July 30, 2006
Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040
I watched Bubblegum Crisis Tokyo 2040 for maybe the fourth time. Although this time it was the Essential Anime edition which features a 5.1 remix of the English soundtrack and some special features like VA commentary. In almost all respects this edition is the same, and I don't think the surround channels were used to their fullest potential. Unfortunately the Japanese soundtrack was not remixed as well. I did also notice a few transfer errors on maybe the 4th disc. Regardless, this is one of my favorite series and always enjoyable to watch.
July 27, 2006
So I'd been using the Behringer FBQ2496 to equalize my subwoofers but just got a Velodyne SMS-1 mainly because I thought it would allow filters to be set as low as 5Hz. Turns out that's not the case. Filters can only be set down to 15Hz, which is still better than the 20Hz limit of the FBQ2496, but not as low as I'd have liked. But the measurement system and real-time feedback turned out to be an plus that really made the SMS-1 worth it.
The first thing that the SMS-1 allowed me to do was identify the ideal crossover point for my speakers. By adjusting the crossover point and then going back to the SPL graph, I was able to determine that my ideal crossover is at 60Hz. Lower or higher results in a bigger cut at the crossover. I did find the automatic EQ to be less than ideal, mostly because it doesn't bother to move off the standard 1/3 octave frequencies. Instead, I got the best results by manually setting parametric filters at the precise locations. Another benefit is I was able to match the subwoofer volume to the mains volume a lot better. The DMC-1's subwoofer calibration signal is a little messed up.
The 1/3 octave smoothing issue mentioned in the Audioholics review is an isssue. I would suggest verifying the response using Room EQ Wizard's signal generator to see if your filters have done anything undesired. But, if you try to make your filters have as high a Q value as possible, you can probably avoid that anyway.
July 26, 2006
The past week or two has been extremely hot. It's making national news, and also a little global news as well, because this heat wave has been the hottest California has been in recorded history (which is admitedly a short period of time). Daytime temperatures are consistently hitting 40°C or higher, and nighttime temperatures are still in the high 20°C's. Plus, there's almost no pressure gradient so the air is very still.
At the beginning of the heat wave, I was coming home to 27°C downstairs, and 36°C upstairs. And now the downstairs has been 35°C and upstairs 41°C. Rolling blackouts have started, and today I came home to find my /home disk had suffered corruption most likely from the power outage in extreme heat and I had to reformat and restore from a two-week-old backup.
So during this entire time, I've been basically walking around naked and sitting and sleeping on towels because of the sweat. I'm also making sure to drink a lot of water. Fans aren't helping a whole lot because it's just blowing the hot air around. Sleeping next to the open windows isn't much better than what you'd expect if you slept outside during the day in a normal summer.
I also haven't been able to watch any movies because the projector will simply shutdown to prevent damage due to overheating. So I've been trying to play video games instead to pass the time, although even that's hard to do with such heat. The cats have been lying on the ground with their tummies facing up most of the time.
July 25, 2006
Yvonne's Faux Birthday
So Yvonne had a faux birthday party today. She refers to it as a faux celebration, although I'm not really sure why. I guess maybe because it was more like just having some friends and relatives over to hang out instead of really celebrating. Mei-Ling served Subway for lunch and then a birthday cake that said "Happy Birthday Polyp". Since it was so hot, people spent a lot of time in front of the fans and then later on getting wet with the water hose in the backyard. Shannon and fun attacking me with the hose.
Other than that, Shannon and I played one game of Settlers of Catan but she lost pretty badly because she picked bad starting places for her settlements and ended up without much resources. We also watched Beauty and the Beast, The Little Mermaid, and then The Swan Princess. All of which are filled with clichés and perhaps inappropriate interpretations and meanings.
Later on, Shannon remembered that she had to do an art project for her summer class at Ohlone. So I helped her with that but it was horrible work because she had to take a pattern and then paste it onto special thick paper in certain layouts. Her class is 2D design. It took like three hours to cut everything out and paste it down, even though her mom photocopied the pattern to begin with. I told Shannon we should have just used the computer or photocopier to lay things out or resize them, but she said she didn't think she could. Then later she told me one of the other students did and the teacher said his was one of the best ones. >_<
Anyway, I was glad I could go visit them because I hadn't seen them in several weeks and usually I visit much more often. But Yvonne's been busier with school and starting to feel pressure to get into college. So I guess they're too busy now for me to visit them, or them to visit me, as much as I'd like.
July 20, 2006
Venus Hum - The Colors of the Wheel
I ordered a promotional pre-release copy of Venus Hum's new album, The Colors of the Wheel because I really liked their first album. But this second album isn't as enjoyable. It's too discordant and feels experimental. The sound is very different than the first album. The lyrics themselves have the same sort of similar range of expression though. Sometimes celebratory and at other times hinting at some deeper, personal emotion.
The promotional copy was shipped out to customers earlier than the public release date came with a set of four crayons and a little coloring picture of The Colors of the Wheel, although this was shipped without any hard backing so it arrived with some creases. Certainly not in collector condition. That doesn't really matter to me though, as I'm really just interested in their music and the crayons and coloring sheet are just something fun to have gotten as a bonus. I'm not actually going to use them.
July 16, 2006
March of the Penguins
The best thing about March of the Penguins are the visuals. You get to see Emperor Penguins up close because the cameras were right in with them. This docu-drama chronicles the mating ritual of the Emperor Penguin from the time they leave the ocean until the babies enter the ocean for the first time. It's a very moving film, but I got the impression that things were so difficult for the penguins I'm not sure how they keep up their population.
July 15, 2006
I finished reading Idoru again last night. I actually think I like this best out of all his books. Perhaps because of all his works, this one seems to be one that feels the most real. Maybe it's just easier to digest because it doesn't require as many changes to our current society and level of technology. Regardless, it has a bit of everything in it presented from that abstract, objective point of view that characterizes Gibson's writing.
In Idoru, Gibson takes some then-current, and now even more current, ideas and expands upon them in a way that might seem a little far-fetched to some, but very realistic to others. And truthfully some of the things he's talked about have come to pass in their own way, although not to the extent he has described.
Even if you don't take any interest in that aspect of the book, the plot is captivating and fast-moving. You might find the ending, and some parts of the interim, unsatisfying as there are some loose ends and it doesn't really feel like Gibson had figured out the conclusion himself. But a large part of Gibson's appeal is the ride and as with most rides, you'll feel a little let down at the end because it is just simply over.
July 13, 2006
Baby Shopping w/Alla
No one was interested in a movie night tonight, so instead Alla and I ended up going baby shopping. Although I told her I didn't want to buy a baby. One of her friends just gave birth and Alla is the godmother, so she wants to buy the baby girl a lot of gifts and things. We went to Target to look around for things, and I bought a bunch of household things I needed. Alla couldn't really find exactly what she was looking for, but ended up buying a few good gifts.
While at the mall, we also saw Ashmi. I hadn't seen her in a long time, and apparently neither has Alla since she moved upstairs at work. She's doing the same as always, as far as I can tell, although she moved again, and is going to move again later on too.
July 10, 2006
But I'm a Cheerleader
But I'm a Cheerleader is supposed to be a really funny satire on "fixing" homosexuals. And I do think they put a great deal of effort into that, with both the obvious and the little things in the background contributing to the overall effect. Unfortunately it wasn't super funny. Perhaps because no matter what happens along the way, you have to end up with the expected ending. Or maybe the comedy is a little too dry.
July 9, 2006
Mezzo is a hard-hitting action TV series involving the Danger Service Agency, your for-hire danger team. Each episode involves the DSA being hired to perform some sort of dangerous activity like delivery of volatile goods or acting as bodyguards. I really liked it as a fun action series, but there really isn't any encompassing story arc so don't expect much there. The artwork is nice as I do like Yasuomi Umetsu's work. I also really enjoyed the rock music by BARNABYS.
As a movie, Indigo Prophecy is a dramatic psychological thriller. But as a game, it's crap. From basic point of view, Indigo Prophecy is a movie script adapted to a choose-your-own-adventure video game. And just like those books, there are different premature endings and a few different final endings you can end up with. But the path is extremely linear as well, where your choices really don't have much impact on the overall flow of things unless you hit a premature ending.
What makes Indigo Prophecy a crappy game is the gameplay. Of which there isn't any. There are three action types: simon-says, button mashing or balancing L/R, and one time of target practice. Every single action sequence, such as dodging cars or fleeing a scene, involves simon-says. Whenever you're supposed to be exerting effort, you button mash L/R. Whenever you're supposed to be controlling effort, you balance L/R. The target practice is one time at a gun-range so it stands alone. But that's it for gameplay. Many times the button mashing L/R occurs for no apparent reason as well.
The regular action choices and conversation choices are selected by moving the right analog stick, rather than a menu. That's not innovation or even intelligence, especially since the displayed choices are so vague. A person's name might show up, and selecting that name might result in you asking about that person, or it might result in hearing that person's thoughts. The single verb stay might me one thing in one context, and a completely different one in another. So just as with the gameplay, the menu system is crap.
Lastly, moving around is crap as well. The camera moves too slowly for decent manual control, changes angles on you all the time so you're no longer pressing a direction on the analog control stick that makes sense, and it's too hard to get your character to actually walk in the right direction. So you're going to look like you're walking and running around drunk, slamming into walls and walking diagonally or in circles. Plus, you have to line up correctly with items to interact with them, but it's not easy to do that as turning isn't really possible as a separate behavior.
I'm just glad to get the game over with. Total playtime about 6 hours, not including the numerous premature endings that resulted in reloads. Which happens to be another stupid aspect of the game. Loading takes a long time, and it occurs often as scenes change. And if you hit a premature ending, you have two choices: load last save or stop. If you select load last save, the game completely reloads the state even though you were just in the same place. Everything should already be in memory.
July 7, 2006
The Professional is one of those strange films that leaves a lasting impression on you. Written and Directed by Luc Besson, this is one of his earlier films before he went all out in action. The story is interesting in an outrageous way, but the best thing about this film are the characters and how well they are portrayed by the actors.
The three main characters of this film are played by Jean Reno, Gary Oldman, and a very young Natalie Portman. And the acting is superb. Jean Reno carries out the portrayal of a hitman who is completely dumbfounded by the 12-year-old Portman with amazing believability. Natalie Portman is also amazing in her role. Her character is at times strong despite wounds, and at other times emotional and immature. Gary Oldman's character is intense, psychotic, and realistic in a combination that makes him a formidable antagonist.
One thing I found a little disconcerting was the score by Eric Serra. It sounded too close to the compositions used in The Fifth Element, also scored by Eric Serra and by Luc Besson (and also with Gary Oldman in a great role).
For the past few weeks I've been playing Star Ocean: Til The End of Time, and it has to be the console RPG that I've put the most time into, clocking in at 70 hours and apparently I missed some of the private actions that I could have initiated. Everything about this game was excellent, and it's clear that the combination of Square and Enix resulted in a first-rate RPG.
There were several things that struck me as well done, especially after finishing the Xenosaga series. Facial expressions were animated and held emotion in a decent manner. The audio was very nice, and kept things fast paced or emotional as appropriate. English voice-overs were good. Load times were extremely fast. Moving between areas was not an annoying pause. Full three-dimensional worlds with camera rotation.
The combat was fast-paced, intense and often challenging even at high levels, and fun. The real-time action-oriented combat with support for things like combos and battle skills was always fun. Combat was a little strange at first, and I failed miserably in the practice combat. But after I got a hang of things, and realized that the combat AI should take care of itself most of the time, it became very intuitive and easy.
The user interface was polished and extremely simple to use, although I would have preferred more control over inventory management during combat. Many times I was scrolling through inventory during combat for items I was never going to use. Otherwise, the menu system for both combat and non-combat situations was very good, and controlling your character on-screen not a problem. The only issue I had with things was you sometimes had to work a little at lining yourself up correctly to talk to someone or interact with an item.
The skill system was simple, and never a waste of time. You can choose which skills to focus on, and each character has a specific set of skills and magic that they can learn, but which you don't have to care about if you don't like that particular skill. Skills are acquired at a decent rate and can be extremely useful.
The item creation aspect of the game is actually very important, but can be both tedious and daunting without a guide to help you. Otherwise you have no idea what you might create, and unfortunately there's no in-game tutorial. The instruction manual is a little sparse on item creation even though that is one of the more complicated and important features. That may be intentional, since it's supposed to be like invention.
The story itself is detailed, deep, and very well constructed. There are questions posed about everything from where our current technology is headed, the definition of life, religion, faith, and existence. All wrapped up in an intriguing plot that manages to mix space ships with swords in a believable and complementary manner. The storyline is moved forward through cut-scenes which I felt suffered a bit from either slightly longer than desired load times or pauses, but it always had my attention and interest.
July 5, 2006
Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom
Indiana Jones: Temple of Doom was the only Indiana Jones movie I hadn't seen. So I watched it tonight and it's another fun Indiana Jones movie full of action, light comedy, and crazy villians involving an unbelievable plot. And as a light action film, it's great. There's not much else to it, but that's okay because this movie isn't trying to do or say anything special.
July 4, 2006
Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU!
Full Metal Panic? FUMOFFU! is a completely hilarious follow-up to Full Metal Panic! and the title hints at the attitude of this series. Whereas Full Metal Panic! was a comedic, but serious, storyline involving terrorists and some sort of bio-technological secret, FUMOFFU! is a tongue-in-cheek romp across everything Full Metal Panic! and I couldn't help laughing out loud throughout the show. Warning: spoilers below.
My favorite part of the show was the appearance and antics of Sousuke inside his custom designed Bonta-Kun A.S., which he later developed as a combat suit for sale on the arms market. It is just too funny to see a theme park mascot, who happens to look much cuter than anything from Disney, running around beating up the bad guys and protecting Kaname while only being able to say "fumo".
There are lots of other comedic elements throughout the series, many of which depend on shock surprise for its impact. So unfortunately, I think there are many comedy sequences which won't be as fun to watch a second time around, although anticipating those sequences might be part of the fun too, depending on the sequence and your personality.
July 3, 2006
Neon Genesis Evangelion: Platinum
Neon Genesis Evangelion has always been one of my favorite anime series. It has a little bit of everything, and does it with an incredible level of emotional and thought-provoking impact. It's also one of the most confusing anime, with a great amount of freedom of interpretation. If there is any anime which will survive as an epic classical work, this is it.
Recently released was the Platinum Edition of Eva, which remixed the audio in 5.1 and also included quite a bit of cel clean-up. The audio is much nicer and the 5.1 channels are used to excellent effect, although I did hear a few glitches. The major cel transfer problems have been corrected, although I did still see one segment which had some alignment jitter.
Also included in the Platinum Edition are director's cut versions of episodes 21-24. These director's cuts include a few minutes per episode of additional background story or revealing secrets. This additional footage can help one understand a little bit more of what the conclusion is leading up to and what the characters went through to become who they are. But sometimes it also results in more questions. Some of the footage is different as well, such as the Eva graveyard or elevator.