Friday, 24 October 2008

A Public Apology

by Tobias Gregson

As a result of my long term close relationship with the The Little Man trustees and The Hawks Estate, I have been drafted in to comment on the recent decline in standards at this august publication.

In his recent post, John Carpenter's They Live, a Truly Prescient Documentary, contributor Edwin Hesselthwite made the serious error of judgement in using the expression “Joe Sixpack”, this term which has been recently brought to saturation coverage in the wider media by a Ms S Palin had noticeably lowered the tone of his recent post, bringing LMWN into disrepute...

We would like to apologise to our faithful readership, and make it clear that Mr Hesselthwite has been firmly disciplined.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

John Carpenter's They Live, a Truly Prescient Documentary

by Edwin Hesselthwite

“The Golden Rule: he who has the gold, makes the rules.” Frank, played by Keith David in They Live.
For the last month the patient (the world economy) has lain haemorraging on the table, pissing fountains of arterial blood into the eyes of the world's economic surgeons. Over this period there have been a slow drip of media “I told you so”s from aging, suprisingly coherent, leftist ideologues. From former Labour party leader Michael Foot (now 95), to legendary historian Eric Hobsbawm (now 91) lazy editors across the land have tried to bulk-up their pages with the false dichotomy between a 20th century style left and capitalism (whatever that means). It's a little disingenous, since there is far more to intellectuals like Hobsbawm than the "more unions, and Thatcher was Satan's own personal spawn" quote the BBC's Today Programme so desperately wanted from him, but this is after all everything I hate about the BBC. Nonetheless, in this spirit of “We were right” I present you with a dumb movie I really love: John Carpenter's They Live.

If I'm honest, I'll admit that Carpenter is my favourite film-maker. I might spit out names like Roman Polanski and Alan J. Pakula to fellow film geeks, but a searing synth score by Carpenter is all that's needed to give me that Sunday night feeling. I've seen 16 of his 20-odd movies. From the brooding claustrophobic tension of The Thing to the stripped down violent purity of Assault On Precinct 13 Carpenter is arguably the most sophisticated figure to make trash SF movies, and his films bear enough of his individual stamp (he typically scripts, directs and scores them) to deserve the title Auteur.

They Live is the last great film of his prolific 1974-1988 period. Made in the immediate aftermath of the 1987 stock market crash referred to as Black Monday, this is a very blunt satire of Reaganite America. The plot, if you can call it that, is that the world economy has gone to shit (as it just had in '88) and that the Joe Sixpacks of America have been forced to become modern day Okies — itinerant hoboes hunting for construction work on the outskirts of Los Angeles. Desperate to earn a living our hero, John Nada (played by wrestler Rowdy Roddy Piper), finds himself in a homeless encampment that appears to be linked to some anti-government conspiracy. Following some stock police brutality (let's get the coppers to beat up the aging, blind, black, priest... That's edgy!), Nada comes upon a pair of sunglasses that allow him to see the world as it really is... The bankers, the politicians, the businessmen are all aliens that have taken control of the world! The rich are a parasite race! It's time to kick some ass!

Never one for subtlty Carpenter lays this films politics on heavily, with subliminal messages hiding under every billboard and television advert... Dollars bear the legend "this is your god", advertising posters say "consume and obey" or "marry and reproduce". They Live (made on a tiny $3 million budget) lacks the polish of his Halloween or The Fog, and is somewhat deprived in cast (the closest thing to a star is Keith David, who's main claim to fame was his roles in other Carpenter movies, Roddy Piper is clearly trying to channel Kurt Russell's character in such films) but Carpenter has always been a master of making thrillers on the last gas fumes in the tank. The secret to this film's success is simple: cutting in at 88 minutes, They Live doesn't give you time to question it. And across that short running time it has enough juicy moments of raw fun to keep the most jaded moviegoer entertained.

So, as the world media runs into the arms of the old left for a soundbite and an apologetic cuddle, we at Little Man, What Now? would like to say: WE KNEW! David Shayler and David Icke were right all along, those bankers, Lehman brothers, all those sons of bitches... We've been saying this since we published extracts from George Shanks's translation of the Protocols! They're lizards, alien fucking lizards!

Click here to see the film's legendary fight scene intercut with South Park's hommage to it.

Friday, 17 October 2008

Final Countdown

by Charles Pooter

This gave me a Friday feeling:

Via B3ta.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Adventures in a LittleBigPlanet

by Unknown

I recently found myself fortunate enough to obtain a beta key for the upcoming PS3 game LittleBig Planet, and I have to say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. It's one of the games out there that doesn't just hand you a gun and say "That way".

In it's most basic sense, the game is about the adventure of your character, or Sackboy/girl in the world of LittleBigPlanet - a mirror of the earth, created from the dreams and collective creative energy of all humanity. They have painted a very fluffy, plushy, soft feel to this world, and the impact is an immediate sense of endearment - it helps that your character is also immensely cute.

Speaking of the characters, they should be investigated further. You are introduced to your Sack-person (Stop snickering, you at the back.) from the outset, and you know right away that this is a game that is really something very different. Buttons on your control pad, which would in normal games be associated with weapons changes, firing guns, and other wholesome activities, are suddenly revealed to allow you to take control of your characters arms. Whilst this may not seem particularly special, once you play with it for a few minutes, you wonder how you coped without this ever before. When you are in multiplayer, you can point to important things, anywhere in the level, simply by holding down a button and moving one of the analogue sticks. Another fantastic and fun feature (I may be using that statement a lot on this post.) is the ability to control the emotional state of your Avatar. You can make him happy, sad, scared, or angry - there are 3 degrees of each emotion and they change your characters facial expression and hand gestures - another little work of genius. As a final note, if you're online and you have a headset on and working, your character will attempt to lip-sync with what you are saying. Brilliant!

So, once you've gotten to grips with your character, you are then presented with your first levels of the game. These are all standard platformy game fare. They are great fun, well thought out, and serve as a perfect introduction to the game mechanics, and limitations of the world. After a few of these, you get given some of the basic tools of the game, and then informed that you are allowed to create content for this world. Levels of your own can be built, saved, published and shared with the whole world. Whatever you are capable of creating can be given to the sum total of content in the LittleBigPlanet sphere.

My first adventure out into this sphere, as an explorer but not a creator, yielded some very interesting results. Some people had made rocket powered cars, roller coaster rides, obstacle courses, pirate ship adventures, zeppelins. It had everything. My curiosity piqued by these seemingly amazing feats of creation practically forced me to pick up the level creator.

I was never very good with level creators. There seemed to be an awful lot of x,y,z co-ordinates and texture selection. When I went through the first tutorial on LittleBigPlanet, I was introduced to the world creation toolset in what I could only describe as an informal and friendly manner. More like "Hey, thanks for coming, here's something that's quite cool." instead of "Look at the power that can be summoned from our mighty toolset! Fear our ability, bow down before us!" Straight away, I found that it was actually quite easy to create simple objects, and lay these out in the manner for a level of platformy based fun.

Before I knew it, I was being introduced to some of the more dynamic aspects of creation. moving parts, pistons, pulleys, rods, switches, buttons. But, at no point was it overwhelming. Stephen Fry was always available for a quick tutorial on the various devices (he provides all the narrative for the game, in a very similar manner to his work in Hitchhikers guide to the galaxy.) and how they can be applied to the world. In a short while, I was familiar with this toolset, and it was down to me on what I could create on the blank canvas of world in front of me.

So, I made a cannon, that fires explosives, with a movable turret. A friend of mine was over at the weekend, and he made a tank. We then made a catapult that was very good at hurling little sack-people very large distances. We then added a fire-pit for them to land in, because we're nice people. I actually found myself questioning why I was doing this. Given all the possibilities to create things that are good and fun and nice, I instead opted to make things that went boom, in one way or another.

The obvious answer was that it was fun. Fun, to create these things, with good intentions of making them devices in some sort of grand level which could be published and gifted to the world to enjoy. Only, the level never got built, and the cannon got bigger.

Before I was able to perfect the catapult, or to actually build the little world for all my wonderful toys to go in, the beta ended. So, I now find myself in a position where I will actually purchase a game, not only to play, or create, but to atone - for bringing tools of destruction to a fluffy universe.

To summarise this game would take far more than I have written above. It has the ability to present whatever you can imagine to the rest of the world, as you would like it to be presented. It is always going to have new content, which will be free to play, generated by people, and usually lots of fun.

I believe that this game can, and will sell PS3's on its merits. Kids will love it because it's cute and fluffy - anyone with an imagination will love it because of the vast and simple toolset, which allows you to run riot with the world.

You have to decide what you bring to the universe of LittleBigPlanet however, and that could be both it's greatest achievement, and it's biggest flaw.

There's more in that than most people think.

It allows us see inside our own hearts.

A little man in a LittleBigPlanet

Friday, 10 October 2008

Quote of the day

by Ted Hoffman

It's like being constantly told that you have a terrible disease. Only there aren't any symptoms. And if it weren't for that grim Scottish doctor who keeps peering in your ear and muttering “doom, doom”, you'd be convinced that you were absolutely fine.

What do I know, but everything seems ok in Texas, how about you guys?

Monday, 6 October 2008

Pork Barrel Pork Pies

by Edwin Hesselthwite

As covered today by the BBC, The European Court Of Justice have finally granted the 1,800 square mile region around the Leicestershire town of Melton Mowbray Protected Geographical Indication status for Melton Mowbray Pork Pies.

According to the BBC a charming local by the name of Matthew O'Callaghan (a pie-campaigner, no less) was proud that their pies would finally be authentic, that no one else could mis-sell Melton Mowbray pies (much as Stella Artois, manufactured in Northampton, is marketed as a French product) and that the little town of Melton Mowbray in the East Midlands would finally see the back of any whiley competitors for it's valuable pie-brand...

I smelt a rat.

I've always been suspicious of this regional branding, because modern capitalism is very good at playing these sorts of systems. By granting a small region a monopoly on a food-brand (who has ever actually heard of or thought about Melton Mowbray?) this can equate to vast sums of money. A sufficiently valuable brand-property such as Champagne, or Feta Cheese can mean that one or a cartel of manufacturer/manufacturers have control of a globally renowned product in perpetuity. With the crawling turnover of European case law, these geographical protected areas are ripe for plucking, what company doesn't want to be able to sue its competitors for brand-impeachment? I thought the time had come to look into one of these stories.

It turns out that Mr O'Callaghan was the chairman of The Melton Mowbray Pork Pie Association (MMPPA), a "local" lobbying organisation who launched this campaign for PGI status in 1999, and that the MMPPA's massively dominant largest member was Dickinson & Morris Piemakers. After a fire in 1992, Dickinson & Morris were bought out by Samworth Brothers, a food conglomerate with a total staff of 6,000 employees (including factories in Cornwall and Milton Keynes), ownership of the ubiquitous Ginsters brand, and products including ready meals, pre-prepared sandwiches, packaged pasta, cooked meats and desserts.

To put it another way, Britain's most powerful pie maker has found and taken control of a region-specific brand, and upon acquiring a suitable factory has launched a campaign to get a permanent monopoly out of the EU. The aim being to drive their competition (Northern Foods, who own the Pork Farms brand) out of the business. Further, the campaign to get this PGI status has resulted in sympathetic free publicity that allows them to play the potentially lucrative local food/organic produce card. An unhealthy grey British meat pie is transformed into a luxury delicacy at minimal expense. Played for and got. I had no knowledge of this before I started investigating this one, I just had a suspicion that regional-protection stank to high heaven... What I found here was an example of Big Business grabbing an artificial monopoly with the complicit backing of the EU legal system.

Fuck the lawyers... Fuck them right in the eye.

Small, traditional, monopolists getting fat off European Law

The Seventeen Foot Black Mercedes

by Edwin Hesselthwite

With respect to fellow contributor Mr Macintosh, I am going to abandon my usual form and write today in his somewhat more homely style. Because today I am discussing an issue very close to his heart and his oeuvre: driving.

For the last 5 years I have spent considerable time attempting, and failing, to become a licensed road user. Being a snooty metropolitan, I've been struggling to pass this test (generally regarded as one of the world's hardest) in London, a place with the most aggressive road system in the UK. Four failures, thousands of pounds worth of lessons, six months of haranguing the Driving Standards Agency (who kept cancelling my test at the last minute) and three driving instructors later it was last Wednesday that I finally managed to obtain a little certificate that means I can now legally own, and drive, a car.

So, after several years of nippy little diesels with no engine power and L plates that might as well say "please don't let me in, I will slow you down", (in a city where not letting each other in is a point of faith) I went up to visit some friends in Birmingham for a quiet, relaxed, weekend... We've known each other a long, long, time and a bottle of red wine served to lubricate an old friendship. When they start discussing The Mercedes in hushed tones, I was somewhat intrigued. Pleasantly exhausted I slept well, and awoke the following morning to wait for a lift to the other side of the city.

I was picked up by the most ridiculous motor vehicle I have ever seen (and fellow Little Man Pritchard Buckminster has had some pretty ridiculous vehicles)... In front of the house sat a 1987 Mercedes 500 SEL limousine with a matt finish that looked suspiciously like black spray-paint. The finishing touch of this already rather daft contraption was a huge white death's head covering the front bonnet.

The story they told went like this: three close friends had planned on joining a cross-Europe rally trip, the rules of which involved getting their hands on the most ludicrous car they could find for under £250. Taking this requirement to heart they'd picked up this dilapidated monster (with a weight of just under two and a half tonnes) and had managed to get it across the entire length of a continent without it completely falling apart (although the ignition was now controlled by a screwdriver). With cracked leather and an engine that seemed to be continually misfiring, this behemoth had still managed to pass the requirements to be roadworthy, insurable and was now being used intermittently as a second car by each of them in turn, because it was fun.

So, I write this brief post to describe my first legal driving experience, my first time driving an automatic, and my first at the wheel of a monster. Making myself comfortable in the seats, and sticking on my glasses, I worried for a moment that I wasn't using P-Plates (I know they're optional, but still)... With my friend shaking his head and smiling, I put the car into first gear and pulled out onto the streets of Birmingham. It was a rare moment of elation when I realised that while L-Plates might invite people to pass the damned learner, having a huge death's head painted on the bonnet was the driving equivalent of yelling "don't fuck with me, I can crush you like a tin can" to all passing road-users. I never realised that British carriageways were so wide.

White vans, previously the bane of my driving life, seemed to give way with deference and compassion to the new guy. Buses seemed to pause, the roar of my engine and it's feeble acceleration served to give me an hour of pure satisfaction... Why have I never driven an automatic before? Was the fuel gauge really dropping before my eyes? Heading down Birmingham's arterial passages has never been so exciting. The rain slammed onto the car, the wipers screeched ineffectually to regain visibility, but the Mercedes blazed forwards... I was the Road, I was Birmingham, I was the ruler of England!

And yet, as the car slowed to a stop at each traffic light, there was a worry in the back of my brain: was that thunking sound a part of the engine finally giving up the ghost? Would I ever be able to push this contraption to a safe place? There was no way I was driving The Black Mercedes, she was driving me and I was at her mercy.

Spent and wilting as we drove back to my friends house, I attempted, and failed, to parallel park a this monster while feeling a momentary regret... I would never have my first licensed drive again.