Waiting for the Postman; 5 Things from EBay

For a bit of fun I decided to include a list of random items recently purchased from eBay by myself. Other online auction sites are available. John, my postman, should be delivering these over the next few days. Or he has already delivered them.

Alice In Chains SAP EP

Alice In Chains SAP EP was released in February 1992. Although traditionally packaged with the bands second studio EP, Jar of Flies, it was in fact a separate release to begin with. It was recorded just after the Facelift tour, when the band were meant to produce their second album, but decided instead to release five acoustic tracks. It showed a development and versatility in Alice In Chain’s music that would go on to make them famous worldwide. The EP was released when Nirvana’s Nevermind was top of the Billboard 200 so naturally (as a Seattle band) they got targeted with the same brush and labelled Grunge. It also features guest vocals from the late Chris Cornell.

Casio Retro Digital Watch

I’ve always wanted a digital watch from Casio. Even though this was a second hand item and more than likely (given it’s low price) a cheap reproduction it does the job. It reminds me of both the original Casio watches from my childhood but also, more specifically, attending Funderland in Dublin every year after Christmas. This was a theme park event that ran in the RDS Arena in January and quite often the Casio Digital watches – like these – were prizes in the machines.

Kenner Toys ‘Cliff Dagger’ VENOM Operative from MASK TV Series

Another childhood memory, this time from television, as VENOM operative Cliff Dagger from the show MASK. This smaller figure was used to sit in the MASK machines and I own about 6 of these little figures, but this particular one was my favorite because the mask reminds of me Craig Jones (or 133) from Slipknot. I might be the first, last and only person to think that but there we go.

Alice In Chains ‘Dirt’ Mini Disc

Alice In Chains MiniDisc of the album ‘Dirt’, the bands second album – and in my opinion – their best. It’s an absolutely fantastic Metal album released in 1992 and is just some of the best music ever committed to tape by a mainstream metal band. ‘Rooster’ and ‘Down In A Hole’ (both of which feature on this album) are among my favorite songs of all time. I ordered the MiniDisc unboxed because it was A LOT cheaper than a boxed version, although when it arrived I was fined 9 pound by Royal Mail and a further 14 pound extra shipping. I wasn’t happy about that but was happy to get the album.

Queen ‘The Show Must Go On’ Single (1991)

I love the Innuendo album by Queen, perhaps my favorite album by the band, next to ‘A Kind Of Magic’.  The band released several singles for the album – most likely as they couldn’t tour at the time due to Freddie Mercury’s terminal illness. The singles released all included exclusive traditional artwork on each cover – and are an art form all of their own with little B Sides and rarities and exclusive singles. I bought this one because I already have ‘Innuendo’ and ‘I’m Going Slightly Mad’ so wanted to finish my single trilogy collection. I was also really impressed that the seller kept the Woolworths sticker on it. I paid a little less than 3.99 to be fair.

Handball 16 (PS Vita)

Handball is a team sport consisting of teams of seven players. The rules for the game were first drawn up, officially, in Germany in 1917 so its no surprise that physical copies of PSVita’s ‘Handball 16’ were available over the counter in Europe far more readily than they were in the United Kingdom.

In fact, I’d be surprised if you were ever likely to find a copy of this game in your local CEX or Grainger Games, as it has fast become one of the rarer titles available on the format. Somewhat of a holy grail for UK and US collectors in its physical format, there have been times when I’ve seen this game command upwards of one hundred pound on online auction sites.  The game has two cover variations, one with three players (which seems to have been released in France) and one with a single player (released in Germany) both of which command different levels of attention and spending.

I myself spotted the game only once, in a French game store in Marmande, there was only a single copy left and I was on vacation – so elected to save my Euro’s. It would be a full year before I’d actually manage to get a copy of the title at a reasonable price. 

Developed by EKO Software and published through Big Ben Interactive (both French companies) the game features three European leagues and 68 professional Handball teams.  If you’re a fan of the sport, there is a lot to choose from, with the likelihood that your knowledge would extend far beyond mine and you’ll have the same appreciation I do for the little touches of including teams the equivalent of Shamrock Rovers in EA Sports FIFA 17.

There’s not a massive variety in game-play options, with online play possible (though highly unlikely) and the choice of a local match against the computer and a career. To be fair, this isn’t WWE 2K16, it’s a sport with far less commercial interest and beyond the inclusion of Lidl sponsoring the court you’re unlikely to see product placement, gimmicks and flashing lights. Commentary is included, even in English, but falls far short of the professional commentary we’ve come to expect in similar titles; both commentators have less than 10 generic phrases and after about three matches you’ll probably have heard the full range. Yet, I’m happier its included than not, since playing the game in silence would be somewhat painstaking.

Graphically, there’s not much to write home about either, though teams have their full livery and courts look splendid the pixel ridden engine makes me feel like I’m playing PS2 graphics from my VITA screen. And given games like Rayman Legends and Need for Speed have shown just how lovely the console can look, this is unforgivable. I’ve played this title on PS3 and PS4 (through PSN store) and can attest there’s no improvement of comparable quality in either. The back of the VITA box gives an indication of slick PS4 type graphics therein and you’ll be sorely disappointed if you judge a book by its cover.

While admittedly there is a certain amount of bitterness due to my inability to win a single game, the title does lack in some basic areas, given its unique premise and the ability to draw new fans into what could be a compelling and fast paced sport. The career mode, where you can “create a player” and then engage in his journey through the ranks is to be commended, there’s a good choice for the character and I was intrigued to pick up and play the game every now and again to try and win my next match.  It’s an addition which fleshes out the title and brings you back for more, customized options remove some of the more bizarre handball rules (such as, what I assume, is their version of an NBA back court violation) and ultimately make things a lot more friendly for new players.

If you’re a handball fan, you’re going to buy this game because it offers a virtual window into a sport you love, and if you’re a VITA fan you’ll most likely buy this game so that you can add it to your physical collection. Anyone else would be encouraged to buy it for something different on the platform though you should all be encouraged not to pay more than twenty or thirty pound.

Recollections, Labels and Justifications

The other day a work colleague referred to one of my recollections as one of ‘Wayne’s stories’ and I wondered whether I’d spent too much time reminiscing and not enough time moving forward. Perhaps it was his sutble way of telling me that I should be working and not sitting down telling everyone about the further adventures of Wayne.

But I actually take his comments as a compliment, not least of all because it plays on my own natural abilities, one of those being the ability to engage and capture an audiences attention through storytelling. Authors, filmmakers, script writers, journalists and musicians are just some of the people who have this ability. That’s not to say every journalist or scriptwriter has the ability to paint you a mental picture and captivate, but I believe if they’re any good, then they should possess these skills.

Labeling people is nothing new, funneling people into the most convenient definitions, I spent most of my education judged by educators and classmates on my social skills, my achievements with the opposite sex, my achievements with the same sex, my music taste,  my grades and my aspirations. Bowling 4 Soup probably hit the nail on the head when they said “high school never ends” and it’s as true as the sun will rise tomorrow that people will label. For many, it’s an opportunity to break common ground in the most efficient time possible. Telling you everything in a sentence but saying nothing in a lifetime.

Labelled and processed, you may feel the need to almost justify yourself, your own existence, your interests, hobbies and passions.  This is certainly something that happened to me. In school, for example, it was common to make such a huge statement of music taste, commenting on the bands that were allegedly fighting or the next album coming out. It wasn’t so much about what you actually liked as the way you liked it – the opinions you had were meaningless, nobody was going to debate the finer points, instead they just expected teenage hormones and wild flowing statements. You defended your beliefs, partly because you believed them, but mostly because it was part of the group you’d been labelled with.  And the worst thing you could imagine was being outside the box.

Social media has, in my humble opinion, made this even worse. It’s almost as if Facebook is the Inquisitor, asking you to justify constantly your abilities and strengths, exposing your shortcomings and reminding you to keep in line with social status. Add to this the platform it gives us, that we each have a choice to use or not, to shout about our day in the most constructively positive or negative manner we can think of. Thoughts that were once retained, only for a moment, now immortalized in a status update. My journalism lecturer used to tell me straight – libel was worse than slander because it was printed for all to see – a single voice can only reach so far. But Facebook is the voice of many.

You can, of course, choose to remove these libelous or self deprecating posts when you’ve “calmed down” or “thought it through”, and a few do. But most do not. Of course, that opens another – more curious – box, that of censorship. If you say something out loud to 400 friends in a packed hall with a microphone, the information cannot be retracted. You can apologize and make amends if needs be but you cannot simply erase that information from their minds or hope half of them won’t hear it. You can’t selectively choose to alter the words spoken or give the impression you were misunderstood.  Should you have the right to censor and modify those Facebook posts, does it make us subconsciously feel that people should treat us with a different approach in “real life” when we do the same thing? Is our online persona different to that of our real life, primarily because we don’t expect to be judged in the same way for both personalities?

There are people I know on Facebook who I’ve never met in reality. That’s because they’re contacts for stories, I’ve sold things with them online, met them through trading forums…that kind of thing. And there’s also a lot of people I’ve met in real life but haven’t seen in years. I lived in Edinburgh from May 2008 until December 2009 and loved the city, the experience of meeting so many different people. I left my home city of Dublin shortly after finishing University. In both of these examples there are ‘friends’ on my own Facebook with whom I’ve exchanged virtually no contact – asides from perhaps a nostalgic reminiscent post if someone tags you in a photograph.

Now just as I’d like people to think I’ve changed, grown and learned as I’ve become older, so too would I think these ‘friends’ of mine would like me to believe they’ve changed as well. So the only contact I get with them, real or otherwise, is through the medium of Facebook. There’s no reunion, no alumni…people lead their own lives…they disappear into the fullness of time and that used to be the way it happened, naturally. But now we find ourselves reunited with old friends, old lovers, old rivals…and even if we’re not reunited and we’ve just moved on…to what value is a random persons comments on my news feed going to make? How many people will click this link on my Facebook feed and even bother reading this article? If they offer no value to my own life then why should I spend time listening to their daily negativity? Their daily struggles and problems? Why should they care when I’ve my own problems?

Baz Lurman once said that “the older you get, the more you need the people you knew when you were young” and I think, much like the fact that Lurman ‘borrowed’ these lyrics, that statement has only an element of truth to it and should not be followed literally as instructions for life. Remaining friends with someone with whom you worked nine years ago just so you can see their holiday snaps or watch them announce their pregnancy, a level of intimacy you never would have shared with them when you saw them every day, seems like such a bizarre and confusing ritual. Trapped in a cycle of perpetual nostalgia. Holding on to those fading memories of the good times. We label because it allows us to more easily find and sort those memories, categorize our relationships and make us not feel so bad when we don’t speak to a school friend whom we later find out committed suicide due to depression.

Labeling is our way of living in the present. We have access to more information than our parents or our grandparents. We have more choice of how to spend our money and less restriction on where we have to live or the rules society says we have to follow. Class structure and family hierarchy still exists but only insofar as providing a safe place for people to retreat when life is overwhelming. In many respects I believe there is too much choice in the world today and that can lead to a lot of people becoming very lost and insecure.  And very early on. Labeling is a way for people to restore order, find a way not to get overwhelmed with their feelings and to essentially treat life like a work fridge where every person has a lunchbox, a label on the box and a specific contents inside – dietary requirement, personal taste, financial means and practicalities are all inside that lunchbox. But from the outside it looks the same as everyone else. Just like Facebook.

Nowadays I take my labeling with a sort of pride. I see them as character strengths rather than weakness. Someone tells me that I’m always telling stories I’ll tend to assume that I therefore have the ability to tell such stories. Stories people take away and remember, stories they know come from me personally and ones which (in some small way) entertain them. Having recently started working for a newspaper for the first time in my life, first studying journalism some thirteen years ago with those hopes and dreams, I’m glad that I still retain the basic instincts and abilities needed to bring a story to life.