Category Archives: Escapism

Begins with “Hal” ends with “2”

Thanks to Andy we’ve had a copy of Halo 2 in the house for three weeks now, and thanks to my convenient excuse/justification of “I’m sick, I should stay in this weekend,” I now have a copy of Half-Life 2. Two very different games, yet oh-so similar.

First, to solidify my already well-established geekiness: A quick coolness comparison list:

  • Coolest weapon: Half-Life 2 (because unlike Halo 2’s energy sword, I can’t get my ass kicked by Half-Life’s gravity gun)
  • Cooler music: Halo 2 (ooooo-eeeeee-ooooo, oooo-uuuu-oooo-uuuuu)
  • Cooler physics gimmicks: Half-Life 2 (look, I can swing on a swing!)
  • Cooler dead body, rag-doll physics: Halo 2 (thump, tumble-tumble-tumble)
  • Cooler vehicles: Halo 2 (I know there are more coming in Half-Life 2, but I doubt they’ll come close to the Scorpion tank)
  • Cooler (or more obnoxious) headcrabs: Half-Life 2
  • Cooler spooky settings: Half-Life 2 (I don’t know how many times I’ve said, “Oh my god, what the fuck was that?” while playing)
  • Cooler multiplayer: Halo 2 (when it comes to playing online with annoying 13-year-olds, I’d much rather the option of running them over with vehicles, than playing terrorist/counter-terrorist with them)
  • Cooler stereotypical African-American resistance leader character: Halo 2 (Johnson’s vulgar one-liners trump the peg-legged guy in Half-Life 2)
  • Coolest shooting-radiator-at-zombies moment: Half-Life 2 (Halo 2 was seriously lacking in this area)

Game that’s made me swear at it more: Half-Life 2 (although still nowhere near Ninja Gaiden’s record)

Verdict: They’re both pretty darn fun games.

Continue for a rant on story, plot and perspective in games…
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Heroes and Fables

This past weekend I got out to see Hero. It was beautifully shot and it used color in some stunning ways. I was also impressed by the way the narrative was presented. The storytelling aspect, and the delivering of plot twists by different accounts of the events. It all sucked me in and made for a great Chinese epic.

Last week I picked up a copy of Fable last week. This game was pretty much the biggest reason I bought an Xbox two years ago. Unfortunately it fell a bit short of it’s original goals. Peter Molyneux is a genius when it comes to game design, with past games such as Black & White and Populous, but he couldn’t deliver his original vision with Fable. It’s biggest strength was supposed to be in it’s open-ended world, where you could be as good or as evil as you wanted. This is still there to some extent, and it’s pretty neat to see your character grow and change in either direction, but it isn’t nearly as open as it could have been. There’s a lot more I want to write about it, and role-playing games in general, but I think I’ll save it for another post.

Judging it like it is

Thanks to Andrew‘s recent birthday, he is now the proud owner of City of Heroes, a massively-multiplayer online game where you play as a superhero of your own creation. We’ve had a lot of fun with it in the past couple weeks, and tonight was no exception. We gave birth to the City of Heroes Costume Judge. Stay tuned for a gallery of some of our best, and worst judged costumes. Andrew gives some good background to what brought this character to life. Here’s the judge in action on one of his first victims… er… subjects (we gave him a 2):

Judging

After a minute or two, people quickly started lining up to have their costumes judged. A few highlights from the Judge’s first night…

After rating “Fire Dancer” a 6: “Thank you judge and I judge you to be sexy”

“Commando Elite judges Costume Judge’s sex life to be a 1″

Upon rating Energy Flame a 3, he fell to his knees saying, “All my hopes and dreams shattered! Damn you Costume Judge! Damn you!”

A while into the judging, The Crowd Pleaser showed up and started following the Judge around, giving everybody a 10. We gave The Crowd Pleaser an 8 for his costume.

Stay tuned to costumejudge.meatfreezer.com for more…

More movie geekin’

Hellboy trailer (now in beautiful quicktime) is out. Looks like it's gonna be a fun ride but the atmosphere and lighting doesn't look quite as Mignola as I'd hoped.

Check out the trailer for Errol Morris' next documentary, The Fog of War.

The early clip of Will Ferrell's next, Anchorman, is hilarious.

Watched The Ring and found it to be a moderately creepy horror movie. A few too many scary cliches and one extra twist at the end that I could have done without. As soon as I finished the movie, my phone rang out loud. What makes this twice as creepy, is that at the time, my phone was set to silent mode. This sent a shiver down my spine.

Cowboy Bebop: The Movie was a good action-packed anime. Now I definitely need to go back through some of the episodes of the show, that I have somewhere.

Not really movie-related, but worth mentioning is that there's a new Philip Pullman book set in the His Dark Materials universe.

Weekend consumption

This past weekend I consumed a ridiculous amount of media and entertainment and thoroughly enjoyed it. My right knee hasn't been quite right for a week, so I wasn't able to get out and do anything too active, and I couldn't join Alex on his regular Sunday ride to the Red Hook Brewery. But it was all good in the end since I needed a weekend to relax and veg. And now for my full thoughts on everything that kept me entertained…
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Some Rain in Spain Falls on My Sister’s Head

Yesterday I got a postcard from my sister who is spending a year in Barcelona doing research. The postcard was of this house (more pictures here), which she says she walks by every day to get to the metro.

She's been having a blast, has got a Spanish boyfriend, has joined a rugby team (which practices at 9PM at night), and occasionally spends a night out to the disco till 7AM.

Urban Sports

Cycling

With Alex really getting into cycling lately, now owning a fixed gear, and getting involved with the courier community he got me to go check out the local game of bike polo with him tonight. A couple videos: video 1 (2.5mb), video 2 (3.5mb), and pictures:

This is all just a taste, since we have Courier Messenger Worlds coming to Seattle in just 3 weeks (yes, I went and borrowed a bunch of links from Alex).

Le Parkour

parkour.jpg I'd seen it featured in the Nike commercials (the one with the guy running from the chicken) without realizing it was even a sport. Thanks to injection for the Guardian article giving some of the origins. “Le Parkour” is an adaptation/bastardization of a French word meaning “obstacle racing”, and isn't really about racing, but is more an alternative way to move through an urban environment. Official site here with a couple amazing videos. Another detailed site with a ton of resources. Fun to know my desire to run, jump and climb on city architecture has a name other than hyperactivity. Who wants to start a Seattle chapter with me?

Buildering

Or we could settle for flat-out climbing the buildings. A few more interesting pictures here. Volunteer Park, just up the hill, has got a big brick water tower that I've seen a lot of people traversing. Might be a good place to start. Add some dynos to the buildering and it starts to look a bit like Parkour. The fun never ends.

When Comics Are King

Chatting with Alex about comics lately reminded me of this web comic from a few years back, which I hadn't looked at in a long time. When I Am King uses graphical storytelling in some of the best (and absurd) ways I've ever seen, especially on the web. It's well worth a look if you haven't seen it, and a repeat-viewing if you have. The storyline (if you can call it that) ended a while ago, but there is a promise on the site for, “new stuff and other important changes coming in august 2003.” Whee!

Perdido Street finished

Finally finished Perdido Street Station by China Mieville, and I think I know why it took me so long to get through the last half of it. I just wasn't all that interested in it anymore. To me, the last half of the book wasn't nearly as engrossing as the first half. All of the details, storylines and characters that I was really enjoying in the first half, were all put aside and forgotten about until the last ten pages where they suddenly show up again. The bulk of the story in between, read like an action movie with gratuitous descriptions of details and gore used for filler. And plenty of filler there was. I did enjoy the construction of the world and the development of the characters, but when the real plot kicked in (after 400 pages) it didn't leave me with the same sense of wonder. I guess in short, the first half of the book left me expecting one thing, and the second half delivered something very different. But I'd still go and recommend the book to anyone who's looking for a story set in an incredible world that is a creative (and often disturbing) blend of fantasy and science fiction.

Enough with the vague-so-as-not-to-give-away-any-details-to-people-who-might-want-to-read-it book report…

Now, on to Super Flat Times.

Matrix Reloaded thoughts

There are opinions galore out there, so I'll keep my own petty ramblings as short as possible (a few spoilers ahead).

It was fun. I won't deny the fact that I enjoyed the ride (most of the time). Disliked: Zion and the dragging scenes of pseudo-philosophical dialogue. Liked: Kung-fu and the campy humor (some intentional, some not).

Were “bullet-time” or special effects used in new, mind-bogglingly creative ways? No. Same ideas, but with a bigger budget, more computers and explosions.

If the Matrix can be summed up as the “brain in a vat” story, The Matrix Reloaded is the “cog in a machine” story. Oooo, what a twist.

My prediction (a bit of a long-shot) for the third film is a Ghost in the Shell-type resolution with Neo and Agent Smith merging consciousnesses (dying in the process), to form a new, neutral consciousness which allows machines and humans to see the error of their ways and get over this whole 'enslavement' hang-up. Ah, but preceded by 2 hours of more flying, kung-fu, guns, robots, bigger guns and bigger robots.

What I'm hoping for is those two action-packed hours and then: Neo dies. Fade to black. Fade in on computer screen. Text: 'Wake up Neo…' Fade to black. Roll credits.

Recent movie round-up

OK, finally finished up this entry I've been assembling the past couple days… Watched quite a bit over this past weekend, catching up on a couple films I'd been meaning to see for way too long (and one I've seen a half-dozen times already). A quick rundown of Rivers and Tides, The Matrix, Cube 2, Catch Me If You Can and A Beautiful Mind. Here goes…
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Bulletproof Pagan Soccer Nature

I don't recommend Bulletproof Monk unless, well, no, there really isn't any reason to go see it. I'd say the one moment that made me smile was a slo-mo shot of Chow Yun Fat with a gun in each hand. It was a nice, but too-short (and rather out of place) homage to the old days of The Killer and Hard Boiled.

But… In front of Bulletproof Monk there was a trailer for Shaolin Soccer, which I had completely forgotten about until now. Its been out in Asia and Europe for a while, and I found a divx copy online. Can't wait to watch it later. Looks to me like Asians doing a spoof of Americans mimicking/spoofing Asian kung-fu and effects films. That's right, show Hollywood the way it *should* be done.

Its been around for a while now, but I just recently caught the Bjork music video for Pagan Poetry. Quite intense.

Also, I recently saw Human Nature which was put together by the dream-team of director Michel Gondry (most famous for his music videos, including some of Bjork's most famous), writer Charlie Kaufman, and producer Spike Jonze. Great movie, and quite twisted. I'd expect nothing less from these guys.

Entertainment consuming

Watched a few good movies this weekend.

* Jimmy Neutron was fun. I'd seen bits of it on a plane trip, but now I was able to enjoy it in it's full mindless kid-movie glory.
* Dogtown and Z-Boys was engrossing and interesting for a while, but fizzled a bit towards the end.
* The Dangerous Lives of Altar Boys was depressing. Overall I liked it, but while the animation/live-action juxtapositions occasionally worked, they more often just felt out of place. If the animation syle had kept a look more like the rough pencils in the boys' sketchbooks, rather than the bad Saturday-morning-cartoon aesthetic, it may have worked better.

Between TV shows on Fox this weekend, I caught a 5-minute slo-mo montage of war scenes, put to the over-the-top patriotic score from Saving Private Ryan, with occasional inspirational lines from what sounded like Mr. Voice. At the end, the logo fades in: “Fox News: Fair and Balanced.” Liquid that was entering my mouth at that moment, was partially sprayed out of my mouth.