Saturday, November 24, 2012

Consumed Podcast #13: Wreck It Ralph and Games Bonanza

It's been a long time since all three of us were in studio together, but that's our Thanksgiving gift to you! Nat, Max and I gathered to discuss a great range of topics. What stories exactly won't mainstream fiction tell? Is there a market for live-action short film? What drives an artist to compare his working conditions to the Holocaust?

And somehow this all revolved around videogames. We started with Wreck-It Ralph, which is adorable and quite appealing for audiences with any level of familiarity to old games. From there, we stretched into a documentary on videogames development and how nuts it drives programmers, then sampled the fruits of their labors with some of the incredibly unusual approaches to games available on Steam and XBLA. Nat winds up calling one of them "Portal as written by Douglas Adams." Which was it? Click through this link to find out!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Inhabitants of the Uninhabitable

1. The Harvesters were the first proper settlers of the endless volcano. They are languid and hardy folk who build homes in the ash, and canoe about the lava in boats wrought from diamond. The Harvesters know every secret of diamond, and of every form of carbon, though they keep these secrets intimate. They fish for softer materials in the lava basin, which they then take home and digest with organs that human beings cannot yet comprehend. They are a fulsome and sonorous lot, despite their misotheism.

2. “Skrik,” as they are most politely called, most closely resemble rats with dragonfly wings instead of legs. The diet of the Skrik primarily consists of diamond, and so it is of little surprise that they followed The Harvesters into the region of the endless volcano. It is believed that many diamond ships sank in the Bay of Flames due to holes gnawed by the pests. They damage The Harvesters’ canoes and are generally unpopular.

3. Songbirds were imported into the region by second-party merchants. As they are hefty birds, they happily prey upon the Skrik. As they are hefty singers, they loose unlimited tunes from dawn to dusk. The Harvesters discovered too late that songbird songs irritate their tender ear canals, causing a variety of unwanted side effects including hallucinations and nocturnal emissions. The current generation of Harvesters sees them as equally undesirable to the Skrik.

4. Magmen allegedly lived in the endless volcano from the time of its first eruption, though they were only first seen a heca-year ago. They prefer to live in lava, and not leave it unless sorely tempted. Magmen consider the soft minerals a delicacy after they are digested; a Harvester with a full stomach is nearly irresistible.

5. The self-loathing Amati are spirits that dance within wisps of smoke and steam. Wherever it rises, they are obligated to celebrate and adulate. Their only means of communication with the physical world is a manipulation of soul leading to an exceedingly pleasant feeling. Thus Harvesters and Magmen are often to pause upon a breach and inhale the filthy air, relishing in the tranquil sensations the Amati give them. They are the only life form in the hemisphere to also be categorized as a drug. The Amati are thought responsible for all instances of peace between the species of the endless volcano. They would gladly give it up if their god would simply tell them what to do with their lives.

6. Unufuyatum is the local god, and technical first inhabitant of the river system. He suffers from a birth defect and lasting mental disorder most akin to solipsism, and does not take the geology seriously because he believes himself to be dreaming. Reducing the mountains to constant vomiting of lava is an idle game he plays before his mother wakes him. He does not know that he has no mother, and that two asteroids were his fathers. They will not pass in the sky again for several thousand years, and so the weather in this region is expected to be stable. Dress appropriately.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Give Thanks – Will Is Okay!

This is a little touchy-feely, but I’m going with it. As I get older, I’m definitely getting softer, and in the last two years I’ve learned that’s actually quite a pleasant thing.

Today is Thanksgiving in the United States. It’s a holiday with a troubled past, but a good meaning: to remember what you are thankful for.

Well, I have a roof over my head, and it’s warm in my house. We couldn’t always afford heat in the winter, or food. I don’t have to worry about where my next meal is coming from. I do not ever underestimate these things. I am thankful for them every day. For the people who dislike Thanksgiving as something unnecessary – we ought to be more mindful of what we’ve got. But to me, and people like me, having an annual reminder of a virtue is useful.

I’m particularly thankful today because my cousin, Will Corcoran, got his liver transplant. If you haven't read about him before, this kid has been fighting Cystic Fibrosis his entire life and was suddenly confronted with a life-or-death need for an operation. The operation was back in October, and Will had to split it with two other recipients, but he got enough to live. I’d held off announcing it because there were complications, and “too soon” is seldom a good time for celebration. But now it’s been over a month, he’s had regular check-ups, and is healthy enough that tomorrow he’ll attend my family’s big get-together. It’ll be the first time I’ve been able to see him in years. More important than that, he has years to come.

It’s worth being thankful for.

What are you thankful for this year, friends and fellow humans?

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Caller Id, Redux

I used to have Caller ID. It broke and now I'm left with caller id, which only tells me what the person wants. I have to guess who'd want that thing. If it's "Sexual" then it's probably not Mom, but Mom could want anything. "Your location," "To see you," "To talk for half an hour about wallpaper" - all of these could be covert Mom calls. She can even fake what she wants. Twice now she's pretended "To help pay off student loans" just to nag me about doing my laundry at her place. Dad's never like that. He only calls "To bitch about the Yankees" or "To get you to call your mother."

Monday, November 19, 2012

True Stories of John: Hiding a Birthday Present

I like to make people’s birthdays special. For instance, I have a tradition of forcing my friend, Nat Sylva, onto a scavenger hunt to find his birthday present. This year I didn’t see him until weeks after his birthday. We barely crossed paths before Halloween, and on that day the poor guy had jury duty.

When he got home, though, I had a note on his war chest. On the outside it read, “Your present lies within.”

Inside the note read: “I said it lied. This was going to be a clue about Lies of Locke Lamora, but I can’t find that book. Can you find a book I lent you years ago?”

It was on, and it went a little like this.

He went upstairs, passing the bucket of Halloween candy, and after searching around for a few minutes Nat located my copy of Stephen King’s Cell. I suspect he will never finish it. Inside was a note with at least two references to Heath Ledger’s Joker.

Now a couple years ago, I gave Nat a copy of the special edition of The Dark Knight for his birthday. It has Ledger on the cover, and I hid a clue in there last year. This one was a gimme, but inside lay another note.

“Wrong Batman villain. You don’t want to get warmer with him, but colder. Maybe he’s in his hideout.”

Nat deduced Mr. Freeze and checked his freezer in the other room. Inside was a note that read, “No sir, the OTHER hideout,” which was a superlative reference to Batman Forever, and sent him down two stories into the basement to check his emergency fridge. On an empty shelf in that fridge he found a note saying that all this searching had tired me out and that I was going to bed.

This brought him up two stories, again passing the bucket of Halloween candy, to the guest bedroom where I’d been sleeping the last few nights. After rummaging under my pillows he found another note:

“No time to sleep. We’ve got to get to the bottom of this. Why don’t we try getting to the bottom of John? (Don’t be lewd)”

After worrying that he’d have to extract my socks, he came downstairs and asked to check the sofa I was sitting on. Sure enough, my classic lame move of sitting on a clue persisted. Beneath the cushions was a note: “Been sitting here long enough. Should probably check e-mail for work.”

So he went back into the basement to check his e-mail, where he found a cryptic invitation: “Come back to Silent Hill (even though I hear the movie is awful).”

Nat had actually intercepted this e-mail earlier, but mistook it to mean to check my copy of Silent Hill 1. But the movie is based on Silent Hill 3, and has the same tagline of “Come back to Silent Hill.” I’d been trying to get him to play with me for days. Now he checked that case, and sure enough, he found his next note. I feel he was a very good sport as he read, “It’s all safe at home now. You can go to bed safely.”

And so he passed the bucket of Halloween candy by the stairs for the third time, up to the top floor and into his room. He checked his pillows, where he’d found his penultimate clue, “Maybe it’s in his tiger trap.”

Now Nat owns the enormous three-volume Complete Calvin & Hobbes. If you’ve read the early ones, you know the first strip was about Calvin checking his tiger trap and finding the stuffed tiger. Nat came downstairs one more time and went straight for that volume, while complimenting my ability to lift that thing off the shelf. Sure enough, on that page, was a note:

“Happy Halloween! A bucket of tricks and treats for everyone.”

He went over to the room near the stairs and checked the candy bucket. Beneath was his wrapped birthday present, the edges of the wrapping paper sticking out the sides.

Now the present was something that only has sentimental value – scissors he can snap apart into two knives and pretend he’s an assassin – but it’s the chase that’s meaningful. I can tell it’s meaningful because he didn’t use the present to murder me.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Bathroom Monologue: Star Wars Episode VII - Genocide of Ewoks

The Empire was not long on Endor before it fell. The Ewoks had never had much contact with the outside universe, and so never saw the foreign plagues coming. Every cuddly creature that Luke, Leia and Han danced with that night was dead within a week of the Death Star’s destruction – not from combat, but from highly predatory diseases their immune systems had never seen.

Overburdened by suddenly having to run an interstellar government with numerous pockets of skepticism and resistance, Princess Leia and her freedom fighters can hardly divert many resources to help the Ewoks. Yet those who do venture to Endor bring still more suffering, swarming with their own planetary diseases, or have come to Endor only to make a profit under the auspices of the new “democracy.” When the Ewoks fight back against mercenaries who abuse them, the local settlers are quick to label them savage. They did defeat the Empire, after all.

C3PO ventures into the plague-stricken Ewok masses with a message of peace, hoping that its lack of biology will spare them further infection. Their only salvation is to move off of their ancestral grounds and head west, where new legislation swears they will always have domain. Supplies seem to come in equal number to the raids, and orders continually push the Ewoks off their reservations, until their previous way of life is but a tall tale that even their most optimistic children doubt ever existed. Their numbers are plummeting, their lands are strip-mined, and no one remembers how to dance.

This is what you guys wanted when you bitched about Return of the Jedi, right?
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