Monday, November 30, 2009

Golden Age Moment of the Day (9)

(How did I get the number wrong on this?)

You know a villain's an idiot when...

...he tries to defeat an opponent who made his reputation on being bulletproof just by using extra guns.

The stupid part? Iron Ace (the other pilot) treats the other plane almost as if it's a legitimate threat. Keep in mind Iron Ace's plane can withstand mid-air collisions without taking a scratch.

-Signing off.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Spock Didn't Die Here...

...although that may depend on your definitions.

Allow me to bring your attention to this passage from Spock Must Die!, the first original Star Trek novel:

"What worries me," McCoy said, "is whether I'm myself any more. I have a horrible suspicion that I'm a ghost. And that I've been one for maybe as long as twenty years."
The question caught Captain Kirk's ear as he was crossing the reck room of the Enterprise with a handful of coffee. It was not addressed to him, however; turning, he saw that the starship's surgeon was sitting at a table with Scott, who was listening with apparently deep attention. Scotty listening to personal confidences? Or Doc offering them? Ordinarily Scotty had about as much interest in people as his engines might have taken; and McCoy was reticent to the point of cynicism.
"May I join this symposium?" Kirk said. "Or is it private?"
"It's nae private, it's just nonsense, I think," the engineering officer said. "Doc here is developing a notion that the transporter is a sort of electric chair. Thus far, I canna follow him, but I'm trying, I'll do mysel' that credit."
"Oh," Kirk said, for want of anything else to say. He sat down. [The author goes on a bit about McCoy's divorce, McCoy's and Kirk's roles, etc. for two paragraphs.]
"Somebody had better fill me in. Doc, you've said nine times to the dozen that you don't like the transporter system. In fact, I think 'loathe,' is the word you use. 'I do not care to have my molecules scrambled and beamed around as if I were a radio message.' Is this just more of the same?"
"It is and it isn't," McCoy said. "It goes like this. If I understand Scotty aright, the transporter turns our bodies into energy and then reconstitutes them as matter at the destination..."
"That's a turrible oversimplification," Scott objected. ... "What the transporter does is analyze the energy state of each particle in the body and then produce a Dirac jump to an equivalent state somewhere else. No conversion is involved-if it were, we'd blow up the ship.
"I don't care about that," McCoy said. "What I care about is i my state of consciousness-my ego, if you like. And it isn't matter, energy, or anything else I can name, despite the fact that it's the central phenomenon of all human thought. After all, we all know we live in a solipsistic universe."
[In the interest of brevity and maintaining the spirit of fair use, I'll just direct you to Wikipedia's solipsism article, and generally suggest that he's being philosophical and that he's talking about individuality and uniqueness.]
[Kirk said,] "...But you still haven't answered my question. What's all this got to do with the transporter?"
"Nary a thing," Scott said.
"On the contrary. Whatever the mechanism, the effect of the transporter is to dissolve my body and reassemble it somewhere else. Now you'll agree from experience that this process takes finite, physical time-short, but measurable. Also from experience, that during that time period neither body nor consciousness exists. Okay so far?"
"Well, in a cloudy sort of way," Kirk said.
"Good. Now, at the other end, a body is assembled which is apparently identical with the original,is alive, has consciousness, and has all the memories of the original. But it is NOT the original. That has been destroyed."
"I canna see that it matters a whit," Scott said. "Any more than your solipsist position does. As Mr. Spock is fond of saying, 'A difference which makes no difference is no difference.'"
"No, not to you," McCoy said, "because the new McCoy will look and behave in all respects like the old one. But to me? I can't take so operational a view of the matter. I am, by definition, not the same man who went into a transporter for the first time twenty years ago. I am a construct made by a machine after the image of a dead man-and the hell of it is, not even I can know how exact the imitation is, because-well, because obviously if anything is missing I wouldn't remember it."

Serious moral discussions are what one expects from author James Blish, and all things considered, the issue with the transporter is a doozy. (In fact, Michael Wong seems to take at least some issue with it; at the very least he believes that the inhabitants of the Star Wars galaxy would. In his crossover fanfic Conquest, he presents the Imperials and Rebels alike as viewing transporter travel as an abomination, though they seem to find the idea of using them for industrial and shipping purposes acceptable.)

Also, if you've never read this book and are wondering what in the world this has to do with Spock dying, pretty much it's (SPOILERS AHEAD) because a transporter accident/experiment makes a Spock clone. An evil Spock clone. And Spock totally kills that guy.

-Signing off.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Game Review: Atlantis

This time around, I'm reviewing the free Flash game Atlantis.

Atlantis is a fun game which...

...whoops, wrong Atlantis.

No, here we go.

By the way, they could probably have avoided using the Space bar altogether, since this is the only time in the game they use it for anything. I don't really see why they used it here.

Anyhow, you're briefly barraged with a Star Wars style scrolling infodump, which you can skip if you want. Here it is.

Hm, the rebels call themselves Red Baron? This is curious. Why...?

Oh, look, you pilot a white robot.

Just call him Snoopy.

Anyway, you start the game docked to the Atlantis, which is a huge freaking mothership which will tend to your every need.

Out of ammo? Badly damaged? Need bigger guns? Atlantis will provide with its reload and upgrade stations.

The ship also automatically charges its main cannon (you won't get to use it often, so save it up) and the pool of energy it uses for upgrades, which obviously is convenient. (You get more energy when enemies blow up, as well.)

Also present are three Mermaids, smallish escort vessels which constantly hover near the Atlantis, protecting the mothership while you run around killing stuff.

Yes, they're called Mermaids. Pretty weird...

...but they're effective enough. (The orange beams come from the Mermaids.) What's even better is that you can replace them when they're destroyed, and even upgrade them as a group-and they do their job without any input from you. (You can also upgrade and repair the Atlantis, but since they're the most expensive upgrades in the game, I've never had the chance to.)

Anyway, let's get to the actual combat.

The little blue line is a "phaser" shot from your rifle, the blue teardrops with circles are missiles, and the little orange flecks are "head vulcan" shots. (The rifle is the most flexible weapon. Missiles are probably the most consistent, and home in on the nearest target-meaning you theoretically can hit two relatively distant enemies at once. The head vulcan is pretty much the last weapon to run out of ammo-in fact, I've never actually run out-and is also nearly useless.)

The interface is simple; you can turn your various weapons on and off, you can cycle through your rifle's three modes, etc. Don't worry too much-the game seems to think you should worry about conserving ammo, but I don't see why, since all you have to do to replenish it is go back to the Atlantis for a minute.

The simple and elegant portion of gameplay, which is what makes it addictive, is that you steer with the arrow keys, aim with the mouse, and shoot with the left mouse button. This means you can dodge and bob around while keeping your weapons locked on target.

Your most important weapon is the rifle, mainly because of its flexibility. In addition to its rather weak "phaser" shots, it can also fire a powerful continuous laser.

The laser can punch through multiple targets, letting you hit a lot of guys at once, and can also be swept back and forth across multiple targets. Since it does damage continuously, it is devastating; however, it also uses up your ammunition very quickly.

Something of a compromise is the "blaster."

(The little clustered green shots are the "blast.") The "blaster" mode is the one that I use the most, because it doesn't suck up quite as much energy as the laser, but does a lot more damage than the phaser. It's also convenient because it is more likely to use up your ammo at the same rate as your missile ammunition, meaning that you aren't wasting time at the reload station.

There are a lot of different kinds of enemies, but relatively few of them are distinctive enough to really pay attention to.

First up are these... guys.

I don't know what's up with them, but they seem to do more damage than a lot of the stupid robot enemies, so keep an eye out for them.

Then there are the enemy ships, which are a teeny bit bigger than the Mermaids.

While the Mermaids outgun them, I'd suggest concentrating fire on them, especially laser mode if you can.

The next enemy is one of two types that are probably purely meant to annoy you.

These little buggers hide near the bottom of the screen and shoot salvos of some kind of red thing at your ships. The Mermaids can't reach them with their guns, so you have to hunt them down when you start seeing the little red blasts.

The next kind of pest is actually a useful pest.

These little plane things only attack you. Since enemies come in discrete waves, if you let these guys live for extended periods, it gives you time to build up the main cannon charge and the Atlantis's energy pool, and you can relax in the repair bay, where you don't even have to worry about dying accidentally if you stop paying attention.

And since they're fast, hard-to-hit little so-and-sos, it's really easy to let them live for a long time.

Then there's the truly nasty enemy, the big ship.

This is what the main cannon is for. Save up, because you're not going to get a chance to let it recharge once these things show up. (I'd show you what the main gun's discharge looks like, but it's a bit tricky, and anyway, it just looks like the blast that the enemy heavy is firing there. Only much bigger.)

If you do save up your main gun, you may be able to take care of this big beast. It's a lot less likely that you'll be able to beat one without it, though I did manage it once right before losing. Emphasis on may-I've only gotten past the first one once. (Hint-save up your energy pool, and get an armor upgrade before your weapon upgrades. But be careful playing it this way-I barely got the armor upgrade in time myself.) And even then, don't get too cocky-later you need to fight two at once.

Near as I can tell, this is a survival game-you just try to live as long as possible, and if you fail, oh well. If you survive for a long time, the music changes from pretty decent to awesome. But when this change happens, watch out, because the enemies get much more numerous and aggressive. And then this happens.

Obviously, even with this, you can waste a lot of time playing this game. Its easy interface and interesting gameplay make it a lot of fun. I recommend it.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Space Western Comics: The The Return of The Aztecs

No, that's not a typo.

Don't believe me?

The the Return of the Aztecs is the "Strong Bow and his Warriors" feature from Space Western Comics #42.

We start with Hank Roper dropping Strong Bow off at an isolated cliff village. (That Hank Roper is always driving a jeep. Even in space.)

So Strong Bow is attending some kind of secret tribal ceremony. Presumably, they're touchy about this kind of...

...then again, perhaps they're itching to mention it to everybody.

We learn that Strong Bow's tribe (who at least here seem to be some form of cliff-dwellers, or related to such) encountered another group, this one greatly displaced, many years ago...

Of course they're Aztecs. You wouldn't expect there to be none in a story called the the Return of the Aztecs, would you?

Anyway, the Aztec dudes claimed that their sacred book (which they call the Popol Vuh, which did not have a single thing to do with the Aztecs, by the way) warned them to go north, and that there would be an eclipse. And it showed them how to build rockets.


Because Space Western Comics, that's why.

Of course, Hank Roper has to put his cowboy boot in his mouth.

Dude! Aren't you guys supposed to be buddies?

The ceremony involves various stuff, but I'm going to be more culturally sensitive than the authors and drop straight to the end of it, where they fire arrows into the sky at the eclipse and-

-coincidentally hit the Aztec rockets, which are returning.

Gee, what are the chances? (One finds that ancient junk is always coincidentally happening at stupidly convenient times-for instance, the Stone Men of Sirius.)

Anyway, the Aztec Fire Gods, who amazingly enough apparently speak English, capture the tribe members, while Hank Roper sees the trouble and goes for help. They shoot arrows at him, which is scarier than it sounds.

Ooh, self-propelled explosive arrows...

You'd think that they'd have weapons that were a bit better than that after all these years (not that the arrows are unimpressive), and they do-"brimstone blasters."

And in that heavily expository piece of dialogue, they reveal that they come from Vulcan. No, not that Vulcan. If it was that Vulcan, they'd have brought phasers instead. They're talking about the hypothetical Vulcan. (What's scary is, I remember reading other old junk that took Planet Vulcan seriously, too.)

So Hank Roper goes and gets help, right?

Do you get the feeling this won't end well?

Meanwhile, Strong Bow uses a rock to knock out one of the Aztecs and steal his "uniform" for purposes of infiltrating them. When the tanks show up...

...they give the good ol' fire attack.

It doesn't work, and the brimstone blasters destroy the tanks. (Which don't look much like tanks.)

What's worse is that Strong Bow gives himself away by his ignorance.

What's even worse:

Wait, whaaaat?

If you guys are immune to explosions, how come Strong Bow can keep knocking you out? Explosions have all this nasty stuff like shrapnel and things? Immune to explosions presumably makes you immune to bullets, too.

(Also, Lamarck was right?)

And Strong Bow promptly knocks the guy out and calls the others to make a break for it.

And he suddenly turns into Reed Richards. ...Well, no, not really, he just looks uncannily like him for the rest of the story for no apparent reason.

Hm, could there be any significance to that other guy objecting to his statement?


Why would he lure the Aztecs into a cold, cold cave?


...That's not very nice, dude. (Of course, logically speaking, they ought to be dead. But maybe their atomic blood protects them.)

It gets worse.

You cruel, cruel so-and-sos.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Golden Age Moment of the Day (8)

From "TNT Todd," a feature in Keen Detective Funnies #21...


Without context, that panel is... well, totally hilarious, if nothing else.

-Signing off.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pop Quiz

Can you identify the contents of this image?

It's kinda weird looking, I know... When I took it, then looked at it on the camera's preview screen, I kinda freaked out a little bit, because it seriously looks really weird...

So, can you tell what it is?

Answer below.





Here you go, another picture of the same subject, a few seconds apart.

Long story short, when I was taking that picture of Mr. Machine, I set him up on a stool and put him against a (peculiarly shiny) wall. This dog loves the sounds the camera makes, and comes running and flips out whenever it's on. I decided to show her that it wasn't that interesting by letting her take a close look at it... She seemed to think I was hiding the real camera from her somehow-she apparently has the idea in her head that the camera is something fun, exciting, and tasty, and the camera I showed her doesn't fit those criteria.

That's right, these pictures come from a puppy's crushed hopes and dreams.

(Well, not really. She forgot the whole thing three minutes later.)

-Signing off.

Friday, November 20, 2009


The terror of...

...Mr. Machine!

When my mom first bought this toy (my uncle [her brother] had one of them as a child, and it was apparently spurred by nostalgia), I thought little of it, beyond the fact that it reminded me of Roboto from He-Man, and I figured it was probably at least partly the inspiration for Roboto's design.

Little did I suspect...

Mr. Machine spends most of his time relatively precariously perched near a window in our kitchen/dining room. (It's only precarious because we have an incredibly stubborn old cat who might decide to shove him off, and an enormous younger cat who might knock him off by accident while in the general area. I have nicknamed the younger cat "Shizu-quake" [Shizu is her name] because of her tendency to knock stuff down.) I made little note of this, until one night, after the sun had gone down...

I was washing dishes in the kitchen. (Yes, really.) I was alone, because my sister, who usually hangs out with me while I'm doing the dishes, was on a little group expedition of some sort. And I glimpsed back, and... Well, I didn't quite jump, but I was pretty startled at the sight of a face in the window.

As it turns out, of course, it was just a reflection of Mr. Machine's face on the window, seeing as how the darkness outside had transformed the window into a mirror. However, the mirror's distortion had turned Mr. Machine's face from its slightly odd, not terribly pretty face into a horrible, monstrous visage.

I am totally not making this up.

-Signing off.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Star Destroyer Vs. (Fill In Blank)

'Fraid I've been burning a lot of time looking at a site that, in all honesty, I should have discovered years ago. is a great site for comparing various fictional universes set in space. (Well, mostly just Star Wars and Star Trek, but he does make some mentions of others.)

Guess who usually comes out on top of that discussion? (If you guessed anything other than Star Wars' Galactic Empire, you'd be wrong.) And if you disagree, he has refuted all comers with the following arguments:
  1. Death Star.
  2. Death Star.
  3. Death Star
(He actually does this on the site at one point, though he was referring to an e-mail conversation.) I'm putting it somewhat out of context-what he means by this is that 1), the Death Star is a benchmark of Imperial industrial capacity-it built a functioning planet destroyer that was large enough to be mistaken for a natural body at a distance (and in fact did so several times), 2) the Death Star can generate enough energy to literally destroy a planet, which would take truly tremendous amounts of energy (millions of times the [momentary] output of the Sun, a detail talked about here), and 3) the Death Star somehow does this without fuel tanks.

This is insane, but it's also clearly what happened, based on observational evidence...

Anyway, great site and all that.

-Signing off.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Golden Age Moment of the Day (7)

Nightmare is totally gonna eat that old man's face.

Well, okay, not really.

By the way, the old man was seemingly fine like thirty seconds later when somebody mentioned his gold mine was in peril. No, rly.

-Signing off.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Game Review: Fishy

I've decided I might as well review a few more free online games, seeing as how they're free and all.

Today, I'll be talking about Fishy, which is indeed fishy. (EDIT: Put up a new link, because the old one was dead.)

Fishy is one of those various games where you play a fish that eats other fish and must avoid being eaten by other fish.

Like the majority of such games, you grow over time as you eat other fish-in fact, in Fishy this growth is probably the most significant in any of these games I've ever seen.

I'll note that this is a low-production value game-the fish all look the same, even yours, only distinguished from each other by color.

It's actually very hard to survive the first fifteen seconds if you aren't ready for it-you have to dodge like mad as huge masses of fish ranging from big to huge swarm onto the screen. Once the game is in progress, things become more predictable.

The "enemy" fish are highly variable. While the big ones are usually slow and the small ones are usually fast, some of the big ones are every bit as fast as the tiniest fish. Stay near the middle of the screen, since they come from the sides, and stay away from big clusters of fish.

As you get bigger, you are more likely to run into still larger fish (even touching the tail of a bigger fish is instant death, but the flipside is that you can eat fish with your own tail), since you occupy more space, but eventually it reaches the point where you just aren't threatened by the other fish anymore.

There's always a bigger fish, and here it's you.

If that isn't absurd enough for you... gets worse.

Can this go on indefinitely? Certainly not. Behold the "victory screen."

Apparently, if you're successful at the game, you become a fishy of mass destruction (or worse). Which, all things considered, is appropriate enough... I mean, really, if the fish outclasses the other fish in intelligence and maneuverability to that extent, it's a godlike superpredator, and that ecosystem's got no natural enemies for it. I mean, obviously the bigger fish are a threat, but not enough of one...

And there I go superimposing serious scientific discussion onto a stupid little flash game. I'm a nerd.

-Signing off.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Space Western Comics: Stone Men from Space

Hm, I wonder what this story (the Strong Bow feature from #44) could be about.

We get our first hint that the title is probably meaningful in the very first panel, which is not actually a symbolic panel as is often the case with older comics.

Oh, good grief, are these people blind or what? I mean, every single one of those is blatantly shaped like a lumpy human figure. Even that live cactus is kind of suspicious-looking.

That cactus makes Strong Bow's and Rapid Fox's statements on things growing in the desert kinda... idiotic, doesn't it? (They later say that nothing can grow in the desert; Mr. Cactus disagrees.)

Anyway, Martian Princess Thula tells them that her pluvia flowers can grow anywhere-their native desert only gets a single drop of rainfall every thousand years. Let me repeat that for emphasis-one drop, one thousand years.

I think they'll grow.

And the flowers agree with me, with interest. (Also, note Strong Bow's... rather peculiar joke about Rapid Fox's name.)

What does this have to do with stone men from space? Not much, it would seem...

...except, of course, for the fact that they just randomly choose that exact moment to wake up.

And they're ambitious stone men from space.

They don't actually sound very excited about it, do they? "Stupid world, we must conquer you now."

Also, "Earth worms?" Did the writer do that intentionally?

Note that this implies that the stone men somehow got to Earth under their own power, without technological assistance. Holy moly.

Despite being really loud, they're really sneaky, too.

Strong Bow and Rapid Fox have no idea where they are, in the middle of an open desert. Their observational skills are just staggering.

And it turns out their primitive weapons have no effect on the stone men.

And before you ask, no, rifles don't work either. Neither does this knife.

Resistance is apparently futile, and the stone men promptly tie them to the pluvia tree.

At first, their open declaration that they couldn't be held by ropes struck me as incongruous, but then I realized-the stone men don't speak English. And I thought, "Wow, the author could have done more to make that clear."

Anyway, within a few minutes, they're free, and pursuing the stone men in a jeep.

Wait wait wait, you're not even going to try heavy conventional weapons? What's wrong with you, man?

Also, what could they possibly be planning to do with pluvia arrows?

Guess, I dare you.


They're trapping the stone men in a huge mess of rapidly growing Martian trees.

Which brings us to an oddity concerning the earlier fact that the stone men apparently aren't supposed to speak English...

Why do they make such a point of saying that these are "non-petrified" trees? What? Huh? For that matter, why do these guys even know what trees are? Do they have those on Canis?

Anyway, then they drop an atomic bomb on them. (Must be a little one, since Strong Bow and Rapid Fox get away on their jeep.) So the stone men are dead now-

-wait, what?

The stone men are still alive, but sleeping?

Holy moly, they're Kryptonian stone men, aren't they?

I mean, think about it. They can fly through space, they don't need to breathe, they're functionally immortal, and they can withstand an (admittedly wimpy) atomic bomb with no apparent injuries.

-Signing off.