Friday, January 30, 2009

Waltz with Bashir

Wednesday night I saw Waltz with Bashir at the Carleton with some friends. I really liked the music and sound, which the animation made stand out -- every footstep and breath and bullet all the more audible. The beach memory music in particular I found haunting. Yeah, the first half or so of the movie I felt was excellent, when the memories are still just fragments, broken pieces that don't line up. It's when they start forming a coherent picture does the movie begin to turn into this .. well, lame, boring documentary. I had hoped that the final statement would be more profound or beautiful but alas, I did not find it so. Still, overall I quite enjoyed it.

I've also been playing a bit of Mount and Blade, this neat independent game, a sandboxed action RPG. The bit that brings me back to it is the mounted combat -- there's something very satisfying about riding circles around bandits and shooting arrows at them. I just.. I can't quite explain what it is. Fun. It's just fun.

I'm all in this Cormac McCarthy phase right now, having read 3 of his books thus far (No Country For Old Men, The Road, All The Pretty Horses) and recently obtained 2 more: The Crossing and Blood Meridian. I may quite possibly read all his books, they're that good.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Replacement iPhone, blackout, a close call on the highway

First things first, I got my new iPhone. I had lost my old one the night of my birthday, it having likely fallen out of my pocket into a taxi from the same pants I lost my trusty SCP-4000. Comfortable those pants but negligent in their holding of valuables! And I say "old", but I only had that iPhone for about 3 months, sigh. So, it turns out that to replace a 16 GB iPhone costs $650 CDN I kid you not. Once again I had to turn to Rogers customer service to rant about the price thrust upon me. After an anxious wait they offered me a refurbished one for $250 which I greedily took. It has since arrived and iTunes, surprisingly to me, restored all my files and setting properly and conveniently so that I am back to where I was, minus $250 but without the scratches and the wonky Home button my old iPhone had. Today I applied that Invisible Shield I had ordered on-line, a small project reminiscent of my days working with vinyl graphics.

Second things second, my apartment went without electricity for some 24 hours starting Thursday night when that water pipe or whatever burst. I went to work Friday early, though being cellphone-less and watch-less I could only guess what time I was leaving home. The plan was to try to make it to Kitchener for dinner and drinks with friends that evening but the streetcar ride home was held up because the power was STILL out in my area some 18 hours later. Pissed me to no end that did, but I managed to pull myself out of my rage and gather my things (with the aid of my bicycle lamp) and drove to KW to make a late dinner. I ended up having a good time, Starlight serving well at keeping me entertained thoughout the night.

I ended up staying much of the next day in KW, playing Xbox and eating and shopping. By early evening the weather had gotten quite ugly, the roads well snowed over, the street lines hidden, car tracks fading into black lines on white. It wasn't until Mississauga that I drove by an accident, a three-car collision taking up two 401 lanes. Some would take such a vision as a warning, but no, I kept on going on, zipping happily away at 80-100 km/h until, not more than a few minutes from the accident I started losing control of my Echo as I was switching lanes. My rear starting swerving wildly, so I attempted to keep my front tires pointing towards my forward travel vector, turning the wheel vigorously and automatically. The car would have none of it however and I suddenly found myself facing the wrong direction into oncoming traffic though still moving westward. Thankfully the other cars had all slowed down by now and kept their distance. I'm not sure how it happened but the car started to slip rear-first into the highway divider, visions of slamming into it entering my head even as I slammed the brakes. I spun the steering wheel in an effort to get the right facing and, thankfully, very quickly found myself facing west again, that blessed path. Breathing a sigh of relief I got up to speed and continued on my way, little evidence of my adventure though I'm sure my tracks would speak quite the tale. The whole thing probably happened in a space of 4 or 5 seconds though they felt eternal. I was lucky I had a lot of space to play with (it was that stretch between the 410 and 427, by the airport) and that no one was close by but MAN it spooked me.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lost iPhone, birthday with family. Pirates!

Birthday was a quiet night out with a friend, playing pool and such. So much so that I seem to have misplaced my iPhone, yes precious. I briefly flirted with the idea of not getting a replacement but it seems nobody wants me to go without it. I miss the iPod functionality most and have turned to imeem.com for my temporary music fix. Oh, but back to my birthday. Yes very quiet and I have no recollection of the latter parts of the evening. Exactly.

Saturday I spent primarily in bed haunted by odd, unexpected dreams. In the late afternoon I was able to finally drag myself from my hangover grave to frantically clean my apartment before my family came over for dinner. My mom brought her usual serving of far more food than necessary, though all completely appreciated. Presents, yes. Nothing extravagant, some books, a plant, bowls, homemade cookies. Funny, I was so stressed trying to get my apartment in shape and it seemed to all work out and I guess I stressed for naught.

Sunday I spent finishing the second season of It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, a really funny show. I mean, up there with Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm. Perhaps not as smart as Arrested Development, but up there in terms of laughs-per-minute. I know I suggest a lot of things, but this one gets a gold star IT'S THAT GOOD.

Oh, sure, still gaming here and there. I put a few hours into the remake of Sid Meier's Pirates, a game I'd always wanted to try. The game does stir my love of the Aubrey/Maturin series, though really only the sailing bits which are very well done. The other parts, such as sword fighting and dancing, play more like timing puzzles and lose their appeal once you get the hang of them, they being the mindless, reflex-based things they are.

Sleep! Lest we forget its worth allow this old salt to turn in.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Prince of Persia

For no real reason other than curiosity I installed Prince of Persia first. The graphics are as tasty as the screenshots. I love the animated oil painting design, and the colors are rich and summer-y, the scenery divine. The gameplay is somewhat mixed -- I'm not a huge fan of platformers, so all the jumping and running and climbing didn't do much for me. At first the instant respawning was quite nice, then the animation became annoying (because I died so frequently) and then it became an acceptable punishment as I got better, the animations less obtrusive. And, even though visually you can see quite far, it felt like a very small, tiny world since you could only stand in a few places here and there. The fights, again, beautiful to watch, but somewhat tiresome in practice. They were satisfying to win, sure, but they felt more like a timing puzzle than a battle.

I did like the banter between the Prince and Elika, at times comedic, other times serious, and later on playful and flirty. I am glad I hopped and wall-ran all the way through to the finish (about 10-15 hours of play) because the ending rewarded this weary heart. So much so I wish I could put the music on my iPhone, a sparkling token of the memory.

Friday, January 02, 2009

New Year's in Kitchener, Mirror's Edge

Yes, in the last minute throes of uncertainty, I went to Kitchener to hang out with Growl and company for New Year's Eve, thanks to an unsolicited last minute offer. The night was... largely, mostly, almost entirely uneventful. Drinks (SoCos) and shots (Jager bombs) were had. Photos were taken. Names were forgotten. Coats, mittens and scarves were lost. Words were slurred. Asses were slapped. Friends were reunited.

The day following the only nearby place to eat was Tim Horton's, Waterloo otherwise a ghost town. Growl and I then played some eight hours of Mirror's Edge, that new first-person parkour platformer. I have to say, it looks downright gorgeous -- such clean, simple designs and graphics, without any of that murkiness that seems so popular today. The game can be difficult at times but when you start getting the hang of wall-jumps and wall-running, well, it's an exhilarating, rewarding experience. As a tumbling/running/clambering-over-things game, it works quite well. The combat however I didn't care much for. Awkward and unnatural, particularly in contrast to the grace of the running parts. They should've just dropped the weapon firing altogether, keeping only the hand-to-hand for the player, such as the jump-drop-kick attack or the various disarms. Mirror's Edge's story is laughable, the script juvenile, and the action can be somewhat repetitive but otherwise the experience as a whole is definitely worth trying. This is one of those games that you find yourself holding your breath or even kicking your feet as you will your character over chasms or across tiny ledges.

Oh yes, I went to work today. Very quiet, perhaps the quietest day of the year. 2009! At least we're all getting older together. That is of some comfort.