Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Harry Potter LARPing & Muggle Quidditch

To date, there has not been a successful Harry Potter LARP. I believe this picture shows the world the folly of this oversight.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows (Pt 1) enjoyed a staggering box office take last week and with the Thanksgiving Weekend upon us, analysts can only guess at stratospheric amount of money Radcliffe & Co. will rake in from moviegoers by the end of November. For many diehard Harry Potter fans, this is a bittersweet bit of news as it marks the beginning of the end of the storied franchise, but if is any indication of what lies ahead then it is safe to say that the fans are by no means done with the characters and subplots of the Harry Potter universe.

Yet curiously, for all of its massive geek chic appeal, the world of Harry Potter has yet to inspire anything in the way of formalized Live-Action RolePlaying. There have been some attempts at creating a Harry Potter LARP, but most have closed down or, like most fan-generated RP content, fallen to neglect after the initial enthusiasm has waned. Four years ago, the closest thing to an organized LARP (complete with costumes!) was held at GenCon, but nothing- specifically a sequel or codified set of rules- ever came of the enterprise.

But a strange light of hope lingers for Harry Potter LARPing: "Muggle Quidditch", or the real-world counterpart (y'know, soccer...) of the fantastic wizarding sport Quidditch, has seen unprecedented success among the college intramural scene. Collegiate Quidditch has surpassed Ultimate Frisbee as the low-investment sport-of-choice and has recently seen 46 college teams converge on New York City for the Quidditch World Cup.

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Tuesday, November 23, 2010

A brief history of Popcorn

The masterminds at Muppet Studios have completed another masterpiece, this time tapping into SynthPop's collective unconscious by giving Popcorn the Muppet treatment:

The result is every bit as infectious as the original recording from 1969 which was composed by Gershon Kingsley who is arguably the progenitor electronic music.

There have been countless covers of Kingsley's opus- regarded by most to be the first piece of synthpop music- ranging from faithful covers to inspired homages and all the way down to horrific atrocities. Consider a brief timeline if you will, and let your clicking finger wander!

*1972 - Popcorn is covered by Hot Butter this is the first "successful" cover which garnered impressive amounts of international accolades despite it sounding like someone drunkenly hate-fucking an Atari.

*1972 (again) - French group Anarchic System releases an ill-conceived vocal version of Popcorn.

*1974 - Herp Albert and the Tijuana Brass (technically, TJB) introduced the world to lounge Popcorn.

*1982 - The classic arcade game Pengo uses Popcorn as its background music.

*1997 - Gigi D'agostino gives Popcorn the club treatment. Crowds yawn and reluctantly shake their asses.

*2003 - Greek duo Marsheaux rocks Europe's charts with a true-to-original Synthpop cover of Popcorn.

*2006 - Hexstatic drops the Popcorn dance mix on their album Pick'n'Mix, apparently unaware of how dated House Music is.

*2009 - Muse stadium rocks the shit out of Popcorn.

And there you have a concise, and by no means comprehensive, history of Popcorn. I think you'll agree that next to Muse's cover, the Swedish Chef's is probably the most awesome one out there.

Or rather it would be, if I didn't find this version of the song performed by Gershon Kingsley 40 years after the original:
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Friday, November 19, 2010

Turn right at Electric Avenue

I suppose technically it should read Avenida de Super Mario Hermanos, but who am I to argue?

It's no secret that Spain's economy is, like most all of Europe, in deep trouble. Less than a decade ago, Spain was touted as the quintessential success story of the European Union with industrialization, housing, and technological development growing by bounds and- according to some sources- leaps. But unfortunately, in the wake of the global financial crisis, Spain's economy appears to have officially tanked.

Nowhere is this tanking more apparent than in Spain's depressed housing market where luxury condominiums and apartment buildings are built only to be left completely empty and devoid of tenants, giving rise to the term zombie building... which, by the by, is way less awesome than it sounds. The town of Zaragoza (capital of the province of Zaragoza), however, created a novel solution to the problem in an effort to resuscitate their real estate market: name streets after video game characters. While the urban renewal program was allegedly done with a nod to the arts and cultural capital, there's no denying that gamers the world over would rush to snatch up real estate on Mario Street, Luigi Avenue, Space Invader Street, Avenue of Super Mario Brothers, Tetris Square, and Final Fantasy Avenue.

Zaragoza is being curiously quiet about what plans they have for the new videogame district, and whether they're planning to turn it into a Spanish version of Akihabara or leave it as a hodgepodge of residential and commercial lots. A few die hard video game fans have already begun trawling Zaragoza's job sites to justify a relocation and risk everything on the eventual economic rebound of beleaguered Spain.

While some might see this as a poorly thought out course of action and one sure to be regretted by those impetuous souls in the years to come it must be remembered that it's been a fun couple of years, United States, but unless you can provide me with a Final Fantasy Avenue to move to on this side of the pond it's adios to you!
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Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hatsune Miku: Yet another pop star you stand no chance of ever sleeping with

In the mid-90's we were taught that one day in the not too distant future (August 29th, 1997), an advanced computer program would end all life on this planet. While the date might have been slightly optimistic, the concept is a worrisome one and is now- 13 years later- terrifyingly close to reality. And if Hatsune Miku is to be the teal-haired Angel of Death sent to shuffle us all from this mortal coil, I dare say I would welcome the end times with open arms...

Hatsune Miku, for those unfamiliar, is a computer-generated pop star from Japan who "sings" via the Vocaloid synthesizing program. Although developed by a cadre of graduate students in Spain, Vocaloid's potential was quickly recognized by Yamaha Corporation who dumped somewhere between "a stupid amount" and "an assload" of money into the development of the software.

From there, it was a short leap for someone to create a completely ersatz pop star with a computer-generated voice (she has no real world counterpart, and her voice is completely synthesized.), and so was born Hatsune Miku! She's every bit as fake as, say, Lindsay Lohan, but her programming renders her incapable of licking spilled booze out of an ashtray as she flounders about on the floor searching for the last remaining shreds of her dignity. Advantage: Miku.

While Hatsune Miku has appeared stateside this year, the company responsible for her (Crypton Future Media) has not revealed anything close to a tour, and considering that she appeared at San Francisco's Japantown as part of a J-POP summit I doubt there are many venues that would be conducive for her appearance. Yet. So sit back and kick your cable modem in its sack while you enjoy this HD video of her appropriately titled The World is Mine. It may well be the closest that you come to seeing Hatsune Miku... errr... live...

Considering that she's been around for three years or so and Vocaloid music has been carried by both Amazon and iTunes since 2008, I'm not sure where the blogosphere's recent buzz around Miku and other Vocaloid acts has come from.... but at any rate, her 39's Giving Day concert (from which the above clip is drawn) is available- albeit at quite an expense- on Blu Ray, for anyone looking for the absolute perfect gift for the Otaku on your Christmas list this year.
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Thursday, November 11, 2010

Garfield even fails at being inadvertently offensive

No wonder Bill Murray regretted his involvement with the project...

As anyone who attempted to mail anything yesterday can tell you, here in the good 'ol US of A, our federal government celebrated Veteran's Day. Many aren't quite sure how to mark the passing of the holiday itself, or even how it came about from its origins as Armistice Day, but even the most uneducated knows that it is a day when one is expected to show some form of gratitude to members of the armed forces for their service.

Jim Davis, the "creative" force behind the much-maligned Garfield comic, however, decided to mark Veteran's Day with one of the most unfortunately timed coincidences in the history of the funny pages with the above comic. Unsurprisingly, this comic angered a fair amount of red-blooded 'mericans who took umbrage with Davis' apparent trivialization of their service. Davis, or perhaps more accurately Davis' handlers, were quick to respond to the frufraw by placing a click-through apology over the comic, but the damage was already done and for the first time ever Garfield was labeled "satirical".

Yet the great irony is that for all the controversy this comic generated, apparently people are unfamiliar with what the term veteran actually means. In order to be a Veteran, one must survive a conflict... so while in poor taste this comic was not nearly as offense as it could have been if it ran on, say, Good Friday or Memorial Day.

Then again, considering that Garfield's readers have spent 30 years tittering over punchlines centering around the deliciousness of lasagna or the agues of Monday morning... I suppose anything even marginally au currant would be prone to stir up some controversy.

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Tuesday, November 9, 2010

In defense of Tron Cosplay

I've been watching this trailer about three times an hour since it was posted on the web last week, and I still have no idea what this movie is going to be about...

There's a chick who is almost raped and thrown into a mental institution for the mentally insane (as opposed to...?) with that hot Fillipina chick that pissed Disney off back in 2006... things happen... a giant Samurai robot with a mini-gun blows up a castle, there's a dragon, and she's in an anime schoolgril outfit.

I still have no idea what this movie is about, but I know it will be AWESOME. Just like this guide on tron cosplay that I found!

There internet has shown us that there has been a very poor precedent established for this genre thanks to previous incarnations. Some early examples were... sort of passable, while others the very stuff of nightmares (to say nothing of male cameltoe.) Still, leave it to a kinda hot hipster chick in faux leather and LEDs to change my opinion on the matter!

The girl behind the design of the cosplay has promised to publish a comprehensive guide for future aspirants and I hope to Jeff Bridges that she doesn't provide a male analog or directions on how to scale up the sizes. She has just taken the first, tentative steps at removing the visceral revulsion one feels in their gut at the mention of the words "Tron cosplay". If her costume design were to fall into the wrong hands, we would have a whole new generation of LED-enhanced male cameltoe to haunt our nightmares.

Speaking only for myself, I'm hoping this modern-day Pandora keeps her goddamn box shut.
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Monday, November 8, 2010

The case for thicker skin (part II)

While tragic, I never really grow tired of being correct at identifying a batshit insane trend as it emerges.

Brandon Bitner, age 14, commits suicide in response to bullying.

There have been others since I first remarked on this baffling trend but Brandon is the most recent and thus, to my horrifically atrophied attention span, the most salient. With the death tolls from "bullying" continuing to rise, Schools across the nation struggle to insulate themselves against bullying, have held anti-Bully assemblies and programs, but the problems persist and teenagers continue to take the easy way out. Why? Could it be because maybe, just maybe people should not be exonerating, lionizing and idolizing these suicides?

Apparently not, since there's not a single god-damn reference to personal responsibility for Brandon's death anywhere in the news items about it. Instead, Brandon is given a pass on the crime and weakness of taking his own life by becoming a modern-day martyr with the faceless specter of a bully being held responsible for his death. To wit:

"I do not appreciate ... kids bullying others for their own gratification," Folk wrote. "Because of bullying, one of my closest friends took his own life."

I really do hate to repeat myself, but no one- and I mean no one- can force you to take your own life. The creators of the Saw movie franchise eventually learned this truism as their box office returns dwindled, so why is the rest of the world so unwilling to admit the same thing?

The message being broadcast by exonerating these bullying victims is that the minute things become rough for you, it is acceptable, and perfectly legal, to take your own life. By transferring the responsibility for the deaths away from the victim and onto the faceless bullies, there will never be a decrease in these incidences. And why should there be? If you're being bullied and are generally unpopular, why not kill yourself and become a martyr of the digital age? Hell, you'll even get a memorial Facebook page and privately hosted webpage of pity messages and condolences. What's not to like?

Yet underneath the din, there is a message worth listening to- the It Gets Better Project's Youtube channel continues to grow in popularity as more and more celebrities (and ordinary folk) attempt to dissuade gay victims of bullying from taking their own lives. Heck, buried towards the bottom of the new item on Brandon Bitner is a message to the same effect:

"Bullying someone is wrong, and the only way people will find out it’s wrong is when something like this happens. So, if you’re suicidal, please seek help. There is help out there for you."

But even those stop short of condemning individuals like Brendon and the other recent suicides for their decisions. Until suicides are held accountable for their own actions, and people accept that no one forced them to take their own lives and, further, that it was a decision they thought of and carried out voluntarily I would be deeply surprised if 5-10 more stories like this don't pop up by the end of the month.
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Thursday, November 4, 2010

Apparently, no one in New York has heard of a simple "time out"...

If that finger touches the boy on the left, it's assault and legal open season on the ginger on the right

After Michael Bloomberg was elected Mayor of New York City, life in Manhattan became much more sedate than it had been. Gone was the hardscrabble life that had come to define New Yorkers and in its place was a battery of friendly, welcoming legislation aimed at making the city more welcoming to tourists and potential renters.

While under Bloomberg's tenure, New York City has seen smoking bans, new noise ordinances to quiet down ice cream trucks, and- of course- more smoking bans. Admittedly, Bloomberg is a fairly effective- and popular- mayor, but his tenure has all but neutered the identity of a city once famous for its squalid air quality, deafening din, and rampant xenophobia.

It is refreshing to some, then, that New York City has taken the opportunity to show the world that it's still one of the toughest places to live in when a member of the New York State Supreme court ruled that a 4-year-old girl could be sued for running into an elderly woman while riding her bike. In your face, Minneapolis!

In case you're wondering, there is no hyperbole or distortion of facts in the above paragraph- the case really is that simple: a toddler riding a bike struck an elderly woman on the street. The woman fell, broke her hip, and so her family has decided to seek restitutions in the form of a lawsuit filed against the toddler.

The defense attorney for the 4-year-old in question called the State Supreme Court on their insanity and posited that the child in question was non sui juris, clarifying that "...courts have held that an infant under the age of 4 is conclusively presumed to be incapable of negligence." This sensible argument was noted by the judge who was reported to have nodded briefly in contemplation before solemnly rising from the bench, grabbing his genitals and then flipping off the entire American legal system and common sense as we know it. Justice Wooten then sat down, cleared his throat, and pointed out that because the girl would be five in three months she was clearly capable of being held accountable for her negligence and so allowed the plaintiffs to sue a 4-year-old girl.

(Sidenote: I don't have a single memory from my early childhood, but I'm pretty sure at the age of five I was still afraid of my basement, barely able to ride a bike, and couldn't even pronounce the word "jurisprudence". In fact, I'm pretty sure the closest I came to understanding due legal process was in kindergarten when I wore a construction paper pilgrim hat for Thanksgiving and had to apologize to other five-year-olds dressed up as Native Americans for taking their land. Thus, I'm pretty sure it's impossible for a toddler to have any concept of gross negligence, unless cooties and/or cookies are somehow involved)

What really baffles me about this decision is why the judge didn't simply issue a mulligan on the case when the 87-year-old woman who was struck by the renegade toddler, one Claire Menagh, died three months after the fateful collision from completely unrelated health complications. Instead, Justice Wooten- like so much an avenging Grinch of the judicial system- upheld the very letter of the law and opened a toddler up to punitive lawsuits which... may well be the best thing to happen to New York City since Boss Tweed now that I think about it! How could I have missed the precedence that this case establishes? Bless you, Judge Wooten, bless you!

The next time I'm at a fine restaurant in the city and some obnoxious, crying toddler interferes with the enjoyment of my meal, why should I complain to the maƮtre d' when I can sue the bejesus out of the little bastard? Thanks, Judge Wooten! You have once again made New York City a great place to live in!
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Tuesday, November 2, 2010

For once, it's not just about the boobs...

It's the first Tuesday in November, loyal readers, and that means it's time to vote and, of course, time to reflect on what it is that makes this nation great: Peerless technological advancement and breasts...

You may lose, but cancer patients, small-chested women, and those suffering from cardiovascular diseases will win. And *oh* how they will win...

Eight years ago Cytori Therapeuitics began a quest to bring the world a better breed of breast implant, one that was free of the the traditional complaints of inorganic (silicone) implants. The fabled implant Cytori was chasing would feel more natural, look more natural, and- thanks to adipose-derived regenerative cells- be more natural.

Cytori's technological breakthrough with ADRCs now allows a subject to undergo cell therapy and regrow (or grow, in the case of flat-chested women) breast tissue using stem cells harvested from their own body fat. Thus, a woman who underwent a mastectomy or who was never happy with their humble endowments could- pending FDA approval for the therapy- increase their bust size without ersatz implants and have a healthy pair of 100% natural (albeit, scientifically cajoled) breasts to show off afterwards. This is, in netspeak, awesome sauce.

But it only becomes more awesome, loyal readers, because for once on this blog it's not just about breasts. Cytori Therapeutics patented ADRC therapy has shown in early trials to be promising in the treatment of regrowing almost all basal organ tissue. A study published in May 2010 showed that Cytori's ADRC therapy showed impressive results in the treatment of chronic heart disease and in improving outcomes of cardiovascular health post heart attack.

A month ago, another study was published which suggested ADRC therapy could effectively treat failing or damaged kidneys. And the best part of all of this? Because the ADRCs are harvested from fat cells of the host, there is little to no moral outrage over the source and potential of these cells which has been a major obstacle to securing funding for stem cell research in the past decade. In short: suck it long and hard, ye technophobes on the Religious Right.

The extrapolation of this cell therapy in the treatment of traditionally fatal health disorders is, ironically, worrisome. Given our planet's limited carrying capacity, there is something of an argument to be made against prolonging human life past the point of natural mortality. Bruce Sterling alluded to this quandary some years back... but I think he was missing the big picture.

Admittedly, yes, the planet may eventually collapse under the strain of nigh-immortal human beings free from the ravages of disease but so long as most women in the Cytoria clincal trials are happy with their scientifically cajoled breasts, the planet will collapse under the strain of well-endowed nigh-immortal human beings free from the ravages of disease... which is about as good of an end for this dustball as I can think of.

As an epilogue, I suppose it is a small wonder, then, that Cytori's profits rose 19.3 million dollars last month when picked up on their ADRC breast implant story. One would have thought that the treatment of damaged hearts and kidneys would be enough to recruit investors with, but it seems Cytori has taken a lesson from the The Tea Party and learned that you can't beat the public relations prowess of an awesome rack...

...and yes, Virginia, I know it's a 'shop. Quit bitching and get out to vote!
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