cesaro-04A very happy new year to all! I hope it has started as you mean it to continue, and long may you continue to visit and make this little community a fun one.

I thought a suitably joyous way to kick off proceedings in 2018 – and my 250th post, as it happens – would be to accept a blog award, something I haven’t done for some time. Just before Christmas, Dernhelm kindly nominated me for the Unique Blogger Award. If you want some awesome illustrations, a visit is heartily recommended!

My accompanying portrait doesn’t really have anything to do with the award, but after such an honour I thought I’d treat myself. The charming Cesaro, formerly known as Very Mysterious Ice Cream – which might be the best ring name ever – certainly qualifies on that score. He’s unique in his own right, for not only for is he the first Swiss wrestler to come to prominence in WWE, but he’s surely the only grappler with a vlog all about coffee – or, at least, he used to. Little appears to remain these days, but it looks like it was hilarious.

I now have to pick up to thirteen bloggers upon which to bestow this very same honour. It’s always so difficult! Obviously there are hundreds of candidates for this – I’d say all the blogs I visit are unique. In trying to be fair, I did generally go for people I haven’t shared on previous awards, so please forgive me if your blog shouldn’t appear.

Drum roll, please… your nominees are:

And the winner is …

Everyone! Yay!

Now, we come to the part of the evening where, sozzled though we may be, we have to soldier on and, for a laugh, answer the questions that Dernhelm has left for me. Lord knows I love interviews!

1 – IF YOU COULD DESCRIBE YOUR BLOG IN ONE WORD, WHAT WOULD THAT ONE WORD BE?
Panic!

2 – WHAT DO YOU LIKE TO DO IN YOUR FREE TIME (BESIDES BLOGGING)?
Panic! And then go for a walk.

3 – DO YOU READ BOOKS? ANY FAVOURITE GENRE(S)?
Panic! I fear we’ve been over this in previous award ceremonies. I struggle to read very often, and, at best, stick to verse. ‘Less is more’, and all that carry on. Most recently I picked up an anthology of War poetry, but such a context proved – perhaps unsurprisingly – to be a bit heavy, and I haven’t got very far. I should probably stick to nonsense.

As per the rules of this award, I have to now ask all nominees three questions of my own. I will keep mine pretty similar to those above, and because I’m feeling a bit dull, I’ll keep it strictly business:

  • Which one word do you think best describes your blog?
  • Is there a post you’re particularly proud of and would like to reshare?
  • Have you any grand goals for your blog/practice this year?

And, of course, the spirit of the award means nominees should also go ahead and nominate thirteen others, ask questions of their own etc. etc. As usual, there is no obligation to do that, or anything at all because I have said so. Go your own way! But indeed, my thanks once more to Dernhelm, congratulations to all nominees, and big thanks to all for your patience! See you at the after-party, which I was told is down there somewhere…

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N64-compilation2Post-Christmas Day and pre-new year, I often find myself revelling in old games – even more than usual. This time, WWF No Mercy, the last in an illustrious series of wrestling games made by AKI and THQ for the N64 between 1996 and 2000.

I haven’t played a new wrestling game in over a decade, so I’m not really in a place to judge them against today’s efforts, but I do know that I will still happily play No Mercy and, even back then, I found myself tiring of the successors and returning to it; I can totally understand why many still think it the best wrestling game ever made.

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Its strengths were abundant. There were storylines for every championship belt which ran on a clever branching path system, with wins and losses giving you different outcomes – some of these I’ve still yet to see after fifteen years, which speaks of its depth. Money earnt in this mode could be used to purchase extra wrestlers, arenas and other goodies. The game engine was simple to grasp, but very difficult to master, and rewarded strategy; even on easier difficulties, if you were caught being complacent or slow-witted, the computer opponent would capitalise and come at you with all they had, taking you to twenty or thirty minute wars. I remember finding this infuriating as a youngster, but now it just strikes me as perfectly aware of wrestling and the absurd drama that it is. It shouldn’t be a fair fight, and there should be a real sense of reward when you emerge the victor.

I also appreciated the custom creation suite, and how you could not only create your own superstars but edit the appearance of the in-game roster – this was something that wasn’t available in any other game at the time. It meant you could adjust their look in line with their real-life character. With emulation as it is, though, you can now take this a little bit further. Texture modding allows you to put pieces into the game’s graphics that weren’t there previously, meaning that you can effectively create textures for anybody. Having previously attempted a few this with the game’s predecessor, WrestleMania 2000 – of whom, Rick Rude, Andre and 1991 Undertaker stand at the head of this post – I thought I’d have a go with No Mercy now. I found it quite tricky mapping and aligning the textures correctly, since they are, of course, wrapped around the body and distorted accordingly, but I think I’ve finally started to get the hang of it.

Here are just a couple, firstly for “The Model” Rick Martel:

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And next up, stand back, there’s a Hurricane comin’ through!

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Needless to say, there are people who have taken this much, much further than just modding a few faces and outfits. Many have produced entire rosters of superstars, along with the according arenas and sound effects to transform the very much 2000 No Mercy into something quite different – be it the WWF of the eighties, WCW or a pack of movie superheroes and villains. I’m sure people will be playing with this for as long as the game endures.

The aforementioned WWF eighties mod did grab my attention – the HD graphics lifting the visuals, and the passion of its creator is evident – it’s great fun to play!

wrestlefest-2While we’re talking about wrestling and the classic era: I had a go at some bonus superstars for WrestleFest, too – two Stings and a Bret Hart. As fun as the N64 frolicking was, it was much more relaxing to sit and put some pixels together!

snowglobe-snowmanWell, when the weather just doesn’t want to play ball insofar as white stuff, what else can you do but pick up a miniature world, shake it vigorously, and give them the gift of a blizzard? I don’t actually recall many of the things in our decorations box, though I do vividly remember one year receiving one as a present; predictably, it was a windmill, covered in pastel colours, battery-powered and sharing the space with what appeared to be polystyrene balls. Its base was inscribed with the words, “Marry Christmas”. I enjoyed it, despite the demands!

Anyway, here are a few I’ve tentatively put together; with time short, they’re not quite as extravagantly populated or decorative as I originally planned – not even a windmill found its way inside! – but ultimately I think simplicity works in their favour. Glass is always a pain (ha ha… except it’s not a pane) for me, but this actually turned out relatively well. You can see through it.

The snowman, who seems to have found his way from Mill Cottage to inside that particular globe, was sourced from here.

snowglobe-treeAnd, a bonus for a laugh… will you start the snow, please! It’s time to go tooooo the Crystal Snowme! If I’d seen one of these in the shops, I’d have pestered and pestered my mother to buy one – just as I would today. Someone, do a better job and make it happen.

snowglobe-crysIt looks like things are going to be rather busy – to say the least – as we count down to the big day, so I’m not sure if there will be any real time to make stuff until afterwards. In that case, I am going to take this opportunity to say that, if you are celebrating this holiday season, I hope you have a wonderful, peaceful time of it. Merry Christmas!

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A Sunday night quickie. I’ve had this sitting around since October and somehow forgot to post it – seems we’re a little late to the church!

With it being that time of year, I thought I’d throw it in now, and, as a bonus, go from spring-like bloom to the cloak of a silent night – no snow yet, it seems… but that’s the story of my life. I’m always a sucker for the transformative effect of some simple overlays – Photoshop for the win, as they say.

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There’s still something special lingering about these Sundays in the run up to Christmas, perhaps the only time of the year the Sunday feeling is welcome. It was when the excitement went up a notch, with school almost over and the tree starting to go up – always a momentous occasion, as I’ve touched on before. If Christmas festivity is akin to the stages of grief – and how jolly romantic an analogy that is – I certainly make progress at this point.

Traditions being what they are, I’ll be doing the tree this evening, so I’d best be off to the cupboard and see what’s there to dust off and untangle. Have a peaceful night!

nellyfurtado-6The product of another earworm, after our last encounter with Darren Hayes of Savage Garden. I think there’s something to be said for turning this into a regular thing, especially if they’re new or nostalgic; it seems a productive and worthy use of a sometimes irritating thing!

This time, we have Nelly Furtado – hopefully if you know the woman you’ve already sussed that. It’s actually the fifth or sixth attempt with Ms. F – the previous lot, each attempting to be wittily faithful to Loose, are not for the faint-hearted, certainly not especially flattering. So, it was back to a more detailed approach – for now, anyway. Having started to become a little jaded with the portraiture as is, it’d really be nice to step back and try and mix things up a little next year… we’ll see.

Anyway, back to Nelly. I can’t claim to be an uber-fan, so I’ll just witter on and see where this goes (as if that’s in any way different to the usual!) I’ve been aware of her for a long time now, mainly because of the widely-played I’m Like A Bird which speaks very much of 2000, but it wasn’t until Loose arrived in 2006 that I took real notice. I’d like to thank Nelly for keeping me company around that time, when I was at home for a fortnight with labyrinthitis; I played Say It Right and All Good Things whenever my head was going to let me enjoy them. As a bit of a hashtag born-in-the-wrong-decade throwback before it was cool, my playing something from the charts was telling in itself.

There’s lots of hip-hop punch, but there are also moments of sensitivity which made an attractive, moody cocktail to teenage me. It’s probably one of my favourite albums of the 2000s (though, admittedly, that is a small pool in which to swim – again, hashtag supercool throwback). Having happened across her again recently, the hits from back remain lively and fresh, belying the fact that they’re now over a decade old. They are said right, if you want to be really clever. Go Nelly.

Yes, it’s what you’ve long clamoured for – and that’s a nine-letter word.

A return visit to this Countdown malarkey (only eight, but a darn good word) is, admittedly, normally code for having a thirst to create but a total drought of practical (nine letters) ideas – it’s often the way, or vice versa. Had I the skills before, though, I probably would have gone straight to this one, rather than chip away at the very wooden predecessor. It was a bit of a nightmare with curve upon curve, and troublesome splines all over – a lot of the successes came from just winging it, but I guess that’s part of the fun. I’m pretty pleased with what I eventually coaxed out of the chaos, and I’d hope it’s all the better for the time that’s passed since my last go.

cd94f4-1A retro look for the early nineties, the show went truly overboard (nine!) with lights – hundreds of the things, in strands strung from the clock in chevron-esque ‘wings’, which I always presumed was a grandiose (again!) nod to producer Yorkshire TV’s logo-mark, but I could have overthought that. They would even blink when somebody scored the ultimate goal of a nine-letter word – a reward whose manner probably says all that need be said of Countdown.

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With all that flash and the show being at its peak during the nineties, it’s probably the definitive Countdown look for many; it’s certainly the one in which the warmest memories are wrapped up for me, spending half an hour each day in the company of avuncular pun-master and sartorial deckchair, Richard Whiteley and, in the perfect TV/dinner partnership, a bowl of Alphabetti spaghetti. (I think it’s this wistful nostalgia that tricked me into thinking that stuff tasted good!) I’m moved to think of my grandfather excitedly telling me that Countdown was about to start and sitting me on his knee, or asking if I managed to outdo the contestants last time. The answer was always no, but he knew that one day I would figure it out, and, sure enough, I did! Appropriately for a game dominated by a big clock, Countdown over its thirty-five years has forged an affinity with time like no other TV show I can think of – both my grandfather and Richard are now much-missed memories, but they come to mind whenever the music hits. They were happy days.

There are probably several nine-letter words in there.

cd94F2All this being said, it figures that it jarred somewhat when the show was given a makeover, but the flowing locks live on as that thing of unmatched beauty, the victor’s teapot, which takes its form even today.


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I should put this in the Timepiece series – yes, the one I started in September and haven’t added to since; a much-needed kick up the arse for it, let’s hope it works! And it’s not like it’s unjust. The nation can continue without Big Ben, but I wouldn’t fancy our chances if the Countdown clock were silenced, would you!? Long may the clock tick.

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It is now acceptable to talk about Christmas. November departed with snow – just a dusting, but it doesn’t take much for me to get overexcited!

What with that and the mounting urgency to get some Christmas cards sorted, I found my way to this. There isn’t much more in the way of rationale, but who needs one at this time of year? The main attraction for me was the sky, and in fact I didn’t really intend for the landscape to even be there, or at least not one so populated – it rather pushed its way in. I find churches difficult and often frustrating from reference, so dreaming one up was perhaps both ludicrous and inspired (aha spire). The snowy conifers more than make up for any torment the tower caused.

After Thursday’s tease, I’m hoping that, just one day this winter, I’ll have an excuse to get the scarf and gloves out.