A few years ago, a guy named Shamus Young coded something really cool: a procedurally generated city. Using just a few assets (a bit of texture, some general building models, a bit of code for cars) he makes and entire world appear. He explains it much better than I do in the video. You can download it here. It exists as a Windows screensaver file -- .scr, remember those? -- and is a whopping 127K.
I wrote previously about IDing a cover of a book I own from several seconds of noticing it as set-dressing in an unrelated production. Watching Law & Order recently, I caught a new one:
L&O S4E14 "Censure"
Yep, that's Lt. Anita Van Buren, under cover and reading a copy of the 1974 Bantam printing of Gravity's Rainbow. A book I owned for years.
I put down that book in sheer exasperation more times than I could count. When I moved, I finally realized that if I was going to ever read the damn thing, it would be on an eReader and I sold my copy, along with 75% of my library.
I've talked about my delight with electromechanical games earlier, and while they have basically no advantages over their fully-digital counterparts, there's still a certain amount of charm to them. So there was a bit of delight when I stumbled across this. I also have a lot of love for Out Run's aesthetic which is admittedly a bit underrepresented in this adaptation.
In case you don't remember it from sucking up your quarters at the arcade from 1986 onward, Out Run looks like this:
The Monster Brains blog acquired quite a treasure recently. The complete Official Advanced Dungeons and Dragons Coloring Book, scanned for your entertainment. My favorite page has to be "A Vision of Demon Fire," wherein the party's dwarf has a vision of all matter of demonic (and baboon-ic) hellfiends playing what seems to be a friendly game of cee-lo on a pentagram inscribed into the floor. Adorable.
One of the first serious, popular looks at Philip K. Dick's work was this Rolling Stone profile from 1973. It was even featured on the cover, right under the cover article on Rod Stewart. Besides the reporting, the article featured this beautiful splash page. The scattered pills, the yin-yang necklace, the nightmarish file cabinet and that it's-not-there-it's-not-there-it's-not-there glance on PKD really make it for me.
Watch enough modern-day detective shows and techno-thrillers and you'll notice one common thread: if an image is ever pulled up on a computer screen, it suddenly becomes resolute to the infinite degree. An episode of Law and Order: Criminal Intent from 2006, for instance, had webcam footage on a real-estate website read text off the LCD display on home security box. TVTropes has, obviously, covered this (as I've covered them, earlier) and a video was born:
Futurama, the mothership of technological satire, also covered this:
Of course, we do live in the future, so some amount of magic really is possible, given an appropriate amount of resolution:
So what was your lazy ass doing after graduating high school? Me? I was sleeping/reading science fiction novels at an empty conference room table at my minimum-wage summer job. The money was put mostly toward hamburgers, as any photo of that time makes abundantly clear. Now young Jack Eisenmann? He built a programmable computer from basic logic chips and an Internet education.
I have been absolutely obsessed with Law and Order: Criminal Intent. One night, a few weeks ago, my girlfriend suggested we watch some actual television -- most of our viewing is via Hulu or Netflix -- and we caught an episode of Criminal Intent. I was hooked immediately. While I'm fond of mysteries and crime fiction, I never got into the franchise before. What got me was that unlike vanilla Law and Order, CI doesn't feature the courtroom scenes which, in my opinion , detract from the pace of the plot. SVU, meanwhile, isn't really an option as I actively avoid reading/watching anything involving rape and sex crimes. But this show hit all the right notes.
Detective Robert Goren's character is what really got me involved. His investigative and interrogation styles are a perfect sweet spot between old-school, Holmsian detection and aggressive Chandlerian interrogation. Goren sees patterns, makes deductive connections, and uses all those other detective skills I feel has been lost in modern mystery dramas -- replaced, at least in part, by unrealistic technology. When faced with an individual, he unbalances, annoys and lies to them in order to get them to slip up, to tear a hole in their own cover story. He also regularly violates the rules which former-cop P.I.s in noir fiction usually attribute to making them leave the force and go into business for themselves. Goren comes off almost as a family-friendly, less sociopathic prelude of Hammett's Continental Op.
Anyway, this post isn't going to be about gushing over Criminal Intent. Rather, it's about set design minutia, a topic which I've previously revealed to be an interest. For instance, in Season 1, Episode 2: "Art", there's the blink-and-you'll-miss-it Crass poster (for some reason disguised as one for a band called "Pocket.") Appropriately enough, it's on an art student's dorm-room wall.:
Next, in Season 2, Episode 22: "Zoonotic", a man appears wearing a Vash the Stampede shirt, from the anime series Trigun. These sorts of shirts, although worn much looser and untucked, were rather popular around this time this episode was filmed. It was always strange seeing kids walk around school wearing shirts with characters from anime they've never watched and video games they've never played. The knock-off ones were even better, featuring near approximations -- just near enough to be uninfringing -- of said characters. (As an aside, the actor on the righthand side is James Urbaniak who, among other roles voices Dr. Venture on The Venture Bros.):
Finally, from Season 4, Episode 12: "Collective", is a Bruce Timm framed painting (?) of Two-Face, as he appeared in Batman: The Animated Series. The scene takes place in, from what I could tell, is an actual collectibles store, so it may not have been a conscious choice to put the object there. However, the brief shot was intentional, so I can only imagine it was a momentary thumbs-up to Timm:
This is all I could find in the first few seasons, or at least all that really stuck out at me. I went through Netflix's entire Instant Watch CI archive, so once I get my hands on some more, I may follow this up.
I previously described tool-assisted speedruns in this post. To summarize, this breed of speedrunners use special emulation tools which alter the speed of the game; anything from slowing the game down to play it frame-by-frame to rewinding a live game is possible -- the latter mechanic has been adapted into games like Prince of Persia and Braid. Combining these abilities with glitches let the user create a speedrun far faster than any human being playing the game in real-time.
These speedrun is not recorded as a video, but rather a series of button presses timed to the game. These recording can be used to replicate the speedrun on any computer with an emulator capable of reading it. Now, an Instructables member named pjgat has taken speedruns into the real world. Using an Arduino board wired into the controller, the speedrun's button presses are sent directly into the NES hardware. The game is in no way modified; there's just a robot at the wheel.
As you can see by the comments, there is some talk about this being a hoax. Most of the weirdness can be attribute to faulty collision detection -- it is, in fact, a game from 1985, a commenter helpfully points out -- but I'm still not sure why the NES boots so fast. So here is the video:
...and a Super Mario Bros. 3 which is slightly faster than the one mentioned in the previous post:
Co. Club Nintendo
One of the first motion controllers was Brøderbund's U-Force. Resembling a laptop (or oversides Nintendo DS) when open, it meant for you to swing your hands over its sensors in order to control the game. Like the Power Glove, it also came with a number of preset configurations. It also came with a physical plugin resembling a pilot's yoke; as far as I can tell, it didn't add any element of physical control. Rather, it was only meant to put your hands in the proper position to control flying games and let you press buttons instead of relying on the sensors. I could be wrong, of course. Like most people, I have never actually seen one of these.
The U-Force was almost universally derided. This is an unsurprising fact; mass-produced IR sensors in the late-80s could not accurately capture even the minimal requirements of the NES controller. However, after putting out a loluforce article, Kotaku was informed of Joe McKenna, a man who has made it his (successful) mission to master the U-Force. Check out his playthrough of the first level of Super Mario Bros. 3 and Flash Man's stage from Mega Man 2. The hand-wiggling to move Mario's tail is great: