November 2010 Archives

Jonah Hex: Fine.

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jonahhex-frankquitely.jpgAmazon had Jonan Hex on blu-ray on sale last week, $13. I did not realize this when I ordered it (fanboy!), but that was the Combo Pack that includes the blu-ray, DVD and iTunes copy. All of that, at a price cheaper than the normal DVD-solo edition. And Amazon tossed in a free bonus, an online movie rental. Not sure why I would want to watch Jonah Hex through Amazon's goony browser-based video player when I own the blu-ray, the DVD and the iTunes version, but whatever.

Jonah Hex, the movie, is OK. It's OK in the same way that Ghost Rider was OK. It is a mostly brainless, aggressively-paced plot carried by actors who no doubt shortly realized that this was not precisely the AAA franchise-maker they thought they were signing up for, punctuated by explosions and decorated with poorly-explained macguffins.

Yeah, it's short. It's longer than Dumbo, but only by about ten minutes. You can watch Jonah Hex twice while waiting for somebody smarter to finish The Dark Knight.

The length is the fault of nearly every scene in Jonah Hex being a montage. It's either an emotional flashback that gets the idea across without need for dialogue, or, more unbelievably, two separate scenes dramatically lashed together in alternating cuts. This guy does this, while that guy does that. The movie seems to be saying, "Don't worry, we'll get you out of this soon." It's like the movie is really just a very long trailer.

Giving Jonah Hex the supernatural ability to speak with the dead is the kind of studio-mandated puffery that you expect in these adaptations. There's no need for Hex to inherit this power - and it is never explained how it happened, except that Hex had a near-death experience himself - and every instance of its use (three times, I think?) could have be rewritten without it. Clearly, somebody somewhere thought the movie needed some visual pizzazz above the Western genre, so Let's Make Him Dark Magic was tossed into the script. If Clint Eastwood was debuting The Good, the Bad and the Ugly today, he'd probably be able to stop time during a shootout, and Angel Eyes would be so named because of his ability to kill with a glance.

But fine, so Jonah Hex can talk to dead people by touching them. I get it: "movie can has zombies" is now checked off. And you know what, it is a kind of neat trick and the movie does show it off well. Hex rumbling with a reanimated guy who keeps reverting back to his corpse form is sort of funny.

The good news is that the core character of Jonah Hex is there. It's not like this is a completely unrecognizable hack job. Certain elements of the backstory are spot-on. His gruff mumbling, his deadly accuracy, his unrepentant attitude. In the books, Hex is constantly making split-second decisions to save his own skin, and that is reflected in the movie. He's tough, he's usually pissed, he hates being around people.

There are some other good comics refs. Quentin Turnbull's eagle-topped cane is in there. Jonah's ugly wolf-dog Iron Jaws (although unnamed; but we fans know what's up). The tomahawk.

Get ready for some odd cameos. We already knew Will Arnett is in there, since they featured him in the trailer. And Lance Reddick of Fringe/Lost/The Wire. How about Tom Wopat? Yup. And, there's Wes Bentley, who cold-stared his way through Blackheart in Ghost Rider, reduced to a role in Jonah Hex where he never even gets to stand up.

And Aiden Quinn as President Ulysses S. Grant.

As for the movie's trio of leads, Josh Brolin is really good. John Malkovich really doesn't have much to do other than look unhinged. And Megan Fox owns a corset.

I'll watch this one again, sure.

Starter parents be warned. I don't think I'm doing this correctly.

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Clark's gifts are stashed on top of some shelves in the basement. Sort of in plain sight. Still inside the plastic bags in which they left the stores.

Although, from Clark's height, maybe this isn't such a bad idea.

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I don't imagine this technique will last through too many more years.

Fluidity PAX 2010 Gameplay Trailer (YouTube)
Fluidity is out next week on WiiWare. Looking forward to it. Nintendo seems fairly desperate to get somebody to prove that tilting the controller can drive an entire game, and Fluidity might be the release that does it.

Some stray thoughts about Speed Racer. (Ken Lowery)
"In a very real way, Speed Racer is about its own production: how its existence came to be because a movie studio wanted to make a bunch of money, and the Wachowskis used that opportunity to make something that was uniquely their own, and unlike anything else that's come out before or since."

T-Shirt Design Concept of the Day (flickr via The Daily What via Josh)
There's something about the randomization of this that bothers me. Only the vaguest of pop culture categories would lump together Duffman, Mandrake, Barbarella, Batman and Marshal fucking Bravestarr.

Video Game Addiction infographic (Toca dos Jogos via Rhonda)
Well, nothing alarmist or misleading about this.

Double Fine's Next Game Stacks On The Puzzle Goodness (GayGamer)
Egad, how freaking good does that look.

Unlike last year's Black Friday where I had the deliberate goal of getting LEGO Rock Band for free (and I did), this year has been more of a casual affair. I'm not chasing any super-amazing deals, just looking out for the usual random half-off pricing.

Thurs. 11/25/10 4:40pm - Planning a Toys R Us run late tonight because you can get a foursquare badge. :\

And, you know, a surprise foursquare badge. Toys R Us also had a thing where the first 3000 people to text something to somewhere after 9:30pm would get a coupon for 15% off of $150. Which is about the same as saving nothing on spending a ton, so screw that.

The real stickler here was that Toys R Us started their Black Friday panic way early, opening at 10pm. This encouraged far more people to come out for it.

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When I arrived, around 9:45pm, that was the scene. A line wrapped throughout the parking lot, with two local news crews setting up their live shots. The official opening of 10pm was tailor made for cheap news coverage, good job TRU marketers.

Thurs. 11/25/10 9:46pm - This is not great weather for overnight Black Friday shopping.

No longer raining, but damp and chilly. Could have been worse.

Here's the overhead view of the line when I queued up:

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I'm using the old-style R star because this TRU has yet to update its signage to the current logo.

Upon launching foursquare, I noticed that the store has finally created its own location checkin point. I've been the mayor of the unofficial version for weeks. The official version includes the " surrounding the R in the name, which is sort of dumb. There were three other people checked in to the unofficial entry; none on the official listing... which is the one that you needed to get the TRU Black Friday 2010 badge.

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Nice typo.

Thurs. 11/25/10 9:57pm - An insane line at TRU. I've been through the ads; I do not know what deals these people are after.

I walked all the way around the line before joining in, because I wanted to see what kind of people were out. Plenty of eager people, plenty of sullen people. Not a lot of kids.

The northwest side of the building is an area to watch. That's a single-lane passage, and as I walked through it, two cars came at each other head on. The crowd had to move around to let the cars squeeze through, because neither vehicle was about to back up. This situation occurred many more times over the wait.

An employee was patrolling the line reciting the console bundles currently available.

Thurs. 11/25/10 9:57pm - A DSi bundle? Don't even bother, the 3DS is out in March.

Thurs. 11/25/10 9:59pm - I guess three Zhu Zhu Pets for $10 is pretty sweet.

That was one of the doorbuster deals. Those things are normally around $10 each. We already have two, so I did not feel like we had to increase our Zhu Zhu population by three.

Thurs. 11/25/10 10:01pm - One of these years I will dress appropriately for this.

This time I remembered to wear gloves. Still cold. I hate to wear a sweater or something thick like that, because when you do get inside, then you're dying of heat.

Thurs. 11/25/10 10:03pm - I suppose I'm sort of a jerk for gumming up the line when I'm not even chasing anything in particular.

Thurs. 11/25/10 10:16pm - I'd like to send a shoutout to all my homies in line at Old Navy for a free 360 game.

Hope it worked out for you guys. Old Navy probably had, what, ten copies of Dance Central on hand?

Thurs. 11/25/10 10:26pm - Just passed a retail employee. I kicked him in the nuts until his nose bled and put out my cigarette in his eye.

That one was in response to a Facebook pal's status update where he raged against Black Friday shoppers from his perspective as a retail employee. You can tell I'm not sympathetic. Hey guess what, everybody's job sucks and has shitty days.

Thurs. 11/25/10 10:31pm - This is the longest line I've been in that didn't involve cosplayers. #blackfriday

The doors opened at 10pm, remember. By this point, I was nearing the easternmost edge of the building. The temperature was making iPhone usage quite difficult.

It took another half an hour to get to that single-lane alleyway. Lots of people bailed out as we approached the 11pm mark.

Thurs. 11/25/10 10:54pm - The traffic situation in this single lane alleyway is pretty hilarious.

The line got to witness several more vehicular standoffs in this region. Also note the row of parking. That zone was packed with the cars of people who were already in and out of the store... and now they waited to go home. One SUV backed out wide enough to crush the linestanders had they not moved. Watching from a distance, I could tell that the line felt the SUV had enough space to swing around and exit, but the driver clearly thought otherwise. She kept backing up.

Then we had another driver who backed up - quite nicely - but had to pull back into her space because there was oncoming traffic. She obviously forgot she had the car in drive, because after the other car had cleared, she banged her front end right into the concrete barrier. The crowd went nuts with laughter, proving how human beings are basically hateful, malicious creatures.

The general noise level and attitude of the louder patrons would have triggered me to label them as drunks, if we weren't all standing in line to buy toys. See also:

Thurs. 11/25/10 11:16pm - Public peeing has occurred. (Not me.)

There's a grassy area above the parking row. This became the designated peeing place. It's right beside a major PA Route, by the way.

Thurs. 11/25/10 11:41pm - Finally standing on sidewalk.

Thurs. 11/25/10 11:42pm - We're on rolling access, 50 people at a time.

Two hours to make it around to the western tip, to the storefront sidewalk. By this point, EVERYBODY in line has their own wackjob theories about how this could be run better. The security team is marking off every 50 people with balloons, and then letting each group in at roughly 10-15 minute intervals. This means the line stays frozen for long periods of time rather then constantly inching forward like a DisneyWorld dark ride.

My group was ushered inside at the stroke of midnight. If the system was consistent enough for the math to work out, that would mean roughly 600 people were in line in front of me.

Fri. 11/26/10 12:01am - Inside. Store feels weirdly empty. Most people are in checkout line.

Here's the good side of the tightly controlled exterior wait: the store inside was not crowded at all. Shoppers could easily navigate the entire place, even with carts. I was in aisles that were devoid of people entirely, which is a nice change from the usual Black Friday experience.

Complicated arrows and markings were formed on the floor with blue painter's tape, indicating paths for checkout line waits. The worst lineup was over in the video game section. TRU ran out of console bundles before I even entered the store, and the game sales were not great. They had a buy one game, get second game for $5, but it was only applied to a very short list of games... only one of which I would even consider (Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions). I suppose I could have picked up Gran Turismo 5 - it came with a free $20 gift card - if I had any interest in Gran Turismo. But even that one was not on the deal list.

Fri. 11/26/10 12:18am - Toys R Us has "Brian's Song" DVD on sale. YES.

Didn't get it. Just about everything I did pick up was on a 50% discount or more. And I got the free crayons.

Fri. 11/26/10 12:34am - Exited TRU. Actually got some deals, but nothing major. Impulse shopped a Sing-a-ma-jig, which I will regret tomorrow.

Yeah, why did I do that? The Sing-a-ma-jig was the one item I bought that was no deal at all.

Fri. 11/26/10 12:37am - Going home for bathroom; will consider heading back out for Target.

Last year, I was able to string a combo from Old Navy to Toys R Us to Target. The early opening for TRU this year really jerked that up... because Target did not open until 4am. Not feeling like sitting in a car or waiting in line for four hours, I headed home.

Fri. 11/26/10 1:09am - 1am and I'm into the feast leftovers already. Refueling. And watching Boosh.

I put together a tofurky cheese bagel sandwich and watched an episode of Mighty Boosh on the iPad. Then I passed out. The whole going home thing ensured I lost my energy level and did not make it back out to hit Target.

Not bad for Super Guide.

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dkcr-island.jpgI finished Donkey Kong Country Returns to the credit roll, with just over thirteen hours on the clock. Considering how often I used Super Guide, that's pretty damn good. IE, I didn't Super Guide the entire game and watch it speedrun itself in about two hours.

Unlike New Super Mario Bros Wii, DK has a working man's Super Guide. I'd like to think Retro Studios saw the nonsense inherent in New Super and said "What bullshit, we can do better than that."

I noticed that, even as I was dying like an idiot in Donkey Kong Country Returns, it wasn't pissing me off. I was laughing. I was rolling my eyes. But I wasn't throwing obscenities and Wii Remotes around the room. That's because I knew that I was still going to get to see the next level.

That's what torked me off back in New Super. (Or, one of the things that torked me off.) Because I could not beat level X-X, and because the fucking game kept resetting itself, I lost all hope of seeing the game through the completion. So I would never get to see the brilliant design, the cute-deadly enemies, the amazing surprises hidden across the game's worlds. New Super was shutting me out. And instead of simply punishing me for my lack of skill, New Super upped the damages by regularly erasing the few accomplishments I did have.

That is what we call an abusive relationship.

Donkey Kong Country Returns - a franchise for which I have no particular affection, by the way - takes a much more sensible and friendly approach.

For one, when you beat a level, it stays beaten. If you get a Game Over, you don't lose your progress through the last two or three levels. You don't even lose any of your collected Bananas or Coins. Because, why would you?

For another, the game is eager to fill you up with Bananas (think Mario coins) and Balloons (think Mario 1-UPs). It's as if the game wants you to play it. Between the abundant attempts and the final solution Super Guide, anybody can enjoy this game all the way to the end, thus experiencing all the beauty and design and tricks and treats that Retro Studio baked in.

Say you're having a hell of a time on a particular level. You've tried eight times, maybe getting to the second of the level's three checkpoints. Along the way, you've been accruing Bananas and Coins and Balloons. After that eighth death, when you drop back at the checkpoint, there's a pig there waving at you, indicating the option to trigger the Super Guide. If you do, you get a big stern warning that while the Super Guide will finish this level and thus unlock the next one in sequence, you will not get to keep any Bananas or other collectibles found during the Super Guide playthrough.

But get this: that does not apply to the consumable collectibles you found during those eight failed runs.

I had 111 Coins before my first attempt on one the harder levels in World 7. Even after using Super Guide to get through one particularly nasty level, I had 130 Coins. Coins are important because you use them to buy temporary power-ups for DK... and you can buy additional Balloons so you can keep playing. The system is stacked to keep you going, not frustrate your interest down to nothing.

What's happening here is that Nintendo has (in this release, anyway) moved the bar as to what constitutes a hardcore, super-pro player. In the past - and in New Super - the act of beating the game was what made you a hero. That was your brag. But that meant that most people simply did not get to see the game in its fullest flower. What good is it if Miyamoto is such a level design genius if 99% of players never see his work?

So where DKCR puts its hardcore stock is in a pile of hidden collectibles that, when fully assembled, unlock another set of extra-hard levels. Not to mention ancillary goodies like concept art and whatnot. Beating the game is a privilege afforded to everyone, all thanks to Super Guide if you need it, but this bonus content will stay out of reach of the unskilled. NSMBW has its own secret searchable coins, but they're just another level of difficulty on top of beating the game itself. And when you find them all, you get no extra reward at all.

And I don't mean to say that Nintendo has invented this concept. It's just, given the extraordinary sales of New Super compared to the number of people who were actually able to finish it, the structure of Donkey Kong Country Returns strikes me as a vital change for the better.

Although Nintendo is not one for consistency in this sort of thing, so I wouldn't expect the next major release to work this way. They'll do screenshots-to-message board in one game, but not the next. They'll include Facebook upload on the DSi, but not in the dozen Wii games that came out after that. For all I know, DK's user-friendly attitude was entirely Retro's idea.

So I've been playing Pocket Frogs for iPhone because it's always there and you can fiddle with it for literally seconds as you're waiting for something else in life to happen. I guess it falls with the Farmville category of games, in that it gins up its own rewards and sticks you an endless grind to achieve them.

Much of the process involves you taming frogs by tapping them through lilypad jumps, and cross-breeding different varieties in order to manufacture new combos of colors and patterns. There is a series of built-in goals based on finding specific breeds. And the game has, at the moment, 14720 possible variants, so this is no easy task.

This reward was called "I Choose You" for obvious reasons:

Because you had to breed eight identical Yellow Tingo Anura frogs. They resemble Pikachu. I'm sure that was the one that sold me on playing further.

The "Frog-O-Lanterns" goal was easy - breed eight Tangelo Aurum Lanterna frogs - since the game handed you a free Tangelo Aurum Lanterna back around Halloween.

Then you just had to breed a second one through trial and error, then force those two to get it on six times. The game really doesn't deal with gender, by the way. Any frog can mate with any other frog.

The goal I'm working on now is called "Brownies." To win that one, I need a Cocos Cafea Marmorea, a Cocos Cafea Velatus and a Cocos Cafea Bovis. Haven't seen any Bovis yet, so I may need to table this one until I level up further and unlock more varieties.

Pocket Frogs is a free app, and the expected advertising is delightfully meager. Every now and then, the app will try to bait me into downloading some other free app with a rare frog, which is fine. There is a special menu of DLC offerings, but, surprisingly, they're not frogs. Buying new frogs is always done with in-game fake money. The only items you can buy with real money are Potions and Stamps. Potions grow your frogs instantly (which cuts out the real time maturation process), and Stamps let your in-game deliveries arrive immediately (usually you have to wait hours for your frog order to arrive.) The thing is, I have never bought any of these, but I have dozens of both because you win them as you play. And I rarely use them. So, whatever.

I'm glad we could have this little talk about Pocket Frogs.

Guinness "Rhythm of Life - Evolution" (YouTube)
Pretty brilliant stuff.

We Are Sex Bob-omb (Gamer Melodico)
Nice piece on odd handling of LGTB characters, as seen in the Scott Pilgrim game. "My hope is that eventually, our society will be able to notice the sexuality, race or apparent gender of a character (or even a real live person), acknowledge it as an important detail of that particular person, but at the same time acknowledge that it does not dictate an entire personality. It simply combines with myriad other details to make one whole, complicated, labyrinthine human being."

The Day the Music Died (Dubious Quality)
Wow, what a great point: "At a time when the pool of people willing to purchase little plastic instrument games and DLC was already shrinking, Harmonix went ahead and essentially drained the existing pool."

Shooting Challenge Steal Gallery (Gizmodo)
Cool submissions from users mimicking famous photos.

"Garfield" creator apologizes for Veterans Day strip (Yahoo News)
Heh: "the cartoon had been written almost a year previously." Yeah, you guys, Jim Davis hasn't personally touched a Garfield strip in decades.

Scientists propose one-way trips to Mars (Yahoo News)
Can you imagine that.

IN WHICH I TELL YOU MORE ABOUT HOW I SORT OUT MY SUPERMAN COMICS THAN YOU EVER WANTED TO KNOW. (Mike Sterling)
I can't imagine a DC fan who lived through the '90s and has not had to tackle this selfsame weighty issue.

Airports consider congressman's call to ditch TSA (Yahoo News)
This is so out of control. I imagine the biggest part of the problem - aside from people generally not wanting to be groped and photographed sort-of-nude on their way to DisneyWorld - is that the TSA people performing these actions are entry-level job fillers who lack the authority and respect that we tend to afford to people whom we do allow to grope us and photograph us. Like doctors. Doctors.

Trailer Review: Green Lantern

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It is difficult to imagine a universe where I was not already presold on this one. Maybe if they skipped over all the Corps stuff, but even then I would just assume they were holding the Corps for the sequel. Anyway, here's my trailer review.

HAW, HIM WOMANIZER JUST LIKE IRON MAN. HIM A CAREFREE ROGUE WHO SLEEP WITH SEXY LADIES AND HAVE DANGEROUS JOB AND ULTIMATELY LEARN IMPORTANT LESSON ABOUT RESPONSIBILITY.

But wow, check out his ride:

The trailer does play up the Tony Stark, which might sound a little too familiar to movie audiences who may not be aware that a major part of Hal Jordan's (retconned) character is that he is kind of an arrogant jerk who drives fast cars and pisses off Batman by not planning ahead.

I also worry that they are going to do a post-credits tease with the Flash and we'll end up with virtually indistinguishable super-hero movie franchises when Marvel's Avengers goes up against DC's Justice League.

Star Sapphire logo on Carol's helmet. No, I did not notice that on my own.

Guh-what? Did his hairstyle just totally change in the crash?

Abin Sur, looking a little more "Alien Nation" than he usually appears in the books. Fine.

Seriously, hair.

Yes, that is the correct finger for bipedal Earthman ring-slinging.

Tomar Re! TOMAR RE! I hope they don't give him a stupid underwater bubbles voice. I rather liked John Larroquette on Tomar in the "First Flight" animated movie.

SEQUEL CONFIRMED.

And here's Hal's best friend Dorkus McShockednerd. He gives Hal a hard time, but they're buds.

Well, if they made two blockbuster Iron Man movies featuring such iconic, renowned villains as the Iron Monger and Whiplash, sure, Hector Hammond has a shot.

KILOWOG! I am in love with the Corps stuff; I hope it isn't all sidelined in pursuit of Hal's Earth-bound misadventures with Hammond and Carol.

What makes the Green Lantern story NOT Iron Man (or any other super hero, for that matter) is that there isn't one Green Lantern. There's 7,200 of them. When I deal with non-comics fans (and I do), they are always surprised to hear that GL isn't a name, it's an office... because all they remember is that horrid Super Friends costume. This is old news to comics fans, but it should be a real differentiating point for the average moviegoer.

This Green Lantern movie is going to take the Iron Man plot (asshole gets powers; learns lesson) and filter it through Star Wars brand sci-fi (background aliens everywhere, but humans still central to everything).

Oh yeah, Hammond gets a big, ugly head.

I still can't believe this is actually happening. We're getting a Green Lantern movie, you guys!

The only thing that bugs me about the costume is that they went 100% skin-tight with it. Like, painted on. I guess it's one way around the problem of spandex looking stupid. Considering that they could have easily chucked the costume and gone with X-Men trenchcoats, I'll take it.

*Logo not final.

Seems rather unavoidable that this movie will set up a sequel with Sinestro at the center (Boy, how are they going to handle the dumb yellow problem? I hope they ignore it entirely.) Which will naturally make GL2 much more spacey. I'd like to see a tease with John Stewart being offered a ring, but that would again draw too many comparisons back to the Iron Man films and Jim Rhodes. So, maybe Guy Gardner? A ring goes to a dude who is probably a bigger jerk than Hal (was), so Hal must face off against Sinestro as villain, but also Guy as potential Sector 2814 replacement?

What, it's Tuesday?

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assassins-brothe.jpgIt's about 6:45pm. Had not been home for long and was flipping through some of the weekend's sales flyers over dinner. Noted that Toys R Us was offering a $20 gift card deal on Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood if you bought it on Tuesday.

"We'll be going to Toys R Us tomorrow!" I announced.

"Wait, today is Tuesday" followed shortly thereafter.

This is one of those entries where I detail another cobbled-together game sale.

So we shoot out to one of the two Toys R Us locations equidistant from the house. Here's what I have in my hip pocket:

- First, the TUESDAY-ONLY Assassin's Creed Brotherhood $20 gift card deal. I was not expecting to pick up AC:B so soon (launch day!) but I really enjoyed last year's AC2 (platinum!) and a free $20 is pretty good.

- This week, TRU is running a buy one, get one 40% off on all PS3, Wii and 360 games.

- $10 gift card.

- $5 TRU rewards cash.

- Coupon to receive $10 gift card with $75 purchase.

My plan is to get AC:B and Sly Collection. Sly Collection is $40, so I'm looking at roughly $85 for two games, minus $15 from existing gift card and TRU cash. $70. And we walk out with two gift cards, one for $10 and one for $20.

This is how I afford my extravagant lifestyle.

The first monkey wrench is that TRU does not have Sly Collection. In fact, the two simpletons behind the counter are sure I mean PlayStation Move Heroes, which isn't out until Smarch 2011 or whatever. No. I call the other TRU. After being on hold forever, that TRU reports that they also do not have Sly. Although they do try to offer me one of the PS2 Sly games, which made me very, very sad. I gave the lady on the phone my credit card number, bought the PS2 game, and told her to immediately destroy it.

So now I need a second for the B1G140%O deal.

Considered Marvel Super Hero Squad: Infinity Gauntlet for PS3. Also $40, but last year's Super Hero Squad game was such a turd that I have trouble thinking they fixed it by now. Could not find a review of the game online, which is never a good sign. Kind of bummed because I spent the drive in thinking that Clark would enjoy Sly, and now it looks like I won't be getting anything for him.

I concentrated on the PS3 racks since I already have - or have lined up - just about everything new and good for Wii these days. Very briefly looked at Babysitting Mama for Wii, since it comes with a big plush naked baby doll.

Just Cause 2 is down to $40, but if it's $40 now, I bet it hits $30 before too long. There's the new Castlevania. And Mafia 2. Eventually I settle on Dead Rising 2. So I went from Sly Collection to Dead Rising 2. Yeah, sucks for Clark.

The second monkey wrench is the $10 for $75 coupon. It very plainly does not apply to video games. So says the fine print. Which is bullshit because the sales flyer put the coupon right below a giant cover spread on the video game sale. But I can't argue with legalese.

Man, my verb tenses are all over the place tonight.

The $5 cash and $10 gift card went through fine, and of course the AC:B $20 was cheerfully handed over. So the final tally came out to two games for around $85. If you add in the $20 gift card (which must be used by the end of January), that's Buy One Get One Free, more or less.

Then I spent the rest of the night watching progress bars install themselves in Brotherhood. Great.

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Although, as a proper noun, not even Garry Trudeau could argue "zonker" should be a legal play in Scrabble. Or Words With Friends.

However, as part of famous 1970s popcorn treat Screaming Yellow Zonkers, I think it should apply. Clearly it refers to a single zonker. One zonker. I can't even capitalize that because it is so obvious that American society uses that word to indicate one individual glazed, non-proper noun popcorn nugget.

In a world where we accept bullshit words like "za" and "mm" as legal Scrabble plays, the least we could do is allow "zonker."

Man, look at how Flipboard presents data and articles:

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Somehow, it turns Facebook, Twitter and other RSS sources into layouts and pullquotes worthy of a high-gloss magazine.

You can fill your grid with an assortment of included sources (either pure like The Onion, or Flipboard-based aggregators like FlipGaming). It will create combined pages for your Facebook and Twitter friends, or you can have it treat Twitter accounts individually (like the DC Comics and Joe Fourhman boxes above). The Facebook treatment is great... not only do you get a hip layout of everybody's status updates, but it will also auto-generate slick full-page layouts whenever a friend uploads a photo gallery. Only weird drag is that there's no way to communicate back; Flipboard is read-only. EDIT: Holy crap, you CAN post replies to the articles you see, under both Facebook and Twitter!

Here's how it presents the info from my Fourhman account on Twitter, which is nothing but an RSS feed of this very website.

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It is smart enough to drag in images from the feed. Makes it all look super goddamn classy.

This may be my favorite kind of technology; the kind that answers a problem I didn't even know I had. In this case, the problem is, "Boy, RSS feeds sure are boring and lame-looking."

We called him Stripes.

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He was hit by a car tonight.

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This stray started visiting us over the summer. First, we'd just see him prowling around the outskirts of the property. Then a couple times I had to go break up fights between him and another stray. Not long after that, we would catch him sleeping on our porch. Clark named him Stripes.

Within the last month or so, I got him to come to me for food. In fact, he became so accustomed to me feeding him that he would yell at us as soon as we were outside, even follow us into the garage. My idea was that if I fed him, he would stop wandering and maybe centralize himself around our relatively safe location. I hate seeing cats having to live outside. I had just recently been wondering what we would do about the winter.

For all we knew, he was somebody else's cat. But he was clearly outside most of the time. He was always hungry. I don't think he was neutered. His back had plenty of scratches. One night our other stray showed up with a bloody cut on his nose and I knew that was Stripes' work. Maybe Stripes was just a barn cat, a feral cat, out on his own. Because he struck me as a tough-looking cat, I'd always tell him to keep the mice away from the house.

I knew his life was not going to end well.

He exhibited typical stray behavior. We'd see him for a couple of days on a row, and then he would disappear for a week. In fact, yesterday and this morning was his return after a few days off at who-knows-where. As we were leaving the house today, he did his usual insistent meow for food and chased Clark around the driveway (we try not to touch these outdoor cats too much for fear of bringing disease or bugs in for our two indoor cats, so being outside with Stripes usually meant backing away from him.) When I went inside to get some cat food, Stripes hopped inside Rhonda's car to pester Clark some more.

I fed him on the front porch, he rolled around in the sun, we drove off to work.

On their way back home, Rhonda and Clark saw him lying on the major road that is far enough away from our house that you would have hoped it was outside of any cat's range zone. His position was such that if he was not moved, his body would have been further mangled by traffic. So Rhonda brought him home.

I suppose it's too romantic to imagine this cat was some kind of feline Fugitive, roaming from house to house all over our area, called by a dozen different names, and leaving multiple households grieving tonight. No, he was probably just a lost, scrounging hobo. Odds are that we're the only people who knew him... and we barely knew him.

And now he's one of a billion cats who made the stupid wrong decision to get anywhere near a road. In this case, a road that is posted 55 but often entertains far faster.

Tomorrow I'll see to burying him.

...The Black Cauldron loses.

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One of the black sheep of Disney classics, the DVD release of Black Cauldron went up against retail competition from one of Disney's own pre-fab, merchandise-pushing Tinker Bell movies. Tink received top slot at the Target display.

Meanwhile, Black Cauldron was down where they usually put junk like VeggieTales. Even the box art for BC suggests a dashed-off, not-interested attitude from Disney.

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Yech! What is that, a Don Bluth film or something?

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It's the "Apple" dealership name that makes this plate work. I'd like to think they know, but I can't be sure. Probably some kind of silly local photography studio, completely oblivious to the Apple iPhoto ref.

Sunday in New York

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We enjoyed a very nice day trip to NYC on Sunday. Although Rhonda had just been up not that long ago, this was my first time in probably ten years. Clark's first. The particular occasion was the grand re-opening of the Nintendo World Store.

There was a line down the block. We did not have to wait in it.

These two happy guys joined us! Here, Josh, Tony (L-R) manage to be the first visitors to not draw a penis on one of the demo DSi model's PictoChat app.

The store was packed. At several points I jammed myself right up in the crush of the crowd and could not move. They had a Mario speed-run guy there, a cake cutting ceremony, and free t-shirts. Clark got a Kirby patch from Epic Yarn.

I ran into somebody who recognized the rare Camp Hyrule 2005 t-shirt I was wearing. Which is pretty crazy. And I was in line behind some of the guys from GayGamer.net, whom I ID'ed when they started talking about the unexpected popularity of their online Animal Crossing diary... so I interrupted and pointed out that I still read that every week.

I bought a very nice Pikmin t-shirt.

We were there when Reggie Fils-Aime arrived.

I was nearby when Shigeru Miyamoto noticed the boom mic.

And we did some usual stuff that people in NYC always do, like not locating Penn Station on the first go and performing constant Foursquare check-ins (I nabbed four badges!)

Aside from, you know, being one crowd-surf away from two of the biggest names in video gaming, the highlight of the trip was taking Clark to see the King Tut exhibit at Times Square. Although Tut himself is a no-show, the exhibit has plenty of artifacts from his tomb and his relatives. There is a very nice abstract representation of the burial chamber, including several treasures that were confiscated from Tut's mummy (way to go, TSA).

One room has a replica of Tut himself, lying in state. We rounded the corner and Clark spotted the fake body's obviously mummified feet. He stopped dead, went silent, pointed, and took two steps back. Then he trotted right up to see it.

Rhonda and I are so proud of his behavior at the exhibit. He was just about the only child there, but as interested and thoughtful as any adult. He would walk all around the encased treasures, spotting hieroglyphics and naming objects he recognized (like one of Tut's four Senet games, a small set that today we would call travel-sized.)

We hit the LEGO Store, the big Toys R Us, and soaked in the atmosphere of Times Square. I don't recall the first time I walked along Broadway (was there a high school trip or something?), but I know it wasn't at age five.

imaginext-flash-hawkman-cro.jpgTime for the weekly surprise toy turn-up at Target. We ambled down the b-tier action figure aisle (the one that has the last remaining holdouts from when Target tried that "Hey we have an educational wood-crafted toys aisle" experiment) and my keen eyes immediately spotted a Hawkman and Flash Imaginext two-pack.

In the cart.

I had read some months back that these guys were joining the line. I had expected some kind of associated accessory (Flash with Cosmic Treadmill? Hawkman with yet another re-painted motorcycle?), so the two-pack was kind of a grumbler. But I wasn't letting these guys slip out of our sight. Every non-Batman fig in the line has gone through a multi-month rare period (with the possible exception of the Joker/Hammercycle pack) and this is not the kind of thing the Fourhmans chance.

Two feet away, I grabbed the Killer Croc set. This guy gets a accessory! Although note that the packaging simply refers to him as "Croc." Doesn't even mention the cool swamp pontoon boat.

They were both the last available. The racks held one of the Green Lantern jets, a couple of the new Riddlers (whom I would not consider rare any longer) and the usual heaps of Batman+Arctic Cycle, Mr. Freeze+Freeze Chamber, and the medium sized Bat-vehicles.

But soft, a problem. When we got to the checkout, both toys refused to scan. A manager was summoned. She had one of those special roving PDAs... according to all in-house systems, these toys did not exist. UPC codes would not make them appear. No other local Targets had them registered.

Both have a big "NEW" sticker on them.

We had a similar situation at Walmart a few years ago. We tried to buy some rare Speed Racer movie action figures that were on deep discount. Walmart had TONS of them in the clearance corner. But when we got to the front line, they rang up as unsellable. Turns out, they were rare because they were recalled. Walmart confiscated the toys, refused to sell them to me, and then no doubt went back to ignored the massive crate of them still lingering back in the toy section.

So at least there was no "do not sell these" warning. The manager called back to find somebody who could do a price check... but, of course, these were the only toys of this type. Sending someone unfamiliar with the line back there was naught but pure guesswork. A price came back over the walkie (that's what they call them, just "walkie") of $11.98.

I said, "For each?"

A lesser manager would have shot me a look for that one. I asked if we could go back and match these up in person, because I wholly doubted that price, but the place was a zoo today. I suppose holiday shopping has finally kicked in now that the candy is all 75% off. The manager had to stay at the front, so Clark and I headed back and grabbed some example toys... one at the $11.98 price point (which is the medium vehicles like the GL jet or the Batwing) and one at the $5.98 level, which is totally what these damn things cost because I know this shit.

The manager explained that she needed to assign these toys a code so the store could sell them, and she was willing to use the code from a similar toy. Those codes are on the hangtags; Rhonda suggested I take pictures of them.

Once we all agreed that our two packages were the same size and shape as the Riddler+Question Mark Cannon package, and not the $11.98 Green Lantern jet, the manager rung them up at $5.98 each. Even cooler, while we were on the Batman Merch March, she had a conversation with Rhonda about the line and deemed them an excellent gift for a four year old relation of hers.

My guess is: these toys were not supposed to be sold due to Fisher Price release dates, and the shelf stockers opened one box too early. That would explain why these particular models do not exist in Target's system. Probably in another week, they'll be fine.

Anyway, we made it out of there with two very new Imaginext sets and now have some very attractive additions to the playroom. I've said this before, but the Batman/DC Super Friends Imaginext line has consumed all of my affection for the Marvel Super Hero Squad two-packs and the Batman Brave and the Bold chunky two-packs. These toys play.

The Week in Links

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Crazy Car Ad (YouTube)
Celebrating four years on YouTube. SHOVE IT UP YOUR UGLY ASS.

In Defense of the Riddler (Absorbascon)
Brilliant! I think it was Scipio who pointed something else out about the Riddler years ago, that writers are afraid to include him in their stories because he is supposed to be smarter than they are.

Specter of Censored Fairy Tales, Rap Music Raised in Supreme Court Video Game Case (Kotaku)
There are some fascinating quotes from the Justices on this case. Also here from Gamasutra. It's weird how silly the judges acted, like actual humans.

Law curbs McDonald's Happy Meal toys (Yahoo News)
As a vegetarian, I don't have a horse in this race, but is the position here really that parents are too stupid to say no to kids' pleas to buy Happy Meals specifically because of the toys? Where does that line of thought stop? What gets banned next because parents aren't smart enough to act in moderation?

Dutch Court: Sanrio's "Cathy" Character is an Unauthorized Copy of Miffy (Japan Probe)
Um, line weight?

New Batman Comic Influenced By Batman Video Game (Kotaku)
The comic is the upcoming Batman Inc storyline and the game is 2009 GAME OF THE YEAR Batman: Arkham Asylum.

PokePark Wii: Pikachu's Adventure lets you save out screenshots. Not many Wii games support this (let's see, off the top of my head: Pokemon Rumble, Pokemon Snap VC, Pokemon Ranch, Metroid Prime 3, Animal Crossing, Rabbids Go Home, Smash Brawl... did I miss any?) Of course, there's not much of a standard procedure. Some of these games save directly to an SD card. Others want to save only to the Wii Message Board. But at least it's there. I'm pretty sure I've seen more Wii games that save out screenshots than PS3 games, at any rate.

After you clear the first zone, the Meeting Place hub becomes available. There's a Misdreavus there who runs a photo stand where you can shift photos to your SD card. The photos are 640x350.

There's two ways to take photos. For a first-person shot, you point at the screen and press B.

Or you just hit (-) for a picture that includes Pikachu.

The trouble is that you can't take pictures whenever you want. It won't work in minigames, cutscenes or character dialogue. Essentially you can only take pictures when the pokemon are being boring.

Unless you get lucky enough to position the camera just right for an interesting shot.

That will be our holiday card this year.

It can be quite a drag to activate the first-person camera. If you are standing too close to any other pokemon, the B button will instead point Pikachu at that pokemon instead of switching to camera mode. Which is, of course, a pretty useless feature. Nintendo's goal of simplicity means they're afraid to enable too many buttons on the Remote, instead preferring to force the B button into multiple contextual responses. This is stupid.

In fact, the whole game seriously suffers as a result of not using the Nunchuk. Moving Pikachu on the d-pad is pretty lousy. Dammit Nintendo, I get that you're in love with this dumb NES controller paradigm, but at least give us the option of other controller schemes. What you've made here with PokePark is a game for kids that has controls so crappy that kids are not likely to stick with it.

Pikachu has some simple RPG-like skills, which are levelled up by paying this motley crew with berries.

The game's finale takes place in one of the arenas from Soulcalibur 2.

Again I have to ask why Nintendo has blown opportunities on their last three systems with lame-o kid-focused Pokemon games (Hey You Pikachu on N64, The Pokemon Channel on GameCube, and now PokePark on Wii) when all we really want is a fully packed sequel to the still-excellent Pokemon Snap.

FOUND: a late '60s/early '70s game of Pickup Sticks that I had as a kid. I'm sure these were banned from retail not long thereafter because these bitches are sharp.

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Note that the game was produced by Whitman, the comics company.

I remember playing this with my sister (in fact, there was an old scoresheet inside the can), and I know there's no way we ever actually played by these rules. Here's the official international rulesheet:

The first player holds the sticks upright, then opens his hand and lets the sticks fall. He then attempts to pick them up, one at a time, without moving any stick but the one he is picking up. When any other stick moves, he loses his turn and passes all the sticks to the next player. If a player picks up all the sticks, he is allowed another turn. The black stick may be picked up only after a player picks up a yellow, red, blue, and green one in that order. The black may then be used to lift other sticks. If a player uses any other color to move a stick, he loses his turn and does not score. Each time a player picks up a yellow red, blue and green stick in order, he receives double score. The total number of points for each turn is kept as the player's score. A game consists of any number of complete rounds, or 500 points, as agreed upon by the players before the game begins. Scoring: Black Stick - 35 points; green - 10; blue - 5; red - 4; yellow - 3.

First of all, sexist.

Secondly, who wrote this, Lenin? Somebody should subtitle this under some old newsreel footage.

I think all that we parsed out of that mess back in the Thundercats Decade was the point structure and that the black one could be used to poke around the others.

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Nope. Because somebody else did too.

Over the past half-a-year I have definitely noticed a considerable uptick in the numbers of local Foursquare users (IE: I can't get a mayorship anywhere anymore), but that interest clearly does not extend into local politics.

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