500 Words Per Day

Monday, November 28, 2005

Unleashed and Put Down

Welcome to the 500WPD inaugural bi-annual DVD review section. Actually these reviews may come more or less frequently though I just wanted to convey the illusion of the blog abiding by any regular schedules and updates. I think it's fair to say that any particularly good or crappy movie will inspire me to write a review for it.

Therefore, mediocrity will be summarily ignored. You know, I've always wanted to use 'therefore' in my blog writing.

This, unfortunately, will be a review of an undeniably crappy movie and it gives me great honour to premiere this section with such a stinker. I present to you, Jet Li's Unleashed.

From the minds that brought you Transporter, Transporter 2 and La Femme Nikita (yes, I think they're still milking that ancient movie) comes a touching tale about a boy raised as a dog, beating the snot out of nameless Brit thugs for the pleasure of his small-time mob boss, only to realize, with the help of Morgan Freeman, that he is indeed a gentle soul whose true calling is playing the piano and picking out ripe fruits from the market.

Now if that pitch didn't send you jaywalking through rush hour to your video store, I don't know what will. So I'll admit that my tongue is permanently lodged in my cheek for this one. You have to bear with me while I try to sort out the puzzling, sappy, and ridiculous experience that is Unleashed. Writer/producer Luc Besson and director, Louis Leterrier have admirably tried to elevate the chop-socky genre to a higher artistic level, incorporating hefty doses of melodrama and a pinch of dark comedy in between the roundhouse kicks. I would really like to see more beat'em up movies to use comedy (as it was done so well in Kung Fu Hustle) and drama to lend more gravitus to their wanton destruction. The extent to which Besson, Li and Leterrier fail to make either a satisfying drama or action movie is truly a marvel of good intentions gone wrong.

Luc Besson is fast becoming the less successful French equivalent of Jerry Bruckheimer. The difference between the two is Bruckheimer actually knows how to make crap that sells tickets. I remember feeling sorry for Unleashed when it was released to theaters a mere week before the launch of Star Wars Episode Three: The Revenge of the Sith. As expected, Unleashed was promptly eclipsed by the Star Wars hype . Even a buddy of mine, usually a sucker for any kind of mindless fighting or adventure flick, decided to pass on Jet Li's latest vehicle of career self-destruction.

So what's so wrong with this movie, you ask. To summarize: EVERYTHING.

To this day, after three Matrix movies, and countless imitations, American filmmakers still do not know how to film complex martial arts battles to save their lives. I give some slack to Jackie Chan, who has managed to infuse his Hollywood productions with enough of his trademark acrobatic hijinks to make them watchable. Everyone else has gotten it wrong so far, including Mr. Jet Li. The fights in Unleashed are lit well and take place in grimy, atmospheric locale (i.e. the underground 'fight club' subplot), but are completely bereft of emotion, artistry or originality. And frankly, there isn't enough fighting to make up for the fact it's all fairly mediocore.

A massive chunk of the film's middle portion is used to showcase Jet Li's lost puppy routine after he encounters a gentle, blind piano tuner played by Morgan Freeman and his adopted teenage daughter (Kerry Condon). This syrupy duo provides the obvious counterpoint to Li's own adopted father/master, played by scenery-chewing Bob Hoskins, a ferocious but insufferably incompetent London gang boss. Freeman and Condon simply beg to be adored as the lovable interracial father-daughter team who decide to take in Li's character after he gets seperated from his violent life as debt-collecting pit bull. The deliberate nature of this set up, however, is far too artificial to be believable.

So I sat there, enduring what must have been 45 minutes of ham-handed family drama when all I really wanted to see was some good head-cracking. A note to Luc Besson and co.: just because you're using cliché dramatic plot devices in an action movie doesn't mean they're not clichés anymore! The serious emotional stuff feels grafted on like so much torn skin and likewise, the clumsy fight sequences are randomly shoe-horned into the story as if the filmmakers felt obligated to give us the fighting instead of more of that great drama on display. The origins of Li's character, Danny, are telegraphed way in advance that you would have to be lobotomized to not figure it out before the climax. The dialogue? Repeititive and awful too.

Morgan Freeman has been known to class up any movie he's in, but even he's clearly out of his depth this time around. Bob Hoskins submits a nasty villain role that is fun to watch at first, then becomes tiresome long before we hit the denouement. Jet Li still needs to work on his English and by God, could they have found someone a little younger to play 18-year old Victoria? Kerry Condon's a decent actor, but watching someone who likes she's 30 prancing around in a school uniform and braces was too hilarious for words.

There you have it. Run, don't walk, to your local video store and demand they throw every copy of Unleashed into the landfill from whence it came. Truly, if there ever was a good reason for Jet Li to leave Hollywood forever, THIS IS IT. Give it up, man. Romeo Must Die was the only decent American movie you ever made. Five years is an awfully long time to make a comeback. Give it up!

Summary: 1 wire-assisted jump kick out of 5 touching piano scenes with Morgan Freeman = better than Cradle 2 Grave but worse than Exit Wounds.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Fog Attacks

The city has been hit with a prolonged bout of fogginess lately. Let me just say now that I think fog is way cool. Although it adds that extra element of risk to our already risky driving habits, you cannot deny how much atmosphere it adds to the otherwise boring evening landscape.

Where was all this moody fog during Halloween? I was wandering through my neighbourhood tonight for no particular reason and found myself walking along one of the side streets. After what must have been several minutes of daydreaming, I looked up and felt as if the fog had thickened. The air was dead quiet, even though the main street was only a block away. What really put the icing on this shift in atmosphere was this old swing hanging off some gnarly tree. Ok, the tree wasn't that gnarled but it did look quite dramatic in the darkness and silhouetted against the FOG. It was a real character piece, that swing. It wasn't your standard issue kid's swing at the playground. Had a couple wooden planks for the seat and some ornamentation going on leading up to the ropes.

So there I was, slowing down to a halt almost, just staring at this tree swing in the fog and was perhaps transported for an instant into a B horror movie. What quickly killed the illusion was the modern-looking house across the lawn with a bunch lights turned on inside. Yeah, not the creepy, abandoned ghost house you might have expected. Well, certainly not in the neighbourhood I live in.

The fog is cool. And I resumed my evening walk.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Anal Sensation thats Sweeping the Nation

Just a friendly heads up to all you boys and girls to let you know about an over-the-counter product called, "Anusol". I have a prize for the first person who identifies what purpose this product might serve. If you need a clue, the words "RELIEVES PAIN" are included directly below the title.

Anusol eh? I don't know... this just might dethrone "Vagisil" as the best decriptive name for a consumer product. One word says it all. Quite a feat of marketing wizardry if you really think about it.

I mean, I really want you to think about it. Real hard. But not while you're sitting on the toilet.

Fun with CSS... or Not

I'm a tad perturbed that my little picture of the sexy Xbox 360 has ganked the layout of my blog. I'd spend some time to fix it if I truly cared.

Xbox 360 looks distinctly non-spherical

Jump In. That's what Microsoft and its advertisers have been imporing us to do in anticipation of the Xbox 360.

Originally uploaded by clinton-m.

Months of anxious waiting are over and the backlog of pre-orders can finally see fruition, as Microsoft's next gen game console arrives in stores today to greet the holiday shopping masses.

With a name like '360', you expect something to resemble a disc or ball, instead of an object that's clearly grafted together gene codes from the Apple iMac and Sony's Playstation 2 (PS2).

I've had the dubious privilege of sitting through ads for the first batch of game titles set to be released in the month following the Xbox's debut. I have also observed patrons at EB and Future Shop put the cutting-edge console through its paces, either diving through war-torn streets in the WWII shooter, Call of Duty 2, or getting their asses stomped on by a T-Rex in the adaptation of the upcoming King Kong film remake.

Have you touched an old Xbox recently? I haven't touched one in close to a year, but I know what the now-obsolete console is capable of. I hate to be a grumpy skeptic but I have to confess I don't see what the fuss is all about. The games I saw running on the new Xbox looked impressive but I did not once get the sense I was peering over the precipitous, bleeding edge of gaming technology. Is that too much to ask for? For $499.95, you bet I'm asking, nay, demanding to have my socks knocked clean off. Blow my trousers and boxers off too while you're at it... IF YOU DARE.

That's the big problem I see with this new Xbox: it can't even remove my stinky socks. I remember watching some kid play King Kong and this awful-looking game that looked like it was a cross between Tim Burton's daydream and Pokemon and I had to look over their shoulder to see that they were in fact using the Xbox 360 and not the old one. The games, while slick, simply do not look like anything the 4-year old Xbox can't handle.

The one exception to this rule is Perfect Dark Zero, Rare's sequel to their hit shooter for the long passé N64. I had to go online to sneek a look at the screenshot and videos and yes, I'd have to say Perfect Dark makes a fine advertisement for the power of the new Xbox. It figures; after all it is being touted as the "killer app (application)" for the 360, much like how the original Halo served as the flagship must-have game to drive sales of the Xbox.

Still, despite being impressed with the visual flair of Perfect Dark Zero, I couldn't shake the feeling of being left cold by the hype that's surrounded the 360. It hardly looks like a leap into the next-generation and more like a half step. Granted, the true test of the hardware will come in the next 12 - 18 months, as game developers learn to unlock the power they previously did not have at their disposal. We will yet see many games that will look more befitting a five-hundred dollar game console-cum-"media center".

Just a footnote: Sony is unveiling their PS3 game console by the 2nd quarter of 2006. On a purely technical standpoint, the PS3 positively obliterates the Xbox 360. Sure, we all know that game consoles live or die by the quality of the games that are developed for them as opposed to raw computing power. Yet we also know Sony's excellent track record of licensing top shelf game developers and maintaining backward support for their older consoles. When the PS3 hits store shelves, you will conceivably be able to play all the new games, plus all the previous titles for the PS and PS2. That is an immense catalogue of gaming goodness right there and is surefire way to maintain brand loyalty.

All of this makes me wonder why anyone would hope on the 360 bandwagon now when they could wait a few more months and get a true next-generation experience? Oh silly me, I forgot.


Footnot to the Note: The PS3 unit, like the Xbox 360 will also be capable of standing upright and be begged to be kicked over.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Those daily 500 words get the shaft yet again

With my current desires to find some gainful employment, apply for various writing programs and my ongoing business projects, I'm afraid there won't be any significant updates to this blog for another week.

Expect the daily write-a-thons to resume November 22, if not sooner.

Saturday, November 12, 2005

At a Loss for Words... or Am I?

What a lazy Friday it's been. I roused myself from a surprisingly deep morning sleep, not really surprised to see 12:26pm on my bedside clock. My night bug habits have been going strong for the last week, as I've been vegetating on the couch watching "24", compiling track lists for my DJ sets, working on my company's website and staying up well past 2:00am most nights.

Working on multiple sites, personal ones no less, can be exhausting. For my company site, I've been stamping out these display quirks that only show up on Internet Explorer, the "new Netscape" browser for our times. What an annoying web browser. I've also been busy editing the content so it's consistent with the new vision of the company. When it was just a website, I was maybe a bit too sincere in promoting the site as a place for amateurs to hang out. Technically, I'm still an amateur DJ. Now that I've attached the website to my new event promotions/music production company, I've had to drop the "aw shucks" posteuring and put on a more professional face. It's a strange process when you go back to rewrite your own articles and pages published months before. I feel like I'm playing Big Brother to myself.

There is a small sense of accomplishment in recasting your personal website as a professional endeavour. You start thinking that you are now running the show, a project, instead of merely indulging a frivolous hobby. Heck, on that site I've listed out my own bio and given myself the dubious title of Editor-in-Chief. I've always bristled at the whole notion of titles, but damn, when you start giving them to yourself, you can't help but temporarily inflate that ego.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

24, 24/7

So I've been sitting in front of the TV a lot these past few days watching the first season of "24" on DVD. I do wish I caught on to this series when it actually aired on television, if only because I would be forced to watch only 1 hour a week. With the whole season at my fingertips, I've been devouring two or three episodes in one sitting, to the detriment of my personal and professional life.

"24" is a deadly little time sink. The writing is incredibly strong and they have clearly mastered the art of the serial cliffhanger. Unlike the new TV hit, "Lost", every installment of "24" is fast-paced and jam-packed with suspense and concludes with a dizzying confluence of subplot cliffhangers. Character development is also top-notch and the dialogue skirts that fine line between high-tech jargon, hammyness and realism. The only reason I'm not glued to the tube now is because I've reached the halfway point of the season and a couple of the major plot threads have been resolved. It's provided a bit of a breather for me.

Another feature about "24" that keeps me watching is the way it's filmed. It actually looks like it could be a movie. I don't know what sort of camera technology TV producers use but most hour-long drama series have the same look. The all look "TV". Although this is especially noticeable with sitcoms and daytime soaps, serious stuff like legal or police procedurals are often prone to looking cheap and distinctively "TV quality". Not "24". The geniuses behind that show have gone a step further and employ snazzy comic book-style frames to show multiple scenes or a single scene from different character perspectives. The effect is reminiscent of Mike Figgis' "Time Code" movie from a few years back, except it (thankfully) isn't over-used in "24".

Please stop reading this tripe and dig up this series to watch. I've heard that, three seasons in, "24" has already begun to "jump the shark". Whatever. All you need to know is that seasons 1 and 2 have been universally lauded as excellent television viewing. Season 3 might be more questionable, but I was privy to a few disjointed episodes last year and could see nothing to find fault with.

One last note: Kiefer Sutherland really holds everything together. I've sometimes mocked his movie career, using his snivelly scientist role in "Dark City" as the centerpiece of my ridicule. I take a lot of that back now, because Kiefy is in fine form here. In fact, a lot of Hollywood stars who have sputtering film careers are finding new life on the small screen. Denis Hopper, Benjamin Bratt, Martin Sheen, Gina Davis and Kira Sedgewick (ok I wouldn't consider Kira Sedgewick a Hollywood star but she is married to Kevin Bacon) are some big screen talent that come to mind. What's the deal with that? Doesn't matter. If the migration means better TV for the masses, then bring us those washed-up actors by the truckloads. Whatever you do, just don't stick them in a sitcom with Ted Danson.

Monday, November 07, 2005

500 Words is Getting Hard

There were a few days last week when I thought I was on a roll with this blogging business. Now, it's getting tricky. It's getting tricky because I don't have anything to write out. There is "stuff" happening during the day, but to me none of it is compelling enough to put in the effort and transcribe for the blog.

That's part of the whole challenge, really. That's why I'm doing this, to train myself to write about things that I don't necessarily have an initial interest in or see any value in. I want to learn how to draw out the interesting bits, even from the most mundane topics, and present it in an entertaining manner.

Maybe I was bullshitting just now. I DO have a few things to write about, but because I've lost track of my time, I would much rather play with my turntables and watch another episode of "24" than putter around with my keyboard.

Rest assured I will return here later today and excrete those stories I have stored away in my brain for you reading pleasure. Thanks for reading.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

The Weather Man

The new movie, "The Weather Man" is a sort of reimagining of 1999's "American Beauty"with 50% less bleakness and 100% more Nicholas Cage. Surprsingly, the boost in Cage content makes for a decent flick.

Take heart, a movie review will not follow. (Yes, there will be spoilers.)

It was my intention to catch the Wallace and Gromit full-length last night but was suitably punished for failing to understand the movie times listing. My "choice B" movie, however, turned out to be pretty entertaining. I didn't feel, even once, like back-handing Nick Cage's saggy old mug (and it was most definitely sagging in this feature); the writing and dialogue was believable and snappy; Michael Caine was on hand to provide his usual Acting; and I was generally never bored or feeling like my life was slipping out from between my fingers.

Watching "The Weather Man"opened my eyes to some interesting facts. I should not have been surprised, but I was still quite amazed to learn the obscene amounts of money a TV weather man can earn. For much of the film, Nicholas Cage's character does the weather for a regional Chicago news program and takes home a paltry annual salary of $240,000. One of key plot developments involves Cage being offered the weather gig for the Good Morning America-ish Hello America, right alongside host, Bryant Gumbel (playing himself). With his compulsory endorsement deals, that job takes Cage's weatherman into a tidy $1.2 million dollars a year. Over a million dollars... reporting on the weather! And most of it's complete random bullshit!

Yes, the plot draws A LOT of mileage out of this discrepancy between the worth of the Weatherman and the worth of the actual man himself, as viewed through the lense of his beleaguered personal life. The director and writer lay on the metaphors and dramatic elements extra thick for this movie, which is why it is so easy to compare to Sam Mendes' "American Beauty". Unlike that movie, however, "The Weather Man" ends on a mixed note, dispensing a warm fuzzy message about acceptance, the American Dream and being thankful for one's talents, however questionable they may be. Yet in this embrace of his "weatherman-ness" the protagonist resigns himself to a job he openly acknowledged as being quite meaningless, but damn, does it ever pay well!

I've always been very mindful of the intrinsic value of any activity to the point where it has probably screwed up my working life, financially. If I don't believe in what I'm doing or derive some kind of satisfaction from doing it, then I shut down or walk away. If I find a task too simple or if I just have a natural proficiency for it, I also will not see the value in pursuing it further. I think that is the Big Choice we all face as we go through school and enter the working world. De we do what we're good at or do we do what we love? Do they have to be mutually exclusive? A recent book by Po Bronson called "What Should I Do With My Life" explores that question, offering real-life accounts of people who fell into the trap of pursuing a career that aligned with their talents, only to realize much later that they loathed their jobs and their lives because of it.

There's an obvious metaphor at work in "The Weather Man" in the way it contrasts Cage's impulsive, self-loathing protagonist with his father, play by Michael Caine. Caine is initially presented as the imposing and brusque father figure who is promptly taken down a few pegs by a surprise diagnosis of lymphoma. The backstory behind Caine's character focuses on his accomplishments as a writer, having been awarded a Pulitzer prize and universally hailed as a "national treasure". Son idolizes father and this is best symbolized by Cage's ham-handed attempts at writing science fiction and his other feeble attempts to please daddy Caine, but to no avail. The father and the son. The Intellectual and the Celebrity. When Caine finally croaks, Cage takes the plum job with Good Morning America and is seen paraded (literally) through Time Square with Bryant Gumbel and waving stiffly to the cheering masses. Gee, the death of substance and the triumph of superficiality. Nay, the triumph of TV over the printed word. Definitely a cogent message in the mid-00s. I only wished it wasn't so blatantly shoved into the movie's thematic structure. Still, it is a Hollywood movie, after all and it's helmed by the talented hack director, Gore Verbinski (Pirates of the Carribean, The Ring). I suppose some cutting of slack is appropriate when you consider that another director could easily have made the movie about Nicholas Cage being continuously pelted on the streets with fast food products (read: tasty product placement) and his various hilarious reactions. Oh, right, Verbinski included that stuff too, perhaps to placate the impatient moviegoers who might not have gelled with this ultimately very quirky, sometimes challenging, Hollywood movie.

Now if you'll excuse me, I need to brush up on my metereology and green screen techniques.

Saturday, November 05, 2005


Have you ever had one of those days where you're not paying any attention to your life? I had one of those days today. It's very frustrating when I have an agenda planned out for the day, but because I can't connect the dots between all my errands and tasks, I make a bad decision that affects everything else I do.

Then you have those days when you think you've started comletely off the wrong foot but then later realize you were glum and pessimistic about nothing. The day didn't turn out shitty. The sky didn't fall.

My day started with a flu shot. I let myself get talked into getting one again this year by my parents. The previous two years I was working full-time and figured if this kept me healthy and able to keep working, then why not. I'm unemployed now, so there wasn't a big incentive for me to get stabbed in the arm with a needle. You could argue that I could safeguard my health to conintue my fruitful job search but I could counter and confess that I wasn't "hitting the pavement" all that hard these days.

Oh no, the dreaded influenza. Please don't infect me and make me bed-ridden. If I fall illl, how can I...err, wake up late and umm... hang out at the coffee shop with my magazines? As you can imagine, the repercussions of catching the flu this season were enormous and far-reaching.

Well, it doesn't take much prodding to make me do anything. I went in to my family doctor's clinic later in the morning and was kept in line for a few minutes. Yup, just as I had thought, not a young, able-bodied person in sight. I felt some slight embarrassment waiting my inoculation. Did this make me look like a pussy? Young bucks like me dont' get the publicly funded vaccine and have to shell out $20. Well not even that can stop this wuss from getting his protection from teh big, bad flu.

There I was standing in line, feeling foolish about doing something that would benefit my health. I began thinking about how I never get the flu and imagined that I could trick myself into thinking I would never catch it if I kept on getting shots each year. See, it's an Anti-Death Vaccine. How do I know? Well I've been taking it each year and I haven't died! That's the sort of logic that use to justify NOT getting my shots. Does that make any sense?

Long story short (and I'm saying that because I'm tired want to go to sleep)... I get my flu shot and sure as rain I feel lathargic and my arm begins to hurt like a bitch. I had my afternoon set aside for recording some mixsets with my DJ partner and thought my performance would be wrecked. It was a bit too much worrying for nothing.

This post has no rhyme or reason to it, but that's alright. I'll be back again tomorrow to write something meaningful.

Lazy Friday

No posting yesterday. Life got in the way. I should be back later today with a meatier post.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Getting Skimmed

I was at the bank the other day, responding to an urgent message on my voicemail from their security department. Something had to be up since the day before I tried making a debit payment at the local Macs and was duely rejected.

Annoying. The bank clerk recounted how earlier this week someone had tried to make a withdrawal with a skimmed card. The offending crook, I assume, was caught and cavity-probed on the spot. The origin of the breached bank card was traced back to a transaction made at the new Paramount movie theatre downtown. To their credit, my bank wasted no time and promptly locked down all accounts that had any dealings with the Paramount ATMs in the past week.

So I was one of the lucky few who had patronized that theatre recently and consider this whole fiasco a close call. The friendly clerk checked my records and confirmed a number of transactions I had made leading up to the freezing of my account. It turns out my account information was not compromised. Someone else was not so lucky.

Skimming, to my basic knowledge, usually involves some illicit modification done to ATM and other debit payment terminals that will scan your card's barcode with the intention of making a duplicate card or other record. This process is combined with a hidden camera that tapes you while you punch in your super secret PIN into the keypad. Having a sneaky person peer over your shoulder would be the low-tech alternative.

The clerk at my bank did not miss this golden opportunity to remind me to keep up safe banking habits. She was borderline admonishing me, even though I didn't do anything wrong. She told me to only use reputable debit machines. The shady plastic terminals you find at bars and clubs don't quite qualify as reputable. We've also just seen how those debit machines at your local multiplex are not immune to the wiles of your everyday criminal. I can honestly see the unscrupulous having no difficulty with rigging up any old ATM, regardless of whether it's a generic box in the pub or an officially branded unit. The banks are just in the delicate position of covering their asses by educating their customers but not enough to discourage them from using ATMs entirely. There is decent money to be made from those awful transaction fees.

The clerk's other common-sense suggestion was keeping a close guard on your PIN. That is a no-brainer of course. I always make sure to hunch over PIN whenever I punch it into the machine. Doesn't matter who's with you. Cover up that PIN: don't even let your mamma see it.

To wrap up my fun-filled visit to the bank, I was strongly advised to reset my PIN. I did so, grudgingly, because I've used the same code for close to 15 years. I have it ingrained in my memory better than I do my own birthday. Now that I've got a new PIN, I don't think I'll ever forget the old one. Yes, I'll take that PIN to my grave, I will. Such a good PIN...

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Leading Technologists Predict Game Developers Will Simulate Reality in 3 Years

To put my headline into context, I would like to direct you to Bethesda Softworks' official website for their flagship product, The Elder Scrolls:

Da Link

Go on ahead and watch a few of those video clips (I recommend the first three) and you tell me what daddy thinks.

If those impressive clips are any indication, we are reaching critical mass with computing technology and it'll only be a few scant years before game programmers start delivering us games so life-like and detailed, the only suspension of disbelief will be that every time we try to fully immerse ourselves in the simulation, we knock our faces against our monitors. Ouch! Silly dork, it's just a game!

Is three years enough time for us to recreate Reality(tm)? I may have exaggerated my timeline there by, oh two or three years. Five years is plenty time for computer CPUs to reach stupendous levels of sophistication. Development cycles have accelerated dramatically in the last five years. In 2000, we were using our blazing fast Pentium II-powered PCs. Five years before that, a lot of us were still rocking our 486s. Modern hard drives and memory chips are the cheapest they've ever been. With mass amounts of storage readily available, developers are free to heap mounds of content into their games. Install a game into your PC now and it's not uncommon for the behemoth to quaff 2 - 4 gigabytes of real estate on your hard disk. The latest games are starting to be shipped in DVD format because there's more stuff, more graphics, more sound, more game.

If I was just talking about pure graphical splendor, I don't think I would be quite as optimistic and excited about the future of electronic gaming. I'm already floored by some of the stuff that's on the store shelves now. Take 2004's Half-Life 2. Excellent piece of work, finished it over a month ago. Replay value is pretty limited, but I'll fire it up occasionally and my jaw will still hit the deck at how good it looks. The beauty of it all is it's not just in the visuals. The developers went a step further and programmed in a physics model that is simply amazing. For the first time ever we're seeing virtual objects react to the player and to the simulated environment in an eerily realistic fashion. This is what technology will bring us.

There's just so much interesting stuff being done with games. Besides making games look better, we have another subset of developers who specializein articificial intelligence. Peter Molyneux of Lionhead Studioes is perhaps one of the leading lights in AI and has turned out challenging game concepts that definitely do not fit the mold. On yet another end of the spectrum we have the massively multiplayer role-playing games, where it's not so much about the gee-whiz factor but the focus is on meticulous world-building. Ever talk to a World of Warcraft player? They are in that game to a level that nearly subverts their real lives. A WoW player's commitment to their virtual companions - also other human participants, often strangers - becomes almost equal to their own network of friends and relatives.

You don't even have to go into high fantasy mode to see how far our world-building talents have gone. For chrissakes, even the notorious Grand Theft Auto games have their own fully-developed worlds to draw us into. The cities in San Andreas, the latest installment in the series, are staggering in their size and detail. Sure, a lot of it is redundant (i.e. you still can't just walk into any building and get unique reactions from all the pedestrians milling around), but how long do you think it'll take before our hotrod computers now get even more juiced, giving game developers the world over an even bigger sandbox to play in?

The really sad thing is, everything I've been yapping about has been covered ad nauseam in hobby or industry publications. It really is old-ass news. The only thing Joe Blow learns about this in the mainstream media is... well, that's the thing, they don't talk about this stuff in the evening news cast. Firstly, it's undeniably dorky, and geeky stuff only plays well if there's a wedgie being delivered to a scrawny guy in cokebottle glasses at the end of it. Secondly, news people would much rather investigate why a freely downloadable user modifications (or just, mod) allows players to unlock interactive sex sequences in Grand Theft Auto. Oh snap, those damn video games still up to no good, defiling the minds of our idiotic children. I sure hope Hilary Clinton uses up taxpayer money to launch an full-blown investigation as to how those naughty game developers could let a bug like this slip into the final product. Nevermind the raucous cop-slaying, hooker-mauling action foudn in the rest of the game. We want to know about how boobies and yoni showed up in my Timmy's video game!

Alas, that's the way things work around here. Just remember: there's more to games than killing and explosions. It's about making those killings and explosions look goooood.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Small Business is HOT HOT HOT

So lately I've been hanging around the local small business centre taking care of my business registration hoo-hah and it suddenly dawned on me how attractive the staff is.

I was in there today and noticed at least two ladies there who were older, but well-dressed and with firm, shapely bodies. I would go as far as to say they were... well, how do I say this without being completely vulgar about it? I've got a perfect word on the tip of my tongue and just need to retrieve it. Oh, yes.

They were definitely fuckable. Very fuckable.

Who would've known? Who would expect to go into the stodgy, quiet environment of the small business resource office and be treated to eye candy? I certainly did not expect it. The first looker easily clocked into the 40-50 year old age bracket but I would not think twice about taking a roll in the hay with her. Fashion did play a big part in her looks, as she was decked out in a tight skirt, shear panty hose, boots and a fabulous form-fitting turtleneck. And her form... well, let me tell you she had the curves going on. Unbelievable.

The other staff member was sporting a sexy Francophone accent and had the advantage of being quite a bit younger (early-mid thirties) but still bonafide cougar territory in my books. To make matters worse (or better, in this case), the staff there are so helpful and attentive to your needs. It just made them that much more inviting and attractive. It is a bit surreal asking someone about dry business topics then oggling their ass when they turn to leave. This is ripe, uncharted territory for a porn film, I tell ya. At the very least, a calendar series sponsored by Playboy: The Women of Small Business BC.

You heard it here first, folks: small business is hot, hot, hot.

I Need to Check into an SDA Group

"Hi, my name is Clinton and I'm a sleep-deprivation addict"

"Hello Clinton"

It's true. I have a problem with getting enough sleep. I also have a problem with going to sleep at a godly hour of the night. This was my problem when I used to work a full-time job Monday to Friday, and now that I'm unemployed, my relationship with sleep has become more dysfunctional than ever.

Yes, I'll admit that I do love staying up late and that I somehow get this mysterious energy from doing so. It's sort of the same feeling you get after a long day of work that once you arrive home, you feel like you've come alive again and are ready to hit the town or meet up with friends.

I know that I've reached a critical problem point when I'm sitting around at home, bored out of my skull, feeling fatigued and sluggish and a still cannot get my heiny into bed until well after midnight. I take full responsibility for this terrible habit of mine, but I can point a finger to the Internet and count that as a huge contributing factor. Let's face it, the Internet is always on. Unlike TV, which follows a schedule and defaults into infomercials after a certain time of night, the Internet has the same goodness to offer regardless of the time of day. It truly is a magical place and a wonder to behold when you think about it. Growing up, I never in my puny little mind thought that one day I'd be able to sit at a computer and have literally a limitless world of information available at my fingertips. And if you told me I'd be able to access free porn with a mere two clicks of the mouse, I'd have told you to fuck off and take your crazy talk to the metro station where all the other lunatics spout their insane prophecies.

How do I combat this disease of mine? How do I start developing better sleep habits? These are questions that I'm ready to answer but probably a lot less prepared to act upon. I think a good start would be to give myself good reasons to get up earlier in the morning. I could schedule in important errands and appointments just for the morning hours, leaving me the afternoon and evening to let me do my own thing. Yeah, that might be a good start. I remember really sticking to my morning routine of waking up to attend my career transition classes every day and soon after that, I'd have to wake up to attend my self-employment seminars from 9:30 - 4:30 every weekday. I still had my fair share of sleep deprivation during those weeks, since I'd often end up hitting the sack at 1:00 or 1:30am. Yet overall, I think the discipline and routine of kicking my ass out of bed in the mornings was better than nothing and if nothing else instilled some structure into my life.

Now I'm back into the free-form schedule of the unemployed. Sure, I'm laying the groundwork for my new business and researching a possible future in the journalism/publishing world, but to stay on track I have to be really strict with myself so that I have the energy to drive myself and I can manage my time effectively.

Will someone hurry up and invent that Sleep Pill?