Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Talking the Talk

Because I am lazy and still digging out from post-Turkey Day catchup on all fronts, here instead of a real post is a link to a real one, Craig Mazin's informative and entertaining on-set glossary. Be sure to scroll down and read the comments for more insidery goodness.

It's fascinating (if not exactly surprising) how much movie lingo derives from that of the theater, which naturally has its own nutty lexicon. Carps and LX, ghost light, par cans, all that left is right/in is out nonsense, twofers, teasers and tormentors... And no, the latter are neither agents nor recalcitrant subscribers.

Going back further, some terms like "flying in" date to the days of tall ships, when many early theater technicians were former sailors, employing their knowledge of lines (not ropes, you fool) and knots in theatrical rigging.

See, it all comes back to pirates. Arrr!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Slumming with Microsoft

Have you seen those vague, arty Xbox 360 ads? The ones with aggressively multiculti crowds having balloon fights and jumprope jams in what looks like the sets from CITY OF GOD?

I think they're supposed to convey inclusiveness, fun, and diversity, but I'm left cold by the disingenuous casting and the poverty-chic setting. I mean, the people who live in those tower block apartments, you think they have $400 to drop on a game console? Instead of on schoolbooks or a bike to get to a job? Or, say, food?

And while it's fun to think of folk playing together regardless of age, gender, race, or class, the truth is, Xbox Live is not diverse. Xbox Live is this kid.

More to the point, it'll always be that kid until the games for Xbox 360 stretch beyond the predictable likes of Madden NFL 2006, Call of Duty 2, and Rumble Roses XX.

Rumble Roses XX?

That's a title that, to paraphrase a Katrina-era rant, deserves to have its developers covered in iPods and left in an unpicturesque alley in Rio.

Hey! The Microsoft marketing bunnies squeal. What about Xbox Live Arcade? Yeah, the service features puzzle/parlor classics Zuma, Bejeweled 2, and Spades, but with the occasional exception like Wik: Fable of Souls, innovation's wheezing by the roadside, and you know that developers of these kinds of games aren't getting a thimble of love compared to Project Gotham Racing 3.

Kinda makes me want to take to the streets of Redmond and throw something. But it ain't a water balloon.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Ante Up, Boys and Ghouls

Activision has a new game out called Gun, which sounds like a serviceable if not spectacular shooter.

What makes this Western-themed FPS interesting is Last Call Poker, the elaborate promotional alternate reality game, or ARG, that was built to promote it. The folks behind LCP are 42 Entertainment, which did the I Love Bees ARG for Halo 2.

The Last Call Poker site includes a real, free poker room but also a parallel puzzle game about unlocking the backstory of the Activision game. The notion is that everyone in LCP, including you, is dead.

Dead doesn't mean eternally resting, though. You and your colleagues in the hereafter have bones to pick and missions to solve.

One nifty element is how the LCP site's visual style -- front page, poker room background, your avatar's clothing -- changes as the narrative has moved back in time to Gun's setting, from present day to WWII Europe to Prohibition to Deadwood.

Part of Gun's backstory follows the bloody history of the antique Navy Colt in question as it slam-bangs into the lives of cross-dressing orphans, OSS agents, Ambrose Bierce, Calamity Jane, Al Capone, and more. A second thread is a Tarantino-y, LA-set action drama about Lucy, poker ace, sometime chauffeur, and rightful owner of the gun in the present day, and all the colorful and homicidal characters hot on her trail.

Pretty entertaining stuff, even if the performances and writing tend to be a bit over the top. You can catch up on the previous episodes at the site.

As the community solves the puzzles, bits of story are revealed through photos, text, fake recorded phone calls, comic book pages, video snippets, and even live events, the last of which is being held this Saturday in a Hollywood cemetery. The event will feature a tournament of "Tombstone Hold 'Em," a poker game using headstones as pocket cards.

Should be interesting...

Monday, November 14, 2005

Truthful Videogame Boxes

Does "Katamari Damacy" really translate to "Magically Adhesive Ball of Garbage"? Maybe it should -- at least you'd know what you're getting.

Imagine the tears and effort that would be spared if your local Gamestop carried games that truthfully declaimed their content, such as Fanboy Bullshit VII and Roster Update NFL 2006.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Great Indoors

Part of the reason I write things set in the mountains or in space or backpacking around Europe or attending UFO conventions is to have my characters do these things so I don't have to.

As a kid, a Girl Scout no less (a pre-Jack Thompson Girl Scout, mind you. Me and my Atari-playing friends would have no part of that lunacy), I used to go camping, and enjoyed it.

I got older and paler and found that I liked books and movies and the theater and computers more than insect bites and sand in inconvenient places. Any camping trip I'd consider now would probably need to involve a bed with sheets and WiFi.

This December, The Boyfriend, Sis and Brother-in-Law, Mom and Dad, and I are off to Central America. Don't get me wrong, I am very excited to be going. Beautiful country, Mayan ruins, time with folks I love, rum drinks.

It's the preparation I hate. Trips like these involve planning like you're Shackleton tasked with provisioning the goddamn Endurance. You get shot full of vaccines and buy weird things you never thought you'd need that are only sold in weird places.

REI. I'm in an REI, God help me.

I'm a room full of kayaks staffed by people who look like they're made out of beef jerky.

These people terrify me. I know, and they know that I know, that should the apocalypse come, they can and will track me down, joint, bone, and fillet me. Me, I can and will get eaten.

REI sells enchiladas that come in a mylar bag. This is somehow more hair-raising to me than the cannibal scenario.

REI staffers are very nice and very helpful and very cheerful, because they are trying to get you to become an official member of their beef jerky cult, with its associated rituals involving carabiners and helmets and crampons.

Hee! Crampons!

And you can't leave REI without buying something, because the place is overwhelming (did I mention the astronaut enchiladas?) and because the staff will hunt you and skin you in your sleep if you don't, because, y'know, they can.

I now own some unspeakably ugly sandals and shirts that "wick," whatever the hell that means. Wish me luck.

Meet Market

For writerly types in the LA area, there's going to be a gathering at the Hotel Figueroa's Veranda Bar this Sunday, 11/13, at 6pm after the Screenwriting Expo next door. Warren over at The Screenwriting Life has the details.

I may not be able to be there, but a bunch of cools folks will be, so come by if you can! Because writers and booze go together like...well, writers and booze.

Slainte, prosit, and na vashe zdorovye!

Monday, November 07, 2005

The Triumph of Met Expectations Part II

Spotted on TV this weekend, although happily not back-to-back on the same channel:




Tuesday, November 01, 2005


One of the few episodes of the excellent FREAKS AND GEEKS that I actually caught on TV was their Halloween show. It captures the death of the classic version of the holiday, both for one family and for society at large.

Travel with me, back, back, back, before the giant Spirit stores that pop up in September and vanish November 1 like mushrooms, before the boom industry of pre-packaged Slutty Cinderella and Slutty Ninja and Slutty Napoleon Dynamite costumes.

We're at around 1980 now. You with me?

The show's mom loves Halloween. Dresses up, decorates the house, makes homemade treats for the goblins that ring the doorbell.

This year, though, the younger kid decides he's too old to go trick or treating. The older girl doesn't want to stay home with mom, but wants to hang with her friends. The goblins throw away the treats because their parents fear that they could be poisoned.

The look of sadness and loss on the mom's face is heartbreaking, because not only are her children growing up too fast for her, she can see the end of something fanciful and connecting, mysterious, silly, to be shared with your family.

Flash forward to now, where surely in some neighborhoods the goblins still appear on the front stoop, going home to carefully sort through the candy to avoid the razor blades and syringes and anthrax powder, but not in mine.

The kids trick or treat at school, in the mall, at their parents' offices. Places well lit and clinical and utterly free of that wonderful frisson of being out after dark and talking to strangers! It was scary-but-not-really, because mom or dad was always behind you, curbside, with the flashlight.

This year, we got a grand total of two goblins the whole night, a very shy fairy and her bolder pirate sister, bless her little pillaging heart.

Leftover candy isn't worth it.


I'm huge in Germany!

A quick check of my site referrer stats and a confirmation on the internets shows that a search for "maslow pyramid" on Google Deutschland returns Fresh Hell on the first page.

Next up, Google Sudetenland and maybe Google Austria.