Tuesday, June 30, 2020

I Win EverQuest!

I thought I was going up in the world when the Avatars of Brell and Tunare agreed to join my team.

But then I recruited Firiona Vie...

I guess we won't be doing Seasons. Where would we go after this?

Monday, June 29, 2020

Too Much Of A Good Thing?

Here we are, half-way through the year already. Amazing how the time flies when you're under house arrest. This is part two in what should be a four-part series, in which I explain the provenance of all those impenetrable, obscure and mystifying post titles I insist on using. That'd be the ones where, when I look at them a year later, trying to find something I know I wrote, I have absolutely no idea what any of the posts are about. (True story!)

Let's get the rubric out of the way first. Otherwise all these colors and sizes and fonts won't mean anything to anyone. (Cue hollow, ironic laughter). It's the same as last time but to save you a click...

Full song titles used as post titles (even if altered)  - Large, Bold , Green
Quotes from lyrics used as titles (even if altered) - Large, Bold, Blue
Original titles from which quotes were drawn - Small, Italic, Bold, Green
All other music - Small, Italic, Green

Every source-song is included in an official studio version or promo video, either by a link in the post title, the source title or as a pull-out video. Other versions may also be linked. All links should be unique unless there is literally only one extant version. Or I forgot or messed up. It's a very long post...

By sheer chance, the period covered aligns almost exactly with the time I've spent in lockdown. So far, that is. I'm still on furlough. And what a great opportunity to discover new music it should have been. Only somehow things didn't turn out that way.

I blame Amazon Prime for that. Instead of scouring YouTube for new tunes late at night, like I used to do, I've been watching quality television instead. There's so much of it these days. Who knew? Everyone who hasn't spent the last twenty years with their head stuck in an MMORPG, I imagine. Also, Pocket Camp hasn't helped. Level 29 now and every minute stolen from time I could have spent discovering the next Polly Scattergood. (Albeit a decade after everybody else, as usual).

If it wasn't for the weird rabbit holes some of these post titles led me down I'd hardly have made any new discoveries at all, which is probably why I've been leaning on Lyrics.com kinda heavily for titles. That, and eight years of this have depleted my natural resources just a tad. It's another way to find new stuff, though, so it's all good.

Enough with the introductions already. Play something!

All Hail The King Of The Cats - The Simpsons - If this was the radio show I so obviously wish it was, I would most certainly not open with that! Chronological order sucks, sometimes. It's from the Itchy and Scratchy musical, proving postmodern metatextuality never goes out of style. Oh, wait...

Kitty, Kitty, Please Come Here - She Walks On Me - Hole - I was never much of a Nirvana fan but I always liked Hole. This is particularly Onoesque in places. Seems appropriate, somehow. Can't think why.

Three Months Later - Polyaneurism - Of Montreal - I used to work with someone who was keen on this lot. He had specific yet eclectic tastes. He liked a particular strand of very self-conscious, layered, intellectual North American indie and a barrel-load of vintage country. That was mostly what he'd play. It was back when I worked in an obscure, out-of-the-way part of the building, somewhere we could listen to music all day, as loud as we liked, and we did. I still see him now and again. Interesting fellow.  He introduced me to Sufjan Stevens, Neutral Milk Hotel and Hank Williams. And Of Montreal, of course. Happy days, except when I had to listen to Frank Zappa.

Lost In The Mail - Ricky Hill & Lil Peep -   One of those generic phrases I love so much. Once I had the title I looked for songs that used it. There weren't many and this was the best. Wish I'd paid more attention to Lil Peep when he was alive, now.

Many Worlds TheoryB. B. Palmer - This just can't be explained. You search for quantum physics and this is what you get. Just some guy on his porch. It's why the internet exists and why I love it so much. 

All Your Well-Learned PolitesseSympathy For The Devil - The Rolling Stones - Where would you start? I could do a whole post just on covers of this one song. There must be about a million of them including an insane version by Rickie Lee Jones that I find highly entertaining. Samantha Fish takes a more traditional run at it. There's even an homage, kinda, called  A Good Idea At the Time, by someone called OK Go. They've even made a video. It's... interesting.

Let's Address Some Topics - Kids See Ghosts - Kids See Ghosts - Haunting. Appropriately.  It's from a Kanye West and Kid Cudi collab that made  #2 on the Billboard chart in 2018. I must have missed it. There's an animated TV show on the way. I'll try not to miss that.

Like An Animal Crossing Or, If You Will, A Crossing For Animals -  
Feral Love - Chelsea Wolfe and Crossing For Wildlife - The Gentleman - I couldn't choose between these two so I went with both for an unwieldy and inelegant mish-mash of a title, which has now become an equally inelegant sprawl of an entry. I knew the title wasn't working but I was too stubborn to back down. I don't seem to have learned much from the experience, either. The two videos make for something of a goth-off, with Chelsea Wolfe surprisingly outgothed for once. The Gentleman comes on like a sinister Eastern European time-traveler, stopping by on his way back from the 'eighties with a troupe of undead red-heads he abducted from the set of Picnic at Hanging Rock. Wouldn't want to meet any of them on a dark night, frankly.

Let's Go Jumpin' - Wild Rabbits - Noriyuki Makihara - A Japanese pop star about whom I know nothing but what it says in his wikipedia entry. What the song has to do with rabbits I have absolutely no idea.

Oh Please, Can't I Be You? Your Personality's So Great - N.Y. Stars - Lou Reed - From Sally Can't Dance, an album I bought the year it came out, 1974. It was reviled at the time but I always liked it and it sounds even better now. This is a post where I had the title in mind before I went to look it up. The first half, anyway, because I was originally going to use the obvious Cure number. When I found Lou's quote it felt like it was meant to be. (I broke my rule on the links, by the way. One of them is Lou, the other's a cover by David Furtado. You'd be hard put to say which, I bet).

On A Saturday Night At Home - Shit Kid - Video included in the original post otherwise I'd pull it out here. She makes amazing videos.

Something To Do - Kerosene - Big Black - One of the greatest rock songs ever recorded. I had this on a mix tape a good friend made for me in the '80s. There were no sleeve notes and it was years before I found out who it was by. I suppose I could just have asked him. It was even longer before I found out what it was about. I suppose I could just have listened to the words. There's also an amazing cover by St. Vincent, who I clearly need to start paying much closer attention to.

Television Internet - Television and Internet - Monkey Pilot - 猴子飞行员 - Is he rocking that shorts-and-cowboy-hat combo or does he just look like your drunken uncle at the post-wedding disco? The official video is, as we liked to say in the 90s, well dodgy.

The Fox And The Rabbit - Babe, I'm on Fire - Nick Cave - Nearly a quarter of an hour of Nick Cave riding the riff while a bunch of his luvved-up pals rifle through the dressing-up box. How does he remember all the words?

Stuck Like A Cowboy  - Cowboy - The Sugarcubes -  John Peel used to play The Sugarcubes a lot before Bjork became famous. I didn't like them then and they don't sound any better now. It's that bloke, isn't it? You just want him to shut up and let Bjork sing. No wonder she went solo.

Draft Resister - Steppenwolf - This is the version I know, from the Steppenwolf Live album, which I played to death when I was about fourteen. I still have it somewhere. I bought Herman Hesse's Steppenwolf around the same time. I 've probably still got that, too. I think I thought it was some kind of fantasy/horror novel. Maybe it is. I got about half way through, put it down and never picked it up again.

By All Accounts - A Nervous Tic Motion of The Head To The Left - Andrew Bird - That's some title for a song I only found by searching for the blandest phrase imagineable. I have no idea what style or genre it's meant to be but it's a bit of a grower. Also, he seems to be a pal of St Vincent. Small world.

Call Of The West - Wall of Voodoo - I toyed with the idea of calling this one "I'm Flyin' High On A Barrel In The Sky" after Westworld's Sonic Boom Boy, which seemed to work in so many ways but in the end I did that thing writers are supposed to do and killed it because I liked it too much. Still not sure about that. I was very happy to bring Wall of Voodoo off the bench, though. They're somewhat underrated, I feel. Their louche, plangent sound reminds me of a sober version of The Gun Club, if such a thing were possible. Stan Ridgeway can turn a phrase, too.

(There's No) Planning In ShadowlandsShadowland - Youth Group - A rich, strange, drugged-up live version featuring Sarah Kelly from The Red Sun Band. Don't click that last link if you're scared of spiders. Seriously, just... don't, okay?

On With The Show - Valkyrie - Pavlov's Dog - One of my all-time faves. Certainly didn't need to look this one up.

Block Rockin' Beats - Chemical Brothers - Or this. I used to turn the radio up loud when this came on.

Common People - Pulp - Jarvis was one of the faces of the nineties, when Pulp became an overnight success after ten years trying. They were arguably even better after ten more. He's slipped comfortably into middle age now, with his radio documentaries and his DJing. Quite the raconteur. Still making interesting music, too, even if he is beginning to sound disturbingly like Leonard Cohen.

Smashed Blocked - John's Children -This is a title I've had at the back of my mind for decades. It popped out when I wrote the post. They were a legendary prototype supergroup, in the vein of The London SS , although John's Children did at least get to make some records. Listening to it now, I'm not surprised they didn't trouble the charts. The older I get, the more I hear, the more I realize how deeply difficult so much "popular" music wants to be.

Five To Conquer - J. Tailor - Destroyer - Who turn out to be a vehicle for Daniel Bejar of The New Pornographers, another band my old work colleague introduced me to. I had real trouble working out what this one was called. It does indeed seem to think its name is "J. Tailor", which is a hell of a thing to call a song. Outsider art leanings, maybe, but as the relatively smooth KEXP footage suggests, there's  something more formal going on here.

More Than This - Roxy Music - Although orders of magnitude less formal than this. The first three Roxy albums are among the best ever recorded by anyone but after that they rapidly descend into self-parody (or global commercial success -  same thing, really). I never liked the original much but this cover by Data isn't bad and Susanna Hoffs and Mathew Sweet can make anything sound, well, passable at least.

Fifteen Again - Monster - Kate Miller-Heidke - I'd never heard of her but she represented Australia at Eurovison in Israel, a sentence that ought to have no semantic value but actually does. The staging for that performance is... well, I wouldn't have wanted to be the Health and Safety officer who signed off on it. Also, she covers Eminem, just like Tori Amos. Okay, not exactly like Tori Amos...

The Numbers Game - Thievery Corporation - Great name, great sound, great video. Although if I tell you it sounds uncannily like Motorhead's Ace of Spades, funked up and slowed to a crawl you'll never be able to hear it the same way again.

Tankies Are People Too - The String-Bo String Duo - Probably the oddest track in this collection and that's saying something. I was looking for songs with the word "tank" in. They turned out to be in surprisingly short supply, until I stumbled on this. "Tankie" is "a pejorative reference to hard-line, pro-Soviet members of the Communist Party of Great Britain", apparently. Who knew?

I'm A Tiger - Lulu - I loved this when I was about ten years old. I quite like it now, if I'm being honest...

Because I Said So! - In The House - RunDMC - Talking of being honest, I'll come clean about this one. I'd love to have everyone believe I was thinking of RunDMC, who I do like a lot, when I came up with this, but really it was Billie Piper I had in mind. Only it turns out her bubblegum #1 was called "Because We Want To". I'd mis-remembered it. Shocker! I'd also totally forgotten the video opens with Billie being beamed down from a spaceship. I wonder if that had anything to do with her getting the role of Rose in Dr. Who a couple of years later?

Another Lesson Learned - Elizabeth Taylor - Claire Maguire - I love this so much. Yes, I know it owes a huge debt to Lana but if you're going to be inspired then take your inspiration from the best. And this is inspired, make no doubt about that.

Living On Nuts And Berries - Animals - Talking Heads - I've been re-discovering Talking Heads recently. I was an early adopter. Bought their first album on import, saw them on their first U.K. tour in, I guess, 1977. I kept faith until Remain In Light, by when there scarcely seemed to be any point. Not really paid much attention since, until Pitchfork did a re-review of the first five albums earlier this year and I remembered what I liked about them.

Trigger Happy? - Lloyd Cole - Unlike David Byrne, I've never broken faith with Lloyd. I've bought every album he's ever made (bar a few of the collections). I imagine I'll keep on until either he stops making them or I'm not around to know. He's aging well, too, the bastard.

Busy Making Progress - This is a weird one. When I was a young teenager, haunting the second-hand record stores, I saw this album a thousand times. I always remembered the title, which is how I came to use it here, but I never knew what it was until now. Not that there's much to know. It was some kind of benefit album for the Hare Krishna movement, it seems. I listened to a little bit of it on YouTube. I wouldn't bother, if I was you.

Keep Moving Don't Move - Kate Tempest - Can't say I'm much of a fan.

Harvest For The World - Isley Brothers - There were a couple of Isley Brothers tracks that obsessed me when I was about seventeen but this wasn't one of them. I know it mostly from the archetypally '80s Style Council cover. It was Summer Breeze that haunted me, then. Still does if I'm careless enough to let it.

Instance Karma - Instant Karma - John Lennon and the Plastic Ono Band - Here he is again, the Modfather himself. I warm to him more and more as the years roll by. The opposite with Lennon, but his original is one of the better things he left us. I even like the Duran Duran version but you never heard me say so. Admit something like that, no-one's going to listen to anything you have to say, ever again.

Who Stole The Cookie? - Who Stole the Cookie from the Cookie Jar? - The Jaynettes - Thirty seconds with this and you're going to have it in your head all day, I guarantee it. I count myself fairly well up on sixties girl groups, at least for someone who actually leaves the house once in a while, but The Jaynettes were new to me. There's an interesting controversy surrounding their excellent Sally Go Round The Roses that's well worth delving into but I'm saving that for another post.

Pale Lilac Snow - Pale Snow - Suede -An auto-tuned Brett Anderson, something you don't hear every day.

Don't Get Weird On Me Babe - Don't Get Weird - Lloyd Cole - Lloyd, doing his best Lou Reed impression, on a demo from a collection of tracks he laid down while he was living in New York, trying to turn himself into a rock star. That didn't work so he turned himself into a folk singer instead. If you ask me, that didn't work so well either. He still sounds like Lloyd Cole, which ought to be enough for anybody.

New You - My Bloody Valentine - MBV are one of those bands I feel I should know a lot better than I do. They were a major influence on lots of people I liked but somehow I never picked up on them at the time. Unlike Stereolab, who I also mysteriously skipped, I haven't really made much of an effort to rectify the error since, either.

I Recommend To You - Fruits and Vegetables - Shonen Knife -Another band I used to hear all the time on the Peel show. I didn't pay them much mind then but I really like them now. I find there are a lot of bands I like better when I can see them as well as hear them.

Lost In Daydreams, Forgotten By Time - The Flower Lady and her Assistant - The Seeds - A little psychedelia can go a long way, I find, but you can never have too much of The Seeds. I love their sheer insistence. There's a relentless quality to everything they do. This is self-evidently the same band that did Pushin' Too Hard and Can't Seem To Make You Mine but just for once they sound a little more reflective, less on edge. Different drug regime, perhaps.

Well, Did You Evah? - Iggy Pop and Deborah Harry - Recorded for an AIDS benefit album. Video directed by Alex Cox. Iggy with his hand full of ants, Debbie with a boa constrictor. The actual song starts at 1.28. Stay for the coda. It's in color and it's worth it.

Now The Drizzle - Everything I Cannot See - Charlotte Gainsbourg and Air - Doesn't that keyboard remind you of Mike Garson on Lady Grinning Soul ? I played the skin off this when it came out. I need to hear the whole album now.

Increase The Population - Make a Baby with Me - The Sprites - Forty-seven views! C'mon, it deserves at least fifty!

Cake/NotCake - Cake - Lily Allen - It makes you happy just to hear her voice. Well, it damn well should.

Numbers Don't Lie - Tom Ford - Jay-Z - First Kanye, now Jay-Z. I surprise myself, sometimes. Although if you click the link it's actually a cover because the original has since been set to "Private" and all the other versions are live takes you can't really hear.

Flying Easy - Donny Hathaway - If this was any smoother it would slide down the back of your speakers and melt into your shag-pile.

Four Years Later - It Gets Better - Rex Orange County - I've liked everything I've heard by Rex. He usually sounds chipper but this? There's a loss there, somehow. It fills a room.

I Like This Place, It's (Not) A Zoo - Portia - Throwing Muses -I'd have saved this for My Time At Portia, if I'd been psychic.

Don't I Know You? - Touch Me - The Isley Brothers - What, them again?


My Art Is Better Than Your Art - My Art - Le Tigre - The video was shot not a dozen miles from where I'm sitting now. I'd like to say I should have been there but I'd stopped going to gigs about five years before. Also, in 2004 I'd never heard Le Tigre. Didn't know who they were until a couple of years ago. I'm an idiot, sometimes.

The Way You Wear Your Hat - They Can't Take That Away From Me - Everyone under the sun has had a go at this. I don't even know who did the "original". John Coltrane dismantles it beautifully but I think I'll go with The Muppets. They really know how to give a song a kicking.

Catching Clouds - Zillion Eyes - Starlight Mints - I love the off-kilter keyboards on this  and the way the keyboard-player pecks at them. Candida from Pulp plays that way. You can see her doing it, in the most extreme fashion, in the Glastonbury performance of Common People above. I thought it was stagecraft but it's not. She's had rheumatoid arthritis since she was sixteen. Candida, that is. I don't know why the Starlight Mints keyboardist plays that way. I'm just glad she does.

While You Were Sleeping - Elvis Perkins - I thought he must've collated Elvis Presley and Carl Perkins to get his name but no, he's Anthony Perkins' son and Elvis is what Tony and his mother chose to call him.

Sunday So Far Away - I ummed and aahed about whether to include this. It's not a song, it's a movie I misremembered slightly. It's actually called Sunday Too Far Away. I have vague memories of watching it on tv one rainy afternoon in the '80s. In as much as I remember anything about it at all, I recall it being hard going, in the way of much of the Australian New Wave. It's on YouTube in full if you want to check it out.

Gift Horse - Black Box Recorder - As I may have mentioned, I own all of their albums. Also several by Luke Haines' previous band, The Auteurs and most of his solo stuff. I've also read his excellent memoir, Bad Vibes, reviewed for The Guardian by another of my '90s favorites, Louise Wener from Sleeper, whose novel The Big Blind I finished only last week. I've read her Britpop memoir, Just for One Day, too. Everything is connected, dontcha know? At least, everything in Britpop.

Staying In Is The New Going Out - The Spells - From 2016, when it probably seemed like an hilaaaaaarious idea.

A Thousand Words - If I Said - The Darling Buds - One of my favorite tracks by one of my favorite bands of all time. So underrated.

Lost In The Mail - House Detective - Fionn Regan - Highway 61 Revisited, revisited!

Workshy - The Fabulous Poodles - There's really no excuse for the Fab Poos. I saw them play in a deconsecrated church less than two miles from where I'm sitting, although at the time (the 1970s) I wasn't even living in the same city. I'm quite shocked how well I remember it. They really don't deserve to be remembered that well. If at all.

Who'll Be Your Mercenary? - Mercenary - Crystal Castles - Crunchy! For some reason I always expect Crystal Castles to be a jangle-pop band. I make the same mistake with MGMT. I think I must have read some article about the wave of New York bands that included them and Vivian Girls and The Pains of Being Pure at Heart and assumed they all sounded the same.

Share The Ride - The Black Crowes - There's being influenced by The Rolling Stones, there's being a Rolling Stones covers band and then there's being The Black Crowes. Unless maybe they think they're The Faces. Hard to tell.

Secret Agents - The Last of the Secret Agents - Nancy Sinatra - The more I see and hear, the better I think she was, but even Nancy can't dance in a swivel chair. Great choice of cover for The Revillos. Fay and Eugene always were canny.

The Electro-Skys Of The New World - Spiders and Flies - Strangelove - I don't suppose anyone remembers Strangelove although there was a lot of record company money riding on them at one time. I saw them at the Ashton Court Festival once, or I think I did. Hard to be sure. The peculiar pluralization of "sky" is taken directly from Lyric.com, who probably got it wrong.

It's About Time - Ruby Velle and the Soulphonics Or you could have The Beach Boys. Yet another generic phrase that dozens of songs have used. I didn't have anything specific in mind.

Count To One Hundred - Long Distance Runaround - Yes -  This one, though, I sourced from not one but two tracks, both of which I own and both of which I like. Jon Anderson wonders "Did we really count to one hundred?" in something that's almost a conventional love song by Yes's standards, while Television Personalities' typically bleak advice in You'll Have To Scream Louder is "Count to one hundred and hope you don't get killed". 

Making Plans -   Post World War Two Blues - Al Stewart - I'd be lying if I said I didn't think of  XTC's Making Plans For Nigel first. I was planning on using the Nouvelle Vague cover because they make almost all songs better, although in this case their interpretation cleaves a lot closer to the original than you'd expect. But then I remembered Al Stewart and his line "Some of these things slip through your hands  / And there's no good talking or making plans". It seemed like a perfect fit.

That's A Big Bag - Run Daddy Run - Fun Lovin' Criminals - FLC never really fulfilled the promise of their excellent debut album. I always thought they looked like they were enjoying themselves far too much to care. I could do a whole post on "what's in the big bag" songs". In this case it's money. It's usually either that or drugs...

Ethereal Message - Hex - Long before I began trawling the internet for inspiration I used to rummage through record store bargain bins, hoping for miracles. Sometimes they happened. I must have owned the CD for twenty years, listened to it scores of times, before I found out who made it. Sometimes cited as a precursor of trip-hop, its a collab between "Donnette Thayer (formerly of Game Theory) and producer/songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Steve Kilbey (bassist and principal vocalist for The Church)". That's a direct quote from their Bandcamp page. Nice to see they're both keeping busy.

Familiar Feelings - Chamber of Hellos - Wire Train - "New Wave" was always taken much more seriously as a concept in the States than it ever was over here. I remember mostly using it with derision. The joke's on us, though. The clean, limber tone has lasted well.

Do The Duck - The Duck - Jackie Lee -From the golden age of dance crazes. I knew there had to be one called "The Duck" and there was.

And there we must leave it. It's starting to look as though even a quarterly turnaround is too long. There are over one hundred and fifty links to performances or recordings in this post. I loved finding them all but it's taken me most of a week to put it al together and I know full most readers won't even glance at the embedded videos, let alone click through the links.

If I'm going to carry on using this many references in titles, which I probably am, I might start doing a monthly round-up. That would be a lot more manageable. And then I could maybe do an end-of-year Best Of.

That's a plan.

Sunday, June 28, 2020

Do The Duck

Late last night I popped onto Google to look something up. When I clicked in the search field, before I even had time to start typing, this is what I got:

"Trending Searches" have never been displayed that way before. Not in the twenty-plus years I've used Google as my main search engine. That's a good thing in my book.

I don't want to know what the current hot topics are for the same reason I don't watch, read or listen to broadcast news reports other than at times of my choosing. It's also the main reason I'm not on Twitter. If I want to know something I go look for it when I want to know it. If I'm not actively looking I don't, at that particular moment, want to know, not even if it turns out I would be interested if I was told. Also, as must be obvious from those results, the chances of any current search trend being of the slightest interest to me is vanishingly small.

I wasted the best part of an hour trying to find out how to remove this "feature". Apparently the mobile app has a toggle for it but the desktop version doesn't.

Some search results seemed to suggest it might be cause by malware but since all of those were trying to persuade me download proprietary malware removal apps I was not convinced. I think it's just Google trying to be "helpful". Other results gave the impression it might be browser-related but I tested it in several and it was the same in all of them.

After a lot of huffing and puffing it occured to me that I could solve the problem by simply removing Google. It's not like there aren't other search engines. I used to use several , before Google ate them all. I still miss Netscape.

Only last week Microsoft force-uploaded the new Edge onto my desktop and tried to make me take a tour. I promptly removed it from the Start menu, where it had also installed itself, but I left the icon on the desktop. An option, then, but it would be a little ironic to bin Google for making high-handed changes without asking and then reward Microsoft for doing the same.

Yahoo is hideous and annoying and all of the other minor players I can think of are not much better. Search engine designers seem to have learned their aesthetics from the back of a cornflake packet.

Then I remembered that strangely-named source that turns up on my analytics reports: DuckDuckGo. It pays to have a ridiculous name, sometimes.

About all I knew was that DDG is all about hyper-private searching. I've never really cared much about what data internet companies gather about me, particularly from my search history. If someone in a bunker or a boardroom somewhere wants to trawl through three decades of my searches for obscure tweepop bands, minor MMORPGs and cancelled sitcoms, they're welcome.

I thought I'd give it a go just to see what it was like. And what it was like was clean. I realy love a minimalist look on a web page. The less the better. This is just a white screen, a cheerful cartoon duck and a box to type in. Perfect.

I typed something in to see what the results would look like. They looked clean, too. I like the font. I like the layout. I like the colors and the options and the whole look and feel.

It's not just about looks, of course, even if looks are extremely important. Not much point having the best-looking, most aesthetically pleasing search engine out there if your results are inaccurate or incomplete. I searched around and read a few reviews. Mostly they focused on the privacy thing but they were promising. Still, I thought I'd better test it.

The EQII results looked pretty much like I'd expect but I thought I'd give it the duck a bit of a workout. How about an indie band with a weird name that sounds like I'm searching for something else?

The differences between DuckDuckGo and Google were intriguing. Google did suggest the right result with fewer letters in the search line but they both needed the third word before what I wanted popped. And the suggestions are quite distinct.

It feels ironic that DDG would offer two links to the Google-owned YouTube while Google doesn't mention it at all. Also, Google seems to be a lot more interested in the "sound" part of the query while DDG goes for the "scary bear".

But they both put the correct result in second place (first place when the whole name is in), which is all I need to know. And DDG gets bonus points for getting "scary bear online game" onto the list.

That just left the issue of all the other Google features I use almost every day, like Gmail and Maps. I've had Google Search as my homepage in Firefox for years and I'm used to having them right there in front of me. But I also have a column of bookmarks to the left of the screen, as extensive as my blog roll. I just bookmarked the google stuff I use and moved it to the top of the list.

And so far I like the new set up a lot. Better than the old one, in fact. I'm sure the increased privacy's nice but I'm much more impressed by how comfortable the whole thing feels and how quickly I've settled into it.

Google has a predilection for fiddling with things that are already quite as good as they need to be. Blogger is getting a facelift this month. Sometimes it feels as though we just have to put up with it but mostly we don't. It's just too much bother to change.

In a way I'm quite glad this happened because I suspect the new regime will suit me even better than the old. I don't think it will be enough to push me into the much bigger effort needed to move the blog to another platform, though.

And I do quite like the new version of Blogger, as it happens. It's pretty clean.

Saturday, June 27, 2020

Familiar Feelings : EQII

Last year, when Daybreak gave away three bunny familiars as part of the Pride celebrations, I grabbed a set for all my characters. I've been running with bunnies all year. You can sometimes see one photobombing a screenshot. They do love the camera.

Each of the designs represents the colors on one of the Pride flags but I confess I haven't been paying attention to which is which. I did know what they all were once but when I came to write this post I realized I couldn't remember.

Luckily, this post at Gaminglyfe explains it nicely. Boundless Heart is the Bisexual bunny, Trueheart is Transgender and Proudheart wears the original rainbow flag of Gay Pride. Can't believe I didn't notice the bunnies' names are alphabetically matched! At least I won't forget again now I know, although really I should just be able to remember the colors.

This year's trio seem to have arrived with far less fanfare. I wouldn't have known the rabbits were back if I hadn't read Dreamweaver's forum post.

I picked up the new familiars on several characters yesterday and had a look at the descriptions. I'm guessing each of them represents something specific but I'm not sure I could say exactly what, although I kinda have some ideas. I've googled around but I haven't turned anything up.

Here are the descriptions and the rabbits. If anyone knows who each bunny is supporting, please share with the group!

Even without knowing exactly what they're about, you could hardly object to the sentiment. Unbiased, joyful, loving, these are some very friendly bunnies. Welcome anywhere, I'd very much hope. The stats aren't bad, either!

There's no rush to claim yours. They'll be hanging around the cash shop until the end of next month.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Ethereal Message : EQII

It's holiday time in Norrath once again. The brief hiatus ended with the coming of Oceansfull three weeks ago and this morning saw the start of Scorched Sky. Both of them are relatively new, having been introduced to the game in 2018 for the precise purpose of filling the long gap between the end of Bristlebane Day (and Beast'r) in mid-April and the start of Tinkerfest in late July.

I didn't get round to posting anything about Oceansfull when it was on, this year, but I did spend an afternoon beneath the waves and along the shorelines of several different zones. There were several items I wanted for the lakeside Othmir enclave in the Mara Estate home where all my characters tend to hang out these days.

I got everything I was looking for. Like most holiday events in EverQuest II there's no real obstacle to getting anyything you might want, other than time and patience. The boats look especially splendid on Mara's placid waters, I think.

There were also two new quests, both of which I did. One is in Eastern Wastes, the other in Tranquil Sea. I didn't think anything of it at the time, but now I reflect, something about those quests does strike me as a little odd. Involving no combat, with only housing items as rewards and designed to scale to all character levels, why put them in such inaccessible spots in mid-high level zones?

It's not that they're entirely unreachable by lower level characters. The areas where the quests take place are entirely safe. Getting to them could be something of an adventure at level ten, though. Then again, that's just the kind of adventure I used to relish, back in the days when I actually had low-level characters.

Scorched Sky started this morning and runs until 7 July. My Bruiser popped in to Darklight Woods to see what was new, if anything. He both was and wasn't a good choice because to him it was all new. I can't remember who I took there last time but it clearly wasn't him.

Unlike Oceansfull, whose watery theme turns up all kinds of furniture and appearance items that catch my eye and whose seaside settings appeal, Scorched Sky doesn't do all that much for me. I have a problem with armor that's permanently on fire. I can't help but imagine it burning the character who wears it.

Flaming mounts don't really light my fire, either. In fact, the whole molten look, incredibly common in many MMORPGs, makes me feel I'm looking at the cover of an eighties' metal album. Probably something by Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. Very much not the look I'm going for.

Scorched Sky this year does have something I do like - a new Overseer Quest. To get it you once again need to travel to somewhere rather inhospitable and unwelcoming, the Dragon's Breath Tunnel in the middle of Lavastorm, which I have to admit is about as appropriate place as you could possibly find for a celebration dedicated to Fennin Ro, the Tyrant of Fire and his son, Solusek Ro, the Burning Prince.

So far, no-one at all seems to have written up the new quest, Conflagrant Rites, for the wiki or anywhere else. I started it in the middle of writing this post. I'm on the first part, which takes thirty minutes. The reward for that, other than the next quest in the sequence and a regular Overseer crate, is a flaming, flying book that refuses to be photographed in the Dressing Room.

If it's like previous Overseer holiday quests I imagine it will have five parts, al lasting thirty minutes. If it comes with anything especially good I might pop back in and update this post with a screenshot or two.  
(Edit: I'm on what seems to be the final (at least, it's twice as long) of only three parts right now. The reward is a title, Flame Bearer, and a rolling cinderstone pet, which looks exactly as you might imagine.)

As well as Scorched Sky we also have the first phase of the Summer Ethereal campaign. Ethereals are a tradition in EQII to which I paid little attention for a long time. They're the exact opposite of the usual calendar holidays in that they exist almost entirely to give out top-end adventuring gear. I used to think of them as something raiders did although I think they were always also accessible to Heroic group players, too.

A year or two back, the door was nudged open for solo players to poke thier noses in and peer at the ethereal glow and I started to take a bit more of an interest. This year, seeing that I've been playing regularly and making a decent fist of upgrading several of my max-level characters, I've decided to make more than a token effort at collecting enough Peculiar Medallions, the currency in question

I'm hoping to buy at least one or two of the 200 Resolve accessories. There's a weekly quest called Ethereal Ahoy. It's auto-granted and completes as soon as you finish any of the regular Blood of Luclin weekly quests, including the solos. I finished one this morning and got two dozen Peculiar Medallions.

Summer ethereals, which come in three phases, stay around for about fifteen weeks, so if I did Ethereals Ahoy every week I'd earn exactly enough to buy three items plus three "Shard of Peculiar Allies", the adornment that allows the items to be upgraded. That makes it likely they'll stil be useful even after the inevitable stat inflation of the winter expansion, which obviously increases the appeal.

Whether I'll have the discipline to do it every week remains to be seen but I really ought to be able to manage at least enough for a couple of earrings. EQ2Traders has a detailed explanation of how the event works, if needed.

Last and very much not least there's a fresh trio of free Pride bunny familiars in the cash shop. I'll probably try and knock out a quick post on them in their own right because the whole thing's quite interesting, but just in case I don't get time, I'm mentioning them now. If you play EQII you wouldn't want to miss out on them. Aside from the cultural significance, they're decent familiars (1807 Potency, 807 Crit Bonus, 3.4% to all Attributes) and they can, naturally, be used for Overseer questing.

So much all happening at once. I can't keep up!

Thursday, June 25, 2020

Animal Crossing Pocket Camp: First Quarterly Report


Eugene is believed to be suffering from identity issues, although exactly who he thinks he could be is not entirely clear . He may believe he's Elvis or possibly The Fonz. James Dean has been suggested. Eugene also has seperation issues, albeit not with people. He forms attachments with inanimate objects. These are becoming a cause for concern. On the positive side, Eugene doesn't lack self-awareness. He knows his behavior draws unfavorable attention from some of the other campers (and staff) but he hasn't yet reached the point where he's ready to ask for help. He still thinks he can, in his own jargon, "deal". An intervention may be called for.


We had a breakthrough with Butch. Long years of living up to his childhood nickname have taken a heavy toll but happily he is beginning to show signs of progress. He is now able to acknowledge his feelings, even though he struggles to express them. Butch no longer responds to demonstrations of affection with a growl, far less a bite. In due time it should be possible to dispense with the protective headgear when approaching him but please continue to carry the net (behind the back and out of sight, as per regulations), in case of a relapse.


 Dotty (please note that really is her name, not just an insensitive and hurtful epithet) suffers from increasingly disturbing delusions. In recent conversations she has been observed moving from an expression of paranoid belief in her "fame" (which, for her, means constantly being followed and watched by "fans" (a peculiarly widespread problem among her peer group)) to voicing predictions of unlikely and unsettling social trends. It is of paramount importance she not be allowed to communicate these suggestions to other campsite residents, many of whom are exceedingly suggestible.

The campsite musical therapy program is starting to show some rewards for Boots, although he still seeks to subvert the process to shore up his individual, unrealistic worldview. An obsessive focus on insect life, something he shares with all too many campers, continues to make itself evident in unusual, bizarre and unsettling ways. (cf Dolly).

Freya is doing well but ensuring campers remain appropriately dressed at all times continues to present a challenge. In particular, persuading any animal to wear clothing below the waist has proved impossible. It should be stressed that they are, after all, animals. Please remember to make that point, firmly but politely, when dealing with complaints (or visits from the authorities).

Lottie, sadly, has not been one of our success stories. She moved from trying to sell imaginary camping spaces to cajoling, and in some cases manipulating, other campers into highly inappropriate liasons, in the guise of her supposed "new job". For several weeks, Lottie all but took over the meditation garden, turning it into a kind of impromptu wedding chapel. Several campers were convinced Lottie did indeed have the legal authority solemnize marriages. In the end, decisive action had to be taken, for the wellbeing of all concerned. Lottie has now left the campsite. Her current whereabouts are unknown.

Enquiries are still in progress concerning Cherry's recent revelations. For the present, our working hypothesis remains that the revelations of her imagined (?) past represent no more than yet another manifestation of the antisocial - indeed asocial - tendencies that brought her to the campsite to begin with. Some of the claims are so specific, however, it would be socially irresponsible to ignore them completely. Cherry's unfortunate predilection for setting things on fire ("just to see the world burn") has not yet been brought fully under control (neither hers nor ours), as is often all too plain for all to see. Please continue keep Cherry on "fire watch" at all times. Also, please see the list of songs no longer to be played over the camp's loudspeaker system ("Ride", Born to Be Wild", "Bat Out Of Hell" etc.).

Apollo has his good days but they are balanced by periods of introspection, self-doubt and (fortunately, rarely) bleak, existential despair. His memory is failing and he doesn't always recognize other campers but he nevertheless remains a popular and much-loved resident, well-respected as the first to find his way through our gates.

Wednesday, June 24, 2020

That's A Big Bag : GW2

Yesterday I was looking back at some old, unfinished plans. Today I went out and finished one. Didn't happen to be one of the ones on my list but, hey, you can't have everything.

My intention was to knock off what I thought had to be the easiest - the ranger pets. I got as far as looking up twhere to find them on the wiki. I had the page open, ready. Then I logged in.

As some general, a Charr no doubt, once said, no plan survives contact with the login screen. The ranger I'd picked was camped out in Wayfarer Foothills, in Krenek's Lodge to be precise. As he zoned back into the world he found there was some excitement going on.

Someone had dumped a load of banquet food on the ground along with a Hero banner, a sure sign of something about to happen. People tend only to do that when they expect a gathering to form. And there were indeed plenty of people all around.

As he set upon the free lunch, someone asked in general chat where they needed to be and got the reply "It happens all over the zone". That gave me a good idea what was about to happen.

This time last year we were all a bit sideswiped by the unexpected return of Dragon Bash, a Tyrian holiday missing in action since 2013. Along with a host of events and entertainments in the Norn capital of Hoelbrak, Dragon Bash brings with it an open-world rumble known as the Dragon Bash Hologram Stampede.

This little zergfest cycles around the four snow-covered zones surrounding Hoelbrak on a fifteen minute rotation. I just happened to have logged in as the carnival arrived in mine.

I love open-world zerg events in any MMORPG but they're especially enjoyable in Guild Wars 2, which was designed from the ground up to accomodate them. Any zerg is a good zerg in my book but the very aptly named Stampede isn't one of my favorites for several reasons.

Mounts are pretty much obligatory if you want to travel with the tag and even then you might struggle to get a fireball off before it's time to jump back on your not-a-horse and head for the next target. The mobs that spawn are highly likely to die in microseconds as soon as the zerg arrives.

As I discovered last year, if you want to get credit, grab some loot and finish the achievements, it's better to move away from the zerg and trigger a few of the spawns yourself. All you have to do is go to one of the many markers on the map and click on the hologram you'll find there. That's not ideal zerg -play. Rather the opposite.

But there wasn't time for any of that kind of smart thinking. I'd barely remembered what the event was before it began. The zerg was already half a snowfield away. I hopped on my roller beetle to catch them up.

The whole event only lasts a few minutes. The Asurans organizing it can't hang around. They have to be in the next zone setting up in a quarter of an hour. It lasted long enough to completely disrupt my ranger's pet plans, though.

He stopped to look at the loot that he'd got and inevitably noticed his bags were almost full and that got me thinking. Specifically, it got me thinking that I'd missed something off yesterday's To Do list, namely craft some bigger bags.

For years the largest bag you could have in GW2 was a twenty-slotter. That changed sometime in 2017, when recipes for 24, 28 and 32 slot bags were introduced. More were added, including a free one you could get by way of an achievement, with the March 2018 Living World episode A Bug in the System but as I said then, "A 32 slot bag comes in somewhere close to 250 gold, which in GW2 is a very great deal of money. I haven't been able to bring myself to make one yet."

Changes in the economy have brought that eye-watering ticket price down to around 200 gold but that's still a bit rich for my blood. A twenty-eight slot bag, on the other hand, can now be had for not much more than fifty gold, which these days seems quite reasonable.

So I made myself a couple. It was very simple - once I stopped reading the wiki and just got on with it. GW2 has one of the most comprehensive, detailed and exhaustive wikis I've seen for any game but sometimes that very exhaustivity can be... exhausting.  

I spent half an hour looking at all the various oversized bags you can make. I drilled down into the detail to discover the provenance all the unfamiliar materials. I read up on the events and zones and achievements that you could do to get the more expensive items for free or at least shave a little off the cost. I even bought a couple of items off the Trading Post to open a collection that seemed like it might be a shortcut...

And then I realized that if i just ignored all the Living Story stuff and stuck to traditional crafting, there's a very basic series of bags you can make that just use regular mats and stuff you can buy for peanuts off the TP.

There's just one expensive component, the Supreme Rune of Holding. Those will run you around ten gold apiece.

You need half a dozen for a twenty-eight slotter but the key thing to hold in mind is that, provided you have a 500 skill Tailor, Leatherworker or Armorsmith and about fifty-five gold in your bank account, you can do the whole thing in thirty seconds in any well-appointed crafting area.

I went to my favorite, Black Citadel, and knocked out a couple of 28-slot Gossamer Saddlebags. They don't do anything clever, like auto-sort particular items, but they have ten slots more apiece than a couple of the bags my Elementalist was using.

Then I rummaged around in my bank vault and dug out that free 32-slot Olmakhan Bandolier I mentioned. The one that came as part of a Living Story achievement I completed a couple of years back. At the time I couldn't decide who should have it so, as I do with most GW2 loot, I just shoved it in the bank and forgot about it.

My Elementalist, the character I play the most, if almost exclusively in World vs World, now has a grand total of two hundred and twenty-two inventory slots, of which a princessly sixty-one are empty as I write. Luxury!

More importantly, I now have the knowledge and experience to bang out a big bag whenever I feel like it. It would be nice to say my inventory woes are over but of course, as we all know, more slots just means more stuff. They'll be full in no time, I'm sure.

Now, about those pets...
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