Friday, June 29, 2007

Tag, I'm It

Thomas at Mile Zero has tagged
me with one of those Intermemes.

Here are the rules: Eight random facts or interesting lies about yourself. Send me the link to your post when you're done. Tag 8 more people. Drop a comment on their blog to let them know they've been tagged. Don't sit by your maibox waiting for thank you notes from those you've tagged.

1. I didn't get my first driver's license until I was twenty-four years old.

2. I used to live in an apartment above the Rocky's Pizza in downtown Athens, Georgia (Rocky's, sadly, no longer exists).

3. When I was a kid, the movie Gremlins made me afraid of the dark for many years. But for some reason I watched it repeatedly.

4. I think "Travels with Charley" by John Steinbeck is the Great American Novel.

5. I have been an atheist my entire life and have never once come close to practicing any kind of religion, unless you count dropping acid.

6. I lettered in Theatre. Yes, I know.

7. While I have difficulty remembering historical dates, I have no problem recalling the lyrics to old rap songs. Around the Way Girl, At the Playground, Rumpshaker, Crossover, and others too embarrassing to mention.

8. I very nearly got a part as an extra in the movie Enemy of the State. I went to a cattle call where they took my information. Then I got a call back, stood in a line-up and met the director - they were looking for someone younger than me (I was seventeen or so). I got another callback. The appointment was in DC. I exited at the wrong Metro stop, had to walk about fifteen blocks and missed my chance completely. But they still paid me 12 bucks just for showing up - sweet deal!

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Tig Old

In the
new screens released for Soul Calibur IV, Ivy can be seen with two pendulous globes dangling from her chest. They look like tumors.

If I were in charge of her character arc, here's how I'd plot it:

Ivy has entered the competition in order to fund her dangerous love of surgical modification. Her obsession with breast size has seen her go under the knife six times now, the increases leaving horrible stretch marks on her skin and layers of scar tissue beneath each breast. She plans to go bigger next time, despite warnings from her doctor. If she can win the tournament, she'll have enough cash to fly to Eastern Europe where a doc exists who will do the surgery regardless of the risk.

If you win as Ivy, the final cutscene shows a series of snapshots of her in a skimpy bikini, breasts swollen to even more gigantic proportions, smile plastered on her face. It fades into a dimly-lit room, Ivy on a surgical table, a doctor smeared with blood, his forehead covered in sweat. The heart monitor flatlines, the doctor works furiously for a minute, the nurse handing him gauze and sutures, but to no avail.

Close-up of Ivy's blank eyes as the announcer says, "Ivy has been defeated, but the soul still burns."

Sunday, June 24, 2007

Movie Time: Black Christmas

There is a point
in the Black Christmas remake, right near the beginning, where one of the characters suggests that they call the police. This is in response to a very disturbing call that purports to be from a spree killer incarcerated for murdering his family. The female characters are members of a sorority, staying in the spree killer's childhood home.

They don't call the police, opting instead to talk about opening gifts.

That tells you everything you need to know.

This is a stupid movie, even for a slasher film. Rent the original.


I'm not sure what the deal is with remaking decent horror/slasher films. There are plenty of stinkers from which to choose.

I'm of the opinion that you should only attempt a remake if you can do it better, or at least do it different enough to feel original.

I feel the same way about cover songs.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Galaxy Questing

I'm addicted
to Rogue Galaxy, but I get the feeling that I shouldn't enjoy it as much as I do.

The gameplay hits the sweet spot between determination and frustration. To use the modern term, it has Flow.

But this game has the most inane dialogue and plotting I have ever encountered. I'm not using hyperbole. Conversations are bland, slow, repetitive, and lacking any subtlety. This is a game that would announce a devious scheme by having the bad guy say to himself, "Now to put into motion my devious scheme of stealing things and fighting." In fact, that might be a quote.

I don't think this is a localization problem, either. It's probably just as awful in the original Japanese.

Characterization also stinks. There are some great character designs that definitely feel part of a coherent universe. Then the whole effect is spoiled by the introduction of the most hideous, ridiculous NPCs. They are non-sequiturs, ruining any possibility of a unified style. In other words, they completely shatter immersion.

Which is a shame, really, because the actual meat of the game shows some great refinements. Cutscenes can be paused and skipped. Special ability animations (think of those long summons from Final Fantasy) can be skipped. There is a skill system similar to the FF XII license board but with much better organization and less hassle. Combat is challenging but the direct control gives the player a strong feeling of agency.

There's a good game in Rogue Galaxy, but it's bottom of the barrel when it comes to story. This might be the reason why I saw seven or eight used copies in Gamestop.

Friday, June 15, 2007


I wrote about playing Psychonauts two years ago.

I never got past the tank boss.

Gametap's got it, so I downloaded it to try again.

Now, let me preface by saying that Psychonauts has some of the best level/character design out there. It is absolutely brilliant in the way it takes thematic elements and translates them to gaming elements.

But it has a huge, huge problem.


The game is plagued with horrible, shitty, overly-complex boss fights. I managed to beat the tank boss this time around, and from there the story goes right into another fucking boss fight.

The camera angles make it hard to fight the bosses. The short lock-on distance makes it hard to fight the bosses. Every boss has two forms, an annoying form and an even more annoying form. I thought I was doing okay until I went to gamefaqs to figure out how to beat the goddamn Lungfish.

The Lungfish is the third boss. There are eighteen bosses.

In the future I'm going to try to talk about Psychonauts as if it were two different games: 1) a brilliant platformer with fun, intriguing collection elements and clever levels and 2) the worst game in the world.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Wedding Bells

Had a great four days away from work.

My wife and I went down to Athens, Georgia in order to see my old friend, Cash Morris, get married to the love of his life, Jacki Macker.

I've known Cash since 7th grade. Fifteen years.

I was away from Athens for 7 years. It's hard not to love that town.

But now I'm back and decompressing. Long drive. I'll put pictures up at some point.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Polynesia and the Spread of Humanity

Polynesians made contact with the west coast of South America as much as a century before any Spanish conquistadors, her findings imply."

This could alter (yet again) the currently understood paradigm of human settlement.

What I find particularly awesome is that this new evidence lends some credence to Buckminster Fuller's notion in GRUNCH OF GIANTS:

"Landed at many North and South American coastal points from Alaska to Chile, these raft-landed Polynesians separated into many groups as they moved eastward over many routes to both North and South America, to become known as the American Indians."

Monday, June 04, 2007


, Presidential Primary season.

Guess what, GOP, you're not the only party who can shamelessly exploit religious sentiment.

I'm asking way too much, but I'd like the head of the Executive Branch of the United States to not believe in some magical fucking sky-being and his wacky undead son. Please?

Really, whatever. Hilary wants to reassure us that she will carry a great huge bag of deity-worship into the White House just like any other candidate.

Edwards, too. And Obama.

Thanks, guys. That will serve us well - schizophrenia with a firm grounding in circular logic - as we tackle issues of global import.

I get that we will have a black lesbian President before we have an atheist President, I do. I just wish someone could articulate that religion should be made as separate from policy as possible. Could we get a candidate who will promise to disband the Office of Faith-Based Initiatives on Day One?

Just once I'd like to see someone called on it when they say that faith got them through a rough patch. What does that mean, faith? Faith in God? So you relied on a nebulous image of something good and powerful and loving to comfort you, visualization can be relaxing. Did you pray? So you talked to yourself, not a bad way to think through a problem. Did you go to church? Oh, so you spoke with friends and authority figures, that's another good way to work things out. Did you read the Bible? So you read a vaguely-written pseudo-history and managed to apply it to your situation and draw comfort from universal similarities in the human condition, cool, you should try using something by Mark Twain next time.

If you can't tell, I love both politics and religion.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Late Night Lessons

Just because
a movie is called Bang Rajan, and just because it stars someone with the first name Chumporn*, it is not necessarily pornography.

Submitted for your edification.

*Also noted, chumporn could either be a fairly banal sex romp (first set of definitions) or an extremely-disgusting-to-contemplate fetish (second set of definitions).

The former definitely exists and the latter . . . well, let me just invoke Rule 34 and leave it at that.

I Don't Get This Strategy

In a move designed
to make me hate everything tangentially related to music, has received a cease & desist letter from a law firm representing the National Music Publishers Association and The Music Publishers Association of America. I've been following the online tablature battle for at least fourteen years. It's disheartening to think there hasn't been some kind of compromise.

Tablature was just about the most important thing in the development of my guitar skills. Especially as a jobless teenager without an allowance. How was I supposed to buy 25 dollar tab books? I still remember when first went down, years and years ago. I was devastated. And they're still going through that bullshit.


I've been trying very hard to stay on the side of the artists, to hate the corporations, and to support things like Creative Commons. But it can be a real chore.

Copyright issues are starting to make me hate the artists themselves. Recently an Italian student made an animated Calvin & Hobbes short for his final project. It was clearly a labor of love. It was also issued a DMCA takedown by Bill Watterson. I understand that it's the creator's prerogative, and that Watterson doesn't want Calvin in any other form, and that he fucking hates those stupid stickers of Calvin urinating on things . . . but I'm still within rights to think it was a dick move. Really. Fuck him for that. Boo-fucking-hoo, a student practiced his animation skills on your precious strip.

In some parallel universe someone has re-animated Shakespeare and he is suing the shit out of a lot of publishers and film studios. Suing them into bankruptcy.


"In fact, U.S. copyright law specifically provides that the right to make and distribute arrangements, adaptations, abridgements, or transcriptions of copyrighted musical works, including lyrics, belongs exclusively to the copyright owner of that work."

"In so enforcing the rights of the creators and publishers of music, it is our intent to ensure that composers and songwriters will continue to have incentive to create new music for generations to come."

This does not make me sympathetic to your cause. I understand that you have a revenue stream that is drying up. Since music is easily transcribed onto computer and printed out, your service is not as in-demand as it used to be. Please consider this an opportunity to alter your business model.

Think about this: the people who create tablature on their own and the people who then look for and use that tablature are the same people who buy tablature. Do you think you should maybe engage your community before alienating it?

Fiction Addiction: His Majesty's Dragon

I'm almost done reading
His Majesty's Dragon, the first volume in the Temeraire series.

I had to hit the first chapter at least four times. I'd read, get bored, put the book down for a few weeks, come back, read, get bored, rinse, repeat.

Last week I slogged through the opening chapter using pluck and determination. Now I'm almost finished with the book.

Yes, it got much better.

For those unfamiliar with the book's concept, Napoleon is rampaging across the Continent and has set his sights on England. Pretty familiar story.

And there are dragons.

This ends up being much cooler than one might expect. The only deviation introduced thus far is dragons - no nods to any other kind of magic or fantasy.

One thing became clear to me while reading: the book is a Romance between a human and his dragon. Not in an erotic way, though I'm sure there is plenty of fanfic exploring that aspect; The treatment is purely platonic. In this respect it fits into the class of books like Where the Red Fern Grows or The Yearling, in which a protagonist lucks upon an animal that becomes a constant, enduring companion, forging a special bond which is unbreakable.

The author, Naomi Novik, has her own Livejournal with updates and interesting notes about her work, including some of the real-world places from the Temeraire series.

Turns out that she worked on Neverwinter Nights: Shadows of Undrentide. According to her bio, "she realized she preferred the writing to the programming, and, on returning to New York, decided to try her hand at novels."

Smart move.


It's old news now, but word is that Peter Jackson was set to option the books in order to bring them to the big screen. I can't find any updates, but hopefully the deals are progressing.


The natural progression of things, then, is the inevitable video game.

First, the likeliest result:

EA licenses the movies and makes a straight-up action-shooter. The graphics are good but the gameplay is repetitive and uninspired. The primary complaint is that it's just a retread of Lair, which was itself essentially a prettier retread of Panzer Dragoon.

EA goes on to make six games in the series that get progressively worse as they farm the work out to less-experienced dev teams.

Meanwhile, Ubisoft licenses the novels and puts out a serviceable action-RPG nearly indistinguishable from a beat-em-up. There are some unlockable combos but the whole thing feels uninspired.

Second, what I'd like to see:

A strategy-tactical game similar in form to Star Wars: Empire at War. The strategy map has simultaneous turns, where both sides give their orders and then the turn plays out. This map is used to manage supply routes, order your dragons, and keep an eye on the enemy.

Information in your territory will be completely manageable, but any time a flight is sent into unowned territory then the player must issue scouting orders, which the unit will attempt to follow (with the danger of being attacked/shot down).

The tactical map will be like Homeworld, a full-3d view of the battlefield. Play will be pausable, orders can be queued up, or the whole thing can be done in real-time. Formations will be the key to managing the battlefield and achieving superiority. While the player will be solely in charge of the dragons, they will fight alongside AI-controlled naval and ground units, scenarios which will require striking changes in thinking.

Dragon, pilot, and crew will have their own stats that are interdependent. In addition, units in a team will earn bonuses as they train together. Maneuvers will allow more sophisticated variations as a team advances.

There are several different campaigns with different levels of detail (much like Civilization's map size variations), including a worldwide map. There are several different countries available for play, but only ones which have a sizable dragon contingent.


Enough speculation. Since the author has prior experience in the game industry, it might be that the inevitable licensing will yield something grand.