Saturday, July 31, 2010

A Star Trek Top Ten List

by Chris McGinty


I found this recently among my stuff, and thought it was reasonably funny. I decided to present it here for your amusement. It was clearly written sometime when “Star Trek: Voyager” was the most current series.

The Top 10 Episodes of Star Trek We Hope to Never See

10. Data is short circuited in an attempt to assimilate him into the Borg collective. Believing he is starving to death, though it is not possible, he makes a meal out of the enemy in, “Smorgas-Borg.”

9. “For Fuck’s Sake Kate Just Kiss Him”

8. Odo is assigned to protect the governor’s housekeeper in, “You Want Me to Get That?”

7. Next week’s episode of Voyager.

6. When a space anomaly brings out the deepest emotions of the crew, Deanna Troi steps forward to empathically act out each and every last crew member’s feelings to save them in, “Empaths of Glory (Parts 1-3.)”

5. “Risapalooza” with special guests: N’Sync, Backstreet Boys, and Brandy.

4. Intergalactic hippie vegetarians sing about the harm in eating animal flesh in, “Let that Be Your Last Cattlefield.”

3. “Spock’s Brain”

2. A space/time rift pulls Sulu, Chekov, and Uhura from the past to present day Deep Space 9 in, “Bottom of the Barrel.”

1. “Do you William T. Riker Take Jean Luc Pucard to Be Your Lawfully Wedded Husband”

Friday, July 30, 2010

Review: Avatar Blu-Ray

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)


I knew the moment I heard that there was going to be a movie called Avatar and a movie called Avatar: The Last Airbender people were gonna get confused.

By the way they stole my nick name from school... I was know as the 'Airbender' thanks to all those government provided lunches. I kid! I kid!


I'm not going to bother with the Avatar: The Last Airbender. I am going to bother with Avatar (or as it seems to be called on the interweb: James Cameron's Avatar).


Avatar seems to be like Titanic, one of those movies that EVERYONE has seen. That's an exaggeration but a lot of people have seen this movie. It's almost like James Cameron sits in front of his desk and thinks: 'I have to come up with a concept that will make people go see this movie multiple times'. I'm serious. If you notice that seems to be the thing with his movies. People see them again and again.


I have been hearing about Avatar for more than ten years now. Way back in the day when CG was really taking off there were reports of James Cameron working on some big time CG movie but that the technology wasn't quite there yet. Apparently 2009 was the year where the impossible became possible. Avatar apparently cost less than the third Pirates of the Caribbean (probably because they didn't have to pay for the big names). Cameron invested his own money in the different R&D projects to develop a new camera system as well as motion capture (I don't think those costs are in that production total). Not only is the movie making money from theaters and such but the technology they created for it is being sold to other studios for a lot of money as well. When James Cameron does something, he does it right!


This movie was visually impressive. I mean that. I am one of those people who scour every frame for shoddy CG and I couldn't find much of anything wrong with this monster of a movie. I am a real critic of motion capture and especially facial capture in movies and Avatar was spot on perfect. Even the previews for the new Tron (young Flynn effects) look crappy compared to the stuff they did in Avatar. This is only speaking of the creature and character effects. The 'forest' backgrounds were flawless as well. It is one of the most beautiful movies I have ever seen.


The story is basically Pocahontas. I won't go any further because that is what it is. They made sure to give you some feeling for the characters to make it interesting enough, but just enough. The effects is where this movie shines.


I have to highly suggest you check out this movie. The bigger the TV screen you have the better. This movie was meant to be watched in hi def too.


Cameron has two more plots for the further adventures of the seven foot smurfs so expect to see more of this 'Humans are cowboys and Na'vi are Indians' story lines.


Avatar 2: Electric BLUEgaloo

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: 2012 Blu Ray

by Nathan Stout of AccordingToWhim.com


Scoring just 39% on RottenTomatoes.com "Tomato Meter" Roland Emmerich's 2012 is a movie that was unjustly smashed and trashed. I have this opinion that many 'movie critics' don't feel they are doing their job if they don't tear apart big budget movies. If it's independent, foreign, or a documentary the movie is safe... God help it if its a movie that just tries to entertain.


I am not saying its a fantastic movie, its just not AS bad as everyone said it was. It could be that my expectations were low enough going in for me to enjoy it but if I remember correctly the movie was being bashed before it was even released. I don't think people like the idea of disaster movies because they 'could' relate to everyone. Not everyone is going to have aliens land in your field and come into your house, but a super tsunami could conceivably wipe you out. It's a bit like a roller coaster ride, people like to get on them because you are in a minor amount of danger but for the most part its artificial (also like a haunted house).


When I started watching this movie I automatically began comparing it to Roland Emmerich's other recent foray into the disaster genre The Day after Tomorrow. It scored a 46% on RottenTomatoes. I must admit that I liked 2012 over The Day after Tomorrow. Perhaps the reason I liked 2012 better is that they didn't try to come up with some eco clap-trap message. Another big reason 2012 was better is that you felt a 'little' bit more for the characters in it as opposed to the characters in TDaT. The 'goodbye' moments between family members seems a little more realistic.


In 2012 most of the world's population was wiped out so it was more of a disaster movie than TDaT. Although this world wide wipe out happens it wasn't truly the end of days, just a thinning out of humanity. Thanks to the god of science (and lots of cash) mankind is saved while people who prayed to the god of religion were ridiculed and eventually died.


The special effects were fantastic of course. That's pretty much what this movie was being made for. They were meticulous and flawless. I can only imagine the amount of processing power that much CGI took.


On a side note several years ago (probably somewhere in 2000) I went to an exhibit on computers a the Fort Worth Museum of Science and History. This was back when they were heading down the road of becoming a more 'adult' museum. We all know that this failed (financially) when they discovered that kid are where the money is at and they moved back towards a kiddie science focus. ANNNNYYYYYYWAYYYYY at this computer exhibit there was this flight simulator running on a computer and the plaque stated 'this is the most graphically powerful (or advanced, I can't remember) flight simulator you will ever see'. I just can't help but laugh at that knowing that processor speeds double once every six months to a year. If those guys who made that exhibit could see what computers are capable of doing now a days they would crap in their pants.


So what I am saying is the graphics are good in the movie. Now on the the griping...

I know it's an action, big budget, effects flick but really... some of the sequences are a bit much. I have a couple of things to point out in the world of Roland Emmerich:

  • Runways are always too short.
  • Buildings fall sideways when they collapse.
  • Roland's main characters always escape in the absolute nick of time.
  • When you're role is over in a Roland movie, you are instantly expendable.

How many times did planes in that movie escape within 12 inches of hitting buildings? How lucky was John Cusack's character while driving a car? Ok, ok I'll stop with that now. I am not sure why anyone else in the movie had to die once they all reached the arc ships. I don't think John's character tried nearly as hard enough to save his ex wife's husband either. He needs to be brought up on charges...

Like I said earlier for all it's shallowness it wasn't as bad as I had heard. Have the reviewers never seen the American Godzilla movie?

One final mention is the Blu Ray aspect to the movie. It was great. The details of collapsing cities and people and cars flying about looked fantastic. This is one of those movies high definition was made for. If you remember my blog post about VHS being popular to horror fans for adding an element of nasty darkness to viewing something that is nasty and dark, 2012 is just the opposite and is better with a high definition viewing.

There is a great website that lists most disaster films that have ever been made. Check it out.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Data Backup Plan - Thanks to donors

by Nathan Stout (of AccordingToWhim.com)

Ok, we are set.

Say goodbye to data disasters for once and all. After all the incidents with the different hard drive crashes and data loss we have had here at According To Whim we now have a nice data back plan in place.

Say hello to the new home of According To Whim (and everything else). This is Sans Digital's 4 bay raid tower. I purchased this from NewEgg along with 4 Hitachi DeskStar 1 terabyte drives. Once I install the drives and apply the Raid 5 settings we will have 2.7 terabytes of storage with redundant data protection. That is to say that if one of the drives fail the data is not lost. I can replace that drive and the data will be rebuilt on that drive restoring full functionality across all 4 drives.

This along with the new Blu-Ray burner will ensure that no more data is lost. Once the equipment arrives and I get it installed we can start on Season 2 again. We have a ten week goal for finishing up Episode 3 so I will need to get on the ball ASAP. Our ten week ends October 3rd.

I still have the 1 terabyte Western Digital Caviar Green drive (the drive that crashed with all that data on it) sitting in my desk. I can't bring myself to throw it away. I am hoping one day the data can somehow be recovered.

Thanks to those who gave money to our project! Those people will have their names in the credits of all Season 2 and Season 3 episodes. All this equipment ($600.00+) wasn't completely covered by donors so you can still give to this project! Just click here and you too can get your names on the remaining 10 episodes!

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Meet the New Ten Weeks, Same as the Old Ten Weeks

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Well folks, it is new ten weeks time again. I’m not sure that I really want to waste everybody’s time by listing all of our goals again, since they look so much like the last go round, and the go round before that. Yeah, we sort of suck at this. Oh well chin up. Not you. Me. I’m at work, and I don’t want to nod off and fall asleep.

So what’s going to be different this time? I’m pretty sure life didn’t call and say that it would back off for a while so that we could get some stuff done. So what then? Just trying to figure out the magic formula for goal attainment.

If I had to guess, it’s just simply controlling what you can control. I know that the biggest issue that I ever have is that when I have time that is simply mine to do with however I want, I don’t use that time wisely. Sadly, I have an abundance of that time, when I really examine my life. Maybe that’s what will be different. Maybe I’ll recognize my time as my time, and use it well. I really have nothing important to do between now and October 3, 2010. Well, there are a few things, but those things are on my list of goals, so they’ll be taken care of. Important things can be taken care of, but when I’m not taking care of important things, I have time that is mine, and I need to treat it as time that is mine.

I feel like ten weeks from now, I’ll be standing up like some sort of 12-step program. I’ll stand up, say my name, and then say, “I’m ten-weeks straight as not goofing off goes.” I’ll still be using a false name though, even though we’re not supposed to talk about anything that is said in group, outside of group. I’m thinking something like Chris. That’s a good alias.

Those of you who are eagerly awaiting me posting up “Two Hundred and Counting,” which I think consists of me, it’s obviously running late. This last go round (if “go round” was the word of the day we be screaming and having a good ol’ time) we wrote some pretty sizable posts. I’m getting through about two posts a half hour. I’ve estimated that I still have about nine hours worth of work. All for one post. Maybe I’m crazy. But in spite of it taking so long, I’ve had a good time reading and reviewing. I just wish I had gotten started a little sooner. As of this writing, there is not a post up for Monday, but as soon as I’m done with the reviews, it will be up there.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Game Review Week: 7/7 - Chris Reviews a Surprise Game

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

I’ve been alluding to my review of this game all week, and now it is time for Nathan to roll his eyes. I am talking about a game known as “Butts Up.” What a fantastic game!

Butts Up is one of those games that you play with neighbourhood kids when you are a neighbourhood kid. It’s not too dissimilar to a hybrid of Racquetball and Dodgeball. One segment idea that I’ve always had for the show that will probably ever get done, because (well, aside from it being my idea, and not Miguel or Nathan’s idea) it would be a little complicated to organize. The idea is to organize a local Butts Up tournament and tape it. So here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to explain the rules of the game as I remember them, and whoever is feeling industrious can tape a tournament. At which point you will post it to You Tube, become an overnight sensation, and get a contract with some cable station or another that likes reality programming. When you’re interviewed about the key to your success, I want you to say, “The key to my success is that it was Chris’s idea, not Miguel or Nathan’s idea, and since it was never done, I did it.”

For Butt’s Up you need a tennis ball or racquetball, the side of a building, and a group of people. The size of the group doesn’t matter, but I recommend 2 or more, leaning toward the 4 to 8 range.

It doesn’t really matter who starts the game, but if you’d like to find some sort of official way, go ahead. For a group, possibly the easiest way (other than somebody, who can’t believe you talked them into this, having a 20-sided die) is to tell everybody to choose heads or tails, then split into two groups, and flip a coin. The people in the losing group don’t participate in the next flip. Do this until there is only one person remaining. Obviously, if you have two people, one has to choose heads and one has to choose tails, or they can’t split into two groups.

The player who starts the game, throws the ball against the wall, and the ball will bounce back. If the ball doesn’t bounce back, replace the ball. The object is for a player to catch the ball one handed, and throw it against the wall again from the same spot the player caught it. If no player catches it, any player may pick the ball up from where it lands. It’s pretty simple, until player doesn’t catch the ball or it doesn’t hit the wall.

If the ball touches a player, and then touches the ground, they have to run to the wall. This can happen when the ball bounces from the wall, and hits a player. It can also happen if a player tries to catch it, and drops it. It can happen if a player tries to pick it up from a sitting position, and drops it. This can happen if a player accidentally kicks it in a sitting position. Basically, almost anyway in which the makes contact with a player, and then touches the ground.

This includes if a player throws the ball, and it hits the ground before it hits the wall. Remember, once a player catches the ball, that player has to throw it from where they caught it, or where they stumbled to as long as it’s clear it was a real stumble. If the ball has bounced particularly far from the wall, hitting the wall may be difficult, and a player may have to run to the wall.

Exception #1: If the ball touches a player, and another player catches it before it hits the ground, the player touched by the ball still has to run to the wall. In short, if the ball touches a player, and does not end up in that player’s hand, that player should start running to the wall.

Exception #2: If a player catches the ball with two hands, and any other player yells, “Two hands!” the player must drop the ball, and run to the wall.

Before the next exception, let me explain what happens when a player must run to the wall. The running player has to touch the wall before another player hits them with the ball. There can be more than one player running to the wall at the same time. The ball can bounce off two players and hit the ground. A player picking up the ball to peg a running player may drop it. A player might try to peg a running player, missing both the running player and the wall.

Exception #3: If a player pegs a player running to the wall, the game pauses. They do not have to run to the wall, because they hit the running player. The running player no longer has to run to the wall, because they have already suffered the penalty. I’ll explain the penalty system in a moment.

The way we played the game, players were not to interfere with a player throwing to the wall. Basically, a player can’t catch the ball to keep it from getting to the wall, and then peg the thrower. Further, if the player throwing to the wall hits another player accidentally, the throwing player must run to the wall, and the player accidentally hit does not. Since the hit player is closer to the wall, they will probably peg the throwing player who is now the running player.

We had no rule against intentionally pegging somebody while trying to throw to the wall, because nobody did it, but if you wish to make one to avoid an issue feel free. I don’t know what a reasonable rule would be, so hopefully you don’t have any dickheads. I would presume that more than a couple of clearly intentional violations could result in expulsion from the game if somebody is just being a jerk.

When a player has been occasioned to run to the wall and another player pegs the running player before they touch the wall, the running player who was pegged is assigned a penalty point. (Note: If a player makes it to the wall and then is pegged soon after, the player trying to peg them needs to get running to the wall, unless the ball miraculously still hits the wall before it hits the ground.) When a player has three penalty points, that player has to stand back from the wall, and bend over to place their hands on the wall. This is called “going butt up.” Each of the other players gets one free shot, from a pre-designated spot, to throw the ball and hit the player who has gone butt up in the butt. Misses do not require the free throw player to run to the wall. They are already penalized by not getting to humiliate the player who has gone butt up.

In a freeform game, the penalty points of the player who has gone butt up go to zero, and that player rejoins the game. In a tournament, I presume a player who has gone butt up is now eliminated. I’ve never organized a tournament, so I don’t know if it’s better to do an elimination game each time, or to assign points to different actions with a scorekeeper nearby in a timed game, or for elimination to occur after more than one time that a player has gone butt up. I presume that it’s best to do elimination after the first time a player goes butt up.

If you’re playing casually then each player can be a referee, and just don’t argue the small stuff. If you are playing for a prize pool, I would get a couple of referees, and somebody to keep a verification of penalty points.

I’ve heard of Dodgeball leagues, and honestly, Dodgeball is a great game, but the truth is I would rather play Butts Up any day. It is such a fun and involved game, with a touch of humiliation thrown in. If I were the host of a critique show called, “At the Sports Games,” I would give this game an enthusiastic Butt Up. That was obvious, wasn’t it?

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Game Review Week: 6/7 - The Mad Magazine Game with Special Guest Facts in Five

by Miguel Cruz of AccordingToWhim.com

Nathan asked me to write a review for a game I liked, and I offered up the Mad Magazine Game and Facts in Five. Nathan was intrigued by the Mad Magazine Game, so that's what I'm going with. The problem is that it's been easily 15 years since I've actually played the game, and I have a fleeting recollection of the specifics. All I'm left with is the fact that the game was fun to play, and that it's primary objective was to be the first person to lose all your money. In that way, it seemed to be designed as a parody of sorts to Monopoly, a game I can't recall actually ever liking. For me, Monopoly usually ends with me growing increasingly bored, and giving up in order to escape the tedium. So in a way, the fact that Mad Magazine has a primary objective that is the opposite of Monopoly's is similar to the fact that my interest in Mad is the opposite of my interest in Monopoly.

Since I couldn't actually remember all the specifics of Mad, I had to do some "research" which amounts to me looking up the game online and, ummm, reporting on what they said (sort of like plagiarism).

http://www.brikkerogbrett.com/games/mad.shtml

So I will describe the game using very similar phraseology (identical) as on the above referenced site. That's just coincidence. It's something called parallel thinking. When you're talking about the same subject. every so often you come up with very similar wordings and word orders.

"In MAD you throw the dice with the left hand and moves around the board counter clockwiseWhen it is a players turn he throws the dice, moves his counter and follows the instructions for the square he lands on. Some squares will influent all players, others just the player who landed on it. Examples of squares:

* Switch money with the player to the right
* Move four squares back
* You lose 1000 bucks if all players sit. If one stands, you win 2000

If a player lands on a "Pick a card"-square, he draws a "What Now?"-card and follow the instructions. Examples of "What Now?"-cards:

* If you can make the player on your left laugh, you'll lose 1000 bucks
* Switch place with any other player of your choice
* Stand up and pretend to be your favorite pet. If you can do this lose 2000 bucks"

And just like the author of that article, I also "remember the game as quite funny, and there were always a wild chaos of people changing money and changing seats. " I hope the guy who wrote that isn't like Nathan. One of Nathan's favorite sites on the www, Wikipedia, has a pretty detailed description of some of the gameplay cards. Here is a sampling:

"If you can jump up and stay airborne for 37 seconds, you can lose $5000. If not, jump up and lose $500."

"Put this card on top of your head and walk around the table backwards. If it doesn't fall off before you sit down, you lose $1000."

Speaking of Wikipedia, I can use that as a seque to just go ahead and talk about Facts in Five. Here's a description according to Board Game Geek since I also have a fleeting memory of the specifics of that game also.

"Five cards are drawn. Each card contains a "class" and a list of "categories". A category is selected for each class and the players and five letter tiles are drawn. The players have 5 minutes to come up with an example that begins with each letter for each class/category."

The fundamental flaw with this game, at least when we first picked it up in 1987, was that there was no way to verify answers. I got fucked out of an answer that I now know to have been true. One of the categories was American authors. I had an A, and the name that popped into my head was Isaac Asimov. Mind you, I had no idea really who he was. Just a name that I had heard, and pulled it out for this game. My mom rejected the answer saying that Asimov was not an American author. With that name he was clearly Russian. Of course, I just assumed she was correct, and stood idly by while I lost a point for an answer that just so happened to be largely correct. Asimov was born in Russia, but came to the U.S. when he was three.

A couple of years later, during another game, I hit upon the logical fallacy of argumentum ad populum. One of my answers was challenged. So my mother decided to call for a vote. Everyone raised their hands agreeing that my answer was not true. In that scenario, I was much more certain of the correctness of my answer, so I angrily yelled, "If you all voted that George Washington wasn't the first president that doesn't make it so." If only I had known that nifty little Latin phrase at the time that might have dazzled them even further. But for the time being I think my hostility might have had more sway in letting me keep my point than a real appeal to reason.

The point being that now if such a question arose during a game, it's easy to check on it. Okay, we all know that since Wikipedia is edited by anyone who wants to edit it, all information on it is clearly false. But at least it's a safer bet than having to fact check with your retarded friends.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Game Review Week: 5/7 - Key Harvest

by Nathan Stout and Chris McGinty of AccordingToWhim.com

CHRIS: Well, well a joint blog. Groovy. I didn't even know we were doing a joint blog today. And on game review week! I wonder what we're going to cover. Maybe we'll discuss Magic: The Gathering and how Nathan can't stand it. I can do a sub review of Magic Online. Maybe we'll discuss our days playing Roller Coaster Tycoon, and all the themed theme parks we made. Maybe we'll the discuss the various dice games, the card games, the board games, or even the bored games we've played. So Nathan, what are we doing today?

NATHAN: This joint blog will give you the rundown on Rio Grande's game Key Harvest. No, you don't collect keys or anything like that. Key is used in the sense that the harvest is important.

CHRIS: Oh, Key Harvest! Wait, I'm confused. Hey, Nathan?

NATHAN: I picked up Key Harvest when Amazon had this crazy super duper sale. It wasn't really Amazon's sale, it was one of Amazon's sellers. In case you have been in the digital dark all this time, Amazon sells stuff, and Amazon lets others sell stuff though their website. It all looks seemless until you read the details of the item you are looking at. Did you know Amazon was started in someone's garage? Key Harvest was 15.00 so I snatched it up. Key Harvest was made in 2007 and is for 2-4 players. BoardGameGeek.com rates it at 516th on their board game rating system.




CHRIS: Nice picture. Hey Nathan, we seem to have done a review of this before. And I understand that you asked me to do Net Runner this week, when you already did a review of Net Runner, but I could give different perspective. The problem is that we already did a review of Key Harvest on May 9, 2010... and it was a joint blog. What happened? I could have just pushed my surprise game review up from Sunday to today, since I only really had two chances to mention it anyway. What do you have to say about this, Nathan?

NATHAN: The focus of Key Harvest is to bid and buy fields in order to create the largest fields and score the most points. Each player is given a cardboard matrix with hexagonal spaces and numbers on it. Each turn some randomly picked fields are put up for bid, and players bid (or not) to buy the field and place in the corresponding space on their matrix. Players attempt to fill in their matrix with fields that are adjacent to each other (thus creating larger fields). At the end of the game (which is determined when a certain amount of special tiles are drawn) the points for fields are calculated and the winner is declared. That is it in a nutshell, and I have left out a lot of detail, but that is the BASIC idea behind the game. There are other special aspects that help you or slow your opponent down, and I didn't even get into the way you generate money for the bidding process.

CHRIS: Right. I was actually asking what you thought about the fact that we've done a joint blog before. Let's see here's the list of reviews from the Monday review:

Monday - Clue Mysteries
Tuesday - NetRunner
Wednesday - Rockettville
Thursday - Mastermind
Friday - Key Harvest
Saturday - Mad Magazine/ Facts In Five
Sunday - Chris's Surprise Game Review

Yep, there it is. Friday - Key Harvest. I figured that would change when I pointed out that we had done a joint blog before. Nathan?

NATHAN: Key Harvest is about making money and bidding. It's not called money, it doesn't even look like money. Colored wooden pegs are used. They represent what is produced from your fields. For instance yellow pegs represent wheat. So a wheat field can produce wheat for you to bid and pay for fields that come up at auction.

CHRIS: Since you're being so responsive, I went to our private newgroup, and I found that you wrote this: "... but I will need your camera to do it with. I MIGHT be able to do it with my camera though." I'm not sure what that means, but I want copies.

I also found that you wrote this: "You said we were going to be doing a joint Key Harvest blog for today. I did my half of it (it's in there)." No, I said that we already did one. This explains why you just keep going on with your review no matter what I say.

NATHAN: Some of the aspects of strategy I have seen are outbidding your opponent and buying a field he or she really needed, but this will eat your resources and you end up with a useless field. Also there are several 'worker' tiles that you can purchase that will give you various advantages over your opponent. Another bit of strategy is to have one large field of smaller adjacent fields and one slightly smaller field and little to no other fields. You will get more points for having larger fields (as opposed to having several smaller ones).

CHRIS: Uh-huh. Yeah, it is a good game, though we haven't played it since the last review. I remember the rules were a little confusing for me at first, but once I got a hang of it I enjoyed. Oh... Oh!!! Here's the problem, not the problem with the game, but the problem with why we're reviewing it again.

I wrote on the private newsgroup: "Hey Nathan, we review Key Harvest as a joint blog. I saw that you had put it down as one of your reviews." That sounds like I'm giving a command that we do the review as a joint blog. All because I missed a suffix. Sigh. Communication is Key.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Game Review Week: 4/7 - Mastermind

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

This is a game that was introduced to me as a kid. My mother, God rest her soles (she’s not dead, but she deserves to put her feet up and relax after raising me) tended to buy us games to play, because she liked buying things. What would tend to happen is that we would do a family game night when we first got a game, and then it would usually be my brother and I playing the games after that. As a quick side note, I’m probably one of the few people in existence that can say that my dad ran us through the adventure in the Dungeons & Dragons Basic Set the first time we played it on family game night. My parents were cool enough to buy the game, and then to play the game with us once. They, however, were not cool enough to play it after that. My brother and I played it a lot though. A lot.

My family never played my surprise game review, which I will post on Sunday, yeah I’m still talking about it, though I think it would be more effective if: I could bring it up more than twice during the week, if we had a broad readership, and if I got my posts in on time. Oh well, it’s mild fun to do this anyway.

As I remember it, Mastermind was a game my dad picked out. It was also a game that we played frequently enough together. Nothing like you see in the movies where the lead man with the hard shell, who is pushing the lead female away with his abrasiveness, turns out to have a close bond with his father (who is sort of wacky for comic relief) and they get together every week to play Mastermind, as they’ve done since the lead man was a child. Nothing like that. But we played it enough that I associate the game more with my dad than my brother, which is a rarity.

The basic idea behind the game is that one player creates a 4-character code from coloured code pegs. The other player then uses the same code pegs to guess the code. The code maker then places smaller key pegs next to the guess. One key peg indicates a code peg of the correct colour in the correct postion. The other key peg indicates a code peg of the correct colour in the wrong position. The code breaker has ten guesses, and points are assigned to the code maker based on how many guesses the code breaker had to use. Like in Net Runner, the players switch roles, and play again. What I have told you is a simple version of the game. You can click here to see Pressman’s official instructions. A quick note: When playing Net Runner you are an active participant no matter what side you’re playing. This may be the one down side of this game (or any game like it or Hangman) which is that as the code maker, you are not active in the game after creating your code.

The reason I chose this game is a combination of enjoying logical games, and the fact that it is an easy game to play without buying. I know. How has the gaming industry survived putting out games that can be played without a purchase? They should start coming after people who play Hangman without an official set.

According to Wikipedia (sigh) there is a little bit of history behind the game. Who knows? Even Wikipedia makes it sound a bit speculative. Mastermind. Bulls and Cows.

This is one of those games that if you are a parent, you should teach your child soon after they’ve become good at Hangman. It’s a great game because all you need is paper and a writing utensil. Even if your child joins a gang, they can use a wall on private property and a spray can.

The version I learned on paper is like this. The code maker writes down a 4-character code using digits from 0 to 9, and the code breaker makes guesses using the same range of digits. You can use X’s and O’s, or zeroes and ones, or whatever to indicate correct digit/wrong position or correct digit/correct position. Just be clear before starting the game which is which.

Not to knock Pressman. I love their game, and I would recommend that everyone who likes logic games to own a copy. I do like the pencil and paper version better though, because it has flexibility.

- You can make the range smaller like using the digits 1 to 6 instead.
- You can also increase the range like using the digits 0 to 9 as well as the 26 letters of the alphabet.
- The length of the code doesn’t have to be 4-characters. It can be as short or as long as you’d like.
- You can increase or decrease the number of guesses the code breaker gets.
- You can play a Hangman/Mastermind variant in which the code uses only letters of the alphabet, and must be a valid word in an agreed upon language.

So all you code makers and breakers out there, either make or break what either your mama or your dad gave ya! Let’s get logical, and play.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Game Review Week: 3/7 - Rocketville

By Nathan Stout of AccordingToWhim.com

Government... it's all about politics and campaigning. Do you need to know anything to be in government? Heck no. All you need is to be able to campaign well.

Rocketville was made by Avalon Hill in 2006. The designer was none other than Richard Garfield! It is for 3-5 players and will take you about an hour to play.

Rocketville is a game where players campaign to become Mayor of Rocketville! Chris was uber-excited because when I first told him about this game he thought I said 'Rockville' and he was all 'yeah, a game finally made for me' but then I told him it was about campaigning and NOT about growing your hair out long so he simmered down. Not really but it was a neat little story.

BACK to the game. That's pretty much it. You campaign in order to become the mayor. As in real life you become mayor by being more popular than your opponents. The board is divided into a grid with a popularity trail along the outside (in order to keep track of each player's popularity). The players move about the grid and 'bid' to win that grid square. Some grid squares give you popularity points (you move your token forward on the popularity trail) and some give you special cards, while other make you lose popularity.

Once all the grid square have been bid 'on' (played) then the game is over and you calculate all the additional popularity points. This final tally of points is where the game can take a twist and someone who no one suspected to win can pull ahead and become mayor.

The bid aspect is the focus of the game play. Each player gets cards that have numbers (and colors) on them. There are a few different colors as well as white 'generic' cards. Each player secretly bids on the grid square (or 'neighborhood') by using the cards in their hand. Then all players reveal their bid and the highest number wins. Each of the neighborhoods are different colors so colored cards always beat out generic white cards. So if you play a brown 3 on a brown neighborhood and your opponent plays a white 35 then you win because your card matches the color of the neighborhood (so you get precedent). All those cards are then thrown away.

Whoever wins a neighborhood then decides which space to move next and all players begin the whole bid process again. Each player also has a Campaign Planning card which they play during the bid process and reveal just like a normal bid. That card allows you to draw a card instead of participate in the bid for that neighborhood.



Each of the neighborhoods are collected in groups (or parts of town) and at the end of the game when the final tally of popularity points are calculated whoever won the majority of neighborhoods in that part of town gets extra popularity points.

There is quite a bit of strategy to this game once you get the hang of it. You have to balance getting popularity points with getting bids in the right neighborhoods.

There are also some extra cards called Endorser cards which can be a blessing or a curse if you happen to get one. Finally there are Robot cards that can give you some last minute popularity points at the final tally.

I think Richard Garfield and the artists who worked on this game must have been watching Futurama when they came up with the look for Rocketville. Chris calls it 'Futurama the Board Game'. It really does have a Futurama look to it. The flavor text on the cards is very funny as well and should be read whenever possible. They are all campaign promise themed such as:

"Free baby clone with the delivery of each baby."

No one seems to be a die hard fan of Rocketville but it is simple to play and can be fun as well. You can pick it up pretty cheap from various online retailers. Here is the link to Wizards of the Coast's Rocketville page.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Game Review Week: 2/7 - Net Runner

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

It is Game Review week here on the ATW Daily Blog. No need to click a link. You’re already here… presumably.

For my first review, I have not chosen Net Runner, but Nathan requested it, so I’m all on it. (sorry I had to use a link to Wikipedia, but the Wizards of the Coast page is no longer there, not that it had much on it to begin with.) Net Runner is a Collectible Card Game (CCG) better than, but not as well known as, Magic: The Gathering, Pokemon, and Yu-Gi-Oh.

The game was created by Richard Garfield, who created Magic: The Gathering (MTG). He also created Rocketville, a board game that Nathan is reviewing this week. As far as I know, he had nothing to do with the surprise game I will review on Sunday. I guess you never know though.

That’s right; I have a surprise game to review on Sunday. Mostly, because I wanted to be able to write my reviews this week without the sound of Nathan’s eyes rolling distracting me, because his eyes are totally going to roll.

Net Runner was the first CCG I played, and I was immediately hooked to the concept. It is also the best CCG I’ve played. While I understand and appreciate that MTG is the longest standing game of its nature, and while I respect its game play, Net Runner simply was a better designed game at its core. I believe that Garfield took what he learned from the design of MTG, and avoided making many of the same mistakes. Net Runner is a very balanced game, with a few exceptions, which is hard to manage with cards that change the conditions of the game just by being played.

If you are at all familiar with the cyberpunk genre, then what I now say will make sense. If not then I apologize. In Net Runner, one player plays a Runner, who uses online and real world people, places, and things (represented by the cards in play) to liberate data from the Corp. The Corp protects this data by using Ice and Upgrades for Net protection, and private detectives and mercenaries to trace Runners in the real world (again, represented by cards in play).

What still makes this game unique to this day is that the player playing the Runner uses an entirely different set of cards than the player playing the Corp. Unlike other CCGs out there, Net Runner doesn’t tend to get bogged down in a contest of who plays their copy of a specific card first. This is not to say that tournaments never became a contest of who could collect which broken set of rares. I’ve read articles that show as much. What I’m saying is that as a player you had to become knowledgeable in two distinct styles of play. And while you could build decks that overpowered your opponent, what you couldn’t do is rely on learning one style of play. If your opponent showed up with a comparable deck playing against you in a role you were not so good at, you couldn’t rely on your combos to win you the game.

Now, I’m not sure which way to go with this article really, because I could write a book on Net Runner (yeah, you heard me Matthews). So I thought I’d deal with something I’ve been thinking about lately. Design space.

There are a number of reasons given why Net Runner was discontinued when it was: notions that the cyberpunk theme appealed to a narrow audience; that the artwork was too abstract, that playing two different sets of cards was too expensive and too confusing. I’ve recently been wondering about design space though.

I read an MTG column by a man named Mark Rosewater about the design of Magic. I started reading him a long while back when I was interested in designing a Virtual Expansion (VE) for Net Runner. A VE is a set of cards that aren’t officially printed by the company who publishes the game. For a non-card game, a VE obviously would use different parts than cards, but for our purposes here today...
If you are interested in Net Runner, and/or the work we've done on the VE, click here and join our Yahoo! Group.

I’ve continued reading Rosewater over the years, and continued trying to create a VE for Net Runner. What I’ve realized is that while Nathan sings the praises of Net Runner being a near perfect, well balanced game; it may just be too perfect. I wonder how many new cards were really in the game. The two official expansions failed to capture the excitement of players, and the same can be said of the VEs out there. In our own designing it’s been tough to find cards that were fun and simultaneously not too much more powerful than the official cards.

With MTG they kept these things controlled by having a format of play that only allowed the most recent expansions to be played. I’m sure Net Runner could have done the same thing. But how much of the new sets would be rehash of old sets? Eventually, Net Runner would unbalance the way that Magic did. The individual expansions might be balanced, but cards that we consider great now would be pushed out as better cards came in. That’s probably inevitable in any CCG.

I do want to say that Net Runner could have maintained a balance in formats. There is an unofficial format known as Neal's Draconian Banned List. It is simply a list of cards that tended to see more play than others, and you are not allowed to use those cards in your deck. What this did was change the way that the game was played among people who had been playing a while, and had all their go to cards memorized. It’s not too dissimilar to Highlander in Magic (only one copy of any card, except Basic Lands, in your deck) or Pauper in Magic (you may only use commons in your deck.) So the same could certainly be said if Net Runner was using only recent expansions for a format.

What concerned me was the idea that maybe there weren’t as many ways to expand on the game as there should be. The Repeat Intrusion Patterns (RIP) VE seemed like a good idea, but the Ice cards relied too heavily on other Ice cards from the same expansion, which made using them in non-RIP decks not very appealing. But that’s a VE you say. Well, the Bad Publicity mechanic from the official Proteus expansion) ran into many of the same problems. If you weren’t building your deck around Bad Publicity, having a Bad Publicity card was almost a loss. I believe this to be because you were often penalized to achieve BP (hmmm, ironic) points. If you weren’t going for a Bad Publicity win, you didn’t want to use those cards.

I guess what I’m saying is that I wonder if one of the factors that contributed to Net Runner’s demise is that nobody really knew where to take the game after the first set. The first set plays almost perfectly, and any official expansion or VE that has come along since has seemed to fail in comparison. With Magic it was something they had to push past, because the game was so profitable for them, but Net Runner wasn’t showing the same motivation. You see, there are those who believed Alpha (Magic’s first set) to be the perfect collection of cards. Magic pushed ahead though, and they have done many things of interest since then.

Since my moment of doubt, I have asked myself a few questions about how to solve the issues that I believe Net Runner has as a game that is very well designed, but had very little time to grow. Using a banned list similar to Draconian for use with VEs is one such way to keep people from comparing cards to each other. Creating Bad Publicity cards that are useful even in a deck not based around Bad Publicity is a good way for it to see play. The introduction of new card types, better use of keywords, or better use of the different game zones are all ways to create new and interesting cards. I still believe the game could have been carried on. I just wonder if it was too hard to see where it might have gone. Maybe it does have less design space than other games like it, but it’s a game that I think was good enough to try.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Game Review Week: 1/7 - Clue: The Great Museum Caper

by Nathan Stout from AccordingToWhim.com

Welcome to Game Board Review Week here on the According To Whim Blog. We have chosen seven of our favorite games to review and tell you about. Here is the layout for the week in case you will be interested in reading more!
  • Monday - Clue Mysteries
  • Tuesday - NetRunner
  • Wednesday - Rockettville
  • Thursday - Mastermind
  • Friday - Key Harvest
  • Saturday - Mad Magazine/ Facts In Five
  • Sunday - Chris's Surprise Game Review

Today I will be covering "Clue: The Great Museum Caper." Unless you are an avid game board player, you might not have heard of this entry into the Clue series of games.

Released in 1991 "Clue: The Great Museum Caper" arrived and quickly vanished off the scene, even though it was awarded a place in the 1991 Mensa Select list of board games.



Perhaps this Clue game wasn't as popular because no one gets knifed or bludgeoned in it. That's right, there are no murders here, just theft. "Clue: The Great Museum Caper" is about the theft of famous paintings out of the Body Museum. Yes, Mr. Body had a museum.

Players choose one of the Clue characters, or they choose the thief. The Clue characters move about the museum trying to land on (and thus capture) the thief, while the thief moves about and tries to steal famous paintings without getting caught. Sounds simple enough, but there are a few twists thrown in.

  1. The thief is invisible (until spotted).
  2. The thief can thwart the characters and their ability to locate him.
  3. The thief can escape at any time and win (as long as he has stolen at least 3 paintings).

The games runs thusly: The characters place locks on the windows and exits to the 3D museum board (some locks are unlocked and some are locked, only they know). Then the characters place several surveillance cameras in strategic locations in hopes of catching the thief later. Finally, the characters place the works of art and themselves in the museum. Once done, the player who is the thief denotes all the locations of the art and cameras on a pad he keeps hidden behind a screen. He then writes down where he is 'at' on the pad.

That's right, only the thief knows where the thief is at any given time, so if your buddies are no-good liars you might not let them play as the thief. The thief gets three spaces to move each turn. They denote where they moved on their pad, and then the player's characters move by rolling a die. The thief can even move through character spaces (he just can't end his turn on them).

Now some of the fun comes from the extra die rolled by the characters. It has several symbols on it, including a camera and an eye. The player rolls the die with the movement die, and when certain symbols come up, they get extra actions to preform. One of the actions is the ability to use the cameras they placed at the first of the game. They can specify if a particular camera can see the thief. If it has this helps narrow down where the thief is on the board. Another symbol stands for a motion sensor, and the player can ask on what color tile the thief is on. This will also narrow down where the thief is at, however the thief has a couple of chances to 'cut' the motion sensor wires and decline to answer. The thief can also disable the cameras as well or even cut the power to the building (by visiting a special square on the board). These things will slow the characters down in their search for the thief.

The thief's main goal is the theft of as many of the works of art as possible (with a minimum of 3) and to escape the building (through a window or door). The player who is the thief will end his turn (on a space with a painting) and on the next turn (after they have moved) they remove the painting off the game board and keep it. This lets the players know a painting has been stolen and narrows the location of the thief.

Like I stated earlier the thief if invisible until he is spotted by a character or a camera. The other symbol on the extra die allows for a character to look (within it's line of sight) and see if they can spot the thief. If they can see the thief (aka the thief is on a space that is horizontal or vertical to the character's pawn, any distance away) he becomes visible and the player must place the thief pawn on the game board. There is no going back to being invisible once you are spotted. At this point its brown trousers time for the thief, as he must work fast to steal more paintings and escape.

Once a thief has a minimum of three paintings, he moves to an exit (a window or door) and tries the lock. A player flips the lock over, and it shows if the exit is locked or unlocked. If locked he must move to another exit and try that lock, if its unlocked he moves out and the round ends. If a thief is caught (one of the other player's pawns ends a turn on the space where the thief is) then the player playing the thief loses.

The next player is now the thief. All paintings and cameras are replaced, and the game is played again. Whoever gets out of the museum with the most stolen paintings is the winner.

This game has elements similar to "Scotland Yard" (the invisible player motif) and will run you about thirty minutes per round. Chris and I have enjoyed this game several times, but often we get busted before even getting the minimum 3 paintings. It is a challenging game, but I think the whole invisible player concept will confuse younger players. If you are wanting to teach someone "Scotland Yard," this might be the place to start. It has a much simpler board and has the same 'invisible' game theme.

The board itself is injected molded plastic, and has a lot of nice little details. I really like 3D game boards, and I think this is one of the best. If you want to see my review of this game check it out on YouTube here.

Strategy: Here are few strategy points that Chris and I have tried (with varying success).

  • Don't go after the paintings right away, knock out as many cameras as possible.
  • Cut the power to keep the characters on the move.
  • Shadow the characters, they won't expect that.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

A Varied Phone Conversation with Miguel

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

Late Sunday night, the night this should have been posted and why it is in this slot, I had a phone conversation with Miguel. We kept saying, "That would be a good blog topic." After the conversation, I decided to try to track the course of the conversation as a means to make notes for future blog posts.

The week of July 19 to July 25, 2010, will be a theme week: Game Reviews. July 26, 2010, will be my "Two Hundred and Counting" article reviewing posts # 101 to 200. Beyond that you may very well expect to see some of the following talking points become topics for blog posts. The following is what I wrote after Miguel and I finally hug up the phone:

I just spoke with Miguel. Our conversation went all over the place. I’ll write the various topics in a form of bullet points here.

- Ratt lyrics and the band Enuff Z’ Nuff
- Is Z’ Nuff a real name, odd spelling of names from immigration papers
- Adam Carola has relatives named Carolo
- An explanation of how the posts I've written about "The Last Action Hero" led to Nathan talking about how easy it is for him to write a movie review right after he watched a movie
- The idea for joint movie reviews for the blog
- People who should stay together and people who should split
- The movie review thing again
- Death Proof
- Barbarella
- Titanic and Lord of the Rings
- Did Kevin Smith think up the LotR rant on the spot or was it already in his head?
- You know what stories get a laugh from people, so if you were in front of a group of people, you would know what stories you could tell
- Jerry Lee Lewis married his 13 year old cousin, and that just still seems icky.
- The LotR rant (reprise)
- Examples from ATW audio show of things we talked about before as opposed to things that were truly impromptu
- Russ Martin is on the Eagle
- People who worked for Russ Martin hate Russ Martin because he made a ton of money but didn’t buy them lunch
- It’s his money, liberal, he’s not obligated to buy their lunch
- That’s not what I’m saying, it was just the straw that broke the camel’s back, I’ll send you the link
- Dan Lewis and Jonathan Dodge, what was real on that show and who were made up characters
- These guys from another show got fired and explained a lot of what went on behind the scenes at 105.3, I’ll send you the link
- Some of the calls weren’t real so they could discuss other topics
- I gotta go to bed, I work in the morning, I’ll send you the link
- What is your email, I’ll just post it to the newsgroup
- The difference between on screen/on air persona and real life personality
- Jeff Anderson and [Dante] aren’t friends in real life
- While Kevin Smith and Jason Mewes are best friends, Smith probably does most of his creative work with Scott Mosier
- We met at JA and twenty years later I’m still keeping you up when you need to go to bed, but other folks I’ve worked with where we seem like best friends just disappear when we no longer work together,
- Abbot and Costello didn’t get along too well, and probably many of the duo teams didn’t
- Danny Devito plays seedy jerks ,but is probably a very nice guy based on how often he works with people again, and based on his long standing marriage with Rhea Pearlman
- I really gotta go to bed.

I may be missing something in there, but that’s most of what I remember. Miguel, if there is anything else add it below. (or put it in the comments section, since this isn't a draft)

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Why Would I Want to Be Most Disgust?

by Chris McGinty (According To Whim .com)

While we were talking with Miguel recently, he suggested that I find You Tube videos that have a lot of views, and write about why I think they have a lot of views. Now whether this was a real suggestion, or Miguel’s way of keeping us busy even though he doesn’t care about the results, I saw it as a reasonable suggestion.

The first video I would like to deal with was part of my research of increasing views. This is Cory "Mr. Safety" Williams from SMP Films. In this video he discusses getting views on You Tube. I think I believe what he says, because he claims to have “over 75 MILLION views and 175000 SUBSCRIBERS.”
The ALLCAPS are his. Sorry.

One of the first things he talks about is something that will make Nathan smile, doing tutorial videos. Nathan has wanted to do some tutorial videos for a while, and it’s one of those things that have never officially made it to a ten weeks goals list.

The video is about twelve minutes long, and if you are concerned about getting views on You Tube, you can invest that time. If you’re not that worried about it, but are curious what he says, here are some of the points.

He talks about subscribers only accounting for so many of the views you get, but that having subscribers can get you an initial barrage of comments, which can land you on the “Most Discussed” list.

He talks about something that I’ve been on about for years, which is collaboration on videos with others in order to bring their audience to you for a moment at least. I was always saying that we should become our own media by interviewing people and bands, and by that means we could bring people to our website. We flirted with the idea when we taped the Poet’s Alliance of North Texas for public access, and I have taped a couple of bands in my time. It’s still not something that we ever fully explored.

So he’s said something relevant to Nathan, and then something relevant to me. What about Miguel? Oh yeah! Miguel for whatever reason likes to get into fights with assholes in the comments section. They come along and say things to him like he’s old, ugly, and needs to quit making videos and move out of his mom’s house. So Miguel wastes his time actually responding. I’m not sure why.

To me writing criticism in the comment section of a video is just childish behaviour, and if there is one thing that I’ve learned while raising children, it’s that you don’t give attention to negative behaviour, ever. The reason is simple.

Children understand attention as just attention. They don’t differentiate between positive and negative attention. This is the reason why putting their face in a corner is more effective than spanking. When you have your face in a corner you are getting no outside stimulation. At that point, you associate the bad behaviour with being shutdown. On the other hand, if you yell at the child, or sit down and explain to them why what they did was bad, what you are doing is associating the bad bahaviour with attention. If you don’t believe me, you can watch how adults act. You hear about the need for approval, but have you ever noted the way people act when they don’t get approval? It’s just as attention seeking.

This is the same with You Tube comments. You simply ignore them, and they are likely to go elsewhere to act a fool. And face it, they didn’t watch your video to begin with, and they aren’t going to forward it to their friends, so you don’t need them.

This Cory fellow talks about posting consistently. He says that if you’re posting at least once a week then people will potentially come back frequently to see what you have that is new.

This is of course provided they like what you posted in the first place, but you have no direct control over quality beyond the time you take, the tools you use, and the experience you have. Yeah, sounds like a lot of control, but strangely there are so many other factors that go into it. The biggest one I think being appeal to others. You can figure out how to make many people like you, but you will never figure out how to make everybody like you. There are people out there who will hate you just because you’re so likeable. Luckily, I don’t have that problem, because I’m really not that likeable.

Finally, he says that he has no idea how to get your video featured, and as near as I can tell, You Tube doesn’t make their process for featuring publicly known.

So in answer to Miguel’s question about why this video has views. First of all it’s about a subject that people care about: getting views. Second, this guy has apparently kept busy producing and posting videos. It helps, I’m sure, that he’s been doing this since 2005.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Review: Total Recall Special Edition

by Nathan Stout of AccordingToWhim.com

Total Recall is one mess of a movie. Not a mess in the sense that it's bad but that in the sense that you have a hard time figuring out what is actually happening. Is it all a memory from Rekall or did Rekall just open up the memories of double agent Hauser? There are so many misnomers that you spend the entire movie trying to figure it out.

In today's movie market they won't reveal that it might have been real or a dream until the end since all movies now a days are contractually required to have a twist (thanks M. Night Syamalan). This movie has you guessing from the get go. Before we begin let's look at some of the cast. There is of course the ever popular Arnold Schwarzenegger (in his prime), the super hot Sharon Stone (in her prime too), and the greatest character actor EVAR: Michael Ironside (who I think has been in every movie ever made since the 60's). A bunch of other actors and actresses as well as this guy who I think is Henry Rollins' dad or something:

Total Recall is 'inspired' by Phillip K. Dick's: We can remember It For You Wholesale. It was directed by Paul Verhoeven which is easy to recognize. He just has this over-the-top feel in all his movies. I feel that you could somehow edit most of his sci-fi movies together (Robocop, Total Recall, Starship Troopers) and make one movie that looks like it was originally made that way.

I'm sure you know the story by now but I will do a quick recap. Arnie is possibly having a delusion because of a botched memory implant or the memory implant procedure causes him to remember he was a top secret agent on Mars. He discovers his 'other, top agent' self was a bad guy and decided to be a good guy. He gets the girl and defeats the bad guys, the end. That's SUPER condensed but it's basically it. The cool stuff is all the mutants, alien artifacts, gunfire, triple breasted chicks and such thrown in for good measure.

The movie won an Oscar (if you can believe that) and several other awards (mostly for it's effects). It has a pretty solid story and is fairly interesting. There are enough turns in the road to keep you guessing if he is just remembering some false memories he bought or he really was a super agent. Here are my 'clues' that it was all just apart of his Rekall Ego-Trip:
  • The technician says (in the background): 'Blue skies on Mars, that's new'.
  • The woman he describes before getting the implant then is shown on the screen is the actual face of Melina.
  • The salesman describes exactly what is going to happen.
  • The screen showing alien options shows the exact image of the alien artifacts that appear at the end of the movie.

The 'clues' that make me consider that he really is an agent who's memory was erased are:

  • The emotional reactions of his friends and wife when he talks about Mars or implants (before the visit to the Rekall place).

It's not much for the case that he really is an agent but the movie comes across that way and it's never for certain. At some point you start double guessing and even rationalizing how it could be a memory or reality. This is what makes the movie engaging. It makes the audience think about what's going on.

A few things I noted about the future portrayed in this film:

  • Curtis Mathis makes a comeback in the television market.
  • LCDs are replaced by clunky CRTs (LCDs must have not been fashionable).
  • Pepsi still exists in the future (so does Barq's Rootbeer).
  • Sex is still very popular.
  • Quato looks like Chucky.
  • Glass used on Mars is not bullet proof for some reason.
  • Don't mess with Arnie.

It's a fun movie and there is action every couple of minutes (literally). The special effects are decent (for 1990) and I can always appreciate piratical effects over CGI any day (even bad effects). Verhoeven is a beg believer in BIG blood bags for bullet shots and when a shoot out occurs you are never disappointed.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Never enough when it comes to being 'green'

by Nathan Stout of AccordingToWhim.com

Doom! Gloom! Disaster! Calamity! These are all words co-opted by the ecological talking heads describing the earths fate if certain actions are not taken RIGHT NOW. I see the stuff all over the place. Miguel, if you want facts just go watch 'An Inconvenient Truth' (which I am sure you do every day as you bow before the altar of liberalism)(I kid, I kid!).

Anyway I am not here to disprove any of those claims (which are at this point and time STILL not coming true) but to look at changes in our society and asking 'aren't they making a difference'?

We hear all the time about water conservation and how Americans waste it. My question is, how much have we SAVED through new technology and the way we are taught to use water? Low flow toilets have been the standard since 1992. How many billions of gallons of water has that saved? It is said the they save Americans 11.3 million dollars a day with these toilets (that equals to $72,270,000,000 over the last 18 years and no telling what that equals in water)! What about low flow shower heads, or teaching people to do stuff like turn off the water while brushing teeth or shaving? What about motion sensor and timed restroom faucets? Surely there have been some major cumulative effect savings when it comes to all this combined?

Electricity is another area where technology has had to have greatly reduced the amount used. Think of the florescent light bulb alone. Energy Star says that: "If every American home replaced just one light with an ENERGY STAR light, we would save enough energy to light more than 3 million homes for a year, about $700 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to the emissions of about 800,000 cars." Now, who is going to just replace one bulb in their house with a florescent bulb? I'm no eco-nut but I am a money-nut and I know they save big bucks in the long run so I replaced about twenty in my house alone. I am sure the average American replaces more than just one so for lets just assume that the average house has replaced 5 bulbs (that number is small to make up for the people who don't have any)... that would mean yearly we save 4,000,000 worth of car emissions and can light 15 million homes with the electricity we saved because of this innovations. We aren't being told that by the Al Gores of the world, we are still on a slippery slope of disaster!

There is also a growing movement to ditch the plastic bag at grocery stores as well as the usual push to use public transportation as well as electric cars and better gas mileage on vehicles. Don't forget the usage of Ethanol in our fuels. I can also mention the conversion from CRT monitors and televisions to flat panels which use much less electricity. All appliances now are energy rated and are more energy efficient.

All these changes have held because they are consumer friendly. They save money and everyone wants to save money.

Now, can we even begin to imagine how much all these changes have positively effected our world ecologically? I doubt it. The fact is we don't know and no one is going to bother to tell us. We need to be kept in 'panic mode' so we can accept the next change.

For the most part I don't think people mind as long as it won't affect them in the pocketbook (unless they wish it to).

Since no one is saying it I will say it to the world...
Good job on making positive changes to help the environment and such.

All these changes I have talked about are certifiable. You can plug in a LCD monitor and a CRT and you can PROVE that the LCD is using less electricity. You can do the same with a high flow and low flow toilet (but you might get electrocuted) and you can PROVE the low flow uses less water.

I think things like the Cap and Trade tax and Carbon Credits and such are a hard pills to swallow because there is no certifiable PROOF that these are based on. The proof that has been handed to the public has proven faulty (look at the predictions from Gore's movie) and sometimes outright lies. My real suspicion is that money is behind all that. These talking heads talk about how we need to make changes in order to save the planet but in the end what are backing are ways for people to pay to do this (credits and taxes). It doesn't help to be a big flag waver (Al Gore) of the movement when you are making money off the fear you help create.

OK, I'm off the soapbox there. What I want to ask again is: have the changes we've made had any difference? I would have to say yes since they are quantifiable. Good job world.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Review: A Nightmare on Elm Street Blu Ray

by Nathan Stout of AccordingToWhim.com

Last night I sat down to watch A Nightmare on Elm Street on Blu Ray. This is the 1984 (and in my opinion the best) version of the movie.

Let me take you back to the mid to late eighties... you know what that means...

Never mind with the time-tunnel picture. My brother and his wife MADE me watch this movie one night on cable. Yes, they made me watch it. They turned off the lights and subjected an under aged kid to sit through Freddy's merciless killings. I fell in love with it. In no time at all I was taping kitchen knives to gloves and making my own cardboard Freddy gloves. I would have to say that A Nightmare on Elm Street formed my opinions on horror and movies in general for the rest of my life.

I watched our dog-eared copy of the movie over and over again, usually fast forwarding to the dream sequences. When I got older and DVDs came out I got it and enjoyed the clarity of the image on the television. The version that was released years ago on DVD was decent but years later a Infinifilm version came out. This version used a higher bit rate and had behind the scenes stuff. I wanted to get it but I just couldn't bring myself to buy something I basically already owned.

Now that Blu Ray has hit the market at full speed most movies are getting released for a decent price. When the new remake (or re-imagining as it is called) was coming out New Line decided to make some residual money off of the original by putting it out on Blu Ray. It appears to be the Infinifilm edition in high definition. I rented it from NetFlix having upgraded my account to get Blu Ray discs for my anniversary.

I have a 46" projection television that I got from my grandparents after it started flaking out on them. Once I got it home it never messed up again! Score! It was an expensive television and it looks fantastic (not one of those crappy projection TVs). So I popped the Blu Ray into my 2nd generation slow-as-molasses player and enjoyed the movie.

First off the image fills the entire 46" and looks fantastic. I love movies that utilize the entire screen. I know that a lot of movies are shot in a wider format to get more in the shot but I'd prefer this aspect so it fills my screen. The image is clean and super clear. You can see some great detail. Some people complain that high definition isn't all the great but I have to tell you I love to watch stuff with such clarity.

The other (and probably more) noticeable experience was the sound. I just use the speakers on the television but the clear audio (DTS-HD) made the experience like watching the movie for the first time. It was like listening to a whole new soundtrack. Such subtly that I have been unaware of for years was brought out. I not only noticed all the little sound effects but the soundtrack stood out much more and in higher detail making it creepier to watch. All in all I am very happy with the high definition version of this film.

Let's get onto the movie. You should all know the story and the outcome by now. Freddy is defeated (until the sequel) and Nancy lives on. Bla bla bla.

What makes this such a horror masterpiece is the unique killer and the unique way he kills. The audience is left tyring to rationalize what is a dream and what Freddy can actually manipulate in the real world and that is what tell you that it gets to it's audience. Does an audience try to rationalize events that take place on screen in other movies? Not often. Is Freddy a ghost? He can do all that crazy stuff in dreams but he can make a crucifix fall off a wall? He can tie up Rod with a sheet and hang him in the real world? What are his limits and what are his victims doing to themselves in the real world? What are we actually seeing, what Freddy is doing in the dreams or reality? Confusing isn't it?

The movie's death scenes get under your skin so they are outlandish but are kept on the ground at the same time. Tina is dragged across the ceiling, trailing blood but absolutely no one seems to notice this. The same with Glen's death. He is turned to pulp and sprayed across the ceiling and it 'appears' that his mom sees this but no one raises an eyebrow as to how it was possible. I think another reason the kills are so memorable is that they had never been done before. Although there was a bed that ate people in the 1977 movie Death Bed: The Bed that Eats it was nothing like what happened to Glen. Even this somewhat disturbing 'death by bed' from an episode of Monsters isn't as nightmare-making as what happened to Capn' Jack.

Another thing that makes this movie a little different is the fact that Nancy gets all ghetto an' shit making anit-personnel devices and other fun booby traps for Freddy. Very few movie characters get smart like Nancy (Ripley from Aliens comes to mind as another who does) and really plans out her confrontation with the bad guy.

I feel the Nightmare franchise could have been handled a little better instead of becoming the tongue and cheek one-liner fest it became. The first movie had Freddy giving one-liners only meant to entertain himself and torture his victims, not the audience. "I'm your boyfriend now Nancy" as opposed to "Now you're playing with power!" Sheesh.

I have heard a lot of negative stuff about the Nightmare remake. One thing I think they got right was to keep the movie dark with very little humor. Perhaps they can continue (there will be sequels) in that fashion and keep it scary.

A Nightmare on Elm Street is a horror classic. The Blu Ray treatment is excellent and I highly recommend you check out this movie (especially in a darkened room).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

You are not alone

by Nathan Stout

I will take this opportunity to update everyone on the 2010 Ranking Up Project (brought to you by Mennen Aftershave, not really).

I have done some searches on my own since the changes I made last week which you can read about here. Not only did I do searches of our names (Nathan Stout and Chris McGinty) I also did some searches for According To Whim and found some very surprising results.

Let's start with my searches on Google. I searched Chris McGinty and nothing new appears to be there. I also searched for my name. The usual came up. The old website I used to own NathanStout.com but the fourth link down is my personal website: DragonOfTheBlackPool.com(in case you didn't know, that is the name of the Chinese Restaurant in Big Trouble In Little China). These links are nothing new though. Several of my other pages come up too (none of them are the ones I recently played with).

Next I went and searched Chris McGinty on the pictures search on Google. I stopped looking after 14 pages of Chris Brown and other seemingly random images. Still no Chris McGinty. I then did a search for my name and as usual the image of the tiger from my personal website is up there 2nd to the top and some of the navigation images are sprinkled throughout. Nothing of the 'super tagged' images from last week.

Finally with Google I went to the video search. We (as a group) are doing very well there. We dominate all but 3 of the first page of items on that search (when searching Chris' name). That guitar Chris McGinty guy is still at the top. I think it's one of Chris' life goals to kick that guy off that spot. When I search my name we have all but the top spot on the page. It's some baby laughing (whose name is Nathan Stout). I will make it my life goal to kick that kid off there! Take that... cute... laughing... baby!

Now I moved onto Yahoo!'s website. Man that is confusing. How do you properly spell their name with there is an exclamation mark in it? Anyway after searching my name I get the usual 3 links on the first page. When I search Chris' I get one link near the bottom for his name on the According To Whim site on one of the picture pages. It's not even the tagged page, it's the original picture shoot we did in 2005.

Searching images on Yahoo! for Chris I find that he finally shows up on page 11 (after a picture of me even). The pictures there are from that 2005 shoot too. Now, Yahoo! owns Flikr and that is one of the changes I made (after my last post). I uploaded all the pictures from the 'tagged' page (the 2009 photo shoot) to flikr (which is owned by Yahoo!). I thought since Yahoo! image searches focus on flikr then our chances would be better at ranking higher there. Nope, not yet at least. When I do a search for my name I find on page 4 all the images from my comics page: RickRanger.com all the way until page 9 when regular images show up again. On this page I have several photos from my person site (still none with me in them).

Finally I search for Chris on Yahoo!'s video page. There is only one page of results and Chris is there... not from According To Whim but an old Sniffles (sniff!) video from a Tripod.com page that doesn't exist anymore. Here is a screenshot of the page: When I search my name on the Yahoo! video search I get nothing at all of me. Yahoo! needs to do some re-evaluation. One thing I found funny on Yahoo! is the predictive search box. This feature is becoming more and more common on the Internet and I think it is a cool feature. Basically when you are typing in the search box it will start showing you similarly searched phrases. It's what otter people have typed into the search box in the past (the most popular combination of words). Well, when you start typing Chris McGinty one of the things (in fact the most popular since it is at the top of the box) is Chris McGinty Jewel. This is (one of) Chris' ex wives. Interesting.

I am thinking we really need to get ourselves and our stuff on different websites. The whole cross-promotion thing generates more entries on search engines.