Stiff Little Fingers
I’ve had a wealth of interesting experiences in my life: I’ve eaten ice cream with an ex-undercover detective in Calabria, scoffed true deep-dish pizza from the one of the original establishments in Chicago, sampled mancakes in NE Portland, and challenged myself with all-you-can-eat fish and chips in Garibaldi, to mention a few. Okay, most of my experiences involve food – or guns; that Ruger SR22 was quite something – but there is one that will go down as truly memorable, and cracking fun. That is, moshing at a Stiff Little Fingers (SLF) gig in the Ulster Hall, with my girlfriend. And her father. It seems odd at first, but it was Sarah who introduced me to SLF recently, her family being fans for a number of years now. The demographic last night was about as broad as you can get, with late teens/early twenties right through to upper-middle ages, which is fair considering the band is getting on themselves. The hall was packed, and the atmosphere was buzzing, although the band did take their time getting ready. After a few hours the heat became incredible, and I was almost ready to welcome being doused with beer. Water would have been more welcome, but you work with what you’ve got. The setlist was a mix of their classics with a few new tracks thrown in, and the best of the night was probably Suspect Device. There were a few nut jobs in the pit, as you’re apt to get at any gig, but most of the people were just having fun.
The Forgotten Ice Hockey
I couldn’t think of anything to write about last weekend, somehow completely neglecting the hockey game that Friday. Sarah and I won tickets to see the Belfast Giants in a quiz last year, and after putting it off until a few days before the expiry date, we exchanged the vouchers for a match against the Cardiff Devils. In my mind, ice hockey was something you went to for the novelty factor when the Odyssey Arena first opened, as part of a birthday party or school group. I would have never thought it possible that it could still be popular now, but 4,500 people last Friday seem to disagree. Like most American-ised sports, ice hockey is full of inter-period sponsor mini-games, including the Boojum burrito race and Subway sub cannon. And of course, player introductions and statistics on the big screen. It is funny to see the heavily commercialised elements of sport making it across the Atlantic, as I remember seeing similar goings on at a Minor League Baseball game in Indianapolis. It was a close one, but the Giants won 5-4 in the end. I would recommend going at least once if you’ve never been before. It’s nice to see a sport thriving with no community affiliations or underlying sectarian themes in this city. There’s still violence, but it’s more entertaining when the combatants are so heavily padded that they are never going to do each other any significant amount of damage. If only we had built this city on rock and roll, and not hate and bombs.
Thief: The Dark Project
After watching Yahtzee’s scathing review of the newest instalment of the Thief series, I was overcome by a wave of nostalgia as I realised I’ve never completed a Thief game. It was one of the games I toyed with when I was younger, but didn’t possess the patience or skill to get anywhere with it. Released in 1998, Thief: The Dark Project defined an entire genre of stealth games, and the original games are unrivalled for realism. Helped by a strong story and hilarious dialogue – some of the things the NPCs come out with are priceless – the game is still playable today, helped by the addition of HD texture packs, updated resolutions, and sound improvements. As for the gameplay, it has been enjoyable but challenging so far, and I’ve only given it about 40 minutes gameplay, so I’ll report back after I’ve played a bit more. I sincerely hope there are a few more holy water fonts though, as I can’t deal with all these zombies!