May 2011 Archives

dc-flashpoint-pins.jpgI am nothing against comic book pins, and I will gladly accept the 16 free pins riding along with upcoming issues of Flashpoint books. But here's something I've noticed with those DC Nation hullabaloo text pieces over the past few years... they have become more and more nakedly pathetic at talking to readers. I don't know if they just keep having non-writers pen these things, or if DC genuinely thinks human beings are this easily swept along by marketing bullshit, but the breathless, advertorial tone of these things has just become sad.

Take a look at this piece about the pins. And remember, these are pins.

Greetings DC Nation,

Our epic FLASHPOINT event begins in May and everything you know will change in a FLASH.

You will be amazed at this totally new and fresh look at the DC Universe that Geoff Johns, Andy Kubert and a team of the industry's top writers and artists have created where your nothing is what you expect. (sic)

Even the symbols that the heroes wear on their costumes are different but feel familiar at the same time.

We here in DC's Marketing Department were so energized by the amazing stories crafted for each character and their unique new designs that we wanted to create a way for the DC Nation to share in our excitement.

Beginning in June, fans will be able to get 16 different exclusive pins featuring one of the all-new symbols or logos by visiting their participating local comics shop. Each 1.5" pin is associated with the first issue of one of the FLASHPOINT limited series. Just buy the first issue of each title and you'll get the pin for free. This is the only way you will be able to get them. They won't be given away at conventions or available anywhere else.

Look for the display pictured on the counter of your favorite comics store and make sure that reserve your copy of each miniseries today to guarantee that you get one.

These pins will make a great addition to your collection right next to your set of different color power rings.

Collect them all and enjoy these amazing comics! You won't be disappointed.

Hope to see you wearing them proudly at an upcoming convention.

Best,
Matt Keller
Marketing Manager

The marketing department was energized? As readers, these pins are supposed to help us share in the excitement? These are fucking pins. And they're not even sculpted or cloisonne or interactive or electronic or even replicating classic props from from our beloved DCU. They are fucking smallass cheap circular pins, with a logo over white and (no doubt) a regular wire stick back.

These are somehow comparable to last summer's collection of plastic Power Rings? Not even close.

Let me tell you how marketing works. Somewhere, someone in the division wanted to talk like a human being and play up the cool Flashpoint storyline while mentioning that DC is celebrating the books with some free logo pins. A DC Nation column was written to that effect. Then that text got kicked up and down the company, where suits and sales execs decided the language lacked a call to action and needed punch and did not generate enough excitement. So another draft had to be worked up that pretended these pins were fucking god's gift to the world, and the poor Marketing Manager had to put his name on it in order to humanize the document.

Situations like that continually destroy any hope of an organization actually interacting with fans and customers. The non-creative types fly in, water down the language, make sure the dialogue is overblown and empty, and sap any honesty and clarity the message might have enjoyed.

But believe me, they all have themselves convinced that they avoided cliches and created a finely crafted, unique, on-point ad.

Just today I drove past a billboard for a car dealership that asked if I was "looking for innovation?" Innovation, from a car dealership? What, like holograms and jetpacks? You're the dealership. You had jack-all to do with the cars themselves and whatever technological advancements they have. We all know that. What we want from you is to not get ripped off on our car purchase.

The tone of that DC Nation article is false, and everyone instantly reads it as such.

You're talking to comics fans, DC. Just tell us we're getting pins and we'll probably be happy.

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And that's probably the only shot I'll have at getting five stars in an L.A. Noire mission. With no interrogations to blow, this particular mission is primarily an action scene. I found all the clues (a rarity), and I made my partner drive so I had no chance of GTA-style property damage.

That gets me a Trophy of some sort.

I'm not the world's biggest fan of this game. The clue-finding is sketchy, the interrogating is pretty terrible, and the necessary "gamey" elements are at odds with the game's staunch desire to be a visual novel.

I like it, it's certainly an aggressively different title, but it's not particularly fun. I recommend it as a must-do for the bits it gets really really right, but it's pretty exquisitely flawed in some key respects.

Clark has been having fun with Photo Booth on his iMac. In addition to just hitting the button and posing all by himself, he will grab us for special themed shots.

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This interesting-looking moth was sitting on our back door the other night, right where we usually are visited by the local stray cat. It deposited eggs for about half an hour, then it died and fell straight down onto the doorstep.

The egg spray is still there, and I must confess complete ignorance as to what happens next. Are they going to explode into fifty baby moths? What do baby moths look like? Are they waiting for another moth to come fertilize them, like frogs? Am I right about how frogs reproduce? Should I be out there with a hose and a shotgun, just in case Harold Camping is right?

I'm pretty sure we're not going to let the eggs stick around, although it might be kind of a cool thing to have a window view of moths being born. Or not being born. Or whatever is going to happen.

Are those even eggs?

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It seems the warehouses have exploded and stores everywhere have been green lighted to start stocking toys, books and other memorabilia spawned from the new Green Lantern movie.

This is a Big Deal for fourhman.home. Seeing Green Lantern stuff everywhere gives Clark the kind of your-father-is-not-crazy validation that most kids probably get through sports team jerseys. Last week we found a complete section of new toys at Walmart, and Barnes & Noble had a special table with trades, kids books and the assorted oddball merch that high-end bookstores always overprice.

We picked up a book in the Young Reader vein that is a Who's Who of the alien cast members. As a longtime comics fan, it is both invigorating and disconcerting leafing through the visual evidence of how the movie version will differ from the 4-color page. Galius Zed, for example, has two large, gorilla-like arms. Princess Iolande is a hideous monster, for another.

They got Bzzd exactly right.

The toy line is disappointingly almost exactly like the stuff that supported Iron Man 1/2 (and Thor, and Captain America, for that matter). Lots of thin, small action figures. Lots of repaints. Lots of the same guys repackaged with weirdo vehicles and interactive weaponry. There is a Parallax toy that is little more than a urine-colored blob with octopus arms. The line even steals Star Wars' classic extending lightsaber with a collection of telescoping green weapons meant to represent Ring energy constructs.

Some even more specific, granular notes:

One of the action figures is a version of Stel (the boxy, robot GL) that makes him look like a bionic insect. On the card back, this guy is called a "Prototype" version... and the artwork shows off an awesome boxy robot as Stel appears in the movie.

The action figure line cards pull the same crap-for-collectors stunt as in the Iron Man 2 line: there's no picture showing the complete collection, just three other figures seemingly chosen at random.

Several Hal Jordan repaints tie for title of Worst in the Line. There's one completely transparent figure (green, natch), and one that puts little cosmic stars on his suit. Then there's Test Pilot Hal Jordan, for kids like my son who are desperate to react the origin scene.

Every figure comes with a kid-sized movie prop Green Lantern ring, which is easily the best idea on the pegs. We're going to end up with a ton of GL rings out of this.

Time for basement 3.0.

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A few weeks ago, our basement had some minor flooding thanks to a sleepy sump pump. It pretty much filled the unfinished half of the basement, and got under the wall and into about a quarter of the finished side. Which was carpeted. Was.

Obviously having soppy carpet cannot stand, but the flood was just the final push to do something about the basement carpet, which, over the last year, had gradually turned into an All You Can Pee cat urination buffet. Zoe - the stupider of our two lovely felines - has been peeing more or less anywhere in the basement where there was carpet. The proof is in the staining; as I cut-and-rolled three foot strips of formerly very nice carpet, I revealed stain after stain after stain. It was like counting rings in a cut-down Revolutionary War-era tree.

It wasn't that I didn't know she was doing it. I have been after her for months, with re-training sprays and dog-style rub-the-nose punishments. I don't think I realized just how frequently she was piddling on the floor... which, it turns out, was probably in the neighborhood of every day.

Rubbing a cat's nose in fresh pee has no effect, by the way. This trick may work with dogs because dogs are malleable, human-fearing chumps. Cats, on the other hand, see themselves as blameless, perfect agents of malice. All I managed to do with Zoe was give her a complex about peeing downstairs when I'm around. Tonight I followed her into the basement, suspecting she possessed a full bladder and wanting to see how she would react to the carpetless room... and when she realized I was behind her, she complained (and she is not a vocal cat) and darted back upstairs.

With the exception of the staircase, the basement room is now stripped bare. This was a tack strip job, so pulling up the carpet was actually easy. Pulling up the tack strips sucked. We're going to leave the floor bare for quite some time, the idea being to force Zoe's habits out of this room. With the pheromone smells gone and the delightfully scratchable carpet removed, I hope she reverts to using the litter boxes full time. Which she never stopped using for Number Two, incidentally. She has never pissed on straight concrete. I think I've got her all Cat Whispered.

We're still figuring out what to do with the once-again-bare floor. We might just paint it, because we hear people do that. Or we could go for linoleum or Pergo or those cheap sticker tiles. Whatever goes in here, it will not be soft or absorbent.

The absolute best angle on this story is that we're back to having a basement room that Rhonda can actually enter without feeling like catpiss-tipped spears are stabbing out her eyes.

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Been a bit of a Mac upgrade this week.

In May of 2006, I bought one of the new white iMacs to replace my lamp iMac that was making some frightening eating noises. Five years later, I have replaced that white iMac with the latest from the line, a 27" chrome iMac. You can tell how great I am with computer specs. Old iMac was "white," new one is "chrome." And the one before both of those was "lamp."

By the way, how cool is it that, almost ten years after the lamp model debuted, it still looks futuristic as hell?

Anyway, the white iMac is actually still in fine working order, if a bit creaky, so Clark gets that one. I'm still working on it; still cleaning it up for him. The white iMac's biggest issue is that the HD is pretty much filled. For months I have been surviving with a floating range of 3 to 7 gig available, and that is no way for man to live. We were at the point where I didn't even want the iPhones/iPad to take on new apps, since those would invariably add to the white iMac's space problem.

New, 27" chrome iMac represents a typical Mac purchase for me. Not top-of-the-line, but not bottom-of-the-line either. The big departure is that I opted to not limit myself to buying a machine that would fit inside my corner desk. Going from a 17" screen to a 27" screen is like tasting cheesecake for the first time.

As far as customization options, I went with a wired extended keyboard (I have a wireless keyboard on my iMac at work, and there is literally never a time when it helps that it is wireless.) And I put in the new Magic Trackpad in place of a Magic Mouse. I already have a Magic Mouse (and I love it) so I figured I'd try the Trackpad. Clark gets an old Mighty Mouse because he could use practice on old-style mouse controls... seriously, he only ever uses mice at school since most of his computer exposure at home is on iPad or Rhonda's Air.

The Trackpad is actually pretty damn cool. The multi-finger gestures are easy to acclimate to, once you know what they are. It does everything, even though you look at it and probably assume it can't right-click or scroll-ball. Although I don't know if it will replace the Magic Mouse for precision work in Photoshop, the Trackpad is great for swiping around websites and casual navigation.

Maybe the age differential from a 2006 iMac to a 2011 iMac is too old for Apple to care about, because the Migration Assistant process was not smooth. If I owned the proper firewire cable, it would have been great. But I do not have one that goes from large firewire to small firewire. If I owned the proper ethernet cable, it would have been fine. But the ethernet lengths I have did not register (should it have been a crossover cable?) So I went with AirPort for the data transfer and that was slow slow slow. Took over 24 hours to shift everything from old iMac to new iMac.

And then at the end, it hung on "Transferring Time Zone Settings" with the clock stating "just under a minute remaining." WTF. I had to cancel, and I had to swear loudly, but thankfully that error did not undo the previous day's worth of slowass data migration.

EA Active 2, on sale

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eaactive2-pose.jpgTarget has EA Active 2 for PS3 on sale for $20 this week. Normally $40. Also, if you're lucky, they might still have the Target Exclusive version in stock... that version comes with three resistance bands in different colors. The normal box only comes with one, but the stores will stack them all together and there is not much to tell the editions apart (look for the ONLY AT TARGET sticker).

Babysitting Mama for Wii is also on sale for $20 this week. ASIDE.

Anyway, I picked up EA Active 2. I marginally enjoyed the first EA Active on Wii, and this is a shot at the same sort of thing but with Trophy support.

One of the components in the box is a little USB fob that lets the PS3 see all the crazy wireless bodybands that come with the game (two armbands and one for the thigh). And inside of 24 hours, I lost it.

You guys know how careful I am with my gear. So the complete disappearance of a white, stick-of-gum-sized USB device was driving me nuts last night. I remember laying out all the Active components on the couch, installing the batteries ...and Clark asking me what the fob was.

Did Clark grab the USB fob? It's certainly not a fun and interesting piece of technology, but it would not be unheard of for Clark to invent some entertaining use for it. This morning, I asked him about it. He blamed one of the cats for taking off with the fob. But when we went downstairs to look, he said "You look that way, and I'll look this way," and then showed up with the fob two seconds later.

So I think Clark may be learning how to play the game of life.

WWJF?

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Do you have a moment to hear some good news?

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Yeah, that's just about the understatement of the century. I know I'd like to send Jesus Christ a direct message, that's for sure.

Yes, add to registry.

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I know this is nothing new, and I can't believe I never noticed it before, but that "Add to Baby Registry" button is pretty great when juxtaposed with an M-rated video game. There's something about the jaunty font on the nearby ADD TO CART button that makes the whole thing funny. I love imagining the family who would add something like Gears of War 2 to their baby registry.

Mario stopped by the house.

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I guess Mario decided to take the long way from Japan to California for E3, since he stopped by our place this afternoon.

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Clark and Mario kicked a beach ball around for a bit.

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Mario has a bit of an advantage, with his video game skills.

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Then Mario ate a mushroom and they sat by the bridge to chill out for a while.

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One month on TV in 1995, a lifetime of horror from that picture of John Leguizamo.

The mood cannot be good.

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When the PlayStation Blog started filling up the layout with sad, grim, plain entries like these, my first reaction was that they could still be talking about upcoming games and junk. They could still market to us, right?

Now that we're on Day 19 or 20 or whatever, I think they're probably doing the right thing by playing it serious. Sony is taking shots from everybody as it is, imagine if they interrupted the "Fuck, still down" entries with "L.A. Noire Exclusive Content is Looking Great!" and "Finally, Fans: Heavenly Sword 2!"

You know, for me the outage really hasn't had much impact. I can't sync Trophies, and that bothers me. I can't buy things from the Store, and that bothers me. I can't see what my Friends are doing/not doing, and that bothers me. That's two trivial features and one lack that's actually saving me money right now. And I'm still playing Yakuza 3 and Tomb Raider Collection and Portal 2 without really noticing anything different. Next week: LA Noire. I suppose if you were all set for online Brink or SOCOM or whatever, yeah, you're boned. But this certainly isn't anything worth me personally stampeding off to join a boycott.

I have a couple quotes about Sony Circa April/May 2011 to share. First, from Tycho of Penny Arcade posted on the Monday after PSN vanished:

[Sony has] a serious problem here, and as serious as their technology problem might be, it's not the biggest one they have. Their problem is that they don't know how to communicate about anything but their legendary prowess. They simply don't have it. I mean, genetically. They need to find a human being, or hire one, and start an actual dialogue with users.

That line about "legendary prowess" is superb. Since the PS3 launch, the "you'll get a second job" party line has been so alpha-male it is hard to stomach.

And from Sunday, in an article on Bitmob about how many Sony servers were indeed running out-of-date Apache whatevers:

It's sad to say, but many are so eager to see Sony's eye blackened that they are willing to believe any rumor that puts the PlayStation in a negative light. We are in a backwards world where everything Sony says is assumed to be a lie or conspiracy, and anonymous IRC chat logs of dubious origins have miraculously become the most trusted news source in the industry.

Predictably, sympathetic author Brad Grenz is getting lit up by commenters tearing apart his claim.

I think Brad's spot-on here. The rumor mill stamps out a new Sony Sure Sucks Story - yes, aided in no small part by Sony's mostly useless, opaque weblogging - and even if the story is debunked an hour later, the damage is already done.

Our credit card numbers were unencrypted, the passwords were plaintext, the servers were out-of-date, somebody in a forum is selling our info, Sony ignored security warnings, Sony had no security, PS3 owners are buying 360s in record numbers. Whatever level of truth is hidden in any of that, it doesn't matter. The accepted narrative is that Sony is being punished... for being too expensive, for not having cross-game chat, for removing Other OS, for not releasing enough Japanese PS1 games. That's the story gamers want to hear right now.

I do not hold Sony blameless. I do not think they have handled it well (and in the second-most important time of the video game year: the run-up to E3!) I think they have to parry with an immediate and drastic price drop, as soon as PSN returns, to rebuild consumer confidence with new buyers. Although I would not have said so during Week One, by Week Three I think we should expect some kind of reparation, and Sony has revealed a Welcome Back offering is in the making. It better be more than a free Home t-shirt. They are offering a year of free credit reporting, even though no one has reported any grand scale of theft. They probably HAVE to do that, I'm sure, even if no credit card numbers are EVER verifiably abused.

And they want to find the trumped-up little punks who broke into their system. When the FBI reports a capture, watch how fast the story changes... then gamers will be out calling for blood, eager for a tell-all on how the hack happened and how the criminals were caught.

Of course, the long term damage is yet to be revealed. The repairs and restitution will put Sony out of a tremendous pile of cash, more even than when Microsoft ponyed up on the RROD warranty and we all thought THAT was business-killingly crazy. Developers are losing out as well, and there may be unseen fractures in Sony's relationships with third parties that will forge a bleak future for PlayStation.

And in the end, you're still not going to be able to install fucking Linux on your PS3.

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I wish I knew how long that took me in pure hours. I've heard of people blasting through the game in 6-10, but I feel like I put in twice that.

Now, this is single-player I'm talking about. Clark and I have only started doing some splitscreen co-op, and the continuing lack of PSN means no online Portal 2.

It was good. Maybe not as really good as the original, but that is often inevitable with sequels. Everything that was surprising about the first is baseline normal here. Just when you think the game is going to end up as a drawn-out replay of the first game, it pulls a nice switch, I'll say that without spoiling it. That moments happens about one-third of the way through. And then the game does it again.

Portal has a way of making you feel really smart. I made it through without ever looking up an online FAQ solution, although I was tempted to give up several times. So that's cool.

I'm not as entranced as Gaming World with the Cave Johnson bits. Yes, funny, yes, J.K. Simmons has great delivery, but I found the obviously-comic tone distracting and out-of-place. It strains credulity that Aperture Science would have ran that way (I'm avoiding spoilers again) for 30 years. I know the ship of credulity has already sailed, what with the talking AI robots and whitewall portal technology, but good sci-fi knows when to stretch without breaking. Cave Johnson breaks it with all the Suddenly, Wacky Voiceovers stuff.

Portal 2 still manages to drop in a couple of nasty adoption riffs, another holdover from the first game. It's GLaDOS trying to bait the player character, and GLaDOS being mean is part of the story, but it is still some ugly talk and I can't imagine the game taking the same offensive tact if the player character was black or gay or Jewish or some other minority status. (Small spoiler: I believe Portal 2 takes place in Michigan.) You'll excuse me if I'd rather not be ambushed by insults along the lines of "your parents abandoned you, so they probably never loved you anyway."

Other than that, Mrs. Lincoln, it's a great game. Nice pacing, great curve, surprisingly full of variety in setting, new characters... and a new song, although it is nowhere near as memorable and enchanting as "Still Alive." Again, it's Portal Old Hat to have a custom-written gentle pop song over the credits, so the impact just isn't there for this ditty.

Someday Clark will be able to look back and say "That was the game where I learned dual-stick FPS controls."

It's almost Free Comic Book Day, so that means it's time for a boppy video with some questionable sound bites from comics fans, writers and shop owners.

Two faves: the retailer smacking around digital comics (and home video will never replace the feeling of a movie theater!), and the fan who says FCBD lets him read books by publishers other than Marvel and DC (because, uh, you spend the rest of the year ignoring the indie publishers?)

We'll patronize our usual buds at Comic Store West, whom have already announced cosplay appearances by Green Lantern, Thor and the 501st Stormtrooper Garrison.

Both Marvel and DC are cashing in on the summer movie releases. Marvel has a Captain America/Thor book, and, hilariously, DC has decided to kick off the Flash-centric summer event "Flashpoint" with a Free Comic Book Day Flashpoint issue cover-starring Green Lantern. Maybe when Flash gets a movie of his own, then he can have his own FCBD feature.

80s/90s nostalgia is huge this year (even compared to past years when we had to appease fans with GI Joe and Transformers books). Not only do we have the usual Sonic and Simpsons freebies, there's also books for The Dark Crystal, Darkwing Duck, Smurfs, and, out of nowhere, Inspector Gadget.

And a Last Airbender book? Clark will be hyped to see that one.

So don't forget to amble down to your local comic shop this Saturday morning. If you have a good one, they'll also have special store sales going on so you might actually buy something, rather than just scamming them for the free funnybooks.

 

Another news appearance by yours truly, this time shoving the latest installment of Dynasty Warriors in front of the local viewing audience. A POPULATION NO DOUBT CONSUMED WITH HUNGER FOR SUCH INFORMATION.

It's kind of crazy riding the line between gamers and non-gamers in a bit like this. Dynasty Warriors is a punchline for gamers, since Koei basically keeps making the same game over and over again. But it does have a community of hardcore fans who eat up each new release, even if it is just another go-round with Dong Zhou, Lu Bu and the usual cast of characters.

But obviously most people watching this have no such snarky frame of reference for Dynasty Warriors, so I'm just showing off the game for what it is.

And I am enjoying it. Haven't played a Dynasty Warriors game since #2, so for me, taking down the Yellow Turban Rebellion is almost a warm nostalgia trip.

about this archive

This page is an archive of entries from May 2011 listed from newest to oldest.

April 2011 is the previous archive.

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