Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Cryptid Comments

A frequent hobby of mine is to investigate what is now commonly termed "cryptozoology," or "unknown animal studies." (How can you study the unknown?) This is the branch of "pseudoscience" which concerns itself with possible animals and possibly extinct animals that may still exist. It concerns itself, to some degree, with creatures ranging from the Tasmanian Wolf to Bigfoot to, at a particular extreme, such creatures as the Jersey Devil.

Now, I view these subjects with a skeptical eye. I'm not going to suddenly one day declare that it's my life's work to find solid evidence of the Mongolian Death Worm's existence and insist on proof for the scientific community. On the other hand, while I find the idea of a five foot long worm that spews sulfuric acid and can arc electric shocks through the air at its enemies improbable, it's not totally impossible, and while I'm not saying it's a real creature, I won't dismiss it out of hand, either. (For a genuine controversy in cryptozoology, see the Patterson-Gimlin film. Too many genuine experts find themselves forced to say, "Okay, that wasn't a human in a suit, or at least, I can't be sure.")

Occasionally, there are strange details that make the speculative side of me curious. For instance, the aforementioned Jersey Devil has some characteristics that are strangely similar to those of the Chupacabra-namely, eyes that flash red and cause disorientation, nausea, or paralysis in their victims. I'm hardly saying I believe this. I am saying that it's an interesting shared detail. I mean, even as improbable as the Jersey Devil is (a horse-faced and -hoofed creature with wings, the height of a man, with powers of flight), during a single week in January 1909 there were hundreds if not thousands who claimed to have seen the creature. (Want a quick way to make $1,000,000? The Philadelphia Zoo apparently posted a million dollar reward for the capture of the creature in response to the mass sightings; they have not officially retracted it.) Further, sightings of the creature are reasonably consistent with one another, whereas other creatures, like the chupacabra, have descriptions ranging from reptilian alien to doglike beast.

All I really want to say about the matter of cryptozoology is that dismissing the existence of a creature out of hand is no more science than embracing its existence religiously without evidence. Scientists are awfully closed to a lot of ideas these days.

Signing off.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The "Relativity Clock"

I found this while going through the commentary in the archives of a webcomic I read (here, in case you're interested), and had to say, "Wow, that's an extravagant timepiece."

I mean, really. It took at least (according to news items and suchlike) 500,000 pounds and seven years to develop. And (according to said news items) it's only accurate once every five minutes. And it's plated in gold and has a giant mutant mechanical grasshopper sitting on it.

On the plus side, its bank of LEDs are supposed to run on the same amount of electricity as a single incandescent light bulb.

Friday, September 26, 2008


Arblus, look! It's Unicrotch!

(Picture is really cruddy because it was taken with a really cruddy camera. This is the Transformers Universe re-release of Armada Unicron.)

Some context is obviously in order. I only recently got this toy, and discovered the biggest and most shocking secret of Unicron is not his existence or any silliness like him transforming into a robot; no, it's the fact that the back end of his planet mode is, well, his back end. You don't see many (read: any, before now) pictures of this part of it; just the more memorable and less butt-like front.

Signing off, because really, how do you follow something like this up?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Flash Games Review/Guide: Beast Signer (Alpha Version)

I decided a few days ago I wanted to do some commentary on the games produced by Pseudolonewolf, a talented producer of free Flash games, because I've invariably enjoyed the experience of playing them. At some point I'll do an extensive writeup of even Fig Hunter, his oldest and a very incomplete game (and far and away the most primitive), but I'll start with Beast Signer, which is currently in Alpha.

(All images are the intellectual property of Pseudolonewolf, and are used only for demonstrative and occasional humorous purposes.)

The first thing you are asked to do in this game, as in most of his games (the major exceptions, ironically, are his "finished" games, the two chapers of Mardek, Raider, and Super Mega Extreme Cyber Ortek (Dragon) Flier). The selection is similar to and typical of his other games, that is, choose a gender, choose hairstyle, etc., with one twist-the element is assigned according to how you fill out a quiz. So here we go:

Wait a minute. There's no way that I'm water, dude. Try again. (If you aren't pleased with your results, simply hit "Z" and then "X" repeatedly until you get the quiz results. Anytime you aren't pleased, just use Z again and randomly fill it out until you get what you want.)

Once you've got the element you want, you're assigned a "Beast," a little Pokemon/Digimon type creature. "Training" these creatures is ultimately the primary focus of the game. (If you've actually played it at all, or even read some of his blurbs about it, this is blatantly obvious. I'll just mention it, though, because it's relevant.)

Eventually, when actual game play starts, you "wake up" in a bed in a little shack of some kind. Step out of bed and walk over to the little thing that resembles a computer and use "X" to "talk" to it, and you'll discover...

...a computer. It's a very simplified one, obviously, but the computers are well-put together, and are absolutely vital for the game's play, as I'll elaborate on later. For the moment, let's step outside.

Good question, Remnant dude. As this guy helpfully explains, you'll be sent "into The Machine" to become a "Signer." There, you'll capture ("sign") and train digital "Beasts" which are apparently nasty little menaces to the general society that lives in The Machine. (The Machine creates a virtual environment for people to live in, so they don't have to live in the wasteland of reality. This game gets pretty meta.)

Anyway, once you talk to some buddies and then go back (they're in one of the southernmost buildings in the place) to take a nap, you get rudely kicked awake to catch the Signer Bus. The Signer Bus has six wheels.

This game has an awful lot of waiting in it, by the way-while the above capture is from the end of that particular wait, it's a wait you can't really shorten.

After that wait, you have to have a medical examination, and you must, surprise surprise, wait in a waiting room.

We hope so too.
When you get in there, there's a guy I would never trust to put me under anesthesia who wants to put you under. He doesn't actually tell you this until you have no choice, by the way. After some waiting in a black screen, the game is ready to begin. (This will be the first time you are allowed to save-the control menu is explained as being accessed from a microchip installed in your brain at this time.) Now, it's time to go!

You may want to explore a bit first.

Oh really.

Anyway, once you emerge into the virtual world of Normos, you are immediately assailed by a so-called friend of yours.

I don't like the way he's looking at my (female) avatar there.

He wants to fight. Oblige him. And kick his booty.

If you're lucky, you won't need to waste any of your supplies in this fight; if not, it's not a big deal, for reasons I'll explain later. "Luck" in this case is the elemental matchup. Hint: The other guy's critter is Fire.

After the Beasts fall (and they will), you and the other dude cut each other with swords. If your beast goes down first, you'll probably lose; if the other guy's does, you'll probably win.

For those of you who are wondering, no, those are not from the same save. They are different characters I created primarily for the purposes of this review.

This guy here demonstrates a common theme in a lot of Pseudolonewolf's games-lots of minor characters have incredibly inane dialogue. I'm not complaining, though-it's terribly funny.

When I mention that you'll rarely need the supplies for healing your Beasts, this is why: There are computers all over the place, and you can simply click "Restore" to heal them all. They do other stuff, too. (You'll be seeing this screen a lot, by the way.)

You'll also see this chick and her house a lot-in the first village, she is nearly the entire population. There's about seven of her.

Anyway, when you get into fights with creatures, you can sign them in order to capture them. Whether or not it'll work is random. Some creatures seem a little more susceptible than others. A few notes on counterintuitive stuff in the battle functions: You can sign even if your battle team is completely full (the Beast will instead be stored on the computers-and yes, you can access your storage from any of them). Another note-you can select as many Beasts as you can have out to summon in one turn-just use X repeatedly. The last time you hit it, it'll know you're done and finish the process.

As tends to be the case in games like this one, a major focus is on evolution of the creatures. Whenever the creature evolves, it learns a skill, and it and its descendants remember that skill forever.

Descendants come about through Merging:

Merging makes an egg. You need two creatures of Stage 2 or higher to Merge. They collectively become a new egg, which will soon (shortly after you summoned it into a battle-and don't worry about it dying, because it's got a very thick shell) hatch/evolve into a new larval form.

Thus far, I've had quite a bit of fun with this game.

Perhaps too much fun. (This, by the way, is my sister's save. I was the one playing it, though.)

Anyway, as mentioned, this is still an Alpha version, and as such is kinda buggy yet (and also very incomplete), but it's still a pretty fun way to blow six or seven hours in one go. I've done so all too often already.

Another random note, as a little pet peeve: At least one creature only comes out at night. For some people, this is awkward.

Signing off, because I'm on here too late as it is.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Over 9000...

Desperate last resort post, go!

You've probably seen this over 9000 times. (Ha ha rimshot ow.)

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

I Was Just Trawling YouTube...

...and found a video.

(From a "movie" called Starbirds, which in turn was a hacked up movie dubbed from an anime called Daimos. Daimos is, in my own mind, only relevant for being the descendant of the goofiest super robot ever, Combattler V.)

Apologies if this makes your ears bleed (I'm at a computer with no speakers, so I have no idea how it sounds), but I find it amusing that it took about three minutes for the guy to reach the robot/truck.

Also, that scientist guy is practically molesting the kid.

I'll try for a better post than this tomorrow.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Look! A Very Short Post!

So over the weekend I discovered an alpha version of a new game by Pseudolonewolf.

And I noticed something.

Lookit that!
A real time sunset.

I guess I'm easy to please or something, but a sunset that is timed by your clock? That's awesome.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Large Hadron Collider

(This be the first Talk Like a Pirate Day I remembered it on time to talk like a pirate! Arrr! Of course, it be very hard to talk or type in that vernacular for very long [it don't come natural, see], so I be droppin' it right quick.)

If you need reassurance: The answer to the Large Hadron Collider question that may be on your mind.

Lots of people have been concerned about the possibility of very bad things happening; they've named baby black holes, exotic matter unimagined, and the creation of dangerous amounts of antimatter as potential risks. Of course, according to the modern model of physics, these things will all fizzle out before they cause serious problems, so these are probably unfounded fears.


Of course, it's also possible that this will cause something even more unforseen to happen.

The Collider is a device that has been built in humanity's quest for knowledge. A little knowledge is a dangerous thing; a lot of knowledge is in some ways less dangerous, but in others far more so. It's possible, though, that it can answer questions we don't want answered.

Some examples of answers we don't want:

The answer to Life, the Universe, and Everything: 42.
(This really is the worst possible answer, simply because of the confusion factor.)

The existence of God: Yes, now...

Whether the Universe is even more terrible than we envision it to be: Yes.

The winner of the upcoming US presidential election: The candidate you didn't want.

I could come up with more, I'm sure, but that's enough for now. Signing off.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Evil Tyrant or Just Sick?

In the Transformers franchise, many characters have, over the years, taken on the same names. Megatron, for one, ranged from raspy and idiotic (here is proof he's a dummy-it's in the last minute of the video) to raspy and insane (yes, I consider that Galvatron to be Megatron) to smooth and brilliant to just mind-numbingly stupid to, well...

...simply sick.

Megatrons are usually depicted as a threat, but only in one case (Beast Wars/Beast Machines) was the threat an intellectual one. The rest of the time, it was a nearly purely physical threat (with occasional doses of supernatural mind control etc.) that often even in that respect wasn't that intimidating. Once Optimus shows up to kick him around, Megatron usually folds. (There were exceptions to this-in his more powerful forms in the Unicron Trilogy, particularly the Cybertron series, Megatron in upgraded form was terrifyingly strong, and not that weak beforehand.)

It's kind of funny that many Megatrons, most particularly the raspy G1 version, have this incredible mystique around themselves, when in general they're these really pathetic, even whiny guys. Only Beast Wars Megatron was consistently depicted as a truly threatening force, and that wasn't even reliant on his physical power. (Ironically, he was the one most often referred to as a fool; more ironically and also sadly, one of the biggest Megatron fans of all time [I'm not naming names, mostly because any long-term Transformers fan will know exactly who I'm talking about] HATES HIS GUTS. I have a pet theory that this is the fault of the Japanese dub of Beast Wars, but it's a dubious assumption.)

Signing off.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Super Robot Profiles: J9

What kind of a title, you may be asking, is J9? It's the title of a metafranchise. That is, a "series of series" which are at least nominally connected to each other. Specifically, it's a "trilogy" of series, those series being Braiger, Baxinger, and Sasuraiger. Shockingly, the three series actually have continuity with each other, which is perhaps the only thing that makes them worthy of talking about for any length of time.

Of course, the series are set hundreds of years apart, and thus any continuity between them would merely be "historical." Right?

(Note the robot with the HAL-9000esque head that towers over Braiger yet gets cut in half with one stroke.)

Of course, the thing about history is that it's usually considered to be big, important things happening. And what could be more historical, in this respect, than a failed attempt to turn Jupiter into a second star resulting in its destruction and the reordering of the Solar System?

You read that absolutely right. Some crazy person wanted to turn Jupiter into a star in order to make it and its planets into a new Solar System. Theoretically, this would have resulted in 30+ habitable planets (apparently moons of Jupiter aren't legitimate targets for the superadvanced terraforming technology that they explicitly possess in this series) and thus, er, allowed a huge population boom or something? That this guy would have ruled over, maybe? I dunno.

So the next series, 600 years later, doesn't have Jupiter in it. (It apparently also sees the lowest possible legal neckline as not being a fashion faux pas of any kind.) It does have a squad of people who are called "J9" after the heroic team who kept Jupiter from being destroyed (wait...) (because it apparently was profitable to save Jupiter [wait...]) with their very multicolored robot that formed from their magic motorcycles (there we go).

(Considering that this same studio made Macross (AKA Robotech), where there were humanoid aliens who on an individual basis stood as tall as robots that transformed from fighter jets, it really shouldn't be surprising that the enemy robots were so freaking huge here.)

And then, Sasuraiger, another 200 years later (exactly 200 years, just like the previous series was exactly 600 years after the one that came before it-suspicious) features a train that turns into a robot (or a robot that turns into a train) which according to stuff I have read is sometimes called Batrain (I'm Batrain). The train, of course, is an interstellar spaceship that allows the cast to travel the galaxy, looking for planets where they'll be happier or something-e.g., two of the characters are youngsters looking for a planet that allows underage marriage. WHAT.

There's not much more to say, I think.

Signing off.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Fandom Menace: Fanfic

One thing that amuses me when reading what people say on the internets is the attitude so many have towards what is popularly known as "fan fiction."

They talk about it like it's a new phenomenon, and the behaviour of the people who write it is hopelessly childish.

Now, I can understand that attitude, with some of the dreck I too have read (although I've stayed away from it lately), but treating it as a new trend. The "Mary Sue" phenomenon is treated with particular disdain.

You might find this hard to believe, but I can trace both fanfiction itself and the "Mary Sue" phenomenon to some of their earliest literary roots.

Fanfiction #1, in my opinion, is the Aeneid. Written by Virgil, a Roman, was heavily based on the works of Homer, a Greek (specifically, he wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey). It takes a minor element from the earlier stories (Aeneas) and expands on and explores it. Pure fanfiction.

"Mary Sue" #1 is Lancelot. A character unmentioned in the original works concerning the characters involved, Lancelot is a later addition to the mythos by a different author who plows his way past preexisting characters, has romantic liasons with the main character's significant other, and just generally wreaks havoc on the earlier works and preexisting dynamics.

Incidentally, I hate Lancelot.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Oh, The Horror...

So, I was flailing desperately to figure out what to blog about, and I did an internets search for "steam punk Star Wars." And I uncovered a Great Horror: Steampunk Ackbar.

Okay, okay, I got nuthin'.

(FYI, it's not that I hate the Steampunk Ackbar design or anything, it's just kind of unsettling somehow. That skinny little neck holding up that giant head... and "mustache.")

Friday, September 12, 2008

Just An FYI...

...for that handful of readers of this blog who aren't me or my sister:

My sister makes a webcomic.

It's been updating kind of sporadic-like lately, but my sister is back on track now, and after two weeks of solid MTWRF updating again, she's ready to get the next "major" storyline started on Monday.

It may not be your cup of tea, but you should judge that for yourself. Warning: If you don't like it when members of a single species have fifteen different possible skin tones when closely related to one another, you should not read this comic. (I'm kidding, of course-you should read this comic. But that may just be my opinion.)

One of the reasons I mention it is because I'm the primary sounding board, sort-of editor, occasional idea guy, etc. for the comic. While she definitely does 95+% of the work, I do contribute a good sized chunk of what's left. (I also wrote a lot of the Comic Dish page titles.)

As another FYI, if you're ever thinking of making a webcomic and want free, high-quality hosting, Comic Dish is the site. No ads, hardly any hangups or snafus, easy to use updater, a complimentary system for moving over your comic if you hosted it on another site first, server capacity that's being kept ahead of the curve... Who do these guys think they are, Google?

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Brave Robots: Heroics

This is why we call them Brave Robots.

Since this is the first year I've been blogging, this is my first chance to give a shout out to the heroes of 9/11.

We appreciate it, guys.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Generation One

Why, may I ask...

...is this series considered...

...the be-all and end-all of Transformers by so many?

Just askin'.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Real Superhero Adventures: Superpowers

In yesterday's post, I pointed out the existence of a rare condition that grants those who have it what most regard as essentially "superhuman" strength.

One of the things that this makes me think of, a feature of superhero comics and other superhero media that irritates me, is the "perfect power."

My definition of "perfect power" is as follows: A superhuman or near superhuman ability that has no drawbacks whatsoever, except occasionally in unusual circumstances.

Superman's superhuman hearing is a good example of this. The only occasions on which his hearing becomes a drawback are those where the writer desires it to be so; this is almost never, and on those occasions where it is employed (e.g., in Superman IV, Clark/Superman is momentarily staggered by the extremely loud high frequency audio transmission used by Luthor to contact him), it is rather unbelievable, because Superman has probably heard much louder noises (say, a nuclear explosion) than that.

Or take 99% of characters with superhuman strength and/or regeneration. The Hulk lifts and throws aircraft carriers and the like; Wolverine has been known to regenerate from being entirely incinerated (except his bones); neither show signs of needing extra nourishment as a result of these activities. While in the Hulk's case it's sort of plausible (he can draw mass from somewhere, and presumably this is the source of his endless stamina when enraged), but why doesn't Wolverine get the munchies, at least? Is he drawing energy from sunlight and mass from the air or something? (If that's the case, he should be renamed Nettles. For that matter, maybe the Hulk should be called Kudzu.)

The aforementioned article points out one likely weakness that anyone with superhuman strength is likely to have: An incredibly fast metabolism. The kid in the article needs to be fed a full-sized meal every hour. And no matter how strong this kid gets, he'll never be as strong as even the likes of Spider-Man, much less the Hulk. However, he apparently is considerably more agile than most children his age, as well as stronger, which suggests that there's at least some plausibility to the fact that nearly all comic book characters are superhumanly agile at times (whether this is admitted to or not).

Signing off. Sorry if you were hoping for the skits I usually put in these.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Strong Kid

One one of the various blogs I read, I was pointed at an article about one strong kid.

Turns out this kid is one of the very few (perhaps 100 at most) human beings who have a rare condition which involves a lack or inhibited state of the protein myostatin. It is far more common in animals, to the point where there is a sub-breed of whippet known for the mutation. (Look at the pictures on both pages-it's kind of eye-opening.)

There's an eight-year-old in Germany with a similar condition.

This kind of stuff makes stories like this one a little more plausible. The fact that Grutte Pier apparently died of natural causes at a young age also suggests he had something a little bit "off" about him. (Not to mention various other stories.)

Random speculation ahoy.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Random Comments

I was looking at a local newspaper's "entertainment" section, and a regular feature caught my attention in two ways.

First, the feature, called "To the Nines," had "points" labeled 1-10. This, in and of itself, was obviously screwed up, and close examination revealed that there were nine items, but someone (or something, if there was an automated process) omitted the 7 in the count.

The other thing was not particularly direct, but a common sort of misconception implicit in the coverage. Criticizing President Bush is currently so popular it feels like it must be going out of style (I suppose it is, since he'll only be in office for a few more months), and this feature, species named after "celebrities," put him at the top because of the distinct honor he had received... having a slime mold beetle named after him.

A lot of people have had good laughs over this. I know for a fact that it must be so. But nothing could be more ironic about the laughs people are having... because the scientists who named the beetle (and many others) intended it as an actual honor because they admire Bush.

Now, I know this sounds implausible-not the honoring part, but the idea that there are Republican scientists-but it's true. And as further evidence that they did in fact intend it as an honor, by the way, are the other beetles which they named after Darth Vader and their wives. No joke.

Honor or not, there's a good chance they were in the doghouse for a few weeks after that.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Brave Robots: Like A Freight Train

Brave Express Might Gaine is widely regarded as one of the best of the Brave Robots series. However, anyone who watches it must ask the question...

How do the robots get around if there aren't any train tracks?

(On an even funnier note, for some reason which might make perfect sense but is totally beyond my ken, the video was filed under "News & Politics" on Youtube.)

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Wiki Weirdness

I've commented in the past that I go on wikis and hit the random button, even on Wikipedia.

The other day, I was doing so, and noticed something kind of strange:

This is your Wikipedia.  This is your Wikipedia on Advanced Search.
What's going on here? Seriously.

Super Robot Profiles: Laserion

Video Warrior Laserion is generally considered the first anime to feature a depiction of virtual reality. Of course, I'm not overly concerned with that aspect of it-I'm here to tell you what's most insane about the series.

It's pretty obvious with this one.


That's right, the protagonist's prodigious digits were so fast and skillful, he could use them to induce seizures in small children with disorders of the nervous system.

I could comment on the robot's colorful nature or any number of things, but I just can't get past those darned fingers.

Signing off.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Hitchhiking In Space

Of course, I'm talking about The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

A few weeks ago, I ended up with a copy of a Hitchhiker's Guide omnibus (The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide, or something). I have been relatively slowly re-reading the series. This would be the first time I've read it in anything resembling the correct order-in the past, I've taken out library copies and yard sale copies completely at random (I read the first book first, then the last, then read the remainder in an order that made even less sense). This didn't hurt the series that badly-its continuity is frankly kind of wretched (although hardly difficult to explain).

It's kind of interesting that the whole mess was (jokingly) called the Hitchhiker's Trilogy. This is because (at least according to the foreword by Adams in my big omnibus) the first two books were actually supposed to be one book. Adams remarked that he had been incredibly behind his publishing schedule and was asked to send in what he had as-is. That is the first book, and the second simply is finishing the various plotlines of the first.

This makes the first two a dyad, and, as the next three books hold together more cohesively with each other than with the first two, they are a trilogy of sorts. For that matter, if Adams had completed what he had intended to publish as The Salmon of Doubt, the final book would probably have changed the face of the series. Adams apparently remarked late in his life that Mostly Harmless, the last completed book of the series, had simply come out of a bad year of his, and probably wouldn't have been so bleak otherwise. He apparently would have changed the ending if he had reworked Doubt as he planned. (As it is, apparently a radio play changed the ending to be more positive as well, as the ending was rather brutally unpleasant for general audiences. I have not yet re-read Mostly Harmless, and I'm not sure yet that I will for a while.)

My vague and disjointed ramblings aside, my favorite characters from Guide are probably Marvin the robot (no surprise-apparently he's the most popular character) and Arthur Dent. It's a little surprising, all things considered, that I like Dent so well-he is in fact pretty boring. However, he really does have this strange little everyman appeal. It's also interesting to note that both Marvin and Arthur have special talent for dealing with those who are considerably more powerful than themselves-Marvin was constantly inducing other intelligent machinery to commit suicide, either through his intellect or his personality, and Arthur once pulled a fast one on Thor the Thunder God.

But the best thing about the series is probably its rather strange and illogically logical outlook on life. There are so many strange features, such as the time-sliding restaurant Milliways and psychic elevators that see the future, which make you think "well that's just bizarre/insane/ridiculous," and then you think about it just a little more and say "well, duh! Of course they'd do it if they could!"

Signing off, because I can't think of more to write at the moment.