June 2010 Archives

I mean, wow.

I don't even know what this game is about, or what this movie is about, or anything.

What I know is that the gameplay looks precisely like the 3D console Pokemon game that we've been begging for since the N64 days.

The monsters are everywhere!

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Last week I started playing AR Monster on iPhone. It's a dead-simple RPG by our old pals at Hudson Soft. It's currently free, which is why I got it.

The gimmick is that the game uses the GPS and camera to make the monsters appear all around you.

 

As you move the camera around, the monsters flit around, kind of half-assedly tracking along with the view. So if a monster is generally located north of you, it will float in that zone even as you pan the camera. I've seen monsters suddenly shoot across the floor, but I'm never sure if that's an intentional "animation" or if it's just a result of the camera tracking skitzing out.

 

Once you tap a monster to begin a fight, the camera freezes the image and zooms in on the creature. You have multiple upgradeable weapons, and you can choose to direct your attack on specific body parts. Like, green slimes are weak against arrow attacks to the eye. But who isn't.

 

Clark has been enjoying it. The buttons are easy enough to grasp without reading skills. And for a lot of the low-level monsters, you can kill them with just about any weapon, so Clark is free to select whatever he likes.

He also likes pretending he can see the monsters outside of the camera, as in when I tell him "There's one right above you!"

 

The game purports to hand you different monsters depending on where you are, based on the GPS. I'm not sure that's the case. I think it primarily delivers new monster types according to your skill level. We saw the same five monsters from levels 1 through 6, then suddenly another ten new types starting popping up no matter where we were.

Found a level 9 boss monster one night (IN MY LIVING ROOM!!11!!), which was the first time I ever felt like the battle was tough. Most of the time, it's been mainly a collecting experience where I'm just looking for new creatures to add to my Pokedex. The boss battle actually required me to heal up mid-way through.

 

You can find better weapons... either in random treasure chests or as dropped loot. There is an in-app storefront for buying items in bulk (hey, I think I just figured out why they're giving the app away for free!), but as yet I have felt no need to actually buy anything.

Pretty fun stuff. It certainly leverages several key iPhone advantages - IE camera, GPS, social networking, constant availability. There's been some stabs at augmented reality games on the DSi, but at the moment, the iPhone rules this experience. Right now, the tech is limited, to be sure, but someday the kind of nonsense is going to be really sweet.

That's what the AR stands for, by the way. Augmented Reality. AUGMENTED REALITY. It's a current gaming buzzword at least as awesome as "jetpack."

I found this "Adventures with the DC Super Heroes" magazine as I was going through some boxes of old mags. It's from 2000 and was produced as a free giveaway if you bought two gallons of milk. Inside, among all the typical kids mag mazes and dorky articles, is two pages of terribly unfunny comic strips. Well, unfunny in the way that 90% of all newspaper comic strips are unfunny. I don't blame writer Chris Duffy and artist John Dulaney. Much.

That's two of six. You probably can't wait to see the next one.

The Week in Links

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Batman: The Brave and The Bold Wii Gameplay Ftg (E3 2010) (YouTube)
Every sign says this game will be well-produced goofy fun. Just like the cartoon!

Disney, These Are Amazing Controllers (Kotaku)
Nice Epic Mickey paintbrush controller! I can't believe it's taken this long for game-specific, high quality Wii controllers to show up.

DC Comics Launches Digital Publishing (DC Comics Source)
I am keeping my eye on this, for sure. Although I am not sold on the digital version costing the same as the paper version for new comics, I can see picking up older titles a discount. And just maybe, that could lead to me trying out me stuff. I'm sure I won't fully embrace it until I get an iPad, because the iPhone screen readability is sort of silly.

Disney World photo captures couple together 15 years before they met (The Star)
That's pretty crazy. Disney, of course, jumped on the story and had the couple re-enact the moment.

iPhone Pac-Man Screen (madin.jp)
iOS 4 is out for, what, three days? And already there's a Pac-Man tribute custom background.

PlayStation Plus: Your Questions Answered (PlayStation Blog)
My only question for PlayStation Plus is how many Trophies I can collect (and keep) from different rented/free games for $50 a year.

Nintendo of America Says When Nintendo 3DS's Will Be Out (Kotaku)
Next year. Sounds fine to me. They just released the DSi XL last spring and it doesn't look like they're going to have ANY competition in terms of a portable 3D device. Once again, Nintendo has made their own market.

E3 2010: A week after

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It's E3 in Bizarro Land! I think you could take the bulk of Nintendo's yucky Wii Fit / Wii Music E3s, change all the nouns, and you'd have half of Microsoft's 360 Kinect show.

Is Microsoft trying to build an empire on brand names that begin with "kin"? I'm sure somebody in marketing is nuts with glee over that.

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There was a clip at the beginning of the Sony conference with Kevin Butler saying "Who wants to pretend their finger is a gun? What is this, third grade? Pew, pew, pew." And then he laughs dismissively under his breath. Not that PlayStation Move is much better... but at least they're already actually talking about games that use Move (even tossed a bone to the shooter crowd with 3D Move-enabled Killzone 3), and not just a bunch of Wii rehashes. Come on: a kart racer that you play using your hips? Are you fucking kidding me? That is going to be substantially worse than Wii Wheel Mario Kart.

In board gaming, we talk a lot about "beer and pretzels" games. These are games that are usually pretty simple, but fun enough for a group looking to play something while enjoying a nice chat or whatever. Hip-Twisting Kart Racer and On-Rails Star Wars Jumper might end up being fine beer and pretzel 360 games, much like Wii Sports was in 2006. Except that it's four years later, and Microsoft spent three of those years excoriating the Wii stuff as casual, irrelevant sidestories to the True Gaming Saga of whatever gory FPS just came out.

So after all the promises of last year - the Milo demo (this year: No Milo), the bold promises of how Natal would make hardcore games more awesome than ever - the 360 is pretty much getting their own Wii Sports plus the ability to pause movies by calling out "Xbox, pause." Sure, it's only the first wave of stuff with Kinect support... except that a year ago at this time the hardware/software already looked fairly mature and we had demos of Virtual Children who could identify what color shirt you were wearing. And you could play Burnout Paradise while sitting down. What happened to all that?

And $150 for current 360 owners? Yeah, that's going to sell fantastically.

Move... oy. I mean, Sony did make an effort to showcase multiple gaming genres for Move. There was that magic game that read like an extended plea to get rights to the Harry Potter license. Reports are already out that Resident Evil with Move control is actually pretty cool. And yeah, Sony is getting an obnoxious Wii Sports clone... plus, finally, EyePet. So we've got more variety than the Kinect pitch.

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I'm still not thrilled with Move, it will also be expensive, and it is still more floundering at Nintendo's path. But at least it has buttons, so I'll be able to play games more complicated than Jumping Jedis.

3D is officially Sony's big problem, since it's stupid expensive and still relies on damn glasses. Nintendo's 3DS is going to make laymen scratch their head and wonder why a handheld device can do 3D without having to hustle headgear... and Sony expects $X000 from you to get it done.

All the 3DS will need is $200 (I'm guessing) and a note from your eye doctor.

For my part, Sony at least showed up to reveal both brand new titles that I'm interested in, and updates on forthcoming games we already knew about. That's more than Microsoft did. Sly Collection, LBP2, MGS Rising, yeah. Twisted Metal, meh. inFamous 2, super-maybe.

And then you have Nintendo, who blew into town to talk about games this year. We all figured they would bomb out, again, with an hour of Vitality Sensor gaming. But that ridiculous gizmo was never mentioned once. Started off a little shaky with the Zelda reveal... I am not enthused about all-motion control Zelda. MotionPlus or not, I have trouble trusting that whole sword-and-shield gestural combat to be 100% reliable. Still, I sure as fuck would rather play that than have Galaxy 2 throw away all my extra guys every time I stop for the night.

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But the new Donkey Kong Country, the new Kirby... I am presold. And I don't even particularly care about those franchises, nor do I care about 2D platformers! DK looks like it has nice 2P co-op, and it looks far better than the terrible co-op of New Super Mario Bros Wii. And Kirby? Kirby Epic Yarn just looks amazing. ART DIRECTION WINS. Hell, I think that one has 2P co-op as well. Wii Party? Yeah, sure. Will be about a million times more fun the last four Wii ___ games combined. No trouble getting platinum status on Club Nintendo this year.

If only we could get Nintendo off the stick and get these games to support all the online/friend junk that the other two deliver every single time. Wii gaming is so damn lonely.

Actually kind of a little worried about Epic Mickey. The demo looked... well, it looked like about a million other 3D action games. I think I was expecting something more dramatic for (again) the art direction. Smee looked exactly on model. Since Mickey himself is subtly visually tweaked, I expected the rest of the game would also look a little different. If you missed all of the last year's Epic Mickey hype, and your first exposure was the E3 video, you'd likely peg it as just another mascot platformer... with some kind of terrain-erasing gimmick.

Here's my bigger Epic Mickey concern. What if it ends up not being a Wii exclusive? I would certainly rather play it on PS3 (with Move support, I guess) where it will be in HD and have Trophies. Waiting for the other shoe to drop on that score before I make my purchase.

The LittleBigPlanet world in PlayStation Home is pretty cool. A little cramped, but packed with highly recognizable LBP elements.

Kind of a shame that it is overrun with charmless, vacant-eyed Home avatars.

There's a minigame that has you run around the zone taking pictures of specific LBP monuments, based on cutesy visual clues. I heartily endorse this product or service.

Another neat thing is the cooperative background maker, where you can make a LBP desktop image simultaneously with other users. It's a live interaction of multiple people arranging and re-arranging familiar LittleBigPlanet stickers. So naturally the struggle is to come up with a cool design that does not have a nearby fourteen year old making everything look like a penis.

Here's what I co-made a couple nights ago... click for a big version.

LittleBigPlanet is still one of this generation's finest games. Very excited for this fall's sequel.

ModNation Racers, defeated.

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I made it all the way through the Career mode in ModNation Racers. Although MNR still has that cheap kind of opponent AI that makes Mario Kart so frustrating at times, I believe ModNation is substantially easier. Even in the last few levels, I only needed a stab or two to get to know the track and place in the top three. On the very last level, you HAVE to come in first, but even that was not a massive deal. I can't help comparing that the to Mario Kart's Rainbow Road, which usually requires an hour of starts and restarts for me to get through it.

ModNation Racers is definitely the only kart racer I've played that puts together a good run at being on Mario Kart's par. I like the turbo system better, having no love for Mario Kart's asinine left-right rocker method for building up a charge. The MNR sideswipe move is great, and of course the creation tools continues to drive home the point that Nintendo has done jack shit with the Kart franchise in a decade.

Where the game gets nuts is in the specific Challenges that haunt each level, like "spin for six gazillion points" or "beat up eighty thousand players in this one specific area that you're not sure where it is." That crap is unpossible. It wouldn't be so bad if these Challenges did not unlock new materials for Mod/Kart/Track creation. Sucks that I'm missing plenty of clothes and gear and tools because of lacking so many Challenges.

So there's a pretty good fan freakout about Challenge difficulty, judging from the whiny babies over at the PlayStation Blog. They're also pissed off about this:

Same problem as in LittleBigPlanet. Once these three user Mods made the "Top Mods" list, there is now no conceivable way to unseat them. Unless the game changes the way the Top Mods are selected, we're going to be looking at this trio for quite some time. Even if they switched to Top Mods This Week, you'd probably still have the same problem.

Luckily, there's a grassroots effort to raise awareness of this issue.

Those b&w twins there have heads that say "We Need New Top Mods." The hoods of their cars say "Drive For Change" like it's a political rally. I applaud their pluck.

If you take yourself offline, the Top Mods slots are filled with your own creations.

Down in front is a Noddy character I did not make, but downloaded from a French player. In France, Noddy is known as Oui-Oui.

I gave my Baloo a better hat, you may note.

Speaking of hats, I love this Professor Layton Mod+Kart combo...

And here's another view of the mess of players seen above, so you can see some of the copyright infringements going on.

As you can tell, licensed properties rule the day. Anybody who shows up in their casual togs is immediately forgotten. In that one session above, I counted Herbie, Pikachu, Sonic, Batman, the Mach 5, V for Vendetta, a Care Bear, Gordon Freeman, the Last Airbender, and probably somebody from Final Fantasy.

I found this "Adventures with the DC Super Heroes" magazine as I was going through some boxes of old mags. It's from 2000 and was produced as a free giveaway if you bought two gallons of milk. Inside, among all the typical kids mag mazes and dorky articles, is two pages of terribly unfunny comic strips. Well, unfunny in the way that 90% of all newspaper comic strips are unfunny. I don't blame writer Chris Duffy and artist John Dulaney. Much.

That's one of six. You probably can't wait to see the next one.

The Week in Links

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Kirby's Epic Yarn Trailer (YouTube)
Man, I kinda don't care about Kirby... but this looks fantastic. Great art direction makes all the difference. If this was typically video gamey, like New Super Mario Bros Wii or Donkey Kong Country Returns, I wouldn't even give it a second pass.

More Looney Tunes character designs (Cartoon Brew)
Wow. These slightly redesigned Looney Tunes makes me wonder if Warners can't finally pull off a revamp.

Liveblogging The Karate Kid Remake With Jen's Hardass Asian Mama (Disgrasian)
Hilarious summary of a movie we all knew would be terrible. RELATED OPINION: The original movie was terrible as well.

California Color Part 1: World of Color debuts, Glow Fest lights up, Blue Sky preview (Mice Age)
I like the posters with Disney characters in usual poses dripping with water.

Getting Across Freedom Bridge (GameSetWatch)
You've got two minutes. Go play this Flash game about the bridge connecting the two Koreas.

Today's Video Link (Mark Evanier)
A little bit of Jim Henson connects Jack Paar in the '60s to David Letterman in the '80s... and I bet he would find it pretty damn funny that today it's under glass and treated like one of the Seven Wonders of Broadcasting.

Countries paying teen's rescue cost defend sea law (Yahoo News)
Never really thought about that angle, that millions of dollars were spent rescuing that young sailor. Great quote at the end, involving the word "idiot."

Console Post: Microsoft (Dubious Quality)
"Holy crap, Microsoft, you just announced copies of all the ***damn games you've been making fun of for the last three years."

I'm always glad to see I'm not the only one befuddled by this. I said that a year ago when they first announced Natal, and I was eaten alive by 360 fanboys.

How do you hold a comic book convention in a major US market and not get DC or Marvel to attend?

What the hell, man? Why were there no corporate panels at Wizard World / Philadelphia Comic Con? No DC Nation, no Cup o' Joe with Marvel. Who at Wizard pissed everybody off?

What kind of comic book show claims the Microsoft Kin as a major sponsor?

So that was the big sucky moment of last weekend's con, realizing that there would be no panels and the entire show was pretty much a vendor hall and the chance to talk to washed-up wrestlers.

Typical cosplay mash-up. Although Stormtroopers were a dime a dozen, that group of Batman villains was outstanding. They could not walk from one booth to the next without getting stopped and asked to pose.

I always go to these things thinking "I am going to take so many stupid pictures of all the silly crap, and it will make for hilarious weblog fodder, and ha ha man haw ho ho heh." And then I get there and immediately no longer feel like taking pictures. Part of my predictable disinterest this year was because I took Clark along, and I wanted to be paying attention to what he wanted to do and not worrying about popping out the camera every ten feet.

Here's Clark staring at some funny looking car from a movie he hasn't seen:

INSTANT EDIT: "Back to the Future" was on TV the very next day. Clark has a weird life.

I bought Clark a Green Lantern t-shirt, about two sizes too big so he's super-ready for next summer's movie. Picked up the hardcover trade of Marvel's recent Wizard of Oz adaptation. Very randomly got a cheap McFarlane action figure from the Corpse Bride line, that singing skeleton guy who is pretty cool in the movie.

I regret not buying these:

Woof. I didn't think those two were ever actually manufactured. They showed up at some Toy Fair years back, and Hawkman made the side of some other toy boxes albeit with an UNAVAILABLE sticker slapped over him. But I never saw them in stores and assumed they did not make it to mass production.

At $30 apiece (and most likely at a booth that expected cash only), I couldn't pull the trigger. I really wanted them though. If this was a year ago, and Clark was still regularly playing with that line, it would have been a sure buy.

I think that set was also supposed to include a Joker fig.

Wizard's booth has stacks of free Magic 30-card starter decks, one for each color. That's the first free M:tG stuff I've picked up since WOTC stopped going to Origins a decade ago! What is going on with the cons, man?

I told Clark to dig into the Magic bin and get us each a deck for every color. When we got home, we realized that even decks of the same color had different card themes. For example, my Red starter was all direct damage cards, while's Clark's Red starter was mostly Goblin cards. The outside boxes are identical, so I was impressed that these freebies were that extensive.

We also picked up a Jonah Hex movie poster. If I ever plan to hang that up, I guess now's the time, eh? Because in a month, we'll probably all be scrambling to forget that movie ever existed.

Clark and I sat inside a TV Batmobile! Very cool. This car (probably a replica?) was directly across the aisle from Adam West and Julie Newmar. Clark and I talked to Adam West a bit, but we did not pony up the $60 for an autograph. He did the "Some days you just can't get rid of a bomb" line for us. I expressed my hope that the DVD set of the Batman TV series would someday happen.

We also said Hi to Ms. Newmar and received plenty of free shoulder pats. She is great. I told Clark she was Catwoman, so he probably thinks she was Catwoman in the movie, which is more or less the only '60s Batman he has seen thanks to the aforementioned lack of a DVD set.

Clark recognized Ghostbuster Ernie Hudson, but was a little fuzzy on who Patrick Stewart played. The next time we watch X-Men, it will click. He's never seen Star Trek: The Next Generation.

So, good on celebrities (Gil Gerard looks GREAT, by the way. Half of the wrestlers were asleep, but Buck Rogers looked like he was going to jump into the aisle and do push-ups.) but still really bummed that there was no DC Nation panel.

Another disappointment... at some point along the line, I distinctly recall Wizard making a big deal that the Comic Con and Philly's Video Games Expo were combining into one big event. I guess this was not that event, since I didn't see one goddamn video game anything there. Unless you count the one guy selling some old N64 carts.

I did not expect a massive video game presence from the major players (Sony had a booth there in 2007), since, you know, E3. But it's not like the big guys showed up for the VGXPO anyway. Even that show was little more than a retro arcade, a vendor hall, and a PC LAN zone.

Seriously, why do the cons all suck now? Origins, Wizard World, VGXPO... why have they all become starring venues for the lesser acts?

No, it was me.

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And it wasn't a mess, it was cleaning.

I finally got around to organizing several boxes worth of magazines. Mostly solid runs of Nintendo Power, EGM and OPM... but also Wrapped in Plastic, Mental Floss and The Duelist.

I ended up with one box of mags to trash/recycle, including half a year's worth of Maximum PC. Geez, in the year 2000, what in the hell was I getting out of reading Maximum PC? Every issue cover features something stupid like heat sinks and USB port types.

Found some very old stuff, like issues of Bananas from 1982. With Three's Company on the cover (the Terri years).

The upshot is that the mags I guess I'm keeping are stacked spine up in a bunch of paper boxes, in numerical order. So now when I want to find the first time Nintendo Power mentioned Pokemon, it is easy to find.

Yes, you heard me correctly. Red Dead Redemption is the first game I can think of that bothers to render out ants.

It was at the beginning of one of the raid missions, maybe the raid on Fort Mercer? I forget. Anyway, I was standing by an archway and noticed some movement by my feet. I looked down and noticed ants crawling around the ground and the base of the wall. It even looked like the had AI. Like, they were crawling quasi-intelligently around the environment.

Avert your eyes at this screenshot... the in-game newspapers are a chance for Rockstar to exercise those familiar GTA social parody muscles.

I've encountered some bugs of a different type, the kind of thing that the internet has already documented to exhaustion. Like floating corpses and flying deer. Last night when I walked past the Blackjack table in Blackwater, the players were all sitting two feet away from the table. Looks like there's some things Rockstar just can't fix.

There's a couple Trophies that hinge on you doing bad things. I've been playing it totally straight, but, for Trophies, I'm willing to branch out into evil and then just dump the save file. The one Trophy everybody has been whining about is Dastardly, where you have to tie up a woman and put her on the railroad tracks, and then watch her get clobbered. Wringing ones hands and monologuing about losing the farm are optional.

So I did that one, and I noticed that my Bounty level went up into four digits. Your Bounty level determines how likely the local deputies will be to come after you. As straight as I play, my Bounty has never been more than, like, $50. So reaching $1000 was a little scary.

However, there's a Trophy awarded for getting past $5000 and then paying off the Bounty yourself by way of an inventory item called the Pardon Letter. So I went for it, but only after coming up with a very safe plan... because I am not interested in working my way up to $4000 and then losing all progress and having to start over.

What I did was hole up inside the convent (which was right next door, since that's where I hogtied my victim for the Dastardly) and started shooting people. As anticipated, an eyewitness went running for the sheriff. Soon enough, a posse of deputies arrived and I started picking them off at a distance with the sniper rifle. The nice thing about the nunnery is that there is only one way in, so I could also keep an eye on the door and peg anybody who managed to get inside.

Then would net me about $500+ to the Bounty, so I repeated the routine enough times to get up to $5000. Bang, Trophy.

The only issue with the plan is that there was a considerable amount of downtime between these repeat offenses, either because it was nighttime or because the populace was slowing in respawning and giving me more victims. So I passed the time by stacking stagecoaches onto the train tracks. I rolled three of them into a row, as if I expected a Wild West Evel Knievel to launch himself over them. It sounds cool, but the train did not do that much damage.

Just kinda knocked them over. Killed one horse. Did nothing to my Bounty rating. Anyway, once I got the $5000 Bounty Trophy, I bailed out on my briefly-evil lifestyle. It's back to cautious politeness for my John Marston!

I am currently spending considerable time working on the Survivalist challenge, meaning I am scouring the countryside looking for specific plants to harvest. I have completed the Treasure Hunter challenge, which gets you a satchel upgrade (big deal.)

I have kind of given up on the other two "Legend of the West" challenges. On Master Hunter, I'm stuck at the kill-two-cougars-with-a-knife part. And on Sharpshooter, I'm expected to kill bears with a single shot. I don't even know which weapon to use, and those bears scare the piss out of me. (I did manage to get the Bearly Legal Trophy, which you get for killing and skinning eighteen bears.)

Simultaneous the Bearly Legal and Survivalist, I was also working on collecting the necessary elements for the Daedalus and Son mission. You need to give the guy a ton of red sage, beaver fur and bird feathers. Feathers, easy. Red sage, fine. But beavers are only found way up in the north of the map, right alongside all those damn bears. Several times, I would collect enough dead beavers to proceed, only to get jumped by four bears in a row and die. That sucked.

One time I had everything I needed, for both Survivalist and Daedalus, and I went back to camp to save. Just as I'm about to save, I hear gunshots outside my cabin so I peek outside and find a bunch of bandits tearing up the town. Then I get stupid brave and start shooting at them, only to die like an idiot and lose all my collected items.

By the way, I think some internet clown spoiled the storyline ending for me, WHICH IS GREAT.

The Road goes ever on and on.

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It's not the kind of thing anyone would enjoy discussing, but I feel if I don't address it, I'm going to feel terribly stupid when I resume posting obnoxious entries about video games and cartoon logos next week.

We had to cancel our second adoption. The little girl we were matched with developed serious medical issues. It's nothing that was anticipated. It just happened.

I'd rather not talk about it, sure. I'd rather it all go away. I'd rather it have never happened and right now we would be a family of four getting to know each other on these hot summer days.

Our lives just changed, again. We have been working towards bringing this baby into our family for over eight months. We rearranged the house, made plans for the future, got Clark good and excited about being a big brother. Now that all has to change.

It is not a death, but we are in mourning. We know our pain will fade, and new joys will eventually rise, but right now it's a medley of crashed expectations and tidal emotions. We have to tell people and face their reactions, re-living the disappointment and shock and emotion every single time. Keeping friends and family informed in the year 2010 means posting to Facebook and Twitter, clawing through email, and updating a weblog. But that's life, and I believe that Social Media 3.X has to reflect the good and the bad, or it is not genuine. It can't all be about FarmVille.

Because here's what's going to happen. Clark and I are going to the Philadelphia Comic Con tomorrow. We planned this weeks ago and we're not going to spend the weekend looking at a empty kid's room and wishing things didn't work out the way they did. Tomorrow Clark gets to ride a train and see people in ridiculous costumes and get free stuff and hopefully have a great time doing something special. He deserves it.

But when I throw up some silly pictures of us standing by Lou Ferigno or looking at Green Lantern 2011 posters, I don't want you to think that Everything Must Be OK. Because it's not. It's wave after wave of tiny little impacts, as thoughts and plans float to the surface and remind me of what we just lost.

I kind of imagine this like a montage at the end of an episode of House, with you, friends and family all reading this on your PCs and laptops and Macs, in mingled states of sadness and empathy. Set to some appropriately maudlin music. I'm sorry to have to deliver such bad news, but I wanted you to know. Hopefully you understand. Maybe some of you have been in similar situations, and for that I am deeply sorry.

We have to go on. We don't know what we will do next. It's too early to consider. If Rhonda and myself are slow to respond to emails, or avoid phone calls, or vanish from the internet for a while, it's not because we do not appreciate your sympathy. It's because we're mourning. The details, the ramifications, the changed plans. And not just for us, but for that little girl in Korea who unfortunately has to face the worst part of this.

She will get to where she needs to be, we're confident of that. And so will we.

For our wedding, we made a sign that displayed part of J.R.R. Tolkien's poem "The Road Goes Ever On." It's appropriate for this moment as well.

The Road goes ever on and on
Down from the door where it began.
Now far ahead the Road has gone,
And I must follow, if I can,
Pursuing it with eager feet,
Until it joins some larger way
Where many paths and errands meet.
And whither then? I cannot say.

The Week in Links

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Rock Band 3 - Exclusive First Look! (YouTube)
Wow. This one is definitely coming our way. This video shows off the piano gameplay. Check the fonts in the onscreen demo; no way that is final font usage.

Wonder of Wonders: The Lasso is Infinitely Elastic, The Stories Don't Have to be Too (Comics Should Be Good)
I often think it would be nice to have more shorter stories in comics, because you do sort of forget discrete events when everything melds into one gigantic story. We've been making comics more like TV for decades, but has it helped get more people into buying them?

GEOFF JOHNS AND HANK KANALZ ON LAST NIGHT'S FRINGE ALTERNATE UNIVERSE COVERS (DCU Source)
Nice propsmanship. The Fringe TV show went to an alternate universe where even the DC Comics were different.

"Do Not Be a Goddamned Liar", from Sh*t My Dad Says: The Book (Gizmodo)
Finally, @shitmydadsays in long prose!

Why I Co-opted BP's Twitter Presence (Huffington Post)
Yeah, the only way out of this for BP is to fire everyone and go out of business. That's what used to happen when businesses failed in epic and tragic fashion.

Robert Downey Jr. as the Wizard of Oz? (LA Times)
In development: the story of the Wizard before he came to Oz. In summation: another way to trade on the Oz name without actually bothering to show any of the wonderful non-human characters that are largely the reason we love Oz in the first place.

Wild About Harry (Mice Age)
Sounds great! They should bulldoze half of lameass IOA and make Potterland even bigger.

How do they get to be that way? (Chicago Sun Times)
Wonderful article from Roger Ebert about the latest terrible stupid thing to come out of America's Very Worst State, Arizona.

tinwoodmancover.jpgClark and I finished the original fourteen Oz books a few weeks back, so I'm awfully behind on keeping you updated. Since then we've finished Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (The movie made me forget: Charlie never did anything bad on the tour.) And now we're halfway through the first Harry Potter book.

As promised, let's get to what has to be the weirdest corner Baum ever wrote himself into. BOOK 12!

The Tin Woodman of Oz (1918)

One of the key utopian ingredients to Baum's Oz is that nobody ever dies. Seems pretty basic for a fairy tale universe designed as adventurous comfort for children at the turn of the last century. Baum, however, didn't really get into that notion until several books in. After he had already established the Tin Woodman's origin.

Multiple times, Baum points out that Ozites can't be killed (this protection does not apply to immigrants such as Dorothy or the Wizard) but they can be cut into little pieces and every one of those little pieces would still be alive. Characters typically refer to this as being "destroyed," and this loophole leads Baum into a very gross bit of retconning for the Woodman.

Because we already know that he became tin after his enchanted axe started cutting parts of his body off. So now, many books later, Baum has been telling us that such parts would remain alive... so if, eventually, Nick Chopper became wholly of tin, what became of his castoff meat bits? In "Tin Woodman," Baum directly tackles that philosophical paradox.

Because we meet another tin man, Captain Fyter the Tin Soldier. He is found in the exact same way as we first met Nick Chopper the Tin Woodman: rusted to paralysis in a Munchkinlander forest. Fyter's story is identical in that he also fell in love with Nimmie Amee, the girl servant to one of Oz's witches, and the witch removed Fyter from the equation in the same way she tackled Chopper. Both men, separated by years, fell in love with the same girl, were cursed by the same witch, and gradually turned into bionic tin creatures by the same tinsmith. Who, naturally, thanks to Baum's new status quo re: death, has kept their living body parts in cupboards and barrels all these years.

Without ever directly mentioning anything about souls or anything pseudo-religious, Baum introduces a new problem. The tinsmith, Ku-Klip, took parts from both men and stitched together a new individual named Chopfyt. Chopfyt does not have the same sunny personality associated with our Tin Woodman, nor does he act like the Tin Soldier. Chopfyt is his own unique person, but he is kind of an ass, and the characters assume that something inside him has spoiled. Nevertheless, he managed to marry Nimmie Amee.

Ku-Klip only created one man, as some of Chopper and Fyter's parts were deemed too mangled to re-use (or maybe a Kalidah ate some of them, and by Baum's logic there they would be, alive, sitting in the Kalidah's stomach.) So the remaining parts - including an extra, talking head - are still in Ku-Klip's care.

"Tin Woodman" might end up being my favorite in the run just due to all the awkward realizations that the characters have to face during the Chopfyt chapters. Although the rest of the adventure is normal Oz fare. There's a heretofore undiscovered village of eccentrically created people (balloon people!), and there's a major crisis with an evil, magic-using witch (Baum uses the term yookoohoo to re-define a witch and still get around Ozma's ban on witches). I like whenever the Tin Woodman and the Scarecrow are pitched in a buddy comedy like this; it's almost a Hope/Crosby "Road to" movie. Plus Plus they pick up Polychrome the Rainbow's Daughter along the way. They are joined by Woot the Wanderer, a boy adventurer whom Baum never uses again as he is functionally identical to half a dozen other young kids in his books. The only bit we're missing is The Slightly-Creepy Elder Man Who Always Accompanies Young Kids.

Cartoon Network recently launched a new logo, although the evolution is nicely subtle so it may take a few commercial breaks before you notice:

cartoonlogo2.jpg

Here's what has gone before:

cartoonlogo1.jpg

As you can tell, even though they're sticking with a nice, simple CN acronym, the network still has to confront the problem of defining what it means. Nobody calls the channel "C. N." and nobody ever has. So the subtitle text kinda has to remain... even though other acronym networks do not have the problem (MTV just lost their own "Music Television" subtitle, despite the channel being uber-commonly known as M. T. V. for decades.)

I was never against the middle logo - the perspectivized version - but I do like this new version better. Really, the notion that a cartoon channel would have a pure black-and-white logo has been odd since the network started. But at least they have managed to sidestep the "CARTOON LOGOS MUST BE WACKY" cliche. Then you'd have silly font choices and eye-rollingly oddball designs. So I like the channel's efforts to stay simple in the face of what has almost assuredly been a constant parade of consultants and execs saying "But shouldn't the logo be sillier? Cartoons are silly! Kids like silly!"

Now, I definitely do not care for the new slogan that is riding alongside the new logo: "Check it." I mean, whatever. Why do we even need a slogan for a cartoon channel? It lives and dies by the content; the slogan is not going to do anything.

I take some measure of smugness in noticing that Cartoon Network's efforts last year at turning into a live-action kids channel appear to have been grenaded. They have a new big live action show about to debut, Unnatural History, but all the cheaply produced, forced-kid-cred shows have quietly vanished from the lineup. Replaced with the return of animated shows, duh.

Cartoon Network still relies far too much on the same shows (really, Johnny Test is on again?) rather than padding out the key times with classic stuff... but at least the dawn of Adventure Time and Generator Rex shows that they're still producing new cartoons. Clone Wars is reliable, most of the time. Ben 10 is an evergreen. Batman: Brave and the Bold is fantastic but seems to be on a long, measured marketing fade.

Then there's Boomerang, which has been ignored forever. You can catch spots on Boomerang that were lifted from Cartoon Network 10+ years ago and still have the first logo on them. No effort is being put towards poor Boomerang, other than cycling shows into the lineup that are currently out of favor, like older seasons of Pokemon.

I wish Cartoon Network would get around to releasing genuine Season collections of Brave and the Bold and Ben 10: Alien Force. Their DVD strategy these days is truly reprehensible. For B&B, Bakugan and Alien Force, they're been sticking us with "Volumes" where you get four episodes ($10 to $15). Rather than releasing the entire season on one set. If you want the complete run, you're out quite a bit of cash.

Which is fine, to stick the diehards, if they had a complete Season One release on the horizon. But they don't. Instead, they've gone bonus-terrible and introduced the "Chapters" concept, where they take two Volumes and sell them to you again! So you're still not getting the entire season. I just hope they eventually get to a Season edition, because that's the only set I'm buying. These Volumes and Chapters are just birthday party fodder.

The Week in Links

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Arrival of the ginyu force - New Dub (YouTube)
A little different from the original, but still ridiculous. The best part is the cut to Frieza at the end, doing the ol' Unimpressed Wind-Blowing Anime Symbolism thing.

The Good and the Bad Regarding AT&T's New Data Plans (Daring Fireball)
Nice outlay of the new AT&T plans. Conceptually, the idea of limited data totally sucks, and nobody trusts AT&T to do anything other than find ways to pump their bottom line, but Gruber's bulleted list doesn't make it sound that bad.

ABC has a medium on staff (Skepticblog)
The comment section devolves into an argument about ABC the Network vs. ABC the Local Affiliate.

Grading The E3 Video Game Promises, One Year Later (Kotaku)
Fascinating stuff. Gamers have short term memories, so I'm glad to see the E3 presentations of '09 trotted out to remind everybody what happened last year.

A Lost Fleischer Cartoon (Cartoon Brew)
Wow, archivists found a lost 1940s era cartoon, undocumented. It seems strange today, where every production is logged and recorded by a hundred sources, both official and unofficial.

How to take a Screenshot (Adams Automajick Blog-o-machine via Daring Fireball)
Yes, I'm sure that Droid does plenty of things easier and cleaner. But that's not going to stop me from giggling at this. Anyway, the process of taking screenshots is a particular bugaboo for me.

My Platinumminess.

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clubnintendo-plat2010.jpgIt happened last year, and I had no doubt it would happen again.

The Club Nintendo Platinum.

Tony got it this year as well, which means he was also a buyin' fool.

This is only the second year Nintendo has offered the Club, even though you can see on my card that I've been a member since the days when Mario Sunshine was considered a good game. Heck, back then, we only had four Mario Party games!

You get 50 points for each Wii game and 30 points for each DS game, so it's not like it's a great feat to reach the minimum 600 points required for Platinum status for the year. Of course, the point system doesn't apply to absolutely every single Wii/DS game out there; it's just first-party stuff (Nintendo: Capcom and Ubisoft and EA say "Hey.") You also get points for WiiWare/DSiWare stuff and for completing surveys. Even free things like Photo Dojo and Flipnote Studio can get you points.

Since the Club Nintendo year ends on June 30, it's Smart Pool to hit the magic number and then stop registering and surveying until the year resets.

I have about 350 points worth of unfinished surveys built up in the queue, so, yeah, I bet I hit Platinum again in the next cycle.

Last year, the reward for Platinum members was a choice between a Punch-Out demo and a Mario hat. I went for Punch-Out and it was OK. It proved to me that I didn't need to ever buy the new Punch-Out at full price. At any assessment, it's a cool Nintendo rarity.

Going by that tradition, this year's reward will probably be a choice between a Sin & Punishment demo and a Luigi hat. But let's hope it gets better than that.

Back in March, I did two entries on our basement renovation. I'm finally ready to post some pictures of the finished product!

That's the view from the landing at the bottom of the steps. Future Big Ass TV area is currently filled with a Small Ass TV and an awkward shelf of PS2 / GameCube / DS games. The silver slimline PS2 is hooked up as a DVD player. That tube TV there is old enough that it doesn't even have RCA inputs. I had to dig up one of my old RF connectors. One of my.

In the far corner is a desk for Rhonda, and beside that a smaller desk for Clark.

The other side has my desk and what's left of my awesome bachelor shelves. I had twice as much shelf space in my old den, so I really had to figure out what was important enough to remain. As you can tell, it's some card games, a few board games, my manga, and some books. My book collection really took a hit, but who reads.

That desk and I are going to have a problem someday when I buy a newer Mac, because I don't imagine a new monitor will fit into a space that was designed for a 17" PC monitor.

That Lord of the Rings poster is old enough that it lists an America Online Keyword at the bottom.

Mappy lives by the stairs. I should have turned it on before I took this picture. I just don't see any way that Mappy could ever get up and out of this basement, aside from pulling one of those Thousand Pound Man tricks. Its very presence sort of depresses me now. Should show you how high the ceiling is, though.

Here's half of the unfinished side, which is now a phrase that Clark always uses. Cat door (I have not yet trained them on that; it was just put in this weekend), mini-fridge, plenty of well-organized storage. That under-the-stair area on the other side of the water heater is entirely holiday stuff.

The other half... pretty much the rest of my stuff. Comic longboxes on the right, other cool junk on the left. More boxes and shelves are in the back.

I eliminated a lot of boxes during the renovation, but I know there's plenty more I could pick through. Particularly in the sub-category of fifteen-year-old magazines. Some day!

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