Monthly Archives: October 2016

Alone in the dark

For those of you outside the United Kingdom, our clocks went back during the weekend; as this coincided with the Halloween weekend (I know it’s happening on Monday, but anyway), I decided this weekend to stay in and play scary video games the entire time, with the curtains closed (which I wouldn’t have done if the weather had been sunny).

No, I didn’t replay Amnesia: The Dark Descent, which I did during similar weekends in 2010 and 2011, but I did play its spiritual sequel, Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs — a game I originally got in 2013 and first replayed during my period of intense unemployment-related anxiety in December 2014.  Well, it’s good that I’ve put that time of my life behind me at long last, and can enjoy things again… it’s not as scary as the original, but I can only replay that so many times (and have the music and sound effects on my phone) before I wear it out!

I also replayed another game I obtained in late 2013, Outlast (as well as the Whistleblower DLC), which I would definitely say is a worthy second to the original Amnesia in terms of “scariest video game evar”, partly because, as in the Amnesia games, you can’t fight and just have to run like hell and hide in the darkness whenever danger threatens.  This sets all these games apart from, say, Doom (which I also completed at the weekend, after more than 20 hours’ play) or the Dead Space series, or even difficult games like The Evil Within, Alan Wake or Call of Cthulhu, as you can’t fight back, and any enemy deaths occur in cutscenes!

However, there’s one thing in each game that really freaks me out.  Not the hideous role-reversal of pigs and men in one game, or the eloquent (and visibly naked) machete-wielding twins in the other.  No, in Amnesia: A Machine for Pigs, it’s the classical-style piece “Mors Praematura“, a deliberate work of discordance that I once tried using as my morning alarm sound, only to switch back to music from the original Amnesia because that was actually less scary.

outlast_frogIn the case of Outlast, it’s a section in one of the kaleidoscopic films being used to hypnotise people: not the flames, teeth, wings or other organic imagery, but the most normal, clearest thing of all, a man in a weird costume (possibly a frog) in a black-and-white film on stage!  The still image I’ve posted doesn’t do it justice… where does that clip come from, and is it going to kill me or send me mad?

(It’ll probably turn out to be something more mundane than I imagine — like the clip that plays with a horrible screech near the end of Ghostwatch, when they discover the ghost is literally in the machine, turned out to be one of the girls banging on pipes earlier in the show!)

As I said, I had my curtains closed throughout, and that’s why I always wait until this time of year for this kind of thing: darkness is scary, and I like to immerse myself in the game world for the best experience — and it’s easier to see things lit by my electric lantern in one game, or battery-powered night vision in the other.  However, locking myself away in my room in this way also made it rather difficult to interact with other people out in the real world, including “best mate” (who had been in Wales all week), and suggests I can still suffer from social anxiety, albeit in this case… self-inflicted?

Admittedly when “best mate” bugged me, I wasn’t in the middle of a game (I was either watching Torchwood or dozing in bed), and he had a friend visiting anyway; however, I declined to go to Comic Con with them, memories being fresh of that Saturday in 2013 at the Excel Centre, when I got so sick of being crowded, in the “queue for the queue”, that I gave up and went home (itself an ordeal thanks to public transport) rather than attend the actual event!  I felt surprisingly withdrawn on Saturday, and while I was better on Sunday, walking to and from Tesco turned out to be more of an unpleasant experience than usual — somehow the public still pee me off something rotten, and occasionally scare me (except those decent enough to have dogs), and interacting with humans sometimes seems like a bizarre dream.

Don’t worry, I won’t build a gigantic machine to slaughter the human race to save it from its own folly; maybe it’s just that I deal with people so much in my job at the moment, I prefer my own company at the weekends.  But I should be better now: since the clocks went back, it’s going to be lighter in the mornings for a while, and so I won’t have so much trouble getting up and end up being such a sourpuss!

And the darker, colder evenings will give me more of an excuse to come straight home after work, instead of obliging myself to socialise…

Not so immature


This is one presidential campaign where Richard Pryor’s advice to vote “none of the above” is very sound

I suppose if I could say one good thing about Donald Trump (making Hillary Clinton look like a better US Presidential candidate isn’t “good”, as she’s hardly a saint), it’s that he’s made me feel better about myself.  Purely by accident, of course, because I’m not an American voter, and even if I were, he only truly cares about himself and (possibly) his business cronies.  I’d never vote for him… because he doesn’t want votes from people like me, he wants latter-day Brown Shirts, and I’m better than that.

You may remember my vitriolic outburst against racist scumbags in my own country, emboldened by Brexit but always with us; indeed, I was uncannily prescient about how they’d go after gays next (according to a song sung in Trafalgar Square)!  I also somehow predicted in that post (not that it took a “yuge” mental leap) that Trump would salivate at the thought of access to nukes, but naively, I had no idea about the depths of his sexism… yes, I’m on about the recording of him boasting about grabbing women by the P-word and so on, something which incenses me.

No, I’m not on the Internet just to say “ooh, I’m offended”, so if you’re reading, Stephen Fry, please rein in your contempt (well, for that specific thing at least, I know I’m not as erudite as your good self!).  What I want to say is that I genuinely feel I’m better than the scumbags voting for Trump because, in addition to Muslims and Mexicans being kicked out, they appear to want women returned to their former second-class status (some even apparently want the 19th Amendment rolled back), in the same way that I feel I’m better than the aforementioned sub-humans who join the BNP and EDL in this country.

Why?  Well, first of all, the reason I’m incensed is that there’s this notion that all heterosexual men are supposed to be like Trump — brash, arrogant and trash-talking women while around other men.  Now, I’ve been told off in the past for letting the side down (how naively I thought back then that I’d only complain about my love life just that once!), and indeed on one occasion, by a friend I respected, for not thinking about a close female friend in sexual terms.  I’ve never been that way, and never been comfortable with this so-called “locker room talk”; I think it’s because I don’t want to share my sexuality with other blokes — I want to find a woman for me, not so I can compete with those buttmunches, as generally other men’s opinion of me is irrelevant and valueless.

And no, I’m not “p*ssy-whipped”, or a “well-trained man”, responding in some kind of Pavlovian manner to psychological manipulation by the “superior sex” — I got here on my own.

(Well, okay, maybe it’s thanks in some part to my mother and grandmother, as well as “female best friend” and “other female best friend”, amongst others — but rather than training, they simply showed me that women deserve respect!)

As with never wanting to get drunk (I was once wrongly complimented for this apparent “willpower”), it’s not some conscious opposition to my nature, it’s the way I am.  I’m an intelligent and compassionate person who doesn’t see empowered women as a threat, or demand that they “know their place”, and I’m not trying desperately to prove I’m “modern” and “right-thinking” in the face of feminism, fearful of ending up being lumped with the scumbags I despise.  I agree with feminism — or at least what it’s supposed to be, the drive for gender equality.

This is why I no longer think I’m some immature manchild.  Yes, I play violent video games (just got Doom for my birthday — thanks Mumsy!), listen to heavy metal (*cough*GWAR*cough*), watch cartoons (though Futurama and South Park aren’t exactly for kids!) and make goofy jokes all the time, but I don’t arrogantly flirt with women like they’re obliged to submit to me, and then insult them when they fail to respond as they “should”.  Those are the truly immature men, the ones who are stuck in a worthless past that we shouldn’t aspire to restore, thinking they’ve some $DEITY-given right to do whatever they want simply because of their genitalia.

(Like Trump, of course, but let’s not give him too much airtime in this blog…)

I don’t want all heterosexual men to end up as second-class citizens, desperately trying to atone for simply being attracted to women, as some kind of sins-of-the-father reparation (I’m sure you’ll recall me saying something similar three years ago, and probably many times thereafter) — it’s the swaggering, arrogant kind I consider to be relics of the past.  Forgive me for my hubris, but I truly believe I’m better than them — not because I grew out of that immature chauvinism, but because (aside from holding some foolish opinions after getting hurt now and again) I was NEVER like that, and never wanted to be.  I don’t understand why men act in such abhorrent ways towards women, and frankly I hope I never do; it reminds me too much of the bullies at school.

Yeah, I’ve long fantasised about women (because I’m not gay, just in case that point isn’t clear), but never about abusing or degrading them, or treating them like disposable objects.  True, I want to be a dashing hero who rescues a beautiful damsel (which you might still think is a bit old-fashioned), but rest assured she would come to me out of desire, rather than reluctantly believing she’s obliged to “reward” me.  And yes, since it’s a fantasy, I’d have the lovemaking abilities of a god, and leave her utterly satisfied — not to gain some kind of power over her, but to make her happy.

I think this newly-discovered maturity is why I hold no grudge against any of the women I’ve dated but with whom it didn’t work out — especially the most recent one, who I really thought was a keeper.  It was disappointing, but I’m glad she was honest with me that she didn’t feel the spark, and I didn’t demand she retroactively pay me for the meal, like some kind of refund (yes, that kind of thing actually happens, for a tabloid definition of “happens”).

I know I’ve complained in the past about how hard it is to find someone, but I’ve grown up during my search over the past few years (perhaps in part thanks to this blog), and I’m sensible enough now to know it’s not because womankind as a whole is too stuck-up to give me a chance, but just bad luck and a lack of self-confidence on my part (and low motivation when I was in my 20s, possibly because I had close female friends and didn’t feel a desperate yearning).

Of course, I might just be a great big coward who’s afraid to try anything too forward with women in case I get accused of heinous sexism (and wonder whether a richer, better-looking guy would be condemned for the same action), but I like to think I’m actually a good guy by nature… am I right?  Can I chart a course between swaggering Scylla and sulking Charybdis*, and be quietly confident with the right woman, thrilling rather than offending or boring her?

(How many Trump supporters know what I mean, or even think anyone should care?  I’ve no problem with a lack of knowledge, but their rampant anti-intellectualism is something I utterly despise!)

If I do find someone and raise a family with her, and other good guys do the same, will this lead to a new generation of men who behave like civilised beings instead of cavemen, but instead of doing so out of fear of retribution from female peers (or cynically in an attempt to get girls), do it simply because it’s the right thing to do…?

This sucks

lonely_shinjiI thought I’d have good news for you next time I wrote in this blog, and indeed that I’d be able to start bringing this blog to a close, as I’d have finally conquered depression once and for all, by the simple expedient of getting a long-term girlfriend, or at least some action, and thus proving to myself that failure isn’t the only option.

But no, my journey’s not over yet: although I had two lovely dates with a really sweet twentysomething, who actually described me at one point as “too good to be true”, and was even going to take me to the cinema tonight (hey, girl power, right?), it all went wrong when I kissed her passionately… because she’s realised she doesn’t feel “that way” about me and only wants to be friends, despite how enthusiastic she was before.

This is one of the worst quasi-breakups I’ve been through, because I didn’t feel at any stage that I was “settling” for her (like a similar situation in 2014 when I actually cheered upon receiving the breakup text), and actually genuinely liked her and found her attractive.  Okay, she wasn’t a slender, blonde American, but if there’s one thing I’ve learned during the course of my search, it’s that I like all manner of hair colours, body types and ethnicities/nationalities, and even girls with glasses!

(About the only thing I can’t stand is facial piercing… hmm, I should invest in stainless steel before saying that, I expect sales to go up!)

I’ve learned something else, and that’s that blokes still treat me like their kid brother: a married man at work, an amiable “Lahndanner” in my team, felt the need to advise me on the whole matter, about getting back on the horse and putting my face out there, etc. etc.  As you know, I tolerate this for the sake of the advice-giver, because he needs to feel like he’s making a difference — but I still think that we, as a society, need to stop trying to cajole people out of depression and either help them (with genuine comfort) or just step back and let them ride it out.

Yes, ride it out — I’ve been going through this stuff too much to truly believe I’ll always feel so desolate or make drastic plans (unlike in 2011), and while Monday night was almost sleepless and full of cursing, by now, Wednesday evening, I’m over her — albeit fed up and in no rush to try again (especially with women who don’t initiate any conversation and have to have everything dragged out of them).  I know I’m not bipolar, I just react to negative events with negative emotions; oh no, does that make me… normal?!

It’s been hard to draw something positive from this experience, as even the girl telling me she thought I was handsome (no-one younger than me has ever called me that before) has to be suspect if a kiss could cool her ardour towards me.  I don’t think she was consciously leading me on: I think she was lying to herself, trying to convince herself that she liked me “that way”, because she was impressed by my devotion to improving my health and career chances, and intellectually considered me the kind of “catch” she was supposed to want.  If so, better to end it sooner rather than later, as even I know romance can’t be based upon a lie.

(Unless it’s me lying about my age, of course…)

Being dumped after two dates by someone I actually liked certainly sucks, but it doesn’t help that three other things, all related to the word “cold” (making it worse than another early entry in this blog), are making my life suck even more at the moment, with no prospect of a quick resolution:

  • got_wicIt’s cold, winter is coomin’, yeah, we know — and no sign of an Indian summer;
  • British Gas (named and shamed) still haven’t fixed our hot water after five visits, and the heating doesn’t work at all (lucky I kept that electric oil heater);
  • I’m (wait for it) coming down with a cold, already in the runny nose stage, though fortunately I don’t have to let the blood donor people know, and the donation I made last week doesn’t have to go to waste.

These things in isolation would be annoying enough, but everything happening together is making me unhappy… but I don’t think turning 39 at the weekend will make anything worse, as after all, it’s just a number — and if I can still somehow get dates with twentysomethings (instead of having to settle for women older than I feel), I still have hope of finding someone a while longer.

Plus, I’ll be going to Worthing for my birthday: a chance to see my folks, pick up Doom, and relax in anticipation of another week off work (to be mainly spent playing Doom)…