October 2008 Archives

...I thought it might be neat to mention a website that a friend of mine so helpfully pointed out today where you can get the first two Fallout games for cheap (six bucks a pop).  Good Old Games is a pretty spiffy new place where you can buy old games for cheap, download, and install them with no launcher, no DRM, and they work on XP and Vista (which was a problem for the old Fallout games).  It looks like they are just rolling out, and their catalog is a little limited so far, but if it catches on, I can definitely see myself spending quite a bit collecting some old games this way.  One of the best parts is that, like with Steam, you can always go back and download the game again if you have to reinstall or if you want to put it on another machine of yours (still with no DRM).

And while the catalog is small, the fact that they have the three older Fallout titles (1, 2, and Tactics), as well as the Freespace games (the best space sims ever) is a good sign.  If you have never played those games, you should definitely look into grabbing them.
I have probably missed the boat on talking about the election at this point; with only a few days to go, almost everything that I've wanted to say about this has been said by someone else (Todd Alcott's endorsements of Obama here, here, and here sum up a lot of what I think).  However, it's worth saying that for me, the most surprising part of this two year long campaign has not been the ascent of Barack Obama, but the complete collapse of John McCain.

In 2000, I remember thinking that I really wished that John McCain had gotten nominated instead of George Bush; aside from not coming across as a barely literate moron, McCain also seemed more thoughtful and more willing to call out people that others in his party were kowtowing to, such as the religious right.  Sadly, over the last eight years, he seems to have lost that edge, and decided to embrace more of the standard Republican line, and it seems like that very thing may have cost him this election.  I have no idea why he picked Sarah Palin as his running mate -- if you name any of her attributes, it seems like there's someone more qualified he could have picked.  It's less a question of experience than a question of intelligence, of introspection, of analysis.  The feeling I get from Sarah Palin, when she is talking about a subject, is like a student in school who simply memorizes something to pass a test and has no deeper understanding of the topic, even on subject she's supposedly an "expert" on.

I don't expect a politician to know everything on every subject.  I don't expect to agree with a politician on every subject.  However, I do expect politicians -- especially ones that are running for a national office -- to display some amount of thought on a subject, even one they don't know much about.  I expect them to be able to tell me why they hold their opinions in a way other than circular logic.  During the second debate, when Obama explained to one of the members of the audience what the credit crunch meant to him, that was something that really stuck with me because it showed a level of understanding that I didn't get from either of the Republican candidates.

I tend to be rather liberal on social issues and conservative on fiscal ones -- if the 2000 election had been between Gore and McCain, it would have been very hard for me to choose between the two (and I suspect I'm not alone in that).  This year, the choice is trivial, which is disappointing.  While I think Obama is probably the strongest presidential candidate from either party in a long time (at least in my voting lifetime, not that that has been all that long), McCain is incredibly weak, simply because his campaign has shown a lack of intellectual fortitude that I consider horrific.  The most despicable part of it has been seeing McCain (and even moreso Palin) mock the idea that we might want someone who is smart, who is eloquent, who is thoughtful, who is diplomatic, who is better than the average American to be the most powerful person in the world.

Last time I checked, it's generally a good idea to hire the best candidate for the job.
Well, with less than two weeks now until I go to Iceland I realized that I am long overdue for posting again, especially since I've only posted a handful of times since getting back from Arizona.  It's not like nothing has been going either; Marc came down a couple weeks ago, and last weekend I went up to Chicago.

First off, as far as recovering from surgery goes, everything is going well on that front -- healing is going very nicely and I'm back at work again (unfortunately).  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that everything will be just fine while I'm away -- I admit that having some sort of horrible medical problem thousands of miles from home gives me the willies, but I realize how irrational that really is.

So what've I been up to for the last couple months?  I have to admit, a lot less than I'd hoped.  I did manage to do a fair bit of writing, but between taking care of things post-surgery and just generally feeling a bit of a malaise I probably squandered an opportunity to push through a lot of things I really should have.  I have continued to watch a lot of movies, and I'll try to post some short reviews in a bit.  Marc also got me to watch One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, which I had never seen (it was good, obviously).

Last weekend, I went up to Chicago and Marc and I had dinner at Giordano's with Sam and Gracie on Friday.  Saturday, unfortunately, Marc had to do some work so we went downtown and I spent a few hours at a coffee shop doing some writing while he was working on his rollout.  I was surprised how much I got done really -- I think leaving myself disconnected from the internet actually got me to focus on my writing -- a trick I'll try to put to good use in the future.  I even managed to get back and work on some projects I had left a while back; I'm thinking that maybe this weekend I'll try heading out to in the morning and doing the same thing and see if I can't get more done.

After that, we went to have dinner at the Twin Anchors, which is, I gather, a bit of a Chicago institution.  It certainly had the crowd to match -- we had to wait about an hour and a half for a table, so we spent most of that time wandering around the neighborhood it's in, which is really pretty neat.  In addition to a beautiful cathedral -- the first real cathedral I think I've ever seen, as opposed to just a church (Edit: Evidently they call it a church, I'm not sure what actually makes a cathedral a cathedral) -- it had a lot of the kind of old architecture that I'd really like to live in someday, and the kind of neighborhood close to the heart of a city I'd like as well.

The restaurant was very good, though it is small and cramped.  Marc's ribs were probably the most tender I've ever had, and were very good (he let me have a few), though I can't speak for the sauce (I prefer my meat without sauces usually).  My steak wasn't mindblowingly spectacular, but it was pretty good, and the ambience at the place is pretty hard to beat.  It was evidently a big hangout for Frank Sinatra back in the day, and a ton of other celebrity photos and news clippings and other assorted accoutrements cover the walls.  A scene in The Dark Knight was also filmed here, although in the movie it is nearly empty, which is hard to believe considering how crowded it was when we were there!

After that, Marc surprised me and took me to the last Second City show of the night, which was my first time to Second City and really I think the first real live show of anything I've seen in a very long time.  The show we saw was Campaign Supernova, and it was pretty good -- there were a few kind of meh sketches, but the good ones were really good, and I had a lot of fun.  The only bad part about it was that we went to the late show, which has some extra improv and sketches being tested out for the next show stuck in it, so we didn't get out of the theatre until almost 0200, which was a little later than I had expected!  Well worth seeing though and I would definitely like to go there again and see another show sometime.

This week, heading back to work has been a little tough -- it hasn't helped that I seem to have either come down with bad allergies or a cold, though.  This morning I woke up and felt like I'd been run over by a truck, so I actually called in sick -- something I'm pretty loathe to do when I'm trying to get back in the swing of things as best I can before I fly off on another two weeks of vacation!

Speaking of which, I'm getting really excited about going to FanFest the closer it gets, despite all the recent craziness in the Icelandic financial sector that the CCP CEO felt necessary to calm fears about in a dev blog.  Despite the fact that the last time I spent any time around Eve devs I came down with a terminal case of foot-in-mouth disease, I really am looking forward to hopefully talking to more of them, and with any luck making a better impression this time.  I am also promising to take lots more pictures, both there and in Boston on the way back, and I'll be posting those here so everyone can see what it was like.

Look for at least one or two more posts this weekend, and then I'll probably try and get something up next weekend before I depart.  And, while I can't say I'll be liveblogging from FanFest exactly, I will try to post regular updates while I'm there!
So over the last few weeks I've been watching a fair bit of movies and TV simply because I have to spend about 4 hours a day lying in bed doing nothing.  In addition to watching all of the commentaries and extra features in my Freaks and Geeks boxed set (which, by the way, is well worth it -- I'm still horribly disappointed I never caught it when it was first airing and that it got canceled), I upped my Netflix subscription to two movies at a time to try and fill the hours.

The first bunch of DVDs I got were the third season of Forever Knight.  I'm more than willing to admit that the first two seasons of the show were a lot cheesier than I remembered (though I don't really regret having them on DVD), but the third season really struck me as a very Silk Stalkings-ified version of the show when I saw the first few episodes on USA (and promptly gave up on it, after staying up at weird hours to watch the second season).  I figured I might as well watch to see if it was as bad as I thought (and see the last episode, which I had never seen).  On the whole, it ended up being probably a little better than what I expected, but I think it was definitely still a big step down from the first two seasons, which had quite a few episodes that were far better than the usual late night syndicated junk.  Probably the worst change was the loss of John Kapelos and Deborah Duchene (Schanke and Janette) for Lisa Ryder and Ben Bass, something that always struck me as kind of a lowest-common-denominator move.  And the last episode was....well, really pretty disappointing and a definite downer.

That was followed, however, by probably the best find I've come across in quite a while, No Maps For These Territories, a documentary that's basically an hour and a half discussion with William Gibson on his writing, information age society, futurism, and a variety of other topics while he rides around in the back of a limo.  If you are a big Gibson fan (and I am), you will probably enjoy it; if you aren't that interested in William Gibson, there's no reason for you to see this movie (well, duh).  He talks about almost every aspect of his life, and his discussion of Neuromancer was especially interesting for me, going a long way towards explaining why it is so different from most of his other books.  I'll probably end up buying this one actually, simply because I didn't get enough time to really digest the movie or the associated extras (including more interview snippets that didn't make it into the body of the movie itself).  The only thing I can say is that the movie is made in such a way that it is a little more "artistic" than it had to be for me, since I was mostly interested in what he was saying and not the visuals of the movie.

The next on this list is Ben Affleck's directorial debut, Gone Baby Gone.  Honestly, if I hadn't been told that this was his first movie as a director, I would never have known.  Almost every aspect of the movie is done in a way that really shows a good eye for the camera and for getting the actors to really bring their characters to life.  I suspect that the fact that the movie takes place (and was shot in) Affleck's hometown of Boston helped contribute to this in the same way it did with Good Will Hunting; many of the people in this movie are simply residents of the Boston neighborhood where it was being shot.  The plot is well-written, and while I may agree slightly with Chesnut, who said it seemed a little convoluted for his tastes, I did not feel like the "twists" were just thrown in to be twists -- each one highlighted the moral choices the characters had to make.  Really, without them, the movie would not have been worth making because those twists are in the movie to highlight the central point.  I highly recommend seeing this movie, though I will say it will probably not leave you with a good feeling at the end.

Michael Clayton is a movie that probably won't leave you with a warm fuzzy feeling at the end either, but it too is a good movie.  Unlike Gone Baby Gone, though, this film feels a bit more formulaic and not nearly as authentic (but maybe it wasn't trying to be).  The performances, by George Clooney, Tom Wilkinson, and Tilda Swinton most notably, were as good as I'd expect from actors of that caliber, and the writing for each scene was well done, but the plot that holds it all together, as Chesnut wrote in his capsule review, seems kind of like Another Lawyer Movie.  Still worth watching, though, and I think the actors and writers probably deserved their Oscar nominations, but on the other hand, I am glad that it didn't win the Best Picture Oscar, though so far I've only seen one of the other nominees.

Last for this installment was The Golden Compass, which I just watched the other night.  Obviously made as a Narnia-like attempt to cash in on the Lord of the Rings' success (which doesn't necessarily make it bad), this suffers from the fact that it feels like half of a movie and there was no guarantee the other half was going to get made.  The film's climax seems like should be about where the Mines of Moria scene was in Fellowship, but instead it ends with the film's real conflict hanging in the wind.  That being said, I didn't think the movie was really bad, it just felt like it fell short of what it was trying to be.  The CGI, which was a large part of the movie, was competently done, and for the most part looked real, and I liked the sort of Victorian steampunk style aesthetic.  It sounds like the sequel is still going to be made (largely due to its strength overseas, it sounds like), so maybe I'll like it more with the next part.  I was disappointed by how bare-bones the DVD is though; there's no commentary, no deleted scenes (and I know there were quite a few), no behind the scenes stuff.  For a movie like this, you'd think there'd at least be a little of that on the DVD, but maybe with the perceived failure of the movie at the box office no one wanted to put any money into it. 
So it's been over three weeks since my last entry, and that's pretty unacceptable, at least for me, so I'm going to try to bring everyone up to date with how I'm doing and what I'm up to since I got back.  In short, things are going pretty well, I'm recovering nicely from the surgery, but I'm not completely back up to 100% quite yet.

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2008 listed from newest to oldest.

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