Thursday, October 26, 2006

Popcorn & This Old House

It really doesn't get any better. I am at the midpoint of the This Old House hour where the work on the project house for this week has been documented and we are about to begin the Ask This Old House portion of the show. This week, TOH did some serious work on their project house in East Boston, consisting of demolition in the kitchen involving asbestos-tainted floor removal, knocking down a wall, and replacement of a sewer pipe that had become clogged with the roots of a nearby tree. They actually had the city come in with a backhoe to dig up the sidewalk and dig down to the sewer main to replace a section of pipe that had been compromised and clogged with roots. The backhoe operator was, as they said in the show, friggin' surgical. He pulled up a three-foot square section of sidewalk in one piece and put it right in the dumpster still in one piece.

If this doesn't excite you as much as it does me, maybe you don't appreciate circular saws, sledgehammers, 6-mil plastic liner, hepa-filtered exhaust fans and triple-chambered isolation tunnels. Oh, and I'm eating popcorn that is goooood! This is my specialty snack and just can't be beaten. First, I pop my corn old school, you might say, popping kernels in hot oil right in a saucepan -- no microwave for me. With the popped kernels still piping hot, I add Jolly Time Buttery Seasoning, which just makes it simply heavenly. It's like friggin' bacon. I can't give enough praise.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Howard Stern free for 2 days on internet radio

Sorry for the short notice on this one, but for all of you who have not heard Stern's show since he began on Sirius satellite radio here is your chance to check it out for free. Beginning 12a Eastern on Wednesday, October 25 through 11:59p Eastern Thursday, October 27, anyone who signs up for a free trial userid and password at can listen to the Howard 100 and 101 channels via internet radio during that two day period.

I don't believe you have to download the Howard Stern-branded media player to listen to it as Sirius pops up its own browser window to play internet audio streams. In fact I recommend you don't download the HS player because you'll have to go through the rigamarole of signing up for a login on, download and install the player, deal with another password and you apparently have to have a Windows-based machine to use it.

I know, "waaaaaaahhhhh" you'll say, "I have to sign up and download another program, waaaaaaahhhhh." The Sirius thing works fine.

The schedule is on Stern's web page.

Some great stuff is in store in addition to Stern's regular radio show, including a new half-hour radio sitcom written and directed by Simpson's co-creator Sam Simon, a replay of the Top 10 Bits of all Time which was originally aired on Sirius over the Labor Day weekend (this includes material from Stern's KROC show, uncensored), and on Thursday a roast of Stern's producer, Gary Dell'Abate.

The roast alone should be worth signing up for this. The Howard Stern Show has almost single-handedly revived the roast comedy format since its move to Sirius, and if you have liked what Comedy Central has done with the Pamela Anderson and William Shatner roasts, you will love this. Stern has hosted at least three other roasts on his show and they have all of the kinks worked out of the format as well as having a great group of comedians who are just brutal and ruthless, exactly how a roast should be.

This free promotion is not to be confused with the similar offer for HowardTV's iNDEMAND 1 cent preview taking place November 3 through 5, which is only available if your local cable provider runs HowardTV on its iNDEMAND service. Howard's pay-per-view show is much like the show he used to have on E! except this one is uncensored. Hence, the charge of 1 cent. I'm not sure why the audio version of his show can be offered for free and the video version costs one cent, but I'm sure the Internet has something to do with it. Oh, and uncensored nudity.

For those unfamiliar, there is no doubt Stern's show can sometimes be juvenile and vulgar, but it's also very often funny and provides an intelligent and alternative perspective, different from the whitewash of mainstream media. Give it a shot.

Related posts: Stern still has it; Stern's 60 Minutes interview; Howard's first Sirius broadcast;

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Gamespot: Afterhours event in SF

Thanks to my friend Rita who put me and my friend Shawn on "the list" to get in, I went to this last Saturday night. It was pretty cool, and free. It was a small-scale videogaming event somewhat like PAX or a consumer-oriented E3. Unfortunately neither one of us remembered to bring his camera, so you'll have to savor my descriptive prose as a tasty substitute.

There were lots of different booths with groups of consoles set up by various developers to show off new or upcoming games. Surprisingly, about half of what was available was for the PC, so that platform is certainly not dead yet even in the face of the enormous popularity of console gaming. I saw the new Guitar Hero II for PS2 in action, and for the 360, Splinter Cell: Double Agent, Dead or Alive Extreme 2 and Lost Planet, among others. The list of all the games available is here. I only mention DOA Extreme 2 because it was really funny how obvious it is that a) it was developed by guys, for guys and b) that game has the most advanced "boob physics" anywhere. Every single movement the girls made onscreen resulted in a generous sloshing of their chestal regions, and the several "minigames" (Butt Bumper, Beach Flag Grab and Tug of War come to mind) were obviously created to emphasize this type of action.

I was hoping they would have a hands-on demo available for the Nintendo Wii, but I don't recall seeing Nintendo or any developers of upcoming Wii games anywhere at the show. Apparently there was an onstage demo by a Sega producer and one of the GameSpot guys later in the night of Super Monkey Ball: Banana Blitz, but we had already left by that time. There is video of that demo on the After Hours web site under the heading "Hour by Hour" and the video "The Future is Now - 7pm." Super Monkey Ball starts at 41:20 and shows how movements of the Wii remote translate into gameplay. Wii will certainly redefine interactivity when it comes to videogame control.

What I was most interested in, and what I was unexpectedly drawn to, was taking a gander at the playable PS3s. It was an interesting setup: each console was connected to a huge black box behind the monitor that was about the size of two VCRs laid one in front of the other (you can see it in this video). Apparently these were test (dev?) kits, and indeed the consoles had "TEST" printed right on top of them just beneath the PLAYSTATION 3 moniker in the Spider Man (see #55) font.

The console is physically huge, easily bigger than the original Xbox. Visually it's not appealing -- it seems to be a model of a domed stadium with a cheap, glossy, curved roof. Predictably the beast felt pretty heavy and plenty of hot air was being pushed out of its exhaust vents. The controller was unexpectedly light, but felt sturdy enough. To my knowledge none of the games demoed there utilized the tilt feature of the "Sixaxis" controller. The games available for play on PS3 were Full Auto 2: Battlelines, Ridge Racer 7 and Gundam Crossfire.

I played Full Auto 2 and watched the other two and while the graphics were pretty, I could see no real difference from current 360 games. Gameplay of Full Auto 2 was also no different from any other racing game I've already played. All of these games were very "arcadey," making no attempt to feel realistic, and in my opinion did not really show off the capabilities of the PS3. I suppose it says something about the power and potential of PS3 that its first generation games look as good as second generation 360 games, but by the same token an equivalent graphical appearance is no reason to choose PS3 over the 360 this holiday season, particularly when the 360 will be available on the shelves at most stores and for hundreds of dollars less than PS3.

There were also a number of "viewing only" demoes in separate rooms that were pretty cool. We saw presentations of Sid Meier's Railroads! and Bioshock. The cool thing about these was that members of each game's respective development staff were there and could answer questions and explain features and what they are trying to achieve with their games. No juicy inside stuff here, but Railroads! did crash on Windows while we were watching. Bioshock looked nice and had some creative combat ideas involving genetic mutation, but it's a good thing it won't release until 2007 because still needed some polish on keeping its framerate up during busy battles.

Thanks again for the hookup, Rita.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Caveman with tennis racket in the airport: the music

You know you like it. It's catchy, poppy and elevator-esque.

I found the answer in a forum post here. It's Royksopp's "Remind Me" (Radio Edit).

RealMedia sample is at the artist's web site, (click the band name, then "Discography" on the popup and then Remind Me / So Easy) and the commercial is on You Tube. Royksopp's label is astralwerks Records, and provides a Windows Media version (bigger, better version) of the commercial.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Analysis of Star Wars as "entertainment"

I've read John Scalzi's Whatever blog on and off for probably a year. He's a professional writer with fiction and nonfiction books to his credit, among many other things. He's also the Chief Entertainment Media Critic for Official US Playstation Magazine -- who knew? His fiction is mainly sci fi stuff, and an online discussion of science fiction and "entertainment" spurred quite an explosion of prose on his part in today's post.

It's quite long at 7 "Page Down"s till one reaches the end, but it doesn't feel like 7 "Page Down"s because it's structured well, is interesting and entertaining and is also just plain right. The meat of the post is that Star Wars as an entity, as a series of movies and as a mythology, is merely a vehicle for George Lucas to entertain himself. Since entertainment as a concept involves caring about and engaging an audience there is no way Star Wars can be considered entertainment.

It's all in the post: Joseph Campbell, mythology, incredible special effects, bad dialogue, the occasional acclaimed actors. You really should go read it. I'm a huge Star Wars fan and haven't wanted to admit the weaknesses of Episodes I, II and III, but there they are in all of their shame, pointed out to me and now undeniable. He gives reprieve to Episodes IV and V because they occurred at the right time in cinematic sci fi history, and were actually well-written (i.e., not by Lucas), respectively.

Then keep up with Whatever for awhile. In addition to sci fi he writes about politics, current events, goings-on with his family and occasionally, writing itself. His insight is sharp and writing clear and concise. He also actively participates in comments discussions. You'll like it.