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Movies

Journal: On Robocop 5

Journal by sbszine
Another missive from my colleague:

Part Man
Part Machine
All Cop...
THE FUTURE OF LAW ENFORCEMENT

A short essay entitled "On Robocop"
OR
Why I Think Robocop is The Bomb, Man

I think Robocop is the bomb, man. According to the movie, Robocop's metal exoskeleton is made of Kevlar reinforced titanium, which means he is fuckin-A BULLETPROOF. He cannot be killed by the white man's bullets. Or the black man's, for that matter. That alone makes him cool because bullets just bounce right the hell off his futuristic hide. And, dude, Robocop is constantly scanning and recording EVERYTHING. It's like Dick Jones (number two guy at Omni Consumer Products) says to Clarence Boddicker:
"He's a cyborg, you idiot! His memory is admissible as evidence!" That certainly adds to his coolness. Also, Robocop can scan shit in infrared mode (like he did when that one disgruntled dude took the Detroit mayor hostage). So don't even try to hide from Robo in a broom closet or something because you will soon find your tired and whack ass SERVED! Bi-yotch, I might add. Furthermore, Robocop has that built-in spike that pops out of his wrist that he uses to access mainframe compu ters. I gues s it's sort of like having a 56k modem or wireless internet or some boring shit like that, EXCEPT WITH ROBOCOP IT'S A SHARP METAL SPIKE THAT POPS OUTTA HIS WRIST, MAN!! And we all know that he can plunge that thing right into a nasty criminal's throbbing jugular vein (like he did at the end of the first movie) and the blood sprays out and splatters all over and everybody's all like GO ROBO GO, KILL THAT FUCKER!! And do I even need to mention Robocop's custom-made machine gun pistol that is holstered in a secret compartment inside of his metallic thigh?!? Do I EVEN need to mention that?!? I didn't really think so, but I do want to mention this (even though by doing so I will be seen by many as being a GUN NUT WEIRDO, but to hell with 'em): Just thinking about Robocop's awesome firearm makes me have a "special feeling"! And don't even front like you don't know what I'm talking about, because you know. You. Fuckin. Know.

Anyway, I guess if you were just kinda dumb that you you could watch "Robocop" and just think that it was a movie about a robotic cop. I think there are probably LOTS of dumb fucks who think that way. They watch "Robocop" and don't even know what the hell they're watching! The poor, sad morons. They don't know they're watching a post-modern comment about the search for meaning and identity in our jacked-up consumer society wherein we are merely pawns of evil corporations who will stop at nothing in their insane pursuit of cold hard cash and POWER. Plus, "Robocop" is a clever mystery story where Robocop SOLVES HIS OWN MURDER!! How fuckin cool is that? Wait--don't answer. I'll tell you how cool it is right now: It's so cool that I'm getting a "special feeling" again. Yeah. But seriously, how many movies can you think of where characters solve their own murders? Okay, okay, there are probably a few of them floating around out there, but how many movies can you think of where an advanced crimefighting cyborg solves his own murder while destroying drug labs, defeating other more powerful crimefighting robots (ED-209...word!), and exposing corporate malfeasance at its highest level? Well? Huh? Any takers? Yeah, that's what I thought. You know, I could go on and on until the break of dawn with all this, but I don't feel that's necessary. In the words of you-know-who:
"Stay out of trouble."
Movies

Journal: Roger Moore 1

Journal by sbszine
An earlier strange email that I forgot to archive at the time:

I did morphine injections with Roger Moore--now Sir Roger Moore--in 1984 on the set of A View To A Kill. I was a key grip. A dude named Rolando from craft services hooked me up with the morphine while Roger Moore waited in his trailer. It took longer than we thought, Rolando's cousin being a hardcore junkie who was always late, but it all worked out in the end. Rolando handed over the little tied up balloons full of morphine, looked at me sideways and said: "Be careful with this shit, man. It's too good. You can smell it going in." I got the needles from Grace Jones who had a whole two dozen of them in a plastic bag. She said she didn't fuck around with the hard shit anymore but used the needles for administering vitamin B-12 injections into her upper thigh. I believed her.

When I got back to the trailer with the drugs, Roger Moore was dressed in a bathrobe and beating a Rubik's Cube to death with a metal cafeteria tray (also from craft services).
"Fuck," he screamed, and slammed down hard on the thing with the tray. Little squared-off chunks of plastic rainbow splattered across the room like busted teeth flying out of a boxer's mouth. I threw my hand in front of my face. One of the pieces bounced off the edge of my palm. Roger Moore was breathing heavily, gasping, his bathrobe flapping open. The weirdest part of this whole story is that James Bond wasn't wearing any underpants. I saw it all hanging there: Shrivelled. Uncircumcised. Fucked. Up. He saw me in the doorway and stabbed a finger at the busted carcass of the Rubik's Cube. "That fuckin' thing! That fuckin' demon box! What took you so long, anyway?! Tell me you got the drugs," he said. "Jesus, at least tell me that." He was crazy, his eyes ranged all over the room. I sat him down on the couch while I prepared the shots. He tried to fix up himself but couldn't hit a vein. I had to do it for him. His eyes rolled back after the plunger dropped. He was out of it. Shitty. Drug-fucked. He looked like a baby, but a baby who'd been struck in the head with a rubber mallet. He gurgled. He drooled. He said: "This is good. This is good shit. I love this. I love it all. I love you, too. What was your name again? I love you."
Mars

Journal: Martian Chronic

Journal by sbszine
Another odd email:

OFFICIAL TRANSCRIPT OF LT. DESMOND SCHMIDT, MARS BASE DELTA

SPACE-DATE: 17 April-tron 20XX

Something happened in Science Lab #5...Mars Base Delta...something bad.

Dawson was listening to his Led Zeppelin MIDI files again, rocking out to minimalist Casio keyboard versions of Misty Mountain Hop and Kashmir. Also, I imagine he was getting blasted on a fatty of Martian chronic with cyborg janitor Wayne Alpha 7 when he should've been monitoring the wormhole anomaly in Science Lab #5. I could smell the weed when I walked past the storage closet on B-Deck. I could see thin tendrils of smoke creeping out from under the crack in the door and I could hear the tinny and metallic MIDI version of The Immigrant Song. At the time I found it amusing. I laughed to myself, shook my head, and thought "Oh, that Dawson! Bless that silly genius! That lovable, pot-headed, particle physicist stoner, sucking down a blunt of the dopest weed on Mars with a subhuman android when he should be reinforcing the containment field that stabilises the isolated wormhole in Science Lab #5. Oh, that Dawson!"

If only I had done something then!

I didn't hear the screams until I was half-asleep on my space futon. Leaping from the bed, clad only in my snug and form-fitting space pajamas which revealed and highlighted every ounce of taut muscle tissue on my athletic frame, I raced down the hall to the source of the bloodcurdling and testicle-slapping screams: Science Lab #5.

The observation window was smeared with something...green. I could see Dawson, or something that used to be Dawson. There was a shapeless blob wrapped around his head. Something...green. The green ooze dripped and pulsed down his neck, his torso, and enveloped his entire body. Dawson fought against it, writhed and struggled, but that only brought more searing screams. I caught a glimpse of Dawson's green and contorted face and the true horror of the situation struck at my core: It's not easy being green.

It was not Dawson anymore, I knew that then. It made a move toward the exit; a slow and lumbering step. Without thinking, I activated the emergency lock and sealed off Science Lab #5. Before the security doors slammed into place, I heard one more scream emanate from the lab. A terrible scream. A horrifying scream. A really shitty and just totally crappy scream like the way a spoiled kid might scream at the K-Mart check out lane. Or the way a puppy might scream if you burned it's wet nose with a lit cigarette. Or the way a piglet might scream if you cut it's throat with a serrated hunting knife. Or the way a nest of baby birds might scream if you--
**(At this point the recording device runs out of battery power)**
PlayStation (Games)

Journal: w00t! 2

Journal by sbszine
It was my birthday yesterday, and this morning, while walking to the bus stop, I found a mint condition PAL copy of Ico in the window of a hock shop.

Can I get a w00t?
Christmas Cheer

Journal: Gazpacho Recipe

Journal by sbszine
It's summer here in Australia, and over the festive season we traditionally have barbeques where we consume refreshing cold things. One such thing is gazpacho, which I like to make thusly:

Ingredients
  • 1 tomato
  • 1 small cucumber
  • half an avocado
  • half small spanish (red salad) onion
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tsp oregano leaves (fresh if possible)
  • 4 cups tomato juice

Method

Chop fruits, then combine everything except the tomato juice in a jug or bowl. Stir this salady mixture for a bit -- the idea is to let the fruit absorb the oil so that it doesn't float to the surface of the soup. You could even let it stand for an hour if you like. Then add the tomato juice, stir some more, and refrigerate. Serve cold with lime wedges and ice cubes.

If you prefer a spicier gazpacho, add chipotles or smoked pimento powder to taste.

User Journal

Journal: The Joy of Spyware 1

Journal by sbszine
I have a friend who is a hairdresser, and a very good hairdresser indeed. In fact, out of all the people who have taken scissors to my head, she is the only one who can produce a result that makes me happy (a caesar cut in the Derek Jacobi / Paul Darrow vein). Earlier this year I found myself overdue for such a haircut, so we arranged a barter: she would trim my locks for free if I could get her sluggish computer back to a decent speed.

After the choppage was done, I fired up her ancient no-brand WinMe box and took a look around. The desktop was cluttered with various novelty .exe files (xmas lights and such), and windows explorer had mysteriously grown a few extra toolbars that scrolled weather info and provided input boxes for various dodgy search engines. Clearly the box was drowning in a cesspool of spyware and viruses.

An infestation of this sort was pretty much what I had expected when she offered the barter, so before I came over I had burnt a CD of free virus / spyware killing software, as well as the latest Firefox (at the time, 0.8). I sat my hairdressing friend down next to me and ran AdAware. After fifiteen minutes of disk grinding it reported six hundred pieces of spyware. A few more clicks and it had removed them all bar one solitary beastie. The remaining bit of spyware refused to budge, but offered an 'uninstaller' as it was masquerading as something semi-useful. It wasn't my box, and I was curious as to what it would do, so I gave it a stab. Good to its word, the spyware uninstalled itself! This was a bit too easy for my liking, so I ran AdAware again and found that the departing spware had installed three new bits of evil on the way out. Happily AdAware knew how to squash these and we were soon spyware-free.

I told my friend about IE, and email attachments, and the easy things you could do to avoid spyware. She said that novelty .exes and toolbars were the best thing about her computer.

Next up I scanned for viruses. Again, all were removed but one, but this time, the remaining nasty could not be dislodged by hook or by crook. I googled it and it seemed relatively harmless, so I left it in place and sandboxed the file it was lurking in. After that I installed Firefox, removed the visible links to IE, uninstalled all the OEM printer wizards and other unwanted apps, defragged it, gave it a final scan for spyware, and rebooted it. Now that six hundred processes weren't phoning home simultaneously, it went nice and fast. I showed my hairdressing pal how to use Firefox and set her wallpaper, then strolled home, satisfied with a job well done.

That was in June. I visited her for dinner a few days ago.

Her boyfriend took me into the study to show me a CD-ROM of novelty Flash games he'd been given. Alarm bells began ringing in my head. They were still using Firefox (tabs and all), which was great, but the spyware toolbars had returned and the computer was once again plodding along at a snail's pace.

And that, my friends, is why you shouldn't ever bother.
GameCube (Games)

Journal: Pikmin 2 Joins The Gold Club 6

Journal by sbszine
Pikmin 2 was released here on Friday, and being an enormous fan of anything vaguely resembling Lemmings, I bought a copy. Actually, the word 'bought' oversimplifies the transaction somewhat... it went more like this:

SPOTTY TEENAGE SALES ASSISTANT1: "Would you like to buy that? It's $100."

(STSA1 takes the video game, and swipes it to disarm the security tag thingy.)

ME (offering STSA1 a pair of fifties): "Here you go."
STSA1: "Oh, I can't serve you right now... the register is occupied."

(At this juncture I wait half an hour while a second teenager -- STSA2 -- tries to stuff a giant Warcraft Battle Chest into a teeny bag clearly intended for PSX games. Eventually he goes for a larger bag and all is well.)

STSA2: "Can I help you?"
ME (offering STSA2 the pair of fifties): "I'd like to buy Pikmin 2. The other guy has already swiped it. Here's money."
STSA2: "You're a gold club member, right?"
ME: "Nope."
STSA2: "Let me tell you about our great gold club!"
ME: "No thanks. I just want to buy the game."
STSA2: "Okay, sure. What's your name and phone number?"
ME: "I AM WILLING TO PAY YOU ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS FOR A 3 INCH PLASTIC DISC WITH A GAME ABOUT CARROTS ON IT! TAKE THE FUCKING MONEY!"

Anyway, I eventually got the game home and took a look at it. The manual is comphrensive (as one would expect from a first party Nintendo game), and the artwork is all photographs of modelling clay scenes (including one of the various pikmin walking across a rusty piece of barbed wire, and a great one of a wonky clay controller on the which-button-does-what page).

When you first fire up the game, you're greeted by a little prompt that asks you whether your TV can can handle 60Hz or whether you'd like to use the default 50Hz (oddly, the game doesn't remember your choice, and asks you every time at startup). After that, you're through to the main menu, where you can play through the story mode, the challenge mode (when unlocked), or the 2P split screen 'capture the marble' mode. There's also an options screen where, in addition to the usual guff, you can choose between sharp high-contrast graphics or washed-out Ico style graphics (which look very cool indeed).

The main game plays as per the original Pikmin, i.e. like the three-dimensional bastard child of Lemmings and Command & Conquer. There are a few notable differences, however, and these are chiefly to do with the game's multitasking aspect. Firstly, you are given a extra little guy to control (name of Louie, perhaps in a nod to Luigi), and secondly, the 30-day time limit has been eliminated from the game. While these seem like good things initially, I am concerned that, taken together, they unbalance the game. In the original Pikmin, the time limit encouraged multitasking; if you didn't collect multiple pieces in a single day, you had no hope of getting all the pieces before your time ran out. This meant that it wasn't enough to merely complete a level -- you had to complete the level using an optimal solution. Anyway, I haven't played a huge amount of Pikmin 2 yet, so I'm hopeful that later levels will use the daylight timer to encourage more frantic multitasking.

Other new additions include a hand-holding tutorial (annoying, but exhaustive), and lots of nifty underground cave levels. The cave levels (thus far) are quite unlike the spacious watery caves of the original, and are cramped multi-level dungeons evocative of Baldur's Gate: Dark Alliance as much as anything. The cool thing about the caves is that they contain lots of weird new species of flora and fauna. Purple and white pikmin can be obtained via colour-changing candypop flowers (which now wilt after you've changed five pikmin), berries can be harvested to make the pikmin equivalents of cocaine and tear gas, and exciting new monsters can beat the tar out of you. It's all good downstairs, except that the time pressure is slackened ever further by the daylight timer pausing while you go spelunking.

So, first impressions versus the orginal: there's more of it, it looks better, and it's not as hard. If you're a westerner with a Game Cube it's not like you have a huge variety of games to choose from anyway, so purchasing Pikmin 2 is pretty much mandatory. While doing so, you may wish to join our great gold club.
Mozilla

Journal: Genius Hack

Journal by sbszine
This comment describes a clever technique for seeing subscription only material on web sites (e.g. archived news, or your beloved pr0n). Just set your browser user agent to spoof the Googlebot crawler : )
User Journal

Journal: Eldritch Office Politics 2

Journal by sbszine
Another bizarre arrival in my inbox:

Before my meeting with Watts this morning, I implored the Elder Ones to destroy him! I prayed to Hastur, I beseeched Yog-Sothoth, and to Shub-Niggurath I pledged a blood oath.

But Watts' god Jehova has great power and saw fit to protect his silver-haired servant! Jehova and his reborn son, The Riz*, enshrined Watts in a circle of protection--a circle that stood unbroken against the assault of the Elder Ones. I was left to face Watts alone, and for this I will pay a hefty price. For in the afterlife, I will be chained to a non-Euclidian pillar of basalt and endlessly tortured by seething and vaporous tentacles. That, and my very soul will be marked by an untraceable sign! Do not weep on account of me, for I am already dead!

Your pal,
Charles Dexter Ward

* here our correspondent alludes to 'the risen Christ', or Jebus
User Journal

Journal: Aryans? 1

Journal by sbszine
Let me set the scene for you here, before I get into the sordid details. I live in an apartment block, on the east face of the building. There are a handful of two-storey ground floor apartments on this side of the building, each with a fence, and a (two-storey) floor to ceiling window giving a view of the park opposite. Inside each apartment is a mezzanine overhanging the lounge room -- I think it's intended as a bedroom, but I've got my DJ gear up there so I can play music when we're having a party without being too antisocial. Anyway, you get the idea: two storeys, glass wall, internal balcony halfway up.

So, moving right along. On the weekend I opened a frosty beer and took the cat for a walk in the park opposite my place. While the cat was climbing trees and having a frolic, I glanced back at the apartment block to see how my new fence cladding was looking. 'Looks sharp', thought I, 'not like the crappy fences on the other apartments'. And indeed the other fences did look crap: most were covered in tatty shadecloth, and one particularly nasty looking example featured shadecloth festooned with random loops of barbed wire.

Eventually the beer was empty and the cat was done bouncing, so we took a leisurely stroll back home past the various crap fences. When we drew level with the barbed wire apartment, my curiousity got the better of me and I peeked in through the shadecloth. Could there be something incredibly valuable inside, that the barbed wire was there to protect? Was it the home of a paranoid old lady, scared of the world without but not yet ready for a nursing home? Sadly, it was none of the above; it was something far more fucked up than my beery imaginings.

Inside the aprtment were two black guys standing aimlessly in the lounge room, framed by the huge swastika flag hanging from the mezzanine above them.
User Journal

Journal: A Letter To Luigi

Journal by sbszine
This arrived in my inbox recently.

Dearest Luigi,

Itsa me, Mario! I gotsa the big existential turmoil and I needsa your help! My English is not so good, so please be patient with your brother, si? Okay, itsa like this: The dream, she is always the same every night. I drinka the vino, I eata the pasta, and I fall right to sleep, si? And there I am--POOF--at the bottom of the big tall building. But the building, she is not finished! She is under construction, with the exposed girders and the ladders that go only the halfway up!

To Mario, this is crazy! If this is not a metaphor for Mario's own damaged psyche, then Mario knowsa nothing about the interpretation of the unconscious archetypes, no? At the toppa the building is the Princess Toadstool--the beautiful lady with the beautiful hair that Mario loves. She's a so nice, she's a so pretty, and I must have her for the kissing and the smooching and the amore. But the dream, it getsa worse! Also too on toppa the building is the big-ape monkey Donkey Kong! And he's a'beating his chest and a'stomping his feet and he's a'throwing many of, how do you say?, barrels at Mario.

Clearly, Mario sees the Donkey Kong ape-monkey as an obvious extension of Mario's own primal sexual urges. So, do you see my trouble, Luigi? Mario's dream with the Donkey Kong and the Princess and the crazy building--itsa alla one big neo-Jungian amalgamation of Mario's demented sexuality and warped self-image, si? Oh, Luigi! Help Mario, please! It'sa depraved! It'sa sick! It'sa me! It'sa demon-haunted landscape of Mario's tortured mind and I have no choice but madness! Okay, okay, I'ma finished ranting. Mario use up all of his English.
User Journal

Journal: Islam and Terror 2

Journal by sbszine
In the minds of my many folks, Muslims have become the new all-purpose bogeymen; this year's model of the reds under the bed that that shifted so many airport bookstore thrillers in the eighties. I am increasingly reading comments where rather than terrorists or fundamentalists, Muslims in general are nominated as the targets of the war on terror. (A war, IMO, as endless and unwinnable as the war on drugs, and boiling down to the same basic issue of supply and demand).

Recently I came across an interesting documentary about Muslim reformists (the name escapes me -- it was on Compass). The gist of it was that Islam has been heading towards its own version of the reformation for some time, but that continual conflict with the west has been strengthening the hand of fundamentalists. Put simply, so long as western governments use the spectre of fundamentalism to drum up support for dubious foreign policy, those same fundamentalists can use our foreign policy to drum up support for their own dubious causes.

In the Muslim community there are (and always have been) reformists and moderates; people mulling over issues like divorce, women's rights etc. These people are now so far out out favour that Kahlil Gibrain's house is being used as a target for Syrian artillery practice. The more our leaders try to change the middle east by force, the more they play into the fundamentalists' hands. I think that by fostering diplomacy and trade, and standing back for a few generations, things would get better for east and west alike.

(Note: Perhaps foolishly, I've left comments turned on. I have done so because I'm interested in comments as opposed to a circular argument or a flamewar).
Classic Games (Games)

Journal: Old PSX Games: Part 2

Journal by sbszine
As promised, some discussion of crusty old Playstation games that can be found cheaply in the hock shop or bargain bin...

Ape Escape
There was a time in the Playstation's life when its controller was looking distinctly dated. The N64 not only had a nifty analogue joystick, but also an optional rumble device. Rather than waiting for the release of the PS2 to update their controller, Sony released the Dual Shock as a bundle with Ape Escape, a game specifically put together to show off the new controller's twin analogue sticks and rumble feature. The game was heavily promoted in the hope of convincing third party developers to support the updated controller.

At the time, Ape Escape was novel and exciting, sold well, and garnered good reviews. In retrospect I think that it was getting a lot of reflected glory from the Dual Shock, and that some major game design and performance shortcomings were overlooked. First up, was plagued by some really bad clipping and general 3D issues. I know the PSX wasn't the most powerful beast, but for a first party game with smallish levels the 3D was terrible (compare it with the 3rd party titles of the same vintage and it looks very shaky). The game design also had its share of problems. Like Symphony of the Night, old levels could be revisted to previously inaccesible items (apes); Unlike Symphony, the levels were thinly populated the first time around. To summarise: it hasn't aged well and just isn't fun any more.

Kurushi / Kurushi Final
The Kurushi series (a.k.a. Intelligent Qube) gave an interesting twist to the Tetris-style puzzle game genre: the player solved the puzzle from within, while dodging the moving blocks that comprised each level. Unusually for a puzzler, the game was played from an isometric perspective, with blocks crumbling from the bottom edge in a nod to Atari's Klax.

What's the difference between the original and Final versions? Nothing, gameplay-wise, except that Kurushi Final includes a proper two player mode. Otherwise, the differences are omake style special features: unlockable characters, a puzzle editor that is mostly a novelty (as you can only have a single wave of blocks in your puzzle), and a training mode that takes much of the fun out of the game by walking you through high scoring solutions to common block patterns. If multiplayer doesn't matter to you, you're missing little by going with the original.

On the whole, a fun game worth getting. Makes a good change from Tetris.

"The greatest warriors are the ones who fight for peace." -- Holly Near

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