04 December 2011
I love movies that question reality. American Psycho seems just an ordinary slasher film on the surface, but it's actually a richly complex character study with the most unreliable of unreliable narrators, a sociopath who views himself as an abstraction of his own perceived image. In the end, though, Patrick Bateman may well be the only sane man in a crazy world despite his rather unorthodox coping mechanism. The way in which the film brings about this shift in perspective and the relative ambiguity in which it leaves the relationship between the conflicting views makes it a cinematic masterpiece.
The Final Storm, by contrast, can't seem to make up its mind about what its reality is and what its ultimate goal is in telling the audience whether or not its suspicions are right or wrong. The marketing describes the film as a biblical Armageddon piece, a story of survival in the final days of man. It centers around a young family on a small rural farm amidst a two-pronged assault on their sense of security in the form of pessimistic news reports on television and strange weather patterns out their own windows.
Into the fold walks (or rather stumbles) a stranger named Silas, played by Luke Perry, who is unable to recall his past at first, but slowly reveals a rather ominous connection to the farm's history, one unknown to its current residents until the third act. Said residents are a husband and wife with a teenage son, the wife a former bar hostess, the son a typical rebellious teen, and the husband a struggling farmhand with a drinking problem. What plays out prior to Silas acting out his hidden agenda is typical survivor fare, with trust at a premium, suspicions getting thrown about wildly, and a foreboding sense of dread as events begin to mirror those described in the Book of Revelation, quoted frequently through and out the film. Apart from the strange weather patterns such as snow in June and mass hysteria including looting and savagery, other telltale signs of the end times are less obvious until pointed out by Silas, namely the disappearance of all animals including crickets and birds as well as a blood moon in the night sky. All this would seem to be building up to a grand finale, with the stars being extinguished from the sky one by one like candles pinched by a pair of wet fingers.
The problem is, while this ending ultimately arrives as prophesied, it practically comes out of nowhere when the film shifts gears and turns the enigmatic Silas from a kindly and knowing stranger to a straight-up pious nutcase with a perverse sense of justice. This shift in character feels forced and clashes harshly with the film's more grandiose backdrop of the end of all existence. Imagine if the eponymous shark from Jaws disappeared toward the third act and was replaced by Billy Zane's character from Dead Calm, only for the shark to reappear at the end to sink the ship and kill everyone in one fell swoop. That's the problem with The Final Storm; it's really two movies in one, but one film is insubstantial on its own and the other can't quite cope with the cramped quarters it shares with its traveling companion. In the end, we're left with half of one movie and a fifth of another presented as a whole that starts things off well enough, but falls apart in the third act, attempting to make up for its bait-and-switch structure by harkening back to the impending doom mentioned at the start.
Normally, in films this pessimistic, the ultimate end is a kind of incentive for characters to complete their respective arcs, reconcile any differences, bury any hatchets, and free any otherwise closeted skeletons, with the deus ex machina of the apocalypse serving as a kind of final release that everyone (characters and audience alike) can feel humbled but strangely relieved by when the time comes. Here, it's a rush job, tacked on as if to distract the audience from the wayward pacing and uneven characterization. Needless to say, it doesn't quite work, and the end result is notably unsatisfying.
13 November 2011
My brief to Kakumey regarding a recent commission was simply "Cel-shaded portrait of a woman with blue hair and a choker." She asked about other details such as eye color, and after a little thought, I said, "Well, maybe pale green or very dark blue, almost navy, but overall up to you. Surprise me." What I didn't quite tell her, and maybe should have, was that there was a little bit of an agenda in terms of usage.
For my DeviantART page, I was going to make another collection for my favorites, one specifically for women with blue hair, as I'd amassed quite the collection, and wanted to use it as the key thumbnail for the collection. Once at the collection's page, there would be a little description to the side, as is typical with collections and gallery folders, mentioning how one of my favorite reviews from Classic Game Room is YS I & II Chronicles for PSP leading to the following quote from that review:
"... a magical land whose main export is hot chicks with blue hair."
So, when Kaku sent me a tweet informing me that she was finished, I hopped onto Skype and saw the portrait, my reaction I think gave her the wrong impression. I was not offended or disappointed, just surprised (pleasantly, even), and then suddenly very, very embarrassed:
Granted, the collection was tongue-in-cheek from the start and not meant to be at all misogynistic or objectifying, let alone racist... and objectifying. The lesson here is that, when commissioning an artist, there's nothing wrong with being brief and concise, but you may want to let the usage be known if you've got something in mind, just in case.
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm not racist... in fact, I maintain that it's physically impossible for me to be; I'm originally from Madison, WI, where we have a 3% black population. We don't even call them blacks or African-Americans, we call them the Green Bay Packers. I'm probably going to Hell for that joke, but if you've ever been to the midwest, it probably doesn't seem that funny for how largely true it is.
08 November 2011
For reasons that probably shouldn't have to be explained or explored in any great detail, this is really annoying, unfair, and, in the case of those asking, downright pathetic. Put simply, their channels are so bad, so borderline invisible, and so obnoxiously underwhelming that they have to ask people to subscribe to their channel in exchange for their pretend patronage.
Luckily, YouTube, in a moment of genuine interest in the goings-on of their site, decided this had to stop, and not only said as much, but literally found a way to prevent it. Now, if someone types "sub for sub" or anything along those lines, the comment does not post. The pathetic excuse for a human being begging for attention will get an error message that the comment cannot be posted due to an "internal error" which is a polite way of saying, "Get a damn life, you scum-sucking bottom-feeder." This technology isn't actually new, as many web-hosting services and a few online games have filters in place that seek out specific words and either erase them, or replace them with something else. It's typically reserved for obscenity and various foul terms, but YouTube has discovered it can also be used to keep people from mooching off of others. Again, genius.
YouTube also has a program that can "listen for" copyrighted music in videos and either mute the video or, as is more often the case, send you an e-mail asking if you'd like to allow a link to a legitimate download service (like iTunes or Amazon) to be posted alongside your video. Of course, it's not really a question, just a kind of gentle warning. They'll only post the link if they can actually get the rights to the song, otherwise they go with the muting option. In essence, they're trying to work with you, reach an agreement of sorts with the record labels so they don't take you to court for all you're worth plus interest. I've always felt the "free publicity" defense often used by people who use copyrighted music illegally in their videos is incredibly weak, tantamount to the spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum and screaming, "You never loved me!" but somehow YouTube has found a way to make it work. I may not approve of a compromise like this, but that's not the same as opposing it.
And yet, despite these capabilities at YouTube's disposal to help both its community and entertainment providers, I still see users posting full movies either in parts of around 10, or even, with the recent set of site changes of late, in single uploads. Granted, with the way the DMCA works, YouTube can't officially make a move against the offending user unless the original copyright holder files a formal complaint, a condition I consider akin to taking someone's car keys and throwing them in the river, insisting that it is not grand theft auto as the car is exactly where it was when the owner originally parked it and no one else has the keys. YouTube has created a kind of relatively safe haven for people to post videos that are not their own yet claims total immunity for what people do with it. Fair in principle, possibly, but jury's out on the practice. The point is, if they're willing to actively work and cooperate with record labels before any legal paperwork is filed, and set up parameters that flag comments for spam, why isn't there a means for automatically flagging videos that are of full-length feature films? Where's the misgiving about what exactly is going on with that user's channel? Sure, clips are tough to peg down as offending because they're only a short portion and often given at least a little context, such as hosting the video on a weblog for review or critique and putting a link to the journal in the description. Exhibiting the film in full, however, hardly counts as fair use, regardless of any attached analysis.
Copyright is far from a black and white issue, but it's not a complete gray area, either.
02 November 2011
Dear so-called "sir":
Regarding this article: http://jezebel.com/5804867/legislator-says-women-should-plan-for-post+rape-abortion-since-i-have-a-spare-tire
You have got to be the most ignorant, insensitive, and borderline-brain-damaged politician I've ever had the misfortune of reading about.
What kind of moral fiber considers an abortion a worse offense than the rape that led to it, such that women must plan for such a contingency? If men were the ones who carried the child instead of the women, how would you feel about that policy you voiced your support for?
For the record, I am not a resident of Kansas House District 81, and knowing that "things" like you can even exist in my lifetime makes me appreciative that I don't live within so much as the same zip code as you or anyone out in that state that might support you.
You are a born loser and you deserve nothing good in life, ever. I feel sorry for everyone that has even so much as heard your name.
Get stuffed, you cornholing buzzard.
29 October 2011
As I've said, I don't use Chrome because of a conflict that causes my PC to randomly restart. Evidence to prove this: Once I uninstalled Chrome, it never happened again. Correlation isn't causation, true, but a quick search in the forums showed I'm not alone in this; XP does not get along with Chrome, and random restarts are among the side effects.
Apart from that, though, why wouldn't the latest version of Opera be supported?
In any case, the time seems to have definitely come for me to do something about my PC situation. As of now, I'm still running XP on a rig I've had since 2005 with no real updates or upgrades beyond a new graphics card and a second disc drive. The biggest problem I'm having is that apart from Opera and Skype, no application that requires an internet connection will work, including other web browsers. I think that, with all the Linux distros I've experimented with, on top of everything else I've used this computer for, the hard drive has simply had enough and needs to be replaced. I get error messages, but any attempts to fix them turn up negative, so I think we're dealing with an outright hardware failing. The same thing happened to my iMac once upon a time. It was funny when I took it in to get repaired; it had a 10GB hard drive and the store said the smallest drive they could replace it with (and not charge me an upgrade fee) was 30GB.
Anyway, the plan now is that I'll be replacing my hard drive and maybe even upgrading to Windows 7, but since it will most likely be the starter edition, I'll also re-install Jolicloud and switch between the two as needed. For some strange reason (upsell, upsell, upsell) the starter edition of Windows 7 does not allow you to set your own desktop wallpaper, but Jolicloud can. I intend to only use Windows 7 for non-web related activities, such as editing audio (and maybe video) and using my scanner. Jolicloud will be used entirely for running Opera and maybe Chrome (in case Blogger decides it doesn't like Opera, the uncultured swine that it is). I may also be upgrading the motherboard with one I've had lying around for a while (long story, don't ask). I've been planning at least one aspect of this plan for some time, but I've never gotten around to it. Instead, I've just been cautious about saving things and backing up my data whenever I think to. In any case, if I do replace my hard drive, it'll just be for safety sake as I intend to store most of my stuff onto flash drives, as I've done for years. When I was using my little Linux computer Sophia (also a long story not worth asking about), I had an 8GB thumb drive in the USB port at all times, only using the onboard hard drive (which was actually a compactflash card with a special adapter, something I may employ for this upgrade) for applications.
In the end, for as mad as I was, it wasn't so much at Blogger or Google as much as it was the fact that I don't like being told to make upgrades that I already intend to do regardless. Speaking of journals, though, we'll end this on something slightly different:
DeviantART's new journal feature just annoys me. They've essentially turned journals into literature uploads, complete with being able to give favorites and share options. My question, what about all those losers (they know who they are) who just post song lyrics or other things like that? Journals aren't art, they're a means for artists to talk to their audience, whether to give them important updates or just to shoot the breeze, they're not things to be placed in frames and hung upon the wall. The point of journals was that DeviantART users could essentially say anything they wanted with no fear of getting taken down, suspended, or even banned because the journal was just a kind of soapbox for people to have their little say in whatever they were on about. Now, by putting them on the same level as works of art, they're going to take away that relative safety. Journals can now get popular the same way paintings can, and that's not a good thing.
I know whenever DeviantART makes a change, there's always some huffing and puffing and melodrama about getting used to the change, and in the end, we get used to them, but this time, I think they may seriously have done something wrong, and I don't think they can undo it. We'll see.
Good night, and good luck.
28 October 2011
However, I was willing to give the movie a chance for two reasons, first being that Joe Johnston has never made a bad movie and I just knew in my heart he would respect the source material. Second, it kind of reminded me of Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow, but done just a little better (or so the trailers made it seem).
When all was said and done, I really wanted to like this movie, and while I don't hate it, I just found myself almost completely underwhelmed. at first, I thought it was just from being in something of a bad mood, but after letting it all sink in for a bit, I figured out the problem. It has the same overall fundamental flaw that Iron Man 2 had, that it was so busy setting up the next story that it took almost no time to tell its own. In Iron Man 2, this was just annoying because the story that we were left with once the setup was removed wasn't really any good. It was full of holes and gaps in logic bookended by a few semi-interesting action sequences. With Captain America, the story it told wasn't bad, but it was very straightforward and simple, but told at such a breakneck pace there was no time to really take anything in. Normally, I don't think a movie feeling too short is a bad thing; if anything, it means the movie has done its job by making me want to stay immersed in that world long after the credits roll. Here, though, it just felt rushed. This movie clocks in at about 2 solid hours, but there was more than enough content here for at least 2 and a half, and I would never have gotten bored or tired of what I was looking at. In short, I felt like I got shortchanged in favor of a franchise.
Thor, meanwhile, is my favorite of the lot. Everyone seemed to compare it right away to the Flash Gordon film, but I kept thinking of Masters of the Universe, especially with the way that much of the story is set on earth. There's a lot to dislike about the film, namely the fact that the small New Mexico town looked far too much like a set (and I'm from there, so I can tell you no small town looks like that nice), but that's hardly a dealbreaker and it's almost ironic that we're more willing to forgive and accept the fantastic settings than the "real" ones. It was also cool to see Colm Feore as Laufey, king of the frost giants, who were surprisingly scary. Most people may know Mr. Feore as the leader of the Necromongers of Riddick infamy, but, to me, he'll always be Glenn Gould.
I have not seen the newest Hulk, and frankly, nothing really makes me want to. I'm one of those weirdos who actually really likes the Ang Lee Hulk film, and not just because of my present-since-childhood crush on Jennifer Connelly. I was really disappointed that one wasn't better received. Sure, the ending was a bit weak, and Nick Nolte's anti-military speech seemed way more out of place than it should have, but it had a lot of good points. It embraced its comic book origins and did justice to the pathos of the main character. The new one, however, is a dull retread starring Edward Norton, possibly my least favorite actor in cinema, certainly in my bottom 5, alongside John Malkovich. I just don't get his appeal; nearly all of his movies have him playing a dual-natured character, which he only just about manages to pull off. There's also his off-screen antics, like constantly re-writing and ad-libbing his own lines as well as inviting himself into the editing suite to give himself more scenes, leading Tony Kaye to attempt replacing his director credit with "Humpty Dumpty" on American History X. Ego is a word that gets thrown about haphazardly when it comes to actors, but Norton seems to be one of the few actors to whom the term "egotist" actually applies.
So, am I excited about The Avengers in 2012? Honestly, not really. I think it's being built up too much and Marvel Studios is obsessing far too much with making a franchise that it's selling its setup films short.
10 October 2011
I can't believe this thing exists. It's an Atari 2600 game released in 1989, 5 years after the release of the Atari 7800* and the NES. It's not a homebrew game; it was made by a toy company called Axlon, which was actually owned by Nolan Bushnell, long after he'd left Atari in the hands of Warner Communications.
What's more surprising is how deep the game is. The last game to approach this level of complexity was Dragonsmasher from Starpath, and that required a special adapter to let the 2600 use cassette tapes instead of its typical cartridges. I wanted to bring this video here because it kind of gently ties into what I was talking about with derivative works. At first glance, this game made me think of the Swordquest games or Adventure or even Haunted House, which had rudimentary exploration elements. Mark Bussler of Classic Game Room made the comparison to Zelda, though I think the game has more in common with Namco's Tower of Druaga or Falcom's Ys series, especially the way the character runs into enemies with sword extended. All these comparisons may sound like I'm putting the game down, but I'm not. In fact, though I called it a dungeon crawler, Secret Quest is firmly in the science fiction genre, with space stations standing in for castles. The object of the game is to explore the station and collect symbols to enter into a command console in the center of each station. Then, a timer appears, giving the player only a scant few seconds to backtrack though the station and get to a teleporter and escape the detonation of the station. If you thought I was going to say, "Just like Metroid." I wouldn't blame you, but you'd be wrong; it's actually more like Major Havoc, an arcade game from Atari released in 1983.
*) Interestingly enough, the 7800 was backward compatible with 2600 games, which I think stands as a real testament to Nolan Bushnell's business genius. The 2600 was easy to develop for, and it still had a solid install base between people who still held onto their 2600s and people who had 7800s as well. Seriously, don't mess with this guy.
08 October 2011
I grew up in a Christian home. I not only went to church regularly and attended CCD (think Sunday School meets summer camp), but even volunteered as an altar server for many years. Of course, I'd be lying if those facts didn't come with the respective qualifiers: Whether I wanted to or not, which made up some of the worst social experiences of my childhood, and primarily because it looked like fun. Suffice it to say, I don't consider myself Catholic anymore. I still believe in God, but there were a few elements to the system (the Fan Club, as Marilyn Manson calls it) I could never quite get past, and not the typical "A-Ha! I'm on to you." ones like, "Why doesn't the Bible mention dinosaurs?" or, "Where did Cain find a wife?" Instead, they were more basic and fundamental.
The first is unconditional love. I mean, I get it, I guess, but I just find myself really uncomfortable with the idea. I would just rather earn it like anything else worth having. There's a little more to it than that, but we'll leave it there as the second item is the important one.
The second is martyrdom. There's nothing wrong with standing up for something you believe in, but expecting something in return to the point of demonizing people who don't reciprocate just doesn't sit well with me. Whatever happened to kindness being its own reward?
While this doubt had lingered in my mind for many years, it was a chain e-mail I got for Easter that, though meant to inspire and compel, really only served to highlight what I'd come to perceive as a self-deluded absurdity. You probably know the one, about the theology professor who offers donuts to his students and for each one he gives, whether they accept it or not, his star student has to do x number of push-ups, "So (name) can/not have a donut."
A better example is the opening scene of the Frank Oz film Housesitter, wherein architect Newton Davis (played by Steve Martin) presents an entire house as an engagement gift to his sweetheart, only for her to say, "No." This may or may not have been based on the tragic life story of Edward Leedskalnin, a Latvian sculptor who built Coral Castle to impress his betrothed after she left him at the altar.
It's all about expectations, and how your expectations of others should never play a role in your intentions.
When did "OMG, HOW I LOVE WHAT MY FANS DO FOR MEEEEE!" go from being a simple nicety to a litmus test for determining greed and authenticity? It's probably a little sad that the event that actually got me thinking about all this and digging up memories of my past and my religious views was Nintendo shutting down a fan-made, feature-length film based on the Legend of Zelda franchise (then again, I learned more about faith from Legend and Time Bandits than most any time spent in church, so it's not completely grabbing at straws). Called The Hero of Time, the film was produced entirely by volunteers over a period of four years. It was shown at a few film festivals and eventually uploaded to Dailymotion. Nintendo filed a cease & desist notice in 2009, but allowed the film to remain online until the end of the year.
As you might imagine, fans were outraged at Nintendo, with many forums and message boards bustling with outcries along the lines of, "How dare you! They're just fans who love the games so much. Who the Hell are you guys to crush their artistic spirit? George Lucas would never--" and so on and so forth. In all, the people the least bitter about the whole affair (at least, publicly) were the filmmakers themselves:
We understand Nintendo’s right to protect its characters and trademarks and understand how in order to keep their property unspoiled by fan’s interpretation of the franchise, Nintendo needs to protect itself — even from fan-works with good intentions.
In the time since, the group has developed two new projects, both of them original IPs. It begs the question of whether or not these new projects would be receiving as much attention as they are were it not for the icebreaker that was Hero of Time. It's a classic dilemma that artists face, how do they get noticed without risking alienating people with an unfamiliar property? On that note, if the team behind Hero of Time had approached Nintendo for permission in the first place, and Nintendo declined, what would they have done? Would they have simply gone ahead and only shown the film as a kind of demo reel to entice potential investors in their original projects? Follow up to that, would they have even considered carrying on with their original projects? I'd like to think they would, but somehow I can't fully subscribe to that notion.
The relationship between artists and their fans is a very complex one, existing in a kind of Schroedinger's Cat/Double Slit state of limbo where no one wants to peg down the barriers and limits of the relationship as doing so would undo it altogether. It's like that couple that has been together for years, but never talks about marriage, only to break up the moment the topic comes up and they realize they have different ideas about matrimony, even though they'd been living the dream fine and dandy up until then. It's as if the fans hate to be told that they're just fans in the eyes of their idols, albeit they'd be hard-pressed to lay down their credentials to the contrary. Even the "free advertising" or "good publicity" arguments don't hold up. On a satirical note, if you'd never heard of the Legend of Zelda and Hero of Time was not only your introduction, but the driving force that led you to give the games a try, then tell me, what's Mars like?
This sort of "Who's doing the bigger favor for who?" debate can really go on for days, even years (and have, in many circles), and while I'm all for keeping the debate open and giving equal consideration to all points from both parties, I wish we could get past the sticking points of expectations and entitlements as far as the fans go. To those fans who get riled up when some derived work they've invested in is shut down by the original creators, I understand your frustration, but what do you honestly expect? Lastly, to prove I'm not condemning your actions, I'll offer up an alternative in the form of an observation:
George Lucas is a fan of Akira Kurosawa, but Kurosawa never made a science fiction film.
06 October 2011
Top 5 Apple Products I Actually Like (reposted from Venusian Radio)
Steve Jobs passed away earlier this week, and for all the flak I give Apple for items like the iPad, iTunes, and the iPhone, I can't deny Apple's place in my life and in my heart. Believe it or not, there are actually some Apple products that I like, have owned, and genuinely wouldn't mind having. So, Steve, this one's for you.
Honorable Mention. Appleworks
Known today as iWork, Appleworks was Apple's answer to Microsoft Office as well as Microsoft Works, and it gave both of them a run for their money. It had far and away the best word processor I've ever worked with. I'm more familiar with its classic incarnation than its new style, but the omissions are more than made up for by what it offers in their place. Powerpoint may well be the best presentation software from a technical standpoint, but Keynote is a close second and offering a far more reasonable price point, plus it's far more user-friendly and intuitive than OpenOffice.org's Impress.
5. G4 Cube
Amidst the dull towers of Windows-based desktops and the goofy silicon heaps of iMacs, the G4 Cube rose up like a monolith and almost single-handedly re-wrote the rules for desktops. Taking a cue from its big brother, the NeXTcube, the G4 Cube not only made desktop towers more accommodating in terms of size and weight, but also made them fashionable. Usually, a tower is placed on the floor under a desk or immediately beside it like a dog. If towers ever got placed on a desk, it was tucked behind the monitor. The Cube, meanwhile, was not only small and lightweight enough to sit on top of a desk without any real problems, but it was also whisper-quiet so as not to add to the noise of an office space. In terms of design, it is quite literally a work of art; the Museum of Modern Art showcased an unmodified model complete with peripherals. It's really a shame the sales were so poor, and I really wish more desktops were designed as cubes.
4. iPod Nano (5th Gen.)
It really seems like Apple, following OSX, has been violently opposed toward people using their products creatively, at least not without throwing down a thousand dollars for Final Cut Pro. IPods by definition are media consumption devices, not meant for productivity on any level (except maybe for DJ's, but that requires additional hardware from third party manufacturers). However, with the 5th generation of the iPod Nano, Apple threw in not only a camera, but effects filters as well. In addition to the typical ones like monochrome, Apple threw in one that simulates the POV of the Terminator himself. Now that's the geeky kind of cool we expect from the original bad boys of personal computing.
Originally, I was going to put something like the original Quadra (the computer Myst was originally developed on) or one of the early PowerMacs, but after some thought, I realized I wasn't giving Apple its due credit in a very important area of personal computing.
Apple has never made a bad laptop.
I'd almost completely forgotten about the countless hours I spent playing Marathon and Marathon 2 on my dad's Powerbook. It was powerful and equally well-built. Even the Macbook Air has some great design elements; I like that it uses flash memory, giving it essentially few or no moving parts, an indispensable feature for any portable device.
2. Mac mini
This characterizes Apple's philosophy and attitude better than any other product in their lineup, for better or for worse. When the Mac mini was first introduced, sales of Dell computers were at an all-time high, thanks in no small part to a combination of the Home Shopping Network and a starting price point of around 400USD for a reasonably-equipped desktop. Apple's lowest priced desktop was at least twice that, and couldn't hold a candle in terms of performance. Put simply, Apple knew they were having trouble justifying their prices, regardless of their craftsmanship and quality of service, and were going to have to make a more budget-friendly computer. However, Apple is rarely one to give in, play nice, and follow the rules, so not only do they make a relatively inexpensive desktop computer, they make it one of the smallest, most compact, and downright cute desktops ever made.
Put simply, I owe my college education to Quicktime Pro. After struggling with some really annoying quirks in iMovie and not being able to afford Final Cut, I found out that Quicktime Pro was a surprisingly powerful editor for the price. Most people don't give it much credit for this, mostly because of the popularity of iMovie as well as the fact that nearly all editing functions of Quicktime Pro are handled through key commands, making it more like a kind of visual word processor than a non-linear video editor. It's only fault was not being able to actually capture footage from a camera, but that was only a problem if you were still using tapes and used FireWire for uploads. I had another editor that came free with a capture card, so I had that problem sorted from the start, leaving nothing between me and my short films. Every single one of them (except for one, which marked the last time I ever used iMovie) was edited using Quicktime Pro. The only reason I don't use it anymore is because I've used Windows XP since 2005 with occasional sojourns into the untamed wilderness of Linux, and Quicktime doesn't play too nice with others outside its comfort zone, even just for playback, which is the real icing on the cake. Still, you can be more than certain if I ever go back to Mac, it won't feel like I've returned home unless Pro is waiting there for me.
04 October 2011
Okay, Bethesda, let's put things in perspective: You bought the Fallout property from Interplay instead of licensing it from them, released what basically amounted to Oblivion with a texture swap and a gimmicky aiming mechanic, sued Interplay for trying to spend the money you paid them, and now you're suing an independent developer over a trademark dispute that you now have no reason to sue over.
What the Hell am I missing here? I'm trying to give you guys the benefit of the doubt, but now I can't wish enough turmoil and misfortune upon you and everything you've built.
Seriously, I hope someone makes another point-and-click adventure using your game environments again; I'd call it Karma.
13 August 2011
Castlemass not a sequel to Ladyhorse, but set in the same universe of The Broken Continent and an arbitrary fifty years after the events of that story. It is written as a pair of fragmented journal entries from a clergyman and a royal handmaiden exploring, with the aid of an elven guide, an old manor house set curiously in the middle of an archipelago. The structure would have an interactive angle, where one could choose which side of the story to read first, only being able to select the other half upon finishing the original selection (via a link at the bottom of the text page). It would only be after reading both that a third section would become visible, an epilogue sharing the fate of the two characters.
Mission of Thuele This is ultimately a more refined version of Castlemass that abandons the interactive aspect and focuses more on the "his and hers" (not he said/she said) element of the multiple perspectives device. This would be a more visual project than Castlemass in that the text of the story would be presented as handwriting on scraps of distressed parchment, each with a "chibi" of the speaking character set beside their respective journal fragments. I'm currently still hammering out the characters themselves, but the basic plotting is more or less done.
It's listed as possibly canceled because of this movie's recent release. Granted, and at the risk of a bad pun, the distance between that film's plot and the plot of Horizons is astronomical, the only common thread between them being that they both deal with twin planets. However, Horizons (which is not set on earth, only an earth-like planet) deals with a somewhat primitive society lacking the sort of technology that would let them get a better idea of how closely their twin mirrors their own world whereas Another Earth is set on modern day earth and deals heavily with the implications of communicating with a global doppleganger. Also, Another Earth has a theme of second chances and the gravitas of difficult life choices, while Horizons is about an orphaned farm girl who hears something go bump in the night.
I haven't seen Another Earth, and I really don't care to (and early reviews I've heard have told me I'm missing nothing), but while I doubt many other people will, much less draw comparisons, even seeing posters for this film just feels like some kind of sign. It's not that I believe in fate, just that sometimes certain patterns and threads can become abundantly obvious and clear to us at opportune times and their message can often be, "Don't go there!" Stanley Kubrick had moments like that in his career, between his aborted biopic of Napoleon, fearing comparisons to the box office bomb Waterloo, and the canceled Aryan Papers, whose release would have coincided with Spielberg's Schindler's List, these are those missed opportunities that, on the whole, don't really result in much loss of sleep.
It's not giving up, it's just giving the floor over to that little voice in your head saying, "Oh, that's a terrible idea..." letting him get to and past, "... and here's why...." and finding that the little guy actually makes some really good points and isn't just a little contrarian out to ruin your day. It may sound defeatist, maybe even masochistic, but sometimes I don't mind being told, "You're wasting your time on this, go do something else." I even wonder just how many people on, say, American Idol, are genuinely relieved that Simon and Co. have told them they are not the next great musical sensation, how many just shrug their shoulders and say, "Ah, well, I guess I'll just have to do something else."
I'm not really sure where this is going, so for the sake of brevity, I'll end it here and see how I feel in the morning after I get some sleep.
Good night, and good luck.
09 August 2011
The Forum Thread
I'm on record saying I've never liked Extra Credits; I hated the way the show was produced, and I honestly hated that they were being paid for what they cobbled together and presented to us. Two hack writers and an overworked artist, and the best they could do was a five minute video, half of which was padded out with randomly-Googled images. At least when Yahtzee or Moviebob do that, they're at least integrated into their own personal art-styles and are far more relevant to the topic at hand. Also, Yahtzee and Bob are solo acts (and Bob makes two shows). I mean, think about that: Three people work on one show to produce what others do on their own and at best only match it in terms of production value.
My personal feelings about the show aside, here's two items of information that stick out for me:
On James: Using some of the fundraiser money (meant for Allison's Surgery and producing more episodes of Extra Credits) to start up a business. Dick move. That money was for Allison's surgery first, your personal projects... not even on the list.
On Alex: Granted, if I were in charge, I wouldn't pay Extra Credits a damn thing (see above), however, if you're having this much trouble keeping up with paying the people you choose to represent, it shouldn't surprise you that people are jumping ship. Pay people for their work, period. Turning around and asking them for money doesn't help things.
So, yes, I admit it: I'm glad Extra Credits is gone from The Escapist. I wish it were under better circumstances, I wish Allison (the artist for EC) wasn't in the middle of all this for something not her fault, and I wish it were as simple as EC doesn't like Escapist, but it isn't. So, to crib a phrase from John Stossel, "I want to say, 'Gimme a break!' but I don't know who to say it to."
UPDATE: Daniel Floyd, the co-hack of Extra Credits has said of people who donated to Allison's fundraiser and had their portions donated to starting the publishing company,
Yeah, if anyone approaches us saying they don't support the fund idea, I'm totally cool with the idea of returning their money. I don't know the logistics either at this point, having not received everything from Rockethub yet, but I totally agree with you.
The forum thread in question is here with the addendum that the Indie Gamer Fund is not a business, that "we won't take any money from the fund and any profits earned off titles published will go back into the fund to help kick start additional games"
So, they're not going to pocket the profits, they're going to use them to fund future projects... You know what, that's a business. Sure, it's not a "business" for the founders, since they're insisting they won't be profiting from it, but the developers of the games will, and while I want to say that's a good thing for independent game developers, I can't say I'm in great favor of the circumstances by which this operation has come to light. It's been established under false pretenses, that the money sent through the Rockethub event was to 1)Pay for Allison's surgery and 2)Produce more episodes of Extra Credits, effectively keeping Allison employed.
03 August 2011
PAY VERY CLOSE ATTENTION TO THESE INSTRUCTIONS: I would like my Facebook friends to comment on this status, sharing how you met me. But I want you to LIE. That's right, just make it up. After you comment, copy this to your status, so I can do the same. I bet HALF of you won't read the instructions.
to which I replied:
I was sabotaging a cruise ship with the intention of stranding the passengers to die a slow and painful death of starvation as a sacrifice to the ancient god Dagan. I was setting the detonator in the boiler room when you walked in on me, mistaking the room for the sauna. I thought you were going to try and stop me, but while I was explaining my evil plan (as all bombastic villains do) before silencing you, it turned out we actually worshiped the same evil deity and you'd even poisoned the entire food supply and were simply sticking around for a celebratory sauna. So, we fired up the jet skis and left that band of wayward travelers to their doom.
and in return:
The obelisk stood dusty in the dunes as I brush at them... frustrated at my situation. "Oh Lord DAGAN. Why must I unearth this damned monument?!" I yelled to nothing in particular. "Because he wishes it so," a voice from behind me called out startling me causing me to drop my brush. I looked back and spotted you setting down your backpack and breaking out a brush of your own. "The name's Matthew Joseph of the Great Dark Deepness, yourself?" I picked up my brush and returned to the delicate dusting of what looks like Dagan sitting atop a massive throne with men and women weeping at his feet and replied without looking at you, "Desiree of the Deep Weeping." The conversation went from Dagan to darker topics as the sun sank behind the larger dunes of the endless desert. The chittering of the hellflies dying on our buzz zapper makes us laugh as we continue our dark duty in the light of our new friendship.
This is seriously my new favorite thing right now. Thanks, Desi :)
28 July 2011
So this S.978 bill is causing a lot of fervor among people on the web, mostly in terms of Let's Play videos. For those of you who don't know, a Let's Play (LP) is a largely unedited recording and streaming of a complete playthrough of a videogame. They're not exactly reviews as, well, movie reviews don't show you the whole entire film (they don't need to) while the critic reads their review. Basically, they're free shows instead of free samples.
Yet, I've been having arguments with people insisting that these playthrough videos HELP the industry, as in LPs are more effective (if not equally) as marketing tools than demos or rentals (wherein you'd actually play the game yourself) or reviews (which at most show brief clips). Someone told me they could furnish reports showing how they increase sales, but I'd rather hear from the horse's mouth, so to speak.
My question is, have any developers talked about LPs? Have any of them openly and explicitly praised LPs as a superior means to generating interest and getting word about their games out there than normal advertising methods? Basically, find me a quote from (let's say for the sake of argument) Dennis Dyack or one of the Bioware founders saying anything along the lines of, "if it weren't for those Let's Plays, we'd never see the kinds of sales figures we do now."
For me, I just can't see how watching someone play an entire game without paying anything to developers is a more effective marketing tool than seeing brief clips in a review or renting or downloading a demo of the game itself. How long does your test drive have to be before you decide whether or not you want to buy the car?
ADDED QUALIFIER: Avatar is the highest grossing film of 2010 and also the most pirated. Correlation is not causation, and I'll maintain that as the fallacy of that kind of defense until I hear it from a developer. Also, as a minor announcement: as much as I'd rather not do this, I've disabled Anonymous comments from this weblog. Say what you mean, mean what you say, and stand by it. If you really take issue with this bill, and can prove that LPs are essential to the point that making their production and distribution a felony will cripple the industry, stand and be counted.
Something of an update: Notch's adding of a gameplay video clause to the TOS of Minecraft doesn't count. Why? Because Minecraft relies on user-generated content; it's more of a virtual building tool than a game. Similarly, I wonder where Sony stands on gameplay videos for user-created levels in Little Big Planet?
09 July 2011
It's an amendment to existing copyright laws that includes digital streaming and distribution of copyrighted material.
*) It goes so far as to lay down a time frequency and monetary damage table, which lend the bill its nickname "The Ten Strikes Bill" referring to the frequency of 10 performances in a 180 day period, which not only applies to content "users" uploading the materials for viewing, but also to the viewers themselves. As for the monetary aspect, each of those "strikes" beyond the first ten is compared to legitimate and legal costs of the materials (say, buying the DVD, for example) is tallied and exceeds 2500USD (or 5000USD if compared to licensing fees, such as those a third-party content distributor such as some operation like Crunchyroll or Hulu).
*) The significance of laying down the figures for monetary damages goes all the way back to an old copyright case wherein some moron (I'm not going to bother looking up its specifics; the verdict is never used properly as a defense, anyway) got his sentence for copyright infringement reduced from a criminal charge to a civil charge because in the language of the law at the time, an illegal copy distributed at any price (even free) did not constitute theft because the number of unsold legal copies remained the same.
*) When I first read that defense, my first thought was: Okay, so it's not theft, it's counterfeiting. People who use that case as a defense to insist that piracy is not theft are missing the finer detail that getting a criminal charge reduced to a civil charge is a moral victory at best and a Pyrrhic victory at worst. I said once in another comment that this turn of events is akin to getting an attempted murder charge reduced to assault and battery because the victim was only rendered comatose from the gunshot wounds instead of dead. "I wasn't trying to kill him, I just wanted to beat the crap out of him... with bullets."
*) The reason why this bill is causing a fervor in the videogame community is that the bill supposedly has some vague wording regarding what constitutes copyrighted materials (though it doesn't look that way to me, based on those amendments I read). Here's the problem (according to them): The uploading and "broadcasting" of videogame footage falls under these stipulations, meaning that all gaming videos may well carry criminal penalties. What they're most upset about are Let's Play videos....
*) And here's where I roll my eyes, shake my head, point and laugh, call them all ignorant sluts... you get the idea.
*) The fear is that Fair Use as we know it is going to be rendered null and void by this bill, as the redistribution of ANY copyrighted material will carry criminal penalties regardless of the DMCA's rather lenient stance on copyright in the information age. Any and all videogame reviews and LPs, the paranoia continues, will become things of the past, and nothing will ever be reviewed, ever, unless permission is given by the copyright holder, effectively allowing corporations to control what people can and cannot say about their products. OH, HORROR OF HORRORS (insert backward question mark to stand in for irony mark as that character is not available to me to use here).
*) And to that anxiety and those who champion it, I say: Bullshit! and here's why:
*) I made this comment (approximately, I couldn't fit it all on YouTube due to character limits) on The Archfiend's video about this bill, about the whole "gatekeeping" portion of the fear-stricken goons' defense against s.978: There is a world of difference between something like an Angry VideoGame Nerd episode which uses brief clips from a game as part of an overall review, critique, and retrospective and a Let's Play video that shows Noah Antwiler playing through the entire single-player campaign of SWAT 4. An episode of Escape to the Movies with MovieBob showing clips of a film accompanied by a voiceover giving a brief synopsis and review of the film is far different than someone simply uploading Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon wholesale and unedited to a torrent for anyone to download for free.
*) In the end, the point is that I'm not worried at all about this bill, and don't feel one iota of pity for the people who will probably be affected by this. Reviews and critiques are not going anywhere, and I'm not going to shed a single tear for the potential passing of the Let's Play video as a format. Sure, I've watched a few, and even made a video entitled Let's Play Rampart (which, by the way, was a ten minute clip, presented as part of a longer review and retrospective, analyzing the game's historical significance, hence only being a Let's Play in name only), but do I think they qualify as fair use and are therefore entitled to the same protections reviews get under Freedom of Speech and Freedom of the Press?
Nope. Not at all.
Just because games are interactive doesn't make them any different from movies, books, television shows, or music. To say (as I've heard from certain idiots on YouTube) that a Let's Play video is not a form of piracy entirely because of the interactive nature of the game is effectively a contradiction and double-standard. Gamers had been saying for years that games did not deserve more strict regulation or censorship than books or movies, with the proponents of said strict censorships insisting that games being interactive set them above mere ratings or disclaimers like those of the MPAA or RIAA.
So, think about it, the people who were fighting for games to be treated equally with other media are now making the exact same arguments that the people they were rallying against were making in the first place, this time as a defense to lawmakers wanting games treated as any other media. You can't have it both ways. Either games get special treatment or they get treated like any other art/entertainment medium, simple as that.
*) I'll end with a declaration: People who unironically defend Let's Plays (of the complete walkthrough variety, especially) as legitimate forms of fair use are idiotic hypocrites, and deserve to be called as such.
19 June 2011
Epistolary Rough by *533497 on deviantART
04 June 2011
(*) When I was fired from T-Mobile and went on unemployment, I cashed out my 401(k), something I'd been told was about the dumbest thing anyone can do. I understood this, but I didn't understand the extent to which this was a bad idea; I knew I would get less than if I'd waited, obviously, and that there would be deductions, but I didn't understand that I would be paying those deductions out of the final amount I'd receive. In short, I thought the deductions incurred when cashing out would effectively not be my problem. It turns out that when I was filling out the appropriate tax form for the 401(k) I was actually supposed to pay in 10% of the amount received, regardless of what the form's instructions said and calculations yielded. In other words, I thought the 10% for taxes was already taken out by the firm and paid for me as part of the transaction. After all, they spoke of the taxes in the same context as the deductions and final figure I'd receive, so I didn't have any reason to believe that more would be asked of me, especially when I filled out the tax forms (on which I even had help). Now that I think about it, here's a question: when I have taxes taken out of my paychecks, is the amount of the tax based on the gross or the adjusted gross after the money for the 401(k) is set aside? I think it's the latter, but I suddenly find myself unsure.
(*) Just prior to cashing out the 401(k) I'd gone through some debt consolidation. I had two cards through Chase bank, who had refused to let me merge the two accounts into one so I'd only have to pay one bill. So, I tried my best, but in my moving out to Missouri from New Mexico and adjusting to my new life with my then-girlfriend, I missed a payment. As a result of missing that one payment by a week, my minimum payment had now nearly doubled. It was more than my rent. Between that increase and the amount my other card's monthly payments came out to, it was practically double. I called Chase again to see if there was anything that could be done, to which they said no. I felt trapped and had no idea what to do, so my girlfriend suggested I call a credit counselor, something I'd been avoiding on a matter of pride. With said pride swallowed, I contacted a law firm, told them the situation, and they set to work talking the bank's amount down to something more reasonable that could be paid in smaller installments. Much of the balance by then were finance charges, so it turned out to be relatively easy to get those taken out. The problem is that the bank takes that difference between what you originally owed and what you agreed upon for a settlement, and reports it to the IRS as taxable income.
And there you have it, two financial matters I got schooled on in a single afternoon. It's a real torrent of emotions, but the only part of this whole issue that really has me mad is that this information comes from a tax form I've been repeatedly requesting for months. The only thing keeping me from sorting this all out sooner is that I have to wait for a document I'd already been waiting on and may well have to wait on further so I have all the information I need to make sure that I actually have to pay back the IRS. Hell, they even encourage me to wait on it as long as possible and give me multiple avenues for inquiring and contesting this adjustment. If they want a challenge, I'll happily give them one, regardless of who's in the right.
26 May 2011
I won't go into the full details of what led to the E73 going through the wash, except to say that it has to do with my leg surgery, the open incision I was left to manage, and the reasons for leaving the incision open after surgery. Suffice to say, things got a little gory one night, I had to take a shower, and threw my slacks in the wash in a slight panic. The sad thing is, I even checked my pockets. I just didn't check them thoroughly enough and even thought I'd already taken my phone out of my pocket.
It wasn't until I heard a repeated and loud "thump" coming from the dryer that I realized my phone wasn't on the bathroom counter where I thought I'd placed it.
Surprisingly, the phone actually worked after it dried... but only mostly. Here's where the story gets rather odd. I put my SIM card back in the phone and turned it on, only to find that it would turn itself off the moment I got to the main screen... then turn itself on all on its own, get to the main screen, and power off all over again. This cycle would repeat until the battery ran down. With the SIM card out, the story is very different; the phone turns on and stays on, but absolutely cannot and will not allow itself to be turned off. The only way to turn it off was to either wait for the battery to die, or remove it altogether.
I sat on the phone, debating what to do. I didn't have insurance on it (though I can't remember whenever I canceled that part of my phone plan), and I hadn't had it long enough to do another upgrade. At that point, it seemed the best option would be to contact Nokia about an Out-Of-Warranty repair. I went to their support site, found what I needed to do, and printed and filled out the form that would need to be enclosed with the phone on its journey back to Nokia for service. I checked the little box that noted the liquid damage, which made it an out-of-warranty issue. What was supposed to happen was that once they'd received the phone and inspected it, I would be contacted with an estimate for repairing the phone, and the operation would proceed from there. If it was too expensive, I'd just get an upgrade at less of a discount or simply keep the temporary phone I'd been using in the interim.
Nokia doesn't seem to get very many OOW service requests, as evidenced by what happened after I sent the phone out.
I was not contacted with an estimate. Instead, I found a small package in my mailbox with my phone inside and a note from Nokia stating that liquid damage invalidated the warranty and they could not repair the phone.
Obvious question: Then why is there an option to check "out-of-warranty" on the service request form, and instructions stating that I would be contacted if this turned out to be the case?
At first, I was furious, it seemed that Nokia basically ignored exactly what I'd told them on their own paperwork after following their instructions completely and to the letter. I called them in a mad huff, expecting to be confronted with full-on denial about their being able to do OOW repairs at all. Somewhat luckily, it turned out that they had abided by their own policy and procedure, but simply didn't tell me prior to returning the phone that it was simply beyond repair for them, regardless of any price that could be paid. They couldn't fix whatever was wrong with the power switch, but simply wrote it off as "not covered by warranty" despite that being established from the start, making me think they hadn't looked at the service request form in the first place.
In short, the Nokia E73 Mode, despite technically surviving a round in the wash, is considered totaled in the eyes of Nokia despite its ability to turn on and run all of its offline applications without a SIM card in it.
Of probably more importance is the fact that I hate my template. It looked cool, but I hate that I can't actually see replies on the page. I see them in my dashboard, but that just strikes me as pointless. I also hate that I can't see when replies are posted, but that may just be how tumblr is. Anyway, the point is that I need a new template and can't be bothered to learn CSS (I don't even know how I modified my Blogger page's template), so please suggest one to me.
I prefer minimalism, but I love data. I like light text against dark backgrounds, and want to see replies to my posts on the page instead of just my dashboard.
Those are my stipulations.
18 May 2011
However, more recently a number of my friends from DeviantART have all gotten Tumblr pages and have been asking me to jump on the bandwagon.
Technically speaking, there's virtually nothing that separates Tumblr from Blogger from LiveJournal from (you get the idea) except for a slightly slicker user interface and a few more options as far as just what exactly can be posted. As such, when I finally gave in and decided to get an account, I set a rule for myself that I would only post things there that I couldn't do just as well here on Blogger or DeviantART or Flickr. If anything, I might only consider something like that if I have to abandon one of those accounts for some reason, like getting hacked or banned. After a brief survey on my DeviantART page that yielded neither a definite yes or definite no on any of the ideas listed, I kind of did the dictator thing and went with what I kind of half-had in mind all along, which was a podcast.
Without going into the long and technical details of why that's never really an easy thing to set up on a weblog or why Tumblr is better suited for the task than Blogger, the reason for choosing it is that, apart from a regular webcomic, it's the one thing I've never really tried. The show would be irregularly updated, would cover a wind range of topics, and be mercifully short at about 5-6 minutes in length (I'm really not up for the stream-of-consciousness banter of something like Fast Karate for the Gentleman or the erudite panel discussions of The Greatest Movie EVER! podcast, and I don't think anyone else really is either). Also, as the show would progress, I'd start to include 1-2 minute pre-recorded guest segments, which could either be pre-arranged for upcoming topics and/or rebuttals for previous episodes' contents.
I'm leaving tomorrow afternoon for Albuquerque and will be back Saturday afternoon. My brother is graduating from Med School, and this will be the first time I get to see my niece Fiona apart from photos on my brother's and sister-in-law's Facebook pages.
The truth is I'm actually really ambivalent about the trip, and the stress feels like it's giving me ulcers. Without getting into the whole tension-and-drama business that's effectively gone on in my family for at least the past 10 years following my parents' divorce (which will reach the 11-year mark this June), there's a distinct possibility I'll spend a large part of the trip repeating the phrase, "I don't care."
Okay, here's a little detail: My dad and my brother are, at present, not speaking. Am I surprised? No, not really Do I care? Again, no. Trouble is, in this family (chiefly my mom and at times my brother, which is a whole other matter I won't go into), having no opinion means I'm a blank slate that can have written endlessly upon it all the details of the transgression that I really couldn't care less about. If I sound like I'm overreacting, it's entirely possible that I am, but I'm working from a premise of this happening in the past. At its core, it's a lot of trust issues, hearsay, paranoia, cognitive dissonance, and even retcons, all of it completely baseless and unwarranted, yet persisting regardless. Having a difference of opinion or viewpoint is seen as having something horribly wrong with you, and there is no such thing as irreconcilable differences. In other words, half of the family has been able to adapt and cope in the wake of the divorce, the other half hasn't. That's not to say one side is right and one side is wrong, simply that they are fundamentally incompatible and have difficulty co-existing.
Then there's the flight: I can't stand flying. it's not so much a fear, per se, just that it's hardly my preferred method of travel:
3) Bus (maybe, I haven't been, personally)
Also, I hate the Goddamn TSA. Once upon a time, I was one of those saying with full confidence and a straight face, "a little loss of privacy is fine for the sake of security." Now, however, I can't say that anymore, because it's gone too far. The enhanced pat-downs and strip-ray machines are as invasive as they are completely and utterly ineffective.
What's really funny about the whole thing is that when these machines (and gropings) were introduced, the proponents kept mentioning the Underwear Bomber as part of their case.
Here's the punchline: neither of these methods would have spotted him.
Amidst that, the "Don't touch my junk" phenomenon, and a story I'd read about a rather embarrassing incident involving the urinary apparatus of a cancer survivor, the TSA is a total failure on nearly every level that a government organization can. This is no longer security, this is paranoia (though I'll admit it's not comforting hearing of potential retaliatory attacks in the wake of Bin Laden's death when you're planning a flight).
That's it, I'm done, I need sleep.