Sunday, April 24, 2011

'We're Throwing Science to the Wall Here to See What Sticks'

In 2007 software company Valve released a game called the Orange box. It was a collection of 5 games, and while the whole thing was considered a great value, despite being mostly rehashed content, I kept hearing about one game, Portal, in particular. This game kept getting praise, but was also warned to be 2 hours long. At the time, it was the only game on the Orange Box that interested me, and at a full $60 it seemed a bit steep for me. It was a song that finally made me take the plunge. Two gaming podcasts at IGN, Gamescoop and Podcast Beyond, played the song, "Still Alive" on their podcasts the same week. Let me skip ahead, and say that the song was one of the most clever and funny songs I had heard, but I highly recommend playing Portal before listening to it, as it will mean much more to you after that experience

Just this week Portal 2 was released. Reprising your role as Chelle, you awake after hundreds of years in stasis to find that the Aperture Science labs in a state of extreme disrepair. You are guided by a newly introduced AI, named Wheatley, in an attempt to escape the derelict labs. In an attempt to find an escape pod, he accidentally awakens GlaDOS, the homicidal AI that ran the facility before the indecent in the last game. From that point forward there's an actual force to escape in the game. A few plot twists later, you find yourself exploring the hallways of the original Aperture labs. You're given the opportunity to take in the history of Aperture Science and become acquainted with the founder, Cave Johnson, through a series of charismatic prerecorded messages. The exploration of the forgotten chambers introduces you to a few new features, such as a super bounce gel, and a speed amplifying gel. Eventually you make it back to the current labs and have to devise a plan to survive and set things right, before the building explodes.

I would recommend this game to anyone with even the slightest interest in gaming. There is so much to find in this amazing world, that you'll want to take your time exploring it. There are messages sprawled on walls from test subjects before you as well as fascinating motivational and safety posters covering the scenarios amazingly unique to Aperture Science. The characters in the game are humorous and very three dimensional. The game play is challenging but overall rewarding and quite fun. I play a lot of games, but very rarely do I want to play them again. As soon as I finished Portal 2 I was ready to go back and play through some of my favorite parts again. I can really give it no higher praise.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell...

I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, is a film based on the somewhat autobiographic tale of Tucker Max. If you don't know who Tucker Max is, just know that he's a womanizer who is entirely full of himself. I feel it is important that I say now, that this movie is likely to offend you. As a matter of fact, unless you have the capacity to enjoy over the top offensiveness that I do, it'll be hard to enjoy this movie. With that warning in place, what we're left with is the story of Tucker taking his friend Dan out for his bachelor party. They are joined by their friend Drew, who has a distaste for women since he walked in on his ex-fiance going down on a rap star somewhat akin to Bubba Sparx. The three travel to a strip club out of town where they run into a fair amount of fun and trouble. Tucker's selfish ways lose him Dan's respect, and he has to try and redeem himself if he wants to save his friendship and attend the wedding.

What I like about this movie is witnessing the life of some shameless people. Tucker's attitudea on women are short sighted and selfish, but they're dwarfed by Drew's militant misogyny. Drew is clearly suffering and using his attitude as a defense mechanism, but some of his outlandishly politically incorrect lines had me laugh my ass off. Next to him Tucker seems like a nice guy. I loved the characters in this movie, if for no other reason than I love characters that are good at their core but have such a horrible outward presence. I am also a big fan of the story of the redemption. Both Tucker and Drew have to let down their guard and be truly decent at some point in this movie. The few touching moments aside, this movie is quite fun for the moments that exaggerate how mean spirited these two characters can be, and how the straight man, Dan, and the people they encounter react to it. One side note; Drew is played by Jesse Bradford, who plays Joey in Hackers. which is one of my all time favorite movies.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Harley Poe

I love music. Many different varieties and styles populate my collection. So I am always looking for something new and different, or a group that falls into one of my extremely specific sub-genres that actually makes decent music. My dear friend, and fellow Ponder Coucher, Seth has introduced me to such a group.

Harley Poe, a local Indiana group fronted by former Calibretto singer, Joe Whiteford, is an amazing little horror themed band. There sound is a mix of upbeat punk, ominous organs, and what sounds almost like surfer music. The whole thing is intermingled with clips from old horror films. Needless to say I love it. Specifically I am referring to their album Wretched.Filthy.Ugly. This ten track little gem includes songs about a zombie apocalypse, possession, dating a werewolf, and a chance encounter with a vampiress. All subjects are covered in a upbeat tune, that doesn't spare the gory details. The whole thing is a real treat. I highly recommend the album, and if you find you enjoy it as well as I, you may want to check out Calibretto and a group called Creature Feature for more horror music.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Books of Kelly Link

I heard about Kelly Link from Bryan Lee O'Malley. He mentioned on his blog ( that he was reading her book "Magic For Beginners":

He seemed to like it, so I checked it out... and fell in love. Link writes some of the oddest, most intriguing short stories I've ever read.

Here are two more of her books that I've read:

I think she has more, but that's all I've been able to find (at the Indianapolis Public Library).

I recommend them to anyone who likes strangeness. I love strangeness, so, there you go.

The thing I like the most about her stories is how they feel like dreams. They are full of dream logic. Stuff that only makes sense if you don't think about it. Stuff that would not work in real reality is common-place.

The thing I like the least about her stories is that many of them feel like the first chapter of a much longer story. I would love to read the full book, but this is all there is (for now). Sometimes her stories don't really have a "the end" feeling at the end. They just end.

Link writes about lots of interesting things; ghosts, zombies, magic, monsters, wizards, death, fairies, and sex, lots of sex. But not romantic, pornographic, or pleasant sex, it's more anatomy textbook sex. Lots of descriptive, scientific words. Sex stated matter-of-factually. Odd.

If you like odd, short stories, you might love the Books of Kelly Link.