Friday, June 29, 2012

This Medusa cosplay is worth getting turned to stone over

Despite some wrist-crampingly awkward play controls, Kid Icarus: Uprising is one amazingly fun game for the Nintendo 3DS. While the music, gameplay experience and visuals are all top notch, it's the game's characters - established by great voice acting and dialog - that really help it stand out.

Of course, the character design itself doesn't hurt matters any...

If my high school classic lit textbook had a cover like this, I would be a Greek scholar by now (source)

The above images are a shining example of everything that a cosplay should be: well-researched, well-executed, and head-turningly awesome. Both costumes are the work of's Yurai, but I'm most taken by her Medusa (which she is modeling). This outfit cost about $375.00 in materials and 200+ hours in labor, and delivers a perfect depiction of what the character's appearance should be straight down to snake hair, facial tattoo and, of course, the character-appropriate side boob.

For a game that's rated E 10+, Kid Icarus: Uprising manages to get a bit risqué with the character design at points. Medusa and Palutena (both above) toe the line of acceptability with their outfits, but the characters of Phosphora and Amazon Pandora are a little less subtle...

You can be sure that these will one day inspire head-turning cosplay of their own

For the most part, the game tries to soften the sexualization (and bare thighs...) of its characters with endearing vaudeville banter between the two main protagonists, Pit and Palutena, but when it comes to boss fights, it has no problems letting its ecchi flag fly.

Not that this is a bad thing, by any means. If the racy character design continues to generate amazing and gorgeous cosplay like Yurai's, I think the world will be a better place for all of the hot pants and spanx that
Kid Icarus managed to sneak past the ratings board.
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Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Muggle Quidditch Olympic jerseys are on sale, kind of awesome

Perhaps the greatest achievement of the Olympic Games is their ability to convince sports fans to set aside their regional rivalries and longstanding grudges. For a couple of peaceful weeks, loyalty to a favorite team or club is forgotten as fans across a nation unite to cheer for their countries.

While players of Muggle Quidditch won't be representing their nations in London this year, they - and their fans - can show their national pride with national team Quidditch jerseys, on sale just in time for the 2012 Summer Olympics!

These jerseys are created by Quiyk, a US-based athletic apparel start-up that specializes in Muggle Quidditch gear. Made of a moisture wicking, anti-microbial 92% polyester/8% spandex fabric blend, the jerseys are as functional as they are fashionable. Also, as one would expect, they are ever so slightly magical: each jersey is made from the "all new ultra-light Quiyk fabric" which is purportedly 18% lighter than the previously used Quiyk fabrics.

There's no denying that these jerseys will appeal Harry Potter fans whether or not they have ever played a game of Muggle Quidditch. Priced at a reasonable $49.99, with designs for the US, Australian, French, and English national teams to choose from, these jerseys are a perfect way for a Potter fan to show their national pride - and dorky side! - as they watch the 2012 Olympic Games in style.

Also, remember that bit about players of Muggle Quidditch not representing their teams in London? As it turns out that they can represent them in Oxford instead during the International Quidditch Association's 2012 Summer Games which are to be held 19 days before the London Olympics kick off.

I wonder how long it will be before the IOC is presented with a petition to accept Muggle Quidditch as an Olympic event...
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This Japanese robot will roshambo you back to the stone age

When it comes to robotics, Japan is rightfully regarded as the home of the world's most ambitious innovators. Whether they are creating robots to handle the smalltalk at your wedding or ones that perfectly mmic the human singing voice (in the creepiest way possible), the roboticists in Japan are forever pushing the boundaries of what robots can accomplish.

Researchers at the University of Tokyo are looking to continue this tradition of excellence with the publication of a new research model "Janken (rock-paper-scissors) robot with 100% winning rate (human-machine cooperation system)".

To put it plainly, they have created a robot that will always win in rock-paper-scissors, provided that its opponent is a human being.

Sure, the University of Tokyo's robot is real... but the one at the top of this post is way cuter.

Before allegations of mind-reading robots start spreading, it should be noted that the rock-paper-scissor robot's purported 100% success rate exists because it cheats. The robot relies on watching its opponent's hand with a high-speed camera and reacting to the chosen gesture within one millisecond by throwing the corresponding, winning gesture.

These sorts of hand-watching shenanigans are frowned upon by little brothers and rock-paper-scissors enthusiasts (yes, they exist!) the world over, but you can't argue with their efficacy.

The good news for the University of Tokyo's team is that if their robot somehow loses against an opponent in rock-paper-scissors, they can just through a latex skin coating over its hand and put it on Jlist's Adult Corner. It does have a rather suggestive way of preparing for its roshambo throw...

Jokes about robotic handjobs aside, all this talk about Japanese robots and rock-paper-scissors makes me sorely tempted to play through Final Fantasy VIII again just to watch the Brothers summon in action.

Or, like the robot above, I could just cheat and go to YouTube...

Oh internet, I love you.
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Tuesday, June 26, 2012

This Legend of Zelda nursery makes me want to adopt 10,000 babies

Most children have no memories of their childhood nurseries, having outgrown them by the time that the begin to form actual memories.

For many, who grew up with walls bedecked by uninspired acrylic murals of Winnie the Pooh or Mickey Mouse, this lack of recollection may be a blessing. But what of those parents who go the extra mile for their children and created a truly memorable nursery for them?

Cole Bradburn is one such parent, who brought the walls of his son's nursery to life with the gorgeous cel-shading artwork from two Legend of Zelda titles: The Wind Waker and Spirit Tracks. Check out the shaky cam video tour below...

Bradburn began his project with the noblest of intentions: he wanted his child's room to inspire a sense of creativity, adventure, and a love of exploration. The Zelda games hold a fond place in Bradburn's heart (he also wrote a great post about what life lessons he learned from the Zelda games), so the decision to use Link and Zelda for his wall murals was an easy one.

The labour of love took him and his wife 150 hours spread across three months to complete, and he has fully prepared himself for the eventuality that his son may grow up to not like the Zelda games...

Like that will ever happen. What little boy *doesn't* like trains?

He readily admits that the room is for him as much as it is for his son, but concludes his post about the nursery a heartfelt message of optimism that will resonate with all the parents out there:

"I can’t wait to rock him to sleep, telling him stories of heroes and adventure while looking at these walls."

...which also explains why he didn't use any of the artwork from Skyward Sword.

Rocking your son to sleep while telling him about the time you threw your wii-mote across the goddamn room because of the fucking Thunder Dragon's boss rush challenge just so you could get the Hylian Shield would probably send the wrong message to an impressionable young mind.
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Sunday, June 24, 2012

Game of Thrones campaign ads make the 2012 election look tame by comparison

Through accident or satire, Game of Thrones has become one of the more politically charged shows on television. Set in a voltile world of self-interested backstabbers, the political climate of George R.R. Martin's fictional land of Westeros resonates a little too well with the farcical state of modern western democracy.
Political rivals in both Westeros and Washington are more inclined to attack the credibility and families of one another than they are disposed to fighting off hordes of rapacious, sapphire-eyed undead crawling down from the frozen north (there's a Sarah Palin joke to be made there...)

Perhaps this is why the indie news team over at Mother Jones found such pitch-perfect comedy with their Game of Thrones political attack ads:

The production crew behind HBO's latest ratings powerhouse is no stranger to this sort of political controversy- they did impale George W. Bush's head on a spike, after all (pro-tip: if you have the Blu Ray / DVD copy of the first season, that shit is a collector's item now), but these political campaign ads spin faux controversy into full comedy.

Attacking the characters of Joffrey Baratheon, Robb Stark, and Daenerys Targaryen these campaign year smear pieces are as satirical as they are full of spoilers, so read and watch the rest and at your own peril!

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Friday, June 22, 2012

A Study in Vocaloid: Senbonzakura

The word 'Senbonzakura' is one that might be familiar to anime fans but was less well known amongst the Vocaloid crowd until recently. Translating literally to "Thousands of Cherry Trees", this catchy Hatsune Miku song was released earlier this year by Kurousa-P (White flame) and caused a bit of a stir in the international Vocaloid community.

The reason for the stir has nothing to do with the musical content of the song itself - it's quite good and well mixed all around - but rather with the lyrics. If the album artwork at the top of the post didn't give it away, Senbonzakura is a rather nationalistic song and isn't too far from being the Vocaloid equivalent of American Pie (or perhaps, more accurately, Stephen Lynch's America)

I particularly like the part when Miku mentions ICBMs (ai-shii-bii-emu) at the end of the first verse...

Everything about the song - from its title to its artwork - drips with Japanese pride, and the lyrics reflect this theme as well:

After a bold and audacious Westernization revolution,

this is now an open and upright anti-war nation.
As I pedal forward my bicycle marked with the Japanese flag,
evil spirits will disperse from my intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Looping the belt line, I don't care if I'm constantly on the move.

Boys and girls must be unrivaled during the warring era, in the floating world.

Thousands of cherry trees dissolve into the night. Not even your voice will reach.

This is a banquet inside a steel jail cell. Look down on us from your guillotine

...but Senbonzakura isn't an anti-western anthem or call to arms, it's an introspective look at the individual pieces of the Japanese cultural identity and one that resonates well in modern, post-Tsunami Japan.

Also, it's cover art would make for one really sweet tattoo...
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Thursday, June 21, 2012

The geek guide to beachwear and beach accessories

Summer is officially here, loyal readers! As our bodies gradually adjust to the heat, our frail, human minds can't help but wander to the beach.

At least mine can't, but that's likely because of the 100°F temperatures today (37°C, for you European readers!) with a humidity percentage higher than the progress on my current Kid Icarus: Uprising save file.

In light of this sweltering heat, I've compiled a list of the most head-turning geek beachwear and beach accessories to help you look cool - and stay cool! - as you soak up the sun this summer. Similar to The Indiana Jones Father's Day Gift Guide, most of these items are handmade (and come from Etsy) but others come from more traditional online retailers.

Legend of Zelda Bikini Separates

Price: $13.00 (top), $35.00 (bottoms)
Whether you're a self-rescuing princess or more of a traditional damsel-in-distress type, this swimwear will definitely help you catch the eye of any hero of destiny that happens to pass by. Unfortunately, finding a complete Legend of Zelda bikini on Etsy is about as easy as finding all three pieces of the Triforce in the same dungeon... but with a little determination and guile you can find other tops to better match the assorted bottoms out there.

R2D2 Folding Beach Chair

Price: $39.99
After a long day of beach volleyball, swimming, and wake boarding, this will be the droid chair that you're looking for. Available at ThinkGeek, this nylon camp chair helps bring your love of Star Wars to the beach with you in a way that your Force FX lightsaber never could (let's face it, they're not that dramatic in daylight). The asking price is a bit steep, so you had better keep your eyes on this chair at all times lest the Jawas (drunk frat boys) abscond with it in their sandcrawler (Ford Mustang).

Navy Blue School Swimsuit

Price: $36.00
A fixture of high school animes, the humble be-skirted school swimsuit has an undeniable, modest charm about it. While less revealing than a Hatsune Miku bikini, it comes from the same place ( and lends the same amount of otaku cred to the wearer. If you're looking to make an understated statement at the beach, or catch the eye of the shy but cute manga-reading classmate, this is the swimsuit for you!

Doctor Who TARDIS Beach Towel

Price: $19.99
Even the busiest of Time Lords deserve a vacation every now and then, and when they take to the beach you had best believe that they're resting their time-traveling asses down on a TARDIS beach towel. At 5' in length, the TARDIS towel is long enough to recline on as you sketch memories of the day in your matching TARDIS journal. Truly, this is a refined towel for a refined geek.
Pikachu Sports Bra and Boy Short Set

Price: $27
Although not specifically advertised as a swimsuit or article of beachwear, I am hard-pressed to think of where else a lady geek might think to wear this eye-catching ensamble. Pair with a set of Pikachu Ears or a set of Pokéball Earrings and everyone at the beach will know you're a free-spirited wild pokégal that's worth catching.

That said, I really can't recommend wearing the shorts separate from the top. The pika-stripes on the butt could look rather... unflattering... without the proper context.
Upcycled Bakugan Anime Long Shorts

Price: $25
No list of beachwear would be complete without a suggestion or two for the guys. These board shorts are a great example of what you can do with an old anime wall scroll: run it through your sewing machine and wrap it around your waist to conceal nudity!

Sadly, these shorts no longer available but I'm sure the seller would not be opposed to creating another pair for an interested customer.
Read more ...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Turn your smartphone into an anime train car with the Mi Train

Rising fuel costs and continued economic woes are poised to put the kibosh on yet another summer travel season, yet for those of us with active imaginations (and smartphones) a fake vacation is only an anime-themed iPhone accessory away...
Enter, the Mi Train - the perfect smartphone case for those looking to travel on a budget. Little more than a plastic smartphone case with an exposed screen, the Mi Train turns a standard phone into a window to another world. Download a slideshow app for your device of choice, and the Mi Train will end an air of authenticity to your vacation pictures as they scroll past the proper, moe anime girl sitting by the window.

Without pictures actively scrolling past, the Mi Train looks a bit boxy and will probably attract more pity than interest as it sits forlorn and lifeless on your desktop...

...but once pictures begin scrolling past, you would be hard pressed not to smile at the gimmicky cuteness of the case. I particularly admire the manufacturer's commitment to design aesthetic for making the back of the Mi Train look like the outside of an actual train.

Unfortunately, because of its stinking cuteness the Mi Train (~$24.00) is sold out at the moment, but those eager for a budget fake vacation should keep their eyes peeled and bank accounts ready for the eventual restocking.
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Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Alan Moore thinks Harry Potter is the antichrist, just misunderstood

It's no secret that Alan Moore is as touched as he is talented. Notoriously hard to please and seemingly dead set against any attempt to make his stories more popular, he has become something of this generation's J.D. Salinger.

Full of spit, vinegar, and tortured narratives the likes of which lesser authors can only dream of, Moore is accustomed to being misunderstood by his contemporaries. Likely, this will only get worse since he's now declared Harry Potter to be antichrist...

Finding this picture took way less time than it probably should have (source)

...or, at least he's planning to in the last installment of The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen's Century story arc. Much like Stephen King's Dark Tower series, Moore is no stranger to breaking the fourth wall between fiction and reality, and usually does so with as many pop culture references as possible.

Earlier this decade (in Century 1969), the members of the league tangled against "Jimmy Bond" a sociopathic, martini-swigging womanizer of a secret agent working for MI6. More recently, the League happened across Tom Riddle (whose last name is 'a conundrum') who sexually assaulted a passed out Mina Harker before becoming possessed by Oliver Haddo, a psuedonym of Aleistar Crowley's, and heading off to Hogwarts.

With Tom Riddle/Crowley/Voldemort/Haddo established as a dark wizard in the previous installment (Century 1969), the introduction of Harry Potter in the concluding Century 2009 seems like a logical progression. After all, what better villain is there to sling spells against than a fallen Harry Potter?

Yet comic book reviewer Laura Sneddon claims that Harry-as-the-antiras the antichrist is handled subtly, albeit unmistakably:

"At no point does Moore use the words 'Harry' or 'Potter', but a magical train hidden between platforms at King's Cross station, leading to a magical school where there are flashbacks of psychotic adolescent rage and whimpering children pleading for their life, all strewn with molten corpses, does rather suggest a link to the Boy Who Lived. A hidden scar and a mentor named Riddle, though possessed as he is by the real villain, completes the picture."

Sneddon goes on to clarify that the League does not meet Harry the Antichrist standing on a pile of skulls spewing sulfur and blasphemy from every orifice. Rather, he is raving mad and doped up on antipsychotics, raging against the beautiful future that could have been and the educational system that failed him.

All of this critique is understandable when one stops to remember the godawful 2003 film adaptation of League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. If there's any one author who deserves to use the modern film industry and pop literature's golden boy as the antichrist, it's Alan motherfucking Moore.
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Monday, June 18, 2012

J-Horror, now available in toilet paper form

If you enjoy reading in the bathroom and scaring the shit out yourself, Koji Suzuki (the author of The Ring) has some good news for you: his latest novella The Drop will be translated into English, and it will be printed on three separate roles of toilet paper.

Behold the horror that is mixed media literature.

Sadly, nothing about the intro paragraph is a joke. Suzuki's latest horror novella is indeed called "The Drop" and it was recently printed exclusively on rolls of toilet paper in Japan.

Sales of The Drop were so good (300,000 volumes sold at $2.63/volume) that an English translation of the story is scheduled to hit print on June 21st. The asking price for all three volumes (rolls) is about $8.00, which - while a bargain for a quality horror story - is a bit of a steep asking price for a three-pack of toilet paper.

Fans of J-Horror won't necessarily need to turn to import sites like J-List in order to get their hands (and other body parts) on the English language edition The Drop, however. The manufacturer responsible for the three volume set, Hayashi Paper, has plans to export it beyond the borders of Japan.

Accordingly, the company delivered the toilet paper novella to Yukio Edano, Japan's Minister of Economy, Trade and Industry, in the hopes that the unique literary endeavor would be seen as an ambassador product fit to be distributed across the world.

Assuming that The Drop makes its way to the west, you may want to buy two or three sets if you live with a significant other, spouse, or roommate. This isn't exactly the sort of book you can share once you're done with it...

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Friday, June 15, 2012

Some days, I'd trade it all for a 1/1200 scale airship

Few things in life have eluded me like the Miniature Airship has. Introduced in Final Fantasy VI as a joke item in Jidoor's auction house, a player could never actually win the ship at auction regardless of how much gil they had in their inventory. After placing a high bid (usually 800,000 gil), a moment of suspense would pass before a brat of a child convinced his father to buy it for him.

Many nights of my teenage years were spent obsessing over ways to win the fabled prize from the spoiled son and his capitulating father NPC tag team who were seemingly programmed to draw happiness from my disappointment. After wasting more time than I'd care to admit at the auction house, I eventually gave up on the prospect.

I can't explain why this Miniature Airship captivated me the way it did (after all, it wasn't half as cool as the Imp Robot or Talking Chocobo...) but the completionist in me couldn't let it go. It was my white whale, my fortune and glory, my post-apocalyptic pack of Twinkies... it was the promise of a fulfilled desire that would never come to be.

Except that it would, eventually. The cruel overlords at Squaresoft Square Enix remembered the Miniature Airship 10 years (and five Final Fantasies) later when it appeared in my former and beloved MMORPG of choice, Final Fantasy XI:

This time, the Miniature Airship was obtainable as a furnishing; an in-game item that did very little except look pretty in your Mog House. As a furnishing-obsessed adventurer with a completely decked out Mog House, the introduction of this item was the chance to realize a decade-old dream and finally wipe that smug look off that kid in Jidoor's face.

No, he wasn't a kid any more. By this point, the entitled brat was probably in some prestigious private college in the Final Fantasy universe, most likely on the Lacrosse team and majoring in Business or Communications, but that's neither here nor there... I finally had a chance to own the miniature airship, and it would be wonderful.

Unfortunately, Square Enix would not make the miniature airship an easy prize to claim. In order to receive one, a player had to recruit a friend to play (and pay for) Final Fantasy XI for an entire year. Exactly 365 days after the player's friend entered the game world, the pair could talk to a specific NPC and claim a miniature airship of their very own.

I never managed to talk a friend into joining me in FFXI, and while the prospect of paying $143.50 for a year-long alternate account (on top of my own yearly subscription fees) was feasible - it seemed somehow cheap to realize my decade-long dream through lies and deception.

The quest for the miniature airship doesn't end there, however, and it has a happy ending... or at least the prospect of one.

Assuming that I am willing to devote myself to the arcane and eldritch art of papercraft, that is. Kaizo, the retired papercrafting master, left detailed instructions on how to create this beauty using naught but paper, glue, and a king's ransom worth of toner cartridges and it looks rather impressive.

Maybe one day I'll actually get around to building it myself, but then what would I have left to aspire to?
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Thursday, June 14, 2012

Updating the Uncanny Valley (for English speakers, at least)

The uncanny valley is a strange and scary place. Hatsune Miku took a trip there recently and the results were nothing short of disastrous (to put it mildly).

But what is the uncanny valley? It's a theory put forward by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori over 40 years ago that explains why humans are revolted by near-perfect robotic imitations of themselves but have no problems labeling non-humanoid robots like R2-D2 as "cute".

Mori's essay was hurriedly translated into English back in 2005 and contained numerous linguistic errors. This lead to a fundamental misunderstanding of the finer points behind the concept of the uncanny valley by non-Japanese speakers.

Many of us recognize the underlying concept of the uncanny valley even if we're not familiar with the term itself thanks to animes like Ghost in the Shell (particularly Innocence). Further, the negative reactions of audiences to the CG "breakthroughs" of movies like Polar Expressand Beowulf show that Mori was right on the money when he claimed that our acceptance of an artificial human representation decreases sharply when it is close to being accurate save for a few fundamental flaws.

A new translation of Mori's seminal paper from 1970 has been released, and it looks to clear up some of this misunderstandings.

One of these is a robot, the other can do a mean version of The Robot after a few sake bombs

The major misunderstanding of the uncanny valley comes from the inability to translate Japanese into English neatly. For example, Mori created a graph to illustrate the phenomenon of the uncanny valley, and used "shinwakan" (familiarity) on the Y-Axis to plot the reaction of human beings to near-human robots.

The problem with the 2005 translation is that shinwakan is more of a concept and less of a word (anthropology nerd alert: all words are actually concepts. Moving on!) While it can translate to easy phrases like "familiarity", "comfort level", or "likability", those phrases do not encapsulate the full nature of shinwakan.

Karl MacDorman, one of the translators who worked on the new 2012 revision of Mori's paper, describes shinwakan as such:

"I think it is that feeling of being in the presence of another human being — the moment when you feel in synchrony with someone other than yourself and experience a 'meeting of minds'... Negative 'shinwakan,' the uncanny, is when that sense of synchrony falls apart, the moment you discover that the one you thought was your soul mate was nothing more than smoke and mirrors."

The full text of the updated 2012 translation is available here, and while it's a dense read it is also a fundamentally fascinating one as it helps to explain why we find robots like this to be simultaneously fascinating and horrifying...

Read more ...

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Game of Thrones to feature less food, more explicit sex scenes

Thanks to HBO's wizardry, Game of Thrones has become one of the most successful (and most pirated!) TV shows in recent memory. Given the ponderous source material, this is a bit surprising as one wouldn't think a glacial story about political intrigue and Machiavellian scheming would hook all that many viewers.

But that's where the HBO's wizardry comes in. Part - if not most - of the show's appeal is pure lowest common denominator. To attract a larger audience, an emphasis towards sex and violence (mostly sex) has been placed on George R.R. Martin's seminal fantasy series. And it turns out that HBO executives are the ones responsible for this decision.

Episode director Neil Marshall - who has only directed the penultimate episode of Season II, Blackwater - recently spoke out about HBO's tendency to request further nudity from what the script calls for:

"The weirdest part [of directing Game of Thrones] was when you have one of the exec producers leaning over your shoulder, going, ‘You can go full frontal, you know. This is television, you can do whatever you want! And do it! I urge you to do it!’ So I was like, ‘Okay, well, you’re the boss."

I like the girl... but she's not quite naked enough. Can we lose the dragon?

What makes this decision more blatant is that sex is given the short shrift in the books. If anything, George R.R. Martin downplays the importance of sex to a non-issue and puts a heavier emphasis on food and feasting... presumably, in an attempt to reinforce geek and gamer stereotypes.

In Storm of Swords, for example, a typical sex scene (one of the few that is actually mentioned) is given 76 words in a chapter whereas an elaborate feast is given approximately 1765 words to describe each course in exhaustive detail. The feast scene actually goes on for much longer than those 1765 words, but there's a break for some violence and intrigue before an important noble is poisoned... while eating a delicious and particularly flaky piece of pie.

Let's take a quick excerpt of each, starting with sex:

"...Dany took Irri into bed with her, for the first time since the ship. But even as she shuddered in release and wound her fingers through her handmaid's thick black hair, she pretended it was Drogo holding her."

And now, food:

"He called for more wine. By the time he got it, the second course was being served, a pastry coffyn filled with pork, pine nuts, and eggs. Sansa ate no more than a bit of hers, as the heralds were summoning the first of the seven singers.

...Their feats were accompanied by crabs boiled in fiery eastern spices, trenchers filled with chunks of chopped mutton stewed in almond milk with carrots, raisins, and onions, and fish tarts from from the ovens, served so hot they burned the fingers."

George R.R. Martin relegates a steamy lesbian sex scene to barely more than a sentence and spends two full chapters detailing a wedding feast, while HBO creates a prostitute character for the first season of the show who exists only to flash her boobs around.

Clearly, George R.R. Martin and HBO have their priorities in order. It's just a pity that they're not the same.

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Tuesday, June 12, 2012

The Star Trek engagement ring will help you make it so

The internet was one of the absolute best things to happen to wedding culture. Once pictures of geek-themed weddings (and engagement photos!) began popping up online, an increasing number geek couples began to realize that the traditional white dress, tuxedo, and church ceremony was just one of many ways for them to celebrate their unions.

For those geeks out there looking to begin the geek wedding process, a proper geek engagement should (ideally) come before the geek wedding, and what better way to show your commitment to your partner and the Temporal Prime Directive than with this custom Star Fleet Insignia engagement ring?

If you hand this to your prospective fiancé and say anything other than "Engage!", you have failed.

It's true that I have a bit of a thing for geeky engagement rings (be they triforces or bullwhips), but this one is as awesome as it is iconic. Crafted by Etsy seller Valerie of VaLa Jewellery, the custom Star Trek Engagement Ring is set with a white sapphire in a 14 karat gold setting, while the main body of the ring itself is sterling silver. For these reasons, the made-to-order ring will set you back a mere $500.00

Despite the ring's economical price, it has about 10,000 times the character of traditional princess cut solitaire diamond wedding rings and will certainly help the wearer stand out amongst a pack of other individuals currently in the ephemeral state of engagement.

Assuming, of course, that they're not wearing it at a Star Trek convention...
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Monday, June 11, 2012

Lego Inception looks trippy, adorable

The playful atmosphere of Lego video games is difficult to mistake. Combining slapstick silliness with a willingness to shatter the fourth wall for the sake of visual gag, the various Lego games share a unified feel no matter what movie the individual games are based upon.

Fan-made trailers and films that capture this unified feel are rare treasures and stand out from the host of stop-motion Lego videos currently on YouTube. Some of these stop-motion videos are damned funny in their own right, but they don't really jive with the humor seen in Lego Batman or Lego Indiana Jones.

That's why I was a bit wary when I came across a trailer for Lego Inception. After watching it parody the iconic Inception Trailer almost perfectly, I found that my wariness was misplaced. This trailer is so good it almost makes me wish Lego Inception was coming out in December instead of Lego Lord of the Rings.

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Friday, June 8, 2012

Hatsune Miku is gonna walk 500 miles

I pity this current generation of children. Those of us in our 20s, 30s and beyond enjoy the luxury of having our baby pictures exist only as grainy 4x6 photographs that yellow and fray with age as we ourselves do.

Children growing up in the age of 10+ megapixel digital cameras will not have this luxury, and will instead have every moment of their childhood chronicled in resolutions exceeding current DVD specifications.

The same holds true for Hatsune Miku - who turns 5 this year - and given her status as a virtual pop idol, it is a problem writ large. Take this English language video of her singing 1980s pop karaoke standard I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) for example:

It's far from perfect and it's more than a little out of tune, but it was also one of the earliest Hatsune Miku videos to be uploaded to YouTube way back in December of 2007. Also, it's worth noting that Hatsune Miku doesn't really have an English voicebank so the video above was made using Japanese phonemes which helps to explain its choppiness.

Since the release of Miku (and this video), new Vocaloids like Megurine Luka have been engineered with both English and Japanese voicebanks that handle English pronunciation much more fluently... but there's still something undeniably cute about the way Miku fumbles through this song, never once stopping to wonder what "if I haver" actually means.

Suspend your harsher judgment, give the song an objective listen, and try to remind yourself that you're listening to Miku in her digital infancy. Taken in that light, you can't help but appreciate this video for the cute bit of postmodern nostalgia that it is.

(banner image: Hatsune Miku nendoroid)
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Thursday, June 7, 2012

The Majora's Mask HD remake that wasn't

Last summer, a fan-based movement - Operation Rainfall - began a campaign aimed at convincing Nintendo to localize three terrific Wii RPGs outside of Japan. Although Nintendo claimed Operation Rainfall was unsuccessful at convincing them to release the games, all three games quickly made it to Europe and two made it to the states (we're still waiting on Pandora's Tower here in the US...)

This relative, if not recognized, success of Operation Rainfall has lead to a similar fan-based movement dubbed Operation Moonfall to spring into existence. The goal of Operation Moonfall is far more specific, but no less noble: they exist only to convince Nintendo that there is a strong enough market for a 3DS remake of the Nintendo 64 classic The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask.

Unfortunately, E3 came and went without any word from Nintendo as to whether this remake was in the works... but a video was posted online shortly before the conference suggested that an HD remake of Majora's Mask was indeed underway:

More unfortunately for Zelda fans, Kotaku reports that the video is a fake. Some rather talented, and rather mercurial, fans created the video as a prank and 'leaked' it before E3.

Regardless of the video's authenticity, Nintendo could do worse than hiring these yobbos to work on the actual remake of Majora's Mask. If this was the opening movie for the game, I'd gladly shell out my rupees for it!
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Wednesday, June 6, 2012

For $30,000, you can sit on the Iron Throne (in your living room)

Even before Game of Thrones landed on HBO, the beloved and sadistic series sparked its share of high-end collectables. Now that Game of Thrones is the most popular thing on premium television, a $700 replica of Eddard Stark's greatsword Ice seems like a bargain compared to The HBO Store's latest - and most egregious - piece of merchandise: a life size replica of the Iron Throne itself...

Weighing an impressive 350 lbs, this 7'2" fiberglass and resin... throne... is hand painted and hand finished to create an authentic look of 1,000 blades that had been hammered for 59 days. It is available at the official HBO online store and costs a mere $30,000 (with a $1,800 shipping surcharge added at checkout, naturally.)

The picture above shows the detail of the piece nicely but doesn't really show scale all that well. Below is the throne loaded onto a moving pallet... perhaps on its way to your basement gaming room:

In the course of the A Song of Ice and Fire story, the reader learns that the Iron Throne was created by King Aegon I Targaryen (Aegon the Conquerer) who was the first king to unite The Seven Kingdoms. He forged the throne out of the swords surrendered by his enemies in the heat of his dragon's fiery breath.

In terms of a history, the Iron Throne is a indisputable symbol of ultimate badassery - it is the trophy hunter's trophy and the sort of thing even Charlie Sheen would not even think to create at his most winningest. In this light, it's easy to see the appeal of the Throne as an abstract symbol.

In terms of real world aesthetics, however, the Iron Throne leaves something to be desired. It's a bit dark, it's a bit hard to plan a room around, and it lacks the pointy bits at the arms of the throne itself (which several kings had purportedly cut themselves on).

...also, it costs about as much as a mid-range sportscar or a semester at a pricey state school. Yet there's something undeniably alluring about it's commanding 5'5" x 5'11" footprint. Does your child really need another year of college? Isn't it time that your ass finds a perch regal enough for its noble bearing? I think we both know the answer to that.

Order now, operators are standing by.
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Tuesday, June 5, 2012

The Dark Knight Rises has a new trailer with more Catwoman

With almost two months to go before the release of The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher Nolan is counting on two things to drum up hype for the movie: everyone in the world spontaneously forgetting about how awesome The Avengers was, and new trailers showing more footage from the movie.

Since the first bit will never happen (seriously, I'm considering adopting a kid and naming him "The Avengers"), Nolan wisely decided to take to the MTV Movie Awards this weekend with a new Dark Knight Rises trailer showing less exploding football stadium and more of Selina Kyle in a black, vinyl catsuit.

...also, Bane's in this trailer as well and he looks like a total badass (thankfully, not in a vinyl catsuit). It's just a pity that he sounds like the Grand Galactic Inquisitor:

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Monday, June 4, 2012

Lego Lord of the Rings has a teaser trailer, looks awesome

Similar to last year, I promised myself that I wouldn't be reposting scraps of E3 news here (partially because I'm covering E3 for another site this year...) but because this is technically pre-E3 news, I couldn't pass it up.

Lego Lord of the Rings released a teaser trailer, and it is adorable.

The news of Lego Lord of the Rings was announced back in December but saw a quiet development period with little in the way of news since then. Partially, I suspect, this is because everyone knows what to expect from a Lego (insert name of huge franchise here) game at this point: you play through the plot of a given movie, smash things to collect brick studs, build things to collect more brick studs, and eventually unlock legions of characters along the way. It's a simple and predictable formula, but I'll be damned if it doesn't work.

For those familiar with Lego games, one of the more interesting aspects of the trailer below is the full-voice acting: a franchise first. For those unfamiliar with the Lego games, hey look- a Lego Balrog!

While well-executed, the voice acting just seems a bit weird. In previous Lego titles, the characters communicated with grunts, sighs, snickers, and groans and it added to the slapstick nature of the games.

There's no official word as to whether this dialog is a feature of the game itself or was mocked up for the teaser trailer, but it's not changing my decision to pre-order this geeky crossover gem for my 3DS as soon as I'm able to.
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Friday, June 1, 2012

A Study in Vocaloid: 1925

Few vocaloid songs have the following, and controversy, that T-POCKET's 1925 have. Undeniably pop, and undeniably catchy, it is a great Hatsune Miku song that's difficult not to like.

Part of the reason for the song's popularity is the art noveau coverart (that has inspired some pretty awesome cosplay), showing a kneeling Miku in military fatigues. Most take this to mean that the song itself is about war, lost love, or even nationalism - thus attributing more of a story to 1925 than it really deserves. Some even go so far as to believe it's a love song between a plainclothes spy and an enemy soldier in Irish Civil War (which, incidentally, concluded in 1923)

So what's the song really about? Why not give the Megurine Luka version a listen first (the original Hatsune Miku version can be found here) before looking at the meaning:

It would be tempting to label 1925 as an anti-consumerist anthem (There's nothing you can't buy with money in this world/Or if I were to rephrase, in my own terms/"Everything is for sale, just put the price tag on."), but by most accounts the song is really an ode to self-love...

Oh such a pitiful motion,
Wearing out my tension
It works, it works, better than I thought.

Repetitive questions, but no one wants solutions.
I hate, I hate, I hate this restraint

I switch on to "Loneliness" and then begin to pray.
"Oh no, oh stop it please."
These uncontrollable dreams
It shows little by little, the raw truth is subtle
So sly, so sly, not pretty to the eye.
Now I can see the true sin, strip down to your bare skin
It reeks, it reeks, this shameless act

While no "official" translation has been accepted by teh internets as yet, several can be found (if you know where to look) and the original Japanese lyrics are readily available if you feel like trying your hand at *ahem* translation.
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