for others (like Wiseman or Grahf) you have no idea at all who they are related to, for a long portion of the game. In fact some of them appear to be unnafilliated and act on their own, even though they are quite powerfull and interfere in the affairs of whole nations and armies! Add to that complexity the history of the world itself and of a few extinct factions and characters who lived a long time ago.
To literally illustrate my point, let me show you this:

These are the notes I made while playing. And that's just the main page, there are two more pages (not as full though). Yeah, that's Xenogears for you! Although to be fair, I had those big periods of time were I didn't play the game, so I forgot things more easily, and it was more important for me to keep notes.

So, in conclusion, I didn't dislike Xenogears , it was good, better than average for console RPGs. But somehow it could have been better, it didn't fully live up to its ambitious expectations. So that's it, I'll leave with a nice AMV video for it: (minor spoilers)

And if someone happens to be interested, here is a nice article about Xenogears:

Journal: Too good to be true...

When I first saw my new room when doing viewings in past November, I was quite impressed with how lucky I was to find such a large, nice room in a flatshare, in a nice house, at a quite reasonable price! I though it was quite good, but not to the point of "too good to be true". That has changed unfortunately, as now I find this room is not as good as I initially thought. :(
Due to my sleeping woes, my main concern in a flatshare has always been noise during the night, and so I was quite weary of noisy flatmates, something that troubled me more than twice in the past, and made my life almost miserable. Well, these new flatmates are quite good actually, but I realize now other problems I didn't though of initially. My room is in the ground level, next to a busy road (it's a main road). Even having two windows (not double glazing, but actual two windows in each window "frame", one old, another new), its still somewhat noisy at night, and I need earplugs to sleep. The earplugs do bring the noise down a lot, but it is annoying to have to use them, sensation wise. Plus I wonder how it will be in the Summer, as I like to open my window to air and cool the room (even here in Britain). On this room I won't be able to do that.

Plus my upstairs neighbors like to throw some occasional parties, sometimes starting as late as 3pm!! (like last Saturday), which I can hear as if it was in the next room in my flat, due to the poor sound isolation in this building. This stuff is extremely annoying, and I hate when people are inconsiderate like this, but at least there is some hope in trying to talk to the building management about this (I'm not the only neighbor upset), or the local borough Noise Team. But as for the noise in the road and the sidewalk, well, there's is not much that can be done...

As another bad luck situation, and perhaps quite more serious than the room one, is that since the beginning of January my eyesight suddenly started to get worse (on the distance). I'm gonna see an optician/ophthalmologist, and I hope its not too serious, and maybe even just temporary? (not likely :-(  )

It's "funny": November last year, I thought I had been so very lucky (with the continuous profits from my "gold farm/mine", and also this ^^), that I started to fear something bad would happen to me. And now it begins to look so...h