February 25th, 2008


"Technology is a beautiful thing, Sam."

Ever tried yawning at your cat? Yawns may be contagious cross-species. Just thought I'd throw that notion out there.

Two new examples of Better Living Through Technology: First, Audiosurf, an addictive as hell little puzzle racer game for the PC (advertised with a crummy Flash site! sonofabitch!) which can best be summed up as a cross between Stun Runner, Klax and Guitar Hero Amplitude. If you're not sure what any of those games were about, let me put it another way: the game creates ROLLAR COASTAR RIDES!!!1 out of your MP3 collection. Tracy and Carolyn and I fooled around with its analytical processes tonight and we all came out mighty impressed. It's more than simple beat recognition or even level monitoring; the damn thing creates bizarre 3D ribbon maps of the music based on all sorts of factors, some inscrutable, others slightly scrutable. For instance, uphill sections in your amazing super-cool space-age racetrack denote slower parts of a song, downhill are faster. Some songs have incredible variants which gives you the aforementioned ROLLAR COASTAR!!1 feeling. Some songs actually do barrel rolls.

The game also noodles with the track during playback, adding wibbly bumps during percussive bits or sometimes slowing down and speeding up your vehicle's movement. It does an amazing job of isolating and emphasizing the emotional points (and the shifts) in a song, and the result is this kinetic, colorful wibbly-wubbly psychoreactive zoom game with enormous replayability before the novelty wears off.

Your first point of replay is scanning EACH AND EVERY SINGLE GODDAMN SONG YOU EVER LIKED to see how it'll play in the game. Dance music gives a bouncy ride; strong beats provide larger bounces. Slower, meditative music often gives swooping curves and slopes. We put in The Stars and Stripes Forever and some selections from HMS Pinafore and, as Tracy noted, the game "got it right" by providing us with colorful goodies when the pieces got, well, interesting. You'll pick up a lot of colors during "And so do his sisters and his cousins and his aunts," f'rinstance. The game picked up on the interesting cadence of the Werewolves of London chorus, see, and plotted notes to pick up accordingly on the ba-bum bum, etc.

Second point of replay is the various game modes: your path can be littered with multicolored "traffic" (it really does look like a crazy 3-lane HIGHWAY OF CYBARSAPCE!!!1) and your goal is to sort out the colors and make the biggest same-color matches as possible. Or you could choose the mode where you must pick out all the colored blocks while avoiding all the gray blocks, involving weaving and jumping and n'hey. Other modes let you randomize the color selection or pick up blocks or nudge 'em across lanes.

The third point is the Internet connectivity, where you can post your scores up and see how you fare overall, or even as far as your state goes. Since the game has three difficulty levels there's room (they brag) to let everybody have a shot at high-scoring something. It's also very reassuring to play an obscure song and then notice that someone else has indeed had a go at it too, thus vindicating and justifying your odd tastes in music (who else thought the Goodies' "Funky Gibbon" was a good idea to play? Well...)

All in all well worth the 10 bux you'll be out if you buy it off Steam. Am really beginning to cotton to this whole small game distribution service.

Our other example of Technology today is Hulu, another site which has made a deal with the Devil to provide streaming Web2.0 right to us. I mean, it fits the checklist almost to a tee: Nonsensical name? Check. Focus on user interactivity? Check. Steaming video? Check. In beta? Check. Rounded edges? Well, the buttons are more flat, but it's getting there. Lack of vowels? ...well, that's where Hulu fails the Web.2uring test.


Hulu provides free streaming television (and some films) with minimal commercial interruption; a 30-second "THIS IS A CAR OK MAYBE BUY IT" Nissan ad every now and then (and frankly easily ignored.) I haven't watched any of the movies offered yet, so I may be more amenable to watching a commercial or two during television watching, but movies are kind of sacrosanct to me, y'know? (You can also tell this service is in beta with invites given out because the movies, such as The Jerk, don't appear to be bowlderized just yet so they're not worried about THE PRECIOUS PRECIOUS CHILDREN hearing words like "bullshit" and "blow job" but ... just you wait and see.)

I wouldn't be so happy about such a service to begin with; you can do this kinda stuff thru iTunes or what have you, but Hulu's got the start of a good library. I admit I was invited to the site with the promise of A-Team episodes and I got those (the two-part pilot, which featured a different Face, is interesting and gloriously cheesy in those awful "let's just set the action in Universal Studios so we can have an exciting backlot chase as well as a tram tour plug" ways; sup bitsy.) Then I noticed they had the first season of Hill Street Blues. They're working on their Arrested Development and Simpsons, and there's Buffy and Firefly for those of you who don't have the DVDs already. I figure I'll enjoy the Hill Street Blues and Barney Miller and Taxi because sure, I can buy the DVDs and watch them whenever I want, but here I don't have to, so nyer. This means I can also watch the odd What's Happening!! episode whenever I want and not have to tell anybody, much less the hipster chick behind the counter at Newbury Comics. The episode where Rerun fails to get tickets to the Doobie Brothers concert but they end up meeting the Doobies anyway is high art, man.

I got five invites left if anybody else wants in. Just need an email address.
Captain Haddock

barfin all over the town 2008

It's bad enough to throw up at work (which I did, at least twice this morning.)
But it's really bad to throw up on work (which I did this morning, to the office building itself, on my way in.)
And then again on the T when you're making your way home early after learning you don't have enough sick hours left to be paid for the day but damned if you're gonna be staying there throwing up all day.

I got home at 9:45 and promptly crashed for six hours.

Banner fucking year at the ol' Bender family day I tell you what. My stomach hurts even when I think.