Roald Dahl – 13 September 1916 – 23 November 1990

One of the earliest influences on my life, and my first true introduction to literature and the joys of reading, Roald Dahl remains an icon for generations of children, readers, and writers. Known primarily for the many wonderful works of fiction he created for children, he also had a sterling military career and was successful as a writer of poetry, adult fiction, and screenplays. As an author he knew the importance of not dumbing down for children, and not shying away from the gruesome, the dark, and that is why I devoured everything he wrote as a child – there was humour in there which we weren’t supposed to laugh at, and quite a few things that went bump in the night, and it felt like Dahl was writing these stories as a secret gift just for you. With immortal characters and plots which every child yearns to be a part of in some shape or form, Dahl is one of the finest writers of the 20th Century.

Rest In Peace

Feel free to share your thoughts and memories of Dahl in the comments below.

March 27, 2015 at 12:24 pm Leave a comment

Amazon Vine Freebies – August 2014

THEY’RE HEEEERRRREEEE! Yes, Amazon’s smash n grab Thursdays are now gone :( replaced by a 24/7 check for top items. Since coming in to play (I’m writing this in November 2014) many of the more greedy, insecure, needy, whiney, Viners have been upset that they no longer appear to be regularly offered the so-called ‘big-ticket’ items. In my many years on Vine, I’ve been thankful for everything I’ve received, and even though I have been offered the same amount of crap as everyone else, I’ve never been offered a single laptop, camera, or TV, as many others have, some on several occasions. It’s quite funny watching them cry on the forums and threaten leaving the program. Oh well, more free stuff for me.

So, how the process works now is that we can check our queue any time of the day, every day, for updates. Items can be added at any time without warning, and we can now select up to 5 items at any time – we cannot select any more than 5 and must review something before we can pick something else. We have roughly 30 days to review, and if you go over that time for any item, you cannot select anything new. This means that sometimes we go for days with nothing new added, sometimes days with unwanted junk sitting on the queue, and sometimes I have missed reviewing something due to other commitments. I typically find myself with 5 items selected for most of the time, as I usually take an item from every update, while others use that sad tactic of holding back on picking something small in the hope that something pricey will pop up. I haven’t been offered any of the biggies yet (although I have already received some valuable items and I was recently offered some Sage software worth almost 1000 pounds – I didn’t pick it, but I’m sure a few dishonest types did – keep an eye on Ebay). My biggest issue so far has been gross miscalculations in the targeting – many people were getting offered kick ass toys, Barbie sets, Hot Wheels etc, but those people had clearly specified they had no children, while I wasn’t get offered any of those in spite of saying that’s exactly what I was interested in. That seems to have cleared up somewhat, but many people were getting pissed off at being offered the complete opposite of what they told Amazon what they’re interests were. Here’s what I picked in the virgin month:

Monster High Freaky Fusion Avea Trotter Hybrid Doll: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Monster-High-Freaky-Fusion-Trotter/dp/B00IVFCKF4/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426511197&sr=8-1&keywords=Monster+High+Freaky+Fusion+Avea+Trotter+Hybrid+Doll

  81BQGynPu8L__SL1500_ 

The doll which started it all – my girls had only recently started to be interested in dolls, the eldest more interested in cars and plastic toy figures. When I showed her this I wasn’t sure if she would be freaked out or like it, but it turned out that she loved it, and a Monster High obsession began. Since we took this, the house has been filled with more dolls, magazines, DVDs etc of the various ghouls.

Tefal Cube and Stick: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Tefal-MB905840-Cube-and-Stick/dp/B00JWQ3V9A/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426509882&sr=8-1&keywords=tefal+cube+and+stick

811xItvizlL__SL1500_

A handy blender with handy chopping devices. Not to be used on handies.

Fisher-Price Little People Birthday Party Playset: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fisher-Price-Little-People-Birthday-Playset/dp/B00IYFBB1K/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426265126&sr=8-1&keywords=Fisher-Price+Little+People+Birthday+Party+Playset

 81KT8PlnL6L__SL1500_

An odd little set, it comes with a cake and a dog.

Fisher-Price Puppy’s Activity Home Set: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Fisher-Price-Puppys-Activity-Home-Set/dp/B00KQKLB52/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426509923&sr=8-1&keywords=Fisher-Price+Puppy%27s+Activity+Home+Set%3A

61VLu2Ec52L__SL1213_

Another all singing, non-dancing set from Fisher Price.

BISSELL Vac & Steam Cleaner, 1500 Watt, Red: http://www.amazon.co.uk/BISSELL-Steam-Cleaner-1500-Watt/dp/B00J6UMVF2/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1426509964&sr=8-1&keywords=BISSELL+Vac+%26+Steam+Cleaner%2C+1500+Watt%2C+Red

 

A steam cleaner/vac combo that actually works and doesn’t weigh the same as a Sumo wrestler.

An interesting month of treats, and the change should make for longer posts and more items per month now that the 4 item limit has been lifted!

March 26, 2015 at 9:38 am Leave a comment

Best Writing (Adapted): 1963

Official Nominations: Tom Jones. Lillies Of The Field.  Captain Newman MD. Hud. Sundays And Cybele (magically appearing two years in a row).

My Winner: Hud.

 

My Nominations: The Birds. From Russia With Love. The Haunting. Jason And The Argonauts. The Sword In The Stone. The Great Escape.

Lots of great films missed out on nominations this year, most notably The Birds and The Haunting which took strong original material and added many dimensions for the big screen adaptations. The Great Escape pumped a lot of fun into what was obviously in reality a desperate situation, whilst Jason And The Argonauts remains 50 years later the definitive screen version of the story. My winner though, thanks to Hitchcock and Hunter’s deft touches and psychological handling of the source is The Birds, another winning combination between Hitchcock and Du Maurier.

My Winner: The Birds.

Let us know what your picks for the Best Writing (Adapted) award are in the comments below!

March 25, 2015 at 1:20 pm Leave a comment

Manic Mondays – 23rd march 2015

‘If I could only save the world from itself/Do something good just for once’

Welcome To The Dead Zone

March 23, 2015 at 10:48 am Leave a comment

Freddie Mercury

I’ll be honest; I’ve never been much of a Queen fan. I know all or most of the singles, I can’t say I’ve disliked any of them, but I’ve never loved any of them enough to actually buy one of their albums. However, only a fool would fail to see the impact that the band, and their frontman has had on popular music. Indeed, Freddie was one of the most beloved frontmen in rock, and remains an icon in music for his stage presence and his awe-inspiring vocals. Out of all of the hundreds of death caused by AIDS throughout the 80s and early 90s in the entertainment industry, the loss of Mercury may have been the most keenly felt. Even though he had conquered the world, and even though Queen were likely past their best by 1991, who’s to say what great albums and songs they could have continued to record had Mercury survived?

Rest In Peace.

Feel free to share your thoughts and memories about Freddie in the comments below.

March 20, 2015 at 11:17 am Leave a comment

Retro Gaming – Paperboy

Hello Gamers and Glancers! Today on The Spac Hole we look back fondly at one of the most successful games of the Arcade Generation, one which was subsequently ported to every home computer and console in existence. Paperboy was released in 1985 by Atari Games, and its blend of fast paced action, dog-avoiding, slapstick humour, camp Batman exclamations, and media delivery was an instant hit.

Holy Shit, Batman!

The Arcade version had a fancy cab to simulate the thrill of riding a bike whilst… sitting down… and featured a lot of humour which didn’t make its way oer to home versions due to hardware limitations. I remember seeing the Arcade version when I was younger, and I’m fairly certain there was a less expensive version which ditched the cabinet and the handlebar controls, but I can’t (be arsed) find (ing) proof of this. A few of my friends and family members had the game on various systems, ranging from Commodore 64 to NES to Master System, but I owned the Spectrum version and can say without any slither of doubt that it was the best port.

Gaze upon my face and weep

Gaze upon my face and weep

Converted by those geniuses at Elite, the Spectrum version provided me with hours of fun and frustration. I’ll be honest here and state that I never completed the game – in order to complete the game you had to complete 7 levels (one per day of the week) of successful newspaper delivery to subscribers, without crashing and losing all your lives. I only loosely grasped this concept when I was young, but I remember struggling to work out exactly who it was I was supposed to be delivering to, and instead simply chucked newspapers at every house – through windows, onto lawns, and otherwise missing wildly. If I’m super-honest, I can’t confidently say I completed a single day successfully, delivering to those who I was supposed to.

My attitude to virtual careers has since translated to real world careers

My attitude towards virtual careers has since translated to real world careers

But the fun of Paperboy, especially as I wasn’t forever pumping pennies into an Arcade machine, was simply racing around on the BMX, avoiding all manner of obstacles, and causing as much carnage as possible with my newspapers, Rampage style. Getting to the end of your cycle route meant you were presented with an obstacle course where you could rack up extra points – could you win back lost lives here too? I can’t recall, but again back then it didn’t matter, I just enjoyed tearing about on the jumps. You see, as a young boy in the 80s, I had a BMX. I had a skateboard too. Hell, I even had a baseball cap and backwards-wore the shit out of it. This was not only escapism, but it was an extension of those long summer days of freedom, cruising the neighbourhood with friends on our bikes, our only concerns whether or not tonight was bath night. While we may not have been launching weaponized newspapers through exploding tombstones, or decapitating the elderly as we wheelied past, the neighbourhood remained our warzone/play area, our sandbox, our Vice City, and the BMX was at once our Ferrari, our Harley-Davidson, and our trusty steed.

Looking back at my childhood, I can remember a very small number of 2nd and 3rd tier friends (you know, not your best buds, but either ones you sometimes messed about with in school or outside of school if your besties were unavailable, or those in higher or lower years in school, or even those neighbours of your friends who would occasionally get integrated into your group… you know – Gingers) who had a local paper round. I don’t recall any of them ever using a bike, instead logging around a bright orange satchel which seemed to be almost the same size and weight as the kid carrying it. Sometimes some of us would accompany the friends, or meet them unexpectedly at our local garage (Gas Station) where they would be collecting their paper round, and follow them on their route whilst talking about football or Eerie Indiana, or boobs, or Predator.

Childhood

Childhood

It wasn’t as exciting as either the game, or Hollywood made out. Furthermore it always seemed like a very American thing to be doing – racing about on BMX in perpetual sunlight, dropping off papers to early risers in their slippers who stood High Noon style surveying their meticulously preened little corner of suburbia, always on the merge of stumbling across some pirate mystery or cute alien orphan you needs your help. Where I grew up, it was dull and wet 80% of the year, there were no cute aliens, papers were always delivered in the evenings, and the only pirate was old One-Eyed McDrunky, who would sooner give you the mysterious treasure of herpes than rubies.

Save me, Obi Wan Nightman, you're my only hope!

Save me, Obi Wan Nightman, you’re my only hope!

While I’m reminiscing rather than reviewing, another semi-related recollection returns to me – that of our local milkman. Sometimes the paperboy route would overlap with the milkman route at the same time and place (I have no idea why the milkman was still driving around at that time of the day, but anyhoo). As we were on speaking/thieving terms with the milkman, we would often hitch a ride on the back of his truck and help ourselves to cartons of juice. We tried this with the local ice cream man, but he wouldn’t allow it. A warning for any kids reading – it is generally ill-advised to talk to strangers, but even more so to go out of your way to interact with them, especially when they own a multi-purpose getaway vehicle – it’s probably best to stay inside and play videogames than go outside and be exposed to such dangers as living.

Back to the game; I remember that the controls were quite difficult and sensitive, which when coupled with the many obstacles meant that frustration levels were constantly of the joypad teethmark level. The area of the screen which you could traverse was quite small, the pace of the game was high, and the pavement/sidewalk was littered with enemies who seemed hellbent on keeping you from your minimum wage bounty. There were old guys on wheelchairs, drunks wobbling towards you, sentient tyres, kids on karts, and suddenly reversing cars. The pavement would curve and bend meaning you had to slow down to get round the slight bend successfully, and there were sections where you had to cross a busy road too. There was always a lot going on on screen, and I remember it got more chaotic with each progressive day. I’m not sure I questioned why there were so many drunks on the street every day, maybe it’s because I’m old enough to remember armed soldiers walking down streets during the day and thinking nothing of it. I did question why every garden seemed to have multiple tombstones.

My house only had two

My house only had one

The game didn’t have a soundtrack during levels, just some jingles before the start of each level, but there was an assortment of standard computerized blips and blaps to exaggerate the fact that you’d just plopped a paper through someone’s bathroom window. The colour pallet wasn’t too exciting, with only black, blue, and white making up the bulk of detail, yet the screen border was a little brighter. Such things didn’t concern me back then, as I’ve never been much of a graphics fiend – as long as it plays well and looks reasonable, I’m happy.

Plays well, looks reasonable – happy

I thought I would have more to say about it, but the more I thought about it the more I remembered that it was a fairly linear game that I wasn’t very good at and probably spent more time watching others play than actual play myself. So that’s all I have to say about Paperboy – a game that I had a lot of fun with in my youth, and one which I’ve had a lot of fun remembering.

For a cool comparison video showcasing around 20 different versions of the game (with a special WTF for the N64 version), check out Gaming History Source’s channel here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ol-O1RXG_PA

As always, my screenshots have been taken from the gods at World Of Spectrum.org, and the Spectrum cover has been taken from spong.com. 

And finally, if you have any thoughts and memories you’d care to share on Paperboy – which version you played, if you ever finished the game, please drop a comment below. Check out some of my other retro memories here:

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2014/05/09/retro-gaming-daley-thompsons-supertest/

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2013/10/17/retro-gaming-barbarian-the-ultimate-warrior/

https://carlosnightman.wordpress.com/2013/08/18/retro-gaming/

March 19, 2015 at 12:44 pm 2 comments

Best Writing (Original): 1963

Official Nominations: How The West Was Won. 8 1/2. America, America. Love With The Proper Stranger. The Four Days Of Naples

While 8 1/2 is the more visionary and original film, I’m always fascinated and awed by epics – every facet of a true epic which spans generational time spans is appealing to me, from a pure entertainment viewing standpoint, to its creation. Without strong writing and characters and epic would be four hours of torture, but when you have engaging writing, memorable quotes, and characters you yearn to see more of, then you’ll have a winner in my books. How The West Was Won is a winner. Elia Kazan’s vanity project America, America is also epic in scope and earned him multiple nominations, including Best Writing, while Arnold Schulman’s Love With The Proper Stranger deals with tough topics but doesn’t hit any peaks. Four Days Of Naples is an interesting enough Italian film, but again doesn’t stir anything in me with regards to writing.

My Winner: How The West Was Won.

 

My Nominations: Dementia 13. Winter Light. Summer Holiday. Shock Corridor. The Running Man. It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World. How The West Was Won. 8 1/2.

Sam Fuller was always ahead of his time, and with Shock Corridor he perfects the horror/crime cliché of ‘man goes to asylum to uncover murder case’, both writing and directing skilfully. Dementia 13 shows a young Coppola’s flair, Winter Light is full of Bergman’s venom against religion, Summer Holiday remains popular to this day in Britain, whilst Mad World and The Running Man are good examples of pacing when it comes to writing chase thrillers and adventures.

My Winner: Shock Corridor.

fuller

Let me know your picks for Best Original Writing of 1963 in the comments below!

March 18, 2015 at 11:06 am Leave a comment

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