Tuesday, December 28, 2010


**Warning: Spoilers for Tron: Legacy**

**I pretty much talk about the movie here**

*You have been warned.**

So anywho, i came to Tron late, having not seen the whole film until late last year, then immediately watching the Rifftrax for it, thus securing that I shall never take it seriously ever again.

So I saw Tron: Legacy tonight. And something bothered me.

It was not the 3D, which was fairly slick though seemingly unnecessary in some scenes (I took my glasses off for the conversation on the Solar Sailor, and the cinematography looked far better in 2D).

It was not the whole "putting on the Reich" scene where the bad guy speechifies to amassed troops in a very Nazi way (we'll play a drinking game later).

It's not the bad Final-Fantasy-Spirits-Within-style de-aging of Jeff Bridges.

It was not that the aforementioned Solar Sailor scene stopped the plot dead in its tracks for 30 minutes (the original did that too).

It's the casual murder.

"But wait, Lucas!" you declaim. "This is a Disney film. Surely they'll never SAY die!"

Well, they say de-rezzed, so allow me to explain my issue.

The Tron world is peopled by Programs, who look and act human and are essentially people, and Users, who are humans.

In the original Tron, Flynn is put into the Deadly Discs contest (and later, the lightcycle fight) where he must battle for his life in a kill-or-be-killed situation. Even then, it takes a few attacks on him for him to finally fight back against the human-looking program and defeat him. When asked to finish the job and de-rezz the opponent, he is horrified and refuses to kill for the whim of an overlord. Later, in the lightcycle fight, he does fight back by surviveing, and the nature of the contest spells doom for his opponents.

In Tron: Legacy, Sam Flynn is digitised into the Grid and selected for the games. He's put into the Deadly Discs scenario. He avoids the first few attacks, then sees in the next court that the disc can kill. He immediately launches his disc with intent to kill. It doesn't work at first, and the match becomes heated, with Sam finally de-rezzing his opponent with disc-through chest. He's almost immediately put into the next match. He kills his opponent quickly and uses the extra time to look for a way out.

Wait, what? This guy's been dropped into a computer world for 5 minutes and he's already killing people stylishly and without remorse? And that's just in the games. Once he's on the run, he's blasting those Orange guard programs left and right, sending the digital chips flying.

"But wait, Lucas!" you declaim anew. "Those programs he's killing are Orange Guys. Orange guys are bad guys, just drones. Surely it's okay to de-rezz them!"

Wrong again. Late in the film it's shown that not all captured blue guy Programs are sent to the games. Some are sent to "Rectification camps*" in boxcars**, where they're force-marched*** into glowing orange boxes that look like ovens****, and come out as perfect goose-stepping*****-in-formation Orange Guys.


The Big Bad of the film, Clu, is shown as an Authority-Equals-Asskicking dictator, who's destroyed an entire race within the grid because they didn't fit his ideal of perfection******. This is to make sure to point out to those of us still playing the home game, that this mook is a complete monster.

So how do we defeat this monster?

***last warning, major plot spoilers here zomg***

In order to get his son and Token Girly out safely, Flynn uses his physical god powers (which really would have been useful in the big fight) to hold back Clu, then Force-pull him in and reabsorb him, causing a massive energy release that destroys them both and the entire city.

Let me repeat that. THE ENTIRE CITY IS WIPED OUT.

That means every program, good or bad, is dead. That's genocide. And he's the good guy.

I couldn't believe it.

Disney, ladies and gents. You know, for kids!

*** DRI*hic*NK!
**** DRINK!
***** DRINK!
****** DRINK! Whoa. I gotta sit down.

I will do you a favour.

I shall recommend you go and download (for free) Super Crate Box. It recently won Free Indie of the Year (on Bytejacker) and it has casuall sucked up about an hour of my time today without even trying. It's basically a metroid-style platformer, but you're confined to one room. Your little dude has to run around collecting crates, each of which gives him a weapon upgrade. Problem is, it's a randomised weapon upgrade (so you might trade a bazooka for a weak-ass pistol), the enemies you don't kill get faster and angrier, and even if you sit and plug away at the enemies, you don't advance to the next level until you get a certain number of crates without dying.

It's addictive. Play it.

This is the link.

Monday, December 27, 2010

It sounds really silly, but it makes me happy when people mention things that I've written in my blog (well, people who aren't people that I've forced into reading it, anyway)

To show my joy, here is a gif of Scott Pilgrim rocking out.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Machine of Death: HA!

I'm reading this book on my Kindle:
"Machine of Death: A Collection of Stories About People Who Know How They Will Die"
Here is it's Amazon listing.
Here is it's website.
It's about people who go to a machine which pricks their finger and then tells them the exact method of their death (but not time or details. Like "Almond" or "Car Crash").
Some of the stories are ironic, some are Twilight-Zone-Dark, a few are worrying, and one so far touching.

But this one made me laugh out loud the moment I turned my Kindle-page.

(Oh, FYI, the titles of each story is one of the causes of death mentioned, most, but not all, being the cause of death of the main character.)

I present it here, in full:

HAHAHA. Ah ha.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

The Pusher.

I'm sick of having interests that are diverse and oddball enough that when I get a reaction to something, I can't talk about it unless I force that thing onto them and then press them for a conversation.

I first felt this feeling after going to see My Disco with Ted. I name dropped the band at work to local metal/odd-ball music people that I talk to and no one knew it. I assumed that, as it was one of Ted's bands, it'd be known to people who like Teddish tunes like Godspeed You Black Emperor and such. The one person who seemed interested recieved a burned CD from me and he didn't like it.

It's similar to when I try to talk about Scott Pilgrim to some people and they go "Oh, yeah, I read that." and I gush and start talking about the fact that I love it. And the person goes "Yeah, it was okay. I just read the first one." Argh.

I'm not saying people shouldn't have their own opinions, far from it. I just wish that sometimes those opinions would match or at least be nearish to mine without my having to forcefeed them to people.

So anyway.

I was disappointed with the last trade of Ex Machina. It was the series conclusion and it was unsatisfying.

If you don't know Ex Machina, I am not the least bit surprised.

It would not be worth my explaining the premise or anything. I probably wouldn't convince you to try it. Even then, you might hate it.

edit: That being said, in the last month I've had two great conversations, one with a guy at work, and one with my boss, about my love of insects, and nature in general (which lead to the loaning of Bill Fitzhugh's "Pest Control" to Joe, and Rick's highly recommending Attenborough's Planet Earth to me. So I could easily be full of shit.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

I don't think I've ever found the solution to a problem I've been having with my computer by looking online.

Lately I've had an issue on Windows Vista where anytime I rename or delete a file, the script showing "deleting" will hang on the screen after the file is gone. I'll hit cancel, and it'll sit "canceling" forever until i use task manager to close it.

I've trawled forums, I've streamlined my start-up processes, I've found no answers. One forum suggested that it was a search indexing fuction that was causing it, but when I located and stopped that process it did get rid of the script, but the next time I edit something it hangs again. Occasionally it'll affect iTunes when I'm transferring purchases back to the PC, cause that to freeze. Finally, it'll affect my Windows Movie Maker in that if I save a project and open it to edit again, the program will freeze as soon as the project is open.

Yesterday i spent 2 hours editing together video footage for a project. I saved it, but left the computer running overnight. Today, while I was at work, Tanja wanted to edit some of her iTunes playlists, but noticed the computer was running slowly, so she saved what was open and restarted. Later this evening when I tried to check on the project I had saved? Couldn't open it.

I don't even get mad anymore. I just sort of sigh. Things will fail, and no one can fix them.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

This is about the feeling you get, you know, like when you're the smallest doll in a babushka doll.

This kind of got me a little bit. Just a bit. Sniff.

Stick around for the 4th verse.

For those who are impatient, this is the 4th verse:
This is my body
And I live in it
It's twenty-nine and twelve months old
It's changed a lot since it was new
It's done stuff it wasn't built to do
I often try to fill it up with wine
And the weirdest thing about it is
I spend so much time hating it
But it never says a bad word about me

This is my body
And it's fine
It's where I spend the vast majority of my time
It's not perfect, but it's mine
It's not perfect


Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm being good.

Want to know how good I'm being?

This is how good:

I have on my bedside table the latest Robert Jordan/Brendan Sanderson Wheel of Time book, the latest volume of Empowered, the two Bone prequels/sequels, a compendium of Hopeless Savages, plus a couple of miscellaneous graphic novels & comics, and a book on the nature of jokes and humour.

On my Kindle I have the latest Terry Pratchett Tiffany Aching book, Robert Rankin's latest Brentford book, a collection of short stories of people who know the exact method of their death but not the time (by a slew of webcomic authors), about 30 Neil Gaiman short stories, the entire Dresden Files series, and all but one of Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series.

In the spare bedroom I have the last 4 months of The Word magazine.

I am not reading any of these things. I am reading my wife's draft of her novel on my Kindle. Because she asked me to.

You bet I'm good.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Now the game is on the other foot.

So I've finished Bioshock 2. Don't worry, gentle reader, I'm not going to do another "Lucas goes in-depth in pros and cons of a game" post. It's just that while I was playing Bioshock 2, I told myself that I'm not going to even look at other games until I finished it. So as Dead Rising 2, Fallout: New Vegas and other new and shiny titles went by, I stuck with it. Now that it's finished, and I'm done with that universe, I can play other. But I have to buy others first. In the meantime, I popped Borderlands back in.

And had zero fun. I'm a god-like level 61 with no missions left. Sure, there's the new Claptrap DLC, but meh. I was running around shooting Spiderants when it hit me why I wasn't liking this game I got so many hours of joy from: There's no meaning. Nearly every action in both Bioshock games meant SOMEthing later on: whether you harvest or rescue little sisters, what you spent your money and Adam or, what Plasmids you outfitted, every audiotape you listened to... whereas the complete open world freedom of Borderlands is without meaning. Nothing I do has any impact.

Also, the Bioshock "change weapon" button is the Borderlands "throw grenade button." Stupid muscle memory

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

Return To Rapture

So I finished Bioshock this week. I looked about for some sort of celebratory dance to do, but it seems none have yet been invented. As I mentioned in this post here, the game initially frustrated me. However, I can go down my list of gripes nearly point for point and say that nearly all of them are vindicated by later gameplay. It seemed to be one of those games that got way easier as you went along.

So I thought I would give Bioshock 2 another go, after Rage-Quitting due to lack of fun all those months ago. I like it much better now. It plays very much like the first game, but have streamlined a few things, and needlessly complicated others. Hacking, instead of being a pipe-based puzzle, is now a swinging needle you need to stop in the right place, and can be done remotely with a dart. Security robots are not the incredibly persistent little buggers they were, only doing one sweep before leaving. The initial guns are fun and powerful (a rivet-gun instead of a pistol, a gatling cannon instead of a tommy gun) and the enemies come at you in droves. The rivet gun has a trap feature that is like the crossbow in the first game, but you can deactivate the traps (and it's the first gun you get, as opposed to the last). As for the complications... your main weapon is a spinning drill instead of a wrench. Drills need fuel. Feh. Remote hacking needs darts, but happily you can just walk up and do it the old fashioned way, hand to motherboard. So I'm optimistic. So optimistic that I didn't even need to point-form this list.

So there you go.

Friday, October 29, 2010

The Nature Of Sleight Of Hand.

In the magical world of Ca-Na-Da, where kids eat bacon with their maple syrup and dollar coins are bigger than 25-cent coins, they have a show called Just for Laughs. It's segments of the Montreal International Comedy festival, cut up into half-hour bites of several comics. It used to be on CBC, then was on the Comedy Network, just before Whose Line Is It Anyway.

It was on this weekly, then nightly bastion of rerun that I first saw Penn & Teller, stage magicians. This was far before my current interest in magic, which was reignited with Brian Brushwood's work on Scam School making it accessible (cutting through the curtain that made magic seem impressive, astounding, but overall difficult and the amount of effort put in inequal to the amount of interest given by those watching).

In the 3-minute sketch, Penn played bass and Teller moved through the motions of putting out a cigarette and lighting a new one. Thanks to the magic of Youtube, I don't have to explain it. Just watch:

You see? You see? My 14-year-old mind was blown. It was the mysterious and astounding being shown as ordinary, then it somehow, through critical thinking and explanation, tends to come back around to astounding. To imagine the amount of practice, brainstorming, stage design, rehearsal, and troubleshooting involved in making something look as absolutely ordinary as this... well, it's astonishing. And it's only once you know that you understand.

It may be bullshit, but hey, they tell you that it is. And once you know it's bullshit, it frees you to understand it.

I think I lost myself with that last sentence. But I think people understand.

You understand, right?

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Family Values! Now with costumes!

After watching the "Family Values" episode of Penn & Teller: Bullshit! (season 3), in which several non-traditional couples are features, including one who each had a girlfriend and a boyfriend who lived with them, a foursome essentially, Tanja and I had this conversation (while I was cleaning up after making dinner):

T: I think the only way I'd have another person into our marraige was... wait a second. I could have two of you?
L: Yep. One of me could be rubbing your feet while the other cleaned up the dinner he just cooked.
T: Well, one of you would have to love dusting and making the bed.
L: Well, yes. Otherwise, I'd be stuck doing that.
T: So we could go to someone "Don't care about tits, don't care about cock, just need someone to do the dusting."
L: Tanja, you do realise that what you're describing is essentially... a maid, right? You're saying our marraige needs a maid.
T: Well, a maid... who puts out.
L: Okay, so a maid... who's a slut.
T: Yeah, pretty much.
T: He'd have to be a guy of course.
L: Whoa, whoa, whoa, don't go changing it up. You said a maid who's a slut, a slutty maid so to speak, and my brain went to one place in particular. I'll thank you not to change it.


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Gremlins, Timezone Displacement, and YOU!

Tanja and I were discussing Gremlins on the way home from the grocery store.

I first saw Gremlins at my friend Matthew Harding's house. I think most kids have a friend like Matthew: I never would have met him had he not lived next door, and he often had things that even my fairly-permissive folks would not get me. It was in this very same house where I played many Nintendo games for the first time, where I first beat a game (Guerrilla War for the NES, though we had to use a Game Genie and a 6-hour marathon session), where I first saw many PG-13 films (such as Stay Tuned, Back to the Future 2, and others that blew my 8-year-old brain), and ate too much junk food (like the discovery that if you bite off both ends of a Twizzler, you can use it was a straw)*. The reason Matthew always had new games and movies was because his parents were divorced, and his dad indulged him on the weekends he was these by renting him anything he wanted from the Shell station down the block, which was also our video store (it was the 90s, shut up).

So I find it fitting that it was here I saw Gremlins. Gremlins is also one of the few films from my childhood I have not revisited as an adult. I'm not going to go in depth about how I reacted to the film's plot, etc, but I will bring up a few key ideas I came away with. Warning, spoilers, if you've lived under a rock for 20 years.
  • The death of the old lady via stair-lift was far scarier than anything in the much-more graphic kitchen scene (though, of the kitchen scene, the microwave was scary, while the blender went past scary and into funny). Possibly because we had one of those stair-lifts at our church, whereas we had no blender.
  • You're not to feed any Mogwais after midnight, lest they turn into Gremlins. Simple, right? No. My 8-year-old brain instantly came up with "After midnight? Technically ANY time can be after SOME midnight. And when does "after midnight" become "next day"? 5am? Daybreak? What if the Mogwai is on West Coast time, having recently gotten on a long flight? So if all times are post-midnight, how could a Mogwai eat at all without transforming? Tanja and I discussed that, as the Mogwais and Gremlins are mystical creatures, they may not need food at all to sustain their lives and power their actions. But then, why give Mogwais the urge to eat, and thus give them the means to fall into temptation? And if that IS the case, is starving a Mogwai an act of cruelty, or pure practical safety?
  • Also fitting the mystical angle, is the spell that changes Mogwais into Gremlins dictated by the perceptions of the owner, or the Gremlins? One could posit that the owner's time-zone and interpretation could determine what constitutes the post-midnight-danger-feeding-zone, or PMDFZ. Otherwise, the "it's always after midnight somewhere" rule could apply. Then again, the film itself contradicts this: one of the Mogwais unplugs the clock, making it stay on a pre-midnight time, so Billy feels safe to feed it. Had his perception shaped the spell, they should not have changed. However, we are discounting the perception of the Mogwai itself, which was stronger than Billy's, due to his knowledge of the true time, through the fact that he unplugged the clock. Perception+reality+willpower overrides perception alone. And speaking of willpower...
  • Why is Gizmo the ONLY good Mogwai? All the other spawned Mogwais are seeming little bastards right from the start who actively want to become Gremlins. We're past discussing the urge to eat. We're now into "actively practicing deceit to transform into a more powerful creature and wreak havoc." All Mogwais we see in both films act this way, except Gizmo. Is it because Gizmo is special? Is he Mogwai Jesus**?

    Although, how cool would that be?
    You could continue the intellectual fanwank into the fact that Gizmo himself was good, but his earthly spawn were thus tainted by the sinful nature of humankind and their actions. They had the urge to be bad, but not the willpower to control it, thus precipitating their collapse into anarchy, chaos, and sin. Repent, ye sons of Gizmo, the wrath of Billy & his mighty Blendtron 3000 be upon you! The light of his eyes shall destroy ye!

You know, once I'd like to do an in-depth look at a film without it descending into religious allegory and spouting Scripture-sounding gibberish.

*incidentally, I also saw my first pin-up calender there, in his basement. It disappeared after we saw it, and whenever I asked Matt about it, he looked hunted and said he wasn't allowed to talk about it.

**Okay, a google search for "Mogwai Jesus" just got me a bunch of Mogwai album covers, so I made my own.

EDIT: And of course, TVTropes provides the answers for a few of my questions:
All There In The Manual: The Novelization has a prologue that explains that Mogwais were genetically engineered by an alien race called the Mogturmen as the perfect companion. However, the vast majority of Mogwais turned out to be dangerous, not to mention the unforseen Gremlin problem. Gizmo is one of the few Mogwais to turn out right.
Always Chaotic Evil: Any of the Mogwai/Gremlins who aren't Gizmo.
Fridge Logic: Don't feed them after midnight? Since the day technically begins at midnight, would that mean you're just not supposed to feed them? Obviously, you can't feed them at night, until the sunrise. When the dark forces are strong in the world and all that.
Woobie Destroyer Of Worlds: One particular Mogwai, stated as Earl in official media, is hinted in the film and novel as being one of the few Mogwai blessed with a more docile personality similar to Gizmo, that is until he is taken to the university to be experimented on and then happening on that sandwich, destining him as another psychotic Gremlin and to the same ill fate as all his other bretheren.
Fridge Horror: What would he have been like if Gizmo had become a Gremlin?
  • Possibly shown with "Earl". The novel states that even good Mogwai are converted into murderous sadists upon transforming into a Gremlin.

Oh, and it reminds me of this brilliant line from the second film:
"Incredible as it seems, ladies and gentlemen, after their bizarre, bloodcurdling rampage of destruction, these strange creatures now appear to be mounting what seems to be... a musical number."

Thank you and good night.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

4 Unrelated Comments

1) I introduced Tanja (and myself) to Penn & Teller's Bullshit! series. I've been watching Penn point for a few months now and have seen Penn & Teller at just for laughs, but the show, for once, has done exactly what I wanted it to do. It's stimulated debate without causing argument. It has hit the metaphorical sweet spot of couples conversation. We've also agreed that underneath it's vulgar showing of nudity and profanity, the show is rather sweet, wanting to think the best of people and asking them to think for themselves, ask questions, and apply critical thinking to everything. Most of all, though, they don't blame the victims. They point out that the villians are those who are running the scams of reflexology, talking to dead people, and self-help, not the scammed, who just want something to divert them from the pain in their lives.

2) Dear comics artists: if I can't tell the people in your story apart, you have not done your job. The writer can do their best job they can putting different voices to characters, but if you make them all look the same, or at least similarly nondescript, I won't know what the hell is going on. Then I'll focus on my frustration instead of the story you're telling, and I'm out of the picture, viewing your work purely as an artistic exercise instead of a work I'm interested in. Sure, I can blame it onMark Texiera on the Moon Knight series "God & Country" but it's an issue I've had before.

3) It's ridiculously easy how one comment from someone we like can puncture whatever security or confidence we have. Yes, I know that confidence comes from within, and thinking that everyone must like/agree with you is a road to misery, but still. One comment, meant in jest, or casual conversation, can, distinctly, cut like a knife. Just sayin'.

4) I can't remember what the 4th comment was.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Cooking Monday: Aussie Berko

So yeah, that whole "I'll do this every week thing? That was a crock. I suck at deadlines. So i'm using this Monday off to take back up the torch (wow, way to grammar, guy).

I was going to put another easy-to-vegan recipe here, but Ted has informed me that he's just bought like 3 vegan cookbooks, so needs no new things right now. So yeah! Meat.

AUSSIE BERKO (or osso bucco)
This is a survival ration (the ingredients are dead cheap), but it's also a warming, filling comfort food dish. It's also stupidly easy, so if you're worried about not having much time to sort something out for a dinner party/movie night, this is your Woodstock.
serves 4

  • Plastic Bag
  • Casserole Dish (one that has a lid, can go on the stove AND fit in the oven)
  • Tongs
  • Knife
  • Oven mitts
  • Ladle
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • 4 pieces of gravy beef "osso buco" (BEEF, not VEAL. Ask your butcher. Make sure you get the pieces with the bone in (teehee). This is a REALLY cheap cut, often less that $9.95 a KILO. For serious)
  • 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 carrot (roughly chopped)
  • 1 celery stalk (roughly chopped)
  • 2 garlic cloves (squished)
  • Small handful of whatever fresh herbs you have (rosemary, basil and parsley work well.)
  • Half a 400g tin of chopped or whole Italian tomatoes
  • 1 longneck (750 mL) of decent stout or dark beer (get Coopers, or Sheaf if you can, avoid the hell out of Guinness, it's too sour for this)
  • Loaf of good bread (optional. I like carbs with my foods)
    Chop up your celery and carrots and squish your garlic. Don't be too fiddly, they're going to be cooking for a fair bit. Rip up your herbs, but avoid the stems if you're using rosemary or thyme or anything that has stems.
  • MEAT
    Get your plastic bag. Be sure it's decently thick, as you're about to put meat into it and shake it around. So put in your meat and tip in the spoon of flour. Close the bag and give it a shake so the meat is coated.
  • Preheat your over to 150 C (300 F, gas 2)
  • Put your casserole dish on the stove on medium heat. Pour in your olive oil and let it warm up. Once it's hot, put the meat in. This is why you want a decent sized casserole dish, so the meat can all lay flat and brown evenly. Let the meat cook and brown, turning it only once. When both sides are looking cooked, use your tongs to take the meat out.
  • If the base of the pan is looking a bit burnt, add a bit more oil, then toss in your carrot, celery, garlic and herbs. Cook for about 6 minutes, stirring often. While this is going on, drink half your stout. Make sure there's about 375 mL (about 1 and a half cups) left.
  • Turn the heat up as high as it'll go, and return the meat to the dish. Pour in the remaining stout and half your tin of tomatoes. Give everything a big stir. Let it come to a gentle simmer. Once it's bubbling about the edges, use your oven mitts to put it into your oven.
  • Wait 45 minutes, then take the lid off and turn the meat over.
  • Wait another 45 minutes. Hey, you could watch a movie and drink more beer in this time! :D
  • Pull your dish out of the oven and have a look. The meat should be just coming away from the central bone (teehee).
  • If you've got bread, cut a few thick slices and put it at the bottom of each bowl.
  • Put each piece of meat in a bowl, and ladle over some of the sauce and veggies. Be sure to eat the marrow in the middle. It's good for you, and will put some chest on your chest.
And that's it! You could serve potatoes or rice with this, but why guild the lily? Booze suggestion: stout! If you're a wine person, get out the big gun shirazeseses you've been holding onto. Hunter Valley ones with a bit of age, or South Australian n00bs if'n you're cheap.

*original recipe from Cooking Under The Influence by Ben Canaider and Gregg Duncan Powwell, two of my favourite food, wine and beer authors. Like seriously, buy anything these two write. I do not claim to own this recipe, I just make it a lot. Dude, why would I claim this is mine? I don't want to get sued.

The Sliding Scale and Perpetual Overcome-ances of Frustration and Anger

Overcome-ances is totally not a word.

I am finally playing Bioshock.

I downloaded the demo when I first got my PS3, and was intrigued by the art-deco steampunk feel of Rapture and the story. What I didn't like, and frankly, it's what I never like, is when games try to scare me.

Okay, seriously, video games. I'm 28 years old. I've lived on two continents where much of the wildlife is actively trying to kill you (like mosquitoes in Canada, and everything in Australia bar some of the sheep). I have enough actual phobias to fill a textbook. You don't need to foist a fear of the dark, fear of creepy children, and fear of disfigured monsters into my head. It won't all fit, like when I took that home-brewing course and forgot how to drive. But I digress. FEAR, that's it. Basically, video games, creepy children and disfigured monsters don't scare me. They won't scare me. So you shoving them into my face going "See? SEE? You have to harvest the Adam while horrible clown people try to eat you." is just annoying. I feel like I have to wade through the attempt at scaring me to get to the actual game.

So the game, and the titular sliding scale. Bioshock, you are a good game. Sometimes. However, you are also an extremely difficult game. Even on Normal mode. Ammo is scarce and occasionally non-effective. Your plasmid attacks use so much of your meter that you only get a few shots before you're out. I didn't discover the fine aim/zoom button until 6 hours in. Hacking the machines is hard and frustrating. And if you DON'T hack, you're killed by rapid-fire machine-gunning robots. The respawning system seems to choose a point at random when it brings you back, so you have to spend ten freaking minutes going "No, it wasn't this destroyed, dripping corridor, it was another destroyed dripping corridor." Early in the game, you have only two plasmid spots. One is electric, the next is fire. Then you're offered a telekinetic one. "Cool, says I, "I'll switch out for a second and if I don't like it, I'll switch back." WRONG. Once I swapped out the electric, it was gone. And did I mention electric is the handiest non-hacking way to kill the robots? Because it is. And now that's gone.

I also reached breaking point when facing one boss (the doctor). I fought him, dying 5 or 6 times, then running back and attacking, then dying again. He'd regenerate health in between. There was a point where I stopped and realised that I had little-to-no-health, little-to-no-Adam, no first aid kits, no syringes, no ammunition, and no money. I actually, physically sat back on the couch and said "No, I don't want to do this." and turned off the game.

Later, as I was playing again (shut up), I fought a Big Daddy for the first time, dying 7 or 8 times, then running back. Happily, he did not regenerate. I defeated him. "YES!" thought I. "Now where's that Little Sister?" She was gone. I combed the level, but all I found was another Big Daddy, who happily began to slaughter me again. WTF, Bioshock? I beat your hurdle, and then you glitch out my reward? You know what? Fuck you!

So anyway, I found, like I said, some bits of the game to be immensely satisfying. The minute you get the shotgun, the fun multiplies. I've also heard from others that the upgrade system late in the game is interesting. But why do I have to grind and grind through endless frustrations to get to the fun?

I had a similar moment in God of War 3. It's a game I've come back to a few times, play a bit of, then put away for a few months. This latest time, I was slashing along, having fun, when suddenly I get to a puzzle. Most puzzles in God of War are hard, but you can work them out.

This was not.

This was a version of Guitar Hero, using a controller. You have to get 45 consecutive button presses correct, including some two-button presses. Any mistake knocked you back to the start.

After 15 attempts and not getting more than halfway, I walked up to the TV, put down my controller and turned the game off. It's now sitting on the shelf, mocking me. I know that any time in the future that I want to play that game, if I want to progress the story, I'll have to beat the stupid mini-game.

Frankly, I couldn't be fucked. There's a moment Tycho from Penny Arcade describes in one of his posts about WoW, where he refers to the moment of transfer between leisure and obligation.

I've transferred.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Why I Hate Firefox

It's very simple. It will occasionally, for no reason at all, without warning, not work. I'll load up Firefox, click on a link from my favourite toolbar, or type something into Google, or whatever, and I'll get this response:

Not just once, not twice, but three times I have to reclick the link (refreshing just reloads the error page). Then it remembers that, oh right, it's meant to be a web browser and yes, these are websites, so I'd better let Lucas browse them.

This has shown up in the last 3 revisions, and each time I hope they'll fix it. They don't. And worse, it won't happen all the time. Just every 6th or 7th link, and it brings my experience grinding and crashing to a halt.

I want to support open source developers and all that but god DAMN this is such a basic thing.

Further anger? MOV files. They look great playing at 720p on the Quicktime player, but no video editor I can find, including Windows Movie Maker, Adobe Premiere Pro, or any of the free things I find can edit the suckers. The minute you try to speed up or slow them down, the framerate goes to hell and the video gets choppy. Any converter you get lowers the framerate. Argh.

Technology, why must it be two steps forward and one step back?

PS and by the by: Anamanaguchi's Scott Pilgrim vs The World: The Game soundtrack makes even the crappiest typing seem like epic haxxoring. Here are some snippets in this trailer:

Friday, September 17, 2010


(or however you write the Harvey Birdman scene-changing noise)

(and no this is totally not a post created solely for the fact that I said I was not going to do two cooking Sunday posts in a row okay maybe it was but you can bite me)

So I now have an iPhone 4! Which is nice. It's my first iPhone, though I pretty much used my iPod Touch like an iPhone. And at the risk of getting called an Apple Fanboy (by Craig and Adrian, mostly), I love it. It's just so freaking easy to do things. It's actually so easy that I feel like I'm doing something wrong, or missing a step, or breaking a rule. My Samsung phone constantly felt like it was fighting against me when I tried to do things like upload pictures, check my facebook or even log into things. The camera is brilliant and takes better and sharper pictures than my last camera, despite being 3 megapixels less. I'm loving all the vintage camera and time-lapse Apps that let me use my phone camera the get me effects that previously took a tripod, patience, software, and lots of time.

Look, I could go on, but I'm mentally censoring myself to try and avoid the anti-hype rage-hate-backlash (that needs an acronym.... AHRHB?). Look, it's a device that works. And I love it for that.

(I just checked. The Scene Change sound for Harvey Birdman is written "Whoo-KOW!)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Cooking Sunday: Dan Dan Noodles

So hey! This is idea I've had for ages, both to share knowledge and to force myself to blog more often (and not just when I feel like whining). Let's call it Recipe Sunday. The whole idea behind making it a regular weekly thing is to force myself to blog in between so that it's not all recipes. So I'm actually tricking myself. Because, let's face it,. I'm not terribly quick on the uptake.

Right! So cooking is something I came to late in life (well, at least properly), and it was initially saddled by my tendency to stress out when things aren't going exactly perfectly right.

This is something I'm working on.

I've found that through a combination of practice, the right recipes, and not having Tanja in the kitchen when I'm cooking (I'm serious, I tend to freak out if she's within arm's reach of any food I'm preparing), I can stay mellow and poised and all that crap.

I know some of my friends cook, but the recipes I'll be posting are stuff I find works for weekday nights, or weekend movie nights. You know, stuff you guys might not normally try.

Most of these recipes come from cookbooks, but I'll make reference to the original source, as well as any adjustments I've had to make (because cookbooks LIE to you sometimes, kids. SUBTERFUGE!).

Without further lily-gilding, I present the first recipe:

(AND SEE? i JUST SAT HERE FOR 5 MINUTES THINKING WHICH RECIPE SHOULD BE THE FIRST. Because I don't want to make it too advanced, but I also don't want it to suck.)

So I give you (for real this time, promise):

(and don't get scared, the fieriness is totally adjustable, like the seat back of your car)
serves 4, or 2 hungry people

  • Wooden spoon
  • colander
  • Big spaghetti-type pot
  • Big non-stick pan
  • Knives (duh)
  • Measuring spoons and crap
  • Mortar and pestle (if you're awesome)
  • More spoons or a blender/food processor (if you're not)
  • A mug
  • tongs
  • 1 Chicken stock cube (you can use the non-meat ones, it tastes exactly the same, and lets your vegan buddies chill)
  • 500g beef mince (stay with me, vegan bros)
  • 2-4 tablespoons of honey (the measurement is approximate because you really need to eyeball this)
  • 1 375g packet hokkien noodles (or wheat noodles, or udon, or whatever you like)
  • 4 handfuls of mixed green veg (after trial and error, I find what works best is broccoli, choy sum, bok choi, Chinese broccoli or Chinese cabbage. Avoid broccolini, cauliflower or things like that because they stay too tough at the end)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled (use less if you have big honking monster cloves)
  • 3 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 2 teaspoons ground Szechuan pepper (grind it first, then measure, or else you'll have too much)
  • 5 tablespoons of chilli oil (you can buy, it, but come on. It's really easy to make, and if you make it yourself, you can control it better)
  • 1 Spring Onions, sliced thin on the diagonal (mostly for show, so omit if you want)
  • 1 lime, cut in quarters.

Now this is where I mess with the recipe format. In the book I found this in, the instructions have you doing a lot of crap at once, which only served to stress me out. I prefer to do all this stuff first so that when the heat (and the pressure) is on, you can just dump in various bowls.

-- Make the chilli oil:
Like I said above, this is totally up to you. You can use ground chili, chilli flakes, or dried chillies. You can use fresh chilli, or some of those wierd packets of BBQ spice if you want. Basically get your powders or chillies or whatever into a bowl and squish them. Use a mortar and pestle, or a spoon, or a food processor or what have you. Add oil (about 5 tablespoons) a bit at a time, stirring, until you have a paste-type thing. You don't want bits. Tap a bit of it onto your tongue. If your tongue goes numb, it's too hot. You want it gradual, so add a bit more oil, stir and try again. Once the oil is done, put it aside.

-- Prep the veggies--
Bok choi: cut it into quarters lengthwise.
Broccoli: cut of the florets as small as you can get them.
Choy sum/Chinese broccoli: cut off the stems and discard, wash leaves. Leave 'em big.
Cabbage: shred it into strips, as big as you like.
Put all your veggies in a bowl and put aside.
Chop up your spring onions if you're using them and keep them apart from the other veggies.

--Make the mixture--
Grind your szechuan pepper. Use a pepper mill or the mortar and pestle or a processor or whatever. You want this like dust, or it'll get caught in someone's teeth. Grab two tablespoons of the powder and bowl it. Dump your soy sauce into the same bowl and mix it around. Garlic: peel your cloves, and either use a garlic press, or chop them up tiny if you're good with a knife. Now comes the chilli oil. Here's the thing: the recipe calls for 5 tablespoons of it, but not everyone can take that. I like to put in 3, and then let guests add more at the table if they want. Mix all of it together, so the garlic absorbs all the good flavoury stuff. Put this bowl aside.

Squeeze your honey into a mug or something microwave safe, and nuke it for 15 seconds, so it's runny. Use more than you think you'll need.

  • Get a big non-stick pan and a big spaghetti-type pot (it's going to have a lot of crap in it) onto two burners. Put the pan on medium, and the pot on high. Fill the pot 3/4 with boiling water and drop in your stock cube. Don't worry, it's cool to sit like this for ages until you're ready.

  • Pan. When it's hot, get your mince into it. DO NOT PUT OIL OR ANYTHING INTO THE PAN. YOU WILL ONLY BOLLOCKS THINGS UP. I'm watching you! Keep your mince moving around so it breaks up small. Here's the hard part. You have to sit and gentle move it around for 15 minutes. That's right. 15 minutes. The whole point is to cook away all the grease and liquid so the beef goes all golden and crunchy. It's on medium so it doesn't go BLACK and crunchy. This will take a while. Be patient. Have a drink. Talk to people. Tell an amusing story about a goblin. By the by, this is where the original recipe had you doing the veggies and garlic. Isn't this easier? Right. When your meat is crispy, use a spoon to pour in about two tablespoons of the honey and toss it about. If it doesn't completely coat the meat, add more (see why I had you make more?). Once the meat is coated, let it sit on the heat for 30 seconds to let the honey thicken, then take the whole pan off the heat and let it sit. You won't need it for a while.

  • Pot, full of boiling stock at this point. Dump in your noodles for the amount of time the packet says to cook. For hokkien noodles, it's 3 minutes. About with a minute left to go, dump in all your veggies (if the pot's really full, don't worry, the leaves'll shrink). When the last minute is up, use the mug you used for the honey to scoop out about a cup of the cooking water, then pour the combined noodles and veggies into the colander, and give it a shake.

  • Now for the flashy bit. Tip the noodles and veggies back into the big pot with the cup of cooking water and tip in your pepper-garlic-chilli-oil mix and mix it all about with tongs. Let it sit on the heat for about a minute, then take it off the stove.

  • Get your serving bowls ready. Tongs. Scoop out the noodles evenly among bowls, making sure you pour some of the liquid over each. Get your beef pan, and sprinkle the beef over each bowl. Throw your chopped spring onions over each bowl, and finally, squeeze a lime wedge over each bowl.

And dude! That's it!

Like I said before, if your folks are down with the chilli, bring them a little bowl of the leftover oil and they can have at it.

VEGAN TIP: making this for both carnivores and vegans? Use non-meat stock, and just don't sprinkle the beef on their bowls (that sounded wrong). Also remember to give those bowls more noodles, considering that's all they're getting.

Despite all the steps, this dish looks way more complex than it is and always goes down well. It is, however, VERY garlicky, so if you don't dig that, halve the amount of garlic.

So yeah! Serve with crisp, dry-ish beers, like Asahi, Pure Blonde or Grolsch, or lighter wines like Sauvignon Blanc, sparkling, or Pinot Gris. If you want to really take it to the max (ugh, I just said that, didn't I?) try it with an IPA (India pale ale, hoppy, full-bodied and delicious, not for wimps). Or, you know, water. If that's your thing.

*original recipe from JAMIE'S AMERICA by Jamie Oliver. I do not claim to own this recipe, I just make it a lot. Dude, why would I claim this is mine? I don't want to get sued.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Secret Garbage

So i tried to read Secret Wars, Marvel's big crossover from 1984. You can read about it here.

It's awful. Like really really bad.

You can sort of expect it when the explanation for doing this crossover was:

"Kenner had licensed the DC Heroes. Mattel had He-Man, but wanted to hedge in case superheroes became the next big fad. They were interested in Marvel's characters, but only if we staged a publishing event that would get a lot of attention, and they could build a theme around. Fans, especially young fans often suggested to me 'one big story with all the heroes and all the villains in it', so I proposed that. It flew. Mattel thought that kids responded well to the word, "secret" so after a couple of working names bit the dust, we called the story 'Marvel Super Heroes Secret Wars'."


Here are a few choice bits that caught my attention (I've purposefully skipped all of the self-introductions EVERY character does in EVERY panel, or I'd be here all damned night):

  • "Oh, wow! That was, like tubular! You know -- to the max!" -She Hulk in a fight.
    Really? REALLY? Tubular?
  • "Torch, when you can bend this ultra-hard alien metal like paper with your bare hands, THEN you can give me orders! Until then, I'll listen to our designated leader: Captain America -- and no one else!"
    And this is while fighting. Good thing talking is a free action.
  • "It's no wonder that the name Mister Fantastic is renowned for compassion as well as courage! You give added meaning to the word hero, Richards!"
    And you're a snappy dresser too. Ha-HA! Isn't it nice how they talk like people talk?
  • "Do you think Cap's handling this right?"
    "Does Dr. J play roundball?"
    ...Wait, whut? Round-what? What-ball? What-what? Is he referring to John Hewson? Former leader of the Liberal Party in Opposition?
  • "Well, being absolute master of molecules I can just assimilate molecules when I want, so I never have to be hungry, and I can just shoo away dirt molecules, so I'm always nice and clean -- but I AM tired."
    Why not shoo away the tired molecules. The molecules too molecular? MOLECULES!
  • Mister Fantastic: "It's alright, son! Considering the circumstances, why not? When you're done, I'll take my turn! I miss my wife, too terribly!"
    Okay, he's talking about crying and lamenting that you're away from your family, but it just sounds so wrong out of context.
  • Iron Man is going around on jet-roller skates. JET ROLLER SKATES. That thud you head is my jet-head hitting the jet-wall.
  • "Chubby chance, slow-poke."
    Spider-Man's meant to be quick-witter and clever. And yet.... chubby chance. And two panels later, Spider-Man casually backhands Wolverine across the room. Casually. Actually, Spidey is able to own Wolverine, Colossus, Rogue, Nightcrawler AND Cyclops. On his own. Times have changed, I guess.
  • Dr Doom is shown giving two normal humans super-powers with a machine he finds. It's not explained where those two humans came from, or why (considering the Beyonder grabbed a whole bunch of heroes and villains). One of the villains even says "Hey, where'd they come from?" and another replies "Who cares?" and it's left at that. So even the BOOK doesn't care. That explains a lot.
  • "Look at that storm, isn't it impressive?"
    "Nah! It's only molecules interacting, you know, and I control molecules!"

I had to stop at that point. That's only three issues. THREE.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Testing a new format

Testing the XtraNormal platform using Richard jeni's Jaws IV monologue, which is an old favourite of mine. Just click to play:

Friday, August 13, 2010

It's My Line

While waiting for the groceries to arrive this morning (read as: 8:00-11:45), I had a little Whose Line Is It Anyway (US) Season 1 marathon. I loved watching this show and the original UK version on the Comedy network when I was in high school/uni and was an improv-er myself (Improv Dogs represent, w00t!). While watching this series, though, a few things occurred to me:

1. Wow, they really, really, REALLY had to explain the premise 3 or 4 times a show so American audiences don't get confused.

2. Drew Carey seemed to be auditioning for his later gig on the Price Is Right (he even says "Come on down!").

3. Colin Mochrie (sp?) has one of the most mobile and expressive faces in comedy, and Ryan Stiles, despite a body like a bag of wire hangers, is extremely physical.

4. The only segments that don't hold up are the musical numbers, which is strange, because I used to look forward to seeing Wayne Brady sing each week. However, when watched consecutively, it becomes clear that those segments play host to some of the least creative improv on the show. I think when I first watched it, I was just blown away by Wayne Brady's musical talent (compared to the UK and other US performers, who let comedy come first). Now, you can actually see his mind looking for lazy rhymes and padding things out with lots of "Whoo" and "Yeah!".

Which brings me to...

5. The fact that this show was on YEARS ago and still seems current made me realise how current-events-based Australian television comedy is (in the realm of "those clown in parliament have done it again" and "doesn't that one politician have big ears"). That's why they've not released a proper DVD set for the stellar "the Glass House". In fact, I've read that there was one week where the Glass House was preempted, and ABC and the writers were at loggerheads to release the show or just bin it. The reason? All the jokes were about things that happened a week before and thus were not funny.

In conclusion, screw Flanders.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Partying Down

(Warning, spoilers for Party Down season 1 & 2)

An odd thought occurred to me while watching the beginning of the second season of the Adrian-recommended Party Down, a show which I have come to enjoy. In the first season, the protagonist was Henry, a former actor and current self-described quitter, who spends his days working for the titular Party Down catering company, drinking, taking drugs, and generally not doing much, while dealing with his teetotalling try-hard Team Leader Ron and hanging out with fellow slacker, struggling comedienne Casey, with whom he later starts a relationship. Most of the humour of the first series centres around Henry and Casey dealing with Ron attempting to mould them into a team and Henry resisting (there are supporting characters too, making the funny).

At the last two episodes at the end of the first season, Ron goes into a downward spiral, begins drinking again and falls apart. Henry, to the surprise of everyone, himself included, steps up, takes responsibility and is able to carry the group through two events. By the beginning of the second season, Henry has become Team Leader and is doing a better job of it than Ron was.

However, Casey is still a slacker. Even as Henry is taking control, Casey is trying to act like she usually does with him: "hey, you want to slack off and drink?" Henry brushes her off, saying he's too busy. Casey is miffed. Later in the 2nd season, Ron returns as a team member, but is irresponsible, drunk, and unreliable.

Basically, here's what I'm thinking: while Tanja and I were watching the first season, Henry and his slacker ways were a source of amusement. He was the hero of the show, ignoring the irritant that was Ron's regime. But once Henry took control, we cheered at his taking responsibility and doing things right. Casey and later Ron, despite taking the same actions as first season Henry did, become annoying and whiny not just to Henry, but to us, the viewer. Talk about a paradigm shift.

So what, then? Are we as viewers merely behind the hero, right or wrong? Should we be resisting the management no matter what? It seems weird, that's all.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

One of those guys

I hate to say it, but I have become one of those annoying people with a new laptop (the Alienware M11x with the i5, for those whom I haven't assaulted yet). I have all of its stats memorised and can rattle them off at the drop of a hat. I'm rediscovering things I haven't used in months or years become doggone it, they WORK now.

Things I like:

  • The Alienware FX gimmick: the keyboard, running lights, logos and everything are all back lit. First day it was red, next day blue, and today it's gold. I know it's gimmicky, but it both looks and feels cool.
  • Speaking of the keyboard, it's compact, but large enough for me to type without the button-mash typos I had with my eeePC or the too-light-touch typos I had with Tanja's Vaio.
  • It's got bones. With 4 gigs of RAM, and 1 gig of dedicated graphics card memory, I can run Borderlands and the Just Cause 2 demo on the absolute highest setting and full resolution with a very fast frame rate. It's the closest Borderlands experience to playing it on the PS3.
  • The system installed, can run, but actively rejected Command & Conquer Generals (due to stupidly low resolution on that 7-year old game). This is a good thing because it forces me to give other games a go.
  • It runs Windows 7 Home Premium, which allowed me to effortlessly network between the Vista-running main PC and my lappy. This means that all the nearly-a-terabyte movies, TV shows and music are all shared to the laptop wirelessly. Combined with the HDMI-out (which makes my previous to-TV-VGA-Connection look like a pile of puke [/Moe]), this means I can put of the TV, in full resolution, anything I download without transferring anything.
  • Battery life. Due to the multiple-settings mode (accessible by keyboard shortcut), I can have it running at full-power for about 2 hours without a cord, at mid-power for about 5, and at low power for who-knows how long.

The only cons I've found so far:

  • Since the two mice we have in the mouse have the old serial connectors, I've been stuck with trackpad until I get a USB mouse. I eventually unplugged the wireless mouse receiver from the main compy and I'm using that, but it's a temporary solution.
  • I tried installing Windows Virtual PC now that I have Windows 7, but it seems the Home Premium version that I have doesn't support it. I need either Windows 7 Professional or Windows 7 Ultimate and upgrades start at 200 bucks. Bugger. I may just have to weigh it and not use the one program I'd need it for.

I think I'll let Mario explain

(for some reason you have to click the gif for it to run)

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

The Vertigo Effect

Actually, that's not accurate. The Vertigo Effect (as shown here at 0:56, and discussed here) is when you zoom in while pulling back with a camera, creating a shifting field of focus. I only use the term because it's the closest I can come up with for what I'm trying to explain.

Basically, here's the gist. I don't get sick that often. Usually less than once a year (and I mean cold-sick, not I-have-a-migraine-can't-go-to-work). I was sort of sick in June for about a week (in which I was sniffy and sore throated, but not badly enough to not go to work, which was a gyp), then got over it and infected Tanja, who was promptly sick for a month. Yesterday I had sore sinuses, and in the evening got a sore throat and a runny nose. I took a Lemsip and went to bed.

This morning at 6:38 am I knew I was sick. Was it that my symptoms had worsened? Yes.

But the real reason I knew?

I began to have Zooming Waking-Dreams.

Yeah, see why I called it the Vertigo Effect? Much catchier.

So what happens is thus: I wake up, but still feel exhausted. So I lie there with my eyes closed, and my mind wanders. As my brain flicks through subjects, occasionally I'll see a picture related to that subject. But as my mind moves on, my mind's eye will not. The picture will remain. And my mind's eye will zoom closer and closer to one insignificant part of the picture with little in it. And I don't mean I picture a scene and go into it, like a movie, I mean it's exactly like holding up a magazine and moving the picture closer until it fills your field of view. And in and in, and then it'll snap back to the full picture. Then zoom in slowly again. Over and over. The only way to break the cycle is to open my eyes, but as soon as I close them, back to the picture. To occasionally make it more infuriating, sometimes the picture will come with a bit of music or a line of spoken dialogue that will repeat over and over as the picture zooms in.

Drive you crazy? Oh yes it might.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

They let me at an avatar maker again...

...this time a Scott Pilgrim one! Oh happy day!

Thursday, July 08, 2010

What We've Learned From Current Affairs Programs: Diversity!

(this list was compiled over coffee in bed this morno)

According to ACA and Today Tonight, you "carn't" trust the following:

  • Asian shopkeepers
  • Indian doctors
  • Lebanese nightclub owners
  • Italian smash repairers
  • Greek real estate agents
  • Polynesian bouncers
  • Aboriginals on the dole
  • Muslims, bikers, or builders of any kind*.

Whew! In this diverse and modern world, it's outstanding that we have such a well designed structure to guide us through the pitfalls of everyday life!**

Thanks youse, youse guys***!

* Tanja wanted "accountants" added to this last list.
** The sarcasm, she burns me.
*** Tanja wanted to end the post with "That's it - that excludes everyone who isn't "like us". Ah, Australia. Land of opportunity, this place." I rejected this ending on account of a) it's not true, there are many other racisms to apply, b) I enjoy sarcasm like a fine wine, and c) the last line makes her sound like Yoda.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


So last week I saw in the JB Hifi flyer that they were offering a trade-in deal for Transformers War For Cybertron: bring in 3 eligible PS3 titles and you get it free. They often offer this kind of deal, and I've taken advantage of it twice before (for Bioshock 2 and God of War 3). For GOW3, I actually went and bought two cheap titles from Kmart and traded them in, along with 1 of my own, thus still saving money on the trade. I thoughht similarly this time. Armed with a trade-in exclusions list, I spent $40 on two games I could trade. Then every JB Hifi ran out of stock of that game. Argh. This resulted in my calling various stores for the past three days, asking about stock. Finally, today, I hit paydirt. The World Square store got a bunch in, and I put my name down. "By the way," said I, "is the trade-in offer still good?" "Oh, that? No, that expired on Tuesday." "Bugger!" I then outlined that I had 3 games to trade, and he worked out that the game'll only cost me $24 (that's not counting the $40 I've already spent, damn and blast). So I agreed to come in and pick it up.

Then I got a text message from Tanja telling me that she has cancer.

And it all fell away.

So yes. My wife has thyroid cancer, of the follicular sort. Her thyroid that they removed two weeks ago? That was cancerous, and now a few cells are left, which are also cancerous. She needs to go in for a scan soon, and they'll work out when and where it might spread. If it stays put, it's good, because then they give her radioiodine tablets, which make her radioactive and she stays in isolation for 48 hours (presumably to hide the glow-in-the dark-ness, and stop her rampaging throughout the city) while the tablets, Pac-man-like, seek and destroy the thyroid cells. However, she does have to stop taking her thyroid tablets, which means she's going to feel terrible for three or so weeks.

The worst thing about this is not knowing what to do. She's been calling her sister and her folks and I keep sitting down and then standing up again, then finally sitting and playing Angry Birds on my iPod because I don't want to start anything and that's my default time-waster. Tanja has told me that normal life will not change, but I'm having trouble imagining that right now.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

Hah! Validation!

As I discussed in this post, I have ruminated upon the Coyote known as Wile E.

Tanja and I watched The Brothers Bloom this weekend. And it has this line, from Maximilian Schnell (playing a Russian Gangster), to Adrian Brody (playing a half of a conman duo):

"You probably won't believe, but I loved you both very much. But love... You know, folks like us, you can always blink and realize that it's a fiction. And like Peter walking on water or Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff, if you look down in doubt, you will fall. That's the price of our lives, the wax in our wings. One day, [your brother] Stephen's going to fall. It may be glorious, but he's going to fall hard, and he won't be there to tell you what to do, to protect you. And without him, what would you do?"

HA! I turned to Tanja with a triumphant look, and she said "I know, right?"


Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Points from a waiting room.

(all points bar the last one transcribed from the last two pages of my Pocket Posh Crosswords Book)

[-] If you're taking a cab ride to the hospital at 5:30 am, hope the cabbie is not playing the all-Ominous-Latin-Chanting station on the radio (he totally was).
[-] The interview office has 3 separate paintings of the same lake from different angels. Somewhere, there is a painter endlessly circling a body of water, hoping to be in a waiting room's interview office.
[-] 7:03: Fluorescent hospital lights make you notice every single hole in your shoes.
[-] I'm petrified to put my headphones on, in case one of the roaming nurses call my name.
[-] News on the TV above my head is alternating between a Blackhawk crash in Cameroon & Joanne from Masterchef getting "hate mail" on Facebook.Said hate mail was people saying "I hate her, I wish she would get voted off." The response of the anchor? "I thought Facebook had cleaned up. Maybe it should be cleaned out." Yes. Because expressing a preference for a television show is grounds for the closing of a site.
[-] Finally moved away from the TV. Now people next to me are discussing some National Secretary and Keating advisor. I've begun my second crossword.
[-] My stomach keeps churning with acid whenever I let my mind dwell on what's actually happening in the operating room.
[-] I have a strange urge to punch people who don't know how to sit quietly.
[-] The sun is up. I wish I smoked so I could stand outside the door and puff nervously.
[-] 7:42 That guy next to me STILL has the nervous chatter going. Admittedly, he's less annoying than the news. "He went down like a fackin' fart in a church."
[-] Finally put on headphones, half-off the left ear just in case.
[-] Started watching Funny People, giggled for a second, then decided to watch something else, so people wouldn't look at me.
[-] A nurse approached from behind me and I felt my stomach drop away for a second.
Switched to watching Max Payne. Fits my dismal mood better (I don't deserve a good movie).
[-] 8:00. Found an old payslip in my bag. Drew stars and scribbles all over it.
[-] Come on. Come on, come on, come on, come on.
[-] Nurse: "Christopher Cross?" Nervous Talking Guy, without sarcasm or irony: "Wait, Chris Cross? He was a pop star! He was in Kiss, right? And wore clothes backwards." [note: 1 Christopher Cross. 2. Peter Kriss 3. Kris Kross.]
[-] Just had a morbid thought so bad my vision shivered and I nearly slid off the chair.
[-] 8:27. Sketching. Half watching movie. Thinking about tattoos. Need to go to the bathroom. It's now been long enough that I'm worried I'll miss the call for me if I go.
[-] 9:00. My stomach is cramping (stress? hunger?). I've had no news.
[-] I'm wearing one of the plainest shirts I own. I couldn't bear to wear anything with a stupid saying on the front in case the news was bad (see BtVS, "The Body").
[-] Old Man next to me just farted. Long and rolling.
[-] 9:45. Finished Max Payne. Now reading latest Sookie Stackhouse but can't concentrate. Really starting to worry. I'm 10 minutes from asking them at the desk what's going on.
[-] Just got a call to be a referee for someone for a job. Not. A. Good. Time.
[-] 10:20 Finished my book. Haven't asked yet. Fuck. Fuck fuck fuck. For all I know, they haven't even started the procedure.
[-] 10:35 Just heard the nurse give someone a hard time for wanting hospital information, when they just check people in here. I can't ask now. FUCK.

Thus ends my transcription, but not my story. So finally, after staring at nothing for an hour. Literally staring at nothing until 11:30, and watching the nurses come in and out, I grabbed one and asked if there was any news on Tanja Brown. You know, the wife I checked in 5 hours ago. She checked the computer and said "Oh, yes. It'll be another hour or so."
"What?! She hasn't had the surgery yet?!"
"No, no, no, she's had the surgery. she's in recovery."
"So it's all fine."
"Oh, yes! She's just fine. We'll be sending her up to ward 7W2 in about an hour, so you can go wait there if you want."
She was then speaking to a Lucas-shaped dust cloud. I bolt up to Level 7, where I suddenly meet Tanja's parents. The parents who were meant to call me to see how it's going before coming into town. Then the nurse at 7W2 says "Oh, we actually don't have the beds for her here. We're redirecting her to 6E1." So we all rush down to 6E1. The nurse at 6E1 looks confused at all this because Tanja's not out of recovery yet, so there's nothing for us to see, and she recommends we go get coffee. We do. Later, I get a message that Tanja's actually going to Level 7 again, so we should go there. At 12:30.

It's all fine and okay, and poor Tanja was so pale and sleepy. The thought still burns in my brain, though... would they have left me dying from my own fear in that waiting room with no news for 6 straight hours had I not plucked up the courage to ask*?

*I'm not bagging out RPAH, they've been nothing but good to Tanja and the actual medical stuff has been without fault. But geez! 6 hours?!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

What's Actually Going On

(this is my way of relating actual news about our lives. Lord forbid a post about t-shirts and copywrite be ignored in favour of actual news)

So Tanja needs to go to the hospital next Tuesday, for surgery. She has three little nodules on her thyroid (and parathyroid), and two of them are growing, so they have to remove the thyroid and potentially the parathyroid. She's not suffering any symptoms, but you can see the spot at the bottom of her neck as a little bulge. They've done all sorts of tests and ultrasounds and stuff, but they're still unsure why the lumps are there. There's a 20-40% chance that it might be cancer (eep), but the doctors are saying that even if it is, they can remove it while they're there. Apparantly this sort of thing is pretty routine.

I'm controlling my panic quite well. Really.

Part of my controlling my panic was to buy Tanja an eReader, so she'll have something to read while she recovers. Because that's how my brain works.


Well, not ACTUALLY a quandary, as Tanja and I talked it out, but here goes:

Tanja and I were wandering Newtown after lunch and looked in at a store called Made590 (http://www.made590.com.au/), which does all sorts of interesting stuff. I was looking through there shirts and I spotted this one. I went "hey! I know that shirt! That's from Threadless!" I was outraged that this store had stolen the design. Then I looked at the tag, and lo! It was a Threadless tag.

So my quandary compounded. Threadless is a retail site, not a wholesale site. THey sell their shirts for $10-$20 dollars. If this store purchases them, and pays shipping, is it okay for them to mark the price up to $45 and sell the shirt on?

Tanja and I talked it out (see?) and she said that Threadless pays the artist for the design, then makes the shirt at their cost. Once they sell the shirt, what the buyer does with it is their business, as long as they don't claim it for themselves. This made sense to me. I then brought up that I'd seen Jinx WoW shirts being sold at Minotaur in Melbourne for exhorbitant prices, so it's not just these guys.

My main thought was that the shirt was being sold twice, but the artist was only paid once. The other reason that this was on my mind is that I've been communicated (well, sort of) with Ian Leino (www.ianleino.com), an artist from the states, whose shirts I've bought several times from TeeFury and whose work I admire. My first (admittedly selfish) thought, upon viewing his store was "Wow! I'd love to make shirts with these designs!" which I instantly chided myself for. That thought's now developed to "Well, if I do go to the markets with my shirts, I might buy some of his from TeeFury or something and sell them on. Or maybe inquire as to how much he's paid by TeeFury for his designs."

So yeah.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Agnostic Coyotes

Clearly I have been reading to much analytical commentary by way of TVTropes.

I was watching the Rifftrax for Terminator Salvation, and it got to the point where John Connor strings a wire between two wrecked cars in order to trip up and capture a motorcycle drone. The Rifftrax guys, in their way, said the Connor's next capture would involve a rock face and a terribly convincing painting of a tunnel.

And today I thought about that.

You see, when Wil E. Coyote sets his trap for the Roadrunner, he is completely aware of all of the variables in the equation: 1 30-foot wide flat rock face, solid. 1 bucket, paint. 1 reasonable facsimile of a tunnel. Roadrunner thinks it's a tunnel, runs into rock face, gets roasted with parsnips. This equation is based upon quantitative fact. He has measured the wall, calculated the speed and acquire all the paint he needs (though in one bucket. Hmm). The result should be a foregone conclusion.

But then something happens.

The Coyote, seeing the Roadrunner's cloud of dust approaching, hides and watches. The Roadrunner heads straight for the tunnel. He does not hesitate. He does not slow down.

And he runs through the suddenly-real-enough tunnel.

Now Wile E. is faced with a quandary.

The Roadrunner is a creature of purpose, of linear focus. It follows its path, never deviating unless it must, and then returning quickly to its original direction. At that speed, there is no time for doubt, no time for uncertainty

He knows the tunnel is not real. He created it only moments ago. He knows it conceals a rock face, and with it, pain and suffering. But he has just witnessed something that he is unable to measure, and flies in the face of what he believes. He also knows that his physics-defying quarry is getting farther away by the minute.

Should he reject his world of science, reason, and rationality and believe?

He makes a decision, and trusts to belief, having for once in his science-based life, faith to take a leap. He runs full-tilt at the tunnel...
....and smacks straight into the rockface.

Thus the agnostic is punished for his doubt, his fence-sitting. Had the coyote believed in his heart that he could travel through the tunnel, he would have. Perception and idea shape reality. Something about it not being a spoon (but then again, soup).

So yeah! Tune in next week, when I discuss Wile E. Coyote not falling down until he looks down and sees the ground and how it's a metaphor for Vatican II.

Friday, June 11, 2010

My Morning, as Drawn By Me

As alaways, click to enlarge.

Monday, June 07, 2010

A Variation on the below theme

(click to see giant image)

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Asses, and the kicking of same.

So I downloaded the movie Kick-Ass today. I feel a little bad downloading it illegally, but then again, I couldn't convince Tanja to go see it when it was at the cinemas, and it was gone before I could organise nerds to see it. I had bought the trade of the series and read it months ago, before the film came out.

So my thoughts upon seeing the film? "Man, I can't wait to blog about this."

So yeah.

**warning: Spoilers for the comic and film Kick-ass. Your punk-face be warned.**

I think they missed the point.

I read interviews with Mark Millar (the writer of the comic), who said his aim was to try and present a realistic take on the Superhero origin story. And no, not a Batman Begins "realistic" take. I mean, a 16-year old kid up and decides to be a superhero. Well, a vigilante. Well, a guy in a wetsuit who decides to beat on people for justice, or some such. Problem is, he can barely fight, has no physique, training, or powers to speak of, so he gets beat up. Like a LOT. John Romita Jr's art shows the brutal detail of the amount of damage that a few street thugs can do to a person. So anyway, the line in the comics was that it doesn't take a radioactive spider-bite or a dead parent to make a super-hero. It just takes the right combination of boredom and despair. The film takes this line and declares "It just takes the right kind of optimism and naivety." Uh oh.

So I'm not going to run through the plot, but I'll hit the main things they changed in the film that bugged me. In the increasingly original point-form:

1. Hit-Girl and Big Daddy.

Hit-Girl, they did right. In a nutshell, she's an 11-year old girl who's been trained and conditioned to be the deadliest thing on two legs with any weapon she can get her hands on. No fear, no hesitation, she will literally kill you as soon as look at you, in a number of deadly and interesting ways.

Big Daddy, however, they messed with. In the comics, he was first explained to be an ex-cop, who was framed by crooked cops in the employ of the mob kingpin and sent to prison. His pregnant wife committed suicide, but they saved the baby. 5 years later, when he got out, he took custody of her, and turned her, rather lovingly/brutally, into Hit-Girl. He funded their operation with a secret silver suitcase full of something that he sold on a regular basis but kept secret from Hit-Girl.

But it was all a lie.

Comics-Big-Daddy was actually an accountant for a credit-card company who had a wife who hated him, and a job he loathed, so he took his comic book collection and his baby girl and ran away. He wanted her to be special, so he trained her, gave her a mission, and made her into Hit-Girl. The real connection to the mob kingpin? They needed a villain, and he had been on the news. The silver suitcase? About a million bucks in old comics he sold to dealers all over the country.

Now THAT'S a fuckin' origin story.

So the film. They took all of the above, EXCEPT the fact that it was all a lie. Film-Big-Daddy WAS an ex-cop. So instead of deconstructing the what-makes-a-hero idea, they played it as absolutely straight. Sigh. And they gave the role to Nicolas Cage. Sigh. And they designed his costume (which in the comics is a kevlar vest, a trench coat, and a dark red mask which covers his whole face except for eyes and hair) to look like Batman without the ears. Sigh.

2. Red Mist
In the comics, Red Mist is introduced as a copycat hero to Kick-Ass. In every aspect, he's better: he has a cool car, a better costume (with cape), and seems to have it all together. He and Kick-ass meet up, and team together for a while. even doing some straight-up hero-ing, such as saving what they thought was a child and what turned out to be a cat from a burning building. Kick-ass starts to improve as a hero around Red Mist, and they become friends.

But it was all a lie. Again.

Red Mist was, in reality, the son of the mafia kingpin, who was also a comics nerd. He went to his father (who found him useless), and offered to help by befriending Kick-Ass and bringing him into a trap (the kingpin wanted Kick-Ass, because he had been blamed for a bunch of mob guys, Big Daddy and Hit Girl had killed). Red Mist gleefully reveals to Kick-Ass that he played him for a sucker and never liked him anyway. Their final match-up is no epic battle, as Kick-Ass just clubs him with a bat and leaves, telling him he's pathetic. The reveal of Red Mist as a villain is a big shock, as the mafia-son had only been referred to once in one panel two pages into the book. The fact that he and Red Mist were one and the same was shocking enough that I leafed back to that page and looked again.

So the film. They introduce the son early, but they keep him around. They show him trying to be a big shot like his dad, and wanting to help. He then comes up with "a plan" and tells his dad he can get him, but he'll "need some stuff." Cut to the next scene with the reveal of the Red Mist costume. Snore. He meets up with Kick-Ass and they drive around. The fire? It's a trap Red Mist was taking Kick-Ass to, where his dad's goons were waiting, but Big Daddy got there first and lit the place on fire. So they rush in, but save no one. Snore. Then when the kingpin does capture Kick-Ass, Red Mist pleads with his father to let him go, as he didn't do anything (because they're such tight buds, from that one time you were hoping to get him killed, but it didn't work out). His father ignores him. Leter, when Kick-Ass escapes, Red Mist attacks him, they're evenly matched, though the fight is pathetic and consists of them hitting one another with random martial arts weapons until both fall down. Kick-Ass wakes up first and leaves. Snore. It also doesn't help that they cast the kid who played McLovin in Superbad to play Red Mist. I wouldn't have been able to look at Red Mist and not know "Yep, it's that guy."

3. The romantic plot.
So Dave (that's Kick-Ass to you) has a huge crush on a girl named Katie who doesn't know he exists. After his first Kick-Ass fight, he's left a bloody mess. In the comics, the thugs steal his costume and leave him naked for the paramedics. Shortly after, Katie begins talking to him. He atributes it to his new confidence, but his friends advise him that it's due to a rumour that he was "pimping his ass in the village" and that he was being beaten up by his clients. Katie's mom runs an abused womens' shelter. She Katie is feeling pity, and is thinknig of him as her "gay best friend". He decides to go with it, as a way to get closer to her. It's played as really, really sad. At one point, after a big fight, he stands outside her house and declares that he is Kick-Ass, and no, he's not gay! He then promptly runs. Later, she says that someone stood outside her house yelling he wasn't gay, and was that you, Dave? "Yes," says Dave. "I'm not gay. And I love you." And then he says all this great stuff about how she's the only one for him and he cares bout her so much and loves her and stuff. Her response?

"FUCK YOU! You manipulative little prick! How dare you make a fool out of me!"

And then she tells her large boyfriend to beat the shit out of Dave. Which he does. She then SMSes him a picture of her sucking the boyfriend's cock.


Oh, the film version? He reveals that he's Kick-Ass, and that he's not gay. She lets him spend the night, and they have lots and lots of sex. Sigh.

4. The Tone.
I don't have the energy for scene-by-scene comparison at this point. The early, brutal, learning-to-be-a-super-hero-and-getting-beaten-badly stuff is played in a silly, irreverent way. Later, the tone goes ponderous. Instead of Big Daddy's death being a single execution-style shot played in a shocking way, he's lit on fire for ages and ages as Hit-Girl tried to get to him, and he lives long enough to have a whole deathbed conversation. Instead of Hit-Girl getting revenge on many, many of the bad guys before being overwhelmed, and a weakened Kick-Ass saving her with a pistol (shooting a guy in the crotch which gives Hit-Girl the second she needs to escape and finish everyone off), she goes mano-a-mano with the boss, who she for-some-reason can't defeat, and Kick-Ass saves her on a jet-pack. With two miniguns on it. And shoots the boss with a bazooka.

So yeah.

I don't know, I'm rambling, but I mostly feel that the film was just-okay, and mostly a missed opportunity.

EDIT: Ooh! I thought of a way to sum this up! I was trying to explain to Tanja why I was so let down, and it hit me. The book basically says that Dave, as Kick-ass, acts as though the world will follow the story tropes of the hero's journey: it'll recognise his courage, give him the girl, allies who are both noble and effective, and a villain he can defeat. Instead, he is repeatedly smacked in the face that the world does not run on narritivium* but is mostly an unfair and uncaring place. Despite this, he does manage to be a hero, and do some good. The film basically takes the premise and gets none of the message. Dave gets the girl, beats the bad guy, and gets to feel okay and get a happy ending. So yeah.

*copyright Terry Pratchett