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Friday, March 14, 2008

TV Watch: Lost, Ji Yeon

This was a bit of a meh episode for me - but not exactly bad. I'm generally a Sun and Jin fan, so even if everything plotwise seemed to slide towards the inevitable it was at least fairly fun to watch. Not a lot of revelations here - just twists and turns to get us from point A to point B.

And talking about bizarre - if you thought that was stunt actress and Death Proof star Zoe Bell in the quick role as a freightie - you would be right.

Even with these constant points of bizarre - I do like that it feels like the worlds outside the island is slowly beginning to emerge. We know that the island's effects aren't limited to the shores. We're seeing that time is warped not just for the extreme situations like Des but for everyone as well. There's an culminating theory on the net that the "H20" references are linked to the rushing water sound we hear with scene transitions - in that water is some kind of conduit for the island itself.

I can't figure out if seeing Michael is surprising or not. It was always suspicious that leaving the island would be as easy as just heading out in one direction (especially on that kind of boat). It does bring up questions like where's Walt and what's up with the amnesia and all ... but it isn't like we saw him die or anything.

My guess? If anyone gets the axe next week - Michael would be my pick. In a show about redemption, Michael has a lot of redeem at this point.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

And Once There Was Gygax

Gary Gygax passed away while I was off in Spain. You can say you what you want about who wrote what when or why - but there isn't a man on the planet who shouldn't be able to acknowledge what he helped spark when he helped birth an entire genre. A genre - as in something that will encompass not just your work ... but a body of work to follow.

The love from the net has been flowing strong ... probably because Gygax was such a protogeek that most geeks have felt some kind of heritage with him and the rest have at least a passing reference at his name.

For me, Dungeons and Dragons was a seminal experience in social gaming. Basically you can categorize such things as board games with the family and D&D with my brother and cousins and then later an Atari 2600 and Intellivision. Obviously these two groups have different aspects. I didn't campaign with Night Stalker nor did I spend days drawing on graph paper for Pitfall.

It's easy to forget now, now in the days of Wii, that back then paper was king. Even with the television around, if one could get a good game going around the table one often would. Thanks to Gygax and his kind, my brother and I were hooked. We broadened our taste for the whole experience past even what TSR could offer - our masive library included Doctor Who, James Bond, Marvel, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, Star Frontiers, Boot Hill, Rifts, TMNT, Robotech and even Toon ... the oddball collaboration between Steve Jackson and Greg Costikyan. We weren't limited by systems or genre - we would just play whatever struck us (or whatever had just been released).

This all lasted up through college. I even wrote my own ruleset which actually was probably the last campaign I ever GM'd.

Honestly I think there's a section of gaming which computer still just completely fail us. The closest to getting people around a table and agreeing to a set of rules I can think of there is a decent LAN match with everyone being able to (at the very least) yell at each other.

Let's face it - if you can't look at your friend who, during the loosely based alliances of such games, just backstabbed you in the eye ... you're really losing something. And VOIP doesn't even come close to cutting it.

So rest in peace, Gary. Rest in peace.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Where's Your TV?

In case you were wondering when your favorite show is returning in the wake of the WGA strike, TV Guide has a great rundown of what show is returning when.

Pushing Daisies is held until fall due the physics surrounding a certain show that rhymes with Midol. Sarah Connor Chronicles has an uncertain fate at this point, but I for one am hoping for more of Summer Glau with titanium exoskeleton.

Movie Watch: Juno

As movies go, Juno is pretty much the bomb.

Seriously - do you need another paragraph on how good this movie is? The only reason why you wouldn't see it is because a teen comedy on pregnancy morally offends you - and there's nothing I'll say to change that.

Monday, March 10, 2008

DVD Watch: Wonderfalls, The Complete Series

Let's see if this sounds familiar at all: Fox takes a critically acclaimed or otherwise well received show and, in reaction to low ratings, screws with the schedule and/or outright cancels the show prematurely.

We've seen it somewhat with Futurama and Family Guy, the latter having made a return due to the fan demand and DVD sales and the former now returning to television as well. More specifically we saw Firefly kicked in the kneecaps and the lesser know member of this club is Wonderfalls.

Wonderfalls is the story of Jaye - a socially nihilistic, career challenged, twenty something retail clerk with a philosophy degree, buckets of sarcasm and the unlikely role of being, in her words, "destiny's bitch". A range of inanimate animals, from a deformed wax lion to pink flamingos, start talking to Jaye and giving her obscure, often confusing, instructions. The result is a funny and touching story which unfolds over the thirteen episodes ... only four of which made it to Fox's airwaves (and even those were ... also a la Firefly ... tragically out of order). Jaye is portrayed by Caroline Dhavernas, who by the end of the series convinced me can do more with her eyes alone than most actors can with dialog.

Sadly, unlike their cartoon counterparts, live action shows are pretty difficult to get back on air. Once they close down for production, everyone heads off for more work and it can be hard to get the band back together. Creator Bryan Fuller has already started up again with the also excellent Pushing Daisies, taking actor Lee Pace with him. The only regret I could have after watching this show is that we probably will never see a second season. The story does, however, have some closure by the last episode - so you don't have that nasty cliffhanger aftertaste.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

TV Watch: Lost, The Other Woman

So far this is shaping up to be one solid season. So far there's been very little fluff and The Other Woman keeps up that pace. We get some island suspense with the all too ghostly version of Harper, women smacking each other around, some insight (from Ben though) on Widmore and some recap on the events from The Others' POV on the plane crash.

One mismatch for me though was Juliet's suspicion that Ben set Goodwin up to die and her comments towards Jack. If Ben, through Jacob or whatever, has enough foresight to plot a man's death merely by sending him into the jungle weeks before his death ... it really seems like Juliet still has some explaining to do. I can't tell if she was inferring Ben "killed" Goodwin just by forcing him to stay out until it was inevitable that he get found out nor can I tell if she's less aware of the fact that Harper probably wasn't really Harper out in the jungle.

Also - odd how she just accepted the "can't argue against the list" argument. What makes these lists exactly?

And if Locke was trying to keep down a mutiny, giving Ben yard privileges was probably a bad career choice. Anyone else think its about time for a return of a Sawyer Long Con? I did love Claire's line about waving guns around - clearly indicating that Locke is falling into the same destructive tactics Ben was already employing. Locke and Ben might become buds a la Sayid and Ben in the long run. Heck, might have been Locke in that coffin.

One of the firm debates left behind is whether Ben is "bad" or Widmore is "bad" ... which side represents the white and which the black. At this point, my guess is that they just represent opposing forces ... neither being "good" or "bad". Well, mostly neither being "good".

The possibility that all of Ben's "info" is a lie can't be ruled out, of course.

Travelling Abroad

I'm writing this at 6:40AM because my body thinks it's like 11AM (or more) and isn't quite sure what to do with all that dark just yet.

Those who know me know I have pretty bad travel karma. I've seen my commuter plane take off without me (after being told specifically that if I drove to Springfield to catch it ... it would wait), nearly lost my sanity in Atlanta and already once nearly didn't get out Heathrow in time for my grandmother's funeral.

This time I got by pretty easily. No flights were absurdly delayed, our seats always turned out to be our seat and we didn't get too terribly lost in the shuffle between flights.

I will say Heathrow is a bit of a mess these days. It's terminals are widely spread apart and can be difficult to navigate if you attempt anything remotely complicated. And the departure gate was a nightmare. First it was located about a twenty minute walk away from any kind of food or drink - so don't even think about capping off that final pint right before boarding. There's also no access to bathrooms with the gate and unfriendly and quite possibly insane gate clerk informed me that a) the plane was boarding in ten minutes (completely untrue) and that b) if I wanted to leave the gate after entering I'd have to give my passport to one of the security guys inside the gate.

Which begs a couple of questions. One - if there was a security guy inside the gate why was I even being stopped by this asshole? All he did was look at boarding passes and point people to the other (theoretically more skilled) guy who did the same thing. Second - am I to really believe that Heathrow will confiscate your passport for you to use the WC? Sorry, maybe I've seen too many Bourne movies but the only time I'm willingly leaving my passport behind in the hands of a state official is when I'm being detained. Screw your boarding pass - without that I can't get back in the country.

So I run to the bathroom and on the way back - frisked again. This would mark the third time since Spain. Now honestly - extra security doesn't annoy me. Take your time, check my luggage, whatever. But when it resembles a bad Abbot and Costello routine - I get a bit worried. Everything security related at Heathrow seemed like it was put together by last year's prom committee. From the roped off entrance with nothing resembling a line to force everyone on the flight to go through security again, to the two guys looking at passports right after (even though my Dad just walked past their "check" to one side and they failed to notice we didn't have the new tickets the sign next to them said we needed) to the gate from hell ... it wasn't really inspiring confidence.

And then there was the travel adaptor. I'll just say check the labels one these things before doing anything. I was trying to run the computer off it when I realized it was overheating and that the laptop's display was flickering. Turns out it's not for "electronic circuit" equipments, a la laptops, tv's, etc. My dad and I figure it could at least charge the battery with the laptop turned off. So I shut it down, plug it in ... and about thirty minutes later it pops and blows a fuse.

At that point we essentially had a fire hazard as a travel adaptor as it would get really, really hot. However it did work fine in short ten or fifteen minute bursts ... so I just charged things slowly. Which sucked for the laptop since the Lenovo beast doesn't know how to go to standby (it either wakes itself up to run the hard drive or just crashes all the running apps) and takes some twenty minutes just to boot up. It was oddly fine for doing things for long periods of time - assuming I'd be around for half a day to charge it back up again. For doing quick things, like reading email, ... well it still took half a day to charge it up again...

These were pretty minor hiccups on what was otherwise a pretty lovely holiday though. We were down by Malaga and the area is very tourist friendly - which is good because my Spanish downright sucks. I can order some food and a beer, but when asked something by a local ... all I can do is shrug.

iPhone Game Development

Another aspect of iPhone development that won praise from many Mac game developers is the App Store, Apple's method for offering users iPhone applications. Steve Jobs indicated that developers will be able to sell their games or applications through the App Store for a 70/30 split -- Apple will retain 30 percent of the revenue, and won't charge developers anything additionally for bandwidth, credit card processing or marketing.

"I'm amazed they're giving developers that much," said Bruce Morrison, a producer at Freeverse Software, which has already sketched out in broad strokes its initial plan for iPhone games. "Other systems like that aren't nearly as generous."
-- Game Developers Rev Up for iPhone

It's so ... dreamy. Mac developers have a solid SDK, audience and a marketplace for games? Now I really want one.