My Goodreads Reading Challenge 2017

I cannot remember the last time I read more than a handful of books in a year, but apparently Goodreads’ challenge proved irresistible and I managed a little over 20 in 2017.

This was actually the third target I’d set, as I breezed past 10 and 15 a little over halfway through the year.

Obviously we’re not talking especially weighty tomes here, in fact more than a few were graphic novels, but I’m very happy with reading so much this year.

It’s a shame that my progress came to a blistering halt in mid-September, as I tried in vain to tackle a 500+ page historical account of the Cold War. It started out very dry and academic, and made it difficult to get into. As has been the case before, I’ve put it down and intended to crack it eventually, without just skipping it and moving onto another book for the time being. But until a quick couple of additions this past two weeks, I didn’t actually read a proper book since.

But that’s fine. Here’s some of the stuff I’ve enjoyed reading most in 2017.


The Transmetropolitan series (Ellis/Robertson)

A horribly prescient and thrillingly entertaining comic series from Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, Transmetropolitan follows drug-addled journalist Spider Jerusalem, as he dives headfirst into political and civil unrest in a futuristic big-city setting in search of the Truth. I’d got about halfway through the series a couple of years ago before picking up the rest this year, and can’t believe I’d left it that long to finish off. Without wishing to get too much into a comparison to current events, the way that the authorities in the comic show such disdain for facts and information in their dealings is a chilling parallel to how we’ve seen the real world operate in the past couple of years. It’s a highly recommended read if you’re in search of your own way of dealing with it.

Wiggaz With Attitude: My Life as a Failed White Rapper (Andrew Emery)

Some of my favourite memoirs aren’t afraid of choosing places to admit defeat rather than tout success. Unlike the Alan Partridge autobiogaphy – in which the author chooses to end an awful lot of his anecdotes with the phrase ‘needless to say, I had the last laugh’ – here in the title alone the writer has humanised his life in pursuit of success and acceptance in the hip-hop world. In Wiggaz With Attitude, Andrew Emery tells of his early life spent pursuing success in hip hop, and provides an eye-opening account of the geographical and cultural barriers which made life growing up in suburban England during the 1980s such a far cry from the epicentre of rap music across the pond. And if said 1980s middle-England references are your thing, as they are mine, you’ll get a kick out of reading this even if you don’t know your Wu Tang from your Wham.

Bowie In Berlin: A New Career In A New Town (Thomas Jerome Seabrook)

A very engaging account of David Bowie’s life during the time he recorded his famous Berlin trilogy – Low, Heroes and Lodger. The book begins with Bowie at his manic, coke-crazed high – locking himself away in a California home, paranoid and stricken by doubt. Although settling on Berlin to reinvent himself, his mood plays out beautifully on Low, before regrouping and delivering two more important albums, alongside stints as producer on other musicians’ albums and touring. Bowie in Berlin is a great write-up of this vital period in Bowie’s life.

Revolution 1989: The Fall of the Soviet Empire (Victor Sebestyen)

Having been partly inspired by Bowie’s story to visit Berlin earlier this year, another reason I wanted to see the city was to get a sense of the events which transformed Europe across the 1980s. This book by Victor Sebestyen was another brilliant contributor, dealing with the fall of Communism in Poland, Hungary and East Germany among others from the very beginning of the Cold War right up until the fall of the Berlin Wall. There’s a great mix of day-to-day anecdotes and overarching historical presentations, depicting the conflict between the inspirational figures who sought change, and the iron will of those in charge to keep things the way they were. Reading this book solidified my passion as a Cold War nerd, and it’s something I’m hoping to read a lot more of in 2018.

The Montreal Screwjob

It’s 20 years since the Montreal Screwjob – an event which took place on 9th November 1997 at the WWF Survivor Series. A business decision which changed the fortunes of the WWF forever, which came at the expense of arguably its hardest-working and most talented star, Bret Hart.

What was the Montreal Screwjob?

The real-life deception of wrestler Bret Hart by WWF owner Vince McMahon. It was carried out in Montreal at Survivor Series 1997. McMahon and other WWF staffers conspired to change the scripted ending of Bret Hart’s match against Shawn Michaels, without Hart’s knowledge, so he would lose his WWF Championship.

What happened?

In what was his final WWF appearance for a decade, Bret Hart was ready to defend his title against challenger Shawn Michaels in the main event of the 1997 Survivor Series. It was decided backstage and agreed between Hart, Michaels and McMahon that the match would not have a ‘clean’ finish – a decisive victory by one man – and instead would be subject to a ‘schmoz’ finish, which would involve members of both wrestlers’ crews interfering in the match and the referee calling for a double DQ.

The main event began in unusual fashion, as Hart and Michaels brawled around the ringside area and on the stage for an extended length of time, before taking it into the ring for the match to officially begin. After a few minutes of in-ring action, match referee Earl Hebner was rendered ‘unconscious’ – an important phase of the plan that Hart and Michaels had laid out in advance.

With Hebner down, Shawn Michaels grabbed Hart’s legs and locked on the Sharpshooter, Hart’s own trademark submission hold. Although Hart’s plan was to reverse the hold and carry on the match, Hebner got up quickly and called for the bell to be rung, signalling Michaels’ victory by submission. The match ended before Hart realised what had occurred – the match ending had been changed without his knowledge, and he had lost the title.

Why did the Montreal Screwjob happen?

Basically, the Montreal Screwjob happened because Vince McMahon didn’t trust Bret Hart to drop the WWF Championship honourably, before Hart made the move to join the rival World Championship Wrestling. However, there were a number of other contributing factors, including the personal issues between Hart and Shawn Michaels.

McMahon and the WWF had been decisively beaten into second place by the WCW over the course of the Monday Night Wars. McMahon had been playing it safe for years within the cartoonish confines of his wrestling storylines, until WCW made a number of plays to gain some of that audience share during the mid-1990s.

Firstly, WCW Executive Producer Eric Bischoff made moves for a number of McMahon’s current and former stars. The most notable name was Hulk Hogan, who together with McMahon had put the WWF and pro wrestling on the map, bringing global prestige and a new generation of wrestling fans through the WWF doors. Hollywood beckoned for Hogan, who took his leave from the WWF in 1993 – but just a year later he would be back in the ring, this time for WCW, winning their World Championship in his very first match at their 1994 Bash at the Beach.

Initial plans for Hogan didn’t shake out too great – his world-beating act had grown stale – but WCW turned the wrestling world upside down when Hollywood Hulk Hogan re-debuted with a shock as the leader of the New World Order, along with Kevin Nash and Scott Hall.

As former WWF Superstars Diesel and Razor Ramon, Nash and Hall had left for new, much more lucrative deals with WCW than the ones McMahon wanted to offer them in 1996. And with Hogan, the nWo would take WCW’s Monday Nitro far above and beyond the WWF’s Monday Night Raw in the ratings, as the Monday Night Wars brought millions of new fans to both shows. That was another of Bischoff’s moves – the launching of a new WCW flagship show to go head-to-head with Raw on Monday nights.

Nitro was on the verge of making their dominance insurmountable – and Hart was set to join them, following McMahon’s withdrawal of a contract offer just months into a one-of-a-kind deal, which would have seen Hart remain with the WWF for 20 years.

Old school vs new

Hart was old-school; he didn’t care much for the new edgy direction which the WWF was taking. With scantily-clad ladies and a new thirst for adult themes, Raw was becoming too raw for Bret.

Not so for Shawn – the leader of D-Generation X, a faction which encouraged fans who didn’t care for them to ‘suck it’, and the innovators of the style of raunchy content which was starting to bring back fans to the WWF’s failing product.

Once word got out that Hart was set to join WCW, McMahon believed that the loss of just one more big name – his World Champion, no less – would be the final nail in the coffin for the WWF.

With Hart now into the final month of his contract, he received a special perk which allowed him control over the manner of his departure from the WWF. It was customary for departing Superstars to lose to a chosen performer in order to pass on ‘the rub’ – but in a bizarre turn of events, the ever-professional Bret refused to lose to Shawn.

Refusing to lose

This decision came from a conversation the two had previously had. There had been an extended period of hostility between the two men, which took in off-script name-calling on the air, plus a real-life locker room fight. With their careers on the line against a dominant WCW, and Bret’s preference for a united locker room, Hart had attempted to patch things up with Michaels. According to his autobiography, Hart had tried to tell Michaels that he would always do what was asked of him in the ring, including losing to Michaels. In an apparent fit of pique, Michaels would tell Hart that he would never be prepared to return the favour.

As champion, Bret was appalled at this lack of respect shown to the entire locker room, and decided to have it out with Vince. With this, the expected outcome of their Survivor Series match – Hart passing the torch to Michaels – was now thrown into doubt, as Hart refused to lose the Montreal match.

Hart offered a number of alternatives to McMahon – he would lose anytime, anywhere, to anyone except Michaels. Hart’s move to WCW was looming, and the possibility existed in McMahon’s head that Hart would behave dishonourably – it had happened before during the take-no-prisoners Monday Night Wars – or that WCW would take the advantage in making an announcement on the next night’s Nitro.

On the very first episode of WCW Monday Nitro in September 1995, Lex Luger made his return to the company just one day after appearing at a WWF house show, and eight days after a high-profile appearance on their Summerslam pay-per-view. And three months later, former WCW wrestler Deborah Miceli fka Alundra Blayze returned to Nitro with her WWF Women’s Championship in hand – which she would drop into a trash can live on air.

With these reputation-damaging incidents in mind, and Bischoff’s tendency to talk out of turn about the opposition while Nitro was on air, McMahon decided to take drastic action.

The aftermath

Unusually, Vince McMahon and a number of WWF officials were present at ringside during the match – in storyline it was chalked up to the simmering tensions between Bret and Shawn, and the possibility that it may have spilled over into ‘real’ violence. However, McMahon was there to ensure that the plan was carried off without a hitch. According to the Hitman biography, McMahon was heard yelling at the timekeeper to ‘ring the fucking bell’ following the confusion which took place within the ring. Michaels, in a strop that was thought to be a mixture of his bad-boy attitude and a hint that something wasn’t right, grabbed the WWF Title and left in a hurry, closely followed by Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Gerald Brisco.

As seen in the footage, Hart calmly walked to the ropes, standing above McMahon, and spat on him. As the show went off the air, Hart made ‘WCW’ gestures with his hands, and began trashing television equipment around the ring.

Backstage, chaos reigned as WWF wrestlers who sided with Hart showed their anger at what had unfolded. The Undertaker reportedly threatened to beat down the door to Vince’s office, demanding answers and an apology to Bret. McMahon went to the locker room, where Hart and Michaels were. As captured in the ‘Wrestling With Shadows’ documentary, Michaels swore to Hart he knew nothing about this plan. Some sources, including Titan Screwed and Hitman, then report that Hart threatened McMahon to leave or he would receive a knockout punch. McMahon foolishly chose to stay, and was subsequently knocked out by Bret. McMahon also got an ankle injury during the commotion.

With so many conflicting sources, there’s some confusion over who was aware of the plan before it was carried out.

Who knew about the Montreal Screwjob?

Aside from McMahon and Michaels, a number of people were aware of what was planned for Montreal, including Hunter Hearst Helmsley and Gerald Brisco. It’s said that Pat Patterson knew about it, but others dispute it due to Patterson and Hart’s close friendship.

Another name left out of the plan was Jim Ross, then-head of talent relations, who it was felt was too close to a number of the wrestlers that would be affected to remain neutral in his dealings.

The highly recommended Titan Screwed has it that Vince Russo and Jim Cornette were at some point involved in meetings about what to do with the crisis situation, although neither were briefed on the final plan. Referee Earl Hebner was apparently told shortly before the match by Brisco on what to do, despite having sworn to Hart (according to the Hitman autobiography) that he would not go along with anything he was asked to do to screw Bret over.

No matter who was really behind it all, the Montreal Screwjob would have far-reaching consequences for the future of the WWF.

The Montreal Screwjob and the Attitude Era

With Hart leaving for WCW, the top babyface spot was now opened up for a fast-rising star: Stone Cold Steve Austin, who would capture the WWF Championship from Shawn Michaels, ushering in a new era at Wrestlemania 14.

As for McMahon, his company would benefit hugely from the Montreal Screwjob. With fans’ disgust ringing in his ears, McMahon took on a new character known as ‘Mr McMahon’ – the evil billionaire boss who saw Austin as the enemy, to be defeated at all costs. McMahon’s interviews immediately following Survivor Series 1997 – most notably his insistence that “Bret screwed Bret” – would actually make him one of the most hated and most effective authority figure characters in wrestling history. It’s a well-worn trope by now but in this guise, was a huge contributor to the success of the Attitude Era, as fans tuned in to watch McMahon get his comeuppance.

Hart would not fare so well in WCW, as their decline in popularity began a month after the Screwjob, with the supposed culmination of the WCW vs nWo storyline which saw Sting defeat Hogan in the main event at Starrcade 1997. Seen as the hottest free agent in wrestling history, Hart was badly misused, debuting as a guest referee in the semi-main event (between two non-active wrestling personalities on the roster) before objecting to the false finish in the Hogan/Sting match. Legend has it that Hogan ordered a so-called fast count favouring him to be counted normally, making his opponent Sting look terribly ineffectual, and squeezing all the satisfaction out of Sting’s proper win a few minutes later.

The months between Starrcade and Wrestlemania were a chance for fans who had had enough of the nWo, to change the channel to see the WWF charging up for its most successful ever boom period – the Attitude Era.

And suddenly the war was over – thanks to one huge business decision which shook the industry as we know it today. Bret Hart’s work through the late 1980s and 1990s was integral in keeping the WWF afloat, just long enough for McMahon to seize an opportunity to see it become the biggest wrestling show on earth.

Aven Colony – review

In a forward-thinking act of organisation that’s made my wife suspicious I’ve been replaced by a Pod Person, I’ve made a To-Do list for my week off work. Because nothing says ‘I value my free time’ like a To-Do list.

It ranges from the fairly important personal projects (‘write a pilot script’) to actual scheduled slacking off (‘knock off my Netflix queue’). I must confess that I’ve made the list partly to avoid the inevitable; checking out the No Man’s Sky update on PS4. You’d be amazed how long I’ve spent on this game since it launched without deciding whether it’s actually been worth my while, so probably best not to waste more time trying to find out.

So, to get my sci-fi gaming fix I’ve been playing Aven Colony, a modest city-building sim from Team 17. Early impressions give me a vibe that’s very much Tropico-in-space, so it’s fair to say I’m intrigued.


Aven Colony gameplay

Aven Colony takes place on what’s presumably a planet called Aven, a planet of varying climates and conditions. You play the leader of the colonising forces, as you rise through the ranks to oversee ever more difficult settlement situations.

Starting with the lander module, an outpost or two and some basic utilities, you’re tasked with expanding your colony to support a larger population, which starts to be shipped in once you’ve met some of the basic targets.

It’s pretty easy to get going, and runs just like your typical city-builder, as you adjust staffing levels, mine for resources and turn them into nanites – the currency which is used to have your construction drones 3D-print your base’s next addition.

Meet your colonists’ needs for things like Air Quality and Morale, with the appropriate installation of air vents and bars, and make sure their daily commute is easy with enough interlocking tunnels between their home and their work. (This is ridiculously important to them – but if you lived in a hermetically-sealed series of tubes on some alien planet you’d probably feel the same way too; a win for realism if not game mechanics.)


The planet has a few of its own natural defences which add some intrigue; time is divided into seasonal periods, including winters which freeze the ground and make your farms less efficient. If the food quality and quantity drops, so does colonists’ morale. On top of that there’s lightning storms, toxic gas emissions and even the odd space-plague to contend with.

And then there’s the Referendums – the 50% approval rate which you must exceed in order to stay on as the colony chief.

Step up your colony’s survival stats and you’ll grow enough to explore the rest of the planet – with ancient ruins to be uncovered and new colonists to rescue from their planetary problems.

Replay value

It’s all quite good fun and fairly immersive, but the main issue I’m having with Aven Colony is just how arbitrary it all is. Tropico 5’s far more complex system – one which still has me going back to tinker with the roads and distribution routes every now and then – offers high replay value. Here on Aven you’re presented with a set of overlays to denote happiness, air quality and commute times across the colony. Sad face? Add a park. Air quality alert? Build an air filter nearby. And that’s about it – random catastrophes aside, but even those are fixable provided you’ve got enough nanites to spare and some space to build in an affected area.


Having the resources to fix these issues as they crop up does admittedly take some degree of careful planning – to build on the colony you need nanite generators, and to open mines for which to fuel their generation. If there’s not enough workers and enough housing evenly spread across the complex then they stay closed. Conversely, you’ll be all out of nanites if you get too construction-happy, and that leads to various power outages, random blowouts and steep drops in morale. And so to that end, there’s a fair bit of juggling required before you can start shipping in new colonists.

However, if you’re at all familiar with the city builder you’ll get the hang of it pretty quickly, and disappointingly, as the story beats take their time to play out. The dreaded Referendum mechanic didn’t actually worry me at all (on Normal difficulty setting) – at this point of the game I’ve had no fear of dropping under even 70% just because I haven’t neglected any of the urgent pop-ups which…pop up to tell me there’s a problem with housing or air quality.

There’s little variety to proceedings – while the main construction objective is a staple of the city building simulation, be it a Space Program or in this case, usually an Expedition Centre, there’s usually more than one way to skin the proverbial cat. But here it’s a frustratingly endless extension of long-running tunnels, interrupted by the odd housing block and a workplace.

I’m looking forward to seeing how the story progresses – there’s alien secrets to be uncovered and some potential sabotage/espionage going on from within. And given the lo-fi indie value of the game I’m always impressed when a non-AAA title provides so much good stuff. Aven Colony provides some good game time, but it’s far from the best city builder I’ve played.

All Star, but every word is ‘average’

Ever wondered what’s the most average song you’ve ever heard? Think of all the thousands upon thousands of songs on your hard drive, not to mention the thousands more you’ve forgotten about – and those are just the ones you like. Below your own threshold of quality there’s millions more which don’t pass muster.

Have a stab at naming your favourite song, like, right now. Can’t decide? That’s fair enough. You’d need to crack out the notepad and furrowed brow for a feverish scribbling session before you can even create a top five.

Even naming the worst song you’ve ever heard will take some effort – not only because of the internet’s (and pop culture nerds’ in particular) eagerness to dub things the worst _____ ever, without actually taking the time to subject themselves to any prolonged exposure to that pain.

But average? That’s way different. Out of all the songs you’ve ever heard? Tough one. What song is neither offensive enough nor inspired enough just to hit the very middle of your all-time music charts? What single song rises enough above mediocrity but sinks enough below inspiration?

One song hit me today in exactly that sweet spot. And before I over-analyse it with the power of nostalgia, I should probably just flat out tell you why this song strikes me as the most average three minutes of pop-rock averageness ever.

Today I heard a cover of Smash Mouth’s All Star by a band called Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! which, all artistic intention aside, was covered pretty much straight up. Apart from the whiny Americanised vocals, some sped-up drums and a bit of Busted-esque guitar upstrokes (and the mandatory pogoing seen in the video), there is absolutely no derivation from the original. Right down to the introductory keyboard flourishes and the whistling / record scratching in the breakdown, there is precious little in the way of experimentation on this cover. Recorded for a series of ‘Punk Goes…’ compilations, it’s possible that the attempt to play each song as straight as they can is all part of the mission statement.

But both the worst and best cover versions can be evaluated as such in their attempt to re-interpret the source material. Whether it’s a competently-performed yet ultimately ill-judged re-working or just a touched-up version of the original, you can always judge a cover song as successful or unsuccessful based on the combination of the song’s suitability for a re-work or the new artist’s interpretation – and ergo, how much that song ‘belongs’ to somebody.

Take (my tears and) Marilyn Manson’s stab at ‘Tainted Love’ for example. It’s crap, but you’ve got to hand it to him/them for trying to plunge a Northern Soul classic into the nu-metal mire. The crunching dirge of the MM effort completely eradicates the soul of the original vocal – and that of Marc Almond’s in the much more suitable (and more famous) version of the song. Manson took a song which was made more famous in the first place as a cover version, and tried to mangle its frustration into something reflecting how he himself saw the idea of tainted love.

Conversely, Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor once spoke about the Johnny Cash version of his song ‘Hurt’, and how he felt like “that song isn’t mine anymore”. The idea that someone understood the pain and isolation of a situation more than the writer himself did, and that this was enough for the original artist to disown his very own particular piece of grief, makes it one of the most powerful and meaningful cover versions of all time.

So when a cover version does absolutely nothing in any way for the song it honours, what does it say about the original song’s quality and durability?

‘All Star’ was originally released in May 1999. Try and forget that I’ve just told you that, and give the song a proper listen. I’ll wait.

Okay, now pretend I didn’t tell you when the song came out. Judging by the lyrics, and the top three major-label rock production clichés you hear within it, when did this song come out?

  • Abundance of Pro Tools?
  • Soothing acoustic guitar-led breakdown and rapped rock vocal?
  • Record-scratching in a rock song?

If you guessed 1999, you’d be bang on. (If you guessed May 1999, you’d probably be cheating but be even more bang on.)

The point is, where there are the slivers of a crack in the melodies, or the rough edges of a pretty bog-standard tune, there’s the slick and shine of that late-90s did-it-on-a-Mac-but-christ-they-used-to-cost-loads production. It Polyfillas the cracks and Ronseals the surfaces to produce a completely inoffensive song – ironically enough, almost to the point of itself being offensive.

When All Star was released I was 14 years and three months old – the scientifically-proven age where your pop culture tastes are refined. (Also released in the first half of 1999: Moby’s Play, A Place in the Sun by Lit and Len’s “Steal My Sunshine”, not to mention the re-release of Bran Van 3000’s “Drinking in LA” – the latter two of which still feature on my ‘sunny day’ playlists.)

(Caution: You may find that the rest of my argument, more than tinged by my nostalgic propensity for a sunshiny tune, completely renders the rest of my findings invalid, but please do bear with me.)

Unlike those last two songs, which most would forgetfully and gladly lump into the same bargain bin as ‘All Star’, Smash Mouth’s biggest hit is drenched in the pop-rock polish liberally sprinkled into songs by everyone from Uncle Kracker to Sugar Ray – not to mention the video which tied into the Mystery Men film’s promotional campaign. Len and Bran Van 3000 were each more of a breakout act from respected songwriting/performance art roots in the Canadian underground, and so were more deserving of a listen to distract from the rest of the blandness being bandied around the airwaves.

Astro Lounge

To that end, ‘All Star’ still does demonstrate high levels of competence and imagination – the likes of which you ought to expect from full-time musicians already well ensconced in ‘the biz’. Astro Lounge was Smash Mouth’s difficult second album, made all the more pressuring by the success of ‘Walkin’ On The Sun’, the lead single from the first. ‘All Star’ would go on to feature in about 57 different films that you’ve watched in passing, after reaching number four on the Billboard charts.

There’s still guitar and drums on the track, and a fair amount of keyboard, which does to me demonstrate more than the bare minimum. But it may be those standards which undo the song – that instant when you first hear a song and know it’s going to be successful the charts because it has been sanitised and refined for all it’s worth. For all that competence and experience, the artificial nature of the production demonstrates close to zero in the way of passion.

Passion or perfunctory?

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been willing to try out any style of music where you can just tell the artist is trying as well. It’s more a sad indictment on the state of the pre-packaged, manufactured preferences of the music industry than anything else, but it does mean I get to enjoy a wider range of music than my baggy-shorted 14-year-old self would have permitted.

Of course you can’t write a hit song without some amount of allowance for the audience, some sort of sonic experimentation and knob-twiddling to ensure it has a broad enough appeal. But ‘All Star’s squeaky-clean production does nothing to disguise the fact that it appeared to have been magicked out of thin air onto someone’s Mac. For the maximum amount of compression, clean-up and polish that the song was given ready for its assault on the ears worldwide, I do still hear more than the absolute minimum in the way of a band choosing to put its heart, soul and sweat into their music. Going by this extremely delicate balance between soul and sanitisation, between heart and hard drive, we approach a tipping point.

‘All Star’ doesn’t possess enough of the passion of a song whose writers needed someone to hear their message – the way Johnny Cash could hear Trent Reznor’s pain and put his own beautiful soulful pain on top of it. But by the same token, it doesn’t contain enough of the robotic, soulless automation that plagues the rest of the pop field and reduces it to mindlessness motions.

I’ve heard cover versions of songs that are subjectively better or worse because the cover artist makes a good or bad choice. From hearing their take on ‘All Star’, my view is that Chunk! No, Captain Chunk! choose to play it right down the middle because the original gives them no inclination or indication to do anything but. I can’t think of a single song whose cover version caused me less consternation either way. I don’t know who that’s on.

Because of the original song’s indecision – not quite soulless enough to be flat-out bad, but too overproduced to be good, ‘All Star’ does more than approach the tipping point – it is the tipping point.

So the next time you hear a song and can’t decide if you like it or not, ask yourself – is it better or worse than ‘All Star’? Then you’ll know, because I now believe that ‘All Star’ is the most average song of all time.

Finished the first draft, now what?

I’ve done it. I’ve finished writing a first draft. But now I’m supposed to put it away for weeks and I just don’t want to, despite this advice:

…[W]rite the first draft as quickly as you can. Don’t worry about quality. Just get to ‘The End’.

Put the script in a drawer and forget about it for a few weeks. Work on something else in the meantime.

Once you return to the script, you’ll be reading it fresh. Like a stranger. You’ll immediately know what works and what doesn’t.

Writing a proud achievement

If forced to think of one at gunpoint, I’d tell you that my life’s ambition is to write for a TV programme or film.

Given that I’ve spent my entire life watching sitcoms – some of my earliest childhood memories are of watching The Simpsons and Red Dwarf with my dad – I like to think I’ve spent my entire life building up the courage and analytical eye I need to write one myself.

Along with that, the internet is an absolutely amazing tool to have at your disposal, for finding advice and guidance from the masters of the craft.

I’d definitely count Graham Linehan among these sage men and women – he’s contributed to some of the funniest things I’ve ever watched.

But there are parts of the advice he’s seen fit to dispense (above) which I myself have found impossible to follow. Partly through my own sense of OCD but also through my struggle to get something down on the page, it’s been a long path towards my very own finished first draft.

The Waiting Game

We’ll skip over the fact that it’s taken me nigh-on a year of false starts, false finishes and fevered re-imaginings of the basic setups, world-building and character counts to arrive at something approaching a first draft of this particular story.

But every time I’ve ever finished something else that I can call a first draft, I find it extremely difficult to put it away and forget about it.

Even without reading the script right now, I know there’s a line that needs fixing, or a joke that needs to land a bit cleaner. It’s annoying because I’ve been building these scenes in my head. I don’t know them off by heart but I do know the gist. What if I come back to the script, and it’s been built so differently in my head during the time away from it? What if it’s already different on paper after just one nail-biting night away? Maybe I should go take a look, just to make sure.

That’s the whole point, though – I need to wait; to try and forget what I wrote, so that in two weeks or so I can give it a thorough read through and immediately set about fixing it up.

waiting game

But…I just can’t do it. I can’t let go. I’m still just getting to know these people. I feel like they still have the ability to surprise me. I’ll think about my favourite scene and immediately try to imagine if it should be longer, or shorter, or have more or less people in it, or work out if I need another joke or two.

Not reading the script isn’t going to be enough, because I still have it in my head.

So…how to get it out?

Distraction pieces

Well, there’s the two games I bought on Steam today, for a start. And there’s the Mario speedruns on Twitch which me and the wife have recently got into watching. I would watch more CS:GO tournaments just for fun – but that’s another danger because I’ve been watching them for research. I might suddenly get an idea and need to go running back to my draft.

I appreciate Linehan’s advice for what it is – but in this relatively early stage of my mission I can’t help but wonder if there’s some quick fix I can apply to my script that would make me feel much better about leaving my characters and plots to their own devices for a couple of weeks. I’ll still be sure to write down any brand new ideas for later development, but I’m getting itchy just sitting here writing this. I’ve done it in the vain hope of diversion, but writing about how desperate I am to revisit a script barely a day after writing it, is just making me want to read it more.

If I still smoked proper cigarettes, I would’ve definitely been out on my stoop at 1.30am last night, celebrating the completion of my first story. But less than a day later and I’m already itching to get back in there.

Maybe I will just take a peek. A quick one. And then I’ll mark the day on my calendar.

The new Netflix rating system gets a thumbs-down

For the love of god, do you see what I did there?

We’re all busy people. That’s why I’ve spent the last two hours in the sun reading a book about the Revolutions of 1989 – god knows it’s been a non-stop afternoon.

Knowing what a bunch of busy so-and-sos we are, Netflix has helpfully decided to overhaul its ranking and recommendations systems – to help us decide what to watch when we’re pushed for time during our next entire evening in front of the sofa.

But by changing their star ratings system to a simple thumbs-up, thumbs-down interface, I feel like they’ve rather muddied the waters.

Five-star nuances

The old idea of ratings was simple enough; you rate something from one to five stars, and Netflix uses your input to recommend other programmes and films.

Narrowing these down to a thumbs-up, thumbs-down system rather removes much of the nuances of rating and reviewing films.

Because people’s tastes can be so fluid and subjective – imagine Nicolas Cage in Face/Off…Now imagine him in Left Behind – it makes things more difficult when it comes to making some Netflix picks.


Good thing they don’t have Vampire’s Kiss available in the UK – it would completely mess with the ratings system. Is it good? Is it bad? Who knows?

Example: at the moment me and the wife are watching seven seasons of Archer right from the very beginning. Between episodes we’re recommended something called Pacific Blue. I have no idea what this is, and from the prone position on the sofa that streaming services seem to enjoy imagining their subscribers from, there’s nothing much they think we can do other than to give it a try.

But again, with our time being so precious (I’m taking a break from the sun to write this and listen to the Leeds match), I don’t know that I’m willing and able to spend any amount of time blindly giving something a go.

But because streaming services’ goal is just to get you to keep watching, it’s probably better to risk giving the viewer more impetus to need to discover the things they’ll like.

And besides, considering Netflix judges what we’re watching rather than rating to make its big business decisions, it won’t work out too badly for them.

Innovation in programming

It’s a fairly well-known example but still pretty brilliant for us data nerds. The whole reason Netflix decided to create a new version of House of Cards starring Kevin Spacey wasn’t a matter of throwing things at the wall to see what sticks. With an eye on their customers’ viewing habits, they noticed that people who watched the original BBC version also watched a lot of Kevin Spacey films, and vice versa.

Having the ability to interpret that hard, single-channel data gives Netflix, Amazon Prime et al the confidence to invest in licensing TV rights packages, as well as creating new viewing pleasures – like the mini-Marvel universe we see through the eyes of Daredevil, Jessica Jones and Luke Cage. This gives streaming services a real foot up on cable and satellite TV. And having cancelled Sky TV myself a month ago, I’m really not missing it when I’m paying a lot less money per month for a lot more choice of what I want to watch, instead of what happens to be on.

Happy as I am though to wade into the wide world of online TV and film services to find something new whenever I open up the apps, I was a bit alarmed to open Netflix this morning to be presented with its other new feature – some sort of online dating service offering me a percentage match on their range of titles.

(And let’s not get into that too much. Some of the most fascinating-looking documentaries I’ve stumbled across today gave me matches in the sixty-percent range, while some actual dreadful BBC sitcoms ranked in the nineties.)

This clashes somewhat with another of the ways they recommend programmes and films to me – the ‘Because You Watched…’ ribbon.

Because you watched…

Right now I’m looking at two Julia Roberts films, J-Lo and Jennifer Aniston – “because you watched Serendipity”.


No thanks!

While I can’t argue that this is a thing that happened, it’s only because I personally enjoy the work of John Cusack. Given the apparent distinct lack of hitmen and record shop owners in the films I’ve been shown here, I can’t say I’m likely ever to give them a go.

The same goes for Trailer Park Boys, which I watched the first episode of and decided not to any more – again, time being precious, I’m not saying it was downright terrible but I’m just not inclined to watch any more.

I didn’t apply a star rating for Trailer Park Boys, but if I’d given the show one star it wouldn’t show up again. However, now that there’s no better way to communicate this than a thumbs-down, I might not be shown anything similar again, even if it’s something I would otherwise check out.

This is the rub – to see more of what I think I’d like, and less of what I wouldn’t, I need to go thumb-crazy over all these menus, instead of spending the time actually watching things and finding out. It needs the sort of time that perhaps Netflix assumes we’ve got – seeing as we’re wasting away on our couches receiving constant prompts to see if we’re still watching.

That assumption isn’t really appreciated – not to sound snobby, but I’ve got better stuff to do. Like complain about it, apparently.

Switching back to Nintendo

My mate Matt Allen kindly agreed to voice his excitement for the upcoming Nintendo Switch console in the form of before and after posts. Here’s part one.

The Nintendo Switch launches March 3rd, and I could not be more excited.

I have been watching the unveiling, promotion and rumours since back before we even knew it was called the Switch. That’s when I used to spend about an hour every day on the NX Reddit page, poring over product patents and rumours. Instead of keeping up with my favourite TV shows, I now just watch YouTube videos about the Switch, breaking down the hardware, talking about the launch line up and discussing all the things that could be possibly coming in the future. I have stopped listening to true crime podcasts and now I just listen to video games podcasts. In a nutshell, I am obsessed.

(I’d recommend Filthy Casuals, Infendo, Nintendo Sushi, Nintendo Week and Radio Free Nintendo. I would be lying if I said I didn’t listen to around 10 more a week on top of these.)

There’s nothing wrong with getting excited about a product launch, or excited about a game coming out – but I am worried I’ve been completely swept up aboard the Nintendo Switch hype train, and I may go crashing off a cliff if the console doesn’t match my expectations.

nintendo hype train

A Nintendo hype train, yesterday.

I haven’t always been a huge Nintendo fan(boy). I didn’t buy the Wii U until late 2015, and play the vast majority of my games on my Xbox One and PS4. Growing up in England, I played a lot more Sega as a kid than I did Nintendo – as did all my friends and relatives. Most tellingly, I haven’t had the opportunity to play on a Switch. I am not a reviewer; I am not in the media; I am just a guy with a bit of an unhealthy obsession with a new console.

So what is it that has got me so excited, and why should I be worried? In true internet list style, here are my Three Pros and Cons for the Nintendo Switch.


Pros of wanting a Nintendo Switch

Pro Controller and Joy Cons – The versatility of the controllers for the Switch is great. The Joy Cons can be detached, so right out of the box you’ve got a console that two can play. Including a Share button has great hope for the future when it comes to streaming and sharing games footage. It also has something called HD Rumble; these controllers have a lot of tech packed into them. The pro controller has analogue stick positions like the Xbox, which is by far my favourite games controller.

In addition, I can tap my Amiibo on an NFC chip on the Joy Con without having to get off my butt and go to the console when it is docked – this will make it extremely easy for me to stay lazy and overweight, especially considering the controllers’ healthy battery life (20 hours on the Joy Cons, 40 on the Pro Controller). And yes, I have over 100 Amiibo, so it will be pretty great to actually get to use them for something.

The Line Up – Although the Switch’s launch line-up seems a bit thin on the ground Nintendo games are some of my all-time favourites. Within a year of launch I will be playing a new Zelda game, a new Super Mario game, a new Splatoon game and Mario Kart 8. Since this is the first hub world Mario game since Sunshine I personally can’t wait – throw in the 60+ indie games coming in 2017, along with new Sonic games and Skyrim that I can play on my daily commute, and it’s clear the console will offer a lot of game time in the first 12 months alone.

It’s a Hybrid – If for some reason you have read this far and didn’t know, this console is both a home console and a handheld. Drop it in a dock and it connects to your TV, pick it up and walk away, and you are playing on the go. This is perfect for me as I slide further into my 30s and don’t have as much time for console gaming as I’d like to.

Nintendo Switch

Cons of buying a Nintendo Switch

Joy Cons – Yes – I know I had this as a Pro, and no – this isn’t just here so I could make a Pros and Cons pun. With the added focus on motion control seen in the launch title 1 2 Switch, Nintendo seems keen to look back on the success of the Wii rather than take a bold step forward from the Wii U. Games like Ultra Street Fighter II: The Final Challengers comes with extra motion control modes that, frankly, look terrible.

Am I worried about motion control? No. I think it’ll have some clever uses and there will be some fun to be had, but it’s just not the image I hoped we’d get with this generation. I think the marketing focus should be on Nintendo Switch being a home console that can be taken with you. If the message of what this console is and who it is for gets even slightly muddled it may not sell well, which would be a shame as I don’t want another Wii U.

The Line Up – Although there are a bunch of great Nintendo games coming in 2017, I am actually a bit worried about what impression these give out to someone who isn’t following the news as obsessively as I am. Yes, Zelda: Breath of the Wild is coming at launch – but if you don’t like Zelda, you don’t have much to choose from. I’m excited by the idea of over 60 indie titles releasing this year, but a lot of them have already aired on other consoles or on PC. A portable Elder Scrolls title is amazing – but Skyrim has already been out for six years, not to mention its mod-friendly next-gen update last year.

Hopefully the games will keep coming, but if sales don’t look promising then developers won’t be as inclined to keep making the games. It feels like a missed opportunity for Nintendo – they had the chance to come out with a splash at the start, or at least to have all the dates for games in the future locked down.  Maybe another month or two of development would have helped. I feel like maybe it needed to come out this financial year more than they feel ready to launch it right now.

It is a Hybrid –  I can walk away with the likes of Zelda and Skyrim in my hand, and play it on the bus (or toilet) – that’s going to be great. However, there is a reason that games this big haven’t made it to tablet – they would kill the battery. And kill the battery the Switch probably will – it only has a battery life of between 2.5 and six hours. Six hours is not conducive to a session in Skyrim, I would guess.

Although you can get a larger replacement battery for the Wii U, there’s no such luck with the Switch. As a hybrid console, it’s got to be different things for different uses – possibly too many things. This console can’t be all things for all people, and is already delivering a mixed message on marketing. Is it a successor to the Wii U and Nintendo 3DS? The fact that it is portable and both handheld and console development teams have been merged would seem to suggest so, but that’s not the word we are getting from Nintendo, who understandably has to keep investors happy.

All aboard?

So where does this leave me? I have three things that excite me about this console – the same three things that I also am worried about. It leaves me at a Day One purchase. It leaves me pre-ordering the Pro Controller just in case I hate the small buttons on the Joy Con. It leaves me excited.

I have so many hopes for the console and have already heard exciting things, the launch line up has been beefed up on the last few days with some special E-Shop titles, but my hopes for a full Virtual Console on Launch Day are definitely not going to be met.

We will just have to see how it goes in March. I for one will be off Reddit and YouTube for the day and fully invested in Breath of the Wild, even when on the toilet if I so fancy it.

Matt Allen is a gamer and games collector who loves all consoles. He once accidentally ran a Pokémon Go event for 1000 people, after he invited a few friends to meet up and didn’t set the Facebook event to Private. He loves retro games and has an obsession with Fallout.

My inner child loves No Man’s Sky – but do I?

God knows I’ve put the hours in, but am I actually enjoying playing No Man’s Sky, or is it all a grip of nostalgia?

Over the course of my time with No Man’s Sky on the PS4, I’ve broken a fair few barriers. Not only am I referring to breaking the speed of light in order to warp between its seemingly infinite number of star systems, but also because I broke my Golden Rule of Outlandish Purchase Decisions: no games above £40.

So when I saw a brand new copy of No Man’s Sky on the shelves for just £25 today, I had pause to consider whether I was still getting any value out of my near-twice-the-price purchase – or even if I ever had.


In the run-up to its release last August, the No Man’s Sky hype was overwhelming. I’ve never been one to let myself get sucked into that sort of thing – it’s why I’m always so behind on the latest and greatest hits of pop culture – but the game had to really be something special to meet those expectations. And when it turned out in the eyes of so many to be so much less than stellar, the hype turned swiftly into massive backlash aimed squarely at the poor sods at Hello Games.

I didn’t really know what to expect when I first fired the game up myself, but suffice it to say I wasn’t underwhelmed…or overwhelmed even…merely…whelmed? With my hitherto unrealised need to have an update of Frontier: Elite II in my life, I was happy enough to play Pioneer here and there.

Sure, No Man’s Sky remains stunning to look at – I’m a sucker for an alien landscape – but outside of the artefact discovery and the annoying grinning creatures greeting me at every space station, there just wasn’t a whole lot to do besides the same old, same old.

So just as Hello Games realised they needed to put a hell of a lot more game into their game, I abandoned No Man’s Sky in favour of a second playthrough of Fallout 4.

November saw the release of NMS’ Foundation Update, with new modes of gameplay and just a little bit more to do during your visits to the stars beyond. I’ve only just made my way onto this update, and I think I’ve made a bit of an unsettling discovery.


After loading an old save file and debating whether or not to carry on in search of the Atlas Stones which I’d been gifted by some weird dome thing, I decided to start afresh – I needed to get to grips with the controls again, and wondered if there was anything I’d missed the first time.

I decided to start from scratch and try a different path – that of the two rebel explorers, Nada and Polo. This seems to be going well enough – and could have even started to lead somewhere but for the fact that it’s already feeling a bit repetitive.

So as I landed on yet another, albeit beautiful, life-filled planet and set off mining some Iron to boost my Pulse Drive and Deflector Shields, I realised that I don’t think I’m actually enjoying this much. But a small part of me would not admit it – my curious, sci-fi obsessed inner child.

It’s clear to me (and hopefully to even the most frothy-mouthed of its critics) that Hello Games has put together something very special from a design perspective. As the wide-eyed kid who couldn’t control his ship properly in Frontier, and the misty-eyed twentysomething reliving those same memories in Pioneer so many years later, I can honestly say that what I feel for No Man’s Sky now is something approaching a realisation of those childhood space-age fantasies.

Just as I used to ‘book’ my wrestling figures by filling notepads with fight cards, attendance figures and unimaginative, all-too-regular tournament brackets, I wanted my Action Force figures to visit strange new plants, record data on the atmosphere and encounter the planet’s thriving flora and fauna. My lack of knowledge when it came to the ‘science’ part of ‘science fiction’ didn’t stop me from imagining these epic missions into the depths of outer space – from cautious landing to desperate escape.

In a way, this beautiful but flawed game is everything my ten-year-old self would have killed to play. I can recreate that same feeling of discovery and adventure, and get official statistics to boot, thanks to the game’s recording of player progress. But just as you tend to lose 99% of your childhood passion for ice cream when you’re old enough to have it whenever, I’m no longer enthralled by the idea of giving up so much of my valuable free time to something that just doesn’t grab me the way it once did.

While for the moment I’m happy enough to continue my journey across the stars, in search of long-forgotten extra-terrestrial wisdom and the chance to fetch something or other back to my home base (a good, if not entirely absorbing addition from the Foundation Update, only because it’s a lame version of the tried-and-trite ‘fetch quests’ that RPGers have quite rightly had their fill of), I feel the time will soon come to end my latest run with No Man’s Sky. I’m rather fearful that my nostalgia for all things space travel will turn ugly when it dawns on me that there’s not a whole lot to actually keep me here, as my more grown-up sensibility for storytelling starts to take me away from the muddling, aimless wander among the stars.

Too much choice makes me unhappy and tired

At the risk of sounding like decadent, capitalist Westerner scum for the next 700 words or so, the one downside to having extensive free time away from work is having to decide what to do with it.

With family responsibilities fulfilled and a fairly hefty haul of wonderful Christmas presents to show for it, I’ve spent the last day or so at home with some time on my hands…and a little bit of anxiety that it’s difficult to choose what to do with it.

My New Year’s Resolution for 2016 worked like a charm. When I’ve wanted to create, I have created. And when I haven’t wanted to, I haven’t made myself feel bad about it. So the solution appeared to be…stop creating. My SoundCloud page has prospered, but my blog has suffered tremendously for it – but I’m really okay with that because it seemed that I wasn’t up for being so wordy after all.

I’ve read almost 20 books in 2016 – more than I have for many, many years. Two weeks swinging from a honeymoon hammock will do that for you. And when I look back on the sheer disaster of a year that was 2016 in all other aspects of life, I’ll look back on it with some considerable happiness myself, having done a marry in July.

But when my wife departs for a shift at work shortly, I’ll have an entire afternoon stretching ahead of me, and feel paralysed by choice.


I know, I know. Decadent Westerner, with no dependents and a Netflix subscription – not to mention social network feeds full of smiling kids, whose parents I see at work or on a much-needed night out, who would kill me for that password and/or two hours to themselves to watch something.

But the struggle is real.

The paradox of choice

Paradoxically, it’s precisely because we’ve never had it so good, us decadent capitalist scum, that we sometimes feel ‘spoilt for choice’. Try this when you’re deciding what to spend your Christmas gift vouchers on: just choose something. You can’t, can you?

As a kid it was much easier, because the gifts I got for Christmas were usually something I’d had my eye on since May. And the vouchers were much more quickly spent – and followed with many a round of ‘are you sures’ from Mam and Dad – because it will often have been the first thing I seized upon in the shop.

Barry Schwartz calls it ‘the paradox of choice’, and finds that you can have too much of a good thing. Faced with a sample table of either six jams or 24, 30% of those given only six to try would go on to buy one of them, compared to 3% given a choice of 24.

It can be so bad that you’ll defer from any decision at all just to stay away from the overwhelming feeling of choice paralysis. Whatever it is you’re sitting watching, even if you don’t like it, turning off the TV entirely doesn’t seem like an option when there’s no clear-cut alternative to spending your time.

As a kid, my choice is blinkered; this shiny thing or that one? As a grown-ass man (who doesn’t feel anything like one at the best of times), the blinkers are off and I’m left wondering how best to spend the commodity I’ve got all too much of today: time.

I thought that maybe just describing my feelings and checking that such a thing exists would be enough. But Schwartz has given me more food for thought: setting a goal.

Set your goals

Find out what it is you want, and what the easiest way to achieve that is. I wanted to moan about something, and my wife’s gone out. Short of calling a friend and talking their ear off (one who isn’t back at work), blogging about it seems to have done the trick.

But when I close my laptop and stand up, what next? My goal for the day is: be entertained. Well, my PS4 just blinked. I could go back and put another ungodly amount of hours into Stardew Valley as I did yesterday. And then there’s that book about Bowie I got for Christmas oh god it’s happening again.

Setting a goal, analysing the simplest route towards it, the one that will expend the least amount of time, energy and stress, and working towards it. That’s a start. Polishing off the rest of my selection box? Aye, why not.

Game retail stores are charging for Playstation VR demos

We all know how I feel about the chain of video game shops known simply as Game. (In case you don’t, here’s a quick refresher.) But their latest attempt to bring virtual reality to the masses is sort of taking the piss a bit.

Game shops Call of Duty

Per the Retail Gazette, branches of Game are offering customers the chance to try out the brand new Playstation VR suite; a pretty impressive bit of kit by all accounts. Even I’m intrigued after my own brush with the future at my friend’s stag go last year.

So what do you do in order to sample some Sony VR action? Simple: pay Game a fiver for ten minutes’ play.

Woah, hold up. They’re charging for this?

Yep. Five quid. Ten minutes. And probably some impatient taps on your shoulder, or else just the system shutting down before you’ve really had a chance to get cracking with some sweet tech.

VR in demand

Okay, I get it. This stuff is in demand, and at a hefty £350 (plus Playstation Camera, sold separately) there’s not a lot of people can expect to wake up with this in their stocking come Christmas Day (oh god, I said it). And with all their financial troubles of the past, you can see why Game themselves would be hesitant to back up the VR delivery lorry without some indicator of how many they’ll sell.

But asking people to part with (for me) a completely unreasonable amount of money for only ten minutes’ trying out the Playstation VR is just a bit too much.

Firstly, Sony themselves have been trialling the hardware at venues all over the country, and haven’t tried charging anyone for the privilege.

Secondly, we’re talking about a company which is now accepting pre-orders on a game that isn’t out for another whole year. One whole year for you to give them your money, knowing full well that their line of credit is drying up faster than the craft beer tent at Burning Man, and they might not be around long enough to honour it.

Robbing Peter to pay Paul

The age-old art of robbing Peter to pay Paul is something Game has excelled at in recent years, and having barely survived last Christmas is now back to the same old tricks. Other British retailers without the ability to get advance payments on product has seen the likes of Woolworths and Comet close their doors.

But being able to live through another trying Christmas period via something seemingly so socially acceptable as a video game pre-order is just a false economy. And again, it’s bad enough to be done months in advance, but Rockstar’s announcement of a ‘Fall 2017’ release means players are AT LEAST ten months away from seeing any return on their investment of right now.

game retail pre order red dead redemption 2 announcement

For their part, Game claims that charging players to sample Playstation VR is all part of keeping dedicated staff available and on hand to help you demo the gear. I’d liken it to taking a test drive at a car showroom; the guys are there to try and sell you the car in the first place, so why should you be saddled with the financial burden of taking it for a spin?

And while I admire Game members of staff for their tireless pursuit of a sale, I find it annoying enough to barely break the one-minute mark in a branch of the shop without being asked if I’m alright, and what do I play? (Unless I clearly don’t look to them as if I belong there, in which case they shouldn’t be making those assumptions anyway.)

But let’s not forget either that anyone who buys the Playstation VR following on from that demo will have the price knocked off. Thank god for that, my ludicrously-priced hardware will have a fiver knocked off!

Retail’s been going through some very tough times of late, and with the whole Brexit bollocks kicking off it looks like there’ll be even more to come. But with stunts like this, it’ll be harder for some than others once customers start voting with their wallets.