Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Twenty-Eight

Here at Ask Erik, we've spent a lot of time reading books and comics, watching movies and TV shows, and browsing through the Internet in the hopes of finding the answers to life's biggest mysteries.  Why can you ship a coconut without it counting as "perishable" but not honey or maple syrup?  How many hats is "too many" hats?  Have there been any movies where Johnny Depp doesn't wear eye makeup?

Having instead amassed a vault of useless knowledge stored in his head, Erik instead tackles your questions and tries to find the answers you care about (or a reasonable facsimile).  Or, if you don't care, he'll at least try to make you laugh and forget you just wasted time you could spend doing anything else.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Check out the vid while my codex revolve it.

Tonight was a rather busy night preparing some food for a major work event, so instead of trying to bang out a poorly worded and rushed post (as per usual) I figured I'd just share something from the Internet that made me happy.

Word to your mother.

Bonus points to anybody who can name at least half the sources.  I'll give ten dollars to anybody who can name all 280.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Plumbing Shallow Waters: Episode Six

When I first decided to take another look at the Super Mario Brothers Super Show episodes, I was really hoping they'd have held up as I got older.  Looking back at a lot of cartoons I used to really enjoy growing up, it seems there are those who are simply timeless and magical no matter what age you experience them at (Batman: The Animated Series, Gargoyles, Animaniacs) and there are those whose freshness runs out the moment the episode ends (Courage The Cowardly Dog).

You'd think it'd be rather easy to come up with a cartoon show based on Mario and Luigi and turn it into an epic quest, having each season take them through a story like in the games.  The goal is to rescue the Princess, and each episode (or every two, if you want them to be regular two-parters like how Justice League did it for a while) you could introduce a new world, new monsters, and a new "boss" for them to overcome.  Have a two-parter where they explore a haunted house, throw in a little joke where Luigi manages to capture a Boo in a vacuum cleaner.  Another episode or two takes place in the desert and they have to figure out how to fight an angry dive-bombing sun.  One more underwater where they have to deal with giant fish that can swallow them in a single gulp or a giant octopus creature.

But make it fresh and new, have us explore the world with the brothers, so when they're seeing something for the first time, people in the audience can hug their game cartridges to themselves and think "I know what that is, that's Wiggler!" or "That's Birdo!"  or "Holy- they put in that evil piano from Super Mario 64?  Those sick people!"

But no, instead we get pasta jokes, made up worlds that make no sense, and a complete lack of logic to anybody's actions.

So let's look at another one.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Let's Talk: Socializing

Some time ago, I linked to a rather silly article about how to be around introverts, being one myself.  Some of it probably ties to the depression that I've discussed before, but I think there's another level of my own mind that I sometimes have to fight against in order to be able to function at a large group gathering.  In smaller groups, it doesn't become as prevalent, but the more people who are there, the more I have to fight.

Of course, the fact that today I mapped in my head the following:

A = P^squared divided by (L-U) + C - D.

...that probably doesn't help impress a lot of people.

A equals my anxiety level.  P equals the number of people at the event, L is the size of the location, while U is a number representing how unfamiliar I am with the area.  C is things I have in common with the other people, and D is the differences I have with the other people there.

A great example of this happening is something that occurred today: my company's summer outing.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Working In A Movie Theater

You know, some days it's harder to come up with ideas for posts than others.  I have some big ideas for posts, but it's filling in the gaps in between that are difficult.  I always figured it would be easy to find stuff to write about.  After all, I keep up on a lot of news, nerdy or otherwise, I have a rather scary level of knowledge of a lot of things from the 80s and 90s, and I currently still own a lot of stuff that I find interesting.

Some days, however, you sit at your computer and simply stare at the screen, trying to find what grabs your attention.  This is one of those days.  So, I'm going to simply pick something at random and write about it.  Why not just take a day off, you might ask?  Well, numerous writers I've read or heard interviews with have said that the secret of writing is to never stop writing.  If you hit writer's block, keep writing.  If you feel completely unmotivated, keep writing.  If you're sick, write while you can manage without passing out or vomiting.

So, here it is, a totally random article about a totally random thing.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Twenty-Seven

Here at Ask Erik, we've spent a lot of time reading books and comics, watching movies, and browsing through the Internet in the hopes of finding the answers to life's biggest mysteries. When Apple announces it has $140 billion stashed away, at what point does it stop being real money?  Is there a permanent divide between people from the opposite coasts?  If you ate a bunch of Japanese beetles, would you get hungry again in an hour?

Having instead amassed a vault of useless knowledge stored in his head, Erik instead tackles your questions and tries to find the answers you care about (or a reasonable facsimile).  Or, if you don't care, he'll at least try to make you laugh and forget you just wasted time you could spend doing anything else.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Elite Beat Agents

Over the weekend I started (and just yesterday completed) the game Elite Beat Agents for the Nintendo DS.  I haven't played many "rhythm" games, having briefly owned (and never played) a copy of Guitar Hero 2, and never touching Band Hero, DJ Hero, or any of the other games that had you simulate playing an instrument.  I did have a long, happy affair with a copy of DanceDance Revolution Megamix and a play mat for the PS2, though, if that counts, but that was primarily the feet, not the hands.

Having now played this, I'll admit there is a lot of fun to be had in tapping and sliding a stylus on a screen to the beat of music, but someone really needs to sit down with the Japanese and talk about what it means to suddenly have the tone of a game hit a hairpin turn and start plunging into a complete shift in tone.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Plumbing Shallow Waters: Episode Five

So far while watching "the best" of the Super Mario Brothers Super Show, I've come to the conclusion that Bowser King Koopa is the only character with even a single lick of intelligence, that Mario is quite possibly the worst hero the Mushroom Kingdom could ever hope for, and Luigi is doomed to live in the shadows of his incredibly incompetent brother.

I really don't think it's going to get much better when the next episode is called Two Plumbers And A Baby.

Friday, July 19, 2013

Paper Mario: Sticker Star Review

Mario, in of himself, is not that great a character.  He's world-famous, easily recognizable, and stars in some superb video games, but if you asked me to talk about who the character is, I'd falter.

Here's a quick list of things that are really off the top of my head (no really, I'm just now trying to think these up) about Mario:

He goes "yahoo" a lot.
He's very upbeat.
He's always willing to save a princess from dragon turtle things.
He likes to go-cart.
He once had a talking, water-spraying jet pack for a sidekick.
He gets along well with dinosaurs.
Different types of plant life do different things to his body.

That's a pretty bland character, because there just isn't much personality there.  Mario doesn't ever really say anything besides "okie-dokie," "let'sa go," or "it'sa me!"  Luigi, on the other hand, has a lot more depth, since we know he's a bit of a coward, but still willing to walk into danger.  He's fiercely loyal to his brother.  He tends to be a bit clumsy, and acts goofy at strange times.  He can be a little lazy, and doesn't really get into the pomp of ceremonies thrown by the princess ("What, another cake?  Wake me when this kingdom discovers booze.")

Now, there are some small exceptions to this rule, and they tend to come in the RPGs featuring Mario.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Twenty-Six

Here at Ask Erik, we've spent a lot of time reading books and comics, watching movies, and browsing through the Internet in the hopes of finding the answers to life's biggest mysteries. Could China buy up all of Detroit's debt now that Detroit declared bankruptcy?  Is it just human nature to want to celebrate things that scare us while at the same time try to strip them of the very things that make them scary?  How did I cut my foot?

Having instead amassed a vault of useless knowledge stored in his head, Erik instead tackles your questions and tries to find the answers you care about (or a reasonable facsimile).  Or, if you don't care, he'll at least try to make you laugh and forget you just wasted time you could spend doing anything else.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Gargoyles - SEGA Style!

When I was young, one of my favorite shows was Gargoyles on the Disney Afternoon.  I believe I've discussed the opening to the cartoon once before, but I don't think I can overstate just how enjoyable this was.  Initially, I was just excited by the sheer number of former cast people from Star Trek: The Next Generation who were going to be on it, though I had a really hard time believing that "Commander Riker" would make an effective bad guy.

Man, was I proven wrong.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sega Advertisements

When I was growing up, I didn't have a Super Nintendo.  I was pulled into the miasma of made-up words that my generation was renowned for and got sucked in by the advertising for the Sega Genesis.

Does anybody else remember "blast processing?"

I'll admit, Sega did a really good job at the time as making themselves out to be "cooler" than Nintendo.  Nintendo had a plumber for a mascot who was jovial, friendly, and was part of the older generation of games.  Sega had a blue hedgehog that ran so fast you'd be done with a stage in mere moments.  Nintendo had a gray system, Sega went black (and really never went back...until the Dreamcast).  Nintendo grayed out blood from games like Mortal Kombat, Sega left the blood in.  Sega was just cool, and the advertisements showed it.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Plumbing Shallow Waters: Episode Four

I've had a long-standing belief that "it's not the heat, it's the humidity."  Having lived in Virginia, I can say that it wasn't when the temperature would peak over 100 degrees that made it murder to go outside, it's when it was also so humid that it actually hurt to breathe and your clothing would immediately absorb all immediate water from around you.

It's rather warm where I live now (for, you know, Maine), but considering I was able to walk around in Phoenix when the temperature was over a hundred for several days, I stand by my notion that humidity is what makes warm weather uncomfortable.

So maybe today's Super Mario Brothers Super Show will help me out with this heat.  Maybe it'll be a funny little underwater adventure with those frog suits that never really did much, or perhaps a trip to some land covered in ice.

So much for that hope.

Friday, July 12, 2013

Another Ten "Classic" Video Game Covers

I love browsing through the tumblr blog (is that the right term?) Oh, Videogames.  It is a treasure trove of forgotten memories and things I never knew existed.  It's also a constant reminder that for every Bioshock Infinite, Shadow of the Colossus, or Ducktales, there's some absolute garbage there to balance it out.

Let's look at some.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Giant Robots vs. Giant Monsters!

So, the movie Pacific Rim is coming out soon, and I'm hesitant to see this movie.

The thing is, I don't know why.

It seems like the perfect list of ingredients for someone like me.  Let's break it down:

1)  Guillermo Del Toro.  I love so many things he does and I think he's one of the most inventive directors and producers that Hollywood has access to.  I loved Pan's Labyrinth, I loved Hellboy, I loved Megamind and all he did on that was act as a consultant.

I'm excited for his upcoming Incredible Hulk TV series.  I even found myself enjoying Blade 2, and it is not, by any means, a good movie.  I mean, sure, it has Wesley Snipes suplex a man through a floor, it has Ron Perlman in tight leather (which I guess is somebody's fetish, God help them), it has the world's most illogically performing weapon ever created in the "light bomb," and it has the most awesomely obscene line I've ever heard uttered in a film (Google "hillbilly heaven," folks)... but, I mean, it's not really good.

But we'll get to that movie later.

2)  Giant robots.  I love me some giant robots...though I tend to prefer a non-heavy military focus.  I think it's why I prefer Full Metal Panic! and Big O and The Iron Giant over, say, Mechwarrior or Gundam.

Though, The Iron Giant is probably just one of the best animated films ever made.  And that's the gospel truth.

3) Giant monsters.  I love, love, love silly giant monsters and rubber suit monsters.  I watch classic Godzilla movies when I find them and enjoy them in a purely non-ironic way because I think they're brilliant.  I watch the MST3K Gamera films and love each one of them.  I even love the terrible Godzilla films, such as the one where he does a flying slide kick balanced on his tail to another monster.

However, I think that some of my hesitation might come from the fact that there's one series with giant robots  and giant monsters that I absolutely hated, despite it being one of the "greatest animes ever made."

That's right, I'm talking about Neon Genesis Evangeleon.  This series was so bad, that halfway through it I was rooting for the monsters to kill everybody except for the really hot drunk woman and the drunk penguin.  The characters were unlikable, the story line became a giant soapbox for the writer to stand on and stopped making sense a few episodes in, and it played off so many things about Japanese animation that I've found seriously annoy the hell out of me that I only completed it out of a sense of obligation to be able to call myself an "anime fan."

Plus, I'll admit it, I knew some people who were die-hard fans of the series, and these people creeped the living hell out of me.  I knew one person who was such a die hard fan that he was willing to announce to me in a public place how badly he wanted one of these things:

That is a pillow case that fits a five foot tall pillo so the owner can hug an animated teenage girl who's barely dressed decently enough for this blog.  There are pillows of these same characters with no clothes on or actively engaged in sexual activities with each other.

Pillows.  For people to hold against them.

Thanks for keeping it classy, Japan.

Oh, and they come in different fabrics like "peach skin" (which is supposedly soft and feels like the skin of a peach, naturally), velvet, and something called "2 way tricot" which I don't want to know about because the fact I even know this much about these things is probably making it that I'm really close to having to alert neighborhoods to my moving in to the area.

Great, now I just feel really unclean.

What was I talking about?  Oh, right, Neon Genesis Evangeleon.  Man, I really hate that series.  I hate it more than I do anything ever created by Uwe Boll.

So perhaps it's my opinion of that series causing me to be hesitant, since when I look at Pacific Rim, Neon Genesis is the only context I can think of when it comes to robots at that scale, unless I'm just completely remembering how big a Gundam gets incorrectly.

4)  GLaDOS

The fact that the woman who voices GLaDOS is the voice of a computer system in Pacific Rim should be enough for me to see the movie on its OWN merit, if just to wait and see if she seizes control of the robots and destroys humanity once all the monsters are killed off.

So there's enough there that I should be really excited for this film, and I probably will see it, but I just can't get as excited as I want to be.  I think I'm also afraid that I'm going to have the same problems I had the last time I watched movies with giant fighting robots (see: the Transformers films) because I also really hated those, partly because half the time the action had me trying to figure out who or what I was looking at.

Well, as long as it doesn't make anywhere near the same number of mistakes that the Matthew Broderick Godzilla movie made.

How many did that one make?  I'm going to leave you with this:

I'll remind people that Siskel and Ebert pointed out one other mistake the movie made...if you're going to put in unlikable characters based on two critics who hate your films, why wouldn't you kill them off?  What a wasted opportunity!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Twenty-Five

Here at Ask Erik, we've spent a lot of time reading books and comics, watching movies, and browsing through the Internet in the hopes of finding the answers to life's biggest mysteries. How can the nation of Tajikistan survive when only five percent of the population has safe water?  When exactly did the shift in video games change from overactive imagination and "anything goes" plot lines to gritty realism with a higher body count than typhoid?  Why can't they invent a foolproof way to put grout around a shower?

Having instead amassed a vault of useless knowledge stored in his head, Erik instead tackles your questions and tries to find the answers you care about (or a reasonable facsimile).  Or, if you don't care, he'll at least try to make you laugh and forget you just wasted time you could spend doing anything else.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

It Came From Japan...

This, quite simply put, is the greatest thing I've seen today, this week, this month, and is in strong contention for the best thing I've seen all year.

It is crazy.  It defies any and all expectations.  Somehow, it manages to achieve an existential balance between three conflicting forces.  It's purely Japanese, not just from the language and the people starring in it, but in simple basic cultural notes placed throughout.  However, anything that western culture might deem offensive or too foreign gets tempered by the fact that the entire thing is so outlandish and bizarre you find yourself quick to forgive and forget as quickly as you can, because your mind needs to make room for the next bit of information being presented.  And yet, even in its utter outlandishness and peculiarity, it manages to be charming and educational, teaching you about the product it wants to sell and, in at least one instance (me) it convinces the viewer to want to purchase something completely impractical that (in my case) probably wouldn't fit for someone my size to begin with.

It is something everybody needs to see, as you will find yourself struggling to define something utterly indefinable, something your brain will have no context to put in, and will make your mind simply be blown away.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Plumbing Shallow Waters: Episode Three

Another week has gone by, and it's time to take another look at the cartoons from the Super Mario Brothers Super Show, a program that, for some reason, I remember fondly despite the fact that trying to watch it now feels almost painful sometimes in just how low-quality it seems the show is willing to settle for.  If the show has standards, they just don't seem very high, and are getting lower as time goes on.

As one humorist I've followed once said, "The floor's the limit!"

The first episode was a terrible rip-off of Star Wars which felt out of place in every sense from the universe that Mario and Luigi supposedly exist in, and I'm keeping in consideration the fact that they have been to space (twice), and have even existed as paper-thin versions of themselves battling evil with the help of stickers.

The second episode seemed to fit better in the "strange worlds" theme, since it involved a beanstalk and giants, two things that are already established in canon.  Let's see if the third episode is more the former or the latter.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Podblast! Ask Me Another

I love games. 

Actually, I think I said this before.  I did a whole spiel about all the different types of games I like, so I'm not going to do it again.  If you want to read it, go read my talk about Apples to Apples

One of my favorite types of games?  Mental games.

Nnnnnnot that type of mental game.  I mean more like puzzles, word riddles, and things that you have to write clues down and figure out the puzzle.

One of my personal favorite radio shows of all time is Says You! which, it appears, my local NPR station just decided to remove from its schedule, thus confirming that I'll never give them another dime of my money.

Seriously, people, you couldn't take one of the more clever and educational programs on the air and give it priority over programs that air more than once in a weekend?  Do we really need to hear This American Life twice, or have seventy-three hours (or so it feels) of classical music in a week?

I suppose this is what happens when the population of your state just keeps getting older and older, they don't like being challenged with hard thinking.

Where was I?  Oh, right.

Anyway, Says You! will get its own article soon, but for now, I'm going to discuss one of NPR's national programs called Ask Me Another, which is a similar style puzzle game where you have to do anything from name things that start with "a" and end in "z" or figure out world cities based on what their McDonald's menus sell.  It's not quite as high-thinking as Says You! but I suppose it is more accessible to a wider audience.

The host of the program is Ophira Eisenberg, who is a bit like Peter Sagal if still a bit raw (I expect experience hosting the show will improve that), and she usually has one puzzle guru to assist her, though it rotates.  Contestants from the audience are brought up and presented with puzzle games, the winner gets to move on to the final round at the end of the game.  There are also frequent special guests who get their own game, much in the style of "Not My Job" on Wait Wait.

Overall, I enjoy it.  There are frequently trips to reruns which are a little disappointing, but hearing Michael Ian Black talk like a valley girl as he gives clues never gets old.  Again, the topics are frequently a bit more mainstream, and there isn't quite the same focus on the English language that I enjoyed so much in Says You! (seriously, where else am I going to learn the definition of a word like "nelipot" so I can realize that I am one?), but as far as mainstream puzzles go, it really is enjoyable.  With a bit of clean-up and perhaps a tighter bit of editing, it could really become one of my favorite shows.

Especially now that I either have to tune in online to other ratio stations around the country for my favorite program, or I have to pay money to get their episodes.  Seriously, Maine, no love for Boston-based programming?

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Happy Fourth of July!

It's a holiday, so I'm kinda taking the day off today.

Well, unless you count all of the yard work I did.  Or the cooking.  Or the baking.  Or the stuff I still have to cook and bake.  Plus, there's the clean-up after the cooking and the baking and-

Okay, well, I'm taking a day off from posting on the blog, unless you count this post I'm currently typ-, yeah, here's the tiny blog post.

Happy 4th, everyone!

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Ask Erik: Episode Twenty-Four

Here at Ask Erik, we've spent a lot of time reading books and comics, watching movies, and browsing through the Internet in the hopes of finding the answers to life's biggest mysteries. Do the classic "rules" of naming planetary bodies still apply when so many are found so quickly these days?  Is there a mathematical formula for creating great music?  Why, Seattle?  Why must your baseball team hurt me so?

Having instead amassed a vault of useless knowledge stored in his head, Erik instead tackles your questions and tries to find the answers you care about (or a reasonable facsimile).  Or, if you don't care, he'll at least try to make you laugh and forget you just wasted time you could spend doing anything else.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Random Celebrity: Kerin Portillo

Every now and again I stumble upon an Internet meme from a few years ago that I had no idea ever existed.  Some of these can be amusing, many times they're just obnoxious, but what I find interesting is when a person becomes an Internet meme, gaining a level of celebrity that may not be earth-shattering, but is still surprising.

Sometimes it's someone in a commercial, like the Old Spice Guy, or even a classic character like the "Where's the beef?" woman.  At times, it could be someone whose face just happens to get in the news, like the Ridiculously Photogenic Guy.

And then there are people whose faces you see everywhere, but you never know their name.  One such person is Kerin Portillo.

Monday, July 1, 2013

Plumbing Shallow Waters: Episode Two

Okay, so perhaps my efforts to rediscover a show from my childhood and why I loved it so much didn't go quite as planned.  In searching through the "best" of the Super Mario Brothers Super Show I wound up watching what might have been the most pointless rip-off of Star Wars  I've ever seen.

And I've seen Turkish Star Wars.

So, okay, maybe it's because I have such a love for the original Star Wars that I wasn't able to get as much enjoyment out of it.  Maybe I'm a bit more jaded these days, so I'm more sensitive to racial stereotyping, and maybe I'm more sophisticated so I need more than just endless pasta jokes.

But surely there has to be something in here that I can find enjoyable.  Let's dig through another episode to find out.