Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Mystery of the Bootleg WoW Costumes

So for people who don't sew, you probably are not familiar with sewing patterns. Traditionally, the way you picked them out was to go down to the fabric store where you would find a section of the store with some tables with these big catalog books. The books are put out by each company and have pictures of each of the patterns that are currently in print. You leafed through, found something you wanted, noted the number, and found the corresponding pattern in the filing cabinets full of the actual pattern.

What was always amusing to me about this system was the blatant knockoffs of whatever big movie came out that year. Simplicity is not the only offender, but they're the ones that stick in my mind the most. There's just something about the lazy level of obfuscation in selling what is clearly based on the Lord of the Rings but scrawling "QUEST FOR THE RING" or something across the page. They also have a somewhat more sneaky approach by having the main picture be something generic, but then showing you how a simple change of colors can make it into a beloved film character.

Oh look, you can be I guess Jacob Marley or some Victorian creepster or oh wait, is that Willy Wonka from the terrible film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Nah, couldn't be.

Also amusing: as of this writing they still make their Totally Not The Matrix pattern.

So now that I mostly buy vintage patterns at thrift stores/am trying to move away from printed patterns/have the internet I don't go down to the pattern section, or indeed even the fabric store, that much any more. But I remember a particular incident from my college years. I was leafing through the pattern books at Wal-Mart as I was wont to do, and I came across this gem:

It looks like a generic fantasy costume, but I assure you that this and the dude version are very specifically billed as "Warriors in Cyberspace." That's right, these are World of Warcraft knockoff costume patterns.

However, unlike Totally Not The Matrix and It Isn't the Joker You Guys plus bonus Not the Riddler, they don't still make this pattern. It was available for a little while, and then it was taken off the market. The Simplicity catalogs at the time all had the same page ripped out. I can't find any info on what became of Simplicty 4088 or whatever number the men's version was. It's just gone. I can only assume Blizzard made some kind of copyright claim.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

The Hitchhiker's Guide Game

I find myself endlessly inspired by this game which I realize is horribly frustrating and not actually fun in any way. That dog/cheese sandwich puzzle still makes me rage. But even though the puzzles are supremely complicated and many involve a time-delayed instant death, where an action (or lack thereof) in the early game ends up killing you later on, I have a hard time saying that they're unfair. Unlike, say, a Sierra game, all the information you need is somewhere in the game, you might have to examine a lot of stuff or consult the Guide a bunch, but the information is there. I also have this thing where the things I find interesting I also find very unfun, but a game being "interesting" in a way that actively makes it sound like a nightmare to play is something that I value. So I guess my new thing is doing stuff in list form. Here are the things that are interesting about H2G2:

-Footnotes. Just brilliant.
-The way that the game takes on the Murphy's Law quality present in Douglas Adams's work. For example, at one point you will have to use one and only one of the tools you had been painstakingly gathering, chosen at random. If you don't have all the tools, the one you need is always one you're missing. And no, you can't go back at this point.
-The way the game converses with you. This is actually the inspiration for a project I'm working on.
-The unreliable parser.

As a kid I managed to get as far as the time and space jaunting part using only my wits and the built-in hints. I think I may have beaten it in adulthood. Back then I had the ability to spend months on a game demo alone, which is something I thought I had lost but seem to have regained recently in The Binding of Isaac. I might see if I can't figure this out without cheating using my memory, also smartness.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

On Writing

I've suddenly realized that most of the things I've read lately aren't really that good. In a writing sense.

Let's take, for example, the Song of Ice and Fire series. What's interesting about it is the story. GRRM likes to wax descriptive in the food porn and the porn porn sections, but none of the prose is really particularly good. I never find myself struck by the beauty of the writing.

I guess it's kind of cheesy to say, but my favorite author is Douglas Adams. It's not for his plots (although Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency does work out so deliciously) but for the genius with which he puts words together on the page. He's kind of my un-motivation for writing a book, in a way, because I know that I could write something technically better than Dan Brown or Stephanie Meyer, but even if I had a thousand years to practice writing I'd never be able to bust out something even as good as the phrase "black-jeweled battle shorts."

Also it makes me super angry when people tell me that they can't bring themselves to read the Hitchhiker's Guide because nerds have ruined it for them with their incessant quoting about the towel thing and the whole 42 business. This is another example of my ongoing distaste for nerds, which I should probably write a post about at some point. If you are one of these, try Dirk Gently. You've probably never heard anything from it cause most of the terrible sorts of nerds don't seem to get past The Restaurant at the End of the Universe for whatever reason.

And even though the same people who have ruined Monty Python and the Holy Grail do their best for the first Hitchhiker's Trilogy book, I don't think they'll ever ruin it for me. It's a book I keep coming back to when I'm feeling down, and it really seems to help. I read that a lot of people have told that to Douglas Adams, and he was working through a depression when he was writing it. I could use it now, but I can't find my copy.

But see this is the point. His writing sticks with me in a way that JK Rowling's and GRRM's just don't. The only parts I chance to remember are the hilariously bad ones. So many of the phrases in Riddley Walker are burned forever in my mind, like "sarvering gallack seas" and "lorn and lone and oansome." Or from "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius": "One of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had stated that mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of man." It's like eating frosting! The good stuff becomes a part of the general mish-mash that's floating around in my head and periodically resurfaces. I want more of this kind of writing, but I also don't want to get into "the canon" cause it's SO BORING. Have you ever been forced to read Heart of Darkness? Or To the Lighthouse? I want good books but none of the ones everyone's reading are really good in the way I'm looking for.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Maester? I hardly know 'er!

So I've just finished the third Song of Ice and Fire book, A Thing of Stuff. Some thoughts, of course spoilers:

-Going into this, everyone tells you not to get attached to anyone. Right now, the only narrator characters left alive are the ones I do like. Tyrion, Arya, Daenerys, Jon Snow, and Jaime are all cool, and I am holding out for Sansa's developing backbone. I did like some of the non-POV characters who have died, but besides Ygritte I don't really miss anyone. I guess getting into them is a bad sign going into the fourth book.

-Too much stuff happens off-camera. You'll be going along, and someone will be all "hey, did you hear that Balon Greyjoy died and now there's a big fight over his stuff?" No, I hadn't, actually! Not seeing Robb for like, pretty much the entire time? What is this? Also where even is Theon? I think he's dead but I'm not super sure.

-The titular song of ice and fire has been mentioned, but we still don't know what it is.

-The first one ended enough for me to take a break, but the second one just sort of paused, so I got the third one immediately. I think there's enough of a stopping point here to take another much-needed break. I really don't want to catch up to the unpublished point in the series, to be honest. I like having them in existence but unread better. From what I've read on Wikipedia there's a big jump from the first three to the fourth one, so it seems like a fine place to put the series down. Maybe check out the show.

-I've always hated the sci-fi/fantasy "kind of real person names but slightly different" thing and this series drives me up the wall. Also, whenever they mention Joffrey all I can think about is Geoffrey from Strangers With Candy.

-See also crap like "southron" and "ser."

-Also can we stop calling them "teats?" Please?

-When I was a kid we used to go to the La Brea Tar Pits a lot, and they have that room full of dire wolf skulls. It was pretty awesome. Those tar pits are amazing and if you're near LA you should go, cause it's probably better than anything you were going to do in LA anyway.

-Daenerys looks like the Lady Amalthea.

-I always read Jaime like the Spanish name, and I really hope Lysa isn't supposed to be pronounced like Lisa.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Shooting range

So I had an idea for a hilarious business today, as I am wont to do. We were talking about shooting ranges, and I thought it would be funny to open a derringer-themed shooting range. I've never been to a range period, so I don't know how they work. I have the feeling that mine would be the mini-golf to its regular, full-sized golf. The theme goes all the way. It's all Victorian looking and you have to rent costumes and derringers (unless you brought your own) at the door. There are different shooting galleries, like maybe with sinister men tying girls to railroad tracks or ladies on fainting couches (I want a fainting couch for the new house SO BAD.) The coup de grace is the Lincoln room, where you get to walk up to a cardboard Lincoln in a replica Ford's Theater and assassinate him as a cardboard cutout of Mary Todd Lincoln looks on in horror. There's a souvenir photo set up and every thing. (TOO SOON?)

Then with the Lincoln thing came a yet greater idea: a presidential assassination themed shooting range. There's the Lincoln room, the JFK room, the William McKinley room that no one cares about, and the Reagan room. As soon as you fire at the cutout of Reagan, a cardboard Secret Service dude jumps in front of him.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Superlemons: Gettin' Way Too Personal

Getting to know people is so strange. They learn about the present you, but the way people drift in and out of your life, they never really know the whole you.

When I was in the eighth grade, I just sort of...stopped being able to deal with people. I didn't want to do school work any more, I didn't want to see anyone, I didn't want to leave the house. My parents let me do the homeschool thing for the rest of the year. No psychology was involved. I decided that if any of my friends really cared about me, they'd call me. For the most part, they didn't. (Although two of them did come by my house once. I served them pumpkin pie which I didn't realize had gone off. (Sorry!) I've lost contact with one and am "facebook friends" with another, but I'd like to say thank you for your visit, it meant a lot more than you know.)

So the short version is I decided to remove all my childhood friends from my life, and I started over fresh in high school. If they remember me at all, it's as an awkward weird kid with a dry wit and strange outbursts. I'm sorry to them, I've been suffering from anxiety problems for quite some time now. It's too bad that they won't get to know the me who is trying to get better.

The people who know me now mostly know the me who had figured out that something was wrong and tried to act normal. How successful the façade was I may never know.

And those of you who read this are probably my best friends trying to humor me, who probably know that I have the social anxieties. And I thank you for reading. I really am feeling much better these days.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

So yeah

I haven't posted in a while WHAT ELSE IS NEW? It seems as though the blog is transitioning from a nerd culture report to a crazy person's photocopied newsletter. I'm not sure I mind. I'm not quite well-versed enough in the unknown and bizarre to run a gig like the late, great Encyclopedia Obscura, and I don't really feel like I'm bringing much to the table comics- and gaming-wise. My instinct is to once again delete all that has come before, except that this time I feel that the writing is a couple tiers above terrible, and the post on Spy Groove brings in something like 90% of the traffic. Unfortunately, obscure MTV cartoons provide only so much mileage, and anyway I've only seen one episode of The Head. Does anyone remember the old Superlemons? The one that actually used the Meta-Cookbook review system? I thought not.

So yeah, I've had a lot going on recently. Coming up, probably a series of posts about going sane and having to rethink all assumptions.

A frequent element in my dreams is smoking. I have an overwhelming desire for cigarettes but am unable to get any for some reason. I get so desperate as to consider smoking half-finished ones I find in ashtrays. When I wake up, I think, hey, I can just go out and go buy some. Wait. Eww, I don't want to do that. My friend Kyle is getting all Freudian about it. Sidebar: when I was with Ben he was always a huge jerk to me in dreams and would try to get me to smoke, but I didn't want to.