Saturday, June 28, 2008

Clumpy's Glad This Sort of Stuff is Still Around

I miss the mid to late-90s, when the internet was filled up with stuff like this. Actually, is worlds more intelligent and thought-provoking than some of the pages full of animated GIFs that used to hold our attention, loading one at a time until we thought we'd burst from excitement. Were we really that stupid? It's a relief that we've matured since then. . .

Bowja the Ninja 2 in Big Man's Compound

Those of you looking for a low-maintenance, cute flash platformer would do well to check out Bowja the Ninja 2 in Big Man's Compound, a neat little point-and-click adventure from PencilKids with breezy gameplay and a few simple puzzles. Interactivity is a little low, as you only tell your character to interact with certain objects, rather than controlling your little ninja's every move. Still, the amusing grunts your little bowman makes and goofy bosses give the game character. Try it out.

Get Ready For Red

Yeah, yeah - we all know that The Dark Knight is coming in a few weeks, and it would be unfair to say that I'm not as excited as anybody for the next chapter of Christopher Nolan's prescient Batman reboot. But my excitement to see the new Joker in action is rivaled by my giddy anticipation for the second installment in another luminous superhero saga: Hellboy 2: The Golden Army opens July 11.

Hellboy was a film brimming with good humor, pathos and wonderfully dysfunctional heroes. Judging from the trailers it's clear that Ron Perlman has once again played everybody's favorite wisecracking Catholic demon with all of the energy and aloof wit that he can muster despite the layers of plasticine and prosthetics required for the part. Director Guillermo del Toro is going all-out for this one and you can tell - full-size monster body suits, a heady dose of fantasy and a wider variety of enemies and creatures should pump up the ante nicely (considering that HB spent most of the first movie essentially fighting a single monster, this is more than welcome). Guillermo is injecting more than a little Pan's Labyrinth-style demented fantasy into this sequel and I can't be more pumped for July 11. Check out the 2nd and 3rd trailers particularly to see what I mean - the first is more conventional and far less illuminating.

EDIT: Props to two of the trailers for featuring Rammstein's "Mein Herz Brennt" for the freakout section. I believe the first movie's trailer used "Feuer Frei" from the same record.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


Cell phone conversation overheard earlier at the Wal-Mart, from the next counter over:

". . . What? No. They're the peanut butter cups. The Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. They're the ones with the orange and black."

Monday, June 23, 2008

Politics and Expediency

John McCain has recently criticized comments made by Charlie Black, a top adviser to his campaign, to the effect that his campaign would benefit from another terrorist attack in the United States.

Why the heck not? What everybody knows privately and what everybody knows that they should never speak publicly is that a hawk like McCain stands to gain from perceived threats against our nation. Without getting into whether war and "us vs. them" rhetoric protects the country, the simple fact is that horrible things can have a positive benefit to those whose job it is/will be to take care of them. The Republicans have always been masters at wartime speechery, but often flounder when the explosions stop. Imagine Barack Obama in a fighter jet and then tell me who's going to have the tougher time convincing the American people that they love the smell of napalm in the morning.

Bush's poll numbers were never higher than after 9/11; despite the fact that he hadn't done anything in particular to warrant such respect, he seemed decisive and confident and America rallied behind its leader. After some time we realized that he'd just been staring into the sun for so many years and began to grow bored. Finally, years after all of this messy Iraq-Halliburton-Abu Ghraib-waterboarding-wiretapping and much, much more, his polls have finally hit rock bottom. And it's not because of all of that stuff - it's because we got bored. Mercy me - bored. I mean it - ask that 75% why they disapprove of Bush and they sure as shooting won't give you anything recent. Bahhhh. Explosions and good haircuts win over issues any day.

So go ahead, McCain. Do the smart thing and denounce this man's comments even though they're obviously true. Judging by this what Charlie Black has said, it's plain that you have a smart opportunist working for you. We all know that you can't wish for a terrorist attack or assassination, but only a fool wouldn't plan for the eventuality.

Wikihistory: Great Geek Comedy

How on our green Earth did I forget this? Months ago I bookmarked this excellent comedic treatment of time travel as a Wiki project, then it fell into the mires of Firefox and fell from my short-term memory. Anybody who has ever edited Wikipedia (yes, you nerds) or any other wiki-based sites or forums should appreciate this dispatch from the International Association of Time Travellers (hit the link above for the full piece):

"At 14:52:28, FreedomFighter69 wrote:
Reporting my first temporal excursion since joining IATT: have just returned from 1936 Berlin, having taken the place of one of Leni Riefenstahl's cameramen and assassinated Adolf Hitler during the opening of the Olympic Games. Let a free world rejoice!

At 14:57:44, SilverFox316 wrote:
Back from 1936 Berlin; incapacitated FreedomFighter69 before he could pull his little stunt. Freedomfighter69, as you are a new member, please read IATT Bulletin 1147 regarding the killing of Hitler before your next excursion. Failure to do so may result in your expulsion per Bylaw 223.

At 18:06:59, BigChill wrote:
Take it easy on the kid, SilverFox316; everybody kills Hitler on their first trip. I did. It always gets fixed within a few minutes, what's the harm?"

Assuming that you've read the piece, I'll state now that I take comedic issue with the inclusion of the Hong Xiuquan/Taiping Rebellion reference, not because of the moral ambivalence of killing a single individual to save the lives of millions (though that's a worthy point), but because they chose a real-world event. It would have been much funnier (and more clever) had they chosen a fictional event to be subverted. Then part of the joke would have been that it simply didn't happen.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

A State of Fluxx

Lately we've been playing a neat little card game at my apartment called Fluxx, which we bought for our roommate's birthday after reading about it online. Fluxx is unique in that it begins with only one rule - "Draw one card, play one card" - and expands from there, often to gargantuan proportions. Interestingly, the way to actually beat the game can't be known initially; during the course of play various "Goal" cards will be played which will dictate the current terms of victory. Most of these goals involve possessing certain "Keeper" cards - temporary cards played in front of the player, a certain combination of which facilitate victory, provided that the proper "Goal" card is active. Some rules even allow two "Goal" cards to be active simultaneously. (In such a case, satisfying the requirements for either is enough for a victory.)

Things get particularly interesting when you add in the "New Rule" and "Action" cards. Rule cards remain active from the time they are played until they are removed or replaced by another rule card which makes the first obsolete. Most "New Rule"s involve thing such as hand limits, increasing the number of cards drawn or played per turn, or reversing play. "Action" cards are one-time only and very straightforward: "steal a keeper", "switch hands", etc.

At first I felt a sense of disappointment because Fluxx isn't nearly as amorphous as the web review made it sound - it's merely a straightforward card game with a certain number of varying parameters. Most of the "New Rule" cards don't change the game significantly, and building towards a victory is difficult because "Goal" and "Keeper" cards change often. Later I realized that the stable foundation is part of the fun. It can be hard enough to keep track of all of the rules that are sometimes in play (though some cards allow you to eliminate rules or even reset back to "Draw one, play one" rule with which the game begins). Some sense of stability helps to keep the game more fun and reduce confusion.

Fluxx already has a number of companion sets, which can be combined with other Fluxx decks or played separately. Earlier we played the compelling Zombie Fluxx, which my friend, an avid zombie buff, was practically forced to buy after his Fluxx deck arrived with an ad for the game. It turns out that it is possible to add additional chaos to the already-chaotic zombie formula. Zombie Fluxx is great fun, even if you don't combine it with an existing Fluxx deck. In fact, Zombie Fluxx plays slightly more traditionally, incorporating fewer parameter-modifying rule cards (like hand limits) and introducing a goodly number of zombie cards, which hurt rather than help you.

The deeper rules give the game versatility - certain "Keeper" cards double as weapons, and the four types of zombie cards behave in different ways. By killing active zombie cards or "scaring" them away, you can divert zombies to other players or remove them entirely. The entirety of the basic Fluxx formula remains, sans some of the more complicated cards the original offers.

Chances are you'll know from this review if this sort of game will appeal to you. We found Fluxx and its iterations in a specialty store for $12.95. You could probably find it elsewhere for cheaper.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Stupid Lies

Every "talking head" political pundit does it, and we've covered examples from Drudge in the past, but I've long since lost my patience for headline misrepresentation. Think for just a second about the image generated by the following headline, printed in the Drudge Report:

The actual blasted story puts the story in context, painting a different picture:

There's no excuse for this.

It's the same with the reaction to the recent Obama "controversy": two low-level campaign aides at a rally refused seats directly behind Obama, near the cameras, to a couple of Muslim women wearing head-scarves. Sean Hannity proceeded to harp on this issue on his show, painting this as an example of oppression and discrimination in Obama's campaign - implicating the Democratic candidate in a controversy with which he had no direct involvement and about which he immediately condemned when he found out about it.

Mr. Hannity, what would you have done if these women had been permitted to remain directly behind Obama? You and your ilk (I would like you to imagine me saying the word "ilk" with the greatest disgust) already treat all examples of equal treatment towards Muslims as examples of catering toward them and betrayal of America's values - would you have praised Obama for his inclusiveness and understanding, or taken the Sean Hannity route: "SEE!? Muslims sitting right behind Barack Hussein Obama! Is this the President that you want to vote for!?"

Sorry, but being a smug, smirking hateful liar is nothing new.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The New Rules of the New Aristocrats

It's getting harder and harder for me not to link to BoingBoing, whose near-daily updates on the ongoing corporate war against the rights of ordinary consumers stir up my righteous indignation, making clear the threat against free expression soon to be facing our society as corporate interests begin to dictate the law. This war isn't isolated to a particular country - it's worldwide and it's happening now.

Two consecutive posts prove particularly relevant: first, an update on Michael Geist's writings on the Canadian Digital Millennium Copyright Act, and how its institution would affect Canadians (follow the story's link for the full rundown on how the DMCA criminalizes legal uses of consumer-purchased goods by making it illegal to circumvent copy-protection and adding special provisions to fair use, essentially invalidating it) .

Just as sickening are the new rules from the Associated Press restricting legal quotations of their own articles, in direct contradiction to U.S. law. Those willing to pay for already-legal consumer uses of AP stories may buy overpriced "quotation licenses" designed to limit AP story access, licenses terminable by the AP at will.

The following quote from Patrick Nielsen Hayden, printed in the article, is so important that I'm reprinting it here:

The New York Times, an AP member organization, refers to this as an “attempt to define clear standards as to how much of its articles and broadcasts bloggers and Web sites can excerpt.” I suggest it’s better described as yet another attempt by a big media company to replace the established legal and social order with a system of private law (the very definition of the word “privilege”) in which a few private organizations get to dictate to the rest of society what the rules will be. See also Virgin Media claiming the right to dictate to private citizens in Britain how they’re allowed to configure their home routers, or the new copyright bill being introduced in Canada, under which the international entertainment industry, rather than democratically-accountable representatives of the Canadian people, will get to define what does and doesn’t amount to proscribed “circumvention.” Hey, why have laws? Let’s just ask established businesses what kinds of behaviors they find inconvenient, and then send the police around to shut those behaviors down. Imagine the effort we’ll save.

Welcome to a world in which you won’t be able to effectively criticize the press, because you’ll be required to pay to quote as few as five words from what they publish.

Welcome to a world in which you won’t own any of your technology or your music or your books, because ensuring that someone makes their profit margins will justify depriving you of the even the most basic, commonsensical rights in your personal, hand-level household goods.

The people pushing for this stuff are not well-meaning, and they are not interested in making life better for artists, writers, or any other kind of individual creators. They are would-be aristocrats who fully intend to return us to a society of orders and classes, and they’re using so-called “intellectual property” law as a tool with which to do it. Whether or not you have ever personally taped a TV show or written a blog post, if you think you’re going to wind up on top in the sort of world these people are working to build, you are out of your mind.

This inevitable aristocratization of America is a direct result of inaction on the behalf of every political party in the world, every elected representative and every corporate fat cat who allows these liberty-destroying laws and loopholes through the legal floodgate of modern legislation. The mainstream media is not reporting it because they are part of it, and most people don't even know that it's happening.

Goodbye, democracy. Tomorrow is the dawn of The Corporation.


My university's main web site has posted the following alcohol-soaked image in a tiny sidebar, under no real context:

Needless to say, my mind is drawn in this direction:

Heck, at least Cruella's looking in the same direction that she's going.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Master of Muppets

After the heady "future of our society" posts, it seems appropriate to present this little video that has just about made my afternoon: most of the Muppet band Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem performing Metallica's "Master of Puppets." The kicker?: Beaker's on vocals.

This will go nicely with this clip of the Swedish Chef rocking out to Finnish metal.

"Don't Be Evil": Google Fights For Internet Neutrality

Google's fired the latest salvo for the ongoing fight for network neutrality and against the tiered-service model - the idea that Internet Service Providers have the right to "prioritize" certain web sites and domains, giving the short stick to small, underground sites and upstarts that can't pony up the cash to pay the ISP's for top billing.

From TheRegister:

In an effort to identify traffic discrimination by American ISPs, Google is prepping a suite of network analysis tools for everyday broadband users.

"We're trying to develop tools, software tools...that allow people to detect what's happening with their broadband connections, so they can let [ISPs] know that they're not happy with what they're getting - that they think certain services are being tampered with," Google senior policy director Richard Whitt said this morning during a panel discussion at Santa Clara University, an hour south of San Francisco.

If the country doesn't have neutral networks, Whitt contends, innovation stagnates among application developers. And he believes that individual consumers - as well as Washington policy makers - should join the fight for such neutrality.

"The forces aligned against us are real. They've been there for decades. Their pockets are deep. Their connections are strong with those in Washington," he said. "Maybe we can turn this into an arms race on the application software side rather a political game."

The internet is one of the last bastions of free and independent thought left in the world, and it's fantastic to see a giant like Google fighting the good fight, avoiding profit-based temptations as corporate fat cats strive to create a worldwide McInternet.

Friday, June 13, 2008

The Geek Show Podcast / Radio From Hell

Fans of superhero and sci-fi movie news, interviews and camaraderie should enjoy The Geek Show Podcast. It's a regular hour-long news and opinion show headed by Kerry Jackson, long-time regular host of Utah's own Radio From Hell Show, a rare morning program that's intelligent and funny, far from the prefab nonsense you'll hear on the rest of the dial.

Both programs are quite excellent, but the Geek Show earns points for assuming that its audience knows what its talking about. By forgoing spoiler warnings and unecessary exposition they put on quite an entertaining show. This week's episode features an interview with Pixar's own Andrew Stanton, director of WALL•E.

I'll admit that I lose my bearings a bit when the show covers comic books and action figures, but their natural banter is always entertaining and they never stick with a topic for too long.

You can download the Geek Show Podcast here (follow the sidebar). It's a simple MP3 download, so don't think that you'll have to subscribe to anything. I also highly recommend that you sample the Radio From Hell show, which can be easily downloaded day-by-day from this site. Enjoy.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

No No No No NoNoNoNoNO!!

Some people felt that the whole Guitar Hero marketing bandwagon really started its trek to hell when the previous developer Harmonix moved on to loftier heights - mobile Guitar Hero, Nintendo DS Guitar Hero (with its share of gimmicks), Guitar Hero: Aerosmith, and 7-11 tie-ins. I'm able to separate the game from its marketing department, but this may push me over the edge to Rock Band territory:

To celebrate the fact that there will be two Guitar Hero performances on the main stage at this year’s Isle of Wight Festival, Activision has re-branded the bronze statue of Hendrix that sits in the grounds of the island’s Dimbola Lodge, turning Jimi’s guitar into the aforementioned video game peripheral.

Geez - talk about new lows of taste.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Box Hell

I'd sure like to read this list from Rotten Tomatoes of the 50 Best TV-to-movie adaptations of all time, but the story has one unforgivable element that makes it an absolute slog to read. See, some sites like to split their content into multiple pages, hoping that you'll click through more pages (being exposed to more ads, naturally). A few years ago, IGN began splitting one page of perfectly valid content into five pages, but that doesn't hold a candle to this feature. Do you really want to click through 50 slow-loading boxes such as this one?:

Nice layout, but there isn't enough content there to justify its own window, let alone fifty of them, each of which requires a click and a five-second wait. Thanks but no thanks.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Unreported Under-the-Table Copyright Meetings

Did you know that militant copyrightists are currently drafting a secret worldwide agreement designed to further crush free communication and eliminate P2P and enforce copy-protection on electronics companies? The new Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement reeks of the smoke-filled rooms in which it was drafted by a host of powerful politicians and Hollywood execs, and none of the major news outlets are reporting it. Not a word.

This new law would allow border officials to search mp3 players and cell phones for copyrighted content, force Internet Service Providers to release consumer information and impose this Orwellian agreement upon developing countries. Does this sound like a threat to democracy, free expression, civil liberties and freedom? NBC doesn't think so. Neither do the flag-wavers at Fox News. Good luck finding anything about the ACTA on CNN.

It's telling that only the blogs are reporting this dystopian expansion of the ball pit of lies, self-righteous elitism and corporate interest that is modern copyright legislation. The blogging revolution came just in time, providing transparency in an age in which powerful forces want to turn us into Winston Smith and Guy Montag all at once - fat, happy and consuming the crap that they feed us. Follow this - it's going to come up again, and you won't hear it from the mainstream media outlets, Barack Obama or John McCain.

Further reading:

Michael Geist


Wikipedia Article on the ACTA "Agreement"

Link to Download the Actual Document

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

A Minute and a Half of Owls

I've lost track of Jonti Picking's catchy flash animations over the years (he's the guy that did the ever-popular Badger Badger Badger, Magical Trevor and my personal favorite, Scampi). Pity, because his newest animation Owls, is one of the catchiest, most absurd loops he's done so far. Check out the archives for more likeminded goodness.

Check it out!

Monday, June 02, 2008

Childrens' Lit Updated

By way of Boingboing comes this wonderful, subtly-sarcastic update to the classic John Berry "People at Work" series for children. I attended such an old-fashioned elementary school that I read some of these books in the early 90s. My teachers didn't retire; they merely aged until they could no longer go to work.

The caustic, sometimes-silly humor of this update was right up my alley, yet understated enough to function as a real parody of children's lit. Enjoy.

The Ladybird Book of the Policeman

Sunday, June 01, 2008

CMKP: The Best of May

In reverse chronological order:

Destroy Oil to End the Holy War

Ranting Authors and Lawsuits: Orson Scott Card and J.K. Rowling

Helpful Firefox Tool: Repagination (View multiple pages in one window!)

My Moderator Run-ins on the Hannity Forum (This one's subjective)

Refacing Government Tender - Dollar Art

The Budget and Earnings of Nearly Every Movie Ever Made

M. Night Shyamalan and The Happening

Far Too Much of My Jimmy Stewart Impression

Sheer Linkage Part 3: Watch Shows and Movies Online

Heaven knows that the internet's a great resource for watching stuff online, and I'm not talking about YouTube. Ditch your TiVo and give the following sites a go for more convenient - though lower-resolution - DVD rips of your favorite shows.

I'm duty-driven to put Hulu first, as it's probably the only legitimate site in this batch. Hit it up for new (and some older) episodes of The Office, House, The Simpsons, Arrested Development, Battlestar Galactica and scads of others. Some of the promotional clips are mere excerpts, in which case you'll want to continue on.

SurfTheChannel is loaded with the same, but includes the entire back archive of nearly any recent show you can think of. Check out their list of TV shows or extensive list of movies to see what I mean. does a better job of aggregating and updating valid links around the net to most recent movies. Want to watch Iron Man before it's out on DVD? Well, you can. The quality and speed of these links varies but you'll find near-DVD quality DIVX-encoded links from time to time, making the trip well worth it. Sometimes you'll even get the Camcorder-smuggled-into-the-theater version of the film! It's an adventure!

For individual shows, there's several dedicated sites available:

The Simpsons Link1 Link2 Link3 (The last link is pretty comprehensive.)

Futurama (The videos uploaded by nidhi are usually working)

Family Guy (Easy table of all the episodes)

The Office

Even you South Park fans are covered.

NOTE: You'll want to avoid Chinese file-sharing sites Youku and Tudou, which are usually the worst of the bunch. Their Chinese subtitles, low resolution and slow loading speed make nearly anything else a better choice. Only try them if you can't find what you're looking for somewhere else.

Sheer Linkage Part 2: Casual Games

Heaven knows I'm a sucker for Tower Defense games. They strike a great blend between strategy and hands-free viewing, allowing you to get something else done in the background while you monitor the status of your impenetrable defense. The following have taken of their fair share of my time over the past few years:

Flash Element TD might not have a catchy name, but its handy interest system and choice-driven upgrade path more than make up for the name. Pity he's mixed in some annoying sound effects in a recent update. The sequel is even better.

Bloons Tower Defense 2 has more than its share of personality and a unique style which sends hundreds of enemies at you at once. It skews a little difficult, but you'll get the hang of it.

Finally, Desktop Tower Defense allows you to sculpt your own path for the baddies, pushing you toward zig-zagging, overlapping paths. The two points of entry add a new wrinkle to the gameplay.

Those of you who are sick of tower defense may wish to try Applicate, a neat little game involving apples in which figuring out just how the heck to play it is part of the fun.

I just discovered Good Things Should Never End by way of casual games site JayisGames. It's an enchanting landscape that seems to go on forever, full of simple minigames and clickables galore. The community aspect of the site turns it into a sort of mini Animal Crossing. Spend a few minutes over there.

KeyMaster may well be the best typing game that I've played since TyperShark. It's combat oriented like TyperShark with some semblance of strategy (netting healing potions, keys and kill-all bombs to take out as many orcs and dragons as possible). Try it on the highest difficulty setting for a hellish challenge near the end.

Sheer Linkage Part 1: YouTubage

This is an attempt to excise some of the excess linkage I've built up over the last few weeks. Rather than give these their own posts I'm going to cram them together into sheer hypertext overload, the best kind of overload. Take heed, my friends - if you like the sort of things that I post, you'll probably find more than a little to like here:

These two clips from the Ben Stiller show are funny as any sketch comedy I've ever seen. Those of you familiar with the deluded ramblings of Charles Manson should enjoy the short clip "Ask Manson," but the longer clip "Drugs are Bad" could have you falling out of your chair, especially if one of the legs is weak or something.

Chico Marx really was an excellent pianist. Too bad I never watched "Night at the Opera" the whole way through.

Those of you familiar with Rammstein may enjoy the juxtaposition of this clip involving the Teletubbies dancing to "Sonne", or this Russian parody of the group.

The Nostalgia Critic has done some excellent work. I highly recommend his "In Five Seconds" series, summing up a popular flick in a few brief moments (usually going a little over five seconds, though). Link Link Link Link Linkity Link Link Link. I recommend his longer reviews as well, such as his Cloverfield review which should amuse any who saw the movie. His ketchup ad (for a contest) ain't bad either.

Finally, a mass of great music and music videos: Subtle - Earthsick, The Decemberists - Sixteen Military Wives, Burial - Archangel, The Avalanches - Frontier Psychiatrist, Mudhoney (The influential grunge outfit) Playing the "Bill Nye" Theme