Sunday, March 30, 2008

American Idol Covers

I haven't watched a full season of American Idol since season 1 and my true American Idol, Kelly Clarkson, won. I watched one episode of this season and I must say...the non-native Americans in the competition are great. In addition, there were some amazing covers this past week -- including Carly Smithson's cover of "Total Eclipse of the Heart" and David Cook's cover of "Billie Jean," the Chris Cornell version.

If you use iTunes...use it now to spend the $1.98 and get these two tracks. Now.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Brief Sonic & the Secret Rings Review

A lot of people have downplayed Sonic and the Secret Rings, and with it recently being $10.99 at Costco and on sale constantly elsewhere for $19.99, I want to point out that if you have a Wii and have any mild liking of Sonic the Hedgehog, you should get this game. Here’s a great review from The Tanooki for the game.

I’d also like to note that the party game mode is more in depth than I ever expected it to be – rivaling some of the older Mario Party games. I’ve seen my 4 and 5 year old sisters play this mode for hours at a time…and my 13 and 14 year old sister and brother (respectively) entranced by this mode for a few hours without even thinking of trying another game. It’s fun and the fact that the main game unlocks all manner of multiplayer stuff (including bonus characters and extra mini-games) makes it even more fun. Once more, if you own a Wii…and even mildly like Sonic, get this game now – it’s worth the rapidly lowering price of admission.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Random Smash Bros Brawl Post

Well, I love the new Smash Brothers game. Brawl is amazing and more than worth full retail price. It’s fun and easy to pick up with the four different control schemes…three of which I love and the fourth (just the Wii-mote) my sister has picked up and destroyed all manner of people with so don’t knock it. Here’s a random list of opinions on the game, based on a thread from Cheap Ass Gamer --
Favorite new character/Why?
Pit. He can fly, he's from an awesomely underappreciated game, and has a new, revamped feel while still being balanced when compared to the classic Smash Bros characters. Sonic’s a close second mostly because…I love Sonic the Hedgehog in an excessive sort of way.

Least favorite new character/Why?
Lucario. I never liked the way Mew-Two played in Melee and Lucario is no different. Lucas is a close second since, like Lucario, he plays like an old character (Ness) who’s control scheme I never liked.

Favorite new stage/Why?
WarioWare. It adds a whole new element of awesome to the gameplay. Plus, it emphasizes the new Wario from the WarioWare series as opposed to "Oooh, I'm evil looking Mario" Wario. The WarioWare games, to me, finally gave Wario a new identity as a character that I really enjoyed. This was a welcome addition for me. The Mario Kart stage was a close second, just because it's so much fun.

Least favorite new stage/Why?
Rumble Falls. An entire level where fighting is almost thrown out the window with how fast you just have to keep jumping up and up and up.

Favorite Final Smash?
Link. For pure looks -- when he pulls it off, it looks amazing and destroys your opponent.

Least favorite final smash?
Donkey Kong. The bongos? Come on.

Fav Assist Trophy?
Little Mac. Because I wish he was a playable character and this is as close as it gets. Little Mac made the most sense to revamp and bring into the game as a playable character – he’s a boxer! But, this is still a lot of fun to see him running around punching out my enemies.

Least favorite Assist Trophy?
Mr. Resetti. He's just as irritating as he is in Animal Crossing and it doesn't add enough to the game to seem worth it, to me.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

The Tanooki

Here's a link to The Tanooki. I'm adding it to the very small list of links I have here. It's filled with awesome Nintendo specific news and randomness. Check it out.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Modern League of Extraordinary Gentleman

A friend of mine and I were discussing something he had initially come up with -- a modern League of Extraordinary Gentlemen. First, I'm linking his very detailed and very awesome modern League post. For those who don't know, the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is a group of classical literary characters that Alan Moore weaved together as a super team. But, in the meantime, I'll come up with my own idea for a League.
  • Mayor Mitchell Hundred (from Ex Machina) – Organizer of the group and current Mayor of New York City. He’s a political realist and a former superhero who’s leadership skills are…well, questionable at times. Imagine what Bloomberg’d be like if he were better looking, a former super hero, not independently wealthy, incredibly ballsy, and well…nothing like Bloomberg, I guess. Hundred adds some intrigue, great plot ideas, a base of operations, and an incredibly amusing personality that would mesh interestingly with the others. Imagine if this super team is a secret society based in NYC to protect the world from certain crazy dangers.
  • Willow Rosenberg (from Buffy the Vampire Slayer) -- Willow is such an interesting character by the end of the series. She's a powerful female witch who has to balance her power after a very explosive addiction to magic that led her to madness. Willow's inner turmoil would add a great deal to the story, and her vast knowledge of the supernatural and technology make her a very strong addition to the group.
  • Shadow (from American Gods) -- Shadow is, more or less, a brawny character who has a soft spot that most don't notice. Besides the fact that Shadow is, to a certain degree, a god...that provides him with a bit of power. Add on his firsthand experience with the "American gods," the reserved character would add a bit to the plot of a new League. Shadow's mostly a wanderer, he could have found his way into New York on his own. That's where our organizer, Mayor Hundred, would find him.
  • Rubeus Hagrid (from the Harry Potter series) -- I feel that no modern version of the League would be complete without a character from the Harry Potter series. I chose Hagrid so that I can ignore the magic system entirely and because his character is incredibly knowledgeable with beasts, huge, and easily able to provide comic relief if necessary. The character's got a great personality and if anyone can eventually force Shadow out of his shell, it'd be Hagrid.
  • Ash Williams (from the Evil Dead series) -- After returning to the world following the events of the Army of Darkness, Ash thought he was getting a promotion in S-Mart. Instead, S-Mart was sold off to the Wal*Mart Corporation. Watching the TV on that same day, he notices a new exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in New York City...that includes the Necronomicon somehow. Not knowing how this happened, Ash goes to the City to warn the Mayor of the dangers and the possible threat of the Deadites.
  • Casey Jones (from TMNT) - Picture this -- the Turtles are drawn into an alternate dimension akin to feudal Japan in TMNT 3...imagine if they never returned. Being that kind of guy, Jones takes matters into his own hands and begins combing the streets of New York for crime. As a former superhero, Hundred could relate. He finds Jones one night and stops him in his tracks saying, "How'd you like a paycheck for your troubles?" Jones officially became a minor member in Hundred's staff.

I had so many ideas for this -- at one point I was thinking about an entirely non-magical, no super powers team. Here's some random ideas that I ended up not including

  • Xander Harris (Buffy)
  • Bruce Wayne (Batman)
  • Hank Morgan (A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court) - Somehow wakes up to find himself in a bed in modern New York City.
  • Ralph Nader - We all know he's not a real person
  • Longinus - According to legend, the man who pierced the side of Christ. Also according to legend, he can't be killed unless he finds the Spear of Destiny. He's tormented internally as he knows there's a God, but doesn't quite care for Him as God killed his family and forced him to live forever unable to be happy.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Weird Alternate History World Setting

So here's 2 points of divergence and where I went from there
  • Joseph Smith, III takes over the Mormon church after the death of his father, the followers of Bringham Young are removed from the church thereby removing the practices of polygamy, the Endowment ritual would be different, and Baptism for the dead would not be practiced.

  • The Civil War is won by the Confederate States of America after they allow slaves to fight in the war and received freedom for their efforts.
What does this change? All manner of things. First -- the Confederacy wins the first war of the America and quite possibly in the process takes back West Virginia as part of Virginia and Maryland, which would have peacefully joined had they been allowed. Second, the Mormons out west may still be armed, but they're not quite as alienated as they were for their beliefs because they don't have the polygamy or baptism of the dead. The Book of Mormon was enough through most of the early history of the church, but these new views put them at odds with a lot more people...especially the government of the US. Instead, they were able to spread their word much more readily. Thirdly? A new Native American nation would have been established in area of the modern state of Oklahoma, independent of both the CSA and USA, but protected by the CSA as one of its allies. This would make for an interesting buffer zone and new nation of Indian peoples in the Americas. What could happen following this historically? Well -- here's my ideas of big events.
  • 1882 -- Mexican land grab where the CSA purchases a plot of land from Mexico leading to border conflicts with the US that escalates into full scale war. Large Mormon community in Utah secedes from the union leading to a two fronted war. The Confederates and Mormons win -- the United People of New Zion is founded as the Mormon nation and the Confederates take parts of Arizona and New Mexico, collecting them into the states of Jefferson and Arizona (different borders) by 1892. All blacks who join the Army are granted freedom upon finishing their terms of services again leading to over 50% of the black people in the CSA being free persons. The idea for a war over this is similar to the ideas from historian/alternative history writer Harry Turtledove's "How Few Remain" world setting. Amazing novel, by the way.
  • 1884 -- Non-black slaves granted the vote in the CSA.
  • 1892 -- Indians males granted the vote in New Zion.
  • 1895 -- Virginia and Maryland officially ban slavery within their borders.
  • 1900 -- New England secession movement begins to grow. Slavery banned in CSA by Constitutional Amendment.
  • 1901 -- Indian Territory joins the CSA as the state of Cherokee (modern Oklahoma) -- Indian men granted the right to vote simultaneously, considering 80% of the people living in Indian Territory were Indians.
  • World War I breaks out with the US, Germany, Austria-Hungary on one side and Neo Zion, CSA, UK, France on the other. Russia is neutral after pulling out like in real life. Allied powers win and CSA does a little land grab taking Kansas.
  • New England secedes after WWI -- war almost breaks out, but UK and CSA intervene with troops to keep the peace.
  • Israel founded prior to World War II, dominantly Jewish state with a large Mormon temple in Jerusalem.
  • Socialism rises in Germany, Hitler rises in Austria instead of Germany.
  • Soviet Germany, UK, CSA, New Zion, China, Soviet Union, France against Austria, Italy, and Japan in WWII. United States remains neutral. New England sides with Allied forces, begins to build standaing army by the end of the war and enters in around D-Day.
  • Women granted the vote in CSA and New Zion after WWII.
After that, I'm not sure. Anyone who would want to help me flesh out the history of such a world, by all means. I'm going to call this universe "Confederate Zion" in case I come up with future posts on the topic of this world-setting.

Here's who the current North American leaders are --
  • President of New England -
  • President of the United States - Joseph R. Biden, Jr. (Whig)
  • President of the Confederate States of America - Angus King (Democrat)
  • President of New Zion - Merrill J. Bateman
The major political parties --
New England
  • Progressive Party - Exactly as it sounds, akin to the Progressive party of LaFollette, it supports a larger role of the unified federal government.
  • Unity Party - The Unity Party is a big tent party that encompasses conservative populists, conservatives, and libertarians.
  • Unionist Party - A minor party that has been opposed to secession from the beginning. They have called for reunification with the US and hold a majority of the state legislature in the state of Vermont. They do not hold a single seat in the New England Congress.
United States
  • Democratic Party -- Akin to the modern Republican Party, the Democratic party remained the house of the more conservative thinkers. The party of Jefferson, Jackson, and Goldwater. Remains a dominant force in modern politics.
  • Whig Party -- After the collapse of the Republican Party in 1864, the Whig Party surged in the 1868 election with former Republicans and Unionists with unity candidate and President Henry Wilson. They've been the competing party since. Slightly more progressive than the Democratic party.
  • Democratic Party -- The state's rights party followed exactly the same path as the US Democratic Party listed above.
  • Confederate Party -- The party that supports a more unified confederation, direct election of Senators, and has the most moderate members who support more federal measures.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Gary Gygax (1938-2008)

One of the co-creators of Dungeons and Dragons, Gary Gygax, passed away today. Your creation has spawned movies, games, and the dreams of all manner of people. Thank you, Gary Gygax.

EDIT: Both Penny Arcade and Dueling Analogs have tribute comics to Gygax.