Thursday, March 29, 2012

Mastering Online Dating: Epilogue

Those of you who read my Mastering Online Dating series will know that things didn't get going until I got Cecile to set up a profile and send out messages pretending to be me. If women are better than men at writing to women, then the opposite must be true. Right?

When I visited Anaïs in Paris, I signed her up for OK Cupid to run a quick experiment. First I asked if she had a slutty photo. "Yes," she replied, instantly. It was a pic of her lounging on a deckchair by a swimming pool. She was in a bikini, and fellating the arm of her sunglasses. It was a nice mix of slutty and classy. But mostly slutty. Perfect.


"You know what?" I said. "Let's not even bother filling in the profile. Just height, that you don't smoke, and the languages you speak."

Done. "Now let's check out some guys." There were 37 pages of guys in Paris who had been online in the last week. "You have much more choice here than I do in Switzerland. I've got like two pages." I found a good-looking guy with a cool profile and wrote to him:

"Hey, I like your profile. Let's get a coffee and a muffin and go to a bookshop and choose books for each other."

Ten seconds later, we had a message. It was from some random guy. "Hey let's meet and have a casual flirt," he said. While I was checking his (sleazy) profile we got another message. Half an hour in, six guys had written to her. Six!

Finally, at the end of a long process, I had truly mastered online dating. The secret is simple - be a woman, and post a provocative picture.

Anais's boyfriend. Great sense of humour!
NOTE 29 March, 21:30 - Being a good sport, Anaïs gave me permission to use the 'slutty' photo on this post. So I was surprised to get a mail from her saying that her boyfriend was unhappy about it. "I want the photo removed not because I'm insecure and don't understand technology," said the boyfriend, who is probably called Francois-Francois. "It's just that the thought of other men looking at my smoking hot girlfriend fills me with a kind of nameless dread. Also, I believe that a photo, once loaded onto the internet, can easily be deleted and no-one will ever see it again. Thanks for removing it."

No problem!

Sunday, March 25, 2012

PL #1: Why did the vegan die?



I was playing Assassin's Creed or Bioshock, I can't remember which, when the words 'Why did the vegan die?' popped into my head. Just as suddenly, the idea for this series followed. There would be a question, then the pictures would give the punchline.

Of course, 'Why did the vegan die?' isn't a proper joke. And so far, everyone who has seen this comic has just looked at me blankly then spent about FORTY MINUTES telling me 'maaaaaaaah you can get vegan food in McDonald's now' and at the end I just go 'It's just a joke!' and we have a big fight and stop being friends.

But anyway, I quickly realised the rest of the series would have to use more traditional jokes. But I like this one even if you don't, so there.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Are Zombies Real?

Zombies Are Real: Historical Proof

A student of mine is one of the world's top experts on St. Francis of Assisi. He spent an hour answering all my stupid questions, such as 'Was he the one who slept on a pea?' and 'Who'd win a fight between St. Francis and Buddha?' When I asked him if St. Francis had a girlfriend, he went to his bookshelf and picked out a book.
"This," he said, coming back to the table, "tells the story of St. Francis and his girlfriend, Klara."
"He had a girlfriend?" I asked. "They were allowed?"
"Yes, they were." He slid the book towards me.
"Wait," I said, frozen by the image I saw on the cover of his book. "Um...." I sat in a daze, unable to speak for several moments.

I will now show you the picture:

St. Francis of Assisi: "Brains!"
It's a frikkin zombie! A zombie with a bowl cut!
"He looks like a zombie!" I blurted out, then remembered that researching St. Francis was my student's passion. "A bit," I added, politely.
"Yes, yes he does." My student seemed unmoved.
"Was he a zombie?"
"There's not much evidence either way."
I took a closer look at the picture. What looked at first like a tear in his sackcloth (on the left of his torso) started to look like a human hand that he was going to snack on later. I was sold. Zombies were real.

I decided to scour the internet to find other historical zombies. I believe my research proves irrefutably that zombies have co-existed with people in every epoch. They have even shaped the course of history, presumably as part of the kind of overly elaborate four-thousand year grand design we normally associate with vampires.
Confucius: "Brains!"

Founder of Confucianism 
551 BC – 479 BC 

Look at him all grotesque there! You have to give him props for being one of the most influential zombies of all time and for inventing chopsticks. But if he came shuffling towards me on a foggy night, I wouldn't be worrying about reconciling my needs with the needs of my community. I'd be loading my AK47.

Herodotus: "Brains!"
The Father of History
484 BC – 425 BC 

I won a copy of 'The Histories' by writing a haiku for The Guardian. I wrote in to complain that they hadn't sent it, and ended up getting two. I remember there was some stuff about giant ants and chairs made of human flesh in among some fascinating, presumably more true, stories.
But look at his little face! It's all crumbly like a zombie's. And apparently he used to go into woods with babies and come back alone.

Cleopatra: "Brains!"
Queen of Egypt
69 BC –  30 BC

One of history's best spin doctors, Cleopatra was able to convince everyone she was a total babe. The truth, as you can see, is that she was a deformed in-bred zombie queen who married her brother, as was the zombie custom of the day.
Historians have recently realised that hieroglyphics they previously understood to mean 'bathed in milk every day' actually mean 'ate slave brains to feed her undead craving for human flesh.'

Christine de Pizan: "Brains!"
Christine de Pizan 
Medieval Feminist Chick
1363 – 1430

So here's a woman who spent her life writing poems by day and snacking on asylum seekers by night. She got married age 15 and was widowed 10 years later when a transport strike cut off her supply of fresh meat and she was forced to eat her husband.
Look how green and weird she is! Her maid, too. Maybe they had some kind of zombie lesbian thing going on. I couldn't find anything about that on Wikipedia.

Queen Elizabeth: "Brains!"
Elizabeth I
Queen of England
1533 – 1603

I didn't realise she was a zombie until I found this portrait. More research uncovered this gem - when she famously said 'we are not amused' she was, at the time, eating a baby clown.
Anne Frank: "Brains!"
Anne Frank
1929 – 1945

Anne Frank's story makes me sad, as do her hollow, sunken zombie eyes, and I wish her life had been different. But I can't help feeling that hiding from the Nazis would have been easier if she hadn't consumed three kilos of fresh man-meat every day.

Have you seen a historical zombie?
Do you know a current celebrity who is probably a zombie? Please let me know! Only together can we foil their evil schemes.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Lego Batman Is Better Than You

Lego Batman: Better Than People

A month ago I had one of my regular bouts of nostalgia for my lost, wasted youth. These periods follow the same pattern - mild existential angst, the recollection that a certain video game once solved all my problems, a search for and download of that game, and hours of playing it in a kind of trance. In short, a very specific form of bliss.

The game I fixated on this time was Knights of the Old Republic, a game so superlative it will get its own blog post one day. To play it and its sequel I ideally needed an Xbox, since my laptop doesn't do games very well. I found someone selling an Xbox 360 with games and snapped it up.

Most of the games were modern shoot-em-ups of staggering visual quality. Games like Call of Duty, where you really feel like you're in a war, and can summon devastating air strikes to rain death on your enemy while using a sniper rifle to give them a third nostril. While amazing, these games aren't much fun for me. I grew up with one-button joysticks, and now find myself looking down at the Xbox's 38-button controller yelling "Flee! Flee! Which one is flee?!" while it vibrates frantically because I'm being crushed by a tank, doused in flamethrower death, and not keeping up with my squad.

Fortunately, the games included Lego Batman. I will now explain why I prefer playing Lego Batman to going out and meeting people.

Lego Batman: Gorgeous                 You: Not so much

1. Lego Batman is visually appealing

Chances are, you're either a dude or ugly (the chance of being both is almost 50%). Even if you're an attractive woman, you're probably not really my type. Even if you're my type, you've probably got a cold and look terrible. And if you're really totally perfect, going out with you carries the risk of me having to look at your male friends or ugly female friends.

Whereas Lego Batman is pure eye candy.

2. When Lego Batman has a problem, I'm allowed to solve it

It's really okay for you to tell me your problems. They're normally quite easy to solve. But you don't actually want to hear the solution as it involves doing the one thing you don't want to do. You just want to tell me the problem. This makes you feel better and me feel worse.

But Lego Batman is all about problem-solving. Example: there's a platform you want to get to. It's not immediately obvious how to get there. You have to look around for something in the environment you can manipulate, or use one of the special powers Batman and Robin have. When you solve the problem, the game rewards you with noises and shiny things. It doesn't call you insensitive.
Typical puzzle - smash the bricks, build a car, drive over toxic sludge

3. Lego Batman doesn't give me stress

People are hard work. I should know - I am one. Traveling anywhere means being bombarded with rude and annoying behaviour. One in twelve people cut their toenails on public transport, and for one in five bus-dwellers, endlessly cycling through ringtones will be the highest point in their cultural existence.

In Lego Batman, if you die, you just re-spawn near where it happened and try again. So there's no stress. Just fun!

4. Lego Batman is a consequence-free environment

When I make some minuscule social faux-pas, like suggesting a 33-year old woman looks 34, or forgetting how many brothers someone has, or asking someone more than once if they've seen Ghostbusters, or really just anything that shows that my counterparty isn't the centre of the universe, they go MENTAL.

In contrast, in Lego Batman I can do what I want. Sometimes I get Batman to slap Robin in the face. Robin just stands there, still ready to help his friend. Sometimes I just smash up the whole damn place. It's all made of lego, see? Not only is this rampant vandalism fun, but sometimes you actually have to do it to solve a puzzle. So you don't even feel guilty!

5. Lego Batman surprises me and keeps me interested

You know the way you do the same things every week with zero deviation?

Lego Batman always gives you something new. First, you get different bat-suits for Batman and Robin to wear. Batman has a cool Glide Suit that lets him float across gaps. And Robin has some of the most ludicrous and therefore best costumes ever devised - a Magno Suit that allows him to noisily clunk up vertical metal surfaces, and an Attract Suit that acts like a hoover, sucking up stray pieces of lego to create mission-critical objects. As you suck up the bricks, the controller vibrates a little, and the pieces tremble before shooting into the machine. If real hoovers were that satisfying, my floor would be spotless. (They aren't. It isn't.) 

Then when you start getting bored of Batman and Robin, the game lets you play as the baddies! With just as much care and attention to their stories as to Batman's. And the villains have different powers so you have to approach puzzles in a whole new way.
The Riddler can control minds and Clayface is super-strong and can jump really high. Can you?

6. Lego Batman is charming and funny - all the time

There's a thing in the human brain that predicts what people will say next, and anything predictable is ignored. That's why we like people who are surprising and that's where humour comes from. Regrettably, my brains deletes almost everything you say before you've even finished saying it. That is not true for Lego Batman.

Example. In one in-game sequence, wantonly destroying some scenery gives Batman the bricks to create a coin-operated children's ride in the shape of a swan. I sent Batman to ride it, wondering what possible use it could have. It played some childish music and rocked Batman back and forth, and then some coins came out of it. And that was it! There was no point beyond making me make Batman ride a swan. I laughed at the brilliant purposeless of it. 

In yet another moment of sublime ridiculousness, I used some of my in-game money to unlock a special feature called 'disguises'. I wondered if this would allow me to sneak past guards and so forth. At first, it seemed nothing was different. I still had to fight the guards. But then I noticed what the disguise was. Batman and Robin were simply wearing Groucho Marx-style false noses, which had zero effect on the gameplay. 

I want to meet the designers and shake them by the hand. I really do. 

7. Lego Batman has better taste in music than you

This is the music you get when you're playing. Not on an endless loop, obviously. But music with this kind of epic quality. Imagine if there was an orchestra following you around playing this. How much more awesome and productive would you be?


So in summary, I'm not going out tonight.

Coming soon - Assassin's Creed 2 : Better Than Sex.

Monday, March 05, 2012