Mark Versus

Blurring the line between self improvement and self punishment

Category: Fun

My New Favourite Game

I have a new favourite game. Here are the instructions:-

  1. Get the song An Ending (Ascent) by Brian Eno and load it on to your media player of choice.
  2. Head out to a public place. Like a park or a train station.
  3. Find  a spot with a good view of the general public going about their business.
  4. Stick your headphones.
  5. Press play.
  6. Try and work out the plot of the film that this scene is the end of.

That’s all there is to it.  The ambient Eno magic of this song is such that no matter what surrounds you it is easy to imagine that the everyday goings on of he people in your field of vision are the protagonists in some drama. Or maybe they are just the public being shown to represent the smallness of the lives of our stars in among the human race And the best part is the plots will never be the same.

The piece is written to score a movie. The piece is so liquid that it will take the form of its container. That is to say it will morph from happy ending to sad purely by what surrounds it, and how you are feeling at the time.

I started playing this game as a tease, because I imagined it this piece of music as one of those that makes it onto the bed of numerous programs at an emotionally charged moment (a la Hoppipolla, grumble grumble), but it’s fun. If you go with it it can be quite affecting. All in the name of fun.

And of course the films are always masterpieces 😉

An Ending (Ascent) (on Youtube)
Wikipedia entry for where the song is used in other media


It’s Alive!

Today I assembled the Recesky Twin Lens Reflex Camera that will act as my weapon of choice for the Mark Versus DIY Camera Contest.  It was a fairly straight forward process which I had intended on documenting fully. However, never seeing the point if duplicating effort, instead I shall link to this page and recommend you have it open should you attempt the build.  I would say the build took a couple of hours all-in.

There were a couple of moments that took some head scratching so, should it be of assistance, I shall list them here. I am aware that this may demonstrate a lack of skill on my part rather than any engineering errors on the part of whoever makes these kits.

  1. You will need a tiny screwdriver. The whole unit requires tightening up at the end (you need to keep the body loose in order to fit pieces in right up until the last minute) and access gets a little difficult once everything is in place.
  2. The Shutter: This was the most complex part of the process (as expected) and requires a bit of time spent tweaking and loosening and tightening and then re-loosening screws in order to get it working smoothly.  I found during this process that in order to keep the central part of the shutter mechanism in place I needed to fashion a small washer which I placed under it which did the job. For my washer I stripped a cable tie from some recent electronic gadget purchase and bent the wire into shape/width.
  3. The Viewfinder: attaching the viewfinder to the body felt like the point at which I was going to break some plastic and it would all end in tears.  Given that this is pretty far into the process it would have been a massive shame and I would be in a stinking mood for the rest of the day if I had muffed it up. So be careful.

Other that those bits, even the unintelligible Chinese instructions seemed to make sense. They are very well illustrated.

I have now loaded a roll of 35mm film I have had knocking around the flat and am about to head out for a test flight.  The film is nowhere near the recommended speed (ISO800 instead of the recommended 200) so I hold out little hope of any successful shots, but I will post anything that comes out OK.

As I imagined, holding the camera and looking down the viewfinder great fun. Focusing is a bit hit and miss (I blame my eyes as much as the camera) and it is a bit light, but I am really looking forward to mucking about with it.

And then, after August, perhaps I should try and mod it to be digital?

And the Oscar goes too…

Oscar StatuetteCongratulations to all of the winners of Sunday night’s Oscars, particularly to team ‘King’s Speech’.  A classy film exemplified by some great speeches.

Congratulations too to the winner of the Mark Versus Oscar Sweepstake 2011. Or rather winners as it was a tie.  The first of the winners was, and you may have your doubts, Mark Versus himself.

That, ladies and gentlemen, is why I get paid the bug bucks. Suck it, losers!

All of you except the wonderful and intelligent Karen R. who, with a score of 14 matched my, up till now, peerless intellect and ability to guess things about films that I haven’t seen.  She has earned my respect and, as promised, a prize from my flat.  I am going to contact Karen directly and offer her a choice of a few film related items and will update with a photo of Karen and the prize.

Special mentions go out to the 3 people who came in joint second guessing 13 correctly Taig M., Sky M. and Dave G. You get nothing.

Funny As -U-K

Now that there are a few videos up I wanted to point people in the direction of my latest hobby site Funny as -U-K. It’s a stream of assembled videos of some of the excellent British comics working today. Some of the acts are well established, others are just guys I have seen on the circuit. It is a posterous site so it is easy to subscribe.

There is also a dedicated twitter feed @funnyasuk that you can follow to see when a new video is added.

I am hoping that in time I can add a podcast to the site, talking to some of the comedians featured.  I will keep everyone posted.

If you have seen a good act or have a particular favourite the you should email me and I will stick them up on the site.



P.S. I nicked the photo above from If anyone wants me to take it down they can ask. If anyone can pull that face, let me take a picture of it.

The MarkVersus Oscar Sweepstake 2011

So the magic of award season is upon us, and despite often getting angry at the whole process I always find myself a little fixated on the nominees. There is always the gap between who I would like to win and who I think will win to reconcile. Generally, I reconcile this by accepting that I am right and everyone else is wrong and perhaps next year they will learn.

So this year I have decided to employ the magic of internet technology to conduct a poll in the form of a sweepstake to find out just how far from the pulse my filmfinger (note: register actually is.

So, the link is here >>

Click on it, share it, fill out your choices and, come February, we’ll see whose filmfinger is up their shamenose.

I thought I’d had enough of this type of thing

Turns out I hadn’t.

All good fun, with or (preferably) without the little narrative bits.

Where are all the GPS based ‘wide games’?

It may betray my Boy Scout history but it is a genuine question?  Given that a huge number of people are running around with GPS enabled, Google Maps enabled smartphones, where are the all the wide games that take advantage of these technologies?

I remember a board game that I used to play that, for a time, was my favourite called Scotland Yard. It involved one player acting as a criminal on the run and the other players as detectives whose job it is to apprehend him. The board is a street map of London (geographically accurate too – none of that Monopoly rubbish) and the players are given public transport tokens. It was fun. It’s a game that strikes me as being perfect for adaptation into a wide game. It would take all day and would cost the price of a travelcard but the idea of chasing someone around London following clues has got to appeal to more than just me.

And making the £££ from App Store sales must appeal to someone as well.

I have myself dabbled in Geocaching which in and of itself has all of the ingredients of a good wide game and takes advantage of the technology. If you haven’t heard of it, the activity involves leaving caches hidden around the world and logging their co-ordinates for others to find. Often the caches are just a piece of paper in a 35mm film pot with a list of names of people who have found it. Other caches are objects that the finder is prompted to take as long as they replace them with something of a similar value.  The tracking down of the caches was fun and was a really nice way to pass time in an unfamiliar city (number of caches dependant) but the whole exercise lacks the competitive element of other players or time and scoring. There isn’t that built in structure. It feels like a hobby not a game which, whilst no bad thing in general, doesn;t fit what I am after.

I recently took a look at SCVNGR which actively calls itself a game platform.  It uses location and smartphones by encouraging you to check in to venues and places and undertake challenges (generic to the site as well as as some set by other people) at the venues to collect points and compete against your friends in a league. In this manner it fills some of the gaps that geocaching lacks, but it still operates over an extended period of time using a scoreboard system. In this respect the ‘game’ takes too long even if there are short duration challenges. Not only that, but I and my friends found it difficult to actually get any challenges made up and the number of existing challenges are limited. It is after all a newish startup  based out of America, and I am not certain that the game aspect of their service will remain the priority as location-based web services begin to compete with one another. Which is a shame because I got very excited by the potential for it.

Where then are the games that operate like a football match, say? Or a paintball day? Single event games that can be played at opportunity.  Jumpers for goalposts or rather iPhones for GPS units.  Games that can be played again and again and remain fun because each one is different.  For what it’s worth, here are some thoughts about what would make up a good wide game.

  • A solid premise: like a good board game I would like to see an interesting theme on which the rule of the game are based. Not to go as far as role-play necessarily but even card and dice games will have a story to illustrate the rules. I think with a game that has the potential to be so active getting into the spirit of a the story of the game would add to the fun.
  • Not location specific: Whilst the location would be a fundamental element of the gameplay I think that a concept for a game should be able to be playable anywhere geographically. I would want to see games that were based in, and dependent of the nature of, a city and a separate game for the countryside but these games should be able to be played in any city anywhere and be sufficiently flexible to retain its identity and still be fun.
  • Customisable: The last point notwithstanding I think that if the games do have the potential to be customised to be made specific to locations they could be made more fun.  Think along the lines of the different versions of Monopoly.

I am going to add to this list as things as they come to me and if you have any thoughts yourself leave them in the comments.  As with most of my ideas, if I can think of it then I am sure someone else has thought of it which leads me to ask where I can find them.  Answers in the comments please.