Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Apropos nothing...

Here's Sepp!

Back for more corruption-based fun soon, folks! 

ZX Open World Part 3

Isometric 3D wasn't the only game in town, of course.

There were a number of other games that came out on the Spectrum during the "isometric wars" that can't be ignored, either because they were direct attempts at open world games, or contained elements or ideas that would later prove essential for future advances. Funnily enough, the programmers or teams writing games with non-isometric 3D views tended to produce very unusual, individualistic (and sometimes downright odd) projects.

One that came out in late 1985 was Gyron. I can't say I ever really fully understood what the hell was going on in this one. You were in a series of mazes, which had giant balls rolling around in them, and towers that kept shooting at you.

It was apparently a great game once you understood what was happening, but I never got that far, I'm afraid, so I can't report in any detail, and I'm not prepared to play through it on an emulator to find out. Life, I fear, is too short.

Tau Ceti: Four views of the game, there

The other game I always group with Gyron is Tau Ceti (and as it turns out, the latter was directly inspired by the former, so there's a nice thing). Tau Ceti was actually a great game and given the excessive delays that were affecting the Spectrum port of Elite (as mentioned in part 1), it sort of stole its thunder. Elite appeared on the Spectrum at much the same time, but Tau Ceti was more immediate, had better graphics, was faster, etc.

Elite had its fans but the Spectrum version could never hope to replicate the massive success of the versions on other platforms; it had simply been beaten to the market and no longer really had a USP. In fact, there was a comparitively vast space-based exploring/ collecting game with vector graphics that had been out over six months already, in (Z80 programming pioneer) David Webb's Starion.

The Sentinel: Absorb energy and ascend, or something
The next obvious game to mention is The Sentinel (early 1987). It was the first that I can recall to attempt full-screen "solid" (OK, solid/shaded) graphics to create a game world and it still managed to be vast, with ten thousand large landscapes (the screens shown here each show only a tiny part of a landscape) to get through.

Also I'm pretty sure that it must have been one of the first tries at procedural generation for its 3D landscapes - if I remember correctly, which I probably don't - the graphics were all generated from algorithms depending on your position and direction of view. As I understand it, the program could render the view of any point on a landscape from any other point, i.e. as close to the way modern procedural games are done.

I think.

All that said, it was more of a puzzle or strategy game than an arcade explorer and as your character teleported, there wasn't the freedom of movement that a true open world game would allow. To be honest, it's just as well; whilst the game could render the graphics at a reasonable speed, jump-cuts for character movement were essential to keep the pace up.

Driller: all singing, all dancing, but
unfortunately verr-r-r-rry sloo-o-o-ow
The final game I think fits into this section is Driller, shown here at something like five times normal speed in a clever animated GIF wot I made and then forgot to take the logo off.

You can imagine what it was like at the regular Spectrum speed, but if you've no imagination then I can tell you - it was fucking slow.

That wasn't really all that important; although complete freedom of movement was allowed, this was another game that leaned towards the strategic, so its being slow was often quite useful in allowing you more time to work out what on earth to do.

This was autumn 1987, which was pretty late on in the Spectrum's lifetime, and Driller (plus its sequels) probably best represented the limits of what the machine could do with an solid 3D, arcade style open world game. However, it isn't (in my opinion) the best 48K Spectrum open world game that was produced during its normal lifespan, another game that appeared in that autumn takes that title for me.

But before going on to that, there are two other games that really have to be mentioned - given the excessive length of this never-ending piece, it would be rude not to - as they encapsulated the essential elements that would prove to be so influential in one particular genre of future open world game. I'm talking GTA and its clones, so you know what's coming - FIGHTING and DRIVING.

Saboteur: killing had never been so much fun

Turbo Esprit: this is the real proto-GTA 3, trust me

Coincidentally, both Turbo Esprit and Saboteur appeared at much the same time, around Xmas of 1986. I say coincidentally, because they ended up being two of the handful of games that I would regularly play long after I'd moved on from the Spectrum and had got fancy computers like the Amiga and PC (I had a Spectrum set up until the mid-1990s for programming anyway, so it wasn't a totally weird thing to do).

I mention these two in particular because the similarities to GTA and its successors are so obvious. Saboteur introduced the tone of amoral violence and Turbo Esprit the drive-anywhere freedom - including the freedom to run pedestrians over - that are essential parts of any modern urban open world game.

And in part 4, I'll finally get round to saying what I think was the best effort at fitting an open world game onto the Spectrum. It was a game that first appeared for the Commodore 64, but the Spectrum port was just as good. I still think it's an all-time classic that plays well today.

Sunday, 26 July 2015

ZX Open World Part 2

March of the Clones...

Alien 8: Knight Lore in space

So, we're into 1985 and the era of the Knight Lore clones (as opposed to the Marble Madness clones). Ultimate's next game was the space-based Alien 8, which was really just Knight Lore with different graphics and a few gameplay tweaks, but at least they were ripping themselves off with the concept.

Everyone was getting in on the act and some of the quickest off the mark were the budget software houses (Knight Lore and Alien 8 were sold at £9.95, whereas the budget houses tended to be £1.99 or £2.50). There were two that stand out for me (even though both were obviously plagiaristic, they were sufficiently odd to remember: Firebird's Cylu and Chimera.

Chimera: more solid, more weird

Cylu: alarming play area shrinkage

To be fair, I don't recall much about the gameplay of either of these; both were just large maze games with collecting tasks, really. Neither set the world alight, but it was quite impressive and novel that the then state-of-the-art in Spectrum gaming could be ripped off and repackaged so cheaply and quickly.

Molecule Man: £1.99 bought quite
a lot back in the summer of  1986

And probably the best of the cheapo ripoffs was Mastertronic's £1.99 Molecule Man, which, if a bit late to the party (there were genuinely better ripoff isometric 3D games by this point) it was quite unbelievable value for money.

Not only was the game itself pretty good, the map was vast and it also included a level designer program along with the main game, so you could write your own versions, and that in itself was very much a novelty for this sort of game, never mind one selling at a quarter of the price of most games at the time.

Head Over Heels: packed a lot
 of format into 48K

Sweevo's World: The Monty
Python of the isometric 3D world

The fixed-view isometric 3D games probably reached their peak with games such as Head Over Heels and Sweevo's World, which added new elements to the template (for instance, in Head Over Heels, you had two controllable characters with unique abilities and often both were needed to get past a room; Sweevo's World deserves a mention for simply being the clone that was simply the most fun to play).

Quazatron: Paradroid, Spectrum-style
Oh, and not quite finally (as I've got a bit bogged down in the whole isometric thing) I must mention one of my all-time favourite Spectrum games, Quazatron, which was basically a port of the Commodore 64 game Paradroid (itself one of my favourite C64 games).

It was a great example of what each machine was good at; Paradroid couldn't have been reproduced on the Spectrum and been as good as the 64 version (no hardware sprites, for a start), so it was done in a style the Spectrum did well.

Using an open-view 3D perspective actually made the game feel quite different - less tension, but more scope for action. Both are classics even now, I think.

Fairlight: atmospheric, detailed, great graphics
and loads of stuff to play with
Another I should mention is Fairlight, which whilst obviously borrowing liberally from Ultimate's ideas and template, took a different approach to the look of the graphics, at least. Plus it allowed more interaction with non-player characters than had been seen before, but most of all you could move pretty much any object in the game, stack things up to ridiculous degrees of wobbliness, and so on. More freedom, in other words; this was as close as a graphical adventure had come to emulating the open world aspects of the text adventure in terms of scope.

It's a shame that the programmer got ripped off, he could've done more great things, I'm sure. It was a bit of a Wild West world back then though, there was a lot of that going on.

Part 3 follows, at some point...

Friday, 24 July 2015

ZX Open World Part 1 (revised)

More retro-memories.

I was reading about No Man's Sky and Outerra Anteworld the other day and - apart from being blown away by the sheer audacity of scale - it brought home to me how out of touch I've got with gaming. This thing looks absolutely incredible. It looks like it could be the game that I've been dreaming of since about 1985, but vastly larger and more complex than I ever thought could be done.

Outerra Anteworld: one view from one angle of
one tiny part of a planet, all apparently procedurally-generated
Basically, the concept behind my dream game, as I envisaged it in 1985, was the creation of a virtual world which could be explored and examined at every level. It would have lots of objects in it, with different sizes, weights and properties, so a proper physics engine would be essential for it all to interact logically. So, if you were on foot, outside a house, you would be able to go into the house (assuming an unlocked door) and explore its rooms. If the living room had a TV in it, you would be able to turn it on and change channels; you would be able to open all the drawers in the kitchen and examine things found inside the drawers, and so on.

You'd be able to pick things up and carry them around, but again it would all have to be logical - you could conceivably carry one or two televisions, but not ten; however, you would be able to load ten televisions into a car, or onto a cart, and move them that way.

That was about it really, there wouldn't necessarily be any objective beyond exploring and finding things (actually the way I describe it above, "stealing things" would probably be more apt). The point wasn't about making a specific type of game anyway, it was about simulating a world in which any and all games could then subsequently take place, possibly at the same time.

Probably because I was young and technology seemed to be moving so fast, and because there were games already in existence that contained the basic elements of my dream game, I was convinced that it would happen...oh, definitely within ten years. I wasn't daft enough to think it could be done on a Spectrum, but I was daft enough to think that I'd be playing some sort of version of it on whatever future super-Spectrums we'd be using in 1995 (ahem).

OK, that didn't quite turn out the way I'd envisaged, but there were some really interesting games released for the Spectrum that can be seen as moving towards this grand concept I had - either by making programming advances that would be necessary, or by containing some of the elements required - even if they inevitably would fall short of the concept in my head...how could they not? A world in 48K was only ever going to be a very limited world.

This post might end up being very long; I was going to try to do a brief history of open world games on the ZX Spectrum, but when I came to think about it, there are too many strands to include and still keep it relatively brief, so I'm just going to concentrate on the style of arcade-style controlled open world game that we're familiar with now (the real open world games in early computing were all text adventures and that's a whole other subject).

In 1983, when I got my ZX Spectrum, the closest thing to an open world game was probably something like Ant Attack. Although being set in a walled city - so more of a closed world game, really - it had the ethos of an open world game, in that you could follow the objectives of the game if you wanted, but crucially you could just run around and explore and have fun if you wanted to.

Hey honey, bet you're glad we came to Giant Crazy
Killer Ant World on our honeymoon, huh?
It was actually a great game too, primitive though it looks now (once you were used to the finicky rotate-move forward control system).

Plus - in an era when it was assumed that girls just didn't play games - you could play as either a male or female character. That was really going against the grain in those days - it was unusual to be given a choice of character at all - and on the odd occasion a game offered it, the choices were generally things like warrior, knight, warlock, wizard, serf, that sort of thing, i.e. all male.

That said, it was only a gimmick here, it didn't actually change the gameplay. The only change was cosmetic - a few judiciously-placed pixels on the character you controlled - but the principle was novel.

Hot zombie on zombie action amidst the colour clash

There was a follow-up the following year called Zombie Zombie, based on the same game engine (by Sandy White, a real pioneer of this sort of thing), but it could never hope to have the same impact as Ant Attack. After all, it was 1984 now and callow youths were not so easily impressed. It did have a helicopter in it though, which you could get into and fly in order to lead zombies off tall buildings and so on, thus introducing another key open world concept - modes of transport - you could run around on foot, then get in the helicopter, fly it, and crucially, leave it anywhere to come back to and fly again.

Elite for the Spectrum - too little, too late

If Ant Attack was a distant predecessor of the GTA-style format, then its analogue in space was Elite. But Elite was a Commodore 64 and BBC Micro (of all things) game! I only had a Spectrum so I never really played it (by the time it eventually appeared for the Spectrum, it was late 1985 and things had moved on apace).

Again though, it was important in that - as far as I can recall - it was one of the first games to use the concept of procedurally generating a large reproducible 3D game space with defined objects and characters to explore and interact with; a standard now, but hard to do in 48K.

Lords of Midnight - over 31,000 distinct views from any
 angle...all of them the same (joking, it was great)

Though it doesn't really fit with my theme, I should really mention Mike Singleton's Lords of Midnight and Doomdark's Revenge here, as he was the king of the vast procedurally-generated landscape game on the Spectrum.

I can't go into this in much more detail because I always found his stuff a bit impenetrable, but others swore by it. For me, I could never get over the impression that most of the locations were so similar as to be impossible to tell apart, so I never really got the sensation of exploration which I think is key to this sort of game. There was to be a final part of the trilogy called Eye Of The Moon, but I don't think it ever appeared (possibly it ended up becoming Midwinter).

So that was pretty much the scale of it towards the end of 1984.

Then Ultimate released Knight Lore.

There were other, bigger games, and isometric 3D games weren't new, but it was the feel of solidity to the graphics that was the breakthrough here. The addition of (very rudimentary) physics made it feel like a real world, with movable and immovable objects, which was pretty good for the end of 1984. And while not huge (128 rooms rings a bell) it was large enough to get lost in. We were getting there, or so it seemed, but then everything got a bit confused.

The huge success of Knight Lore meant that seemingly every software house then went on a mad rush to get their own clone of it out. Coincidentally, Marble Madness was big in the arcades at the time, and a lot of software houses were also working on their own ripoffs of that. Cue an absolute slew of isometric 3D games, some good, some bad, some bloody awful.

Spindizzy: not at all like
Marble Madness, honest guv
Gyroscope: even less like that
 Marble Madness game, honest guv

It didn't help that - as it turned out (although not revealed until years later) - Ultimate had actually had Knight Lore ready to go a full year earlier, but held it back to sell more of their other games. Well, you could hardly blame them. They were so far ahead of the opposition that it would have been madness to put Knight Lore out ahead of Sabre Wulf.

In fact, Knight Lore was pretty much the extent of what Ultimate's two main programmers (Chris and Tim Stamper) thought they could get out of the Spectrum and they were already planning to move on (which they did, forming Rare Ltd. and making shitloads of money). Ultimate did continue to put out games for the Spectrum, but other programmers were responsible and the quality definitely dipped.

Part 2 soon, with any luck...

Wednesday, 22 July 2015

This is an experiment.

I'll be amazed if it works.

I have another website on the go and one of the things I do like about it is that you get to see the weird search terms that people have used to get there. There's obvious stuff and some frankly disturbing stuff (that I don't dwell on) but a thing I've never tried is deliberately loading a page (or in this case, a post) with search trigger words. Google's got to be more sophisticated than to be fooled that way, surely? Let's see (in no particular order other than it comes into my head)...

ISIS, Islamic State, So-Called Islamic State, Al-Qaeda, jihad, Ebola, Ebola virus, Eurowings, Vladimir Putin, Ukraine, Russia, Crimea, Barack Obama, Michelle Obama, USA, Cuba, Castro, Apple, iPhone, iPad, iPod, Uber, Donald Trump, Donald Trump's wig, Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Rand Paul, Samsung, World Cup, Olympics, FA Cup, Nike, Adidas, Philae, Philae lander, Nelson Mandela, Eurovision, Conchita Wurst, Frozen, X-Factor, Kim Kardashian, Kanye West, David Cameron, George Osborne, deficit, debt, austerity, EU, Greece, Grexit, Angela Merkel, Christine Lagard, Julian Assange, TTIP, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Facebook, Microsoft, Hewlett Packard, Yahoo!, Minecraft, Youtube, Ebay, Amazon, Hotmail, Craigslist, Reddit, Gmail, BBC, ITV, Sky, Tour de France, cycling, drugs, bikes, Lance Armstrong, Chris Froome, Bradley Wiggins, London, Paris, New York, Hong Kong, Berlin, Tokyo, Beijing, Bombay, LA, Somalia, Guinea, Liberia, Azerbaijan, Malaysian Airlines, UK, USA, KKK, Israel, Palestine, Gaza Strip, Bitcoin, Spotify, Tidal, Apple Radio, Zane Lowe, Taylor Swift, Ed Sheeran, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, North Korea, Audi, BMW, Mercedes Benz, Rolls Royce, Porsche, Lotus, Ferrari, Lamborghini, AI, artificial intelligence, Turing Test, neural network, Blu-Ray, LGBT, blog, vlog, wi-fi, wireless, Bluetooth, Brazil, China, India, Japan, Glastonbury, SXSW, CGI, IKEA, MacDonald's, Burger King, Kentucky Fried Chicken, KFC, Disney, Pixar, Marvel, DC, Nintendo, Playstation, X-Box, PC, javascript, shoot-'em-up, beat-'em-up, Sims, FIFA, Sepp Blatter, CD, DVD, EA Sports, Ant-Man, Superman, Batman, Spiderman, Iron Man, Lego, Star Wars, Star Trek, ET, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Die Hard, The Fast And The Furious, Toy Story, James Bond, Eminem, Rihanna, Justin Bieber, Real Madrid, Chelsea, Manchester United, Manchester City, Liverpool, FC Barcelona, Bayern Munich, AC Milan, Dynamo Kiev, megabyte, terabyte, gigabyte, General Electric, Nestle, genetically modified, stem cells, cancer, cancer treatment, radiotherapy, chemotherapy, remission, lupus, SLE, NHS, Jeremy Hunt, Jeremy Cunt, Jeremy Corbyn, Labour, Conservative, Democrat, Republican, minions, sex, free sex, porn, XXX, etc. etc.

I think that's enough for now.

Monday, 20 July 2015

Odd Songs #001: Bette Davis Eyes (She's Got...Greta Garbo Stand Up Thighs)

She's got Bette Davis Eyes:

(The Kim Carnes version from 1981 is the hit version and the one that most people will know; I think it's the definitive version, too, although the original by Jackie DeShannon is really interesting for other reasons, of which more later).

I've thought about this song an uncommon amount of times this year, for some reason (there was a cover version by Kylie on the radio a few months back for some charity thing, I think that might have been the initial reminder). Not that a reason is needed, it's a fantastic song. Anyway, the aforementioned line - "she got...Greta Garbo stand up thighs, she got Bette Davis eyes" has been one of my favourites out of all Pop for ages now and it turns out that I've misheard it all along. It'll just have to be my favourite mondegreen from now on.

The actual line is "She's got Greta Garbo's standoff sighs, She's got Bette Davis eyes", according to all the lyric sites and listening to the song again, I'm not sure how I've misheard it all these years. Coincidentally, I heard the Jackie DeShannon version earlier this year and it turns out there's another line - "She's precocious, and she knows just, What it takes to make a pro blush" - that has changed from the original, too ("what it takes to make a crow blush" as originally written, must either have been mistranscribed or deliberately changed when Kim Carnes came to record her version).

As the song has a lot of great lines, I wondered if there were any other changes from the original. So, to YouTube!

Here's the original version, written by Donna Weiss and Jackie DeShannon, performed by Jackie DeShannon in 1974 (brace yourself if you've not heard this before, it's musically very different to the Kim Carnes version, although fans of polka piano are in for a treat):

Jackie DeShannon definitely sings "Greta Garbo's standoff sighs" too. Damnit. Sorry Jackie, I think my line is better.

As for the "what it takes to make a crow blush", on consulting the authority that is Wikipedia, it's an old American midwest saying that may not have been familiar to whoever arranged the Kim Carnes version. I don't think I buy that story, I think it's much more likely that it was deliberately changed.

I say that because I'd've done the same. The original line, although I'd not heard it before, does make sense in the way these folk sayings do; it will be hard to tell if a crow is blushing, because it is already jet black (well, that's my interpretation). But in the context of the song - "she's pure as New York snow", "she'll tease you", "she'll unease you", "she's precocious", and so on - "what it takes to make a pro blush" is more apt. It fits the atmosphere of the song better.

I think Kim Carnes voice lends "make a pro blush" a real earthiness and I reckon that was why it was changed; it sounded better and would make perfect sense to listeners.

It's all around a great job as cover versions go. It's recognisably the same song, but the arrangement is so radically different that it's virtually a rewrite (Bill Kuomo, who wrote and played that distinctive synth line on the Kim Carnes version, should have got a part songwriter credit if you ask me). It's the very exemplar of how to do a cover version. Well done Kim! (and all others involved etc. etc.)

What other covers are out there, I wonder? Well, there's the afore-noted Kylie version:

A perfectly workable hi-NRG version, but it's obviously a cover of the Kim Carnes arrangement (including the distinctive synth line). Also to be noted: Kylie seems to have be inhaling helium in parts of this song. Hey, I'm not judging, just sayin'.

Taylor Swift does a version (to be honest, I think Taylor Swift can do anything if she wants to - it'll turn out she's some sort of superpowered alien or something):

Here she is doing a live version (well, that's what the audio is, dunno what significance the still picture has) and it is of course another cover of the Kim Carnes version. Someone must've gone back to the original, surely?

But what's this? HOLD THE PHONE! Alvin and the Chipmunks do a cover:

Well, that was as awful as expected. What was the fucking point of that, Alvin? That was just a straight speeded-up version of the Kim Carnes arrangement with even sillier voices than on the Kylie one. It actually sounds a bit sordid and creepy, especially Alvin's singing on the last few fading lines.

Seems there's someone called Dean Ray. Yeah, news to me. Anyway, he was on the Australian X-Factor and he looks a bit "rock" (black leather jacket, rock hair, plays own guitar). I wonder what his take on the song will be?

Oh. He just does the synth bit on acoustic guitar. Some unnecessary vocalising. Actually this might be even creepier than the Chipmunks' version.

There's loads more covers; Brandon Flowers has been doing it at gigs for ages and there's seemingly a never-ending stream of self-recorded sensitive acoustic people that I've never heard of having a go at it. But hang on...

...Gwyneth Paltrow does a version??

Actually that wasn't bad. Nothing new in terms of adding to the (Kim Carnes) arrangement, but a decent enough vocal. I can't tell if her mis-timing the first line is deliberate or not, maybe that was part of the performance (in whatever film this was) or maybe she genuinely did just start half a beat too early.

Seems nobody uses the Jackie DeShannon arrangement at all now, though, which is a bit of a shame. Even the piano covers are covers of the Kim Carnes arrangement. Well, apart from this one, I don't think it's based on anything in either arrangement:

That's called the Aphex Twin approach to cover versions, I think.

Anyway, enough of Bette Davis and her eyes for now. It's made a nice change to write about something light. Yeah, gonna do some more stuff like this. Don't worry, you don't have to read it.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Need to do stuff.

Any stuff, really.

Now I'm more under control, I recognise why I was making myself so isolated and weird (part selfishness, part fear and all counter-productive is the short answer to that) but I'm not sure why it seems so difficult to resume normal life. I suppose I've let myself get into this comfort zone and I'm reluctant to disrupt it. But I need to see people again. Got to make the effort.

It's guilt, of course, I still feel like I let everyone down, even though there's no real reason to think it, but hey, it's one of my things. I'm apprehensive how people will react, I suppose. And everything's changed so much; the stuff that used to define my life to a large extent is no longer there. I suppose it's inevitable really; more than half my waking hours for the last twenty years or so have been in one way or another devoted to work, and now they're not. It's a wrench, that's for sure. There's certainly a new sense of freedom, sometimes even of optimism, but you wonder where the time goes. And of course, being me, I feel guilty for not using all this time more constructively. Guilt guilt guilt.

Anyway, I'm going to have to change as before I know it I'll be into another self-absorbed, unhealthy rut. So I'm determined to see people this week. I'm a bit apprehensive about it - everyone's going to be so understanding and nice that I could well burst out crying - but I'll just have to handle whatever comes. I think I'm on top of it enough now.

Fingers crossed...

[Edit @ 22/09/2016:  Now this is the sort of thing that I meant to write when I started this, but got sidetracked]

2 weeks on...

...and how things have changed.

For the better, I should add. Even though I knew it was only pride and stubbornness that was stopping me getting help, it was still impossible to actually overcome these (irrational) things alone. I'm sure that everyone else could probably see what was going on too (I'm lucky to have people around who will take notice of such things) and of course in the end it was an outside intervention that pretty much forced me to take action.

Now I'm on the road, it seems pointless to fight it, I might as well embrace whatever it brings along; there might be some interesting new experiences to be had. And (the initial couple of days aside) it's been good so far. Much less edge. It'll be interesting to appraise the situation once the course is through; as I think it's been pretty effective so far, I would imagine I'll be getting a repeat prescription but maybe with a tapering-off. We'll see.

The thing I'm most glad about is that despite being pretty off it for the three months April-May-June (whilst deluding myself to the nth degree that I was 100% with it), I don't seem to have harmed my memory or capacity to think at all, which - given that I wasn't eating or sleeping properly either, especially towards the end - is a fuck of a relief. The couple of days after the 4th July, I wasn't sure what was going to happen to be honest; there were still elements of the real and not-real getting mixed up. But that all passed. I can look back on the whole scene with remarkable clarity now and separate pretty clearly the real bits from the hallucinatory bits.

I will come back to this again and again, I'm sure, because the hallucinatory bits were very interesting indeed and not necessarily just absurdist crap. There were two definite states of consciousness that I was able to move freely between on that night - call them "real" and "dream" - and I realise that some of the "dream" stuff was tempered by the outside influence of the "real" stuff, but some of the things I saw (and realised) were big, about as big as they come. Big Ideas.

Trouble is, some of these ideas were a bit too big for me to grasp at the time, so although I can recall certain aspects perfectly, I've only got a vague notion of some of the other concepts that were flying around at the time. And I'm sure some parts of it have either gone for good; there was a lot going on that night and even at the time I realised that - at best - I was only tenuously aware of some of the bigger concepts. I could feel things slipping and sliding in the memory even as they were happening, so I'm guessing my recall might not be completely accurate.

It's not like I entered an altered state and saw the face of God or encountered some sort of universal truth or anything, but the ideas I was having and the things I was seeing did seem to represent the whole of everything; all that had gone before, all that is now and all that will happen in the future - all of that formed a kind of continuum: analogous to the electromagnetic spectrum rather than a timeline. I think that was the crux of it anyway, that all past, present and future events, people, things, all co-exist and are actually part of a larger body, one of whose dimensions is time. When I wrote earlier of having the sensation of being able to move between two different states, it was as though I could alter the physical properties of my body to shift between the "real" and the "dream"...I know, it doesn't make much sense and I'm describing it incredibly badly. I'll have another go one day, maybe I can get it down a bit more clearly, given a bit more processing time.


Thursday, 16 July 2015

Well, that was unexpected.

I suppose I should write something about it.

But it's going to be brief. Maybe to be expanded upon later (maybe not).

Those three months (from the start of April until the start of July) which I thought were surely helping me to get better; seems they were just an interlude. The 4th July, I can pretty conclusively say, was the actual nadir.

Details...maybe another time. I can never forget some of the stuff I saw that night though.

It was enough of a jolt to actually get some medical help, though. I can't deny that I've been quite forcibly resisting medicalisation in general (and medication in particular) for this but fuck that, I was wrong.

Can't deny that the first three or four days were a nightmare - racing thoughts, nausea, no appetite, almost impossible to sleep - but those side-effects passed and it just somehow works. I can't say I'm never depressed anymore, and that's a good thing - I don't want to be excessively controlled - but I'm getting there. I'm getting to a place where not everything has to be shite (but haven't lost my critical faculty; I still recognise that 99% of what goes on in the world is shite, it's just that I don't necessarily need to be part of it anymore).

Clear as mud, there. Better explanation when I'm ready, whenever that might be.

[Edit @ 22/09/2016:  This probably represents the peak of my madness and it's not as bad as I thought, which is a relief!]

Thursday, 2 July 2015

...And back in the room

Been awhile.

Don't know if that's good or bad really. Bad I think, have had some bad days the last week for some reason; I've been avoiding writing.

Which of course defeats the purpose of this thing in the beginning (if indeed that was it).

I tell myself I'm avoiding putting the whole thing down because I want it to be coherent, but that's never going to work. Although every day I can identify maybe one or two things that point to something, they're often vague and offer no clue as to where they might fit in (considering the mind as analogous to a jigsaw), it's not like there's ever going to be a time when I understand it all.

Part of it is because even now, even after all this time, I'm sure there's things I'm not admitting to myself, or not allowing myself to know. It's a bit like the brain has put a superinjunction on certain things; I know that they're there but I can't access them (and to stretch the analogy, there could be a level above that, like when a separate superinjunction is taken out to stop the reporting of the existence of the original superinjunction; I would be completely unaware of these, of course).

Some of it is just because I'm ashamed to admit it. I spent such a long time suppressing everything and not showing emotion that it's still difficult to express things, certainly in public. This is public, right? Rhetorical question, it's public only in the sense that it's possible for people other than me to see it, but as nobody knows who is writing it, and I haven't told anyone, then I think it probably occupies a space somewhere between private and public.

Sometimes I think I might be holding back from writing things simply because of the fact that other people can see it (whether by accident or design) and might guess who's writing. This is so unlikely that I don't even know why I consider it (or for that matter, why it would be a Bad Thing if it happened).

In any case, it would have been easy just to set up this sort of thing and just not publish it, or keep it readable only to myself, but I don't think that would have satisfied whatever need it is that I have to...express...something.

It's not the first time I've written this, but I'm sure some of these entries are going to make a lot more sense to me at some point in the future.