November 30, 2005


Nature's beauty

This is a great story. You should read it, probably right after a big meal. It's good for you!

posted by Gar @ 7:27 PM

November 23, 2005


This entry's theme: neat things, pretentiously named

Dreamlines is a graphical web toy that apparently works by hooking into the Google Images api and trippifying it. It's nifty.

Really Slick Screensavers are even heavier on the trippy factor. While the homepage is not pretentiously named (although one could make a case about lack of modesty), some of the individual screensaver names are sufficiently so that I can include it in this entry. Hyperspace is the first screensaver other than "blank screen" I've enabled for a long while.

I've recently discovered and become a big fan of the band Godspeed You! Black Emperor (yeah, the exclamation point's where it usually should be, apparently. Like I said...). Purely instrumental barring spoken-word samples, layered, complex, and damnably good sounding. I was vaguely aware of them before as having done one of the nicer parts of the score to Fast Zombie flick 28 Days Later, where whatshisname is wandering around a deserted London, and clearly should have actually listened without distraction to them sooner.

posted by Gar @ 5:40 AM

November 22, 2005


One thousand words.

posted by Gar @ 6:37 PM

Silent Night, Seizure Night

It's pretty much in the time of year where various pundits will--being busy with holiday plans as they are--start phoning it in with pretty standard Christmas Under Attack! babble. You know, the general conspiracy to remove the X from Christmas, and you can tell how far advanced the conspiracy already is because it's not there even now! Very compelling stuff, of course.

Regardless of the outcome of that incredibly important cyclical argument, we all can take comfort in knowing people like the owners of this property are fighting the good fight to keep the "mas!" in Xmas.

posted by Gar @ 12:02 PM

November 17, 2005


Edison's Conquest of Mars

Thomas Edison and Lord Kelvin counterattack Mars, one year after the original 1898 invasion. It occurs to me that Spielberg should have made a movie from this instead, and left poor Wells alone.

posted by Gar @ 9:22 PM

November 15, 2005


A Feast for Crows, short review, less spoil-y

Well, every series has a weak link; I've faith Martin will pull things together again by book 6, if not five (given that book 5 is sort of the other half of AFFC).

The main problem is it largely loses narrative velocity. There's a lot of words, but there's not so much with the actual happening, if you grok it. Brienne spends most of the book in a sort of Lippert-esque Walking Scene (MST3K reference, for those not plugged into that particular geek current), which could easily have been trimmed down to just the highlights of it. There wasn't nearly enough of Arya's interesting new vocational training. Some tantalizing hints about the Cleganes. Cersei continuing to display her, um, genius at scheming. Sam the Slayer's starting to get stronger hints of a spine forming from actual bone and cartilage instead of taffy.

All in all, I'd rate it only decent, but nowhere near the quality of the first three. If the series had started off with it, I wouldn't be much interested in finding out where it went from there. In the brief afterword, Martin claims the next one will be out next year; we'll see about that.

posted by Gar @ 11:05 PM

November 13, 2005


Photography tips

Dream bits: it turns out that a cat is a much easier subject to photograph in a specified composition than a zombie is. Working with a zombie is just an exercise in frustration.

Also, at one point a friend went to the just-opened bar to get some shots. He returned empty handed, and said, "The bartender said it wasn't ready." Me: "Not ready yet? What, does she have to distill it?"

posted by Gar @ 11:21 AM

November 12, 2005



One of the reasons I like the way my brain runs is that when it produces what would be called nightmares by others, they're mostly just really entertaining. I had a kickass nap a bit ago, and my brain decided it was time to generate a spontaneous horror film in the old cartesian theater. It was a Jacob's Ladder ripoff in the core twist of the whole thing being that the main character--only "me" in a part-time sense; my more involved dreams shift seamlessly back and forth from first to third person, always have--was actually dead through most of it, and in a sort of denial-and-choosing-up-or-down afterlife moment. There were some bodies involved, uncovering some murders, attempts to save another person in the dream, and various disgusting trippy visuals, like the intercut hallucinations of victims of aforementioned murders being stuffed in a refrigerator's crisper drawer. (I checked after I woke up; there's nothing disgusting enough in mine to have sparked that, everything's still freshish in there.)

Part of the reason my wannabe nightmares almost never are that is it's not so much an immersive experience, as alternating between one and a sort of behind-the-scenes cast-and-crew commentary going on. The best example of that this time was the eerie scene of main character staggering up a flight of stairs away from some unpleasantness, and not even noticing two severed heads resting against the floorside bannister; after he/I passed, the heads started talking with one another about the current job, they'd worked worse, etc.--you know the Jacob's Ladder deal about the demons-who-are-really-angels thing? I can only conclude this was doing that one better by establishing that whatever they were, they're still just folks putting in a shift.

It's a good brain, I think.

posted by Gar @ 3:31 PM

November 11, 2005


More villainy

A couple more villains from yonder City of them.

Cloudsong Thief, here taking a break from his villainous exploits in order to go online to steal another cloudsong. Because he's just that EVIL!

I'm pretty sure this was done not by me, but through me. BATTLE MONKEY JOJO! Sure, the advanced research defense project lab thought it was a great idea to transplant a seriously pissed-off test monkey's head onto a prototype warbot body. If successful, it would herald in a new age when wars were fought with disposable test monkeys each wielding the firepower of a small old-style army, kept firmly under control by behavioral inhibitor chips, and more importantly, all the grant money you could wish for. And it was a great idea until lax security allowed an animal rights group to liberate him by deactivating those behavioral-control microchips in his brain.

The animal rights group thought it was a good idea to free the battle monkey prototype, they figured on having a powerful ally. And it might have been, if they would have had enough bananas, but noooo, they didn't want to buy any more until they got to their nearest organic whole foods mart, and that kind of hippie crap makes Battle Monkey Jojo ANGRY!

posted by Gar @ 10:39 PM

Some thoughts on horror flicks. p.s.: Star Wars Transformers.

The Descent is the newest flick by the fellow responsible for Dog Soldiers, and overall pretty disappointing, mostly in light of considering that the writer-director was one and the same. On its lonesome it's a simply-okay horror flick. It could have been a lot better, though.

How best to explain? Okay, consider The Blair Witch Project, one of those runaway successful films that's popular to express disdain towards. For the purposes of this comparison, assume I really don't feel strongly either way--this is an assumption that has the benefit of being true. Anyway, one of the points it's difficult to debate is that the characters spent entirely too much time screeching at each other excitedly with hands fluttering about. In The Descent, the characters make the Blair Witch Mystery Gang look positively levelheaded, the kind of people you'd want to have with you in a crisis situation.

It's a simple enough story of a pack of giggling shrieking harpies on the world's least safety-conscious spelunking expedition ever. There's pathos in that one of the characters lost her family in the kind of head-on collision you have if neither you or the fellow in the other car don't actually look ahead of you for at least ten full seconds. This accident occurs after said pack of shrieking harpies just did some whitewater rafting, to establish they like to do extreme recreation. It's the sort of thing that could be considered tragic, if the cute kid had been on screen for more than an eyeblink prior; also if this wasn't the kind of film where a simple high-speed head-on collision is simply considered too subtle, and that what was really needed to spice it up was for it to launch projectiles to impale the driver's head. Trying to hang tragic on that kind of thing is like trying to establish sympathy for Wile E.'s ravine-bottom dust-puff. But, whatever, benefit of the doubt--tragic and sad.

So a year later, our extreme recreation girl power squad is going spelunking. It's sort of an attempt to get the band back together, via cave-diving. There is, of course, a cave-in, and then they get attacked by what are essentially morlocks--sightless, crawling-scuttling, albino, cannibalistic, etc. At one point, during one of their rare breaks from screeching at one another, one of the meat scenery pleads with another who might have been meant to be the smart one (in a one-eyed man in kingdom of the blind sort of situation, I imagine) to tell them what they've been fighting. The whole movie could have been redeemed if she'd snapped back, "They're fucking morlocks, you screeching illiterate slags!" No such luck.

It did feature one of the best cinematic implementations of a Call of Cthulhu in-joke, though. Dig it: with a prior rpg group, it was a running gag that the best thing to do in any CoC adventure when whatever boojum finally popped up to show itself was to instantly shoot the fellow next to you in the leg, so as to increase your own chances. It's a geeky twist on the old advice on how to outrun an angry bear, basically.

All in all, it would have crossed the line from mediocre to pretty good, if there had just been less of excitable characters shrieking at one another, because it was seriously at nails-down-chalkboard level for what was, on purely objectively measure, eight hours of the film's running length.

Postscript: Star Wars Transformers.

posted by Gar @ 6:18 PM

November 10, 2005


...and enjoy ENLIGHTENMENT!

So, apparently they made another videogame on the Matrix franchise, Path of Neo. Whoa, per the parlance of our times. I learn this fact in a thread on rpgnet, complaining of it being...not a good game, to put it charitably. Then there comes a true gem of a detour--according to rumors, the ending of the game is more than a little bizarre. Then someone posts links to what is claimed to be actual ending cutscenes from the game.

I suppose you shouldn't watch these if you intend to play Neo's Way or the Highway or whatever it's called. It might spoil that Neo has to have a fight, and then the enjoyment of the game would be ruined. I'm sensitive to that kind of danger.

In order:

Part 1
Part 2
Part 3

...and you know, I think that would have been a better ending for Revolutions than what was actually there.

posted by Gar @ 10:09 PM

Silly String

The military uses of Silly String. American ingenuity, and one of those cool little cases that the battlefield is often the mother of invention.

posted by Gar @ 9:48 AM

November 08, 2005


Entrepeneurial idea

Dig it: homeopathic air fresheners. All--or more!--of the benefit of traditional Western air fresheners, but with the pinefresh-potpourri-whathaveyou odor diluted many thousands of times so that the air carries the molecular memory of the freshening scent without the bother of being stinky in its own right. They will, of course, be made of all-natural ingredients, and be available in a variety of homeopathic scents.

posted by Gar @ 9:14 AM

November 07, 2005


American Gothic

Awhile back I noted that American Gothic was appearing on disc. I was, at the time, cautiously cheerful about that--it'd been ten years even since I'd seen the show, and there was certainly the possibility that my memory of how much I enjoyed it simply wouldn't survive hiting the reality again.

I'm happy to report that the memory has survived impact.

I have some quibbles with the release itself; the whole season's on three flipper discs, which is just annoying. Universal also made the even more annoying decision that the episodes went on the discs in the order in which they aired, with four unaired episodes slapped on the tail end. As is taught in all evil broadcast schools, when a series is presented to the network as being planned in a certain order, it must be aired out of sequence when you're not preempting it or randomly changing its timeslot. The episodes being out of order wasn't as huge a deal as it would be for other things, as the series was pretty strongly episodic throughout, but it's the principle of the thing.

The series certainly had some flaws that memory had glossed over; aside from Sheriff Lucas "Satan" Buck and young Caleb Temple, the other characters never quite fit properly--this was amplified by the other characters simply not having actors who were as good. But for the most part, they remained passable. And the last couple episodes felt more than a little rushed--previously, the show had taken its time with growing hints and creepy moments of Caleb's slow slide into being his father's son, and then all of a sudden realized it was getting axed, so they compressed about six episodes worth of fall into two.

Still, one of the best lawful evil characters ever. And there was some snappy writing that had also gotten lost to my memory along with the minor warts of the show. One of my favorite dialogue bits early on:

"I don't know what you said to them, but the network offered me a hell of a deal!"
"Is there any other kind?"

posted by Gar @ 8:46 PM

Form of...a gaming geek!

I've been playing a fair amount of City of Heroes&Villains lately. It was a game that I simply couldn't get into back when I was playing World of Warcraft, as they both went about the MMO thing in rather different ways. But I got the yen to play some superhero stuff a few weeks back after tracking down a...well, let's just call it a release...of the animated Tick series, and threw some bucks at CoH expecting to tire of it in a few days again--remarkably, I stuck, then the City of Villains beta (they handed out access keys like water in its last week or two in beta status) sold me pretty hard on it.

I've got three characters I'm splitting time between, not counting no-level alts made just to muck about with the chargen costuming bits.
This would be Rehabilitation, a hero based on the cheerfully idiotic notion that obviously the best way for a violent criminal to repay society would be to transplant his central nervous system into a superhuman robot body and teach him kung-fu. I'm most proud of the costume outcome of all of them; I was deliberately going for something that you might see in one of the various short-lived syndicated action series that you would find playing random afternoons on early Fox affiliates, and by "Bob" I think I achieved that goal perfectly.

Cheyne Stoking in the foreground--the name's the medical term for the "death rattle" breathing pattern that terminal patients enter in their final slide out of life. Being a mad scientist with a specialty in zombology, he's clearly not going to have a villainous pseudonym as sophomoric-intern as "Death Rattle". He's a doctor, thank you very much. Arrayed behind him are his zombie minions. He's a "mastermind" class character, which is one of the neater new classes City of Villains added to the game, essentially a pet-summoning-and-controlling schtick. There's four types currently, being robots, ninjas, soldiers, and of course zombies. Clearly I had to go with the zombies. The three little guys are the zombies proper, the lowest-tier minions; the big fellow in the leather-bar attire is the grave knight, the middle-tier summon. Eventually Cheyne will have two of them, and pick up a single third-tier summon, which I understand is a lich. He also only just gained the ability to pull a pissed-off ghost out of the body of a minion when it falls in battle, but they're only about for a limited time, and he dissolved before I could find my screenshot key.

And finally, this would be Thorn Delay. Some folks I used to game with back in college are making vague plans of putting together an Undead GOP supervillain group, and he'll be my entry if that ever gets off the ground. (There's an Arlen Spectre and Zombie Strom also around, you see.) He's all spikey at the moment as that's the effect that happens when his particular secondary powerset is activated. His powers are all plant-related--there was an incident with a shiv, but a friendly witch doctor brought him back to life with the aid of a plant demon. On account of the grassroots support!

Rehab and Cheyne are on the Virtue server; Mr. Delay's on Pinnacle. My global id is, of course, @drastic. I've also got three codes for a free two weeks of City of Heroes (not Villains, sadly) laying about that all came with CoV for various reasons; if any of my vast readership would like one, shoot me a line.

posted by Gar @ 8:03 PM

November 03, 2005


History shows again and again

A capsule review of "Godzilla: Final Wars":

Ryuhei Kitamura is the kind of director who understands that, given the Toho corporate bylaw that mandates all Godzilla films be padded with entirely superfluous footage of people saying remarkably stupid things at one another, that you might as well make that superfluous footage involve said people either kicking each other in the head while saying said stupid things, or visibly preparing to kick each other in the head, or having just taken a breather from kicking each other in the head. (Sadly, there was no actual line of dialogue that went, "I have just kicked you in the head," in the same tones one would inform Roy Orbison that he's just been mummified in shrink-wrap, but to be fair that might have been a translation issue.)

In the spectrum of Godzilla flick quality, the above capsule review is very positive. As an auteur, Kitamura's entire oeuvre involves the various stages of people and head-kicking, if you can dig it (the man knows what he does). It definitely had a high budget, again as far as films about the big G go--which meant that instead of scattered bits of laughably bad CG, the movie was absolutely jampacked with laughably bad CG, in and amongst the more traditional guy-in-rubber-suit-stomping-through-cardboard-city-and-flashpots.

posted by Gar @ 5:49 PM

November 02, 2005


Media twofer

Link the first. I'm not actually saying the guy was on coke. I certainly wouldn't sign a sworn affidavit to that effect. I do think he was possessed by the spirit. The spirit of Chris Farley, that is.

Link the second. Rolling Bomber Special! That's one of the greatest armies of minions I've seen in quite awhile.

posted by Gar @ 7:50 PM

November 01, 2005


Veni Vidi

I've developed the guilty habit of looking to see what people on the IMDB forum-system have to say about movies I've seen recently; it's a way to shore up my essential misanthropy. Granted, that's always been pretty much been in a hardened vault-like Cheyenne Mountain status, impregnable to all but direct hits by specialy nuclear payloads of human kindness. But eternal vigilance is one of the keys to keeping it that way!

I got around to watching "Saw" which was a cheerfully vicious little flick. The highlights were of course the goofily elaborate murder setups, which went off the rails in the usual serial-killer-movie ways--cops acting dumb, mom and child in peril (no popular American film will ever have any tension whatsoever when there's a kid in peril. Men in danger? Anything could happen. Single, especially morally loose, women? They're corpses waiting to expire, especially if there's more than one of them. If there's just one, she's likely to escape. But a wife from a strained marriage with cute kid in tow? They're going to live, no questions about it, and any attempt to generate tension from them is just wasted screentime from the more compelling business of idiots freaking out over Jigsaw's fiendish setup.) Overall just sort of entertainingly brutal and stupid, with an ending twist that made me literally shout, "Oh, come ON!" while laughing like a loon.

The true glory came when looking at what the fine specimens at IMDB had to say about it. There's a glorious thread bitching about the movie's plot holes. Plot hole bitchery is usually pretty dull stuff; I've spoken before about the kind of bloody-minded literalism especially common amongst, say, sci-fi fans but by no means limited to them. But the opening bullet point was just breathtakingly awesome: you see, the two theoretical protagonists in Saw spent the majority of screentime shackled to the wall in a big room. Turns out the ankle collars can give them a good solid zap, electrified you know. (From a filmmaking point of view, minor electrocution is one of the finest tortures that a film can use. It's all just the actor flopping about, with various electrical sounds foleyed in during editting. No makeup or prostheses or cg needed, and certainly no need to worry about keeping continuity of wounds afterwards.)

The plot hole here? That an electrified ankle cuff would never hurt your whole body, because electriciy, being affected by gravity, GOES DOWN. Just look at lightning, a supporter chimed in later, adding helpfully, you morons. Or possibly you gay morons, I don't recall exactly. Being affected by gravity, the charge would just sink right into the floor, you see.

Besides being really funny, that's also more horrifying, personally, than anything in the movie itself.

Blast shelter, I'm telling you.

posted by Gar @ 8:17 AM

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