Archive for the ‘My Rants’ Category

Loonatics Unleashed

Saturday, October 28th, 2006

Okay, this is old news, but I finally saw an episode of this show that I couldn’t be bothered to actively search out.

It’s crap.

There’s none of the cleverness of the original Looney Tunes.  It’s just a rehash of the old characters, as archetypes, versus a hodge-podge of “evil villains” made up of people they’ve faced in cartoons past.

The characters are flat, and if the cartoon was just a generic bunch of idiots set in the future vs some enemies, it would be indistinguishable from any other crap that’s out there.  But as it is, they’ve decided to rape the Looney Tunes IP.

Idiots.

Home is…

Wednesday, October 25th, 2006

Quiet.

Alone.

Depressing.

Crikey!

Monday, September 4th, 2006

Just found out through Reuters that Steve “Crocodile Hunter” Irwin died at the age of 44. I have a collection of his episodes on DVD somewhere. Apparently he was shot through the chest by a sting ray. It’s sad, but at the same time, considering his line of work, I think statistically it was bound to happen. I mean, a lot of people watched out of schadenfreude, but I think people just wanted to see him get hurt, not killed.  Slapstick is funny is funny to most, death is only funny to the morbid.

Super Happy Double Sized Post with Bonus Insert!

Monday, August 21st, 2006

Two day gap on this post, and no amount of WordPressing will help with this one, mainly because I didn’t write a post last night. But having read through my bullet-pointed half-ass attempt two nights before, I just really didn’t feel like I could do it again with this post. Besides, I like my prose as it wanders the countryside, over hill and dale.

My last post had content, but very little story. Not that there’s really a story here. Stories have plot and plot devices. I have a collection of scattered memories and some very vague impulses. Anyhow, let’s begin…

One step behind…

I awoke with a start. I had been doing that for the past couple of mornings, having been awaken at various times by my room phone or my cellphone as people tried to get in touch with me or grandma. Unfortunately, at each interval, my brain was a high grade mush and totally incapable of coherent thought. That, coupled with the fact that I needed to rip off my apnea mask, bound across the room to my cellphone, only to miss the phone call, contributed to making a fine layer of aggravation over severe sleep deprivation.

“H-h-hello?” My voice was dry and scratchy from the machine.

“Hello? Is this Russ?” I had glanced at the phone number before I had answered, an incoherent jumble of digits answered my unformed question.

“Uh, yeah? Who is this?”

“Shiao Pei, is grandma there?” Shiao Pei was my cousin in Hong Kong, and had been unable to make it to the reunion.

“I’m not in the room with them.”

“Did I wake you? I called earlier.”

“Uh, yeah, it’s like 8:30 in the morning here.” Cobwebs leaving my brain, I vaguely remembered an earlier phone call that came in around 7:30 in the morning. No wonder I was so disoriented.
“Oh, sorry Russ, I wanted to see if grandma was okay after her flight.”

“She seemed fine when we got off the plane. I’m just hoping she didn’t bake in the Las Vegas sun. I’ll let her know you called.”

“Thanks.” Click.

I got dressed and went to my grandma’s room. As usual, there was a fierce game of mahjong going on. I said my hellos and was promptly informed that George and Grace were downstairs, with the kids. Now, George and Grace are siblings, both married and with a slew of kids in tow. The kids are fun, and certainly much more interesting than watching 70 somethings push plastic tiles around. I wandered down to the pool, this anemic series of circles with trace amounts of water in them, with a lifeguard perched on high, bundled up in enough towels to smother a goat, presumably to block out the sun’s rays, all 56 billion of them. I did a once around, keeping an eye for Fans. The screaming kids really helped my concentration. I got back into the elevator to go back to the casino and noticed that two things. One, the temperature in the elevator was incredibly stifling and two, it was moving at a crawl, making the heat even more unbearable.

.

.

.

GASP!

Finally, the elevator doors opened after an eternity, and everyone poured themselves out of the elevator and into the casino corridor. I called George and overheard the words, “midway”, “McDonald’s”, and “lunch”. I scurried to McDonald’s, pausing just long enough to watch the circus act at Circus Circus, grimacing as a woman held onto a pole by clipping her hair to it.

McDonald’s is usually a microcosm of the society around it. For instance, the McDonald’s in China? Orderly ordering system, but everyone’s scrounging for seats. New York? No lines, just people shoving to the front. This McDonald’s, no different. The key? Screaming kids. Lots of em. Like a banshee’s wail as it cuts through a foggy shire.

But no Fans. My eardrums and I left post haste.

I went around the midway, wondering if I could find them. Short answer, no.

Defeated, I went up to the room, resigned in my fate to listen to mahjong tiles clacking.

I opened the door…and there’s George and Grace and all the kids.

“Where were you guys?”

“We went to the pool.”

“I was there!”

“Then we went to the midway.”

“I was there!”

“Then we went to McDonald’s for lunch.”

“I was there!”

“Then we came back up to grandma’s.”

“I’m here!”

Reunited, we gathered our forces and went to the adventure dome to see what kind of rides we could see. Bryce, Miles, Lucas, Chloe, George, Grace and I played minigolf, since a prerequisite on Fan Family clansmanship is an appreciation of golf (which makes me even more of a black sheep). It was a full course, so 18 holes later, it was time to meet up again with the rest of the family.

Now, every family reunion follows a certain embarrassing plan. I think there’s a script somewhere, leaked on the internet. It goes like this:

Everyone greets each other awkwardly. People mangle names as we reunite with people that we don’t see except for once a year at best. My cousin Julie still gets called Judie(sic) by my aunts.

Older generation argues about inane shit, smothers younger generation’s kids(not the younger generation, just their kids) in hugs and kisses, which I’m sure drives the kids nuts.

Younger generation corrals kids into pens. Note that while I have no kids of my own, I am still involved in corralling. Extra ranch hand, as it were. Younger generation catches up.

Someone, at some point, gets upset and storms out. This is kind of a sweeping generalization, but I’d put money on it with my family.

We meet up all together and people give an update on their lives…in Chinese.

THAT’s the crux of the problem, I’m about to describe here.

The older generation speaks Chinese as their first language, English as their second language. They’re capable of English conversation, but when it comes to a good old fashioned ass-chewing, nothing but the mother tongue will suffice.

The younger generation, well, we’re all a bunch of ABCs, American Born Chinese. It’s an accurate descriptor, except for the fact that when the generation before uses the term, it sounds like a term of derision. So the older generation insists that the younger generation speaks in Chinese, in order to “keep it real”. Either that, or to make us sound like idiots. I vote for the latter. Essentially, even though, we’re all educated individuals who have successful lives by anybody’s standards, we still sound like kids when we speak in Chinese because, well, we don’t use the language on a daily basis, and we aren’t going to because we don’t have a need. I’ve even been sand-bagging, by studying Chinese in my car on the way up to work, but I’m still sputtering when I’m trying to speak in front of these people. It’s like the fear of public speaking, coupled with doing it in a different language. No deer in headlights, the deer’s been run over already.

Okay, I’m being a rat-bastard, because I know it’s not all true. We also speak in Chinese because grandma, well, she’s super old-school and the only English she knows is “G.P.A.” No shit. Every Chinese individual, no matter how incapable they may be of English, knows “G.P.A.”, “M.I.T.”, and either “Berkeley” or “Stanford”. No, Chinese people aren’t driven, not at all.

Anyhow, we have our meetup and it, like this post, drags into an overly long session. EVERY person is expected to speak. Mousketeer rollcall, that’s grandma, Albert, Kenneth, Gene, Phillip, Roxy, Anita, Nancy, Gu-Gu(sad really I don’t know her real name), Gu-Fu, Peggy, Daisy, Brian, George, Grace, Pelly, Edwin, Debbie and me. And I know I’m forgetting people. But that was just the list for that day, since Julie, Uncle Chen, Tom, Paul, Nicole, and Stony hadn’t made it yet. Not to mention my mom wasn’t coming and Debbie’s boyfriend wasn’t either. Lillian and her husband were busy, and had to pass as well. And whomever I choose to subject to this would probably be asked to speak something in Chinese as well, regardless of ethnicity. 😛 Anyhow, to top it off, Kenneth really likes his poetry books as well as the sound of his own voice. So we get these little red booklets that are filled with grandma’s writings as a poet, which is no small feat in itself, but everytime I get one, it feels like a vehicle for Kenneth to pontificate on. And that he did. 60 pages of him speaking. Paging gun to head, gun to head, you’re needed for a medical emergency, people have bleeding eardrums.

We manage to make to the restaurant, Chinese(natch), only by virtue of saying that we have a reservation that we need to meet. I told the guy that we’d have 30 people coming, and somehow on the way to the restaurant, that number magically dwindled to 24. Go figure. Fortunately, the restaurant wasn’t packed, so it wasn’t like we impacted their bottom line.

After that, I went with Kenneth, Nancy, Daisy, Peggy and their friends that they brought along to this venture (which included a former Miss China pagent winner) to go see Ka, the Cirque du Soleil production at the MGM Grand. They had an extra ticket and wanted me to have it. Score! Now, Ka could be a post in itself with how cool it was, but I’ll just address highlights. The crux of the show is this giant moving platform that’s used to show an arrow-marked cliff face, a sandy beach, a battlefield and a boat. The story revolves around these two imperial twins and their fight with an enemy. The story is easier to follow than most Cirque stories, and that platform is just the coolest thing around. I want one in my house. Kenneth almost got kicked out for taking flash photos. I would have laughed my ass off if he did. I mean, I remember the last Cirque show I went to and how I said no one wants to be “that guy” that gets the acrobats killed. I take it back, I think Kenneth would have no qualms about it.

Ka was so cool, I bought the program. Of course, I usually do, but that’s a testament to their awesome art direction, not my rampant consumerism.

After Ka, we were at the south end of the Strip. Everyone else wanted to walk back to their hotel, which was about halfway up the Strip. I figured that it was late at night, that I was probably not going to get a chance to do this for a while, at least not when the temperature was good (77 degrees in the evening), so I opted to walk around and explore the hotels all the way up to my hotel, Circus Circus, which is at the north end of the strip, roughly 3 miles away.

I’m proud to say I did it, I went into New York, New York, Paris, Bellagio, and Monte Carlo, and walked by Venetian, Treasure Island, and Caesar’s Palace. Just really beautiful buildings, inside and out. But they do run the same after a while. Each place has the requisite night club, sports bar, high profile act with celebrity named theatre, six different restaurants and a shitload of slot machines. The themed ones really went to town. Entering Paris, I really felt like I was in Paris again, at the base of the Eiffel tower, on a wonderful spring day. New York, New York was incredible as well, with areas that felt like skyscrapers and New York in a real heyday era. And there was a really cool stand in the middle of Caesar’s Palace that served slushee’s with alcohol in them. 🙂
I also got to see the cops out in force, getting medieval on drunk and disorderlies on the street. Lots of cuffs, lots of people sobering up.

When I got to the end of the trek, I was hurting. 3+ miles (taking into account my in-hotel wandering) and several hours later, I showered and collasped on my bed.

Censorship

Tuesday, August 15th, 2006

A brief bit of news first off: Forum on KQED will be having an hour long discussion on internet games and the social, political and economic influences that drive them. That’ll be the 10 o clock hour. If you can’t get 88.5 KQED on your radio, you can still listen live via http://www.kqed.org.

Now the meat.

Last week, I attended a discussion on censorship in animation. Mainly it was Marv Wolfman and Ken Pontac discussing their experiences regarding their respective titles. Mercifully, Happy Tree Friends had no involvement from BSP, which is the Bureau of Standards and Practices, which allowed them to make HTF as twisted and grotesque and deliciously dark as it is. However, Ken did have many other interactions with BSP, which he was more than happy to share with us.

The requests from BSP usually border on the inane, fearing to avoid offending anyone, and in the process, pleasing no one. The group needs to think about the lowest common denominator in terms of sense of humor and appeal to that. Anything even mildly raunchy such as a burp is under scrutiny.

The thing is, forms of the BSP exist in every form of media. In film, it’s the MPAA. In comics, it’s the CCA, in video games, it’s the ESRB.

And trust me when I say that the requests from these guys really run the gamut.

Now the problem is three-fold. One, why do these guys form? And two, who gives them power? And three, what can be done to limit the stupidity?

Oddly enough, the answer to all three problems has something to do with the government.

These bodies form because they are self-governed forms of regulation. They have power because the people involved in the medium understand that if they don’t self-govern, then the government gets involved, which is infinitely worse. The third question is a bit leading. It’s actually not stupidity, it’s the level of granularity needed in order to subdivide content into accurate ratings. Given accurate ratings, the populace can then make informed decisions, thus negating the need for government intervention, which quite frankly, has better things to worry about *cough*war*cough*, instead of video games.

Let’s talk about accuracy for a second. Now, there’s been a scandal over the “Hot Coffee” mod and a scandal over Oblivion’s female skins. Let’s get something straight here. People had to MODIFY the original game in order to access these assets. These assets were never intended for public viewing. One was a scrapped sequence in the interest of good taste and it was cheaper and easier to avoid the sequence as opposed to ripping it out completely. The second was because the clothing system is extremely complicated and it’s easier to handle it with a minimum of fuss.

First off, my suggestion is that MODS should not affect the rating of the game once it has been rated. Special features on DVDs aren’t necessarily rated, why should aftermarket modifications be subject to rating? Second, given the creativity of the Oblivion and the depth that it takes, I applaud the innovation they used in doing the clothing system. They should not be penalized because someone outside of the company modified the game.

The problem about this is that Take 2, the publishers of Grand Theft Auto, handled the situation incorrectly. They tried to worm their way out of it, instead of standing up and saying, yes, we put that in there initially, and yes, we changed our minds because we thought the sequence was in poor taste. However, we cannot control the actions of our audience.

A poor analogy here would be gun manufacturers getting sued for the deaths of people just because one user went nuts. And that’s a device doing what it’s DESIGNED to do. Incidentally, gun manufacturers have been sued for that very reason, and they won.

So now here’s the new problem. Because people feel that the ESRB isn’t doing a good job, the government feels like it needs to get its big ham-fisted mitts into the mess. What will that lead to? Basically over-regulation over a first amendment right. Much of the government’s legislation seem to try to address the needs of the core individuals by stifling the actions of the outliers. And by doing so, they stifle the actions of the core individuals, hindering them in creativity, output and basic comforts.

The reality is that the government has limited powers and attempting to stifle these forms of media cannot bode well. If the government really is interested in freedom, then the best they can do is educate people so that they can make informed decisions.

Same place

Tuesday, August 1st, 2006

Recently, I’ve been thinking about where I am in the world and where I relate to other people.

And here’s the problem.

I don’t think I’m in the same place with anyone right now. My good friends, when we started out, were all in the same place. We were all 20 somethings, with a passion for video games, taking classes and scrounging along in our lives. We were all geographically united as well, congregating in the Physics Club room or what not.

Well, that was almost 10 years ago.

And we’ve all grown.

But we’ve grown in different directions.

I mean, I’d be naive to assume that we’d stay forever immortalized in time, but instead of growing with these people, I’ve found myself drifting further and further away.

Some of us have relationships.

Some of us have well paying jobs.

Some of us have stability.

Some of us have mobility.

Some of us have opportunity.

Some of us are happy.

I’m not sure any one of us in our group has all 6 of those things. But I do know that out of my group of friends, none of us have any serious overlap.

It takes a concerted effort to meet up with them, to retie the bonds. Not saying that friendship doesn’t require work, but as Life intrudes, it’s no longer so easy to stay with friends.

Of course, that makes me sad. I’m not one to flitter about from group to group depending on the day. I can do it, but I don’t really feel satisfied. I like my group of 4-5 friends that I know I can always count on, am always welcome around, the ones who feel like family. Those are the people that I have the deep connection with.

So where do I fall on the list above? Well, taking it in reverse, I have to ask, am I happy? If I were, would I be writing this post? Do the rest of the questions even matter considering that answer?

Superman Returns

Friday, June 30th, 2006

Got back from watching Superman Returns. It weighs in at 2:40, so make sure you use the bathroom before the movie starts. I liked it, but Singer had two stories there that he was trying to tell. First was to explain Superman’s disappearance and reacclimation, which he needed to get out of the way before he could really delve into the second story, which was Lex Luthor’s plot. They overlapped, but there was a feel that some story elements needed to get out of the way before more could happen.

But it was good, and there was an appropriate number “super” moments for people to get a nice tingly feeling over. It was reasonably tight, with no glaring plotholes that I could think of.

Kevin Spacey did a good job as Lex Luthor, which was no surprise. A little feel of Gene Hackman, with Spacey’s own zealousness. Didn’t really like Parker Posey’s character as his squeeze though, mainly because it annoys me that Lex Luthor would pick someone so stupid to be his main squeeze. Mind you, I don’t mean that Parker Posey is stupid. Just clarifying for all the idiots out there.

Some stuff was badly foreshadowed, to the point where everyone saw it coming a mile away, even without super sight.

Kal Penn (Kumar) is in the movie and he’s a named character, but he’s never referred to by name. Ah well, he gets face time other than as a stoner.

Cyclops, I mean James Marsden, is in the film as well, playing the role of Cyclops without the red beams or sunglasses. Actually, a much nicer character, but still a guy that you want to see die off. Because while Cyclops’ power is cool, in the movies, he’s a schmuck. At least the comic book version, he demonstrates why he’s the leader of the X-Men, and it’s not his huge…beam.

Anyhow, I liked the movie, but I still am mad at Singer for ditching X-Men 3.

To top it off, I caught a glimpse of the new Ghost Rider flick, starring Nicolas Cage.

Can’t decide if Marvel is trying to drive their properties into the ground like they did with the Hulk movies back in the 80s, only with better special effects.

That goes for DC as well.

Ah hell, throw in Image and we’ll get a burning wreck hat-trick.

new game

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006



new game

Originally uploaded by FngKestrel.

So when I was swamped with my class and trying to get my fighting game going and neck deep in work, I bemoaned the lack of free time I had to do the things I want.

Now that the class is over, my fighting game is in progress and I have an assistant to help me, I find myself wasting the time that I held so dearly months ago.

And more over, now that I have this free time, I want other people to be free as well, knowing full well that everyone’s schedules are different, in the way that people are different.

And that difference depresses me, because, as well as I know that the differences are key, I really like to spend time with people.

But as a good friend pointed out to me, I was being a curmudgeon (she knows who she is), and that I knew that I should be grateful for the time I do get to spend with people, instead of pining for more time with people.

But there’s also this, and Death puts it best:
“Feeling all sorry for yourself because your little game is over, and you haven’t got the — the balls to go and find a new one!”

So yes, my curmudgeoness(?) is some wallowing in self-pity.

I resolve to find new games to play, new adventures to challenge, new experiences to live.

I’d like for people to join me, but it’s okay if they don’t. They’ll all see the pictures on Flickr eventually. 😀

American Dragon: Jake Long

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

So I’m watching the current season of American Dragon: Jake Long. The story is fine, but the art direction got mauled somewhere between Season One and Season Two. I don’t know what the hell happened, but I can’t stand the new art style.

They went a little bit more towards abstracted outlines and they got rid of the black outlines around the characters. The characters themselves seem a little rougher.

What the hell is up with Jake’s hair?!

They definitely are using a 3d application and applying cel shading to the renders. It was pretty apparent when they were walking down the school hallway.

Really don’t like the way Jake’s hair looks when he’s in dragon mode.

Reading the wikipedia entry on AD:JL, it’s confirmed that they changed the art direction.

Not really happy with that decision. My friends and I stopped reading Least I Could Do after they changed artists. After seeing it drawn a particular way and getting familiar with the style, it was just jarring.

On the other hand, Sandman changed artists almost every issue. And for some reason, it worked. No idea why. Maybe because the variety of story fit the change in art.

Anyhow, I’ll grit my teeth and stick it out.

Somniphobia?

Saturday, June 3rd, 2006

So I went to bed this morning at 6 AM, and I woke up at 11 after a phone call.

After my poor sleep at the clinic the night before, you’d think I’d be totally exhausted and wanting to climb into bed.

Not so.

I think I’ve developed some sort of anxiety about sleeping. I’m always anxious about something, but this is just horribly twisted.

So now I’m bleary eyed, too tired to do anything useful, but too anxious to fall asleep.