Apr 26, 2009

Book Reviews @ The Temple

The World Without Us by Alan Weisman - This book was so awesome!  The question asked is what would happen to the world if all humans disappeared tomorrow.  Not our stuff - not our buildings or cars or power plants or ipods or shoes, just us.  What would happen to those power plants, how long until our buildings fell, how long till nature has grown over our traces?  It's really fascinating and he went to a lot of places to get the answers to those questions (which is the only real weakness of the book, though he mentions names in text and has a selected biblio, he should really footnote and cite things if he's trying to make a point, these facts and claims should be backed up).  Each chapter is a subject like those above, or about given biospheres - birds, forests, coral reefs, etc.  Every single chapter had "oh my god" moments in it, facts that stagger you with their scale, or that stagger you with our arrogance and selfishness.  The chapter on plastics will stick with me longest - our sea is invaded by plastic.  Not just bags or soda rings, either.  Apparently plastic, because it won't biodegrade, is eroded away just like anything else, to smaller and smaller bits.  At this point you can go to the beach and the waves will leave behind tiny multicolored plastic bits.  The smaller they get, the more things can eat them, and things eat them, and things eat them, and we eat those things.  At what point will we all have some permeating amount of plastic in us?  But every chapter tells something amazing.  Rare spots on earth where nature has come to rule again are particularly fascinating.  I could go on and on, but the point is it's great.  I read it at the same time I'm listening to Friedman's Hot, Flat, and Crowded, so I'm getting double whammy'd by the environment.  Between that and certain other factors, I'm turning into a giant hippy.  But that's ok, another 10 or 20 years, we'll all be huge hippies, either that or dead!

The Giver by Lois Lowry - We listened to this one on a car trip, it's a pretty good book.  I had no idea it was going to be distopian, I don't know why, but i didn't assume that a kid's book would go that way.  It's a nice story, it's pretty simple.  The structure of the distopia isn't original or revelatory, but it gets the job done, makes you feel very uncomfortable with the culture, and gives you a reason to cheer for the main character.  It's got a nice feeling to it, the discovery of non-distopian characteristics feel like real discoveries.  The performance of the audiobook was meh.  The narrator was fine, the addition of music was horrible.  It didn't contribute, it distracted, plus it made me think my car was making funny noises until I realized it was the intermittent music again.  Anyway, good book, not sure if I want to read the sequels, I feel funny that they were even written, but we'll see.

Hot, Flat, and Crowded  by Thomas Friedman - Another great book.  I listened to this one, I don't remember the narrators name, but he was good.  The book is fantastic, it's really a strong argument for reshaping the US as a green-based economy.  He covers both bases as far as doing it for environmental long term preservation reasons and economic & security short term preservation reasons.  If you are a selfish prick, he has a reason for you, if you are a hippy treemonkey, he has a reason for you.  He also pushes for preserving biodiversity.  I think this is his weakest point.  Though I certainly agree with doing all this solely to preserve biodiversity on this planet, I don't think he convinced anyone who didn't already think that way, unlike the other parts where I could see him convincing a conservative.  The book spends the first half discussing the situation and what he sees as the problems, and the last half discussing what to do about it.  The second half has great moments and mediocre moments.  The latter comes when he gets a little too specific about what devices we can use to enable a greener country/economy.  While hearing about these devices and methods is pretty cool, I think he goes too deep into things that are relative transitive, but the time I read the book there are probably better widgits.  However when he talks, ever so slightly more generally, about the types of technologies that will enable certain types of infrastucture or models for managing energy usage, for example, it's really fantastic and inspiring.  Overall, I think he does a great job of convincing us, and writes well.  He does have a tendancy to make lists, usually heavily parallelized lists, i.e. "we can go to the store by doing this, we can go to the store, but doing that, we can go to the store by saying the thing, we can go to the store by stopping the stuff", it gets a little annoying, truth be told.  But that's really the only thing I'd have to complain about.  It's very good.

Video Game Reviews @ The Temple

Puzzle games on Steam Edition!

World of Goo - The crown jewel of this batch, such a fun little puzzle game.  It's a physics/building simulation.  You make structures with these balls of goo that stick to each other.  The levels are really inventive and I was totally smiling as I did them just because of the cool ways you have to build your towers of goo.  It's a short game, took a few hours to do the whole thing, but it's really fun and it's great, totally worth it.  I feel like I should talk more about this than any other game because it's my favorite, but you should just go play it, if you haven't.

Trials 2: Second Edition - Weird little motor bike game.  Kind of a physics simulation too, you are just a rider on a motor bike, you have to do an obstacle course.  It's 2D, you just go straight on the path and jump over things or go through loops or whatever.  It's a fine enough idea, it wears quickly.  It's not a rewarding thing to win, it's just you pressed the buttons for the right amount of time finally.  I couldn't finish it, too frustrating to figure out every level.  Not worth it.

I-Fluid - Another physics game, kind of!  You are a water drop traveling around a kitchen kind of scene.  Can't roll onto absorbing things or hot things.  You have goals of knocking these things over or putting this fruit in that basket.  It's simple, it's fun enough, I'm not really captivated though, maybe worth it.

Eets - I remember the demo from forever ago.  It's cute, has a cute visual style.  It's basically Lemmings, your little Eet walks around of his own volition and you direct him to go where he needs to go.  It's not super complicated, I'm pretty bored with it now that I'm 2/3 through.  But I got it for $2.50, so its certainly worth it.  Even at $10 or whatever the regular price is, I think it's a fine puzzle game that will keep you entertained for a few hours.

Graviton 2 - Remember that game where you are a space lander and you are falling onto a planet/moon surface and you fire your rockets and try to slow yourself down so you land gently and don't blow up?  Okay, well this is that, except with lasers and things that shoot at you and trickier paths to fly around.  Same mechanic though.  Pain in the ass to control, but kind of fun.  It's very simple, and it get's old, but I liked it.  Get's really hard pretty soon, I gave up eventually.

Multiwinia - The sequel to Darwinia which was a neat little game where are guiding little computer beings to their homes and keeping them safe from viruses or whatever.  This is like some weird ass RTS multiplayer battle version of the game.  Doesn't make much sense to me.  If I want to play this kind of game I'll play a real one, not this half assed one with funny graphics.  The first game was so original, this seemed very derivative.

Defense Grid: The Awakening - This is a desktop tower defense game, a genre I really like.  I thought I was decent at them, but this game is kicking my ass.  It's a good game, the computer is kind of Glados like, though not nearly as good.  I don't think the game really has enough variety, maybe I'm missing a mode.  But I get stuck pretty easy on a level and give up for a few days, because there's nothing else to do.  Maybe it's better they don't plod me along and I get bored.  Maybe I should just suck less ass.

Braid - Finally I play the biggest XBLA game of 2008 (on steam).  And... how can I not be disappointed?  I heard only magical goodness about this game. I was pretty sure Jesus descended and gave your computer extra RAM halfway through, the way people talked about it.  It's a good game, don't get me wrong.  The art style really is beautiful, though it's not really one that appeals to me outside of games, so it only gets points for originality, not for appealing to me.  The music is nice, also different, but nothing that gets me.  The story mostly was cute but whatevs.  The game mechanic, playing with time, is very cool.  Yes, it's just prince of persia plus super mario, but pretty much every damn game is this thing plus that other thing.  The game does a great job of moving you along introducing new abilities.  But it doesn't to me have that amazing puzzle game ness.  It does have its moments where you eureka and figure out the trick and you feel happy, but they are more of "ugh, finally!" than "holy crap that was awesome"  I felt a lot of the latter in World of Goo, for instance, I had moments that just made me grin ear to ear with happiness that something worked out.  I mostly did not feel that in this game, cool moments, but no grinning.  The end, however, is genius, not so much the level, but the backwards after the level, was really fantastic.  So the game wins for artisticness vs any game in this list, but loses for fun vs. world of goo.

Apr 22, 2009

Movie Reviews @ The Temple

Crank High Voltage - Wow, what an amazing pile of shit.  The amazing thing isn't that I paid real life dollar money to see this, it's that I'm not surprised that I did.  I actually really liked the first one, it was over the top and insane and stupid, but it had a fun pace and good Statham action.  This movie upped the pace and the stupid, and reduced the action to 3 minutes cumulative.  My favorite thing about this movie is what I get to say when it comes up.  See, the in the last movie, spoiler alert, Statham dies, he falls out of a damn plane, bounces, and dies.  It was actually a good ending to such a ridiculous over the top movie, to have the guy die.  Then I hear the director talking about the new one and saying that he heard a story about a guy falling out of a plane and living - and boom we 've got a new movie!  They even put that story (minus the director) in the damn movie, it's so dumb.  The movie is, at least ,very self aware.  It knows how ridiculous it is, from its subtitles, to its puns, to its encore performances from the first one, to its editing, music, and violence.  But just knowing you are stupid doesn't excuse it.  There are parts I like, where they mock other things along with themselves, like local news, other action movies, other jason statham movies, etc.  There is some action, and its good.  There is a whole ton of boobles, most of which are not good, but a few are.  The main girl, amy smart, she's like a pretty version of jamie presley from My Name is Earl.  Maybe I could have stood that show longer than 2 seasons if she was in it instead.  Not much else to say about it, it's really bad, really ridiculous, and there's no reason to see it.  Except maybe in a stereotypical black theater in new york, that probably would be fun.  Oh, I just found out that it was filmed all with prosumer cameras.  That is exceedingly awesome, cuz I had no idea.

Milk - Finally I see Milk!  It's a very good movie.  It doesn't rank higher than my other favorites from 2008 (Slumdog and Wrestler), I wouldn't even say it's close.  But it's up there with Doubt and whatever else I can't think of right now.  The filming is exquisite.  Some of the framing they use is just awesome.  I'm thinking of the early scene with Penn & the dude from spiderman, and you see mostly table and wall, with them in the background.  Or the reflection in the whistle, or the mix of the TV image and the reflection of the person watching it.  Some just fantastic cinematography, I think it's my favorite part.  The script is very good too, though, the structure is very well done.  Penn is good, everyone is good, actually, no one falls down.  It's also got a lot of relevance and resonance with today, espeically for me not knowing this history.  But at the end of the day its a biopic, and it did not have nearly the majesty of slumdog or the tragedy of wrestler or even the pure acting mojo of doubt.  It may be the best filmed of the 4, but slumdog was awesome too.  Anyway, I am not down on this movie, I liked it a lot, but it did not flip my shit.

Amores Perros - Wow what a movie.  First off, this movie was kind of hard to watch.  Dogs are constant throughout the movie (the title means "Love's a bitch" though I think it loses something in translation), and for the first 1/3 it's about dog fighting.  They don't show much fighting (it's just dogs playing, obviously), but there are fake or make-up'd dead and dying dogs that are really brutal to watch.  But it's worth it, because the movie is amazing.  It's nominally about three different stories, that don't really intertwine at all, except that they pass each other on the street (literally) and share a common theme (which is basically that love messes you up).  The three stories are mostly broken up into three chapters, but the movie plays with time so that you see how they interesect at different points.  For the first 1/3 you have no idea who these people are that will be in the second and third parts of the movie.  You see them show up and things happen, but you don't even know their names until their time comes.  It would be frustrating if it wasn't so well done.  The structure was almost perfect.  There was one time where the time-shifting bothered me, but it was 99% great.  This was Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's (babel, 21 grams) breakout movie, and he deserved the attention, it's produced wonderfully.  The movie has a way of looking crisp and clear (if not clean) at one point and then looking very grimy and rugged at the next, it's good.  The actors do really well too, I was pretty surprised that all these unknown (to me) mexican actors do such an amazing job.  Then I was surprised with myself that I would assume unknown (to me) mexican actors would necessarily be average.  Over all the movie is just really good, with such a seemingly trite message as love fucks you up, it could have easily been an amateur movie, but it manages to present these stories as real and meaningful and similar even though the characters couldn't be more different.  Thumbs up.

Rachel Getting Married - Why the hell did everyone like this movie?  And why the hell did anne hathaway get an oscar nomination?!  Fully the first half of this movie is unbearable.  Unbearable!  It's this god awful torture of a shitty family get together.  It's got all the awful awkward moments and drunken speeches and shitty confrontations and huge fights that you get from your own family, except you have to endure this other family that you don't even have any affection for!  You know how you dread going to thanksgiving every year and putting up with all the bullshit?  Why would you force yourself to endure a movie full of all that bullshit?  And of top of all that, I don't have a shitty family.  I don't dread going to thanksgiving or putting up with my relatives.  So why the hell would I adopt this horrible annoying family for 2 hours?!  It's completey incomprehensible to me why people liked this.  All I can figure is that if you have that kind of family, you appreciate seeing it enacted so accurately, and therefore love the movie.  The second half of the movie gets some semblence of honest emotion in it.  The drama becomes a little less dramatic when heartfelt things start happening.  Even then its pretty melodramatic, it's just that after the first hour of bullshit I was relieved to see something non obnoxious.  It plays out exactly as you would predict from the back of the box, it's not really about surprises just about seeing the people live it out.  I really don't understand why people liked this movie.  Oh, also, this is the most racial diverse family EVER IN THE HISTORY OF EVER.  Seriously, besides native american, I did not see a single race or culture unrepresented.  Not just that the white family married the black family.  But the white family was super into indian culture, and the best friends were asian, and the step mom was mexican, and the little kid was indian, and the black family was from hawaii, and the dancers were from brazil, and the ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!  Jesus christ, give it a rest, you are a rainbow of humanity, I get it!

Delicatessen - Holy crap what a weird little effin' french movie.  The premise is that during some kind of depression or famine, the owner/butcher of an apartment building chops up strangers and feeds them to his tenants.  So a new stranger shows up and chaos ensues.  Right off the bat I loved the style, the sign for the butcher shop was cool, the picture of the building was cool, the area outside, though clearly working with a limited budget (almost play-like in its isolation), was very cool.  But the movie just gets weirder and weirder as it goes on.  First its strange little rhythmic sections, then crazy over the top hysterics, eventually just a wacky ass plot with everyone acting insane.  The movie is intersting just because it's so weird and different and french.  But I wouldn't exactly call it good either, I'd defintley not watch it again.

City of Lost Chlidren - Speaking of weird ass french movies...  I mean jesus!  This is a fairly well known movie, it's surreal as all hell.  It's like this dirty steam punk slash industrial fairy tale.  In the way you'd normally judge a movie, it's pretty awful.  It's over acted (by the same guy who overacted in delicatessen), it's scattered, I barely knew what was going on, the music is corny, it's weird.  The movie succeeds just in its look.  It is a crazy ass thing to watch, it's got weird creatures (kind of) and imagery and buildings and devices.  For me, it was not nearly interesting enough to put up with the rest of the movie.  It was just weird and french and blah.  I can see how you'd love this movie, I guess, if you were captivated by the style, but I wasn't.

Quarantine - What do you get if you cross Cloverfield and 28 Days Later?  Well, I wouldn't be asking if the answer was Mamma Mia, obviously.  This movie is strange because I feel like it was done well (if of a lower class), yet didn't grab me.  It enabled the claustrophobic feeling of seeing everything through one narrow lens.  It gave you the panic of a human monster running at your teeth barred.  No one acts well, but no one acts badly.  The script is weak, but big surprise.  It seemed like it should have been a good combination of those movies, but it didn't really have me on the edge of my couch.  Maybe if I watched it in the dark with someone scared next to me, it would have had a different feeling.

Gran Torino - This movie actually reminds me of Quarantine, but opposite.  Quarantine I felt like I should have liked, based on individual characteristics, but I was blah about.  This movie I felt like I should have disliked, but I was fine with.  I can't really think of anything good to say about the movie.  It's mostly a mentor/mentee kind of thing.  95% of the badassery in the movie is in the trailer, it's not what they made it seem like.  Eastwood's character is comically ridiculous.  That stupid dick cheney grimace he's got plastered on his face is so over the top it's back on the bottom.  It absolutely seems like caricature, not drama or even comedy, when he screws his face up as tight as possible and grinds his teeth and growls a grumble and the camera zooms in on him.  It was the stupidest thing I've seen in a movie in a while.  Other actors are ok, the girl is pretty awful, the boy is decent.  The barbershop/bar stuff is stupid.  We get it, he's racist, all his friends are racist, that doesn't mean every other god damn word is zipperhead.  It's like a movie trying to be funny by saying fuck every other word.  It's not funny, and this case it's not shocking, it just makes it clear you are trying too hard.  I honestly can't think of anything redeemable about this movie, yet I didn't hate it either.  I'd still say don't waste your time though.  Wow, I just looked it up on RT (I always wait till I finish writing before looking it up).  People loved this thing!  What the hell?  It is not entertaining, masterful, vibrant, gentle, formidible, any of these adjectives!  Y'know, it's times like this when I know I'm a contrarian person.  I was just meh with this movie, now that I know everyone liked this piece of crap, I officially hate it.

Frozen Time Video

Fucking hell this is cool.

Google Profile

Cool way to control your google results if the first result is you doing a keg stand in undergrad.

Apr 9, 2009

PG Porn

The first couple of these are kinda dumb and too easy (first one has nathan fillian, which is why I looked it up), but the bang bus parody is hi-goddamn-larious.

Video Game Cupcakes

If you make these for my birthday we'll be bff for eva and eva!

Apr 4, 2009

Video Game Reviews @ The Temple

Oops, I played most of these a while ago, just found the saved post, oh well, here goes posterity:

Soul Calibur 4 - So here's the thing with me and fighting games.  We agreed to disagree roundabout the end of the 90s.  The last fighting game I played more than a couple rounds of was Tekken.  Tekken one.  on playstation one.  its not that I hated them, it's that I sucked and in order to be good you needed a lot more time than I was willing to put in.  The last game I was good at was SF2, like the first one.  I never even played MK much.  Cut to 10 years later and this is my first soul calibur game, and its pretty cool.  These games sure have come a long way, huh?  I mean, I'm not good enough to play it right, but it seems like there's depth here that we only wished for once upon a time!  All the different attacks and types of attack and frame (which is kind of a split second advantage in timing) and counters and etc.  I guess it's cool.  It's way too mcuh for me, no way I'm going to learn to play this, let alone in the 2 days I have before my gamefly subscription ends.  It's not exactly super fun to play as an idle game, either.  The story mode isn't really much of a mode.  It's obviously all about playing against others, and that's just not something I'm doing to end up doing.  Oh wells, I'm sure its great, if you are into this kinda thing.  I know these things aren't the point, but real quick: the story is absent, the endings are almost all dumb, the announcers voice is ridiculous, and seriously with the gigantic tits on the chicks?  seriously?!

GTA4 - Uh, what am I going to say here?  The game is ollllld news by now.  Mr. Thesis delayed me from getting to it when everyone else did, but I'm finally done with it.  What's to say? it's great, fantastic, amazing, fun, interesting, funny, who the hell hasn't played this?  my opinion doesn't add anything at this point.

Penny Arcade: OTRSPOD - So the Penny Arcade game finally came to the PSN!  Took long enough!  It's pretty fun, though I'm actually kinda disappointed.  First of all its amazingly short.  I'm sure glad they dropped it to $15 for the PSN, cuz yikes, what was that, 6 hours?  The gameplay is straightforward, serves its purpose.  That purpose being telling the silly story, showing the nice art, and being funny.  And it is funny, in that penny arcade kind of way, especially the dynamic between gabe and tycho, I did laugh out loud.  It's not hilarious, though, I wasn't rolling.  I'm sure I'll get the 2nd episode when it comes to PSN, if nothing else than to give money to PA who have entertained me for years, but my excitement is certainly dampened.

Fallout 3 - Gah gah gah.  It's Oblivion, which I played the shit out of, except with frickin' lasers on its head.  How can it possibly be bad?  The answer = it isn't, it's fantastic.  The world isn't quite as full as oblivion, but that's because it's post apocalyptic, it's not full, because it's empty.  This also leads to a certain lack of scenary, but it didn't bother me.  Character evolution is purposefully smoothed out, makes it kind of easier, but that's ok, I didn't play it to break my head on it.  The voice and dialogue work is better, though the emptiness helps with that again.  It sounds like I'm caveat'ing everything, but I'm not, just placing it in context.  It's been my pasttime pretty much any time I'm home alone for the past few weeks, it's great.

Bioshock - Finally got around to finishing this.  I had played when it came out, but it kept crashing.  It's a very good game.  I'm not quite sold its the best game ever.  The story is good, but not all that captivating, I don't know why everyone peed their pants.  The mechanic is cool, but it really is just System Shock except easier, so it's cool and fun, but it doesn't blow my mind.  And hey, I'm not sure why I think vita-chamber regens are bullshit, but I will shoot one guy, save, shoot one guy, save, get shot, reload, shoot one guy, save, and that's not bullshit.  wait, I am sure - cuz I'm dumb, but that's ok.

Apr 1, 2009

Corrugated Art

Super green!  (get it?  it's kind of a double meaning, if you are cool and know good movies)