I had no idea Ender’s Game was finally in production, let alone the fact that it’s coming out this year! I am in awe of the casting choices for Mazer Rackham and Colonel Graff. They are perfect and exactly who I would imagine in those roles. Well done. Also, the battle school arena looks incredible and I am tentatively on board with what I’ve seen of their Ender casting choice so far.

(Treading close to spoiler territory here, so be warned) One gripe but tempered since trailers tend to perform worse missteps than this: I don’t like that they ended the trailer with something that’s supposed to be a drastic and harsh choice that he ends up making at the end of the book. Takes a bit of the shock value and impact out of it.

Anyways, fingers crossed. Till now I’ve been more than happily living off of the audiobook version that I listen to about once a year (along with the spectacular Speaker for the Dead recording). This has been a wonderful surprise and I hope the movie pulls off a decent adaptation. I don’t envy them the tenuous situation of giving us fastidious (read: hypercritical) fans a two-hour flick that somehow embodies all the awesomeness that’s in that book. There’s no way they can give us all our favorite moments, but the trailer gives me hope they can give us the spirit, characters, emotional resonance, and even suspenseful action that the book had.

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I did it. I finally bit the bullet and backed a Kickstarter. Hell, not just one, but three! Bing, bang, boom… money for everyone.

Granted, I waded in the shallow end, backing super popular projects that all had reached their funding goals practically a day or two into it, but I simply had to. I mean, first off, and this is the one that pushed me over the edge into contributing, it’s freaking the next installment in The Longest Journey saga! Finally!

I’m sure I have to get into this as its own dedicated post, but allow me this gushy tangent to say that I cherish (with near-maniacal vehemence) the first game, The Longest Journey. That was a fantastic game with plenty of delightfully imaginative writing, both in plot and dialogue, which, by the way is fully voiced by a great cast. Sure, they may get cheesy at times, but they totally own it. And, of course, nothing beats That Damn Bir.. I mean, Crow; one of the most memorable sidekicks in my personal history of video gaming.

As for the sequel, Dreamfall, well, it was a great game overall, but I’ll admit that I do not remember it as well as the first, not am I as attached to the heroine in it as I am to April Ryan. Silver Lining? Yet another fun sidekick who had the most soothing and mesmerizing voice I have heard in practically any media form, Wonkers the Watilla (a small robotic gorilla). In a fit of research and curiosity, I just looked up the voice actor, Jack Angel, to confirm what I was sure of back when I had played this game: he is in fact the same voice as Teddy, from Kubrick/Spielberg’s ambitious but ultimately abortive futuristic take at pinocchio, A.I. Aritificial Intelligence (which would’ve been totally fine if not for that damn ending). All of which is no coincidence since Wonkers was intentionally based on Teddy. Meanwhile, Angel has a wonderfully extensive voice acting career, spanning a good 40 years and contributing to I think literally every single cartoon I watched as a kid. Kudos, Mr. Angel and thank you for all the voices you shared.

Anyways, Dreamfall came out in 2006 and whatever cynicism that I had lovingly cultivated and bred up to that point decided to squash any idealistic pretensions I had that a third game would come out to finish the story. Seven years later, that cynicism is all grown up and strong enough that in all this time I’ve never even bothered to search if there were hopes of a sequel. Last month the Kickstarter app was released on iOS and I downloaded it purely on a lark; to peruse and see what kinda crazy ideas people were coming up with. Minutes of browsing later, there it was, Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey, impossibly, defiantly glowing at me from the screen.

The long-awaited Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey

The long-awaited Dreamfall Chapters: The Longest Journey

Backed. Pledged. Here, money, now. Hurry and make it, Ragnar! Today the pledge drive ended, and they have a little less than double the amount they requested, capping off at about 1.5 million Dollars.

The system works. Yes, I know we have yet to see the game.. just, shhh, don’t ruin this moment for me. They asked, we gave, and now we will hopefully get the game we’ve been pining for.

Meanwhile, I have also backed Torment: Tides of Numenera, a thematic successor to Planescape: Torment, and Machine of Death: The Game of Creative Assassination, a board game with the hilarious concept of taking a handful of descriptive, random words and trying to spin a creative assassination plot out of them.

Damn it, Kickstarter. You’ve sucked me in.

 

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Bing background image: Charco de los Ciclos, the Green Lagoon of the Canary Islands

Bing background image: Charco de los Ciclos, the Green Lagoon of the Canary Islands. (Also, apparently it’s World Naked Bike Ride today)

I realize people don’t consider Bing the coolest search engine on the block, but I feel like it has its charm and it works just great whenever I’m on my Surface. One feature, though, that I have really enjoyed is their daily photo, especially once I added Bing Desktop to my PC.

Granted, the little application has a nagging insistence of un-minimizing itself and plopping a search bar in the middle of my screen, but I accept this tic in favor of the awesome photos that it puts up as my wallpaper every day. Without fail, each photo makes me stop for a second to admire or gape at the wonders of our world, whether it’s a breathtaking slice of nature, a strange creature with the most amazing name, an ominous sight of a mysterious-looking building, or even the Gates of Hell. And the irony is, with each new photo I can’t un-minimize the app fast enough to click the info button and read the caption, which in turn has me searching for a while to learn more and satisfy my newly-triggered curiosity. Point: Bing.

Today was a particularly eye-catching photo: a crazy yellow lagoon in the Canary Islands. Yes, I realize pics on the computer can sometimes have skewed coloring, and other photos do in fact show more green, but I still love the amusingly contradictory nature of what I saw: here was a place called the Green Lagoon, which was yellow, in the Canary Islands, which was named after dogs (canine) instead of canaries (the bird is named after the  island).

And I thought it was confusing enough that Greenland is icy and Iceland is green.

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I’ve only just recently discovered Black Mirror and have subsequently swallowed it whole in a couple of sittings. Personally, I thank Kottke for pointing me in its direction (he had talked about it a couple of times in the past but it had still slipped by me till now). Learning that it has been around for a couple of years, though? I am at once excited to discover something new and wonderful like this, but also annoyed that I could just as easily have missed it. Having the entire world at one’s fingertips, you’re only as good as the filters you implement to discover and live in the realms that you want to be exposed to. Apparently my filter for media outlets with the imagination, writing, and technological chops to deliver dark and captivating stories is sorely in need of some adjusting.

Black Mirror is a technological Twilight Zone, vignettes of played-out what-if scenarios centered around near-futuristic technologies. What if we were able to record everything we see in our lives? What if we could recreate a person’s personality from all the data stored on them? What if technology could help us take the adage, let the punishment fit the crime, to the next inhuman level?

The imagination is inspiring and the writing is crisp. It’s never a case of oh, check out how cool this technology is. Most of the time, we’re far enough in the timeline that whatever the concept being addressed is established and part of daily life. There are exceptions to this, but then it’s still not about the tech itself but the affect it has and the moral implications behind it. They are all human stories wrapped up in shiny (to us) slivers of worlds that may very easily be, five or ten years from now.

And that’s the key to the storytelling. Bring it back to something relatable, whether it’s a story of trust and infidelity or of loss and mourning. These remain eternal.

I disagree with calling the show dystopian though. Yes, there are a couple of episodes that go down that extreme (the middle episodes of each season), and the plots do generally center on how these technologies can lead one to dark territories, but it seems lazy to jump straight to utter dystopian worlds. They are each just one story amidst a whole imagined future world. The world isn’t hopeless or in ruins ( yet again one exception in reference to the Waldo episode, and it seemed a bit ridiculous in that case). All in all though, each world just is what it is, full of both good and bad. As much as our world right now just is.

Anyways, Black Mirror. Highly recommended, especially with a group of people to discuss things with afterwards. If you’re on the fence, start with the third episode of the first season, The Entire History of You (trailer above).

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Okay, who the hell knew about this and didn’t spread it around?

Sokath! His eyes uncovered. (God, I’m sorry for that bit of nerdiness. Well, not really, but still.) Anyways, thank you, Food Beast (and his friend Matt), for unleashing this truth upon us. Apparently these containers have always been made like this, with the innate ability to magically fan out and give you more dunking room for your burgers and such.

Sigh, a youth wasted, but at least my children will never want for more space. Meanwhile, I need to go find a place that still has these and test it out.

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This looks fun. Here’s hoping it tugs lovingly at all the right nostalgic strings, which the trailer did oh so well. I got such a warm fuzzy tingly feeling of joy when I saw the familiar faces in the support group scene. Clyde the ghost, Bowser, Robotnik, M. Bison and Zangief.. plus according to this, there’ll also be Chun-Li, Smoke and Kano from MK, Doctor Wily, and obscurely enough, Neff from Altered Beast.

You remember Neff? The “Welcome to your Doom” big bad god.

credit: giantbomb.com

Meanwhile I’m all for awesome actors like John C. Reilly and Jane Lynch. Fingers crossed!

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Radiolab had a great short podcast about mutant rights! I highly recommend listening to it, but I’ll give you my take for the purposes of this rant.

International trade lawyers working for Marvel discovered that they can save lots of money for their client if they can get the US government customs office to accept that Marvel action figures imported from abroad should be classified as “toys” instead of “dolls”. “Dolls”, figures that represent human beings, get taxed twice as much as “toys”, figures that do not represent humans.

Meanwhile, X-Men, the popular characters of Marvel are mutants and super-humans that are constantly persecuted and categorized as non-human, even though all they want (the good guys anyways) is to be recognized as humans just like everyone else.

Yeah.

The case went to court for years before the government finally decided:

Whatever the degree is to which they resemble human beings, the court finds that these action figures do not represent human beings.

Their reasoning? It boils down to that the figures exhibit at least one non-human characteristic and that Marvel already classifies them as mutants and that pop culture sees them as mutants, therefore they can’t be classified as human.

Things get stretched really thin though once they start looking at the non-mutants of Marvel, such as Fantastic Four, Spiderman and their villains.

The figure of “Kingpin” resembles a man in a suit carrying a staff. Nothing in the storyline indicates that Kingpin possesses superhuman powers. Yet, Kingpin is known to have exceedingly great strength (however “naturally” achieved) and the figure itself has a large and stout body with a disproportionately small head and disproportionately large hands. As it is, the figure is designed to communicate the legendary and freakish nature of the character.

Still, he’s actually only human. See!

Kingpin (comics)

Kingpin (comics) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So?

Even though “dolls” can be caricatures of human beings, the court is of the opinion that the freakishness of the figure’s appearance coupled with the fabled “Spider-Man” storyline to which it belongs does not warrant a finding that the figure represents a human being.

Damn. Sorry, Kingpin. Your humanity has been revoked.

I know, I know. This is hardly representative of how things would be with real actual people outside of the context of taxes and toys. Still, it’s never been hard to imagine seeing a similar reaction, considering how humanity sometimes acts towards people that are different. And after all, that is the basis of the movies and comics and related stories. Governments and humankind vilifying mutants, fearing them, and considering them un-human and diseased in need of a cure.

It’s just disappointing to see things play out as expected.

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The New York Times showcased 32 innovations that will change tomorrow, which provides awesome thought experiments as to how things would actually be like in a world with these innovations (i.e a sci-fi smorgasbord).

The Shutup Gun

When you aim the SpeechJammer at someone, it records that person’s voice and plays it back to him with a delay of a few hundred milliseconds. This seems to gum up the brain’s cognitive processes — a phenomenon known as delayed auditory feedback — and can painlessly render the person unable to speak.

Funny as it is that the article lists this as a Work-related innovation, this sounds like a deadly weapon.. more so when you take into account that the inventor wants to miniaturize it so it can be built into cellphones. So wait, anyone can own one and use it on anyone they wish? Are there even any safeguards from obvious exploitation or worse, criminal intent? Or do we just go down the path of a counter invention to shield you from the SpeechJammer?

Meanwhile, I love how this is being targeted as the perfect answer to that boring lecturer at school who talks too much or that co-worker that’s a little too chatty. Sure we’ve all been there and have probably even daydreamed along such lines, but I can’t imagine it’ll happen a handful of times before new policies at universities and companies are drawn up prohibiting the use of such devices. Imagine living in an environment where you can’t do your job like teach or work or argue in a meeting without the fear of someone literally taking away your voice. Imagine sitting in a public place like a cafe and talking with someone, constantly aware and anxious that if you speak a little too loud for any random person’s taste, you might just be rendered mute.

Sure, it’s funny to imagine using it on crying babies and nagging in-laws, but living in a world where that not only happens, but is either accepted and/or feared? Yikes.

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I just finished watching Jekyll, a 2007 BBC miniseries developed by Steven Moffat (think recent Dr. Who and the new Sherlock Holmes series).

Listen, you have to watch it. Just.. just watch this show. Take six hours out of your time and revel in a brilliant modern-day telling of the Jekyll and Hyde story. It’s actually kind of a sequel more than a re-telling, although they definitely make it their own version of the tale, and man oh man do they do an incredible job of presenting it.

James Nesbitt, the actor that plays the lead role, is fantastic and pulls in double duty as the quiet but definitely not meek Dr. Jackman (modern day Jekyll) as well as the psychopathic and surprisingly complex man-child that is Mr. Hyde. The show is smart, extremely suspenseful, and even funny; you can definitely see Mofatt’s signature handiwork throughout and that’s a very good thing. I especially appreciated the attention given to the details of Jackman and Hyde’s “arrangement” with each other.

I do not recommend looking up any of the trailers for the show; they’re not all that good. If you need convincing, and you probably do because six hours is not a small time investment (and I assure you, once you agree to watch this, you’re not going to parse it out; you will be glued for six hours straight).. anyways, just do this, watch the first five minutes:

Thank you, Netflix, for accurately recommending an amazing mini-series that I enjoyed thoroughly.

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What a fantastic imagination experiment. What would it be like if we had survived and even won a zombie apocalypse, and yet the threat of infection remained? These guys give us a brief but powerful sneak peek at such a world, including the major shift in roles of certain occupations, such as that of the coroner.

I really like that touch, giving us an inside look at how a coroner’s job is thrown into a whole different light when it comes to zombie-related diseases and the world of the undead.

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