Saturday, May 29, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Benjamin Linus staying outside the church at the end suggests that for some the journey continues and there's no reason for them to be at or inside the church. Not everyone important is there, like Michael or his son Wally who is like twenty feet tall now and nobody would believe he was the same teenager from first season. But Jack and everybody who made it to church on time did become better folks, even John Locke, healed by Jack in the sideways timeline.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Monday, May 24, 2010
Friday, May 21, 2010
On that note, check this out from the always brilliant xkcd:
Thursday, May 20, 2010
Visit the crystal worlds of Cordwainer Smith and see the brave tiger man who can pluck insects out of the air with his toothpick fangs. He's damn good at rescuing lost animals, but as this is the fifth time this oxygen-challenged horse has been "lost" in the Anthracite Mountains, people are starting to wonder if rescuing isn't all he's good at.
This is a rare comic, don't ask me why, but it is definitely easier to track down than Little-Size Man-Thing. A mucky mound of male aggression, he crashes through windows in crowded public places at the slightest provocation.
In the spirit of the "quote contest" over at Secret Forest, I'm reminded of Voltaire and what he had to say about images like these:
It is not sufficient to see and to know the beauty of a work. We must feel and be affected by it.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
"Painkiller makes history"
Allow me to start by saying that Painkiller offers what is possibly the sweetest combat tool in the history of first person shooters. It is something out a baroque phantasy, anachronistic and deadly. Whirling talons can be used in melee or at range, with an accompanying coherent beam that fries anything crossing it. To look at it the weapon appears as if it were forged in some 13th century alchemists' lab; the laser lends it a touch of some new Dark Age waiting in the future, when aspects of both past and future will combine.
Painkiller the game is represented by this weapon, also called painkiller. It's a good metaphor for the game as a whole. There is an undeniable sense of temporal collision, since traversing the many incredible realms of the game will take you through many epochs of human history, usually at the same time.
Each successive level of Painkiller builds upon the last in intensity and pleasure. It gratifies on many different levels, not only as a first person shooter. Obvious care has been given to the look and feel of the game, so much so that the result is one of the best aesthetic experiences I've had from a computer screen. The challenges of overcoming hordes of enemies are almost secondary to the visual splendor of the imagery. It's easy to believe that the designers are aware of this fact. There are many opportunities both during and at the conclusion of levels to explore; with secret areas and holy relics only accessible when a level is done, the player is forced to do just that.
The whole aspect of Painkiller tantalises as it presents a state of reality where history has accrued and folded over itself. Consequently you have a tempest of anachronisms as WWI-era infantry mingle with sadistic soldiers that look straight out of William S Burroughs' dystopian novel, The Wild Boys. A palace from the Golden Age of Islam resides next to a Medieval cathedral, the stained glass of which is decorated not with saints but Pan and Astaroth. Cold War nuclear terror rises up to cast a shadow over the Reichstag battleship Bismarck. Kabuki-masked samurai commit seppuku at the heart of a chemical plant. The mash of these elements and many more lend unprecedented thrills.
Taking a close look at the surroundings and creatures inhabiting them, there is visible a kind of acid-washed texture that grows over everything like moss, as if they were bathed in angry time and rotting at the touch. It seems wrong, terribly wrong. And given the premise of the game, nothing could be more appropriate.
When you talk about first person shooters, it is impossible to go without mentioning the mother of them all, Doom. Like Doom, Painkiller gains a certain frisson by incorporating demonic elements into its narrative. Rather than a gung-ho Marine, however, now you are enlisted by Heaven to route a massing army of demons in Purgatory. Things go a step further than Doom, where the realms were invented and fantastic; in Painkiller you recognise too well where you are and this creates a more resonant experience.
Because the settings are familiar, there have been complaints that Painkiller takes liberty with religious iconography. This argument doesn't stand up under scrutiny. Painkiller is no evangelical tool and is clearly not intended to convey an interpretation of religious experience. If there is a subtext at all -and I'm not saying there is, it is a game after all- it is not religious but political. You cannot play Painkiller to completion without being made aware of a bias, but it is one that has little to do with spirituality and seems more rooted in a deep sense of humanity.
Painkiller is stunning to look at, so much so that there are times I feel lost in a fresco. It's blessed by tremendous soundscapes as well, equal parts terror and serenity. Gameplay is easy and logical; weapons are very effective; movement is fluid (though I do wish you could crouch!). A lot of thought went into the creatures and the result is AI that has lots of character and unexpected humor in it. Overall, I have to say Painkiller is the best game to come out in a long time; not only is it fun to play once, it improves the more you revisit it.
But don't take my word for it. Play for yourself and see!
Reviewer's Score: 10/10, Originally Posted: 04/20/04
Tuesday, May 18, 2010
It is after considerable contemplation that I have lately arrived at the decision that I must withdraw from the two performances scheduled in Israel on the 30th of June and the 1st of July.
One lives in hope that music is more than mere noise, filling up idle time, whether intending to elate or lament.
Then there are occasions when merely having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act that resonates more than anything that might be sung and it may be assumed that one has no mind for the suffering of the innocent.
I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.
I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.
Some will regard all of this an unknowable without personal experience but if these subjects are actually too grave and complex to be addressed in a concert, then it is also quite impossible to simply look the other way...
Sometimes a silence in music is better than adding to the static and so an end to it.
I cannot imagine receiving another invitation to perform in Israel, which is a matter of regret but I can imagine a better time when I would not be writing this.
Sunday, May 16, 2010
Oops, set the dial back too far, this page is from 2004! We lost Nina Simone the previous year and the Boston Red Sox won their first World Series in a million years, major events from both ends of the proverbial spectrum. I remember getting the news about Simone while working the night shift as a barista. As soon as we could, my coworker and I got our sad selves a pub and raised cocktails to the memory of the High Priestess of Soul.
The mood was definitely more festive when the BoSox stomped the New York Yankees in the American League Championship. The glorious pitching of Curt Schilling, whose injured tendon at the end of game 7 turned his sock a bloody red, carried them to victory against all odds and finished off what to date is the finest playoff series I've ever seen and some of the best baseball playing in the history of the sport.
A hometown shout-out is in order. Remember Scott Peterson, the guy who chopped up his wife and threw her in a lake? His guilty verdict was reached in my hometown of Redwood City. It was a long circus of a trial and I remain proud of my peoples for seeing through the bullpucky and sending this creep to the hoosegow, where he remains to this day.
Let's not forget the unforgettable Donald Rumsfeld! One of the more charismatic and slippery (and quotable) Secretaries of Defense the US has seen in a good while, Rummy makes many appearances in my journals. His stick-it-up-your-nose rhetoric was right in line with the old school goon squad that operated in George W Bush's first term, what history will remember as the Cheney Administration; I don't think it fooled many citizens that anybody but Rummy and his old pal Dick Cheney were running the Executive Branch. Good riddance to those bastards.
2004 was one of the more pathetic election years in US history and the stage for political satire was ripe. Billionaires for Bush were savvy commentators on the sad state of affairs, culture jamming right up there with the Bush on Mars movement, and provided some welcome comic relief from an otherwise dismal time.
I'm a collector of stickers. There's a public discourse going on in the urban streets of the world, little messages being exchanged between artists in the form of stickers. I love 'em and never pass up a chance to immortalize them in the pages of my journal. Because my journals are immortal, don't you know.
Let's close with timeless words of wisdom, kiped I believe from Saturday Night Live:
When in doubt, poopy poop poop fartFrom your friend in all things scatological, I bid you farewell and have a good weekend.
Friday, May 14, 2010
In case the handsome mug above is not already familiar to you, it belongs to a gent called Zardoz. He floats through the air with not-quite-the-greatest-of-ease. He rises at the horizon like a concrete sun and comes bipping and bopping down through the clouds. He has a strange power. Stare into his eyes and you'll find yourself wearing diapers and growing your hair into a buccaneer's ponytail.
It can happen. Even the great Scotsman himself, Sean Connery, isn't immune.
Picture the scene, Sean Connery in his best suit, window open onto the view of his golf course, and who comes creeping up over Hole 9 but old gray face. Next thing the great Scotsman knows, Zardoz has taken control. Doffing his worsted wool suit, on goes the red nappy and bandoliers. The weather outside is windy and wet but no matter. At the door he nearly forgets his revolver, grabbing it from the sideboard with a little shiver. It sure is cold all of a sudden.
As mentioned in my earlier post, some movies are Toothpick Castles. Creations of disturbed, deranged minds. I never questioned Sean Connery's sanity until seeing this one, and you know what happens when you start questioning celebrity icons. You start thinking they're loony, and if Zardoz isn't damning enough, there's Highlander 2: The Quickening on the great Scotsman's resume, the biggest pile of scoop law violation ever.
Saturday, May 08, 2010
Wednesday, May 05, 2010
I'm not even a Thomas Pynchon fan, but when I saw this paperback the other day, next thing I knew I was buying it. For three bucks you could do a lot worse than this little gem. V is Pynchon's first novel and the only one I've not read, so who knows, the Dali-esque cover might make me into a fan after all. The text at the top creates a nice balance and anchors what might otherwise be a weird concept.