October 12, 2004
'Moving' The Weblog
In the next day or two, I'm going to be redirecting www.terebi2.org to point to a new version of this weblog. It's just an upgrade to MovableType 3.11, using the mySQL database for the indices, but I figured it would be easier to just recreate it wholesale and import all the old articles than to try an upgrade in place (switching databases complicates things).
When I move things over, I'll try to set up a redirect from this page to the new one, but there's already a redirect from my even older website at Agora, and after awhile the redirects might become an annoying flicker. So just update things, okay?
October 11, 2004
October 10, 2004
Videogames, Game Music and Too Damn Little Time!
I've been sitting here thinking about what games I've had the time and energy to play recently, and what have I been listening to while pondering? The soundtrack music to Katamari Damacy. I grabbed it off the net because it struck me while playing various levels with Kelly that it would make wicked cool background music. And it does! Now that I've sampled it, I'm afraid it's time for a trip to CD Japan to see if I can get a legal copy.
Never one to spend great wodges of time playing videogames (no really, Jean, Final Fantasy X, Resident Evil: Director's Cut and Silent Hill are the exception!) I've certainly been buying a lot of them recently. And paying full price too. Of course, Katamari Damacy wasn't too painful, at $20 new. But before that was Fable, at full price, and before that was Tales of Symphonia (full price), and before that was La Pucelle Tactics (another chunk of great music, by the way), again at full price. I promise I'm going to cut that out, having blown my allowance right out of the water.
And I've enjoyed playing every one of them, though I hardly seem to start them before the next one rolls along (katamari, hah!). Fable is languishing downstairs, Symphonia is on hold as the Gamecube has moved back to the living room. At least Katamari Damacy is holding up. I played last night and got through another level (added another star to the sky), but then failed on the following level and got roundly dressed down by the king. He really tears into you.
I was so disappointed () that I popped La Pucelle Tactics in and cleared a couple of stages (still in the training phase, I know, I know). It reminded me how much I enjoy this type of game, and how I was disappointed that I'd missed it's predecessor, Disgaea. It's back in the stores again, but at full price! Remember where I swore off buying games at full price? Especially if they've been out for awhile?
And to make matters worse, the follow-up to La Pucelle is out now. Phantom Brave sounds like a lotta fun, but is of course full price. So I'm gonna be a good guy and just put it on my want list for the future. Okay, so final confession. Remember when I was talking about Shadow Hearts? Gamestop's web store was offering it as a freebie to those who pre-ordered Shadow Hearts: Covenant. It turns out, in the fine print, that this was "while supplies last." Translate that as "lotsa luck, bub." So I succeeded in skipping buying a full price game, even if bundled with a free one.
So I was at Fry's looking for an extra Katamari Damacy for Jean's nieces, and there on the shelf, directly above Shadow Hearts: Covenant, was a $20 copy of Shadow Hearts. So okay, I bought it, and have yet to open the sucker. I might do it tonight after putting the little women to bed, and I might wait for a week or two. It wouldn't be my nature to just sit down and play the darn thing!
Funny! Winding down for the night, I'm reading the MP3 weblog Music (For Robots). I go there for ideas for new music, only occasionally finding something I like (they're really into house, hip-hop and the like). But tonight, TONIGHT, the headline review is for ... Katamari Damacy Soundtrack. They like it a whole lot, too!
And for reference, CD Japan has it, and yes, it costs more than the game. Ugh.
While I was somewhat busy with the usual weekend chores, the big adventure this weekend was cooking. And at that, some folk will consider this tame (Brenda). But for me, I really cook so infrequently that it's a fun outing.
Saturday, I tried a recipe from a magazine I subscribe to, Cook's Illustrated. The dish was Pork Tenderloin Medallions. I've had pork chops before, but never tenderloin. This is quite tasty and tender (as named). Two tricks from the recipe: one, brown the tenderloins in a pan on all sides, to seal in juices; two, bake in the oven, but judge how done it is by the temperature from an instant-read thermometer. This lets you cook the meat just enough, so it is neither dry nor tough. Even Kelly found it great. I skipped the suggested sauces as neither Kelly nor Jean were interested. Kelly went so far as to mime gastric eruptions at the suggestion, but she's at that age...
Tonight was something even more homespun: macaroni and cheese. Now I won't call this 'from scratch'. I didn't make my own cheese, or even milk the cow. And I didn't roll my own elbow macaroni. But given those basic ingredients, I did all the rest homestyle. What we ended up with was very rich, with a nice texture to each mouthful. There was enough for a couple plastic containers to set aside for more meals. Kelly said that Kraft's Macaroni and Cheese, which she went through a phase of living on, rated a five out of ten, while this recipe rates eight or nine. Coming from Kelly that's high praise indeed.
Next weekend, I might try my hand at their recipe for Chocolate Caramel Walnut Tart. Since I'm usually the one to try main dishes and Jean is the baker, this'll be a bit of an invasion, but who cares!
And when Thanksgiving rolls around, I've got a use for all that leftover Turkey: Turkey Tetrazzini. Go, man, go!
October 07, 2004
For taste, that is. Pat Holmes, writing for the Portland Tribune, gives Ghost in the Shell: Innocence two thumbs down. He's really quite nasty, and can only think of Blade Runner (it's superior inspiration) and The Matrix (another example of shallow trash) when talking about it.
I wonder if he's seen any of Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex, and if so, whether he thinks it stinks so badly as well? Seeing as how GitSAC is my current favorite anime series, that would pretty much shoot any credibility he might have with me.
October 03, 2004
God help me, I'm old. Saturday afternoon, with the consent of my loving wife, I took off two hours early for NOVA, and drove downtown to meet my friends so that we could see Ghost in the Shell: Innocence at Cinema 21, the best art theatre in the metro area.
I've enjoyed the various incarnations of Ghost in the Shell for years, starting with the manga by Masamune Shirow (a genius with many other great stories, don't even get me started on Appleseed). Next was the first movie, which I've seen, but don't yet own (now I have to go get it!). Most recently I've been enjoying the hell out of the first season of the television series, Ghost in the Shell: Stand Alone Complex. The television series more or less ignores the continuity of the movie, what we anime/sci-fi buffs call an alternate timeline.
What I like so much about these stories is the intricate plotting, with deep twists and turns, of crime in the future. We get all the attention to detail that Larry Niven gave in his early years when technology impacts human lives. Here the crimes are cyborg-augmented violence, computer aided graft, diseases inflicted on the post-human mind. The theme threaded throughout the series (manga, movies, television) is declared in the umbrella title. The Ghost in the Shell. Soul, spirit, animus, whatever breathes life into clay, the ghost investing the shell with more than simple motion, mimicry.
So is it any wonder that I was excited to see the second movie, set in the same timeline as the first movie, but with a major emphasis on Batou, who is the cyborg policeman best fit to a role in film noir? Alan doesn't like the art style of Production IG, the company doing the graphics for this movie, but I thought it was delicious. And the plot was Philip K. Dick, Blade Runner perfect, a plot to -- oops, I know none of my regular readers (all three) are going to care about a spoiler, but I'll skip it nevertheless in case someone googles here. Suffice to say that it was most satisfactory.
At the end, as the house lights came up, I noted that GitS was a prime example, perhaps the only one, of a proper science fiction implementation of that tried and true genre, the police procedural. James said "what?" I said, "you know, a police procedural." It turns out none of these guys has ever heard the term before. Is this just me? Is it my reading and movie history, or has this term gone out of vogue? Oy, do I feel old!
Kelly and I are now playing Katamari Damacy. Rather, I'm playing and she's watching, commenting and directing me. At least in this game she's not demanding to play, then throwing the controller at me whenever there's a battle (leaving me to fumble for the controller during the crucial first moments of conflict).
Penny Arcade (more specifically Tycho) reviewed the game, and said "Katamari Damacy is, in no uncertain terms, the finest 20 dollars I have ever spent on a new game." I have to agree. For $20 I usually am buying a used game, a 'greatest hits' game, and many of these have been tons of fun. But $20 for a new game rarely yields this level of fun.
Now if only I can get far enough along to rope Kelly into playing versus mode. I think she's fast enough to beat me, and I know she'd be tickled to roll over my guy with her ball, and watch him wiggle his little legs as he gets swept away!
September 30, 2004
Forgot to mention this, over a week ago:
- Barbara Ann - The Beach Boys
- Kokomo - The Beach Boys
- Surfin' Safari - The Beach Boys
- Folsom Prison Blues - Johnny Cash
- I've Been Everywhere - Johnny Cash
- Ring of Fire - Johnny Cash
- Lay Down Sally - Eric Clapton
- You Can Leave Your Hat On - Joe Cocker
- Bad Moon Rising - Creedence Clearwater Revival
- Money for Nothing - Dire Straits
- Canned Heat - Jamiroquai
- It's Not Unusual (Single) - Tom Jones
- She's a Lady - Tom Jones
- Burning Down the House - Tom Jones & The Cardigans
- All Shook Up - Elvis Presley
- Hound Dog - Elvis Presley
- The Lion Sleeps Tonight (Wimoweh) - The Tokens
- Wild Thing - The Troggs
- Velcro Fly - ZZ Top
These are mostly purchases for Jean, for a mix CD she wanted for long drives. But I enjoy nearly all of these, probably even more than Jean.
September 27, 2004
It took me nearly three full library loan intervals, but I finished Declare, by Tim Powers. I've always liked his work, though I haven't followed it compulsively. He and James P. Blaylock both met Philip K. Dick and were each scarred in their own unique way.
Declare is some five hundred pages long, and I just don't read books with the same obsessive passion I used to lo these many years ago. I still read compulsively, but include magazines and tons of Internet reading as well as work material in the mix. Declare is a marvellous mix of history with a fantasy story that fits neatly in the cracks. Powers manages to tell a complex and convincing supernatural tale surrounding the life of double agent Kim Philby without altering any of the historical reality. Really quite neat.
More disappointing is another novel I've had in my 'current reading' stack for some time now, False Memory, by Dean Koontz. I've really enjoyed Koontz over the years, but this book just rubbed me the wrong way, and eventually I had to decide to let it go. Koontz has always had a tendency to build characters who are just so gosh darn likable, and quirky, individual heroes, that you can't help but want to kick them in the teeth. But usually I've been sufficiently enthralled by the myterious evil he throws in, that I can deal with that wholesome, lovable hero shtick.
This time he went over the top, and his criminal mastermind, while posessed of strange powers, is too close to an earthly evil to be tolerable. I like my villains cartoony and implausible, I guess. This guy seemed more serial killer/rapist than spooky poltergeist, and it just made me a little queasy. So bye bye, False Memory.
September 26, 2004
It seems that every year I have my physical exam, then I have two or three follow-on visits to other doctors. Not because I'm ill in any noticable way, but because my doctor is thorough. The result is that my physical, which typically happens in June or July, stretches out into these other visits. I've always gotten a clean bill of health, but I end up waiting for closure.
This year, I made a trip to Dr. Rudoff, the cardiologist, to evaluate my blood pressure, and got five gold stars. No really. He said "don't stop whatever you're doing. Your LDL cholesterol is 75, and when you were born you probably had an LDL of 50." No blood pressure medication, high marks all round.
I also made a trip to see Dr. Marilyn Rudin. She is a pulmonary specialist, and I was there because I made the mistake of telling my family doctor that I sometimes started myself out of sleep just after bedtime, as if I'd forgotten to breath. He said "that could be apnea, which can be dangerous, so let's get you checked out."
Dr. Rudin asked that Jean come along, and she asked Jean questions about my sleeping behavior. Nothing I said made her want to do anything to me, but Jean told her about flailing arms, snoring and such stuff. "Classic apnea," exclaimed Dr. Rudin. So I got scheduled for a sleep study. Friday night was my night.
I didn't write this up on Saturday, because I was sort of a zombie. Sleep study is sort of a misnomer. I suppose there are folk who sleep soundly enough that they could doze through this thing, but I am not one of them. The sleep technician, a friendly young guy named Anthony, hooked up several electrodes to my scalp, behind my ears, beside my jaw and my eyes, my chest and my legs. He attached two bands around my chest to measure breathing, and most annoying, stuck a sensor consisting of two insulated wires up my nose!
Around ten, not my normal bedtime, it was lights out. First we went through a calibration drill, opening and closing eyes, flexing leg muscles, thrusting belly in and out, breathing only through the nose, breathing only through the mouth, for a few minutes. Then silence. The room was nice and dark, and most of the time quiet. I could hear doors opening and closing, and interns chatting, so of course I couldn't go to sleep until they shut up.
What's more, every time I turned around there were these wires dragging on me. I forgot to mention that I had a oxygen sensor attached to one finger, and whenever I reached to rub my nose (full of wires) the light on the sensor would shine bright red in my eye. Turning on my side drove the nose sensors deeper into my nose, precipitating a round of snorting and eye-watering.
Eventually I managed to get to sleep, I don't know when. Around 4am I woke with the need to visit the restroom. You have to speak out, and the microphone in the room picks up your request. In comes Anthony, to detach the central switchbox from my droud of wires, so I can walk to the bathroom. Afterwards, I got back into bed, hooked up and struggling to get to sleep again.
However, sometime shortly thereafter a hideous shrieking hiss filled the room. Along with other noises, I was able to figure out that another sleep study subject had arisen and was taking a shower. This went on for so long that only a half hour or so after it stopped, Anthony spoke over the loudspeaker. "Well, you haven't really gone back to sleep, but we got some good measurements. It's six am, time to get up!"
I'd optimistically say I got six hours, probably more like five, of sleep in this 'sleep study'. But of course, they don't need you to sleep for the whole night, only long enough to observe your full sleep cycle (light sleep, dreaming, deep sleep) and breathing. According to Anthony, I have a mild manifestation of apnea, but it wasn't enough that he would have entered the room to try a C-PAP on me. This is basically a breathing mask which forces air past an obstructed throat to ensure proper breathing all night. It's just as well, since I generally don't get back to sleep when someone else wakes me, much less when someone else straps a blower onto my nose with a weird yarmulka to hold it on my face.
I took a shower in the adjacent bathroom, working gingerly to remove the six larger sensor patches, which were heavy adhesive squares on my legs and chest (just where the hair is heaviest). When I left the hospital, I saw only one person as Anthony had gone home. I got to peek into the control room, sort of a mini NASA. Then I drove home, had some breakfast, and stumbled through the day.
Last night I went to bed at ten, got up once during the night, and slept in to 7:45am. I felt really rested.
Now I wait three weeks, then have a follow-up visit with Dr. Rudin. Assuming she doesn't try to burden me with one of those C-PAP machines, or otherwise meddle with my physiology, I will finally be able to pronounce my yearly physical over, in mid-October!
September 19, 2004
Is It A Cookie?
Last weekend, Kelly and I burned through the better part of five hours (spread over Saturday and Sunday) working on a poster project for her 4th grade homework. This was on top of the work Jean had done with Kelly conceptualizing and gathering materials. So Kelly did a lot of work, even with our help. This week we got the result: 5+!
But what does that mean? Kelly's teacher, Miss Tilney, doesn't seem to believe in grades, and also says she slides the scale as the term progresses. So a 5+ today, will be a 4 next month, and so on. But on to the scale. It's defined in terms of Oreo cookies, and I was very entertained when she explained it during a recent parents' night.
- Is it a cookie? Here we are shown a bag full of Oreo crumbs. There's no organization, no structure of any kind, just a bunch of ideas.
- Parts are missing. We've got the complete bottom part of the cookies, but no filling, no tops. Some of the work is missing, though there is some sense of structure.
- Not Quite There. All the parts are there to make a cookie, but they're kinda loose in the bag. We've got all the parts we need for our project, but they're in a random jumble.
- This is a cookie. We have complete Oreos. The requirements of our project have been fulfilled, just.
- Double-stuffed! You did something extra, something creative and beyond what was required. I like it!
- Hardly ever is there a six. This represents the "knocked my socks off" category, and is symbolized by a fudge-covered Oreo. Any kid who gets a six, also gets a fudge-covered Oreo, for real!
So there you have it. Work hard on a poster, and get taunted with an unattainable fudgey Oreo!
Yesterday evening was NOVA. It was also time for the annual election of officers. I ran for Veep, just to give Chris Arneson some competition. I didn't seriously think I'd win, since Chris is younger, personable, and invested with more energy than I. Nevertheless, I got elected, by a narrow margin. This makes the second time I've been an officer. I was Veep for a couple of years when the founder of the club, Jeff Milburn, was Prexy. I don't expect the office will require any real work, but I'll help where I can.
Afterwards we all flocked to Tigard Cinema to see Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow. This movie, like Lucas' Star Wars films and Spielberg's Indiana Jones epics, was inspired by the adventure serials of the 40's. It successfully aped the genre, the period and even made a nod to black and white film with it's sepia toned color scheme.
There's a danger in aping the original too closely, though, as this film proves. The beginning imagery is very muddy, and somebody put the interns in charge of vaselining the lens, 'cause it's pretty blurry there for the first half hour or so. The pace is not so much rapid as telegraphic, as the creators try to cram the first five chapters of Saturday Morning Serial Adventure into twenty minutes.
There was some good. The sensawunder was occasionally able to rise above the conventions, and while the dialogue was usually by-the-numbers, there were a couple of laugh-out-loud moments. I'm happy I saw it, but I'm glad I didn't sneak in a Friday lunchtime viewing before the Saturday outing, as sitting through it twice in quick succession would have been tedious.
Happy Birthday, Leonard
Because, yes, Leonard Cohen is the prophet.
September 12, 2004
Why is there always a glut of games just when the new television season is starting? Maybe that's why the networks are watching their viewer numbers take a nosedive. All I know is, Tuesday I'll probably get a call from Gamestop telling me my reserve copy of Fable is in. While I'm there, if I'm not very self-controlled, I'll probably see if they're doing the same offer as their website for Shadow Hearts: Covenant (reserve one, get the original Shadow Hearts free). If so, I'm in. Not that I have time to play these things through from start to finish. Me just likee pretty pictures!
Saturday, I joined Tom and the gang over at his place, and among the strange nonsense such as the 1978 live-action Japanese Spiderman episode we watched (complete with Giant Robot named Marveller), there was a demo of Burnout 3: Takedown. It's a racing game, but with a twist. The creators have acknowledged something that every guy secretly knows. We like to crash stuff. So you can actually get points for stylish crashes. There's even a mode where you just drive your car into an interesection with the goal of maximizing damage in multi-car pileup style.
Remembering how much Kelly enjoyed Simpsons Road Rage, I got to thinking that this would be a swell game to kill a few Sunday afternoons with. Now I'll be honest. Even given that there is an emphasis on crashing, I don't think I can play this game well. No, I'd generally run off the road and then watch while the other cars buzz by. I'm really that bad. But I'd get a lift out of watching Kelly wreak havoc, so it's still a candidate. I'm just hoping I can wait for this one to come down in price.
So you see my dilemma. I haven't really even made a complete list here. These are just the ones available in the next 30 days that I want. Where am I gonna get the money? Where am I gonna get the time?
Yeah, I can hear those tiny violins already.
September 08, 2004
iTunes Music Store
- Crowning of a Heart - ...And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead
- La Podrida - Gato Barbieri
- Are You Happy Now? - Michelle Branch
- Yakety Yak - The Coasters
- First We Take Manhattan - Leonard Cohen
- L.O.V.E. ((English Version)) - Nat King Cole
- (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction - Devo
- Girl U Want - Devo
- Working in the Coal Mine - Devo
- White Flag - Dido
- Do It Clean - Echo & The Bunnymen
- Worry About You - Ivy
- Ceremony - New Order
- Blue Monday - New Order
- Confusion - New Order
- Thieves Like Us - New Order
- The Perfect Kiss - New Order
- Shellshock - New Order
- Bizarre Love Triangle - New Order
- True Faith - New Order
- Touched by the Hand of God - New Order
- Round and Round - New Order
- Regret - New Order
- Crystal - New Order
- 60 Miles an Hour - New Order
- Here to Stay - New Order
- Why Does the Sun Shine? (The Sun Is a Mass of Incandescent Gas) [Live Version] - They Might Be Giants
- Whatever Lola Wants - Sarah Vaughan
- Catch Me If You Can - Angela Via (Pokemon - The First Movie)
- Leave It - Yes
The Michelle Branch song was a Kelly request, and the Ivy song was one Jean heard on a television show and asked for, though for the record, I like it too. Going down the list otherwise...
Trail of Dead is an interesting band, I heard about them on a weblog, so I grabbed a single to wet my appetite. Gato Barbieri and I go way back, in fact all the way to high school, so make that thirty years, gosh! The Coasters are probably my dad's influence, but Kelly likes Yakety Yak, so now we can play it whenever the urge hits.
Leonard Cohen. Leonard. My wife and daughter both think I'm nuts, but Leonard is the prophet. I'll be buying more of his songs, mark my words. I recommend him to anyone, even folk who can't figure out why I like him.
Nat King Cole was Kelly's idea, but I took the initiative to hunt down the song, since I like it too. Devo goes back to my early college days, and it's about time I had some on my computer. Dido just sounded nice.
Echo & the Bunnyment and New Order are both the result of a posting of Blue Monday on Jason Kottke's weblog. His post of that sampled song, and the ensuing discussion in the group comments, spurred me to get off my keyster and buy a best-of album for NO. Echo & the Bunnymen was just a happy bonus. So now I'm wallowing in 80s New Wave. It helps that NO were the spin-off of Joy Division, another personal favorite.
They Might Be Giants are icons, so I grabbed one I could harass Kelly with. I'll be getting more in due time. The Pokemon movie song is for, wait for it, Kelly.
That leaves ... Leave It. I first heard this song on MTV, on April Fools day, the year it came out. Yes were promoting the album, and as a bit of clever silliness, they'd filmed over a dozen videos dubbing this song. In each one, the members of the band appeared, but in each successive video, they altered some bit of the scenery, or changed the order of the band, or shot upside down. Lots of silliness, and MTV played the same song for several hours, or so it seemed. I was at a friend's house playing videogames on his TRS-80 at the time. A dungeon crawl with vector graphics if I recall. So fun memories...