Dec 312004
 

So far the sanest comment of the Sumatran earthquake brouhaha comes from a pseudonymous author August Elokuu at gloriously unrepentant and iconoclastic lehti.

Yes. It is sad. Everyone ought to do his best to help others cope with sorrow. But the constant stream of images in the media isn’t helping. Especially when it is so blatantly used to gather sales.

Questing journalism at its best. Establishment ought to take note.

Dec 302004
 

Yes. Donate to red cross, or whoever else. Or not. I’m not going to get preachy here. Ain’t my style.

Not because of karma. Nor because an SMS stating that everyone ought to trade fireworks money for a bit of charity. Did not even get that message.

And I don’t want to be placed on people’s list of gullible and easily guiltified fools, since it’s the operators who reap the most cash from these things as people bounce shrieky messages off each other. And you don’t see the operators themselves lining up to donate the proceedings to the needy.

No. I donated because I chose to.

Dec 262004
 

Spent three days in snowed-in Vapaala (the term is used very loosely, but at least the ground was white).

Ate a lot. Ham, turkey, buns, gingerbread, smoked salmon, pickled herring, mustard, dried cranberries. The usual. And some of the unusual as well.

Took a long sauna. Chilled out with my sister’s cats. Took some pictures, but wind and long exposures in the dark no not bode well for the pictures of lanterns. Picked up magazines left unread for too
long. Noted that we have at least one extra Corydoras gossei (goldhead cory) in the aquarium – a chance spawning seems to be the most credible explanation.

Read the new book by Ilkka Remes. Gate to Hiroshima gets off on a tangent a couple of times during the story (a very sudden X-files turn is jarring, but explained decently), but manages to remain readable and entertaining most of the while. So, a decent techno-thriller, and of such zeitgeisty-topics that a movie-deal or a tv mini-series would not be out of the question – the tale twists and turns in a fashion that would suit 24 pretty well. Apart from the let’s
remain in L.A. for the duration part. The third season of 24 begins in a week, supposedly on tuesdays.

Read Harri Nykänen’s new book as well. Ariel mixes the laconic Helsinki underworld so familiar from the six-book Raid-continuum with international politics and specifically the touchy israel/arabs-question. And keeps the mixture fresh enough to hook readers from page one. Good show, good enough that a sequel might not be out of the question.

Played a couple of games of Carcassonne (a review in finnish), the first game translated by the enterprising lautapelit.fi
folks. And jolly good fun it was, too. Played with my parents, who’ve never been exposed to modern board games, and the game was indeed a success. More games to follow, more small towns in southern France to found.

Dec 242004
 

The sequel to Steven Soderbergh’s masterful href="http://imdb.com/title/tt0240772/">Ocean’s Eleven starts to feel flat almost immediately when the move begins, and does not get much better.

So? Why so many as the three and a half stars? The characters are not developed much beyond what we saw in the first movie. And almost all of them are redundant in the movie, whereas in the first movie each of them had a time and a place, here they mainly amble along the head honchos (Clooney and Pitt). The story is far-fetched and has holes you could drive a doubledecker bus through.

Or so it appears, until it starts to make sense in the very last chunk of the film. It never gets as good as say the Sting or Nuevas Reinas did. No, the story’s simply not Mamet-esque enough, but still manages to pull a pretty decent trick on the audience. And, according to Jukka, who saw the movie for the second time, it is much better the latter time around when you can concentrate on the sprinkled clues to the main plotline.

And the movie gets the annual meta-plot-device award as well: [Spoiler: white on white text, select to view] Julia Roberts plays Tess Ocean who plays a woman that looks like Julia Roberts. And Bruce Willis’s cameo appearance is just plain painful.

Dec 232004
 

So. Here’s how a busy half-a-week went:

Corruption-dinner on monday in Verde at the Holiday Inn next to Helsinki Railway Station. Slow service, decent food. Won’t be back, however, unless really pressed for a maximally centrally located
restaurant (and even then I’d choose the Namaskaar in Sanomatalo over this). And you’re not supposed to serve steaks on soup plates, makes cutting a bitch. Bastards.

Went to Matti’s farewell party at Sikala. Heading to MIT for a year. Am definitely planning to drop by, and start conspiring for funding if the place proves worthy.

The batteries in several electronic devices (T3, iPod) seem to be on strike… They run out way faster than expected. Especially in the latter case it is worrisome, as the 12-hour duration is pretty much to triple what I get out of Jobs’ virtual jukebox now.

Looked for the “new” Mokoma cd in a couple of shops, but no luck, seems to be sold out. Bastards, part 2. Time to scout the minor record stores’ wares after christmas. Ought to pick up Aarni’s debut album on the same trip.

Been answering the annual polls in roklintu.com. Surprisningly how few finnish records I’ve bought, and even more surprising is the fact that I failed to recognize pretty much half of the candidate songs up for vote. Magyar Posse all the way.

Now off to buy last few christmas presents, and watch a movie with couple of high school-era friends.

Dec 182004
 

The first season of Spaced, a show originally on UK’s channel 4 was thrust on me with minimal warning: you’ll like it, and you’re bound to like Brian, one of the characters, even more.

And sure enough, I did. The show itself is an alternative sitcom featuring surreal derailments of traditional plot devices, odd characters and unexpected tributes to tv shows and movies. fair enough, the premise (two people pair up to be able to rent a flat) is far from trailblazing, but the execution eviscerates the flimsy basis and flies off-tangent almost immediately.

Well worth searching out – seems to have only two short seasons (seven episodes apiece) available.

And Brian? The artist violently torn by spasms of creativity. Yes, extremely entertaining. And how could a character that is a spitting image of Jason Newsted, in all his frowns and utter lack of smiles be nothing but great…

Dec 162004
 

geekcode used to be big, but it hasn’t got updated since the jurassic era of the internet (Kibo, Doom, Babylon 5 – how quaintly last millennium).

So, in its absence, here’s a new slice of self-expression, the blogger code.

B4 d t++ k s-- u f i- o+ x-- e l c

And yeah, there is not a single picture of me on the site currently, but I’ll put one up shortly (he said optimistically). It can be used to scare misbehaving toddlers into submission at a very reasonable royalty charge.

Dec 152004
 

Ok. So I wasn’t the only one, who thought that the Collector’s Edition tin of Half-Life 2 looked like a cookie box.

EDIT 9.8.2008: Though these days I seem to be, as the original article is no available.

Dec 142004
 

How to make teensy-weensy little oranges from play-doh. Or something.

On the internet the enlightenment never ceases.

Local cops (at the behest of BSA) ahem… busted a finnish bittorrent link site (finreactor, to be precise).

Local media is full of FUD, and I’m sure that tomorrow’s newspapers will be gloriously clueless as to the extent and legality of bittorrent-use (lots and in some cases very legal indeed).

Dec 132004
 

It’s not all just flashier graphics and more extremely licensed soundtracks these days… Good old imagination is still serviced in ample-sized packages.

Andrew Plotkin, one of the truly old skool members of the interactive fiction newsgroups, has at long last released a new game: Dreamhold.

Guaranteed to be easily accessible. And great fun. Grab a Z-machine interpreter, and see for yourself.

On a sad sidenote: Unity, Jeff Minter‘s lightsynth/game for Gamecube has been cancelled. Lionhead is quickly descending to the unpleasant reaches of respect that are currently inhabited by various spammers and people who ran Looking Glass Studios down…

Dec 132004
 

Saga is now complete.

Waiting for four consecutive leisurely hours that can be used to appreciate the director’s cut of the last movie.

And for the 23-second-soundbite-generation there’s always the corresponding F3ll0wsh1p: teh 31337 ed1t10N.

Looking forward to seeing the prequel to the former than (inevitable) sequels for the latter.

EDIT 9.8.2008: Hohto the magazine is long gone, and so is the link to the 1337-version.

Dec 132004
 

Yes, yes, yes. It’s just another meme. Must be monday. About movies. Here goes. Lousy translations mine. And mine alone, my precious.

1. What was the first cartoon that you saw in a movie theatre, what was the first acted movie?
Disney’s Lady and the Tramp and Jacques Tati’s Traffic, respectively.

2. Do you prefer to go to movies by yourself or in company of others?
With others, though going alone is no taboo either.

3. Any movies you haven’t seen on the big screen, but really would?
Robert Rodriguez’s From Dusk till Dawn, without knowing anything about the big twist.

4. Ever experienced anything extraordinary in a movie theatre?
Well, there was that guy who appeared to know and loudly repeat Sharon Stone’s lines in Basic Instinct by heart. About the size of an industrial freezer, and high as a kite, so no-one dared to take offense.
And there was this other guy, more than a little Flanders-esque, who had brought his ~six-year old kid to Goldeneye, and kept reading the lines aloud to him – interspersed with inane comments. Justified homicide is the term that comes to mind first.

5. Are movies at their best in theatres
Usually yes, but, to quote Sartre: hell is other people. Sometimes idiots with cellphones, attitudes or just plain no-clue-whatsoever give home theatres a deserved boost.

Dec 122004
 

And the season of good games just seems to go on and on. Bought Valve Software’s Half-Life 2 in its collector’s edition incarnation. 20 euros on top of the normal price nets a semi-sturdy metal box, a decent T-shirt, a thin book (preview of the “official” strategy guide and art book) and re-interpretation of the original Half-Life game using the new Source engine.

So far, so good. Graphically very good, especially characters’ faces have been animated better than seen before. But the game’s the thing, and that is offered in spades. The three and a half chapters solved thus far have been somewhat introductory, with occasional tense moments (especially in the latter two). Auto-saves work admirably to keep the player from retracing too many steps, and manual saving is kept to rare occurrences. Immersion is good – graphics maintain an effective illusion of a somewhat dilapidated Russian town, the audio works marvels, and the backstory is slowly trickling in (no real briefing thus far).

The only seriously bad things are the clueless installer – it won’t allow installation outside the C-drive and silently refuses to proceed if there’s not enough disk space available – as well as somewhat touchy videomode selection (got an honest lockup from upping the rez).

Expect a few late evenings with this one. Haven’t tried the remastered HL1 yet.

Dec 122004
 

One of the annual Clashes of Titans in the premier league just finished. Arsenal and Chelsea drew at two goals apiece. Arsenal pulled ahead 2-1 with a less than well administered free kick, but Blues quickly countered with an improbable cornerkick aftermath.

Fair game, ugly challenges were absent, pace was high and both sides had ample opportunities to score additional goals (Thierry Henry missed an obvious hat trick by managing to misfire three meters from an open goal – goes to show that nobody’s indeed perfect).

After a couple of bore-fests recently shown by canal+, this was a real breath of fresh air and gave reason to believe that at least some of the four english teams that qualified for the second round of UEFA champions league can still put on a good show.

Dec 092004
 

Yet another meme: random ten songs from the nearest electronic wurlitzer.

Here’s mine:

  • Green Day: Nice Guys Finish Last.
  • Rammstein: Moskau.
  • Foo Fighters: My Poor Brain.
  • N/A: Ride On (it’s from the Final Fantasy VIII soundtrack).
  • Alice Cooper: Second Coming.
  • Angelo Badalamenti: Police.
  • Waltari: Vogue.
  • Kingston Wall: Fire.
  • Sisters of Mercy: 1969.
  • Slayer: Born of Fire.

Nothing too embarrassing. Though the FF8-song is pretty much on the uncomfortably geeky side of things.

And yeah, the list above is courtesy of iTunes. Seems that Apple has some new iPods out after the success of the href="http://www.apple.com/ipod/u2/">U2-branded edition. But hey, where’s the Ashlee Simpson edition? One that plays a different song from what is shown on the display?

Dec 092004
 

Yeah. Talk about bolts out of the blue.

Ex-Pantera guitarist Darrell Abbott, now in Damageplan, was shot and killed on stage in Columbus, Ohio wednesday night.

Pantera’s two mid-era albums, Cowboys from Hell and a Vulgar Display of Power, still rank among the finest straddling the fine line between power and thrash. And not least among the reasons is the sharp axework by the newly deceased lead guitarist of the band. A sad day for metal, a sad day for the Abbott family.

Me? I’m going to put on Cemetery Gates at a way too loud volume, and have a stiff glass of Lagavulin in his memory. Or two.

Dec 082004
 

Saw the semi-independent sequel to 2002′s Bourne Identity, the Bourne Supremacy. And was somewhat disappointed, where the first movie was not a work of trailblazing genius, this was a lukewarm rewarming of the same, with some personal issues attached.

Matt Damon traipses through Europe (and various other locations) wearing the same vague expression. OK, he’s a trained assassin, but an occasional breach in the waxen mask would be nice. The camera work is by the brother of the guy who shoots NYPD Blue, the picture shakes, twists and rolls almost constantly.

The story is the strong part of the film, and surprisingly independent of the baggage from the first film (apart from the eponymous protagonist, bery few people reprise their roles from that). But the story of betrayals, mysteries and knowledge of ill deeds performed in the past only goes so far when the characters are cardboard.

Part three is still a possibility. Especially when this one did not do badly in the box office at all.

Dec 072004
 

I’ll try and make this kind of lists irregular enough not to disrupt the narrative flow.

  • Virtual Bubblewrap (for those 3 hour strategy meetings where time ambles forward like frozen molasses, just remember to mute the sound before going on a mad popping spree).
  • Bogging (yet another new-fangled word for busy people).
  • 1893: A World’s Fair Mystery has sold 2000 copies (and they said interactive fiction was dead – and were mostly right).
  • Lautapelit is advertising in the Helsinki subway (German boardgames seem to have hit big time in Finland as well).
  • Seinfeld Dictionary (just in time for the arrival of the first seasons on dvd).
Dec 072004
 

Seems that Warner screwed up once again with the region 2 dvd-release of the fifth season of Babylon 5.

About three minutes of footage missing from an episode. Of course one should never attribute to maliciousness that can adequately be explained by stupidity, but this probably falls into the gray area inbetween.

Seems that wisely holding off purchase (read: forgot to order when it became available from amazon.de) was a fortunate choice…

And it seems that google groups has problems in providing unique URLs for messages in a thread. Hence the fallback to referring to the relevant newsgroup as a whole instead.

Dec 072004
 

Sid Meier’s always been one of my favorite game creators. For some reason, however, I never got into his Pirates, that’s gotten rave reviews and accolades across the board. Firaxis lately published a fully reworked version of the classic game, and I stumbled on it today.

Installed. Took it on a test spin, and noted that close to two hours had gone by unnoticed, but not without progress as the scourge of Caribbean, out to relieve the french of loot, rescue relatives and
plunder lost cities. Yes, the magic is present, but potentially in a rather repetitive form (there’s only so many things that you can do on the high seas). However, it’ll be a while before this one is squeezed
dry.

Bought the game as a “Collector’s Edition”, packaged with a quasi-parchment map, a T-shirt (Fruit of the Loom-branded, so it ought to last more than just a few trips to the washing machine) and an
extra dvd supposedly filled with additional material (including the original game). The multiple editions of a game are a new, strangely emerging product, as the long-awaited Half-Life 2 has its own Collector’s Edition release this friday, and I’m sure I heard some
third game being released in multiple editions as well but can’t recall which.

And now that Firaxis has really delved into the depths of their IP chest (and not just released yet another version of Civilization), it would be an opportune time to update some other Meier’s classics.
Colonization would be a good place to carry on, including the best ideas from the quietly progressing
Colonization II project in the final product.

Dec 072004
 

Top 100 Overlooked Films of the 1990s is a scary list. I’ve either mostly liked the listed films (though Darkman was so-so at best), or completely missed them. Which probably means that out of
the ones that I’ve missed, I’ll like a bunch. Couple of real bullseyes on the list (apart from the immediately obvious like the Coens’ output): Before
Sunrise
(my appreciation of Linklater’s works is well-known), Lone Star (world needs more westerns, even in disguise) and the Wachowskis’ debut, the modern-noirish Bound.

Don’t know whether the movies are supposed to be in some order or not, but props anyhow for the organizers for putting the fabulous Babe in the 8th spot.

And the proverbial shopping list just got longer…

Dec 062004
 

The worst season of the year is back. Thought it was beaten by the quick arrival of snow, but nope, steady plus-side temperatures and rainfall have decimated the white.

Indeed, it is the season of slippery sidewalks, of light utterly consumed by the singularity-black asphalt, of soft rain turning into clingy omni-directional sleet in the matter of seconds.

Just bring back a real winter, and we’ll promise to go easy on the meterologists for a while. OK?

Dec 052004
 

The annual ritual of seeing how badly I did, managing to see the worthies movies according to the british rag is now complete.

Seen 12 out of 25. Or 11.5, since I took a serious mid-flight nap in the middle of Station Agent.

Not bad at all, usually the ratio is far worse.

And a few still to be seen, like 2046. But some, however, ain’t going to hurt from dvd and will thus be relegated to such role.