Sunday, May 30, 2010

Cold Season, Flu Season, Red Season, Blue Season!

They say that every journey begins with a single step. This is true.

They don't say that every plummit off a 5000 ft cliff begins with a single step as well, but this is also true, unless you're Stephen Hawking, Christopher Reeve, or have the ability to fly via perhaps some type of jetpack, helicopter, or a freak mutation at birth that gave you wings/your own jet propulsion system that the other kids mocked you for at primary school but now a super villian is attacking the town hall and the smart yet ditzy and good looking mayor's aide is trapped inside and the only entrance is from the roof and oh if only there was a hero who could get inside and save her/take her out to dinner so WHO'S LAUGHING NOW? HUH? WHO'S LAUGHING NOW?

I think I may have wandered off point.

While it's certainly true that a 1,000,000 step journey does indeed begin with a single step, feeling proud of yourself after only one step when you've still got 999,999 steps to go is probably a bit premature. Don't get me wrong. I will walk 500 miles. And I think the sentiment behind the saying is that rather than worrying about the length of the journey, it's important to just get out there and start (Unless rather than the 500 mile/fall down at door scenario, you are referring to the plummeting cliff death scenario, in which case I heartily recommend NOT starting. Procrastination has it's merits, particuliarly in relation to falling off cliffs).

My brother and I have been planning a number of interactive game projects since we were about 5. This wasn't the only thing we made up, in our heads we created books, movies, tv shows, plays, and ocassionally adventures where we were (obviously) the stars. In many ways we've always been writers. Not necessarily GOOD writers, but writers nonetheless. I remember one of our earliest ideas was a sketch comedy tv show which featured a large amount of video game references (we liked video games, you see). A lot of the sketches we came up with have (fortunately) vanished into the mists of time like so much, um, mist, but what I can recall seems to largely consist of my brother being a lizard (not really for any humourous intent, he just likes lizards), and me walking into walls.

Fortunately we've greatly improved since then. Our current project is a modifcation for an existing game, which I am handling writing and level design/creation for. Every modifcation begins with a single step, and for me that step is that, in order for me to create and design the levels, I need to know how you create and design levels.

So I'm going through a dvd course at the moment, and in a nerdy/geeky (not dorky) kind of way, am finding it thoroughly fascinating. I'm currently playing through the main game we are working with (damn you, achievements) and it's quite interesting to see how it's put together. The first time I played through the thought generally running through my head was "Wow, look at the world they've *BANG!* built, it's incredible *RAAARGH!* how immersive *EXPLODE!* this game is." Now, the thought running through my head is "Interesting, *BLAM!* so they used this texture here, but *SLASH!* rotated it, and used a light field to *SPLATTER* create that shadow..." which certainly adds a rathe surreal air to it all, like an action game where you play as a chartered accountant who defends the galaxy while also doing his tax return.

The type of things you can get away with in a 3D engine is really rather ingenious, including the ability to create a scale model of, say, a mountain range, and being able to use this as a giant 3-dimensional background.

Yes I'm a nerd. But being a nerd is AWESOME.

(As a side note, the title of this blog was suggested by my good friend N3rd Girl, who runs a blog at, which is very amusing. You should read it. You should read it now. I'll wait.)

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Movie Review Smorgasbord Round-up Extravaganza - The Complete Collection Part 5: Where The Wild Things Are

Since cinema began in the late ninteenth century, it has relied heavily on adapting existing media to the screen. It makes a great deal of sense, if you enjoyed a book it is hard not be excited when you hear that it is coming to the big screen (or - if you procrastinate too much and forget to go - the small screen). It's also arguably easier (but also arguably harder) than creating an original story, so the appeal is certainly there. This began with bringing plays and novels to celluloid, but has expanded over time (when a great product has come along, or the studios were feeling particularly lazy) to include television, toys, video games, comic books, songs, and bizarrely, theme park rides (I want to ask the person who thought that making Pirates of the Carribean into a movie was a good idea and ask them how they ever managed to convince a studio to do it, but he's probably too busy swimming in money to take my calls).

Adapting other mediums to film has always been a tricky affair. In many ways this is largely due to differences in length. A full length novel is sometimes too long, which can result in scenes being cut, characters being merged or dropped, or plot details changed due to timing requirements. On the other hand a short story can be far too short. The short story "The Killers" by Ernest Hemingway was adapted into a film in 1950 (funnily enough, called "The Killers") which opened with a word by word faithful translation of the short story, followed by an almost entirely unrelated film that they made up, adding a certain looseness to the term "adaptation". This was taken even further in the adaptation of the long running Mario Bros game series, which kept the names, and... actually that's about all they kept, in a plot that was otherwise unrelated, but with familiar titles from the series applied to unfamiliar objects.

Mind you, this works both ways, with novelisations of films getting fatter with newly added scenes that don't always flow well with the existing plot, (the main crime here is giving an internal monologue to characters that really didn't need one), and video games that contain a lot more shooting than was ever in the film (I don't recall Marty McFly doing quite so much jumping between floating platforms in Back to the Future part 2, but there you go).

Spike Jonze's adaptation of the children's picture book "Where The Wild Things Are" faces an issue because the source on which it is based is only 40 or so pages long, and only about 5-10 words on each page, meaning a near two hour film needs to be created out of only 400 words. Also, while it is undeniably a children's classic, it can't be denied that not a whole lot happens in it. It can be crudley summarised as "Boy gets sent to room, disappears on adventure (as you do), meets a whole lot of monsters and basically goes all British Empire on their arses, and then goes home and has dinner."

Now, there is far more to the story than this, and I have adored this story ever since I was five, but in terms of actual concrete events, this is about all that happens. So when adapting such a brief novel, the two choices appear to be "Make up a lot of extra stuff so more happens" or "do not much. Very, very slowly." So which did Where the Wild Things Are choose?

As it happens, both.

Where the Wild Things Are the film follows the basic premise of the story, but fleshes out a lot of the elements. Max (Our hero/strange kid) is now given a family and some reason for his behavior, and his encounter with the Wild Things expands to a full rise and fall of a kingdom. Each of the Wild Things has been given a separate personality and archetype, and now appear to embody certain characteristics of Max himself. There's the fun loving but easily enraged, the shy and low self esteem, the hard done by and put upon. All of Max's childlike facets are personified and expanded to alarming levels, until he is unable to cope with the results they produce.

However, there is still not a lot of plot to go around and many scenes cannot be given a clear and definitive action, instead only able to be summarised as "Max and the Wild Things run around a lot and have fun/are sad/are angry/tear each other's arms off, etc. etc." This means that the film is very slow at times, and in many cases functions more as a mood piece than as a traditional story. What it does do well, perhaps better than any other film, is capture the feeling and the logic of being a child. In the film, when things are good, things are very good, it's happy and everything goes well, with amazing plans and great adventures. But sometimes things happen. People get mad, and they get mad or angry for no other reason than that they do. There is a certain helplessness that comes accross, where the universe just doesn't go as planned, and there is nothing to be done.

It also features an ending that while satisfactory, is only so up to a point, but I suspect this is by design. It doesn't actually solve the problems presented in the story, these will still be there. But just for tonight, right now, everything is ok.

It's a thought provoking film, but in the end it doesn't quite succeed in telling a succinct and engaging story for the full duration, as its slow pace and brief plot leave long areas without substance.

Rating 3 out of 6.

- As a side note, I have changed the rating from out of 5 to out of 6, as with an odd number it is too easy to label every film as 3 out 5, neither good or bad. This way every film reviewed is either slightly good or slightly bad to lend a little more practicality to the proceedings.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Cold Season. Flu Season. Rabbit Season. Duck Season!

About two weeks ago I noticed I was getting a cold. Normally I just go "oh rats," lay up for a couple of days and hope it goes away quickly, which it invariably does. This time I decided to take proactive action, dosed myself up on cold and flu medication and hoped it could be crushed before the cold I noticed decided to notice me. What a clever person I am, I thought to myself. Well, actually, no I didn't, I just sort of got on with things, but in my heart I thought that. Which is odd, because you normally think things with your head. But I'm a little strange.

As it turns out, taking proactive action was not as smart an idea as doing nothing at all (a comforting revelation to procrastinaters everywhere), as rather than being laid up for two days, I was sick for two weeks and off work for a week. The more medically astute of you will point out that dosing up on cold and flu tablets probably held it in check better than if I hadn't, and in fact, the cold would have been much worse.

I'm an educated man and it's a sad day when I can think of no more apt retort than "So's your face," so today is indeed a sad day.

So's your face.

I went to the doctor last Wednesday (and remembered his name this time too, natch) and he put me on antibiotics, but a friend also recommended that I take garlic, vitamin c and ginger tablets to help combat some of the symptoms and boost the immune system so after the chemist I headed down to the supermarket. While browsing through I encountered a number of worrying labels affixed proudly to packets of cold and flu medication.

One packet told me in a confident sounding voice that their product "May reduce the duration of your cold by half!" Call me crazy (and so's your face), but when I purchase medication, I'd like to know that it WILL help me with my cold. If it only MAY help me, I'd rather buy a cupcake. That also MAY help me with my cold, and also it's a cupcake. Everybody wins.

Another packet was very pleased to inform me that their fruit extract had been "Clinically Trialled." Think about that for a moment. Clinically trialled. Not Clinically proven. Trialled. In other words, all they are confirming is that tests have been performed. They are not in any way confirming that the tests showed it actually worked. For all we know, it may have been shown that it was less useful than a red dead haddock, and I'm guessing that is in fact the case, as if it had been shown to be helpful, they probably would told us that.

So I passed on those two and instead selecting a packet that, while it made no promises, was at least not suggesting ambiguity. And as I am back at work today, it does seem to have been excellent.

So's your face.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

Movie Review Smorgasbord Round-up Extravaganza - The Complete Collection Part 4: Ponyo

Japanese Animation (or Anime if you're in the club) has always been a bit of a mixed bag, and I've always found the idea of declaring oneself to be a fan of Anime is about as silly as declaring yourself to be a fan of film, as the source material is simply too broad. When I say I adore watching films, I should clarify and say I adore watching good films. This is one of the reasons that genre as a study is a misleading topic. To like Westerns in general for example seems to imply that topic is more important than quality. To me, any topic is worth watching, so long as the film itself is good to watch, though it can't be denied that some topics are harder to produce quality with than others (I would watch a My Little Pony film if it was a great movie, but I find it quite unlikely that there will ever be a great My Little Pony film). The same applies to Anime. There are exceedingly good Anime that is up there with the finest of films (Neon Genesis, Cowboy Bebop, Teknoman, Ghost In the Shell), but there is also Anime that is badly written, poorly directed, and embarrasing to watch (Generally any anime film with a rating of 'R', you have to be seriously gruesome or explicit for a cartoon to reach these levels).

Anime has always been a niche market to Western audiences, and largely this is because there are certain stylistic differences between Anime and your stereotypical American/European movie. The first is the sense of humour. While there is definately humour that both cultures understand equally, we also have our own unique styles that each nation enjoys differently. The lines have been blurring between Australia, the UK, and the US, but Japan as a seperate nation with it's own language has remained a stronger sylistic identity.
The second, and slightly stranger difference is that the Japanese are a lot more comfortable with silence than we are. Music features far less prominently in Anime, and as a result many long, slightly uncomfortable silences are present in their films, lending a quiet, almost unearthly air to many of the anime I have seen (the big exception is Cowboy Bebop, which uses an abundance of music to amazing effect). From what I can work out, this isn't the case for Japanese audiences, this is simply how their films are made. English dubs have either preserved these silences as is or filled them with meaningless chatter, crickets, faint background music, general murmering, or unfortunately in the majority of occassions with loud breaths or odd little gasps from the main character, which if anything is more uncomfortable than actual silence.

But I must confess I do still enjoy many Anime, particularly the work of Hayao Miyazake and Studio Ghibli. Miyazake's most recent film Ponyo was released late last year onto dvd. It features all the usual Ghibli trademarks (Young protagonist, flying, general sense of wonder, strange giant floods and giant fish, you know), but where it lacks in originality it does make up for in charm and a general level of amusement. Visually the film is a treat, using an unusual watercolour effect producing a vibrant look that is sadly lacking from many other Anime films.

It does feature the usual long silences, and the humour is a little odd in places, but it still made me grin.

Rating: 5 out of 5 if you're an anime nut, 3.5 out of 5 for everyone else.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Movie Review Smorgasbord Round-up Extravaganza - The Complete Collection Part 3: Harry Potter & the Half Blood Prince

I got into the whole Harry Potter thing a little bit later than most. The first I ever heard about it was from a news report showing how upset some small children were when the fourth Book (Goblet of Fire) was delayed.

"Idiots," I thought, and promptly forgot about it. Eventually though, someone pointed out that they were actually reasonably fun to read, and so I borrowed a copy of the first book and gave them a shot. There were indeed good harmless wizarding fun, so while I still thought the mass hysteria surrounding each release was a little bit mad, I did get each new book as they came out and read them cover to cover (Although as far as I'm aware, that's the only way you do read a book. I've never picked up a book and decided not to read pages 24-39 apart from an unfortunate printing error in my copy V for Vendetta where pages 24-39 had no so much fallen out as were just plain missing), and on the whole enjoyed myself.

Books 1-4 were pleasant adventure stories, getting darker in tone as they continued, but rollicking adventures nonetheless. Book 5 (The Order of the Pheonix), in contrast, was an eight hundred page long winge which took more than half the book for anything to happen. I was on the whole rather unimpressed with the fifth entry, so was very happy to find that Book 6 (The Half Blood Prince) would turn out to be the favourite in the series, and not only because Harry got his nose broken in the 2nd chapter (the whinging little git).

I was less impressed with the film translation. The first two entries, Directed by Christopher "Kids film, kids film, Aids film, kids film" Columbus, who if nothing else must be noted managed to make the story of these books both darker and also more sickeningly cute at the same time. The first film was fun if a tad forgettable. The second film could be described the same way, only there was more of it to forget. It's particuliar crime was the extra 20 minute "Let's all give everyone a hug" ending, if only because I was dying to go the bathroom by that stage, although I spose that's not necessarily the film's problem. I never got around to seeing the third of fourth films (although I'm told they improved matters considerably), but I did go and see the fifth film after being raved at by a friend who normally can't stand Harry Potter that it was actually pretty darn good.

And indeed it was. Thanks to the natural problems of trying to fit 800 pages into 140 minutes, vast tracts of the book had to be condensed or removed. The 400 pages of whinging was the first to go. Instead of "whinge, whinge, dementor, whinge, change of address, bigger whinge, HOGWARTS AT SODDING LAST, rest of story," the film runs with the much more sensible structure of "Dementor, tiny whinge, HOGWARTS, rest of story." So it was with high hopes that I went along to see Half Blood Prince, because if the director could make a book I was displeased with, how good was a book I really liked going to be?

It turns out it would be merely ok. The cuts that benefited the 5th film so strongly felt rushed in the 6th, as more engaging plot and story was being cut. Whereas the 5th film felt tightly constructed, the 6th felt like you were running the whole time and never really got to stop and consider what had occurred.

It was however, oddly funny in places, most notably due to Jim Broadbents excellent performance as Professor Slughorn, and Harry seeming oddly crazy at many times throughout the story.

All in all, it wasn't bad, but some reworking on the editing and a chance to slow down every now and again (even if it meant lengthening an already long film) would have helped considerably.

Rating 3 out of 5.

Diary Of A Mad Writer #5 - It's the End of the World. Get the Popcorn.

I've a number of projects going on at the moment. I'm teaching myself to create levels for the Source Engine (HL2, Portal, et al.), which is challenging but satisfying, and there is no doubt in my mind based on what I've seen that everything I want to do is entirely doable.

Work on the new website proceeds well, we've outlined the look and layout we're after (a little different from your average website but striking and unique, which will add character to our brand, and also add a local flavour), and the smarter of the team (Hi Ben) has put together a functioning front page mock up based on what we've worked out (only with buttons that go nowhere, in the literal sense rather than the frustrating web design sense).

My writing partner has been a veritable font of creativity of late, coming up with two play ideas and the premise of a short film, all of which I am happy to be assisting on. But the current writing project is one we started last year. I have been given the honour of drafting the opening episode(s), and am currently putting together an opening that will hopefully introduce everything and set the tone for later episodes. It's going well, although as always I'll need to do some editing once it's done, I'm currently up to page 12 of a 20 page script, and I'd estimate a quarter through the story. But hey, means we've got lots to work with.

Not much is happening in real life this week, mainly education and helping out some friends who have a lot on their plate, so after a short delay I present the return of the weekly film review. See next blog.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Clothes maketh the man. My parents probably had something to do with it too, but I try not to think about that.

I've been meaning to do some clothes shopping for a while, last clothes I bought were a couple of jumpers waaaay back in june or so of last year. I've also become increasingly despondant with my 'look' as it were. I'm not a huge fashion person (quite the opposite) but I've always believed in at least being neat and well presented. My wardrobe also has some notable gaps in it, my choices really boil down to jeans and a jumper, or a suit. Some sort of middle option would be helpful in some situations. This, coupled with some outside factors (and the fact that I picked up an AWESOME bowler hat in Camden Town Market on my holiday and have absolutely nothing to wear it with that won't also give me heatstroke) meant that today I went shopping.

I took with me what I felt was a generous amount of funds to put towards updating my wardrobe, and so found it a little disheartening when I stepped into the first store and the first item of clothing I saw cost more than my entire budget. This continued throughout the entire floor, and more worrying still was the fact that the store seemed to follow my wardrobe in it's lack of options. The choices appeared to be to a) Wear jeans and a jumper for an affordable price, b) Wear a suit at an also strangely affordable price, or c) Pay $700 for the privelage of not wearing either jeans, jumpers, or shirts. Blow this for a lark, I said (or words to that affect) and left.

The next shop's menswear section (once I found it, it was cunningly hidden behind the fragrance section, which was in itself cunning designed to look like it had no exits, perhaps in the hope that this, combined with the dizzying nasuea produced by all the various scents, would encourage you to a) never leave and b) buy something) started in the same worrying tone. Again my options appeared to be jeans or suit pants, neither of which was what I was hoping for. I moved further into the store to the disappointment of the 4 overly helpful store clerks who seemed to be following me around (Am I the only one who likes to shop in privacy without people staring at my soon to be pants?) and discovered that the suits are obviously a test to ward off nonbelievers and the unworthy, because tucked neatly towards the back of the shop was exactly what I was looking for.

So I went to town. Have enough clothes to last me through a full week, but even at the affordable prices I still have more I want to buy (mainly on the jumpers, vests and gloves side of things), but that will have to be for another day.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

This is the greatest game ever and I can't wait to finish - ooh, shiny thing

I'm a gamer. The very first game I played was King's Quest IV on my dad's computer, unless you count the paint program that was on a computer so old the screen only came in green and black. Those were the days. My first console games were Super Mario Bros and Bart Vs The Space Mutants, which I played on my very own Nintendo Entertainment System (NES for short) which I got when I was five.

I've been racking my brains to think of how I ever heard of one, and I honestly have no idea. I don't remember seeing an ad, I don't remember reading about it in the paper, all I can remember is wanting one and getting one. Those were the days. Quite possibly it came from my father, he was always rather switched on technologically (I think he was on msn before I was) so it's possible he just decided that we as kids might like one. My dad's awesome that way.

The next 15 years were spent, after giving us the NES, of trying to take it away from us. That's not true in the slightest, but our parents, realising that we were spending an awful lot of time on it, wanted us to focus on other ventures as well. On the whole that didn't work out so well, but eventually we all grew up and reached the stage where we liked games, we wanted to play games, but we were also smart enough to focus on, you know, school and work and those sort of things.

I remember that my older brother Ben was by far the best player of the three. And Josh and I would frequently give our turns to him so we could finish a game that you normally couldn't finish in two. (We each were alotted two hours of play time a day, but were allowed to watch the others while they played) I'm not sure what Ben thought about this, but I certainly don't remember him complaining.

Now that I'm an adult gamer (by which I mean an adult that plays games, not that I play adult video games, which generally mean copious amounts of sex and violence with no justifiable point. For the record. in case anybody was wondering, anything with the words "Sexy" and "Poker" in the title does not count as a game), I finance and manage my own gaming habits. I do play a couple of hours a night in most cases, but I also ensure I'm in bed in time for work, and spend time on my other hobbies and side projects, so I argue it's had no detrimental effect whatsoever.

But I do have a large amount of games I haven't finished, and this has started to bother me. It's largely a side effect of my larger salary last year, where I had too much money for my own good, so most of it went on games and dvds. As a result, I frequently purchased games faster than I could finish them, would spend a little bit of time on all of them, and ultimately never see any of the endings. So I started ploughing through them one by one instead, and have actually increased the satisfaction I receive from them. Finishing a game feels great. It takes 10+ hours of your time, and you feel like you've achieved something once it's done, and it can go back on the shelf in the completed pile, which is getting ego swellingly larger.

In short, I am a gamer.

Those were the days.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Movie Review Smorgasbord Round-up Extravaganza - The Complete Collection Part 2: Up.

I am a self confessed pixar fan. I don't mean I'm a computer generated electrical appliance, I mean I'm an absolute Pixar nut. I don't mean I'm a digitally animated seed found in some plants, I mean I'm a total Pixar aficionado.

I don't mean I'm a rendered... forget it. I love Pixar films.

Avoiding them for many a year because of a self conceived notion that they were kiddy films (I was 15), I eventually saw the first Toy Story when on holidays with the Steps in Perth. And you know what? It was a kiddy film.

And it was awesome.

Pixar films hold a certain quality that I hold in very high regard, the kind of thing my parents say is in Play School (excep they're wrong. Play School sucks), but more appropriately you might find in the early series of the Simpsons. A product that for outward appearances appears to be aimed towards children, but carries a weight and depth that I as an adult find very appealing. Above all Pixar is about telling a good story, and what really else is there for a film to do? (Shut up Arthouse cinema.)

Their latest film to be released was Up, released in May around the world except for Australia where for some unfathomable reason (*cough*schoolholidays*cough*) we down in the land of kangaroos had to wait until September for our Pixary goodness. Ahem.

Up is a little different from most recent Pixar films because instead of being about Fish, or Monsters, or Cars, or Superheroes, Up is placed firmly in reality, assuming in your reality you allow for a fairly relaxed grasp of phsyics and the properties of helium.

It's also the most adult Pixar film yet, while still remaining oddly childish. I don't mean adult in the sex and violence way, although the film actually does deal indirectly with both. More that it covers some very heavy topics in a refreshingly mature and gentle way.

The opening of the film covers about 60 years in a very short space of time. I don't do plot spoilers, but I will say I'm a grown man and it makes me cry everytime I see it. It is an exceptionally well done opening, even if it does put you in far too a serious frame of mind for the relatively light hearted remainder of the movie.

The film's characters are an eclectic lot, ranging from the extremely silly to the quite thoughtful. In particuliar the boy scout Russel has a rather heavy back story that is all the more moving for the fact that it doesn't beat you over the head with it, and Carl is a walking embodiment of regret for most of the film.

With plenty of slapstick thrown in for good measure.

The ending of the film is extremely light hearted. Some would argue TOO light hearted but I for one enjoyed it. It was an adventure film in the style we no longer see, think the serials of the 30s and 40s, comparisons with Indiana Jones are not out of place, just replace Indiana Jones with a crochety old man (But better than Kingdom of the Crystal Skill), the Nazis with talking dogs, and the ark of the covenant with a bright colourful bird that likes chocolate.

No, really!

Rating 4 out of 5. Another film review coming Thursday.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Better with his hands

I am the last person you would describe as a handyman.

Ok, Stephen Hawking.

I am the 2nd last person you would describe as a handyman.

I wouldn't really know where to begin with building a wardrobe. Or a door. I couldn't tell you the best type of wood to use to create a lightweight but sturdy shelf. When presented with hammer and nails, I would most likely recite a series of puns about hammers and nails, but at the risk of sounding like a tool I will refrain. I most likely would hit my own thumb in the process of hammering, and then if I was especially angry, probably someone else's thumb. Actually that's not true, I would rather hit myself than anyone else, and given that sounds worryingly masochistic I think we should just move right along.

Totally nailed that introduction.

I mention all this because I am in the process of putting together some Ikea furniture. For my birthday my parents offered to buy me a new desk. I would like to point out that my birthday's in January, but we've all been busy. But in what I am now dubbing the year of change, as I have changed jobs, long term goals, and budgets, I am also redesigning my room a little. So! I've a new desk, a new set of drawers, and two cable boxes to organise the leads from the myriad of electronic devices I have surrounded myself with to assist with the early onset of radiation induced evolution and thereby bring about a new plane of existence for all humanity, or possibly just brain cancer.

A cable box for the record is a generic plastic box with a few holes pocked in that the instructions tell you to put your cables in. They could have painted it red and written "Cable Box" on it to drive the point home further but they're actually pretty useful. They don't in any way actually make your cables easier to sort but they do hide the ungodly mess from beyond the veil that your cables become, and with the application of a few rubber bands they're behaving themselves pretty well.

The desk isn't getting delivered till tomorrow as it was too big to fit in the car, but I did start assembling the drawers (as in typical Ikea style they come in pieces - for your convenience) before bedtime and the need to get this blog in on schedule necessitated a break in their construction. The last time I assembled anything was when I put my tv stand together (which was also a birthday present from my parents a few years back. They're good that way). That time I ran into a few problems.

The instructions were easy enough to understand. Put screw A into slot A. What an easy to understand system! Much better than those convoluted instructions you sometimes see.

Only problem was there was no slot A.

After a frantic search I eventually discovered a slot 1, and further investigation helpfully showed that while the instruction writers had decided to use an easy to understand letter system, the carpenters responsible for cutting and labelling the pieces had decided to use an easy to understand number system. On the whole I think a couple of emails, perhaps a morning tea with scones to meet the two different departments, a work social outing, maybe a movie, or just something to indicate that the other department EXISTED and maybe they should be talking to each other might have helped things considerably.

Construction continued without otherwise presenting an issue, until the final step when I was required to add a small piece of wood to the back of the unit to cover up those unsightly cable holes. The wood was of nice quality, durable, had a nice silver lacquer and just plain didn't fit where it was supposed to go. I spent about a half an hour playing with it, taking measurements, trying to gently force it into place, trying to roughly force it into place and then finally whistling nonchalantly before leaping on it and trying to take it by surprise. Nothing worked.

Eventually - after realising that by covering up those unsightly cable holes it would become immensely difficult to actually thread cables through them - I simply threw the nice quality durable silver lacquered piece of wood in the bin and haven't had another problem since.

As such I was surprised and alarmed to discover that Ikea's directions were simple, efficient and above all actually bore relevance to what you had to do to assemble the unit. So while they're not quite done I have no worries with assuming that it will be easy to finish tomorrow and will be able to have my new desk in place shortly after.

On the whole I've found it quite satisfying. Maybe there is something to this handyman stuff after all. Of course, since I'm in the top 10 list of people who'd be the last you'd call a handyman, my general lack of technical skill probably gets in the way.

But who cares. I have a new desk.