Saturday, February 28, 2009

Home Movies

Ten years ago, I wasn't sure what to make of Home Movies. As I recall, the show was on UPN on Saturday mornings, and the big selling point was Squigglevision. Squigglevision was a computer-generated animation technique where the lines around all the characters perpetually squiggled and squirmed. The result was three or four of the ugliest shows ever broadcast.

Beyond the awful look of the show, it was very confusing as a Saturday morning cartoon. Aside from the outlines, there was little movement in the show; just characters standing around and talking, and the subjects of their conversations weren't the types of things you'd get out of Bugs Bunny or the Ninja Turtles. The first episode, for example, is about a recently divorced mom going on a date with her eight-year-old son's soccer coach. The fact that the characters casually swore once in a while made it clear that this show probably wasn't in the right time slot. Not surprisingly, the show went off the air after six episodes.

I was ten at the time and, like I said, I didn't get it. I doubt I stuck with the show for more than an episode or two. Then, last summer, during a bit of late-night channel surfing, there it was. The Squigglevision was gone, but I knew the show immediately. I watched the rest of the episode and I was hooked.

Apparently, Cartoon Network picked up the show a little after the end of its network TV run, trading in the weird squiggles for three more seasons. The animation's still terrible, but the show, I've discovered, is great either way.

The basics: Brendon Small is an eight-year-old who likes to make movies after school with his friends Jason and Melissa. He lives with his mom, Paula, and adopted sister, Josie. His soccer coach, John McGuirk, serves as a sort of surly mentor. Other kids from the school show up on occasion: bratty Fenton, polite bully Shannon, hyper-affectionate Walter and Perry, and guitarist Dwayne.

As mentioned, the show is light on action and heavy on dialogue, so it's a good thing that the dialogue is fantastic. As far as I can tell, each episode has a few general scene set-ups, but most of the speech is improvised. It gives the show a very unusual rhythm and tone, another contributor to the poor success of Home Movies as a Saturday morning cartoon, but it has an interesting energy that few other shows, if any, match.

And the characters... the acting... they're fantastic. Most of the kids are eight, but they're all voiced by adults. The result is pretty much the type of kids you find on TV - mostly adult, but childlike when convenient. Check out a few minutes into the "Brendon Gets Rabies" episode, when Melissa holds the puppy. It has to be one of the most finely observed eight-year-old impressions I've ever heard. There may be some indecision over whether to make the characters kids or adults, but the characters mostly work for the show. Jason is one of the best "weird friends" on any show - I think everybody knew this guy in elementary school.

The adults are all just as good. John McGuirk is one of televisions great oafs. I don't think it's any stretch to say that Paula Small is the most honest, believable mom in television history.

Anyway, that's enough rambling from me. This is a terrific show and you should watch it, and thanks to the loose ethics of the Internet, you can! That's right, every episode - all four seasons - can easily be found on YouTube. Give it a try (and here's an episode list if you'd like to go in order, which you should, though it's easy enough to catch up if you jump into the middle).

Friday, February 27, 2009

Sweet Land of Liberty

Seen while grocery shopping: Frozen baked potatoes.

Maybe recession isn't the worst thing for this country.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Practice at home can increase your skill on court.

I have a few video game related links I've been holding for a while. The idea is that they seemed sort of interesting when I found them and I was waiting until I either had related subjects to blog about or a late night when I needed to quickly post something. I'm tired of seeing them in my bookmarks, though, so I'm going to wipe them all out in one boring post.

First, here's an article about the most anticipated games-related technology of this year. In first (beating out my pick of Wii MotionPlus) is stereoscopic 3D display. Hmmm...

Next, sooooo many pictures of video game systems. The story here is that some video game collector was auctioning off his collection. The result is an enormous gallery of perhaps some of the most obscure consoles in video game history.This is incredible. Even if you don't care about video games, give this link a shot. A fascinating pictoral history lesson.

I don't know why I thought anyone who reads this blog would be interested in this, but here you go: Good Morning America talks about what the newly released Sega Genesis and NEC TurboGrafx-16 will mean for Nintendo

And finally, an article from today: Game|Life previews the upcoming Dante's Inferno video game. My gut reaction when I first heard about this game was, "That's a great idea!" My second thought - "Wait, no it isn't. Not at all." The book has some neat settings, but the plot consists almost entirely of wimpy poet Dante walking around, having a few chats with the dead, and crying. I think he throws up a few times, as well. There's probably a decent enough slow-paced adventure game somewhere in there, but no, it turns out this game is all about running around and killin' stuff. Instead of Dante, the wimpy poet who weaps and vomits in perpetual fear, you play as Dante, the muscle-bound human tank who's out for revence, and he's coming after you, Lucifer.

Tonight's post was brought to you by the sounds of Bitter:Sweet. If you don't listen to them already, consider this introduction your reward for getting through a blog about boring old video game stuff.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Good Morning

Ha ha, suckers! I'm done with my homework and I still have two-and-a-half hours until class!

I can't wait to go to school and spend three hours painting.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

You're Toast

Continuing yesterday's theme of "Wow, man, I'm so impressed with every little thing in the world," I'd like to take a moment to express my love of toasters. They are da bomb.

First of all, let's all agree that the design of the common toaster is pretty brilliant. Not even the whole "hot, twisting wires bit that warm the air to heat your food" bit, but the design of the vertical-loading food slots. Genius! Well, maybe not genius, but clever and original, nonetheless. Think about it, if you had hot wires and you were asked to create some sort of device in which they could heat food, how would you do it? I bet you'd just copy the design of a conventional oven, wouldn't you? Maybe if you're a real radical you'd make some sort of clam-shaped, George Foreman thing, but don't even try to tell me that you'd make something like a toaster, because you wouldn't. Come on, I know you.

But someone did, and I salute them. I don't want to sound too down on toaster ovens - I like 'em alright - but the toaster oven has nothing on the toaster toaster. Let's break this down objectively.

First of all, a toaster oven has a door. This traps in heat, while the ordinary toaster is open to the surrounding air. Just the same, the toaster oven is filled with air, while the toaster is filled with toast. I don't know much about science. I haven't run any toast races between toasters and ovens. I don't know what's more efficient. What I do know is that the oven door stands between you and your toast, and that toast is better than air. Toaster wins this round.

Toasters do one thing: toast. Toaster ovens toast in addition to serving as tiny ovens*. Toaster oven wins, right? Wrong. You already have an oven. The toaster is focused. In these confusing times of telephones that can take pictures, play games, and even solve long division problems, isn't it comforting to know that your toaster will never do anything more than make toast, or possibly serve as a blunt weapon in matters of domestic dispute?

Rather than debating every way in which the toaster oven proves itself the premier toasting appliance of the modern kitchen, though, let's fast-forward to the only one that matters: It makes your food pop up. You drop in your bread, English muffins, or frozen waffles, adjust the power, press the plunger, and you're done. The toaster says, "Don't worry, bro, I got this." And when it's done, you get served. Pop!

And if you have a Hello Kitty toaster, even better.

*I've reminded myself of one of the best quotes I ever overheard while working at Target:

"Oh, it's a toaster and an oven!"

Monday, February 23, 2009

Said It Once Before But It Bears Repeating

I saw a rainbow today. Big deal, I know, but... I guess it kind of is. How often do you get to look into the sky and see stripes of green and orange? I could barely keep my eyes off it, but I did manage to pull away enough to look at everyone I passed, and no one seemed to notice it.

I've lived here for about a year-and-a-half now, and assuming I can find a good job outside of this area after college, I won't be a bit upset about moving away. I'm long over this dirty old town, but I don't think there's a day when I don't gave out over the tree-filled valleys, hoping for a glimpse of the snow capped mountains through the heavy Washington fog, or watching the rivers for ducks and geese. It's pretty here, and I'm happy to report that I haven't gotten used to it. When I moved here, I worried that I'd grow accustomed to the sights. I don't worry about that much anymore.

Do people's souls really harden to the point that they no longer see the beauty in a rainbow, or do they just stop looking to the sky? Or both? There's something about this crazy planet that never gets old to me. I'm in love with the world.

I'll also never get tired of this.

Sunday, February 22, 2009


Why did I play video games yesterday? I have so much homework! ACK!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

People in My Apartment

There are some people here, so I'm gonna go be social instead of blogging. A question, though: Why do I feel guilty when I play video games on Saturdays? I think one day off from homework now and then is a reasonable request.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough

Here's something bizarre: An online catalog of stuff Michael Jackson is selling.

I'm not exactly sure what's happening with Neverland Ranch, at the moment. This catalog might lead you to believe that Michael's selling all his most decadent possessions, but then you see that he's selling several pages of limousines, not to mention quite a few other cars, go-carts, saddles, and even a firetruck, and you start to wonder what isn't for sale.

The whole thing is weirdly intriguing, even if you have no desire to purchase a life-size Red Power Ranger replica or a Zoltar automated fortune-teller. And of course, the man's video game collection is enviable, to say the least, though I'm curious about his Simpsons arcade games. Is he really selling two, or is the second listing a mistake? When you're selling nearly 250 pages of enormous Oscar statues and Victorian dollhouses, there are bound to be a few mistakes in your catalog.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Art Homework

This drawing isn't too well done and it isn't too original - in fact, it's only an imitation of Michael Grimaldi's "Nativity" - but I shall put in on display for all to see for two reasons: 1. It's the first thing I've drawn in weeks that I don't hate, and 2. It's a very easy way to fill my blog-a-day obligation.

And now, more homework!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Jake's Guide to Gettin' Chicks

People often ask me, "Jake, how do you do it? How do you score all those hot lady-types?" I chuckle in response. It's not the sort of thing you can learn. Some of us are born with it, but even though you may not be blessed with my dashing good looks and winning personality, there are a few steps you can take to help make yourself more attractive to the birds.

All of these tips are in direct response to attempts various boy-people have made to woo a female friend of mine in the past week.

Set your sights on a girl who has a boyfriend
This is a fine place to begin. After all, if a girl currently has a boyfriend, it means she's both willing to be in a relationship and desirable. In fact, it feels a bit silly to even write such an obvious, logical tip, but you'd be surprised how often guys foolishly pursue the single ladies. For all of the following tips, I'm going to assume the girl in question is already dating someone else.

Cliché pick-up lines work
What woman wouldn't be swept off her feet upon learning that, given the opportunity, you would arrange the alphabet so that "U" and "I" might be together?

Mock her current boyfriend
As you're well aware, the only reason she's with him instead of you is that girls are too dumb to make sense of their own lives. A few constant reminders of her current boyfriend's flaws will surely convince her that she'd be stupid not to date you.

Tell her that her current boyfriend isn't good enough for her
She deserves better. She deserves someone with confidence, someone who isn't afraid to ridicule her current relationship. The beauty of this tip is that in saying her boyfriend doesn't deserve her, you imply that you do deserve her. How can she refuse you something you deserve?

Compare your relationship to The Notebook
Whether you mean the hit book by Nicholas Sparks or the major motion picture adaptation, this is sure to work! It's romantic and sad! Broads dig sensitive guys!

Be relentless
Does she know how you feel? Does she know that you want her to feel the same way, too? Has she talked to her boyfriend about you yet? Doesn't she agree that you're better than him? Can't she see how happy she'll be when you're together? Does she know how well you understand women? Did it hurt? When she fell from Heaven, did it hurt? When are you going to break up with him and give us a chance?

Persistence is the key. If you're not asking her these questions right now, you're only marginally better than her current boyfriend, who doesn't even love her as much as you do,

Give her space
Accept that she is taken... for the moment. He will mess up, though. And that is why it's your job to pull out chairs, laugh at her jokes, and make as much casual physical contact as you possibly can without looking too creepy. Then, when the time is right and that worthless boyfriend of hers makes a mistake, you're ready to be the friend she needs. The friend who never liked him, anyway. The friend who's always been there. The friend who was just about to watch The Notebook. Have you seen it...?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

This Is My World

At the start of my Game History class, my teacher announced that we would be covering pen & paper tabletop war games and Dungeons & Dragons today. This was followed by raucous cheering. Someone held up a lighter.

This type of sentiment is shared by many gamemakers, and I just don't get it. How can I love video games so much and be so disinterested, so repulsed by the things that inspire them and appeal to their creators?

Then again, looking at some of the topics that have inspired so many of the games I most enjoy - childhood wonder and exploration, literature, cartoons, punk rock music and culture, bug-catching, the lives of ants, human interaction, gardening, dreams, pizza - it's clear that the games I prefer tend to be the ones made by the few innovative rebels who defy convention. For those of you who don't much care for video games as a whole, there's your reason, most likely. The field is dominated by a small, nerdy group that absorbs and regurgitates the same nerdy interests. Now, in the age of the Wii, a few renegades have shown that clever, original games can appeal to people who don't consider themselves typical game players. Marketing people demand more and more "expanded audience" games, and the developers have no clue how to make these.

On the microcosmic level, I'm stuck in a sea of people who applaud Dungeons & Dragons. On the macrocosm, I'm surrounded by the same people how either feel the same way but have to fake an interest in other things, or people who indignantly whine that anyone who doesn't like Dungeons and Dragons shouldn't be playing games.

In other news, my Internet connection is still on the fritz, my week of not talking about school or video games is clearly up, and I'm now the only guy in the Shiny Buttons Blog-Off, following the Phil's announcement of a hiatus in the middle of the challenge. That's right, ladies, time to lower your standards. I'm now awaiting invitations to the Shiny Buttons Make-Out.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Yes, I Love Technology

My Comcastic Internet connection keeps has been having a hard time deciding whether or not it wants to work lately. For the moment, it's looking positive, but a change of heart could be just around the corner. My phone is also dependent on an Internet connection, meaning I've effectively been cut off from the world most of the weekend. I hate these little cheater posts, but I may not have much time and I want my family to know I'm not dead.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

You Don't Have to Put On the Red and Green Light

Sometimes natural, conversational language isn't enough to express what I feel. At times like this, I turn to haiku.

Valentine's Day gone...
President's Day approaching
Still see Christmas lights

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Hey - Don't 'Choo Supposed to Be Some Kinda Playa Or Some'n'?

I'm busy today because I'm doing things... things I want to do... that might be fun... with people... outside of Redmond... This is all so foreign to me.

My whole improv comedy team, plus a few of their friends, is going downtown to see a professional improv show, and I'm excited. It's a Valentine's Day themed "Comedy of Love" show, which means I'm doing Valentine's related things on Valentine's Day. I think this is the first time that's happened since the days of dropping pun-based cards with cartoon characters on them into paper bags taped to tiny desks in elementary school.

Friday, February 13, 2009

World, Shut Your Mouth

I don't know much about manners, but it's my understanding that when someone is loudly chomping food with an open mouth, it's rude to point out that they sound freaking gross. Fortunately, this is the Internet, where etiquette and decency have no place, and I've prepared a handy guide. You may find it useful to keep a printed copy of these instructions in a pocket, wallet, or purse until you feel comfortable not being disgusting.

Jake's Guide to Eating Like a Human

STEP ONE The Bite: Open your mouth. Place the food inside. If you are eating with a spoon or fork, bring your lips down around the eating utensil. You may use your teeth to help pull stubborn food off of a fork, but at no time should your teeth make contact with metal. If you hear a "clanking" sound, you may need to refresh yourself on the proper execution of this procedure.

If you are not using silverware, place your front teeth (incisors) on the food so that the overlap a part of the food. Gently bring your top and bottom teeth together, severing a small piece of food. The reasonable size of this unit of food is called a "bite-size." Bite-size varies from person to person. If you are unsure your proper bite-size, consult a doctor. Do not exceed your bite-size.

STEP TWO Chewing: Now that we have reached the second step, it is imperative that your mouth is closed. To close your mouth, touch your lips together so that there is a seal across the front of your face. Air and food should not be entering or leaving the mouth during this step. If you are able to whistle during Chewing, return to Step One and try again (the Whistle Test may require the use of a napkin; for more information, see Jake's Guide to Eating for Advanced Humans).

Now, grind the food in your mouth with your back teeth. Focus on the food already in your mouth. Common problems with Chewing come as result of overly concerning oneself with proceeding to the next step or rushing even further ahead to the next Bite. Take your time, and again, there is no over-stressing the importance of maintaining the closed-mouth position throughout this step.

STEP THREE Swallow: Once the food is broken down enough to proceed down the throat, stop chewing, push the chewed food to the back of the mouth, and allow the oesophagus to carry the food through the rest of the digestive system. Relax during this step. Do not force your food or drinking. "Slurping" should not occur. Again, keep the mouth shut (this will reduce later belches, a subject beyond the scope of this guide), and do not advance to the next step until completing this.

Great! Now repeat until satisfied.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Safety Post

Leaving the apartment. I should be back in time to replace this with something else, but I want to be safe.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Our Mission is Clear: To Revive Funkadelic

If you were to take an ordinary human, remove the kidneys, take out the lungs, yank out the intestines, take away the sweat glands, and so forth, then replace all these mere organs with pure talent, you may be left with something not unlike my friend Jeff Palen.

Jeff is always watching you.

Jeff's current thing is making music, and, not surprisingly, he's pretty good. I've talked about his bands here before, but in case you didn't hear it the first time, don't miss the message this time: You need to be listening to House of Orange.

I was checking up on them earlier today and was pleased to discover that they've released a few new songs since the last time I visited their site, along with two music videos.

Art of the Animal

King of the One Hit Wonder

Their Web site, by the way, is a MySpace page, which would be why I haven't checked it in ages. Seriously, does anyone still use MySpace? I thought most people had come to their senses, or, short of that, switched over to some other dumb site that allows you to clutter some corner of the Internet with stolen images and banal comments, like Facebook. There aren't still active Xanga or Geocities sites, are there?

I know, I know, I write a blog. I'm even running a blog contest, and two weeks ago I covered my entire page with YouTube videos that played video game music. Maybe I have no place to talk, but in my defense, I use a legible font on a high-contrast background, I don't have any glittery gifs proclaiming which Care Bear I am, and even though Tom's isn't in my top 8, he's still allowed to read my page because this blog is not Friends Only.

Songsmith Update: Before you go any further, it's important to know what Microsoft Songsmith is.

Apparently there's a trend in which people are taking the vocal tracks from popular songs and feeding them to Microsoft Songsmith. The results are universally hilarious.

Michael Jackson - Billie Jean
AC/DC - Thunderstruck
Billy Idol - White Wedding
Ozzy Osbourne - Crazy Train
The Cars - Just What I Needed

Perhaps even funnier, I've found some songs improve after receiving the Songsmith treatment.

Oasis - Wonderwall
Radiohead - Creep
The Police - Roxanne
Rush - Tom Sawyer
And, of course...
Rick Astley - Never Gonna Give You Up

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Take Out the Trash

I dropped by my old apartment for the first time since I moved out at the end of last summer. All three of my former roommates still live there, along as my replacement. -I couldn't have been in there for much more than a minute - just swung by to pick up some mail - but it was long enough to get a quick peak at the place. Disgusting.

Which is to say, utterly unsurprising. It looked exactly like I imagined it would. Trash piled up everywhere, furniture which had been carelessly knocked over and obviously left where it had landed for several weeks, junk accumulated on every surface.

When I lived there it was nasty, but it was at least livable. Not the kind of place where a reasonable person would want to live, but if you kept your shoes on and didn't touch anything, you could get by. I didn't nag about the messes much or clean up for anyone else, but there was a clear difference between the apartment as it was when I lived there and the apartment as it is now.

I didn't really mind seeing that the old roommates had fallen into squalor without someone around to take care of their lives for them. Like I said, it's exactly what I'd predicted. Still, rather than boosting my ego to see the entropy that reigned in my absence, I found it a little sad. The last thing we all did together before I moved out was clean, thoroughly scrubbing away all the grime and vowing that it would never again get so bad. But of course none of that was true, and I knew it wasn't.

I didn't approach this story with the intention of making any sort of point, but if you'd like a moral, try this: If you're stuck fighting a bad situation, sometimes the best thing you can do is get out.

Monday, February 9, 2009


I'm feeling foggy... no, that's not it. I'm feeling like my brain is encased in a Plexiglas sphere, but in the cool, brilliant supervillain way. More like it's not connected to the rest of my body. It doesn't hurt or ache or really even feel too unpleasant, but not having a brain makes me very stupid. I was teaching my improv group tonight, which went pretty poorly. They were good, but, man, trying to teach improv without a brain. It's tough.

Oh, so anyway, I'm gonna be a zombie now. Eating your brain won't make mine anymore functional, but it will make me feel better about my own condition.

My Zombie Hit List
Barack Obama - Chaaaaange
Super Mario - Draaaaaains
Michael Jordan - Haaaaaanes
The moon - Waaaaanes
Characters from the Rocky series - Jaaaames "Clubber" Laaaaang
Dracula - Faaaaangs
My sister, Jaime - Baaaaaanges
The circulatory system - Veeeeeeins
Mr. Ed and Seabiscuit - Maaaanes
The deer and the antelope - Raaaaaange
Anti-Flag singer/guitarist Justin Saaaaaane
Clouds - Raaaaaain

Daaaaaaang! I shouldn't have put Mario on this list - I promised this week that I wouldn't talk about video gaaaaaaames.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Look at the Captain With the Galaxy Right Off His Balcony

Yesterday, I said that the theme of the week was "Video Game School Blah Blah Blah," and promised not to talk about video games for the rest of the week. (I think I'll also extend that to not talking about school.) There was another sort of theme which I did not, however, mark or denounce: "Complaining About Stuff." While it might sound like an interesting challenge to blog without complaining about anything for the next week, it's important to remember that these are contradictory concepts. To blog is to complain. And so, with that, here's something that always strings my cheese.

People who brag about not watching TV. Does cutting yourself off from a major medium really make you a better person than me? If I told you that I don't read words, would you be impressed? What is so freakin' noble about not watching television?

Let me first acknowledge the reasons why a life without television could be viewed as positive. The obvious argument is that there isn't much worth watching, and I can totally get behind that. Infomercials, judge shows, reality programming, cartoons that teach moral lessons, a dozen CSI spin-offs - most shows aren't worth watching. No disagreement from me on that front.

But, like I said, I like TV. Actually, wait, no, I didn't say it. I'd like to declare it right now, in no uncertain terms: I like TV. Do you think less of me?

Anyway, I was saying, I like TV, but I don't like most shows? You know what I do? I don't watch 'em. It's pretty simple, really. If the TV is on and you don't like something, change the channel or turn the TV off. It's that easy. If you start reading a book and you don't like it, do you keep reading it? And if it's bad, do you assume the problem is that it's made from paper with words on it, and that all other books must be bad, too? When I walk into a library, I don't want to read every book I see. Some books are appealing to me, so I try them. Most books don't interest me. That's fine. I ignore them and look for the books that do. I don't dismiss books as the opiate of the unthinking masses.

Most anti-TV people I've met have no problem with movies. Do I even have to point out the hypocrisy? There are some differences between the average movie and the average television series, but they're insignificant next to the similarities. You know the main distinction? Arrogance. DVDs do not make the content any more sophisticated than if it were to travel via airwaves. Please get over yourselves.

I mentioned the other day that I don't get TV signals here. I get, like, Univision and a few religious channels, but no real networks. I don't watch TV, but I don't think that gives me any right to brag. On the contrary, I feel like I'm missing out. It's not a big deal; I don't panic because I don't have the chance to watch three Seinfeld reruns a day. But I do feel like I'm a little less connected to the world. My roommates didn't know Obama was the president until the day after his inauguration, and I don't think that would've been the case if we had TV. To me, that's more sad than watching a mindless sitcom now and then.

I don't have TV, but I still watch the shows I like online, and even in this, I feel like there a few things I'm not getting. People say that DVD compilations and online shows are great because they don't have commercials and you can watch them any time. I disagree. If you read this blog, you know that I have some real problems with advertisements and consummerism, but it's not all one-sided. I hate commercials, but I love them, too. Like TV shows and books, most commercials are rotten, but occasionally you find one that's genuinely entertaining. Even the duds have value. They are, like it or not, a part of our culture. We're living at a time in history where people are growing more distant from each other, where there is less and less that ties us together, and trivial and empty as they may be, commercials bind the collective conscious. When I moan about moronic Esurance ads, you likely know what I'm talking about. It gives us common ground. Shut yourself off from the undesirable parts of the world, like commercials, and you shut yourself off from society. I find isolation far less desirable, and I think it's an ignorant choice.

Same thing with the lack of time slots. I like the idea of a show being specific time. I like that I might miss it. "Did you see Scrubs last night?" Shallow, but what an easy way to start a conversation. It's so common for people to silence conversations about new episodes because they haven't downloaded them yet. I like to have to wait for reruns. I like a sense of time and history. I like having to choose to set the VCR to record a show for me because I think it's that important.

I didn't suddenly become more productive when I moved to a world without TV. I didn't take the time I formerly spent watching TV discovering the cure for oesophageal cancer studying foreign languages. I found different ways to waste it. The truth is, I rarely just watch TV. I do homework while the TV keeps the silence at bay and provides with a subtle sense of time, enough to keep me from wandering from my task. I quietly pick my guitar. I eat lunch. These people who "don't watch TV," what are they doing? Do they want us to believe they're squeezing the value out of every minute of their day? Because they aren't. And if they really are staying active and engaged non-stop, is that really so great?

I like relaxation. Is there anything wrong with that? Sometimes, after a long day, I don't want to hold a book up to the light. I can't set a Sleep Timer on the Internet, and even if I could, I couldn't lazily enjoy its presence from my bed. Forget the shows for a moment, and think about the television for what it is. It gives you moving pictures and light without waiting to load, without asking for any effort from you, and I think that that's alright. What is wrong with taking a break? Relax.

The next time someone tells you they don't watch TV, don't compliment them. Don't tell that that's great and that you wished you watched less. Don't lie and try to keep up, saying you don't watch much, either. Tell them the truth.

My name is Jake, and I think television is okay.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Regret of the Day

I saw this while passing through a thrift shop today for a mere six bucks, but did not buy it.
If you don't click here to hear her speak, you hate freedom, you liberal pig.

The theme this week has sort of naturally evolved* into "the Wacky World of Video Game Schools, " which is unfortunate since I just finished a video game-themed week. Seriously, I'm not going to mention video games for the next week, but I saw this ad last night and it's too good not to post.
Following the link takes us to a site advertising such fine learning establishments as Kaplan University, the University of Phoenix, Westwood College, the Art Institute, and Full Sail. All that's missing is DeVry and ITT Tech.

I have several teachers who have mentioned that they taught at the Art Institute before coming to DigiPen. I don't know of any former Westwood instructors in my school, but the college's presence is still very much felt - even now, years after the debut of this infamous commercial, I still hear jokes about "tighten[ing] up the graphics" every few weeks, including an unexpected jab in the recent Wii and computer game "World of Goo" (which is awesome, by the way; if you have a Wii, you should download it). As for Full Sail, the school is widely considered our closest rival. I'm not sure what that means in this case. It's not like the schools are competing in football championships or something. I guess if any Full Sailors ever dock in Redmond, they better prepare for some punishment, Magic: The Gathering style, and if that doesn't scare 'em off, we'll challenge 'em to a game of Go. Ain't no rivalry like a nerd rivalry.

Like I said the other day, this is pretty much the competition. These are the other game development schools. So, yeah! Go, DigiPen! We're number one!

Of course, that still leaves Kaplan University and the University of Phoenix. What relationship does my rockin' college have to these? Uh, none, as far as I can tell. But at least the DigiPen Institute of Technology has a respectable name, uncluttered by that laughable "university" title.

Woo! Number one!

Survey time:
Does anyone really believe that making a game is the same as playing a game? It's okay; you can tell me if you do. I mean, I'm going to mock you, but don't let that stop you. I just want to know... who came up with the idea that this is how it's done?

*Just kidding - evolution is a myth, made up by liberals who hate America.

Friday, February 6, 2009

And You May Find Yourself Living in a Shotgun Shack

In my first class today, I spied no fewer than three (3!) Starbucks beverages. This marks only the second time in more than three semesters I have seen Starbucks drinks within this school, despite DigiPen being located just outside of Seattle, at least two Starbucks locations within a 5-10 minute walk of the "art campus," and the fact that many of the people who attend this school are either college students or college professors.

In a later class, I overheard one student (who wasn't me) refer to another (who also wasn't me) as "so nerdy," and another student (still not me) agreed. This is... unprecedented. I don't think I've ever heard a non-me someone at this school ever use the N-word, and any time I've ever let it slip, I've been quickly reminded by a phalanx of geeks that everyone here is a nerd and that it's so EPIC FTW (giggle, giggle, snort).

The roommates are currently off at someone else's place training for a Super Smash Bros. Brawl tournament in which they'll be competing tomorrow, so at least there is some order in this screwy universe.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

You're It

Well, this makes for an unexpectedly smooth transition from yesterday, which is particularly convenient because, in fact, I meant to write about it more than a week ago.

Fortunately, I came across an article today that reminded me that this year's Independent Games Festival finalists were recently chosen, and, once again, my school has a game in the Student Showcase.

The game is Tag: The Power of Paint. You can click that link to go to the game's official site, where you can download it for free, but I'll warn you that you need a pretty decent computer. It runs on mine, but it's a little slow. I've tried playing it several times on the computers at my school, but they can't quite handle it, and always succumb to weird bugs and crashes. If you can't get it to run, or just don't care enough to try, you can also click "Media" and watch a video that shows the game being played from start to finish.

Truthfully, I couldn't even get through the video. The game's pace is a little slow and uneven, playing it is somewhat disorienting and nauseating, and I simply can't figure out why it's supposed to be more fun to paint a green spot on the ground, step on it, and fly through the air than to just hit a button and jump.

For those of you who haven't clicked any of the links, here's how it works. You're an anonymous someone stuck in an anonymous gray city with a gun that shoots paint. Step on green paint, and you jump. Step on red paint, you run. Step on blue paint, you stick, allowing you to cling to the sides of buildings or hang upside-down from ceilings. Use all three in combination to navigate the rooftops and reach a certain point in each level.

It's not my thing, though it's pretty impressive for a student game. The reason it matters to me, though, is that it's just one more success that's come out of DigiPen. Another IGF winner, another article about the games coming out of my school. Most of my school's success stories can be attributed to the fact that there's no real competition. There simply aren't any other schools that offer real degrees in gamemaking. Whatever the reason, there are successes at DigiPen, and this game, regardless of my opinion, gives me a little more hope that my degree is going to be worth something.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Would You Stop Playing With That Radio, Y'all?

Don't know if you've noticed, but I've gotten in this weird habit lately where I think I have to put lots of stuff on here in order to be a good blogger. On the contrary, it would probably be a service to all of you and all of me if I cooled it a bit with all those words and videos.

How 'bout a few pictures instead?

Nothing but sloppy, idle doodles. There are a few classes where I typically fill at least a page per lecture, and I mean fill to the point where I can't possible fit another line. Judging by the blank space, today's physics class must've been pretty enthralling. Oddly enough, my drawing skills tend to improve more in courses like this than in my art and animation classes, and my grades are generally higher, as well.

I've been playing a little Jet Grind Radio over the past few days, and I'm on a bit of a graffiti kick.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Now Available in Yellow and Purple

I have five pairs of 3D glasses on my desk. As I understand it, there was some sort of halftime show or commercial or something that was broadcast in 3D during the Super Bowl. I'm not sure; I don't get a TV signal here, and even if I did, I wouldn't watch the Super Bowl or any other sporting event. Whatever the case, the most highly-watched annual broadcast contained some snippet displayed in stereoscopic 3D, and, as a means of promoting the advertisement-filled show and getting advertisement-covered glasses to the masses, some gigantic corporation or another was giving away free 3D specs and I grabbed a perforated sheet of four pairs.

Great, so there's this 3D football commercial thing. Then, since so many people will have the glasses by now, anyway, there's some TV show that was on tonight or yesterday being aired in 3D. Makes sense.

Oh, and have you heard that every animated Dreamworks movie that comes out from now on will be designed from the beginning to be displayed in 3D?

And let's not forget the iZ3D computer monitor, the first monitor specifically designed specifically for playing stereoscopic 3D games, which has been on the market for a little over a month.

3D technology has improved a bit in recent years. Most likely this will turn out to be a quiet little fad. I'm not expecting anything to come from all of this, but all the same, I'm going to keep an eye on this 3D stuff.

If I get to see just one movie trailer where a whole audience is wearing cardboard glasses and then half of them spill their popcorn because a hand reaches out over their heads, I'll be satisfied.

Update: I stepped away from the computer for a moment after writing the above and it occurred to me that not only is it poorly written; it misses the point entirely. Let me take another shot at this.

3D glasses and 3D movies/shows/etc. are on a bit of an upward trend. The question of the above was, "What does it all mean and where will it lead?" This is the wrong question. What I should have asked was, "Who will it benefit?"

Will a rise in the presence of 3D benefit me? Yep, if only because I love the goofy retro appeal of slipping on my glasses and going to town to see a picture in the exquisite glory of 3D that the Space Age affords us good Americans, unlike those godless red commies.

Will it benefit you? Unless you share my appreciation for anachronistic technology and fads, probably not. Even I'll admit that stereoscopic 3D is Dullsville, daddy-o. Everything is dyed red and cyan (or, in the case of modern 3D movies, purple and yellow); you have to wear cheap, flimsy glasses; and, in most cases, the 3D effect just isn't that impressive. More than anything, 3D is fun because of the novelty. Take that away, and the whole thing is kinda stupid.

Alright, so who stands to gain? Intel, for starters. There the ones behind the yellow and purple "INTRU3D" glasses*, and you know that the R&D that led to a radical shift like "using something other than red and cyan" cost a pretty penny. They're invested in this, and they need to see a return. Technology on its own isn't that profitable. Being able to show something in 3D is good, but it's nothing compared to showing something that people might actually be interested in seeing. So there has to be a content provider. Dreamworks, perhaps...

Well, Dreamworks has always done relatively well, but there has to be some reason that they'd want to attach a gimmick to all of their new releases. This can be explained quite easily. Movie ticket prices are up, the economy's a mess, and watching movies at home - whether through DVD rentals, video streaming, or just substituting other things like video games or the Internet for time that might otherwise be spent at the movies - has done terrible damage to box office revenues. The INTRU3D Web site claims, "Consumers will get a premium experience when going to see 'Monsters vs. Aliens' firsthand in theaters March of 2009." In other words, if you go out and pay for an expensive ticket for every person in your group, you will get something you can't replicate at home.

*I'm making up all of this as I go along. I'm not doing any research, so Intel may, in fact, just be following a trend started by RealD. Maybe there's a third company I'm ignoring. Regardless, if you switch the names around a little, I bet the motivation still works out approximately the same way.

Update update: See, man, like, what you don't understand, bro, is, like, the corporations, man. Man, the corporations, like, rule the whole world, and you people don't even see it, bro. I've got this book, man, and, like... Man, if you people even knew half the stuff that the corporations did, man. Man, it would, like, totally blow your mind, bro. You gotta open your eyes, man, 'cause you don't even know about these corporations. Seriously, bro.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Quote, Buy, Huh?

Am I the only one who feels like I'm missing something when I see Esurance commercials? It's like I'm watching clips from the last episode, just trying to catch up with the plot. I don't even know half these characters. Is this the intent of the campaign?


No. No, no, no. I'm so upset, I can't even tell you where this link leads.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

That Joke Isn't Funny Anymore

"I only watch the Super Bowl for the commercials"
This is a bit of an ambiguous one. First of all, it may be a legitimate statement, and not everyone who says this thinks they're being funny, but we've all met those people. Those people who start smiling as soon as you bring up the Super Bowl, or football, or televised sports in general, just waiting to bowl you down with their hilarious observations about how Super Bowl commercials are better than the game. Should you encounter one, take this advice: end the conversation before they begin detailed, giggle-filled recaps of each year's best ads.

I like monkeys. They're delightful, fascinating little critters, and some of them are pretty cute, too. They're like goofy little people with fur and tails, so it's easy to see why someone might find them funny. It's a shame that we're dealing with such ripe source material, because monkey's have been used as the default "wacky animal or word" so many times that all I can do is cringe when when someone makes a joke involving the poor mammals. Why, unfunny people? Why couldn't you leave monkeys alone?

Like monkeys, this is one of those "crazy words" that some folks think will make their anecdotes and non sequiturs funny. Unlike monkeys, there was never anything funny about cheese. I thought we, as a society, had let this one go around the time we agreed, "Did I do that?" had gotten stale.

Here's a neat experiment: Next time you're talking to your friends, try guiding the conversation toward some facet of the Web. If any one of them laughs and "corrects" the word Internet with the non-word "Internets," congratulations - you need new friends. But before you can begin the search for a less repulsive clique, you can be sure there's another phrase on the way...

"...a series of tubes! [chuckle, chuckle]"

Epic Fail
Speaking of that sweeping network composed of electrical impulses and bits stored in a vast array of computers and servers connected by wires, modems, routers, satellites, and high-frequency waves, it certainly has propagated plenty of phrases and trends which in direct opposition to laughter, hasn't it? I live in a psychotic, nerd-monoculture, but I'm told their are places on Earth where the phrase "Epic Fail" has permeated real-life society. Declaring something "epic" is not, in any way, funny. Using the word "fail" as a noun or an interjection is not, in any way, funny. Hearing the two combined is the sort of thing that makes me compile a mental list of all the nearby places where I might dispose of a body without detection. Then I remember that no jury will convict me if the body is my own.

I considered, for a moment, compiling a list of all the trends the Internet has produced that aren't funny - using "lol" or similar abbreviations while speaking, repeating grammatically-poor phrases taken from captioned photos of kittens, reciting jokes from Webcomics - but I've come with a handy, catch-all guide. The more popular and trendy it is on the Internet (singular!), the less likely you are to die of old age if you say it in my presence.

Jokes about bringing/taking the weather with you during travel
No, I did not bring this weather with me. Yes, I did just travel from a place far enough away from here to have a distinctly different climate. Yes, I did meet with you upon arriving here. Yes, your bad joke is making me regret that decision.

"How's the weather up/down there?"
I'm sure someone, somewhere, has said something funny about weather before, but this most certainly was not it. It doesn't even make sense. I mean, sure, differnt altitudes are often subject to different weather, but have you ever shouted this question to someone on a different floor than you in an office building, or someone, I don't even know... on a ski-lift or something? I'm quite sure that if someone is within range of your voice, the weather they're feeling isn't terribly different from your own. Maybe if two people were at significantly different latitudes and they were talking to each other on the phone, this question might come up, but I believe that if you have to put this much effort into finding a plausible base for a joke about someone's height contrasting with your own, the joke isn't funny.

"Wait a second - we could..."
This one comes up in a lot of bad cartoons and movies that get thrown in the "Family" section of video stores. I'm talking about that one thing where two people are trying to come up with a clever scheme and one of them suggests an idea and the other one kind of ignores it or condesendingly mocks it, and then, right away, they say, "Hey, I have an idea! What if we...?" and then they repeat the other character's plan verbatim while the character who really thought up with the idea whines about how it was their idea (in which case the egotistical, plan-swiping character explains that he is the brains of the group and was the only one who could come up with such a brilliant strategy) or else tilts their head, mugs for the camera, and delivers a dead-pan compliment of the ingeneous plan.

I hate that thing.

"Why don't you tell us what you really think?"
I have to assume that someone once thought some of these phrases were funny at some time in order for them to gain such widespreade usage. Maybe this one snuck in with the Irony Boom in the early-'90s. Ah, it was a wild time. We were so carefree in those days, so happy to bathe in our pools of sarcasm. So greedy that we'd welcome any phrase with that seemed even slightly sardonic. So naïve, thinking only of the present moment, so lax in our security that we let this stinker through the gates of the collective lexicon with no means of stopping it once it moved we beyond our control. We were fools.

But as awful as it is to hear this phrase spoken, it is fun to watch the way this virus has mutated. Like I said, someone probably thought it was funny once. The sort of snappy comeback you might hear on a sitcom. That strand is still floating around, but what I like most is the new form. The ironic part of this phrase is so far gone, we've grown so immune to it, that sitcom writers now use it in dramatic moments to show the hurt and emotional depth of their characters. Watch out - it's a whole new, far funnier irony!

"Heh - yeah, no."

Maybe you haven't heard this. It's popular with the teenage girls these days. I'd explain it if I could, but I just can't figure out what's supposed to be funny about. There's a certain snotty cadence to it. As with most bad jokes, I can only identify it because the person saying it generally laughs afterward while eveyrone else painfully silent. I don't know how else to describe this phrase. If you've heard it, you know how anoying it is. If you haven't, don't worry. It'll be all over the Internets soon enough.