Monday, December 22, 2008

Thanks to Amanda for coining the term:

Empanasty - thus ending the debate whether or not it's an empanada or a pasty. Here are some pictures from the first batch which were straight up pastys. They were filled with the classic beef stew filling. They were actually pretty big.




* * *
Sometimes I genuinely love my sense of humor.












Friday, December 19, 2008

Far Cry 2 (2008) - more fun.

Important safety tips:

  1. Do not fire a RPG while standing in dry grass.  While watching the resultant destruction you will be caught in the brushfire.  
  2. After creating explosions - for example in a roadblock - wait before charging in to mop up.  The heat will cook off ammunition crates.  This is handy unless you are caught in the explosion, then it is not so handy.
  3. Far Cry 2 is one of the few games I have played where effective recon is handy during game play.  You have the tools, use them.
  4. Remember, the night time is the right time...for destruction.
Not safety tips:
  1. Running over gazelles with a Jeep does not cause damage to your vehicle.
  2. Shooting zebras doesn't really do anything except waste ammo.
  3. As far as I can tell there are no crocodiles or hippos in the water so don't be afraid to splash around.
  4. Try to unlock as many of the safe houses as early as you can - some of them have pretty kick ass weapons laying around.

I'm enjoying what time I've had with the game.  I think I might actually have to pick this one up. 




Thursday, December 18, 2008

Far Cry 2 (2008)

I was finally able to rent Far Cry 2 - oddly enough continuing my Ubisoft kick.  I've only put in a few hours but I have to say that I'm enjoying it.  Then again I have a soft spot for mercenaries, gun running, and Africa.  I also ran over a herd of gazelles with a truck.

I'm gonna get some more game time in before I have to return it.  I'll write more once I've gotten more game time in.

One cool thing about the game mechanics is fire.  Rather, setting things on fire.  I created a brushfire by lobbing a Molotov.  To my surprise the fire spread, a tree caught on fire, and I caught on fire while standing there staring like an idiot.  Neat.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Tomb Raider: Underworld (2008)

Tomb Raider: Underworld is not a bad game but it certainly isn't thrilling.  Another rental.

My major complaints: there's not enough Tomb Raiding, the puzzles are fairly straight forward, and for some reason it takes the game a long time to get going.

On the upside the Mexico level is awesome.  It seriously kick ass, I had to force myself to turn the computer off and go to bed.

Underworld is perfectly reasonable and if you're a Tomb Raider fan I recommend picking it up.

Pastys/pasties/pastes/empanadas - part iii

Here's an example of why I love food history:

Apparently the Cornish emigrated to Hidalgo, Mexico to work silver mines and brought the pasty with them.  The pasty became the paste.  I'm still trying to nail down the difference between and empanada and a pasty/paste.  I wonder if the difference is filling.  Probably regional as well - likes calzone, stromboli, samosas or curry puffs.

Pastys part ii - making dreams come true.

Fortunately we had a good number of ingredients sitting around the house and only needed to pick up a turnip and some Crisco for the dough.

Have to say thanks thanks to Amanda for all help in making these.  I cannot make dough and apparently I have no idea how to crimp edges.  The ones I made were ugly plus they had multiple stab wounds.  

I added garlic, paprika, and a little this and that to the recipe.  Amanda also suggested adding cornstarch.  This was a good idea as it helped goo up the filling once cooked.  She would have preferred them a bit saucier but I think they turned out just fine.

Well all is said and done they turned out awesome.  They are a little bland for my tastes but that's why God made hot sauce.  They need a punch of salt too.  They are good - possibly better leftover - and didn't fall apart when I reheated it in the microwave.  

These are going to be a staple from now on.  I look forward to changing up the recipe and see what I can come up with.


A foray into the world of pastys. Part I.

Though I first encountered them in Michigan I knew little to nothing about the history of pastys. Before I get into that I have to tell you about a dream I had:

  • I was having a dream about dumplings.  Yes, I dream about food sometimes.  No, they are not sexy dreams.  I was dreaming about the giant meat dumplings at Tai Shan.  They are the size of steamed buns but have a dumpling wrapper.  Plus they helped me survive a long stretch of the late 90s.  So I was dreaming about the dumplings and then I dreaming about Jamaican Beef patties.  Then it was a short jump to pastys or pasties.  
The pasty (PASS-ty) is for all intents and purposes a hand held meat pie - if Apple marketed the pasty it would called the iPasty...ha ha, sigh.  The history of the Michigan Upper Peninsula pasty revolves around Cornish immigrants who worked in the mines.  I found this on www.whatscookingamerica.net:

Pastie or Pasty (PASS-tee) - These are basically individual pies filled with meats and vegetables that are cooked together. They should weigh about two pounds or more. The identifying feature of the Cornish pasty is really the pastry and it’s crimping. When pasties are being made, each member of the family has their initials marked at one corner. This way each person’s favorite tastes can be catered to, identifying each pasty.

The solid ridge of pastry, hand crimped along the top of the pasty, was so designed that the miner or traveler could grasp the pastie for eating and then throw the crust away. By doing this, he did not run the risk of germs and contamination from dirty hands. The crusts weren't wasted though, as many miners were believers in ghosts or "knockers" that inhabited the mines, and left these crusts to keep the ghosts content. There is some truth to this rumor, because the early Cornish tin mines had large amounts of arsenic, by not eating the corner which the miners held, they kept themselves from consuming large amounts of arsenic.

One end of the pasty would usually contain a sweet filling which the wives would mark or initial so the miner wouldn't eat his dessert first, while the other end would contain meat and vegetables. The true Cornish way to eat a pasty is to hold it in your hands, and begin to eat it from the top down to the opposite end of the initialed part. That way its rightful owner could consume any left over portion later.

Pasties are one of the most ancient methods of cooking and of carrying cooked food. It is said that the early Irish Catholic Priests created them in order to transport food as they walked about the countryside preaching and aiding the people. The dish is mentioned in Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor (1598).

The earliest known reference to the pasty contribute it to the Cornish.  From 1150 to 1190, Chretien de Troyes, French poet, wrote several Arthurian romances for the Countess of Champagne.  In one of them, Eric and Enide, it mentions pasties: 

Next Guivret opened a chest and took out two pasties.  "my friend," says he, "now try a little of these cold pasties And you shall drink wine mixed with water...." - Both Guivret and Eric came from various parts of what today is considered Cornwall.

Irish people that migrated to northern England took the art of pastie making with them. Soon every miner in northern England took pasties down into the mine for his noon lunch. Pasties were also called oggies by the miners of Cornwell, England. English sailors even took pastie making as far as the shores of Russia (known as piraski or piragies.

The Cornish people who immigrated to Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the United States in the middle of the 19th century to work in the mines made them. The miners reheated the pasties on shovels held over the candles worn on their hats. In Michigan, May 24th has been declared Michigan Pasty Day. In the Upper Peninsula of Michigan the pasty has gone from an ethnic food to a regional specialty.


Huh.  Things you never knew.  The standard recipe goes like this:

Cornish-Finnish-Michigan Pasties

Ingredients:

4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup shortening
1 1/4 cups ice water
1 teaspoon salt
5 1/2 cups thinly sliced potatoes
2 carrots, shredded
1 onion
1/2 cup diced rutabagas
1 1/2 pounds ground beef
1/2 pound lean ground beef
1/2 pound lean ground pork
1 tablespoon black pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons monosodium glutamate
1 cube beef boullion
1/2 cup hot water

  1. Whisk together flour and salt in a large bowl. Cut shortening. Make a well in the center of the mixture, and quickly stir in ice cold water. Form dough into a ball. Set aside.
  2. Dissolve the boullion cube in the hot water. Combine uncooked vegetables, uncooked meats, salt, pepper, monosodium glutamate, and boullion.
  3. Roll out pastry dough into 6"x8" rectangles. Place about 1 1/2 cups of filling in the center of each rectangle. Bring 6" sides together and seal. Cut a slit in the top of each pasty. Place on a dull, not black, baking pan.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees Fahrenheit for 45 minutes.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Prince of Persia (2008)

The Prince of Persia series is a pretty good one but one that I quickly lost interest in because - frankly - I suck at platformers. The jumping and dodging involved usually gets me to a point where I can't make one jump and get frustrated and extend to the game my middle digit.

The current Prince of Persia was kind of a fluke. I rented it because Far Cry II wasn't on the shelf and I wanted something different to play. Prince is challenging but not punishing platformer, with a fairly decent story, and some stunning art design. All in all a good game. If you're the kind of person who only picks up a controller once a week then you'll be glad to know that Prince is forgiving. Yes, there's acrobatic derring-do but the controls are pretty simple and if you miss your jump then you're automatically brought back to life at the last piece of solid ground your character was standing on.

I was, and still am, impressed by the graphics and art design. The game is cel-shaded but not. That doesn't make sense but Prince doesn't have that paint by numbers look that earlier cel-shaded games had. Sweeping vistas, etc, etc, etc. There are one or two moments of vertigo as you sprint across beams and walls. Pretty neat actually.

I also really dug the characters. The Prince - standard vagabond rogue - and Princess - scrappy, no nonsense whose brains are in her head and not in her tits - are both solid characters. The voice acting sold me. The Prince had just the right amount of smary self-confidence disguising a painful past. The Princess had just the right amount of scrappy yet slightly vunerable but not storybook useless - she actually has a couple of sarcastic lines about princess stereotypes, "Yeah, gee, I don't know what I would do if you weren't here. Probably curl up in a corner and cry."

Prince of Persia is pretty short - I think I finished it in about fourteen (?) hours. I don't know if that's worth $60 but it's definitely worth renting or picking up for someone who takes their time with games.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Correction: random videos.












Brilliance.

Texican Lasagna

It's been quite some time since I posted a recipe and since this is my newest addition, well, here ya go.

Texican Lasagna. Tex-Mex is all well and good but I think Texican is a more accurate term. Lasagna because:

Although the dish is generally believed to have originated in Italy, the word "lasagna" comes from the Greek λάσανα (lasana) or λάσανον (lasanon) meaning "trivet or stand for a pot", "chamber pot"[2][3][4]. The Romans borrowed the word as "lasanum", in Latin, meaning "cooking pot". The Italians used the word to refer to the dish in which lasagna is made. It wasn't long before the name of the food took on the name of the serving dish.
Yeah, so basically you layer tortillas, cheese, and meat with vegetable goodness and bake the bastard. This is the way I've decided to do it:
This makes enough for two people with roughly two or three servings for leftovers. Of course if you are hungry, want more leftovers, or are feeding more people use more.
  • 1lb ground chuck - use the cheap shit, yeah it's fattier but I'll tell you a trick in a second.
  • 1/2 lb of chorizo - beef.
  • 2 cups diced onions - any color is fine, decide what flavour you want yourself.
  • A shit-ton of garlic - sliced it, dice it, mince it, whatever.
  • 1 Red pepper - diced
  • 1 Green pepper - diced
  • 2 cups of corn - I use frozen, sue me.
  • A can of Rotel - We always have the Mexican style in the cupboard. It has lime juice. If you don't have Rotel in your region then I guess you could use something from the "Ethnic" aisle. Buy the can of tomatoes with the least amount of English on it.
  • A 20-30 pack of corn tortillas. Note: Don't use flour. They'll turn to mushy ick.
  • A punch of my spice mix. A punch is two or three pinches.
  • A can of El Pato. Use the stuff in the yellow can if you are a'feared of the spicy.
  • Cheese fool. I use big bags of shredded pepper jack and cheddar. I'm sure you could use queso fresco or y'know that Mexican version of mozzarella.
  • A colander.
  • A bowl the colander fits in.
  • An oven.

Okay, after all the prep-work is done...

Here's a side note:

Do all of your prep work before you start cooking.

Yes, it's a pain in the ass. Yes, it takes time. Listen, what would you rather do? Attempt to dice vegetables while sauteeing and making sure you don't set fire to yourself? Do the prep work first. Plus it makes stir-frying much, much, much easier.

Also, open your canned goods after you do your prep work.

Start cooking up your onions and garlic. Drink and stir. Toss in the chorizo. Stir it all up - keep it moving. Please don't wander off and let this burn. When the garlic, onions, and chorizo (beef) are starting to smell all good add the ground chuck. Keep everything moving. Yes, it looks greasy and vaguely unnerving. Safety tip - do not read the ingredients of the chorizo. When the chuck and everything is cooking and looks right put the colander in the bowl that the colander fits in. Pour everything in the pan into the colander.

Return the pan to the stove top, add the canned goods, corn, and stuff. Start cooking all that. With the meat and what not - strain out the grease. Hey, neat - you just strained off all the grease with no fuss, no muss. Throw the meat'n'stuff into what's cooking in the pan. Stir. While this is getting combined get out a casserole pan.

Spray the casserole pan with oil or slop some Crisco on there. No stick. Place corn tortillas on the bottom of the pan to cover. Spoon meat'n'stuff onto the layer then put cheese on there. Another layer of tortillas, meat'n'stuff, cheese, etc etc... continue until the pan is full.

Yeah, yeah, yeah - preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

When the pan is full put the whole thing in the oven. Go smoke some cigarettes or watch a sitcom. This is one of those dishes that is done when it is done. Remember to let it cool before you slam your face in it.

There ya go kids. Texican Lazagnaz y'all.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

Fable 2 (2008)

I finally escaped the clutches of Fallout 3 - which ended up being more along the lines of an action game with RPG aspects - and ended up renting Fable 2.  Fable 2 seems like more of a fantasy sim with some RPG/action aspects.  This is not necessarily a bad thing.

Fable was a game I didn't play until it was available as an XBOX Original download.  It had been an XBOX exclusive when I was still a rabid PS2 follower.  Fable was a good game, more romp than grinding, but eventually I got bored.  In all honesty I wasn't that interested in Fable 2.  Hell, I almost rented Far Cry 2 last night instead of Fable 2.

Thanks to my buddy Farley - who donated a hefty sum to get my character started - I have managed to skip a good deal of nickel and dime nonsense that goes along with a starting level character.

There are a few things I really like about Fable 2:
  1. The Sims/fantasy-land aspect.  Apparently every business, home, building, shanty is for sale in the game so you can basically become some kind of real estate magnate.  I love buying property in games and in Fable 2 once you purchase a residence you can rent it out.  Then you can jack up the rent or do all kinds of stuff.  There is also a lot of NPC interaction, build relationships, get married, have a family, and your actions make people react to you accordingly.  Right now my character - my standard female default rogue - has people chasing her around with amorous intentions.  Is this what happens in RL when you wear a corset?
  2. Humor is tough and humor in games is exceedingly difficult.  More often than not humor in games falls flat.  Fable 2 is pretty solid.  Granted, some of it sounds like Monty Python...again...but for the most part it's a pretty funny game.  Apparently NPCs love it when you kick chickens.  As much as I do.
  3. I really like the MMORPG-lite CO-OP.  If you don't understand what the hell that means then dig - you can play with your friends but not have to run around interacting with the entire world like in World of Warcraft.  Also a second player can join in and it's not a big deal.  The second player plays a henchman character.  I played last night with Farley but the system was getting all glitched.  The cool thing about the co-operative play is Amanda and I can actually play something at the same time.
  4. I like the pseudo-bizarro Victorian land the game takes place in.  It's not steampunk - though I like steampunk just fine - but there's just a skewed Dickensian feel to the game.  Plus there are guns.
One problem I think that I have with the game and I won't know until I really get into it - I might actually buy it or request it for Christmas - but I think Fable 2 is going to be too easy. Granted, Farley gave me a bundle of start-up cash.  I spent all that on property and corsets any way.  It just seems like an easy game.

Example: When you rent out a home you are paid a dividend every five minutes, no matter where you are.  I appreciate that this means I don't have to play the landlord and run all over hell and high water collecting rent but every five minutes?  Once a day seems reasonable.  I dunno, it seems like...not cheating per se, but a crutch.  

Example:  There's an optional glowing direction line directing you towards objectives.  Yes, I can turn it off.  I know.  Hell, it's even handy sometimes.   I dunno...

Example:  You get a helpful dog in the beginning of the game.  He runs around and is cute and if you treat him nice in front of people they like you.  He also points out where treasure is.  You cannot turn this feature off.  I love treasure hunting in RPGs, hell in every game.  So, I'm materialistic so what?  Property and treasure.  Boo yah.  The stupid dog takes away a good part of the exploring aspect.  Fortunately you can be mean to the dog.  I wish it was a cat.

All in all I am looking forward to continuing to play Fable 2.  I'm not sure I should have picked it up before finals but too late now. 

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

The Incredible Hulk (2008) dir Louis Leterrier

I never cared about the Hulk, Incredible or otherwise, but we wanted to watch a super-hero movie and wanted to see something we hadn't seen before.  The Incredible Hulk was actually really enjoyable - not as OMG as Iron Man but was still genuinely satisfying.  Like I joked, "It's amazing what you can do with a decent script, some good actors, and a halfway decent director." Of course I had just come off watching a scratched copy of Episode III: Revenge of the Sith so even a video of Pete Townsend farting in a tuba would have been more enjoyable. 

I would buy this movie to add it to my super-hero collection.  It would be a good movie to throw on while cleaning on a Saturday.

Monday, December 01, 2008

Tropic Thunder (2008) dir. Ben Stiller

For years I hated both Ben Stiller and Robert Downey Jr. It's just that way...at least it was. I hated Ben Stiller because of his character in Reality Bites. I just didn't like the cut of Downey's jib.

It's only been in the last year or so that I've come to appreciate both actors.  This is a good thing because otherwise I wouldn't have seen Tropic Thunder.  I really enjoyed it, more than I thought I would.  Parts were genuinely funny and it's been a while since I've laughed out loud at gore.  Ben Stiller playing with a severed head cracked me up.

This movie was a lot better than it had any right to be.  I don't know if I'd buy the DVD but I definitely enjoyed it.

Friday, November 21, 2008

"The Lizard-Spock Expansion"

So if you don't watch "Big Bang Theory," you are missing out. I understand that many people don't like sitcoms for various reasons(and believe me, I used to be one of you), but this show manages to elevate the genre.

They get everything right: fresh jokes, great ensemble cast, actors committing 100% to their characters. This week's episode exemplified all of this.

And here's one little example of why I love "Big Bang Theory":

"The Lizard-Spock Expansion"
*photo stolen from the AV Club review.

Here's how it works: Scissors cuts paper. Paper covers rock. Rock crushes lizard. Lizard poisons Spock. Spock smashes scissors. Scissors decapitates lizard. Lizard eats paper. Paper disproves Spock. Spock vaporizes rock. And as it always has, rock crushes scissors.

Thank you, Sheldon, thank you.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The new XBOX360 Live Experience is live!

I was pretty excited about the new XBOX 360 Live experience - not wetting myself Fallout 3 excited but still...

All in all it's pretty cool. Mainly a reorganization with a new coat of paint. The big draw is being able to stream/download movies from Netflix onto the XBOX. That's pretty sweet however:
  1. I need to have both an XBOX Live Gold membership and an active Netflix account. I suppose that makes sense but I was under the impression that if you had a XBOX Live account then you could download movies from Netflix for free. Stupid when I think about it now but at the time it made sense.
  2. The movies available for download are not necessarily the best movies or rather - movies anyone would really want to see - i.e. Brainscan.

Right now we're in the process of re-evaluating what services we need (i.e. Internet) versus what we don't (cable). I'm not sure if there will be a savings if we switch from cable to just Netflix. We shall see. If we do go with the XBOX/Netflix combo I will let you know how it works out.

By the by I downloaded The Strangers and should have a review up in a few days. Was going to watch it tonight but were going to the tattoo shop this evening - Amanda's getting more color done.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Quantum of Solace (2008) dir. Marc Forster

Quantum of Solace is disappointing at best.  At worst it ranks among the Bond movies that came out in the late 90s/early 00s.  I should have known I was in for a let down when I saw Marc Savlov's glowing review.

I suppose that trying to follow up on the success of Casino Royale is next to impossible.  One thing I really don't understand is why Casino's director Martin Campbell wasn't directing Quantum.  Marc Foster - directed The Kite Runner and Finding Neverland - just hasn't realized that waving a camera around like a spastic does not an action sequence make.  From the opening sequence to a frenetically edited foot chase to a bunch of crap on fire Foster prefers his camera work shaken not stirred - sumimasen I had to.  While the amount of action was satisfying and in some ways necessary I couldn't make heads or tails of what was going on.  Is this how old people feel?  Who's that?  Why is he yelling?  What's going on?  Who's got my pills?  P.S.  If CGI is going to be used don't make it look like suck.  Hell, don't use it at all.

Okay, Foster has some solid shots - not in the action sequences - so he's a good director.  Next issue.

Quantum has many nudge, nudge "look it's a tip of the hat to that other Bond movie" moments.  For me they were distracting.

For a sequel or bridge for the rest of the Daniel Craig Bond films or whatever Quantum of Solace is supposed to be it falls flat on its face story wise.  The plot zips along perfectly reasonable and then about a third of the way in the stupid pills kick in.  What the hell happened?  I wasn't expecting a character study or any in depth but still the plot back slides into absurdity.  Dur, I can has junta in Bolivia.  

I think I figured it out.  I'm not a Bond fan except for: the books up until Goldfinger, Connery in Thunderball, Roger Moore in View to a Kill, and Craig in Casino Royale.  I was really excited by the idea of a new Bond - closer to the style of the early novels, fewer gadgets, and Bond as an alcoholic sociopath whose poor choice in women drives him over the edge.  Casino delivered.  Quantum did not.  Simple as that.

Oh yeah, and one of the chicks in the movie is named Strawberry Fields.  Gemma Arterton
is adorable but seriously?  Strawberry Fields?

On the upside:

Another Way to Die is Jack White & Alicia Keyes' Bond anthem.  You know what?  I like it. Alicia Keyes bangs out a tune with some Shirley Bassey brass.  


I was honestly surprised.  The rest of the score is well handled by David Arnold.  He's a big fan of the Barry brass flourish.  Personally I wish that someone would realize that Jesper Kyd was born to do a Bond score.

Olga Kurlenko is the Bond Girl in Quantum of Solace and since I saw her in Hitman she's been one of my new favorite actresses.  Apparently she's also in Max Payne as well so I have another reason to see that.  Only problem is in Quantum Olga is all weird and tanned and trying to pass for Bolivian.  I dunno, she's still hot.

All in all...meh.

 

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

"Da plane! Da plane!"

Yes. Yes I did.

Yes that is my skillet.

I might be one of the last of my friends to get a tattoo. The initial shock of getting ink hasn't worn off yet. For a long, long time I took pride in not having any tattoos. Hell, I've know Jews with more ink than me. For some reason though now was the time.

The design was something I came up with while doodling in Poli Sci. People are asking me what the meaning is. If you know me then you get the point.

For those of you who don't - cooking has basically changed my life. Changed my life for the better. Well, unless you count the fact that I have yet another aspect of life to argue and be uppity about. I love cooking. I love food. Now I love getting tattooed and thanks to my research I now have a love of Victorian cutlery.

"Did it hurt?"

Compared to what? The time I smashed my head - y'know that one time? The lung infection that nearly killed me? Self-mutilation? Falling out of a tree and landing on a stone wall? Getting sun poisoning? High school? Cutting a divot out of my thumb? Watching The Core? Cleaning up shit -no literally human scat - at Barnes & Noble?

Yes, getting a tattoo hurts. It's a fucking needle covered in ink getting jammed into your skin a bajillion times a second. Actually it doesn't really hurt that much. Maybe if I got my eyelids tattooed or my taint inked - that would really hurt.

The main problem is the blood and the pus that sprays everywhere. That and the midget who dances around you whacking you on the funny bone.

In all seriousness, getting my first tattoo was completely awesome. I strongly suggest not getting a Disney character...unless it's a Man's Ruin tattoo with Tweety Bird.

By the by I'm already planning my next tattoo.

If you're in Nacogdoches and planning on getting a tattoo then I strongly recommend Tat-2-Majik. Amanda's ink looks absolutely stunning and my tattoo looks totally wicked bitchin'. Plus the guys are Joe Strummer and Trojan Records fans. Cheers to ya guys.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Assorted Tuesday news:

Interesting piece of news: today I am going to get my first tattoo. Yeah, yeah I know I swore I would never get one. Actually I believe what I said was I never thought I would have an idea for something that I would want to have when I was eighty. So yeah. Expect some pictures and me yabbering on about the experience fairly soon.

In other news:

Fallout 3 is still chugging along however:
  • My first piece of advice to new players is: if you want to get the most out of the game then avoid the skill that gives you more XP and the skill that gives you an automatic extra level. There is not really any point in picking up skills that only give you a few extra points in skills - i.e. Gun Nut only gives you 5 points in Small Arms and Explosives.
  • I like the level cap - Level 20 - in Fallout 3 but gaining XP is absurdly easy on Normal Difficulty. Every computer hacked, lock picked, enemy killed, and side quest gives you XP that adds up very quickly.
  • I've maxed out my levels and have hardly touched the main storyline. This makes completing quests much easier. They are still challenging but I'm not in mortal fear of getting blasted into little bits.
  • In order to get your exploring/adventuring money's worth avoid the level 20 perk Explorer. It reveals all locations on the map. You still have to get there in one piece but some of the mystery is gone.
  • Fallout 3 has a nasty habit of freezing. I don't know if there's a problem with my copy or with my ancient 360. Actually Fallout 3 freezes as much as Elder Scrolls: Oblivion did for what that's worth. Remember to save often and don't rely on the autosave file.
  • Walter - resident of Megaton - has completely disappeared. Maybe he got a gig in the Republic of Dave but I seriously doubt it. I checked some of the forums and apparently Walter and some other characters have a nasty habit of phasing through the environment and dying or simply vanishing.
  • The inhabitants of Little Lamplight are the current focus of my wrath - even more so than giant radscorpions. You'll find out.

On the upside:

  • Yes, I have hit the level cap and have kick-ass armor and weapons and a hired goon - pictures pending - but wandering through the Wastes is still dangerous. Higher level critters are roaming around and the damned giant radscorpions show up in pairs - I loathe giant radscorpions but I am glad there aren't giant spiders...I might get too heebie jeebie out to play. I should have gotten the "does an extra 50% damage to insects" skill.
  • I am still having a blast playing the game though I am glad I've eased back and playing less. It's an easy game to tear through - on Normal difficulty.
  • The new bad guys are awesome. I will say no more about that.
  • The main story - what I've played is pretty darn awesome and I actually regret some of the decisions I've made.
  • Fallout 3 is the first RPG in a looooooooooooooooooooong time I am actually excited about playing through again. I've already started planning my next character. If I wasn't so far into the game time wise I'd start over. My new character is going to be a psychotic cannibal who likes melee attacks, long walks in the Wastes, enslaving the weak, and explosives.
  • Oh and by the by: Dear Bethesda dudes. xoxoxo thank you for the rolling pin. It is the neatest.

Okay folks, time for me to get inked up or tatted or whatever it's called.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Fallout 3 to-do list 11/06/08 (possible spoilers)

Yes, I know, I know...

Hooligan Youth Reviews has turned into Hooligan Youth waxes rhapsodic about Fallout 3. When I see or do something non-school or Fallout 3 related you kind folks will be the first to know. I am kicking around the idea of doing an piece about why I usually play female characters in video games. Until then however here's a run down of my to-do list and fun things in Fallout 3.

  1. I ran across slavers yesterday out in the Wastes. Fortunately they kept their distance. I found the slaver main base and have had an offer to be paid for slaves but personally I don't like the idea unless it's raiders or slavers. My god, do I actually have scruples?
  2. During further investigation of the Wastes I found the Talon Mercenary HQ. These guys are a bunch of dicks who have had a contract out on me for quite some time. They have a tendency to show up at inopportune times. Pinche mercs.
  3. As much as I love Sergeant RL-13 he is not the best back up in a fire fight. I think he is best used as back-up/pack mule for searching the Wastes. I haven't been able to figure how to repair damage but I'm working on it.
  4. Not really a spoiler just a warning - if you're not well-armed or prepared AVOID OLNEY CITY. The place is crawling with critters called deathclaws. These nasty fuckers are some kind of horrible mutated version of something whose entire genetic code is made up of rage-o-hol. I shit you not. If you are going to go after these things I recommend blasting off their legs with grenades and land mines so they can't sprint and bound after you and then picking them apart at distance. I've heard the dart gun instantly cripples limbs but I don't have one yet.
  5. I heard a rumor about a kick ass weapon being at the base of a statue next to the entrance to the Tepid Sewers. Will investigate for more info.

That is that for now. Time to go to math.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

"People comma we the!"

Blah, blah, blah Fallout 3 is awesome blah, blah, blah.
The last post about Fallout 3 for awhile, I promise. No honestly.
I want to get a screen capture up of my character now that she has an awesome hat. Yeah that's right, an awesome hat.

Fallout 3 keeps expanding on me - every time I complete one quest I unlock two more.
Being rewarded for skills I like to use is a real joy. I realize that sounds absurd but in most rpgs being a weenie brainiac/stealth/sniper/conversationalist is pretty much a death sentence for a good part of the game.
Now that my skills are improving I am able to do some real damage and when I use a scope the crosshairs stay pretty much where they are supposed to. The combat shotgun is one of my favorite weapons - the line from Aliens always pops in my head, "I like to keep it handy for close encounters." It's funny because Close Encounters of the Third Kind...it's... whatever. Most of the heavy weapons I sell because I'm too much of a pussweed to use them effectively.
The score and soundtrack are both tip-top. I have turned off the score - it was a bit...melodramatic and I'm more a fan of ambient noise. Plus I like to hear what's coming ahead of time. You tote around a radio and can pick up stations. One station is bizarre pro-America rambling from the President (narrated by Malcolm McDowell). The other station I picked up is a mixture of blues, jazz, and big band. I listen to that when I'm just trekking around town.
One problem I'm running into with the game and apparently it's a common glitch: NPCs are disappearing from Megaton. It's kind of a pain in the ass because I have all this scrap metal collected to sell him. Pinche NPC.
Fun tip: On the upstairs level of Sheriff Lucas Simms' house, there is a trap door in the ceiling.
There's also some hilarious dialogue about the skewed vision of American history in a post-apocalytic world. If I can find it on the net I'll post it here.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Fallout 3 continued initial impressions.

After restarting and recreating my character - Moxie the nerdy, treasure hunting, mechanical repair, and explosives expert - I have gotten myself to a good solid point for really getting into the rest of the game.

A piece of advice for starting - the ign.com beginner's guide is helpful. While some games favour well rounded, jack-of-all-trades characters it seems like Fallout 3 is a specialist based game. I really enjoy being able to have a character that has "useless" skills and still be rewarded for using them. In Elder Scrolls: Oblivion the main skill sets I chose - Speech and Alchemy - weren't particularly useful or helpful. I take that back - alchemy was useful for crafting some gnarly poisons. In Fallout 3 speech and a higher charisma can unlock dialogue threads and if used successfully award XP. I also chose the skill "Child at Heart" - unlocks dialogue options with NPC children - because I was hoping I could take care of a deceased NPC's kid. I thought about reloading the prior save to choose a different skill but I'm going to keep "Child at Heart". One kid gave me the combination to her Dad's safe. Kids say the darndest things.

I really enjoy the survival horror aspects of the game as well. Combat - depending on the critter - is pretty harrowing at times. Two pieces of advice:
  1. Learn to use the targetting system ASAP.
  2. Don't waste ammunition on insects. Use a melee weapon.

I also unlocked a house to use as a base of operations and am probably going to spend the next block of game time trying to get enough funding to furnish the place. It's just nice to have place to stash equipment I don't want to sell.

Other cool things about Fallout 3:

NPCs have different personalities and different voices. If you've played Oblivion for any length of time then you know how boring/annoying it became to hear the same three or four voice actors for every character.

Crap got to go to work. More ranting later.

Have a good weekend. Happy Halloween.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Initial squeeing (aka enthusiastic) impressions of Fallout 3.

Here's why I'm wetting myself and almost wrote Fallout 3 related answers all over my Western Civ II test:

An RPG from the makers of Elder Scrolls: Oblivion set in a post-apocalyptic Washington, DC.

Squeee!

Oh yeah and the load times that plagued ES: O are virtually nil in Fallout 3.  I've only been able to play for a few hours last night and plan to restart when I get play tonight.  It looks like I'm gonna have to reorganize my skill points.  I checked the ign.com beginner's guide and I think my classic thief/nerd/hacker/sniper/treasure hunter is going to do a lot better in this game than in Oblivion.  One aspect I really dig is that a higher intelligence gives all of your skills a boost.  Of course if I wanted to play some kind of dreadnought I could do that too.

Another fun thing about Fallout 3 it is going to be the perfect game to listen to the Six-String Samurai soundtrack while playing.  Boogie boogie on the beach indeed.

Once the initial pants-wetting is over I will attempt to give Fallout 3 a more in-depth review.  

"Goodnight America and good luck."

p.s.

I was joking that the player character's father in the game sounded like Liam Neeson - well mocking actually - "Lookit me,  I'm your father, oh oh oh, I sound like a Liam Neeson knock-off, oh oh oh."  Yeah...well...you see...it actually is Liam Neeson.

and Ron Perlman as the narrator - doing a much better job than he did in the Conan game...
and Malcolm McDowell is the voice of the President

So, apologies gentlemen.  Awesome work.  

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Normally lolspeak makes want to gouge out my eyes but...

Thanks to Amanda for pointing this out.  We're both Greek history/mythology fans so this is particularly amusing.

LOLcat Odyssey:

I can has
 song story of teh rox0r fer srsly, Odiseos. He liek went to teh bases of Troi fer pwnage and super LOLz. Den teh Ceiling Cat, Poseiden put sme srs pwnage on him and his kittehs. AND FER TEN YRS ZOMG!!! he did faceplants wit Calypso lolz. kthxbai.

Odiseos maded Telemachus but no one cared.

Wen teh pwnage of Troi was over srsly, Odiseos and his kittehs took teh botes wit der monees an der cheezburgers and getted teh fuck outta der. And tehy camed to teh most doped up homecats yous eva seen. Tehy sitted and eated teh lotus and his kittehs says "i can has more speshal brownies? kthx." But Odiseos says "NOES!!! only cheezburgers" Soes Odiseos and his kittehs getted on teh botes wit teh munchies nd left to one-eye cat wit srs munchies but not fer cheezburgers.

Tehy getted to teh gynormus one-eye cat caev nd seed free goats and cheezburgers!! Nd Odiseos nd his kittehs got fat on free food. But tehn wen one-eye cat come and says "I can iz H4XOR!!1

WTF, whoevas yous iz." Tehn teh gynormus one-eye caev cat wuz angry. Den, two of Odiseos's d00dz in teh caev R offd. Fall down, go boom! d00dz byebye. All kittehs and Odiseos cry'n'cry. Lowdst evah cry'n'cry. One-eye caev cat says "I can haz sleep now kthnx" and Odiseos goes "Oh snap" nd saez "WTF!! we r PWNZ0R his face." While he goz sleep he pwns him wit a hotted nail threw teh face. So he no seez (OH NOES!!). So teh kittehs looked and sez ewwz cuz was gross. But tehn one-eye cat wuz mad and want go smash but cnt seez. Nd Odiseos wuz peacing out wen one-eye cat screamed "WHOSE IZ U!!??!?" Odiseos saez "I is no-cat" Wen he getted away from teh base he saed "LOLZ!! I's iz rly Odiseos, maded by Laertes, pwner of Ithaca, and now PWNZ0R OF UR FACE, bitch" And den it was on. And Ceiling Cat Poseiden wuz mad. Liek srsly mad. Will b imprtnt laetr cuz kittehs DO NOT WANT get wet.

Nd tehy sailded to Aiaia (fer reels Aiaia, datz teh way tehy saez it). So tehy getted off teh botes looking fer mre cheezburgers and splits in tooz. Teh half not wit Odiseos seez a house and tehyz get happee and tehy seez a pretty ladi, and tehyz get rly happee (cuz they has seez no ladies on teh botes... u can imagine tehy get bored wit each other). But tehn Circe-ladi saez "I can has cheezburgers" and turns dem to pigs. But Odiseos on otehr part of island no noes dat his kittehs in troubelz. Ceiling Cat Hermes comez and says "OH HAI" and den Odiseos noes his kittehs in troubelz. He taeks teh potion from teh Ceiling Cat nd goez to Circe's house. Tehn Circe trys to cast spell on Odiseos, but he has teh potion. Dis maeks Circe hot. And tehy stay fer a year, make faceplant (YES!)... and teh pigs turn back to kittehs. After a yr Circe saez "Y yous still heer? Yous eated all mah cheezburgers. GTFO!!! kthxbai." Nd tehy left.

So tehy piled into teh ROFLcopter botes nd sailed to BasementCatPlace to speak to Tyraesus cuz tehy was losted and he noes teh way. But hiz mommy wuz der first nd he saed "Goez away now, Iz is not Oedipus." Nd she cry'n'cry but not loudest evah. Tyraseus say "OH HAI, you can has go home now after TEN YRS." Nd Odiseous saez "Dat SUX0RS more tehn ur mom." And Tyraseus sayz "Who SUX0RS less tehn Penelope." Nd if teh d00d wuznt ded, Odiseos would have offd him right tehre. 

Instead, Odiseos seez his d00dz frum Troi nd tehy cryun liek teh baybeez cuz deys ded nd no can haz cheezburgers n e more. Tehn, Odiseos seez won kitteh who push bolder up hill but no can has rest 4 bolder roll to bottom b 4 reach top nd dat sux0rs. Tehre wuz also dis cat who goes 'I can haz cheezburger?' and seez cheezburger but no can has, nd dat srsly suckin lyke a dai wit no canopener.

Cuz BasmentCatPlace wuz sux0rs, Odiseos nd hiz kittehs sez kthnxbai nd go back to seksy Circe-ladi, but she NO WANT! Soes tehy get mor direcshons frum her and she warns tehm of monsters dat et n00bs fer alwayz, nd dey GTFO. Bye-bye Aiaia. Stoopid name n e wayz.

On teh botes Ceiling Cats Poseiden nd Helios haz maked wind, nd maked a sobad storm cam up. Teh ROFLcopter was broken to pieces. Teh kittehs wuz fraidys. Tehy all skeered coz kittehs iz not liek get wet. Tehy even tossn tehy cookies fer bettar floating...but tehy drownded—kthnxbai! But Odiseos no drownded cuz he grabbed plank nd Ceiling Cats not ded him. Tehy sends him safe to home of Calypso. Tehre tehy maek seksy-tiem fer eight yrs. Srsly, dat lotsa seksy-tiem.

After eight yrs, Grey-furred Ceiling Cat Atehna feelz rly fer srsly bad. She liek Odiseos but not liek Calypso. She tell her dadda head Ceiling Cat Zoos nd askz him to let teh d00d go. Nd Zoos fixs things good. Ceiling Cat will giv Odiseos teh royal boot, nd he be awai! Yay! kthnxbai! But Ceiling Cat Poseiden no good... want pwn4age liek teh kittehs! Nd he maked wind nd sobad storm. But Odiseos sez, "Dis Ceiling Cat no can haz imajinashon" nd floats on wood of wuz-bote to island of Phaishya. Tehre he tell whole storie wit no bafroom brake. Dis maek Phaisya cats impressed nd tehy halp Odiseos go home. Yay! Odiseos #1! Ceiling Cat Atehna #1! Ceiling Cat Poseiden byebye!

Nd wen Odiseos getted back to teh base of Ithaca, Penelope was wit teh suitor-cats and tryin to get tehm to shoot Odiseos' bow. But teh suitor-cats were teh n00b4ge nd couldnt pwnz0r wit teh arrows like Odiseos could. Odiseos is hidin wit pig kitteh Eurmaus so he can get into teh palace nd kill some d00ds nd make their frends cry'n'cry. So Odiseos plotted to off teh n00bs so he could do faceplants wit Penelope nd Telemachus could stop cry'n'cry about his dadda.

So wen teh tiem was right Odiseos nd Telemachus taked teh pwnz0r swords nd started to kill teh d00dz. Nd all teh suitor cats were liek "WE CAN NEVER HAS CHEEZBURGER AGAIN ZOMG." Nd den teh mammas nd daddas of teh suitor cats caem nd were liek "WTF, our sons can never has cheezburger again!!! Nd now we can never eat cheezburger again bc we gonna cry'n'cry liek 4EVA! We can neva be happee nd our kittehs will always b hongry." But tehy ddnt noe that Odiseos, teh pwn4ge, wuz teh one who killed tehir kittehs. Nd den Grey-furred Ceiling Cat Atehna taked away Odiseos' disguise nd teh suitor-parent cats were fraid. Tehy all got in tehir ROFLcopters nd went away and were liek "We can has go now..... KTHXBAI!!!"

But Penelope was liek "CANT BELIVE IT ODISEOS, liek who teh Basement Cat r u?" Odiseos was liek "OH HAI!!!1 I'm back, member me!?" Den she was liek "I can has you prove ur liek who yous sayz yous is?" Nd he's liek "I builded our bed in teh middle of teh base out of teh tree you climbed up once." Nd she was liek "OH HAI!!!!" Nd tehy did faceplants for long tiem. KTHXBAI!!!1111oneo

Saint's Row 2 (2008)

Saint's Row 2 was fun for the week I played it.  I mostly just drove around and played side missions and built up my character.  This is what I enjoy doing in sandbox games anyway so I was content.  The side missions are genuinely enjoyable though fairly generic: racing, combat, step and fetch missions.  One particular side mission: The Septic Avenger was particularly appealing. In this mission you drive around in a sewage truck spraying shit on buildings and people in order to destroy property value.  

I dipped my toe into the actual story missions: one involved escaping from prison, one involved driving from point A to point B, and one involved busting into the courthouse and rescuing a character from the first game.  I look forward to continuing the story when I pick the game up again but am not expecting any real surprises.

The most impressive feature of Saint's Row 2 is the level of character customization available.  You can choose: race, sex, body type, tweak all the levels of body type, age, voice, insults and compliments the character uses, hair, etc., etc., etc.  My first character was an extremely over weight and heavily muscled older guy with an English accent - basically a bigger, meaner Bob Hoskins.  I got sick of him and created a female character - this time basically a bigger, meaner Margaret Cho with a really kick-ass red and black pompadour Morrissey would be jealous of.

One side note about character customization - attn: all games featuring character customization - add scars.  Yes, Mass Effect had some scarification but only The Godfather has allowed me to make a truly horrific, scarred monster of a character.  My guy looked like Marv. It was awesome.  My Margaret Cho knock off would be awesome covered in scars.  Designers take note.  Add it to the list.

As far as graphics and game play goes Saint's Row 2 looks and plays perfectly reasonable.  It's not the most gorgeous game I've ever seen but I was having too much fun to piss and moan about the graphics.  If you played any sandbox game then you will be familiar with the controls.  If it ain't broke don't fix it.

Saint's Row 2 is a perfectly reasonable way to spend time gaming.  It's just unfortunate that it came out while I am saving money for Fallout 3.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Apologies for the construction.

I am tinkering with layout again. Won't be anything drastic. Well, hopefully it won't be anything drastic. Bear with me and thank you for your patience. As always comments and input are welcome.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Out of the pan and into the fryer.

I am fixin to reckon a borderline insane cooking idea. Top Secret. Hush hush. If I survive I will let you how it turns out.

This is truly the sandwich of a warrior.

There are two things in this world guaranteed to make me happy: kittens and a mighty sandwich.

Yesterday we bought a binder for recipes and assorted kitchen mumbo jumbo. It has kittens on it. We also wanted meatball subs...not made from kittens. We were going to go to a local deli that has pretty solid subs - for Texas - but then I thought, "Why not make them myself?"

I wish I had taken some pictures of the meatball subs but alas there are none. Here's the general gist:

  1. Make meatballs. Personally I like to keep it fairly simple - meat, egg, breadcrumbs, kosher salt, pepper, paprika, diced onion, thyme, and a touch of the chiles. I prefer meatballs to be about the size of golf balls.
  2. A tomato sauce based around sauteed onions, garlic, roasted red peppers, chile, and fresh tomato. We used Newman's jarred sauce and a can of sauce to give it added sauciness.
  3. Bake meatballs. Construct sauce.
  4. Combine meatballs and sauce. Turn to low heat and prepare bread. I suggest getting a big ass loaf of Italian white bread. French bread is all well and good if you want to cut up your mouth and get shards of crust jammed into your gums. Heat oven to about 400 degrees. Have you made garlic bread before? No? Simple, butter the shit out of the bread (please remember to cut the bread open first) and liberally apply garlic powder or garlic paste if you have it. Toss this in the oven and cook just until the butter melts.
  5. So far so good? Here comes the hard part. Take the bread out of the oven. Spoon meatballs and sauce onto the bread. Put mozzarella (shredded) all over everything. I sprinkled Italian parsley on to the cheese as well but this is at your discretion. Put everything back in the oven. Wait until the cheese is melty and awesome - estimated 3-5 minutes.
  6. Remove from oven and allow everything to cool. You will suffer horrible burns in your mouth if you try to eat something that came out of a 400 degree oven. Honest.
  7. Prepare to wage total war on sandwich. I recommend putting on feeding pants or not wearing pants at all. Focus chi. You will not fear. Fear is the mind killer.
  8. Unhinge jaw. Commence feeding.

All jesting aside this is a absurdly cheap, easy meal to make and if you make a big batch of meatballs and sauce you can feed on it for awhile. While eating leftovers today I began thinking of other types of meatballs I could make. Let me know if you have any favorites.

Guy Ritchie directs Sherlock Holmes movie...

with Robert Downey Jr. as Holmes and Jude Law as Watson?

Nani desu-ka?

Wait. So...hmmm...I could see Jude Law as Holmes and Ray Winstone as Watson but...

Oh yeah, hey Jude Law - Shia wants his 'stache back.

Fool's Gold (2008) dir. Andy Tennant

Yeah. We downloaded this on a Sunday afternoon because there wasn't anything good on Oxygen or HGTV.

Fool's Gold is not a bad movie - a la Six Days Seven Nights - when the chips are down. Senor "No shirt" Matthew McConaughey doesn't wear a shirt or shoes for most of the movie. You know something? If I was built like him I wouldn't wear a shirt either so there. Kate Hudson is adorable and pretty scrappy - she hits a guy in the crotch with a shovel. This is one of those movies where the cast is just having fun. Shit, hanging out in the Caribbean on yachts and drinking and diving and generally yukking it up? Sign me up.

It really is a lot better than it has any right to be though I wish there were sharks. Into the Blue had sharks and Jessica Alba. Oh yeah and Kate Hudson hits a guy in the crotch with a shovel.

Cold Creek Manor (2003) dir Mike Figgis

Cold Creek Manor is an excellent example of why XBOX 360 Video Marketplace needs to have more coherent information in their movie descriptions. For example, if I had known that the movie had Sharon Stone, Dennis Quaid, Stephen Dorff, and Juliette Lewis in it I never would have watched it.

I don't want to say that Cold Creek Manor was terrible but y'know what? It wasn't even bad enough to be terrible. Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas, Stormy Monday) knows how to make a movie look pretty and get halfway decent performances out of his actors. Dennis Quaid is an actor I like and I don't think he gets a fair shake most of the time. Sharon Stone, meh, I like her in Casino. Stephen Dorff kind of rules. Juliette Lewis is an actress I wish Shia LaBeef would roll his SUV over. On the upside - and I do not support, condone, or advise domestic violence - Stephen Dorff straight up decks Juliette Lewis. Dennis Quaid decks Sharon Stone but accidentally and for a tension relieving laugh. Wow...that sounds terrible.

The whole premise is Dennis Quaid and Sharon Stone are New Yorkers who move their family to Upstate and have a terrible time with the locals (Dorff and Lewis). There's some...I dunno...bullshit about slaughterhouses and the "Devil's Throat" and "Hammerhand" and murder and is it a ghost story? is it a thriller? is it a mystery? is anything going to happen? by the time anything happens am I going to care? when will it end? will stephen dorff fall through the window foreshadowed in the beginning of the movie? is there more popcorn? am I really hungry or just bored hungry?

Silent Hill: Homecoming (2008) XBOX360 Double Helix Games

If you're a fan of the Silent Hill series then you'll enjoy the newest installment. If you're not then you might want to skip Silent Hill: Homecoming.

The good:
  1. As sick as it sounds - it's nice to be back in Silent Hill. The place still looks like an ashen wasteland. When the claxons ring I still get a chill knowing that the whole place is going to become an industrial nightmare within moments.
  2. The monster design is potentially creepier than any of the Silent Hill series. Yes, your favorites are back but the bosses are turned up to eleven. I think I said, "Oh, you have got to be fucking kidding me." when I confronted the third boss. That was one of the better boss fights I've played in a long time.
  3. Boss fights. I can't remember the last time I had a good solid boss fight outside of a RPG. While the fights in SH:H aren't particularly difficult they definitely have the, "What the Hell am I supposed to do now?" factor.
  4. Industrial hell looks awesome on the next-gen system. Double Helix Games went kind of beserk designing the Hell levels, cheers to you guys.

The bad:

  1. Welcome to Silent Hill where the air is filled with grey dust, horrible beasties want to make your insides on the outside, and the camera control stills sucks. While yes it is a bit better - the right analog controls the camera like any other game of its ilk - the camera moves like a GTA VC yacht. I also had trouble with the pitch - with or without an inverted Y-axis. For some reason the camera work was slow and awkward while moving around and trying to survey the environment but was convulsive during combat.
  2. Combat. Dear anyone who makes a Silent Hill game, every game in the series has had crappy combat control. You should know this. If you know this then why does it still suck? There were moments when I ducked or dodged correctly and either I was hit or not. In SH:H the protagonist is a soldier - hence Homecoming - so you'd think he would've received some military training. Maybe it was it was the Special Olympics Brigade. I eventually just said the hell with it and ran past monsters and saved ammunition for boss fights.
  3. Level design. Perhaps it's because this is the fifth time I've been to Silent Hill but I got bored after one night of running through the same halls and corridors trying to find a door that actually opens and isn't locked or jammed.
  4. My number one complaint - even if it's number four on here - Silent Hill: Homecoming your puzzles are terrible. I realize that a majority of people in this world have a hard time walking and chewing gum at the same time but come on...seriously? Just because shifting around some tiles to make a picture might tax the minds of mouth breathers every where doesn't mean you have to dumb down the game. Why didn't you design a dual difficulty like in the old Silent Hill title (2 or 3 I can't remember now)? You have one difficulty for monsters and one for puzzles. As it stands Professor Layton wouldn't even wipe his nose with these "puzzles".

When all is said and done and all bitching aside - it's a Silent Hill title and it's October. I wanted something scary/creepy to play and SH:H worked out just fine to fill the slot. Plus I needed something to distract me from the waiting for Fallout 3.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

"With shovels and rakes and other implements of dee-struction."

I don't know about you but growing up there was the one song that was played on Thanksgiving - either by family or by your local NPR station. Hell, it's the only Thanksgiving song. I listen to this song a lot more than Thanksgiving comes around. I quote this song fortnightly.

Maybe it's bein' a Yankee - borderline New Englander that is - but a lot of people I know don't get the joke. Alice's Restaurant is the perfect example of Yankee dry wit. You laugh until you realize the joke and realize that it ain't funny at all, it's just honest.

When all is said and done I gotta say that I'm proud of being a member of the "Group W Bench".

Friday, October 10, 2008

Josh Brolin to be Jonah Hex? Dude! Sweet!

Jonah Hex = awesome.
Josh Brolin = awesome.
Josh Brolin as Jonah Hex = is anything allowed to be that awesome?

I really dig Jonah Hex but then again I'm a sucker for Weird Westerns. More as news comes out.

Smug self satisfaction: I posted about this Jonah Hex movie last August.

A new incarnation of "V" - effing sweet!

I was a little kid when V was on the air but my grandpa let me watch it and it was awesome. Aliens invade Earth and take over and no one really cares except for some freedom fighters. Dude I was a freedom fighter for Halloween a million years ago.

Looks like Warner Brothers is going to be starting a new part. As long as it's not on the Sci-Fi Channel it should be pretty awesome.

Pinche mathematicos y Friday update.

It's a good thing my areas of expertise are History and English because I can barely manage a D in math. On the upside I am now doing financial math so it makes sense - like I joke, "As long as there is a dollar sign involved I can figure it out."

Otherwise classes are going well. American History is trucking along - hopefully we'll get past the American Revolution soon. I've never been a big fan of the Founding Fathers and birth of our Nation, etc., etc., etc., I've never really had much interest in it. I think my interests lay more along the lines of the Age of Exploration and misc. military history but we'll see where my studies take me.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Roller Derby paper. Part 1(?)

21st Century Calamity Janes: Women of the Roller Derby Revival

While living in Austin, Texas during the early aughts I saw ads in the Austin Chronicle for women’s roller derby. I had some vague memories rattling around of watching derby on UHF while growing up – primarily women on roller skates in hot pants clothes-lining one another. I shrugged off the idea of going to check it out, figuring that it was some kind of Austin hipster flash in the pan. Over time a number of friends told me I had to attend a bout, “Dude! It’s so awesome! Hot chicks on skates beat the shit out of one another! Dude, it rules!” What could I say? That kind of eloquence appealed to the baser instincts of my nature. A group of us went and sucked down Lone Star and “WOO’d!” enthusiastically. Afterwards we all agreed that an evening attending the roller derby “kicked ass”. That was the extent of my experience with the sport until 2008.

My burgeoning interest in modern feminism led me to wonder, “What kind of women join roller derby?” Are the participants escapees from Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!? I began my investigation of women’s roller derby with skewed misconceptions, a questionnaire, and complete ignorance of the sport. As responses came rolling in from across the United States I quickly learned the truth about the derby subculture. My assumptions about the game and the women involved were wrong. Women’s roller derby is a serious sport, not some tramped up skate party. The theatrics I grew up watching were a thing of the past. There is not a typical woman who becomes a “derby girl”. Involvement is not a passing fancy or whim – these women give one hundred percent. They often pay for their own equipment, training, and more for the love of the game. Respondents also spoke ardently about the camaraderie surrounding roller derby.

My first order of business was to develop an understanding of roller derby’s fundamental rules. Chica Loca provided an excellent synopsis:

Basically, there are two teams of five chicks on the track during each two minute jam. Each team has one scoring position called a jammer, one pivot, and three blockers. The pivots and blockers form what we call a pack. The pack starts out twenty feet ahead of the jammers and start sprinting at the first whistle blast. The jammers start sprinting a few seconds later, at the second whistle blast. The jammers have to break through the pack and skate another lap before they start scoring points. On a jammer’s second and future trips through, she gets a point for every opponent she passes. The blockers and pivots try to stop the opposing jammer from getting through, while assisting their own jammer.1

This makes for a fast and furious game that takes practice to be able to follow, let alone participate. Derby moves faster than any other sport I’ve watched and is far more exhilarating. “This is a sport of skill [and] strategy where you’re playing offense and defense at the same time.”2 The amount of training and athletic ability required is astounding and derby is a full contact sport. One woman suffered a knee injury that ended her derby career and still affects her today. Broken bones – wrists, ankles, and ribs – are frighteningly common. Their equipment consists of helmets, pads, skates, and attitude.

With a hard knock sport like roller derby player stereotypes abound: “it’s just a bunch of women in short skirts beating each other up”3, heavily tattooed women as likely to punch you as kiss you, amazons built like brick outhouses, lot lizards, rockabilly barmaids, juvenile delinquents, hair pulling lesbians, and assorted good girls gone bad. Derby girls adopt personas that play off these stereotypes with noms de guerre like: Seoul Crusher, Starr Doom, Texas Chainsaw Sassacre, Chica Loca, Scrappy Do, and Madame Furie. How and why they choose these personas will be a topic to explore at a later time. The women I interviewed haven’t leapt off some Grindhouse screen. Their backgrounds run the gamut: business women, teachers, blue collar workers, waitresses, librarians, housewives, mothers, and more. There are just as many reasons why they joined derby. Some had seen the A&E reality television show Roller Girls and been inspired. Some felt it was “a cool, edgy thing to do”4. Others joined simply because they wanted to, because they wanted to challenge themselves. One woman responded, “It makes your butt go back to where it was before kids!”5

The strongest response I received was about the intense camaraderie among these women. What surprised me is that this did not take the form of the standard underground culture “us vs them” punk mentality. Derby certainly seems to have the punk aspect of members being outside societal norms and of finding a place to relax with a group of people they could be themselves around6. Seoul Crusher responded to the questionnaire:

I think as women sometimes we are hard on ourselves on what we think a woman should be from our views of magazines and television but when you are surrounded by so many different women who choose a crazy sport like roller derby it’s amazing how that can boost your self confidence in yourself and remind you that you are just like every other woman and no different. I’ve never been part of a team sport before roller derby so it’s neat how you feel like you belong almost immediately.7

When I asked the women if roller derby was a phase they said no. Many members of underground subcultures reach a point where the put away the trappings, wear long sleeves to cover tattoos, and blend into accepted culture. While not all the women were still involved with derby they maintain friendships with former teammates, follow league rankings, and bust out the skates more often than not. A common sentiment was, “I think I sweated and worked my ass off too hard to say this was a little hobby I picked up then quit.8

After interviewing these women I have much greater respect and appreciation for the sport and the women involved. The “you don’t have to be [any] kind of type to join roller derby”9 vibe is impressive. Scrappy Do – jammer and blocker – stands five feet tall. A number of the women were surprised by their athletic abilities once they joined. Some hadn’t put on skates since they were children and some had never donned skates before. They aren’t stereotypical athletes and certainly not average women. Unlike many other subcultures, women’s roller derby is open to anyone willing to give it their all.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

Yay cat pictures!

From Blogger Pictures

You can see the busted kitchen table behind George (left) & Moxie (right).

From Blogger Pictures
"You're next!"


From Blogger Pictures



From Blogger Pictures

Moxie does this all the time. Yes it's cute but when it's 3am and you have a kitten sucking on your ear - noisily - it's not so cute in the least.

What do I do with a broken kitchen table, a wire rack, and too many books?

Answer: Mcguyver that shit.







The kitchen table's legs were pretty much torn off in the move and I've been at a loss on how to fix it. While I was going to sleep the other night I had one of those, "Huh, I wonder if..."

Y'know - it's rare - but sometimes I do have moments of smartness. It worked and in all honesty I don't know why I didn't think of this sooner. The whole set up is astoundingly solid.

Amanda laughed because we are getting to the point that we can use books and bookcases as construction materials.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

What's goin' on Schenectady?

People here in Texas don't believe you exist but I do.

"Classic" HYR finds:

Not that I really needed cheering up but I was cleaning up files on my laptop and found these gems:
























Ah, memories.

Puzzle Quest: Galactrix site has trailers!

Woo! The Puzzle Quest: Galactrix site is finally up and has trailers and assorted goodness. We can't wait. This is one game that I am chomping at the bit to play. Dear D3 please release this sooner than later.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

LEGO Batman (XBOX360) - Final verdict.

I think LEGO Batman is going to be the last LEGO game I pick up.  While fun the games just don't have much staying power.  Maybe it's because I play the wheels off a game.  Unless you: have kids, are a completely casual gamer, or are just fanatical about the LEGO series I don't recommend buying LEGO Batman.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Roller Derby Questionnaire - newest draft. Deadline 10/03/08

1) What drew you to Roller Derby?
a. Third wave/post-feminist, riot grrrl ideals?
b. The punk rock underground aspect?
c. I wanted to?

2) What was your background before you joined?

3) When did you join?
a. What position are/were you in?

4) Did you have any preconceptions about Roller Derby before you joined? What were they?

5) What are the stereotypes surrounding Roller Derby?

6) What were peoples’ reactions when you joined the League?
a. Positive?
b. Negative?

7) What was your alter-ego/nom de guerre?

8) How did you choose your alter-ego?
a. Was it always there – waiting to be let out?

9) How did your personality change after joining the League?
a. Did your alter-ego start appearing in your day-to-day life?
b. Did you leave it at the track?

10) How long have you been in Roller Derby?

11) Is Roller Derby just a “phase” for you? Why or why not?


In the midst of all these questions did I forget something? Is there a fundamental aspect I am missing? Would you like to add anything?

Thank you for your responses - keep 'em coming - and your continued helpful comments and suggestions.

XBOX Live offline today for overhaul.

Kind of awesome. Makes me happy. XBOX Live is being updated today. Hopefully we'll see Netflix integrated. Neat.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Miss Platinum - Chefa

Neat! Imagine if Rhianna was a Zaftig Romanian woman transplanted in Berlin. I kind of love like totally love Miss Platnum. Her album Chefa is only $9.99 on itunes and well worth the price.

NEW! NOW! CHAT! WOW!

Many thanks to BCIII for telling me about www.digsby.com. There is now a chat window widget thingamabobbie doodad jiggery-pokery Spacely Sprocket over there on the right. No, your other right.

So now when you take a look at HYR please drop a line - just click the box and type. It's a pretty neat program actually. It allows you to basically put all of your chat/IM/social networks into one...uh...thing. Widget? Cockamamie folderoll?

Long and short drop me or anyone else who is on the site a line. The future is now - more or less.

ATTN: Current or former members of Roller Derby Leagues or people who know people who know...

I am writing an ethnography/subculture paper for my English 131 class and have decided on writing about Roller Derby Leagues. In particular I am interested in how the Roller Derby revival fits into third wave/post feminism. I've been intrigued by the resurgence of crafting, baking, DIY, and the evolution of the Riot Grrrl school of thought. I'm also interested in how stereotypes play out true/bullshit and some other topics.

So if you or any one you know is a current or former member of a Roller Derby league please -avec sugar on top - contact/put them in contact with me. I really appreciate the help and look forward to hearing from you or someone else.

I also have a questionnaire to fill out for documentation purposes. If you're interested I can send that to you. If there are any questions/issues/problems with me being ignorant - in regards to the questionnaire - tell me and I will fix them.

If you have any questions or need clarification please let me know.

p.s. I am under a deadline of next Friday so a prompt response would be neat-o.

Thanks,

Joshua

Thursday, September 25, 2008

LEGO Batman (XBOX360)

We picked up LEGO Batman yesterday - Game Stop was out of Viva Pinata: Pocket Paradise.  I was a bit hesitant about purchasing another LEGO series new since LEGO games are so short on game play.  That may be because I'll play the wheels off these games apart in a weekend.

LEGO Batman is the first Batman game I've played that is actually worth playing.  Granted I'm only three levels into the game but it's a good time.  If you've played any of the LEGO series then you know what you're getting into.  The mechanics are pretty much the same though the camera angle issues have been fixed - the platforming aspect is much smoother.  Batman can throw around the Batarang - neat.  Driving seems like it's going to be a bigger part of LEGO Batman than other LEGO games.  Fortunately the driving mechanic has been tightened up as well.

What I am looking forward to is playing levels as Batman villains.  Apparently the game is a 50/50 split between Batman and Villain levels.  I wanna be Two Face - he's my favorite Batman villain.  Well him and Harley Quinn.

I'll have a more complete review after this weekend.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

I <3 OCP.

And people wonder why our generation is so cynical.
















"It's fine in moderation." or You have got to be kidding me Part II

After looking at the Corn Refiners Association "Sweet Surprise" FAQ I am less of the opinion that these people are completely evil. That is a knee-jerk reaction to the ads I have seen on Food Network.

Part of my anger stems from the fact that these commercials have a thick patina of smug all over them. I appreciate the subtle humor of the two women at the kid's party. The snotty white lady tells the black lady that the red drink is something that the white lady would never give her kids. I do like the black lady basically telling the white lady to basically, "jog on". Then I wondered, "How come the black lady is giving her kids red drink? Why isn't the white lady pouring red drink down her children's throats?" But I digress...

The tone of these two commericals also just plain pisses me off. The condescending pro-high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) characters reminds me of a guidance counsellor or bible pusher, "Oh, you poor uninformed soul. You aren't able to make an informed choice in your life. Let's soft talk over your head until you are compliant." And remember kids, "It's fine in moderation." Bunch of dicks.

In one way these fuckers are right. We are uninformed. Most people jump on whatever band wagon that allows them to blame and point fingers at anyone except themselves. It's not the fact you're a shitty parent, it's the video games, and the ipods, and the HFCS.

I'm going to start looking into HFCS a lot more. Personally I believe that eating naturally is the way to go - buy local, grow what you can, cook your own food when you can, be aware of what you put in your mouth and your body. In practice it's a lot more difficult than that but I'm trying.

p.s. I've already written a pretty unhappy email to Food Network about having these commercials on their station. You might want to think about doing that yourself.

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