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20Dec2007 1808: Mourning

Oh man, I almost forgot the sad news. This weekend a Windows crash corrupted my Progress Quest character and its backup file. Mourn the death of Monthenor, five-year veteran of the realm of Expodrine! At the time of this writing he is level 90 and in 13th place on the entire goddamn server. I was really hoping to break the top ten some day, but alas!

In the "pro" column, I can now turn my computer off sometimes.

20Dec2007 1743: Dwarf Fortress

I'm almost gone for the yearly Family Christmas, an annual epic writ large upon the face of I-94. Features this year include replacing Guitar Hero with the Wii and a brand-new family minivan, as my mom recently decided to take the current Astro for a barrel roll. I will leave you with something to occupy us over Christmas break: Dwarf Fortress.

In college our suite went through an obsessive Zangband phase. We were so dedicated that I made it all the way to the last boss (who I could not even scratch) and Morgion actually played it. Glothar, did you ever beat the last guy? Can't remember. Anyway, I've heard of roguelikes and now you have too.

Dwarf Fortress is, at worst, an extremely detailed roguelike when set to Adventure Mode. I haven't heard of anybody playing Adventure Mode, though. The internets are enraptured with Fortress Mode, where you guide seven initial dwarves to greatness in a fort you carve out of the ground yourself, a la Dungeon Keeper. The game is made by some sort of autistic code hermit and is obscenely detailed in its simulation. It uses OpenGL to output ASCII graphics for one, and for two it simulates things like geologic layers and weather patterns. Water and lava actually flow and drain somewhat realistically! Falling velocity is taken into account! Dwarves can engrave your hallways with what's on their mind!

Is this intriguing? Then you should read the saga of Boatmurdered, the Elephant-Accursed.

iTunes actually had a non-Christmas song today: [Victor Manuelle - Lechon, Lechon, Lechon]. This is another stereotypical mariachi song; you'll see what I mean if you hear any given preview. I may keep it around because I think it's singing about barbeque.

16Dec2007 1755: Keep On Rocking in the Fairy World

Oh, and Rock Band crushed my dreams this morning. It turns out that your band name has to be significantly shorter than the input line would lead you to believe. Upshot is that my drummer Gretel and my singer Hansel will not be appearing in their power duo " ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Bread".

16Dec2007 1747: The Small Whispered Voice of Satan

"Hey, brain, it's dinnertime but I'm not really hungry. What do you think we should--"

"Honey Butter Ritz and peanut butter? That's really more of a brekkist thing, but it sounds pretty--"

"And chili powder?"


"Let's do this thing."

12Dec2007 2121: Release

I'mma do the free iTunes reviews first this week. [Jaci Velasquez - It Came Upon a Midnight Clear], [Carter's Chord - O Come O Come Emmanuel], and [No-Talent Ass Clown - Walkin' in a Winter Wonderland] are all Christmas carols. I don't know why artists still bother to record new version of the same ancient songs, when everybody knows they were perfected in the schmaltzy 40s musical era. Dude, there was only one Bing Crosby and he will thank you to leave your latin rhythms and drum machines the fuck home.

Of course, the family didn't appreciate it last year when I dug into my own stash of non- standard carols.

A language called Processing has recently been brought to my attention. It's like...C++ with a very easy graphical library? Java with everything implicitly declared? I don't know, but its built-in event handlers coupled with a statement that says "you will have this framerate DAMN YOU" piques my interest. Chemu always suffered from the absolutely horrid TimerGod thread I created, maybe Processing can keep my code well in hand. And it compiles(?) to Java applets and is all cross-platform and crap. Definitely going to poke at this over the next few weeks.

09Dec2007 0231: Narbonic

I should be sleeping.

When a person tells a story, it has to end. It seems obvious, but I think it's the main problem with dramatic media today. Stories of antiquity (and I've recently reread Beowulf and Gilgamesh, but also: the Odyssey) told a moral tale that culminated in something. The hero lived, usually died, and then it was over. I miss that kind of arc, the sense that the story tied together for some ultimate purpose. Even things I enjoy become tainted when I get the sense they are being dragged out beyond their natural end.

Comics are some of the worst offenders. Books, movies, and video games also suffer from this, but very rarely employ the kind of bullshit chicanery that long-running comics books do. When you hand a storyline over to multiple generations of writers who all want to do their own thing but not completely their own thing, you end up with a festering mass of continuity holes like the Marvel Universe or the Bible.

I like my comics to begin, and then to end. I like the author to know exactly what point they're going to make, and make it, and leave. You have to stop sometime. There has to be a plan for the characters from the outset, and you have to see that plan through. I tried to do this myself, and I still plan to take another couple of shots at it someday. But I promised I wouldn't even start drawing 52 Yo Mama until I had it plotted to the last.

And this is why I love Narbonic, a comic I only discovered this week. It has been hidden behind a pay-site for the past few years, and seriously fuck that, but now it's complete and the archive is free and you can read the whole thing in a couple of obsessive days. Most of all, I love it when a plan comes together.

05Dec2007 1929: Loaded

Are you carbo-loading? Do you wish you were? 'Cause I just finished a grilled macaroni and cheese sandwich and it was fantastic. While poking around at some of my more unfamiliar tables in the database at work today, I found something odd in the CSR Troubleshooting Script archive. One employee tags his scripts with descriptions that are just random gibberish -- lots of "123", "111", "####", and the like. But then, smack in the middle of these, one script was tagged as "grilled macaroni and cheese sandwitch" [sic]. This simple little phrase bored its way into my brain and I knew I must make this sammich! I livened it up a little with some turkey slices, but otherwise it is exactly what it sounds like. If you've ever thought that your melted dairy stuffing could use a little more starch, now is the time.

And if you missed it last week and/or are Christmas shopping for me, this is the coolest car I've ever seen. Practical? In Fargo? Probably not. But you should go watch the BBC Top Gear clip and dream of a fictional day when these are commonplace.

That's probably the last positive thing I'll get to say all post, because now we're going to talk about Tin Man. It is the worst thing to go through my eyeholes since I mistook that angry flaming cactus for my glasses. I could try to make a list of all the horrible things it does to us because it hates us, but it's difficult to describe the feelings it evokes in me. The way I've tried to explain it to friends is that they tried to make a version of The Wizard of Oz without actually having the rights to the book. I realize that what they don't have is the rights to the good Wizard of Oz.

Our young protagonist is DG, a probably-stoned waitress at a diner who is thrust into a fantastic world when a tornado visits her farm and she is forced to flee from a squad of heavily armed duster-clad soldiers from a parallel reality known as the Outer Zone. Did you notice at what point in the sentence things went horribly awry? Then congratulations, you are paying more attention to the plot than the perpetrator director or any of the actors! The not-rights-having gets right in your face from the beginning, as there is no Scarecrow, the Tin Man is not made of tin, the Cowardly Lion is from a race of psychic cat-people that wear fur vests instead of having fur, and Toto doesn't even appear until halfway through Part 2. The most common and egregious offense is the Outer Zone itself, constantly abbreviated as "the O.Z." And every time you hear them say "O.Z.", you drink.

You drink to survive.

Zooey Deschanel in particular makes a horrible lead. Where Judy Garland's Dorothy was a picture of tough Midwest innocence, where the book's Dorothy was practical and grounded in the face of danger and whimsy, Zooey's DG floats through the miniseries as if she was taking massive bong hits from the not-Scarecrow's empty zipperhead. I don't think this is due to the character of DG, either; there are several scenes where her reaction is simply a few beats off from where normal people would be. Somewhere between the writer, the director, and Zooey something crucial was lost. I can only recommend Tin Man as its drinking game counterpart, Gin Man. The miniseries somehow manages to only go down from its inauspicious beginning, but if you're drinking at every "O.Z." then you won't mind as much.

The Christmas onslaught continues with [Los Straitjackets - Sleigh Ride], a straightforward surf-guitar instrumental, and [Keith Sweat - Be Your Santa Claus], which is like watching this without all the awesome. [Motel - Y Te Vas] seems to indicate that at least one language isn't completely consumed with Christmas cheer all out of season. It's not great, but it's good enough to hang around at three stars and be on in the background every couple of weeks.