17 December 2014

Sega Power Partner (from Tommo) review

This thing rocks. Usually these more novelty-inclined gadgets, especially the flash drives tend to fall short on the productivity side of things, favoring style over substance. This pack, however, is an absolute bargain at 60USD for 9000mAh of power. To give you an idea of what that amounts to, in order to put it to the test, I plugged in both my phone (an Xperia Z Ultra) and PSVita after both had been completely spent. It charged both devices fully and still had enough juice left to top off a Bluetooth and a pair of wireless headphones (All Sony, by the way, because I'm a shameless fanboy). Had the phone and Vita been on while charging, I may have come up a bit short, but as endurance runs go, I'd say it performed admirably. 
The unit itself is bulky, but not unmanageable. A far cry from those little "boosters" you get from those bargain bins at the Walgreen's, it's about the size and shape of an early iPhone with a bit more heft in the weight department. It definitely favors purses, messenger bags, and the like versus cargo pants. Then again, if you're in the market for a power supply with more oomph, the devices you need this for probably don't like your pockets, either. The casing is a hard plastic that frankly feels more like metal. The design is the array of white grid-lines which adorned the early plastic Genesis game cases before they went to cardboard and red stripes. For added protection, it comes with a silicone sleeve molded to shape of the Mark I Genesis console.
Power level is displayed through five blue lights, visble through the "cartridge slot" of the Genesis cover, which is a clever design choice. The first of the lights is a simple "working" light whenever the unit is connected. It is also touch-sensitive, serving as the power butto. The other four represent the remaining charge, and carry on the Sega motif by looking like the chaos emeralds of Sonic fame. Nice touch.
Accessories include a velvet drawstring pouch with a small partition for the handful of cables it comes with, one long and one short. Both are flat, red, and fit very loosely in the three connectors on the top of the unit. On more than at least one occasion, I did find that a cable had come loose during charging, which was a tad annoying. Meanwhile, other USB cables feel like a tight fit, especially my Vita's cable. It took a bit of forcing, and I was worried about snapping the connectors. There is also a small, thicker white cable, but it is a mini-USB, which neither of my devices use, so I couldn't test it. 
As a rule, these batteries usually give out after about 500 charges before they begin depleting their max (Tommo's site says about 75% is the next step down). Unlike some other USB power supplies, the internal cells are not replaceable. So, when this thing goes, that's it. However, given that I've been using it about every other day, that's at least a year away. After that, I'll be upgrading my Genesis to a Saturn.

16 December 2014

Upcoming Upcycling

As much as I don't like posting "previews" or "work in progress" stuff, this one is pretty big. I have another blue one of these in the works that should be done tomorrow.

30 November 2014

Non-Project-A-No-Go... what?

It's the final day of NaNoWriMo and, in short, I have absolutely nothing to show for it. I had two short stories that had been in the works for some time that I meant to finish, only for them to languish despite making some really good progress at my writers' meet-up.
At best, I've made books as opposed to written them. My upcycled blank journals now number eight with at least enough material for three more. After that, I have to resort to my new cover materials, like the VCR dust-cover and an old purse. The purse is a very nice black leather that I'd like to make into a slip cover for a marble composition book, the small pocket-sized ones. I had found a few pre-made ones, ranging in price from less than 10USD to over 40USD.
Historically, October has always been a rather hectic month for me. However, this year November has taken up the charge. It's the good kind of busy, mostly making travel plans for the coming weeks.
So, I've been productive, just not in the areas in which I first set out to be produtive. The stories will be finished, they simply won't be finished today, tomorrow, next week, or maybe even the end of next month. Right now, I'm on a bit of a bookbinding kick, and I plan to ride that out as long as possible until I'm sick of it.

01 November 2014

NaNoWriMo Non-Project Begin

Well, National Novel Writer's Month begins today. On the whole, I've always had mixed feelings about the project. On the one end of the spectrum, some people turn it into a kind of pledge drive that's meant for charity yet they can't stop talking about how the money will help them personally and how big a cut they will take. That's an extreme example, mind, and it's a trend I have seen diminish more recently. I'm never one to shame self-starters, but one of the great things about writing compared to other art forms is that your startup cost is ultimately nothing. If you need financial incentive for that, you're participating in NaNoWriMo for the wrong reason.
There's also the more practical notion that, given you're hammering out in a month what some writers devote years of their lives to, your end result is most likely not going to be of significant quality. Sure, some people can't probably take full advantage of that breakneck pace to draw on a creative wellspring that's otherwise throttled by a lack of a deadline. Time makes people do incredible things.
That brings me to what I've found to be the best approach to NaNoWriMo: it's not about the final product, it's about the process. In short, if you're an especially goal-oriented person, this is not for you. What this event is, more than anything, is a kind of bootcamp for writers. Some people are extremely casual about their writing projects, to the point that a paragraph can be the result of years of off-and-on tinkering. Usually, in those cases, the writing is purely recreational, self-indulgent. I don't begrudge those people; art is for the artist, a sundae, everyone else is whipped cream and a cherry.
The only trouble with the whole casual approach is that it tends to make people lax, and worse, easily-discouraged. Creativity is a fickle thing, fragile even. Too hot, it melts. Too cold, it shatters. Too much time, it gets bored. Too little time, it collapses from the stress. It's rather like a kid, you've got to push and challenge them, but you don't want them feeling pressured.
Basically what I'm saying is that this event is a learning experience in every sense of the term. It's meant to be a kind of litmus test to see just what your creativity is made of, because it's easy to let it slip away from you going the "whenever" route. It's a rigid structure (X number of words/day to meet goal) and a seemingly daunting task, but as the saying goes, you won't know until you try. Sure, you may fail in the end and not produce your novel, but you've either given yourself a great headstart or gotte into a good groove to work on something else.
As for me, I won't be participating per se. I wrote a novella years ago, and it took me from about the start of October to the first weeks of January. During that time, with very few exceptions, I would come home from work in the afternoon and stay at my computer until I went to bed, which was about 6 hours later. Apart from meals and bathroom breaks, I did not get up. Some days I belted out whole chapters, while others I'd struggle to get one sentence to come out right. So, I feel like I paid my debt to the creative work ethic gods on that front.
I do, however, have to small short stories, one I've been working on for a few months off-and-on as part of a Meetup group I started hanging out with, and another I've barely begun taking notes on. I intend to work on both of them this month, up from my one last  year.
The former story, called Echidna, is one I haven't decided on a publication method for. It's erotica, and fairly crass at that. I kind of started that project with the mindset of, "Take it all the way, damn the inhibitions." as well as the naive idea that I'd have it bashed out in a night. That was at least two months ago... dammit.
The latter story, called The Loneliness of Amy Bryce, is a little more sober, ultimately the result of watching the entire series of Twin Peaks (working on snatching up a copy of Fire Walk With Me) while trying my hand at a more Lovecraftian sort of horror. It's less Cthulhu/Kadath and more Terrible Old Man/The Outsider to give a better yardstick of exactly what strata of Lovecraft I'll be exploring.
Best of luck to all of you, whatever your goal may be.

26 October 2014

Skipping Rocks Along Puddles In The Rain

I'm taking a break from Deadly Premonition. I'm at a point (fairly early on in the game) when all I have to do is literally wait between 0700 and 1500 for the next part of the game to progress. My options in this time are: 1) sidequests, 2) explore the town, and 3) sleep. Given that, apart from sleeping and maybe some story segments, this game moves in real time. This is padding, plain and simple. There's no more discouraging feeling in a game than not knowing what to do or where to go next. It's one thing when you're stuck on a boss battle or a puzzle; you can work through those. However, simply killing time or not knowing how to move the story forward is downright insulting. I remember there was a Spider-Man game back in the day that literally gave you 24 hours for a time limit (years before the game based on 24) and thinking, "Dear God! Really?" instantly regretting my rental choice. It turns out the time limit is a bit flexible, but that didn't stop the game being ultimatey too challenging for my little 12 year-old brain to fully appreciate. I'm wondering now, though, what that version of me would have thought about newer games.
Anyway, by taking a break from Twin Peaks: The Game (and I mean that affectionately), I played Rain instead. Something I like about a lot of modern games is the way they break themselves up into chapters or individual missions (compared to MMOs and their hours-long dragfests). It gives me a good way to pace myself so I don't get burned out (I can't imagine what it's like for reviewers to basically pull all-nighters to meet deadlines). That did get me thinking, though, about somethinng I played a few days earlier. I think it was Bayonetta. I kept running out of time and dying on this early stage, and I think on the third time it gave me the option to skip.
I'm still not sure how I feel about that sort of thing.
I'm hardly the manliest man you'll ever meet, my most masculine traits down to the Greg Behrendt duology of being kinda big and loving women plus the added qualities that I love taking things apart and, here's the kicker, I hate asking for help. It's less to do with some idea about gender roles and more to do with being the youngest in my family on top of having to ironically fight tooth and nail to be given a chance to prove I can manage more on my own than otherwise expected. It's also one of those factors that helped feed my growing depression through college, but we're getting off topic.
Years ago, during a review of Rampart, I mentioned the gameplay mechanic in the PS2 version of Rygar wherein you unlocked easy mode by dying a certain number of times (Rampart worked in a similar fashion by offering you more cannons on your next try). I joked about it being condescending, and then I recalled all the flack the reboot of Alone in the Dark received for its chapter skip option not only being available, but practically encouraged in some of the marketing materials. I'm an old-school gamer; I like a challenge. SHMUPS are one of my favorite genres, known far and wide for their difficulty. I like Demon's Souls and endlesss runners. I like the YS series and gallery shooters. On the other hand, I like my challenges to be fair, and sometimes that's a tall order. Other times, I simply play for the story, turning the difficulty down, using the occasional cheat code, and even using a Game Shark once to watch all the cut scenes from Mortal Kombat Mythologies: Sub-Zero. In Deadly Premonition, for example, one of the DLC packages I got with my bundle was an outfit that triples your attack power; it's practically an "I Win" button, to say nothing of the infinite ammo machine gun the N64 version of Resident Evil 2 furnished you with. Sure, playing a game for the story, to crib a phrase from one of the DOOM devs, is like watching porn for the story, but then again, I've seen some pretty classy porn, and there's nothing wrong with loving a game entirely for its narrative, even if it means bypassing its core gameplay. My point is, when it's a more story-driven game, I don't think it's such a big deal to have various, for lack of a better term, handholding options. That said, if you're playing Bayonetta for the story, best of luck to you on that front. Finding the balance between story and gameplay is a game unto itself, one not many developers have really mastered, with gameplay usually nabbing the bigger piece of pie. In the case of the opposite, I think we need a kind of mutual understanding among gamers that sometimes bad gameplay is bad gameplay. In fact, the biggest reason for all the hullabaloo around the chapter skips in Alone in the Dark was that the driving mechanics were so amazingly broken as to make a normal play-through impossible. This led to the consensus of the chapter skip being more like a cop-out of better QA and testing than an optional way to enjoy the game. This is really unfair in the grand scheme of things. While it's usually a lost cause to compare games to other mediums of entertainment, Jim Sterling had the right idea when he quoted a friend of his: Imagine you're reading a book that suddenly changes its language halfway through. Some people might welcome the challange, while most will probably hunt down the author and beat them to death with their own hardcovers. The point is, gamers are a diverse bunch, and complex within ourselves to boot. We enjoy different games for different reasons and in different ways. I don't care that someone with an encyclopedic knowledge of the Halo universe has never picked up a controller; that's not what they like about it.
Games are supposed to be fun, and as long as the means by which you have that fun don't interfere with other gamers (cough, cough... gold farmers, cough), then there is no shame in using the walkthrough or reading the wiki or even using the good ol' thirty lives code.

Say it with me now:

22 October 2014

Famous Last Words

I've been thinking about crowdfunding lately, and not merely because WayForward's new Shantae game is nearing a broader release beyond the 3DS. I started supporting a few people on Patreon, including an artist friend of mine, which kind of got me thinking about what I would do to become a Patreon "creator". Unfortunately, I can't think of anything I'd do regularly that would warrant a kind of subscription service like that.
As for something like Kickstarter or IndieGoGo, I have had some amusing little thoughts from time to time over the past few years: what I would make, how I'd go about getting started, how much I'd ask for, what promises to make, how often to update, and what exactly the money would go towards. I could go on and on about those, and I could go on even longer about the various points of criticism people have brought against crowdfunding (I kind of did a few months ago, when someone criticized the practice as a form of "socialism"), but overall nothing reached much higher than a flight of fancy.
Now, I may start taking it a little more seriously.
About two years ago, I made a short film for Halloween, a disposable little tribute to John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness. It was shot on an old phone, had a silly voiceover, and wasn't very good (though it got a fairly decent response most places I posted it). I'd considered doing a follow up to it, something more tongue-in-cheek as the main gimmick of the short was about the "impending doom of 2012". A few weeks ago, a little idea popped into my head for somethinng different. It would be stylistically similar to last year's, with similar production methods, and probably work better as a kind of demo reel than a proper short film. I sketched up some storyboards and made some "to-do" lists like for props and maybe even locations. It was all coming together so well, I started thinking it may be worth going forward with. Unfortunately, it's been a few weeks, and I don't think I'd be able to finish it in time for Halloween.
Next Halloween, though...
Rather than bash out something unpolished and hurried, I take the opportunity of the time to try and turn it into something with slightly better production values. That's when I started thinking of Kickstarter. I don't want to say a whole lot about it because I could well wake up tomorrow and decide the entire thing's a boring mess that deserves to rot on the back burner until Heaven falls. What I will say, though, is this:

1. I'm not going to ask for a lot of money, and likely it would be for cutting the film together (I'd rather hire an editor than work at it myself, someone with better gear than me). That kind of "in the can" model seems to work out best for filmmakers, especially since it's a lot easier to be upfront about costs as there aren't usually as many setbacks in post as there can be in production.
2. Backers would get an early release of the film (I mean, we're talking about October 2015, here), as well as some incentives I've cooked up.
3. On the off-chance this becomes the next Potato Salad campaign, I do have some ideas about stretch goals, like other actors, a few more scenes, a big screening, a film festival submission, among other things.

So, as much as I don't like to talk about things I'm planning in the near future, let alone next year, I figure maybe I shoud throw this out there, get some feedback and advice as early as possible, gague just how plausible this whole thing may be.

02 October 2014

Velocity 2X Review (PSVita)

Velocity 2X
"Aw, Hell, yeah!"
What works
1. Everything is an improvement. 
The first Velocity game had a straightforward, NES-era sensibility to it, reminiscent of games like Metal Storm or Contra. The art direction and level design was simple, some might even say bland or samey, and enemy variety was a tad underwhelming, but it was cohesive and solid, everything fitting together perfectly. On top of that, it had very tight controls and unparalleled gameplay. It was almost perfect, hardly feeling like a Playstation mini
Velocity 2X might seem like it does very little to build on its predecessor, with many changes so subtle, they can be easily missed, and it's doubtful many will appreciate them. The artwork is still overall minimalistic with its textures and color palettes, but many levels have such fine details and subtle touches (like waterfalls that surprise you with a sense of height) that it's easy to get lost in the sheer beauty of certain spots.

2. Gunning and running. 
When I first saw the screenshots of the "on foot" segments, I was a little bit worried. It seemed like the step the folks at FuturLab took off the ship was a timid, cautious one that played it safe and checked with its neighbor. Frankly, it looked like an endless runner. Don't get me wrong, that would have made sense, and I love many of those games like Jetpack Joyride and Canabalt, but it would have felt like a token gesture toward expanding on the original concept. Luckily, I was so very wrong and I couldn't be happier about it. It is, in fact, a fully-realized sidescrolling platforming shooter with puzzles and exploration. There's even some combat and physics thrown in for good measure. It reminded me of Major Havoc with a touch of Metroid, all with the slick polish of WayForward's Bloodrayne: Betrayal. Kai Tana has extremely fluid and graceful animations, whether it's leaping across a disintegration field or firing her palm blaster (which makes me think of Vanessa Z. Schneider from P.N.03, a stylistically similar title I also happen to love) or even waiting for an elevator.

3. That certain... I don't know what. 
Actually, I do, but it's a little hard to describe. The short, crude version of it is: it makes you feel like a badass. Word is that the development team had to insist on a female lead even as far back as the first game, when we never left the ship. I, for one, am glad they stuck to their guns and delivered an awesome character who manages to be dead sexy, and does so on her own terms. When you're standing in a chamber of crystal deposits firing that hand cannon in a circle, shards of glass and debris falling all around you, it's hard not to let a smiling, "Aw, Hell yeah!" escape your lips. Before long, you're taking down Vokh patrols like it's second nature. You'll be flinging bombs at switches and turrets like you can see the future. You'll have distributing telepods down like a science. All, this, and you'll know it's you doing it, not some contextual action script set to Quick Time Events or button-mashing. That's a hard feeling to achieve, and this game nails it.

What doesn't work 
1. The side scrolling stages have room for improvement. 
It was often difficult to use the teledash while jumping or falling, and it would be nice if I could simply tap the screen rather than aiming exclusively with the controls. It would also be nice if your telepod inventory was separate from those you have for the Quarpjet (there's a notable size difference). I actually managed to just about break the game because I didn't realize I'd used up all my telepods back on the ship and got myself stuck. Of course, I could probably have backtracked to the ship, but since I didn't realize the inventory was shared, I thought it was a glitch. On that note, while the idea of the telepods to get through narrow hazards is great, it felt like I was having my hand held for far too long. At various points in the levels, there are these pads you're meant to stand on and aim your telepod at. I could understand these in the level wherein you're introduced to the mechanic, but having them throughout the game feels like there's no strategy to it.

2. Speaking of telepods... 
While micromanagement of telepods is vastly improved, namely the fact that you can retrieve spent pods through the map screen, the "shortcut" of hopping over to the last pod dropped by double-tapping the triangle button is a surefire way to get innards smeared across a bulkhead. At least two out of three tries caused me to drop two more pods where I stood. That double tap has to be just perfect, and I could never do it on command. The sidescrolling stages didn't have this problem, which makes me wonder if this could possibly be a runtime issue. 

3. Speed Pads Are Worthless. 
Velocity is a thinking man's shooter. In a game that already invigorates its genre by favoring pre-planning and exploration over twitch reflexes, having parts that railroad the player onto a fast track feels tacky. What's the point to the thrill of the added speed if you've got to be that much more alert with your teleporting? It's not even as though they're placed in strategic locations that would give you the best of both worlds if you were quick thinking enough to hit each one in rapid succession. To be fair, toward the end, one mission had them placed so close to upcoming walls that I had to resort to the old control method of teleporting, which was admittedly a nice touch. Still, I'd rather speed pads have been part of the DLC or bonus missions.

4. Mission 42 became the bane of my existence and nearly led to a ragequit. 
As great as touch controls are for teleporting across the map, it's not half as precise as it could be. I was convinced I'd found a bug because no amount of tapping could get me into a space after deactivating its force field. I restarted the level twice before I found out, practically on accident that the actual "'portable" area in the space is so small that even aiming the cursor with the analog stick felt like threading a needle on the roof of a speeding train.

But my absolute biggest gripe...
5. The calculator is not scientific. 

I mean, come on, guys. You know the Vita can handle it. Hell, the PSP could have done it (though the lack of a touchscreen would make things a bit tricky). I'm not looking for graphing capabilities or currency conversion or reverse Polish notation, I just want to know the spirit of the great warrior shaman SoCaToah is watching over me wherever I take my Vita.

What I'd like to see next. 
By favoring exploration, Velocity solves the problem of the Vita being widescreen. In typical SHMUPS, the gameplay favors verticality, with many arcade cabinets having their monitors mounted sideways. Velocity, meanwhile, started on the PSP, and therefore added a more pronounced X-axis to the movement repertoire. That said, I would love to see a version of Velocity that favors a vertical screen, namely a smartphone. Between Playstation Mobile and Playstation Now, I'd really love to see what Futurlab can do with more visual real estate.

Cooperative play may not be any sort of a game changer, but it may be a fun idea to explore. As a fan of The Last Starfighter (which, given some of your alien companion Ralan's lines, I think the developers are, too), it would be a great exercise in teamwork to relegate flying to one pilot with weapons and teleporting to a co-pilot.

01 October 2014

Add-ups and Follow-backs: an open letter

There's nothing wrong with wanting attention, getting people to listen to you, have a discussion, seek feedback and criticism, or anything else along those lines. We're individuals, but we're not individuals in a vacuum. Interaction is how we grow as people, our encounters and experiences shaping us for better or worse.
I don't begrudge anybody for their efforts in these endeavors. I'm no better on a lot of levels. However, I like to think I seek attention responsibly, treating others as individuals, taking a rational approach to earning respect, trading value for value, and only dispensing charity and favors on my terms.
What I do take issue with, what absolutely torques me rusted beyond a mere pet peeve are the people who think they're being fair about seeking attention, but could not be more vapid and hollow about the whole thing.
I'm going to describe a profile for you, and I want you to guess what kind of person I'm describing.
The profile picture is of Ted from the Seth MacFarlane comedy. The username is simply: I FOLLOW BACK 100%.
Popular image people can identify right away. Check.
Complete absence of a real identity. Check.
Transparent statement of agenda. Check.
On YouTube, this was called "Sub4sub" and it's essentially a form of spam. If you suddenly find yourself outraged by that statement and/or readying a defense of the tactic, then congratulations are in order because you have been successfully identified as part of the problem.
You're an even bigger part of the problem if you go so far as to leech off the success of others to push your agenda, which is nothing more than seeing a meaningless number get bigger. Over on Google+, I've come across a rash of spam comments from people simply asking for people to add them. The most recent one even set a goal of 300 by midnight, and directly asked none other than Taylor Swift herself (or at least whoever represents her on G+) to add her as she was only ten adds away from her goal.
Going to this person's page revealed little more than a handful of rather uninteresting selfies, a few complaints about living with her parents, and an assortment of trophies atop a dresser. That last detail really crystallizes the whole situation. It's so goal-oriented that it doesn't' merely marginalize the process of reaching the goal, it negates it. 
The worst part is there is simply no redeeming talent.
The last "add-up" I came across that I dared confront about their empty goal insisted that he was worth following because of all the art and videos he posted. Trouble was, it had been months since he'd posted anything of the sort and most of it was shared from elsewhere. In other words, he was desperate, in denial about being desperate, and was oblivious to his own begging strategy.
If all you can promise me in return for my adding you to a contact list is the same gesture in kind, what have either of us honestly achieved? How long do you think it will be before you're off those lists on account of you being boring and uninteresting? What happens if that number you're so strangely proud of drops?
More begging? More spam? More denial of what you're doing being either of those things?
Are you so desperate for self-validation that you don't even care why people are interested in you? Don't you want your accomplishment to mean something, something that a rational, thinking person can understand and relate to, or at least not feel completely sickened by? Don't you want to build a network and audience on something more than a token gesture with no meaning behind it?
Let's put this line of questioning in a different context, one that, at the rate you're going so far in your life, you're practically destined to encounter:
Do you want a job or do you want a handout?
Goodnight, and good luck.


20 September 2014

Evernote publishing test


17 September 2014

Well, That's Embarrassing

I only found out today that my policy of one post a month (whether I've got anything or not) hasn't gone so hot, as I've managed to give August a complete and total miss.
In my defense, it's not for lack of trying. The Blogger mobile app is in serious need of fine tuning, the kind it's not likely to get given Google's focus on Plus. I tried to post links to a journal I'd been keeping on Evernote. The post could not be published because of some issue with the attached photos. I meant to try again on my laptop, but simply forgot about it.
Still, it's not right that I neglected this page. Fortunately, I've got a game review in the works, as well as a short story I may post here depending on how I decide to distribute it.
So, terribly sorry for the dull "status update" sort of post, but it's only because I've been genuinely busy with my other sites. This negligence will be rightfully rectified.

More Robust Update Soon. In the Meantime:

Check out @AynRandOrg's Tweet: https://twitter.com/AynRandOrg/status/512350406727327744

28 July 2014

Why Obsolete Technology Can Save Your Life

So, there's been a lot of ballyhooing about the obsolete technologies our government uses in what are generally thought of as "State of the Art" facilities. As a closet luddite who genuinely misses his old Sears electric typewriter, I have a fondness for old tech, and can even appreciate its myriad advantages over newfangled gadgetry. If you're laughing, ask yourself how many times your PC has crashed while using a word processor e-mail client, think about why those errors occur, and now think about how a typewriter works. 

Okay, yeah, the door being held open by a crowbar is kind of a big screw-up, but using the antiquated computronics is actually rather a stroke of genius and lateral thinking. There's some joke in hacker/computer geek circles that the US Army has the most secure computer network in the country entirely by virtue of the fact they haven't upgraded it since 1992, so not only is most of it offline, but hardly anyone works in it primary programming language, and there's so little RAM to go around that running a virus would likely crash the system before it did any real damage. 

Also, bear in mind the US Army had its ass handed to it in Vietnam by farmers with sharpened bamboo sticks instead of sensible footwear. 

Anyway, going back to the silos...  

Because the floppies are so prone to erasure from interference, they have to be stored very carefully. Removing them or tampering with them would likely corrupt them, making them useless. Considering the way Mutually Assured Destruction is supposed to work, I feel very comfortable knowing our nuclear missiles are most likely to do absolutely nothing. Optical media may not be indestructible, but their relative longevity compared to those disks makes them a liability. In other words, "this message will self-destruct in five seconds." 

As for the computers themselves:

Keep It Simple, Stupid!

Those computers aren't exactly versatile, but the one thing they're literally built to do, they do fine and dandy with a cherry on top. There's a reason why people marvel over their old Atari consoles still working while XBox360s get made the butt of jokes for their Red Rings of Death. 

Richard Garriott, the creator of the Ultima PC games, said in a recent interview that while aboard the ISS, a daily ritual was to reboot the PCs running Windows to reduce their chances of crashing. Similarly, the computers aboard the Space Shuttles had about as much processing power combined as a Blackberry from 2002, but the R&D and Quality Assurance behind their construction is without question because they are made to work. Your average desktop PC has to be a kind of Jack-of-all-trades/master-of-none, but these are purpose-built machines that don't waste time, space, or energy they don't need for their primary function. 

So, frankly, I think all this uproar about old tech in the private sector is unbearably naive and you should all be ashamed of yourselves. As penance, dig out your old GameBoys (or get one if you don't have it anymore) give it a warm, loving kiss, place it on a pillow, and tell it how grateful you are its processing power would have been overkill for the Apollo missions. 

You're welcome. 

16 July 2014

Seven Quick Notes on Thor Being A Woman

For the record, I take no issue with Thor being a woman. I am, however, puzzled by the decision, and worried about its implications.

1. The last time Marvel did this was with Ghost Rider, when sales dropped and the book was in danger of being canceled. It did not help. In business, this is called the glass cliff. It's a kind of "last resort, pandering while thinking outside the box" sort of synergistic effort in which a business that's not doing well will promote someone they wouldn't normally give the job to, the hope being either 1) They turn the company around, and they get to look progressive in the process, or 2) The company fails, and they get the protection of being able to say, "We tried the woman, and the woman didn't work out. Oh, well... Que Sera Sera." Speaking of intentions...

2. This is where matters get really touchy, so let the record show this a very broad generalization with a lot of assumptions which are most likely wrong. When a fictional character typically portrayed as white and male gets a race or gender swap, there's an issue of "why/why not?" that inevitably comes up.If the decision to make Thor a woman is "Because we can, so there!" Then it's arbitrary and therefore token, a stunt (see point 1). If, however, there's meant to be a greater significance to Thor being a woman, a comment on gender roles or a criticism of women in western mythology, then the risk is that the message overshadows the medium, Thor the character being traded in for Thor the statement. Granted, there's nothing wrong with that, Wonder Woman is a similar kind of statement, but she's also an interesting and compelling character in spite of the socio-political connotations attached to her. Similarly, when it came to Loki...

3. When Loki became a woman, it was in Lady Sif's likeness (she'd been killed in a recent story arc) to taunt Thor and play on his feelings of guilt. In other words, there was an in-narrative reason for the change that was in line with the original character, not merely a swap for swap's sake. Speaking of Lady Sif...

4. The comic Thor actually has a surprisingly good batting average when it comes to gender representation. There's Lady Sif, Amora the enchantress, Hela of the underworld (Loki's daughter), Brunnhilde and her Valkyrior troops, to name a few. Really, it's not like Thor was hurting for female characters, apart from a touch more variety outside of a love interest for The God of Thunder.

5. The idea of someone else being able to wield Mjolnir (by essentially the law of averages) was already explored with Beta Ray Bill, which makes the passing of the hammer seem all the more token. Thor doesn't work nearly as well as a legacy hero compared to, say, Green Lantern or The Phantom or even Batman (Knightfall, Beyond, Incorporated...).

6. What exactly will this mean for the films? It wouldn't be surprising if Tom Hiddleston passed on the role to Jaimie Alexander since there's a precedent for it in the comic. However, while we don't know the context for this change in the comics as of the time of this writing, Chris Hemsworth's commitment to his role plus the task of finding someone to take up the role in his place (given what a hard time it's been to bring Wonder Woman to modern audiences), it would make more sense for Marvel/Disney to leave the comic to its own devices and maybe consider following suit if the movies were to show a drop in box office returns. Given how the films have fared thus far, that sort of change would be years away even in the worst case scenario.

7. Does all this have anyone else thinking of the Silicon Knights' game Too Human, or is that just me?

As I've said, it doesn't bother me in the least that Marvel wants to make Thor a woman. It's piqued my curiosity, and I think it could be pretty cool. I simply wonder piquing interest and looking cool is all that's gone into the mission statement behind this venture. If so, that will be sad, so here's hoping I'm wrong.

13 July 2014

Crowded Potato Salad Bowl

If crowdfunding was truly a socialist concept, people wouldn't get to choose which projects get funded. It would all be one, gigantic co-op with funds being evenly distributed to everyone involved regardless of a project's merits. 

Recently, a comedian I follow on YouTube named Adam Buckley made a video criticizing the recent "Potato Salad" Kickstarter campaign and its tens of thousands of dollars. For those of you who don't know, a man started a crowdfunding page asking for ten dollars to fund his first attempt at making potato salad. A cynic would say this was a joke, a sort of litmus test to see how low standards can get on the site. An optimist would say it's a social experiment in empathy. Either way, I don't think anyone would dispute that at least 90% of that money could be put to better use elsewhere, like helping a little girl get plastic surgery for her facials scars resulting from a pitbull attack. Of course, that brings us to the seedy underbelly of crowdfunding: scams. 
Like any other great tool, it can be misused. As a hammer can bash in a skull as easily it can drive a nail into wood, so can a crowdfunding campaign provide a smokescreen for a cut-and-run operation as easily as it can help an indie film get distributed to theaters. In between these lay the gray area of e-begging, projects that aren't scams by any real definition of the word, but aren't exactly a commercial venture or a pre-order system. For example, the potato salad guy isn't making this salad to hold some huge block party to feed the homeless (Kickstarter wouldn't allow that, anyway) or teach some at-risk youths to cook so they can become productive members of society. Sure, a party is listed as one of his stretch goals, but there's still nowhere for this project to go. Indeed, it makes me sad people would rather give their money to this than something else, but I completely disagree with Buckley that it's an example of socialism. 
Frankly, his writing off of crowdfunding as a socialist concept because the system can be abused is not merely throwing out the baby with the bathwater. It's drowning the baby in the bathwater and then suing the water company for damages, claiming they made a hazardous product... and it's not even his baby. 
In the interest of full disclosure, I identify as an Objectivist. If you don't know what that means, it is, in broadest terms, a liberal capitalist. We believe in certain conservative values such as the free market and smaller/limited government, but we also believe in more liberal causes such as civil liberties and secularism. It has nothing to do with socialism; practically a polar opposite. To wax philosophical on the distinction, I'm all for equality, but find it works better as a starting point than an end goal (Equal opportunity is not equal achievement). Furthermore, I have supported the Kickstarter campaign for Wayforward's upcoming Shantae game, and the brush/stylus I use for my digital paintings is the result of a Kickstarter campaign. 
Yes, a business should be left to succeed or fail based on its own merits, but in terms of covering startup costs, donations from supporters (with or without incentives) is no more or less valid a means of fundraising than an investment bank, a loan, or self-financing. People having as many options as possible to decide for themselves where their money goes, how much they can give, all the while having a full and informed understanding of what, if anything, they will receive in return for their contribution (in my case, a copy of the aforementioned game upon its release), is not an example of socialism. 
I have played Wayforward titles before and have been very impressed by their work. If they want to bypass normal funding means and appeal directly to their fans rather than unreliable marketing that's been proven to be ill-suited to the games market, then why is it wrong for me to support their effort in return for a copy of the game? How is it e-begging to offer a product or service for a fee simply because there's a little more trust required and less red tape to cut through? It's not putting the cart before the horse to let your paying, consuming audience decide via dollar votes whether or not a product or service is viable. It's practically the very definition of laissez-faire capitalism. Calling it socialism because it doesn't always work out or gets abused by greed isn't simply a conflation, it's shortsighted, reactionary, alarmist bullshit, and shaming people for supporting it in spite of its flaws isn't simply petty, it's hypocritical. I've lost a lot of respect for Buckley on this one. Normally, even when I disagree, I still respect his opinion because it's rational and informed. This time, though, he's done himself and his fans a great disservice, which is ironic because he recently shamed a contemporary for more or less doing the same, only with an accolade instead of the offer of willing financial support. 

28 June 2014

Wanted 2: ScarJo Boogaloo

A few days ago, I got a text message from someone that contained only three words:

One word: Lucy

Naturally, I asked what he was talking about. I got one word:


I found a trailer for an upcoming action film directed by Luc Besson and starring Scarlett Johansson (who has way too many extra letters in her name which I propose be converted to middle initials: Scarlet T. S. Johanson) about a woman who gets used as a coke mule, only to find said coke is a blue liquid that increases your mental capacity, granting her superhuman powers which seem to include everything but the wall-repair-vision from Superman IV

Cards on the table: I like Luc Besson's work. I loved The Fifth Element as well as The Professional, and while The Messenger has its problems, it's not without its moments, either. That said, I don't think this is going to be any good. Sure, it's not fair to write off a film based entirely on a simple trailer, but when someone punches me in the face, I'm not likely to stick around and see if they'll say they're sorry and offer me a Pepsi, bag of Doritos, and a friendly game of Altered Beast to make up for it. The punch, in this case, is metaphorical, and instead of my face, it's my intellect. Sure, action movies by definition aren't meant to be works of cerebral transcendence, but when they try to be so, and they don't bring their A-game, it's a train wreck. I call these types of films Imperial Failures, meaning they're one type of movie that tries to be another, but has absolutely nothing to bring to the table, a la The Emperor's New Clothes
Lucy seems to want to be an action film with a brain by trying to rationalize ScarJo's control over time and space as the direct result of using more than 10% of her brain. Wanted, similarly, tried to be The Matrix by explaining bullet-time and balletic action choreography and gun-kata as the result of an accelerated heart rate. For example, someone who has never held a gun before in his life is suddenly able to shoot the wings off a pair of houseflies entirely by virtue of time slowing for a few seconds. Lucy attempts the same leap of faith by having ScarJo become able to render an entire room of hired goons unconscious with a wave of her hand by virtue of a few more synapses in her brain firing at once. 
That earlier example of Wanted's housefly dismemberment is only scratching the surface of that abomination's downright condescending levels of stupidity-in-denial, most of which I tackled in an earlier post. In short, it's not at all beneath me to shut my brain off and enjoy a good thrill ride, but movies like Wanted refuse to let me by not only trying to answer a question I barely cared to ask, but giving me an answer so astonishingly stupid as to not only un-suspend my disbelief, but insult my intelligence as well. 
Here's a thought experiment. In Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, ordinary people seem able to defy gravity, skip along bodies of water like smooth stones, traverse widely-spaced rooftops as easily as a stroll in the park, and pull off long-winded acrobatic routines without breaking a sweat. All this is on display for us with absolutely no explanation given beyond an implied notion of, "They're just that good." Now, imagine that partway through the film, Chow Yun-Fat stops in front of the camera, looks into it, and breaks the fourth wall to ask, "Would you like to know how we're able to do all this?" and before the audience can finish their collective shrug, he lifts up his robes and shows off a small jewel which he explains allows them to defy gravity and dilate time. 

Why do people dig The Force but hate midichlorians? 

Lesson over, Daniel-san. 

22 June 2014

Oh, Twitter...

I love Twitter, flaws and all. I don't think it's the greatest site ever made, but it's easily in my Top 5. Lately, though, I've been having a bit of a rough time with it. 
My Xperia Z Ultra has been great, even if I'm only using it as a tablet as my contract with Verizon won't run out for at least another month. To ease the transition, I culled a number of apps from my old phone, the HTC Rhyme. It had been getting a bit bloated, and many of those apps work far better on the Ultra. One of the apps I removed early on was Twitter. Technically, I still have it on the Rhyme, it's simply not the full version, but HTC's dashboard version, Peep. Peep works fine and dandy, but I didn't realize how stripped down it was compared to its big brother. 
I access Twitter primarily through Tweetdeck. It has its own separate login and account settings apart from my Twitter account proper. As for logging in to Twitter, I'd recently upped the security on it in light of some recent bouts with identity theft and set up mobile notifications. If I log in to Twitter from any new place, I have to enter a code that gets sent to my phone as a text message. 
What I didn't know until now was that when I removed Twitter from my Rhyme, I kept it from receiving those login codes. I figured that since they were only text messages, whether or not the app was present was totally irrelevant. Now, if I try to log in to Twitter through my browser (or especially the Z Ultra) I can't because I don't receive codes anymore. The solution seemed simple: put Twitter back on the Rhyme and get the codes. 

Guess what I have to put in when I open Twitter on the Rhyme. 

It's actually an easy fix, simply a matter of finding another way to log in, but it's so absurd that it's set up in this manner. I'm entering a phone number, not a MAC address, so why does the app need to be present in order to get a text message? What if I didn't have a smartphone, but an old flip phone (or "feature phones" as T-Mobile calls them, or "dumbphones" as everyone else calls them), like if I had to move my SIM card to another phone because of damage? What if the app got corrupted and needed to be reinstalled? For all intents and purposes, that's exactly what's happening now. 
There's nothing more frustrating than a security measure that works too well. It's like when your kid beats up the school bully: You want to give them a high five for kicking ass and not taking any crap, but you want to scold them as much for fighting fire with fire. 

18 June 2014

Receiving Through Rejection

So, this happened at work today... 
We had our annual company picnic, which involves a raffle for various prizes donated by sponsors, namely other companies we work with. They're often fairly substantial, with things like televisions, grills, tablets, small refrigerators, and all the way up to deck furniture. 
I happened to win tickets to a Cardinals game. I really didn't want them. I don't like baseball, I hate driving around St. Louis, and it doesn't help that my last outing to that area was less than pleasant. Of course, I didn't want to seem rude or ungrateful, so in a pinch a little white lie slipped out. I said I couldn't go on that day. They asked me to come up and draw another number to give the tickets away. Good, I thought, problem solved. A few minutes later, they had another set of tickets, and just outright asked me if I could make it to a different game. Okay, they caught me. I said I don't watch baseball. 
The president of the company asked me to come up. As I walked to where all the prizes were gathered, he said, "We've been doing this for years, we've never had someone refuse prizes like this." This isn't 100% true. Since everyone in attendance gets a raffle ticket, the higher-ups and visitors (from other companies) often give their prizes away. It occasionally happens with those lower down the ladder, but apparently I'm the first to do it twice. Anyway, as a consolation prize for putting me on the spot about the baseball tickets, he told me I had a choice of a prize. The choices were a tent, a gazebo, and a gas grill. 
I live in a fairly small apartment (gazebo), I don't go camping (tent), and not only does the apartment complex have a barbecue pit, but I also have a griddle I use for making burgers (gas grill). I felt very guilty, and apparently looked the part as well. I quietly said I didn't have space for any of that stuff. He was stunned. I think I even offended him. After sharing his disbelief with the audience, he reached into his pocket, pulled out some cash, handed it to me, and said, "Here's a hundred bucks, get outta here." 
Okay, he was smiling as he said it, and in addition to raffle prizes, he would give out a few hundred dollars for various reasons (if someone brought a certain household item, or had a birth date closest to one of our guest's, or had a baby recently, anything like that), so this wasn't any sort of upset in the grand scheme of things, simply awkward. In fact, when I got back to my seat, my supervisor leaned over to me and said, "Good holdout strategy." 
I gave the money to my roommate. She's going to Florida in July to visit her boyfriend, so now she's got a little extra spending cash. 

11 June 2014

Twice Out of the Blue Now

As some of you may know, I have two blue fingernails, left middle and ring. I've had them since last August. As for why, it's a bit of a long story, the short version of which is: I stopped biting my nails, saw how long they were getting, and thought, "Why the Hell not?" 

It's a fun little dexterity/patience exercise, it doesn't get in the way of anything, I frankly like the way it looks, and they've gotten me a fair number of compliments. 

Of course, it also leaves a few people puzzled. Some are so puzzled, in fact, yet so strangely afraid to ask, that they'd rather go digging for an explanation elsewhere, finally sharing their findings with my roommate. I was eating pizza with her a few weeks ago and she told me her cousin found out it's code for being gay. I asked, "What isn't code for being gay?" Apparently, it's local, which likely means they heard it from one person who more than likely made it up for himself and considers it to apply to everyone else because of reasons. 

Similarly, I have a blue porch light. My roommate's sister and brother saw fit to tell me that a blue light means a gay resident. When I told them I'd never heard such a thing, they explained it was "a West Coast thing" that no one here really knew (I live in the St. Louis area). Naturally, I looked it up. It turns out, a blue light means, among other things: Pot smokers, non-smokers, fallen police officers, raccoon repellents, transvestites (Amsterdam), lunch special, and my personal favorite, "Husband's out of town." Ever hear of trademark dilution? 

Anyway, back to the pizza... my roommate told her cousin that I wasn't gay. Admittedly, I've never been the manliest man, but I'm at best the "Q" in the LGBTQIAWXYZ123+=/# stream of social consciousness. The cousin in question, insisting they weren't homophobic (they're not, they're just kinda gullible, like borderline anti-vax gullible), wanted all the same to tell my roommate to try and explain to me that, even if it's not an actual indicator, there may be some people who think it is and, well... take violent action. In other words, it may not be a code gays use, but it can be a code homophobes use. 

Now, today, my roommate told me that her other cousin had talked to her and, "felt the need to tell me you were gay." I asked her to expand, give a little context, and she went on to quote, "I looked it up. It doesn't matter, I'm just letting you know." 

For starters, where exactly did she look this up? I have never seen anything written anywhere about nail polish as code for sexual orientation (let's face facts, it's not a very good one, anyway). Hell, there's more articles out there on baseball players using it for signaling than anything else. Second, don't you simply love when people insist on something not being important, yet nonetheless telling you about it with the utmost urgency? If it doesn't matter, why do you need to let someone know? 

My roommate's response to her aunt: "Matt's not gay. He has a girlfriend." (We've only been texting, and very infrequently, but I loved that retort so much it hardly matters). The part I find hilarious about these two encounters is how these people who only see me briefly at family gatherings like Thanksgiving and Christmas insist they know something about me that my roommate is completely blind to. 





"Well, the point is, other people might misinterp--" I don't care what people misinterpret about me. I don't care what gets said behind my back. I don't care what some little quirk or mannerism means to somebody else according to their esoteric interpretation of the world. The phrase, "People are talking" means about as much to me as "grass grows" or "there's someone in Africa whose name you don't know." I know there's people out there who are gay or bi or trans or what-have-you who have to put up with a lot of first-rate crap, some of which may even be life-threatening, so I'm not pretending that, "I understand now." because I don't and that was never the point. I think it's completely stupid and ridiculous how certain people are so eager to "figure you out" yet not do the obvious thing and talk to you, instead doing the most absurd mental gymnastics to reconcile their own lack of perspective. 

I'm honestly waiting for the day one of these people actually grows a fricking spine and asks me if I'm gay, then insists my denial is a lie because of said nails so that I may ask them to explain, in complete and full detail (visual aids allowed), how two blue fingernails on my left hand is meant to indicate to anybody that I wish to stick my dick in another man's ass. 

Maybe they'll be willing to say it on camera. 

25 May 2014

Chicken and Waffles

I've been waffling on repeating/paraphrasing a statement here that I've made elsewhere, but in light of a few previous entries regarding my state of mind, I feel like at least a little housekeeping is in order. So, here's a lovely little bulleted list in which I break my cardinal rule about my weblogs and speak of things I intend to do. Fair warning, I'm mixing the heavy stuff with the light-hearted stuff, so apologies in advance for any dissonance. 

  • My mental state of late has not been well. It hasn't been well for some time. I had a wake-up call, and I'm now getting the help I need. I am being treated for depression. I'm not suicidal, I'm not violent, and I'm not so emotionally drained that I don't even want to get out of bed in the morning. I'm just sad and tired. That's not trying to diminish the problem, mine or anyone else's, only to alleviate anyone's fears. I am fine. 
  • Art has been my coping mechanism for a number of years, and my motivation and output has diminished. This was part of my wake-up call. I still fully intend to make as much art as I possibly can, hence my most recent pieces. It's simply difficult as I get my priorities in order. Expect a drop in quality is all I'm saying (not that it was ever terribly high). 
  • I'm going to start making my own iced coffee. I've got a grinder and some nice roast of a rather geeky variety on the way, so I'll be posting some tutorials and experiments in the near future. The only coffee I've made myself has been of the crystalline variety, and that's simply been terrible, absolutely terrible. 
  • I've been absolutely hooked on Strikers 1945, a classic SHMUP from Psykio. I absolutely adore games of this genre, and this one is practically perfect. 
  • Also, Soldier Blade is a classic. The weapons and power-ups system is pure genius. 
  • May has been a very busy month for going to the movies. 
  • Pinterest is awesome. 
  • I was hoping to take advantage of an upgrade offer to get a new phone that would get me out of my contract early, but unfortunately it requires trading in my old phone, which would only credit me four dollars (to go towards my ETF for my other carrier). Looks like I'll be waiting a bit longer on that one. 
Good night, and good luck. 

13 May 2014

Abyss Tract

This is the other scrap of paper I was trying to use up. 

The Last Nerve

Part of a quick-n-dirty project to get rid of these two scraps of watercolor paper I'd made backgrounds on but never found any projects for. 

11 May 2014

Mass of the Dark Lords

Full description on my DevART page. This took a very long time to put together, and not simply for the sake of letting the green tea dry. I've been having a lot of motivational issues lately, and this was my way of trying to push through them and get back into more of a habit. 

04 May 2014

Moth Leaf Light HD

Found this pretty little guy under my mailbox when I was stepping out for coffee. I'd never seen a green one before, so I assumed maybe it was freshly hatched, hence its mobility issues. I learned later from my friend who runs DorkStitch by way of an article link that this is a Luna Moth. They live for about a week and the males have no mouth. They're also nocturnal. Given that, it's more than likely this poor thing was on its way out, though he was upright and on his feet when I got back. 

Moths used to terrify me as a kid; they were big and had fur, which simply seemed "wrong" in my mind. You have to admit, seeing these gnarled, twig-like legs poking out from soft fuzzy cotton is eerie and odd. Now, especially ones like this with those feathery antennae and wing-tails, I think they're beautiful. 

Trying a Facebook Embed Code

Post by Lady Sariel.

This is also my current wallpaper :)

30 April 2014

Mission Statement: Preamble

Back in late December, I started thinking about New Year's Resolutions, as last year's attempt went far better than I thought it would, given I swore off the practice nearly 20 years ago. This year, however, I need to take it more seriously, as more grave matters are concerned. I don't want to disclose full details, as it's extremely personal, except it's an extremely difficult decision I've been struggling with since at least the start of last year. In short, someone who has been a part of my life the past several years, who helped me through a very difficult phase of my life, and that I've tried to be as patient with as I possibly can be for anyone, I have asked to leave. 
I had told them this earlier in the year, and set plans for the change in the subsequent months. Today, however, after a quiet period, we ended up having a talk about it again, and it was almost as if it were the first time it was brought up. Admittedly, very little progress has been made as far as the plans for moving go, which can be attributed to a number of factors. As I've said, I've tried to be patient about this, but it has taken its toll on me, physically, mentally, and emotionally. 
In terms of what's brought all this on, I've tried to work that out for some time, amid a lot of doubts, feelings of guilt, soul searching, second guessing, and maybe even a little denial. What it boils down to is two simple facts that I cannot put any other way:

Changes need to be made. 

27 April 2014

A Broken Piano & A Burning Car

Pictured: Tangential Learning (this will not be on the test)
The notion of hype and I have this understanding, that I'm allowed to write off whatever it's trying to sell me for any reason whatsoever, regardless of the final product's merits. It's no novel concept that suspense is a double-edged sword every bit as likely to intrigue your potential audience as alienate them. 

The upcoming film in question has the effectively ominous title of As Above, So Below, whose trailer I came across on YouTube only a few moments ago. I'm not going to bother embedding or even linking the trailer; the IMDB page is enough and about all the direct exposure I want to give this film, especially since I'll be touching on key scenes in the trailer anyway. 
Brief Tangent: Remember AOL Keywords? You know how ad campaigns have started using hashtags as a means of marketing & promotion rather than simply referring people to a website? In all, I don't see any of that as harmful, but something about how this movie markets itself is a bit worrying. The end title to this trailer has the following phrase above its web address: 
YouTube Search: Paris Catacombs. 
This bothers me for a few reasons. Firstly, the Paris catacombs are a real place, and likely there's a number of YouTube videos about them. This may well have been the intention of the film's marketing team to help spread word about the film and help aid suspension of disbelief by having people do research and get a better appreciation for the source material. Frankly, I don't buy that notion for a second. I think this is a case of YouTube selling search results to the highest bidder, not unlike promoted Tweets. Again, this shouldn't be anything harmful, but why not have the terms in question be the film's title or some cryptic phrase relevant to the movie? Why a vague geographic reference that's likely to flood the search results of people not interested in the film but the actual location? I'm not saying it's socially irresponsible or anything like that, but it's a sign of a bad trend I hope dies. 
The trailer starts off by introducing us to our setting and our main characters, a Scoobian (not a word, but should be) team of young professionals bent on exploring a network of caves and tunnels beneath the city of Paris. Right away, we can see the earliest signs of the problem this film will either have with itself, its campaign, or both. The movie seems to be a Blair film, a term I hoped would replace "found footage" because that's already a name for experimental films such as the works of Stan Brakhage, with the perspective set in a kind of quasi-first-person view via video equipment our meddling kids are taking with them to document their journey. I don't have a problem with the genre per se (I liked Cloverfield and Apollo 18), but a lot of these shots look way too good to be "amateurism" and makes me wonder if this is going to have the same problem as District 9 where we're not sure if this is true Third-Person Unlimited the more vaguely First-Person Limited viewpoint. It's a minor gripe coming from a film production major, so take it with a grain of salt. However, these doubts about exactly what sort of movie we're in for don't get much better. 

As may well be expected, our team finds themselves trapped in these catacombs, possibly by some outside malevolence. This is genuinely interesting, because we're almost made to think the various cave-ins and pitfalls could be little more than that, with the characters' reactions misleading us into thinking it's something worse. Honestly, that's a neat idea, playing with perspective like that, a disaster movie masquerading as a horror film. As the saying goes, we have nothing to fear but fear itself. The Blair Witch Project has a similar sort of ambiguity, whether or not there's evil afoot in those words, or if it's an elaborate murder conspiracy perpetrated by the participants. Sadly, and as much as I think it's a solid sequel, Book of Shadows threw a lot of that ambiguity out the window. As Above, So Below does not even wait for its sequel to throw subtlety and ambiguity out the window. It doesn't even wait for opening day. It reveals its ineptitude barely halfway through the trailer. 

The Broken Piano.

After the initial series of setbacks that leave our characters going in circles (paranoia, or something worse?), the gang stumbles upon an upright piano covered in cobwebs. One of them comments that he had one just like it growing up. He goes on to say that one of the keys was messed up, the A4 key. This is where the movie more or less loses me completely, as his finger lands on precisely the same key, which is broken. The camera pulls back to give us a reaction shot from the group. It would have been more subtle and less patronizing if they'd all looked into the camera and yelled in unison, "DUN-DUN-DUUUUN!" 

For the record, two of my favorite horror films are Event Horizon and Solaris, the latter not even being much of a horror movie, though it has that 2001: A Space Odyssey quality wherein by not trying to be a horror movie, it succeeds at being one anyway, if that makes sense. Anyway, those movies are about people being confronted with their own personal inner demons via hallucinations made corporeal. I don't think that's a bad cliche, though I could name about a dozen other films I abhor because of it. It can be effective, but it has to be handled very delicately. How that's achieved is highly debatable and equally subjective. In theory, the best way would be to draw as little attention to the trope as possible, i.e. not giving it away in the damn trailer. To be fair, the broken piano is still subtle compared to what comes next. 

The Burning Car. 

Having established that what we're seeing is a group of explorers confronted with a supernatural force that plays off their respective consciences and forces them to confront their inner demons, the trailer is basically done with leaving us guessing exactly what type of film we're getting into. A better film would have left things at the broken piano, cut back to some of the screaming and running from earlier, and then flashed the title and release date. After all, the piano may not be terribly subtle, but it doesn't betray the film's overall sense of scale. It still leaves a bit of mystery as to what our team is up against, how real the danger is. Sure, the question at this point has boiled down to "Ghosts or Demons?/Haunted House or Hell?" but considering ghosts often have motives and even goals (that may only appear malicious) while demons are simply evil for evil's sake, it's still interesting from a conflict perspective. Again, what exactly are we up against? Will confronting these skeletons in the closet lead to some kind of redemption or at least a moral victory (a la Laurence Fishburne in Event Horizon), or is this simply a meat grinder? 

That question gets answered when our team happens upon the burning car. Yes, they turn a corner and see a small, red car engulfed in flames. The camera whip-pans to one of the explorers, sobbing, "It wasn't my fault! It wasn't my fault!" If your eyes are rolling, that's probably a good thing because you won't see what happens next. Our "faultless" guy not only gets yanked off his feet and pulled into the car through the rear passenger window (not unlike Mica's "throwback" in Paranormal Activity), but the car then caves in on itself and implodes like the house at the end of Poltergeist, taking with it anybody's ability to take this film seriously. It's not simply because the effect itself isn't all that good (I often wonder about trailers using unfinished or rough renders of composites), but because we've lost all mystery as to the extent of the danger. The piano left us asking whether or not the worst thing these people have to fear is each other/themselves or something else. The burning car externalizes the threat. It's no longer about facing fears, it's about being picked off by a manipulative and evil force. It's almost like we've seen the entire film, because the number of possibilities for resolution are in single digits by this point. 

Some would argue it unfair to write off the movie based on the trailer simply because it appears to give away so much, going from slightly inept to downright moronic. They would argue that there still could be more to the film, something that may fall outside those few, finite possibilities. In other words, I could be completely wrong the movie's scale and the nature of the threat and conflict. My question, to those people, is how many twists and turns does it take to pique your interest and how many does it take to lose your interest? It's the same problem I had with The Machinist. That film throws so many plot twists and big reveals at you that you're left with absolutely nothing to be invested in by the final act. Questioning reality is fine, many of my favorite movies are all about that (like American Psycho), but it's all for naught if I don't even feel like asking the question in the first place because I'd prefer short answer or even essay to multiple choice. 

Your trailer is supposed to be you putting your best foot forward. If you can't even sell me on your suspense, or make me care to ask what else your movie has to offer, what else are you getting wrong?