Little Big Pleasures

Yesterday’s article was kinda fun, barely a soul gave a toss but you know I can write a post on here just for the sake of writing it, that’s what blogs were for before they became a way to launch a promising career in writing… which I’m still waiting for. Anyway, that in mind, a conversation with a friend has got me in the mood for writing another fun fluff piece about video games and the astute ones among you can probably guess which game came to mind for me, Little Big Planet 3, the latest in a trilogy of platforming games that is fun for all ages.

As series go, some I can buy games from hit and miss, I can chip into a series late and go back, go from the start and watch it evolve or I can just try it and leave it. For example, I only own Sega All Stars Racing, not the Transformed version that came out later, the first didn’t excite me enough to merit paying money for me, my favourite game series Dynasty Warriors, I didn’t buy the games in order – starting with 3, than a crossover game, then 5, 4, expansion packs, 6 and so on. Thankfully there isn’t a continuity in Dynasty Warriors, it’s the same game made over and over again with better graphics, gameplay mechanics and expanded character rosters. Point being, Little Big Planet, I watched it grow. I played the first game at a friend’s house and fell in love and I made sure to acquire each game since. So why do I like the series so much? Well, this is not a rant today, today I’m here to rave, to sing praise, to review with a positive attitude so allow me to fill you in on why Little Big Planet might just be one of the finest series of games going.

Okay, for those who have never owned a PS3/PS4 and never played the game at any point, Little Big Planet is a platformer game in which you customise a cutesy knitted character with costumes of all varieties and run through themed levels to rescue a world of imagination from some big baddy, be it an owl driving a death robot, an evil space snake or Hugh Laurie in a bowler hat. You run, jump, swing, fly and glide through levels that take inspiration from just about anything – Medieval Europe, the Renaissance, Outer Space, 50s Style Diners, Giant Libraries – you name it, someone has made a LBP level about it. The game is artistically stunning, it has a style that makes it all look like it is essentially an enchanted art project, adding to this idea it is an imaginary world, a world consisting of doodles and craft sessions come to life and your main enemy is always some selfish, unimaginative monster who wants to stomp all over your creativity. With that explained, here’s why this series is so good:

Diversity and Suitability

You could easily make this the first game your kids play, their first real video game series and it would not corrupt them. Far from it, I would think it enriching. Across the series, the levels opt out of falling into the templates of Snow World, Lava World and Desert World, instead opting for culturally themed worlds – New York World, Japan World, England World – not in such obvious titles but you can see the inspiration. The costumes add to this, it’s not all armour and silly hats, though there a few, but there are costumes based on Chinese Traditional Wear, Japanese Robes, Ponchos, Tuxedos, Saris and Turbans, come Little Big Planet 4 or 5, or enough DLC, and this series will touch on every major world culture at least once. In this sense, the game is inoffensive. Granted, I’m a white hetero cis male, it’s hard to offend my demographic unless you question my masculinity, but with a game that so celebrates diversity and avoids violence (You defeat monsters by jumping on their weak spots and they turn into clouds of smoke, hardly that gruesome), this is a game that is either a light spot of fun for a twenty something like me, a tool for enjoyment and education for children or a game you could possibly talk Mum and Dad into trying. Parents, seize this game, fast, when you see kids playing it, introduce them to the cultures and histories that have inspired the artistic styles and level designs to make your children students of the world!

Endless Creativity

In terms of games that allow you to be truly creative, this is up there with Mario Maker, easily being worshipped as the new user-friendly creativity tool of the decade, a title it deserves – past the “Nyahahaha this is so hard!” levels, Mario Maker offers the chance for potential game designers to use assets they fully understand to create unique gaming experiences. Little Big Planet, by the same token, allows players to use any of the materials, monsters and power-ups they have encountered in game to create whole new worlds, stickers can be found to personalise existing levels and both your home screen and character are fully customisable. LBP DLC is endless, the blank canvas hero allowing so many possibilities – Baymax, Kermit the Frog, Solid Snake, Dr Eggman – You can be any of those guys, the DLC exists and the in-game content allows you to try out so many variations with costumes ranging from ogre outfits to jeans and shirts. The series includes a Create Mode, a Pod (your home screen) for you to decorate, essentially anything and everything can be personalised and because of this there is a wealth of user-created levels, some of which make me think the designer should be paid for making this stuff up. If games rot the imagination, LBP gives you a healthy dose of it again, it offers you so much chance to be creative, it is almost overwhelming!

Simplicity

Don’t get me wrong, I am all for games being complex, a good strong plot in a video game is a major selling point for me but as a gamer with non-gamer friends I love hanging out with, getting them into games I’m passionate about is hard. They get names wrong, they laugh at things that aren’t supposed to be funny, they simplify the plot to the level of a child’s understanding and I don’t mind, they’re not fans, they’re not invested, but games that you can pick up, play once and understand are great. Pac-Man, Mario, Ghosts and Goblins, Little Big Planet – you have an objective, you have basic controls, away you go, that’s that, jump in and out at any point in the story and it still makes sense. For this reason, LBP is the most popular game on game night with my friendship circle, it’s good clean fun you don’t have to be a gamer to understand but it’s not insultingly easy to the point of being boring, the difficulty curve is perfect in every game (Well, LBP3 is actually more challenging for me than the last two, I think they’re trying to stop loyal fans from getting bored). A game you can share is a game you can love even more, nothing is as satisfying for a gamer as making someone else love the franchise you love, LBP is so easy to get into that you find yourself never short of friends willing to be Player 2. Try that with Dynasty Warriors, I get a lot of “I’m gonna be… Uhh… This big red guy with the pike. Is he good? What do I do? Oh I died… This game is hard, let’s do something else”. Worst. Damn. Thing.

It Evolves

If you make a sequel to a game, you have to change things up from the game before, that’s just a rule, you have to give the player something they can’t get from the previous game. Sonic 2 brought Tails and more levels, Sonic 3 had the option to save progress, Sonic 3 and Knuckles had a new character and a game twice as long as the games before, for those reasons those games got progressively more and more popular. Little Big Planet One is good, it plays very simply and it is very easy, a sort of introduction to the game series with nice tight level design and precious few variations on the run and jump format. Little Big Planet 2 took that and added to it, it added power-ups like a grappling hook, a fire-extinguisher hat, super strength gloves – the game had whole new realms of depth and more creative options to explore. LBP2 even had better mini-games added in, competitive ones, shooting galleries and giant dodgem car levels, this was a franchise that just got better. How do you top that? Try LBP3 – Create Mode and Play Mode now blend together in some levels, requiring you to fill blanks in a level’s design to advance (Hmm. No bridge? I better build one out of those cubes stacked on the cliff edge), the game operates on several layers with the standard far layer, near layer and in between now swapped for very very far, very far, far etc. and the game added whole new characters of different shapes and sizes with their own powers (shapeshifting, flying, running on walls and more). LBP could easily just get away with new levels and costumes and a new big baddy but it does so much more that each game is a distinct improvement on the one before. I just love it, I really do.

In conclusion, Little Big Planet as a series probably isn’t the best game series either but it’s a damn good candidate, in three games it has made more keen and loyal a fan than some game series have done in ten. I could play it with pretty much anyone and have a blast, I could play a level of any theme I could imagine or design it myself and my hero is whoever I want them to be, be it a dragon, a luchador or a green cat in a mankini (No joke, there is a mankini in this game). If you have a PS3 or PS4 and no LBP in your game library, try it, there’s something for everyone and that is pretty darn impressive.

Advertisements

Sonic Boom and Bust

I make it a point to write about stuff that either ruffles my personal feathers or the feathers of my peers or I write about stuff I personally find interesting, which should explain this blog’s mixture of posts about presidential debates, dead icons of the political world and the occasional blog post about Legend of Zelda or Red Dwarf. The last few posts have tilted the scales more in favour of serious subjects, such as violent protests and public image scandals with a post about a television show thrown in but I decided today is a day I feel like blogging about something of no real importance… unless you’re a SEGA fan. Sonic the Hedgehog, I’m coming for you buddy, this is your intervention.

So I’m assuming you’re a gamer if you’re reading this far in, you wouldn’t be here if the words Sega and Sonic turned you away after all and by that logic I’m sure you’ve heard of Sonic Boom right? In case you haven’t, it was a game that came out last year for Wii U and 3DS and it was atrocious, an unplayable mess of glitches meant to revitalise a dying franchise and introduce it to the next generation of gaming masses, thus the redesigned outfits. I’ll start by saying I have no problem with game franchises getting reboots, old fans have their games and these renewed looks and fresh starts allow each generation to select an era of a franchise to feel a connection to – my Sonic the Hedgehog bounced around the Death Egg in 2D, someone else will remember Sonic as a fast-talking free spirit that rescues princesses and turns into a werehog (misnomer but whatever). Anyway, Sonic Boom failed, all it achieved was the title of laughing stock and whilst it has launched a semi-successful animated series clearly meant to get kids to like the characters a little more, as games go this was the final nail in the coffin for that beloved blue rodent, his time has well and truly come.

I am not alone in this opinion but apparently SEGA didn’t get the memo that they haven’t just killed off Sonic’s potential now, they’ve cut it up into little chunks and disseminated it across an area as wide as Oklahoma. Sonic Boom, the biggest bust of the franchise since Sonic 06, the game that should not be mentioned, is getting a sequel. A delayed sequel, they pushed the release date back to 2016, thank goodness. Will this allow the game some proper polish? I’m not sure, they had 2015 planned as a release date after a game that had just come out in 2014? That’s uh, two years at best and this sequel for the 3DS isn’t anything groundbreakingly new, it looks like the salvaged remains of last time’s mistakes given a little more work, a viable strategy but reselling polished turds isn’t a sound marketing scheme. Polish all you want, delayed release dates do usually mean a better game comes out in the end, excluding a few (Fucking Duke Nukem, you total let down, you are a blog post in yourself!) but really, who is excited for this any more? Who is excited for any Sonic game? Well, here’s what I want to talk about really.

In my honest opinion, the last good Sonic game was Sonic Generations, before that Sonic Unleashed but only for the daytime sections just because you really did get a sense of speed. Sure, it does sort of play itself but your input essentially makes you the director of an action sequence that unfolds before your eyes in real time with it looking increasingly cinematic and impressive the quicker your reaction speeds, the game becomes much more fun when you try to imagine it as if you are shooting footage for a Sonic movie. Sonic, in his modern incarnation at least, goes through this boom and bust cycle. Essentially, it starts with “OOO NEW SONIC GAME! YAY! PERHAPS IT WILL BE GOOD!”, followed by “THIS GAME IS NOT CRAP! YAY! PERHAPS IT WILL STAND THE TEST OF TIME AND REVIVE THIS FRANCHISE” ending with “THIS GAME HAS LITTLE REPLAY VALUE AND I ACTUALLY CANNOT STAND THE STORY LINE, SONIC IS IN DECLINE AS A FRANCHISE!”. Caps rage aside, it’s the same old story, a constant rollercoaster with each new iteration of Sonic being hailed as a blessing before found out as lacking substance. Sonic is washed up, a celebrity you only hear from when they stumble out of rehab or get photographed shitting in a drinking fountain after a raging bender, he doesn’t land any major roles except in yearly crapfests and his only great role in recent memory was just a big ol’ dose of nostalgia with rose-tinted shades. So what should SEGA do now?

SEGA is not in a secure state, they almost had to sell out entirely and for a good while they have only existed as sofa crashers in Casa de Nintendo, paying rent in video games about sexy angel-slaying witches or hedgehogs that can travel through time to Camelot but they’re far from having a hit that gets the whole gaming community hooked and for every Bayonetta game we get, there’s a Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing to follow, a “Please, please buy something” bit of muck lobbed at us desperately with such uninspired DLC you half expect them to include Jerry, the guy who delivers sandwiches, as a payable add-on to the roster. SEGA cannot afford to fail again, they seriously can’t but with Sonic being a dead horse that has been flogged into puree, where can they look? Try fucking anywhere. Samba de Amigo Fitness Game! Golden Axe 3D! Alex Kidd: Return to the Enchanted Castle! Ecco the Dolph… no okay, maybe not, too far. Point is, SEGA is not short of franchises they can give some love, I’d be so glad to see Sword of Vermilion come back as a full scale hack and slash cross roleplaying game or Alex Kidd get the platform game spotlight for a while. Sonic is the company mascot, sure, but this insistence on reviving his brand means attaching his likeness to so many touch-and-go projects that you are putting your greatest name on sub-par products. You know what that makes Sonic? Johnny Depp in Lone Ranger – you reckon the famous face will print money but you ignore the fact you’re slapping a famous face on tinned dog muck instead of someone people want.

SEGA, you’ll never read this but it is just my opinion that you’ve hit a wall with Sonic, put him down, leave him alone for a few years until we forget the bitter taste of Sonic Boom and give old and new SEGA fans alike a reboot of something good like Altered Beast or Decap Attack (Seriously, Decap Attack 2, I’d pay good money, especially if the graphics were cleaner but kept that sorta goofy cheap Halloween vibe to them, imagine the possibilities!). You are an intelligent company, you have produced great games that were not Sonic games and you have characters galore you have barely scratched the potential of, many of them left untouched since the days of the Mega Drive. Bring them back – bigger, better and less desperate!

Close Call Cafe

Set your mind back a while now, do you recall December 2014? Recall a blog post I wrote back then about an independent business that sold rare brands of cereal to those looking for a unique/quirky/hipster-baiting experience? No. Refresh your memory:

https://oldmanwolferants.wordpress.com/2014/12/14/this-is-cereals-business/

Why do I bring them up? Haven’t you heard? They were the target of a protest, not a peaceful picketing either, full on property damage and graffiti on the walls. Why? Their prices are in the region of £2.50 a bowl, quite dear yes ($4 upwards for the Americans in the room) but then again this isn’t a bowl of corn flakes and a mug of tea affair, this is “Hey, remember this weird cereal from your childhood that was nothing but chocolate, marshmallows and delicious tooth decay?!”. Essentially, Cereal Killer Cafe was one of the targets of the Class War Anti-Gentrification protests, ‘anarchists’ seeking a war against those who pursue personal profit over the community and fixing issues such as poverty in the area. The protesters argue that it is their mission to target these niche stores devoted to using their resources to sell overpriced goods to narrow markets, rather than setup businesses that sell affordable products to the masses and play their part in helping the community. A slightly misguided cause, the world of business is not so black and white, not every manager or business owner is a penny-pinching fiend nor is every charity entirely honest and above reproach, but I can appreciate their core drive. We live in an unfair society, I do think more needs to be done to tackle poverty and inequality, there are diseases that need cures, countries that need feeding and natural wonders preserving but this… this is not the way.

Independent businesses suffer to stay afloat, in a society where the coffee is always cheaper elsewhere and products are easily copied and made at lower production costs in another country, the savings are passed onto the consumer and those that know how to do it on the cheap, ethically or not, get ahead. Outsourcing jobs, inferior materials, dealing inventors and designers duff hands, there’s no blow too low for the top dogs of the global market. Scale that down to a small family run affair based on a street corner, you don’t have a vast network to rely on, no contacts or partners or sister-companies, you have your life savings, your best friend who needs a job and a dream. Coffee shops charge us through the nose because they have to compete with Starbucks and Costa. If you are the best-known name in a trade, you can afford to charge less because your customer base is so vast, what does it matter? A 50% off sale is easy for some stores because it will encourage sales but some places just can’t afford to sell their wares for less, every penny counts. Your money, to an independent business, is all the more important, the difference between breadwinning and just dreaming of bread. So of course, they have to charge more, any less is profit-shaving they can’t afford, prices are tailored to be enough, to get them by – when have you ever seen the guy running that little tea garden swan off to Cuba for a fortnight just because? Chances are if they did, they either had good money to start from their social standing or they scrimped and saved like fuck.

Anti-gentrification in and of itself is a loathing of capitalism and what it has done to us as a people, I understand that, I sympathise, but the independent businesses of the world are not the villains, they are like us but they just had the resources to hand to build a business and they went for it, many of us would do the same in their shoes if we could. However, blaming them for their prices is blaming the wrong people? Can’t afford tea and cake at Julie’s Sweet Treats? Blame Starbucks for driving her prices upwards with their loyalty schemes and vast wealth of ingredients. Couldn’t afford new threads from that Etsy dealer? Blame the high street for making the hipster-crowd their target, finding a way to mass produce that ‘vintage retro’ look at the price of a few sweatshop slave wages. Hate stupid trends brainwashing the masses? Don’t take it out on people trying so hard to make their business stand out from the common crap we devour every single day. The people of these crowds claimed to fight for their community and yet they came together as a collective to do what they could to destroy it, to tear apart businesses in their area for excluding them with their prices. Cutting one’s nose off to spite their face is perhaps a release of frustration but you look no better off without your nose you know?

I’m angry myself, I’m angry and upset to hear the word protest become smeared with the mud of violence. Protests should not be violent, protests are standing up and saying this is wrong but being damn decent about it, channeling that anger towards injustice into a creative force for good. Martin Luther King, Gandhi, Emmeline and Christabel Pankhurst, not common thugs but souls that endured shame, humiliation and hunger to defend what mattered, they could have resorted to firebombs and punching the police but they knew that to be heard, they had to be seen as reasonable. If you use that anger for destruction, people do not respect what you represent, trust me, they merely learn to fear your anger and to hate the person behind it, to demonise them and view them as a mindless beast. I get angry, I blog, I give back to my community by just being a good person ready to help someone in need and by giving my free time to charity. Imagine if this gang of hooded vandals had decided instead of rioting and attacking small businesses, they would clean the streets or feed the homeless or do some mass participation event to raise money for Cancer Research or British Red Cross or Oxfam. Such efforts would speak volumes of the worth of this community, this has just caused us all to see them as thugs.

Look, don’t get me wrong, I understand this rage at the system, the divide between rich and poor is ever expanding and the two ‘most developed’ nations of the West have poverty rates that’d make their charity cases look on with sad eyes, successive governments have taken more and more power away from the common man in favour of the business owner. We are angry at those who have anything because we’re told we live in great nations of wealth but see so little of it, the people at the top however are so wealthy it makes me physically sick. The eighty richest people in the world own the same wealth as the three point five million poorest, that’s not even enough to fill a double decker bus. The riot here, or protest as you might see it depending on your viewpoint, is a symptom of a disease that has afflicted society since the dawn of such and that has only worsened with time. Mark my words, ‘violent protest’ will only get more and more common a phrase in the next few years unless something is done to bridge this poverty gap. You of the middle class upwards might say those in high positions worked hard to get ahead and deserve what they get, you might be right, but do you really think that the world is just a nesting ground for millions of layabouts? Honestly? That there are so few people of worth you could fit their names on two sides of A4? I think not, if nothing else then the ‘lazy sods’ of the lower classes deserve at least the bare minimum – shelter, security, food – then maybe they can ‘get off their backsides and contribute to society’

Pig Girls Don’t Cry: Thoughts Thus Far

Recent articles posted here have been heavy so let’s lighten things up around here, I will instead do a TV piece. You may or may not be aware that The Muppets are back on TV with a new series about their latest project, a late night chat show hosted by Miss Piggy. However, the show also does the behind the scenes of the show within the show in a mockumentary style, essentially modernising the old Muppet Show format by fusing The Office and Conan O’Brian’s chat show into one thing but with puppets. Sound good? Well…

The show has a promising start, Muppet humour is there from the beginning. Beaker gets abused, there’s a misdirect by Honeydew, the whole “Piggy is the star but she’s an actual pig, ergo she is heavy and such” stuff, jokes that would not be out of place in the old films. However, we get a taste of the adult humour with Zoot mistaking the team meeting for an AA meeting and Sam playing the ‘concerned mothers of America’ voice as he goes combing through the scripts for even the vaguest of innuendos and curse-like words. I guess it puts us on the same page as the writers then, it’s the characters we love in a way we don’t normally see them. After some easy jokes, we get to hear what to expect – ‘The Muppets’ is the story of our favourite characters working on a new TV concept whilst being recorded in a documentary, the format immediately being ripped on by Gonzo, who is in turn made the target of an obvious joke. Things are okay so far, not exceptional but it looks like something worth watching at least, let’s see where they take it.

Well, cue Piggy. Miss Piggy, poor Miss Piggy, is just bad in this appearance. The sassy yet sexy glamour pig of our past who was always a little self-centred but fundamentally charming is hacked apart by people who have clearly reduced her down to a handful of traits – namely dolled up, loud and bossy. She shouts at staff for no real reason, her first line is a line of abuse and she tears the efforts of others apart without mercy before hounding Kermit for the most trivial stuff. Piggy only gets worse later on but I’m doing this review in the process of the episode so each thing as it happens for now. So, the show must go on, Fozzie is the warmup act for the crowd before the main event and fails in his usual fashion, getting savaged by Statler and Waldorf, the only characters who are still their old selves.

The ‘show’ goes on whilst Kermit has thoughts to himself, the fact he uses the world ‘hell’ in these thoughts is remarked upon negatively by Sam, who I guess has gone from a patriot to a pansy. After that, he books a guest star, Tom Bergeron of Dancing With Stars, called in to replace a guest Piggy can’t stand. Kermit is rather negative in his appearance here, more on that later because we now have to see into Fozzie’s love life. Yup, cue easy joke about the dual meaning of bear as both an animal and a burly gay man. Fozzie is subjected to… bear racism, by his girlfriend’s dad and the scene is just… yeesh… bad. Less said the better but the barrel was scraped for these racism analogies using salmon and toilet habits, because jokes about bears are finite people, cut them some slack, Henson exhausted the good ones thirty something years ago.

Cut back to the writer’s office, Gonzo shows Kermit a skit he’s been working on and Kermit says he hates it, not in a disdainful but ultimately lets his friends have their way Kermit sense but more a “You are paid for this job? For real? I fucking resent that” tone of voice. Gonzo doesn’t seem bothered by the criticism and then we have Denise, the subject of controversy and Kermit’s new squeeze, a prettier skinnier pig with this cheeky playful demeanour. Yeah, Kermit dropped a feminist for an airhead, go figure, kinda sketchy when you think about it. Adult humour is brought in here with Denise giving her drink straw some puppet fellatio in the background of Kermit’s talking head section and Kermit even refers to “We met at a cross-promoting event and ended up… ‘cross-promoting'”. This is jarringly weird, the Muppets are making references to fucking each other, these are not the characters for this sort of humour, either make new puppets based on the Muppets to do this show or just cut the sex references, sure a kid won’t get them but it’s just uncomfortable to watch.

So, Piggy is brought back up, shouting abuse at her personal trainer this time, she seems to take out her frustration on people set on making the most of her potential, is this something extremely clever or did the head writer just say “Make Miss Piggy into a colossal fuckhead”? After that, Denise reveals the reason she thinks Piggy didn’t want former guest Elizabeth Banks in the show, they auditioned for a film together and Piggy wasn’t picked for a part, boo-hoo. Kermit then decides that’s a stupid reason for cutting a guest from a show and brings Banks back in without consulting anyone, he just does it, he views it as decisive action but I see it as weedy and cowardly, he’s not facing up to Piggy, he’s going behind her back to undermine her. Note, there is no scene in which he cancels Tom’s appearance, we just go onto the next day, Banks is there and Kermit tells everyone to just deal with it and that Piggy can essentially suck his green one if she’s unhappy. Kermit then shouts down all who oppose his irrefutably clever move, horribly even, he takes on Animal and Gonzo like they aren’t friends, they’re idiots holding him back. Denise thinks this is a sexy take-charge frog but Kermit has gone against the protocols and asked for no opinions from anyone, he’s assumed because he’s in charge of the behind-the-scenes stuff he can just do whatever.

Anyway, this take-charge mood is turned on its head when he decides Banks can’t be around where Miss Piggy can see her until the show begins so he tries to offhand her to Scooter but she throws him out of one of those golf-buggy things they use to navigate studios and comes back to ask what is going on. Of course, Piggy walks in and awkward hijinks ensue… by which I mean Kermit is unveiled as an underhanded toad rather than a timid-but-endearing frog. Fozzie is also there, trying to impress his girlfriend and her family by showing them where he works but Miss Piggy shouts at him and calls him worthless, she also forgot his goddamn name earlier on. Are you shitting me? THEY WORKED TOGETHER, this takes place in a continuity after they made films and TV shows together and here she is just being really unreasonably mean to him for just trying to be a showman.

The truth about Elizabeth Banks and Miss Piggy is revealed, they broke up after seeing Pitch Perfect 2, in which Banks starred. Piggy was apparently taking too many selfies and ruined the film for Kermit, who then realises he’s just been a sucker for her abuse for ages and walks away. Kermit has apparently forgotten about this and realises now he is the one in the wrong, he forgot about the whole affair and how Elizabeth Banks was on a poster in that moment. He tries to make peace with her and she then tears apart his life choices and his weight gain after he asks for honesty. The only other thing before the show goes live is the end of the Fozzie arc in this episode – the parents aren’t impressed and leave but the girlfriend stays, she says she loves that brown ball of bad puns no matter what they say and he’s not convinced or satisfied, instead he wonders how he can validate himself by some other means. Geez Fozzie, I didn’t realise you had it so rough, are you trying so hard due to some childhood issue? It’s an odd attempt to add depth to a talking pile of felt and ping-pong balls but Fozzie is one of the characters in this I can watch without wincing, sadly can’t say that for backstabbing Kermit or egocentric she-devil Miss Piggy.

The show goes ahead, Tom Bergeron turns up and realises what’s happened and Kermit feels awful… but not bad enough to send him a personal gift or anything, just a ‘standard gift basket’ package, claiming it’s ‘good enough’. Note, if you think an apology is just enough to meet a standard, that’s insincere, it should be an apology befitting what you did wrong – Tom’s been made a fool of and built up for nothing, that’s unfair on the guy. I get he’s obviously the ‘minor celebrity cameo’ but if we took this as a real life scenario, Kermit is the sort of guy to scrimp on apologies? What a colossal twat. After that, we wrap up with a musical performance by Imagine Dragons with guest drummer Animal and a quick joke from the grouchy old men we all know and love and that’s that, the least outright hilarious thing I’ve seen the Muppets in for a long time…

Review done, let’s address the controversy, is it suitable for children? Family characters taking on a mature style of show? Well, I reckon you could let children watch it, the inappropriate stuff is hinted at so subtly it’d fly over your head until you’re 16 but aside from seeing talking puppets and some occasional slapstick, there’s not much for kids here. The characters are boring, the jokes are mostly one liners and there’s nothing wacky to look forward to – Gonzo isn’t catapulted into space by some bizarre contraption, Beaker doesn’t almost die for some sadistic science project, Animal doesn’t go batshit crazy and Kermit doesn’t do the “YAAAAAAAAAAAAAAYYYY!” thing any more. I’d worry more about disappointing kids than corrupting them with this, it disappointed me. I get the feeling the writers just looked at what comedy has become and tried to emulate it and in doing so, turned their characters into interchangeable personnas you’d have Steven Merchant play in a sitcom. In fact, someone call Ricky Gervais, I think they probably stole some of his work and passed it as their own. I understand characters need to change and evolve to stay fresh but this isn’t it for me, at least not so far, maybe it’ll improve but the pilot was a lack-lustre attempt to force goofy puppets into roles portrayed by the cast of Extras in a way supposedly engaging for the American audience. As for the controversial character of Denise, she’s got nothing on Piggy thus far, she’s sorta flirty and tries to be funny but I doubt a great deal of thought was given to her, she’s basically a “Hot girl in the workplace” trope at this point.

There you go, my thoughts thus far, I’ll keep watching and hoping and review the series at the end if people are interested (And any especially interesting episodes in between) but if you think you have to see this, you don’t, it’s nothing special, it’s a so-so comedy using famous characters made popular by nostalgia and recent movies to promote itself and it’s sub-par script

The Shout

Heads up, sensitive topic/moral grey area being covered here on the topic of abortion, not a subject I’ve given much coverage before but with the rise of the #shoutyourabortion hashtag, it’s hard to bury my head in the sand on this one. Needless to say, this isn’t going to be pleasantries over tea and crumpets so if this is a subject that makes you uneasy then this is your opportunity to go read one of my articles about comic books or science fiction shows or for you to say sod it altogether and carry on scrolling through your News Feed on Facebook to find a cute picture to comment on. Ok, weeded out all the sensitive sorts then? No easy way of doing this, let’s just go for it.

So last Saturday, whilst I was busy watching Doctor Who, Lindy West was busy starting a Twitter trend to stand in solidarity with the Planned Parenthood clinics of the US, who are apparently due some budget cuts courtesy of the House of Representatives. “Shout Your Abortion” works on the premise that these changes are approved because we as a society still cling to this notion that abortions are sinful deeds we must commit in secrecy if at all and a potential mother giving up a potential child is somehow morally defunct. Therefore, to fight back against this oppression, women are being encouraged to divulge in the details of their abortion and come to terms with what they did, not so they can repent but so they can realise they shouldn’t have to, it was their choice to make and they chose what was right for them. Obviously, you can tell from my wording where I stand, I’m with the shouters here – there shouldn’t be laws on what you can and can’t do to your own body, it’s perfectly legal to pierce every inch of yourself and tattoo swastikas all over what remains, why should it be illegal to carry out a medical procedure to terminate a ball of cells in your womb?

“Pro-life” and “Pro-choice” are terms that are thrown around a lot, the former coming across as ironic when they defend a potential life over an existing one, which is akin to pushing people over on the street so they don’t get hit by a car whilst having a blind eye to the kid who isn’t looking before he crosses. Anyway, point here is more about the Planned Parenthood clinic, who have defended themselves by saying that only a small percentage of what they do is actually related to aborting children and that they’re not some murder mill but a place of learning for young potential parents that happen to offer the morally questionable possibility of abortion. I’m not happy that this is how they defend themselves and evidently, I’m not alone in that unease, why they should have to stick up for their line of work by saying “But we don’t even do it that often” is atrocious and I’ll explain why.

Make your clinic a murder mill for unborn children if you must, put big signs up and everything because abortions are important, crucially important. You might say “Oh but they’re knocked up teen sluts who didn’t use protection, serves em right hurhurhur!” but you’d be dead wrong and even if you were, how does that serve them right? They fucked up their life so give them MORE LIFE to be responsible for?! What? You don’t give an arsonist matches! A CHILD is not a punishment for questionable choices in life, a child should be a planned decision and the next step in a relationship, not some sort of karmic rain. Abortions are vital, abortions are what allow a victim to not have to carry the child of their assailant, abortions can save a life that can’t endure the suffering they’d go through in childbirth, abortions are what stops girls from savaging themselves with wire hangers to desperately hide their pregnancy. You need to leave that choice open to people, if it is a choice that will save their goddamn lives, you offer them that choice, to withhold it is to allow them to die!

The shame surrounding abortion is the idea that pregnancy is a woman’s fault, like it were a conscious decision but then America does genuinely have politicians who think the womb has anti-rape hormones, sperm blockers, Wi-Fi hotspot capabilities, mustard dispenser, Siri voice search etc. A dangerous lack of sufficient sexual education has led to unnecessary finger-pointing, fused with traditions and outdated ideals, this means women who don’t want to go through childbirth are seen as demonic sperm-receptacles. I wonder if the fact we don’t just tell our kids where babies come from means there’s a mysticism and magic surrounding childbirth that is as dangerous as it is lovely. Sure, it’s nice when a child is born and you hold it and d’awwwwwwwwwwww but it also means people put it on a pedestal so when you become pregnant, people expect a child of you and if you willingly terminate that child, they hold you with the same regard as someone who swipes candy on Halloween and burns it or smashes Christmas gifts with a giant hammer, taking that mysticism ans destroying it for them. Heaven forbid your body be about you, the moment a woman is pregnant she suddenly becomes lesser, all attention being on that growing bump in her belly, even to the point of them prioritising it over her. Well on behalf of women, let me get my hammer…

Pregnancy is a process of nature, it is about as magical and awe-inspiring as taking a dump. I mean no harshness, I’m not saying if you’re pregnant and happy about it your child is worthless but stop referring to it as a miracle, a miracle is an act of God and we know that’s not what pregnancy is (Or at least we should know that by now). A sperm fertilises an egg, or two, the egg divides and cells multiply and so on and so on until a baby arrives. Abortion is a means by which to step in before that egg resembles a baby and just stop that process. There is no ‘death’, no ‘soul’ is harmed, no ‘miracle’ undone, you are literally just destroying an egg cell, you destroy cells all the time when you scratch an itch or pull a hair out. Comparing pregnancy to miracles adds a layer of religious fanaticism to it that is dangerous to consider when this should be a process of science by now, one we can track WITH SCIENCE and stop WITH SCIENCE if it is so required. Abortion is the only medical procedure we seem to actually say “No, you know what, this isn’t right, maybe we shouldn’t do this, maybe let those cells live?” about, you wouldn’t spare a second thought for the spread of cancer but pregnancy? We want to protect something that doesn’t even have a face yet over someone who has had dreams, memories, lovers, failures and potential yet untapped. I’ll tell you something, I will save someone who is alive over someone who might be alive one day.

Oh, another thing, this whole “The cure to cancer is in the mind of an aborted baby” argument? Horseshit. You think that’s how progress works? Only one person can have an idea ever and if that person doesn’t invent what they were ‘born’ to invent we just do without? You think we’d never have electricity without Franklin? Never have the Internet without Berners-Lee or computers without Babbage? No, if it is ever going to be invented, it will be invented someday by someone, it’s not like we’re only without holodecks because the prodigal holodeck child isn’t alive yet, someone has had the idea and people are working on it, multiple people. If Benjamin Franklin hadn’t discovered electricity, someone else would have, it might have been a while longer but it’s not like God said “Damnit Ben, you had one job on Earth, what happened?”
“My mother was pro-choice you see..”
“Oh those fucking liberals, ruining my schemes. Ah well, guess humanity will never have electricity. Shame, Netflix was going to be a big deal…”
The ‘babies’ aren’t heaven-sent prodigies, they can’t scream or cry or protest, mainly because they don’t have lungs or brains and also because they wouldn’t know what was going even if they did. How do you think an abortion works? A flamethrower up the foof?

Shout those abortions ladies, shout them without fear or shame because there is nothing wrong in saving your own life or realising that you cannot provide for another. I would rather children not be born than be born into poverty, you want to protest they should let these ‘children’ live? Well you better pay their expenses then! What’s that? Oh you won’t? Didn’t think so. Truth is, if we have the ability to do this for people, let that choice fall to the people who have to live with the consequences and don’t put bills or laws or cuts in place that take that choice away from them because as we’ve seen from third-world countries, the necessity isn’t taken away with the facility, people will attempt to do these things at home and they will do it wrong. Please, please, if you are “Pro-Life”, save the lives that have lives to lose! Women, keep fighting for your right to own your own body, let it be known I’ll fight too!

Made A Pig’s Ear Of It

So of all the things you’d hear about David Cameron, necrophilic bestiality is probably in the same category of unbelievable as him being a secret pornstar or the world’s greatest Pokemon trainer. If you’re somehow unaware, say you live in the US or you don’t follow the news, the British Prime Minister David Cameron allegedly put his penis in the mouth of a dead pig in his uni days as an initiation ritual for a boys club, the idea being it’s one of those gross trials of masculinity like drinking a toilet water cocktail or lighting your ass hair on fire. Vulgar images aside, this odd detail of Cameron’s past has had him become a laughing stock more than he already was and the Prime Minister staunchly denies the allegations, claiming them to be some sort of mud-slinging attack on his reputation or a wild fib by some birk from his past trying to get attention. A prime story like this, I couldn’t resist the opportunity to weigh in on the matter so let’s begin shall we?

Firstly, I’m not sure what to believe, this does sound like a stupid ritual you would have to endure to join the club of the douchebag elite and maybe a young David Cameron was that wild and reckless, after all he is the same man who lit money on fire to taunt the poor as a student (Bullingdon Club activity, you have to offer a homeless person £50 and then set the money on fire whilst they watch) but then David Cameron has the face of a man so boring, drying paint and growing grass are petitioning for the new expression of disinterest be “I’d rather go for a pint with David Cameron”. A life in politics might have just chipped away all the joy and laughter in our PM’s soul, though I can imagine him and George Osborne laughing it up as they read people’s desperate pleas for their benefits. Denying it as a hoax is perhaps a bad move, David can’t let himself be the subject of a joke, he couldn’t whip up some pork puns and admit we all did stupid shit when we were young, instead he wants to be the perfect paragon of behaviour and deny his past until he is blue in the face. I’m inclined to believe it, though I do struggle to, mostly because it doesn’t sound like something you’d just conjure up to spite him, if you’re going to lie you’d make it a lie you could believe that perhaps Cameron attended “Keep Britain White” rallies or something, not that he’d face-fuck a barnyard animal for a lark.

So why would a club do this to their members you might think? University fraternities are depraved but surely not this bad right? Why couldn’t they just superglue their pubes to his face or paint his cock blue? Well, chances are this is a bizarre cross between male bonding and shared shame, the idea being they get people to do these things to have dirt on them in the future. Those claims of photographic evidence? Chances are the photos might well exist and may only surface on public media if Cameron crosses the wrong guy, they probably wanted to have something shameful to blackmail him with and perhaps in turn those who have this squeeze on him, have respective binds laid upon them. For all we know, it could just be this stalemate, with everyone having the power in one incriminating photograph to trip up their peer if they vote the wrong way or support the wrong cause. David Cameron has made waves in his own party in the past, we like to make him out as Satan incarnate but gay marriage became legal in this country whilst he was at the helm, I can imagine some of his old friends only ever referred to the LGBT community as ‘screaming benders’ back in the day, maybe someone holds a grudge. Of course, I could be reading too much into it and maybe it just is some pillock from Oxford trying to get the nation to believe some cock and bull story about his ol’ chum Davey Boy.

Jeremy Corbyn must be kicking himself though hey? Morally above personal smear campaigns and then this gem lands in his lap? Tell you what, if it had been revealed Corbyn was a man with a taste for pork in that sense, The Sun would print so many articles on it you’d see nothing but disturbed looking pigs on every cover page. David Cameron won’t feel a serious blow from this, it’ll be a joke that grows stale and he’ll pay off his friends in high places to make this go away but when Corbyn was taken out of context, the newspapers leapt on the idea that Jeremy might have a thing for Bin Laden. That said, whilst Cameron was taunting the poor and abusing animals with his ding-a-ling, Corbyn was publicly protesting against Apartheid, let that make you think. I have to commend the Labour Leader though, a target of smear campaigns, he makes the promise he’ll never make it personal with his opponents, it’s all about the people for him. I’d say I’d do the same but if I found out my nemesis was the fool of the day for allegations he porked a pig, I’d struggle not to make some wisecracks about it.

I’m disappointed in Cameron though, I expected him to try and dismiss this but really? You could have made yourself seem much more likeable by raising your hands up, admitting to it even if it was not true and saying we all do daft shit when we’re young, it’d have been a chance to get the public to see you as more than a walking mass of misery in a suit. Denying this only means if it is confirmed later, you’ve proven yourself an idiot and a liar, which we all already think but you needn’t give us evidence to back it up. If it is all a hoax, fair enough, though if I was being smeared by people making up that I stupid ballsy stunts, I’d embrace it, at least they aren’t claiming you’re a pedophile or the leader of a slave ring, what’s wrong with this harmless joke? Or is someone close to you a pig and you’re afraid of offending them? Is it Ian Duncan Smith? Is he a pig? He always did look a bit… And he’s greedy… GASP!

Anyway, laugh it up whilst it’s funny I guess, someone will save David’s bacon before long

BOOM CHEAP SHOT!

Pulled The Trigger

Before we begin, I just want to let people know in advance I am not promising this new wave of material means a long-awaited permanent return of Old Man Wolfe. A promise made is a promise that can be broken, until I am mentally, socially and financially stable, my creativity levels are prone to sudden rises and falls more often a Dragon Ball Z character. That said, here is something so without further ado, let’s dig in.

An observant reader might notice a missing Trigger Warning section at the beginning of blog posts. Granted, you might think a rambling discussion of why Jeremy Corbyn is not the Anti-Christ didn’t merit one but you might also wonder does this mean I’ve stopped bothering? I’ve previously defended them, I see no harm in pre-warning readers that the content they are agreeing to read might unnerve, upset or disturb and that a little heads up before things get heavy is fair, rather than an apology at the end. However, there’s a point between being cautious and playing Nanny to my readers that I want to work on and I’ll open the issue to debate and discussion, provided that said discussion is constructive and not just “Don’t bother with those prissy SJWs” or “Refusing to put them is evil, you cishet bigot!”

Trigger Warnings, for those somehow unaware of them despite their appearance across Tumblr and this very blog, are basically disclaimers saying that the content ahead contains something disturbing, be it related to some form of abuse, originally surfacing as a way of warning rape survivors that the article of a blog was related to an experience to one they survived. Makes sense, female bloggers tended to start the trend, warning their own that this was about something graphic, something they might relate to and not in a way they’d like to. As such, an easy little warning like that stops the emotionally vulnerable wandering into a darker corner of the internet and giving themselves a vivid flashback. Noble intention but when anything catches on, there’s a chance it can be warped. Trigger Warnings exist for many kinds of content – be it sexual (abuse or just the discussion of sex), racism, body-image, self-harm, suicide, death, vomit/bodily fluids etc. – basically anything anyone could reasonably have an issue with, and some things you might think there’s no way people could be upset by. Has the idea of a pre-warning now expanded into less a hand on the shoulder and more a bouncer at the door?

Truth is, if TWs came about to help those with PTSD, we have to remember that PTSD is incredibly complex as a condition, the triggers for such vary from person to person. One person might remember an incident by reading about something similar, one might remember by location or smell or seeing someone who resembles a figure of the past, some even just the wrong phrase in the wrong place. With such a complex array of triggers, it is impossible to put up a barrier on a blog that accounts for every single of them. Obviously, measures can be put in place to deal with the more common triggers and I will do so, that’s only fair and I can’t guarantee all my readers are of sound judgment without a warning. However, I must address a downside to the trigger warnings now and their relation to reality.

I want this blog to be a pleasant read most of the time but more than that, I want my readers to think and feel. I use humour to break the ice but the core messages of my articles are important to me and should be acknowledged, not just for my sake but because those messages need to be heard. I have discussed slut-shaming, I have discussed racism, class-war, politics both in the UK and the US and I’ve even addressed matters relating to crises across the world. Such matters are ugly, they are dark and unforgiving and they come without warning. Nobody warned the Syrian public a civil war was coming, nobody told a girl what she was in for that day and where to avoid, nobody foretold the deaths related to benefit cuts and even if they did, nobody knew the exact figures or which individuals would die in poverty for being ‘lazy’. Life fucks you over without a warning and trigger warnings for every little thing offer us the ability to look past that and for my readers to look past content they don’t want to admit is important. I am here to make you laugh but sometimes I have to be serious, I have to take you to the edge of the cliff and show you that there is a fucking huge drop and people keep falling off it, walking away from me doesn’t mean those that fall grow wings. Our world is not just, life doesn’t have a plan for everyone and things don’t always work out, sometimes we have to see that things are wrong and ugly and awful and it has to be us that says no more. You have the right to walk away, of course, but I cannot shut down discussions for fear I might cause ripples in the water, there have to be some or these things can never proceed.

I will continue to put warnings on my articles, albeit it will read more simply that the following article may contain content that could quite possibly disturb certain readers. I will not, at least for now, highlight every sort of person that could be upset by my article because there is a chance I could miss one particular group and cause panic. I am trusting you, my readers, to know what you can and cannot face up to and I hope you will trust me in that when I open the door to reveal something hideous, you will know that I am doing so for our own good, to highlight an issue we as a people must overcome, a demon we must band together and vanquish. If you are uncertain of what is going to upset you, the topic of most of my articles is revealed one or two paragraphs in, you can read that far and decide whether or not to read on but if you read, you are agreeing you can face it, you cannot then blame me if I upset you. I will upset you reader, I will make you uncomfortable at least once in your lifetime, the world is a cruel place and I have to expose that so that you feel that anger too and do what you can in your life to fix the issue as I will try to in mine.

Reader, I will be your tour guide through Hell, I will point out the stops but I will not hug you and protect you from all the beasts that dwell here, I know that if you can sign up for this, you can fight those beasts yourself. I don’t want you thinking this means all doom and gloom, I want to put some fun articles up here too, nonsense about video games and movies and personal experiences you might think sorta goofy but I’m not going to back away from the big issues when they get me as riled up as they do so I can’t promise big safe cuddles any more, just a sign at the door saying “Enter If You Dare”.