Which is the best U2 B-side?


bono-u2-in-a-hat

Which is the best U2 B-side?


When a band records an album, they often have a selection of songs that don't make the final cut but they are good enough to be released in some form and historically they've been added as a B-side as support to the A-side of a single release. 

While Oasis were famous for their b-sides, U2 are not so much well known for their b-sides but none the less, they've built up a pretty sweet collection of songs and albums.

What do you think is there best one? Choose from the list!


U2 B-sides List

A Room at the Heartbreak Hotel
B-side on the 'Angel of Harlem' single released in December 1988.

Alex Descends Into Hell For A Bottle Of Milk / Korova 1
B-side on 'The Fly' single, October 1991.

Always
B-side on 'Beautiful Day' single, October 2000. 

Are You Gonna Wait Forever
B-side on 'Vertigo' single, November 2004.

Ave Maria (Jacknife Lee Mix)
B-side on 'Sometimes You Can't Make it On Your Own' single, February 2005.

Beat On The Brat
From 'We're a Happy Familiy', a tribute album to The Ramones. February 2003.

Big Girls Are Best
B-side on 'Stuck in A Moment' single, January 2001.

"Boomerang II" from The Unforgettable Fire's Pride, September 1984.

Boy/Girl
A track on U2's very first single 'Three', October 1979.



Can't Help Falling In Love (Triple Peaks Remix)
B-side on 'Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses' single, August 1992.

Dancing Barefoot
B-side on 'When Love Comes to Town' single, April 1989.

Deep In The Heart
B-side on 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' single, May 1987. 

Everlasting Love
B-side on 'All I Want is You' single, June 1989.

Fortunate Son
B-side on 'Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses' single, August 1992.

Hallelujah Here She Comes
B-side on 'Desire' single, September 1988.

Happiness is a Warm Gun (The Gun Mix)
B-side on 'Last Night on Earth' single, July 1997.

Holy Joe
B-side on 'Discothèque' single, February 1997.

Johnny Swallow
B-side on 'Fire' single, July 1981.

Lady with the Spinning Head
B-side on 'One' single, March 1992.

Love Comes Tumbling
B-side on 'The Unforgettable Fire' single, October 1984.

Luminous Times (Hold on to Love)
B-side on 'With or Without You' single, March 1987. 

Neon Lights
B-side on 'Vertigo' single, November 2004.

North and South of the River
B-side on 'Staring at the Sun' single, April 1997.

Paint It Black (cover of the Rolling Stones)
B-side on 'Who's Gonna Ride Your Wild Horses' single, August 1992.

Race Against Time
B-side on 'Where the Streets Have No Name' single, August 1987.

Salomé
B-side on 'Even Better Than the Real Thing' single, June 1992.

Satellite of Love
B-side on 'One' single, March 1992.

Silver and Gold
B-side on 'Where the Streets Have No Name' single, August 1987.

Slow Dancing
B-side on 'Stay (Faraway, So Close!)' single, November 1993.

Spanish Eyes
B-side on 'I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For' single, May 1987.

Summer Rain
B-side on 'Beautiful Day' single, October 2000.

Sweetest Thing (The Single Mix)
Released as a single in 1997. Originally a b-side on 'Where The Streets Have No Name' single, 1987.

The Three Sunrises
B-side on 'The Unforgettable Fire' single, October 1984.

Touch
B-side on '11 O'Clock Tick Tock' single, May 1980.

Tower of Song
B-side on 'Window in the Skies' single, January 2007. From the movie 'Leonard Cohen: I'm your Man'.

no-line-horizon-u2

Trash, Trampoline and the Party Girl
B-side on 'A Celebration' single, March 1982.

Treasure (Whatever happened to Pete the Chop)
B-side on 'New Year's Day' single, January 1983.

Two Shots of Happy, One Shot of Sad
B-side on 'If God Will Send His Angels' single, December 1997.

Unchained Melody
B-side on 'All I Want is You' single, June 1989.

Walk to the Water
B-side on 'With or Without You' single, March 1987.

Where Did It All Go Wrong
B-side on 'Even Better Than the Real Thing' single, June 1992.

Check out the lyrics to You're The Best Thing About Me

It's Optimus Time !


optimus-time-tshirt-design


Check out this wicked 'Optimus Time', a sweet T-shirt design by The Atomic Rocket that I bought.   For those that are like WTF? it's a mix of Back to the Future and the Leader of the Autobots........

How to connect your Iphone to the Xbox 360 and Xbox One




xbox-iphone

How to connect your Iphone's Wifi to the Xbox 360 and Xbox One (and Scorpio)



I was recently tidying chords behind the TV and I managed to break the internet when I un-plugged the modem - the connection to the ISP just couldn't be made.

I was gutted as I wanted to play some Dead Space but my game save was 'in the cloud' so I was prevented from playing.

I sat defeated cursing my first world problem. Whilst doing so I got a text message on my Iphone and I got a little twinkle in my eye.

I could try and use the Wifi Hotspot function the phone has and see if the Xbox 360 would accept that as a source of internet.

The short answer, is yes, you can connect the iphone's wifi to the Xbox!

Here's how to connect the two devices:
  • Turn your iphone's Personal Hot Spot on. 
  • Turn on the Xbox
  • If you have an ethernet plugged in to the xbox, remove it. 
  • Go to the Network settings section of the Xbox
  • Identify the wireless signal of your Iphone - it will be your Iphone's name. Select it.
  • Enter the password of your hotspot wifi as given to you on the phone. 
  • Once satisfied the connection has been made, sign into Xbox as per normal and you are away. 
Using your Iphone's data does run the risk of you blowing your datacap and and you'll possibly have limited connectivity via your 3G / 4G network so I doubt you'll be doing a multi-player marathon anytime soon but you should be able to access your saved games at the very least!

I imagine this little trick is also be able to be used by Android phones and the like that have the same wifi hotspot connections.

Looking back at the music of Halo




Looking back at the music of Halo

I still remember the moment during my first Halo run through when I totally knew the game was amazing - it was during The Silent Cartographer level and it was time to leave the place. In a mad panic, I had to guide the Master Chief back up the the surface of the Halo, whilst a relentless section of music was playing - 'Rock Anthem For Saving The World'  featuring legendary guitarist Steve Vai.

Yeah, the choir doing their funky monks 'oooh ooah aaahs' is pretty cool but that moment is stuck with me forever. We remember....

10 years since Halo's original release, it's the stuff of legend that the Halo game had one of the best soundtracks that ever accompanied a shooter and this was a key element of the success of the game. Subsequent Halo games have followed in the tradition of great music - have they all met the standard set by the game that changed the way video games are made?

I thought I'd take the time to kick back and reflect on the music of Halo, have a chat about how music can influence a scene ....it's almost a love letter to composer Marty O'Donnell and less his well known counterpart, Michael Salvatori.

sheet-music-edorian-halo
The famous Halo 'E Dorian' monk chant as a musical score
Halo: Combat Evolved

This is the sound track to the game that changed gaming forever. Marty had already done a couple of gigs for Bungie in the form of the Myth series and as Microsoft had brought the Bungie studio to get their hands on the Halo IP, expectations were high. Marty duly delivered one of the most brilliant sound tracks ever. The monks' chorus, and the main theme riff with those wondrous string instruments are perhaps as recognizable to a gamer as the first notes to Star Wars are to a movie fan.

I already mentioned 'Rock Anthem For Saving The World' right?

While many people might know that Steve Vai played on a couple of Halo soundtracks, I wonder how many know that Flea from the Red Hot Chili Peppers had a go with his trumpet!

A subtle Oak, with a hint of dampness



I confess. I think I have an addiction to sand paper. I keep sanding things like desks and manrobes. Now I've gone and got a table to restore to former glories.

Another sweet deal from Trade Me, this nice Oak Table has kept me busy for the last couple of weeks.

Here's the restoration journey in pictures and some wooden attempts at whimsical prose.

sanded-table-topWe picked the table up from someone's storage shed and I got the feeling the table had been exposed to a little dampness. I started with the table top as that's easy pickings, using an old sander recently given to me by my Cousin. The stain came off very easy and what was exposed felt a little damp. I left it to gain some exposure to the drier climes of the living room fire and began to work on the other parts of the table.

I turned by attention to the legs of the table at which point the sander started sparking bright flashes, hissing like a cat cornered by the Vet and smoking like Thomas the Tank engine after a hot date so I went inside and watched Tinker, Taylor, Soldier, Spy which was thoroughly entertaining spy film starring  Commissioner Gordon.

I wondered if any spy had ever been tortured with an electric sander to the face and then I went to bed.

I returned later and sanded the shit out of the table and chairs with my trusty Ryobi.

Chairs.

I don't think I'll ever be able to sand another chair for a while. They are really tough. Worse is the staining. So damn fiddly.

So the table and chairs were duly sanded and stained with a mahogany colour and the Oak wood responded marvellously and gave a orange like colour which I describe as Tiger.

The final part of the restoration was to cover the chairs. I got some nice leather-like chair covering from Spotlight (first willing trip to that place ever!), some hessian from a shopping bag a guns stapler.

Who knew gun staplers where so much fun? 600 hundred staples later, the chairs were presentable enough for Queen to sit on. Well kinda, my first effort was pretty rubbish, the final chair to be covered was pretty good!

Costs of the renovation:

Table and Chairs $180 from Trade Me
Stain - $50 bucks from Bunnings
Sand paper - $20 bucks from Bunnings
Chair covering - $35 bucks from Spotlight

All up $285 bucks which is a steal compared to buying the same thing in a fancy antique store somewhere where in Petone.

Here's the table in it's extended mode. It's like the Transformer of the table universe....


Awesome Card Board Optimus Prime


Awesome Card Board Optimus Prime

I had to post this awesome home made Optimus Prime cosplay costume. It's faithful to the original version of Prime and just smacks of fan boy love. I think that's Starscream to the left....

5 U2 songs with lyrical bite



u2-performing-live


5 U2 songs with lyrical bite and their meaning



To my mind, a really great song is one which has hidden depths - and those depths can usually be found in the lyrics. A classic rock song, can say anything and mean everything.

Look at Oasis's Wonderwall lyrics for example. It's basically a love song but without really actually meaning anything, in contrast, here's 5 U2 song lyrics that have some real meaning, some real bite and what the words mean.

Walk On from All That You Can't Leave Behind


This is one of those songs that stray into the say anything, mean anything territory but U2 have but some real context around it to to ensure that it's lyrics are not misunderstood.

Dedicated to Aung San Suu Kyi, this song is a freedom song, dedicated to the exponent of democracy and freedom in Mynamar.

Poignantly during the 360 degree tour, U2 played this song at every concert and had supporters of Amnesty International come out on to the stage to show their support for Aung San Suu Kyi and U2's support for the people of Mynammar and their efforts to become a truly democratic society.


Spanish Eyes 



Despite stealing lyrics from "She's a rainbow" by the Rolling Stones, Spanish Eyes is a love song to Bono's wife Ali - and she is actually Irish thus confusing the heck out of many U2 fans. This b-side from The Joshua Tree era kind of complements The Sweetest Thing in the sense that it was also a b-side and also a love letter to Ali.


God Part II from Achtung Baby


People often wonder why this song is called Pt II as they've never heard of a U2 song called God before. It's actually intended as a sequel to John Lennon's song called God. Lennon's song refers to things he didn't believe in such as Hitler - Bono's version also refers to things that he also doesn't believe in but also goes on to refer to how pissed he was at the author Albert Goldman who wrote an unflattering biography of Lennon (and also a bio of Elvis, and given U2's love of Elvis, I'm not surprised Bono made the reference).

Sunday Bloody Sunday from the War album


This one is a pretty obvious song, but newer U2 fans may not realise the real meaning of this song. It's an exploration of the conflict that can exist between the State, it's people and when religion gets thrown into the mix. Inspired by two terrible occasions where soldiers shot civilians in Northen Ireland - the lyrics capture these moments crisply by invoking the cross fire that occurred between Ireland's conflicting religions and the military acttion that was taken - an by extension the State's role in the massacres.


Zooropa from Zooropa


Zooropa is a really crazy song that opens the album of the same name. Some fans have been confused by the lyrics of the song - they seem so mumble jumbled and make no sense. The real meaning of the song can be determined when you realise the lyrics are a hodge podge of slogans from famous brands. Zooropa's lyrics have a running theme of irony, tying in the "media overload" themes of the Zoo TV Tour into the context of a post-Berlin Wall Europe.

The song's lyrics touch on how modern technology can unite people as well as separates  them from each other.

Want more on U2's songs? check out U2 lyrics that explore Jesus, Yahweh and The Good Book.

EDI Cosplay from Phoenix Comicon


EDI cosplay Mass Effect 3

Check out Reborn Flame's sweet picture of Mass Effect cosplayers - I think the EDI one is pretty impressive! I think EDI was attending the Phoenix Comicon. What do you reckon, is there any better EDI cosplayers out there in cosplay land?

Those other two dudes are all right as well I guess ;)

Outside is America....



bono u2 american flag jacket
Outside is America

10 U2 song lyrics that reflect on American culture and politics


U2 are no strangers to having a say on America, it's people and it's politics. In fact, making political commentary is almost second nature to Bono, if he's not singing about troubles in Ireland, he's trying to convince someone like George Bush Jnr to reduce the debt owed to America by third world countries.

U2 toured America many times early in their career and appear to have fallen under it's spell - so it's surprise really that Bono has chosen to write about what he's seen and heard. Here's a selection of 10 U2 songs that feature some form of comment or celebration of the one of the world's most dynamic countries.

Angel of Harlem

A song about singer Billie Holiday, Bono was trying to throw the kitchen sink at this song, referencing all kinds of musical figures related to the city of New York - even a poular radio station was mentioned!

U2 appeared to be trying to 'get into' the blues on Rattle on Hum - this song was a clear step in that musical genre and the dropping in of names from artists that helped shape it were an attempt to give an air of authenticity. A less cynical reader might simply see the lyrics of Angel of Harlem as a celebration of the city.

The Saints Are Coming

While not written by U2 or Green Day (it was a cover of The Skids' song), The Saints Are Coming is a song both bands recorded together to deliver a blunt political message about the U.S. Government's response to Hurricane Katrina which many felt was negligent and that the Bush administration was "Stuck on Stupid".

The promotional video deliberately played on popular feelings of utter disbelief and dismay at the way the U.S. government had responded to the event.

Bullet the Blue Sky

Perhaps the archetype political song by U2 (arguably Sunday Bloody Sunday could take that role too) the lyrics describes the unintended consequences of US President Ronald Reagan's foreign policy decisions in South America. The song lyrics are a overt criticisms of the American policy of "stop communism at all costs". Such policy lead the Reagan Administration to provide financial and political support to the Salvadoran regime which required them to ignoring that regime's abuse of human rights. 


Is it really any surprise that U2 ended up writing a song about New York? Bono has stated that the song is a tribute of sorts to both Frank Sinatra and Lou Reed.

The Play Boy Mansion

The Play Boy Mansion is possibly a symbol of all that is wrong with America - however Hugh Hefner is as popular as ever. The songs lyrics are perhaps a tounge-in-cheek run down of some American icons. Certainly Bono would not be deliberately suggesting the route to happiness is a visit to Hefner's pad. Or is he?

Elvis Ate America and Elvis Presley And America

Two for the money here - U2 have often sang about Elvis - and these songs were a celebration of the man and his legacy on music. The lyrics that 'Elvis would have been a sissy without Johnny Cash' was a great piece of commentary - the use of the line 'white nigger' was a brave move.... did Chuck D approve?

Zooropa

Many of the verse lyrics are borrowed from the slogans of American companies and corporations. These slogans include "Be all that you can be" from the United States Army), "Fly the friendly skies" from airline United Airlines), Colgate's "Ring of confidence (the lyric being "We've got that ring of confidence"), and Fairy's "Mild green Fairy liquid" (the line being "We're mild and green and squeaky clean").

This could be simply viewed some kind of meta commentary on American consumerism (admittedly the song has slogans from other European countries) and perhaps hints at some kind of moral confusion where the morals of a society may be dictated by the corporate dollar spend on advertising.

Pride (In the Name of Love)

Pride has become an international anthem for peace, freedom and human rights. It's inspiration was civil rights movement in the United States in the 1950s and '60s. The song is a celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. who has become the symbol for equal rights in America for all persons.

Seconds

While the lyrics are a loose story of a terrorist trying to arm a bomb and perhaps set it off, the context for the song is that it was written by Bono in the 80s, a time where the Cold War between the USSR and America had reached an all time freezing point in relations (save for the Cuban missile crisis!). The song evokes the fears that people had that this Cold War could potentially lead to nuclear war and the own kind of cold winter that would bring.

That's just a taste of songs that U2 have used to make a comment on America. There's almost a duplicity to U2 in this regard - they tour America and revel in its people and then at the same time they make sharp criticsm of their leaders, their institutions and Coke but take the ticket sales and sponsorship opportunites that come along.

I trust U2 fans are in on it but it might be hard to tell in a country where many people think Bruce Springsteen's Born in the USA is a patriotic song.....

Check out the lyrics to A Song for Someone from U2's Songs of Innocence

Three cheers for Electric Sandpaper!


preparations for the chest restoration

Three cheers for electric sandpaper or how I restored this chest of drawers aka The Manrobe

So the wife spied this manrobe on Trade Me and I thought, hell yeah, that'll do me. The bed in the spare room doesn't need to have ALL my clothes on it any more.... and after I restored this desk last year, how hard could it be?

So what's up first, what's the trick to making these drawers worthy of being a home to my Transformers T Shirt collection?

The first tip is too look for any loose joins or cracks and glue them up. PVA was the glue of choice for wood working when I was at school so that's what I'll use know. You'll note at the left of the picture a clamp to hold everything in place as the wood dries. A handy hint is to use a soft rubber mallet to knock the joins back in together (if it's apt). I find it's best to leave any glued bits to dry for 24 hours to give the glue enough time to dry. Which I did. Kind of, when it suited.

I then removed the door of the manrobe and the top of it too which revealed a hidden space for money, drugs and knives....

The next step in restoring this set of drawers was the longest and tough part. Sanding off the stain. So three cheers for electric sand paper. Start the process with a very course grit sandpaper. I used 60 and it ripped the stain off in no time. When using the sander, be deliberate with your strokes, don't put too much downwards pressure on the sander and keep the strokes in the same direction, going with the grain. Did you hear me cowboy? Go with the grain!!!

Next up is cleaning off the sand dust. Get a hearth brush and wipe it off. You could even think about using a damp towel to get the last of it off.

Then you have to repeat the above with a more fine sandpaper grit. I used 150.

I then dragged the heavy fucker out of the man shed and washed it all off with the hose and gave the drawers a damn good clean while I was at it. You know, to get rid of the old man smell....

Then you have to repeat the above with a more fine sandpaper grit. I used 180.

manrobe restoration sanded chest

All that took me an age to do. But to paraphrase Jim Steinman, it rung out beautifully.

Now for the staining. This can be some tricky shit. What colour to you want? Dark or light? Do you want all the marks and everything to be covered up? Do you want all the different bits of wood to match? Do you want a variegated cacophony of wood to be on display? These punk, are the questions you gotta ask yourself. Well do ya punk, do you want the dark mahogany stain like I went for? Well do ya?

Remember that secret lid I talked about where your cocaine and knives can go? This manrobe had a nice, light stain on the inside - I had some Kauri stain left over from another project so I gave it a nice spruce up. You can see from the picture to the left that it came up a pretty sweet shade.

If it's one thing I have learnt while staining wooden furniture it's this and I believe it's bloody good advice:

Check your work! 

Check that you haven't put too much stain on. Gravity is a bitch and the stain can run down the side of your piece and make a right mess. Make sure you get the excess off with the brush - some brands of stain recommend using a cloth but I reckon that risks getting cotton or what not stuck in the finish.

After you've done the staining, give it half an hour and then check your work for runs, messes and misses.

In this particular case I did just that and caught a few drips here and there. I used a sharp cardboard knife cutter to scrape or cut the stain drips or 'clumps' off. I carefully then re-stained those areas. It's a pain in the ass but totally worth it.

Indeed, I was pretty risk adverse about the stain running so the door of the manrobe was placed on the work bench, all nice an flat so there was no chance of it getting messed up:


Once the first coat had dried for 24 hours, it was time for a second coat of dark mahogany stain. When that was all done, I was on the home stretch of this restoration project. I put the door on, and the flip up top, put the drawers all back in and I was done. Mission accomplished with a restored manrobe to be proud of:

restored manrobe dresser with stain

manrobe dresser restoration stain

U2's best love songs



bono with bikini girls
Bono looking for some fast love?

U2's best Love Songs


The Beatles sang that All You Need Is Love and just about every band since has as well so it's no surprise that U2 have song a few songs that ponder the wondrousness of love and all it's ins and outs.

Here's a the top songs that either feature the subject love in their lyrics or are clearly love songs by U2.

Love is Blindness

A haunting tracking that closed the mighty body of work that was Achtung Baby - the lyrics suggest an quite desperate love where nothing else matters but that love - a deep play on the phrase love is blind but the neighbours aint joke perhaps?

When Love Comes to Town 

Some men are afraid of love. They'd prefer to hit it and quit before they have to contend with their feelings. At least that's what this duet between Bono and the legendary bluesman B.B. King might leave you thinking....

Love Rescue Me

A desperate man calls out for love. It's a man that's hurting that sings this aching ballad from the Rattle and Hum album.

Love And Peace Or Else

A rocker from U2 from the How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb album, this is U2's Give Peace A Chance effort - it's basically Bono asking why can't we all just get along in peace and harmony with some peace loving mung beans thrown in for good measure. Or something.

The deluxe edition of the album has a liner note which says 'don't become a monster in order to defeat a monster' which I think sums up the lyrical intent behind the song and it ties in with Bono's Coexist mantra

So really it's not a love song per say but one that promotes love?

So Cruel

Not all songs don't need to be of a happy kind of love. So Cruel's lyrics tell of a person in love with another whom is bending and breaking their heart with their thoughtless ways. As I listen to the singer's lament, I can't help but feel some sorrow for them.

Hawkmoon 269

Allegedly 269 takes were required to record this song - the character seems to be a love drug addict and needs some love badly and Bono lists the ways he needs it.

Sweetest Thing

This U2 love song is definitely one inspired by real life events for Bono  - it was written for his wife Alison as an apology for missing (or forgetting) her birthday during the recording of The Joshua Tree record. I wonder if Bono owed Alison another song after the featured picture of Bono above with the two bikini girls came out?

Originally featured as a U2 b-side on the Where the Streets Have No Name single, The Sweetest Thing was revamped and released as a single to support U2's first Greatest Hits album. 

One Love

A strident, upbeat love song that celebrates the characters's love for his woman - or indeed possibly love for his god. That's a classic song writer's trick - making the lyrics open to interpretation helps increase the song's broad appeal amongst listeners.

The lyric "I was born I was born to be with you " is a nice romantic line to tell a woman - however the verse below is suggestive of praise to the character's creator..... 

"I was born
I was born to sing for you 

I didn't have a choice
But to lift you up
And sing whatever song you wanted me to"


The first verse of this song suggests sentiments of falling in love for the first time or perhaps truly, madly, deeply falling for someone - the lyric "I have a lover, a lover like no other" suggests the later perhaps is true - indeed that line would be a great compliment to any woman (or man!).

The second verse refers to the love of a brother who would do anything for his sibling - the word brother could easily stand in for friend here as well.

The final verse talks of the love between a father and son that perhaps has gone sour. Collectively these three different settings make for a great story and makes you wonder what kind of person is telling this story and how do those elements relate to one another?


A love song made famous by the Righteous Brothers, this was covered by U2 as a b-side on the With or Without You single. My wife and I played it at our wedding so enough said!

There plenty of other U2 songs out there that refer to love or sing about it without saying the words - what are your favorites?

Sick of love and lust? Want to bite your teeth into something more serious? How about some U2 songs's with lyrics about nuclear politics?

Update: U2 have released an album called Songs of Innocence, featuring Song for Someone. They might also do an album called Songs of Experience.

JJ Reviews: Primordium by Greg Bear



You might have read how much I loved Greg Bear's Halo: Cryptum and that within a short while of reading the last page I had ordered the second in the saga, Primordium.

I'm gonna assume you've read Cryptum too as I review it. So do I need to say spoilars?

halo primordium cover
JJ Reviews: Primordium by Greg Bear

Opening with a very quick recap of the events of Crytum, it's immeadiately clear that this story is a retelling of an adventure that happened to one of the characters from that novel,  Chakas.

The twist is that he appears to not be himself any more. Is he a collection of thoughts on a disk drive? Has he turned into another being? All, I'm sure is to be revealed.

Chakas finds himself crash landed on a Halo and perhaps almost too quickly falls in love (of a kind) with a local 'inhabitant'.

From memory, the Halo games have never shown us as having intelligent life (other than plants and the odd bird) so this sets up an interesting premise.

But it's a premise that takes a little time to really get into gear. As a hero and his two new best friends seek out the abandoned city where Riser might be found, we basically learn nothing except that there are rabbits on the Halo.

But once we are passed that minor hurdle Greg Bear settles into the narrative, drop nice little hints and references along the way about the Librarian, geas and the unspoken plan to keep the reader interested.

Which is the point of a book right? (You can tell Jimmy Jangles doesn't have a career in book reviewing ahead of him - Ed.)

Finally (and I really do mean finally as it's a bit of a slog) there's a real sinister turn taken where we realise that the Precursor that was revealed to be alive on the last page of Cryptum is alive and well on Halo and seemingly in charge of the bloody thing.

Talk about a bad turn... At least Chakas has found Riser and they start a great journey, the end of which signals the climax of the plot arc.

Things come to a head. Our hero is confronted with saving the Halo so that it can be used against the Foreunners but does he want that?

The ending largely wraps up well, an adventure here, a near death (?) experince there, souls long dead revived through geas to give us context there, an old warrior servant wreaking havoc there and we're done.

The twist, if you could call it that, was obvious and I'd wondered if that was it a few chapters into the main story but fitted in nicely to traditional Halo lore, so I'll give big ups to Greg Bear for that.

Was I satisfied with Primordium? 


Not really. I found the journey to get the climax long and ponderous. Some of the detail in describing things was so vague as to not be helpful and the climax itself was a convoluted array of ghosts, monitors and walking corpses. That said, it was ultimately a good ending, perhaps just not as exciting as that of Cryptum.

I did feel however that Cryptum and Primordium were both written at same time as the same book, just split in two.

I would bet Greg Bear and his 'Halo team' had the trilogy's essential elements well plotted before the writing began (thus meaning a a huge epic novel could have been written - but where's the money in that?!).

Thus the scene is set for the third novel in the The Forerunners Saga.

Or is it? The third, as yet not named book, is going to only be released after Halo 4.... which you might recall Frankie having said the novels feed directly into that game. It will thus be interesting to see how Halo 4's plot will influence or echo that third novel.

Check out my review of Halo 6 or if you're into other science fiction reads, Mortal Engines. Or, see the movie and enjoy Tom Natsworthy's quotes.

How a Halo blogger reaches out via Twitter



master chief halo 4

EDIT: Twitip is now a defunct site. The lesson remains...

A fair while I ago was delighted that Twitip chose to publish a couple of articles I wrote, 'You know you're addicted to twitter when' and 'The Angels and Demons Guide to Good Twitter Etiquette'. Since that time I've just got on with the job of blogging and using twitter to reach out to my readers. I thought I'd share what I've learned.

How a Halo blogger reaches out via Twitter


Halo is a massively popular series of games for the Xbox 360 and I’m a bit of a Halo nut and soon enough I created Gears of Halo, a blog dedicated to promoting and sharing the ‘fan boy love’ for Halo and other video games I enjoy.

The blog has been steadily building a faithful audience and I believe a stong part of this reader growth is due to using a dedicated Halo Twitter account.

Here’s the lessons I learnt on the way.
  • Bite the (hops) bullet, forget your general twitter account and create a new account directly for your blog. It allows like to match to like – people who are only interested in your subject but not what you did on Saturday night will appreciate it. 
  • Follow movers and shakers in your subject niche. I go for two sets of people. The producers of the video games and their industry associates. Another other group to target were the other fans who are clearly ‘talkers’ about Halo games. I know they sometimes check my site out and occasionally give out a RT. 
  • Link your blog posts to your twitter account so when you publish a post, a tweet announcing the fact is made to your followers. Set the tweet so it’s clear it is a ‘New Post’ tweet. I use Twitterfeed. Update Twitterfeed is dead.
  • Retweet news that other twitter folk come up with or create. This could help you noticed by the watchers and lurkers as being being someone with your finger on the pulse. When it’s time for you to show off your “L33T skillz”, they may just give you a RT. 
  • Come to the party. In the Halo universe and other genres there are plenty of colourful characters – some have taken these over to the Twitterverse and tweet in character – playful engagement with these types of twitterers can help get you noticed in your subject area. Check out the famous Darth Vader twitter account as an example. The twitter force is strong with that one! And so it is with The Last Jedi too!
  • Write a blog post about the Top Ten People to follow on Twitter in your niche. Let those people know about it and being flattered, they might just retweet the post giving you more exposure. Trust me, it works! 
  • Aim to have more people following you than you follow yourself. It’s a ‘people like them so I'll like them’ psychology. I suspect there’s some kind of mental accounting people do when deciding whether to follow someone – having more followers than you follow might suggest your audience is more than just your friends and thus are worth following. 
  • That said, anytime a follower engages with you, consider following them back. It may help cement their loyalty to you, your twitter account and perhaps more importantly, your blog. 
  • How do you get more followers? Make it clear on your blog you have a twitter account. Invite people to follow you. I have a note at the bottom of every post, suggesting people follow. 
It's my conclusion that as a result of having a dedicated twitter account with followers that are specifically interested in your website’s subject matter, you're more likely to get more readers of your posts than without it.

Those readers are perhaps also more likely to engage with you on the site, for instance, they might leave comments.

Lastly, as your ‘authority’ as an being an expert within your subject niche grows, so does the chance that that authority will create more authority by way of new followers and increased through-put readership of your blog.

Now, how l33t are your retweet skillz?

Mass Effect 3 News Wash Up



Things get a little weird about this point......
Mass Effect 3 News Wash Up

Big week or two recently for Mass Effect - it was released and then the proverbial hit the fan so there has been lots to talk about.

First up, it's my blog so here's my ME3 Review and here's what I thought of the ending. I enjoyed it because it was sooooo out there. The team at IGN shared their wise thoughts on the game too.

This chap who knows a chord structure when he hears one pointed out a clever musical motif used in the War Room on the Normandy.

Bioware caved and suggested to the internet they were going to change the ending of the game which seems a lil crazy - at least it means we'll get some more DLC perhaps.... Bioware also announced a fix to the face import problem at has effected the Xbox and Playstation versions of the game.

I also regurgitated some bollocks about what the N7 programme is all about.

Whad I miss? What are your views on the conclusion of the game?


What did Johnny Cash say about America?



johnny cash san quentin

What did Johnny Cash say about America?

A lot of singers sing about where they live and what they did when they lived there. While U2 like to comment on american culture and politics, they haven't lived through America's eyes like Johnny Cash did.

You'd think a series of records known as American Recordings would be about America. And you'd be right. But you might also ask yourself (other than how did I get here?) seeing as these songs are all covers of other mostly american artists, what is Johnny Cash actually trying to say?

There's a lot of songs in the American Recordings series written by US citizens and their lyrics are open to interpretation and they are not always direct references on America and it's politics, culture or heritage but when Johnny Cash sang these songs, he totally changed them by virtue of being Johnny Cash - through his own living and experiences, when he sang another person's lyrics the meaning changed or was amplified somewhat.

Think his cover of Nine Inch Nail's Hurt as an example. Ostensibly Trent Reznor wrote a song about "differences between society and self-harm", but when Mr J Cash sang it, it become a personal commentary on his own life, and perhaps indirectly, his own influence on american culture.

The Beatles 'In My Life' is song that offers Cash the chance to put his own spin on a classic song. When he sings about 'places and people' he's loved, he's talking about american prisons where he famously sang and he's singing about his friends and families that have been part of the American fabric. He's singing about June and he's singing about Buddy Holly.

When he's takes on the Eagle's Desperado he's singing about the infamous Dalton Gang and America's Wild West history. He's singing about some of America's building blocks.

When Johnny Cash teamed up with U2 to sing on Zooropa's The Wanderer, Johnny Cash can be found having a field day with Bono's lyrics. While he's singing about a man searching for God in a post-Apocalyptic world, he's singing about that part of American culture that what everything they can have - being the kingdom but how they don't want God in it. Despite the American President continually asking God to Bless America, church attendance is falling in America and Cash knew it. He's also suggesting that American's want the nice things, but aren't prepared to put in the effort.

You could argue that when Cash did a cover of U2's One, he was singing about America's confusion about Jesus (refer to the horrible God Hates Fags campaigners) but it's really just a break up song...... when he sang Nick Cave's The Mercy Seat, he wasn't singing about a man's last thoughts before he dies, he's pointing about America's preoccupation with killing people. He was looking at you Texas.

When Cashing mournfully lays down Sheryl Crow's Redemption Day, he turns her fears about an impending train accident into a lament that nothing can be done to save America.

When the Man Comes Around follows a different route that the above arguments. Apparently its one of Cash's few last original composition before he left this planet to hang out with Elvis. It's a commentary of sorts on the Devil, God and how when it's all done and fucked up, you're gonna be claimed. And these lyrics can easily be seen as a warning to America - relying heavily on the Book of Revelations to set the scene, Cash is saying when America's whores are done whoring and you've done enough sinning yourself and got yourself nice and 'filthy', God's gonna come down with his Pale Horses of Death, take America up his golden ladder and put it in its place. Cash actually had a lot to say about Jesus.

U2 did get one thing right though, Elvis would have been a sissy without Johnny Cash!

Mass Effect 3: It's awesome, like David Lynch.



miranda mass effect 3

I first got in to Mass Effect by accident when I found it cheapME2 did the business and more and like the hugely massive and nearly impossible expectations that one had for Halo 3 and GOW3, the promise of Mass Effect would could only be that it would be the most biggest, bad assess space opera ever.

And so it was.

I find it weird to say that the initial Reaper invasion of Earth where innocent children were blown from the slay, an awesome slow burner start, that's indeed what it was - and it had to be the slowburn because the game's plot only got faster and more brutal as my 'Aubrey Sheppard' sought to defend against and defeat the Reapers.

The first few missions were easy enough and simple enough to get into the spirit of things. Find a Turian soldier there, battle a marauder there, pick up a female Krogan there, arrange for some illegal trade in guns there, telling The Illusive Man to frack off there, give advice to an A.I. with big silver tits about how to pick up humans there and the scene was set.

Cerberus were quickly up to tricks with Sheppard and the Illusive guy was probably a bit pissed that the Commander prevented him from capturing what were apparently the finest young minds humanity had to offer (they seemed pretty dumb though).....

By this stage I've got used to the game play. It's a strong improvement on the prior games and the running, ducking and diving options now available feel quite natural after coming off a lot of Gears of War lately.

Mass Effect has always made it clear that decisions have consequences. The original game this painfully clear when the choice came to kill the Krogan Wrex. A key choice in that game was to decide whether to let the Rachni Queen live or die. Well ME3 makes sure the chickens come home to roost in that regard. Finally a true decision in ME has had a massive influence in this game. To this end, Mass Effect's promise that decisions have consequences has never been borne out so well. Kudos to Mass Effect's writers.




Mass Effect 3 is a killing machine. Millions of people are dying all around me. Planets are being decimated, I'm deciding the fate particular species and I'm sending major characters to their deaths. Some characters are also sending themselves to their own deaths. The game gives some of them glorious endings, others unsatisfying ignoble good byes. With the Reaper attack threatening the existence of the galaxy as we know it, I guess that's c'est la vie.

A key element of ME2 was Cerberus and The Illusive man directing Shepard to his own ends. ME3 features a heavy sub plot of Cerberus plots that help lead us to one inevitable conclusion - it's all going to  end badly for everyone.

There's a certain character betrayal which seems like it was telegraphed from day one which is all a little to Da Vinci Code like for me (even though I never pick them myself in the books!)  - it's a trivial complaint none-the-less but it did lead us on a wild goose chase.

So now I'm tired of finding strange prothean disks for lazy scientists so I'm going to charge in to save the day. Am I ready? I'm kind of ready. Have I made the right decisions? Are my Geth troops up to it? Should I have been nicer to the Salarians? Is my reasonably respectable paragon leading Sheppard up to the task. Will the Alliance battle as brave as the Krogan?

This is truly a Galaxy at War.

The final dash through, taking out the Cerberus base is a long affair with no real consquence but to serve as a chance to give the Illusive Man the finger and set up the finale run which was long, fun and had just the right amount of sentiment in saying goodbye to a few friends before Sheppard stepped up to save the  galaxy.



Then there was that crazy ending. It's caused a stir, and rightly so but I think it was a brilliant ending and I'm gonna have to spend a whole different post talking about it (This explains the David Lynch reference). I am truly satisfied with the efforts of my Sheppard, despite him kind of turning into NEO from the Matrix..... well that was my ending. I didn't get shot by Martin Sheen.

I'll trying to figure out why the Prothean's built the Crucible knowing ? the Catalyst was the er... Citidel and seeing as they'd have known they didn't actually build it themselves, could they not see that their own plan had a gaping hole in it? Or did I just miss something here?

If I wanted to quibble, a big deal was made about the choice to save the Rachni Queen throughout the series and ME3’s writer Mac Walters said “[The presence of the Rachni] has huge consequences in Mass Effect 3. Even just in the final battle with the Reapers." Well I didn’t see one damn Rachni that was on my side in the final battle charge. I feel cheated in that regard and I imagine that sentiment will be shared be several players.

Overall, game of the year for 2012. Halo 4 is gonna have to be amazing to beat it.

Update: ME3 is going to have an expanded ending.