Thursday, December 23, 2010

Being married to Gwyneth Paltrow has this effect on you...

It's almost Christmas, loyal readers, and how better to celebrate than with Coldplay's sob-in-your-nog Christmas Lights and its Terry Gilliam-esque video?

I've always disliked Wham!'s Last Christmas for its wholesale inapplicability to anyone save the two or three unfortunate souls in the world who had a relationship end on Christmas. Sure, there's controversial body of research to suggest that long-term relationships are most likely to end around the holidays. But even if this is true, I am fairly sure the poor, discarded exes would not like to be reminded of their twofold heartbreak around the holidays... least of all George Michael or, insufferably worse, Coldplay.

Speaking of Coldplay and Christmas, I realize I never did get around to buying gifts for all of you. Thankfully, Youtube didn't have any lines to fight this time of year and so I will leave you with this rather spot-on critique of Coldplay's opus Viva la Vida.

I almost liked this song once upon a time, and it was the last song that broadcast radio ruined for me by overplaying the bejesus out of it a few years back. In fact, it was this oversaturation of Coldplay that forced me to fully embrace the iPod and haven't looked back at broadcast radio since. Still, having put some distance between Chris Martin and my ears, I think I actually kind of like it again... but then, that's probably because of the (intentional or otherwise) Super Mario sampling.
Read more ...

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

For the record, it is only *now* officially winter...

But that hasn't stopped Syracuse from suffering under 6 feet of snow this autumn once again proving that nature cares nothing for mankind's arbitrary distinction between seasons.

I'll give that kid his due: while his R2D2 is missing rocket jets, it is way more creative than the all-too-ubiquitous monolithic snow penis which- fun fact- served as the Seal of the City of Syracuse until 1978.

All told, I'd love some snow down here in the Mid-Atlantic. Not Heathrow-closing, semi-apocalyptic levels of snow like those currently choking Europe at the moment... but a good couple of inches would really put me in the holiday spirit.

That's what she said! That's what she said!

Then maybe I can make my own Al Gore ice sculpture or snow Domo!
Read more ...

Friday, December 17, 2010

Dance, Boglin, Dance: on the trauma of losing a childhood friend

A journey back to 1987, when Mattel ruled the Earth...

I was at a small holiday party last week, busily enjoying the yuletide cheer and endless cavalcade of sugary calories on the dessert table when and a friend's girlfriend attempted to make polite conversation as we reached for the same cookie.

"I'm sorry", I said, almost by reflex. "You can have it... as a Christmas present."  I don't know why I said what I did, but she smiled and seemed genuinely touched by my placatory offering.  I didn't make the cookie, and I didn't even buy it, so it really wasn't mine to offer - but it seemed like the right thing to do.

My gesture of good will didn't go unpunished. As she was she placing the cookie (my cookie) onto her plate, she smiled again at me and quipped that she didn't have time to buy me a gift.

I was prepared to leave our interaction at this and find my fiancĂ©, but this girl was insistant on being polite.  "If I had to give you a gift, what would you want it to be?  Like, what if I could give you your favorite Christmas gift from when you were little.  What would it be?"

My eyes blinked repeatedly as I tried to make sense of her question.  I'm not sure what she was expecting me to say, but the evening took a marked turn toward the awkward when a single word escaped my lips: Boglins.

*  *  *  *  *

Boglins, for those who were unfortunate enough to never know them, were a line of rubber monster puppets aimed at capitalizing on the consumerist "creature craze" sparked by Ghostbusters in the late 1980s.

Boglins didn't have much in the way accessories to play with, but they had articulated faces and a host of controls which gave the owner an impressive amount of say in the facial expressions, gestures, and demeanor of the puppet itself. Eyes could rotate and roll, brows could furrow and the mouth could be arranged anywhere between a grimace and a grin.

Also, they were made of intriguingly colored rubber with a texture and smell guaranteed to make them a unique staple of any child's toybox (that didn't feature Stinkor or Moss Man).

*  *  *  *  *

I was pleased to see a spark of recognition on the girl's face when I mentioned Boglins. She was either familiar with them in passing or too polite to correct me on my dyslexic attempt at pronouncing the word "goblin". I seized upon her momentary pause to gush a bit about my favorite Boglin, Vlobb.

From the time that I opened him up on Christmas morning, I remembered carting Vlobb around with me everywhere I went, full-well convinced that he was a real pet. I'm pretty sure it was this level of desperation for companionship that ultimately lead my father to buy me a Golden Retriever to dote upon but even after the dog had arrived, I preferred Vlobb to a real pet.

Perhaps it was because I saw something of an accomplice in Vlobb, or maybe it was because I could thrust my hand into its backside in public and not attract scorns of derision or the attention of childhood psychologists (I defy you to try the same thing with a Golden Retriever...), but I like to think it was because Vlobb allowed me to be more creative and outgoing, like something of a repressed ventriloquist.

Sadly, my relationship with Vlobb ended abruptly and traumatically in an airport. My family was en route to a vacation in Walt Disney World, and I was elated at sharing the experience with my trusty Boglin.

This all changed when I approached the metal detectors at the security checkpoint.

The TSA official in charge demanded that I be parted from Vlobb "for a few minutes" so he could be placed on the conveyor belt and scanned for explosives or hidden heroin. I was confused by this, but my father pulled Vlobb from my hands and placed him on the belt with a reassurance that everything would be ok.

Unfortunately for Vlobb, everything was not ok.  His adorable rubber tail wound up caught in the mechanism of the machine and he was torn to pieces while I watched, inconsolable, as the scene unfolded on the x-ray screen in front of me.

 I wasn't much for tantrums as a child, but being forced to watch the graphic evisceration of my favorite childhood companion was too much for me to handle and airport security was eventually called over to investigate the "disturbance" at the checkpoint.

*  *  *  *  * 

I probably should have omitted the ending bit from the story that I was retelling to the polite girl at the party. When I finally looked up from my fond reverie her mouth was agape and her face was fixed with a look somewhere between pity, incomprehension and panic as the cookie (my cookie) hovered inches from her lips.

I smiled quickly and unconvincingly, apologized for my tangent as I looked over at the tray of sweets on the table next to us, and politely asked her what her favorite Christmas present was.

Rather than answer, she excused herself to attend to her girlfriend and I shuffled over to the Blu-ray Yule Log that crackled impassively on the nearby HDTV.

I finished what was left of my mulled wine and reflected on how much more fun my life was when the omnipresent toy in my hands was a bluish green rubber puppet instead of a Nintendo DS or PSPgo.

Man, I miss Boglins...
Read more ...

Thursday, December 16, 2010

1:120 the scale, 120:1 the awesome

Say what you will about the fellow's motivation to recreate his favorite area from an MMO to scale, this thing is awesome! And intricate!

I've never been one for maquettes* but I happened across this video via a Final Fantasy forum and was quite impressed with the craftsmanship of the project. Maybe it's because my FFXI character was San d'Orian (so I know the area used for the model quite well) or maybe it's because I respect the punishing amount of detail invested in an insanely complicated art project that was conceived on a whim. Either way, there's no taking away from the awesome...

If you don't feel like watching the video, here's a view of what part of the area covered by the model looks like in-game. I have absolutely no idea what the creator is planning to do with the giant model now that it is completed, but considering that he is already planning similar model for Windurst and Bastok (the other two starting cities) I can only assume he isn't hurting for storage space.

It's extremely pleasing to see someone so excited and devoted to their MMO to create a project like this, especially considering said MMO is rapidly waning in popularity. Three years ago, I could understand someone having this level of zeal for the game but now it seems a bit late. Still, as someone who all but teared up the orchestral arrangement of Ronfaure this past summer at Distant Worlds concert at Wolf Trap I can see where this dude is coming from. He's not the raiding-10-hours-a-day type who will whine about DKP and teabag your character while they're down, he's the person who plays a game like this because he enjoys it. Also, because he appears to be trapped in some far-flung and rural corner of the UK. But still, he enjoys that too!

*= They always looked like model railroad scenery to me. Now macaques, on the other hand, are awesome.
Read more ...

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

It figures this would happen after I settle into monogamy...

They, uh, just did...

Buzz around the blogosphere is hinting that a crack team of German doctors have finally cured A.I.D.S. albeit in an extremely unconventional manner. Gizomodo highlights the hardships the patient endured to be the first man fully cured of AIDS:

"The treatment Brown underwent was aggressive: chemotherapy that destroyed the majority of his immune cells. Total body irradiation. Finally, a risky stem-cell transplant that nearly a third of patients don't survive—but that appears to have completely cured Brown of HIV."

There's still no cure for cancer, if you're keeping track at home, but this is pretty damn nifty for neo-Libertines the world over!

Read more ...

In lumine Tuo videbimus lumen

Admittedly, Shakira comes from this Colombia and not the Columbia in the news lately... but given the nature of the stories that follow, I think you'll agree that Col(o/u)mbians- regardless of allegiance- need some good press this week.

Columbia University has had a rough time of things lately. Ranked just above Dartmouth as "the least remembered Ivy", The Lions have launched an aggressive and ill-conceived year end public relations campaign to end 2010 with a bang. Or a bust. Specifically, a bust of five of their students for running a high-volume drug ring from campus.

It would seem that college students (specifically fraternity brothers) dealing drugs is hardly newsworthy, but the scope and scale of the Columbian drug ring proves that Ivy League students haven't lost their deserved reputations for hard work, ingenuity, and success:

"'They weren't just selling small amounts,' Brennan added. 'When the undercover officer asked for large amounts of cocaine and marijuana, they seemed fully capable of delivering.'

Authorities say the students sold a cocktail of illegal substances, including Adderall, marijuana, Ecstasy, cocaine and LSD-laced Altoid mints."

The fallout of the Columbian drug ring (editor's note: heh.) has transcended the arrest of the five students in question and included the suspension of three fraternities and the arrests of three drug suppliers with no official affiliations with the University. But a mere drug ring, even one of this size, is hardly enough to revitalize the reputation of one of the top academic and research institutions in the world. In addition to conducting pathbreaking research in medicine, science, the arts, and the humanities Columbia has also begun conducting pathbreaking research in incest, a field most other Ivy League institutions overlook!
They say you can't judge on appearances alone, but I don't exactly expect the trustees to drop their monocles in their soup when they read this man was arrested for sleeping with his daughter

Last week, Dr. David Epstein, of the Political Science department, was charged with a single felony count of incest for allgedly sleeping with his 24-year-old-daughter multiple times over the span of a three-year-long consensual relationship. Admittedly, these are only allegations and his daughter was of legal consenting age... but I sincerely doubt he'll be let anywhere near the psychology department's child development lab assuming his exoneration.

So there you have it, loyal readers: Columbia University, beacon of learning on the Upper West Side, might have finally let its hair down enough to convince Emma Watson, to hop over from Brown to start an intramural quidditch team. Here's to hoping it's a lingerie league...
Read more ...

Friday, December 10, 2010

The Four Lokos of the apocalypse

Perhaps the ban on Four Loko, and similar caffeinated alcoholic beverages, is not a bad thing.

For those unfamiliar with Four Loko, it is a "premium malt beverage" that is essentially like Boone's Farm excepting that it has caffeine and can actually get you drunk. It's also a ridiculously sweet concoction of caffeine (2.5 cups of coffee worth), alcohol (roughly equivalent to one bottle of wine), and 60g of pure sugary flavoring (more than 1.5 bags of Skittles) all mixed together with the sole intent of providing the imbiber with a more energetic drunk buzz.

For this reason, it has a reputation for packing something of a punch and has been nicknamed "Blackout in a Can", "Hipster Heineken", and "Time for Anniversary Anal". Due to its insane popularity and aggressive marketing towards college students, the FDA yanked the hipster darling drink Four Loko from shelves and have banned its manufacture (in its current state).

With the impending death of Four Loko, a growing- and sobering- partying public is looking for the next gimmicky alcohol hybrid drink to emerge. And dear friends, that day is today...

For those who fondly recall the unfettered elation of Pizza Day in their school cafeterias and long for a perfect adult beverage to pair with a nostalgic, thawed rectangle of sodium-soaked goodness, the Adult Beverage Company is proud to offer 40-proof Adult Chocolate Milk. The company also has plans to expand into Adult Fruit Punch, Adult Limeade, and Adult Orange Cream although why you wouldn't save yourself $20 and (your dignity) by dropping a shot of Absolut into a can of orange Slice is beyond me.

While I have trouble endorsing the latter three offerings from the Adult Beverage Company, the Adult Chocolate Milk sounds kind of awesome in a high-calorie, low-buzz sort of way. Mix that with some 30-proof alcohol infused whipped cream and baby, you've got a stew goin' on!

Read more ...

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Form vs. Function vs. Elves

As I've posted in the past, my experiences with chequered, at best. The game is essentially a single-player MMO (complete with repetitive endgame dungeon raids!) but is a unique single-player console RPG in that it affords the player the ability to control every aspect of their character's appearance, from face, build and hair to the outfits that they wear. As is often the case, the best looking gear often looks like warmed over ass which leads the more roleplaying-focused players to enter into to an internal debate on the respective roles of form and function.

I recently ground DQIX into... well, the ground about a month and a half ago and haven't picked it up since. The gameplay was becoming repetitive to the point of annoyance, I couldn't unlock the Luminary advanced job, and I was one DQVC localization pun away from punting my DS into GameStop without ever looking back. Fascinating, right? Well, I picked the game up this weekend and was completely taken aback by the sheer amount of armour pieces that I had in my collection. Also, I was shocked- and a bit proud- to find my characters were all wearing stuff that emphasized aesthetics over the best available stat bonuses for their respective classes. Sure, my paladin should be wearing a helmet of some variety... but I didn't create her with bright green pigtails just so I could stuff them under a viking helm to never see the light of day again!

This is progress for me since I'm a recently recovered MMORPGer and am used to the "If you don't have Gear Set X, you're not good because you have 2 less STR than someone who does" mentality. However, my MMO vice of choice- Final Fantasy XI- allowed savvy players to swap .dat files (graphics and animation) thereby changing what the game-generated graphic for a piece of gear would look like on their PCs. Using this trick I was able to circumvent the form over function debate by equipping my character with the expected "good" gearset that looked (to me) like lukewarm ass and then swapped the .dat files in my local install to pieces of equipment I found to be more aesthetically pleasing. When other players saw my Samurai, he was wearing the same (+1) heavy armor and a couch cushion on his head as everyone expected him to... but on my PC he was wearing a gi, hakama and looked like a freakin' Samurai right down to his black, reflective sunglasses. It should be noted at this point that I really have no idea what a Samurai looks like.

I won't confess how long I spent mapping out the .dats for each corresponding equipment set, but seeing my character in clothing and armor that fit the expectation of what I wanted to see allowed me to derive a level of enjoyment from the game that I could not readily convey to other players (hai2u, Edward Said...). Unfortunately, I found this particular remedy of swapped .dats wouldn't apply to Dragon Quest IX (given that it's on a DS and all) and so I decided to pick outfits and gear that looked good while eschewing stat bonuses. The result has been an incredibly fun experience in which I can play a character who looked exactly as I wanted them to look which is something very few other games have been able to deliver. My fiance still chides me for playing "pretty pretty princess dress-up" from time to time, but I've been enjoying myself this second go round and even managed to unlock Luminary.

...and with a new class, of course, comes a whole new set of gear choices. This one offers me the chance to have a suit with a guitar on the back? This changes everything!
Read more ...

Friday, December 3, 2010

To fight the unbeatable foe...

Senor Quijano is profoundly unimpressed.

As if the 4-7-0 Vikings weren't a clear enough indication that God hates Minnesota, this week's freak snowstorm- which deposited as much as two feet of snow on some portions of The North Star State-yielded literary proof for the divine's contempt... to say nothing of his fondness for the works of early 17th century Spanish novelists.

Patrick Ladd, a 52-year-old farm worker, was in the process of clearing the unexpected snowdrifts with his trusty tractor. Then, for whatever reason, he rammed said tractor into a 40' windmill which, I would think, would not be the most difficult thing to see and avoid, even in a driving snowstorm. Unfortunately, fickle fate decreed that Ladd was to fare far worse than Cervantes' cheeky chevalier and the windmill collapsed on top of the tractor- killing Ladd instantly.

Word is out as to what was going through Ladd's mind moments before the ill-fated tilt. Poor weather conditions can, of course, be blamed, but I for one would like to think he was charging the windmill to avenge the honor of common tavern whore Jenn Sterger... or at least to find comfort in a world where he would no longer be haunted by visuals of Vikings QB Brett Favre waggling his superbowl-winning penis on Gawker.
Read more ...