Monday, January 26, 2009


So I've been playing a lot of the Warhawk demo for my brand spankin' new PS3.  I've never played any Halo-type games before, let alone on multiplayer. This is that sort of game: you spawn into a camp with a bunch of other guys to protect your flag using guns, turrets, and vehicles, including tanks, jeeps, and the titular Warhawks, plans that can switch from VTOL hover mode to jet mode (no complain). Even though I only have the one demo level, I've been having a lot of fun. The fact that every other sprite I see is another human player makes things really interesting as a human is unpredictable.
I can recall watching an episode of the Totally Rad Show where Alex Albrecht was talking about Star Wars: Galaxies. He said multiplayer online games of that sort are made up of moments that you can talk about for days afterwards. Warhawk is no different. In the one day I've played the demo, I've had no loess than three such moments:
  • [-] I spawn into the camp, along with a few other guys. I get into a jeep, manning the machine gun turret. Another player hops into the driver's seat and starts motoring towards the enemy base. I spend most of the ride firing to the sides and rear of the jeep, giving him cover. So I'm strafing behind us into a group of infantry when the jeep fishtails to a stop. Then I see my driver running away from the jeep in a big old hurry. "What the fuck does he know that I don't?" So I rotate the turret to the front... see a tank ten yards directly in front of me, and a shell leaving its cannon. Kaboom.
  • [-] I spawn, but there's no vehicles around, just a few people mining the place and a few on turrets. So I climb the sentry tower to look around. I also grab the sniper rifle that's up there. No sooner have I stood up from the ladder when the tower is strafed by machine gun fire. I hide in the little shack on top of the tower and peek out the window to see an enemy Warhawk hovering in the middle on the camp, laying waste to the turrets and my teammates. I aim through the window of the shack, fire two sniper rounds into the undercarriage...
     and the Warhawk disintegrates into a chrysanthemum of flame. Awesome.
  • [-] I actually get ahold of a Warhawk that's not instant destroyed by flak fire and streak towards the enemy base. I see one of them get into their Warhawk, and try to take off. I know he's not used to it, because he bounces off a few buildings getting off the ground. I lock on with a homing missile and blow him to bits. I then see another enemy Warhawk flying off in the distance. I give chase. He immediately goes evasive, zipping through canyons and around mountains. I'm right on him, trying for a missile lock. Out of nowhere, he darts around a corner. I follow...
    ...only to see him nipping around a weather-balloon/obstacle in the way. I have time to realise I can't  avoid it, and think "Clever girl." before crashing and burning.
And that's only after one day! Amazing.
You've been swindled by...
Lucas Brown
Team Leader/Tiki Bartender/Big Boss Man
Got your nose.
Got your wallet.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Hell of a Day

Today might have been one of the greatest days ever. Like for serious.

Wake up, don't have to be at work. Good start.

Have two cups of coffee and peanut butter of morpeth sourdough bread.

Head out with Tanja to Powerhouse Museum to see the Star Wars exhibit. Awesome. Got tons of pictures of the ship models.

Afterwards, walking in the 39.5-42 degree day to the Heritage Belgian Bier Cafe. Have a porterhouse steak, medium-rare, chips and salad with a Hoegaarden & a Kwak.

Head out from there, and go to Myer to look at outdoor furniture (we've been planing to use some of our wedding present money to get an outdoor lounge). Found one we like. It's $300 cheaper than usual. Buy it.

Meanwhile, I start explaining to Tanja how I've been thinking of trading in my PS2 and all my games for a discount towards a PS3. She inquires if I've done the research. I have, saying JB Hifi has the best deal because you get an HDMI cable with it. We go to JB Hifi. I show her.

"Well," says she, "you should probably get it now. You've got some good PS2 games, I'd hate to see you get rid of them."

So I bought a PS3. With Little Big Planet (it's so cute!) and GTA4 (when you hit something high speed, you fly out the windshield like in Tom & Jerry).

On the way home, walking back in a now-cool evening (lovely breeze) we bought a six-pack of Stella. Tanja made pasta and we watched the first bit of our new season of the Wire.

In the running for best day ever. Hell, it's in the top 3.

Friday, January 23, 2009

And the obligatory "made me lol" video.

Nightmare Fuel and Over My Head (reposted from The Lucas Letters)

"Dear all and Sundry:

Ok, been a while since I updated The Lucas Letters. Seems to be one of those things I keep meaning to do.

Work has been busy as of late, with my team merging with another team to create a super-team (no Blind Faith or Plastic Ono Band jokes, please) so there's lots to be done.

The name for this post comes from my recent viewings of the Muppet Show Season 2. In the first episode (with special Guest Star Don Knotts, who looked like he wandered into the wrong studio) something happened which triggered a powerful memory. In the skit, Knotts is playing a scientist, studying a little baby Muppet puffball, which inexplicable starts trying to attack him. It's funny seeing a Muppet the size of a coffee cup trying to eat someone. Then he knocks it away into next week, and the thing's mother comes along. Which is one of the huge Sweetums-sized Muppets, all eyes and teeth. The mother eats Don Knotts, and the last we see of him is his feet disappearing down the creatures gullet.

This scene transported me back to Victoria street, when I must have been 5 or 6 (I recall it being a school night), watching a similar skit from a later season where, instead of a little monster, the scientist was trying to feed 5 or 6 giant monsters in cages, and it goes worse and worse, this one biting his fingers, another grabbing his leg, until one finally grabs and eats him.

This shocked the ever-loving crap out of my little 6-year-old brain.

I actually couldn't sleep that night. I was scared to close my eyes. I remember Dad coming in and talking to me about it, and (in a move I was told about years later in my psych classes) got me to draw a picture of the monster. He then held up the sheet and I punched straight through it.

End of scared. Slept just fine.

I've also been reading lots of the Ex Machina series by Brian K. Vaughan (writer of Y: The Last Man and some of the Buffy Season 8 comics) and I love it, but it tends to give me the feeling that certain later episodes of the Wire, The Sopranos, and the last half of certain Discworld books give me: it goes over my head.

It's kind of like I'm following the storyline like someone following a helium balloon. It's at waist-level, I can see it, and can reach it if I want, then it's at shoulder height, whoa little dicey now, can still reach it, then at head height, but I can still see what's going on and I'm still walking at the same pace as the balloon. Then it goes up and I can't see it anymore. I keep walking, though, as I know the balloon is travelling at the same pace, and hope that eventually, it'll come down low enough from me to see it, and maybe, if I'm lucky, grasp the string again before the end of the episode/trade paperback/book.

It tends to be when the plot (or more so, the ideas in the heads of the characters) gets so twisty that I can't follow, but I hope it'll come back and I'll get the gist before it's over. It's like a magic trick. You're following along, thinking "ooh, nice overhand shuffle, into a card force, well layed there, nice patter and how the hell did he do that, and where is that dove coming from!"

I don't know if that makes me shallow or stupid, but I'm still reading/watching, so I'm game to fine out.



Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ain't no "good parts" version.

I've been thinking about TV lately.

A comment has been leveled at me that I don't like shows that take "a long time to develop". To a point, this is true. Just off the top of my head, I can think of several shows where I attempted to get into them, and failed:

[-]Neon Genesis Evangelion: Craig lent me his big honking box set, and before Christmas, when Tanja was in the mountains visiting her Mom, I cracked the box and a beer and gave it a shot. I hated it. I found the storyline silly, the voice acting over-the-top, and it all seemed like the average Giant Mecha show, but with added wierd phychological undertones. After the first disc, I stopped watching.

[-]Heroes: I had heard big things about this series when it had started, but missed the pilot due to work. I did, however, catch the second episode, which I later learned was the direct continuation of the pilot. I was so confused (although, since it was a two-parter, it was partially my fault). I didn't know why Ali LArter was running away and looking worried/pensive/hungry into the camera, I kind of like Hiro, but then didn't know what he was about, apparently, this Mohinder guy is important and intelligent, but not very bright on a practical level, the chick's dad is acting sacary for no reason... I didn't finish the episode.

[-]Dead Like Me/Arrested Development: both things I got the first disc of from Bigpond movies and both comedies where I barely laughed. I thought Arrested Development had a bit of potential, but I found it tried too hard to be zany and wacky, and though David Cross is a funny, funny, man, I hated his character (no, not in an "I'm supposed to not-like-him" way, but in that "I-don't-want-him-onscreen-anymore" way). Dead Like Me seemed to be trying to be deep, but missing the point and just being depressing.

Now, that being said, there have also been shows I've watched that grabbed me, sucked me in and took a major break to get me out:

[-]The Sopranos
[-]30 Rock
[-]The Wire
[-]Band of Brothers
[-]Family Guy
[-]and one for Tanja, Nip/Tuck

With all of these shows except 30 Rock, I was hooked in good and tightly because I started watching them on DVD. By watching three or four 1-hour episodes per evening, I really got a chance to follow the big story of the characters and their arcs. However, these DVD darlings had their break moments too (except the Wire, and Band of Brothers). For Lost and Sopranos, it was when I caught up with what they were showing on TV and started to watch one show per week. Suddenly, the characters were acting in unexplainable ways, everything seemed obtuse and confusing and I stopped caring. The Sopranos remedied this once I got the last season on DVD and could watch it together in one go. Lost still hasn't won me back. With Nip/Tuck, which originally got Tanja's attention due to the focus on hard topics and not shying away from having their characters do horrible things, the show/characters eventually got so horrible that we didn't give two fucks about what happened. We've had the last two episodes to go of Season 3 (in which a big reveal is meant to happen) for nearly two years now. We couldn't care less. I read the Wiki for the reveal and boy was it stupid. Family Guy, well, when you get Season 5 as a gift, watch 5 episodes and don't get one laugh? It's time to quit.

Recently, Craig has been twittering that he started watching Buffy and that it sucked. I felt for him, because yes, those early episodes can be a real slog. Then a lightbulb went off. How come I slogged through Stone Age Buffy and didn't give up? Why was I able to coach Tanja through the first two seasons of Star Trek: The Next Generation without one of us throwing tomatoes at the screen? How can I watch the first series of the Muppet Show, with celebrities I've never heard of, except in jokes on Pinky & the Brain (Ben Vereen, Ethyl Merman, Paul Williams, Connie Stevens, Avery Schreiber, etc)? What's the difference?

I've thought a little and I think the answer is that I came to all three of those shows on TV myself (Buffy, with one or two Season 1 eps, then the most of Season 2; Star Trek, through reruns when I was 10 or so, ditto the Muppet Show) and so had made the decision to like them before I watched them in order. That way I know it'll be good once I get through the bad stuff. Maybe I've just grown to expect more from shows that people tell me are great and then lend/encourage me to rent.

In any case, I currently have waiting for me on the living room shelf:

[-]Half of Frasier, season 10
[-]the last half of Season 3 Seinfeld (having watched the seasons in reverse order)
[-]Season 5 of the Wire (just ordered from Amazon)
[-]Season 2 of 30 Rock (which Tanja was unhappy to discover consisted entirely of episodes we'd already seen because I'd downloaded them)
[-]the tail-end last episode of Season 5, then Season 6 & 7 of Star Trek: Deep Space 9.
[-]Seasons 2 & 3 of the Muppet Show
[-]Season 1 of Heroes, which Tim lent to me.
[-]The rest of Craig's Neon Genesis box.

So I think I've got enough to watch for now.