Henchman Publishing

Saturday, March 24, 2012

2:25PM - It's not entirely up to spec, but...




Just a reminder that the party has pretty much relocated to Nodwick.com. I've gotten a few e-mails about how the comics on Gamespy haven't been updating, and that's true. It's because my login and password quit working a while back and I haven't been able to fix it. I can't even upload a pithy graphic for this post (at GSpy, anyway), which makes me feel like I'm posting without pants on, in a way.

Forget I typed that last part.

But everything's up over at the new Nodwick.com, so re-direct your browsers, update your bookmarks, and enjoy the new favicons and everything. :)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

1:08AM - The "if it wasn't for bad luck I'd have no luck at all" post...





As of this posting, I'm still feeling woozy and so are my various sites, kind of. The comics are updating, but my main blog at the new locale isn't behaving properly, and tech support won't be able to look at it 'till morning. Still, I'm not spontaneously combusting or phasing through the Earth's crust, so there's that. Check Nodwick dot com tomorrow, and in the meantime, here's what I was trying to put up for the midnight update:

Having a "productive cough" is one of those supposedly positive things that I'd rather not have most of the time. My kid's almost over his fight with this plague, though he apparently doesn't understand what "you did this to me" means, since it makes him laugh. Or he does understand and he's just evil.

Speaking of evil, Michael Eisner's film company is making another movie adaptation of The Garbage Pail Kids. For those who don't recall the horror the first time around, here's a little sample to either refresh your memory or help you understand the thousand-yard stare you might observe in those who saw the whole thing. It was the 80's, so of course there was an animated cartoon that even I have a hard time recalling. Maybe it's a defense mechanism.

I'm guessing the pitch for the film didn't sound anything like:

"Let's spend millions on a movie that's a parody of a toy line which peaked in popularity over twenty years ago. The target demographic is 80's nostalgia fanatics, people who collected sticker-cards* that often came with petrified bubble gum, and gross-out joke fans who think the Scary Movie franchise is too highbrow."

Much like Marmaduke, I'm a little baffled as to who's clamoring for this thing, aside from whoever owns the Garbage Pail Kids rights. I'd be more thrilled about animator PES getting work in Hollywood if this wasn't going to be his next big project. Perhaps the sequel can somehow tie in with the Child's Play horror franchise and the Cabbage Patch dolls that were found to be capable of eating not only pretend food, but parts of their owners as well.

* Full disclosure: I own a nearly complete set of "Zero Heroes" sticker cards, but I do NOT demand a movie about them.

I'm going to grab another cup of tea and try to figure out if my various technical difficulties are also being caused by viral infection. More posts (hopefully) on the new site tomorrow (including this one), along with stuff like:

• I'm not sure if I'm hallucinating this or not, so I hope when you you click this, you also see Peter Dinklage as the movie version of Wolverine. The fun continues with someone finally figuring out where the Empire truly went wrong: They should have skipped Jango Fett and cloned Tony Stark.

• Just in case you're having your in box filled with tales about the theft of Tide detergent, Snopes is not yet sure if it's true or not. There's at least one report of someone being arrested for stealing $25,000 worth of Tide, though with glasses like that, you'd kind of expect something to be amiss.

• What is true is that a 3D printer at the University of Vienna has set a speed record for the printing of objects. Granted, there are few uses for race cars about 200 micrometers long, but that's for the engineering department to work out.

• Have some poetic story-time, courtesy of the Daleks.

• By now, many have seen the trick of running uncooked spaghetti through hot dogs in order to have "threaded" hot dogs after boiling them. With the right kind of pasta, you can now serve Shoggoth dogs to your guests.

• I think my next game purchase might include the concept of being pursued by polite and gentlemanly robots in a faux-British countryside in Sir, You Are Being Hunted. Sounds like jolly good fun, eh wot?

• This seems a fine button-mashing send-up of all of those side-scrolling fight games from the 80's: Nuclear Justice has you trying to stop prisoners from escaping by beating them up. Get money for beating-upping upgrades.

Monday, March 12, 2012

3:13AM - More games, more thrones...





There's a new Game of Thrones trailer for your viewing pleasure, and even knowing what's going to happen, I can't wait to see the full show. I'm wondering if this, along with Lord of the Rings, is a sign that serious, dark, low-magic fantasy is what's going to dominate for the time being? The lighter side of fantasy media seems to be the BBC show, Merlin and the odd adaptation of Terry Pratchett novels. I'm hoping that someday we might get a Myth Adventures miniseries out of a studio somewhere, though I think it'll have to be after swords and sorcery have become even more mainstream.

It just shows that you can't always predict the future when it comes to movies. John Carter was set to have a disappointing weekend, as many feared that while it was pretty enjoyable, the public wasn't connecting with it in a way that usually precedes a nice, fat take at the box office. It pulled in $101 million worldwide, and did better than predicted. While still not a blockbuster, I'm sure it'll make back its costs at least, especially once it hits the home video market. Sadly, it'll probably mean fewer sci-fi films of its type in the future, as even successful ones (like Inception) don't seem to get the studios into the idea of trying something other than a sequel or a reboot.

Moving from sci-fi to sci-fi, Here's some concept art from an upcoming Mass Effect animated cartoon in the same vein as the one that was done for Dragon Age. I still haven't gone for Mass Effect 3, seeing as I waste far too much time as it is, it's still full-priced, and I can't get it via my preferred download service (yet). I may have to break down and watch it on YouTube, once the furor has died off enough that EA isn't out killing every walkthrough clip. Much like other science fiction franchises I get into that reach the trilogy stage, my only request is that it mostly makes sense and doesn't contradict too much from the previous installments. Of course, if they all managed that, what would be left to nitpick when out with the fellow members of the Council Of Nerds? :)

Yay, it's spring break for my wife, which means she can help watch the kiddo and I can get more done, like rectifying a mailing gap that has many out there missing books. I'll be schlepping more than a few pounds of them to the post office tomorrow, provided they haven't closed any more since last week. I don't know how it is across the country, but we've had quite a bit of consolidation going on, with the nearest location to me cutting its hours and the next-closest moving into what used to be a kind of depot that only the mail trucks used. I know the post office gets harped on a lot for being slow, but most of the time I'm stuck in line it's because someone has come unprepared, didn't fill out the forms, took several minutes insisting the US Post Office and FedEx/UPS were the same outfit, or (in one really egregious case) wanted to make sure the stamps they got matched the color scheme for their wedding invitations (I'm not kidding). So tomorrow will no doubt be filled with adventure that may give me a little time to stand around and solve crossword puzzles on my phone.

For those who don't know what crosswords are, it's like "Words with Friends" except you have to guess the right words and there are a lot fewer friends. While I go off and play with stamps, here's some other things that are at least as fun, if not more:

- I'm glad to see that Canada is going to take the hit for this one, though I was sure it was from an American establishment when I first read it.
- No, your eyes aren't deceiving you, it's the trailer for Stone Quarry Simulator, a game that I might buy once there's a mod where you have to help film a low-budget sci-fi series in the quarry.
- Rock Paper Shotgun has a list of recommended mods for Skyrim that might make your time in Tamriel a little easier.
- This may be far too cute for some, but Duck Life 4 is a game where you train up a duck to be a champion duck racer (and there are hats!).
- Geeky fingernail decorations have become a thing lately, though while this one is cool and all, I'd hate to suddenly have to pick up change or rub an itchy eyelid with 'em.
- From the "here's why you'll need a new computer" files, Crytek has put out a video of its next graphics engine doin' its thing. I find that if I play video games in the winter, it cuts down on my heating bills for some reason.
- I don't remember much about being 14 years old, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't buying a house.
- From the new site, here's something so fun I had to post it twice: The Willy Wonka "You Lose" remix. I can see this being used to illustrate points at meetings, actually.
- People Who Became Memes are, well... people who... uh...
- I love these kinds of puzzle games: Slicee has you slicing up various shapes (in as few cuts as possible) in a bid to make the parts side/fall off of the screen.

Friday, March 9, 2012

1:29AM - We will recycle images until the server morale improves.





Either the servers here are having a personal moment, or someone flipped the "disable Aaron's password" switch at Gamespy because I can't upload anything to this version of the site at the moment. I've altered the links to the comics above to go to the new website, so if you were looking for Thursday's FFN and were disappointed, it's right over here. If after reading it you're still disappointed, just consider it a lesson on the general unfairness of life (grin). I'm taking this as a sign to finish up a lot of the transition before anything else goes off-line unexpectedly, so if this site goes kaput, just freshen up the Nodwick.com URL and you'll go to where the action is.

I'm also posting all kinds of other weird and amusing stuff over there that hasn't always been seen here, so go and see what you think. I'm also working on more Interrupt Request, so a new episode should be up soon. I've also written a theme song for another video idea I had that I'll try out in the future. I will be singing this theme song, by the way. Without autotune. Of course it'll sound awful. I'm actually trying to make it sound that way, because it's comedy... I hope.

I've also discovered that sometimes more expensive equipment doesn't always yield better results. I've been using a DRK brand microphone with pop shield hooked into a Behringer preamp to record the audio for IRQ. It needs a lot of filtration, tweaking, and noise reduction before I start to sound halfway decent. After listening to a similar game-mocking production and reading what audio gizmos they were favoring, I found that sometimes the cheap stuff works better (at least in this case). I dug up an old Griffin lapel mic that had been sitting in a box in my "technology debris closet," plugged it in (sans preamp), and tried it out. It beat the other, larger mic (which needs a 9-volt battery, by the way) for voice quality and low background noise hands-down. I'm sure someone can tell me where I might be losing sound quality by going with the small plastic mic, but the trade-off seems to be more than worth it.

Can I now call my java habit a workout? A study suggests that drinking a lot of coffee can burn fat just like exercise. The only problem is the caffeine required is nearly lethal. On the positive side, if you do slip away in a fit of the jitters, any excess weight you might have won't be a problem anymore.

A quick Minecraft note about something I encountered, but doubt I can reproduce again without a lot of luck and effort. I don't play it too much because I stink at it because of time constraints, but I did try out the new release. During my usual mucking about, I built a short mine-track with powered rails. Now, either Java or Minecraft or both suffered some kind of memory leak, ate all my RAM, and slowed to a crawl while I was mid-transit from one end of my rail line to the other. I had to kill the process to restore computational functionality, and I restarted the game to see if it was salvageable. I arrived standing in the track bed up to my waist. Jumping restored me to having my feet on the ground, and I figured that since I was no longer in a cart, it had somehow been glitched out of existence. When I turned to go back the way I'd came, I saw that I had somehow warped the space-time continuum and actualized a number of mine carts (about eight of them) during the RAMpocalypse, which were spaced along the track behind me. If anyone can get that to happen again with a chest-cart full of diamonds, let the rest of us know how. :)

Back to drawin' and pixel-pushin' for me. Before I leave you to the links, here's something I had drilled into me way back when I got to write a Spider-Man story for "Spider-Man Unlimited" before my curse killed the comic before Marvel canceled the title. They were adamant that I spell the hero's name as "Spider-Man," not "Spiderman." This is a hard rule for the comic character, and a cartoon has been drawn to help people remember. When I asked if his web shooters were still mechanical or if they'd gone organic, that was left up to me. Weird.

And now, these:

- Just a reminder that in real life, treasure hunters aren't fire-eyed spellcasters or brooding champions of forgotten gods. Instead, they usually min-max whatever stats involve luck and electronics (proficiency: metal detector) and can get similar results without all the initiative rolls.
- Makeup, plastic surgery, and now the latest all-gender product seems to be Mantyhose, or male pantyhose. I think the problem with this is that it'll encourage people to become supervillains, or at least the sidekicks of the ones who laugh a lot.
- But if more dudes do turn to crime, DC Nation's Baby Superman will stop them.
- The president of Syria had his e-mail hacked, and has reportedly complained to his friend, President Skroob for suggesting a code Skroob uses on his luggage.
- Hanger 2, Endless Level Pack has you controlling the Spider-Man like hanger-guy as he tries to swing through new levels without losing all of his body parts.
- If ever they get t-shirts whose fronts are digital displays that can take feeds from websites, I'm totally wearing an ever-cycling insult from Martin Luther.
- Bioshock Infinite is going to have "heavy hitter" bosses to fight, including robot George Washington.
- And speaking of Bioshock, the devs are saying that player choices will affect how the game ends. I hope it's better than the first game which gave you "good ending," "bad ending," and "bad ending but read in a sympathetic tone of voice."
- From the "sounds like a neat place for a horror movie" files comes the Venetian Island of the Dead.
- Even though the concepts they discuss do show a lot of imagination, I'm kind of glad the Fallout franchise didn't involve time travel, magic, and derailing human evolution.
- Stop-motion genius PES serves up some "Fresh Guacamole" made from unexpected ingredients. And kudos to Showtime for encouraging animated shorts.
- The theft of Nic Cage's copy of "Action Comics #1" is going to serve as the basis for a comedy film. I'm glad they didn't add it to the National Treasure franchise...
- Never leave your cubicle unguarded, for your coworkers are a vicious and cowardly lot.
- "Losties" and orchestral music fans might like to hear 12 minutes of music and readings from Lost played live.
- Mindless destruction from an alien doom-machine is what you get in Alien Invader. Guide your walker-tank around various side-scrolling levels, showing the puny humans that they and their works are no match for your superior pew-pew technology.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

3:23AM - Don'cha love it when marketers try to predict the future?





NPR asked the question, "Is the dystopian future going to unseat vampires in young adult fiction?" That seems, to me anyway, too narrow a scope. It's not only comparing pretty distinct story categories, it's also asking what the future holds which, especially in entertainment, is a crap shoot where you often can't find one of the dice, at best. As a young reader, I devoured Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, and just about anything involving robots, spaceships, or both. Later, I went nuts for horror, then humor (mostly sci-fi humor, but Douglas Adams was a genius), and so forth. There may be groups that read based on trends, but I'd hope that people read what they like. What people like can be bleak futures as well as vampires, though if the vampires they're referring to are the ones I'm thinking of, I think it's pretty safe to say that disco-ball undead would make me long for a future with more radiation.

A list entitled Adventure Games We Want Back crossed my virtual desk, and while I agree with a lot of the games listed, I think they missed a few:

- The old SSI D&D games. I'm talkin' Pool of Radiance type stuff, where you rolled up six characters, gave them stupid names, and played with them like pixelated minis when combat started up. I'm not sure which rule set I'd want to see, but I did enjoy that you could bounce lightning bolt spells off of walls.
- Text adventures, but with a parser that's practically sentient. We can render faces to near-perfection, so why not take whatever is running the voice-helpers on smartphones and let them run a text adventure that's as long as a Robert Jordan novel? Using natural language (maybe even with some kind of constantly updating typo/slang detector) could make it a much smoother experience and effects of your actions could alter future events on the fly, since re-editing text is a lot easier than recording a voice actor's lines for every possible action your average 3D avatar might take.
- Bureau 13. This was, I believe, based off of an existing role-playing game of the same name, and I think I played it on an old Amiga 500. It was modern enough to possess 3D-rendered cutscenes and nice isometric animated characters, but the game itself seemed pretty broken to me, and I soon gave up. I still liked the premise (a secret agency that employs vampires, mad scientists, etc. as field agents), and I'd like to see them take another crack at it. I hope they keep the bureau's warning to not be conspicuous or let people know you're at all unnatural, which means the female agent in a silver bikini who pilots an egg-shaped robotic exosuit blends right in no matter where she goes.
- Neuromancer. Sure, we've got Deus Ex, but in a way, I'd like to see a cyberpunk game more in the vein of the Fallout series. Much like how the Fallout games used the 1950's and 60's vision of the future, cyberpunk was never so outrageously bizarre-looking and fantastical than when it was being written from the 80's. A revived Neromancer should look like someone grafted cyberware onto the Solid Gold Dancers and brought them back to techno-organic life.
- All of the adventure games that made no freakin' sense at the time. This is just so maybe someone out there could re-do these things to the point where I could have a chance to understand what they were about. Mostly, this is SwordQuest on the Atari 2600, and the Marvel Comics Questprobe series of games, which were pretty obtuse.

I will say I kind of disagree about reviving Leisure Suit Larry. I love point-n-click, but later installments (and attempted comebacks) haven't done the franchise many favors. I think it's partially because Larry's really a product of his time, and he kind of got less entertaining the better his graphics became.

I'm putting out a somewhat shorter linkdump this time around and inviting everyone to check out the blog over at the new Nodwick.com. I'm putting up stuff every day with some thoughts on this and that from yours truly. And the comics are there as well, so you don't have to worry about missing anything (unless I mis-key a date). Now I've got to get back to doing sequential art of some kind. Speaking of which, I'm concerned that Archie is getting into Funky Winkerbean-like depression material, as a character will develop breast cancer. I'm trying to imagine if the usual critics will be more upset over a storyline they deem too tragic for young readers or the fact that it'll involve the word "breast." Collectors might want to note that the "gay marriage" issue is going for $50.

Anyway, here's a few items to make your visit worthwhile:


- Here's a page with a clip from the upcoming Ultimate Spider-Man animated show. Thing the first: Spider-Man's voice is way too high pitched. Thing the second: S.H.I.E.L.D. has been buying guns from cartoon G.I. Joe army surplus. Thing the third: So... when is this Spider-Man going to get killed, like in the comic book?
- From the "if you hated mapping in video games before..." files comes news that video games can render whole planets for your questing pleasure.
- Minecraft is turning Japanese, it's turning Japanese I really think so.
- Use your geometry skills (as well as a love of filthy lucre) in Greedy Pirates. Throw, catch, deflect, or otherwise direct treasure so it lands in the chest. Yarrr, I say.
- I think this needs to be a "thing" at conventions this year.
- Time for a French lesson, class! Repeat after me: Je ne pense pas que la méthode de déplacement de la remontée mécanique est terriblement sûre ou pratique. Tres bien, tout le monde!
- And here's the final lesson of the unit, as taught by a guest instructor. Congratulations! You're now fluent enough to be a tourist!
- While the XFL was a disappointment for not at least having uniforms designed by Gwar, it appears that we might be approaching Blood Bowl territory anyway.
- It didn't make it to the stars, but it was close enough. A Lego and space shuttle fan uses a weather balloon (with a camera attached) into near-orbit.
- Anyone who thought Spider-Man 3's version of Venom would be great in a spin-off series of films, negotiations with the actors are underway.
- Working Stiffs is a good way to get over the Wednesday hump. You can feel grateful that no matter how much you dislike your job, at least it's not being overrun by the living dead.

Monday, March 5, 2012

1:32AM - I failed, but I may have the best outcome...





Viewers of some food-oriented cable channel might have seen a segment on a place called "KC Smoke Burgers." Their website is here, and the Food TV segment can be seen here. The subject of that video clip concerned a sandwich they serve called "The Challenge Burger." If you can eat all of it, your next meal is free or you can take a t-shirt as your trophy. This past Sunday, I went there with some friends to try it out. The photo to the left is what it looked like when it was served to me. Here's what it looked like when I felt something poking the inside of my stomach with what I'm assuming was a disapproving finger. My companions, as seen through my tears, were valiantly eating their burgers with various strategies:

- "Yank the Band-Aid Off in One Go." This works on the idea that the longer you take to down it, the more like a Bosch painting the inside of your mouth is going to be. This was employed by the guy who looks a lot like FFN's Nelson, and while he finished first, he walked around a lot. He also said blowing his nose afterwards was a mistake.
- "Milkshake Fire Brigade." Another finisher's method was to eat with a chocolate shake nearby with a few of its twin siblings standing by. It didn't deaden the pain much, but it seemed to help keep his biology from rebelling, perhaps via some kind of reward system.
- "Failure is not an Option." This is a test of will, and was successful for our third finisher. In spite of the heat, the trembling jaw muscles, and the way the lights seemed to dim with each bite, our hero made it across the finish line just by not giving into the complaints from his nervous system.

I got halfway through and employed the "I Don't Want to Buy a Case of Charmin" strategy, and decided that when my food feels like it wants to go out through the front of my torso rather than up or down, it might be time to give up on the free t-shirt. Even though the restaurant is just a few blocks away from a hospital, I thought there was a chance that the burger would be hot enough to cause my cell phone to lose signal at a critical moment, so I embraced my failure. I was told later that this might have been a wiser strategy, as the human body can't process all of the capsaicin (the stuff that makes hot stuff hot), and there are only two quite sensitive exit routes for the excess. A metaphor of unburned gasoline exploding in a car muffler was used as a teaching aid for this concept.

Anyway, if you love spicy stuff around the 7 million scoville range, this is the burger for you. It loses anything resembling flavor other than "licking Ghost Rider's habanero-covered head" about three bites in, but hey, free t-shirt if you make it!

As if we don't have enough ways to drain our wallets, Steam has just unveiled its mobile app for buying games. You can chat with friends and do forum stuff, too, but that seems similar to advertising a movie theater as a place to enjoy the smell of buttered popcorn. But what if you're a console-oriented gamer who'd like to enjoy the Steam experience without having to use a PC to play? Valve seems to be working on that part of the market as well. I'm not sure that blog post is accurate about "keeping PC gaming alive," though. True, it's a major contributor to the platform, and this article from the latter part of last year seems to bear out that PC gamers are alive and well. Still, I just prefer the interface possibilities via a computer (which I can use with a game controller, if I so choose) over the various consoles I've owned, but that's just me. I'm actually more concerned about computer operating systems being turned oversized smartphone OS's, which seems an odd fit for a desktop device. I should also note that I detest fingerprints on my screens, so I may be a bit biased in not wanting oily digits involved with opening Photoshop or something. :)

Hmmm... I may have understated that warning from my stomach earlier, as I seem to have some kind of high seas adventure going on in my digestive system. I hope that there's something pink in our medicine cabinet, or I might have to rely on the hypothesis that any pink substance is appropriate for this situation. I'll start with unraveling some of my wife's socks and work my way up from there. In case I don't recover, let these be my parting thoughts:

- I don't know if I'll even have time to try it out, but the upcoming online game, Hawken makes me think a Mechwarrior movie would be pretty awesome.
- Somehow I don't think we're going to see fictional drug dealers no longer using their ill-gotten gains to open bars or night clubs just because a real-life one wanted to open a comic shop.
- With all of the exoplanets we're discovering, a way of using spectral analysis might show us which ones have plant life. Let me know when they can tell me if it's just stuff like corn and trees vs. the ones that can walk around and eat your brains.
- Steven Moffat hints at (spoilers ahoy) what's coming when Sherlock returns. Though other than how the last season ended, he doesn't say a whole lot that's specific.
- Even though it's not meant to be a send-up of Mr. Holmes, the trailer for more Dirk Gently program(me)s makes me think they'd be great to watch back-to-back.
- Boom Balloon is a fun little game where you have to cut the strings to balloons, making sure that somewhere along their ascent they get popped. It's harder than it sounds...
- The hacker's dream with the semi-cute name, the Pwnie is a disguised power plug that does some pretty scary stuff for not a lot of cash.
- A pair of Game of Thrones trailers for you: First, the second season two trailer from HBO. Then there's the Disney version of the previous trailer.
- Based on averages, if you actually read all of the privacy policies you encountered in one year, it would take you 76 work days to finish. [ ]Click here if you have read and agree with this and wish to continue. :)
- And now, animation. Even if you didn't play the "Best games of 2012," you can enjoy a lot of them in Lego stop-motion format. Then we've got The Story of Animation, a cartoon showing how animated cartoons are created (and how much they can cost).
- Taking the place of the words/phrases that everyone assumed started tape recorders rolling if said over the phone is this list of words that the DHS is searching for on social media sites.
- If you think your fantasy novel is bad, check out what Tolkien thought of his own work.
- Evil Asteroids 2 is a particle-flow game where you direct planetary... um... output, I guess, at the titular evil asteroids so they explode.

Friday, March 2, 2012

1:47AM - Will Endercats be next? That would be kind of creepy-cool...





Minecraft continues its evolution unabated, and it's got to be doing something right since Notch just gave his yearly dividend, $3 million, to his employees. Presumably, it wasn't in diamonds. Anyway, the game just updated to version 1.2, and thus a trailer showing off some of the features was born. One of the new features allows for the creation of cat fountains in "creative" mode.

The Hunger Games movie is still looking pretty good. I'll be interested to see how the world and the revolutionary atmosphere are presented. It could be tempting for the studio to "take the edges off" so it's not as harsh or potentially controversial. A new clip was released where Katniss shows off her arrow-ing skills. For those who haven't read the book, the scene is pretty significant. She's being evaluated by the gamemakers, the ones responsible for designing the arena where the titular games will take place. Her deciding to capture their attention earns her an 11 out of 12 rating when all is said and done. Also, you get to see a Future Beard(TM) in the clip. It's also possible his face has been engineered to grow stubble that way, I suppose.

Speaking of clips, the eleventh Interrupt Request is up and running. The new drivers recommended by Nvidia don't seem to have helped things much, but then again, it's the loose nut behind the wheel that seems to be causing most of the problems. I'm feeling a bit like someone who's gone back in time along their own personal history and is trying to re-live everything the way it was, which in this case results in me thinking I'm a lot more powerful than I actually am. I also didn't die nearly so much before, but I also played a bit like my character was a tourist with a pot of coffee in him; every map marker was an invitation to explore and get XP/loot, whether or not someone had told me to go there.

And in other video game weirdness, here's the box art for Assassin's Creed 3. While fun (when you get past the DRM), this game is one where often the mechanics kind of got in the way of the story for me. It just seemed kind of silly at times, like how The Three Musketeers now inhabit a "historical" world that's full of steampunk weaponry and gadgetry that spills from every lace cuff, bodice, or cloak. Unless they have the new guy climbing trees, he's probably going to be in colonial New England, though a trip across the Atlantic wouldn't be out of the question. Still, I'm sure comparisons to National Treasure are going to be made, since secret rooms, secret societies, and over-engineered tombs/crypts/vaults are a staple, probably even in the New World.

Let's close with something completely out of the blue. Or rather, completely out of my mother-in-law's closet. When my wife was a wee tot, her father was clearing some trees that had chosen poor locations to grow, and with one stroke of a chainsaw, history was made. This tree must have had some kind of precognition about the future when it (and another tree, actually) had a vision of a popular Steven Speilberg production and decided to become a living tribute to his work. The saw was used to preserve a section of this fortune-telling tree, giving us what I call E.T(ree), the Extra Terres-tree-fall. If the resemblance isn't immediately obvious, it's probably because his guest role was ill-fated and doomed to obscurity. I fully expect one of those Howard Hughes-type collectors who hunt down other objects that wanted a career in show biz to arrive at my door with a suitcase full of cash any minute now.

I'm going to go wait on the porch for Mr. Moneybags, so why not amuse yourselves with:

- Does it say something about America that the first version of the $1 bill kind of looks like one of those Val-Pak coupons you get in the mail?
- Why doesn't the FDA warn us that slamming a pink package of artificial sweetener followed by a gulp of coffee will result in stop-motion 80's nostalgia?
- NASA's Kepler data suggests Earth-like exoplanets may be fairly abundant. Now if only they could find a spare jumpgate, derelict spaceship with a hyperdrive, or the instructions for some kind of FTL tech written on the side of a decent-sized planet, we'll be in business.
- Or we could use the apparently theoretical Alcubierre warp drive, which has the added advantage of wiping out whatever is in front of you when you arrive.
- From the "that was kind of unexpected" department comes news that a movie based on the Valiant comic, Bloodshot is in the works. I would've bet on X-O Manowar, m'self.
- What I thought was just a riff on those old VHS-cassette boardgames turns out to be a promo for a comedian that's also a YouTube choose-your-own-adventure called "The Dark Room."
- If you're feeling too chipper or want to research what strategies might help you in the wasteland of humanity's fall, here's an exhaustive list of post-apoc books.
- You only get a limited number of swings, but Building Demolisher provides some good, clean, destructive fun.
- I'm sure it was an ingenious innovation in 1266, but I'd hate to have been the patient that received a surgical procedure that included the use of a crossbow.
- Indy probably wasn't thrilled with the whole Crystal Skull debacle, but when was denied tenure, he probably thought hard about sticking his head in the Ark of the Covenant. Hopefully someone would find a way to cheer him up.
- The Lifetime channel has decided it wants a 10-episode docuseries about Bristol Palin. When did "docuseries" become a word, and was anyone punished for creating it?
- While we're dishing out the negative reinforcement, can we deliver some to whoever it was at NBC who killed the Inspector Spacetime web series?
- I like a little chocolate now and again, but this cake would probably make me never want to taste it ever again... for about a week. Maybe two.
- Okay, they were and still are cute... and they still have a thing for bananas. It's a teaser for the sequel to Despicable Me.
- I'm posting this because I've always wanted to use the joke that follows the link. Ahem... Now you can be just as dashing as Captian Sulu with his new cologne, "Excelsior." Set phasers to stunning! Thank you for your indulgence.
- A Tim Burton-esque puzzle platformer is to be had in the game Nelly. Guide Nelly through a not-so-nice mystical world she discovers after chasing a butterfly into a spooky forest.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

1:10AM - RPG, DMV, OMG...





With the upcoming Mass Effect 3 release, I've been reliving the second game without having to actually play it by watching/listening to it via (warning: occasional swearing) Spoiler Warning. The players, like me, didn't care for the Cerberus-centrism of the game nor a lot of the apparent retconning of how the Reapers worked, but they, like me, enjoyed a lot of the recruitment and side quests. I think the same can be said for the most recent Fallout games and the last two Elder Scrolls games (though Skyrim's main quest was one of the better written ones). Looking at Skyrim especially, it almost seems to have several "main" quests, aside from the fact that the one involving dragons is supposed to save the world. The quests for the Thieves Guild, the College at Winterhold, the Dark Brotherhood, and the Companions are among those that are pretty involved by themselves, giving you some measure of status within each organization (or at least, better swag). What I'm thinking is, would a game like [INSERT MAJOR RPG FRANCHISE HERE] be more enjoyable if you had several long quest threads that you could take or leave without one that you were forced to deal with as much? Part of the time you wonder how you can get away with ignoring some pressing issue that needs to be resolved over in area X because you're having too much fun laying waste to the bad guys in area Y. I'm probably almost asking for a massive cinematic RPG where what's usually the downloadable content is the content and the "main quest" is an optional download that I'd probably never buy. :)

There's no feeling like realizing you've been driving with expired plates/tags for a year (oh, they were due in February of 2011? Whoops...). Having the care of a kid means even less driving than usual for me, and I've been parking my car in our driveway after what I suspect was a street sweeper clipped the front quarter panel on the ol' Civic. Not being parked on the street, it wasn't subject to a drive-by ticketing, and I hadn't apparently garnered enough attention to warrant being pulled over since my tags became worthless. While getting my plates renewed (at a City Hall where personal property taxes are payable by cash or check only, yet you can use debit/credit on the actual plates. I hear it's because the tax collection is privately run and the plates part is public. Funny world, huh?), I was told that police cars have/are getting a new feature: 360 degree plate-scanning cameras, which can be used to see if you've paid up on your vehicular fees (though it appears to mostly be used in stolen vehicle cases, finding out who was at a crime scene, etc.). If it's not called pay-dar yet, I call dibs on coining the term. Anyway, the law enforcement angle isn't what makes me groan as much as the possibility that this tech will probably be mounted on billboards and be used to pipe ads into your vehicle and/or cell phone. The day when a future-car's AutoDrive(TM) computer is overloaded thanks to popup ads for roadside "attractions" (we have a remarkable number of windowless buildings with neon signs along I-70 in Missouri) flooding into the vehicle's HUD probably isn't too far into the future. I suppose if you've gotta exit the world somehow, it beats having the last thing you see be an ad for printer toner.

And speaking of future cars, India will start seeing ones that run on compressed air. I've heard of these in the past, and they sound like a cool idea for congested cities, though what would happen if one of these met an SUV or a city bus remains to be seen (beyond a possible sudden gust of wind). On the plus side, if it has enough capacity, you could run a pneumatic drill off of the "fuel tank" to remove/replace the lug nuts on flat tire, I expect. Were I certain these would make it stateside, I'd move to trademark the parody product name (minor language warning) Perri-Air for a line of (literal) gas pumps that offer some claim of being a premium product over that pedestrian "atomospheric" gas the plebes fill their cars with. Of course, some convenience stores are already installing pumps dispensing other stuff, so your choices when you pull in are probably going to expand.

From that, we can segue into another story about stuff you might have available in your neighborhood. Before we do, I need to preface that I'm not condoning or encouraging drug use of any kind; this is more a commentary on how convenience in obtaining relief from nasal congestion has (at least facetiously) shifted from the legal to the illicit. Confused yet? One might one posit that, in some neighborhoods, one could more easily obtain illegal amphetamines than over-the-counter pseudoephedrine products (nasal decongestants that actually work, darnit). For the cold meds that actually work, I have to find a pharmacist, show I.D., sign my name, and hope that I don't need more of the stuff than whatever the monthly allotment is. With that in mind, some chemically-inclined people have presented a paper (and really, don't try this at home; it's more of a social commentary thing) about how to synthesize pseudoephedrine from, well, meth. If nothing else, it could lead the way to some kind of recycling program between pharmaceutical companies and law enforcement, right?

Onward to my deadline-looming projects. I hope to have news of a card game being rolled out by (I think) Gencon, for which I created some artsy stuff as well as more t-shirts, the third FFN volume (which should be here soon), and some preview pages from the next ps238 book (the first stand-alone trade). That's at least a weekend or two's efforts, provided I have proper caffeination beforehand (that is, just below the lethal dose). While doing "research" for my various tasks, I found the following peer-reviewed items:

- I'm trying to decide: Is this a superpower or an homage to the cartoon version of "Sweet Lou" Dunbar from The Harlem Globetrotters?
- Here's a kind of possible prop-treasure hunt for Star Wars aficionados: Did a prototype for the Stormtrooper helmet appear in The Blues Brothers? And if so, who has the original the mall versions were made from?
- We've seen the cigarette holder one before, but doesn't Bill Murray make a pretty incredible-looking FDR?
- Here's some creepy-fun point-n-click with The Old Tree. You're a green... something that has to solve puzzles to... well, just give it a try.
- And from a contest to create a game around the theme of "alone," here's The Love Letter. You've been given a note inscribed with a heart, but you have to read it where none of your classmates can see, before the second period bell rings (in 5 minutes).
- Ohhhhhhh, who's getting a movie in 2014? Some-Car-Toon-Show!
- Johnny "Tonto" Depp is back in buckskins as The Lone Ranger begins production. Most of that link is technical and credit information, and there's no mention of werewolves, so... I dunno. Claim jumpers are still a possibility, I guess.
- As is often the case with cloned mammoths, flying cars, and artificial sweeteners that taste good, someone is taking a crack at getting a space elevator to work. They still need some kind of system to keep some obnoxious kid from making it stop on every floor.
- In other science stuff, a fabric that converts body heat into electricity is being worked out. D-Class subjects used for testing the invention have thus far experienced instantaneous formation of ice crystals in all bodily fluids followed by electrocution. Ice zombies remain a possibility.
- And in SCIENCE! stuff, here's how to build your own life-sized Aperture Science turret. I'm assuming they'll post the plans for the slug-throwing mechanism later?
- If you have $1.4 million and nothing to do with it, you could buy a town in Montana, for certain definitions of "town."
- There might be something brewing involving the classic RPG Baldur's Gate. Because you didn't need the rest of your life anyway, right?
- Previously, some concept art for a canceled Steampunk Batman game, Gotham by Gaslight was unearthed. Now, this site has some recovered video of the game engine and its awesome cape-rendering abilities.
- I'm probably late to the party on this one, but I didn't realize that this song inspired the theme to Futurama.
- Shouldn't Davros or The Emperor Dalek be center stage in The Last Supper of the Daleks, or is it whoever hasn't been exterminated that gets to be in the picture?
- Indi Cannon isn't a misspelled title for an article about Dr. Jones and his continuity. Instead, you're firing a fedora-wearing archaeologist as far as you can... into adventure! Gather coins with as few "Indi" shots as possible.

Monday, February 27, 2012

12:53AM - Statues distributed on schedule. Remain calm.





This is me, not caring about the Oscars much. I didn't see many films this year that would even come close to a major award, really. Even as a kid (when the Oscars was watched because there was no internet or YouTube to see trailers and "best bits" with robots & lasers in), I realized that my kind of movie was probably doomed to win awards for technical stuff, costume design, or maybe catering. It doesn't help that the academy is hardly a diverse group, making the awards not as meaningful as they could be. In my ideal world, the awards would be given by the Rifftrax guys (and their fans), but I figure that perhaps they should just let the accountants assign the awards, since that seems to be how they're picking what movies to make in the first place these days (this has been your moment of dark cynicism... or has it?). In a kind of related tale, Adam Sandler racked up a record 11 "Razzie" Award nominations, mostly for Jack and Jill. Speaking of which, that film has resulted in the internet forwarding something whose source viewers might find objectionable on comedic grounds. :)

I'm wondering what the total marketing budget for EA's promotion of Mass Effect 3 is, as there's yet another trailer, this one featuring what appear to be real actors with CGI scenes/insertions. Not much new is learned, except I didn't realize the glowy-wrist thing that's now a weapon has a kind of heat-seeking photon torpedo mode. I dunno if they're still planning on a Mass Effect movie or not, as they seem to have done nearly everything one can do in a sci-fi space opera (their TV Tropes list is incredibly long as it is). I suppose we could see Reaper-Slayers show up, which are even larger than the Reapers, who regularly feed on them every fifty billion years, and they're mad that we wiped out their brunch...

It's been a while since I looked at Fringe, as it was difficult to offer an opinion on how it was progressing without some more tangible developments. There were some creepy-interesting adventures, but little in the way of movement until recently when in the latest episode, we finally find out what The Observers are. They're basically Time Lords who talk like Vorlons. I had thought that given their name and the lip service to quantum physics the show occasionally gives that they were like the observer whose recording of data/events made it actualize. They'd be sort of the unseen ear that would hear every tree falling in the forest with no one else around. It turns out that the interference of an Observer is causing the big ball of timey-wimey to sort of come unraveled in spots, and like B-5's Captain Sheridan did with Kosh, a hero gets to be in the Observer's mind as he dies, receiving cryptic advice. It gives us a kind of endgame, I suppose, and it dovetails with the dramatic part of the show, so... I guess they've got the series finale planned out, if this is the last season after all.

The Williams clan needs to de-crap its house, desperately. And we're not the kind of household that buys ever gadget or a ton of furniture on a whim; we just have a bad habit of not being able to toss much out or donate it when the time arises. Not to mention that one of us is a pre-school teacher that has tubs full of rotating classroom materials and the other is, well, me. We finally decided to remove a big desk that wasn't seeing much use, and the difference in the office is incredible. I almost want to start a bonfire in the back yard and toss a ton of my garage sale debris, old computer parts, unwearable clothing, and papers I always thought someone with a suit and a badge might want to see someday on it and toast some s'mores. It made me wonder if houses are going to become less cluttered in the future as we all get rid of/stop buying actual books and other physical media in favor of digital alternatives. I still love my gaming and comic books which will stay put 'till their staples rust, but I'm wondering if my own kid will hit the "I want that non-physical thing for my birthday" earlier than I did at around age 12. And that's me calling C-64 games on floppy disks "non-physical."

I guess I'll take to my Matrix pod just to save on clutter, but only if it's made by Craftmatic. Hmmm... I may have just crossed into Wall-E territory, there. While I go sort out which dystopian future I'm aiming for, here are some other non-physical things to look at:

- Maybe this will help put the "un" back in "unlimited data plans?" A guy sued and won for AT&T throttling his phone's data plan.
- I was sad when Freakazoid left the airwaves. If they want to give it a literal reboot, they could give this a try...
- Wyoming is looking ahead towards doomsday while in the UK, it's solar flares and EMPs.
- Maybe you just feel like you work with the living dead, but Zombies, Inc. is the business sim you've been waiting for... if your mission statement includes devouring the living and feasting on their brains.
- As if the last movie wasn't a big enough insult to the memory of Indiana Jones, a new reality show wants to dig up back yards looking for buried treasure. I hope they at least call the gas company before they start... maybe...
- The trailer for season two of Game of Thrones is quite thrilling, though I still wonder if we're in for a Dragonball situation vis-a-vis the series and the actual books. I don't want sword fights to take up three episodes while Mr. R.R. Martin finishes page 534 of a book that won't be done for another decade.
- Keeping with Game of Thrones, here's a mashup of two previously linked-to covers of the theme.
- Steve Kordek, who revolutionized pinball by putting a pair of flippers at the bottom of the playfield, passed away last week.
- Sports with no helmets often result in rather humorous hair/face configurations for photographers. Olympic diving is no exception.
- When you're going to finally go for that big score, be sure that you've planned through how to get the loot back to your hideout.
- Aside from "how not to burn water," here's a list of common cooking mistakes and what you your kitchen has been doing wrong.
- Birdhouse? Nein. Nirdhaus!
- It's been too long since something involving The Lord of the Rings has been seen here, so have a mashup-song-remix-thing using footage from the movies.
- We all knew it. Mary Poppins is a time lord. I bet her bag was actually her TARDIS.
- The first of two games with familiar mechanics, Icy Fishes has you setting up chain reactions to free fish from their icy confinement so that you, an octopus, can nosh.
- The other is a kind of platform-based launch-upgrade game, Last Robot 2. Try to make it to space while gathering coins for new parts that help keep you from falling back to the planet below.

Friday, February 24, 2012

1:05AM - Ten is a milestone of some kind, right?





Interrupt Request turns 10:



Y'know, this whole YouTube thing just might not be a passing fad after all. And yes, I'm trying to get Josh to make a second appearance, but his performance-art muse strikes at odd times. Hopefully he'll record something with me on Friday or over the weekend. I just hope he doesn't learn any new words in the process; that'd land me in hot water.

Some cross-posting with the new site in the form of this bit about a study on problem solving, booze, and sleep loss. I'm wondering if those studies will appear on RadioLab sometime in the future, since they seem to delight in telling me how susceptible my brain is to trickery (both self-inflicted and from outside stimuli).

And speaking of punishing your brain, here's the trailer for Borderlands 2. The game looks like it's really going for the "big, dumb fun with loads of explosions" market, and there's nothing wrong with that. I came away from the first game feeling less than thrilled because of the single-player campaign (I'm told the multiplayer is the real reason for owning the game) having a typical "shoot at the right spot to kill the boss" ending along with what I thought were lackluster production values (too many NPCs repeating the same dialog, the use of masks seemingly just to avoid animating mouths, etc.). Still, the vehicle combat was fun, and I found I could eventually tune out the Claptrap robot dialog. It is refreshing to see a game that pretty much knows what it's here for and isn't going to be ashamed of it. :)

I finished reading Stephen King's 11-22-63 recently, and it's one of the better time-travel yarns I've read in some time. It's time travel setup is pretty unique: You can travel back to a specific date in 1958, you can stay as long as you like, you can bring things back with you, and whatever you change in the past stays changed when you return. No matter how long you stay in the past, in the present, you're only gone for two minutes. If you go back through the warp to 1958, you arrive at the same moment as before, but you've reset everything; if you want your changes to stick, you have to make them again. Of course, the past doesn't want to be changed, so things might start getting hairy. This is sci-fi Stephen King, and he's also in his element, which is to say, the past he grew up in. He's not done well with technology, in my opinion, especially when it comes to computers. Here, that isn't a problem, and I think he even gets in a few jabs at the way the world has changed since the heyday of The Rolling Stones (whose music the protagonist likes, which I think all of King's heroes do). Without giving away any spoilers, the plot surrounds a mission to significantly alter the past, a cross-time romance, and how far you'd be willing to go for what you felt was important. It's one of his better novels of late, and while it starts in Maine, it doesn't remain there. In other Stephen King news, a clip of him reading the first chapter of Mister Sleep, his sequel to The Shining, has surfaced for your viewing/listening pleasure.

I have to go figure out how to lure Josh near the microphone for the next episode of IRQ, probably by using fruit snacks. It's good training for when he's eventually placed in his Matrix-pod, so I call that good parenting (grin). Then his brain can get a constant feed of stuff like this:

- Enjoy two minutes of Pixar's Brave.
- Long story short: Bridge goes boom in spectacular fashion.
- Based on their patent history, here's a look at what you might expect "Google Glasses" to do.
- I don't know what Neil Patrick Harris is doing in this photo, but I approve of it.
- Neon Race 2 is a retro-ish wireframe-looking game where you drive your vehicle into red ones for points, dodge blue ones just because, and gather money.
- For that teacher in your life who needs to feel better about how poorly her students are doing, here's something to make test grading a little less tragic.
- As if we didn't know, throttling unlimited bandwidth is pointless.
- Video game physics fun with the latest in the GTA IV "Carmageddon" series, where the friction on vehicles is set to zero.
- This so needs to become a meme with legs (language warning in text form): The Scumbag D&D Player.
- There are cosplay outfits and then there are ones that you wish you wore to your job every day.
- I ran across a Tumblr that's devoted February to the greatest fictional bands.
- You know how some phrases can start to sound weirder and weirder the more you hear them repeated? Such is the case with this supercut of people from James Bond films saying "double-oh." I almost think a version set to the classic song "Summertime" needs to happen.
- J.K. Rowling wants to write for adults next.
- Our video-heavy linkdump is brought to you by the trailer for Wrath of the Titans. At least the action figure line should look good sitting on your computer desk.
- This might occupy you for a while. Killbot is a game where you, a killbot, has to escape the lab by using disguises and object levitation.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

12:54AM - Replicated drinks? A true warrior grinds things to fill his cup!





A certain warrior race contacted me to help promote their chain of Kahless Coffee shops with a line of t-shirts, and who was I to argue with a bat'leth embedded in my desk? There wasn't room for their company slogan, which was something along the lines of "if you cannot survive the barista, you are not warrior enough to consume our beverages." It loses something in the translation, I suppose, though perhaps not. They were disappointed we couldn't screen print on metal armor, but we promised to let them know the second we could, as if our lives depended on it. :)

I said I'd post it, and here it is. My first "chainsaw chair." Two v-cuts made the legs, and two longer, more arduous cuts formed the seat and back. There's a reason they don't perform surgery with chainsaws, folks. and a precision instrument they aren't. Even with the cut-out wood, it's still quite heavy. Also, if any of you are ever tempted to try this, I might recommend letting the wood season a bit more than I did. As of this posting, what was the inner "core" parts of the trunk are drying out and pulling away from the seat back, so my next step will be glue or more chainsaw. In either case, Josh was thrilled, but then again, he's thrilled when he discovers a new kind of fluff he hasn't stuck in his mouth yet, so I'll have to wait until his language skills develop a bit more for a real opinion.

Given the topics of the following link, I'd probably have to call it "not safe for work," but it could be passed off as educational. It's a Project Gutenberg item, and it's The 1811 Dictionary in the Vulgar Tongue, and it's a fun resource to page through. Reading this collection of slang is probably the closest I'll come to total linguistic befuddlement at non-standard English phraseology without losing my internet connection for five years or so. It's also interesting to see which words are still around after all this time.

John Carter, the live-action movie based on the Edgar Rice Burroughs stories, is apparently not tracking well with the public, given how much the film must have cost. I was unimpressed by the Superbowl spot for the film, but my interest has been at least revived by a fan-made trailer. The real question is how long until the first crossover movie with Pirates of the Caribbean gets made?

While at least half of you try to figure out a way to punch me through your computer for even typing such a film concept, let me offer this by way of distracting you while I make my escape:

- I'd never heard of this site before, but they make a compelling case for their 100 greatest action figures list, especially since they included ROM: Spaceknight and one of The Inhumanoids on the roster.
- I'm thinking that this lamp would go well in a dimly-lit stairwell with a skull beneath it...
- In theory, here are the instructions for making your own stained glass d20. I hope you have a laser cutter/etcher handy, though.
- Rupert's Zombie Diary is a true-to-life simulation of that time in 1902 when a wizard tried to take over London with a zombie army (ask your teachers). Learn various moves, buy upgrades, and show that wizard what-for!
- Feel better about yourself, if not the length of your arms, with this Tumblr blog called T-Rex is Trying.
- If anyone is giving you trouble over keeping an old C64 or Apple II alive, you might want to show them how many rather old computers are still running things.
- Adding to the pile of "might-have-been" Hollywood stories, we might have had Robert Downey Jr. playing Lex Luthor at one point.
- AMC has released a featurette about the digital effects for The Walking Dead, season two. I post it mostly because it confirms that nagging suspicion I had that the sky/horizon shots everyone posed in front of were fake.
- The owner of the world's most expensive classic car warns that you shouldn't invest in classic cars for returns, but because you love cars.
- The FBI is going to shut down some DNS servers to clear out a virus (or for whatever other reason Fox Mulder would give) and there's a way to check and see if your connection will be offline when they do.
- Whether or not you smoke, I think we can all agree that there are some things we just shouldn't do.
- My missing of Bashcon and the Old Pancake House was somewhat comforted by finding this recipe, but it's still no German Pancake.
- Further study of one of the first exoplanets to be discovered indicates that it may be the largest hot tub known to science.
- Adult Swim games brings us Captain Commander, a game that re-creates what a lot of us remember the Atari 2600 to have been like, as seen through a very nostalgic set of rose-colored glasses. Shoot everything that moves, get powerups, read funny text.

Monday, February 20, 2012

3:43AM - I'm a lumberjack and I'm not okay...





Image found here. I spent my afternoon truly in awe of my avatar in Minecraft. That guy must truly be an Adonis underneath that blocky exterior. The dude can take down a tree with his bare hands. Me, I spent an afternoon using a chainsaw and moving the results to the back of a pickup truck and I feel like I've spent a week on the torture rack. This lumber, mind you, was already felled and cut up into various lengths of "formerly a tree," but not the correct lengths (more on that in a moment). So, being the only person anyone knew who owns a chain saw, I was called into service and I dutifully made lots of sawdust. This was to save my wife's classroom budget a few thousand dollars.

This is what amazes me: You could, in theory, sell various lengths of unfinished tree-material to certain preschools for hundreds of dollars per log. There's an industry devoted to taking very simple items made of natural (that is, not plastic) materials for the wee ones to learn skills with, like, for example, logs. Let me state up front that (1) it's great when kiddos get to play with "real" materials. (2) Trees are awesome "real" materials, because they have rings, which you could potentially be the Lord of. (3) I'm beginning to think I could become quite wealthy taking my lathe off camping somewhere and setting up a mail-order business selling whatever halfway-smoothed out chunk of lumber I turned out to either an art gallery or a preschool. Anyway, the kiddos will have a bunch of properly-shortened (via chainsaw) logs to contain a digging area and a few others to climb on. If I hadn't run out of gas, I wanted to try making one of those chain-saw chairs (though not as good as in that clip) I remember occasionally seeing on those "Real Life Lumberjack Sculptor" shows or whatever was on A&E after it stopped showing nothing but Improv and WWII footage 24/7. Upon hearing my semi-lament, I was gifted with a log that I'm supposed to try my power tool artistry on at my leisure (though I suspect the chance to get rid of one more piece of fallen tree for nothing might have encouraged this present). If it turns out halfway-decent, you'll hear about it here. If not, I'll pretend its firewood and my trip to the ER will be a case of doctor-patient confidentiality.

So here's something that probably counts as a "first world problem" some people have. I ran across this cute animal video and made a bet with myself about what one of the top comments would be. I won the bet, as something like "turn the camera sideways" was present and being voted upwards. Maybe an intrepid phone company has already done this, and if they have, good for them, but here would be my request: Make a camera phone that shoots widescreen when you hold it like you naturally do: Vertically. It's not like flip cameras needed to be held sideways, and it's not a mystery how most people grip their phones. Maybe they could even make a digital camera setup that always shot widescreen no matter which way it was held, though I expect that would require either some mechanical bits, more expensive equipment, a loss in quality, or the consultation of a sorcerer.

I'm beginning to wonder if Facebook isn't going to find that it sort of reached critical mass for its usefulness and/or desired function a while back and reality is just now catching up? I'm not a heavy user, and with all the website retooling stuff I've fallen out of checking up on it regularly (I've not even read an article about that "timeline" thing). They had their billions-o-moneys IPO and everything, but online retailers aren't finding FB to be all that great, and it's starting to make me think of those restaurant or retail chains that are halfway decent but then go on an expansion spree that kind of makes them implode. It's almost like they're trying to remake what AOL wanted to be back in the day: The only place you'd ever go with big, shiny buttons, all of your friends, and none of that bothersome "world wide web" malarky to distract you from the next online game. I'm not saying FB is a bad thing or ruining the 'net; I'm just wondering if it hit some kind of sweet spot for social networking functionality a while back and is starting to get topheavy with corporate interests and things being grafted onto it that don't really add much to the experience. Or is it just me?

And I have another idear about new-fangled technology: Sometimes it's great when it's not working properly. This is kind of like what happened many moons ago when the pre-teen version of me found out out that if I balanced the dial on my folks' old TV set between channels 5 and 6 it would get Showtime. The setup for this involves my current PC, which isn't the most awesome box on the planet. It's a cobbled-together homebrew job in a plain case that was made to quickly replace a machine that lost its life in an electrical storm. This stopgap became a permanent fixture, even though it had one slightly irritating feature: The wires that feed the headphone jack are too close to the innards of the computer, as we forgot to run them behind some metal rather than through the spot where hard drives and power cables live. Subsequently, if I'm unable to tune it out, I can "hear" my PC chugging away at whatever it's doing. Recently, when I started recording video, I found it came in handy as I could tell if Fraps (the program used to record video game footage) was running, as it makes a distinctive purr on the edge of my hearing. I can also tell when the hard drives are pulling heavy duty, and even when my browser is experiencing a memory leak and eating up resources it shouldn't. What I'm saying is, I guess, is an app to do this sort of thing would be kind of neat, in a "I feel like a mechanic who can tell you how old your oil is by listening to the engine" kind of way. It only stinks that for me, there's no "off" button at the moment.

I was glad to hear that a good time was had by everyone at Bashcon this year, though my "friends" in attendance saw fit to torture me by sending me photos of what I was missing at the Old Pancake House. I'm beginning to see a certain captain's point about technology, though the threat is my stomach taking my body hostage and forcing it to drive a long distance to satisfy its lusts for powdered sugar atop breakfasty goodness. I mean gaming... yeah, that's it... :)

Just in case I'm absconded with for reasons listed above, I'd better get to the linkin':

- Happy Presidents Day (U.S.)! Here's your 34-foot tower of books about President Abraham Lincoln, and you'll need to read at least 1/3 of them for the report due in two weeks, which is worth half of your grade this semester.
- John Cleese responds to your futile comments & questions left on Monty Python YouTube videos.
- I refuse to try Nutella, not because I think it might be bad, but because I already have enough addictions which probably have already somehow doomed me to a poor end. But my wife's a fan, so I thought I'd pass this concept on.
- Pirates haven't featured here for a while, so here's Black Sails, a turn-based strategy game where you command a fleet of pirate ships to... well, plunder and shoot things with your cannons, pretty much.
- If you ever clawed back your life from the Civilization franchise, you might not want to read about their coming expansion, Gods and Kings. Not only has religion returned to the game, you can now craft your own.
- I've always found airplane graveyards iconic, but tank graveyards are pretty cool, too.
- Maybe alcoholism would decline if there was more a of a challenge to it. Like, say, drinking the world's hottest chili vodka before you could have anything else?
- Forget "hair in a can." Now you can rely on hair in a tattoo gun.
- A cute sci-fi point-n-click is to be had in Alien's Quest. Try to escape the clutches of the men in black at Area 51 with the help of a small pal and lots of useful objects.
- Not-so-cute sci-fi is to be had in the new Mass Effect 3 trailer. That makes two kids (if you include the demo) that have given their virtual lives to make you want to play the game. Also, I think the super-leap at the bad guy cut-away thing is pretty much done, now.
- Actress Judi Dench is going blind due to macular degeneration but doesn't plan to give up acting.
- A Community send-up of Doctor Who is going to become a web series. Now if they can orchestrate a crossover with Doctor Horrible, the internet will have fulfilled its purpose.
- If you're nostalgic for Baulder's Gate, here's how to mod the first game to play "inside" the second one. Like you were going to do anything important, anyway... :)
- And we end with Next, Please. It's a game set in another testing laboratory (I think) and you can turn copies of yourself into blocks so other copies can selfishly make their escape.

Friday, February 17, 2012

12:30AM - Episode seven and other inadvisable items...





It's not so much that I was efficient, I just "overshot" my mark for how long I'd be "filming" and wound up with another episode:



Episode eight is in post-production, and I hope to see if Josh will contribute to episode nine, since he's way funnier than I am.

The most recent FFN strip is kinda-sorta based on what passes for real life. Someone did play Mr. Killjoy as a character, and he did wield a weapon called the Sword of Vengeance. Pretty much everything else is embellishment on my part, but I can recall a time when "awesome magic weapon" meant more than just how much damage it did, though that was often (pardon the expression) a plus. These customized artifacts often paved the road to Mary Sue/Marty Stu territory, though a lot of times their "powers" were more about looking cool than they were about being effective against hordes of enemies. I can recall making up a blade that probably looked a lot like the one from Blackstar, whose chief property was having arcs of electricity between it and the ground whenever it was out of its scabbard. It probably also shot energy beams, but my shame-hazed memory refuses to give me all the details. Anyway, what it made me wonder is if there's an RPG system out there that could be called "My Campaign When I was Twelve." The powers/abilities would probably read like something from the Exalted game, but it would require that powers couldn't be used unless you had enough "awesomely cool" points devoted to tribal tattoos, leather trenchcoats, armbands, goggles, and all the other stuff that really serves no practical purpose. All character sheets have to be on ruled notebook paper, and nearly everything explodes when killed or destroyed. I'm sure something like this already exists, but if not... It could make all those notebooks you've got your original Basic D&D set stowed with into "research material." :)

The move is nearly complete to the new site. In case you're worried I won't run off at the keyboard about various things 'n' stuff, here's a treatise on using text adventures to enhance current-gen video games. There are several other links I've posted (sometimes in groups, sometimes by their lonesome) on the main page for your viewing pleasure. It almost looks like an actual website that wasn't, say, cobbled together with duct tape and string by a cartoonist who learned all of his HTML skills through posting images to internet forums (insert innocent whistling here).

And now I just had my plate added to as I have to go back and monkey with the rights claims on my IRQ videos. I don't think it'll be a problem, but I need to fix it so this experiment can maybe pay for Josh's eventual college education... or the down payment on his band's touring van, if I know my luck. Anyway, that, new ps238 pages, and more Epic Campain work are my weekend destiny, so here's yours:

- Yay! A Kickstarter campaign is going to make a Wasteland 2 game! Y'see, kids, back in the dark ages, there was this thing called The Bard's Tale, which you'd probably think of as a kind of torture...
- Speaking of apocalyptic wastelands, that's where the next Zorro movie seems to be headed. From the description it sounds more like The Book of Eli with swords, but hey...
- If you have a friend and you both hate yourselves, the infamous impossible "running" game QWOP now has a two-player mode. Try to keep the swearing to a minimum, people.
- I'd call this a selection from Software Pirates of the Caribbean were I in charge of naming the musical piece "He's A Pirate" as performed by 8 floppy drives.
- Effing Fruits is a game where you toss ambulatory and destructive fruit into a blender to (I presume) keep your juice company running... like you do.
- I know nothing about the video game Air Buccaneers, but from this page o' news they posted, I was interested/impressed to see a game where you can summon an elder god to wreak havoc only once, ever in the game. Scroll down until you see the second embedded video.
- Is it gimmicky to offer themed Monopoly sets? Yeah, but I'd be impressed if the ones for Starcraft and World of Warcraft had sub-board "expansions," like their video game counterparts.
- This could be the greatest Skyrim mod ever... to surreptitiously install on someone else's computer.
- And in other Skyrim bits, it turns out that Bethesda just put Morrowind and Cyrodiil in the game so you could see them if you climbed up high enough.
- The temporary suspension of The Colbert Report is due to some kind of family emergency.
- There's nothing like having your hobby show off a practical side. Like a guy who's love of remote-control vehicles has inspired him to dig out a basement over several years using R/C construction vehicles. My kid would beg to be adopted by him, FYI.
- He may have taken a few roles that were less than dignified, but I like this "Lots of Lloyds" collection featuring caricatures of Christopher Lloyd.
- I don't own an iPhone, but I'd still love to make my own TARDIS phone cozy.
- If you think of those runway shows as concept car shows for wearables, they're not quite as odd... but there are times where you'd love to know what the thought process was leading up to the results.
- This kid who, through the Make-A-Wish foundation, got to ride around in a custom-built R2D2 shows he's got more imagination than I ever had.
- A collection of Soviet-era space-station propaganda posters shows in at least one image that the USSR was either in league with the Daleks or had a plan to shoot them into space.
- Have some strategy and sword-swinging fun with Samurai Sweeper. It's a combination of wargame and Minesweeper as you hunt down the bad guy in each province, explore & fight, buy upgrades, and save the land.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

7:55AM - Because I'm getting more techincally proficient, here's episode six...





I hope some of you have been waiting for the sixth Interrupt Request, because here 'tis:



On purely technical grounds, I think I've improved the sound a lot since the first go-round, thanks to an old copy of Cool Edit Pro I was able to get working on my Windows 7 machine. Josh didn't join me this time, as he was too busy squishing through the melting snow at a nearby park with his mom, but I'm sure he would have pointed out rocks and trees with gusto.

A 40-minute in-game video from the Mass Effect 3 demo has been released on the interpipes. There's another multi-part look at the demo featuring a female Shepard (check the user's profile for the other parts). While it's just as cinematic as previous installments, Shepard and the Admiral seem to be reading off a list of action movie quotes with only "I'm getting too old for this" left to wonder why it wasn't included. If I read this demo correctly, the game is going to irk me in a way I mentioned in the latest IRQ: It's going to have an illusory ticking clock. Specifically, while you're off trying to get your fleet together, the Reapers will supposedly be exterminating Earth. I'm betting that unless you fight them off (though keeping them as a threat, of course), their rampage will last exactly however long it takes for you to go out and do whatever you want before starting your endgame attack. This could include every side quest and resource gathering mini-game, constituting weeks of "game time." On the one hand, I do like sniffing out every last bit of content in a game I enjoy, but on the other, it kind of feels cheap when I'm being told that time is of the essence, that people are dying, the world is at stake, etc. when it's really just an illusion. The original Fallout had a time limit on getting a water chip for your vault, and the old text adventure Suspended had a sliding scale of how long it took you to solve the game vs. how many casualties the time you took caused. Sure, you can "lose," but I thought that was part of the fun. At least I can imagine any extra detours around the galaxy are irritating the Reapers who can't begin their final push until the Normandy shows up.

As usual, these are too late for use right now, but you can always bookmark for future holiday deployment: First, a zombie Valentine, some celebrity portrait Valentines, and... Help me out here. These are old Valentines, and they weren't meant to be dirty, and the language is technically safe for work, but these vintage Valentines not only scream "double entendre," they yell it through a stadium-sized sound system. There are also cards from Game of Thrones. Lastly, it's technically more cost-effective to grow your own roses than buy them from a florist year after year.

Moving over to the new site is nearly complete! I'm getting the t's dotted and the i's crossed, firming up my standards and practices, hunting for synergy and all that stuff. Some may have noticed that the main site URLs went a bit off-kilter earlier in the week; we assure you this is completely normal and the sites will right themselves before the warp coils fully engage... or so my tech person tells me. He laughs a lot when we talk, which I think is a good sign, right?

Just in case everything on my end explodes, here are some functional sites with more of the content I know you can't resist:

- If you haven't seen it already, here's the trailer for Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter. If it does well, can someone pick up another weird Lincoln-era property called The Amazing Screw-On Head?
- And on the heels of the next release in the video game series, they're making a movie based on Twisted Metal. I refuse to believe this is an actual video game movie if Uwe Boll isn't on the credits list.
- Sadly, it appears that paying cash for stuff in airports (or at least, coffee) is a sign that you might be up to no good. I'd say that someone looking to do something involving taking a bunch of people with you wouldn't involve cash-for-coffee, but a lack of indignation or anger over the java's price.
- It's got the wanton destruction of the old Paperboy arcade game without the legwork: Baseball Smash has you take your sandlot skills and pit them against windows, cars, and other tempting targets.
- If you're really going to go all-out on a castle for your next miniatures game, may I suggest you consider a Bonsai-based structure?
- Michael Bay is going to direct Transformers 4. He's starting to seem like hurricane season: You know it's coming, there are names involved, and the smartest thing to do is evacuate.
- NBC is going to make a series based around Hannibal Lector and his pals. I'm wondering if someone said "it'll be like Dexter" and did so with a straight face.
- Nothing says you're honoring the passing of a singer like Whitney Houston more than raising the download price for her music a half hour after her death.
- If you'll forgive the term of art, this next link tries to calculate how badly the comic creators behind 2012's comic book movies got screwed out of reaping the benefits of their creations. Work-for-hire is a harsh mistress...
- The latest "you're the subject of a SCIENCE(!) experiment" game is called Sqr. Use the physics-altering properties (as well as stuff like boxes) in each room to reach the exit.
- Nothing is final yet, but there appears to be a Darkover TV series in the works. More for me to read so I can properly complain and/or compare when/if it airs... :)
- If someone in your household can't find their frilly undergarments, you may be the victim of a tortoise.
- I can only hope that the eventual (if ever) reform of trademark/copyright law might come from childish corporate stupidity like this.
- We close with Mr. Bree Returning Home. It's a puzzle platformer where you're gaining new abilities as you remember how to do them, along with snatches of what you did previously that got you into this mess...

Monday, February 13, 2012

1:18AM - Militant about pacifism reporting...





After posting one of the many pacifist approaches to video games recently, I've seen several articles and even heard a report on On The Media about this new "trend" in video gaming, as if all of a sudden, players are deciding that violence just isn't their bag anymore. This isn't really a fair presentation of this behavior, as anyone who has ever seen Sims trapped in burning houses or Roller Coaster Tycoon virtual park-goers board a ride that ends with a ramp into a wall will tell you. Not to mention that the games cited at the beginning (Deus Ex and Metal Gear) have the pacifist options not only built in, but they're often easier to use (tranq weapons are often overlooked game-breakers). Also, there's what I often call the "Doctor Who method of mass murder" in games, where you don't personally take anyone out. Instead, you either trick someone else into doing it for you or you push a button, set off a device, etc. that erases the bad guys, usually via a series of more complicated or skill-based tasks. Use of proxies isn't mentioned, like in Fallout 3 when you have the Fawkes companion around; he'll pretty much wipe out anything that crosses your path without you even lifting a finger. Why all the sudden interest in people playing games with the potential for enormous acts of violence turning to non-violent play styles? My guess is that any time something has a bearing on the brutality of gaming environments, that becomes the focus even though it's really only one part of a larger idea. The OTM story touches on some of the concepts below, but then keeps plowing on past it: Games are toys, they'll be played with, and it's fun to try and take them apart or misbehave with their original intent, because:

- It's a challenge. There's a reason why "achievements" exist, and it's something missing from OTM's report, above. Yes, a lot of these games are single-player, but they're almost all linked to a roster of things you can do in the game to get a little "que bonus!" graphic next to your name. A lot of players might want to get all of the stars in a Mario game, but I think fewer would if there wasn't a way to document it for your pals to see. Also, once you've mastered a game to where you can finish it with ease, a reason to replay it helps to add value. I'm wondering if some reporters think the point of Batman: Arkham City is to avoid criminals and look for Riddler clues.
- It gives players choice, or the illusion of choice. While level design usually follows a linear model, the style of play does appear to be expanding. In the past, you had separate games if you wanted to shoot, sneak, or skill your way through a scenario. Now, you can do all three in the same game, which allows for nonviolent options in games where you have city-leveling firearms at your disposal. Sadly, a lot of games don't offer much in the way of lasting consequences for blowing up or not blowing up something/someone, as that would require a more complicated plot.
- I'm going to get away with doing the opposite of what "they" want me to do! While more often than not, players are just finding Easter Eggs or hidden ways through a game, in rare cases playing counter to what the game expects of you can reveal gaps in the game's code. Perhaps a wall wasn't meant to ever be reachable, but a movable object can be used to springboard up to it and you can pass through, getting "outside" of the level. You feel a bit like Indiana Jones in The Matrix, blazing new trails for your fellow gamers to follow. Tell someone they can't save the kingdom without murdering dudes and several players will shout "oh, yeah?" You'd get a similar reply if you told them they couldn't murder a single dude, including the dragon guarding the castle.

The story from On The Media seems to forget its own history, as they ran a piece several years ago where a reporter talked about how his own young daughter drowned an unhappy customer in her Roller Coaster Tycoon game out of frustration that he couldn't be made happy. This passed without comment on gaming violence being a trend in all-ages games for some reason. Then there were other stories from the same time frame about "opposite" behavior in GTA III where players decided to grab ambulances and pick up injured people or The Sims Online, a pretty non-violent game, that developed its own version of the mafia. For more on this, they could have looked at two relevant TV Tropes pages (warning: these are TV Tropes pages) on Video Game Cruelty Potential and Video Game Caring Potential. I'm not upset that the whole "violence in games" concept is being brought up yet again. I'm just amazed the real core of the story, that games are now so complex we can do things the designers never really intended or emphasized, was pretty much glossed over.

Turning from one "get off my lawn" topic to another, DC Comics has released some images from its Earth-2 universe, which lets writers kind of do whatever they want without (much) fear that Bob from Marketing will tell them they can't have a female version of Lex Luthor kill Superman with a Kryptonite yo-yo or something. The costumes are interesting, but they seem to have a case of what I'd call "random organic textures" showing up, mostly if a hero has metal bits around their wrists and/or ankles. Then there's Power Girl. The article laments the removal of the hole in her outfit over her cleavage, but it overlooks something even more fundamental: Some letters, in this case, "P," don't really look great on a heroic costume (though there can be exceptions). I could only think of two other attempts to "P" on an outfit: Puck and Prime (who kind of cheated by basically shaping it like a shield). Often, you're better off picking a symbol or logo. Other than the fact that most comic-book chests don't give you a ton of room to show off a letter without it getting distorted somehow, do you think Batman would command the fear he does if he sported a big "B" on his pecs? His sidekicks are the ones with the "R" on display, and look what keeps happening to them (though the cape with the bright yellow interior might help with their injury histories). :)

This looks like a good place to segue into another comic book item, the upcoming Doctor Who/Star Trek TNG crossover! Dare we hope for something more groundbreaking than even the fabled 'Trek team-up with The X-Men? I'm just hoping for some kind of special edition "Enterprise Bridge with Blue Police Box" playset to come out of the deal. We've also seen Amy making Star Trek jokes for some time now, so I'm sure her knowledge of phasers and dilithum crystals should become quite practical (and funny, I hope).

Once the Doctor and his companions are done there, maybe he (or what's left of Torchwood, I'm not picky) could nip on over to Minnesota to see why foam growing on pig farms is causing hog barns to explode. I blame the Zygons, because someone has to have them doing something eventually, right? Okay, onto the good stuff:

- Need some quick cards for February 14th? How about some featuring Ancient Greek Lady-Monsters?
- Bill Gates wrote a simple game for IBM PCs a long time ago. Now, you can play Donkey.bas on your iPad, because... reasons.
- I don't know why this works, but it does. Presenting Derpy Quinn.
- Why has no one ever made a game about how cats can naturally stretch their necks and use their heads as weapons until now? Cat Stretch is here to fill that void.
- Sticking with bat-stuff, here's Batman as directed (in movie poster form) by several famous moviemakers.
- An artist whose work I didn't even know I appreciated passed away recently. Adam Adamowicz was the concept artist for Fallout 3 and Skyrim.
- Did someone say Skyrim? Again, even if you don't play, this video of proposed mods that screened at a design and creativity conference earlier this year is pretty fun to watch. It's also set to the best song remix involving arrows and knees I've heard to date.
- If you're like me, and I know I am, you grew up with the images from the war on drugs that had lots of illicit plants or powders in brick-like bags. I have to say this is the first time I've seen what 15 tons of meth looks like, along with its "official" container.
- In case anyone has been searching for a certain video game walkthrough for the past 30 years or so, this might be what you've been looking for. Wakka-wakka, indeed. :)
- Thanks to Modern Science(TM), getting your cat ready for travel has never been easier!
- And if you're visiting one of the colder regions of our planet, be sure to bring your self-packing snow removal cat!
- There are times when I wonder if I could just retire comfortably instead of upgrading whatever I blast pixels with, as the next Unreal engine will require a device at least ten times as powerful as an Xbox 360.
- Universal Studios is looking to make a movie currently called Dracula: Year Zero, which looks to draw upon history a bit more than most films about ol' Vlad Tepes.
- My Dinos and Me is a unique partnership between you, a guy who can shoot monsters, suck up their remains, and feed them to your dino, who continues to eat monsters while you try to blast the UFOs that appear to be where the monsters are coming from. Simple, right?

Friday, February 10, 2012

1:02AM - He wants our memories to have a "Special Edition," too...





I talk to a great many people who dislike any bad-mouthing of George Lucas and what he does with his own creation, the Star Wars franchise. However, I don't know anyone who thought the alteration of the scene involving Greedo being redone so that Han Solo didn't shoot first was a good idea. Han was a pirate, a smuggler, and, let's face it, a criminal. His journey from hooligan to hero is one of the best things about the Star Wars saga, and Lucas didn't do any favors to his work by changing it. That's practically ancient history, but there's a new twist. Now, Lucas is claiming that Han never shot first. He says:

"The controversy over who shot first, Greedo or Han Solo, in Episode IV, what I did was try to clean up the confusion, but obviously it upset people because they wanted Solo [who seemed to be the one who shot first in the original] to be a cold-blooded killer, but he actually isn’t. It had been done in all close-ups and it was confusing about who did what to whom. I put a little wider shot in there that made it clear that Greedo is the one who shot first, but everyone wanted to think that Han shot first, because they wanted to think that he actually just gunned him down."

First up, George, you can re-do and re-master and re-shoot your films all you want, but don't try to start claiming we've always been at war with Eurasia. Secondly, we fans don't want Solo "to be a cold-blooded killer." What we want is to see how a person goes from being a self-centered felon who works for the intergalactic mob to being a leader in a struggle to overthrow an evil empire. Instead, you want us to think he's all about fair play while he traffics stolen goods and who knows what else? As exhibit B that he's trying to alter the timeline, here's an excerpt from the original 1976 script for A New Hope:

HAN: Even I get boarded sometimes. Do you think I had a choice?

Han Solo slowly reaches for his gun under the table.

GREEDO: You can tell that to Jabba. He may only take your ship.

HAN: Over my dead body.

GREEDO: That's the idea. I've been looking forward to killing you for
a long time.

HAN: Yes, I'll bet you have.

       Suddenly the slimy alien disappears in a blinding flash of
       light. Han pulls his smoking gun from beneath the table as the
       other patron look on in bemused amazement. Han gets up and
       starts out of the cantina, flipping the bartender some coins
       as he leaves.

HAN: Sorry about the mess.


So Han was drawing his gun and expecting that Greedo would miss, then he'd pull the trigger? Even law enforcement shoots when they get the chance if a gun is being waved in their face, and I'm pretty sure that Solo is about as far from a cop as you can get without giving him a Thompson in a violin case. What's truly mystifying about this whole thing is why Lucas isn't doing what I'd expect: Embracing the love people had for that scene as something he meant to do, that it's his gift as a master storyteller on display as a perfect moment of establishing a character. Maybe he's got this weird "heroes must always be heroes even when they're criminals" thing in his brain that won't let him ever see Han as anything but the General for the Rebellion he eventually becomes. I'm almost thinking someone could make a great "Brewster's Millions" version of Lucas' life, where a schlub inherits some amazing empire built on a nerdy sci-fi franchise, but to collect on the billions it's generated, he has 30 days to make everyone hate said franchise. If anyone wants to start filming, be sure to save the footage in its raw form so you can add a bunch of CGI to it later for the "special edition."

I'm now too exhausted to say much about the revival in the works for Space: 1999 2099. I predict that at least one villain in the show will be defeated by Spider-Man 2099. If not, the writers need to be fired. :)

Moving on, in my travels around Skyrim as I "scout locations" for Interrupt Request, I'm getting the feeling that Bethesda may have over reached a bit on how their engine and game mechanics can handle what they want to let you do. Specifically, I'm referring to becoming an assassin with the Dark Brotherhood. I'm probably going to skip those missions for IRQ, but they're interesting for some parts of the story structure (along with the bits where you're in an iron coffin). The Dark Brotherhood does have a few odd practices for an organization devoted to killing for hire; If you're a secretive and shadowy bunch, having a distinctive uniform that's presumably to be used "on the job" probably is a sign you need to re-think the whole "secretive" thing. Also, "assassination" can be anything from a high one-handed weapon skill + dagger + sneak attack (which is pretty expected) to what I'd call the "unskilled but willing to try" school of assassination, which is often much noisier and has more undesired attention involved. No experience? The Dark Brotherhood is hiring (as is everyone else, so maybe it's a regional thing)! I did find it odd you couldn't ever use disguises or even factional dress as in Fallout New Vegas, which would have not only made infiltration more fun, it would have made it seem more "real." Nobody seemed to question when I showed up to impersonate someone or pass myself off as a soldier while dressed in the robes of an archmage and an ancient stone mask that boosted my powers.

But the assassin quests highlight something I like about Skyrim: No morality scoring system. While I always strive to keep my karma in Fallout high, as it generally gets you more loot/good stuff in the long run, not having it in this game makes my decisions more poignant. I don't have a preset notification system that awards me "good" and "bad" points for doing things, so I have to decide based on my own if I want to ally myself with people who kill strangers for money. Also, I'm not penalized for doing something that I consider to actually be in line with goals I've pursued as "good." For example, in the assassins quests, I'm eventually given the chance to take out a really, really important political leader. In Fallout, assassination of this sort would probably be a "Bad Karma" activity, but I'd spent time earlier in the game fighting against this guy's armies. I figure that ending his existence would be within my character's scope (though signing up with the Dark Brotherhood in the first place might not have been, I guess). It's kind of like finding a game with no repeated combat taunts; you start to think that maybe less is more in some cases.

After my voice returned and I was no coughing like a chronic smoker who'd just gotten a face full of fresh-ground pepper and mold spores, I was able to record and edit the fifth Interrupt Request episode. My "special guest" who joins in about halfway through was fun to have along, though it made combat difficult. Also, if anyone is concerned, my setup doesn't allow him to actually hear the game as it goes, so mostly he gets into the scenery and strange people running past... and "falling asleep." Maybe at some point I can let him listen in, as soon as I can find a headphone line splitter and get him to agree to wearing any kind of headphones (at low volume, of course).

By the way, these videos aren't just a way that I can come up with a "legitimate" excuse for playing video games. They're to get me used to uploading stuff that I have a more personal hand in via some kind of performance. I'm also hoping that I can get to some decent level of speaking skill if I have to listen to myself without resorting to some kind of dull course in how to run one's mouth. I've got another video project idea in mind, and this one would be completely original. However, I need to do some green screen work, and Adobe products aren't working for me. I've followed the tutorials but it's not working for some reason. I could still tinker with it, but I'm wondering if there's simpler or more straightforward application out there that doesn't have so many bells and whistles that I don't really need. I've heard Sony Vegas is good, as is iMovie, but I don't have a Mac, so... anything out there from freeware to "it came with my camera" to "it's expensive, but any idiot can use it" to suggest? Thanks in advance!

- So that whole space core mod thing for Skyrim might be more than just an amusing item for your inventory. There's a suspicion that it may lead to a Portal 2-themed quest, somewhere. Now if only we can get a shout of "Fus Ro SPAAAAAACE!"
- Speaking of science, here's a page of images and a sales video for an IBM cold war era defense system. It's kind of like the hulking old man to the W.O.P.R. computer from Wargames.
- Errors of Reflection is a "spot the difference" game, except the nearly-identical scenes are shown as reflections of one another.
- There's no concrete studies that Minecraft players are obsessive in any way, even if they're trying to build a scale model of Azeroth
- I've seen a great many things done with old VW Microbuses, but this was a new one for me.
- Concept cars are so passe. So instead, here's a gallery of concept flying cars. The "flying" part is also largely conceptual, so just enjoy them the same way you might enjoy vehicles from The 5th Element or something similar.
- This, also, is concept art, but I can see some intrepid modder making it reality in short order: The Xbox of Bag End.
- Deciding that he's not going to come back, the FBI has released Steve Jobs' FBI file. I'm sure mine will eventually just say "Who?"
- Yes, it's a Gawker site, and the language is hyperbolic in the use of the title "Death Stars," but it's still rather disturbing that airspace has been opened up to drone traffic, which could be everything from a live Google Street View to pretty much anyone else.
- If Steven Moffat really wants to give his fans the biggest present they could ask for, this would be the trailer for it.
- Double Fine, the company lauded for their imaginative video game, Psychonauts, has hit $1 million with its kickstarter campaign to fund a new adventure game.
- Here's a good way to start the weekend: Super Mario Bros Crossover 2.0. Play Super Mario Bros as any number of classic Nintendo characters... if you can. Some heroes just aren't made for the Mushroom Kingdom.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

2:55AM - ABC goes up the River...





The next show that probably wants to fill that Lost-shaped hole in your life aired tonight. Entitled The River, it uses a reality-show and found-footage format, which works in its favor, at least for summarizing who the characters are, allowing them to info-dump about themselves without it coming off as unusual. The producers of Paranormal Activity are in on it, so no surprise as to how it was set up. It also co-stars a familiar face, that of Paul Blackthorne, who I think was mis-cast as Harry Dresden (he just wasn't cool-handsome-nerd enough for the role, I think). He's one of the crew for the fictional production team looking for a lost explorer. The production hopes to heighten the dramatics of this search by bringing along the explorer's wife and estranged son. After Terra Nova, I was hoping to not see "daddy issues" showcased for a while, but it's not nearly as all-consuming as that seen 83 million years in the past.

Much like Lost, we have flashbacks along with a weird jungle area that's forbidden, or, as described in subtitles, "[UNTRANSLATABLE]." This was said by the daughter of what I'd say was the show's Chief Engineer (he's even given a Captain Kirk-esque impossible deadline to fix the ship). She's got some psychic mojo going on and identifies the show's version of the Smoke Monster as a vengeful spirit. There's even a conspiracy afoot to sabotage the rescue of the lost explorer, a pile of mysterious tapes to reveal plot directives over time, and even a mysterious-looking snake logo to replace the Dharma symbol. The setup is a mix of Evil Dead, Paranormal Activity, The Blair Witch Project, and Ghostbusters all mixed together what looks to be the "ghost mystery of the week" formula from Supernatural. It had a few pretty shocking images, something I'm not used to on ABC. It also has a fairly small cast at the moment, so I can't see the series having too many red shirt moments for the actors after the pilot. All in all, I enjoyed what I saw and am intrigued enough to keep with it for a while.

Video games are about to get even more realistic-looking, it would seem. That's nice, I guess, as the uncanny valley is something of a problem for games that want to appear realistic, but I don't think the visuals are where games are falling down these days. I'd rather there be more intricate plots with a larger variety of possible outcomes in games, but that's not something that can be automated at the moment. I'm sure code could someday make a game's plot structure and response of NPCs more complex and responsive, but until then, we're going to have realistic-looking people uttering the same three combat taunts and handful of conversation options. Ah, well. That's what one's imagination is there for, to fill in the blanks, I guess. Oh, and speaking of Skyrim, Valve and Bethesda got together and released a mod that delivers a small package from beyond those two moons you see in the sky every night. I hope the happy fun ball in question appears on IRQ soon...

Sadly, I won't be able to make it to Bashcon this year, especially now that I have jury duty (grumble-grumble). However artist extraordinaire Tony Steele will be there, and his illustrations appear a new book, so don't miss your chance to get some of his prints or a commission done before he becomes the next Matt Groening. I did design the t-shirt, and I hope everyone likes the new take on pirates vs. ninjas I came up with; as far as I know, it hasn't been done before. And just because I can encourage bad behavior, be sure to ask Tony to sing/perform one of his many romantic ballads. :)

Now I'm off to pop some cold medication and just try to record an episode of two of IRQ, so accept the following as a make-good for any coughing:

- How did I miss this when it was uploaded? Comedian Tim Minchin performs the Doctor Who theme at the BBC Comedy Proms on a keytar while wearing a Prince Charles mask.
- With the excitement of seeing Thor and the Hulk in a movie together soon, it's good to remind ourselves how far we've come.
- You can now purchase your own Aperture Science Combustible Lemon that doesn't actually combust, but it's the thought that counts, right?
- Bryan Singer wants to make a Star Trek TV series. Given how he made the last Superman movie, I'd fear we'd just get a shot-for-shot remake of the original series.
- Crumpled is a stick-figure platformer that has you and your blob overcoming obstacles with some controls that take a little getting used to, but is otherwise a decent time-waster.
- I joked about it in ps238, but someone has gone and made an app that lets you see what you're about to walk into as you use your phone or tablet.
- All that copyright and trademark stuff aside, it's pretty difficult to prove someone ripped off your game.
- And the new Spider-Man movie has a trailer, though I'm not sure who'll chew up more scenery; Spidey or Dennis Leary?
- As if it's a surprise, they've hired a writer to rewrite the script for Karate Kid 2.
- An astronomer has made some meteorite-aged wine. I predict the superhero created from a bottle of this stuff will wear a monocle.
- From the "life imitates Fallout" files comes MIT's photonic crystals that could lead to "nuclear reactors" in every gadget.
- We've had little to no actual winter in my vicinity, and I think it's because this cat got it.
- The last known veteran of WWI passed away just 2 weeks before she turned 111.
- Here's a handy list of medieval occupations, though I can't see George R.R. Martin ever typing the word "eggler."
- Political candidates need some kind of primer that has, among other things, a few facts about the internet like "The Onion is satire," "think before you tweet," "it's out there forever," and "don't have someone who works for you edit your Wikipedia page."
- It may be a big ball of timey-wimey, but that doesn't mean this gallery of old timelines can't be enjoyed.
- Netbots is a fun little puzzle game where the challenge is to connect spherical bots in the patterns shown on the left side of the screen.

Monday, February 6, 2012

12:43AM - How do they always know the bowl is going to be super?





I really don't see why they have to interrupt our yearly National Short Film Festival with all those lengthy ads for a football game, but I guess it's traditional by now. The one that I liked the best was the trailer for The Avengers, now with over 40 more seconds of footage than the trailer's teaser had. Then there's this post-apocalyptic truck ad that's got Ford demanding an apology. I'm wondering if Hostess had to pay Chevy for the additional product placement or if it was the other way around? Then there's another trailer for G.I. Joe: Better Than The Previous Movie, though I find the slow-groove hip-hop they used to underscore the action a little less than adrenalin-pumping. Speaking of music, a cover of Led Zepplin's "Kashmir" was used for some reason in the trailer for John Carter. Other than the presentation being less enthralling than the previous trailers, does anyone else think having the line "You are John Carter of Earth?" was meant as a poke at those who want "of Mars" on the end of the film's title? Finally, I was reminded of why I don't watch the History Channel, as they promoted a show called Swamp People, of which this will be the third season. I wondered if false advertising laws could apply to cable channels, but I realized that if they did, MTV would probably have had to change its name a long time ago. Anyway, all of the ads can be seen in various places around the net, with this one having some descriptions of the commercials so you get an idea of if you want to click through and watch.

I didn't watch or listen to the news yet, but in a scientific simulation of the Superbowl via a popular gaming engine, the outcome looked pretty inevitable to me. :)

If the Avengers spot above has you in the mood for more modern comic-book movies or TV shows, this next fan-made image might be right up your alley. If you thought Benedict Cumberbatch couldn't possibly be any more of a geek icon, imagine if this were to happen. Maybe if someone got Benedict's phone number to Neil Gaiman, it could happen? I realize this would cut down each season of Sherlock from three episodes to maybe one and a quarter, but I might be able to live with that.

I loves me some creepy. I also loves me some SCP Foundation, which often has readily-available portions. Take, for example, (language warning on the text of the three "document" links at the bottom of the page) SCP-087, an anomalous entity/location that I'd love to know more about, yet wouldn't want to know more about, because that often destroys the creepy... unless it's something even more inexplicable and, potentially, horrific. Anyway, I bring this up because there's work afoot on a game based on this SCP. Here's some YouTube footage to cower before (no screaming if you're watching it at work). Yes, it's long, but that builds atmosphere. And yes, you can just fast-forward to the last minute or so. Anyway, there's a download link in the extended description, and it looks like this dark time-waster may get some more attention and become an actual game in the near future. Given what happens to the D-Class personnel that enter the stairwell, I'm not sure there's a way to win, even if you escape (the phrase "monthly termination" is part of being a D-Class at the Foundation).

If there are any typos or mis-keyed bits in this entry, chalk it up to me coming down with a head cold. Or rather, me catching the head cold my kid gave it to me. I think it happened when he coughed into my right eyeball, while it was open. This may add some extra comedy when I record the next Interrupt Request, but in the meantime, here's another Skyrim series that's got an interesting premise: A guy is trying to get through the game playing as a pacifist monk. I'm not sure how he'll make out in the endgame, but since the last Elder Scrolls game was often more fun if you left the main quest alone, perhaps that won't be too big an issue. As for my own show, I don't know when we'll get to it, but eventually I'll have an episode featuring the biggest idiot in Skyrim. Really, his actions are worthy of a drunken player character at 3AM who can't remember if he's playing D&D or craps. So let me get through all that "plot" stuff to get to him, and while I'm off doing that, here's the awaited dumping of links:

- Attention, BBC. You could do worse than make this fan-made 50th anniversary trailer the official one.
- Here's 5 free printable board games, including a Battlestar Galactica and Doctor Who game. It's even more free if you use a printer at work.
- If you don't have a printer and still want a free game, here's one called French Toast, though I could see play lasting for hours or until an argument broke out.
- The British World Carrot Museum has a collection of carrots as they've appeared in ancient manuscripts. I wonder if there's a rivalry with the Belgian Carrot Museum mentioned at about 1:26 of this clip from Q.I. about (in part) carrots.
- Electromagnetic is a game where you're a metal ball that can use energy to magnetize yourself to walls in order to escape each level. Like you do.
- If critiquing the Twilight novels is best done with both a hard look at the story as well as the actual structure of the text, then Reasoning With Vampires is a site you'll want to peruse.
- As a valuable object lesson to why people often turn to piracy and why "always-on internet" is a bad idea for DRM on games, your legal Ubisoft games won't work on Tuesday for an undetermined period of time.
- But not all is doom & gloom on Tuesday, as that's when the Skyrim Creation Kit launches.
- With an "occasional naughty word in text" warning, here's a great Star Trek re-edited series called What's in Spock's Scanner?. There's a part two and a part three. Another warning: Don't google the text you see on the main viewscreen that starts with "MFX." If you know about an infamous shock-clip concerning a cup and two women... that's all you need.
- The rock group Queen is going to tour again, and they've found a new lead singer for the occasion. There's an audio montage of him doing a Queen medley in that link, and while it's not Freddie, it's not all that bad...
- A 23-year-old Taiwanese League of Legends player died of a heart attack in one of Taiwan's internet cafes and nobody noticed for 9 hours. Protip: Getting up and moving around is not only good for your health, doing so regularly increase the chance your death will be noticed promptly.
- This dog loves ping-pong. That's all that needs to be said, really.
- It's the closest flash toy to having "The Total Perspective Vortex" from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and it's called Scale of the Universe 2. Use the slider bar to see just how insignificantly small just about everything that isn't the universe is.
- Back down to the little things that drive us with Greedy Ghouls. You're a gun-toting ghost (why not?) who gets money for shooting things and completing tasks while buying upgrades and other devices to shoot more things.

Friday, February 3, 2012

2:47AM - Who watches who watched the Watchmen before they were Watchmen?





I'm thoroughly convinced that if someone made a successful film that began with the very first moment that time existed, someone somewhere would eventually suggest that a prequel be made. The one that's probably on most readers' radar is the prequel comics to Watchmen that are coming out. There are quotes in that link from Alan Moore (though I imagine they were edited for swearing) who, naturally, doesn't care for the idea. I have to say I would give a smile if a preq-comic featuring Doc Manhattan was subtitled When I Wore Pants. Another pre-original production is a prequel to Jackie Brown. While it's based on a novel that's a prequel to the one Jackie was based on, the real difficulty (no offense to Mos Def) is going to be playing a younger Samuel L. Jackson. Though perhaps the biggest prequel that's going to raise ire is one that's been around for a while, The Phantom Menace, only now it's in 3D. If you didn't care for the movie before, this presumably kid-oriented trailer for the movie doesn't do anything to redeem it, especially with voiceover guy narrating the clips. They also manage to make Darth Maul, who's been called the best thing about the movie, look as dignified as if he'd slipped on a banana peel.

In the interests of fairness, an editorial took people to task for complaining that Star Wars is being marketed to kids. That's not my complaint at all. In fact, I'd love it if the prequels had been more kid-friendly in some respects, as my own son is starting to learn what spaceships are and how cool they can be. My complaints are largely about the script, the acting (or direction, probably), and the large amount of stuff in them I would think twice before showing to a child: Darth Maul's death, the eventual creepy "love story," the padawan massacre, the dismemberment, etc. Sure, kids can enjoy "The Phantom Menace," and many do. I just don't think they'll still like it the way fans like the original trilogy years later. Time (and however many other versions of the films are released) will tell, I suppose.

One more potential prequel, though it's not been set in stone, could be Mass Effect 4. I believe I read somewhere that BioWare was "done" with Shepard, so maybe we'll see someone new in the lead role? Dare I hope for a (small language warning) Blasto the Hanar Spectre game?

Speaking of games which are video, here's the long-awaited fourth episode of Interrupt Request. Long-awaited for many reasons, one of which is how long it takes just to get around before you find enough locations to use fast-travel effectively. This is one of the more heavily-edited episodes, just to avoid long stretches o' nothing... and lots of death via gravity. Whoops. Where's a pegasus when you really need one? Or a large-ish tameable mountain goat?

Now I'm going back to scripting some Epic Campain, which will have the cast's first entanglement with an honest-to-Gygax adventure module that Wizards of the Coast will be highlighting in a month or two. I'll reveal more when I can, but it deals with a villainous outfit familiar to just about every version of D&D, and no, it's not Vecna (though who knows what eventually may be requested of our heroes?). On a related note, if I ever learn how to use a soldering iron and voltmeter properly, this may wind up replacing all of my dice, unless the air conditioning breaks down. Sure, all those smartphone dice-rolling apps are cool, but that beats even the venerable Dragonbone for tabletop cred... doesn't it?

While I decide if I'm just looking for a replacement for that faulty Pip-Boy clock that would've probably burned down my house, here's some amusements to get your weekend started:

- If you recently watched Groundhog Day and were wondering about some of the thinking behind the Bill Murray classic, this article tells you how the writers explained his time loop in an early draft along with how long he was supposedly looping, from his point of view.
- The future of electric cars might just have gotten a bit brighter thanks to the technobabble-sounding principle of magnetic resonance coupling, which would charge your car as you drove.
- A rather dull game I saw on special led me to note that most rather dull games that simulate less-than-glamorous jobs involving large machines seem to come from one publisher.
- If you've got a shipping palette and don't know what to do with it, here are twenty suggestions.
- Herd animals and terminal velocity make for great games, right? In Parasheeps, you try to get the best off-the-mark time and the longest free-fall before opening your parachute.
- Wired's "Geekdad" finds some old footage of him and his buds playing D&D from 1981 and waxes eloquent about what the game meant to him.
- Your geek-art for the day comes in the form of Superhero Shadows, a series of silhouettes that should be familiar to all.
- Video games are more expensive than I thought.
- Who's up for colonizing another world? We've found one that might support life about 22 light years away!
- In what sounds like a crime committed in a dystopian future, a man was arrested for stealing several tons of glacial ice for use in expensive tourist-targeted drinks.
- A pair of Skyrim videos: One is a rock remix of the theme, and the other is just a kind of weird animated short, which is par for the course if you've seen that guy's work before.
- More musical stuff in the form of a Tumblr called From Out Of Nowhere, where the site owner is embarking on a 30+ day project of listening to the discography of Chicago.
- And now for something completely different: A cathedral made up of 55,000 LED lights.
- Assuming he survived the crash many centuries ago, someone should tell Han Solo's descendents that we've found where he parked the Falcon.
- From the "remember to entertain before you start smashing your audience with your message" files, it looks like the second movie in an Atlas Shrugged trilogy is going ahead in spite of the previous movie's performance.
- Cook your mental processors with Adynatopia. It's not much for graphics and animation, but it's got some of the better optical illusion playfields I've seen.
- Test how clean your monitor is with what's sure to be 2012's game of the year, Where's The Pixel?
- But we save the final spot for one of my favorite launch-n-upgrade game franchises. It's Burrito Bison: Revenge! Apparently, when he escaped from gummi-land last episode, someone had stolen his wallet and he returns for some payback.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

2:23AM - One more delay, then back with the nonsense...





The next part of my Skyrim saga will probably be up sometime tomorrow. I recorded a ton of footage today, and that's part of the problem: It's a ton of walking. When I play this sort of game normally, I stop off at every slay & haul away pit-stop between me and the actual destination I have (often forgetting why I was headed there). This plays havoc with the missions, I think, as I'm pretty sure I spot things that would be "active" had I been told about the area I was murdering my way through (for example, a row of empty cells probably would have someone in there for me to rescue if I'd gone to town X and talked with citizen Y about their missing relative). Anyway, I'm having to go through and fast forward through all those long strolls in the countryside, the countless wolf attacks, and a 7000-step climb to a monastery. Trust me, there's only so many offhand gags one can make about trees and snow without sounding like the rock climbing episode of MST3K. And thanks to some sharp-eyed viewers, it turns out my noble steed, Magicka Sparkle, survived the dragon attack like Sherlock Holmes at Reichenbach Falls. Unfortunately, I think my play style might not be horse-friendly, so I may have to find a nice, safe place for her to spend most of the game unless I want to have a sentimental attachment to a certain 1,000 gold piece horse hide in my inventory.

The CW seems to be cranking out the orders for pilot TV programs. One's from JJ Abrams, so that's good. Another is an attempt to cash in on what's probably going to be a successful movie series (The Hunger Games), and... a time travel musical. First off, why this hasn't been done for a "Children in Need" special with the cast of Doctor Who escapes me, but secondly, unless this is a comedy and/or a show like Glee that has music built-in... Let's just say there's a reason why nobody's reviving Cop Rock.

So while we're on the subject of musicals: From a time when Andrew Lloyd Webber wasn't mostly a punchline about musical theater, he put together Phantom of the Opera. You gotta love a show that stars a guy who was well known in the UK for a "dumb guy" role in a sitcom and barely remembered in the U.S. for a role in a live-action Disney film where he wore a bird-themed superhero costume. If you can still remember Webber's goth-opera in a positive light, you might like this one-man medley of Phantom tunes. It might take a while to get used to how well he does the part of Christine. So if you're still with this paragraph, I can use this subject as an excuse to link to my favorite version of "The Music of the Night" ever recorded (the visuals aren't of the actual singers). For those who worry I'm going all theater-geek on you, here's a cleansing dose of (warning: one s-bomb) Rowan Atkinson's "The Good Loser" which should counter most pro-Webber thoughts. :)

A side note about the Atkinson sketch: It sounds like the Kylie Minogue line was dubbed in, and a search brought up alternate dialogue that read: "...latest re-arrangement of 'Puccini's Greatest Hits.'" I could also swear that there was a version floating around where it was something about a re-arrangement of Vivaldi and a ton of curtains... or is that another sign I need to have my brain de-fragged?

I have to get back to editing video and working on ps238 volume 10 (yep, it's actually being drawn!) as well as making sure my family gets more of this addictive banana bread I started baking because I felt guilty about wasting bananas. If you, too, fall victim to this recipe, I modify it according to some commenters' suggestions and add a fourth banana, a teaspoon of vanilla, and an additional egg, then I pop it in three smaller (three by eight, I think) bread pans and bake 'em for about 45-55 minutes (test with a toothpick). What? Me do a cooking series on YouTube? I think the world has enough weird stuff without too much from me, like:

- I think this is the first Google Plus page I've ever linked to, but it's worth it to see a load of pictures from Stern Pinball, a Chicago-based company that still makes the most awesome arcade game on Earth.
- Some guy makes a huge 90's megamix using a backbeat and one of those wind-powered keyboard things, which I guess is kind of like a lung-run accordion.
- The latest UK comedy to be imported for potential Americanization is Only Fools and Horses.
- I have to say I can't find any logical flaws with this proposal on how Hollywood could actually stop a lot of movie piracy. "Kill" may be a little optimistic, but I'd sign up for the service in a heartbeat.
- Blockoomz is a remove-the-blocks game where most blocks explode and you have to preserve the lives of any stars present.
- If you're running for President and want to use a really rockin' pop song, make sure it's okay with whoever owns it, as they might not exactly like their ditty associated with you.
- Drink your Potion of Dragon Control (if you have a verrrry generous DM) from an appropriate dragon-head mug.
- A pair of Bat-links that you might enjoy: One, a collection of minimalist-art quote posters from the franchise's rogues gallery. And two, Jim Gordon is Magnum P.I. (with glasses)!
- So you like Half-Life 2 and want to send a message to Valve that a third installment would really be appreciated? There's going to be a mass HL2 play session in the hopes that such activity on Steam will show up on Valve's radar... along with the usual pleas, bribes, death threats, etc.
- Just to close the book on something fans may have been following, the lawsuit over a few characters in Spawn comics has finally been settled between Neil Gaiman and Todd McFarlane. So rest easy, folks.
- Sticking with superheroes, it's only a teaser for the commercial that'll run in full this Sunday, but 17 seconds of The Avengers is still a pretty good 17 seconds.
- For something equally epic in style, here's The Beauty of Minecraft, a video featuring yet more impressive constructs than I could ever dream of.
- Strange things happen when you slow down a Dolly Parton song.
- I want to say that an old issue of Mad or Cracked a cartoon where buildings were made out of similar stuff to what this artist is making stools out of.
- If ever a cat video warranted a title of wait for it... wait for it..., it's this one.
- Scientists and engineers are about to annoy C'thulu, so you might want to stock up on antipsychotics.
- This video demonstrates either a future X-Wing toy that will let you re-enact the attack on the Death Star or it shows the last thing you'll see when the robot uprising starts.
- It does what it says on the tin: The Impossible Quiz Book, Chapter 1. It's meant to be frustrating and largely unfair, so don't go in with high blood pressure. If you enjoy it, there's chapter 2 and chapter 3 to play (links in-game).
- As if that wasn't frustrating enough, how about Dino Panic? Not only is it a "run to the right or you die" game where your caveman is being chased by a T-Rex, you also have to control your pal the Pterodactyl with your mouse, since him catching floating gems is how you earn points. Enjoy!

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