Friday, July 27, 2007

Crack the Stone Tablets

Today was fun. I spontaneously went out for what would be best defined as brunch with Kat, her mom, and her sister Erika. We washed down our pancakes and eggs with a tall glass of Guitar Hero. Work today was uneventful, except for an old man who struck up a conversation with me about my studies and imparted on me his relevant wisdom. I'm working for several hours tomorrow, and again during the afternoon on Sunday - which also happens to be my birthday. The rest of the week was fairly flat, with the exception of my big adventure in Toronto on Wednesday, (subways are so cool!!). I also attended a seminar over at Mac on Tuesday evening about teaching English in foreign countries.

I'm immensely looking forward to some of the things I have planned for the near future. Most immediately is the Muse concert this coming Wednesday. Then on the weekend of the 10/11/12th, my friends and I are going camping at a place called Rondeau. Awesome. I'm also hoping to get out to see the Queen musical in August, probably with Alex who needs to see it almost as badly as me. Nothing's set in stone yet, but the coming week will likely also involve me staying in Guelph for a couple of days while I look for a place to live. There's more, but I'll save talking about it until it happens.

I decided I was going to stop making so many posts like this, but I gave in, hence this entry's title. I'm going to cautiously promise that regular posting will resume shortly, as soon as I get my thoughts gathered up and find the time to write 'em down.


Wednesday, July 25, 2007

And We'll All Float On Alright

Hung out with Sarah in Toronto today! Got too lazy to take many photos, but:

(Clicky to enlarge)

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Dave for Dummies: A Glossary

No offense intended, of course. The fact is, I'm a bit of a geek, and while most of my friends know what I'm talking about, I want this blog to be accessible to anyone. So I decided to write a glossary of terms I use all the time when writing about the topics I enjoy, and hopefully that will make some of my posts less cryptic. Cool? Cool.

(3rd Party) App || Short for Application, refers to computer software. A third party application is software compatible with a device or other software, that was written by an outside contributor.

Beta || A term given to the testing-stage/version of a game or service. The same goes for "Alpha", an even earlier stage of completeness.

Browser || Software, (usually free) for browsing the world wide web. Examples include Mozilla Firefox, Safari, Camino, and Internet Explorer (IE).

|| Computer-generated imagery. In this blog it is usually in reference to cinematic sequences in video games which have superior 3D graphics than regular gameplay.

|| The Electronic Entertainment Expo - now renamed the "E3 Media and Business Summit" - is an annual convention in which companies in the gaming and entertainment industry showcase their upcoming products.

|| Refers to either Adobe Flash, which is software for building animations, or Macromedia Flash Player - a feature now standard in most browsers that allows for viewing of Flash-created content and other media.

|| First Person Shooter; a video game genre.

|| Short for free software, usually available online for download. May or may not be a trial version of purchasable software.

|| Hypertext Markup Language - one of many coding languages, (and by far the most prominent of them) that is used in the design in most sites on the world wide web, including this one.

|| Internet Service Provider...speaks for itself. Big players in Canada are Rogers and Bell.

|| See OS X.

|| An open-source operating system with countless different versions, usually called "distributions" or "distros". Examples of popular distros are Ubuntu, Debian and Red Hat.

|| Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game - usually abbreviated to MMO - is a video game genre where players are charged for access, often on a per-month basis.

Net Neutrality
|| See my post on Net Neutrality.

Next-Gen Console
|| One of the newest line of gaming consoles that currently represents the epitome of non-PC electronic entertainment. The consoles are Nintendo's Wii, Microsoft's Xbox 360, and Sony's Playstation 3 (PS3). Any mention of "the console wars" is a reference to the sales and overall popularity of these products.

|| Hardware or software whose defining source code is openly available for viewing and editing by its users (sometimes called "modding"), often for the purpose of multi-version distribution.

|| Operating System - the essential program usually included by default in certain hardware such as computers and phones. The OS is the middleman between user and machine that makes it easy to use the machine's features and run other software. Windows (XP, Vista, etc.) are operating systems, as are Mac OS X and Sun Solaris.

|| The current default OS on all Apple's computers. The most recent version is OS 10.4, otherwise known as "Tiger". In October 2007, Apple is releasing OS 10.5, called "Leopard". It will become the new standard bundled OS on all Macs.

|| Real-Time Strategy - a genre of video game. Notable examples include the and the Warcraft and the Starcraft games.

|| See OS X.

|| User Interface - any setup of buttons and other interactive tools that provide usability within an application.

|| World of Warcraft - the immensely popular MMO from Blizzard Entertainment.

Blogs, Sites, People

Amber MacArthur
|| A Torontonian tech journalist, blogger, podcaster and net neutrality activist - a celebrity of sorts, at least in the Canadian tech scene.
|| A social bookmarking site - frequently used in conjunction with external lists, as seen in this blog, to list links to items of interest.

Dennis McCauley
|| Member of the ECA and writer behind

|| A community website in which items submitted by users are listed in a certain order, depending on popularity. Popularity is determined through a democratic voting system. Technology and science are the most emphasized content.

|| Blog presented by the ECA that reports stories pertaining to political aspects of the gaming industry.

Jack Thompson
|| A controversial attorney from Miami whose anti-game activism has garnered widespread attention.

Paul Stamatiou
|| A student at Georgia Tech who maintains a popular tech blog.

Pete/Rockwell/Spunk Maestro
|| All the same guy.

The Sarahs
|| I have 3 close friends named Sara(h). There's Sarah Palaković, frequently referred to as her internet pseudonym and potential legal name "Kat", whose own blog inspired this one and who comments here frequently. Sara Pytka-Jones is my lifelong friend since days of yore. And finally, Sarah Lavine is my friend whom I met in Acting at Guelph.

Rotten Tomatoes
|| A website whose database of film reviews averages out final "scores" for hundreds of films.

Technorati || A blog-ranking site and searchable blog database.

Disclaimer: All of the above definitions are original.

Note: Want something added? Need additional explanation? Just want to say Hi? Comment!


Cool New Features

I've decided to make a few changes to the way things get blogged around here. I'm going to try and keep the personal anecdotes to a minimum, and any little asides, like this one, will show up in italics. I'm going to try writing more film reviews, but don't expect them to be on whatever's currently playing. Last night I rented Letters From Iwo Jima and Little Children and plan to review them both. Of course, I'll try and get out to see more movies on their premier weekends as well.

I also think I'll make write some entries that explicitly outline what my (evolving) philosophies around films and gaming are, and anything else that comes to mind. That way I can discuss them further instead of just vaguely alluding to things like I usually do. And finally, I'm going to start labeling my posts. I know, scandalous! It'll be fun to see how this turns out.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Me Know Miro

A lot of people are talking about this new "Miro" thing, so I thought I'd better have a look.

After doing a bit of reading over at Ars Technica, (see their slightly more in depth story here) I found out that Miro is open-source freeware that's a new and improved version of an older app called Democracy Player. Developed by the Participatory Culture Foundation, (PCF) Miro strives to be an "open, mass medium of online television". Interestingly, PCF is a non-profit organization that survives on donations from people, especially the good folks at Mozilla who donated a hundred grand for their cause.

Anyway, what Miro offers is first and foremost a video media library interface, whose Mac version looks just like another addition to the iLife suite. The cool thing that it does is act like a search engine encompassing many video hosting sites like YouTube, Google Video, Veoh, etc. Then it downloads stuff automatically, (as many as you want at a time) and lets you create playlists and channels. It also supposedly has access to more HD material than anything else, but as you'd expect from something that's free, there's no real standard for quality.

Like most video hosts, Miro gives you a main page with typical random goodies, including what's hot and what's brand new. See also the organizational pane on the left, set up much like iTunes. This arrangement probably varies by version.

PCF's philosophy is based on the idea that companies are scrambling to have control over video distribution, and that that's dangerous for the future of media. I have to agree. In fact, I've decided that I like these people - and their software - a lot. So much that I think I'll support them with a new sidebar button. Miro is available across all major Windows platforms, Mac OS X, and the major Linux distributions, so there's no reason not to check it out. It's also worth noting that they don't feel it's reached a "1.0 release stage" yet, so we'll probably see plenty of improvements to it yet. If you do give it a shot, or even if you don't, drop a comment here and share your thoughts!

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I sold my first TV today, wahoo! It was a Samsung LCD, 32". One small screen for man (and wife), one giant step for Dave. Or...maybe not so giant. Whatever, it was cool.

I also went back to Guelph on Tuesday to meet with my program councilor, who was extremely helpful and gave me a truckload of information regarding future course choices and stuff like that. I'm all enlightened. A step closer to the mouth of Plato's cave, even. Tonight after work I hung out with Rose and Huxley again. They are awesome.

So I've got tons of exciting plans for the upcoming weeks. Next week on wednesday I'm going to see my fabulous school chum Sarah in Toronto, and in the next couple days after that I'll probably be in Guelph staying with friend Sharon while I apartment-hunt. Then it'll be my birthday, hooray hooray, and then Muse. August 1st. With Kat. Will be amazing. And after that, my posse is planning a camping trip - destination currently undecided, possibly someplace on Lake Huron - probably for the weekend of August 11/12.

Life rocks.

PS: I really want to update that mopey, fakely artistic picture for "About Me" in my sidebar there. I hate it now. I need to get a good picture taken of me, fast. Any takers?

PPS: I want this book badly.


Sunday, July 15, 2007

Optimist Primed! Transformers Review

Just over a year ago I posted about a live action Transformers movie on the horizon. Well, last night I went to see it with Pete, Katelin and Luke. It was an awesome time! Here's my review.

If you watch Transformers on the big screen this summer, it will probably be the biggest and loudest action flick you've ever seen - unless you're a time traveler from the future. As far as I know, there's been nothing else that even compares to a film of this overwhelming magnitude and pandemonium, with the conceivable exception of Jackson's King Kong. I couldn't help but laugh when another review I read compared this movie to two of director Michael Bay's previous big flicks - he said it had better acting than Armageddon, and was probably more historically accurate than Pearl Harbor. This time around, the explosiveness is back in full force with the addition of a couple heartthrobs and an avalanche of product placement. (That's putting it lightly - GM probably paid for half the movie, with smaller contributions coming from Apple and Hasbro.)

Featured in this film is up-and-comer Shia Labeouf, who is just beginning to get widespread attention, especially since his unexpected involvement in the upcoming Indiana Jones 4 has earned him Spielberg's affection. He's being hailed as the next Tom Hanks for his boyish good looks and apparent lack of gut-turning vanity. Oh yeah, and he can act. When the behemoth robots aren't body-slamming each other through skyscrapers and blowing stuff up, we're treated to Labeouf's entertaining, (no really, he's hilarious!) performance as the young man, Sam Witwicky, whose precious new car turns out to be a futuristic transforming space robot. He's a typical kid who loves his dog and lusts for the archetypal popular girl, played by the elegant Megan Fox. These two stars go nicely together, and their story, tied in with their guardian car-transformer "Bumblebee", create the heart of the movie that the audience can connect with.

Labeouf and Fox, pictured separately and in the middle of mayhem in Transformers, will probably be popping up more often.

Of course, to loyal fans of the old school cartoons, the real stars of the show are the astonishing robots such as Optimus Prime and Bumblebee, and the villainous Megatron and co. These and a host of other robots, who transform into everything from fighter jets to CD players, have found their way to Earth in an effort to reclaim a powerful artifact that will spell humanity's extinction if it falls into the hands of Megatron, (voiced by a computer-enhanced Hugo Weaving.) This violent struggle is brought to the downtown core of L.A., where the Autobots, Decepticons, and the federal army have an epic rumble that, for all its visual effect-grandeur, manages to stay centralized on Sam Witwicky. Transformers' triumph is that it makes no attempt to take its ridiculous and dorky-to-the-extreme premise seriously. Instead, it revels in this and takes it as far as it can. Another noteworthy upside is that this movie's pretty funny in those few moments when it's not rocking your socks off and blowing your mind.

It's tough finding decent screencaps, but this is one of Sam's first encounter with one of the Decepticons, named Barricade.

It'd be a shame to write a review without mentioning the awesome cinematography in this movie. I'm a fan of Bay's visual style, whose lighting techniques and colours and tones you might recognize from The Island. Extensively mobile cameras suck you into the action and almost throw you out of your seat. I also enjoyed the appropriately heavy soundtrack, whose frequent cocky electric guitar outbursts felt perfectly matched to the visuals. The big recognizable track from the film is Linkin Park's hit single "What I've Done". The attitude of the song helps them hit the nail on the head at the movie's finale. It's one of those things that gives you a juvenile thrill and makes you say, "Wow! Awesome!"

So here's the final verdict:

Transformers is the kind of movie that's supposed to bring out the teenager in you; that young buck who loves cars, planes, girls, explosions, and robot aliens. If you're thinking, "there's no way I'd ever find that appealing," then chances are you're right. It's probably not the kind of thing you take your mother to, but then again, I hope those old enough to get in to see this have stopped seeing movies with their moms anyway. But any guy with a pulse should love this, or any girl with a jones for Shia Labeouf. Here I go making stereotypical gender and age assumptions. So hey, prove me wrong. Go see this! Oh, by the way, don't even think about waiting until it comes out on video. The honest truth is, this will probably be a crappy movie from the perspective of your living room La-Z-Boy. All Hollywood films are meant to be seen in the theatre, and some, like this one, are actually not compatible at all with your average home entertainment system. If you don't catch this one on the big screen, you're missing out. I'm glad I didn't!


Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Holy Coolsauce!

Ok, check out all the uber-shweet links I've added to my list! First and foremost, Konami released a new Metal Gear Solid 4 video at E3 and it's AMAAAAAZING. Check it out here! There's also a lot of news pertaining to the video game industry cropping up all over the place, and GamePolitics' Dennis McCauley, (my hero) is keeping on top of it all. From a study claiming ultra-violent video games may be healthy, to an article from Newsweek suggesting Microsoft recall the 360, to Take Two's chairman's comments regarding the evisceration of Manhunt 2 - Dennis keeps me up to date. Man, I love this stuff.

Also, Hamilton city council members gave themselves a raise today. Because...that's important. What about all the stuff that needs funding? Ah well.

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Same Shenanigans

Just posting some random photos from recently, for the sake of posting them. And because I like 'em. So there!


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Masquerading as a Man with a Reason

Yikes, almost a week since my last post! Well, there's not much to report. I've been fairly busy with work, working the odd shift here and there at both my jobs. I almost sold a guy a TV the other day, but then his wife came along and gave him heck. (They were supposed to be looking at tables. I said to him, "Wife knows best, eh?" He laughed.)

As I probably already mentioned somewhere, my cousin Mel is away camping this week and I'm going in to her apartment everyday to feed their cat, Tigger. She's very shy and hisses if you get to close, but she's eating her food so everything seems fine. I'm taking the opportunity to practice my guitar hero skills, plus I tried out Final Fantasy XII - I wouldn't buy it, but it's pretty cool. Mel has a neat action figure of the main character up on display in the living room.

Guh, I can't think of anything else to say. I'm 19 in 19 days. Cool.


Wednesday, July 04, 2007

All Kinds of Heroics

Lordy. Summer's already more than half-over. The bizarre thing is, when you're in public school, two months of summer seems like this massive gap. When you return to the next grade in the fall, everyone always looks older than you remember. (And usually darker.) But this time around, with about 5 months off, it seems like no time at all. Maybe it's just being busier that does it. Ah well.

So, this weekend fell a little short of my expectations due to some unforseen things. On Friday I was hoping to go to Toronto with Pete and Jer to this little show, but then I realized it was fruitless to even try since it was likely a 19+ event. (I think they decided to go someplace else since it was super-busy anyway.) I also called Rose and asked her to see Pirates 3 with me that night instead, but she "doesn't watch those movies". For shame, Rose, for shame. So Friday night was basically this huge waste of a weekend night. Saturday night I had work, but Paul, Pete and Sara picked me up after my shift and a bigger group of us met at Alex's. It was just a short visit, enough to see Sara's slideshow that she put together for Pete's birthday a while back. Sunday night the plan was to go see a Canada Day show at Niagra. Sara being our driver, I showed up at her house to find that her poor mum had fallen and hit her head on the corner of the stove. Paramedics were soon en route, and Sara of course accompanied her mom to the hospital. (She's fine, by the way.) But yeah, I spent the rest of the night at Pete's just hanging out.

Monday was pure awesome though. The usual gang (sans Alex, Katelin and Beth) met at Paul's for a games night featuring all Kat's nifty stuff. Guitar Hero was, as always, a big hit. I want to own it more than ever now. I also want another games night soon...or hell, maybe just a guitar hero night. Speaking of which, that reminds me that I'm sort of baby-sitting my cousin Mel's apartment, (read: feeding the cat) next week while she and partner Adam are off camping. I'm also allowed to use their stuff, which is so cool of them. So hooray.

The other so-called "heroics" item is this: recently I downloaded the entire first season of the TV show Heroes. It was a pretty random choice, and I had no idea what I was getting into. Anyway, I love it.
I don't get sucked into really far-fetched fantasy stories anymore as a rule, but this, for some reason, is just so compelling - and I'm not even sure why. It's not very original, and mainly thrives on cliff-hangers and ever-so-frequent story-twists. The plot formula is so familiar you could swear you've seen this show before. Because, yeah, wait a second...ordinary people discover they have super-human abilities...which are caused by the fact that they're the beginning of the next stage in human evolution...yes, that's it! This has X-Men written all over it. Except these guys have no Patrick Stewart to tell them what's what, and teach them to use their powers correctly. They get along okay though. Heroes is carried by a strong cast, with special mention to Jack Coleman, who consistently presents one of creepiest television characters I've ever seen. I also enjoy Ali Larter's (pictured above) multiple personality character(s) whose complications she handles very seamlessly. There's also minimal use of stock characters, which is a nice change. Probably the most unoriginal character is Masi Oka's "Hiro Nakamura", (pictured right) the pencil pusher from Tokyo who can bend space and time to his will. That said, he's also one of the most lovable characters and I can't wait to see him in more stuff. The soundtrack is pretty nice and often appropriately haunting, although sometimes the rest of the show doesn't quite keep up to the "epic level" of the music.

In any case, I can hardly tear myself away from the show long enough to write this or do anything else. I'm about to start episode 14 out of 23, and I started out yesterday morning. I've only stopped to go to work last night at Baranga's and today at Sears - which, by the way, is my only Sears shift this week. Thumbs down to that, but one of my bosses assured me today that more hours are on the horizon.

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