Thursday, February 26, 2009

Wonder of the natural world

No, this isn't going to be a post about Jessica Biel...

This little guy, the Pacific barreleye (macropinna microstoma) has been popping up on the internet just about everywhere for the past day or so, and it's easy to see why: Its forehead is a transparent dome with its eyes mounted inside. It can look through its skull in nearly any direction to spot food and avoid predators (or, as the video points out, eager scientists).

Saturday, February 21, 2009

You are likely to be eaten by a grue.

A few weeks ago, Erewhon Yoshikawa hosted a set at Tiphares featuring the best of geek rock. One song in particular stuck with me:

It's a tribute to the late, great text adventures of yore, and even features a special guest appearance by Steve Meretsky, of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy (computer game version) fame.

Text adventures hark back to a time when computer graphics, once one got over the fact of their very existence, were pretty unimpressive. Forget eight-bit color. You were lucky to get eight colors. And if you had one of the monitors shown in the video, you got eight shades of green, you lucky dog. We also had to walk five miles uphill in the snow to type out programs in BASIC, but that's another day's post.

Infocom, the company best known for these games, transcended these limits by encouraging imagination through vivid storytelling. They're still fondly remembered by geeks of (cough-cough) a certain age, and I'll bet that the younger generation of geeks would get what the fuss was about too.

G'wan, give it a try. Click the HGttG link.

Get that babel fish.

Friday, February 20, 2009

The ALA makes my day.

My department head gave me a bunch of new links to help me better serve our patrons. While familiarizing myself with the American Library Association's website, I came across a page that touched me to my geekish core: Comic book based posters to encourage reading. The noise that came out of my mouth sounded something like "SQUEEEEEE!"*

For verily, 'twas a treasure trove for both book lover and comic geek alike: One of Barbara Gordon, librarian and the original Batgirl, in her pre-Oracle days (yes, she's up on her feet) done by Top 10 artist Gene Ha. Also of note is a triptych of DC's "Big Three" - Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman - available as individual posters or as a set by painter Alex Ross**. Neil Gaiman's Sandman is also represented (lovingly rendered by P. Craig Russell).

Marvel's sole contribution comes in the form of the entire X-Men team, plus a couple of villains, trying to read over Wolverine's shoulder (is it really wise to do that to their designated berserker?). Artist John (Planetary) Cassaday is uncredited on the site, but you have me to point these things out. C'mon, Marvel, step up a little here. I mean, OK, nobody's going to buy the idea of the Hulk poring over the works of Marcel Proust, but Spider-Man got ragged on as a "bookworm" all through high school. Surely a little library love from ol' Webhead wouldn't be amiss here?

If you prefer humor to heroics, Patrick McDonnell's Mutts are in the mix, along with the library staff of one of my favorite webcomics, Gene Ambaum's and Bill Barnes' Unshelved.

There's more, of course. Plus a lot of other stuff besides. Go on and check it out.

*- For those of you who got that reference, no, there aren't any Johnny the Homicidal Maniac posters. I agree that it is a shocking and disappointing oversight on the ALA's part.

**- No, not Bob Ross. If you can find a happy little tree in Gotham City, then you've arrived just minutes ahead of a chainsaw-wielding Joker.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

So long, SLNN.

Well, they haven't updated their RSS feed (nor, after a quick check, their site) in months, so I guess it's time to take down the link to Second Life Network News. It's a shame, really. SLNN gave Averlast our first real event coverage, which no SL sports section has done since. Actually, I'm hard pressed to even think of other SL sports sections. This might be something worth looking into.

Come to think of it, as long as I'm being revisionist here, it might be time to replace the ol' profile photo. It was taken two skins ago, and I certainly don't run around in that hair anymore...

Who gets a title shot? Find out right here.

Averlast Head Coach Calvinizm2g Quan has worked out a system that adds some needed transparency to our title contender rankings. Check it out.

A number one contender for each weight class is determined at the end of the month, and then the numbers are wiped clean for the next one. This should keep things lively, and ensure that champions don't rest on their laurels too long.

Neo Kowloon

Probably my favorite thing about Second Life is the opportunity it gives me to explore the imaginations of others. I stumbled across Neo Kowloon some time ago, but never really got around to poking through the place until recently. Little did I know what I had been missing.


The main drag. Kowloon's garish neon signs, narrow alleyways, and persistent squalor evoke such settings as William Gibson's Chiba City from his novel Neuromancer, or the dystopic Los Angeles from the film Blade Runner.


The sim is apparently an exhibition piece for a firm called Jet Graphics, a Japanese digital graphics production company. Not surprising, given the professional-level attention to detail on display.


The upper level of the Flea Market, where sellers can rent a table to dispense their wares. The place also features a basement, which is below the sim's sea level. Since there's no way to displace the "water" in SL, the designers decided to "go with the flow" (sorry) and added a few fish swimming around between the vendor tables.


The inevitable happens: If there are comics to be found, then I will find them. Available for as little as five lindens apiece, these manga titles can be worn as a HUD and read almost like a regular book. They're formatted like Japanese books (a Westerner would view it as paging backwards), and are written in that language, which I can't read or speak. I like the art, though.


Neo Kowloon is a maze of alleyways, with both shops and set pieces tucked away within. Japanese sims such as this are a bargain hunter's dream. For less than the price I would have paid for just the coat elsewhere, I was able to cobble together a passable kung fu outfit with an eye toward future participation in Averlast MMA. That way I'm guaranteed to at least look the part up until the point of getting my ass kicked.

They also have living space as well as shop space for rent, but currently rentals are only open to Japanese speakers. The manager of the sim claims an insufficient fluency in English for the complexities of being a landlord to English speakers, but a search for bilingual "agents" is ongoing.


These steampunk-looking kinescopes are scattered around the sim. Through use of a freely available HUD (keep looking, you'll find it...), these devices will give you a cinematic experience that will help you unlock some of Neo Kowloon's secrets. Again, the narration is in Japanese, so I'm certainly not getting the whole story, but it certainly is visually arresting.


This shrine is another easily-missed set piece obscured by the alley maze. It's just another example of how the sim's designers reward dedicated exploration. The rich details of Neo Kowloon keep me wanting to come back again and again. I know that, regardless of how much I've seen already, I certainly haven't seen it all.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Guitar Goddess

Whenever I visit my friends Ghoti and Leena there's not usually a lot of talking. The pair of them have a little island paradise to share, and often it's just easier to sit and listen to the crashing waves roll in. Conversation isn't unwelcome - far from it - but oftentimes it just seems unnecessary. It's a very chill vibe, like how you'd imagine the atmosphere in a genuine island hideaway in the tropics.

But Leena and Ghoti also like to throw out the occasional URL, some prize from the internet worth sharing with others. Like a good guest, I try to offer one or two myself, but seldom can I match the gems they offer.

Case in point: Kaki King. I swear I'd never heard of her before Saturday night, when Ghoti directed me to this YouTube video, but now I'm an unabashed fan.

I have to link, because the video can't be embedded the way the other ones I post on this blog are. But do try to tear yourself away from my masterful prose (ha) and get an earful of this talented woman.

Friday, February 13, 2009

"His name was Jason. Today is his birthday."

If you thought the onscreen action was gruesome in the new Friday the 13th, you ought to see the evisceration it's getting from the critics at Rotten Tomatoes. "Unoriginal" and, more damningly, "not scary" seem to be the most common complaints. The lack of a plot is a foregone conclusion, I suppose.

I hadn't dug too deeply into the movie's background before my previous post on the subject, but in light of the "not scary" criticism I'm not surprised by one find: That it's the product of the same Michael Bay production company that produced the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. That is, the same people who took a chainsaw-wielding, human-skin-wearing maniac, a family of cannibals, and R. Lee Ermey, for God's sake, and managed to make them boring.

Ah, well, I'll always have my memories...

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Why so stupid?

People get the damnedest notions in their heads.

Case in point: The card to the left (minus my, er, embellishment) is the symbol of a site called The Ultimate Joker, headquarters for a group of fans who were deeply impressed by the late Heath Ledger's performance as The Joker in The Dark Knight.

Very deeply impressed.

So impressed, in fact, that they want Ledger's performance as the Clown Prince of Crime to stand forever as the last word on the character. That's to be attained by forever banning The Joker from appearing in another movie.

Let me re-emphasize one word from the last sentence: Forever.

Yes, that's right. The premise is that Ledger's Joker was so awesome that nobody should ever be allowed to take on the character in a feature film ever again.

I guess I should be grateful that the masterminds behind this farce haven't completely run off to Batshitcoocoobananaville by demanding the same treatment for tv, direct-to-video, videogames, or comics, just the movies.

Yes, Ledger put on an extraordinary performance as The Joker. That doesn't entitle his fans to try to leverage the owners (in this case Time Warner) of a character that's been around since 1941 to turn it into Ledger's virtual tombstone.

Comic fans might find this reminiscent of the legendarily rabid pack of fanboys known as Hal's Emerald Attack Team, or H.E.A.T. This bunch was brought together by a storyline that told of the corruption, fall, and quick replacement (and not to mention subsequent death) of the Silver Age Green Lantern, Hal Jordan. In their quest to get their hero reinstated, H.E.A.T. became known on message boards as the most obnoxious pack of trolls one would ever likely meet. They would take on anyone - verbally, that is - in their quest to restore the honor, integrity, and power ring of Hal Jordan.

Jordan was eventually restored as the Green Lantern, but not so much through H.E.A.T.'s efforts as the forces of nostalgia prevalent as comics try to hang on to a rapidly aging readership. There's a reason why they call it "comic book dead" these days. Even friggin' Bucky is running around, hale and hearty, and he died during World War II.

Still, H.E.A.T. was able to call it a win, and I'm seeing a lot of that same impulse in the Ultimate Joker people. The main difference, however, is that H.E.A.T. had history and market forces on its side in lobbying to restore a character. Ultimate Joker is taking the opposite approach, trying to restrict the use of a popular, even iconic character using an argument that would amount to "just because".

Imagine you're an executive at the relevant department of Time Warner, in charge of developing the next big Batman extravaganza. How much weight would you put behind a petition that implores you to not use a character that's been a proven moneymaker for your company?

And imagine again the implications of this proposed ban. Whether the current Batman franchise staggers like its predecessor (requiring another reboot a'la Batman Begins), or continues, James Bond-like, into the foreseeable future, sooner or later there's going to be a demand for the return of The Joker. A ban on the character makes no sense for either the business of the Batman movies or the fans of same.

Especially not "just because".

Wednesday, February 4, 2009


Second Life News pays Averlast a visit and likes what it sees.

I know, the article's more than a week old. I really need to keep up with the news...

BTW, I'm not so much a "manager" as I am veteran flunky, cook, and bottle washer. Just to keep things clear.

What did I tell you about them Trekkies?

All I'm saying is that you'll never see a Whovian trying to knock over a convenience store with a sonic screwdriver:

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Colorado Springs police are looking for a man who hit two 7-Eleven convenience stores early Wednesday, armed with a Klingon sword.

A bat'leth, to be precise. I can just imagine the clerk pulling out his own blade and switching the store's in-house music feed to the original series combat music, but I can't imagine a convenience store job paying enough to make the risk worth it.

Just watch them Trekkies, I'm telling you.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Finds from the stacks.

I've picked up a few interesting reads from the library's collection these past few days. Here's the pick of the lot:

Carpe Jugulum by Sir Terry Pratchett: If, like me, you've gone into Twilight-induced sugar shock and have decided that the next writer to present vampires as darkly romantic tortured souls looking for love over the long and painful centuries deserves a savage beating with a very large club, then this is your book. This Discworld novel hilariously skewers (stakes?) the Hollywood vampire in all of its major incarnations while telling a cracking good story to boot. Add Discworld mainstays like Granny Weatherwax and the Nac Mac Feegle (aka "The Wee Free Men"; think of the Smurfs if they'd patterned their lives after Braveheart), mixed with Pratchett's special brand of humor and "stealth philosophy" and you won't want to put this book down.

Justice League International, Volume One by Keith Giffen, J. M. DeMatteis, Kevin Maguire, etc.: It's kind of odd that this series popped up when it did, in 1987, just as mainstream comics were taking the wrong lessons from the previous year's hits like Watchmen and Batman: The Dark Knight Returns. "Grim and gritty" were the watchwords of the day, as heroes shunted aside moral codes and often became distinguishable from the villains they fought only by the occasional bout of tooth-grinding angst. So where did this bright, clever book about a dysfunctional superteam come from? Even Batman cracks a joke once in a while without breaking character. It's a bit jarring to see Ronald Reagan and the Soviet Union pop up in the book, reminding me just how long it's been since I first read these books. Aside from that, the stories hold up well, and are still good for a laugh. Plus: "One punch! One punch!"

The Living Shadow by Maxwell Grant: The very first adventure of The Shadow. Originally published in 1931 in SHADOW Magazine, I stumbled across a bunch of 1970's paperbacks reprinting these old pulp stories (wonder if any Doc Savage can be found...?). The Shadow hardly appears in this first tale, which is told through the eyes of his newest agent, Harry Vincent. But his presence is undeniably felt throughout the story, appearing, seemingly invincible and always a step ahead of both the villains and his own operatives, only when straits become truly desperate. The prose is a touch purple (no surprise there), but the real reminder that this is the product of another era is an unpleasant one. The first sign of trouble is Harry's conversation with a chauffeur: "'Don't say nuthin', boss,' pleaded the chauffeur. 'Dis am Mr. van Dyke's cah, an' Ah had no right to take you men along.'" Yeah, it's like that. I knew it was going to be a bumpy ride from there as soon as I found out a significant portion of the action was going to take place in Chinatown. The racism is a stumbling block in an otherwise well-done adventure story, and a tough one to get past. Maybe I should stick with The Shadow's latter-day adventures, like the comics with Michael Kaluta's art.