Friday, November 30, 2007

Kanye's Good Morning Video

The video is directed by superflat innovator Takashi Murakami. Watch it while it's hot, the take down notices are flying. Apparently the video is stolen from the retrospective at MOCA where, I should add, the gift shop employees are douche bags.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Signs That Wall*E is Going to Be Awesome

1. It has robots
2. It's by Pixar
3. The trailer uses music from Brazil
4. This website

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

How to Sell Out

Tay Zonday's second act is a supremely wierd commercial for Dr. Pepper. You did good, kid.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

It Ain't Berkley Physics

This Youtube video for "Smell Yo Dick" by Riskay (embedding disabled) won't make you smarter in a textbook sense. But there are lessons to be learned. The lyrics aren't exactly profane, but they're pretty suggestive so keep this one away from the kids.

Riskay's MySpace

What I'm watching

Cal Berkeley has hundreds of hours of good quality video of excellent course lectures. This is the biggest potential leap in education reform since 1954. I'm brushing up on the Physics course I slept through as a freshman.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Wolves in the Throne Room

Slate has an interesting write up of Wolves in the Throne Room, an American black metal band who bury a radical ecological message under atmospheric metal gloom. If I had to describe the band, I'd say they've got one foot in God Speed You Black Emperor territory, the other foot is squarely set in Norway. They're on the Southern Lord record label -- home to Boris, one of my recent faves.

And yeah, a small part of the band's appeal for me, is that their name sounds like an event card from the A Game of Thrones CCG -- maybe a Stark-only kill-a-king card?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Thanksgiving Prayer

William S. Burroughs' message from the grave -- share it with your family!

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dublab Live

Dublab, the web radio station my friends started after finishing college are in the middle of a fund raising drive, in honor of the occasion they're broadcasting live today. Tune in to hear their 24 hour sleepless marathon.

Read up on their Proton Drive page to see what kind of cool stuff you'll score for donating.

You can also stream Dublab from iTunes: Radio > Electronic > dublab

Mr T and Kirk, hard at WOW

I wish I could post them here direct, but oh well, I am just too overworked to worry about how to do that for anything other than youtube

Monday, November 19, 2007

More Rock Band Thoughts

As we speak eager rockers are shivering in the cold, waiting for their copy of Rock Band. Meanwhile, I'm safe and warm continuing to digest the game. Some additional thoughts:

Singing is intensely personal. I think this is why I hate the song selection in so many karaoke games, but tend to like the Guitar Hero and Rock Band track lists. Because merely hopping in as session guitarist or drummer is so much more detached than actually having to speak, nay, croon song lyrics. Maybe it's just me, but being forced to sing crappy songs by The Ok Go, The Killers and Coheed and Cambria puts me in a foul mood. Failing said songs straight up pissed me off. I never felt such emotional responses to songs in the Guitar Hero games. I just bit the bullet and powered through the crap as fast as I could.

On a similar note, both Rock Band and Guitar Hero slot their crap songs around the 3/4 point of the playlist. They frontload the game with really kick-ass songs, saving some of the real rockers for the final push. But there's a spot, right where the turning point would be in a movie, where they slam you with a whole tier of stinkers. In Guitar Hero games these are usually the all-metal tiers (which I like but most people abhor). Sure, this observation is totally based on opinion, but I'll bet dollars to doughnuts that this is the game designer's strategy.

I'm a little worried how smoothly our characters are going to travel. Will I be able to bring my decked out drummer to a friend's house to rock? Will my wife be able to earn achievements on her profile while we work together on a band tour? I'll be investigating these soon.

And if you're scoring: I finished the vocal tour on medium, drums on easy and am working my way through guitar on hard -- The New Pornographers track is kinda tough.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Rock Band: Day 1 Impressions

Just finished my first night of Rock Band play. I'm finding myself immediately enamored with the game. Where Guitar Hero III delivered most of what I suspected (turned up to 11, natch) Rock Band constantly surprises. For example, the cities and venues that you play depend on what you select as your character's home town. As a goof I created a French guitarist named Patrice -- a bare-chested dude with Ziggy's mullet in black and day-glow pink stretch pants with yellow skeleton legs on the fronts. All my other characters had been from Los Angeles and played up and down the coast for the first several levels. Patrice kicked off in the Paris sewers, complete with skulls embedded in the walls, then struck out to Amsterdam and parts European for his first tour.

There are little touches everywhere. One of the venues in California is a skating rink. Your band plays in front of the classic arcade games. I fairly swooned. At the end of "Paranoid" the game goes all psychedelic, with mirrored split-screen effects and crazy colors, just like an old Sabbath video. Singers get some percussion to keep them busy during guitar solos and extended musical bridges -- you tap the microphone like a tambourine, or in the case of "Don't Fear the Reaper," a cowbell. I wish I could have a dime for every time that SNL sketch is going to be referenced in reviews in the weeks to come.

There's something about the game that's very appealing to my wife. It could just be the inclusion of singing -- she's already making noised about joining me one of these days. I had to beg her to play bass when I was reviewing Guitar Hero II and she's volunteering, bemoaning in fact that I'll be playing this with my guy friends and that she'll miss out on the fun. So Alexis made a character -- a gal with blue and white dreads. We learned that her name "Skank" was considered inappropriate for online play. I guess the ska-favored dance move gets thrown out with the bathwater in this case.

I suspect the main reason that she's into Rock Band is that it has a more co-operative feel that Guitar Hero ever did. The game was about grandstanding and Rock Band feels like a party game. Also, the game's styling feels more inclusive. The character customization is going to win over lots of girls -- especially after Guitar Hero whored up Judy Nails and kicked Pandora to the curb.

For the kids scoring at home:
  • I played the drum career on easy. It's already tough, but I'm excited about learning this because I genuinely feel like I'm learning to play drums. Because, honestly, this is me.
  • I stopped playing drums around 8PM for fear of annoying my downstairs neighbor.
  • I played the vocal career on medium. I can see singing equaling drumming in difficulty. Hitting those notes gets hard, especially on later songs where you come in on a really high note or hit a high note between a series of low ones.
  • It's cool that some songs, such as "Sabotage," don't judge you on nailing the notes. You can just friggin scream if you feel like it.
  • Like everybody says, guitar feels a little easier. I think, though, that this is a product of song selection as much as difficulty in the note charts. The earlier tunes just aren't as wanky or thrashy as the songs in Guitar Hero.
  • Harmonix's taste in music from the '00s is merely okay. I'm not really digging OK Go and the newer stuff from Nine Inch Nails, The Strokes, etc. I'll make a post soon with my suggestions for awesome, rocking, hipster-friendly new tunes

Four Days Early, One Day Late

UPS showed up bright and early this morning with two huge boxes. One had an individual guitar. The other, the Rock Band special edition. One day earlier and we could have spent our usual Thursday rocking out. Though last night turned out to be a good night at the source. I won another round of A Game of Thrones against Luke (doesn't he realize I'm trying to get new cards?) and we tried out a new game whose name eludes me.

I'll be reviewing Rock Band for Paste, which won't see print for a while, so I'll be sure to post impressions here frequently.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Ravenholme in South Minneapolis

From Craigslist, a guy who is a bigger Half-Life 2 dork than all the Source Dorks put together:

For Halloween this year I hosted a "Ravenholm" themed party for which I built several props. Perhaps someone else wants these props that I don't? They're all made from painted OSB.

The eight saw blades are 3' in diameter (and look good in the dark - I was asked, more than once, if they were real).
The nine supply crates have no ammunition or health packs in them but were designed to be easily busted open.
The headcrab missle originally included a propane flame effect (not included!) but is otherwise empty (the original headcrabs have been debeaked).

All are next to my garage, behind my house at 3945 Pleasant Ave. I'll remove/edit this posting as things disappear.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Drama! Outbursts! Homeless!

Here's Part 9 of Dan Clowes' ongoing comic strip, Mr. Wonderful. All the older comics can be found here.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dockcon: The Photos

Here's my Flickr set from Dockcon 2007 -- the four-day board game fest I'm still recovering from. Games played between Thursday and Sunday:
Thanks again to Mike and his wife for giving us a place to play. Hopefully the smell will dissipate before winter really sets in.

Monday, November 12, 2007

The Furries Are Taking Over

Apparently this video is part of a French ad campaign for unfortunately named drink.


Does the Constitution get in the way of your fear mongering aims?
Does it provide pesky things like rights on people?
Does it stop you from spying on whomever you want whenever you want?

Well then, you don't need to change it or get rid of it. Just get people to change the definition of the very words it's written with...

Hey, it's kinda working for "terrorist" and "torture" after all.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Fair Weather Friends

Here's the video for "Fair Weather Friends" from Daedelus' new EP. He'll be in town in a couple weeks (Triple Rock 11/17) with Busdriver.

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Four Days In the Center of the Board Game Universe

Gamasutra's Ward Batty reports from Internationale Spieltage, the big gaming convention held in Essen, Germany, and makes the case for why the video game industry should care about board games.

Full story.

Feels Like 1988 Again

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Robbins-Con Final Grade B-

Internet connection at the Embassy was impeded by the tin-foil hat so I'm just getting to this now.

Overall, it wasn't as bad as I feared.

Good - Tony is the best presenter I have ever seen. Impossible not to pick up some things there. He also forces you to take time to think about what is important in your life and to focus on that vs the daily distractions. Finally, tools to manage your and affect others' emotional states are very useful.

Bad - Some of his stuff (Neuro-Lingusitc Programming, WheatGrass, etc) has some science behind it. But selling it as The Model for success, health, etc is crap. He's also spreading himself thinner by playing videos of him speaking at times, and bringing in a buddy-speaker. Walking over hot coals was a big letdown.

Ugly - Sunday night after 14 straight hours leading to a staged water fight leading to a sales pitch to spend $10K for more of his stuff. Saying he's too old to go 4 straight days speaking only to find out he's ditched to make $ at a pitch in Chicago. 2500 people crying hysterically during a visualization exercise.

Summary: Definitely interesting, probably useful, but not worth 4 days or the corporate money invested.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Who would you pick?

So I've been having a little fun playing with the candidate match sites listed on this Salon article:

And have to admit I'm pretty surprised at how my results landed. On pretty much every one I got matched up with the angry old Alaskan.

"Why hast thou forsaken me?"

Slate has just published a nifty think piece on Super Mario Bros.: The Lost Levels, which is now available for download on the Wii's Virtual Console. This game was supposed to be the sequel to the NES classic, but it never got a US release because it was considered "too hard" and possibly "too Japanese." Rumors are that Shigeru Miyamoto was depressed when he made the game, which would account for the game's frequently cruel left turns.

Read the story here.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Roadkill Bob

I am not sure how many of you still subscribe to the automated source email alerts.

In case you don't, I am using the old cut and paste to let you know some news

Roadkill Bob, the long haired, bridge-of-nose pierced, beard colored, boot wearing biker looking dude who frequently was playing that extinct cardgame one table over, and who banks at Tim's bank is dying of brain cancer. They are passing around the hat because he wants to take his wife to disney world, where they had their honeymoon. 200% of donations will go to Roadkill, that is because the source is matching donations dollar-for-dollar.

Hello Everyone,

Quite possibly this is the most difficult e-mail we've ever had to send out. It's about
very bad news, it's about courage and ultimately hope.

Our very dear friend Robert Scott Aiken AKA "Roadkill the Troll" a fixture and blessing in our
personal and professional lives over the years has been diagnosed with an extremely deadly
form of brain cancer. We can't begin express to all of you in our community how this makes
us feel and how it will ultimately affect us. We love this man like a brother.

In typical Roadkill fashion he has expressed pity " on the poor disease that comes after me".
His courage and noble heart are quite simply the stuff from which legends are born and life
lessons are learned. It is our profound hope that as he fights the battle for his life that he truly
understands that he does not now or will he ever stand alone.

While fighting the good fight, Roadkill has expressed a wish that he, and his wife Susan, return
to the spot where they had their original honeymoon, Disney World (of course!) and that is why
we are writing to you, our community of family and friends, today. We come to you, hat in hand,
to make a couple of humble requests.

First, if you are of a faith whatever prayers or acknowledgements you could offer in support Roadkill
and Susan would be profoundly appreciated.

Second, as of this moment, the Source has initiated operation "Traveling Trolls". We are inviting
all of you to help us assemble the financial resources they need to make their dark days ahead a
little brighter and the opportunity to step up and stand with one of our very own.

We'll be collecting money at the store for the next couple of weeks to give to Roadkill and Susan.
100% of all proceeds will go directly to them. In addition to making our own donation, we at
the Source will also be matching any monies you folks are kind enough to offer. Donations
of cash,check, credit cards and Troll food will be accepted. You can send it, call it in or get it to us
anyway you can. Time is of the essence!

Finally, for those of you who may not know Roadkill and Susan personally, at the bottom of this
e-mail (see below), I've enclosed a note from a good friend of his that pretty much sums up how
we feel.

Thank you for your time, thoughtful considerations for allowing us to share this with you.

Your friends,

Jerry, Bob, Nick, Hans, Chad, Burl, John N., John K., Dan, Greg, Pat, Tim, Greg, Shawn
SOURCE COMICS & GAMES1601 West Larpenteur AveFalcon Heights, MN. 55113651.645.0386

Hi all,

Forgive me if this runs a little long-winded, but I need to get this out of me and committed to the written word.

On Friday, I drove up to the Twin Cities. The autumn colors of the trees grew closer to it's peak the further north I drove. An odd counterpoint, that as my surroundings grew more beautiful and serene the further I went, the more the feeling of dread and unease grew inside of me.

For I was going to see My Friend. And My Friend is dying.

The executioner is a brain tumor. The technical name is glioblastoma multiforme, or GBM. It's a tumor that started on one side of his brain and traveled rather quickly to the other. Surgery was performed about a week and a half ago, but they could only remove part of the tumor. The doctors are using a therapy known as wafer chemotherapy, where a small plastic disk imbedded with chemicals is placed directly on the tumor, which will dissolve over the next two to three weeks. At best, this will only slow the growth temporarily. Because the tumor is very aggressive.

Eventually, the tumor will spread to the parts of his brain that controls his heart and lungs. When this happens, his lungs and heart will stop, and he will die.

My Friend is Robert Scott Aiken. He is also known as Roadkill the Troll, and he is perhaps one of the most interesting, one of the most creative and whimsical, and one of the most unique people who has ever graced my life. In the words of Hunter S. Thompson, He Stomped The Terra.

I went to see him, and his wife Susan. Almost twenty years ago, I dragged Susan, who was a co-worker a the time and a science fiction fan, up to her first convention, a Minicon. There, she met a rather brash fellow with hair of many lengths and colors. "It looks like you put roadkill on your head", she told him, and thus a legend was born. She was not exactly enamored by him at first, but as time rode by, she melted the heart of the Beast, and the Beauty took him to be hers. At long last, after many trials and tribulations, they were wed (I was one of the Bridesmen).

And I went to be with them this weekend, and many tears were shed.

And yet, through the tears, I rejoice that Roadkill the Troll will fight this on his own terms. He chooses not to be ventilated or kept alive in the Eternal Twilight of the Machine. He chooses to die but one death. And it appears that he will not be doing any radiation or chemo-therapy. The doctors say that the odds are that it would not prolong his life by much, and would make him weak and unable to do very much.

And Trolls are not weak.

He is doing daily therapy. Occupational, Physical, and Speech therapy, so that he can re-learn how to do so many things. When I talked to him, he was there, but very tired (lots of therapy does that to you.) His words were measured, as if trying to find where that word or phrase is hiding. But he can still give the thumbs up, and sometimes he has to use hand signals, so he's still there, and working his way back.

For he has a plan.

"Hey, Roadkill... you've been diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor! What are you going to do now?"

"I'm going to Disney World..."

Yes... Roadkill and his wife are planning to go back to Disney World. They went there for their honeymoon, and he plans to go there before the final scene of his life plays out. He wants to ride the rides, see the shows, dine at the restaurants... and hug Tigger.

For that is who Roadkill truly was... Tigger made real. He bounced from project to project, rarely keeping still, with the fire of one in whom the creative genius glows. Making costumes from everything from foam to shaped PVC... building the Guardian of Forever as a prop for a convention... making 3-D representations of magic items from 'Magic: The Gathering' cards... remodeling his house, including building a bathroom literally from scratch... making a smoking lounge, complete with TV and ventilation, in his basement so he could smoke stogies with his friends after smoking was banned in bars in the twin cities... and shopping at Goldmann's for Zoot Suits, and making them look Damn Stylish, especially with a pair of self-made, dental-quality 3-inch long troll tusks. He had the energy of ten, and attacked projects with an almost child-like exuberance.

And he has left his mark. Go rent a copy of Trekkers 2, and catch the part that was filmed in Minnesota. He's only on screen for about 5 seconds, but you can also see the Guardian of Forever. Go to, a site for a show that Roadkill helped to build props and sets for.

He wanted to get some cards made. I decided to do it for him, and send them up there. The cards, in a shiny blue finish, will say:
Piss Off!
I Have An Excuse...
It's Called a Brain Tumor

And now, the flame grows dim... but does not go out. For this is Roadkill, who will find a way to make it work. Who will stare into the Abyss and yell, "Bring It, Bitch!!!". Who will travel to see Mount Rushmore, and see the leaves turn one last time, and who will go to Disney World, and hug Tigger.

And he is not alone.

For his friends are Legion. His friends are coming to help out, to offer aid and comfort, to make his dreams real. A local game store is holding a silent auction. The people he works with are holding a fund raiser at a local bar. MISFITS, one of the local fannish organizations, chooses a family each year to help during the holidays. This year, they have chose Roadkill and Susan. And many friends are sending checks, large and small, to help them to achieve his last wish: to make every moment count.

And when the light finally flickers out, and the curtain is drawn down on the last act of this wondrous fellows life, even then he will laugh in the face of death. He plans to be cremated, and then have a New Orleans-style Jazz Funeral, umbrellas and all. For his will not have been a life of sorrow and pain, but a life of energy and whimsy and celebration of life itself. So, when the time comes, I will go and sing and dance and drink and smoke stogies in celebration of a wondrous life...

But today I weep...

When I went to see him, I brought a kringle from Racine. I brought a turtle kringle, because Trolls love chocolate. When I presented it to him, he grinned slightly, and said softly, "I would have preferred blueberry..." (of course, that didn't stop him from eating about 1/4 of it...)

So, I will go up to see him again around Christmas. And I will bring him a blueberry kringle. And we will talk, and laugh, and when he's not looking, tears will fall from my eyes.

For he is Robert Scott Aiken.

He is Roadkill the Troll.

He is My Friend.

And I shall miss him when he's gone.

Friday, November 2, 2007


While Gus gets in to E3 for free, I'm in the middle of a free 3 1/2 days of listening to Tony Robbins in Atlanta. I was heavily "encouraged" by my boss, but I'm trying to keep an open mind. Going in, I expected a mix of help focusing on what's important, BS psychology, and kool-aid drinking zealots. So far:

What's important - group dancing, repeating mantras, and talking for 14 hours without a food or bathroom break.

BS psychology - whether you're in a peak state or not, leaving hot coals stuck to your feet after walking across them hurts like hell, ass hat.

BS psychology - At one point, he picks up a 140 lb dude easily. He then tells him to find his center and root to the ground. Then he can't pick the guy up, suspending the laws of psychics.

Kool-aid drinking zealots - Groupies pounced on me every time I pulled out my camera, because it "de-focuses" people.

Kool-aid drinking zealots - People actually believe that chanting while walking across the coals somehow protects the body.

Kool-aid drinking zealots - I made the mistake of admitting to one of the Grateful Dead like followers, gaining me personal attention the whole time. It's not enough for these people to think this guy is Jesus, they need to push me as well.

Front Mission DS: The Lesbian Edition

So here's what happened: I accidentally misread one of Square Enix's androgynous characters and inadvertently transformed Front Mission DS's story from trite to utterly fascinating.

Some back story. I have two handles I like to use in games. For male characters I use Flynn, after Jeff Bridges from Tron. For the ladies I use Tura, after the awesomely bad-ass actress from Russ Meyers' Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill! So when Front Mission's story kicks in the only cues I've had re: the sexuality of the lead character, Royd (totally missed hint, right?), was the image you see above, which I read as a kinda butchy girl. So sue her, she likes her hair short. Tura it is. It soon realized I'd misread the character when I learned that he/she was engaged to another Wanzer pilot, Karen, who had gone missing after failed mission. Oops.

At this point there was nothing I could do. Tura would be Tura for the rest of the game. Then things started getting interesting. New female pilots joined my gang of mercenaries the Canyon Crows. And I was starting to detect a hint of jealousy, or unrequited love, for Tura as she led the rag-tag band on a hunt for Karen. The flaxen-haired Natalie seemed to fawn over Tura at every turn. The mysterious Meihua, with her ivory skin and China doll eyes, was obviously infatuated with her de facto leader.

And when a surly veteran in a dive bar called Tura "boy" the implication was crystal clear. The jerk was calling out Tura's sexuality. The dig bore a little extra sting. Tura's mission wasn't simply a quest to re-unite with her love. No, she was going to sing her sexuality to the whole of Huffman. And she'd ram her message home with a F-2 Tonfa is she had to. Dismantling these backwards yahoos one mech at a time suddenly became a lot more fun.

I've never really jived with Square Enix's storytelling style. Their whole world-is-gonna-end-because-of-some-crazy-fascist-Darth-Vader-guy-with-a-crystal motif leaves me a little cold. But I think my inadvertent sex change was exactly what this game needed. It could be that all Final Fantasy games would benefit from selective gender bending. Maybe I'm finally beginning to understand this whole yaoi thing.

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