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Henchman Publishing

Monday, January 30, 2012

1:33AM - IRQ will return as soon as I'm not tending to work and/or children...

Anyone who was awaiting another Interrupt Request should seek help will have to wait 'till later on Monday or Tuesday, depending on how the day shakes out. For a stand-alone substituted (with a heads up on NSFW language), Spoiler Warning has posted its second-anniversary episode. I can only aspire to such greatness. Back to my lame excuses, I had some family-time and what have you to keep me off the streets (and the computer), so I was unable to record and edit like I'd hoped. That said, I'm amazed at how similar Skyrim is to Fallout, and when comparing the two I start to think that what Phil & Dixie said so long ago about game settings wasn't pretty much on the money. I'm not saying there aren't differences in overall play, but there are quite a few thematic and mechanical ones:

- In my opinion, both series are post-apocalyptic. One is more obvious, having taken place after a nuclear war, but those ruins in Skyrim weren't always ruins. It seems that fantasy of all stripes requires ruins to be present, otherwise the heroes would have to get real jobs or take part in huge wars to get access to cool weapons and other random loot. Not to mention that the ruins in Skyrim were built by a more advanced civilization, since it'd take one with lots of spare (or bored) engineering capacity to make huge stone doors that sink into the floor and work thousands of years after they were built.
- Lights that last forever. In Fallout, lights are atomic powered. In Skyrim, I suppose they could be magic torches and sconces. Either way, most of your typical dungeon o' doom is brightly lit.
- Junk everywhere and immortal food. Keeping with the post-apoc thing, you could spend years in either game just collecting cooking utensils, tableware, and empty bottles left behind by long-gone people. Also, the vegetable you just gleaned from some farmer's field is just as apparently fresh as the one that you pulled from a container inside an underground complex sealed up centuries ago.
- Stupid, stupid NPCs. Nobody seems to get that as a wizard/gunner, running ahead of me is pretty much a bad idea for everyone involved.

I'm also noticing that both game series do tend to dislike my playing style which is driven more by finding places on my radar rather than by being told by someone to start a quest chain that leads me to a given area. If there are no locks on the door (or ones that I can't pick), I'll probably stick my nose in and mess up whatever the place was built to do for a given storyline. I can't help it if breaking & entering is more interesting than what a guy on a throne has to tell me about possible opportunities in state-sponsored robbery and killing, right?

Given that someday I'll have to help my kid "learn stuff," I thought I'd post a video I ran across that may help anyone out there trying to memorize the U.S. Presidents (because history is important, yo). It's a fairly easy to remember melody which, while kind of long, does contain a few facts about the Oval Office occupants. The real reason I'm putting this out there is to allow a few other songs that might come in less handy, but are funnier:

- Of course one was sung the Animaniacs.
- If you just need one President, They Might Be Giants do a ditty about James K. Polk (the audio is apparently an out-of-print B-side, not the album version).
- And back to cartoons for a more recent (if unhelpful) song by Lola Bunny, who seems to have a history book from a much more interesting timeline. Also, Charles Nelson Reilly would probably have given the best State of the Union addresses ever.

I think we can see why "serious" songs about Presidents kind of died out decades ago; the masses need names and dates to pass their history quizzes, and writing "I Like Ike" usually gets you nothing, grade-wise.

Let me preface this next thing by saying I don't have an iPhone, nor do I have any stake in "Bad Robot" productions other than I like their shows/movies in general. Anyway, an iPhone owning friend of mine got this nifty Action Movie FX app, which lets you turn your camera videos into the latest clip from a Michael Bay production. A quick sample can be seen here, though my friend sent me one he took from the passenger seat of his car where he filmed the driver, then looked ahead at the road where it appeared that another vehicle crashed in a fiery explosion right in front of his bumper. The potential for practical jokes centered around the idea of "and this is the last thing we found on his phone" abound. It looked pretty good, and if nothing else, you can become your own Roger Corman and sell your output to SyFy, so it's technically an investment.

Though I've said I probably won't be in on the Mass Effect 3 release, I'm passing along a trailer for Mass Effect 3: Team Special Fortress Forces. Okay, so I'm snarking a bit there, but it looks like you have class/race abilities that are pretty common (tank, sniper, stealth, soldier, etc.) though I can't tell if it's a team-based RPG or campaign scenario or if you can also have some others playing similarly-matched bad guys. I dunno what the crossover market is between those who like single-player RPGs/shooters and those who go in for team-based ones, but maybe it's hoped that the usual bad NPC A.I. will drive people to see if humans are any less prone to jump in front of you while you're firing a weapon at full auto. :)

- I'm sure a great many superhero collectibles have been experimental ideas floated by various marketing departments that were okayed on a Friday night right before it was time to hit the bars, but the X-Men Mutant Play Shave Set is one of such amazing absurdity that I think I'd love to have on my shelf. Plus, if I ever needed to shave my mutant, I'd be ready.
- So I'm thinking that we could solve a lot of our energy problems by making something that generates power via things cats get into fights with. The epic score really makes the video for me.
- To show we're not all heathens, here's some artistic-type stuff that's pretty interesting in concept. A Japanese art student printed images of the skeletons of eight endangered species on translucent paper and then folded them into appropriately shaped origami animals.
- It's been some time since I posted a Maru the Cat video, but I thought this one was sufficiently amusing. I wasn't sure what a Kamakura House was, and I get the impression it's a dome-like enclosure made of snow.
- Splitman is a game where you have the power to survive division into copies of yourself. Thankfully, the villain in this sprite-like platformer has put spinning saw blades all over the place.
- The reasoning is that if you thought you were contributing to the death of a fish, you might use less water to wash your hands. While this might also discourage hand-washing in general, a beverage machine next to this contraption would probably do a lot of good business as well.
- I don't drink much, but I'd try something called an Alien Brain Hemorrhage at least once.
- Before the internet was created to show Batman doing awesome stuff like fighting sharks with lightsabers, there were some really great Bat-trading cards in 1966.
- Mostly because I'm a sucker for all things Mitchell & Webb, here's their comedy sketch "Attic Junk." I'd watch a M&W cartoon show, if anyone at the BBC, Cartoon Network, or Adult Swim is reading...
- This may be interesting for the future: Some companies are trying out forgoing resumes and opting for other evaluation methods, like asking for your web presence. I'm either a major hiring target or completely unemployable, I think.
- Possible good news on the Green Arrow TV series front. A character list shows a "Dinah Lance," which is the alter-ego of the super-heroine Black Canary. Just a love interest or gateway to that Justice League some have dreamed of?
- Here's a "whoa, deep" concept: Use a camera and computer to play music based on the rings of a tree as you spin a disc cut from the trunk.
- Some of these have been here before, but it's not every day I run across a collection of Daleks you can eat.
- It's neither Christmas or Halloween, but I had to share This is Aperture, a mashup of Portal with The Nightmare Before Christmas.
- I think it's been three years since the last installment, but The Several Journeys of Reemus, part 4 was worth the wait for a funny fantasy point-n-click adventure game.

Friday, January 27, 2012

2:47AM - Episode III, where someone meets a tragic end...

And we bring the first week of Interrupt Request to a close with episode three. More should be forthcoming, though it might be a kind of "special" episode on Monday (or perhaps Tuesday) due to family commitments over the weekend. Be warned, in this third installment, not everyone makes it out alive:

A new Monty Python movie is on the way! Well, okay, it's not officially a Python film, but it's got all the surviving cast members, it's directed by Terry Jones, has one of the producers from Life of Brian and it's a sci-fi comedy... which Life of Brian technically had a bit of in it, so it should be at least decent, right? Besides, I'd hate for Terry Jones to have Starship Titanic remembered as his biggest attempt at a contribution to science fiction.

Harkening back to the previous post's entry on fantasy's entry into movies, I found a trailer that shows off something else that'll likely hit fantasy film just like it's hit sci-fi. The trailer is for Lockout, which kind of reminds me of the movie Fortress with a touch of Escape From New York mixed in. This might just be something I'm imagining, but when older genres (in this case, an action cop film) get a sci-fi retread, the dialog seems to dredge up old cliches as if giving them a coat of cyberpunk makes them not overdone, doesn't it? I mean, "he's a loose cannon" is a punchline these days, not a phrase with gravitas... right? If nothing else, it'll give a lot of people who know far more about orbital mechanics and other spacefaring facts something to pick apart, which I always find amusing as well as educational. If nothing else, it gives me an excuse to post a gallery of "forgotten" space station concepts.

On the other hand, sci-fi is a great place for completely gonzo film ideas, such as the previously mentioned Iron Sky about Nazis attacking Earth from a moon base that's been hidden since WWII. It's screening in Berlin, it's got a (language warning) cool trailer, and it was a good enough concept that a shady code-mongering entity ripped it off for an iPad game.

I'm off to do more website-retooling, drawin', and taking care of Joshua, perhaps not in that order. If he cooperates, you might get to hear his commentary on an upcoming Interrupt Request, though I might have to fight him for control of the keyboard. Everyone have a great weekend, come back to at least one of my mish-mash of sites soon and enjoy more things that may make your day seem a lot better, like:

- That photo of a diver next to a huge honkin' jellyfish that everyone has been forwarding? It's not real, though I'm not going into the water to confirm it...
- Not to be outdone by American copyright law, a UK court has found that a similar, but not copied, image is a breach of copyright. I sure hope whoever owns the rights to the Abbey Road album cover doesn't get wind of this or a lot of snapshots are going to get people into trouble.
- I hope that if my kid becomes a Lego freak he'll make stuff like the Citadel from Mass Effect. The rest of the photostream has more really cool Lego creations, so browse away.
- i09 has compiled everything they currently know about Prometheus's "Space Jockeys." I'm glad they ditched the name with the gratuitous apostrophe.
- Here's a toy that I'll have to buy for myself for my kid someday: Star Wars slot cars! I have to thank whoever made them for picking scenes from the original trilogy and not the pod race.
- So I never thought "most expensive" and "quad bike" would appear in the same headline, but it's got a Ferrari engine, so I'd say it wins the title.
- Minecraft addicts can have fun with new stuff such as ocelots, huge jungle trees, and new skeleton AI. And a new way to set stuff on fire, which ensures I'll die even more.
- If you spend a lot of time in the bathroom and you have some extra cash, you might want to think about purchasing Moby Dick typed on toilet paper. If you share a bathroom, you might lose your place, so take care...
- I don't think I would have believed it if a random friend had told me that the 10th U.S. President's grandsons are still alive.
- Artist Alex Gross took a bunch of antique photographs and touched them up a tad to show us what Civil War era cosplay might have looked like.
- If you like your point-n-click games on the odd side with lots of British accents, then Back to the Cubeture 2 should delight you. You can visit the author's site for the first one, but I don't think it'll make part 2 any more or less comprehensible.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

9:25AM - Episode two, not that I'm committing to a schedule or anything yet...

So having uploaded episode one of Interrupt Request, I didn't learn my lesson and uploaded episode two:

It'd be nice if it generated a little interest and maybe even revenue, but it's now even harder to get noticed on the ol' Tube of You, as One Hour Per Second illustrates. One hour of video is uploaded to YT every second. That's mind-boggling as well as a sign that parents might want to consider "YouTube Archivist/Researcher" as a career path for their kids someday. As for myself, I really want to get these things down under 30 minutes, preferably around 20. I think I may resort to more creative editing, attempting that whole "brevity is the source of wit" thing I keep hearing about.

Anyway, capital-F Fantasy is pretty much mainstream, at least in the public awareness. It took the Lord of the Rings to really show Hollywood that swords-n-sorcery could sell more than one or two movies before becoming direct-to-DVD fodder, and with special effects being incorporated into just about every movie on a titanic scale no matter what the subject, animating dragons and magic spells is less of a budget-buster than it used to be. We the Geek have had beloved fantasy films that we still like, from Conan to Dragonslayer to Excalibur, but now we're probably going to not only see more fantasy films made, but more of the usual roadblocks to awesomeness that have plagued other genres, like sci-fi:

- It's the same as X, so we can't greenlight it. I think studio execs need to be dropped in the middle of DragonCon unannounced, the crowd hushed and asked to pay attention, and the people in businesswear are made to say things like "We won't be making an ElfQuest movie because it's pretty much like The Hobbit, right?" If they make it out alive, they get to re-think their decision.
- It's got the same things in it as X, which made tons of cash, so it'll be good. This is the Uwe Boll school of thought for movies in general, and he's not alone in subscribing to it. Not to mention that while we've got decades of fantasy novels and comics to plumb for films, a lot of it is awful, if not just a bad fit for two-hour movies.
- Cheap sets and costumes are one thing, cheap actors are worse. Putting aside all the stuff we get wrong about medieval times (which I can't even begin to list, as most of the stuff I think I know probably is wrong), it takes a lot of effort from the director and actors to sell a world where magic works and doesn't come off like the film was shot at a local renfest.

But at least it's a new (old) genre that's getting tackled, and maybe the studios or propmasters can recycle more of the sets and fiberglass swords, passing the money on to some really great writers. Okay, that is fantasy, but I'd like to think it's possible. :)

On a similar note over in TV territory, ABC (parent company Disney, which is relevant here) is ordering up a Beauty and the Beast pilot. Keeping with other medieval-ish fare on the tube, this show will take place in an era like the animated film of the same name, and will join the CW reboot of the Linda Hamilton/Ron Perlman TV series. We may need a cage match between Beauties, Beasts, and Sherlocks before too long.

You may have heard about Russell T. Davies' next project, a kid show called Aliens vs. Wizards, but something about the description kept poking at a part of my brain: The name of the bad guys. They're called "Necross," which sounded familiar. It turns out that Necross was an insane wizard in Cerebus the Aardvark from waaaaay back in issue #13, and by sheer coincidence, there appears to be a project afoot at an animated Cerebus and you can see the animator's Necross test footage if you have a mind to.

Sorry for the radio silence lately; the new site is still getting "into the grove" for me, as I've been trying to redo all of the habits and Photoshop macros that I've developed for 10 years and redirect/remodel them for a new era. I'm still compiling changes and testing them out before committing, so be on the lookout for some more re-doings. I'm also still sticking with Project Wonderful on the new site, for the time being. I want to see how their ads perform when everything is where it should be, as they aren't always for everyone. They do have an interesting side benefit in that they're a kind of alert system for if the site itself goes down. Some routine maintenance required the new servers to be given a time-out, and PW sent me notices that something was wrong followed by an all-clear when the box was rebooted. I'm kind of surprised they didn't charge for the service. :)

Now that I've given them a bad idea, here's a few more concepts that are probably less than savory:

- If you think Gamma World is too mainstream, you can go pick up its more obscure (to the newer crops of gamer-types, anyway) ancestor, Metamorphosis Alpha as a print-on-demand book.
- Not Always Right is a collection of anecdotes about customers who weren't exactly on top form the day they entered the store...
- Though cartoony, this point-n-click puzzle game has a bit of a gory beginning, so Compressing the Heart may not be for the impressionable. Anyway, you can inhabit other living things to overcome obstacles by removing your soul for a while... like you do.
- Aardman Entertainment changes a joke in its upcoming movie, The Pirates! An Adventure With Scientists, as they reconsidered the idea of poking fun at lepers.
- For all the hooplah over digital piracy, the people running the sites connected with piracy must be raking it in, right? Well, not when compared to other websites with similar traffic. It's not peanuts, but it's no Facebook, either.
- And speaking of the Pirate Bay, they're starting a new category: Physibles, which specializes in files for your 3D printer.
- You weren't going to get anything done, anyway, so here's your Java-based Gameboy Color emulator with a drop-down menu of games.
- Yet another graphic-design oriented time waster, but this time it's about Color Matching instead of fonts. When the countdown timer graphic starts, move your selector around the loop of offered colors and click when you think you've got a perfect match.
- One of the more interesting things you can draw in comics/cartoons is an explosion. A photographer has made a series of 17 fiery outbursts that could serve as good reference.
- It's pricey, but at least it's weird food that isn't deep-fried: A Vancouver restaurant is offering a Dragon Dog, which is a hotdog infused with Cognac, topped with lobster and Kobe beef. I am disappointed that they don't seem to be using buns made in a secluded monastery's bakery, but you can't have everything even if you order one with everything.
- In my continuing effort to bring you the finest in weird bookshelves, here's an industrial pipe design. I think it'd be improved by some kind of bookend-plate thing that fit over the pipes, especially if you have larger soft-cover books.
- I don't know where this health care facility is located, but they probably won't be short on organ donors, unless they're all the victims of phasers set on "kill."
- Not satisfied with destroying your local coffee shop, Starbucks has eyes on your favorite liquor store, too. I'm trying to imagine what the paper goblets will look like.
- In Europe, the Dukes don't jump rivers and the General is a BMW. :)
- Because it's Oscar time, here are the nominations. Once again, Keyboard Cat is overlooked for a lifetime achievement award.
- Finally, Snow Tale gives you pixelated penguins in a Mario-esque jumping platformer with snowballs involved. Some zoo really needs to show penguins what they've been missing and teach them how to have snowball fights.

Monday, January 23, 2012

3:09AM - There is no need to adjust your set...

It's been a an eternity a week or two in the making, but here's episode one of Interrupt Request. Complaints about the writing can be addressed to the fact that there isn't any. The only gags that weren't ad-libbed in this were ad-libbed in a previous take and I just happened to remember them.

The first episode (isn't that ambitious of me to say?) took longer than I'd planned because I was overreaching a bit. Apparently, I didn't have to try knocking myself out using an Adobe product to compile the whole mess. After some frustration with Premiere's learning curve, I thought I'd just assemble the intro bit in Windows MovieMaker to be attached to the beginning of each episode (that word again...). It turns out that I was able to get pretty much everything I needed out of MovieMaker without all that messing around with keyframes, multiple audio tracks, etc. About the only thing I can't do in MM is crossfade audio, but I think it might be a luxury function for now. I also discovered that transition effects that are normally cheesy (though not as bad as the "star wipe") helped my "UHF TV" motif immensely; making a frame drop out of the picture while it's identical twin drops in looks a lot like one's vertical hold is on the blink, no?

Anyway, I hope it pleases, and I still plan on doing more, hopefully once a week or more. The biggest bottleneck at the moment seems to be YouTube, as it took over four hours to upload this thing. I'm also still tweaking the sound quality on my voice track. I've managed to kill nearly all noise in my office save for mouse clicks (it's a new mouse; it hasn't broken in yet), but I still get a bit of a background hiss. The filters on my audio recording software can only do so much before I start sounding like I'm a low-bitrate MP3 of a Vogon. I never did work out how to make myself sound like Barry White, but I'll keep working on that.

If you're doing your own videos or anything that requires sound effects and you don't have a ton of cash to drop on a library of noises, you might find what you need at Freesound.org. Of special note if you're trying to make money from your project (or you don't like legalese), you can look for sounds under Creative Commons 0 license, which are items released into the public domain, free of charge or attribution. Neato, I say.

Now I'm off to go figure out what the next script for Epic Campain will be. I wonder if I can convince the editors that we should include some references to the coming 5th Edition of D&D, and that maybe I should "research" my jokes with the relevant documents? I probably don't have the right skills for that and would stand a better chance using a black outfit, a grappling hook, and a round-trip ticket to Renton. Maybe I can get the Full Frontal Nerdity guys to go in my place. It's been a while since they've been arrested, right?

While I try to come up with some gags that might come close to a work of genius, here's some things to help you cope with the inevitable case of the Mondays:

- For once, it's not Star Wars getting all the Lego love, as some brick-meister has built the U.S.S. Reliant in Lego form, complete with lighting effects.
- 'Trek also now sports its own flavor of Settlers of Catan.
- The Megaupload aftermath continues with the temporary deletion of CBS.com and other large websites.
- Kids today have too many things I was denied. For example, a Dark Horse Comics approved B.P.R.D. Training Camp. They probably get pyrokinesis powers, too...
- If you want to see the ultimate giant spider for your next LARP, click here. That page has a link to the creator's site as well.
- Let it Glow 2 is a puzzle game about getting electrical zappage to light bulbs by manipulating the environment (mostly in the form of boxes).
- Wizards of the Coast will reprint the classic 1st edition trio of rulebooks in a limited edition this April.
- It might have escaped your notice that Ringo Starr will be releasing a new album in a few days. It escaped my notice that he also released one in 2010, but I just can't keep up with the noise that kids are listening to these days.
- A bluegrass guitarist gets a friendly visit from a feathered friend who decides to sit in on the rest of the song (link goes to just before the bird shows up).
- I don't understand what a Russian casino did to the Pink Panther, but he (and a female version) star in a completely insane commercial for said gambling establishment.
- In case the 2012 Presidential Candidates aren't thrilling you, here's 11 you may not have heard about, including a Jedi candidate.
- Because it promotes my favorite action figure ever, RobertCop, here's 23 knockoff products that will probably make you feel better about the purchases you make.
- Adding to the list of "things you probably don't want happening near you" is an odd phenomenon that turned one seafront into an ocean of foam.
- Remember, only you can prevent the worst from happening to a very special class of animals. From the comedy choral group, "Power Salad."
- Start your week with a bang (yeah, yeah) and play Crash the Robot, Explosive Edition. Place bombs strategically to bring each evil robot (we read their blogs and they were up to no good) to a kaboom-y end.

Friday, January 20, 2012

2:39AM - Still trying to get Skyrim wrong, in the right way...

I'm still working on that Skyrim playthrough for YouTube, having finally done a third starting episode that wasn't too long and doesn't make me cringe inwardly when I hear it. Now I just have to mix everything together and figure out a few things that Adobe Premiere can/can't do. I'll be playing it vanilla, though some of the mods are bordering on the unbelievable. Quite often with these games, the first mods are dancing, adult entertainment, some kind of Warhammer armor, and lightsabers. I've yet to meet any of the really amazing bugs others reported (aside from my own when I forget to hit "record" or what have you), apart from people being half-in walls or vanishing suddenly, leaving their disembodied voices behind. I suppose I'll just have to rely on my own game playing "style" for comedy, which shouldn't be too much of a problem, given what I've had happen in just the first half-hour alone...

This Supreme Court decision is supposedly only for copyrights to be brought into compliance with international treaty, but from what I can tell, it allows Congress to re-copyright works in the public domain. I know I harp on how "we gamers" think about things, but one of the greatest highlighters of the law of unintended consequences out there when it comes to statues has got to be the rules lawyer. There's probably a lot of entertainment industry cash behind this (or there will be), and it's not hard for the gamer-brain to see the obvious exploit: If Congress will honor the copyright claims in other countries and apply them here, whichever country offers eternal copyright will soon have just about everything registered there (for a fee, of course). Not that our country isn't already inching towards some kind of "life of the artist plus eternity for whoever buys their estate" model, but it just seems like such a blatant disregard for the value of public domain works. I'm wondering if any group out there has eyes for locking up Lovecraft's works, causing a major Triple-Hastur event in the gaming industry alone...

In somewhat related news, the file-downloading site Megaupload got taken down by the Justice Department (so why do they need SOPA, again?). While we've seen this behavior before, I'm going to keep an eye out for how Anonymous' revenge will shake out. It's odd to say it's "just" a bunch of denial of service attacks, since that's really only a short-term thing. I'm wondering if this skirmish will escalate and on which side?

In addition to collating all of the suggestions/bug reports on the new site (and fixing them over the weekend), I'm doing some last-minute reworks to the scripts on that Diablo comic project. I believe some interview questions to me have gone up in various places around the 'net, or they soon will. I'd love to be able to say what impact the comic has on the game, but I've got no clue, so I'll find out along with everyone else. For those planning on playing Diablo III, it looks like there are some pretty significant changes to the game that have just been announced. I'd just like someone to invent a mechanical index finger that clicks the mouse a hundred times a second if I hit the relevant hotkey. :)

I'm still waiting for my PC-based Matrix pod for all this gaming stuff, by the way. Until I get one, I keep having to distract myself from the fact I'm without it via things like:

- Destined to become the nerdy version of "Jingle Cats," here's The Bark Side.
- As with all Top 10 lists, feel free to have personal items that you'd rank higher, but this is still a nice collection of great character introductions in film scripts.
- Fox News (or some branch thereof) has gone after DC Comics' reboot for being too smutty. That's arguable, but the article also points out that Fox still holds several Marvel movie properties. :)
- Fans of Zelda-esque top-down RPGs should find something to like about the Scarlet Stranger. Use your trusty sword and shield (as well as crafting skills) to rescue the obligatory princess.
- Statistic fetishists, here's something that should thrill: The internet in 2011, by the numbers.
- The recent reworking of its logo left a lot of readers scratching their heads, but when "enhanced" with the properties it's attached to, the DC Comics logo looks pretty decent.
- The title says it all: Impudent Cat.
- More video game modification: Here's news and an embedded trailer for S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Lost Alpha, a mod that puts a bunch of alpha-build material that was cut back into the game. Then there's Half-Life Dreamcast, a port of the canceled Dreamcast version of Half-Life as a mod, containing lots of material that didn't show up in the PC version.
- My next big dream project is somehow getting Lovecraft-inspired carpets in our house without my wife noticing.
- So it turns out a movie adaptation of the Bone comic is coming and it has a director.
- Since I inflicted LMAFO on everyone with the Skyrim dance video above, here's their song "Party Rock" literally interpreted with MS Paint.
- The SOPA-compliant poster of a character that shall not be named is pretty cool-looking, actually.
- In addition, it would appear that the blackout of popular internet sites and associated awareness of the anti-piracy bills had the desired effect on many congresscritters.
- I harp on Fringe for product placement, but this show has it beat, I think.
- Want to take photos that are two stories high? Get a 35 foot long camera.
- When stuffed animals are no longer adoptable, rest assured that their skins are being recycled as art.
- Here's an early Caturday game, Cats Cannon. Fire your felines "Angry Birds" style against the... possibly evil dogs? I dunno. I just like launching things.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

12:06AM - The past is the new future, and it's lost (ha-ha).

Alcatraz is JJ Abrams' latest foray into TV, and other than a clunky line from a guard hammering home the titular location ("This is Alcatraz. No one forgets."), it had a decently interesting setup about over 300 people vanishing from the prison in 1963 and them starting to reappear in the modern day. It could be considered "the next Lost," (there are flashbacks) but that coveted title hasn't had the greatest history. Anyway, deputy warden E.B. Tiller makes life tough for one Jack Sylvane, one of the first prisoners to appear in 2011. In the present day, Jack murders the 2011-aged Tiller, and an detective tries to figure out how the fingerprints of a long-dead prisoner can show up in a modern-day crime scene. Furthering the Lost parallels, Jorge "Hugo" Garcia shows up as a historical expert on Alcatraz. He also runs a comic shop and writes comic books, which I'm sure will make him a fan favorite. You can count how many times I typed Alcatraz and it's still not as many times as someone in the show said it within the first 20 minutes, often preceded as "this is." Sam Neil, it turns out, is in charge of some special division that hunts "special" fugitives (dun-dun-dunnnn) like Jack. The body count gets high rather quick, Sylvane seems awfully comfortable with the future, though it's strongly hinted that he has help. The setup reminds me a lot of the long-canceled show, Brimstone, though the protagonists will be hunting time-displaced ex-cons instead of former denizens of the infernal realms. We have good guys that aren't all good, those behind the time travel and use of the prisoners a mystery, and what looks like Alcatraz II by way of Aperture Science.

Turning to episode two, the comparison to Brimstone continues to be apt as each prisoner will probably have a specialty (a superpower, as it were) making them a bit easier to track down. Coupled with a historian specializing in Alcatraz for any other quirks or signs of someone from the 1960s, and that's where we'll probably get the detective work for most of the escaped convicts. There's also apparently a plot thread going on amongst the inmates back in the past, as events from episode 1 have had a bearing on episode 2. We're still no closer to knowing what's going on or who's behind it, which means a slow boil, which may mean viewers won't stick around until things start getting explained. It's also on Fox, which will put the theory that JJ Abrams is an alternate universe version of Joss Whedon (that doesn't get mercilessly canceled on a whim) to the test.

I predict that retro- or time-travel shows about the past are going to become more commonplace. For one, "the good ol' days" are looking more and more appealing to people who want a time before the economy went all higgledy-piggledy. The writers are more comfortable with the past as well, I think. In reading Stephen King's 11-22-63, I could almost hear King gleefully muttering "I know this stuff!" when writing about the 1950's and 60's, along with the occasional "and no $*!@-ing computers or other things around to mess things up!" As I've noted before, it's hard to write about the present day, much less the future, without being called out for being ignorant about technology or "simple solutions" to common plot tropes that things like cell phones circumvent. Set your show in the 70's or 80's, and it's a cakewalk to pretty much ignore being able to trace someone by their phone or how they can leave trails on the internet. I don't expect shows like CSI or Bones to go anywhere soon, even with their nearly Star Trek-esque ideas about how computers do and don't work; the core audience doesn't know or care if the shows are wrong, and others watch them because they're funny.

It would seem that Sherlock Holmes is becoming the open-source property of the decade, as CBS is ordering up a show that sounds an awful lot like the BBC version. In this version, Holmes is in New York. I couldn't find many details other than it's being called Elementary. Much like with C'thulhu, the field is wide open for anyone to play with the character, which means, in theory, every network could create their own Holmes, which would be made worthwhile (assuming they weren't terribly good) if they could all have some kind of crossover event where they all tried to prove that the other Holmeses were fictional.

It's never all fun and games when you find yourself in similar but new surroundings. I'm still getting used to Wordpress, and I apologize for any slowness in approving comments, as I've been learning how to migrate my DNS hosting. I almost wish that was a euphemism for something, but it's a bit of a lengthy process. This might mean that e-mails to anywhere other than my dogooderpress at gmail account might go astray over the next week or two until Drew & I can get everything sorted out and settled down. He was slightly worried that Nodwick.com was being DNS-hosted by Network Solutions, which apparently is an expensive and somewhat clingy place to host. Given they were pretty much the only game in town ten years(!) ago, I blame lack of choice followed by inertia. Still, it makes the whole affair seem even more like I'm gutting and remodeling a house. :)

Ah, I need to keep the wife and kid from seeing what's in that dust-covered box, so while I hide "the evidence," have a linkfest:

- Japan advances bathtime technology beyond the reach of most nations with a planetarium for your tub. If it does a Pink Floyd laser show, too, I may be willing to sell an organ (perhaps mine) to get one.
- With all the SOPA and other piracy news, it might remind one of the time when it was almost made illegal to tape TV shows.
- Here's some FX-doctored footage from a surfboard that would make me want to paddle farther out to sea.
- Gloomy Truck 2 is another in a series of "get the cargo in your truck and over the finish line" games with a post-apoc setting and the usual poor road conditions designed to make your cargo airborne as much as possible.
- Sony has released a synopsis for (spoiler warning) its Total Recall reboot. It doesn't sound much like the original short story.
- Here's some bicycle earrings made out of paper clips. Nifty!
- If this stuff is a trend, I'm not quite sure who finds it attractive, but I suspect popped collars and fake tans are involved.
- Paula Deen has announced she has type 2 diabetes. So does that make her show more akin to pornography, now that she (and presumably those who've been cooking along with her) can't safely partake of what she's producing?
- Boeing is developing a new missile of some kind, and it seems to breathe air. Given the shape... cyborg whale-bombs?
- If you remember the good ol' game, Syndicate, and would like to take a trip down memory lane, GOG will have it for sale on the 19th.
- Not that a certain pair of golden arches are the gateway to healthy eating in the first place nor that the one where I suspect my wife got food poisoning over the weekend is in this article (it isn't), but when an employee claims to have footage of a mouse running over the hamburger buns, it might be time to have a home cookout.
- All that's left of a cancelled video game about a Steampunk Batman is the concept art.
- Speaking of video games, I don't know which engine or console was used to render this CGI movie that apparently cost $65 million, but I'm guessing its use was part of the reason it's been in release-date limbo for a while. With Charlie Sheen and Lindsay Lohan, too!
- Star Wars Lego minifigs are invading London, the Doctor remains unavailable to help due to the trademark lawyers being unable to stop having seizures.
- Some skill (and maybe a little enjoyment of internet memes) is required to Hit the Troll. Use a normal, exploding, and bouncy ball to rid yourself of the blocks who only want to watch you rage in frustration.
- We'll end with one that's not so puzzling. Angry Bees is a defense shooter where you're a king bee (it's a game, never mind) trying to defend his honey. You start with a rifle and upgrade from there.

Monday, January 16, 2012

1:14AM - You can see what we've been up to, just mind the dust...

Preview time! I've talked it over with the Amazing Drew, the man who's making the zeros and ones behave, and he said it would be cool to direct people over to the current version of the site we're putting together. Now, not all of the links work (like to the store), and the blog doesn't have very many entries yet, but it should give everyone an idea of how it'll all shake out. The URLs will change eventually, so if you bookmark them, they might come up 404 in the future. I think we've got most of the basics running, but any glitches, obvious problems, or rage-inducing things you run across can be noted for review and (hopefully) repair. Wordpress is, indeed, amazing, but it still can be confounding, especially if you know a little HTML, can tell what PhP is, and can kind of tell what CSS is doing but nearly always cause disaster if you try to alter it without adult supervision. Enjoy, especially the ps238 and Nodwick archives, which I offer as an apology for putting thousands of files in (usually) sequential order without any kind of indexing system.

Comic books are going to be on TV a bit more in the near future, starting with Green Arrow on the CW. If the other pilots they've ordered come through (Deadman and Raven), that's three DC shows on one network, and Green Arrow will need them as part of his continuity. I don't say that because his character can't be cool, I say that because if one guy is out fighting crime with arrows, the cops are likely to think the guy in the costume with the potentially deadly weapon is more of a priority unless there are other, flashier (and more deadly) costumed weirdos running around. There'll be three more episodes of The Walking Dead next year than we had this year, which is most welcome (though I wish Frank Darabont was still with the show). On the "potential trainwreck" front, NBC is making a Dracula TV show, set in the 1890s. I'm not sure a costume drama, even with vampires, will bring NBC a lot of viewers, but with Downton Abbey cultivating a solid fan base... maybe something for their kids to watch?

Even if the show is awful, it'll have a hard time being as bad as the thought that even though they've run out of books, we're probably going to get more Twilight movies. Maybe they'll have a flashback-crossover with the NBC series and address Dracula's hidden past regarding the Cullens. :)

Turning to polygon-based entertainment, unless something changes drastically over at EA/Bioware, I'm not going to be playing Mass Effect 3 anytime soon. It's not going to be on Steam, where most of my first-run games are from these days (GOG for the classics, of course), and it was annoying enough to have Steam and Origin running to play ME2. It's also a really irritating trend in DRM that I hope will change. Back when Steam first started out, I know many people who proudly said they bought their fine game products, but then went and found a cracked version to actually play because it didn't slow down their machines as much. They learned, it seems, and have opt-outs for things like customer data and so on (though I still hear grumblings about offline mode). Anyway, running two services to play a single game was a headache I don't want to repeat, so I think I'll have to give this a pass until EA/B's Origin app is cleared as spyware-free and/or it becomes a Steam-only game... even if it's awesome (or becomes cheap, like Dragon Age: Origins did), which would really twist the knife. Was that a rant? I think I ranted a bit there...

For a change of pace, in what I think might be "good" news (with reservations) for a franchise I enjoy, Bethesda and Interplay have settled all Fallout-related lawsuits. This means the MMO is probably dead, which is fine with me so long as I get Fallout 3, 4, 5 and so on, with most (if not all) being written by New Vegas studio, Obsidian. While a massive Fallout-themed MMO sounds interesting, I'm not sure the game's history of allowing the player to really alter the world on a fundamental level would be able to translate well to games where everything is the same for everyone. In conclusion, where's Fallout 4?

And so ends the second season of Sherlock, all three episodes of it. This'll be spoiler-free as per usual. I think this show is giving Steven Moffat a chance to out-Master Russell T. Davis' writing for Doctor Who's The Master. Moriarty seems to share the same "rampant mad genius" qualities we saw in The Sound of Drums and other episodes starring John Simm. There's plenty of villainy to boo-hiss at and Sherlock (at times) being his own worst enemy... and the wait for new episodes which should happen on a date called "someday." At least the cliffhanger (kinda) is tolerable (kinda).

I'm going to get back to looking over the ol' list of Wordpress widgets and see if there's anything fundamental I've missed. Do they still make MIDI players for websites that you can't shut off (kidding, kidding, put down the knife)? The other things I've found while searching for... stuff... follows:

- Exterminate your diet with Dalek Oreo cookies. I know, a recipe for cookies of which cookies are an ingredient, but it's all just a big ball of timey-wimey, so...
- The Phobos-Grunt satellite has crashed in the Pacific Ocean. It's not terribly amusing, but I like typing "Phobos-Grunt" for some reason.
- The home of the future will have a digital rug. Be sure to uninstall the "Twister" app before company arrives.
- Unicorn Poop Cookies not only look delicious, I can guarantee they are as I adore the Ethel's Sugar Cookies recipe it's based on. I have two copies of the cookbook it's in as well.
- Ellen McClain is a voice actress most famous for her work at Valve, especially as the voice of GLaDOS. She was given a letter to read at a convention and did it in her best evil A.I. delivery, minus the digital manipulation her voice gets for the video games. Luckily, someone re-edited the video to give us the full Aperture Science experience.
- There's every chance that I've posted this before (it's from 2008), but even if I have, I doubt anyone has beaten The World's Hardest Game 2.0, at least not without rage-smashing a keyboard or two.
- For a more relaxing game, the holiday leftover Pimp My Tree has a fun mechanic of using a magnetic magic wand to pull ornaments around to solve puzzles and end up (what else?) decorating a tree at the end of each level.
- A budget breakdown of the original Star Wars movie. If this inflation calculator is accurate, Episode IV was still a bargain in today's dollars.
- Golden Globes winner and Game of Thrones awesomeness Peter Dinklage mentioned a dwarf-tossing attack in the UK that left the victim, who played a goblin in the Harry Potter movies, possibly wheelchair-bound for life.
- How did this escape my knowledge of the History of the World, as it were? In 1975, they made an animated special off of the Mel Brooks/Carl Reiner bit, the 2000 year-old man! Part two and part three.
- It's rare that a film captures a book character so "accurately" to my mind's eye. The upcoming Hunger Games does so with Effie Trinket, a woman from the futuristic Capital who is the public face of the lottery that chooses the games' victims/contestants.
- Next up, a Bat-metal Bat-medley of Bat-themes, including a personal favorite at about 3:40.
- You think your job stinks? How about spending six months tunneling 100 feet to steal a little over $9,000 from an ATM?
- There's now a Facebook app that lets you record a message to be played/forwarded after your death when three chosen friends confirm you've passed on. It can also be an app that lets three "friends" play a horrific prank on you and everyone you know, so choose wisely.
- It's not the world's hardest game (see above) but Test Subject N36 is a fair challenge. Shoot 'em up, escape each room, and increase your abilities.
- Finally, Symphony is similar to other ambient particle games, but what it lacks in original concept it makes up for in execution. Plus, you might need a relaxing break after the previous links. Enjoy!

Friday, January 13, 2012

2:44AM - Shirt mongering, romantic zombies, and wings.

My career as a fashion designer continues (if by "fashion" we mean "t-shirt") with the handsome tee seen to the left, guaranteed to be compatible with nearly every version of D&D and most RPGs. Now if I can only convince the major conventions that they'll get an insurance discount if attendees are required to wear them. I also put together this design for a charity organization that donates tabletop games to youth organizations. I'm trying to picture parents attending a PTA meeting wanting to know why their kids keep asking who has wood for sheep and yelling "FOR THE EMPEROR!" when asked to do chores around the house.

I knew this was going to happen. Once people saw how much money turning vampires into disco balls made, I said that some kind of zombie romance, as unappealing as that might sound, was inevitable. It's too late to stop it, it's happened. Forget shotguns to the head, this is what will wreck zombies for a generation. Zombies were fun because they were single-minded reanimated corpses that wanted to (in the best case scenario) kill you, if not make you one of them. But look at the stills from that film. That's not a zombie, that's a vampire that feeds on brains and has some kind of cognitive impairment. Yes, the original zombie was more of a drugged slave, and the brain-eating variant is a lot more recent, but the newer version is what they're messing with. Adding "rot-free" and "personality transference" to them is a choice only someone shooting for a Twilight franchise starter would make. I'm guessing it only happens to good-looking undead, though a film about a fat, old, and/or decomposing zombie looking for some lovin' would have made for an even more disturbing movie. :)

City of Heroes is what usually leaps to mind when the topic of relatively long-lived MMOs that keep putting out updates comes up. The one that always surprises me is EverQuest II, which makes me first think, "it's still around?" followed by "and it got something new added to it?" CoH players may think its old hat, but EQII just got wings. There's even a video of characters trying out their newfound status as creatures of the air. Any Wagner fans might want to turn down the volume, as the music doesn't rise to the quality level of the old Hooked on Classics tracks of the 80's.

In news concerning protests against SOPA, the Stop Online Piracy Act, it's amusing to note that not only could whitehouse.gov be taken down via a SOPA complaint, but so could the site of the bill's author. Then there's the point being raised that SOPA, as written, wouldn't affect The Pirate Bay, arguably one of the most commonly named targets of SOPA proponents. In support, all sites on the Cheezburger network will go dark on the 18th, which comprises over 75% of sites offering captioned photos of animals, I think. I'm hopeful it won't pass, but it really highlights the ignorance lawmakers have concerning things they're writing policy for, especially when it only occurs to one of them that it's "time to call the nerds in" after the bill has been written.

I've got all the raw audio/video for the first installment of Interrupt Request ready, I think, so other than assembling it, there's just one more hurdle I have to overcome. My voice. I've always hated how I sound, I know I mumble and tend to run my words together, so I made an effort to slow down, think about what I'm saying, and... I still hate how I sound, which to my ear comes off as a bad imitation of Ernie from Sesame Street. If nothing else, when I start putting full episodes up, you can rest assured it's not something I'm doing because I love to hear myself talk.

Maybe I need to build some robot pals to chat along with me? I'm sure I have a plastic gumball machine and other parts somewhere. And speaking of creating stuff (assuming you're not into Minecraft which just released its 1.1 update), check out some of the following:

- Science and art collide as iron filings are mixed with molten plastic to get grown/extruded furniture.
- Turning to biology, discoveries that humans aren't the only tool-using creature on Earth, we're now having to face that we're not the only species that participates in winter sports.
- In the ongoing look at how fantasy novel/comic art is usually pretty silly, a man tries to strike the poses of fantasy women depicted on book covers.
- Ive is one of those constant-run-jump-fight sidescrolling games that gives your mouse button a good wearing out. Jump between buildings, roll to safety, and cut down the enemies in your way. For a more cartoony version of the same concept, play Mad Samurai.
- I used to collect Alpha Flight comics back in the day, and while I remember them being entertaining, I didn't realize how hard they were on Canadian cities.
- Wall-E gets the creepy treatment via a trailer made in the vein of the Alien prequel, Prometheus.
- Back before the internet and places like Desktop Starships, if you wanted lots of starship porn, you had to buy hardcover books that collected (usually) the cover art from loads of sci-fi novels. This short CGI film, the Terran Trade Authority, renders a lot of those vessels and sets them to music.
- Now, a carbon fiber sofa. It's not a ground-shaking item, but it did remind me of the Enterprise-D bridge, it's made of high-tech material, and I found all the framework needed to build it to be on the impressive side.
- Science fiction in South Africa may be a trending part of genre film.
- Music time. They Might Be Giants have a 2012 tour on tap with opener Jonathan Coulton, and to celebrate here's their video for "When Will You Die?"
- Advice Lovecraft is ready to step in and replace that Magic 8-Ball you've been consulting for your problems.
- I forgot to mention an item shown off at CES last post: a laptop with a transparent touchpad. So you can see where you dropped your keys, I guess?
- Casio has some weird science magic that can make 3D sculptures out of 2D pictures. I'm hoping it also plays music when you hit the "demo" button.
- Disney is going to make a movie version of the musical Into the Woods. I eagerly await the Broadway adaptation of the film adaptation of the musical.
- I only have one question regarding this pop quiz: Which answer gets you the highest grade?
- Rolling Fall 2 is a chain-cutting physics game where you're trying to kill zombies (especially any romantic ones) and save civilians.
- From the "Most Amazing Lego Thing This Week" files comes something that will make you believe a Lego minifig can fly. Be sure to check out the video embed.
- Finally, a "heavier" game called Midas. Everything Midas touches turns to gold until he can get a drink from some magical blue blocks. Use his gold-making powers to his advantage so he can reach his lady-love without turning her into precious metal.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

2:48AM - Pleading the Fifth Edition...

Is everyone ready for D&D version 5.0? It's projected to be released in 2013, and they're looking to use player feedback to help improve the rules. A lot of people I know are split on 4.0, though few will outright refuse to play it. My own experience is that it's very hard to "wing it" when making characters, having to favor certain builds if one wants to really get ahead (that is, not die) especially with a smaller party. A humorous gaming site (warning: parts of the site are really NSFW, but this article is clean) makes the case that 4e is all about optimization. It also doesn't help if you're lacking miniature wargaming skills and your GM is an old hand at something akin to Warhammer, especially if you're playing a wizard. On a positive note, you won't have to play that wizard for long (grin). It'll be interesting to see how the new version of the game develops. RPG veterans have almost always been able and willing to tear apart any system, discarding what they don't like and adding house rules. The original game had three (or more, depending on which boxes/books you had) levels of complexity, so the news that the rules will have a lot of modularization, making them easier to disassemble, makes sense. Some might argue that would bring it even closer to a video game by adding "difficulty," but given that most RPGs trend towards complexity the longer they're around and the more supplements get made for it, that might not be a bad thing. Besides, I've noticed that the more and more complicated and expansive D&D got (for me, this is usually when psionics start showing up in the splatbooks), quite a few game companies would make their mark with a streamlined and simplified set of rules for a similar setting. But the most important thing is that this makes my copies of Men, Monsters & Magic and Eldrich Wizardry even more valuable, right? While they're making the rules fit together like Lego, maybe the game settings could do the same. Keeping roughly the same land masses (assuming the settings even could happen on the same planet), it might be interesting to have something like:

- D&D Age of the Iron Tower: This is the official setting during a time of high magic, land wars between the races and kingdoms, and lots of mucking about by the gods. This is when a lot of things that are considered artifacts & relics come from, and where the great legends are born. Character classes are generally the vanilla fighter, wizard, cleric, thief with a few sub-classes thrown in for flavor. Magic and magic weapons are strong, but often don't have laundry lists of powers or a lot of subtle effects.
- D&D Age of Darkness: The official setting enters its second age. War, angry gods, and the rise of monsters have lead to enchanted items and powerful magics being a bit on the rare side, such that nobody crafts those +5 +10 Holy Avenger analogues anymore; you have to go and take them from the tombs or troves where they're usually guarded by lots of nasties. Ruins of the old world abound, and a new world waits to be forged if the heroes can bring some order out of chaos. Rogues and assassins would see more classes here, and classes like necromancers, barbarians, etc. would become available, or if they were previously, get an uptick in available abilities.
- D&D Age of Illumination: Out of the ashes came a third age, one of innovation, a fusion of magic and machine. Though quite simple, cannon that are not only fueled by alchemy but also fire projectiles with magic effects have resulted in changes when it comes to combat. The armored knight has given way to footmen firing magical weapons that require little skill, and those who still wear protective metal are often adventurers in places where close combat is more common (like dungeons, haunted castles, etc.). Magic and clerical power are at odds for who rules the age, both sides having brought uncommon power to the common man in the form of potions, powders, sigils, and divine devices. Spell-users have access to a wide variety of abilities, though now some crafting skill is desirable in forging/repairing devices usable by multiple classes. The fighter/warrior classes are also given a boost by having access to proficiencies when it comes to mechanized items and weapons, and rogues can find lots of opportunities to gum up the works of said devices with a few skill checks.

Though it'd probably not deter players who really want to play an anachronistic character class in a given age, making certain restrictions/bonuses more involved in a given era would allow things like the Forgotten Realms and Spelljammer to co-exist in a campaign, just not at the same time. This is all up to the DM, of course, but I though it an elegant solution (one that settings for the Star Wars RPG got to first, technically) that could prevent having too many classes, powers, and items all available at one go.

Oh, and one more thing. If any of the designers are reading this, you know what you need to truly make this a great product, and it hearkens back to D&D's golden age. That's right, I'm talking about cartoons in the sourcebooks. :)

I wouldn't mind having the time to cruise the Consumer Electronics Show someday, but I content myself with getting a sampling via my internet connection. Besides, the room fees are cheaper here. Anyway, among the new and improved stuff on offer, I get the feeling that even more so than in the past, marketers have decided that new gadgets need to be marketed like action movies and/or superheroes. Without giving any brands away, here's a sampling of words that are or are part of actual product names mentioned in CES coverage: Transformer. Ascend. Maxx. Spectre. X-Reality. PrimeSense. Burst. Exhilarate. Skyrocket. Jetpack. Thunderbolt. Superzoom. Then there's the made-up trademarkable words that make me want to read the "reject" list: Vuforia. Everio. Skifta. Mirasol. Anyway, among the items that caught my eye were:

- Viewmaster just refuses to go quietly and tries to grab hold of the 21st century.
- The Indestructible Nokia might have competition in the floor-breaking department if Gorilla Glass works out.
- Now everyone can pretend they have big feet and brag that they need to slip on two small cars to get around.
- You can start to assemble your own fleet of drones with the ability to upload hi-def video instantly.

There was also a lot of news about thinner and bigger TVs. If they keep on with that the way they're going, and I keep to the same replacement schedule on the household idiot box, my next TV purchase will probably require the roof to be removed so the smallest version can be lowered into place. This assumes I can't just fold it up to get it through the door.

And now, a spoiler-free look at the latest episode of Sherlock, entitled "The Hounds of Baskerville." As usual, the show is brilliantly snappy, with lots of fast-paced dialog that'll probably fill pages of tumblr blogs before the week is out. It's also a well-done horror story, with some decent jump-scares. There was a new role for the texting words in the form of Morse code, appearing as ghostly, barely-legible words as Watson tries to find meaning in flashes of light. We also see the concept of Sherlock's "Mind Palace," a mental state he uses to sift through what he's seen when solutions aren't readily apparent. It may remind some of Tom Cruise's computer interface in Minority Report. When all is said and done, I only had two questions for the show's writer (and these won't make any sense unless you've seen it, so fear not): Why would any organization have printed that t-shirt, and where did the depressions in the earth that got turned into plaster casts come from?

Turning to things Star Wars, there's a working title for the live-action show I'd completely forgotten about: Star Wars: Underground. That title needs reworking. It conjures either vampires and werewolves in space (cool idea, but not in Star Wars) or the idea that everyone will be wearing hipster glasses and spend their time in cantinas that only serve coffee while the heroes compose music and prose on their netbooks. If it's still planned to take place between the prequels and the original trilogy, then (at least as far as I know), there shouldn't be any Jedi running around. Of course, I can't see a Star Wars show being made sans The Force, so my money would be on Yoda training at least one of the main cast to use a lightsaber and lift some rocks while telling them to crave not adventure or excitement. Much like Ahsoka in the Clone Wars cartoon, one would have to figure what happens to them has to be drastic enough to explain why they don't show up in the movies.

Now I have to go dive back into what turns out is a snafu in orders over the past few weeks. A combination of hungry post office machines, new customs forms, and misprinted labels means a lot of books went astray, and I'm doing my level best to make sure everything gets sorted out before the weekend. Then there's teaching the kid that gelatin fruit-flavored gummi-blobs aren't a major food group and neither are dust bunnies. He's also turning into the only 2-year-old that will request and sit through repeated viewings of a (don't click unless you really dig old films and/or farm equipment) promo film from the 1950's about a tractor. I think he needs to be studied, I'm just not sure what for.

Anyway, here's the stuff his dad thought was at least as interesting as a tractor:

- I'm sure I've posted those "before & after" images of what they do to fashion magazine covers, but now there's a commercial for the beauty product of the age. Be sure to stick around at least until they pronounce the name.
- It turns out that building a better cat-trap isn't all that hard.
- I know medieval DC Heroes have been done before, but these are pretty cool, especially if you picture Superman saying, "Winter is coming."
- Awesome Tanks is 15 levels of frenetic tank-kablooie with upgrades and a level editor.
- Before you publish that fantasy epic, be sure to take the Fantasy Novelist's Exam.
- Another bug that amuses has been found in The Old Republic. Perhaps a Nac Mac Feegle race is in order?
- Sticking with things Star Wars, imagine if someone you were once wed to dumped your entire collection in an alley?
- Lots of word from Fox about the fates of Fringe, Terra Nova, House, and other programs.
- I know I bookmarked this a while back, but I can't recall if I posted it or not. If so, I apologize, but I loved a lot of the points raised in this Rules for Games article.
- If you want to attend the San Diego Comic Con in 2012, you have to pre-register.
- The last time I saw a gumball machine this large, it was at Gen Con, dispensing "Dragon Dice."
- Soon, you could be using a Kinect on your Windows PC, and probably on every other kind of computer about 5 minutes after those meddling kids get their alternate drivers together.
- Before seeing the new Hobbit movies, why not look at the vintage cartoon animatic version from 1966? The full story about the film can be read here.
- Above, I mentioned commercial drones being shown at CES, but many are already being put to private use. An anti-whaling vessel used one to find Japanese whaling vessels. Mostly though, I just wanted to mention they named their ship The Steve Irwin.
- My wife has far too many purses. I wouldn't mind if she had one more, though...
- The Ralph Bakshi movie Wizards is to be released on Blu-Ray in March.
- Bejing sees the opening of a restaurant themed after Hello Kitty.
- The app has migrated to a web-version, so now everyone can play Cut The Rope. Cut the (you were expecting..?) rope to feed candy to your pet monster, hopefully guiding said candy through all of the level's stars.

Monday, January 9, 2012

12:29AM - Future tech, mashups, and excorcism. Fun weekend!

There's an up side to not having the latest technology in certain areas. When you finally upgrade, it's like you were able to go shopping in the 24th century. I picked up our household's first Blu-Ray player over the weekend, as a local store was having a sale, we're seeing more Blu-Ray titles we'd like to own, and the neighborhood kids were laughing at our old disc player. Anyway, this thing connected itself to the neighbor's our WiFi network, updated itself, let me watch YouTube videos with artifacts the size of hockey pucks, and suggested that if I found using the keypad cumbersome for searches, I could download an app and run the show from my phone. I'm sure it does loads more, but I don't want to spoil the magic and discover it has limitations just yet. For now, I get to pretend a piece of the Monolith has lodged itself under my TV, just waiting for me to touch it and learn how to chase rival primates away from the local coffee shop with a bone-club.

I just finished the novel A Quantum Murder by sci-fi writer Peter F. Hamilton. It's the second in a trilogy featuring psychic (hang on, it's not as trite as it sounds) Greg Mandel. He's an ex-soldier that had been part of a program to give psi-powers to military personnel. It didn't give them the superheroes they'd envisioned, and Greg basically got a mental lie-detector along with a few other tricks that he could call upon with a lot of effort. Anyway, the stories all take place in a future where global warming has altered the world, and Britain has had its landscape and weather re-written. All isn't lost, as megacorporations run above-board and under the table operations to increase their profits and find new technologies to exploit. In the first story, one of them hires Greg to find out who's trying to destroy them, and the second novel is a bit more of an old-fashioned murder with a lot of sci(psi?)-fi elements centered around the victim's theoretical physics work. The setting is done pretty well, though it'd probably mean more to me were I more familiar with the places that were flooded or nigh-uninhabitable. There's also a gang war of sorts going on between a group that was the rebel underground (which Greg worked with) against a previous tyrannical government and a group that was said government's enforcers. There's also the cyberpunky tech of implanted data nodes, a guy who's hooked up to the 'net to the point where he's almost a brain in a jar, and a man who pretty much is a brain in a jar (minus the actual brain).
    Anyway, the second novel reads as well as the first, with one exception: The murderer's method is presented on a silver platter before I was halfway done with the book. The previous novel kept me guessing for the most part about what was actually going on, mostly because the author hadn't given away the store. It could also have been my unfamiliarity with the world and not noticing something key amongst all the descriptions of what life in this Weyland-Yutani-ish future was like. Without giving away the actual plot, it was as if someone was found phased halfway through a wall, and some scientist gets arrested for killing him. Next, the detective happens to visit another scientist who shows off this thing he's invented called a "matter transporter" and mentions that while he has beamed things into walls, he tries not to do that sort of thing. At least the author kept the motive more under wraps until the end. I still want to pick up the third book, mostly just to see what becomes of the now-familiar core cast.

And now... music. Or mashups. I'm not curmudgeonly enough to claim that no good pop music is made anymore, but there are more than a few Top 40 songs I don't find as appealing without them being combined with an older, more familiar (dare I say "catchier?") tune. Anyway, via MeFi, I was directed to Mad Mix Mustang (whose mashups all have mp3 downloads) for a remix of Fat Bottomed Girls and Come Together. It was okay, but the ones I found intriguing were more like cartoons for your ears, or at least, clever manipulations of music. On the MMM page, I found Super Jumper smile-worthy, and was impressed with the work on Take It Easy On Me. And from that page I came across another Queen track that was kind of neat to hear called Strung Out On Killer Queen, where Freddie Mercury croons over more acoustic instruments than normal.

There's a horror film making the rounds now called The Devil Inside. I haven't seen it yet, and I might take it in at some point. I generally get that kind of stuff from the TV show Supernatural, and I still think Exorcist III is a wonderfully chilling and underrated example of how to do horror without relying on a lot of complicated and overly graphic visuals every five seconds. Anyway, back to the The Devil Inside: MovieWeb interviewed the Reverend Bob Larson, a man claiming to be the world's leading exorcist, to see what he thought of the latest possession film. Bob says, in his professional opinion, the late actor Heath Ledger was possessed during The Dark Knight. When I saw Bob's photo, I thought I saw something familiar, and eventually found where I'd seen that odd-looking cross before. It was in an article that looked like a bad setup for a series of tween-oriented paranormal romance novels. Conveniently, Bob can approve you as an Bob-ficial exorcist for about 200 bucks a year, and you can take a test for about 10 dollars to see if you've got something as bad as a Jersey Shore repeat lurking inside of you. I don't know what the fines are like for exorcising without a license, but I figure the test would have results similar to ones I'd get if I asked a used car dealer if my Civic was in need of replacement. :)

Sticking with the theme, Supernatural snuck back onto TV after leaving on a pretty down note for Bobby. I expect we'll see him again in one form or another, maybe even alive. I almost find this forgivable, even to the extremes this show takes the reality of death, as some people do stay dead, and the heavies all have the mojo to bring people back (usually as bait or a bargaining chip). Anyway, this episode had a little groundwork on the Leviathan problem along with a well-worn concept of the brothers seeing their pasts in the lives of other hunters. There was even a teenager that an interesting character instead of a handy victim for the villains. While not epic, it was a good start to the year.

And finally, some interesting courtroom maneuvers from a video game company. EA Games is citing the first amendment as why it can use trademarked military vehicles in its games. Courts have ruled that video games get the same freedoms as movies and books to use real-world stuff in them, so they don't have to literally re-invent cars, buildings, etc. for general use. The bit about them getting to use likenesses of sports players is getting closer to a kind of gray area, as I'm guessing that gets to whatever area public figures like politicians are in when it comes to likenesses. Maybe when the day comes that video games use Google Maps' data base for racing, flight, and other games, we'll all get a little royalty check from someone any time someone comes within a payout range of our homes in their race car, stealth fighter, or mech. :)

Now that I've completely confused everyone (including myself; it's been a long day), here's some more coherent, yet perhaps still nonsensical, things:

- The robot apocalypse may be fueled by microbial power cells, but this is only for space-borne robots, so they'll have to mutate or be altered by the V'Ger aliens before they return and become a problem.
- Skyrim appears on the horizon again with a very macho mod (wait for the monster to show up) and another Fus Ro Dah video that uses a bit of iconic internet footage as its visuals.
- They say it's for cars, but I think it could be used to preserve any collection of valuables you might have without having to organize the pesky stuff.
- All That Matters is a puzzle game where you use the abilities of a dysfunctional family of spheres to solve puzzles and maybe find reconciliation?
- Dammit, Jim! I'm a doctor, not something short and stout! I presume the Spock version only dispenses green tea?
- Often it's megacorporations with marketing departments specializing in consumer psyops that figure out how to suck up our money. Other times, it's just genius-level people in food service.
- The BBC's lawyers do not approve of anyone using their 3D printer to make TARDIS cookies, and they will send a Dalek a soliciter a Cyberman to set you straight.
- Game masters who are running any kind of zombie apocalypse RPG could spice things up by figuring the stats and weapon proficiencies for the Slingshot Zombiehammer. Yeah, it's from that crazy-awesome German guy.
- Sometimes you need a bracelet to remove another. Here's one with a built-in handcuff key.
- Electroshock is a French computer animated look at superheroes and the nerds who want to be them.
- In case you were looking to expand your Star Wars collection with the upcoming 3D re-release of Episode I, you can get tie-in pens in boxes of fairly healthy cereal. Back in the old days, you only got stuff like that in boxes with nuggets of fused sugar and grain dust with marshmallow-like rocks for color.
- Rifftrax has released a sampler of their take on Captain America
- Let's start the week and end the linkdump in heroic fashion with Square Hero: Origins. Become a Super-square-man via a chemical accident, learn how to use your powers, and save the day!

Friday, January 6, 2012

2:42AM - We have music and a logo! The rest should be easy, right?

I think the software package, "Band in a Box" (at least the version I got a hold of) is a good piece of royalty-free music generating software surrounded by a bunch of overly-complicated controls and do-dads to keep musical novices (like myself) from realizing we don't need all those Juilliard graduates. Okay, so I'm being facetious, spouting the equivalent of saying all you really need Photoshop for is brightness and contrast controls. It's amazing how, after a lot of tinkering, all I had to do to get what I needed was to enter some random chords, hit the "Melody" button (sometimes the "Solo" button, too) and then, if I liked what I heard, mess around with instruments. The version I'm using is pretty ancient by internet standards (released in 2009), but eBay had it for (relatively) cheap, and it still works on current systems. It generated a catchy (and suitably cheesy-sounding) theme song for that upcoming "Let's Play" project that I think will serve. We'll see how well my first "studio session" goes when I get everything else finalized.

That remake of Evil Dead is continuing apace, and they've cast one of the five kids who isn't Ash. They've already pretty much guaranteed a spot for her character on this TV Trope page. Much like the JJ Abrams' reboot of Star Trek, this makes me wonder what will come next in this re-franchisement? I loves me some Army of Darkness, but that's mostly 'cause of Bruce Campbell's chiseled-chin charisma and comic timing. Would a sequel to this Evil Dead take us to the same wacky-horror-time-travel place for a sequel? I've probably said before, but I've gained a further appreciation for Army of Darkness after hearing Patricia Tallman speak at a convention. She played the deadite witch that Ash shoots, causing her to back-flip into a pit as well as one of the skeletons in the march on the castle (where she almost pitched into the moat because she couldn't see and hadn't heard the director yell "cut"). Like most people in makeup and latex for Raimi's earlier films, she suffered for her art. :)

I haven't played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, but I heard two items about it I thought I'd pass on. The first one is that the game is now the Guiness World Record Holder for largest voice-over project with over 200,000 lines of dialogue. The second is a bug that I almost wish was a feature. It seems that using the dance emotes in combat interrupts targeting attempts by enemy mobs. In a way, they've crossed Star Wars with the old Moonwalker arcade game.

Speaking of Star Wars, a French burger chain called "Quick" is offering black-bunned "Dark Side" burgers as part of a promotion for the 3D release of The Phantom Menace. For starters, that makes the bun look like it might have been baked back when the original Episode I release happened. And secondly, the "Light Side" bun is just... yellow to golden brown. The Darth Burger is okay looking like a bun-shaped mold colony but the Jedi with Cheese is just... normal? I guess you could imagine that it's blond, like Luke's hair, but that's getting into an even weirder area, so I'll just stop now.

The much-loathed Akira live-action American film adaptation has stalled again (perhaps for good), closing its offices as Warner Bros. looks at the budget again. At last report, the budget was in the $60-$70 million dollar range (keeping in mind that Adam Sandler's alleged money laundering project, Jack & Jill had a budget of $87 million). I think at this point, the only way they could reasonably make everyone happy is to just let people buy a ticket to the movie that can then be traded for a DVD of the original anime.

There's a meme that seems to be gaining traction, though it may be a sign of near-future nostalgia. It's basically all about the old-fashioned indestructible Nokia, with more examples like this one, this one, this one, this one, this one, and this one. I've spoken to more and more people who hate smartphones with a passion and either want less-featured devices or are proudly showing off their older phones that they've brought back from the grave. This probably spells doom for all those dial-phone-to-cell conversion kits as tech from less than a decade ago becomes the new antique chic, but at least it's keeping 'em out of landfills, right?

So while I start trying out new ways to make my computer crash and my hard drives scream for mercy, here's news that Dynamite Comics just just got the rights to publish Pathfinder tales in sequential art form. I don't suppose they've hired writers for that stuff yet, have they? I know someone I could recommend who's not only written other fantasy comics, he promises to leave out or include henchmen as they require... :)

I'll just hang out and see if my skill check worked or if I need to buy the guy running the adventure a pizza. Everyone else gets to go on to the following:

- Just in case your world wasn't strange enough, scientists have discovered a crab with a hairy chest, so they called it "The Hoff," naturally.
- There are swears in this video, as well as one inserted image of an artificial male item that isn't generally seen in polite society. And frankly, there could (and probably should) have been a lot more than that in this summary of the Transformers trilogy.
- A prop artist made a Half Life 2 gravity gun, and it sold at a charity auction for $21,000. His site has pics and a walkthrough of how he built it.
- How about a cute shooter for a change? Gunball 2 is an arena-style level-up-grade gunfest where your ultimate goal is to defeat the Emperor Gunball on the final level.
- Let's sneak yet another 2011 list in since it's still January: The best and worst comic book medicine of 2011.
- And one more of 2011's weirdest Christmas trees.
- I'm posting this mostly because I'm morally obligated to as a fan of all things Who, so here's a photoshop blog called David Tennant in Places He Shouldn't Be.
- And now, a medley of 15 famous TV theme songs in 2 minutes. Let's see if the home audience can name them all!
- The next installment of JJ Abrams' Star Trek timeline reboot will include Mickey from Doctor Who and the current BBC incarnation of Sherlock Holmes.
- Much as how fans of the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. video game franchise were recently informed that a sequel game might rise from its parent company's ashes, those hoping the Firefly MMO would become a reality still have reason to hope.
- For anyone who's just suffered a pang of Whedon withdrawal, here's an hour-long podcast/interview from December with some old and new stories from the maker of the 'verse.
- If you'd like to know the identity of a heavily-rumored favorite to be a Doctor Who companion next season, read this.
- Recently, a clip purporting to be of a "quantum superconductor" racetrack with mag-lev cars you could control went viral. Sadly, it was just to shill an upcoming video game. On the up side, someone already made a similar racetrack several years before, and it's real.
- Just in case anyone out there was eagerly awaiting the next ultra-violent video game set in Catharsis, Arizona, Postal III is apparently a failure at even being a guilty pleasure.
- So this woman in Russia decided to make her way into a missile factory and snap some amazingly cool pictures.
- A New York dog owner is trying to get compensation for her purebred pooch's bad knees by suing to prove that dogs have souls, and are therefore to be treated as people.
- Of course, dead people, with or without souls, can cause legal issues. Those Steve Jobs action figures that were about to go on sale might be halted by Apple's lawyers, though I'm not sure they can win over making a doll of a deceased public figure. They can probably stop the current production based on the toy Apple products the doll comes with, though.
- At the very least, it's been proven that one could drink 42 liters of Diet Coke in a week and not die right away.
- Okay, so Skullhunter Players Pack is another shooting-upgrade game, this one is done from the side with a ballista at undead, so that's totally different than the one above.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

1:35AM - The website is coming along, but it's like getting your Minecraft house just right...

I've been busy with the new site. "Sure," some say, "we've heard that before." 'Tis true, and I've got the bleary eyes to prove it. I honestly didn't realize what a huge cavern of unsorted files this site has become over the years. When I was done sorting out all of the ps238 pages posted to date, I was somewhat astonished to see over 800 pages of comics. Full Frontal Nerdity is closing in on 700 strips. I've got 300 comics sorted for Nodwick, and I haven't even gotten to the pages from the published comic book yet. I'm thinking this will attract a lot of new readers, as they can select specific stories, or (in the case of Nodwick) "adventure spoofs" to see only the full-page 'toons that appeared in Dragon. That comic is also a bit of a special case, as it encompassed web-only comics, old Dragonmirth cartoons, other single-panel comics, the Q4rce strip I did for City of Heroes, and a bunch of other stuff. Reading it by date will still render a "whatever I could post that week" parade of seemingly random breaks in an otherwise semi-organized narrative, so the category tags will really come in handy. And I've even corrected an embarrassing pile of mistakes, lost or duplicated files, and other things that I thought I'd actually done something about in the past (often making a second error). I'm not sure if I'll be able to use the "tags" section on all of the comics, but I'll see if I can't note some highlights as I assemble the thing. I'll want to check with my oft-abused and much-appreciated web guy, but I'm hoping there'll be something resembling a "live" site for everyone to look at possibly by the end of this week, if not the next. The real fun will be getting all the DNS entries to work properly, but that's Internet Showbiz...

And related to showbiz, a study appears to say that men don't generally go for funny women. I can see being reticent to date a stand-up comic of any gender, since you're likely to become material, but I'd figure it depends on the kind of funny one prefers. As with a great many other subjects, Q.I. chimed in on this one, giving both genders lots of pokes in the eye. By the way, if you're not familiar with the woman in pink and black, that's Sandy Toksvig, who hosts the BBC Radio 4 show, The News Quiz, which is quite funny, indeed. However, she's probably not interested in any of the strapping young men in the audience as (1) she's taken and (2) that's not really her thing, but she'd probably appreciate any promises of devotion.

In other entertainment stuff, there's the results for the domestic (U.S.) film grosses for 2011. That's the top 100 on one page, but here's a game you can play at home or with friends: how far down the list until you stop running out of movies you've either seen or ever even heard of? Granted, a great many near the bottom are foreign language or so independent that they probably don't have any logos with laurels around them to put on a trailer. Still, some of the titles do spark the imagination, and it could be a preview for what to expect on late-night cable TV or the SyFy channel. Speaking of the latter, they aired the pilot for Three Inches a few days ago, which lost out to Alphas for being picked up as a series. It wasn't bad, but had a goofier take on superheroes. Their limited abilities (like the title character's power to telekinetically move objects three inches) made for interesting uses of power, and it had Spike from Buffy in it. I'd post a link, but SyFy doesn't seem to have put it on their site, so all I have is a teaser.

It just wouldn't be a post without some gaming stuff, so in no particular order:

- Bethesda and Interplay have settled their lawsuit over Fallout, or so it's being reported. Details to come later in the month after the Geiger counter readings say its safe.
- If you've got a bunch of Sega Genesis or SNES cartridges lying around (or know where they can be had for cheap) and you don't like PC emulators, there's a gizmo you might want.
- Except for my upcoming Skyrim video project where him interrupting will be played for laughs, I picked up two games over the holidays that my 2-year-old can actually watch (and maybe even try out). One is Universe Sandbox, which puts you in charge of some truly galactic physics, and the other is Polynomial, a space shooter game (where you can disable the shooting, if desired) where the visuals are based on fractals generated by whatever music track you run through it, even "Sing a Song" from Sesame Street...
- And lest I leave out the tabletop side of things, RPG.net took a a look back at 2011 and how the game industry fared and what trends waxed or waned.

I'd normally close with something pithy, maybe about having to wrestle down the Christmas tree or something I forgot to mention about New Years', but I've just had my mind blown after seeing Steven Tyler, Alice Cooper, and Weird Al peform Come Together. And the fact that Paramount is going to make its loose adaptation of World War Z into a trilogy. If you've survived all that, here's a few more things that might finally tip you over the edge:

- How can they make a Steve Jobs action figure this realistic without anything that senses WiFi, says something, or reacts to an iPhone app?
- One of the trends that came and went on YouTube was the "literal video" phenomenon, where classic music videos had re-recorded vocal tracks to reflect what was seen. One song given this treatment was Total Eclipse of the Heart. Taking the idea one step further and giving it a sci-fi twist, someone used clips from Doctor Who for the literal imagery.
- Before the robot apocalypse, the machines shall build strange monuments to demonstrate their superiority.
- I love word-based games, and this one is quite a challenge. The Word Alone challenges you to construct words using the letters provided, then move the words in order to shove all of the letters except for A-L-O-N-E off of the board.
- I'm not sure if I've posted this before, but if I have, it's had a lot added to it: Final Image is a collection of (like it says on the tin) final images from movies.
- Custom Monopoly sets continue to sprout about the internet, and this time it's a great-looking Mass Effect version.
- Joss Whedon shows, BSG, and a video game or two are re-imagined as 1960's record albums for children.
- Predicted to be the hot gift for 2012: The Hamster-powered submersible.
- Scientists are seeing if scorpions might be even more creepy, as they might be crawling eyes with stingers, pretty much.
- Nethack is a classic dungeon-crawl computer game. For an even smaller adventure, try out Tinyhack.
- Much how The Walking Dead reminded people what happens when you fire a gun in an enclosed space (a tank), here's a movie clip that may make one more aware of one's surroundings when firing something considerably larger.
- If you like achievements, you'll love Goime 500. Gotta earn 'em all!
- It's a sure sign you're aging when someone who used to be da shizzle is appearing on a daytime game show. And Drew Carey is still creepy-looking as a thin guy.
- FireFlyFans.net has a story about locating the filming model of the Serenity spaceship. Click through on the QMX link at the end for a huge gallery of photos.
- Top 100? How about the top 600 people of all time (so far)?
- As an (attempted) salvager of fallen wood, this amazing bike gives me hope.
- Lastly, Volt Connect 2 is a puzzle game where your goal is to connect various electron-loving creatures with streams of current.

Monday, January 2, 2012

1:07AM - Sherlock, a Koontz, and looking forward to 2012...

Sherlock came back! No, not the movie version (I've yet to see it), but the one that Steven Moffat is working on (at the rate of threeeeee episodes a year). Coming back to the series, which ended on a cliffhanger, was a little jarring as I'd forgotten the vocally animated portrayal of Moriarty from the previous season. All around, the show is just as good, if not better, than before. The use of on-screen text has found its place, almost becoming a character itself, providing information, atmosphere, and comic relief. The show even managed to work in the iconic deerstalker hat the "classic" Holmes is often seen wearing along with an Easter Egg involving a certain year in Holmes mythology. The writing was snappy and quotable, the cinematography blends well with the verbal sparring between Holmes and his targets, and there was plenty of Moffat-brand titillation for just about all tastes. Now if we can only solve the Case of the Mysterious Three-Season Series, all may yet be well. I don't want to spoil the ending for those who haven't seen it, but for those who have... was it too much? Too over the top, or in the spirit of the character?

    I never learn. Hoping that perhaps he'd mellowed a bit, I read a Dean Koontz novel over the weekend while working. It's a new release called 77 Shadow Street. It's basically a haunted house story, where the haunted house has been turned into condos. Every 38 years, weird stuff culminating in large amounts of death happens, which is a decent enough setup, giving us a ticking clock explanation why the "haunt" isn't ongoing and keeping everyone away from the place. The ghost that kept haunting the book for me, though, is the author, who can't seem to just let things go and tell a story.
    From what I've read, Koontz is quite "what's good for GM is good for the country, get those commie hippie freaks off of my lawn and anyone who can't overcome something is lazy, crazy, or a criminal"-esque. There are times where you can almost see him typing on a porch, waving a broken bottle at his typewriter. For the heroes, these times aren't so extended, though I imagine his ex-military veteran of Iraq and Afghanistan who thinks PTSD is a myth to line the pockets of psychologists will get him a few letters. The one character who is wealthy from inheritance instead of hard work is driven to extreme paranoia by guilt over his unearned cash (understandable, right?). The villains (the ones that aren't from realms beyond) sound like they fell out of a talk radio program crossed with a pulp crime novel. What's worse, after we've read page after page of the most detailed ways that one Mr. Vernon Klick is basically the AntiKoontz, representing what I'm figuring the author imagines a skinny security guard version of Michael Moore would be like, he's shot and killed. You could have removed Vernon completely and replaced him with "nobody security dude #225" and lost nothing to the plot. As I've said before, I don't mind if characters have a political, social, or whatever bent in a novel. It's when nearly everyone involved was created with a pile of ground-up axes that it starts to look less like a story and more like a shooting gallery for the writer. This is the stuff that must be slogged through to get to the core idea lurking in this collection of vignettes.
    Once Koontz finishes venting his spleen every so often, he's got an interesting horror novel framework going, and populating the haunted mansion with people in converted condo spaces gives you a longer list of victims with more variety. While the threat is supernatural, it explains ghosts in a mode that's more like sci-fi involving time travel. The choice by the spooky force to repeat the word "exterminate" makes me wonder if the author is a closet Who-fan. So there you go. Aside from the occasional soapbox, it's a decent creepy book, if a little long in places. Oh, and while you don't have to endure yet another super-smart golden retriever, one of his more Marty-Stu characters has several paragraphs devoted to not only how great one he owned was, but how owning such a dog is what uplifts a man and expands his consciousness. I have to wonder how much his editors convinced him to leave out, and I'm kind of amazed he hasn't tried re-writing Clifford D. Simak's City yet.

The law is often a very strange thing, and it results in all kinds of acrobatics when it comes to businesses trying to work it to their advantage. Such was the case when some trade lawyers claimed that their client's action figures shouldn't be taxed at 12%, which is the going rate for imported merch based on human beings. Instead, they argued the figures weren't human at all, and therefore qualified for a 6% tax rate. The client was Marvel Comics, and the toys, ironically, were mutants from the X-Men. The story is covered in the RadioLab podcast, which has an audio embed at the end of the story. I'll be curious to see if anyone can track if this'll have an effect on TV show and movie product tie-ins, along with lines in said media about how remarkable it is that "they look just like us, but they're not human!" :)

I hope everyone out there is at least having a happier 2012 than Sears/K-Mart appears to be. They're closing a number of stores after disappointing sales continued. Some may blame stores in need of a makeover, high prices, or maybe the waning pop culture presence of the Blue Light Special, but I can't help things like selling this sort of thing had a hand in it. :) Still, even they probably don't feel anywhere near as bad as the robber nabbed outside of a Tesco's by a man in a banana costume. And yes, the hero of the story said he supposed he was the real-life Bananaman.

As for me, my family and I enjoyed a small get-together with friends, Josh got to run around and play with other kids (and occasionally glance at Tangled on the TV) until midnight, and Cristi made candied bacon for the occasion. I think the caramelized sugar shell on said pork product is there to stick to your teeth as a means of preventing one person devouring it all in seconds. Thanks to a cloudburst, we learned that an old mp3 player and speakers the host owns could survive at least half an hour in the shower. Josh learned how to say "party hearty," and he only ate one pistachio shell before I demonstrated that those were just the "wrapper" as well as not something I wanted to see on an x-ray. Happy new year to everyone, I hope your plans for the future come true (some quite soon), and here's hoping the following is of use:

- It's late for Christmas, but they just broadcast it (language and Brian Blessed warning): It's the Q.I. Christmas episode!
- Here's the annoying thing about wanting to get along in the world the way Mister Rogers taught us to: Some research shows that's not the way to get ahead.
- Your Prime Directive violation of the day: They've given iPads to orangutans. I'm pretty sure that'll void the warranty, and I think there needs to be some disclosure if they ever end up being refurbished.
- On a somewhat related note (though I'm not trying to Apple-bait), the first touchscreen phone was built a lot earlier than I thought. I'm having a hard time seeing James Bond using one, though.
- Outpost Haven is a decent top-down Aliens-style shooter. I'd hope if my space station were ever overrun with nasties, the computer would let anyone who wanted a bigger gun and more ammo have them for free.
- This next video link goes out to all the fans of the old "Galaxy Rangers" show. I just ran across what looks like a demo or pitch reel for the show. I don't want to look, but I can't help but think Shane Gooseman has shown up in someone's Firefly fanfic.
- A bit of a language warning on this one, but it's called Literally Unbelievable, and it collects reactions by people who think articles in the Onion are real.
- There's often a unique look to art made for sci-fi purposes, and that's especially true of this vintage trove from the former Yugoslavia.
- Since I noted movies, here's the most pirated video games of 2011. Footy fans are apparently not XBox owners, then?
- Things like SOPA and other attempts to control the internet have inspired hackers to look into using satellites to circumvent government interference.
- As a suggestion for the eventual Doctor Who feature film, this might be asking a lot.
- I'm not sure if these vehicles are real or CGI rendered, but I keep thinking up really amazing movie ideas as I scroll through them.
- Sometimes one just has to be impressed with the effort to compile a list. This one is 100 depictions of snow in video games.
- Statistically, summer tornadoes slack off during the weekends or they're really irritated by the mid-week grind.
- 2012 isn't all that different, in that there are still loads of zombie games, like Zomblast. Use the mouse and cursor keys to position grenades so that every undead on the screen gets hit by silver shrapnel.

Friday, December 30, 2011

2:37AM - Obligatory lists, virtual glitz, a big fat quiz, and t-shirt hits!

Another year is about to pass, and the internet in 2011 was a very odd place, though probably no more or less relatively odd than previous years. I've seen things wax and wane, some of which I didn't really post about here, though they became more commonplace. This is an unscientific list of things I perceived to be on the uptick (not started, just increasing in frequency). It's completely pulled out of thin air, but it's what floats to the top of my brain when I ask myself queries about the past twelve or so months as an observer and contributor to internet content.

Stuff that seemed to be getting more prevalent in 2011:

- Rage comics. If autotune is allowing people who can't sing to make pop music, "rage" comics are allowing people to create funny comics without being able to draw. They're also making me wonder if this is the genesis of a kind of internet hieroglyphic language that we'll be teaching in schools someday instead of cursive. Reddit has a whole section (probably NSFW due to language) devoted to them. Here's a "safe" one for scholarly purposes.
- Any image about tangling headphone wires. Okay, we get it. Headphones snarl like stored Christmas lights at the drop of an earbud. There are physicists working on stuff like this, so go complain to them.
- Russian cat videos. I can't decide if they have more amusing cats than anywhere else or if they found a vault of them left over from an abandoned military psyops project.
- The cover song. In spite of the threat posed by draconian copyright laws, people who love the themes to their favorite movies and TV shows gave us tons of cool, if not interesting, takes on popular tunes.
- The geek list... like this one. Self-referential humor might go here, too, but for some reason it just makes things easier to get down on virtual paper. A slight tendency towards OCD in general fandom might be to blame as well...
- Microblogging stupidity. This isn't to say that the level of stupid present has increased, but the hunt for (and the desire to preserve) massive amounts of mental flaws in action on Twitter and Facebook has become even more earnest, from politics to kids being a tad self-obsessed, you see it nearly everywhere now.
- The captioned TV or movie snapshot. With image blogging sites like Tumblr becoming more common, it appears to be the fashion to have words with moving pictures on occasion, allowing you to imagine you're reading The Daily Prophet.

And that's just the Diet Coke talking. I imagine with a few cups of coffee and a few chocolate-covered cherries (clear syrup, not the opaque stuff) I could rattle on for hours. Thus have I fulfilled my "pointless year-end list" duties without actually ranking anything, which I consider a victory against expectation and cliche.

Buying stuff in virtual worlds could be good for the environment, I suppose. If you purchase a car in a game, it's not going to burn gas, emit exhaust, require you to buy a wardrobe that matches the upholstery, and then wind up in a scrap heap after you forget to set the parking brake. Still, it's weird to see people buying a nonexistant car for $100. Alert Reader Chris brings us news of a guy in China who spent $16,000 on an in-game sword for a game that hasn't even been released yet. The record still seems to be a space station in Entropia Online, but I can recall tales of large sums changing "hands" for "stuff" before games like EverQuest before crackdowns on that sort of thing began. I'm happy with buying things that are already worthless on eBay rather than buying at what I'd call "peak market values." Of course, the expensive ones don't clutter the house as much, so I guess that's a wash.

Here's a not-quite-as-funny-as-previous-years installment of an annual viewing ritual I have. With a language and adult comedy warning, we present The Big Fat Quiz of the Year 2011. Even if the majority of the personalities present aren't favorites, you have to love a show that puts David Mitchell and Eddie Izzard on the same team. It's also a nice index to the events of the past year for those of us who let our Teen Beat and Newsweek subscriptions lapse. Since Izzard & Mitchell named their team "Nexus-6," here's a link to an online copy of the Blade Runner concept art book. Cool, eh?

It's so gratifying when one's "children" make good and find themselves international celebrities. So it has been with the OMFG Eye Chart shirt I whipped up a few years back, and it's latest appearance was on (unsavory text warning: the article translates all of the net-speak) Swedish TV (I think). Anyone interested in joining Team Eye Chart can do so here. Yes, a shameless plug. I blame the cult of t-shirt celebrity I'm tangentally a part of now.

Everyone have a safe New Year's Eve and Day. Resolve not to buy any Mayan calendars, post anything you'll regret next year, or put off 'till tomorrow what's tempting you in the refrigerator right now. Even if someone else in the house has called dibs. They should know better.

You could always e-mail something from below as an apology or a distraction:

- Two fan-made (one is more of a hoax) items: The first, which teases with awesome that could be is this proposed Batman Beyond movie poster. Next, a fake website which purports was purported to be for a video game sequel that's become the new definition of "vaporware," now that Duke Nukem has given up the crown. It has since been taken down, but the scars remain...
- Here's some really impressive Lego constructs, beginning with a tiger and ending with Pokemon. Is it considered cheating to use Bionicle parts in this kind of thing?
- More art in the form of portraits that aren't Steve Jobs made out of tiny things related to the portrait's subject. I particularly like the one of Tomohiro Nishikado.
- Foot Step is a simple yet amusing flash game that simulates (I suppose) what it's like to dodge the attentions of a giant as it tries to step on you.
- To go along with last entry's list of (possibly) the commonest terms used to search torrent sites, here's a list of the most pirated movies of 2011. I think people are using piracy to see films they wouldn't pay money for without brain damage but they find themselves morbidly curious to see how bad they really are.
- As with most things that are no longer sound enough for their original purpose, an old ladder can make a great bookshelf.
- It would seem that some cats don't approve of optical drives.
- TMNT co-creator Kevin Eastman is auctioning off his entire studio for charity. By weight, I might have as much stuff as he does, but he's got me beat in quality.
- A friend of mine bought his kid a video game called Skylanders recently that communicates with RFID chips in little figures that go with the game. A similar geek-dad made a dump of the data from one of these figs and put it on his website which sent Activision's lawyers into full red-alert mode.
- Of all the dangerous toys invented and banned in my childhood, why didn't anyone dream this one up?
- It'll at least look like the future is coming as a famous shoe-monger will give one Rose Bowl team some sci-fi uniforms. I'm also amazed I've lived this long and never knew a college football team was called the Ducks.
- Dancing Cockatoos are so 2011. 2012's rhythmic bird will be the rather sleepily-jamming owl.
- There's a town in China that turns disused strings of holiday lights into slippers.
- It's not the first fan-film to do it and it won't be the last, but here's a pretty good mashup called Doctor Who meets Star Wars Episode I. Allons-y!
- Straight from a guy who makes actual armor comes an extensive look at Fantasy Armor and Lady Bits, or how to make armored women practical as well as appealing. Imagery is SFW, assuming you don't get in trouble for World of Warcraft women or the like.
- Adventure Story is a platformer that follows the usual damsel rescue scenario with magic spells, combo attacks, and the occasional cat.
- Click this next link only if you only really, really need to see Simon Pegg speak, as you have to sit through an ad that's longer than the clip. Anyway, someone tell Pegg he's never too old to play Wee Hughie in a movie adaptation of the comic book, The Boys.
- Anyone who remembers the Elephant RPG game will have a love/hate on for This is the Only Level 3. Your elephant just wants to finish the level. Is that so wrong?

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

1:05AM - I may need to download more RAM for this...

I'm going to kill YouTube, I just know it. So here's what I'm thinking of doing: I'm considering doing a kind of "Let's Play" feature using a playthrough of Skyrim. I've got a copy of Fraps, I've got a really decent microphone, pop shield, preamp, and a separate computer to record my dialog with. I've got enough familiarity with editing software that I think I can pull a few visual gags, and I've even got a kind of schtick to bring to the show (great Zarquon, I'm already calling it a show) that doesn't ape Yahtzee but still entertains. My two-year-old son will also be making appearances in random places, which reflects how he often visits me during the workday. This is all assuming I can get it to work without totally bankrupting my productivity on other things that I have a reasonable expectation of generating income from. True, YouTube vids can get ad revenue, but this assumes what I come up with will be good enough to appeal to viewers as yay, funny or bad enough to appeal to viewers as yay, trainwreck. I'll be testing my equipment in a few days once I get everything together, so assuming my computer can handle what I'm about to do with it... we'll see something that I'll probably regret someday. Josh, too, but he's a minor and can blame me for the fallout. Rest assured he won't be seeing anything traumatic. In fact, that's the basis for what I hope becomes a running gag.

By the way, if you've considered the idea that this is at least partly a plot on my part to find a "legitimate" way to play a video game, you're right.

So here's something about the Cars franchise that never struck me until now. They use a non-traditional presentation of how eyes on cartoon cars are portrayed. I hadn't even considered this, and I grew up on pretty much every cartoon car (even the Tex Avery ones he mentions, though he leaves out that Avery's planes used windshield-eyes, too, but they lack headlights to begin with). I'd say Pixar is taking advantage of the appeal of larger cartoonish eyes, and they also make expressions easier to read at a distance. I may have blotted this out over a kids' book series we got for Josh that centers on vehicles. In them, cars (or at least the taxis) have faces both on the front and the rear, which opens up whole new rafts of questions for me.

Moviehole has all the details about the Munsters pilot, which sounds like Teen Wolf (the Michael J. Fox version) mixed with a book of dark fairy tales for the rest of the family. At least it's not a sit-com. Maybe it'll be good, but maybe it's too late for yet another supernatural show to fit into the already fang-saturated landscape, even if it's got a recognizable brand name slapped on it. The funny thing is, the Grandpa-Lily-Herman relationship they talk about sounds compelling enough to stand on its own without having Eddie's lycanthropy as part of the mix and could be interesting enough to have been something other than a repackaged The Munsters. What's worse, Bryan Pushing Daisies Fuller came up with it so I'll have to at least see the first episode. I suppose we'll know if the ratings are good if they pop for some new Munster vehicles. Again, while it might be decent or not-awful, this kind of thing almost makes me think that Fred Gwynne was being more than a little prophetic in one of his last movie roles when he said, as Jud Crandall, "Sometimes, dead is better."

One of the reasons I like games on the PC over console is the relative (and that's very relative at times) ease at which you can mod games. ModDB.com has posted a video of the players' choices of the top ten 2011 game mods. You may already own one or more of the titles featured (like Half Life 2, which scores three of the mods listed) or can get them for cheap at your online game supplier of choice. Then there's the editors' mods of choice for 2011, which have categories of "winners" rather than a straight top ten. Again, Half Life 2 figures heavily, but now I may have to pick up Amnesia just to see what that "White Knight" thing is about. And... that one for Oblivion, I guess. Though that means downloading a ton of other mods so the faces don't give me my kid nightmares. :)

Before we get to the links, it looks like I fell for an un-truth from the internet. It turns out there are no Mayan ruins in Georgia. What's worse, the site the article comes from has the same level of veracity as The Weekly World News. So if I ever link to it again, just treat it as something you might find in the files of the SCP Foundation, at best. Now that I've Mia'ed my Culpas, here's some stuff that hopefully isn't as loaded with veracity as the saga of Bat Boy:

- I'd see these cookies as less of a winter-holiday thing and more of an early springtime treat that reminds you it won't stay cold for long.
- My wife says she's known about this craft idea forever, but I'd never seen a hula-hoop rug before.
- Adding to my "if I ever have more money than sense" list, here's this amazing sphere-car I'd like to have in my driveway. It looks like it's from a Fallout game to me, but that could just be due to the fact it looks a lot like a "Mr. Handy" robot.
- This game may seem daunting, but I found it quite easy to beat. That said, Star Lost is a fun resource-gathering spaceship-upgrading game that quickly becomes pretty casual if you mine everything in the first few sectors, getting all the best equipment early on.
- I'm guessing these will be at more than one convention in 2012: Star Wars bottled water.
- While not a conclusive list containing all possible data, these were likely among the most popular torrent searches in 2011. It's amazing that one Vin Diesel movie is still popular enough to reach #5.
- Here's your impressive Minecraft sculpture of the day. Should you have a construct like that and want a real-world version, download Mineways, render it, and then upload it to the suggested 3D printing service.
- A certain video game meme is still managing to amuse, showing up in an unexpected way and in one I should've seen coming.
- If you've always wanted your own prototype A-12 Avenger II stealth plane, you can start by purchasing the canopy on eBay. It'd also make an amazing sunroof on a minivan.
- It's in slideshow format, but the 100 Worlds Project has some pretty cool globe-inspired artworks that would look at home in almost any decent sci-fi movie.
- The thread started in 2002 but saw a flurry of activity late this year, so that makes the Straight Dope's "Stupid D&D Tricks" both historical and topical, right?
- The writer of the UK television series, The Fades talks about the show's first season and about the upcoming second one.
- From what I gather, the concept of "Sonic the Hedgehog, running dumb" started as an art request and snowballed into an entire image blog. It's all SFW, near as I can tell, though at least one image contains a Sonic with large moobs. My favorite is one where someone built and filmed an actual puppet for their contribution.
- Here's a leftover and over and over and over that made some good happen. A Kroger fruitcake made in 1941 sold for $525 which went to charity.
- It's apparently sold out, but you can scroll down and enjoy the comments left for this reasonably-priced HDMI cable. :)
- Verge is a puzzle-platformer where you avoid/kill monsters, but the normally hazardous spike-clusters are ways for you to travel to a netherworld that you use to bypass obstacles in the "real" one.
- The plasma toothbrush might sound painful, but if it works, it promises pain-free cleaning and filling of cavities. I'm sure it'll still cost a fortune on your insurance, but hey... plasma!
- A round-shaped oat-based cereal offered a method for how to become a certain cowled superhero, but didn't think the instructions through.
- Now a relaxing, lush game with puzzles and some amazing presentation: William and Sly 2 has you controlling a fox with the mission of retrieving William's gnome-scattered journal pages, getting new abilities, and discovering new quests.

Monday, December 26, 2011

1:55AM - Doctors, leftovers, and kings of scorpions...

Of course I was going to mention the Doctor Who Christmas Special! It had a guest appearance by one Alexander Armstrong, who I'm primarily used to seeing as a guest host on Have I Got News For You, most recently back in October. The theme of the show is, of course, based on The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, though with a Whovian twist that makes the parallels end fairly quickly. As with most Matt Smith episodes, even if the story isn't your thing, there are more than enough quips from the Doctor to keep things amusing. Also, what is it with this show and making everyone afraid of statues? There's plenty of weird to enjoy, as well as the previously mentioned appearance of Bill Bailey as a kind of haggard and put-upon security officer. A bit of trivia also arises, which is the sonic screwdriver's one apparent weakness: It doesn't work on wood. This raises the disturbing possibility, especially given that the current screwdriver emits green light, that this Doctor is somehow responsible for the Alan Scott incarnation of the Green Lantern. In short, it's high on drama and comedy, but try not to apply any hard sci-fi principles to the macguffins involved.

Here are a few Christmas leftovers that didn't get posted in a timely fashion if one goes by the "shopping days" definition of when it is. I've always been a big proponent of adopting a more Saturnalia-like view of this time of year and making Christmas/the holidays/whatever technically last from the 25th (maybe sooner) through New Year's Eve for the purposes of family and/or friends who you simply must visit or you're awful and terrible forever in their eyes. Rather than one day, you'd have a week to pay a visit to everyone. It'd save on a lot of stress. Anyway:

- Matt Smith and Gillian Anderson visited Graham Norton's chat show to talk about the San Diego Comic Con. There is an attempt to define the term "geekgasm."
- There are good-looking Christmas trees, and then there are Portal Christmas trees.
- We've also got a Katamari Christmas tree, which is quite easy to set up, since that's usually how my ornaments and lights come out of storage.
- However, this tree is my favorite.
- Comics Alliance lets you re-live (or find out why you're lucky to not to have lived in) the 1970's by posting Batman's Christmas Carol Caper, a track from a DC Superhero Christmas record.
- Kitty really, really doesn't care for a certain singing card (yeah, it's a birthday card, but it's close enough to "Jingle Cats" that I put it here).
- It's gingerbread, now in Diablo, Lord of Terror Skull form, complete with soulstone.
- Music! It's the Carol of the Robots!

So while I was doing some unrelated "research," I came across something I didn't realize had even been in the works. Here's the trailer for The Scorpion King 3. It's got Billy Zane, Ron Perlman, and no The Rock. It's also got vaguely Egyptian guys fighting in a non-desert area against ninjas and pseudo-Roman dudes, which makes me wonder where the pirates are. Rejected characters from Mortal Kombat show up here and there if the "hadoken" moves being tossed around are any indication. It's out next month on DVD and, if you can stand the wait, should probably be on Syfy by February (grin). The same search somehow brought up a page (it's IMDB, so I apologize for the weird hoo-hah you have to go through to get there from here) indicating that 2013 will see an animated move based on the cartoon, Biker Mice From Mars for some reason. I vaguely remember seeing the show's opening credits, but not the actual program. I was fairly deep in the Ninja Turtle camp at the time, so maybe that's why it didn't make an impression.

Josh's second Christmas went swimmingly, and he now has double the wheeled caltrops to kill me with toys based on vehicles than before. In other words, he's so happy he's probably lowering our electricity bills with his aura of "everything is awesome." And this is with a head cold, which is probably acting as a kind of control rod, preventing everything in a five-block radius from becoming part of a musical, complete with cartoon animals. He loves the tree-train so much that I'm going to have to probably install a visible electric train somewhere in the house on a permanent basis. We have a coffee table made out of an old box-frame window, which I think can both allow for a slightly bigger layout along with the desired protection from toddler-based damage. If that works out, I'll post pix.

While I get back to the Christmas gift I bought for my wife (which she's graciously sharing) in the form of one of those buckets of miniature cream puffs that Costco sells, here's the traditional dumping of links:

- You know all those robots I post about, jokingly saying that they're going to take over the world, treat us all like we're Sarah Connor, etc.? Some nice scientists just invented self-healing electronic chips for them, which should in no way be seen as an attempt for a small group to curry favor with our metallic overlords.
- Big heads up on this next item. Red Letter Media has posted a Plinkett review of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, so here's the usual pre-flight instructions: The humor is not for kids, not everyone's cup of tea, and does cross the line a little more than usual on the "comedy." There's an Olsen Twins gag that viewers might want to skip at 4:25 to 4:53. With that in mind, here's part one and part two. That said, it's got some otherwise insightful stuff to say.
- Since it's gift-returning season, here's Gifts Pusher, a game where you used a box-shaped avatar of your will to move presents around puzzling levels to get them to their assigned dotted-line goal.
- I don't suppose anyone out there knows what address one uses to send things to British comedian Russell Howard? He did this joke, so I think he'd appreciate one of these shirts. :) I'd probably need his shirt size, too. L? Maybe XL if he likes 'em loose?
- This isn't a comment on how Bane looks in the next Batman film. It's just weird how well it works in this photo.
- It's that time of year again, when DJ Earworm releases the United State of Pop for 2011. I like these, as they're (I'm told) an improvement on the originals, and I then become vaguely acquainted with pop music without having to listen to commercial radio. There's an mp3 download link in the description.
- I haven't seen Tintin yet, but Cartoon Brew has dug up clips and/or info about every previous adaptation for comparison.
- Brooklyn has a brownstone that's basically a building-shaped vent for the subway system.
- The title may be a little extreme, and I've not seen any studies indicating that textiles can lead to pet depression, but here's a photo blog of Pets who Want to Kill Themselves. Allegedly.
- An artist has created a series of really cool sculptures carved from books.
- It may be a step in the right direction, but I fear that this sign may only make the intended audience confused, especially if they're shopping without someone to supply an extra hand. Maybe they should have used two hands and a foot?
- Simpsons merchandise, possibly dating from the 13th century, was dug up in Scotland. Willie the Janitor's ancestors are being sought for questioning.
- In case you haven't been hearing about it, the Stop Online Piracy Act is really, really flawed and would drastically alter the internet as we know it. If you're still not decided on the issue, Mythbuster Adam Savage opposes it as well.
- Not to harp on it, but a SOPA protest against GoDaddy resulted in the loss of over 20,000 domains and, presumably, customers.
- Here's Snow Tree. Direct the falling white stuff to create your own ice-crystal tree and reach the present.
- A director whose previous work includes Game of Thrones might be in line to direct Thor 2. This means nearly everyone you like will probably die before the credits roll.
- This next item contains swears in the form of text (and Morse Code), but it's historical, which makes it okay, right? Anyway, it's about the cross-stitching done by a British prisoner while he was in a Nazi work camp to pass the time, and the book his son has published about it.
- And one more festive-ish game: Frozen Candy. Shoot candy balls at other candy balls that are, well, frozen together to make matches of three or more to eliminate said candies. As the temperature rises, the physics of the candies changes a bit, allowing for a kind of "hook shot" strategy to come into play.

Friday, December 23, 2011

3:59AM - Okay, this is the last headline about trains. There's also Prometheus and Doctor Who...

It works! And they called me "mad" at the University. I even made a quick 'n' dirty YouTube video showing it in action. It's not too shabby for a first try, and it should delight the 2-year-old kid it was built to impress. Were I to do it again (and I bet I will), I have some modifications and/or suggestions to the methods I used in building this thing:

1. Unless it's needed for storage, it doesn't have to come apart. I made the track in two pieces, the joints held together with steel pins and eye-hooks. For some reason, I thought it would be best to place it around the tree and fit it together, when it's easier to take the whole thing and lower it over the tree like a hula-hoop.
2. Get rubber tires or something called "Bullfrog Snot" for the train. With a track as potentially uneven as this one (making molding level across 13 pieces is pretty tough), giving the engine a little extra traction helps smooth out any sudden hills or tough curves.
3. Get a caboose. I mean, really. How could I have neglected that?

But it's working well and will probably look even better once the tree is completely decorated. I plan on keeping the branches out of the way by clever use of ornament hangers and (wife permitting) strategic pruning. It's also high enough to be out of a certain boy's reach, though not out of eyeshot. Our scientists will record the data for this test subject and report back any startling findings. Also, "yay, it works!" :)

Switching tracks (yeah, yeah, sorry) it's time to look at the Prometheus trailer, and it might be the shot in the arm... barbed tail... whatever, that the Alien franchise needs to at least become cool again. To recap the series:

- Alien: Still pretty cool, though the costumes and tech (the ship's computer, especially) are a bit dated. It made sci-fi horror a mainstream genre, introduced many to HR Giger, and probably made a lot of the audience want to go get a CAT scan.
- Aliens: Way cool, and it made military sci-fi a mainstream genre. It also had Lance Henriksen in it, which was a lot like getting Christopher Walken, except you got more gravitas and less chance of random swearing.
Note: Both movies, while still (as mentioned) cool, committed the cardinal sin of showing the monster too clearly and for too long at the end. In the first, it became a guy in a rubber suit. In the second, the Queen, after being blown out of the airlock, was shown full-bodied in a really bad stop-motion format that doesn't do much for her image.
- Alien 3: Confusing setup, no Newt or Hicks (boo!), good location, good soundtrack, and Lance Henricksen. This is where the series' cool factor took a nose-dive for many fans.
- Alien Resurrection: The future hasn't changed except for whiskey cubes, the guys in charge of re-creating the alien creature apparently forgot what the xenomorph's blood is made of, the Ripley clones and Ron Perlman are the best parts of the movie, and the less said about the "queen" in this movie the better. The cool factor burned up in Earth's atmosphere.
- Alien vs. Predator: I only saw the first movie, and frankly, that was enough. I'd been hoping for the Dark Horse Comics version of AvP, which still took place in space but involved the Predators infecting human colonies with xenomorphs for their hunts. Setting it in the modern day is like those episodes of "Enterprise" where the Borg are encountered hundreds of years in the past and nobody seems to remember them when they're re-encountered later.

So we're back to a retro-70's future, which can still look good. We've got shots of the ship from LV-426, so the continuity is still there. From what I gather about the plot, it's going to hinge on how well the film sells its ideas about our origins and evolution being guided by aliens or some kind of extraterrestrial source. This isn't new to the genre, and was most recently seen in the Battlestar Galactica reboot. In a way, this could be something like Stargate SG-1, except the alien thingie goes for your guts instead of your brain, and you don't survive the eventual outcome. :)

Meanwhile, on Terra Nova, we had a two-hour season finale, which kind of did stuff, but opened up a whole new slew of problems with the show. For starters, the future-villains want to harvest Terra Nova's meteoric iron supply. Why? Unless they're making (warning: TVTropes link) magical swords or there's some other macguffin attached to the stuff, it's got no more value than normal iron other than novelty use in blades and jewelry, for the most part. Sure, you can get iridium out of it, but I can't think that it's still worth the effort that 2149 is putting out to grab it. The good guys are now supposedly cut off from the future, but there's another fissure somewhere in the undefined "badlands," which Taylor dismisses as having "nothing out there." I won't spoil it precisely, but there is stuff out there, and the bad guys stranded in the past are going for it. Taylor's son isn't a decent enough villain for my taste, as he's basically insane, obsessing over what his father thinks of him after Taylor had to choose between him and his mother being killed in a military action in Somalia. This results in the son, Lucas, becoming basically convinced that he should have died, that his father has been disappointed in him ever since, and that (naturally) his dad and Terra Nova should be destroyed. Ugh. I know I'm supposed to dislike him, but not for being a bad character. Anyway, there has yet to be a second season ordered, the finale ends on a "Lost"-style mystery, and... at least we got to see a dinosaur chomp some people. If it doesn't return for another go-round, I don't think there'll be a lot of mourning.

Who-news has been abuzz with the idea of Helen Mirren becoming the next Doctor. I think not only will we see a female Doctor, most likely at the 13th regeneration. My theory is that something along these lines will happen: The Doctor regenerates as a woman, developing a torrid love affair with a popular male character. Most likely this would be Captain Jack Harkness, assuming he still looks good two regenerations from now. At the end of her 13th life, the Doctor announces she's pregnant with Jack's child, and either through injury or some complication of childbirth, the Doctor "dies," but passes along her knowledge to her baby who, in a burst of regenerative energy, becomes the new Doctor, with either 13 or an infinite number of new lives. One might say that the Doctor becoming his/her own mother is a little on the twisted side, but I can't believe that Russell T. Davies hasn't at least considered the idea. Sorry if that causes any nightmares, folks. :)

We're almost at the end of 2011, and 2012 will (if all goes as planned) bring some changes 'round here. At the very least, there will be daily blog updates, where the linkdump and my goings-on about various topics will be spread throughout the week, if not the day. "Breaking" nerdery and other topics of interest will be more timely, and comments can be more focused on what's of interest rather than an entire pile o' stuff. I intend to still allow posting without registration, if it remains feasible, and the system I'm planning on using will even allow avatars! At the moment, my biggest hurdle is just organizing all of the previous webcomics into chapters and categories so one can actually navigate through the things in a manner that isn't reminiscent of trying to find one song on a reel of tape the size of a trash can lid. If that metaphor makes no sense, substitute "fifty hour mp3" for the reel of tape. And get off my lawn. :)

I've got my work cut out for me, so I'll inflict this stuff that kept me from finishing it sooner on everyone out of spite:

- Yay, there's a trailer for the return of the BBC's Sherlock! Boo, it's only three more episodes!
- Adding to the things I didn't know about ancient civilizations, it turns out the Mayans lived in Georgia over a thousand years ago, and never mind because it's it's all baloney as is most of the site it came from.
- Next year, Disney's animation slate includes Frozen, an animated version of Hans Christian Andersen's The Snow Queen.
- Get in the mood for the man in the red suit by playing Ultimate Santa Battle. Deck out your jolly old elf with the appropriate outfit and weapons, then go to town on shadow demons. Like you do.
- The RIAA recently was busted for its in-house IP addresses downloading lots of pirated media. They pull out the excuse that said addresses were spoofed, which means we can get away with the same fig leaf, right? :)
- Ever since reading my first "advice for new brides" book from pre-1900 days, I've always found such vintage "wisdom" horrifyingly amusing, so it's no surprise that Questionable Advice has a similar effect.
- I may have mentioned it before, but G4 is launching an anime in January based on the vampire hunter "Blade."
- Carrying on a new-ish internet trope with a superhero twist, here's X-Men comic covers with googly eyes.
- The guy who gave us "Game of Thrones" (among other themes) in a heavy metal form brings us a metal holiday medley.
- The LHC has reported its first newly confirmed particle, called a "Chi_b (3P)." I'm sure all the science punk-teenagers will call it the "Chibi :P" when they're busy not getting off my lawn.
- I don't have an iPhone, but I do have glasses, and if this really works, it's the most brilliant thing ever for finding them.
- The Rubble Trouble demolition games continue their world tour with Rubble Trouble Moscow. Knock down the buildings to spec, and mind you don't damage the Kremlin.
- In the future, will tracers inkers in comics be obsolete?
- If you think you couldn't have spent more on toys this Christmas, here's Wikicollecting's top 10 most expensive classic toys and a dubiously "world's most" (but still impressive) list of quite pricy playtime items.
- And for a more frenetic game of puzzle-platforming along with princess saving and ninja-style super powers, here's Sideroller to keep your weekend entertaining.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

3:53AM - Trains, Banes, and Hobbitsesss...

Long story short: It works! The roadbed looks pretty nice, the track went in without too much wailing and gnashing of teeth, though I do need to get more than three lengths of flex track if I want to do this again without cobbling other track bits together. Hooked up with a power pack that's surely far too fancy for my needs, both candidates for the Christmas Tree Express got moving, eventually. Apparently, if you leave engines to sit for a year or so, they are a little sluggish to start and one needs to bone up on having them properly lubricated, which will be my next task. That and actually suspending the whole mess from an actual tree, which is where we see just how lucky an improvisational engineer I am.

On to the big trailer release of the week, that of The Dark Knight Rises. Let me start by saying that I've no idea what the final Batman movie will be like, but given the previous two I think we can at least expect a decent film. Quite often, movie characters based on ones from other media have to be taken on their own merits, as many changes are made for brevity, practical or budgetary reasons, or just because someone wanted to put their stamp on them, resulting in a new-ish persona that's okay so long as the liberties taken work within the new story structure (usually). The trailer bits with Bruce Wayne and Alfred look promising, offering a bit of bat-drama, along with a shot of what looks like a bearded and incarcerated Bruce. Nolan's done a decent job thus far with Batman, though I wish he hadn't killed off Two-Face and I wish he'd made Bale pick a different "bat-voice." That said:

- Bane's coat still looks weird to me. Unless his first victim was a guy in Montana cutting wood in a snowstorm, I can't see many cosplayers going for that look. I was kind of hoping we would mostly see Bane amongst shadows or in dimly-lit areas, which can make most costumes look cool and sinister. The final telling will be what Bane is actually like (if he can be understood under that mask) when he's not setting off bombs or throwing punches.
- The football field collapsing as bombs explode beneath it makes me think of an old Zucker movie instead of Batman. The player running at the camera and then looking back just seemed to add a "sad trombone" to the scene for me. It's something I'd expect from a Roger Corman knock-off of "The Sum of All Fears." This isn't the first time we've seen a villain try to sabotage a football game in Gotham, though the previous one was on the small screen.
- Catwoman comes off pretty well, but we hardly see any of her. The motives she seems to have sound inspired by current events, but they also tend to go with her "steal from other crooks" sentiments when in graphic novel form. It's worth noting that in the aftermath of "The Breaking of the Bat" in the comics, Catwoman declines an offer to team up with Bane because of what he did to Batman. Maybe that'll be an eventual double-cross motive for her in the movie?
- An Easter Egg to go with the nitpicking: Catwoman appears to be wearing the pearl necklace that Bruce's father gave to his mother in The Dark Knight. Assuming it was stolen during the shooting of his parents, recovering the necklace would make a nice Batman short story.

Again, not having seen the rest of the film, I can't say if this trailer is representative of the majority of the footage, but I sure hope there aren't this many daylight scenes. I've always thought that unless a superhero has some pretty godlike powers to draw upon, appearing at high noon makes them look pretty goofy. Bane, Batman, and heck, even the prisoners look less threatening in broad daylight. For a similar effect, check out the classic fan trailer for a mythical film (TV series?) called Grayson. Superman looks okay in the sunshine, even with the ocean surf hitting his legs. Robin? Not so much...

Wait, did I say that was the big trailer release of the week? I meant the one for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey. I fully expected to see a dragon by the end, but they picked a more appropriate and chilling creature from Tolkien lore to finish with. I'm getting chills just thinking about the five to ten special edition DVD collections this thing is going to cause. :)

And now, baseball vs. a movie. If you're like me (and I know I am), you often confuse films with national league baseball teams, finding yourself sitting in a stadium, bewildered that what you thought was going to be Pirates of the Caribbean turned out to be the Pittsburgh Pirates. So goes the logic in a trademark spat between the Atlanta Braves and Pixar over the title of their next movie, Brave. This also implies that moviegoers might mix up the Scots with Native Americans, computer-rendered characters with real people, and manager Fredi González with Billy Connolly. I really hope this is due to someone looking for an easy settlement check, because if they truly believe in this dispute, something is severely wrong with someone's grip on sanity.

If you or someone you love can't remember what toys were like before Nintendo, Pokemon, and Angry Birds, then feast your eyes on the 1972 Kenner toy catalog. I used to love looking at these things, and I was always intrigued by the whittling/carving toys that required no skill whatsoever to produce a figurine of some kind. While I didn't ever own the Snoopy toothbrush set, I did (and still do) have a Snoopy Soaper, along with one box of the soap-grit that science had yet to replace with a liquid version. The race car toys still look kind of cool, too, though the only SST rip-cord toy I ever had was one of the many "Evil Knievel" motorcycles. Eventually, Atari came along and everything kind of became a blur until today...

And speaking of video games, the Steam Holiday Sale has started up. It took me a while to figure out that they did away with having a nice, succinct page of what was on sale with descriptions (or even the freakin' names) of the games in favor of a slideshow-thing you have to scroll through. If you want to see the day's offerings, mouse over to the left-hand side of the main window featuring something on sale, and an arrow-bar should appear, allowing you to browse. There's been nothing I can't live without yet, but the sale is still young.

While I play wallet defense along with the rest of you, here's some other things that will perhaps drown out the siren song of cheap digital thrills:

- There might yet be time to construct your custom chocolate dice mold before your holiday get-together, so get cracking!
- AT&T has given up trying to buy T-Mobile.
- From the "so funny I wish I'd thought of it" file comes the greatest Ricardo Montalban greeting card ever.
- If you're a Bruce Campbell fan, you now have even more reason to see Sam Raimi's Wizard of Oz movie.
- HBO canceled a bunch of shows yet kept one with just over 250,000 viewers. I'm all for supporting shows that are good in spite of ratings, but where was this attitude with Carnivale?
- Even though it's a YouTube link, it's audio-only from a comedy panel show called "So Wrong It's Right." If you've got about seven minutes, you can hear comedian Lee Mack and Charlie Booker have a bit of a debate about the merits of Twitter.
- If you've got a microwave you don't think you'll be using for food anymore, you could use it to smelt metal.
- What more needs to be said than Boba Fett crochet hat?
- Anyone who has seen Eddie Izzard's bit about dials on toasters and showers knows that (language warning) they lie to us. At least with showers (the ones with dual knobs) there might be a solution.
- While mourning the loss of Kim Jong Il, let's not forget his contributions to the giant monster movie genre. Why isn't this on SyFy?
- And now, the Ukranian folk version of Highway to Hell. It's pretty catchy, actually...
- There are toys that have "learned" some rudimentary things from their owners before. How about a toy robot that learns from everyone else who has one?
- There's a browser-based MMO called Worlds in Time starring the Doctor. And you, of course. It's available on a preview basis, though it's supposed to go live sometime soon.
- I think it's pretty safe to say that Systems Admins aren't born the way they are, they're carefully molded.
- If there's too much total holiday cheer in your internet these days, try Draka 2, No More Christmas. It's the return of the vampire-spider-thing as he tries to make more of his kind out of the festive folk who cross his path.

Monday, December 19, 2011

2:20AM - Movies and ancient art...

A new trailer was released for the upcoming Ghost Rider 2 movie. I'd say it looks pretty cool, except the previous film had some good shots in its trailer as well, and we know how that turned out. In this second outing, it at least looks like the Ghost Rider has some action shots to his name, as the first movie's skull-headed hero generally stood around like a store window dummy (with its head on fire) whenever the flaming FX began. It also involves a more "go-to" bad guy in the form of Satan. We're back to calling Johnny Blaze's powers a "curse," which wasn't how he saw them at the end of the first movie, really. Though perhaps it's the Ghost Rider that's cursed with occasionally having to transform into Nic Cage? It seems that the Cage parts of the trailer are the weakest, as if he's just showing up to provide comic relief, which sort of detracts from the whole "Spirit of Vengeance" thing. I just hope that whenever I eventually see it, I don't still come out thinking I'd rather see the Sam Elliot version of the Ghost Rider, instead. That does appear to be Christopher Lambert covered in tattoos, by the way. If that's him swinging a sword as well, then there's a chance that this could be the best "Highlander" sequel yet.

In other comic book bits, there's now footage of the original Green Goblin FX test from Sam Raimi's "Spider-Man." I'm torn on this one, since it does look a lot like the original comic book character, but it's also kind of goofy-looking in real life. The "Goblin Armor" we got was also a mixed bag, but I think it took a lot less explaining away, what with the Goblin Glider being military hardware and all. Still, it's an interesting look at what might have been.

There's also a new TV spot on this page for The Woman in Black, starring Daniel Radcliffe. I'm rooting for this to be a good movie, because it's been quite a while since I've seen a decent creepy horror film. The subtle build-up to scary stuff seems to be a lost art these days, with blood 'n' guts being the more common fare. I think the last ghost movies I saw that didn't literally go for the jugular were "The Sixth Sense" and "The Others." I also need a chaser for the recent TV version of "Bag of Bones," which is another Stephen King adaptation which I'd just tell any interested parties to read the book, instead.

This weekend saw the family and me having our Christmas get-together a week early due to a large chunk of said family going on a trip with yet another part of the family out of the U.S. for a holiday getaway someplace warm. As a bonus, I pinched a nerve in my back, so I'm very grateful that my lovely wife didn't finish her pain medication when she had her own back troubles earlier this year. Thanks to said meds, I've discovered that I could never be a codine or oxycontin addict, as all it does (other than make it feel less like a malicious elf is testing out a new pickax on my spine) is make me drowsy, which is pretty much the opposite of how I always want to feel. The same goes for alcohol, which has never seemed to give me the "whoopee" feeling others acquire, instead making me think, "I bet a bed would be really comfy right about now." If that's a superpower, it's lame. This is a long way around Abby's barn to say that I didn't get much done on the train project (but more on that should be in Wednesday's update), so I found some other art I've done at my mom's house: Christmas ornaments from the dark ages (when the Atari 2600 and Commodore 64 were in their heyday). Somehow, these artifacts of my crafty childhood survived destruction, so I'm inflicting them upon you here. Basically, I was into blowing eggs back then, which is a lot harder than it looks and made me wish we had one of those Ron Popeil gadgets to dice up whatever it was that kept the shell contents from an easy exit after I'd carefully tapped holes in either end with an ice pick. These are also the "Mk. II" eggs, where I super-glued buttons on either end to prevent the holes I'd made from getting larger over time. The art was done in colored pencil, and then I sprayed them with something clear, probably a product from Krylon. The results were the Night Before Christmas Egg and the Cartoony Cat and Mice Egg. And just to show I wasn't completely idle in the workshop recently, I finally finished this item, a belated birthday gift for my Dad. I'm not sure if he'll try to actually catch something with it before hanging it somewhere, but it's his now so I can't really dictate its future uses. :)

If anyone else wants to make giant fishing lures, you'll be able to enjoy the weird looks at your local fishing supply outlet when you come in asking for art supplies. And now to the art of wasting time in a digital format:

- Valve's Team Fortress 2 sports a $50 million economy based on hats. That's a virtual $50 million, most of which remains in the game. The article explains it better than I can.
- A new drug for Alzheimer's treatment could provide us with super-memory, which would make any office conversation about anything as detailed as a seminar at a Star Trek convention.
- Wake Up the Box 3 continues the tradition of figuring out how to annoy snoozing receptacles into startled wakefulness. This one has better animation than other installments, but it also has some solutions that are less physics-oriented on a few levels.
- From the "things I never knew before" files comes how some people minted their own money during the US Civil War.
- The consensus where I found this video is that the cat is okay, but given the nicks in its ears, I'm guessing that this wasn't kitty's first case of poor judgement. Maybe it's got really poor depth perception?
- Be sure to mouse over this lovely illustration of Jolly Old (One) St. Nick.
- Every so often, I'm updating when actual news breaks so I can seem timely: North Korean leader Kim Jong Il is dead. We have asked to be notified if there is any change in his condition.
- The UK and Australia have already become havens for this brown-robed order, and now the Czech Republic becomes a kind of "Old Republic." :)
- Every so often I run across a "deal" that just strikes me as unusual, and the one for this post is a five-pound bucket of pink fondant for under ten bucks.
- This next item is from a dashboard cam, and I'm not sure what the driver and passenger are saying, but they're a lot calmer than I would have been.
- Illustrator Mark Hall-Patch gives pop musicians some extra street cred by turning their names into death-metal logos. I'm so getting a Celene tattoo.
- Here's an unusual point-n-click game, Rew. You're watching the story run in reverse order, "starting" with what appears to be a grisly death...
- ...but we want to end on something a little more seasonal and festive, so here's Rocket Santa, a launch/upgrade game featuring some guy in a red suit.

Friday, December 16, 2011

12:57AM - Some time in Limbo, seasonal music, and yet more train progress...

Steam is rolling on towards its annual money-sucking singularity holiday sale by putting out a few meager offerings on special until (I think) the 20th, when the real fun begins. Today (and I think until noon central time on Friday), they're offering Limbo for $2.50. It's hard to find much more to say about it that isn't in the slew of awards it won, including "Best Horror Game" from IGN. Mostly, it's got amazing atmospherics, presenting a black and white landscape with creepy illumination and occasional mist effects. This game is not for kids, though the protagonist is a little silhouetted boy. Keeping in mind it won that "horror" award above, you should avoid the game if a kid meeting giant spiders, bear traps, buzz saws, and other homicidal children are too disturbing. Maybe something from PopCap will go on sale soon, instead. Limbo has puzzles that are challenging without being completely illogical stummpers or ones requiring the timing of a caffeinated hummingbird. The plot is simple: you're a little boy looking through the bleak and varied world of Limbo for your lost sister. It's puzzle platforming brought to a high polish, then covered in gloom. If that sounds even remotely interesting, it's not a bad risk for the price of a extra-large Quickie Mart soda and a doughnut. Plus if you do get stuck (like I did near the end), there are plenty of walkthroughs around the internet.

Not to be outdone, Good Old Games is having a sale for the next 18 days, so your inexpensive DRM-free gaming needs can be met without a client program running the show. There's Witcher, Star Control 1&2, and a metric ton of D&D games. Apologies if you suddenly wake up on January first with a lot of XP and no real memories that don't involve monster-slaying. :)

Josh has been getting into Christmas songs in a big way (as well as "The Cover of the Rolling Stone," but only because he loves the chorus), and I'm happily encouraging him to learn as many as possible so he can then later get into all of the novelty songs based around the originals. My own history with the songs I often heard around this time is a bit on the eclectic side. Many came from a time before mp3s but before radio was so strictly formatted that playing a country song on a rock station (no matter the reason) that the transmitter would explode like a computer being chatted to by Captain Kirk. Some of the tunes or artists that broke through the usual "classics" included:

- Manheim Steamroller: That link goes to their rendition of "Carol of the Bells" which I still think sounds like it belongs attached to something called "An Exorcist Christmas Special," which could be awesome as well as completely wrong. New Age music was in its ascendancy at the time, and we got the holiday version of "Music from the Hearts of Space."
- A Terrorist Christmas: This one still gets play on the "Mad Music Hour" (you have to register to listen, but it's worth it), but I bet it'd generate complaints if it was put on the public airwaves. Still, it's a well-done parody and took up residence in my brainmeats with all of the Tom Lehrer and Flanders & Swan songs about nuclear weapons.
- I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas: Loved as a kid, tolerated as a teen, and now an insta-migrane when the wife plays it in the car, this song has taken on a sinister tone now that the Discovery Channel and others have shown me what hippos sometimes do when humans annoy them.
- Rock Songs about Christmas that Didn't Make my Ears Bleed: Few "new" Christmas songs are ones that put me in the mood for cocoa, snow, and decorations. Most remind me how much I try to avoid hearing Mariah Carey . It's nothing personal, as she could be a nice person, but if I wanted to hear "All I Want for Christmas is You," I'd go hang out in the nearest Walgreens or K-Mart under a muzak speaker. Now relegated to mostly novelty shows, we used to get stuff on the air like Christmas Wrapping by The Waitresses, Fountains of Wayne's I Want an Alien for Christmas, and They Might Be Giants' Santa's Beard.

Even movie tie-in songs were halfway decent, like Put a Little Love in your Heart (mostly because of who sang it and its association with Bill Murray) and The Closing of the Year from "Toys." Yes, I know I've posted that one before, it's great, bah humbug. But it's the novelty songs I like the most, and while Weird Al's Christmas at Ground Zero is a favorite, I still love Alan Sherman's 12 Days of Christmas, because of his line about a "thing on the other end you can't stick anywhere because it's bent."

I still have some more attempts at wood-lathing to do so the polyurethane can be dry by the 25th. I'm still finding myself thankful that I'm not a vampire, as I can imagine more than one fang-face suffering a fatal accident while woodworking, if my results are any indication. On a plus side, the platform for the tree-train project is actually holding together, and I'm just waiting on some ballast (model train gravel) to arrive so I can cover that "Instant Roadbed" stuff with it. It turns out the roadbed is almost like strips of tar, which is great, as you can just stick it to your table and stick the track to it directly, but it never dries out, so they recommend ballast as a "finish" for it. I think that's preferable to picking pine needles out of the thing, so that's next on the "to do" list. In the lower left of the ring is the "oops" piece to fill in the gap that my amazing math and geometry skills created. It turns out to be a good thing, actually, as the bit of track where the wires connect fits in the space perfectly. If it works as well as I hope, I'm almost thinking a similar track that would let a train orbit my office ceiling fan might be kind of cool...

May all your grand delusions either pass quietly or at least not land you in the ER with injuries from a Hunter 3-speed with reversible blades. Here's some other ill-advised things to serve as a warning to the general public:

- Normally I couldn't give a flying fig what a corporation does when it changes its logo, but HP deserves a mention. Looking at their new trademark, all I can think to do is look around for the printer setting that eliminates light stripes in the toner.
- Unless it burns out, the Skyrim-based "Fus Ro Dah!" meme could take over for the venerable Obi-Wan "Force Push," at least when there's audio involved. So far, this is among the funniest I've seen, though I can't find any info on the original clip.
- What? Oh, right, two Skyrim links. Keeping with the festive season, here's a Christmas light show synced with the video game's theme music.
- Here's a point-n-click adventure that remembers what's the most important thing in these kinds of games: Humorous deaths. Captain Zaron and the Trials of Doom. It's not pretty-looking, but it's still fun.
- It's several years too late with its analysis, but it's still spot-on about one of sci-fi TV's most successful failures: Six reasons why Star Trek Voyager never worked. And it critiques without being (as I'd probably get, eventually) vitriolic or mentioning the "Warp 10 with salamander sex" episode.
- If that previous link (or any others) proved too stressful, why not relax with 24 hours of 1701-D ambient engine noise?
- Anyone can do whatever they want with their cars, and while I agree this one is closer to "ruined" than when it came off the factory floor, I think the mind behind it was just trying to make it look exactly like a Hot Wheels product.
- A school board member in charge of one of America's biggest school districts took one of the standardized tests given to students. He got a "D," in spite of his lengthy qualifications to run a $3 billion organization with 22,000 employees.
- Teach your kid how to make these Star Wars snowflakes before sending him or her off to school to surprise his art teacher.
- MythBusters needs to hire this German "slingshot guy", not only to add his expertise but to keep an eye on him.
- It turns out that a lot of bittorrent piracy is going on at major movie studios, so expect them to sue each other and themselves soon... right?
- Tents are usually boring, right? These are kind of like the Bermuda shorts of camping shelter.
- While looking for something on Google involving 20-sides shapes, I came across this item for equine amusement that looks like it could be easily adapted for nerdier purposes. I'm thinking a Mace of Natural 20s, maybe?
- Bill Watterson just needs to give the people what they want and license his characters for at least one holiday special.
- If you don't mind "spoilers, sweetie," then you can click here to find out who we won't be seeing after the next season of Doctor Who.
- If you didn't blow your $16,000 on that rare Sex Pistols recording of "God Save the Queen" we saw last entry, you could try spending it on an an NES from 1985.
- Play as a superhero with the powers (and weaknesses) of a rat in Ratman: Milt's Missing. It's a platforming jump-fest with a rat tail mechanic that puts me in mind of "Earthworm Jim."

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