Feb 282009

Carrying on from the glorious collection of misfiring interviews (and one dance performance) in the previous article, here’s a selection of bits that crossed the event horizon this week:

  • The Economist, one of the most solemn magazines in the world is surreptiously translated into Chinese. Even though the copyright issues are far from settled, its good to see the Great Firewall penetrated once again.
  • I’ve never been much of an user friendly fan, as web comics go, none has seen less evolution than this. Last week it turned out that the author has been lifting dialogue from Metafilter and using it in comics that are way less funny than the original quips. After a hefty outcry, the offending items in the back catalogue have been quickly tagged with attributions. A far happier end to a sordid tale than expected.
  • Following the utter drying out of the funding for the forthcoming Mannerheim-movie, the production team has turned on patriotism/bambieyes-offense. They are selling advance tickets to the film for fifty euros, but unlike the modern ransom/investment-projects used by the likes of Marillion and Delta Green, there’s no profit sharing, and absolutely no chance of refunds if the film never is actually released.
Feb 262009

This week’s Thursday Challenge topic is jewelry.

Thursday Challenge 26.2.2009:  Jewelry

It’s a topic on which the HQ is definitely short on targets. This tie-clip is closest to rock-based bling that is available.

The Japanese character on the clip is fuku (supposedly meaning good fortune, but also a synonym for fugu, the lethally venomous pufferfish). The tie, that’s a Tintin silhouette, a great gift from Brussels.

Feb 242009

Milk PosterSaw Sean Penn’s second oscar-awarded performance today. While Milk is nowhere near a perfect film, it’s certainly worth the price of admission to see the actors’ performances.

Milk shows the last decade of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay politician, whose career as a councilman in San Francisco was terminated with a gun in the late seventies (the story includes use of the term twinkie defense, so it can’t be all bad).

Sean Penn is nothing short of sensational in the lead role. A complex persona is portrayed with an awesome array of emotions. The rest of the cast is far less luminous. Josh Brolin puts in a tightly-reined take on Dan White, the colleague-turned-enemy of Milk.

The seventies’ San Francisco is realized well. The scenery looks appropriately old, and wide shots occasionally have a grainy look to them, a look that evokes 8mm home movies from yesteryear. Unlike a couple of recent movies that turned to rampant smoking to age the action, Milk uses a very limited amount of cigarettes.

Feb 232009

The counter-awards have been dealt out.

Haven’t seen Love Guru, and don’t intend to.

I don’t think that the fourth Indiana Jones was Raspberry-worthy. Apart from the sanity-shattering Tarzan-scene. And the riding-out-a-nuclear-explosion-in-a-fridge moment.

Feb 222009

Heath Ledger for best supporting male.

The unnerving take on Joker cannot be bypassed. Especially when considering the posthumous aspect of the award.

The others: there’s just too many movies unseen to have anything but uneducated guesses at the moment.

Feb 222009

Carcassonne:  the Castle LogoFollowing the presentation of the original Carcassonne last week, let’s continue the irregular series with the sole spin-off game I’ve bought thus far.

Carcassonne: The Castle is Reiner Knizia’s take on the concept, and while the basic mechanic is unaltered from the original, the courtyard-building game is quite a different beast.

While the original work with just two players, the experience is not as good as with three or four, as the resources dwindle too early in the set. The Castle has been constructed for two players, and two players only.

The playing field is limited to the castle walls, so the design cannot uncontrollably spiral out. The surrounding wall serves as the scoring track also, with tower crenellations bearing bonus tiles for the player whose meeple lands on the exact spots.

While the tile-laying/meeple-placing mechanic is carried over as-is from the basic Carcassonne, the tile-placement rules are far looser in this game. Only the roads have to match, the rest of the construction can be as chaotic as it gets. As with the King/Scout expansion to the basic Carcassonne game, the sizes of constructed elements matter – the owner of the biggest house gets to claim points for the unconstructed squares in the end. Unlike the original, in the Castle incomplete features do not bring in any points (unless a corresponding bonus tile has been previously obtained from the scoring track).

Knizia’s take of Carcassonne is a good variant, and works well as a two-player game. The interaction between players is as minimal as in the original, but the enforced tightness of the area does force the constructions to collide sooner or later. The fields remain important, but the game is usually not won over their control, as the criss-crossing paths bisect the courtyard into cleanly separate areas.

As the Boardgamegeek page notes, no expansions nor a digital version of the game exists. The game feels complete enough without the former, but a good Live Arcade game would be appreciated indeed.

Feb 212009

Following an australian retailer’s accidental sales of the forthcoming U2 album, and its massive subsequent spread on the bittorrent, the web is rife with speculation about last.fm being told to assume the position by RIAA.

Even though the social network has denied all rumors, the logic of the proposition is scary – why should the IPR guardians be working on strongarming ISPs, when the users are willing to publish the incriminating information all by themselves.

It’s all there – the threat, the unsubstantiated source, the misguided actions you should take – indeed a perfect take on an urban legend.

Disclaimer: I don’t use last.fm, I do my listening mostly on a proper stereo.