Tonight I saw Caroline Kennedy endorse Barack Obama

February 28, 2008

kennedy01.pngFROM JASON’S CONTINUED LEFTWARD DRIFT — Caroline Kennedy, daughter of President John F. Kennedy, spoke tonight in my city.

She is stumping across Ohio for Barack Obama as the March 4 primary nears, saying Obama is the first candidate she’s ever seen who inspires people the way her father did.

“He’ll appeal to those around the world who still believe in the American ideal and are looking to America for the kind of leadership that we provided internationally when my father was president,” she said.

I was working my beat at the newspaper where I am a reporter, and had the opportunity to watch and analyze objectively from the back of the room. Kennedy did not say anything to sway me to Obama’s cause. Her 20-minute speech was more nostalgic jingoism directed at the already-converted than any kind of rational argument for Obama.

What did cause me to gain sympathy for his campaign were some of the attendees I interviewed after Kennedy’s speech. They didn’t say they have decided to support Obama because he is black, because he is the anti-Bush, because they have a gut feeling about him, or because he’s an elegant speaker.

Each and every one said they are marching in Obama’s line because of his platform — and they cited specific policies to back it up. One woman, a 39-year-old mother of a college freshman — said she is drawn to Obama’s promise of a $4,000 tax credit to make college more affordable. Another woman said his clear anti-war stance (and the fact that he did not cast a Senate vote to go to war, as did his opponent, Sen. Hillary Clinton) is his strongest appeal. One man listed to me several NAFTA provisions that Obama wants to amend in order to secure open trade.

Trust me, that’s an unprecedented level of education to meet at a local political rally.

I’ve said previously that I am more supportive of Clinton in 2008 than Obama. I think I’m slowly giving ground, especially after the Cleveland State University debate Tuesday.

Click above for part 1 of 10 in the complete Democratic debate at CSU. 

Clinton did not perform well; she was combative while Obama was collected. She was smug where Obama was gracious. She was outclassed several times by his well-phrased quips, and when she danced around Tim Russert’s questions (especially the one about job creation shortfall in New York state), Obama handled them smoothly.

We’ll see how things progress between now and the Democratic National Convention in August.

Audiosurf: A wonderfully addictive game of light and sound

February 27, 2008

ESCAPING FROM THE PRECIOUS MOMENTS OF ANDREW’S FREE TIME– While perusing the Steam store, I recently encountered a gem of a game called Audiosurf . What is it at heart? Well, it’s a cross between Tetris, F-Zero, and any of the many music based games one can find today. While at first look it may seem boring or confusing, Audiosurf creates a visual and musical environment that is surely going to stimulate the senses of even the likes of Helen Keller.

AudioSurf 1

Using the Pointer character, who plays more like tetris. The blocks have different values depending on their colors. Hotter colors are worth more.

Audiosurf takes your own music files (mp3, wav, mp4a, ogg, flac) and creates a musical rollercoaster of sorts in which you race through with any of 14 different characters/spaceships. The game takes your music, analyzes the song, creates a suitable race-like track, and populates said track with a multitude of colored blocks.

Depending on the intensity of the song, the environment will be generated dynamically, allowing one to literally surf through their own music. Play a slow song and the track will maintain a slow and steep incline, indulge in a high intensity song and you will be slaloming down the musical equivalent of a double black diamond with hot colored blocked moguls.

The songs take approximately twenty to thirty seconds to analyze and generate the track, however this data is stored within the game so the next time you play that song, you are able to load the track almost instantly. However, be warned. DRM music is not compatible with Audiosurf, especially non-iTunes plus music. Do not be fooled by the Audiosurf webpage.

An example of Audiosurf.

The specific gameplay varies, as it is dependent upon which character/spaceship you choose. For the majority of the characters, the main goal is to arrange a group of three or more similar colored blocks together in the grid underneath the ship. As the ship traverses the course, you must surf through the blocks in order to drop them into your 3×7 playing grid.

There are a couple of power-ups; however, the main changes are the derived from the characters themselves. Their individual abilities range anywhere from being able to grab blocks to erasing all blocks of a single color to two ships. While many of them are not too interesting, there is one exception. The “Mono ninja character” is the most significant change. It replaces all the multicolored blocks into two groups, gray and colored. The main objective is to avoid the gray blocks at all cost and collect the colored blocks. Personally, this character is the most exciting and enjoyable in my opinion.

AudioSurf 2

Using the Ninja Mono character. Avoid the grey blocks!

Being able to use your own music is what really makes this game shine. The major complaints I have of other music based games is that they require you to conform to their own personal opinion of good music (something which is not always broadly shared among the populous).

At $10, I feel this game is worth the price, however I don’t think I would have paid much more for it as it lacks any more significant content. One perk is that you are able to compare your scores for each song online with other Audiosurf players. Pick this one up if you really enjoy music or if you love extravagant visuals.

YesterGames #1: X-Men 2 — Clone Wars

February 27, 2008

FROM JASON’S BATTERED 16-BIT SYSTEM — Before consoles had the power to use 3D graphics, Sega was leading the way in superhero side-scrolling platform action by licensing comic book characters.

Nintendo was still leading the market with the Mario and Zelda franchises, but meanwhile Sega was forging an alliance with Marvel and creating darker teen games with oversized sprites like Spider-Man and Venom: Separation Anxiety. But maybe the best of this brood was 1995’s X-Men 2: Clone Wars.

The plot: Techno-organic beings known as The Phalanx have sent a clone invasion to Earth. Only a small band of X-Men have remained uncaptured. When the baddies go after a closed-down sentinel factory, it’s your job to stop them.

I spent weeks playing Clone Wars as a teen, switching between the playable characters and their assorted mutant abilities: Beast with his amazing strength and ground-pound; Cyclops’ optic blasts; Psylocke’s 180-degree sword slash and psychic thrust; Gambit’s long-reaching staff and telekinetically-charged cards; Wolverine’s claws, wall-climbing, and self-healing; and Nightcrawler’s ability to crawl on ceilings, teleport, and deliver and high-speed flying kick. Later in the game, I was dumbstruck when Magneto was unlocked to fight alongside the X-Men. He was slow but he could fly (and remaing hovering), giving each level a new dimension. He could also throw a pretty wicked magnetic bomb blast.

That versatility meant many different ways to complete a level, and allowed for a great deal of strategy compared to other platformers of the day. It’s also what makes modern comic-book vidjagames like X-Men Legends and Marvel Ultimate Alliance so attractive and re-playable.

Nightcrawler was easily my favorite character, and if played right he was almost invincible. During an invasion of Asteroid M, Nightcrawler could bypass almost the entire level by walking up the wall and clawing across the ceiling, then teleporting to the exit. At one point I completed the first 6 levels in 15 minutes using those tricks and his speedy flying kick to circumvent enemies.

The levels were beautifully rendered. The introduction stage was a Siberian military complex with flying snow and mock-3D ice walls. Later stages included a raid on a sentinel factory, Magneto’s Avalon, a showdown with Apocalypse, the Savage Land, and a dark Metroid-type maze.

In that final level, you have to fight clones of all the X-Men to survive. I beat the game once during college but never again managed to duplicate that victory.

I can’t recommend this game enough, and if you have a Genesis emulator, the ROM is out there. Take the time to learn each of your mutants’ special moves, then go out there and kick some Apocalypse/clone ass.

Check out the ‘Guess My Crime’ blog

February 26, 2008


FROM JASON’S RANDOM CLICKING — It’s just one joke, repeated a few dozen times, but it’s funny in a pretty dark way. The people on this site have all committed some sort of heinous crime and they’re all smiling about it.

Can you figure out what crime each one has (allegedly) committed?

I read a lot of police reports and see a lot of mugshots, and this isn’t uncommon. A lot of arrestees make funny faces at the camera or are stoned or drunk during booking. Some are genuinely proud of their crimes. I remember seeing one man charged with having sex with farm animals — he looked pretty damned self-satisfied.

Music Monday: Tripping Daisy and Rip Slyme

February 25, 2008

1. Tripping Daisy — I Got A Girl

Here’s an example of a talented early 90s band that never caught on. Maybe if the airwaves hadn’t been crowded with Pearl Jam and Bush, Tripping Daisy would have gotten more credit for their irreverent alt-punk. If nothing else, I’m surprised frontman Tim DeLaughter didn’t get more attention for his looks — in this video, he reminds me a lot of Brad Pitt a la 12 Monkeys.

I remember I Am An Elastic Firecracker (the band’s breakthrough album) got a lot of play on the Canadian radio stations that seeped across the US border, but there was never much in the way of follow-up. Maybe it’s because the band’s sound was only very loosely defined, growing more disparate and experimental toward 1996-1997.

2. Rip Slyme — Super Shooter

I don’t listen to J-pop, but I do watch anime. So when Andrew sent me some of his more eclectic videos by AIM a few weeks ago, I recognized this one immediately as the opener to Gantz. I remember always getting pumped up by the song and then having the show let me down (anybody want some leeks?).

Rap seems to me like a distinctly American institution. Pardon my musical xenophobia here, but I laugh when I hear Mexican or German or — in this case — Japanese rap. It’s just bizarre. It’s like a Kenyan playing polka or an Indian singing reggae. Rip Slyme managed to supersede that strange boundary, though, with Super Shooter. I think it might be the video game sound queues that save them.

YouTube Cinema: The Muppet Movie (1979)

February 24, 2008
Patriotism swells in the heart of the American bear.

muppets01.pngFROM JASON’S HENSON HERO WORSHIP — Just let me brag for a minute. I have The Muppet Movie soundtrack on vinyl. Yes, I grew up listening to this masterpiece in glorious lo-fi bliss and I’ll challenge anyone in a Muppets lyrics showdown.

muppets02.pngIt’s a good thing that this music rocks, because the plot of The Muppet Movie is completely incidental. The entire film is just an excuse to lead from one variety show-style musical number to the next, giving a sketchy origin story for each of the main Muppets.

muppets03.pngBoiling it down: Kermit treks across the United States on his way to Hollywood to become a movie star, meeting fellow Muppets along the way. He gathers his posse one at a time, with a frog-legs lovin’ restauranter named Doc Hopper hunting him.

muppets04.pngNot only do we have the immortal Rainbow Connection, but when Kermit meets Fozzie they sing Moving Right Along, which I remember singing in second grade music class. As a married guy, the absolute best thing about The Muppet Movie is the Kermit/Rowlf duet I Hope That Something Better Comes Along:

You can’t live with ’em, you can’t live without ’em.
There’s somethin’ irresistabullish about ’em.
We grin and bear it ’cause the nights are long.
I hope that somethin’ better comes along.

muppets05.pngThere’s also substantial star power here. Not only do we have Jim Henson and Frank Oz, but the movie is chock-full of 70s celebs: Mel Brooks, Milton Berle, Dom DeLuise, Telly Savalas, Bob Hope, Elliott Gould, Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, and Orson Welles.

Behind the scenes, directors John Landis (Three Amigos, Animal House, Ferris Beuller’s Day Off) and Tim Burton (Edward Scissorhands, Beetle Juice, Batman) were both puppeteers.

I’ll admit The Muppet Movie doesn’t hold up 29 years after its release, except on a very nostalgic level. But if you don’t like it, you’re not my friend. Either get with Gonzo (clearly the best Muppet) or get off my Internets.

Star Wars Episode IV: The Puppet Show

February 24, 2008

Vodpod videos no longer available.

FROM JASON’S SNEAKY LINKING — I think Andrew’s too shy to link to this himself, so I’m taking it on my shoulders. His girlfriend (God bless charitable girls) created it for a class at Georgia Tech and Andrew provided the voice-overs and special effects.

My favorite part is his enthusiastic “boom.”

Seriously, the boy can quote the whole movie without ever messing up a single word. I’ve seen A New Hope some 90 times, but even my child-of-the-80s prowess is no match for his wunderkind savantism.