Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Blog Action Day

Today is Blog Action Day, and I thought I would take a minute to contribute.

Admittedly my contact with poverty has always been safe and removed. I grew up in a relatively well-off household where my parents paid for an expensive education for myself and my brothers. I've lived in some poor neighborhoods in Los Angeles, but I've always had a stable job and was there more as a financial choice than necessity. I certainly saw the effects of poverty around me, but I was never affected. So although I've lived a very lucky life I do realise that poverty exists and finding the means to pay bills and feed your family is a huge problem for a large number of Americans.

I think a large part of the problem is the current administration and the years of trickle-down economic policy that have left the lower class withered and dying. That's why voting and choosing to vote for Barack Obama is one of the steps I'm taking to fight poverty. From tax relief, to expanding child support facilities for low-income families, encouraging investment in local communities, and investing in re-training programs for workers in industries that are either dying or being outsourced, Barack Obama has a plan of action to revitalize the working class which is and always has been the foundation of the American economy.

Secondly, my charity of choice is Kiva, which I was pleasantly surprised to see highlighted on the Blog Action Day site. Kiva is a service that provides microloans to entrepreneurs in developing areas, giving them the tools to lift themselves out of poverty. You can invest anywhere from $25 to $500 in a microloan that will be repaid by the recipient. I think it's such a brilliant idea because it squashes the idea that giving to a charity you're simply giving away your money. This is investment that gets directly to the people that need it and will help improve communities.

Many thanks to Clito for highlighting Blog Action Day and being a relentless source of optimism and change.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Viva

- I'm back home in Vegas now, having a great time with my family. I went with my brother to see Love last night, the Beatles Cirque du Soleil show at the Mirage, and it was fantastic. They put together some expressive, elaborate set pieces to go with a number of the most famous Beatles songs (my personal favorite was "Something") and they brought together a lot of different elements from dancing to acrobatics to large puppet pieces to a narrative projected video. It made me want to dig through my mp3 collection for some Beatles again. Besides that I'm helping out today with a catering job for my mom's catering company. This is the biggest job of the year for her: every year she caters the graduation at my old high school, which is about 500-600 people. It's a couple of days of hectic work, and I'm sure by the end of the night tonight I'm going to be exhausted.

- The Rules and Bylaws Committee of the Democratic National Committee is meeting today to discuss allowing Michigan and Florida delegates a seat at the convention and the ability to have their say in the nomination. I'm a bit conflicted over whether they should be allowed back in. For one, they did break the laws on primaries set by the DNC and should be punished for it; two, Obama was not even on the Michigan primary ticket, leaving Hilary the unopposed candidate; and three, there is not enough time or resources to run another round of primaries in these states if they do decide to allow them, so delegates will have to make their decision through a muddled view of their constituents. On the bright side, the latest round of polls show Obama defeating McCain in November by 8% and Obama was here in Las Vegas on Wednesday! (I didn't know ahead of time so I couldn't go, but Twitter let me know about the event as it was happening.) He spoke about the housing crisis and his plan to help victims of predatory lending by fining predatory lenders, blanket changing the terms of those loans to fair terms, and then taking the money collected through the fines and putting it into a $10 billion foreclosure prevention fund to help the victims. I think it's a great move and it really hits at the heart of the problem, that people who took out these loans do not have the ability to repay them at this point and leaving them high and dry will only damage our economy.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

She Said the Man in the Gaberdine Suit was a Spy

- I had a really weird dream the other night. I dreamt I owned a Playstation 3 and was playing Guitar Hero 3 with Peter Moore in our apartment. Apparently this is what I get from reading Kotaku all day long.

- There's apparently a Battlestar Galactica mod for Homeworld 2 that looks fantastic. I've seen some videos of the game in motion and I really need to find a copy of that game too. There's also a mod for the space flight sim X3 for which I've only seen screenshots, but I do own that game so I'll definitely be checking out the mod. (I've been in desperate need of a space flight sim for years now, and I'm wondering why the game industry has left this genre barren for so long...)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Massive May Update

Wow, it's been a while since I've posted on here. I've been busy, but also a lot has happened and I've been trying to find the time to write it all up. Here we go:

- Certainly the highlight of the past couple weeks was meeting Maxine Hong Kingston at the UCLA Festival of Books. She was there for a panel/interview in which she discussed her work, her style of storytelling, and the efforts she's made with her writing in changing the world around her. She spoke about how she tries to express oral storytelling in her writing; expressing oral storytelling traditions of myth and history that are intertwined and in many ways the same. She discussed the writing groups she's organized for veterans of war, encouraging them to express their memories, frustrations, and experiences in writing, and the 2003 protests against the invasion of Iraq, which she emphasized were still important even though they did not stop the invasion. After the talk I got to meet her in person and have her sign my copy of To Be the Poet. I've always loved her poetry and how through it she transmits reality, dreams and thoughts. It was an amazing moment to be able to speak to her face to face and convey how much her writing has meant to me.

- I've finished the Harry Potter series after a whirlwind marathon of books 5, 6, and 7. I've been reading the series for the past couple of years and wanted to catch up to the films. This time when I got through the fifth book, Stuart had the sixth and after powering through that one I had to read book seven. It wrapped up quite well; Rowling did a great job of expressing the danger and importance of the struggle against Voldemort, showing Harry maturing as he goes through these trials and challenges, and I was pleased with the way she wrapped up the series. All in all they're well written books and I was glad to go through that adventure, even if I see anything wand shaped now and want to cast spells with it...

- The new spring anime season has started and I've been reviewing quite a few of the new shows. There's so much coming out this season; I've watched about nine shows so far, there's at least five more I want to check out, and that's not even half of all the new shows coming out. The real stars of this season so far have been Kaiba, an adventure series with this gorgeous Little Prince/French science-fiction-looking animation, and Soul Eater, a wacky action show that has overtones of FLCL in its humor.

- I saw Iron Man last weekend with Vince, Evan, and Mahea. Frickin awesome. They really nailed the character and the story, with Robert Downey Jr playing a spot-on drinking, womanizing, playboy Tony Stark. Jon Favreau, the director, was the main force behind this fantastic adaptation, going so far as to bring in some of the best Iron Man comic book writers to work on the story. It's also the first outing from Marvel Studios, the official cinematic arm of Marvel Comics, and is a promising start to their production career.

- I'm becoming fairly adept at navigating the L.A. public transit system now that my car's gone. Last weekend I managed to get all the way to Redondo Beach and back via bus and rail. Of course I would have a much more difficult time without the L.A. Metro Trip Planning site. All in all it hasn't been a terrible experience, and I wish I had taken advantage of it sooner; I've seen a lot of cool places and shops along the bus routes that I'd like to visit, stuff I wouldn't have noticed driving.

- I've also gotten much more familiar with RSS Feeds and nearer-to-the-cutting-edge web technology. RSS Owl is totally my go to app now to keep up with Lifehacker and the other Gawker blogs, get news about everything from beer to new web apps, and updates from my favorite miscellaneous blogs. I've checked out Twitter and plan to use it in live-blogging anime episodes as I watch, and have tied in all my various web presences to FriendFeed. The future is here!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Nico and Fred on the Nature of Language

Nico: what's an aide?
Fred: That's like a person who's an assistant
Nico: so a bitch
Fred: "an assistant or helper, esp. a confidential one."
Fred: LOL
Fred: I suppose so
Fred: Ahhh "1777, short for aide-de-camp (1670), from Fr., lit. "camp assistant."
Nico: woah
Fred: Vive la France!
Nico: alors
Fred: I was gonna type out the fake French laugh sound, but I didn't know how to transcribe it
Nico: hough?
Nico: houghoughoughough

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Super Mario and My Fear of Black Holes


http://view.break.com/487616 - Watch more free videos

I caught this video on Kotaku. An underground garage, a ton of empty wine bottles, and an RC car combine to play the Mario theme. Incredible.

Then there's this particular news story I read on io9 about the Hadron Colider. I forgot their startup date was this May. Some of the experiments performed in this gigantic machine will create small black holes that SHOULD disappear as quickly as they were formed, state the scientists behind the machine, but others are worried that may not be the case. It may just be that when I was a kid I read a science fiction novel about a miniature black hole appearing in the center of the Earth and slowly devouring the planet from the inside out, but this seriously freaks me out. Add on top of that meat grown in vats hitting the market in the near future (which I first heard from Stuart) and my irrational Luddism is completely acting up; daydreams of moving to a cabin in the woods and living out the rest of my life as a mountain man with only my books to keep me company.

Addendum: I saw this rather touching article on Gawker about a cartoonist who took his mom's high school yearbook and reproduced it entirely in cartoon portraits. Even MORE awesome is a link from that article to another artist who reproduced a yearbook class from 1925 all in ink and watercolor portraits that are gorgeous.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

April 1st YouTube Mashup

IGN's Legend of Zelda Trailer
IGN posted an article about a Legend of Zelda film in production from "Rainfall Films" starring a cast of unknowns. This has got to be the most elaborate, costly, video game-related April Fool's joke ever, and I really wish this were real...



David Hasselhoff - Hooked on a Feeling
Not an April Fool's video, but I can't believe this didn't get meme'd sooner. David Hasselhoff flies around the world, completely superimposed, with crappy graphics and even worse outfits.



Letterman Top Ten - Battlestar Galactica
I absolutely cannot wait for the season premiere on Friday, and I just got Razor through Netflix to watch before then. To promote the new season they had the entire main cast of BSG on Letterman to do the Top Ten list recently.



Damn Boots
Nomis Football created this commercial, a kind of Gondry-esque adventure through an aspiring footballer's dreams, for their new shoe line. This is somehow related to work, but I have no idea how because I haven't heard about any Nomis campaigns.



Dead Fantasy
The new video from the guy who did the Haloroid fan video, with Samus fighting Master Chief. This one features the girls of Final Fantasy X-2 fighting DOA characters. It's alright, some decent action and great rendering, but for some reason I can't put my finger on not as impressive as Haloroid.



In other April Fool's news, Kotaku was all about cake, Thinkgeek had some really cool gag items, and a large group of anime bloggers created fake inter-blog drama that was convincing in how far it reached and the number of blogs in on it.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Eri Nobuchika - Sketch for Summer

I was surprised when I saw this video how I had never thought about it as a concept for a music video before. It captures quite well the elegant, panoramic experience of riding a train, and reminds me of Shinkansen rides between Nishinasuno and Tokyo with the sprawling countryside reaching out and all around.

Oh yeah, it's a great song too.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

To Hulk or Not to Hulk

As the only person on the face of the planet who enjoyed the first Hulk movie, I've been avoiding news on the new one. Beyond the teaser poster and the release date I didn't know anything about it. A news story on io9 today clued me into the fact that Ed Norton has the lead role. From there I found that the cast is rounded out by Liv Tyler, Tim Roth, William Hurt, and with appearances by Robert Downey Jr. as Tony Stark and Samuel L. Jackson as Nick Fury. The director's relatively fresh. His previous works include: the two Transporter movies, to his detriment; but also Danny the Dog/Unleashed, a film I quite like.

The news story in question was a bit troubling. Norton, who rewrote the script as well as starring, wants to maintain his creative control over the final cut. The studio of course wants to take it out of his hands and given the box office success of the previous Hulk movie it's understandable. What's even more troubling is that this has happened once before with Norton, where he fought and seized final creative control over American History X from the director Tony Kaye. According to rumors, it was a complete mess beforehand, and if this is a trend then giving control of the film to the studio could be a very bad idea. As it typically is...

In the end, I've always had the utmost respect for Norton and his creative choices, so I feel confident saying the film will be better with his vision.

(Note: Looking at Edward Norton's IMDB page, I see he's rumored to be in some 2009 film called "Leaves of Grass"? There's no other info about the film aside from his possible involvement and one other actor. Could this be some kind of biopic of Walt Whitman? Interesting.)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Yuki - Joy

My favorite Yuki song, she manages to distill her frenetic energy down into one driving melody. The awesomely choreographed video might have something to do with it too.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Out of the Informational Black Hole

Wow Blog, how ya doing?? So...I've been busy for the past two weeks. Between moving, an engagement party, and a busy couple weeks at work, my head's been spinning. It's great to be writing again.

- Moving was the usual pain, but luckily I was able to get rid of quite a few things I'm no longer carting around. Dresser, desk, and bookshelves; dvd and video game cases too, which I realised I didn't need to take with me everywhere. I also managed to slim down extraneous books. What I did move wasn't a problem, as I had a lot of awesome help from Nico, Warren, John (and optional character Evan). Staying with Nico and Stuart has been great! I'm really enjoying hanging out with everyone and the communal shopping trips and nights out. Issa fun!

- The engagement party went well. Drove up on Friday to San Jose, which is about a five an a half hour drive. Everyone got in by 10 and I was surprised to see Matt's brother Ryan there, whom I hadn't seen since the end of high school. He'd grown up quite a bit and was actually a cool guy to hang around now. Saturday was the busy day. There was a brunch with family in the morning, then a trip to the wedding spot at the top of a windy, omg-I'm-gonna-hurl mountain road, and finally games and dance lessons that night. Got to sit down with Matt's friend Danny and hear about the entire backstory of the Lord of the Rings. It was a good time, really more of an event for the girls but I managed to have some fun.

- Work's been incredibly busy. Aside from reaching the heavy middle of two big campaigns, I've been leading a couple of important brainstorms for new projects coming up.

- I had a chance to see Be Kind Rewind this weekend, and it was just as fantastic as I imagined. They nailed a lot of the shots from the films they were lampooning, so the moments were even more hilarious than simply a lifted snippet of dialogue. I was happy to see there was some real heart to it too; a story about how vital history and local pride is, and how gentrification sometimes destroys neighborhoods and communities in the name of "progress".

- I'm about halfway through Salt: A World History now, and it's still good but I'm a bit tired of the format. I'll have to dig through something with a little plot next.

- I may be back on a bit of an anime track. When I've needed something to just briefly watch to unwind right before bed, I boot up an episode of Lucky Star or two. It's always those simple, fun series that are my go-to shows.

- I've been digging into some old, old music recently; stuff from high school that was my favorite back in the day. One of those bands is Gay Dad, and this happens to be one of my more favorite tracks off their album Leisurenoise:

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Suneohair - Split

It's a funny story how I came across Suneohair. I was introduced to them through the series Honey & Clover, which was a favorite of one my friends at my anime club. I never quite got into the series, because I've been tired of romance anime for quite a long time now. Nevertheless, it has a fantastic soundtrack with many great artists, including an opening by YUKI and several endings by Suneohair. So while I didn't get into the show, I did love the soundtrack, and at the time I was particularly interested in hunting down songs by Suga Shikao from the OST. Well, the first thing I did was go and download the OST, but unfortunately I wasn't able to get all of it, wasn't able to get more than one or two Suga Shikao tracks, but I did have the part with a large number of Suneohair tracks. I listened to those tracks and found song after song that grew on me, until Suneohair is one of my favorite J-Pop artists today. I really love the unique brand of spacey-sounding rock he produces, and his distinct, honest singing.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Super Massive Megathon Tuesday Post

- I went with Clint from work to the 24/7 DIY Summit at USC this weekend, which was all about user created video content online. They had a really cool lecture about Anime Music Videos and all the most influential AMVs of the last ten years. (I had previously seen two.) A couple things I brought away from the lecture:

1. I went and downloaded all the AMV Hell compilations. Those are just too much fun.
2. I really need to watch RahXephon.
3. I really need to listen to Frou Frou.
4. I did not know that before the rise of YouTube, THE place to watch AMVs online was http://www.animemusicvideos.org/. Where was this page during high school??

Here's my favorite video from the lecture, which will answer for half of the points above. Bonus info: This is considered the most complicated AMV ever made, and when it came out there was a lot of conjecture that it actually drove people away from making AMVs because the standard kept getting pushed so high.



- That should serve as my first video of the week too. I've been trying to keep on a video posting schedule: 3 a week, Mon, Wed, Fri; so that I post on my blog at least somewhat regularly and get into the habit of writing here. It seems to be working so far.

My favorite day happens to be Wednesdays as that's inadvertently become the day I post J-Pop videos. I have a ton of YUKI videos I'm just dying to post; both for the songs and the videos...

- I started reading Salt: A World History by Mark Kurlansky last night. It's really a fascinating tale of how the important spice has influenced civilisations over the ages. The first chapter was all about salt in Ancient China and how it affected the change in ruling dynasties, philosophies, and spawned the harnessing and use of natural gas among other things. Very well written too; more a tale than a dry, factual account.

I'd really like to read The Zen of Fish: The Story of Sushi, from Samurai to Supermarket next.

- The Spitz chicken doner kabob is really just as good as the lamb/beef doner kabob, and I'm glad because it gives me a healthier option when I go there. I love me some spiced meats!

- Having drank Anchor Steam all weekend, imagine my surprise when I heard my coworker had, along with some friends, won a private party at the Anchor Steam Breweries in San Francisco this weekend.

- I'm going into moving-planning overdrive with only two weeks to go. Annnnnd the worrying starts.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Little Fat Man with the Pug-Nose Face!

Many will know I have a fascination with David Bowie and his fantastic body of work. The Office is also one of my favorite TV shows of all time. Bowie made an appearance on Ricky Gervais' Extras, where Gervais' character runs into him at a party and asks him for some advice on fame, with disastrous results...

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Shiina Ringo - Hatsukoi Shoujo

This is a video from another of my favorite J-Pop artists: Shiina Ringo. You may remember I wrote a bit on my Nobiai blog a while back about her and her sideproject band, Tokyo Jihen. She tends to do quite boisterous and unique music, often in a big band sort of style. Ever since I heard this song on her album I really loved it. It's got a seductive, dark style about it, and I love that the video captures that mood so wonderfully.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Election Day

Yay! Election time! That time of year, every four years, where we get to decide the direction our country goes in.

At first glance it might appear that I don't care about politics much. I don't often bring up the subject with my friends, I don't often blog about it, and a glance at the busiest shelves in my personal library reveal more flights of fancy than reason. I do care, and I do make strides to keep myself informed. I get my info from a couple different sources: Harper's, the intelligent debate in the Penny Arcade Debate & Discourse forum, and oddly enough through the political channels I've subscribed to on my StumbleUpon. I admit I could be more informed. I often stray away from books on political viewpoints, I tell myself because I have trouble digesting something that large. I could be more involved. I've written two letters to representatives at this point, but I should be getting involved in local politics, groups and rallies.

I'm hardly a paragon of political activity; there's a lot more I could be doing to have a say in how my life is run by the powers that be. Regardless, I'm proud of the fact that I vote.

I get upset with political apathy. (What an interesting paradox.) I hate the argument that your vote doesn't count. Single votes do count; particularly in a proportional system like the way the Democractic primaries operate, and even in a system where large blocks of political territory go to the majority winner that single vote still has the opportunity to be part of that majority, or the vote that decides a close contest. Even on a more philosophical, yet strangely fundamental, level voting is an opportunity to make your voice heard, to make your choice in the political system known.

Voting in the Presidential primaries and the general election may be the lower bar of political activity, but it is still an important part of the process. Presidents determine a large part of the political agenda for the next four years. They can veto legislation from becoming law, they appoint a number of positions, and like it or not they truly do act as a face and voice for America to the rest of the world.

I'm excited to be walking to the polls tomorrow and casting my choice for the next President. I'm even going to keep that silly little sticker.

High As...

I think this is fairly appropriate post-weekend viewing.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Freeman's Mind

One of the more hilarious machinima I've seen, and of course it helps to have played Half Life 1. Note that this is the first episode of the series...

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Yuki - Biscuit

I had a couple other funny videos I thought I should put up first, but when going through videos for J-Pop artists today, I came across one I just had to share. Yuki embodies everything wacky and fun I love about J-Pop (no wonder as she's one of the oldest J-Pop artists still around, starting back in 1991 as the vocalist of the legendary Judy and Mary). Her videos are often as nonsensical as her songs, but with this infectious, unrelenting bright energy I absolutely adore. The name of this song is Biscuit, to give you as much context as possible...

Monday, January 28, 2008

LasagnaCat

Saturday, January 26, 2008

One Man Left

Well, it's been a while since I've written, and with good reason.

- I got hit by the most deathly of sicknesses this past weekend. From Saturday morning on I was stuck in bed with: a splitting headache, so bad it felt like each hemisphere of my brain had its own massive headache; a delirious fever which gave me the single worst work-related nightmare I've had; a wet hacking cough; one sumabitch sore throat, and I should know as whenever I get sick it's ALWAYS with a sore throat; aches all over my body so I could really only lay on my back or stomach; chills, needed to have three blankets on me to stay warm; and the slightest bit of a runny nose. Saturday through Wednesday I was feeling this way, and as it didn't clear up by work on Tuesday, I went into the doctor's office that day. Got a preliminary look at, some antibiotics, some chest xrays, and orders to check back in a couple of days to see if the results were bronchitis. So needless to say, I had the most unfun MLK weekend ever.

- I've actually watched some sports lately! Two weeks ago I watched some of the playoff games for the Superbowl: San Diego vs Indianapolis, and then New York vs, I think, Dallas. It was exciting to watch these games with some friends in the apartment complex here, and I love yelling at little men on screen when I'm drunk too. Both games were big underdog games, which helped, where I followed along with being impressed that the longshot teams won.

- Oscars look to be very boring this year. I haven't really seen any of the movies that are up for nomination; I do need to see There Will Be Blood while it's still in theaters.

- I got 3:10 to Yuma in my latest Netflix batch. Just as good as I remember it, and the amazing soundtrack by Marco Beltrami is definitely a big part. I love well done Western soundtracks; it's the instrumentation. Something about the choice of using a lone, bombastic, wailing trumpet to represent the lone, hard gunslinger.

- Before I recently tried to go on a bit of a videogame diet, I've been playing tons and tons of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. S.T.A.L.K.E.R. is a first-person shooter with an alternate reality theme, where a second nuclear disaster occurs at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant in the near future and causes strange changes in the area around it. You play a man who's awoken not knowing who you are, only with a tattoo on your arm, and the name and picture of a man you're supposed to kill. You wander the post-apocalyptic wasteland scavenging and hunting to get by, barely escaping rogue military elements, mutants, and lawless bandits. You can either take on side missions to hunt down people, retrieve goods, or eliminate a band of enemies, or you can simply travel around, living in the wilderness as you will, only returning to the vestiges of society occasionally for supplies. I really love the atmosphere and mood of the game. It's so intense, I found myself adopting very cautious tactics, and constantly watching behind myself ingame, to make sure I wasn't about to be ambushed. If you've ever had a postapocalyptic fantasy, this is a great place to live it out.

- I've been really getting into, and have almost finished Flight of the Conchords. It's really one of those series you have to get into the rhythm of. Aside from the occasional hilarious song, I had to watch about seven or eight episodes before I saw one that just made me bust up laughing because I expected the characters to act one way and they totally blew those expectations away. I hope they get a second season, and I recommend the show to anyone who's a fan of silly songs.

- Evan got me House of Leaves for Christmas, and I started reading it while I was sick. Very Blair Witch Project-y, which I like.

- I'll most likely be posting tons of YouTube videos up here now, as this is my main distraction at work and I rarely get to share it. Plus I've found some funny ones.

- I've drank more orange juice and green tea in the past week than I think I have in the past three months.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Sometimes you have to post these things.

Sometimes you do.

(9:40:04 AM) Fred: You have balls!
(9:40:05 AM) Ev: (Autoreply) Inservice day (He's away.)
(11:32:16 AM) Fred: Balls are your favorite
(11:32:19 AM) Fred: Not a day goes by
(11:32:24 AM) Fred: That balls aren't on your mind
(11:32:44 AM) Fred: I remember when we went out for hamburgers that time
(11:32:54 AM) Fred: And you asked the waitress if they had any burgers in ball form
(11:33:01 AM) Fred: Cause that's the only way you take your meat
(11:33:11 AM) Fred: Hot beef injection
(11:35:41 AM) Fred: And by that I mean the cock
(11:35:49 AM) Fred: With a side order of balls
(11:35:51 AM) Fred: Extra hairy
(11:45:59 AM) Fred: I bet that even if we had gotten a chance to get Taco Truck while you were out here
(11:46:18 AM) Fred: You would have asked Leo to dip his spicy Latin nuts in your tacos before serving them
(11:46:29 AM) Fred: for "extra flavor"
(11:46:38 AM) Fred: "!MAS SABOR!"

Monday, January 7, 2008

Time to Blow Doors Down, or My Belated New Year's Post

- Fantastic New Year's. It really was fun seeing A Patch of Black play and back together again. Quite a rocking show. It was also good to see Lucas and Erin and laugh and have fun with friends I haven't seen for a while.

- New Year's Day was a combination of long needed apartment cleaning and diving headfirst into the bounty of games I bought on Steam. Valve had a huge holiday sale, and I couldn't help but snap up pretty much every game on there I wanted. Some highlights include:

  • Psychonauts - This fantastic 3rd person platformer plays like you'd expect a Ratchet and Clank/Sly Cooper/Spyro, etc. game should, but where it really shines is in the art direction and the wacky style. The humor is playful and dark, the whole world looks mishapen and eerily colorful, and the characters are all grossly exaggerated. It feels exactly like if Tim Burton made a platformer, which I love.
  • Darwinia - This one surprised me. An RTS-lite that takes place inside a virtual world, where you have to guide and protect sentient AI creatures from virii in a hostile environment, with 80s wireframe graphics. I wasn't expecting that much from it, as I was looking at the Infogames pack mainly for Uplink, but there's something seductively fun about its tone and world.
  • Geometry Wars - Another big surprise. A simple spin on classic arcade games like Asteroids and Centipede, you pilot a ship around and fire in eight directions to destroy increasing numbers of differently colored geometric shapes which fly at you in strange patterns. The draw is the fun difficulty, ooh-and-aah colors and explosions, and chill music.
  • Jagged Alliance 2 - A throw-back to my high school gaming days. This 1999 overhead turn-based squad shooter has you organizing and controlling a team of mercenaries, each with RPG-like increaseable skills, while micromanaging your mercenary roster, their supplies, and town militias, all to overthrow an island-nation dictator. Pretty fun, but may be due to the nostalgia factor.
- I've been getting back into anime lately, and I'm enjoying it. There were a number of good hits this past season that I had to take a second look at before I noticed how awesome they were:
  • Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei - Itoshiki is a teacher who despairs at life and the world around him, and is constantly trying to commit suicide. His students "help" by berating him constantly and have their own problems to deal with. The harem-esque cast is composed entirely of deranged girls: one never leaves the school and is found hiding in different cupboards and closets each episode; another was stalking her boyfriend until Itoshiki told her true love is commiting suicide together and she begins to stalk him; yet another student is an exchange student from the U.S. and tries to sue everyone she can, including the teacher when he accidentally sees a flash of her panties; etc. The show spends each episode dealing with either the problem student of the week or Itoshiki's despair and outrage at some minute part of human behavior. The show is both a hilarious parody of harem anime, and a riff on all different sorts of cynicism. Sayonara, Zetsubou Sensei was really the gem of this season and I can't wait for the sequel this spring.
  • Ghost Hound - In a small town in the mountains of Kyushu, three boys who have had traumatic encounters in their childhood become friends and learn to transfer their souls into a parallel world known as the "Unseen World". The Unseen World is however undergoing a change, with its ghosts starting to appear in the real world. From the director and scriptwriter of Serial Experiments Lain, this fills my weird-tranquil show of the season quotient. It's one of those anime where meticulous attention to detail and well-used space and silence make for an amazing experience. Although I've only seen three episodes of this so far, it really is a fantastic series.
  • Dragonaut - Humanoid, laboratory raised beings with magical powers transform into dragon robots and are piloted by spiky, multi-color-haired pilots who are trying to defend the Earth from a malevolent, alien planet which has destroyed Pluto and now rests in its orbit, sending its own dragon robots to attack Earth every couple of years. Completely cheesy and over-the-top but well done, I geeked out on this series and lived up cheesy-anime days of yore before I noticed how 2-D it was (no pun intended). I'll definitely watch the last episode when it comes out, as this was a fun little diversion.
  • Claymore - Half-demon, half-human, emotionless blonde women roam the countryside with giant broadswords and hunt down demons preying on human beings. I didn't mean to make it sound as flimsy as Dragonaut with that description, as this is actually a very quality show. Real emotions, and real tragedy, as the Claymores defend humans from this demon menace which claims hundreds of lives, but are despised by humans for their unnatural powers and being half-demons themselves. I'm currently hooked on this series, and nearly talked myself into marathoning all 26 episodes last night until my logic got the better of me and convinced me it was 11 pm and I needed some sleep.
Crap, I know I had more to write about, but my memory has faded over the week it's taken me to get out this inaugural New Year's post. Ah, well, I'll leave it there for now.

Happy New Year!