Friday, August 31, 2012

Hatsune Miku turns 5, prepares to perform with Japan Philharmonic Orchestra

The world's most pre-eminent digital pop star, Hatsune Miku, celebrates her momentous fifth birthday today. While celebrations are more reserved this year than they were in 2009 when the Miku FES'09 concert was thrown to celebrate her turning two, Miku still has some fairly exciting things ahead for her digital toddlerhood.

Take her upcoming performance with the Japan Philharmonic Orchestra, for example. On November 23, Miku will collaborate with a 300 member orchestra live onstage as part of the "Ihatov Symphony" - a concert based upon a book written by the Japanese Novelist Kenji Miyazawa.

Taking the helm of this project is the 80-year-old Isao Tomita, who happens to be one of the preeminent old guard members of the Japanese electronic music movement.

For Miku fans, this concert will be a chance for them to see their idol in a new set of formalwear (a latex futuristic schoolgirl outfit doesn't really mesh with a philharmonic orchestra's more reserved white-tie style). Tomita himself is pushing for Miku to wear a jūnihitoe, a ceremonial 12-layer kimono traditionally worn by noblewomen.

A flyer for the November 23rd Ihatov Symphony concert

Interestingly, the November concert performance of the Ihatov Symphony is not the first electronic homage to Miyazawa's work.

Composer Tsukasa Tawada (who did the music for Pokémon Colosseum) provided the OST for an obscure Japanese roleplaying game Ihatovo Monogatari released for the Super Famicom in 1993. While it's not certain if the upcoming Japan Philharmonic Orchestra's concert will follow in Tawada's style, I think the audience would be quite lucky if they were able to hear an live arrangement of music like this...

Here's to hoping the DVD of the concert makes it onto CD Japan!
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Thursday, August 30, 2012

Break out your Air Tullys, a Nike designer takes on Game of Thrones

For better or worse, HBO's Game of Thrones has brought George R.R. Martin's sprawling fantasy epic to a wide audience of fans. Once the exclusive purview of tabletop gamers and renaissance festival regulars, the story-as-a-show is now enjoyed by geek and non-geek alike as an endless string of new fans follow the show after each passing season.

One such newcomer to the fandom is Nike designer Darrin Crescenzi, who recently took a break from designing the 2012 US Men's Basketball Olympic uniforms to become a diehard fan of the Song of Ice and Fire books. After watching the first season of Game of Thrones, Crescenzi picked up the first book, and then became a social recluse for half a year as he devoured the remaining four mammoth tomes of the series.

In this period of obsessive fandom, Crescenzi found himself drawn to George R.R. Martin's depiction of the different heraldries for the noble houses. Some, like the gold Lannister lion on crimson, were easy to visual, while others from the more obscure noble houses (House Hollard, represent!) were more difficult.

Crescenzi began taking careful notes on the various house heraldries as described by Martin and then set about drawing them in a unified, single-line style. The end result is a staggeringly handsome 18" x 24" poster featuring 42 heraldries (yes, forty two!) of the noble houses of Westeros that brings a touch of modern artistic flair to traditional medieval heraldic designs.

The poster was a bargain at $35.00, and since quickly sold out of its initial hand-numbered run of 250 pieces. It's not known whether Crescenzi will release another, less exclusive edition of the poster, but if he does it's safe to assume that fans will snatch it up faster than news of another Sean Bean lightsaber fight.
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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Live2D will change the way we watch animated movies. Hopefully...

For better or worse, 3D computer graphics have become synonymous with 'animated movies' as of late. While some animation studios reject this trend, a quick look at the (often enjoyable) fare provided by the likes of Pixar, Dreamworks, and even the venerable Disney shows that CG animation is here to stay.

But for all of its impressive range, there's something inherently cold and ersatz about pure CG movies. Perhaps it lies in the expectation of the viewers, but they rarely capture the warmth of hand-drawn art in the way that traditional animation does. Live2D is looking to change this trend by bringing 3D rendering to the medium of hand drawn art.

Live2D is a recently developed drawing software suite from Cybernoids that allows animators to impart 3D depth, texture and (most impressively) movement to hand-drawn, 2-dimensional images. This demonstration video of the software in action shows its potential:

Through use of Live2D, a set of images drawn by a famous illustrator like Hayao Miyazaki or Joe Kubert could be animated to respond to an endless range of stimuli.

As the video notes, however, Live2D is less of a deus ex machina solution to animation and is simply an extension of drawing itself. Thus, if an artist submits a drawing that only shows the front of a character (as in the demonstration above), Live 2D will not magically render the back or sides but rather bring movement to the front of the image.

This limits the technology in its current form and suits it best to media where limited character movement/animation is required (like visual novels or text-based mobile games), but it's still quite impressive all the same. With time and innovation - to say nothing of funding - Live2D might very well change the way that artists bring 3D images to the world of anime, games, and movies.

...and so long as we never have to suffer through something like Beowulf again, I can't say that's a bad thing.
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Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Cosplay spotlight: GLaDOS (I think...)

When it comes to ambitious cosplay, the subject matter is only half as challenging as the actual execution. This past Otakon, a talented cosplayer took a very creative (and very... latexy) approach on the most passive-aggressive antagonist from videogame history: Portal's GLaDOS.

Viewing the image above in all of its uncompressed glory shows the amazing detail that this cosplayer put into her costume, although you can be forgiven for not identifying her as GLaDOS straightaway. In terms of strict accuracy, her GLaDOS falls a bit short of the mark, but it would be difficult to turn the actual character as it appears in the game into a convincing costume..., a bit of embellishment (and apparently a corset) was required.

While it's by no means the most accurate cosplay out there, it's a good "inspired by" outfit all the same. This approach happens with varying degrees at conventions when people choose to cosplay as a large or object or character distinctly unsuited to the human form (Sexy TARDISes are almost passé at this point), with my favorite to date being the Sexy Ultros tutu.

Reaction to the GLaDOS cosplay above was predictably mixed, with comments about her skill balanced by her attention whore-dom for choosing to sex up a character who is in fairness based on a woman in a BDSM pose. Still, the cosplayer should at least get credit for avoiding the all-too-ubiquitous Portal 2 costume.

Via: Reddit
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Monday, August 27, 2012

Iron Sky delivers space-faring Nazis, disappointment in the box office

Earlier this summer, steampunks, World War II recreationists, and alterna-history buffs were all whipped up into a fervor over the release of Iron Sky.

Billed as a 'comic science fiction action film', the Finnish independent film set in the near future of 2018 focuses on a cabal of technologically advanced Nazis who fled Europe in 1945 to establish a colony on the far side of the moon. This Nazi space colony is accidentally discovered by Sarah Palin the unnamed President of the United States who stages a moon landing as a publicity stunt, and - after being exposed - decides to take over the earth for the Führer.

In other words, the plot of Iron Sky is more or less identical to Transformers III: Dark of the Moon, only - y'know - with less Megatron and more Nazi Moon Men.

Sadly, for all of its so-taboo-it's-almost-good appeal, Iron Sky is by all rights pretty disappointing and suffers from poor pacing and an overall lack of a consistent tone. You'd probably expect this from a movie with a tagline of "This summer, the battle for earth is gonna get Nazi", but given its trailer, you could also be forgiven for thinking the film might actually be good:

In the likely event that Iron Sky hasn't made it to your part of the world yet, and you would like to see it in theaters, there is an official request form on the movie's website that you can fill out to hopefully raise your local theater's interest in it.

If you'd rather not publicly show your support for a Nazi sci-fi comedy (good for you!), you can sit tight and wait for the international release of the DVD or Blu-Ray.

Heh. "Gonna get Nazi" I just got that!
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Friday, August 24, 2012

Mega Ran provides a hip hop eulogy for Nintendo Power

After 24 years, Nintendo announced that the venerable gaming magazine Nintendo Power would cease publication in December. As this news rippled across the internet, it inspired its share of eulogies, valedictions, and memorials from gamers who are sad to lose yet another part of their childhood.

Nerdcore hip hop artist Random/Mega Ran felt the death of the moribund gaming magazine more acutely than most, and dedicated a new song to its memory. Unlike many other gamers currently waxing nostalgic over Nintendo's fading magazine, Random takes a refreshingly honest approach in his rap when he admits that he hasn't touched a Nintendo Power in years.

Still, the end of icon is never an easy blow to bear... so pour a bottle out a bottle of your favorite energy on the curb while you listen to the track below:

I'm not going to lie: I was completely agog that Nintendo Power was still in publication. Sometime around the early 1990s, the magazine devolved into a thinly-veiled outlet for Nintendo's marketing team to hype up new games and most of its original readers lost interest.

The fact that it still commanded nearly 500,000 subscribers in 2012 is extremely impressive... but apparently not impressive enough to keep it in print.

So long, Nintendo Power! Were it not for you, I would never have known that there was a sequel to The Legend of Zelda.

You still owe me for that one...
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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Enroll as a Hatsune Miku Film Major in Tokyo this September

If you've ever dreamed of making your own Hatsune Miku songs and videos but lack the abilities to bring your creative vision into (virtual) reality, you are in luck: a 6-month course dedicated to just that is being offered by an accredited* institution!

The downside is that you must arranged to live in Tokyo for half a year and enroll at Digital Hollywood University (Go Tentacles!)

Dubbed "HATSUNE MIKU, Loves Creator", the intensive 6-month course at DHU purports to give students hands-on experience and all the training they need to become Vocaloid music producers. In the course of study, students will study basic computer animation and receive training in how to work with the Vocaloid software itself.

At the end of the course, students will be expected to unveil a full graduation project similar to something like this:

This course is being offered as a part of Digital Hollywood's new "Hatsune Miku Film Major", and while DHU does offer an exchange program for its degrees, this course will only be offered in Japanese.

...which is a pity. I would love to add Digital Hollywood University and/or "Hatsune Miku Film Major" to my CV.

*Yup, it's a real university

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Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Object of geek desire: the Game of Thrones toilet decal

When it comes to the phenomenally successful geek orgy that is HBO's Game of Thrones, few aspects of the show are more iconic than the titular throne itself.

Placing a replica of the so-called Iron Throne in your home is the perfect way for egotistical fans with an edifice complex and huge amount of personal savings to show their love of the series, but most of us don't have $30,000 to blow on a chair regardless of how many swords went into its forging.

This is all changing thanks to an enterprising Etsy artist who has figured out a way to bring the Iron Throne to your own personal throne room for 1/1000th of the price...

Downside: you will feel the urge to sing the Game of Thrones theme song whenever you sit on this bad boy.

Enter, the Iron Throne toilet decal. Created by Etsy artist PeelAndStickDecals, this incredibly geeky bathroom accoutrement will make you feel like the rightful ruler of the seven kingdoms whenever you feel the call of nature. The best part? You won't need the financial magic of Littlefinger to bring this decal to your home - for $30.00 you can transform your bog standard crapper into a seat worthy of Robert Baratheon's besotted keister.

While the decal may give rise to some rather delicate questions from guests who visit your bathroom, these questions are a small price to pay for the ability to transform your private moments of shame into soaring, high-fantasy epic adventures.

Ours is the fury, toilet. Ours. Is. The Fury.
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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

This Hobbit birthday cake looks awesome, delicious

My wife and I enjoy a proud, if one-sided, tradition every year for our birthdays. For mine, she goes above and beyond the call of awesome to decorate a geeky birthday cake (Moogles and Tonberrys have both made appearances in the past). For hers, I defer to her mother and let her family handle the cake. It's not the most fair arrangement in the world, but it works.

This year, my wife decided to go all out and move into three-dimensional designs. Because we went to The Shire New Zealand for our honeymoon back in March, and because I love Lord of the Rings more than I probably should, she decided to make a 3D model of Bag End out of fondant and cake. From what I recall of the actually Bag End, the end result was pretty spot on.

Click on any of the pictures for a larger, uncompressed image!

The clue that I should expect this particular design came when I unwrapped the Gandalf Arrives Lego set. Little did I know those Legos would make a cameo appearance on, and provide a sense of scale for, my birthday cake. Sure, Lego is coming out with their own version of Bag End soon... but it won't be anywhere near as tasty as this was.

All of the furnishings to Bag End were done by her hand as well. The walls, doors, and windows were made of white chocolate painted with food dye while the chimneys were black licorice pieces covered in painted white chocolate as well. The fact that she painted an interlocking brick pattern for the chimneys is somewhere between pathological and impressive.

This is a 'raw cut' of the cake, and the fondant spillover around the lawn of Bag End was eventually cleaned up for the presentation. Like the Legos, the tree was also inedible and was made of fake ivy that you can find at any craft store. We toyed with the idea of making a fondant oak tree to overhang the cake, but decided that we valued our sanity too much to even attempt that. Incidentally, she aimed for a 1:1 Toaster Over scale for the cake. I think she did pretty good.

The iconic front door of Bag End. We eventually leveled out the flagstones that formed the pathway to the door although I don't think anyone would have noticed. While the shrubs (grated fondant painted for accents) and potted plants (white chocolate and fondant) were impressive, I particularly liked the fondant retaining wall at the base of the hill. It's an edible attention to detail that any hobbit would appreciate.

The end result, with suitably dramatic late-afternoon lighting. The only problem with making a cake this unbelievably awesome is that many of the guests at the party didn't necessarily identify it as a cake straightaway. Thankfully, we stationed it far enough away from the bar so that no one would be tempted to play with it.
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Monday, August 20, 2012

The D&D Documentary looks to explore the foundations of gaming, turns to Kickstarter for help

When it comes to old school geek cred, playing a tabletop game of Dungeons & Dragons is the grand daddy of all trump cards. Rightfully considered by many to be the birth of roleplaying games as we known them, the origins of D&D and its oddly shaped gaming dice is shrouded in legend and mystery.

A new documentary is looking to change all of that. Titled Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary (or D&D: AD) and helmed by veteran filmmakers Andrew Pascal, Anthony Savini, and James Sprattley, the documentary looks to present the origins of Dungeons & Dragons while examining its influence on the modern world. Unfortunately, making films isn't cheap and so they have turned to Kickstarter to drum up support for the project.

But is there really enough material in the history of Dungeons & Dragons to merit a documentary in the first place?

With any luck, the documentary will not mention that *other* D&D movie...

The short answer is 'very yes'. Like so much Facebook, or Apple before it, the history of Dungeons & Dragons features innovation on a global scale, the establishment of an iconic brand, and the eventual betrayal of one of its creators by the business that sprung up around the idea. Focusing on the creation of D&D in the early 1970s and paying close attention to the way in which Gary Gygax - the game's grand creator - was forced out of his own company in the 1980s, the documentary has plenty of fodder to make its tale interesting.

Although the story sounds familiar to The Social Network, D&D:AD was not thankfully written by Aaron Sorkin. If it was, Dragons would steal Dungeons' idea (and possibly girlfriend), ruin its life, and realize at the very culmination of its financial success that it had a giant, Dungeons-sized hole in its heart all along. Also, the dialog would be way faster and there'd probably be some gratuitous nudity thrown in for good measure.

Because Sorkin is not attached to the project, Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary looks pretty well grounded in fact and reality:

I sincerely hope that this project comes to fruition. MMOs like World of Warcraft or Final Fantasy XI would not exist without the influence of Dungeons & Dragons. LARPing and LARP girls would be the fever dreams of a mad man if Gygax and his friends never scrawled out dungeon maps on graph paper in the cold Wisconsion winters of the 1970s. In short, the debt modern geeks owe to D&D is nothing short of huge.

Let's hope this movie rolls a 20 for crowdsourced funding.

(banner image source: Dead Gentlemen Productions)
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Friday, August 17, 2012

A Study in Vocaloid: Eh? Ah Sou

There are very few songs that capture the energy and frenetic pace of a Friday afternoon in summer quite like
Eh? Ah Sou does. From its driving piano theme to its reliance on off-beat phrases, it's a song that sounds equally good on a pair of headphones as it does blasting from your car's sound system.

Released in 2010 by Vocaloid producer Chouchou-P/papiyon, the song quickly became a staple of Miku's concerts and was performed in Tokyo, Sapporo, and Singapore. When the Live Party theatre concert experience rolled out across the world last year, Eh? Ah Sou made the setlist there as well and introduced a good number of Vocaloid fans to Chouchou-P.

The song itself is pure pop bliss, and can be heard and watched (live) below. If you've never heard the song, or seen Miku perform on stage, give the following video a quick look:

Fittingly, Eh? Ah Sou ("Huh, oh... that's right") embraces its pop-titude from the outset, and there are no surprisingly deep lyrics to be found. If you're curious about the chorus, it translates as follows:

Say, if you want to go at full throttle
Then make me more serious
I won't allow you to run away
Or is that all you have?

Luckily, as Eh? Ah Sou has become more popular in the west it has been picked up by Amazon and iTunes as part of the Glorious World album. If you're looking for an infectuously great bit of Vocaloid J-Pop to add to your summer playlist, $0.99 will grab you a tax-free copy of Eh? Ah Sou from the glorious world of

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Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Ikea Elf challenges your definition of cosplay

When most of us are planning a particular costume or cosplay, we very rarely think of Ikea. It's not that the Swedish retail giant doesn't have much to offer cosplayers (they do have a fabric section), it's just that the worlds of cheap furniture and remarkable cosplay seldom intersect.

The Ikea Elf is looking to change this misconception, and she's doing it in style...

I LÖVA what you've done with your costume! (source)

Fittingly, this cosplay appeared on over the weekend. The girl in the costume was attending Castlefest, a high fantasy, quasi-pagan festival in the Netherlands that is a combination of Burning Man, Bonaroo, and an SCA event. It's a culture hodgepodge of fantasy elements and music that saw elves mingling alongside zombies and steampunks with live music and 25,000 attendees.

What set The Ikea Elf costume in motion was a simple trip to ikea. The cosplayer - like most 20-somethings - was a frequent customer of the store and fell in love with the simple leaf-pattern of the LÖVA Bed Canopy. But sadly - and again, like most 20-somethings - she had nowhere in her apartment for it.

When the time for Castlefest and cosplay rolled around, she quickly sprang into action, glued some elf ears to her head, and came up with a thematic and innovative cosplay based around the LÖVA that landed her a quick pan-over piece in the national news:

I've covered all sorts of cosplays on this site from equine to inspired and everything in between, but this girl winds massive points for ingenuity and the overall theme of her costume. Sure, it's technically more costume than cosplay, but given the pronounced 'anything goes' atmosphere of Castlefest it worked perfectly for the event...

Man, I really need to get out to the Netherlands sometime soon.

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Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Final Fantasy XIV's new concept art and trailer make it hard to resist

After it launched in 2010, Final Fantasy XIV quickly became a disappointment to both fans of the franchise and MMOs alike. At first blush, it looked absolutely amazing but it quickly fell apart due to shoddy programming and a glitchy combat system (what the hell is a fatigue system, anyway?) Its once-enthusiastic playerbase dwindled, and the game looked like a certain failure.

But then something amazing happened. Rather than write FFXIV off as a catastrophic loss, Square-Enix threw more money and man hours into actually making it playable good. A new director was brought on, and in short order the game began to look (really) good once again.

Now the game is scheduled for a renaissance of sorts as it launches for the PlayStation 3. The 2.0 update, entitled 'FFXIV: A Realm Reborn' will rewrite the lore of the game world, redraw the world map, and in - short - make FFXIV the game that it should have been at launch.

Based on the trailer for A Realm Reborn below, it looks like Square-Enix has finally turned FFXIV into the worthy successor of its beloved MMO forefather, Final Fantasy XI

So much for 2013. I had a lot planned for that year, too...
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Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Lego The Lord of the Rings has a new trailer, voice acting

It's been almost eight months since the announcement of Lego The Lord of the Rings video game was made. For many fans of Tolkien and casual gaming, Lego LotR looks like the perfect union of epic source material and silly, minimalist presentation as it features the usual Lego game hijinks alongside a Lego version of Eddard Stark.

But Lego The Lord of the Rings takes a decisive step away from the tradition forged by other collaborative Lego games (Harry Potter, Pirates of the Caribbean, Star Wars, etc.) by featuring voice acting in the game's cutscenes. The inclusion of movie/book dialog is a marked, and perhaps unwelcome, change from the mute Lego protagonists of games past who communicated through grunts, nervous laughter, and the occasional shrug.

Still, the game looks absolutely great. In anticipation of Gamescom happening this week, WB Games release a new extended trailer for Lego LotR and while the voice acting still feels a bit out of place, it is a small price to pay to have a game like this:

It is likely that Lego The Lord of the Rings will release alongside (or just ahead of) Peter Jackson's first installment of The Hobbit trilogy, so look for it on your DS, 3DS, PS Vita, Wii, Xbox, PS2, PS3, etc some time this fall or winter.
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Monday, August 13, 2012

Hatsune Miku and the nyan singularity, Part II

Last week's mind-melting bit of meme recursion involving Hatsune Miku and the all-too-familiar Nyan-cat song now has a video to accompany it.

Sega released a video montage of some twenty-five new songs featured in the upcoming PS Vita game, Hatsune Miku Project Diva f. The new trailer clocks in at close to nine minutes long and highlights some great non-Miku songs like Megarine Luka's Megane and Kagamine Len's Fire Flower which will be featured in the game.

But the real reason to watch the video is to hear Hatsune Miku sing Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya, a song that was originally recorded using her vocal samples in 2010 and skyrocketed to viral internet popularity a year later:

It's getting really hard to resist the urge to buy a PS Vita and wait for the localization of this game import Project Diva F from CDjapan.
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Friday, August 10, 2012

Ben Affleck probably isn't directing the Justice League movie

That sound you hear is millions of DC Comics fans breathing a collective sigh of relief. Despite rumored reports to the contrary, Ben Affleck's spokesteam is denying that he will direct the upcoming Justice League movie.

This news is certainly welcome for those who feared the latest attempt to bring the all-but-cursed Justice League movie to production. After the 2007 movie crashed and burned in the wilds of Australia, the project was put on indefinite hold... until Disney/Marvel proved that superhero movies can make more money than a Superbowl played entirely by half-naked supermodels.

From what (few) details have surfaced about Will Beal's Justice League screenplay, the movie - like so much DC Universe Online - will star Batman, Superman and Wonder Woman which is a setup that DC fans have been clamoring for since rumors of the project first surfaced. While it is unlikely that the Justice League movie will come close to approaching the near-mythic box office yield of The Avengers, the fact that Affleck will not be in the directors chair can only bode well for the project.

While Affleck has never touched a DC Comics property before, it's not like anyone is particularly eager to see him attached to a superhero movies after the debacle that was Daredevil...
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Thursday, August 9, 2012

Bring your cosplay to the next level with... The Superhero Diet?

Great cosplay is a thing of beauty. When a fan combines their love of the source material with hours (or days) of crafting, sewing, and painting, the end result is often nothing short of impressive.

But when a fan chooses to Cosplay as ambitious character that is muscled to near-inhuman proportions, they face something of a problem. They can either buy a foam muscle suit, go as they are and hope people forgive the dissonance, or they can hit the gym for a few weeks to tone up what they've got.

Of course, they can also eat 6,000 calories a day and follow a personal trainer's Superhero Training Regimen...

To pull off his Wolverine, Hugh Jackman ate 24 chicken breasts a day.

Chicago's offbeat newspaper, RedEye, brought together some of the most high-profile personal trainers to compile tips and strategies for how anyone can "get into superhero shape". Covering superhero builds from Wolverine to Wonder Woman (with some Spider-Man thrown in for the wiry among us), the column actually presents some great fitness advice that most anyone can benefit from.

Confusingly, RedEye's fitness gurus also add "The Ghostbuster" to their list of superhero builds to strive for which confused me into thinking I was reading from the kids section of a local diner menu.

While Ghostbusters are not technically superheros, it's nice to see attention paid to those looking for a simple "above average build", although I'm not really sure that anyone from the original Ghostbusters cast would qualify for that particular distinction.

Bill Murray: Comedic genius, body building neophyte.

Ultimately, RedEye's advice is something serious cosplayers should consider reading - if not strictly following - as there are some great guidelines for nutrition thrown in there. While I have no desire to ever look as ripped a Wolverine (which involves 4-5 days a week dedicated to heavy lifting), I do subscribe to the following advice about what sorts of food I eat:

“The main thing will be to eat a balanced, clean diet of good protein, carbs, vegetables and healthy fat. If it comes pre-packaged try to stay away from it.”

Which has sadly meant that my strict Pocky-and-Jack-Daniels convention days diet has come to an end.
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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Hatsune Miku hits the nyan singularity

It was recently reported that the upcoming Hatsune Miku Project Diva F game for the PS Vita will feature Miku singing the all-too-famous Nyan Cat song.

To many casual Vocaloid fans, or those with a passing familiarity of all things internet, this is nothing more than a cute mashup... but to those in the know it is nothing short of meme recursion.

When The Nyan Cat video launched last year, it used a remixed Vocaloid song (Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya) as its background music. The original mix of the song was uploaded to the Japanese website Nico Nico Douga in 2010 and used Hatsune Miku's vocals for the 'lyrics', but the Nyan Cat remix does not. In a sense, then, Miku is covering a song that she already recorded.

But the decision to include The Nyan Cat Song in Project Diva F is something of a singularity considering that one of Miku's first hit songs was itself recorded from a meme.

Wayyyy back in 2007, Yamaha's Vocaloid voice synthesizer was being given a makeover and the character of Miku as we know her was born. To showcase the new face of the voice software, a demo video of a chibi Hatsune Miku singing Ievan Polka was recorded as a joke after the popularity of the Leek Spin Girl meme (which features the 18th century polka song as its background music) peaked at roughly the same time as Miku's Vocaloid software launched.

So in other words... a synthetic pop star who had an early hit song recorded from an internet meme in 2007 just had a song of hers used in an unrelated internet meme last year and is now paying homage to said (second) meme by re-recording it for a video game launching later this month.

Loyal readers, we have come to meme-ception.

While my head is still spinning from trying to sort all of that out, I thought I'd at least give you the benefit of seeing the opening CG movie for Hatsune Miku Project Diva F which may or may not ever make its way over to a North American localization...

...if it does, I'll finally have the reason I need to buy a Vita.

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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

The Land of Vana'diel: A Final Fantasy remix album worth listening to

Because, hey, who doesn't love free music?

As even casual readers of this site will know, I have a certain weakness in my heart for geeky music. Whether it's a masterfully crafted bit of chiptune, Adam WarRock's Firefly Hiphop album, or geek Christmas music, something special happens when polished musicianship combines with an unabashedly geeky subject matter in the same project.

OverClock ReMix member Tweex recently created such a (solo) project, the ambitious Land of Vana'diel album, which presents 18 orchestral remixes of classic Final Fantasy XI themes.

What makes Land of Vana'diel really sing is that Tweex remixed each track entirely out of digital orchestral samples- which is quite impressive given the full sound of the final product. I have something of a practiced ear for music, and even I would have bet this was recorded by a live (community) instruments:

Admittedly, I have some rather found memories of Final Fantasy XI so I may be a bit biased towards the album as a whole but it's a rather impressive undertaking all the same. While some of the arrangements end a bit abruptly (the hazards of looped background music), the skill and artistry which Tweex approaches the remixing each track is readily apparent.

If you have a few minutes to spare for the download, and a passing curiosity in the music of Final Fantasy XI (or video game music in general) you would be well-served to download the (free) Land of Vana'diel orchestral remix album and its accompanying artwork.

It's the perfect music to study, drive, and - for those who have left Vanan'diel behind - reminisce to.
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Monday, August 6, 2012

The Leia and Han Star Wars wedding bands: perfect for the scruffy nerf herder in your life

There comes a time in every geek's life when they find the absolutely perfect person put in the world for them. At this moment, whether rings are exchanged or not, a new union is formed and the couple begins to think of how best to move on to the next logical step: a very geeky engagement.

After the right (geeky) engagement ring is picked out, and a date for the wedding is chosen, the next real challenge to face the couple is the subject of wedding rings. For those on a budget, and/or those with an undying love of Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back, the Leia & Han rings are a perfect solution.

Like the couples themselves, these rings will look a bit strange and incomplete when not together

Sold by Etsy artist SpiffingJewelry, the pair of Leia & Han rings sold in stamped aluminum are available for the modest sum of $22.00 and are a great choice for geeks on the go (or those who work with heavy, finger-mangling machinery!)

There is no denying that these rings are an economical choice for a pair of wedding bands, but they are the perfect proxy rings for couples who plan to go on an adventurous honeymoon or otherwise abuse the tangible symbol of their undying union to one another. After all, most couples would sooner see these cute rings take a bit of a beating than watch their custom Legend of Zelda wedding band or Indiana Jones Engagement ring get scratched to shit while clambering up the side of a volcanic mountain in the South Pacific.

For those looking to immortalize one of the greatest improvised lines of Harrison Ford's carrer in a more precious medium, SpiffingJewelry also has the Leia & Han rings available in sterling silver for a mere $100.00. While still not quite as prestigious as gold, the pair of rings will look dash spiffy after a few years worth of wear settle on the silver's surface.

Because as every good geek knows: it's not the years, honey, it's the mileage.
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