Friday, December 20, 2013

Animal Crossing: Back to Wiiville

Over the summer I spent a fair amount of time messing around with Dolphin, even throwing Animal Crossing to see if the NES games would work in it. They didn't, but seeing as I had my old town loaded up I thought I'd take a wander around and take a few screen-caps anyway.



Jealous? So yeah, as you can probably gather from the statue, I played a lot of Animal Crossing on the GameCube. In my defence, I really was at a pretty loose end gaming-wise at the time.

I picked up a copy on eBay in 2006; I think in early November. It was only meant to be a bit of a diversion before I strolled into my local gaming establishment to pick up a Wii the following month (hence the town name). Of course, there were no Wiis to be had, anywhere. So until I decided "fuck the Wii for now, I'll get a PS2" in the Summer, I had to make do with this, a few half-finished games ,and a couple of eBay purchases to tide me over. It was a pretty rough time; I played freaking Doshin the Giant for goodness sake. To completion! :D



To the right of my glorious monument, it's the Able Sisters, still sporting a bunch of my patterns on their wares. Got to say I never got tired of seeing my fellow villagers in that blood spatter shirt.



Looks like I've got mail. Not sure who was the worse spammer: the Happy Room Academy or my in-game mom. Also, a random billboard with my shoddy Tetris pattern on it.



Tah-dah! So, having started this town just before Christmas, I was just in time to grab a bunch of stuff from Tom Nook, allowing me to live out my secret fantasy of having Christmas decorations up all year round, as well as a few bits of snowman and Jingle furniture.



Mmmm, nice!



I do have a few bits of ranch furniture too though, which I thought worked well with the festive theme, even if those bastards at the HRA didn't agree.



But down in the basement is where all the really cool stuff is. Like cockroaches. Also down here are a collection of the shirts I wore while playing through the game. Ugh, how pathetic is that?. Probably not as bad as saving the letters you get from your in-game mom in the post office.

Which I also did, for quite a while.



There's some stuff down here too from when I popped the game in a few times in late 2007 to check out the events I'd missed the previous year, like my birthday and Thanksgiving.



Over here a few tiles from the model Animal Crossing town. I couldn't bring myself to throw them out, but equally I couldn't be bothered to complete the set. Oh, and I think that's a fishing trophy from the tournament in June. I think some time travel was required for that after I missed it the first time around. That's something I did a lot, either to go back to stuff I missed, or to play through several in-game days at once. Like I said: loose end. :D



In the corner: a couple of lockers storing even more of my virtual junk. Pretty sure they're mostly full of wallpapers and carpets, which I almost never changed so I don't know why I was hoarding so many of them down here.



And finally, the only reason for me to come back to Animal Crossing these days: my game room. Man, those NES titles were such a great addition to the game, and the possibility of acquiring more was certainty the chief reason I played as much of this as I did. Well, at least until found about universal codes. Never going to happen again though. (Thanks, Obama.)

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Clearoutageddon Part Five: Video Games! (and More)

As someone who keeps banging on their big gaming backlog, it's fair to say there's a good chunk of my gaming collection I could probably do with getting rid of. I'm not quite there yet (I'm still labouring under the (mistaken) belief that I'll get around to playing everything some day), but there were certainly a few games in there that even I had to admit I'd never touch again:



So, these two, I picked up in late 2006, in an attempt to squeeze some last-minute fun out of the Gamecube. Hitman 2 seemed pretty intriguing. Not being the greatest at stealth games though, I never got more than a few missions into the game before I'd put it aside and later end up deleting it's (huge) save file to make room for something else. Having decided to give the game another go on PC, there was no need to keep this version around anymore.

Having been THE football franchise to get on N64, and having sunk an immeasurable amount of time into ISS 98, I was cautiously optimistic about ISS 2 despite the middling reviews. Within minutes of putting it in, I knew the critics were right. It felt janky, the most glaring problem of all being that a player would freeze for a few seconds after receiving a pass. Something I can't fathom making it past testing,which pretty much rendered the game unplayable.



So first off, this is the Australian version of F-1 World Grand Prix. You're guess as to how it ended up in a crappy Kerry toy shop is as good as mine. I got this for Christmas 1999 after being wowed by the visuals on TV. Turns out I don't like Formula 1 games, or at least I didn't have the patience to get good enough at this one to find out one way or the other.



While we're on the subject of me having no patience, these are all games I almost immediately gave up on in the face of their complexity and/or difficulty. In my defence, I bought the lot of them with gift vouchers. Well, apart from NFS, which I sort-of inherited from my brother after he forgot about it. And I did give the two racing games a second crack before I sold them. Still couldn't get anywhere though; as far as racing games go, if there aren't karts, burnouts or ridges involved, I'm in trouble.



This is one of several fighters I picked up before I finally realised the genre just isn't for me. Apart from a select few older games anyway. I'm a bit gutted I sold this for a pittance though, minutes before I noticed another offer for €10; Street Fighter Alpha II - apparently rarer than I thought.



If I could have gone back and given this to a fourteen year old me, I have a feeling it'd be up there with my favourite N64 games. Back in 2006 though, I no longer had the patience or lack of other distractions to get past Body Harvest's clunky gameplay and lack of checkpoints.



I'm kind of ashamed to admit to it, but I only learned to use a keyboard and mouse for shooters in 2008 when I started playing through No One Lives Forever on PC - the PS2 version I only avoided because of how busted it apparently was. Only a couple of weeks earlier, still WASDphobic, I picked up this PS2 copy of Deus Ex - a game I didn't have the means to play back in the day, but that I'd always been interested in checking out. Several years later, of course I still hadn't played it, but if I ever do, it wasn't going to be this version and frankly, I needed the shelf space, so off it went.



But it wasn't without company. I sold it as part of a (depressingly) cheap bundle of other PS2 stuff I didn't want any more on a classifieds site. Just like Deus Ex, I'd recently upgraded my (unplayed) copy of Snake Eater to a superior version in the form of the MGS HD collection. PES 3 and Viewtiful Joe, on the other hand, I'd given a shot but I just couldn't get into. And Fantavision, well that's actually exactly the same version I'd tried to give away as a broken disk earlier in my clear out campaign. I'd since replaced it, but when I loaded up this disk again to make absolutely sure it was busted, it worked; perfectly. I'm not sure what changed exactly, but now finding myself with two copies, I bundled the resurrected version in with this lot.



And finally (sort of): my GameStop anti-haul. So, three of these I ended up with duplicates of after they disappeared into some sort of courier-based time crack, only to emerge again several months later. At which point, I'd bought them again elsewhere. But hey, at least I got a free Child of Eden t-shirt for my troubles. :D (A size too small, but anyway.) PGR4 though, like the other racing games here, I just couldn't get into. Did quite like the soundtrack though.

Not wanting to be arsed selling the lot of these online (and getting short-changed again), I decided I'd throw them into GameStop instead and just take whatever credit they gave me. Even with that attitude though, I was a little surprised by how little I actually got: 70 cents for PGR4 and €3.50 each for the rest.



Hah! But little did they know that I'd only bought PGR4 used for €1 on their web site. Getting €0.70 for that was tantamount to giving me €42 for a previously used copy of [insert current, big triple-A game here]. The joke's on you, GameStop. Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha *inhales* ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha, and so on.

But wait, there's more!

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Archive Raiding: Art Scans Batch #1

Back in a galaxy far, far away, I took Art, Craft and Design for the Junior Cert. (kind of the Irish GCSEs). Many years later, I've still got all the work I did for it tucked away in a big, orange A2 folder; under a sofa, if you must know.

The best of what's in there I've already posted years ago on deviantArt, but there's a whole lot more to it than that; stuff that I haven't seen in over a decade. Now that I've got a half-decent scanner to use, I thought it might be fun to finally revisit it.

PW201113230256 photo flowers_1.jpg

Ah, this is pretty nice. One of the many, many pieces of final project preparatory work we'll encounter, I'm using a mix of colouring pencils and paint here. Not much in the way of shading, but I was pretty early into the project here, judging by the date.

PP211113002628 photo fishflies.jpg

Jumping back a little further, this I would have dawn some time in late 1998, before I'd picked flowers as the sort-of central focus of my project. (Boy, did I get some stick for that :D). Butterflies, and I've gotta say a couple of cool-looking ones here, I ended up incorporating quite a bit into my final pieces though. Cartoon fish, not so much.

I do really like the expression the second one from the bottom has though. Oh, and the fish just above him to the left; that's a nice little action pose there.

PW271113013448 photo flowers_2f.jpg

Scan number #3 is: some more flowers. We've got some more mixed media going on here too with the top two being both done with pastels and the rest with colouring pencils (or just a pencil in the case of the middle right one). Not great really, and no shading again, which elicited endless complaining from my teacher (but she was right).

LS211113011517 photo lifesketch1.jpg

And finally, *yeesh* it's my first attempt at life-sketching from October '97 - something we did about once a month using classmates as models. It's something that I never got particularly good at, but then it's something that never interested me a whole lot either.

Oh, and to be clear, none of these sketches are in in any way representative of the girls that were my class. They were all significantly less ogre-like in reality. :)

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Groupees Collection Template


I've bought a fair few Groupees bundles over the last few years, but it's only in the last couple of months that I've gotten around to downloading most of them.

Now, one of the things that sets Groupee apart from some of the other bundle people is that they dabble heavily in music. Even in non music-focused bundles, you're sure to find at least a couple of EPs or albums tucked away somewhere. Those are fine, but a lot of their bundles also include "special collections" of tracks from a particular artist, which all seem to consist of tracks from the artist's other releases (original MP3 tags still in tact) and a random band-related image to act as the cover art.

As someone who (pathetically) takes pride in their digital music collection, there was no way I was going to add these ad hoc compilations to it, at least now without "fixing" them first. To get than done, I needed to make some cover art for these things. The simplest way of doing that, I decided, was to make a template I could throw over all those random images to turn them into something a bit more appropriate. :


Ta-dah! Yeah, kind of a quick and dirty effort (using a recently retired logo), but I think it served its purpose reasonably well:


Ah, magnetoperfection.gif

I'll pop the Paint Shop Pro files up on MediaFire in case anyone else has any use for them. [Link]

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Jack-o'-lantern 2013



Carved this guy out yesterday. I’d just started when my knife slipped, leaving that huge gash going down from the left eye. Rather than moving to the other side, I decided I’d try turning it into a scar and working the rest of the features around it. It won't be winning any prizes, but a pretty decent save, I'd say.




Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Cooking: Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Soup



Checking the date on the photo above, I've had the ingredients for this soup scrawled down for almost a year now. With the method fresh again in my mind after making a new batch tonight, it seems like a good time to finally write this one up.

I'm not sure why our small, local supermarket started stocking sweet potatoes and butternut squashes a couple of years ago - I'm pretty sure I'm one of the only two or three people who buys them, but having picked them up, I was determined to make them into soup for some reason (personally, I blame the weird abundance of pumpkin soup in Zelda). After a good few attempts, this is the one I settled on. It's a hearty, lightly spicy soup that strikes a nice balance between sweet and savoury.

(If I do say so myself. :D)

Ingredients
  • 1 butternut squash
  • 3 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 medium sticks of celery
  • 2 1/4 pints stock
  • dried coriander
  • mild chilli powder
  • ground sea salt
  • ground black pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
Method
  1. Peel the sweet potatoes and peel and remove the seeds from the the butternut squash.
  2. Cut both into 0.5-1 inch cubes and spread them out evenly in a large, flat oven pan, on top of a piece of greaseproof paper or parchment.
  3. Give the diced veg a generous sprinkling of olive oil followed by a good, even sprinkling of the coriander and mild chilli powder, and a few grinds of salt and pepper.
  4. Toss the veg around gently to make sure everything gets a good coating of seasoning. (I use a big serving spoon for this)
  5. Put the the diced veg. cooking in the oven at about 200ÂșC.
  6. Meanwhile, peel the onions and the backs of the celery stalks (to remove the stringy bits). Dice the onions and celery pretty finely and sweat them in some more olive oil in a large pot.
  7. When the butternut squash and sweet potato pieces are soft enough to stick a fork through easily add them to the pot with the sweated onions.
  8. Now if you've got a decent hand blender here's where you'd mix everything in the pot together and blend the mixture into a smooth mash. Failing that, as long as you've diced the onions and celery finely enough, you can totally get away with just mashing everything thoroughly with a potato masher here.
  9. Next, pour in the stock and stir well to mix it together with the mashed veg. I usually just use chicken stock cubes and 2 1/4 pints is three stock cubes worth of Knorr's finest.
  10. Now bring the soup to the boil, giving it the occasional stir.
  11. Once it's boiling, reduce the heat and let it simmer it for 15-20 minutes, stirring it regularly. While it's simmering, give it a taste. It's probably going to need more seasoning, so add more salt, pepper and spices as needed and give it a good stir to mix them in.
  12. If you want to thicken up the soup you can dissolve a few tablespoons of flour in some water and add it here. Make sure to dissolve the flour in the water thoroughly first though and to stir the soup continuously until the flour-water mixture dissolves in it completely. Otherwise you're going to end up with little balls of flour floating in the soup.
  13. Enjoy! (Hopefully :D)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Clearoutageddon Part Four: The Toy Show Has a Lot to Answer For

When I was a kid, back when we only had two television channels, one of the TV highlights of the year was The Late Late Toy Show: a two and a half hour orgy of toys being paraded in front of you and even better, you got to stay up late to watch it. One of the definite lowlights though was when the host would make an impassioned plea to parents to not forget the gift of reading come Christmas time, before subjecting us to a good fifteen minutes of nerdy kids reviewing the dullest-sounding books imaginable. (That and those stage school brats singing and dancing every half hour; fuck that bullshit.) While my eyes might have been glazing over this segment, that obviously wasn't the case for some of my relatives.

Without fail, I'd get a bunch of books every year. And that was cool, until I turned about ten, after which point I never got one that wasn't educational in some way ever again. As you can imagine, in the face of video games and Lego and the like, educational Christmas gifts (once said relatives were safely away) got tossed to the side and never thought of again. Fast forward fifteen years and most of these were still cluttering up my parents' place, gathering dust. But no more, for the time of Clearoutageddon was at hand!



So, out of the numerous books I got over the years, this DK Encyclopaedia was the only one I ever wanted beforehand, and the last one I enjoyed or got any use out of. I got it for Christmas '95, just in time for a schools quiz I was taking part in a few weeks later. Unfortunately, the questions there turned out to be more about pop culture and current events than science and history, and the weeks I spent swotting up on various subjects from the encyclopaedia went entirely to waste. But I did get a free pen.

The illustrated bible I got another year. It's actually quite nice, but I can't say I was particularly thrilled to unwrap it at the time.



Engendering a similar lack of excitement was this this illustrated history book. Well, at least until I had a look inside, and discovered that...



THERE WERE BOOBS!

You know, I sometimes genuinely wonder how differently my life would have turned out if I focused more on the knowledge contained in this book than the nudity. :D



After I got to secondary school and started learning French, various European language books started showing up at Christmas. I remember getting one of these Usborne books in English when I was younger. I quite liked the art style and the hidden rubber ducks throughout, but even that couldn't get me to learn any French of my own free will, or German for that mater. It was tough enough getting to grips with a third language, I certainly didn't need to get started on a fourth.



Not that I could explain that to the gift-givers though.

Also, a Geography counterpart to the World History book that proved to be, sadly, boob-free.



This lot are a bit different, in that I bought most of them for myself. Hey, remember the Filofax? No? Me neither, but the bottom four books here all sought to cash in on that. They were designed to fit into a sort of Filofax for children: a "Fun Fax" if you will.



Possibly the dumbest idea ever.

Knowing nothing about faxes of any sort, I  picked these up on various school trips because I thought they looked promisingly funny/scary. Boy, did I get a lesson in judging a book by it's (detachable) cover.

At the time I leant the two horror ones to a buddy. I don't remember getting any feedback afterwards, but knowing him, there's no way on Earth he possibly enjoyed these, especially Burning Secret which I remember having a sappy friendship between two teenage girls at its core and a distinct lack of gratuitous gun violence.

While we're on the subject of horror, one book that did genuinely freak me out when I was younger was the one in the top right: a selection of (purportedly) real life tales of the supernatural that I bought at a school book fair in '96. Looking back now, I'm pretty sure everything in there was complete toss, but that didn't stop the story about the waxworks coming to life from scaring the shit out of me for weeks on end, and holy shit, that back cover...



Brrrrrr.

Purchased in the same one-off book fair by my brother was Into the 21st Century, a collection of short stories by viewers of The Den (in it's lame, post Zig and Zag incarnation). Hearing the shitty stories my classmates and I would come up for English class week in/week out, I think I made the right choice in steering clear of this.



Finally here, we have a novelization of the first Ninja Turtles movie - a nice little gift my dad picked up given my obsession with the cartoon at the time. As crazy as I was about that though, I've never actually seen the movie, or any of the Turtles movies. Not that I had any opportunity at the time mind. Cinema trips were never something we did, we didn't have a VCR until later and, as far as I know, none of those movies got shown on TV over here. Just think: I went through my entire childhood totally unaware of the Ninja Rap. As for the book itself, I don't remember a bit of it now. I think a Blu-ray purchase might be in order.

More after the jump...

Cooking: Cheese and Onion Soup with Cheese Bread



Having had a disgusting block of rubbery, Jameson-flavoured cheddar in the fridge for about two weeks, I finally decided to do something about it tonight. I was thinking macaroni and cheese at first, but this thing was so rank there's no way that wouldn't have been equally vile. No, what I really needed was some way cut down its sickly sweet faux whiskey flavour, and I thought hiding it away in a cheese bread might just do the trick.

After a quick search I landed on this recipe, which proved nice and easy and used up the vast majority of the stuff. I did still have a bit left over though, so with my bread in the oven, I decided that I'd mix the rest of it with some regular cheddar and try making a cheese and onion soup to go with it.

Aside from replacing three quarters of the milk with stock (I though all milk would make a bit too rich), I went with this recipe for the soup. Well, until I decided it wouldn't yield much soup at all and that I'd double the amount of stock and milk going in. That, of course, meant I didn't have enough flour in there for it to thicken so I ended up having to add a couple of tablespoons more (dissolved in water) before I could add the cheese.

Despite the last-minute alterations, the resulting soup was delicious - nice and creamy, with a tasty, well-balanced flavour, with only a hint of faux Jameson nastiness. Success! The bread, despite containing the vast majority of the cheese had even less of it. To be honest it was a bit bland; ideally I think you'd need to much stronger-flavoured cheese in there than cheddar. I did enjoy the crispiness it leant the outside crust though, and hey, it was fucking edible, which is more than I can say for the stuff that was sitting in my fridge a couple of hours previously. :D

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Attic Attack

It's taken me a long time, but last Summer I finally wrangled my way into my parents' death trap of an attic; ostensibly to tidy up and hook up their satellite dish, but my real mission was to see if I could unearth any cool childhood treasures up there.

Now, I already knew that there was a box of stuffed toys there (that may or may not have rotted away in the last fifteen years), but everything else was largely a mystery. Especially mysterious was a box that came from my Granny's house, a box that I remember putting some stuff in before it went up; stuff that surely had to be significant in some way if I wanted it stored away for safe-keeping. Right?



Ah.

As one of the things closest to the opening, it didn't take me long to track down the box in question. Unfortunately, my contribution to it was mostly trash. Actual trash. Okay, it was genuinely cool to find an old painting of mine, but everything else went from here directly into the bin.



Let's see: On the right we've got some decrepit lumps of plasticine, and the remains of some of the paint tablets my uncle used to bring me. (Can't imagine my parents, or grandparents were thrilled at the mess those must have caused. :D)



On the left is a bristle-less paint brush (And they didn't fall off in the box. It was like this to begin with.) and this... thing, which on closer inspection proved to be an elastic band wrapped in a bit of a curtain material, wrapped in green wool. And there's a fly stuck to it, but I don't think that was an original fixture. What it's supposed to be, I have no idea. I did go through a phase of wanting to invent things though (with no knowledge of well, anything really), so there's a pretty good chance this is one of my "inventions". (And there's a lot more where that came from, Industry. Pay me money!)



And that's not all. Also saved for posterity were a button, the top off a Push Pop, an ice lolly stick and wrappers from a Fox's Glacier Mint and, I'm guessing, a Cadbury's Eclair.

Oh well, at least the actual contents of the box was pretty neat: a sizeable collection of old stamps my Granny had saved over the years. Nothing that valuable I'd imagine, but it's was interesting going through them nonetheless (perhaps coming to a Tumblr near you soon).

So the mystery box turned out to be a bust, but what else was up there?



Well, how about my first school bag? Yep, that's it. I didn't go to school in the 1950's though, my dad was just a little out of touch with 90's fashion.



Nothing inside it apart from a few marker stains, and yes, it smells just like you imagine it would.



There was a surprising revelation on the back of it though. As well as scrawling my name in huge letters, it looks like I wrote "sex" on it and crossed it out. :D



Enhance!

I'm going to have to pull out a Sideshow Bob-esque defence here and say that's how I though you spelled "six" at the time, a misspelling that seemed to amuse some of the older kids. Really not sure why I felt the need to put it on my bag though. Thank fuck the teacher never saw it. :D

And finally...



Boo! In the box with all the stuffed toys (which I'll get to later), I found these: a couple of sweet Halloween masks my brother and me got back in 1996. It still bums me out how little we do over here to mark Halloween, but things were even worse in the 90's. The only bit of spooky paraphernalia that was ever on sale where I was from was a selection of cheap, flimsy masks for kids. Imagine our surprise when these things showed up out of the blue.

Man, that was a pretty great Halloween. I remember my best friend came over; we wore these; had a bonfire; took a bunch of photos; ritualistic chanting may have been involved. And then it turned out that there was no film in the camera. Whooooo. Spooooky!



Well that's it, folks. And remember kids, Creepy Satan says "Rock on!".