Things I Liked – February 2020

Yikes. Somehow it’s February. Well, technically March because I write these posts at the end of the month. Either way, time has happened.

Anyway, here are some things I Liked.

Next in Fashion

It’s a Netflix Tan France vehicle: how was I not going to Like this? As far as I can tell, this is sort of like Project Runway, except presented by two British people, and with a much more international cast. And, also, like Masterchef the Professionals or The Great British Menu, the people they have on it are already quite well established in the industry. Just not as well-known as, well, anybody who hasn’t been on TV.

I think the thing about this kind of show is that it has to go one way or the other, professionalism-wise. Bake Off is cute because it’s so adorably amateurish—it’s all people who cook at home in their kitchens, cooking the kind of thing they could cook at home in the kitchens (at least it’s supposed to be, despite the occasional over-reaching challenge). And The Great British Menu is sort of fascinating because it’s (adjusting for the usual TV-hype and lies) chefs who are genuinely at the top of their game (like, a lot of them have actual Michelin stars) doing weird stuff with edible ash that symbolises the post-industrial landscape of the north east. And as much as I love reality TV, I do sometimes worry about the effect it has on people who aren’t industry professionals who are used that level of scrutiny. I mean, Bake Off is about as gentle as you can make this kind of thing and even it has its causalities: John from, I think, Season 3 has spoken quite publicly about the depression he went through after the series ended (although he seems in a good place) and I think both Ruby and Candice have discussed the difficulties of being an attractive woman in a competitive environment where people will assume you’re getting by on your looks.

ANYWAY! Next In Fashion is in my sweetspot for level of professionalism and also makes the surprisingly simple but surprisingly genius call of having the designers compete in pairs for the first half of the show, which means instead of having to keep track of twenty different people, you’re having to keep track of ten different teams. And because most of the teams, especially the ones that tended to be successful, are people with an existing relationship it’s a genuinely fascinating insight into how people work together, albeit in a totally artificial environment.

For example, one of my favourite teams was Charles and Angelo, and you can sort of tell everything about them just from their names. Basically, Angelo was this adorable ball of creative floof and Charles was the guy who actually made the clothes—and every time the camera cut to them, Charles was busy sewing or cutting something like eighty gazillion miles of fabric, and Angelo would be flying a kite or staring at a balloon. Well, not literally. But the sartorial equivalent. And the moment the teams split up they went out in consecutive episodes, Angelo because he lacked the technical skills and time management, and Charles because he lacked that creative, kite-flying, floofy edge.

Conversely, you sometimes had teams who’d got together just for the sake of the show and who would quickly discover that this did not work at all. Like Hayley and Julian, Hayley being this very straightforward, down-to-earth Glaswegian woman who favoured muted colours and austere designs, and Julian being extra as fuck. Sometimes their entirely incompatible visions came together by some kind of accidental alchemy into something genuinely quite good (there’s an episode where Julian sort of forces Hayley to make a dress out of fabric she hates, and the result is actually completely amazing because it’s this very tailored style in an outrageous print) but mostly that … is not what happens. Like, pretty much my favourite moment in the entire show is when Hayley runs out the pale blue fabric she is using to line a jacket and Julian runs over with a roll of gold sequins.

This has also, at least in Casa de Hall, led a new vocabulary for talking about relationships because we now completely understand what somebody means if they say “Are you being the Angelo in this situation” or “Stop Julianing me.”

So yes: highly recommended if you like that sort of thing.

Lindt Raspberry Intense

So I’m not the biggest fan of, well, chocolate. Which I appreciate is one of the few #unpopularopinions that is genuinely unpopular. And, obviously, preferring dark chocolate just makes me a giant fucking hipster pseud.

Except … I do kind of prefer dark chocolate?

And I prefer it even more when it’s got intense raspberry in it.

So. Yeah. Lindt Raspberry Intense does exactly what it says on the tin.

(I also recommend the sea salt from the same range for other giant fucking hipster pseuds who don’t like milk chocolate).

Melodicka Brothers

This was a random YouTube recommendation that I probably received because the algorithm realised that I love listening to self-consciously quirky covers of things. And, having run out of bits of Post Modern Jukebox, and people who used to be on Post Modern Jukebox, and Google Translate Sings (now rather tragically re-named Translator Fails, which is a much worse name), it finally threw me these guys.

They are two nerdy Italians who do tonally inappropriate covers of popular songs. Examples include: Creep (But Way Too Happy), Barbie Girl (But Way Too Sad), and Somewhere Over the Rainbow (But Way Too Angry).

Did I mention I’m a giant fucking hipster pseud? But, anyway, these charm the hell out of me.

Tubbz Cosplaying Ducks

Ducky made me put this one in. They’re ducks, right, who are cosplaying. Examples include, Sauron Duck, Joker Duck, Chun Li Duck, Egon Spengler Duck, and Fallout T-51 Power Armour Duck.

Needless to say, these are adorable and probably slightly too expensive.

Highly recommended for the demanding duckchild in your life.

Diablo 3

So this is an old game and a game that nobody liked for and that most people still don’t like. But, guess what, I kinda like it.

Partly, I think I like Diablo 3 as a reaction against people who complain that it’s not as “dark” or “mature” as Diablo 2. Which, dudes, it was an early 2000s game with pixel graphics and red pointy demons. Yes, there were pentagrams in some places but that’s only “mature” in the sense that it would have pissed off some conservative groups in the 1980s.

And I will admit that Diablo 3 at launch, well, it wasn’t a hot mess. But it also wasn’t not a hot mess. The big issue with Diablo 3 at launch was that the story was bleh (although, it’s a fucking action-RPG, their stories are always bleh, the story of original Diablo was bleh) and it had this thing called the real money auction house. The real money auction was a way you could sell in-game items to other players for mostly negligibly small sums of real cash, the idea being that this would provide Blizzard with a way to continue monetising the game after launch. The problem is, this created a massive perverse incentive for the designers. The core gameplay loop of an action RPG is that you kill shit to get loot to get stronger to kill nastier shit to get better loot to get stronger to get nastier shit. The moment the designers given themselves a revenue stream that depends on it being more convenient to buy loot for real money from other players instead of generating it yourself naturally in-game they will a) do that and b) wreck their game in the process.

When Diablo 3 first launched, most stuff that dropped for your character wouldn’t be stuff your character could use, the expectation being that you would sell it on the RMAH. So suddenly instead of playing a game for fun you’re doing unskilled sub-minimum wage work for a multi-national corporation. In your leisure time.

This was fixed around the time the game’s first, and only, full expansion released. They upgraded to the so-called “loot 2.0” system which introduced such revolutionary concepts as “giving you more stuff” and “giving stuff that was actually useful to your character”. This makes the game a lot more fun.

There was still the problem, though, that the only real gameplay you had was doing the campaign over and over again on harder difficulties (and, somewhat unfairly, people complained about this, despite it being how Diablo always fucking worked). They fixed this by adding end-game progression content in the form of “rifts” (random dungeons that you go into and kill increasingly tough monsters) and by introducing the concept of seasonal play. A seasonal character has to start from level 1, along with everybody else that season, and all their stuff is kept separate from your other characters until the season ends. This, on its own, was a little bit refreshing. Then they hit on the idea of giving each season a powerful thematic buff that makes you feel awesome in a way you’ve never felt awesome in the game before (“gold falls out the sky when you kill monsters” “you need 1 less item to complete your gear sets” “those goblin things that drop all the cool loot? There’s hundreds of them now!”) and this just makes it incredibly compelling.

A season of Diablo 3 is just … a dopamine delivery system. It’s drugs for people who don’t want to take drugs. You do a thing, you get a reward, you do the same thing again, you get a slightly different reward. Literally forever.

And I was going to add Love is Blind to the end of this—but the more I thought about it, and the more I wrote, the longer it was making this post, and the more I realised it didn’t quite belong in a list of things I “Liked” (though I won’t deny, it’s compelling viewing).

So I’m going to wrap this up here. Look out for my long rambling thoughts on LIB. And tell me what you’re enjoying this month. Or don’t. It’s a free world.

thinking

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