Jul 302006
 

Following the success of Liberty City Stories on the PSP (and nowadays also PS2), Rockstar North has chosen to create a similar sequel for the second game in the series.

Vice City Stories debuts on october 17th, and will hopefully end up on the PS2 as well.

Of the three modern GTA-games Vice City is my favorite. The eighties’ pastel- and blood-colored excess is well-realized within. The old nemesis of mission imbalance (and long restart times) plague the game, and thus I never finished it. Perhaps now’s a good time to try out the infamous Cop Land mission again…

Jul 292006
 

Watched Dennis Hopper’s Easy Rider on dvd. I’d seen this before on television, and quite forgotten how powerful a movie it is.

It is indeed much more than just a drug-fuelled joyride to see Mardi Gras in New Orleans.

It’s a cruelly cutting analysis of the late sixties America – how the beautiful country got surrendered to conformists afraid of anyone daring to rock the status quo. The images of nature are breathtaking, as are most of the people encountered on the road. The former on account of beauty, the latter on bigotry.

Oh, yeah, they’re gonna talk to you, and talk to you, and talk to you about individual freedom. But they see a free individual, it’s gonna scare ‘em.

George Hanson

Jack Nicholson’s great as an alcoholic and talkative lawyer, who seems to be the only character in the movie that is interested in broadening his horizons. The rest (apart from the hippies in the outdoor commune, of course) choose to stay entrenched in their shelters. Henry Fonda and Dennis Hopper are quite silent observers for protagonists, and a lot of their dialogue is improvised.

This is the quintessential road movie, and as such should be treated as mandatory. It’s not an easy movie to watch, its pace being deliberately slow, and the poignant bits of dialogue stealing by without any warning.

Jul 292006
 

Snow Globe Art in ARS06
Attempted to go visit the India Express-exhibition in Tennispalatsi’s museum. Failed. The gates were closed, and the exhibition basically had been torn down ahead of the schedule. The museum held no information what had happened, and every poster and ad still pointed towards 30th of july as the last day of the show. A convenient employee stated that the “show had been taken out ahead of the schedule”, but refused to speculate why. Especially the lack of updated schedule was strange, adding a post-it note to the posters and changing the dates in relevant “what to do”-pages in hesari wouldn’t have consumed much effort. If any.

Went to ARS06-exhibit in Kiasma instead. Which turned out to be quite a variable collection of modern art. Ranging from impressive (snow globe miniatures) to boring (video installlations) via the semi-interesting (most of the content). The two complaints choirs (Birmingham and Helsinki) were interesting as well – and quality youtube-fodder, if not already available there. Kiasma’s layout is as confusing as ever, and one floor almost got skipped due to oversight.

Cool, the two globe artists (Walter Martin and Paloma Muñoz) have a decent site where their whole output can be examined.

Jul 282006
 

Finished the first video game in ages. The very well done New Super Mario Bros. on the DS.

Quality entertainment, and not too demanding for outplayed fingers. And with enough possibilities to save the game to shorten the sessions to an appropriate 40 minutes or so at a go.

Finished the game, but that’s not the end, as there’s still quite a few levels to solve and star coins to locate.

But not right now.

All in all the DS has been a very positive discovery. The design ethics are straight from Apple’s playbook, and the battery life’s respectable indeed. And as a sofa entertainment-unit it’s very good, especially with the improved screen over the original.

And with a humongous backlog of available games (including the entire range out on GBA), and a future release schedule peppered with interesting entries – Sony’s PSP does have a fight in its hands.

Jul 262006
 

Despite the sunshine, some interesting destinations have accumulated:

  • DRM is bad, mmmkay? And it’s always good to know the enemy.
  • Wanted to check out whose song Radar Love originally was, and was broadsided by this information blast. Never guessed that it was this popular.
  • Ptolus looks like it’ll be the biggest game-related publication ever. And most expensive. Though the idea of having lots and lots of unprinted material available on an attached cd is a very good idea.
  • It’s been a week since the world jump day, and at least I’m oblivious to any axial wobble the six hundred million participants have caused.
  • Finland’s selection of insects (and related animals) is far narrower than that of the US. And especially that of any big/poisonous enough to be hazardous to health is very small. But a bug-identification site like or would still be good.
  • Now this is getting seriously funky and impressively twisted! Doom 1 is playable on a monitor screen in Doom 3.
  • Amit Singh’s book on the internals of Apple’s OS X looks very interesting. And the web-only bonus content is an excellent addition – the latest extra chapter is a 140 page history of all the operating systems put out by Apple, since the seventies.
  • And hopefully Singh’s book is still valid after the fifth release of OS X (codenamed Leopard). The content’s been kept under wraps solidly, and the best guesses as to what’s going to be in can be found in the keynote bingo for the Worldwide Developer Conference on the first week on august.
  • Now this registers high on the nift-o-meter: gotapi.com is an interactive syntax guide for those awkward moments when, say, the attribute names of tag prove elusive.
Jul 262006
 

Missed this year’s annual Linux Symposium in Ottawa. Fallen far enough from technical responsibilities to be a suboptimal attendee.

The traditionally quite thick proceedings are available, and at 900+ pages quite a handful.

Coverage at newsforge is done on a daily basis and available right now: tuesday, wednesday, friday and saturday (pretty much just the keynote).

Most of Linux Weekly News‘ coverage is still under embargo for non-subscribers and will be freely available in a week.

This year’s keynote speaker was Greg Kroah-Hartman, and he has conveniently put up the slides on his blog. And quite a presentation it is. One which probably provoked lots of interaction with the audience. Fortunately it’s not just slides that are available, but also additional background information. And how could any keynote that gives props to the flying spaghetti monster be anything less than great?

Jul 252006
 

Back in the late eighties, one of William Gibson’s first novels (I think it was Mona Lisa Overdrive but am not certain) featured a character whose job was to check whether proposed company names would not mean something rude in rare languages such as burmese.
I thought that this was quite a far-out concept.

Little did I know.
Fast forward a couple of years, and Wired runs an article on a company that specializes in creating safe names for products and businesses. (Bugger, I seem to be unable to locate a link to the exact article. Might be that it was in another magazine instead.)

And it’s clear that a lot of companies have not consulted such naming wizards. And while the page does bear warning that some of these are just urban legends – some of the worst have indeed happened and breached the news threshold.

An even more hilarity is to be had from mis-selected URLs selected (and subsequently advertised). Some are obviously dictated by the name of company. But really, people ought to Know Better.

[ Last link, from which the whole entry sprung forth discovered at hittegodsbyrån. ]

Jul 252006
 

Cover of the third Sandman collection
The third Sandman collection, Dream Country contains the most famous story of the whole 75-issue lifetime of the comic. A Midsummer Night’s Dream won the World Fantasy Award for Best Short Fiction in 1991.

The four stories collected within (yeah, this is much thinner book than the two preceding parts) are independent, and there’s no arcing storyline to connect them in any way.

Three of the four issues are classics, and the fourth one is the oddest single issue of them all.

The first three all concern themselves with the hidden power of a story. Power that can be used for good, or misused for selfish goals.

Calliope, the first issue is definitely of the latter kind – it deals with the forcible removal of a writer’s block, by using a real muse to effect a literary comeback. Needless to say, messing with mythology meets with a sticky end. The story ideas thrown about with wild abandon pretty could form the basis of future works in many genres.

Dream of a Thousand Cats is appealing mostly to people who like cats. Neil Gaiman obviously does. Otherwise it would be hard to imagine a whole issue dedicated to the species from such a bening viewpoint. And it’s a nice diversion, pointing out that dreams are not confined to humans (as anybody who has watched a sleeping pet can verify).

Scene from Dream Country

The third issue is the much-raved-about A Midsummer Night’s Dream. It’s a tale that mixes Shakespeare (with whom Morpheus made a deal back in issue #13) and the Faerie folk. Within the eponymous play as a backdrop for the story. This is one of the most heavily annotated issues.

This was the first issue drawn by Charles Vess, whose style, once witnessed, is hard to mix up with others. Very well-suited to a fairy tale, he returned for several issues later in the saga, as well as collaborated with Gaiman on Stardust, a short story that should be real in the fully-illustrated form.

The fourth story, Façade has no Dream in it at all, it’s got big sister Death, and her only in a minor role. The protagonist is a superheroine (from an earlier era of DC comics, and badly neglected since), whose retirement has not been all that successful. It’s by no means a bad story, just seems misplaced in the context of Sandman. Death plays her part as an upbeat grim reaperess as she has in previous issues.

The stories are interludes in the overall storyline, which picks up speed in the next campaign: A Season of Mists.

Figured that a cover image and clip of the comic would be appropriate additions to the entries. And added them to the previous two

Jul 242006
 

Really, I truly expected to like Douglas Coupland’s JPod, the sequel to his masterful Microserfs from 1996.

But I didn’t. It’s not really a sequel at all – as all the characters have changed. And it’s not really a novel – as the plotlines are vague at best, and downright illogical most of the time.

In Coupland’s previous output it’s been the characters and observations of the real world that have made the books worthwhile. In JPod neither factor sadly materializes. The plot feels like an early Monty Python movie – just a collection of individual scenes unsuccessfully glued together. Here, sadly, even the majority of the scenes is drowned in the thickly pasted sticky goo.

The characters are one-dimensional and hollow, most drawn with a wide brush on a single stroke. And while the previous books have been filled with eccentrics and odd individuals, the author really went to town on this one. And to top it off he uses himself as a character – several times the whole plot hinges on a chance encounter. The only other author who uses himself as a deus ex machina that I know is Clive Cussler – and he only uses a page or two per novel, but in this book the main plot converges on the author as a protagonist. Which just feels wrong, and its vanity is squirm-inducing.

The book contains two 21-page spreads of numbers. Yes, numbers. One is a collection of decimals of pi, and the other some primes. So, out of a 400-page book, a full tenth is used on pure filler. Arrogance, or a witty statement on the futility of publishing books on paper. I’m betting on the former. And sure don’t want to hear the numbers read in a monotonous voice in an audiobook.

The writing is OK, but nothing stellar (like in the author’s early output). Oneliners work, but the observations of work/consumerism/geekdom are shallow. And often nothing more than chunks of spam as text-separating elemenst are used verbatim instead of trying to figure out how to tie them into the surroundings.

As a novel this is a failure. As a zeitgeist tool this is a failure. The characters rarely work, and the lukewarm, but mainly positive, whimsy so well-established in the previous novels is totally absent.

Like I said. I expected to like this book. I wanted to like this book.
But I just couldn’t.
And if the user-provided reviews at amazon.com are any indication, a lot of frustrated readers agree.

Jul 232006
 

A hedgehog curled into a ball

Leaving a camera home on purpose is obviously an open invitation for all manner of critters to show up and cavort when there’s no means to capture them properly on film.

Saw a hedgehog in Pikkuhuopalahti, and trying to snap a photograph with the phone had the expected result, the animal was bothered by the close distance and rolled into a ball. And uncurled in moments, and immediately disappeared into the underbrush, hunting for a juicy earthworm or two.

Jul 222006
 

Vantaanjoki rapids

Visited the Mikätin (Wossname in english) exhibition in the Museum of Technology in Viikki.

The collection of unlikely objects is worth the price of admission, and recommended to all who’d like to puzzle over the function of mysterious domestic tools.

Of which there’s more than three hundred pieces on display. And a score more whose identity has been left open for the visitors to guess. Spread across several decades – there’s both everyday things and utter enigmas to see.

Confined photography to the rather dry Vantaanjoki flowing by the museum on both sides. Especially the overflow of the dam was miniscule, the river’s undergoing a shallow period following the recent dry times. The white balance seems to be rather overwhelming in the first image, it wasn’t nearly this nice out.

Reflection of a brick tower on the river
Warning sign for a beam below the surface
Looking downstream over the dry falls

Jul 222006
 

Saw the sequel to the sleeper hit of 2003. It’s a decent movie, but so painfully obviously the tough “middle part” of a trilogy that it’s at times awkward to watch.

Not a bad movie by any means, but far less entertaining than it could have been. The lead actors repeat their roles from the first part – Johnny Depp still hams it up as Captain Jack, but hasn’t really added anything to the character since the last outing. So, it’s Mr. Davy Jones who ends up leading the pack – Bill Nighy’s great as the drowned sailor who has ended up an imitation of Cthulhu, with an octopus for a beard.

Plot-wise this resembles a video game, in uncomfortably many ways. The main storyline is a haphazardly put together quest from one location to the other, and it’s neatly supplemented by visually excellent action scenes that are easily translatable into an interactive form. And the whole thing just reeks of the venerable LucasArts’ Monkey Island tetralogy of adventure games.

The third, and probably final part of the movie will be out next summer. As far as Disney is to be trusted, the two were shot back to back.

The movie has a long credit sequence, and the ten seconds of additional movie footage is not really worth it. Unlike X3, which supposedly has a very significant add-on post-credits.

Jul 202006
 

Things that have alerted the powerful cybernoid lately:

  • Stat City is the coolest Threadless design lately (and I sure haven’t bought many t-shirts lately).
  • Crash-only software is another interesting article at lwn.net. And I refuse to use work-credentials to read about the ongoing symposium right now.
  • CNN interviews the guy who creates the occasional day-specific logos for google.
  • Prestige definitely shoots to the top of “should definitely see”-list. Christopher Nolan (with no bad movies on his belt) directing Hugh Jackman, Christian Bale and Scarlett Johansson on an interesting premise sure sounds worthwhile.
  • Pitwall, a Formula-1 management game. For the inner Jean Todts and Flavio Briatores. It cannot be any more boring than the real thing has been, recently.
  • Despite being officially abandoned by Activision, the Vampire: the Masquerade – Bloodlines game keeps getting gamer-provided patches to enhance the original release in many unexpected ways.
Jul 202006
 

Midnight twilight Spent a lazy four days visiting relatives in Nivala, Pohjanmaa.

The annual “eating too much pork, and pork-related products”-ritual was repeated, once again.

The new arrival in this year’s program was the football championships organized for the kids of the clan. With some adult players thrown in for good measure, but banned from scoring goals and performing any defense apart from gentle obstruction.

Discovered also that petanque is much more enjoyable in the offroad-fashion, where the whole yard (grass, shrubberies, gravel and all) serves as the playing field, not just leveled sand.

Four days of no e-mail. Four days of minimal surfing. Four days without a thought like “it’d be so cool to blog this”. So clearly I need a longer and more thorough exposure to reality before cold turkey kicks in.

Didn’t play with the camera enough. The attached picture is taken at midnight, with some dramatic clouds overhead kind of marring the semi-midnight sun. Far more light than in Helsinki, and easily enough to conduct a meaningful conversation or even read.

Jul 172006
 

To contrast the featherweight (but certainly enjoyable) books read lately, grabbed Martin Rees’ Just Six Numbers to finally read. Owned the book for several years, but thus far it has eluded attempts to read.

As per its title, it concentrates on “just six numbers”. Six numbers that define the fundamentals of the universe (like the ratio between strong and weak electromagnetic forces). Six numbers that have been tagged with specific symbols. Six numbers, of whose explanations I expect to miss a decent chunk.

Also, the author has one of the coolest titles. An Astronomer Royal is just so much more expressive than a “Chief Scientist” employed by NASA.

Jul 172006
 

Dry grass
Not dry as in the Blackfoot song, but dry as in parched with thirst. The emerald green grassy fields have been turned to burnished straw that’s prickly to walk on.

The fields have indeed dried out – only those bits next to ditches seem to exhibit any major greenery, the rest is turning yellowish gray.

Reflection of trees in a pool
Unknown flower in the evening sun
Duck aswim
A small bridge in Niemenmäki

Jul 172006
 

Bah, missed the mini-festival in Kaivopuisto yesterday. Utterly forgot about it. No major damage, just a couple of bands that I’d have been interesting to see: von Hertzen Brothers and Moottörin Jyrinä.

Perhaps this calendar-less (let Outlook at work take care of it all) and PDA-less (the T3 is still AWOL in Lavonardo HQ) way is suboptimal in some ways. But not enough to start planning for something extensive in the middle of summer.

Jul 162006
 

The first nuggets of information about the fall season on finnish television are dropping in.

One of the bright spots on the schedule is MTV3′s acquisition of House, M.D. In it Hugh Laurie plays a sociopathic doctor who gets to address tough medical cases week after week in a seriously unorthodox manner. And the cases themselves are not common ailments either, and the healing process is usually complicated by lying/distracting relatives, thus neatly pushing the stories into the realm of investigative cop shows.

It is severely formulaic – so severely, that watching it weekly is probably more advisable than going on a by-season spree on dvd. At least I’ve found a slower pace better.

Despite the show not having long story arcs, I’m averse to spoilers, and have thus avoided careless related browsing. A couple of sites have been useful in following the sarcasm-filled show: House, M.D. Guide is an episode guide on steroids (and carries chunks of dialogue), whereas play.house lists the songs played (and they handily have similar sites for some other shows).

Jul 162006
 

Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly is now out on general release in the states. And the critical reception has been rather positive – monday’s news shall tell how it performed in the box office.

Sadly, neither finnish distribution company, finnkino nor sandrew-metronome (which are the same thing, these days) has any indication on their “forthcoming”-pages whether this rotoscoped Philip K. Dick-film makes it to the silver screen, or is it relegated straight to dvd.

Jul 162006
 

Toscanini has very decent mushroom risotto. And although their menu is on the short side, there are multiple interesting dishes on offer.

The new Aussie Bar next to Kamppi (in the Presidentti-building) has a decent selection of antipodean brews. Sadly Steinlager is not as good as I remembered.

There is room enough on the stage of Molly Malone’s to play a slide trombone. Even when the band has five other members.

Jul 162006
 

Herald Tribune has a very decent retrospective on what was good, and what was not so good in the cup.

And the italian court system did not bury the corruption charges against four top teams following cup success. In a bold move, three teams were relegated to Serie B, and all four subjected to lowering of points from last season. Meaning that we will see unexpected teams in the champions league. Juventus is hit heaviest, and with the -30 points given to them for next season, likely to remain in the lower division for two years. If not longer, when the mass exodus of quality players begins, and true economical desperation sets in.

EDIT 23.8.2008: The Tribune blog seems to be gone.

Jul 152006
 

In the seriously non-blockbuster niche.

My Name is Bruce is definitely a high concept movie. And the crew definitely got to the producer on one of the latter’s not-so-bright days.

B-Movie Legend Bruce Campbell is mistaken for his character Ash from the Evil Dead trilogy and forced to fight a real monster in a small town in Oregon.

IMDB

Then again, being a Bruce Campbell-movie, this might be just something surreally beautiful. Like the unexpectedly bright Bubba-Ho-Tep. Which, on second thoughts, is probably worth more than just three measly stars.

Bobby Kennedy’s assassination in 1968 has been completely overshadowed by that of his big brother five years before. And seems to be almost as muddled by conspiracy theories and contradictions. I’m sure that Emilio Estevez’ forthcoming Bobby will not tackle the hardest issues, but at least it should re-raise some ancient questions.