You know, whenever I say something, this is how people typically respond:
You know, whenever I say something, this is how people typically respond:
So there's this great video game themed comic, Penny Arcade, that recently started hosting an annual expo. More so than a typical video game convention, this one is truly for the gamers, with video-game-oriented rap artists and rock bands, tournaments with classic Atari games, etc.
If you've seen War of the Worlds (2005), you'll recall how you never actually see the army fight the tripods. Well, this is probably what it looked like.
This is awesome: "IMAGINE: Five of the top voice-over artists in the country, ALL IN ONE CAR." (QuickTime) It's a promo for the Hollywood Reporter Key Art awards where you get to see the faces of five guys who are behind much of the movie trailer and advertising voices you see, making fun of their work. :)
(Link from blog: scanners", the blog of Jim Emerson, the editor of RogerEbert.com.)
(Yes, I am such a big Ebert nut that I read the blog of the editor of his website. :P )
Video Game Time Caps! First of all the Chinese gov't unveiled their system for time-capping online gaming. Your powers will be halved after you've played for three hours, and you'll be dropped to the lowest level after five hours of playing. Your character gets restored after you stay offline for five hours. This system will be mandatory by law. I think online games can be very similar to drugs in their addictiveness, so I don't think this move is really all that insane, but I would like to note a couple of things:
(1) This will probably spawn a black market in online games. (2) It's curious that online gaming is being singled out for restriction by law. Again, in a practical sense, this makes sense, but on a theoretical level, it's interesting to think about how and if it's different from other forms of recreation.
LASERS! The Pentagon is getting ready to install laser weapon systems on fighter jets. Now we just need to get working on those Twin Ion Engine fighters...
Also, lasers are cool, but "anti-missile laser" just doesn't have the same ring to it as "anti-missile missile". :P
ROBOTS! A mall security robot shook hands with Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi and then attacked him with a smoke screen! Okay, so it's not quite as dramatic as if it had said, "Drop your weapon, Prime Minister Koizumi. You have 15 seconds to comply." :P
I almost forgot to mention my greatest accomplishment of the weekend!
I introduced a five-year-old to Super Mario Brothers. :D
My dad's friend gave me a couple of original animation cells from Journey to the West cartoons of the 80s! The guy knew the director of the Shanghai Animation Studio, who brought a bunch of cells to an awards show in Brazil and gave him a couple on the way. They've just been sitting in storage some 20-odd years until my dad mentioned to his friend that I liked the Monkey King. :)
For those who don't know, Journey to the West is one of the classic Chinese novels. You could think of it as the Chinese The Odyssey, maybe. The main character is Sun Wu Kong, a trickster monkey deity, born from a rock, who rules a monkey kingdom on Flower Fruit Mountain. You may have heard of him as "The Monkey King". He learns martial arts and magical powers and becomes extremely arrogant. Eventually he crashes a party in Heaven itself and causes a ruckus. The Jade Emperor sends warrior after Heavenly warrior after him, but he defeats all of them.
Finally, the Buddha Himself captures the Monkey King and imprisons him under a mountain. Fiven hundred years later, he's finally freed with a chance to redeem himself by helping a monk, Tang Seng, journey westward to retrieve Buddhist sutras from India. They're joined by two others seeking a second chance, Friar Sand and Zhu Ba Jie (a lazy, greedy, womanizing pig creature whose family name Zhu is literally "Pig"). That's them here:
That's actually a background plate with the characters painted on a clear plastic plate above!
The rest of the story is basically an episodic road trip. Rumor goes that eating Tang Seng's flesh would grant you everlasting life, so of course all sorts of demons come out of the woodwork.
Anyway, kids like me loved the various animated portrayals of the Monkey King. In a way, I think of him as my favorite part of Chinese culture. I looked all over the place for a poster of him, to no avail. These days, most portrayals are anime-style or whatnot, which just doesn't resonate with me.
My dad's friend also gave me this cell of Ne Zha, a hot-tempered child deity who flies around on flaming wheels. He was in some ways the Monkey King's arch nemesis, because they're both mischievous. Similar personalities tend to clash, I guess. :)
I can't wait to get these things framed and onto my walls. I looked all over Shanghai and couldn't find anything like this, and I was just looking for mass-produced posters, not original animation cells!
So in Minority Report, there was this great gag where Tom Cruise, with a surgically transplanted eye, gets recognized by a billboard, which projects a hologram and talks to him with a personalized ad for "Mr. Yamamoto". We're one step closer to that now that billboards in the UK are beaming advertisements to passers-by's phones via Bluetooth.
During my (failed) search for the exact wording in that scene of the movie, I came upon a page with images of the Lexus concept car from the movie. I love the Audi TT precisely because it kinda reminds me of the cars in Minority Report.
I think this Onion article about Evangelical Scientists proposing that "Intelligent Falling Theory" be given "equal time" in Kansas schools gets at the heart of the matter with regard to misunderstanding how science is supposed to work. I especially liked this bit:
Proponents of Intelligent Falling assert that the different theories used by secular physicists to explain gravity are not internally consistent. Even critics of Intelligent Falling admit that Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis.
Update: Yes, I've heard of Pastafarianism, too, but I think the Intelligent Falling article is a more insightful approach. Well, I suppose they attack different aspects of Creationism. Intelligent Falling attacks the Creationist argument that evolution is "just a theory", when of course all science is "just a theory". The Flying Spaghetti Monster thing attacks the "equal time" argument, because of course of course if you want equal time, why not give ALL religions equal time?
I guess the thing that makes me uncomfortable with the Flying Spaghetti Monster thing is that it unnecessarily mocks religion in general to make its point. There's no need to invent a new deity, when you could easily point to the varying Creation stories of several other major religions and ask why we don't include those in "equal time" as well. Nonetheless, this is a pretty impressive painting.
The last post was too morbid, so I thought I'd cheer you all up with this cute little item about how extremely dense but tiny particles may have smashed through the Earth. A group of scientists thing that a strangelet a tenth the width of a human hair, traveling at Mach 40, slammed into Antarctica and came out off the coast of Sri Lanka 26 seconds later, and that another one went into the Pacific and out through Antarctica 19 seconds later. Now just imagine getting hit by one of these! Okay, that's not too likely, but this guy did get his printer smashed up by a meteor!
Meanwhile, it seems that some people have theorized that strangelets may suck up other matter continuously, such that if one gets captured by the Earth's gravity (or if we make one in a lab), it could gobble up the whole planet. Sweet!
Oh wait, did I say this post was supposed to be less morbid by the last one? Damn. Well, if a strangelet gobbles you up along with the rest of the planet, at least you won't be alone! :D
So I was thinking about one of my favorite themes, which is "loneliness in the Big City", i.e. that image of someone staring out the window of their hundred story apartment complex, etc. It seems that it's a variation of the classic, "Misery loves company." It's like, "Loneliness loves company," or rather, "Misery, from loneliness, loves company... of misery, from loneliness," which doesn't quite have the same tautological ring to it. :P
That is, when we're feeling lonely, we love watching movies and listening to songs about other people also feeling lonely. It makes us feel like we have company in our loneliness. But wait: "Company in our loneliness"?! What the hell does that mean?!
I think it means that we aren't really getting any company in our loneliness when we watch movies and listen to songs about other people being lonely. We're only tricking ourselves into accepting our loneliness by telling ourselves that it's inevitable.
So the real lesson is: Don't just take empty comfort from the knowledge that others are lonely, too; that feeling won't last. Don't just know that you're all "alone together"; realize that "being alone together" is an oxymoron, and activate that oxymoron by actually bringing people together. When you're truly alone together, you won't be alone at all!
Of course, that's obviously easier said than done. Maybe this post will get some of you to comment and tell me that you feel my pain, and you're lonely too, and thus we're being lonely together after all. Or maybe I won't get any comments in the first place. I'm not sure which would be more appropriate.
There's a memorial at the corner right across the street from my apartment. Apparently, a teenager was killed in a car accident on 680, and he used to live around here. Many kids have been visiting the site, adding more flowers and candles, talking to each other, all Saturday night and throughout the day Sunday. I saw one girl simply stand there, motionless, soundless, simply looking at it.
I wanted to capture the moment, but I didn't feel right taking pictures of them, so I waited until late at night when everyone had gone home to show you a few pictures of the memorial itself.
Update: His friends have been holding memorials at the same corner on the anniversary of the accident. I took another photo in 2007, two years later.
Young Saudi men and women, who are physically segregated almost everywhere, are using Bluetooth phones to flirt. Now, I'm not saying that technology triumphs over all. I used to think that the nature of the Internet prevented censorship, but the Chinese gov't seems to be doing a decent job of that despite proxies. I'm more saying that you can't fundamentally change human nature.
Yes, restrictive social rules have certainly ruled for centuries in many places, so they can last for a while, but this is why I think of "Western" society as "progressive" and not just "different". Western society has found ways of allowing human nature to flourish, rather than suppressing it. Of course, human nature isn't always a good thing for society, but the most effective strategy is to understand it, harness it, and work with it, not against it.
Ebert interviewed Terrence Howard, who was in Crash and now Hustle & Flow. Crash was an awesome movie about race relations. Just please don't confuse it with Crash (1996), which was about people who get off on watching car crashes. :P I haven't seen that, and I don't really plan to. I also haven't seen Hustle & Flow yet, but I'd like to at some point.
Anyway, I found this bit at the end of the interview very amusing:
"I was good at science. I was living in Cleveland in 1987 and had graduated high school and wanted to be an actor, but if I went to New York and got a job, I wouldn't be free to go to auditions, and if I got a job as an actor, I'd get fired and lose my apartment. But I figured, if I'm in school I will always be free to go on auditions, and I'll have a place to live, because I'll be in the dorm."
Play Starcraft for 50 hours straight, say "just one more game" when your friends come to get you, and die of exhaustion.
I'm not making this up. Here's an article talking about a rudimentary human being remote control system that works by electrically stimulating your vestibular system and throwing you out of balance. Don't believe me? The article has a RealVideo clip of someone actually being controlled by this system. Holy crap!
Here's a selection of the pictures I took at Scarab's first gig. (Also the first time I've been to a friend's rock show!)
Once more, with feeling!
She can't take her eyes off her man.
So that's where that Technicolor Dreamcoat went!
The crowd at Edinburgh Castle (the pub, not the castle).
I like how the basson bisects the lantern and makes kind of a null set symbol. ∅ *ducks*
I kinda like the effect of someone else's flash going off during my long exposure.
The cleanup. And now you see why I hate flashes. Anyone see the atmosphere? I could've sworn it was around here somewhere. Where did it go?
The Pentagon is sending 15 scientists to screenwriting class in hopes of inspiring kids to go into science and engineering through film. Sweet!
China has banned minors from playing games where you kill other players to increase your stats, apparently in part because they're too addictive.
"Minors should not be allowed to play online games that have PK content, that allow players to increase the power of their own online game characters by killing other players," Liu Shifa, head of the MOC's Internet Culture Division, which drafts policies governing the online gaming market, told Interfax. "Online games that have PK content usually also contain acts of violence and leads to players spending too much time trying to increase the power of their characters. They are harmful to young people."
They want companies to require ID numbers to play such online games, and they also want them to enforce limited play hours, forcing you offline if you play too long. (Found via this /. article.) I have to say that in some ways, this actually makes more sense than going after GTA for a brief scene of soft porn that you need a hack to access. I mean, a video game leading to real life violence? Not so much evidence for that. A video game leading to sex? Not sure about that either. A video game, especially role playing games based on boosting your stats, leading to addiction and negligence of the rest of your life? Plenty of evidence for that! That said, laws to prevent addiction to drugs don't even work that well. I'm not so sure how well these laws will work...
This is how I've been feeling the last couple of weeks. Now the interesting thing to note about this guy is: He willfully seeks out this experience. Is that me? <- semi-rhetorical question.
So first comes the Zombie Infection Simulator. It depicts one-pixel humans and zombies running around a simple 2D city. You can tell it to generate more or less humans, but since humans can turn into zombies but not vice versa, everyone eventually turns into a zombie. That's kinda disturbing, in a way. It's especially disturbing how the humans buzz about with life, but the zombies tend to clump together. *Brrr...*
Someone else made an HTML-based massively multiplayer online game called Urban Dead, reminiscent of Kingdom of Loathing. You play various types of humans or a zombie, and the only interface is a grid of buttons labelling buildings, and some text. :)
But what I found really disturbing is Zombie3, a modification of the original Zombie Infection Simulator where you have to bomb the town to kill all the zombies. The zombies are faster, but they die off after a while if they have no humans to eat. What's crazy about it is that you can't possibly save all the humans; in fact, the only way to save any humans is to saturation bomb a perimeter around a group you want to protect, frying any zombies and humans in the no man's land you create.
If you get too greedy and try to protect too many humans, a zombie could get through and infect far more than they would have if you had sacrificed a few more humans! Oh, the moral dilemma!
The program lists numbers for the number of humans and zombies remaining, and the number dead. I think it might be even more interesting if it differentiated between zombified dead and humans who are dead because you killed them.
Update: Oh my God. I am so buying this book . You should, too. It could save your life and the lives of your loved ones!
As Jybler pointed out, pigs are flying today: Apple releases a multibutton mouse! It seems to have an integrated 2-D touchpad or something instead of a scroll wheel? The only downside is that, instead of the 2 side buttons that my Microsoft Optical Mouse has, it has one "squeeze" function, so it's essentially got one less button. The 2-D scroll thingy is pretty different. I guess they're Apple, so they've gotta do something new. :) I'm still not sure how it works.