Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like German

Ever since coming to work for a language learning company, I've stewed about what language to learn. So many choices. So do I brush up on the Spanish I took in college? Take another stab at French? Go for Latin because it's just freaking cool and you can go far with just a few Latin phrases? Tempus fugit...

I was actually decided on Italian, for two reasons. First, I would love to visit Pompeii some day. Secondly, I would have an excuse to spend time with Marcello:

I probably have a screw loose, but he cracks me up NO END.

However, now this whole board game documentary thing has come up, and documenting designer German board games pretty much means an eventual trek to the big German conventions, and maybe even the board game factories there. So there it is, now I have a legitimate motivation to try to learn German, and must with heavy heart bid Marcello farewell for now. If only he could teach German with that suave silver tongue of his. /swoon

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Some Flicks

As I jam out here listening to Skratch 'N Sniff, dancing in my kitchen (and I am comfortable telling you that I am dancing in my kitchen, for you cannot see me), there are three recent Netflix rentals on my mind. Two are good. One...not so good.

Shoot 'Em Up
I really liked this movie, great blend of comedy and action, and just plain fun to watch. Clive Owen and Paul Giamatti ROCKED THE HOUSE.

Tropic Thunder
Damn good comedy, they push the limits of the humor, and for the most part walk that fine line between stupid and funny. Just like Zoolander. I love Zoolander, it's one of the very few movies I own. If you liked Zoolander, you'll probably dig Tropic Thunder. And my best friend, Kanadani, who was not a fan of Zoolander, still loved Tropic Thunder. There are some very Zoolander moves, and cameos from that film by notables like the evil DJ (he even did a breakdance fighting move!) and...Lance Bass.

Robert Downey, Jr.'s performance would put Eddie Murphy to shame. I was absolutely shocked to find myself liking a Tom Cruise performance for the first time in probably 10 years, not to mention Tobey Maguire and Matthew McConaughey, actors I normally don't like. My other close personal friend, Clovis, says that the commentary is fantastic. We didn't catch that on our Netflix rental, but no worries, because the next day we went out and bought this movie. It's a keeper.

Oh, and the fake trailers...awesome.

You know, this one started out so strong, I think that's why I was annoyed by its betrayal and descent into crapdom. James McAvoy SO wished he was Edward Norton, when he wasn't wishing he was Neo. And while I love Morgan Freeman, he's played "the man upstairs" one time too many.

The loom angle really shook my confidence, but at that point, the film still manages some clever stuff, so we stuck with it. But by the end, we realized that we'd been had. If you have seen this movie, wth is up with the ending? I was unwilling to watch it a second time and get my facts straight, but it WAS him at his desk, and needlessly shooting out some perfectly fine car windows from a few miles away, right? And in answer to the final question in the film, "Lately? Well, we've just wasted a couple hours watching YOU, for one thing..."

Just kidding. OK, serious this time...

Friday, December 19, 2008

How about a nice game of chess?

Yet again, video game skills are finding real-world application.

Wii-Controlled Robots Made for Combat

Using the controller from the popular Nintendo Wii gaming system (the "Wiimote") scientists from the Idaho National Laboratory, working with engineers from the U.S. Army, Foster-Miller, and iRobot, are developing novel ways to control military robots.
So many thoughts just ran through my head, not the least of which is, can I train my Wii-ComBot to fetch me a cup of coffee?

The Wiimote-controlled robot works fine in test conditions, but a battlefield is a rougher place. Before any new robot control device is used in combat it must be significantly "ruggidized," said Slater.
Sweet. Once that happens, I would like to buy one of THOSE Wiimotes!

This is really a very interesting development for the video game space. I mean, what is this going to do to the Wii supply?! Or...is this where they've been going all along? /eyesnarrow

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

BSG Webisodes Online

Get your BSG fix with this 10-part webisode series in preparation for Season 4!


And during the holidays, it's always nice to see everyone come together:

Awwwwww. (Thanks for sending it along, Andy!)

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Invent Destiny

null - Watch more free videos

AWESOME. Vincent Dooly IS The Mother of Invention. (or go here for the Youtube Channel!)

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

A Fistful of Geekumentaries

OK, I haven't had time to watch the following documentaries yet - I just started digging into the BBS one - but they are all available to watch online, so I figured I should at least let you know about them!

BBS: The Documentary
Jason Scott's the director currently at work on the Get Lamp text adventures documentary. Before that, however, he created a documentary about the history of BBS.
BBS: The Documentary is an 8 episode series about all aspects of the history of the dial-up Bulletin Board System, or BBS. 3 years in the making and the result of over 200 interviews, this collection puts in one convenient package a sense of the variety and wide-reaching effects of the BBS phenomenon. All in all, over seven and a half hours of material is included across the three region-free DVDs.
You can watch it on Google Video, or get the physical version here.

JK Rowling: A Year in the Life
In conjunction with the release of the new Tales of Beedle the Bard book, a multi-part online documentary following JK Rowling around for a year has been released.
Journalist James Runcie was granted an incredible documentary opportunity in 2006 -- to film Harry Potter author JK Rowling for the entire year as she worked on the final book of the series, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
Parts 1 and 2
Parts 3 - 5
(UPDATE: 12/24 - oh BOO, these are now the subject of a rights debate. Maybe take a peek here.)

Classic Game Room
Classic Game Room: The Rise and Fall of the Internet's Greatest Video Game Review Show.
In 1999, the first online video game show was inaugurated with a single camera, a $50 per episode budget and a pair of hosts who weren't above swilling beer and slinging joysticks to inject some fun. This film documents the short-lived show's rise and fall, and includes Mark Bussler's and David Crosson's reviews of classic games such as Frogger, Duck Hunt, SeaMan, Yars' Revenge, Alien, Joust and more.
Heard about this one from a recent issue of GameRoom magazine. It's on Netflix, and you can watch it online for free if you're a subscriber.

I'll do individual reviews of these once I've seen them, but in the meantime, feel free to check them out and share your thoughts! I've also got the Showtime version of Chasing Ghosts to check out. When it rains, it pours!

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pre-order Dr. Horrible DVD!

The time has arrived at last! Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog has just become available for pre-order on amazon.com. It includes the highly anticipated "Commentary! The Musical" and at a cost of a mere TEN BUCKS, how can you NOT get this? Comes out December 19, makes the perfect Christmas gift!

Visit drhorrible.com for details.

World's Oldest Marijuana Stash

Oldest Marijuana Stash Found
Dec. 3, 2008 -- Nearly two pounds of still-green plant material found in a 2,700-year-old grave in the Gobi Desert has just been identified as the world's oldest marijuana stash, according to a paper in the latest issue of the Journal of Experimental Botany....

Discovery channel doesn't often get the chance to run a title like this, so I had to give it a nod.

Monday, December 1, 2008


I loved The King of Kong. When I first saw it, I practically cheered at the ending. That was back in February. Since then, as a result of seeing that film, I have
  • started blogging
  • found out that the largest classic arcade in the world is in my own backyard
  • gotten to know a lot of genuinely cool people from both the classic arcade gaming and documentary crowds
  • gotten back into classic arcade gaming myself
  • finally realized my dream of having a home arcade machine of my own!
  • discovered the world of geekumentaries (I knew about a few, like Spellbound and Word Wars, but that's the tip of the iceberg)
  • actually considered doing my own documentary
That's no small set of accomplishments for a mere film.

It's obvious from the start that The King of Kong tells a biased story. The more I looked into it, though, the more I realized that the facts had not just been skewed, they were omitted and twisted where it made for a stronger story. If you want to find out how deep the rabbit hole goes, take Jason Scott's red pill, but the movie won't be the same for you afterwards. At first, I brushed it off by saying, "I just approach it as a semi-fictional story and enjoy the ride." I'm finding it harder and harder to do that now, the more I learn.

I did in fact tie it for #1 in my Top 10 Geekumentaries list (next to TILT, which is beginning to look like the clear winner). Two things are now troubling me about this.
  1. Some people featured in the film feel slandered and inaccurately portrayed. A couple weekends back, I met many of them and got to spend some time getting to know them, and they all seemed like really nice people. People I'd be honored to consider friends. The inaccuracies bother them to varying degrees, but how can I endorse a movie that brings any degree of undeserved grief to people I've grown to respect? Even if it is through the very fact that I SAW this movie that we are friends?

  2. My geekumentary obsession has got me to thinking about making my own documentary. I was reading a book Friday night about making documentaries, and the author was adamant that one honor two simple "kindergarten-style" rules: Tell the truth, and don't hurt people. It seems that The King of Kong broke both those rules.
Only if it hadn't, if it hadn't grabbed my attention and won my heart with it's great yet inaccurate story, I wouldn't be reading that book, or writing this entry, and life wouldn't be nearly as interesting as it is right now.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

News on Get Lamp!

Got an update today from Jason Scott regarding the Get Lamp text adventure documentary he's working on. The projected date of completion has been pushed into 2009, which is not a surprise. The good news is that he's still jazzed about the film and the recent lack of updates is just due to a busy schedule.

He's started a blog dedicated to Get Lamp, which you can check out here.

You GO, Jason! Thanks for the update, and for the continued effort to provide us with another great geekumentary. I'm really looking forward to this one. :)

About a billion times better than Episode 1

I realize I'm pretty late to this particular party (yeah, yeah, RICK...), but maybe you are too, and will appreciate my willingness to excavate ancient treasures of the intarwebz. Unlike some people I know...RICK...

Get yourself some popcorn, this is going to take a while.

Want more? Yes you do. Check out the official site.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Messin with my childhood

What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.
- Ecclesiastes 1:9

Knight Rider, Transformers...Hollywood has often gone to the well of the past for ideas when new ideas are in short supply, but lately, it's getting crazy. Geeks of Doom just warned me that Disney's got a new Witch Mountain offering in the works.

First reaction: Oh wow, Escape to Witch Mountain... Tony... Tia... Winky! There's no way that can be remade, it's utter cheese and you had to be there:

I'd recently given the benefit of the doubt to the new Knight Rider series, and that hadn't gone so well (fun show, not Knight Rider). Sometimes there's just something intangible about what worked back in the day, and just modernizing the concept and making a new effects-filled redux often fails, especially if you emphasize the fact that it is a remake, trying to appeal to that original audience.

This new Witch Mountain offering, though...the trailer actually looks kinda fun.

I think this time if I can successfully convince myself that it has nothing to do with the originals, I might give it a go and like it.

You know what I'd really like to see? A live action re-do of Rikki Tikki Tavi in the style of Babe or Narnia (or a remake of A Cricket in Times Square, for that matter). But NOT of Watership Down. See, I think in the one case, it would work, but in the other, there's too much nostalgia tied to the original presentation.

And while I'm here, Seth Gordon recently threw out an update on the remake of The King of Kong. The most significant aspect being that it appears to still be a go. This fits today's theme, because even though The King of Kong is not really old enough to evoke nostalgia, trying to capture what was interesting about the original (the real people) is going to be a challenge. We'll see what happens.

Finally, jaQ had something very relevant to add to this discussion:

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

If I can't find a reindeer...

When the thought first came to him, Farmer Hoggett dismissed it as mere whimsey. But, like most of his hair-brained ideas, it wouldn't go away.
- Babe
I've been watching a lot of geek documentaries lately, and scouring the internet for more. I made a Top 10 list of the ones I've seen so far, and have been thinking about what subjects seem to be missing their own piece of the geekumentary pie.

Anime, for example, seems to be a very documentable geek sub-genre. From what I've learned, there have been at least two films completed on the subject, but it seems that neither of them got past the film festival stage (at least not yet). Another really great topic would, I'm convinced, be board games. There are two documentaries on Scrabble (Wordplay and Scrabylon), but that's not the sort of board game I'm talking about.

I mean the beautiful, often cerebral games coming out of Germany and other places that are not Wal-Mart. We're talking highly strategic games beyond RISK, though just as many are casual and don't take hours to play. There are conventions (many) and tournaments, and geeks gathering in groups at any house with lots of table space, staying up till 3 AM playing together (I'm not one of these). Even some snobbery towards the "lowest common denominator" style games cranked out here in the US. You know, ALL the hallmarks of a great geekumentary and I haven't even scratched the surface. OK, they probably dont dress up for the most part, though I did don a cloak one night when we were playing Mystery of the Abbey.

So I Google away for "board game documentary" and there are just no rumblings of any such thing in development. IndieGoGo lists a proposal for a doc based on Monopoly that would chronicle the big Monopoly tournament. That's interesting, I'd watch it, and I didn't know there WAS a "big Monopoly tournament." But that's not the sort of board game I'm talking about.

Then one night, the voice in the back of my head, idly musing, struck up a conversation. Some people out there make documentaries with no prior experience. What if I made a board gaming documentary?

The idea is ludicrous at this point in time. While I do know a few people (read: one) involved in the industry, have a brother who believes in me with film school and grip experience and a professional-grade camera, and have heard that one creator of such games is fairly local, I have two young kids, little free time on my hands, and nothing resembling venture capital. Such an endeavor would require a trip to the the Spiel convention in Germany, as well as treks to Origins, probably the Board Game Geeks con in Texas, and something on the West Coast. It would require hours of filming, no YEARS of filming. Learning how to film, how to edit (or finding someone who knows), and about a million OTHER things I'm not even aware of yet and have no skill in.

But this ludicrous idea... over a week later I'm still thinking about it. And despite all the logic I just laid down, a board game documentary needs to be made.

While it would be incredibly cool to pull it off, and as much as I admire people like Negin Farsad and Greg Maletic, I don't pretend to think that just because they could do it, so can I. As cliche as it sounds, all I really want to do is watch this movie. So is there such a doc in development already and I just don't know about it? If not, could somebody make one before I go tilting at this particular windmill?
But Farmer Hoggett knew that little ideas that tickled and nagged and refused to go away should never be ignored. For in them lie the seeds of destiny.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Games for Troops

I just noticed that BoardGame News is running their third annual Games for Troops drive:
As in 2006 and 2007, I’m hosting a “game for soldiers” drive for the upcoming holiday season. From now through November 24, all donations to BGN will be placed in a separate account to be used to purchase games for U.S. troops serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. What’s more, I’ll donate $10 from each $25 BGN membership paid for during that time period....

They're working with a board game retailer for discounted pricing. You can get all the details here, I just thought this was a great idea!

PS - Don't foget to check out Dominion, the new card game that is sort of the opposite of Magic: the Gathering - the game is in building your deck. We played the beta version a while back, and it was GREAT!

PPS - Don't miss Robot Chicken's sequel to their hilarious Star Wars spoof, tonight at 11:30 PM on Cartoon Network's Adult Swim!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Holy Movie News!

So...Ridley Scott's going to direct a movie based on Monopoly. The boardgame? Ridley Scott as in Aliens? Color me befuddled. Not only that, apparently Hasbro and Universal also have plans for movies based on Ouija and Battleship. OK, now THOSE you could have a LOT of fun with, but I'm still befuddled. And the He-Man movie was put on hold WHY, exactly? Cripes, Warner Brothers, these guys are planning a movie based on Monopoly. If they have the stones to do that, then by the power of Greyskull, YOU can do a He-Man movie!

I also just this week watched Casino Royale for the first time, in preparation for Quantum of Solace next week. I grew up with Bond movies, and still have memories of watching For Your Eyes Only on HBO as a kid, but for some reason I didn't think I was going to like Casino Royale. I was wrong, it was great, possibly my favorite Bond movie ever, and now I'm very much looking forward to Quantum of Solace! In no small part, because I just read that it's got a new Watchmen trailer attached to it. Oh, so does that mean The Watchmen is actually going to see the interior of a theater now? Awesome.

I'd like to take a moment to give a massive shout-out to Geeks of Doom. You guys are doing a phenomenal job, and I always look forward to the daily email. I know I've just betrayed one of my best sources for fun movie-related blog info, but oh well. You should check them out regularly.

YES YES YES! I just read on SpoutBlog that Chasing Ghosts is airing on Showtime in December! That just made my week. Here's the schedule:

Dec 3 8:45 AM
Dec 4 7:30 AM
Dec 5 3:00 AM
Dec 7 11:45 AM
Dec 9 11:45 AM

'Scuse me while I go sign up for Showtime...I mean, I was probably going to anyway, for Dexter, but now it's a must. Hopefully a DVD will also be available; I already know this is one I need to own.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


Bilbo went on the greatest adventureWould you believe, our cat came home Sunday night, after a week and a half on the lam?! I randomly looked out the kitchen window, and there he was in the yard. Overall, he's skin and Bilbones (he pretty much started out that way though), but in good spirits and happy to be home. His sister, on the other hand, is having a freak-out Pet Sematary/Changeling reaction to his return. Hopefully she's wrong about that.

And another beast arrived this week - the arcade machine! It looks MARVELOUS, the red trim is great, and Shawn did a flat-out amazing job on the control panel and wiring.

That's a lot of freakin wiring!
It's going to need a lot of tweaking - the xxxx-in-1 JAMMA board is, we've discovered, FAR from plug-and-play. In many ways it would have been easier to put a MAME-ulating computer into the cabinet, but I'm still happy with the JAMMA setup. Like with MAME, we're going to have to configure the controls for some of the more complicated and multiplayer fighting games, but classic games like Wonderboy and 2-player ones like Dungeons & Dragons seem to work just fine. We've got some learning to do, though, about dipswitch settings, and updating the hard drive so it will play trackball games properly.


It turned out that the marquee we liked best for it was not the one we originally considered. I did some mock-ups, and the simplicity and red tones of this version won.

Arcade Marquee from mamemarquees.com
In person, The Beast is also much more badass than I expected, and now that I've seen it, I think I will hold off on the side art. I just have this feeling that it would be displeased with cartoony flanks. Besides, I'm going to need that bit of cash to properly 80s-ify The Beast's room. It will need a Last Starfighter poster, and some He-man action figures, at the very least.

In other news, I noticed that a remake of Clash of the Titans is in the works. By the gods! I absolutely loved the original, so this is one of those dangerous yet exciting propositions.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

More Geek Documentaries

Our cat got out last week and I don't think he's coming back, so bear with me, I'm going back and forth between "get some perspective, it's just a cat" and full-out tears. Plus I missed the MC Frontalot concert in Boston last night. But, Tuesday is posting day, so I figured I'd let you know about a couple more geekumentaries I will be investigating.

In addition to Ball Saved and The History of Pinball, Mr. Maletic also let me know about a FOURTH pinball documentary in development, Pinball Passion.

I also discovered a second Nerdcore hip-hop documentary, Nerdcore for Life. This one's a more general look at nerds and the things that make them nerdy, and it looks GREAT. Here's the trailer:

(some profanity). Was that a shot of the Arkham Horror boardgame I saw? Oh yes it was!

PS - OMG @ what That Guy just brought to my attention. Just...watch it. The Hoff always knows when I need a little cheering up! <3

PPS - I just found out that Bruce Campbell's stopping by Boston on November 7 for a screening of his new movie, My Name is Bruce. There are quite a few stops on the tour, so if you're a Bruce Campbell fan, check it out!

Oh, and it's voting day. VOTE. Obviously.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Future Pinball

Now that I'm going to have a game room, I smartly subscribed to GameRoom magazine (great magazine so far). In the last couple issues, the were adamant about the coolness of a MAME-like pinball emulator project from Australia that's been around for a few years now called Future Pinball. At first, I was resistant. I have seen video pinball before and really just not liked it. If I'm going to play pinball, I said to myself, I want the physical aspects of the ball rolling around the table, and the clacking of actual flippers. Luckily, I caved and decided to check it out.

WOW. Future Pinball is just about as close to the real thing as a computer could get. It's light years ahead of anything I've seen before.

All you have to do is download and install the Future Pinball program, and then browse the collection of over 300 tables and download whatever you'd like into the tables folder within the Future Pinball directory. Then just launch the table, press "5" to add credits, and "1" to start. The shift keys work as the flippers, and enter launches the ball. There are many camera views to choose from, and you can either follow the ball's movement, or keep a static view of the whole table. I personally found that camera-scrolling with the ball was more exciting and gives you a nice view of the table details (F4 is my favorite view setting).

Many tables are recreations of actual classic pinball tables from manufacturers like Bally, Gottlieb, and Willams. The more complex tables like Addams Family and Medieval Madness don't seem to be there, but Pinbot, High Speed, and many others are faithfully recreated.

Some, however, are completely new creations. In my review of TILT, the pinball documentary, you may recall I said that George Gomez made me want to design pinball tables. Well, Future Pinball actually makes that possible to a pretty robust degree. Among the new tables I've enjoyed playing so far are War of the Worlds, Bubble Bobble, Halloween, The New Zealand Story, and Phantasm ("BOYYYYYYYY!..."). There's an Anarchy Online table, but surprisingly, no World of Warcraft-themed selection. Playing with your favorite theme will probably be one of the primary motivators for designing your own machine.

Future Pinball is one of those things that make you thankful for the intarwebz. Thanks, intarwebz! Now go check it out!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Top 10 Geekumentaries

In the last decade, making documentaries about the many niches of geek culture has become all the rage. This is due to the fact that geek culture itself is all the rage (or teh rage). The subject matter is varied and detailed, and its practitioners are generally quite passionate about their off-beat hobbies. Fruitful territory for documenting.

I'm not sure how it all went down, but one day somebody flipped over the rock where all the geeks and nerds were congregating (LAN party), and now we're all exposed, our pale flesh wriggling in the sunlight. It turned out we were actually kind of fascinating in a squirmy sort of way and... BAM! The geekumentary was born.

There are a multitude of geekumentaries out there you may or may not have heard of, so I whipped up my own Top 10 list (Top 10 lists are all teh rage).

10. Avatars Offline (2002)

This one came out quite some time ago and was all about people who meet online, and then in real life. It came out before World of Warcraft, however, so the online landscape was quite different from what it is now. That in itself makes Avatars Offline interesting to watch, though it is fairly difficult to find now. See it if you are interested in MMO history and online relationships, and can locate a copy.

The good news is, a new treatment of this subject matter is in the works in the form of Second Skin, due in theaters any day now, and DVD early 2009 (more info on that below).

9. Darkon (2006)

Darkon documents a group of weekend warriors in Maryland...literally, weekend warriors, as these guys are taking part in an honored geek tradition (oft considered geeky even among geeks), the LARP (Live-Action Roleplay).

The style of LARP featured in Darkon is very focused on land ownership and battles between kingdoms. It's more realistic than the style of LARP featured in Monster Camp, and the mere fact that there are enough sub-genres of LARP to result in two very different geekumentaries on the same subject is in itself impressive. Available on Netflix.

8. Wordplay (2006)

Wordplay explores the secret world of crossword puzzles, through the crafty eyes and at the newsprint-stained hands of those devoted to them. ("His thumb and forefinger are blackened, just as Brother William foretold!") Several celebrities talk about their love of crossword puzzles, including Ken Burns (the czar of documentaries). Available on Netflix.

7. Nerdcore Rising (2008)

Nerdcore Rising tells the tale of nerd rapper MC Frontalot and his first big tour, leading up to an appearance at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. Full of geeks and geek topics, and sporting interviews with Weird Al Yankovic, it's a worthy addition to the geekumentary family and will make you feel proud to be nerdcore (unless you played Hassle: The Dorkening once). Full review.

6. Spellbound (2002)

Spellbound is "the story of eight American children who set out to win the National Spelling Bee." Whenever children are involved in something highly competitive, you can't help but think about the pressures involved, and wonder if the parents are the ones who want the win, and are just living vicariously through their kids. Spellbound doesn't give me that impression. The parents of these competitors seem loving and encouraging, and the children appear to be growing in a healthy manner through the experience, win or lose. You also get to hear from some adults who were child spelling bee competitors. Available on Netflix.

5. Word Wars (2004)

Word Wars is all about Scrabble. Competitive Scrabble. If you didn't know there was such a thing, that's what geekumentaries are here for! In Word Wars, you'll meet a stable of satisfyingly quirky Scrabble players, including those that religiously travel the tournament circuit, as well as the "parkies" who play in Washington Square Park, New York, but are just as serious as the tournament players. One question to ponder; do mood enhancers and brain boosters count as steroids in a competition of the mind? Word Wars, also, is available on Netflix (heads-up: though 4-letter words don't make for great Scrabble scores, this movie contains some profanity).

4. Monster Camp (2007)

Like Darkon, Monster Camp is about a group of LARPers, this time it's the Seattle chapter of NERO (New England Roleplaying Organization). NERO is more monster-focused than the kingdom politics and factional warring flavor featured in Darkon, but both are rich with in-fighting and great geeky utterances. As geeks go, the ones featured in Monster Camp prove rather endearing, especially when their chapter is in danger of being shut down. Available on Netflix. Full review.

3. Trekkies (1997)

Trekkies documents the Star Trek phenomenon, and its devotees. Meet fully decked-out Klingon fans who actually speak Klingon as this film boldly goes into the trek convention space, and other places. Like Trek, this documentary's been around for a while, but is well-done, and even though the Trek scene is no longer at the level it was in 1997, Trek is such a core segment of geekdom that it would be highly illogical not to include it here. Available on Netflix.

1. The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters

I know people who couldn't care less about arcade games, yet were literally glued to The King of Kong for the duration of this movie. It's entertaining and weaves a classically accessible tale. You'll notice a slant to the way things are presented, but that's exactly what makes it an entertaining story and is, ultimately, a director's perrogative.

New Line's also got plans in the works to do a fictional comedy remake of the film. The King of Kong is a great gateway geekumentary, and one in which the saga continues beyond the film. Available on Netflix. Full review.

1. TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball (2007)

TILT tells the story of a last-ditch effort to reinvent pinball when one of the biggest manufacturers, Williams, had their pinball division on the chopping block in favor of the slot machine business.

TILT and The King of Kong get #1 here for different areas of strength. TILT does a great job of relating the early history of pinball, and telling the compelling story of the Pinball 2000 project in a visually beautiful manner. It's an insightful look at the external business factors that affect all creative projects. TILT also blows away any and all competition as far as extras; it's the only geekumentary I've seen with a bonus disc, and the quality of the nearly seven hours of bonus material is excellent. With any luck, you'll see it on Netflix soon, but it's one you should own anyway. Full review.

Honorable Mention
  • The Planet of the Doctor. This one's a multi-part documentary you can view online for free. Doctor Who is certainly a solid geek genre, and this documentary is a great primer for anybody not well-versed with the series (like ME, OK? I admit it!).
  • The Making of Army of Darkness. OK, this one's not strictly a standalone documentary, it's a bonus feature in the "Boomstick Edition" of Army of Darkness. But it deserves mention, because it was just so much FUN to watch them puppeting skeletons all over the place, doing crazy effects and stunts, and goofing off in typical Sam Raimi style. And...Bruce Campbell. Enough said.

Still on my "to see" list:
These are some films that my web crawling has unearthed, but are not redily available for rent.
On the TILT director's commentary, Greg Maletic also mentions another pinball documentary (Ball Saved correction, The Histsory of Pinball) and a pizza documentary that I'm now on the hunt for.

Some Promising Geekumentaries In Development
The following films are still in the works, but have the potential to break into the Top 10 list without too much trouble when they're released.
  • Chasing Ghosts, another serving of the classic arcade gaming scene.
  • Second Skin, a film covering MMOs and the people who play them, including a look into the life of a gold farmer.
  • Get Lamp, a documentary about early 80's text adventures (the Infocom-style games like Zork). Plus it features a theme song from MC Frontalot!

Know of a geekumentary I've missed? I'd love to hear about it!

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Livin at the Corner of LaGuardia and Catastrophe

You know those times in The Amazing Race when they'd get to the airport, and the ticket window was closed, so they had to camp there till it opened at 4 AM the next day? I must say I really don't see the attraction at the moment...

After being at a business conference all week, a delayed flight and a missed connector has me stranded in LaGuardia airport tonight. I didn't even get to book a new flight, since by the time I had tracked down my checked bag, the ticket counter was closed. Yes, yes, I know this stuff happens all the time, but it was a first for me, and it's open bar at MY pity parties!

I'm over it now, actually. I'm tired, wanted to be home by now, and I've got a sore throat, but I've also got all my stuff, and a laptop, and even a cup of coffee now (cue angelic chorus). No headphones, so I can't listen to the Frontalot I've got or watch the rest of the Dr. Who episodes I took with me (don't worry, THEY were safely in my carry-on!). After buying wireless internet (LAME!), I did the only other thing one COULD do in this situation. Started downloading roms...

And I'm SO beating the other teams to the ticket counter 4 hours from now!

PS - aww, bummer. Warner Bros. has put the brakes on their He-Man Greyskull movie.

PPS - Now it's 3:30 in the morning, I'm wide awake, don't ask me how. This creepy guy came and sat at the table next to mine, you know, one of those times when there are maybe 1,000 open tables in the vicinity, but they sit RIGHT next to yours. So I had to stop playing MAME because it would have been a conversation-starter...He's gone now, but I'm suddenly reminded of the girl who spends most of Adventures in Babysitting at the bus terminal.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Geekumentary: TILT

In 1998 pinball was dying, thanks to a saturated market and shrinking player base. Williams, the world's largest pinball manufacturer, prepared to abandon the game that had made it a legend in favor of the more lucrative video slot machine business.

From its nostalgic opening jaunt though pinball history to its heartbreaking ending, employing remarkable animation throughout, TILT: The Battle to Save Pinball is a fascinating case study for anyone interested not just in pinball, but in the march of technology and the intersection of art and commerce.

I've never played a lot of pinball. I like the concept, like the lights and sounds and flipping those flippers, but it's not as if I'm good at it or a frequent player, certainly not a pinball enthusiast. But I'm on this geekumentary kick, and the only way I was going to see TILT was to buy it, so I did.

I'm glad I did, this was a really good one. Not only is the history of pinball an interesting one (it was years before the pair of flippers we're all familiar with were added to the bottom), the story of Pinball 2000 is one of those classic underdog tales. The subjects interviewed, mostly pinball designers and industry people, are not as colorful as the guys from The King of Kong, but I liked them, and I was pulling for them. George Gomez, one of the primary team members for Pinball 2000, made me want to be a pinball designer.

The Pinball 2000 project that the film documents was an attempt to update pinball by integrating video onto the pinball field. It was an exciting concept, and it looked great, and I was genuinely sad that I'd never gotten to see or play one. Only two models were completed, Revenge from Mars and Star Wars Episode 1, and as it turned out, Episode 1 played a large part in killing the project. And I thought I hated Jar-Jar before...

Not only is the feature presentation good, it comes with a bonus DVD packed with almost seven hours of really excellent extras, including a pivotal key note speech from a pinball convention, and a walkthrough on the process of creating a pinball machine. Even the Pinball 2000 launch video shown by Williams to its buyers. They really gathered together everything you could hope for on the topic of pinball.

This film caused me to do two things:

  1. I looked for Revenge from Mars on ebay. And it was THERE. Tempting, very tempting. I always said if I ever got a pinball machine, it would have to be Theater of Magic, but now I'd be sorely tempted to grab a Revenge from Mars if I had the chance.

  2. I headed up to Funspot to play pinball till my wrists hurt! Which didn't take very long at all (Pinball Wizard has such a carpal wriiiiist). Favorites from the trip were Pinbot and the Nightmare on Elm Street machine. Star Trek: Next Gen is also one of my favorites, but it was turned off that day, and they don't have Theater of Magic, my VERY favorite. They do have KISS and Adam's Family machines, featured in TILT.

To conclude, if you're at all interested in pinball or documentaries in general, buy this one! You'll enjoy it, and it stands up to multiple viewings.

Read about other geekumentaries in my Top 10 Geekumentaries article.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Hammer, meet nail

What's Nathan Fillion been up to since Dr. Horrible? Well, when he's not Nailing Your Wife, he's writing crime dramas!

How does he find the time?

Rock Band account linkage

is freaking annoying.

You can now create pictures with your band members, action figures of them, and t-shirts, etc., featuring your band! Allegedly. If I could get the XBox account to link properly. I'm trying to be patient, but the process is buggy and not well-documented. It would probably help if I knew what our XBox live email-tied account was, but I'm pretty sure I have that part right. I'd request the password, but I'm afraid to mess up our game login. This leaves me no choice but to bring my husband in on the process, which is unfortunate because I was going to surprise him with bandmates of our characters for Christmas, and now he'll be on to me.

I've tried twice now and am quite frustrated. I'm sure I'll get it working eventually, but I wanted to grumble in the meantime.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Geekumentary: Nerdcore Rising

Nerdcore Rising follows MC Frontalot, the godfather of Nerdcore Hip Hop, on his first national tour. Along the way, Frontalot fanatics and music industry notables reveal the roots of the genre, the dorky complexity of its artists, and one MC's quest for nerd stardom.

It's 12:45 AM and I just finished watching the newly released Nerdcore Rising. As many as three of you may recall I stumbled onto Frontalot recently by way of the Get Lamp documentary (in development). Imagine my elation to hear that this was a 2 for 1 discovery! Frontalot was just coming out with his OWN documentary. There was a Boston screening of the film last week which I tragically missed, but held my own tonight on the couch, draped in a blanket and two cats.

Nerdcore Rising follows the MC Frontalot crew on their first big tour, which culminates in an appearance at the Penny Arcade Expo in Seattle. I can't WAIT till PAX comes to Boston in 2010!

"I do get emotional when I read Harry Potter books" - MC Chris, Nerdcore rapper

I enjoyed this documentary, largely because I am all about this artist's music at the moment, but it was entertaining regardless. One thing that struck me was that these guys are just so normal. It's really quite endearing when you see their reactions to being snubbed by a college radio station, or how excited they are when they see the line of people at PAX that are waiting to see THEM. My very favorite part was when one of the band members issued the bubbly proclaimation, "So Kimmy says she wants to learn Magic: the Gathering, anyone else?" which elicits Frontalot's perfectly intoned, "You can't be #$%$@ serious." What followed brought me back to my early days learning M:tG. If you've played Hassle: the Dorkening (even once...especially once), you'll laugh.

"Frontalot raps about all the things I care about, like Magic: the Gathering...and internet porn addiction" - fan

Nerdcore Rising ranks in my top 10 geekumentaries list because the very nature of Frontalot's fanbase means that interviewing them hits on many geeky genres. There's frequent wookie yodeling by the band, and the fans include IT professionals, WoW players, LARPers...nerds. In a good way. The doc's also got interviews with Weird Al on the subject of nerdcore, which automatically gives it a +2 nerd check.

"...comic books, horror films, video games...all stuff that 15 year old kids love, and I'm not 15."
Right on, Brian Posehn, me too! I've been nerdcore all this time, and only now begun to appreciate it. Nerdcore is indeed rising. Hello, world!

Read about other geekumentaries in my Top 10 Geekumentaries article.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Geekumentary: Monster Camp

Monster Camp is a rare and fascinating glimpse into the world of live-action role playing or "LARPing," a real-life version of "World of Warcraft" where gamer stereotypes are simultaneously shattered and confirmed.

The most recent item unearthed in my geekumentary quest is Monster Camp, a LARP documentary released in 2007 chronicling the activities of the Seattle, Washington chapter of NERO, a well-established LARP association with chapters all over the country. Apparently, the NERO scene on the East Coast is livelier (not surprising, given it stands for New England Roleplaying Organization), and the relative lack of support staff to run these labor-intensive events is one of the factors that contributes to the story here.

My husband's played NERO when he was younger, and though he doesn't seem too keen on the possibility of going back now that we're all grown up, I love the stories he tells about zombies attacking taverns, and people venturing off into the woods to investigate the tales of an old witch's cottage.

Monster Camp is not the first LARPing documentary on the scene; Darkon was released a year earlier, and followed a group of Maryland LARPers (definitely check out the trailer), but the flavor of LARP is quite different between the two. Darkon's LARPers are involved in a more political, kingdom-based style of play, while Monster Camp depicts pretty much what I imagine when I think of LARPing; people dressing up in monster costumes and throwing seed-filled beanbags at each other while shouting "Lightning Bolt!"

Between the two, I have to say I preferred Monster Camp, partly because the political intrigue thing just isn't as interesting to me (plus I watched Darkon right after The King of Kong, so my expectations could have been unfairly high for a purely fact-based documentary). Monster Camp did a good job at keeping the story moving, with a good mix of funny and poignant situations. It provided priceless section intro titles like, "Paul's father Steve is a monster." and quotes like, "This is technically my 5th year as a high school senior..." I think this is what they were referring to when they said stereotypes were confirmed, but they ARE then shattered in the sense that you (or at least I) grow to see these guys as human beings with feelings, just participating in a social hobby they enjoy. Or maybe you'll just see them as a freakish curiosity, but if so, the most masterful documentary wouldn't be able to sway you, and you probably wouldn't be reading this. Since you're a cruel and cold-hearted jerk.

I recommend Monster Camp to anyone who's curious about the LARP scene. Darkon's a good movie too, but in the end I think Monster Camp is a more accessible addition to the geekumentary family. But heck, if you're as into geek docs as I am, see them both!

One thing I should warn you about, though, is that they do diss on pen and paper D&D a bit. From what I heard, that remark led to a massive geek gang battle, straight out of Weird Al's Eat It. It was pretty intense, D20s and beanbags flying everywhere, armor checks and critical parries...but that's a story for another time.

Read about other geekumentaries in my Top 10 Geekumentaries article.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

You can never go back

I caught the first episode of the new Knight Rider this week, and while I still find it entertaining, I regret to say, it just doesn't have the magic of the original. It's more Transformers meets James Bond, and if you approach it as a Bond-style scenario, it's probably a lot more enjoyable than if you go into it with any sort of fond memories of The Hoff and his "KITT, I need ya, buddy!" Plus they seem to be laying on a thick layer of government conspiracy plot. Oh yay.

I'm sad now. :( I'll probably keep watching it to see if it evolves, but maybe the problem is just that; it DID evolve.

I still want to put that "KITT Happens" bumper sticker on my car though.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Rock Band action figures on the way

There's an announcement on the Rock Band forums about a big site update coming next week. Among many cool features is the one I've been eagerly awaiting (no, not the availability of Crowded House tracks, though now that you mention it...). I'm talking about those $75 action figure versions of your Rock Band character!

As if that weren’t enough, in addition to posters, shirts, and stickers, you can make customized 3D statues of your favorite Rock Band 2 characters, which we’ve dubbed “Bandmates”. These things are awesome. They’re about 6” tall, made using full-color 3D printing technology from Z Corporation. Just pick a character, an instrument, and a pose, and they’ll get shipped to your door for about 70 bucks. The Harmonix office is swarming with Bandmate prototypes. After we'd evaluated a test run, we’d give them away to employees, and there was always a mad scramble to grab them on giveaway day.

I may get a t-shirt too...I've been wondering when the online integration piece of this that was obviously required would fall into place. This sounds like it. Which I am pretty sure means that they're tying in the XBox live database and your account information to an account on rockband.com somehow, maybe your forum account even. Lots of possibilities there once they do.

They also mention picture functionality to take pictures of your band and make them available online, which is awesome news. I literally tried last night to take a picture of T-Cat to post here with a digital camera, but the batteries were low. It seems they knew what I was up to, and felt that T-Cat deserved better.


There's no arguing that Battlestar is THE best show on tv, but Showtime's Dexter is right behind it, or, maybe, next to it...poised with a needle in a dark alley...

Dexter is a series about a blood spatter expert in the Miami police force who also happens to be a vigilante serial killer. But since he only kills the most wicked dregs of society (and does his homework to be sure), you totally root for him. Season 2 just came out on DVD, and Season 3's currently running on Showtime.

From the moment I put in the first DVD I knew I was hooked, just from the intro sequence, which takes elements of the mundane morning routine and makes them feel...murderific? The music's great too.

Dexter is a cleverly-written dark comedy with great characters and cast. I especially enjoy Erik King's portrayal of Sgt. Doakes, the short-fuzed officer who just KNOWS Dexter's up to something, stews and obsesses about it, but can't quite prove it. Michael C. Hall's inner monologue narrative is also well-delivered, clever and engaging, and he does a phenomenal job of pulling off the utterly split personality a serial killer in hiding would need to master.

Beyond the quality of the production, another reason I think Dexter appeals is the overlying subject matter, the way it plays with the themes of what lies beneath. It takes one's imperfect dark side and says, "Hey, I know exactly how you feel. Nobody understand the real you." I'm not a serial killer, but I'm sure I'm not the only one that sometimes has thoughts that don't fit with society at large. You know, like cheering for vigilante serial killers... Except in this case, I know I'm not the only one hoping Dexter gets away with it. :)

More and more, I'm noticing that I prefer these premium channel series' to prime time tv (with the exception of Fringe at the moment and of course Battlestar). They don't dumb the subject matter down the way most network tv shows do now. Big thanks to my friend Rick for introducing us to this series. If you don't get Showtime, Netflix it!


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Knight Rider premiere tonight

Just in case you forgot, the new Knight Rider series kicks off tonight at 8/7 Central on NBC.

If you just can't wait another moment, or aren't sure which channel on your cable listings is NBC, you can watch the online premiere. RIGHT NOW! ZOMG!

I also heard that not a ton of people (a mere 9 million or so) checked out Fringe. It seems America is now hand-shy from repeated abuse by convoluted plots. Seeeeeeee Abrams and Carter? I TOLD YOU! But seriously, so far, Fringe is not like that. It's fairly simplistic and predictable, and mindlessley entertaining! Right up our alley, America!

That's some good BBQ

This was a recent Discovery Channel moment I wanted to share.

One really nice fall day last week, I was having a pulled pork sandwich on the patio area at our local Tex-mex restaurant. A yellowjacket stopped by, and spent a lot of time buzzing around, scoping out our food. They don't really bother me that much, though I've been stung before, but he seemed more persistent then average, and eventually landed on my sandwich. I figured he'd maybe lick of some of the barbecue sauce, and then leave us in peace. Instead, as I watched he began to use his mouth pinchers and forelegs to pull himself off a big (as in, about the size of his body) chunk of pork, and flew away with it!

It was really a suprising moment, I had no idea yellowjackets did that, or even that they were carnivorous, but apparently they can be:

Although adults feed primarily on items rich in sugars and carbohydrates (fruits, flower nectar and tree sap), the larvae feed on proteins (insects, meats, fish, etc.). Adult workers chew and condition the meat fed to the larvae. Larvae in return secrete a sugar material relished by the adults, an exchange of material known as trophallaxis.

Now didn't my blog make you feel smarter just then? I can't imagine there are larvae hanging out right now given the time of year, so if you ask me, this particular fellow has just caught on to the deliciousness that is barbeque. He might be a tailgater.

We were still talking about it when he came back...for seconds! He struggled with another more stubborn bit of pork that I was sure would soon have him rolling head over...wings onto the bun, but eventually got it loose and again departed.

By the time he came back for thirds, I was really wishing I had a camcorder or at least my camera. It was fascinating to watch, and though I don't speak yellowjacket, I know he was saying to himself, "Goddammit, that's some good barbecue!"

On the subject, my favorite barbecue places in the region are:

  • Red Bones Barbeque: Davis Square, Sommerville MA. Meat in a bucket? We're there!

  • KC's Rib Shack: Manchester, NH. Deep fried pickles and huuuuush puppies...and big squeeze-bottles full of different BBQ sauces.

  • Firefly's Bar-B-Que: Framingham, MA. Phantom Gourmet favorite, with good reason.

  • Rockin' Ribfest: Anheuser-Busch Brewry, Merrimack, NH. There's never enough time or stomach real estate to sample everything I'd like to, but it's a great summertime event.

  • Longhorn Steakhouse: all over the place. Not barbeque per se, but I love the ribs there!

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Pac-man...on the catwalk?

Retro always comes back into style. If you had a wardrobe of 70's bell-bottoms, I hope you didn't throw those away, because they are BACK. Again. And if you had a giant plastic pac-man hat, I certainly hope you held onto it...

According to top industry minds, pac-man is going to be all the rage next Spring. Or at least, fashion designer Giles Deacon seems to think so. Check out all the pictures from his Spring-Summer 2009 collection, shown at the recent London Fashion Week. Finally, high fashion in a form I can relate to!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Rush Moving Pictures tommorrow

Just a quick note that it looks like the Moving Pictures DLC is finally coming out this week, 9/23, according to the Rock Band forums, as well as the following individual tracks:
Bad Religion - Sorrow
The Cult - She Sells Sanctuary
Hot Hot Heat - Bandages
Kasabian - Shoot the Runner
Sleater-Kinney - You're No Rock N Roll Fun
Stone Roses - Love Spreads
And another news flash for you, Walter Cronkite...TCat's back in Rock Band 2, and now she's rockin' bass on HARD! And surviving, though it's not as pretty as her medium guitar stylings. I even went into the online battle mode with The TCat Project and kicked the snot out of a couple unsuspecting bands. Awwwwww yeah!

Update 9/23 - Yep, Moving Pictures is there, alright. We downloaded it this morning, and tonight I'm gonna rockit tonight I'm gonna rockit tonight!

Thursday, September 18, 2008


OK, look, JJ Abrams is NOT the reincarnation of Chris Carter. Chris Carter isn't dead, for one thing. And it's not as if Abrams had a show that started off really cool and then strangled itself through the sheer number of conspiracies, mysteries and loose ends it created for itself...errr...oh, right. LOST.

Well, it's not as if he's got a show about strange and unexplained phenomena being investigated by the FBI...with a hot female playing the role of one of the agents... and sexual tension between the two leads...emmm...

Here's how things went down with Carter, as best I can recall. X-Files was an awesome and quirky series covering subject matter like deadly fungus, la chupacabra, and robot cockroach spies. But then it got all government conspiracy. Blah. Then Carter unveiled Millennium, which hit the ground running with Lance Henriksen as the lead, a great premise, and some great episodes. But then it got all government conspiracy. Carter, did you learn nothing??

Along comes JJ Abrams with LOST, and the country goes nutty. A book used as a prop in an episode jumped into the best sellers lists as a result. LOST hit the ground running with a great premise and some great episodes and then...yeah, you know what happened. Conspiracy and stupid convoluted plot twists to the point that I utterly LOST interest. It was a shame.

Last Sunday we caught the latest JJ Abrams series, Fringe. And you know what, it's not half bad! And Tuesday night the second episode aired, and also was not half bad! Which makes me nervous. The premise involves a possible big-picture pattern of unexplained phenomena, but the pattern I'm more concerned with is the X-Files/Millennium/LOST one described above.

The cast is solid, including John Noble (Denethor in The Return of the King) as the eccentric mad scientist. Granted, some of Fringe is cheesy (you HAVE to strip down to your underwear and get in the water to communicate telepathically with coma victims. Everyone knows that. It's science.) but for the most part, it was enjoyable and interesting, and used some cool animations and integrated location text.

You can see the premiere episode of Fringe on the official site. In the end, it's fine for the show to follow the general premise of X-Files (I liked the general premise of X-Files!), but can we just this once NOT ruin yet another good series by smothering it with a cheap synthetic pillow of plot twists and conspiracy? I'm a little uneasy about the threat of this that the mysterious Massive Dynamic corporation represents, but so far, that's being well-represented by Blair Brown in the role of Nina Sharp.

Oh, and my new Trek movie, Abrams, you better watch your step with that! Do a good job or as Heidi Klum and all the major league umpires like to say, "You're OUT!"

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

RB2 as history lesson

This morning I came across a really cool article on Xbox 360 Fanboy. The folks at Joystiq have discovered that you can get a perfect expert score on Rock Band 2 vocals by reciting the Declaration of Independence. Check the video:

This is cool not only because I will feel all badass getting perfect on vocals, but also because they've actually found a back-door way to get people to listen to a full reading of the Declaration of Independence! It's edutainment at its best, highly relevant in the middle of the political season, and as I watched the video, I did get a few goosebumps as the vocal deploy kicked in.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

MC Frontalot

Where have you been all my life?! (or, Why do I always have to be the last one to know??)

Last week I mentioned my first experience with MC Frontalot, when a friend sent over the It is Pitch Dark video. At the time I took note of other intriguingly named videos there such as The pr0n song and Crime Spree, but didn't have time then to check them out.

A few days later, I was on the Rock Band forums in search of Moving Pictures news. I was reading the list of latest DLC tracks, the PAX pack, and noticed that an MC Frontalot song was in there (as well as a Jonathan Coulton track). So that night we downloaded Livin’ on the Corner of Dude and Catastrophe. It's got a GREAT beat, though medium guitar on the song is way too easy, and hard guitar is WAY too hard, at least for me. At the end of it, though, I said, "That's it, I'm buying this guy's CD."

The next day I went to the MC Frontalot website, and a whole new world was revealed unto me. This is my new Weird Al (all due respect to Al, I'm just sayin' it's awesome to find another artist of that caliber).

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Rick and Creationists attacking Spore

So today the big buzz about Spore was regarding a creationist website called Antispore.com protesting the game and attacking Spore for it's evolutionary teachings.

Spore attacked as un-Godly
Evolutionary theme unpopular with Creationist
An Anti-Spore site has appeared online to protest against the evolutionary message of the popular game.

The site says that the EA game is their "biggest attack on Christian values to date" and "will not be tolerated".

Concerned that the game will "invade our homes and poison the minds of our children", the site's author writes:

"Yesterday I found out about a new game called Spore when my son asked me to buy it for him. It looked innocent enough at first and has E for Everyone ESRB rating. But don't be mislead, apparently 'everyone' means everyone they want to teach evolution to."

The site also attacks EA employees with the nicely worded: "not a single one with enough Jesus to stand up and say what they are doing is wrong".

An intrepid investigatory friends pointed out the following section of the blog:

But the Bible teaches us that God was not done with man. For we were His creation and He then spoke to Noah in Genesis 8:21-27 after the flood.
“21. The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: “Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never gonna give you up.
22. “Never gonna let you down.”
23.”Never gonna run around and desert you.”
24. “Never gonna make you cry.”
25. “Never gonna say goodbye.”
26. “Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you.”
27.”Never truly believe anything you read on the Internet. There will always be cases of Poe’s Law.”

It’s these teachings that I’ve spent my life learning, believing and becoming, that have made me the woman that I am today.

OK, while I admit the thought that this might be fake occurred to me briefly, I was a victim of this most holy rick roll. Well done...though now the entire intarwebz is angry at the creationists.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Rock Band + Reality TV?

OK, I love Rock Band and all, but this is just...weird. There's going to be a Rock Band reality tv show? By Mark Burnett productions? These are the guys that started reality tv with Survivor, and have had numerous solid reality tv hits since then, so if anyonoe can do it, they can.

I just don't know. I'm a closet reality tv buff, recently burned out for good on Survivor, love The Apprentice (but it's getting old), and will watch anything Gordon Ramsay. While we're on the subject, Bravo's got a couple winners right now with Project Runway and Million Dollar Listing. Especially Million Dollar Listing. Good stuff, who says the real estate market's in a slump?

Anyway, the casting call information showed up on craigslist of all places. If you live in the Los Angeles area, I say go for it; the ad emphasizes that no experience is necessary. Man, if only I lived out there, I would floor them with my mean medium guitar skillz!

But a Rock Band reality show? I mean, what are they going to DO, exactly? Pretend to have concerts and backstage parties, pretend to cut record deals, fight amongst themselves, enter rehab, and go on solo tours? Actually...that sounds pretty funny. OK, I'm in.

Update - 9/13. Confirmed.

Get Lamp - early 80s Text Adventures

Maybe it's just me, but I often experience a brief moment of hesitation when a friend throws me a YouTube link these days. A brief moment where I wonder, OK, is this going to be worth clicking right now, and sacrificing minutes of my life to? It's partly due to the prolific number and variety of videos on YouTube, there's just so much there, you never know what you're going to get, or if teh funnay will be strong with this one.

My friend Sean recently sent me such a link. Now Sean is a good source for cool; when he's not taking clever perspective pictures with his action figure collection for storyboard comics, writing toy reviews for scifi.com, or creating art for The Lord of the Rings Online (his "day job"), he's writing Infocom-style text adventures. So naturally, I checked out the link with confidence, and so should you:

The long and short of it is, there's a documentary in development about text adventures called Get Lamp (which I'm constantly almost mis-reading as "Got Lamp?") and MC Frontalot was inspired to do a song on the subject. I hadn't heard of him before (OMG, have I been missing OUT!), and it's been a decade or more since I've played a text adventure, but the song is really catchy, and any gamer can pretty much get the gist.

Now, the last few years have been amazing for geeky documentaries: Wordplay, Word Wars, Darkon, The King of Kong, and the upcoming Chasing Ghosts to name a few. In this gluttonous era of plenty, a documentary about text adventures is maybe taken a bit for granted, but is just as welcome as another birthday present would be. One of the biggest and most fertile subject matters yet to be documented, as far as I know, is Magic: the Gathering. That should be good - trust me, there's easily as much drama and intrigue there as was portrayed in The King of Kong.

But I digress. For those of you who aren't familiar with Infocom, they were the primary producer of text adventure games for the PC back when PCs were new. Games like Zork and Planetfall may ring a bell. I didn't play them extensively, but I do remember them, and the heartbreaking moment in Planetfall where Floyd...well, it was one of the first times I remember a game making me feel emotion. The Get Lamp site summarizes this genre very well:
...adventure games would describe a place, and then ask what to do next. They presented puzzles, tricks and traps to be overcome. They were filled with suspense, humor and sadness. And they offered a unique type of joy as players discovered how to negotiate the obstacles and think their way to victory.
The reason these games were so engaging was the fact that you were not picking your next move from a handful of 5 or so stated choices; you were coming up with commands (such as get lamp, open hatch, go north, climb ladder) on your own. It took the concept of Choose Your Own Adventure books to the next level, and the focus was on the story, because there were no graphics. You had to plot dungeons and environments on a piece of paper as you explored them, and really read the text, which honestly, you don't have to do in most RPGs these days. Overall, this labor intensity meant one had a lot more time and work invested in a text adventure, which is what made them special.

The nice thing is, people are still creating text adventures, and there's even software available to do it with. If you are inspired to check out the old Infocom titles, you will have some luck on the amazon.com resellers scene, or Ebay, and can also find JAVA versions online to play free.

UPDATE: On creating text adventures, Sean had the following to note:
The de-facto standard language for writing text adventures at the moment is INFORM. There are two currently-used versions. Inform 6, which is very code-like, and a new and very hot Inform 7 which uses almost English commands, allowing people who don't know coding to write their own games fairly easily. The IF community hangs out in a newsgroup, and I7 has more-or-less supplanted I6, though I'm currently using I6 because I like code more than I like pseudo-english for coding.
He also mentioned another popular text adventure coding language known as TADS. Hope that helps any of you interested in taking a stab at it!

Get Lamp was originally due to be released this past June, but seems to have been delayed. I'm really looking forward to it, and will keep you posted!

UPDATE - Nov. 25, 2008. A new weblog has been created for Get Lamp. Check out Taking Inventory for the latest news on the film's progress!