Friday, December 30, 2011

Google Chrome loves it some Vocaloid

Two Vocaloid posts in one week?  Well, like the last one, this one is pretty cool, gentle readers, so I hope you bear with me until I'm back from vacation and in-dept posts resume properly.

Earlier this month in Japan, Google Chrome began streaming a minute-long ad which revolves around Vocaloid poster girl Hatsune Miku.  The ad features footage from this summer's sold-out Mikunopolis concert in Los Angeles, but more importantly it highlights the collaborative creative process behind the Vocaloid movement.
The best part is that she'll never overdose or launch on a self-destructive pattern of alcoholism and rampant promiscuity (fanfic notwithstanding)

While it's true that a great many of the talented Vocaloid composers do all of their arrangements and mixing themselves, the community is remarkably open and collaborative in nature (see: MikuMikuDance).  Chrome's commercial recognizes this and shows exactly how much fans can invest in their passion when given the proper tools.  In this case, the tools are Vocaloid software and Google Chrome, apparently...

Google can be forgiven for grandstanding a bit because it really is amazing to see how far Hatsune Miku has taken Vocaloid in the span of four and a half years.  While still by no means mainstream (in the US, at least) it has successfully given legions of musicians and artists exposure that they likely would never have received otherwise.  It will be curious to see if this creative collaboration is replicated to a similar degree stateside or in Europe.
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Thursday, December 29, 2011

So, there's a live action Ranma 1/2 movie now...

Ranma 1/2 was one of the first anime that I remember being exposed to.  I never actually watched an episode on my own but was exposed to it by the creepy, corpulent assistant manager of the local comic book store.  Because he looked so much like a cross between Warwick Davis' Willow and The Michelin Man and watched Ranma with his glazed, boanthrophic eyes half-focused on a grainy 15" TV as he rung up my purchases of Magic: The Gathering (Fallen Empires) booster packs, I never really had positive associations with it.  Still, it did spark my interest in all things anime so it has that going for it.

It also has a live-action movie now, and it looks horrible.

So, a giant panda suit was no problem to find... but a red wig with pig tails was out of their budget?

Still regarded by many otaku as a classic, Nippon TV decided to dust off Ranma with a two hour long live action adaptation in an attempt to cash in on some otaku nostalgia. For those unfamiliar with the series, the lightning fast summary is as follows: there are cursed springs in a town that people apparently can't help but drown in.  If you touch the water of said springs, you will turn into whatever drowned there last when you touch cold water, and turn back to your original self when you come into contact with hot water.  Ranma, the male protagonist, and his father head to the springs to train one day (always a good idea!) and fall in to different springs.  Ranma subsequently becomes a buxom red-headed girl when he gets wet (irony?), while his father turns into a stately giant panda.  Hilarity, gender-bending, and unintentionally homosexual crushes ensue!

The premise behind Ranma 1/2 is actually pretty cute, which is partially what makes Nippon TV's low budget adaptation even more difficult to stomach...

While there's no announcement on when, or if, this will be officially released in the west it was already made its way into Taiwan, so I imagine fan rips will be easy to track down on the net to those of questionable scruples...

EDITSU! It appears that they did put a better wig on the actress who played fem-Ranma, but where the hell is Shampoo?
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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

France commits the 3DS to the Louvre

There's no denying that the Nintendo 3DS is an attractive piece of hardware inside and out, but something about it- probably the touchscreen, appeal to children, and stereoscopic 3D augmented reality-caught the eye of the world's most famous museum.  This has lead to an unlikely partnership between Nintendo and The Louvre that will see 5,000 3DS shipped over to Paris to serve as... tour guides?

Hey, I consider the 3DS Legend of Zelda Bundle to be a work of art... 

Eager to expand the revenue generated from experience of the current 6-Euro rentable audio tour units, The Louvre announced a partnership with Nintendo that would see thousands of 3DS devices repurposed as audio visual tourguides.  By allowing users to view their location in the museum in real-time, the 3DS would allow users to select themed itineraries that would direct them to thematically appropriate galleries and free-standing pieces.  These offerings will accompany hundres of audio commentaries and featured videos, all of which highlighting the utility of Nintedo's latest handheld.

While there's no word as to whether this software can be loaded onto a user's personal 3DS (not likely), the cost of renting a unit will probably be kept under the 10 Euro mark to attract curious tourists.  For those on a budget- and who have a gig of free space on their smartphones- there's also the free 800+ MB behemoth that is the Musée du Louvre iPhone app to consider as a possible alternative.

As for myself, I think I'll stick to the paper map.  It tells you where the sortie is!
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Tuesday, December 27, 2011

A Study in Vocaloid: Aku no Musume

When it comes to Vocaloid idols, Kagamine Rin lags a bit in popularity.  Her teenage voice is nowhere near as ubiquitous as that of the teal-haired tease Hatsune Miku nor is it as smooth and sultry as the equally smooth and sultry Megurine Luka.  Still, Rin- and her "brother", Len- have attracted their fair share of followers, thanks to the Vocaloid work of Mothy and his fairy tale inspired songs.

Chief among Mothy's most well known hits is the infectiously pop-y Aku no Musume (Girl/Daughter of Evil),  performed Kagamine Rin.  The song features a surprisingly upbeat and manically paced melody, and tales the story of a tyrannical queen hellbent on hedonism and driving her nation into ruin for her own personally gratification.  Pretty deep stuff for pop music fueled by synthetic vocals, no?

Those familiar with the melody and not the lyrics might find the darker tone of the piece might be a bit surprising, yet if you're willing to read through said lyrics you'll find them to be quite fitting of the title Daughter of Evil...

If she should ever need more money, 

she'd just wring more from her foolish populace. 

If there should be anybody revolting against her, 
she'd just order them purged out of her sight.
A flower of evil blooms sweetly 

in the most brilliant colors. 

Those pitiful weeds around her, 
ah, will wilt away serving as her fertilizer.

As an added bonus, the lyrics will also teach you how say "Now, Kneel Before Me!" ("saa, hizamazukinasai!" ) in Japanese... which is likely to come in handy during your next international business meeting.  Be sure to impress your boss' client with your newfound knowledge of Japanese!
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Monday, December 26, 2011

Skyward Sword fanart takes a turn for the awesome

If you were good little geeks and geekettes this Christmas (and are fortunate to live in America...), chances are good that unwrapped a game that contained the word "Sky" somewhere in its title.   Whether SkyrimSkyward Sword, or Skylanders chances are good that you'll be too busy playing it to day to care about anything I post here, which is partially why I'm contenting myself to post this ecchi Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword fan art that is simply too awesome not to share.
Not pictured: Loftwing, Zelda's pants. (image source)

...the other reason is because I'm planning to spend most of today playing Skyward Sword until my eyes bleed.  Out of all the motion control gimmicks in the game, I actually enjoyed the skydiving aspect the least, but I suppose it redeems itself by inspiring fanart like this.

Also, the dull "thwack" that Link makes as you skydive him into a wall is pretty damn satisfying...
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Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas may never be as awesome as this

It's the day before the major holiday weekend, dear readers, and I'm sure most all of you are reading this as you await your flight in a crowded, malodorous airport.  While unenviable, I prefer this image to one of you staring baleful eyedaggers at your computer screen waiting word from your boss that your office is closing early.

No matter where you might be today, I believe I can coax a smile from your face with a trip down nostalgia lane.  While I know only a few of you in the flesh, I like to think that you'll all be too overcome with paroxysms of consumerist glee this weekend as you unwrap your presents.  If any of you have a moment that's anything like this, however, I demand a video...

Pure, nestolgic, gold.  What I love most about that video is the grainy authenticity of the footage.  Maybe Christmas has instilled in me a longing for simpler days, but the HD successors to the venerable N64-gasm above just don't have the same feel to them. It's not that I have anything against HD footage- in fact, when applied properly- it's pretty awesome...

...but for capturing childhood memories, there's something intensely appealing about grainy imperfections.  Keep that in mind as you celebrate the holidays with the grainy imperfections in your life this weekend and keep Kawaiian Punch in your thoughts over the break- posts will continue until the new year if you find yourself in need of some distraction!

(title image source)
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Thursday, December 22, 2011

Hatsune Miku holds power over pop charts, voices of the dead.

At its unveiling in 2003, Yamaha's Vocaloid software promised to change the face of music as the world knew it.  The initial reception of the synthetic voice database software was positive, but by no means overwhelming.   It wasn't until Vocaloid 2 (which featured the now-famous voice and character of Hatsune Miku) was released four years later that the phenomenon of Vocaloid music really took off.

Yet many forget that one of the initial selling points of Vocaloid's software was its potential to preserve, or in some cases resurrect, the singing voices of famous vocalists.  Now that Miku has all but taken over the world, it seems that Vocaloid is now ready to begin exploring that eldritch area of auditory research...

This picture was surprisingly easy to find... (source)

When Vocaloid's technology first began making headlines eight years ago, many singers were excited at its potential to permanently catalog their voices.  REM's Michael Stipe was impressed by its features, but the process of manually creating a voice database (theoretically achieved by singing and recording every possible syllable and phoneme) was too daunting and tedious of a project for most professional singers to consider and so Vocaloid was never really considered for this archival task in the west.

Yet now it appears that Vocaloid's newest software can extract the syllables and phonemes from isolated vocal tracks, giving its researchers the ability to create a vocal database without the singer's physical presence (or consent, although the latter is provided by their estate and whoever holds the rights to their songs). This is big news for fans of deceased crooners, since they are notoriously difficult to schedule recording time with.

Earlier this week, reported that the Vocaloid team was able to successfully "resurrect" the voice of Japanese icon Hitoshi Ueki who died in 2007.  The truly excellent article details the steps taken by the Yahama researchers to compile the vocal library of Ueki, and the limitations of their approach.  While the software can create a pleasing and accurate simulacrum of a singer's familiar voice, personalized delivery and singing style (grunts, whispers, heavy lisps, etc.) are still a work in progress

Still, Yamaha's progress with "Ueki-loid" is promising and certainly legitimizes Vocaloid's ability to create posthumous vocal libraries of famous singers of bygone ages.  The only question facing Yamaha now is whether they should launch Elvis-loid next year, or if it is better to let sleeping Elvii lie.
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Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Hobbit trailer has arrived, your life now has meaning

While I'm not sold on the new Billy Badass reimagining of Thorin, it's leagues better from the 1977 Rankin & Bass depiction in which he looks like a covetous Jew from a Nazi propaganda poster.

As anyone with a Facebook or Twitter account probably knows by now, the trailer for The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey hit the net last night and it looks pretty awesome.  I'll spare you an unduly long lead in and simply post the trailer with some notes and commentary to follow.  Enjoy- and start stocking up on your sleeping pills now.  If you play your cards right you can go straight from New Year's Eve 2011 to Thanksgiving 2012 with a case of Nyquil and some determination...

0:23 - He must be a hobbit!  He's wearing brocade curtains as a vest!
0:27 - It's impossible to say the word "Adventure" without doing some sort of weird side-of-the-eye thing.
0:32 - Bilbo is known across The Shire for his impressively metrosexual line of velvet blazers
0:37 - Whoa.  Nice catch!  Those dwarves better damn well sing the Chip the Glasses song if they know what's good for them.
0:38 - Kili's kinda hot for a dwarf.  Don't, uh, get too attached to him ladies...
0:39 - In Fellowship, I'm pretty sure Gandalf called him "Gloin" not "Glow-in".  Hehe.  Gloin.
0:49 - That's a pretty badass entrance for a dwarf.  Thorin sorta looks like someone shrunk Karkaroff.
0:55 - Nice rendition of the song.  A bit overdone with the slow standing, but it bodes well for the tone of the film.  Let's hope they leave out the Tra-la-la-lalley song from when they arrive in Rivendell...
1:18 - I don't recall Ruins in The Hobbit, least of all the first half.  Pretty sure this is taken from Gandalf's sidequests with the Council to investigate the rise of The Necromance (Sauron) at Dol Guldur. Sorry ladies, I'm taken!
1:32 - I'll kill you Gandalf!  She's my girlfriend!!!
1:47 - I guess this explains the "Funeral expenses, if necessary" claus in Bilbo's contract.
1:55 - I cannot wait to go to New Zealand in March.
1:59 - Radagast the Brown, maybe?  Hey look, Trolls!
2:23 - This scene should be pretty awesome.  Kinda miffed the trailer didn't show the Goblins, though.
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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Harry Potter meets Mystery Science Theater 3000 on The Dark Side of the Moon

There's something about the film adaptation of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone that makes me think of Christmas.  As the first Harry Potter movie, Sorcerer's Stone possesses a childlike sense of wonder and innocence that is pretty much everything that the holidays should be about (rampant commercialism notwithstanding).  Also, the film devotes a good chunk of time to showing Christmas at Hogwarts, so that doesn't hurt matters any.

Yet there is a secret to the film that many fans don't even know- it has an alternate audio track, and it is awesome. If you have a few idle hours this holiday season, treat yourself to some Wizard People, Dear Readers?

The actual audio is as funny as this picture is horrifying (source)

Wizard People, Dear Readers is a comedic alternate audio track created and conceived by Brad Neely.  Meant to sync up to the movie much in the way that the Pink Floyd/Wizard of Oz Dark Side of the Rainbow mash-up works, a viewer starts up the audio track when the movie begins, mutes the sound on the DVD, and enjoys Neely's comic genius.  With a voice that is equal parts Tom Waits and mountain goat, Neely imbues the aged film (seriously- the CG on the troll scene is laughable by the standards of every other movie in the franchise...) with new life, humor, and- at times- beauty.

By mixing prosaic language with enough pop culture references and f-bombs to make any forum troll happy, Neely creates a comedic masterpiece that will help you see- and appreciate- Harry Potter in a whole new light.  Many names are changed (to avoid lawsuits...), but the characters change slightly with them.  Professor Snapke, for example, is a hideous older woman with unresolved issues relating to his her parents, but at this point most people can probably figure out who's who.

The language employed by Neely can be a a bit off-putting at times to those with more sensitive ears, but the absurdity of its profanity help it shine all the more.  Consider a passage from the end of the Quidditch Cribbage match...

"The crowd goes absolutely bazonkers! The champions in red and yellow are the victors, and Harry is spent. The crowd is destroying its throats calling Harry's name. Harry feels right with himself. He's down there, a new god who has found a calling.

He holds up that Snitch and bellows: 
'I am a beautiful animal! 
'I am a destroyer of worlds! 
'I am Harry Fucking Potter!' "

Or, you can watch the whole passage here:

It's sad that Neely never released alternate audio for the subsequent Harry Potter movies, but perhaps he recognized the singularity of his success with Wizard People, Dear Readers and decided not to let his project go on past the point that it was funny.  Or maybe Warner Brothers threatened to sue him into poverty.  Either way, his comedic genius endures and can be yours- free!- to help time with family pass faster this Christmas.
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Monday, December 19, 2011

Who doesn't sleep better with a bear mauling their face?

Nothing can disturb the sleep of oneself or one's partner quite like snoring except, of course, for bedwetting which most of us outgrow by our third semester in college.  An entire market of homeopathic remedies have been created around solving the sleep interrupting and marriage destroying problem of snoring, yet these remedies failed to offer scientists a way to robotically maul a person's face in their sleep.  At least, they didn't until Japan got involved...

It only looks sweet and innocent.  Inside the unassuming plush lurks the cold, robotic mind of a killer. (source)

The new step in anti-snoring technology is the design of Dr. Kabe from Wasaeda University.  The large bear is actually a pillow that will tickle (maul) a sleeper's face when they start snoring in an attempt to cause them to roll over and stop snoring (become vulnerable to subsequent maulings). It accomplishes this spousal gesture by monitoring the volume of snoring through built in microphones as well as monitoring blood oxygen levels via a pulse sensor attached to the wrist (it's the tiny polar bear cub to the left in the above picture).  In other words, when your sleeping posture affects the amount of oxygen in your blood stream and/or you start to snore loudly, the polar bear pillow will "gently" tickle your face.  Want to see it in action?  Of course you do!

In all seriousness, the pillow looks like a surprisingly good idea that's gentle in its aesthetics and execution.  I would just be worried about what would happen to you if and when the sensors begin to malfunction and the bear decides you need something stronger than a tickle to stop snoring...
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Friday, December 16, 2011

Lego Lord of the Rings games are on the way

Six odd years ago, Lego struck gold with the unlikely Lego Star Wars crossover title.  Since then, the Danish toy manufacturer has continued to spawn unlikely alliances by adapating blockbuster franchises into adorable puzzle-platformer titles.  Lego Batman, Indiana Jones (both 2008), Harry Potter (2010),  and Pirates of the Caribbean (2011) all soon followed on the success of Lego Star Wars providing mercurial, kid-friendly adaptations of some of the biggest cinematic and creative properties of the past 30 years.  The news of their latest crossover license, Lego Lord of the Rings and Lego: The Hobbit, then can be seen as a natural progression and one that casual videogame fans will feel is a long time overdue.

As if Elijah Wood wasn't kawaii enough... (source)

Precious little about the game past the adorable teaser poster and a tentative release window of Summer 2012 is posted on the official website.  A lego fansite places the release of Lego Lord of the Rings in June 2012 with the release of The Hobbit coming later in the year, likely in December to catch the momentum of holiday sales and to coincide with the release of Peter Jackson's latest endorsement for the New Zealand tourism department.  No word of platforms is mentioned but given Lego's catholic appeal, it's likely to hit all of the major consoles as well as PC, Mac, and probably the 3DS as well for good measure.

While the partnership between Lego and Warner Brothers that brought these games into development seemed like an inevitability in hindsight, one can only hope that Lego tries to vary the gameplay mechanics slightly to keep Lego Lord of the Rings from being a cheap reskin of Lego Star Wars.  With few exceptions, the Lego "X" titles are similar to the point of being interchangeable.  If you've played one, you have a very, very good idea of what to expect from the others as you smash things, build other things (to smash), collect bricks, unlock different character types, revisit levels to explore bonus content, unlock more characters, and strive to bring the completion percentage of your save file ever-closer to the endorphine releasing 100%.
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Thursday, December 15, 2011

A little geek lingerie never hurt anybody

With 10 days left until Christmas, the slackers among us are likely to panic when they realize exactly how few shipping days remain between now and the 25th. While stocking stuffers and gift cards can easily be picked up at the last minute, gifts for the people closest to us can be more difficult to find in a pinch.

For those geeks in a relationship, the standard gifts of a new limited-edition console bundle or an inspired piece of jewelry are hard to screw up. But what if you wanted to buy your girlfriend a slightly more intimate gift? Or how about a gift that would allow a nice geek girl to show her partner her naughty side? Some may question the wisdom of buying lingerie as a Christmas present, but for those prepared for the consequences, Kawaiian Punch is here to help by providing you a list of some of the most nerd-friendly négligée on the internet. Purchase at your own risk!

Legend of Zelda Corset

Price: ~$250-$300
This item was once the centerpiece of The Vintage Doctor's corset collection but now appears to be discontinued. While you can probably commission a custom corset to arrive in time for Valentine's Day, it seems unlikely that your beau will be able to unwrap this item for this Christmas. The Batman Checkered Corset, however, is still in stock...

Username & Password Boy Briefs

Price: $16.95
Sold by geek chic megasite J!nx, the username & password boy briefs sends your partner a message that you care about the integrity of your... data. A modern girl can't let just anyone login, after all! Pair these understatedly sexy panties with a pair of super sexy Portal 2 knee-high socks and your partner will be practically begging you to let him or her authenticate with your most trusted of domains.
Glow in the dark bra & panty set

Price: $45.95 (each), $90.00 (set)
Marketed more to mainstream couples than geeks specifically, Australian lingerie designer LuminoGlow's luminescent bra and panty set is sure to appeal to Tron enthusiasts as well as those who never quite got over their fear of the dark. Although a bit pricy and gimmicky, the "devastatingly sexy" silk négligée seems rather well made. Slim chance of it arriving from Australia in time for Christmas, however.

HTTP Panties

Price: $7.99
Simple bikini-cut cotton panties are hardly what most girls think of when they read the word "lingerie", but seeing as how these are emblazoned with common HTTP codes and cover one's genitals, they thus meet the two qualifications required of geek lingerie. As one of Thinkgeek's first "edgy" products, they're probably the least objectionable item on this list for most girls to consider wearing.

Gameboy Sheath Dress
Price: $78.00
Perhaps the most conservative item presented here, the "Handheld Game Dress" created by super-talented Etsy designer SewOeno ranks as one of the sexiest things a girl can wear for her partner. Although one probably won't have too many opportunities to wear this outside of the bedroom (except with a pair of leggings and thick glasses, as above), it's still pretty awesome. The look of sheer lust and joy on your partner's face when you walk in wearing this will be well worth the price of purchase. Added bonus: the ability to make "handheld" puns all night long.

CyberSlave BDSM collar
Price: $30.00
Not for the négligée neophytes! Fantasies in Leather's CyberSlave collar might just be the perfect Christmas gift for geeky couples into light bondage as it combines a collar with repurposed keyboard keys. A word of warning before purchasing: your mother-in-law will probably not be too thrilled to watch her darling daughter or son-and-heir unwrap this underneath of her Christmas tree, so if you're planning to gift this to your submissive sweetie, it would be best to exchange your gifts privately.

Pacman Pasties

Price: $17.00
Yet another Etsy offering. I was surprised at the staggering variety of nipple-hiding options that the craft equivalent of ebay offers for the adventurous gal geeks out there. Like most of etsy's stock offerings, the quality of their intimate apparel selection is a bit hit or miss, but these Pacman Pasties are sure to appeal to old school gamers and new school Penny Arcade fans alike.


Price: $12.00
A surefire hit for Apple fangirls, diehard geeks, and mainstream geek wannabes with smartphones, the attractively priced and oh-so-sexy iPanties will likely turn on even the most ardent Android user. Unfortunately, I wouldn't be in a hurry to purchase them as the ordering process involves commenting on the site's blog and sending money via Paypal to Brazil. With such a broad range of potential customers, it's amazing this design hasn't popped up in a more reputable retailer. Oh, wait...
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Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Final Fantasy XIII-2 hates chocobos, fan's eardrums

As something of an aficionado of videogame music, I was surprised yesterday to see Kotaku jump on the much-maligned "Crazy Chocobo Theme" that was leaked from Final Fantasy XIII-2 soundtrack.  I say surprised because the Chocobo theme has changed in every iteration of a Final Fantasy game from 2-14, so it makes sense that XIII-2 would offer its own take on the theme and I couldn't understand why this admittedly divisive track was stirring up so much hate.

If anything, one would expect Final Fantasy XIV's Magnificent Seven-inspired chocobo theme (which was composed by Nobuo Uematsu) to draw more ire from fans... but that would pre-suppose that anyone is actually playing Final Fantasy XIV to begin with. Even with that considered, given the horrific rapping that accompanies the FFXIII-2 Crazy Chocobo Theme (below) perhaps Kotaku's reaction wasn't too far off...

It's worth noting that "Crazy Chocobo" (above) is only one chocobo theme to be heard in the game.  With Masashi Hamauzu (FFXIII), Naoshi Mizuta (FFXI), and Square Enix relative unknown Mitsuto Suzuki all collaborating on the soundtrack, it would make sense that some iconic tracks would feature multiple arrangements.  Take the laconic "Groovy Chocobo" for example...

...or, perhaps don't.  Suddenly the Final Fantasy XIV western chocobo isn't sounding so bad.
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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

It's dangerous to go alone, take this... and this woman, to be your wife.

As the internet draws attention to the awesomeness of geek weddings, an increasing number of couples are finding it easy to skip the traditional wedding route for their special day.  Doing so not only avoids the financial sinkhole that is the wedding industry, but also creates a ceremony that is far more personal and - ultimately - meaningful.

Thanks to this countercultural movement, professional zombie engagement photos and geek-themed weddings are becoming the new chic (see you in hell, barn weddings!)

...which is why this Legend of Zelda inspired wedding band is only partially surprising.

This must of set the bride back a good many Gold Skulltula tokens...

I say "partially surprising" because the craftsmanship of the ring - which was designed by the bride, deviant artist ushiyasha herself - is absolutely stunning.  While my own wedding was a deeply personal and by no means traditional affair, the videogame touches were kept to a minimum.

...outside of the fact we both walked in to a processional from Final Fantasy VIII and I proudly wore Hylian Shield cufflinks, that is.

Still, I must admire those who commit to a full-on geek wedding theme. As any couple with a supportive family is apt to learn, no matter what choices you make for the wedding ceremony and reception, there's a good chance your family members may grumble along the way but on the actual day they'll fall in line with your idea and have a great time doing so.

The only question facing modern geek couples is whether they should go all out and have awesome wedding geeky enough to be spotted from the parking lot...

I wonder if that's the officiant's real beard... (source)

Or, to opt for a more classy affair with plenty of geek touches present if you know where to look for them:

The bridesmaids/groomsman's jewelry based on the pre-2011 console release cartridges is pretty sweet, incidentally, although, I feel sorry for whichever member of the bridal party wound up with The Adventure of Link set.
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Monday, December 12, 2011

The tragedy of ramens

Ramen has had a hard time overcoming its stigma here in America. Nowhere near as complicated or delicious as its proper Asian counterparts, it exists stateside as one of the cheapest, fastest, and least complicated meal options available.

 As such, it has appealed to the likes of college students, grad students, hipsters, the working poor, and- at the risk of redundancy with any and all of the preceding- otaku since the 1970s. Yet unsurprisingly, the high-sodium, low-nutrition wonder noodles have a massive cult following of those who have actually come to prefer the taste of one of the most dangerous foods in the average kitchen.

Dangerous? You bet your Star Wars chopsticks it is. Second only to a summer getaway with Jerry Sandusky or perhaps a loaded handgun in a nightstand, few things pose a larger risk (of burns) to toddlers than a cup of delicious, salty ramen. At least, that's all according to a recent NPR report.

A delicious, salty tragedy just waiting to unfold...

Never one to mince words, NPR's "Why Burn Doctors Hate Instant Soup" hits at the core of the issue. After conducting a survey of burn doctors in emergency rooms, NPR has found that burns resulting from instant noodle cups are some of the most commonly encountered, and damaging, to small children due to the flimsy packaging of the cup itself and the added joy of having a handful of boiling hot, sticky noodles adhere to one's flesh. And to think, time was that people avoided having ramen in their kitchen because of the sodium levels.

If the recent NPR piece- or common sense- wasn't enough to alert parents to the risk a cup of instant noodles posed to the pink flesh of their progeny, a five year old study out of UC Davis ("Instant cup of soup: design flaws increase risk of burns.") might help convince those awaiting peer-reviewed research before they make their decisions. Of course, this study will likely add only more allure to the counterculture of ramen enthusiasts as it's the instant noodle equivalent of street cred.

If you're in the mood to walk on the wild side, or want people to know that you have no compunctions of dropping a cup of boiling, salty pain onto a toddler, you can pick up this incredibly awesome ramen timer on the cheap thanks to the internet garage sale that is ebay. While it won't actually cook your ramen, it will look and sound like it's cooking your ramen and- more importantly- will let you know when the noodles are properly heated thanks to its built-in timer.
At $6.65 (including shipping), it might seem like a great gift for the ramen enthusiast in your life, but as any college student knows: $7.00 can buy you an awful lot of noodles if you're not too picky.
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Friday, December 9, 2011

A history of Shiva (cosplay edition!)

Incredible Shiva cosplay from the equally incredible Natalie's Cosplay

Ask any student of eastern religions why Shiva is such a popular choice for female cosplayers and you'll likely wind up with a few confused glances and a half-hearted attempt to work Heidi Klum into the explanation. As one of the major gods in the Hindu pantheon who is often depicted as a male (with little or nothing to do with ice or winter in general), their confusion would be justified.

Yet the answer for this- like so many things in life- lies squarely at the feet of Squaresoft. Although no one's quite sure how it came about, ever since Final Fantasy III Shiva has appeared as a blue-skinned ice queen wearing, at best, a gauzy wrap bikini. If you're wondering how a Hindu must feel about this, imagine how you would feel if Jesus were to appear in a JRPG as a buxom, pink-skinned teenage girl in a tube top who could shoot lightning from her fingertips. While perhaps not offended, chances are you would be a bit confused.

A more traditional- and less alluring- depiction of Shiva. (source)

The best guess Final Fantasy fans have as to how Shiva went from four-armed, scantily clad benevolent god king to scantily clad, blue-skinned bikini ice babe lies in a Japanese mispronunciation of the word "shiver". While this sounds a bit dubious it is, perhaps, the best explanation available since there really isn't anything in Hindu mythology to tie Shiva to ice, winter, or breasts.

While no one is quite sure how Shiva became who he she is in the Final Fantasy universe, she has been with the series for 21 years now and has appeared in every major title (and most all of the spin-offs as well). While her general design is mutable, her alluringly feminine characteristics remain constant making her an extremely popular choice for female cosplayers... particularly those brave enough to try her mostly nude appearance in Final Fantasy VIII and dreadlock-framed visage from Final Fantasy X .

Yet as the series continues to change and evolve, so too does the depictions of Shiva (she was an airship in FFXII!) The most striking of which comes from Final Fantasy XIII, in which Shiva appears as the twin sisters Stiria and Nix under the command of a man named Snow... who can also transform them into a magical motorcycle.
Forget the obligatory "I'd like to ride them!" jokes. I'd really like to know how those headpieces are staying up.... (source)

While no trace of Shiva has been seen in Final Fantasy XIV, it's not too early to count the blue gal out. Considering that Ifrit was just unveiled in Eorza this year, I'd expect to see an icy blue bikini babe there in the near future. Which, of course, is good news to cosplay enthusiasts across the globe...
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Thursday, December 8, 2011

Nintendo swears Miyamoto isn't retiring, Hatsune Miku vows to enter the real world.

Wired is a great media outlet. Regardless of what you might have heard about how they might have caused Nintendo to eat a 2% profit loss yesterday by an alleged incorrect report on the imminent retirement of legendary game designer Shigeru Miyamoto (the man who created both The Legend of Zelda and Super Mario Brothers), there's still a lot of great journalism and reporting to come out of

This month's focus on the uncanny valley, for example, is particularly interesting... especially when it gives me an excuse to post about new stereoscopic projection technology that brings us one step closer to having a living, breathing* Hatsune Miku hologram!

*= If you ever wondered whether I have anyone checking the facts for Kawaiian Punch, this sentence should pretty much answer your question. (source)

With her fanbase being as large as it is, it's small wonder that Hatsune Miku is often used to debut new advancements in visual technology. Whether it's a demonstration of a free-standing 3D holographic projection or a new stereoscopic 3D projection array, the teal-haired diva is a great way to show off the technological prowess (and commercial applicability) of one's innovations. A new projector array developed by Anon Y. dubbed the "Future Vision Projector" harnesses a bank of 23 projectors to create a glasses-free 3D projection which shows a staggering amount of depth for a projected image. The actual Miku demonstration begins at the 1:30 mark...

While impressive, the image still must be projected onto a clear screen so it's more of a tweak to the existing Miku projection schema than anything else. As such, it won't bring vocaloid's poster girl into the real world just yet... although I have a feeling the next 10 Nobel Prizes will be awarded to the genius who makes that dream a reality.

(Stereoscopic hat tip to Crunchyroll for linking to the video)
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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

From Kafka to Kefka- Final Fantasy VI hits the PSN, and Blackwell Philosophy Series?

Those familiar with American history will no doubt know that today is a day that will live in infamy, but for those who aren't (or just don't care) today is also a day that you can download Squaresoft's masterpiece RPG Final Fantasy VI on the PSN. If you have a PSP or PS3, you should probably do this now and keep reading when you get back...

Now that you have your copy downloaded, you can celebrate by scoring some FFVI swag from ebay like the limited edition cold-cast Opera House statuette (a bargain at $300!) or the incredibly tasteful LED-lit plastic bar sign of the FFVI logo (a good way to part with $10.00, I suppose?) Or, for those of a more cerebral persuasion, why not pick up a copy of Final Fantasy and Philosophy: The Ultimate Walkthrough?

Published as part of Blackwell's "Philosophy and Pop Culture" series, Final Fantasy and Philosophy helped establish the success of the series and paved the way for successive pop philosophy books based on True Blood, The Avengers, Harry Potter, Arrested Development, Game of Thrones, and other popular series. While hokey in the extreme, the books are incredibly well-written and are accessible to intellectuals and intellectual dilettantes alike. In short, if you're looking to get into a grad student's panties this holiday season, this list- and a case of PBR- is pretty much everything you'll need to make your season bright.
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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

You don't need to play Skyrim to appreciate a little Fus Ro Dah!

There is a possibility that some of you reading this humble site may not be familiar with Bethesda Studio's runaway hit game Skyrim. If you're a non-gamer, this is understandable as its name is reminiscent of a delicious Scandinavian yogurt and can easily be confused with two other wildly popular games released contemporaneously- Skyward Sword and Skylanders (I wonder how many parents will wander into Gamestop asking for "Skyrim Swordlanders" this holiday season).

In the face of these confusing annoyances, Skyrim still stands out as a smash hit of a game and is being hailed as one of the best RPG released to date. Fittingly, it has already been responsible for its fair share of memes...

I was going to create my own title art for this post, but then I took an arrow in the knee... (source)

By far the most enjoyable, and popular, of these memes has centered around "Fus Ro Dah!" a phrase yelled by the main character when using the Unrelenting Force shout... which sounds incredibly dorky to those unfamiliar with Skyrim. In short, your character yells really loudly and sends out blue shockwaves out that knock people over. In the game, it looks a little something like this:

Other parody videos of Fus Ro Dah exist, of course, explaining away the mysterious force that causes scientists to be complete tools and corpulent people to fall off of coffee tables. Once Bethesda irons out the massive lag issues with the PS3 release of Skyrim, I might have to get my own Fus Ro Dah on...
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Friday, December 2, 2011

The PS Vita's launch commercial is... disappointing.

Surprisingly, this commercial didn't come from Japan...

With the PSP Vita already missing a prime Christmas release date in the United States and Europe, it makes sense that we wouldn't being see commercials for it in the west. Yet in Japan, Sony's latest handheld will be available for purchase in two short weeks. Are the commercials being shown in Japan polished enough to be worthy of the new product?

...err, not really. Unless banal realism is your thing:

In fairness, the above commercial is a teaser and omits the big climax of the urban biker triumphantly yelling "I got Playstation Vita!" but it still is disappointing considering that this is Japan that we're talking about. I'd expect at least a little more technophilia, an interesting camera angle, or at least some speed lines.

Sony is usually pretty good about drumming up interest with their commercials, although after the horror that was Chris Cunningham's Scottish "alien head girl" campaign for the PSX launch (that doesn't even mention the words Sony or Playstation) I think it may have been smarter for Sony to play this launch a bit straighter...

Good luck sleeping tonight!
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Thursday, December 1, 2011

Hobbit pub may open to humans: my trip to New Zealand is now justified!

It's a small surprise that several of the sets built for the Lord of the Rings trilogy were built to last. When planning a film trilogy with a combined budget of $280 million or so, it would stand to reason that the sets would be a step above the standard studio backlot facades, but many of the sets from the Lord of the Rings' set for Hobbiton were, quite literally, built to last and incorporated retaining walls, plumbing, working fireplaces and sealed roofs into their designs.

This is good news for casual tourists, hardcore fans, and wee people looking to nab a pint in a pint-sized pub as there is a good chance that The Green Dragon Inn will open for business- offering tourists a chance to drink at one of the geekiest pubs in the world.

Purists will at this point mention that pints were not offered at The Green Dragon and were first made available to the Hobbits at The Prancing Pony in Bree. Those same purists could probably do with a little less hobbit in their lives.

The key word in the above story is "may". As in, the original plans for the set were designed to accommodate such a renovation, but the decision to open or not now rests with the landowner. If the pub should open, it would not doubt add to the monumental sway that the Hobbiton Movie Set & Farm Tours already holds over New Zealands tourist industry. In time it might even eclipse Boston's famous(ly reconstructed) Green Dragon Tavern- the drinking establishment where the Boston Tea Party was planned. History can be fun, kiddies!

Perhaps the biggest obstacle to The Green Dragon's opening is the prospect of recruiting a reliable, and accurately sized, bar staff. Thankfully, the answer to this- and so many of life's other problems from sobriety to monogamy- lies in The Philippines, where the dwarves of Manila have recently banded together to create The Hobbit House bar which caters to the city's thriving- yet tiny- unano demographic.

With any luck, the Inn will obtain the permits and staff necessary to open before the spring. If so, I am *so* making a sloppy pass at Rosie Cotton...
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