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Archive December 2004
Thursday 30 December 2004
Movies, movies, movies.

National Treasure starts out looking like it's going to be a stupid Nicholas Cage caper, and then goes on to prove it. But it's funny all the same. We open on Nicholas Cage as a child, going into the attic to find The Never Ending Story book. There's some babble about freemasons hiding treasure to keep it from the evil English who can't be trusted, and then we cut to him as himself, hunting treasure in the arctic. With an English-accented companion. Who *SPOILER! AS IF YOU WOULDN'T KNOW!* turns out to be evil. The goodies then go on to solve Batman-quality riddles ("this phrase includes the word 'poison', which is similar to 'poisson', which is French for fish, and English people eat fish and chips, and in America we called chips French fries a hundred years ago though they are Freedom Fries now, so the Riddler must be in the abandoned warehouse by the docks for some reason!"), while the bad-guys are stuck with just fragments of the clues, which they type into a Yahoo search (because they have near-unlimited resources apparently) to immediately find the right answer. For example, searching for "stow" in Yahoo will bring up, as hit number one (this was specified explicitly) a page about the Liberty Bell. Also, according to the movie, a shadow will fall in exactly the same place at 2:22 on an unknown date during Ben Franklin's lifetime as it will at 3:22 on what is very probably not the same unknown date during daylight savings, present-day. Presumably the writers figured that if shadows don't consistently fall in the same place over time then you couldn't possibly tell the time with a sundial, so they must. Also, it's perfectly reasonable to pour lemon juice on a 200-year-old document and then heat it with a hairdryer, so long as you do it in an uncontaminated room. Acids don't damage manuscripts at all, or possibly lemon juice isn't acidic because if it was then how could you eat it? This is the logic of National Treasure, which is the only thing that makes it enjoyable. According to IMDB, Nicholas Cage's character, who isn't named Nick, is referred to as Nick at some point in the movie too, though I didn't notice that.

Lemony Snicket's a Series of Unfortunate Events is quite good. People who've read the books don't seem to like it, generally, because people are idiots who think a movie based on a book should reflect the book exactly or it's crap, an opinion which was amply rubbished by the Lord of the Rings movies. Changes made to the story were sensible ones for the transition to movie format, including an admirable and anachronistic (in that people don't do this much these days) increase in pace. My only objection to the movie is that Jim Carrey is back to being his old Jim Carreyish self a bit too much, after his brief stint in acting for Eternal Sunshine of the Bla Bla Bla.

Cypher is also quite good. In both feel and content, like a cross between the aforementioned Eternal Bla Bla and Memento. If you liked both of those, Cypher would probably be your cup of tea, too, if it weren't too busy being a movie for lots of people. [14:02] [6 comments]

Saturday 25 December 2004
Some excellent TV guide moments. An extract from the description of "Emil and the Detectives":
However, on the train to Berlin he befriends a stranger, who drugs and robs him.
So that's a lesson about Christmas spirit for us all. And on another channel, the bizarre Christmas lineup of "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" being followed by "The Hunt for Red October", before The Queen's Christmas Message and "Mrs. Santa Clause". What's Red October doing in there? I became suddenly unsure about whether it was set at Christmas-time or something, so I clicked to see what the TV guide has to say about it, which was this, in its entirety (other than cast and such):
The United States reacts with surprise and intrigue when the captain, and selected crew of a Soviet missile submarine announce their intention to defect.
Which is a brilliant story. "Hey, Americans, we want to defect!" "What?! You do? Why would you want to do that? How intriguing." The end.

Hooray! Because I'm in Australia, Christmas is almost over already, and for all you poor fools in other countries it's only just beginning. Take that, time-zone luddites! However, you all probably have quite nice cold temperatures, so I still lose this battle of wills. I'll get you next time. [11:39] [2 comments]

Tuesday 21 December 2004
Our local supermarket is playing Christmas music. But not just any Christmas music. It's that special sort of Christmas music that plays when terrorists have taken over a building and the hero is in the ventilation system. Quiet slow-motion Christmas music that you just know is preceding the explosion of something large.

Backing up this theory is the fact that the child of the person in front of me in the queue was pointing at me and gleefully shouting "look! A baddie!" I think I'm the third most important henchman, the one who inevitably looks like Kyle Reese from Terminator, and whose reason for being there is to crack the safe but who also enjoys firing a shotgun vaguely in the direction of the hero. The child's mother was wilfully failing to understand what he was saying, which made it all the more fun because he kept repeating it. "A baddie!" More parents should let their eight-year-olds watch Die Hard, clearly.

For some reason, "December 31st" was chalked on the pavement outside the newsagent, twice, in suspiciously neat handwriting. I can only assume this is a terrorist message for me. Unfortunately, Mr Big forgot to actually hire me and tell me what the job is. [05:12] [4 comments]

Monday 20 December 2004
If Bush were to die of a heart-attack or something, there would be right-wing conspiracy theorists, which would make a nice change. [04:58] [2 comments]

Wednesday 15 December 2004
More spam made amusing by its incongruous subject line:
Subject: FUCK YOU

Looking for a new house? Maybe to reduce your current montly payments?
[22:54] [16 comments]
Recently I played through Prince of Persia: Warrior Within. It's rather good, incrementally better than Prince of Persia: Sands of Time. The length is similar, though Warrior Within is more replayable (in that there's a different ending if you win 'better', though I don't think it's intrinsically replayable enough that I can be bothered to try). Today, having no other new games, I went back to try to finish Thief: Deadly Shadows (what is it with sequels and colons these days? Fair enough for Prince of Persia, since I have no idea what number it would be and it's not actually similar to the early ones, but Thief 3 is bloody Thief 3).

After Mr Persia's grace and responsiveness, Mr Thief's sluggish idiocy is absolutely unplayable. When you tell Mr Persia what to do, he's like "right away, I will certainly bounce off those walls, slide down a curtain, backflip onto a narrow beam and then swing down into the midst of some swarming ghouls and decapitate them by using one of them as a shield and then swinging around a pillar with my sword out, just as you have asked." Then you tell Mr Thief what to do and he's like "what's that? You want me to fall off this three-foot-wide walkway onto the metal floor below and then shout hello at the guard?" "No, you idiot, I want you to walk along the walkway! Just walk! It's three fucking feet wide!" "Fall off the walkway?" "Walk along! W-A-L-K..." "F-A-L-L?" "Fine, you fall off the fucking walkway and I'll stop playing your stupid game." "Oh! You want me to get stuck in a chest! You should have said." "You already did that." "That's okay, I can do it again."

Meanwhile, in horrible Hong Kong movies, China Strike Force was surprisingly good as a generic Die-Hard-esque action flick, with suitably Hong Kongly ludicrous action such as riding a motorcycle up the vertical back of a moving truck. Raiders of the Shaolin Temple, on the other hand, was unsurprisingly bad as a probably-early-seventies horribly dubbed kung-fu movie, which was just what I wanted it to be, and more, including a man fighting 24 mechanical horses of kung-fu that move very similarly to Doctor Who machinery, him getting his arse kicked despite that, and, absolutely best of all, an extremely Pythonesque scene of the same man which went thusly:
(Man leaps into the air) "Yaaaaah!"
(cut to shot of someone present looking surprised, then to...)
"Yaaaaah!" (from a different angle)
(cut to shot of someone else present looking surprised, then to...)
"Yaaaaah!" (from another different angle)
Just like the Monty Python running-towards-the-castle scene, this gets funny after about the fifth repetition. Unlike the Monty Python version, though, it continues to get funnier with each subsequent repetition, up to a total of somewhere around eight "yaaaaah"s. All kung-fu movies should feature this scene in future. It's even better than Jackie Chan's Police Story angle-cuts of similar nature, because Jackie Chan doesn't yell "yaaaaah" during his.

Also, there is a TV series called Crime Traveller, about a policeman and his friend the police scientist who travel in time to solve crimes. There were only 8 episodes made. It's English, and features Miss-Marple-esque music. I think that's all that needs to be said about that. [22:46] [4 comments]

Monday 13 December 2004
An ordinary spam made funny by its subject line.
Subject: dead

Hi, my name is Tara :-). A friend of mine gave me this email, I hope its ok i sent you this...I'm pretty new to this sort of thing but i think this is the best way to hook up for a girl in my situation ;-), anyways hope to hear from you soon...
I think they're right, your best chance of finding a willing necrophiliac probably is sending out spam. That said, I think if you're looking for a necrophiliac you should come right out and say "for a girl who is dead", not this silly euphemistic "for a girl in my situation". The winking smiley was a nice touch though. [03:03] [6 comments]

Thursday 9 December 2004
Blooming incompetent bureaucrats. We want you to do this power of attorney thing very very quickly now, months after you said you should do a power of attorney thing, and after we've made you do lots of forms that you wouldn't have had to if you'd done the power of attorney thing when you said. Here is a power of attorney form. Please also include a copy of some extremely America-centric ID that you don't have because you're not American and not in America.
Bla bla bla, I (my name) bla bla appoint (other-party name) as bla bla attorney with regard to bla. In witness where of I sign here, blam, (my name).

State of: _________

I, the undersigned, a Notary Public - because everywhere has Notary Publics because America is everywhere and no real people live anywhere else even when we have specifically been told where they are that is not America - in and for the County and State aforesaid - because everyone is in a County and State because that's what America is made of - do certify that (other-party name, yes, that's right, the name that isn't supposed to have signed the document), whose name is signed to the foregoing Power of Attorney document, OH WAIT NO IT ISN'T BECAUSE THAT WAS THE WRONG NAME, SO OUR WRONGNESS IS NOT ONLY OF AMERICA-CENTRICNESS BUT ALSO SIMPLE GROSS INCOMPETENCE bearing the date bla bla bla bla bla. Stamp. I AM A NOTARY PUBLIC, ME!
Please overnight this form to our offices, with the power of MOONBEAMS that allows one to overnight documents from Australia to America. Of course a digital signature won't suffice, we must have paper, and we must have it THIS VERY INSTANT. What's that, you're in Australia and thus can't possibly overnight it, you say? Then you should use UPS because UPS exist everywhere and are great, and are faster than lightning or Skippy the Bush Kangaroo! [04:43] [8 comments]

Wednesday 8 December 2004
This weekend I played Guild Wars a lot, because it was a beta weekend. It was the first MMORPG to not annoy me a lot, which makes it as some magazine is quoted as saying somewhere, "the MMORPG for people who hate MMORPGs". One is still, unfortunately, subjected to a lot of "WTS some crap objects for an unreasonable price" and "WTB objects I don't understand for an unreasonably low price" being yelled, though I expect the developers will implement some sort of auction system or at least a trading space for such dialogue by full-release time.

Why is it for people who hate MMORPGs? Because it's not really massively multiplayer, a lot of the time. Whenever you're on a mission you get a special mission space just for you and your team, so there's no hassle with kill-stealing or waiting for monsters to respawn or the like. In fact, monsters don't respawn, which is nice too - if you want to kill the same things again you can restart the mission, and if you want to do the mission carefully, you can, because any spaces you've cleared will stay cleared, assuming monsters don't walk in from nearby spaces. That's one point by which tactics work in Guild Wars where they don't in most MMORPGs. Also, the combat while it occurs is much more tactical - it's more like playing a 'heroes' level of Warcraft 2 or Starcraft than like playing an RPG. You want to lure monsters away from their companions, watch the back of the rest of your team, have your archers take the high ground, all the stuff you'd expect to have to do. And the monsters also behave appropriately - human baddies behave particularly intelligently, often deliberately targetting the spellcasters of your party, summoning help if there's any nearby, and being very persistent if you try to flee.

It also intends to conform to my requirement for playing a MMORPG - that it not charge per-real-world-time-period. In fact, they don't even intend to charge per-in-game-time-period (which in some ways would be worse, as, eg. encouraging the game-makers to make things take a long time, as they'd get more money that way). Instead it's a buy-it-once price, as games should be, with non-mandatory future extensions to also be bought. On those grounds, and the grounds that it's fun, I might buy it. Also, they have done most of the things I would have done in making a MMORPG (though their alleged streaming of content is a bit inferior - they don't use your idle bandwidth in the pre-mission room to download the mission, they just download it when you enter, which is a bit of a shame), which is nice of them since it means now I won't have to make one of those. Well, not a 3D posh one anyway. [16:19] [1 comment]

Friday 3 December 2004
I discovered that Australia has an equivalent of America's Netflix, in Quickflix. I then discovered that I've already seen about 90% of their martial arts section, and the rest sound (even more) dreadful, apart from Tongan Ninja.

On my way back from my martial arts class, a fat businessman on the bus made a cross with his fingers at me. When I looked appropriately bemused and affronted at him, he said "sorry, I thought you might be Dracula." He must have been watching extremely low-budget vampire movies.

My Vampires game now has a Java-based chat client, connecting to my own custom server, which is partly for its own sake and partly testing the server code which is intended for several other uses too. It seems to be mostly functioning as desired, bar a few additional features it could do with.

This post has been brought to you by the lost art of the seamless segue, and by the fact that I forgot to take my camera with me so couldn't post pictures of the fantastic tram with 50's action movie font on its front, or the giant blood-spewing shrine to demonology with a happy white christmas tree next to it, in Adelaide (in Victoria square at about 8pm, when you're walking towards the city from the end of the Glenelg tram line, if any Adelaidians want to go and get a picture of it). [10:05] [8 comments]

Tuesday 30 November 2004
Benhimself wrote:
It's scary how quickly things become Christmas the second Thanksgiving dies down. There are already elaborate decorations up on my street, and the stores and restaurants are playing carols as we speak.

It's interesting what a huge chunk of time Christmas conceptually takes up every year. Before it, you have all the anticipation and advertising specials and such, and afterwards, the people too lazy to take all the stuff down for several weeks.

The only logical conclusion to all this is that in the future, there will be only Christmas. New Year's Eve and Thanksgiving can only stand against it for so long, and afterwards, it'll be up to Halloween and Valentine's Day, and those two just aren't prepared!
Which produced a mental image for me that I was sufficiently pleased with the writing of that I thought it worth putting here.
Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve finally collapsing under the relentless assault of Christmas, its dark shadow rolling swiftly across the year, breaking briefly against the brave last stand of Halloween and Valentine's Day, natural enemies teamed up for once against this common foe, to no avail. The relentless treads of Christmas's gigantic death machines crush all resistance in minutes, roll on to effortlessly consume my birthday moments later, and eventually sweep over the last line of defence, the summer holidays.

If only Halloween and Valentine's Day had been willing to join the fight earlier, joining forces with Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve, perhaps it would have turned out better. But these things are always obvious in hindsight. They thought they could stay out of it. They thought Thanksgiving was the superpower. Tell that to the summer reindeer.
[08:35] [7 comments]