Friday, December 22, 2006

Music 2006

There was me thinking I could get away with not doing another blog post until after the holidays, but nooooooooo. The usual random discussion with The American turned to best songs of the year, then - as I am quite the superficial bugger - the finest videos. So may I present to you, thanks to the glory of Youtube and Google Video, my favourite tunes and videos of 2006 in no particular order. I promise to keep it... reasonably limited. Hold on!

The Gossip - Standing in the way of control Damn. Just... damn. Possibly the song with the most soul of the year.

Justice vs Simian - We Are Your Friends Yes, I know the song's a couple of years old, but it was put out this year, and the video led to Kanye West making an arse of himself at the MTV Europe Awards. Cracking song, which saw much shouting while drunk.

Jamie T - If You Got The Money Still relatively unknown despite having a few singles out. It's a toss up between this and another of his fine offerings "Shiela". Both are good.

CSS - Let's Make Love (Listen to Death From Above) From one of my favourite albums of the year (which you must go buy NOW, if only for "Patins"), I mentioned this song a few months back. Fully aces. Still not sick of it.

Camera Obscura - Hey Lloyd (I'm Ready To Be Heartbroken) Winsome Scottish Indie Pop FTW! Just plain lovely stuff.

Guillemots - Trains to Brazil I think, after much consideration, that this is my favourite song of the whole year. It's just so full of hope, and the video is really quite lovely. Also, please can I have the (double) bass player for Christmas, please? Ta.

Elbow - Station Approach I have to have at least one bunch of mates in my list, and as their latest album came with a DVD with videos for each song, there's quite a choice. This is the opener to the Leaders Of The Free World album, and sums up everything I love about Manchester. For another great Elbow video, check out the one for the title track.

Thom Yorke - Harrowdown Hill One of the more emotive songs of the year. Bloody good.

Fedde le Grand - Put Your Hands Up For Detroit Seriously, one of the finest songs of the year. Dunb as hell video, but the tune is catchy like a spider's web.

Muse - Knights of Cydonia Huge, silly, overblown - typical Muse, it seems! The video doesn't really fit the song, but no matter: Cydonia is such a massive song, it still shines through.

Actually, that's not bad - ten songs, all crackers in their own right. Agree with my choices? Don't agree at all? Let me know :D

Oh, and (again) Happy Holidays!

Labels: ,

Thursday, December 21, 2006

One down, Two to go...

And there it is - one whole term as a teacher completed. I am shocked as to where it's all gone, pleased to note that I have survived it, and amazed to see that I feel I have... I dunno... changed, I think. I feel a lot more confident in my abilities, which is a quite obvious thing to state. When the term started I'd had very little experience of teaching, while now I can happily stand in front of a class and freestyle for an hour on several random subjects. I am happier in myself, even though I am still prone to the usual days when the big black dog comes to call.

Best of all, I can handle groups of people (especially strangers) much better than I used to be able to, which is probably the thing I am most pleased about. The past couple of years have seen me - for no reason I can fathom myself - become even more intoverted than I was before. My self belief shrank to virtually nothing, but now... I feel like it's coming back - even if it's only in tiny steps. But tiny steps are a good start.

There are still a few things to deal with. I still can't take praise from most people. My head teacher insists that I am an asset to the school, but I still think I'm just a doofus who shows up every morning, messes about, and somehow still manages to get called a teacher. The kids (not just in my class) were up in arms that I wouldn't be back until after next half-term as I am apparently "The Best Teacher In School" (according to my new mug one of them got me for Christmukkah). Most people would say "Yay for me", but I just want to run to the nearest corner... like I say, something to deal with - and there's still two terms to get that sorted.

As for now though, it's time to let my brain relax and do nothing for a couple of weeks. A few games, a bunch of movies, plenty of food, and the odd curmudgeonly roar of "Bah, Humbug". Compliments of the season, lovely readers. See you after Turkey Day.


Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Wah Wah Wii Wah

Well, it's taken a while, but finally - a few impressions on the newest and shinyest toy I own, my lovely Nintendo Wii! It's a small little thing, the size of a decent hardback, but is of a surprising weight. Currently sitting next to my archaic TV (with it's little motion sensor bar under the screen), I picked it up on launch day, and have had a few good sessions playing stuff, but haven't really had time to sit down and actually think about it until now...

First up - Miis. Whoever thought of the idea of being able to make a little caricature version of you, your friends and a bunch of serial killers (or whoever you like) to live inside your machine deserves a warm handshake and a healthy payrise. Getting the little buggers to travel to other people's Wii is a masterstroke, as I'm sure I know folks who have spent more time creating Miis than actually playing games... On top of that, there's the fact that Miis appear in certain games (currently only Wii Sports and Wii Play, but they'll also be in Wario Ware and a Sims-alike game that EA are producing). A great idea. Well done to whoever thought of it.

Second - the Wiimote. Simply a great idea. Works incredibly well, feels solid to hold, and is accessible to pretty much the whole populace. However, a great big meh to all these idiots blaming the wrist-straps for breaking and smashing TVs, lights and faces - don't blame Nintendo, blame your own ineptitude and oafish ways, OK?

Third - the games. Only got Wii Play, Rayman Raving Rabbids, Zelda and Wii Sports (bundled, of course) at the moment. Wii Sports is a great introduction to the system, and really helps you get used to the new control methods. I'm particularly fond of Bowling (current high score: 187 - about 140 higher than bowling in real life), Golf (as crap at that as I am in real life) and Baseball (which I have never played in real life, ever). The Boxing's alright - if a little unresponsive sometimes - and Tennis is just an arm-swinging mentalfest... or it is if you play it with your Year 4 Games Club ;)

Wii Play is another minigame collection, bundled with a Wiimote. The games are pretty basic, but as you're only paying a few quid extra, I think it's worth it - there's a Duck Hunt-esque shooter in there, a fairly whizzy Billiards game, and a great update of the old Combat game on the 2600 (which is what I'm spending most of my time on, scarily). Not out in the States yet, but then we don't have Elebits or Trauma Centre, and I know what I'd prefer.

Raving Rabbids is another minigame compilation, and is... alright. There's a rather splendid "wander round and shoot deranged bunnies in the face" component, but I think this one may well be traded in pretty sharpish. Mainly because I like the look of Madden 07 and fancy giving it a go!

Finally, Zelda: Twilight Princess. I have played this for the grand total of... 35 minutes. Shocking, I know, but thanks to work being insanely busy, I haven't been able to dedicate a decent amount of time to the Wii's first Triple-A title. However, as of tomorrow I will be off school for just over two solid weeks, and plan to dedicate a fair few hours to the latest in the long line of Link's fine adventures. Bring it on, I say!

Last, the online stuff. The Weather Channel is up and running, and while it's pretty, it's not really that much use. The News Channel is still 6 weeks away, but the Internet Browser should be available as of Friday this week. I'm interested to see how it works, what stuff it supports and such like. Update as and when, as usual. As for the Virtual Console (downloading old NES, SNES, N64, PC Engine, and Megadrive titles), I think it's aces, though I hope Nintendo realise that people want to play games that were never seen in certain regions. For us Europeans, I'm talking about stuff like Super Mario RPG on the SNES, and the N64's Sin & Punishment and Bangaioh (which came out on the Dreamcast, I know, but the 64 version is top!). If that happens, I'll be happy. I'll also be amazed, knowing what Nintendo of Europe are like.

All in all, it's a cracking little machine. The launch line-up was... OK, but I'm looking forward to upcoming stuff like Wario Ware Smooth Moves (being a sucker for the WW games!), Elebits (which The American owns already, and loves) and Trauma Centre (so I can cut people up legally and without danger of being covered in blood or cheeky prison love). However, as these aren't out until January, Zelda will be taking all of my time. Not that I'm complaining, of course...

Labels: , ,

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Press Start

Boing boing boing. I am getting excited.

It's 24 hours until the Nintendo Wii comes out, and I WANT IT NOW! Me and The Elmo are heading into town tomorrow night to pick up our machines and a pile of games at the midnight launch that Gamestation is doing, and I can't wait. There will be a few beers, a game or two of pool at the new place that's just opened in town (a place I want to go out to in Milton Keynes? Surely not!) then roll down to get the new toys. I am such a geek for Nintendo machines - I always have been and always will be, unapologetically. 360s and all manner of Sony systems may come and go, but there will always be a little place in my heart for everything that Kyoto's finest can offer. Bring it on!

School news: This week, I've been visiting the school I'll be working at for the first six weeks of the Spring 2007 (eeeek!) term. This is the cross-phase part of my training, where I experience the opposite Key Stage of the one I'm currently with. In my case, I teach Year 5, who are KS2, so the new bunch are little 'uns - KS1, which covers Foundation and Years 1 and 2. Basically, four to seven year olds. I spent today in Foundation, where one of the youngest (Angela, who is 4, and reminds me a lot of Lola) took me under her wing and re-introduced me to life as a small person. We played all day, making giant towers out of Duplo, pretending to work in the Post Office, putting on a production of Whoops-a-Daisy Angels using finger puppets, reading stories, and speaking Spanish - I don't speak Spanish at all, but Angela does, and she took great delight in her teaching me.

When the day had ended, I was exhausted. You forget how much energy you expend just playing about. The class teacher sat me down, gave me a cup of tea, and we talked about the day. She asked what I thought I had taught today, and when I replied "nothing" (as to me, all I'd done was play with a class full of small people) she told me to take a minute and think. Ten minutes later, we'd compiled an A4 list of stuff that we'd done, and what the children had learnt. Concepts like tallness (the Duplo tower of Doom, which ended up taller than me!), fine motor skills (using a hammer and pins on a tap-board), phonics (playing with magnetic letters), ICT skills (drawing snowmen in MS Paint)... the list was huge. Made me think that perhaps lower years is what I want to do - but we'll see if I still think the same in mid-February, shall we?

Of course, last week saw me perform the ultimate test for any male teacher in a primary school... I had to dress up as Santa Claus for the Christmas Fair. Me, the one who dislikes anything festive with a passion, was (for two hours) the embodiment of the whole damn thing. And shockingly enough, it looks like I pulled it off quite well. I only made one child cry, but she was only six months old so I don't think it was entirely my fault... I saw over 50 children over the course of the whole thing, gave out a ton of presents, and have had lots of good reports from parents and teachers over the past few days, so all in all it was worth doing. The children seemed to enjoy themselves, and that's what I'm here for. Oh, and here's what I looked like, along with my fellow student Kate the Christmas Fairy:

Anyway, enough of that. I may have done more work in the last few weeks than I have in the whole rest of my life. All I care about at the minute is getting my hands on that Wiimote and Zelda tomorrow night - and as soon as I can tear myself away from it, I shall post my first impressions and stuff. Bring it on!

Labels: , , ,