Tag Archives: Entertainment

Late to the party

I just started the eighth Amelia Peabody mystery two days ago.

Actually, I restarted it five years after I started it the first time. I’ve been borrowing it from my Mom all that time, but since Elizabeth Peter’s books are only about 6-7 dollars for the Kindle I picked it up for that and have been moving along at a merry pace. The series is now over, or at least has reached as far into the forward chronology as it’s going to, and it’s nice to know I’ll have another eleven books to read after I finish this one.

I never keep current with anything that is currently airing, or releasing or whatever. My one kind of exception to this is John Scalzi’s “The Human Division”, but I’m already a week behind so I better catch up. But more specifically I’m talking about TV I like.

Here’s how it tends to work for me, either I watch some of the show, determine I like it, and then wait for the DVD or Netflix to watch the rest, or I think maybe I’d like it, file it away, and watch it years later, often when it’s over.

I’d like to say it’s because I don’t have time for all that TV, and that is part of it. Even with a DVR, there are a lot of forces that want you to keep your appointment with TV, whether it’s filling DVR drives, or wanting to watch the episode you just saw a preview for and realizing you’ve got ten more before you can get there. But I do watch a lot of TV shows, on Netflix or on DVD.

I recently discovered Chuck. Chuck‘s right in my wheel-house, both in terms of the humor (particularly Adam Baldwin from Firefly), and that’s a show that probably could’ve used my help when it was airing (it had to be sponsored by Subway in its third season). I knew it was airing, I just never followed it. But now I can shotgun whole seasons, and know the size of my investment (5 seasons).

Same goes for Fringe (which I’ll probably watch in a year or two), Castle (which I followed for a couple of seasons and then gave up hope), How I Met Your Mother (which we discovered while season 6 was airing, I tend to like to watch the new episodes in “six-packs” so you can see more of the connections), The Big Bang Theory (don’t tell me anything).

Ironically it’s been NBC comedy that’s been the best at keeping my loyalty (Parks and Recreation, 30 Rock’s last season, and Go On (okay I want Matthew Perry to succeed like the rest of you), though Up All Night lost me when they got rid of Maya Rudolph’s show and changed the formatting.

As for books I might finally read the first Wheel of Time now that I know that mess is over. It’s nice to be able to blaze through, without having to wait for cliff-hangers or long spells between books or not knowing how many 1000 page tomes you’ll have to sift through. Sure you risk spoilers, and you don’t have the same experience as everyone else, but good writing and good TV will stand up to both those tests.

What do you follow currently, and what are you putting off for later?

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On Valentine’s Day, You Won’t Die Hard Alone

This valentine’s day take your special someone to the movie she really wants to see, A Good Day To Die Hard.

Here for the first time, courtesy of myself and the Little Red-Haired Girl, is the definitive list of alternate titles for Die Hard V:

– Old Habits Die Hard

– Only The Good Die Hard

– Live Long And Die Hard

– All Good Things Must Die Hard

– Eat, Pray, Die Hard

– Live And Let Die … Hard

– Kiss Kiss, Die Hard

– Die Hard: The Musical

– Crawl Into A Hole And Die Hard

– Die Hard And Goodnight

– Die Hard Another Day

– Eat, Drink and Be Merry … For Tomorrow We Die Hard

– Let Them Die Hard

– 50 Ways To Die Hard

– CSI: Die Hard

– A Very Special Die Hard Christmas

– Die Hard Unchained

– Die Hard V: Die Hardest

– Die Hard, Charlie Brown

– Chitty Chitty, Die Hard

– Tomorrow Never Dies Hard

– The Man Who Died Hard

– Born To Die Hard

– Die Hard With Me

– Don’t Speak, Die Hard

– A Die Hard Day’s Night

– A Die Hard State Of Mind

– Another Day To Die Hard

– Be Of Good Cheer And Die Hard

– Show Me How To Die Hard

– Forgive And Die Hard

– I Would Die Hard For You

– Ticket To Die Hard

And don’t forget the official movie tie-in:

Monopoly – The Die Hard Edition

Happy Valentine’s Day Everybody!

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The act of creating dangerously

How much are we willing to sacrifice for our creative endeavors?

This is one of the central questions in a documentary about independant game developers, Indie Game: The Movie. The movie follows three teams in various stages of production, from pushing to the finish line, to not being sure how to react once you get there.

I was interested in this movie not only because I was familiar with several of the games covered (Braid, Super Meat Boy and Fez), but as a programmer and `creative type`. All of the teams in this movie were staking their financial, professional and personal futures on their game (the developer of Fez said he`d commit suicide if his game was a flop). All were spending long hours, sacrificing food, sleep, time with loved ones or even hope of a social life, all to do something great.

It`s a romantic notion in a way, giving yourself fully to art. I`ve always believed in a more moderated approach, with a day job and attempts to have a real life, a real marriage. It is not a small thing though to ask a spouse to sacrifice time together for the sake of a nights programming or writing. It`s certainly something that has to be at the core of the relationship from the beginning, as it was for one of the Team Meat developers. But even in that case there are often questions as to whether it was worth it, whether it would be better to walk away or whether you are in too deep to quit now.

It`s important to face these questions head on rather than let them sneak up on you. But often the work of just doing a thing gives us little time for reflection. That`s one of the reasons I appreciate the forum of this blog. It gives me a chance to sit quietly in a coffee shop and talk to good friends about this thing we`re all trying to do.

Also at the center of this movie is the question of how to react if something you create is loved for the wrong reason. I think we all want to be like the married Team Meat programmer who can just watch TV on release day ignoring stats and comments. But at heart we`re obsessives, wanting to know how something is doing, wanting to know if people get it, and maybe trying to explain ourselves if we think they don`t. Should we explain ourselves, with social media we can, but we also risk being chided as being pretentious. Creative works are democratic, people can enjoy them however they like, but it can be hard if someone appreciates your work ironically rather than for what you wanted to say.

Indie Game: The Movie not only gives us a picture into how our favorite things are made, but challenges those in creative fields as to what they really might be getting into. We all have to think about it sometime, but happily for many of us it is still worth it.

Indie Game: The Movie is available on Netflix and for one more week as part of Humble Bundle 7. It contains a fair bit of salty language, and some Aqua Teen Hunger Force-esque content, so consider yourself warned. Worth the wade though.

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Big Deal. We Made Star Trek 7 Back In ’94.

As you might have guessed (full disclosure), I’m a Trekkie (and a B5’er or whatever you call people who like Babylon 5). But it’s not because I hate Star Wars, or think Star Trek is somehow better (I just watched an episode of Next Gen that basically involved the Enterprise fighting a flying pirogi). In fact I love the original trilogy, and even some moments of the prequel trilogy (if nothing else from an ironic stance).

But I don’t know if Disney’s the right fit.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s great that we’re getting George Lucas out of the picture. That man has been screwing with a good thing for years. The special edition re-release was one thing, but all the additional tweaking and nonsense in the BluRay releases is just ridiculous. It’s worse than the fifteen releases of Blade Runner! Give me my crummy special effects (I’m looking at you too CBS for your Star Trek: Original Series “remaster”), and Han shot first dammit!

And as bad as the prequel trilogy was it was by no means the worst thing to happen to Star Wars. For that we only need look to the dozens of TERRIBLE video games (interspersed with some excellence), the animated Clone Wars, and well, anything Clone Wars related (sorry kids). Hell, my favorite series took 11 movies to make six good ones, so I can cut the Warsies (?) some slack on this one.

And Disney at first glance doesn’t seem like a bad choice. Star Wars isn’t just for the sci-fi crowd after all, it’s fun for the whole family, and nobody does that better than Disney. I’m actually reasonably certain that Star Wars 7 will be excellent, it’s 8 and 9 I’m worried about. I’m not convinced Disney is good at series. Just take Pirates of the Carribbean. The first movie is an excellent romp with a nice love interest, a lot of action and humor. By the end of the third movie, the main love interest is dashed, as one part of it is doomed to steer the dead home and only see his love once every ten years (after knocking her up of course, cause nothing says love like dooming people to single parenthood). And did we really need a Cars II, or any of the direct to video nonsense Disney produces?

And for that matter, do we really want a company that likes to put things in a vault in charge of when and how we get to see Star Wars?

On the up side, I bet there’s a reasonable chance the original movies will see theatrical re-releases prior to the new movie, and that’s always fun. And Disney has had decent success with Marvel super hero properties (hell if you can get Joss to write the Avengers, why not a little lightsaber action?).

I think Star Wars is always going to be a generational argument (and I mean quite literally given the almost twenty years between the start of each trilogy). The originals will always be the best in my heart, and I don’t feel like I need anything else, but that won’t stop Disney from making Spaceballs II: The Search For More Money (though if they did make that I’d definitely watch it). A new generation will grow to love this new trilogy, and maybe cast a glance at what came before, and that’s fine.

And you know what, I’ll watch too, especially if a promo has Donald Duck saying “may the forks be twith you.”

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AGFV: The Best and Worst “Forward Thinking” Game Companies

For this month’s installment of AGFV I thought we’d cover the five best and five worst game companies for getting their older games working. Some games have life even after twenty years, and some won’t work on the next or even their own OS.

I considered a lot of factors when compiling this list; continued support, ease of installation, whether emulation is required, 16-bit installers, broadness of graphics cards/methods supported.

The Best:

5: Valve – Say what you will about Steam, Valves’s game distribution platform, it’s a great service for games like Half Life and its ilk. While games on Steam are not gaurunteed to continue running on all new OS’s, the support structure seems to be there for you to invest with confidence. I also have the stand-alone GOTY edition of Half-Life which installs without problems.

4: Interplay – It’s worth noting that Win 95 games are the kiss of death in forward compatibility and Interplay has several that install in compatibility mode WITHOUT patches (Fallout and Freespace). It’s DOS back catalog installs well in DOSBox, and they have many of the best known series (Freespace, Descent, Fallout, The Bard’s Tale). (Notable exceptions: Giants: Citizen Kabuto was buggy to begin with and remains so, and the floppy edition of Star Trek: Judgment Rites will not install without replacing the extracting program)

3: iD/Raven Software – Doom, Quake and Commander Keen are all emulatable in DOSBox or other third-party enhancement projects (Doomsday, Dark Places). The Win95 distro of Doom still installs and runs well on new systems. Most games that are Quake 3 powered run on Win 7 without modification (Elite Force Series for instance).

2: Sierra (DOS-era) – Also known as the “Quest” Era, Sierra’s adventure games work both in DOSBox and ScummVM. Many have been repackaged and sold with automatic DOSBox compatibility so they install and run on Win XP/7 without modification. Some copy protection in their games requires you to download copies of the original manuals, but these are widely available.

1: Blizzard (pre-2003) – It’s worth noting that Starcraft (the original) is still one of the most widely played games in some circles. Warcraft 3 which came out 9 years ago still sells in stores (as does Starcraft). Even older titles like the original Warcraft or Diablo can be installed as is or emulated in DOSBox. Newer tactics toward online registration have changed how their newer games will move forward, but their back catalog is among the easiest to install and get playing.

The Worst:

5: Nintendo – Yeah okay, I know I’m not a console gamer to begin with, but it’s worth noting that you can’t play a Nintendo game from 20 years ago without repurchasing it. All the games listed in the best category can be installed or emulated using original media.

4: Cyan – MYST and Riven specifically. Some editions of MYST were designed for Win 3.1 only and can’t be run even in Win 95. Those that were designed for 95 use old editions of QuickTime. Riven’s five disc edition can be recombined into one (though I haven’t tried it), but even a conventional installation from the 10th anniversary set on Win 7 does not work. CYAN’s secret, new editions. You can buy MYST and Riven on GOG and they install and run just fine. You can even buy MYST on the iPad (but again repurchasing is not the same).

3: Remedy – The sound libraries for Max Payne have to be recompiled to get them to run in Vista/Win7. Even my XP installation did not work quite correctly (I had to hit the Windows button and click back in to get the menu). Maybe a victim of focusing on console versions first.

2: LucasArts – Where do I begin? Maybe with all the crappy Win 9.x Star Wars games. LucasArts installers from this period are 16-bit and have never been updated for 64-bit systems. The graphics cards supported are very narrow and its a crapshoot as to whether a newer system can interpret them (interestingly had a lot better luck with integrated graphics cards than real ones). The GrimE engine has only recently been emulated sufficiently to be playable and even some Scumm titles (Enhanced Monkey Island 1) require more than a basic level of skill to get running.

1: Simon and Schuster Interactive – They make games? Yeah, a lot of crappy Star Trek titles mostly. What’s unfortunate about Simon and Schuster is that many of these products are interesting (the TNG Technical Manual is one of my favorites but can only be run in emulated Win 3.1!). Again these suffer from using strange 3D techniques tested on only a few graphics cards, or using old versions of QuickTime. Even DOS era games have weird copy protection that requires a very specific configuration (otherwise Spock yells at you for piracy). (Notable Exception: DS9 The Fallen based on the Unreal 1.5 engine. Great game even today)

Tried to get any of these games running yourself? Like to see a game guide on some of the tougher ones?

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J-Pop America Fun Time Now

I was among those who saw PSY for the first time on SNL, though I’ve been a fan of J\K Pop for many years. Seeing the ridiculousness of both the sketch, and the music video that inspired it, I thought it might be fun to share a few of my favorite artists/music videos in this genre for those who saw PSY and thought “I gotta get me some more of that”.

M-Flo loves Emyli & YOSHIKA – Loop In My Heart: If you like Asian Dudes wrapping, then you really can’t miss one of the J-Pop Masters, M-Flo. His album “BEAT SPACE NINE” pairs him a number of other Japanese artists for what is actually a fairly consistent and enjoyable albums. Here’s one of the first tracks:

Monkey Majik – Picture Perfect: Disembodied heads singing on a table your thing? Well then you can’t miss this. Check out the facial expressions (since there’s little else to watch.

SOUL’d Out – To All The Dreamers: If it was the awesome dancing that attracted you to PSY, then you gotta check out the CG disco dancing antics of the second ending of Yakitate Japan.

SuperCar – White Surf Style 5: Moving on to the more conventional weird, why not try this alternative to the typical abusive relationship. Warning contains breasts being used as missiles. Trust me, bizarre enough to grow on you.

Ayumi Hamasaki – Ladies Night: The household name of J-Pop female singers. Unfortunately most of her vids are not full length on YouTube, but here’s a taste of some of her weirder material.

BoA – Valenti: A more conventional J-Pop artists, this track feels like something you might turn on Telemundo or some such. An upbeat break from the last couple of wierds I just played for you.

YUI – Rolling Star: For some decent Rock or Folk you can’t go wrong with YUI, whose music has been used many times in my favorite anime Bleach.

HIGH and MIGHTY Color: Keeping the Bleach love going, this band is a little uneven, but their best tracks feel like new Evanescence singles.

Rip Slyme – Super Shooter: Another anime theme, this one from Gantz, this is probably some of the craziest Jap-Rap you’ll hear. I’m not sure if this is the official video or not.

L’Arc~en~ciel – Link: The most ubiquitous band on this list, you’ve heard their music and probably not realized it. Their lead singer HYDE is kind of amusingly bad, but the music itself is very enjoyable.

Find anything you like?

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First Impressions

“The book was better than the movie.”

“You have to watch it in the original language. The english dub is painful.”

“The original version is by far the best.”

My wife and I saw The Hunger Games yesterday after she plowed through the book the day before. While we disagreed on some of the finer points, we generally agreed that the movie fell short of the book, that key moments, details and events were left out. While movies are oftened accused of not being as good as their source material, watching this particular movie brought up two points that I thought were worth sharing.

1) You’ll always think the first thing you saw/read/heard is the best version

For me this comes up all the time in Anime. While generally speaking I try to watch all anime shows in their original language, there are a number that for one reason or another I saw in English first. For me Hellsing sounds terrible in Japanese, as do Akira, Steamboy (I mean who’s better than Patrick Stewrat) and Metropolis. Conversely, the english adaptions of Neon Genesis Evangelion, Bleach and Trigun are painful to listen to (particularly Trigun). I think one of the main reasons for this is that moment when we form our impression of the character, what they look like and how they sound.

In The Hunger Games I listened to the audio book rather than reading which gave me some very set preceptions of how names were pronounced and how certain characters sounded. In particularly Effie (played by Elizabeth Banks in the movie) has a much more exaggerated affectation in the audiobook, and I found Banks to be too subdued (though kudos to her for sitting through makeup that would make Mrs. Slocomb faint).

A kind of exception to this rule for me was Watchmen. Though I find the graphic novel to have a much richer amount of background material, due to the way it was published, I liked the movie ending better, despite having read the graphic novel months before. The movie ending pins the destruction of the world on one the main characters and not on some manufactured evil brought in from seemingly nowhere. The graphic novel is like a mystery where the murderer is introduced only in the last few pages, rather than in the first 20% of the book. In the movie we meet our murderer up front, have time to suspect them and others.

But I digress.

I formed a lot of my impressions of The Hunger Games from the audiobook, a form of reading that is often more practical for me since I can listen to audiobooks at work. Reading in this fashion does have some downsides however which may have colored my perception of some characters.

2) Audiobooks choose what points to emphasize rather than letting you decide where to place emphasis

More than just the affectations of Effie, the audiobook shaped my impressions of some of the main characters particularly Peeta and Katniss. I didn’t really like either of these characters at first. I found Katniss to be cold, to suspicious of people around her, and at times very flightly and indecisive. I found Peeta’s love from afar to be far from believeable, and found Katniss’ references to him as “the boy with bread” to be distracting. (I don’t want to give people the impression I didn’t like the book because I actually did overall).

Audiobooks are a performance like any other and I didn’t realize until I saw that the movie how much of my feelings about these characters was colored by that performance. Seeing the movie, even with its faults, made me much more sympathetic of Katniss and much more believing in Peeta’s love and overall charming and noble nature. Even before the movie however, I was softening on both of these characters as I read (this time on the Kindle) the second book. While we may have a preference for the first way we encounter something, this does not mean we can’t learn or change our views by seeing other versions.

I still stand by my standard axiom, read/see/hear whatever came first then see what came next, but I think it’s important to recognize how we bias our opinions of what’s to come.

What do you guys think? Is there always a “best” way to see something, or is it subjective?

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