Friday, May 21, 2010

Google Pacman

Hat's off to Google's banner that commemorated one of video game's innovations by embedding a playable applet of Pacman in celebration of its 30th birthday.  Should give it a try before searching the latest in government conspiracies and of furry costume porn.  My hi-score is 9034 and I had completed one level before I realized that you can use the cursor keys instead of the mouse - GG.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

24 Hour Party People (OST)

Perhaps (IMO) to be renamed "The History of Factory", the album to its movie namesake is perhaps a good cross-selection of Factory's best productions.  I have never experienced a soundtrack that is as enjoyable with out its movie references.  This soundtrack has a good selection of performances of Factory's bands, a couple of modern renditions and live performances of their more recognizable hits, and a couple of hits that the movie claims to have inspired Tony Wilson to create Factory.  On the performance list are names such as Joy Division, the Buzzcocks, New Order, Happy Mondays, and the Sex Pistols.  Even if you haven not seen the movie if you are looking for some retro-alternative compilation look up this soundtrack.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Wire

The Wire is an epic police drama that spans 5 seasons.  It follows the careers of a group of detectives from the narcotics and homicide divisions of the Baltimore Police Department as well as the lives of the criminals and city officials that their investigations touches.  What probably makes this a unique series is the raw honesty each episode is told in and how it focuses on the problems of maintaining law and order all stemming from the apathy and corruption that is deep seated in the running of a major North American city.

The story of The Wire begins with Jimmy McNulty, a hotshot career detective played by Dominic West.  After watching another drug thug get off from a routine murder conviction he is called in by a concerned judge on his thoughts on what should have been a routine conviction.  Jimmy explains to the judge how an up and coming drug gang that the accuse had been connected to had control of most of the drug distribution in the city and were able to buy off witnesses and supply their man with a top notch mob lawyer.  Appalled by how narcotics did not even have knowledge of the drug ring the judge sets in motion the events which lead to a combined department task force of homicide and narcotics detectives to investigate the Barksdale drug ring.

This uncomfortable marriage of the already under-resourced departments bring together a motley group of detectives comprising a mix of overlooked talents and disgraced cops with Jimmy being the obvious rogue.  Heading the task force is Cedric Daniels - the straight shooting narcotics commander with a few skeletons in his career closet.  His right hand girl is Shakima Greggs - a tough narcotics investigator with a hunger for the thrill of the hunt and a taste for fast women.  Lester Freamon is an older talented investigator who previous tenacity put him on the sidelines for going after politically protected targets.  Ellis Carter is a young career hungry cop who is in constant struggle between looking for his big break that would land him a prestigious promotion and being a compassionate "do-right" cop.  Carter is often accompanied by Thomas "Herc" Hauk a bumbling tough guy cop whose constant bad career decisions (in contrast to Carter) push him further from the respect he looks for from his colleagues.  Rolland "Prez" Pryzbylewski is an intellect forced into service by his father in law who is a prominent commanding officer in the Baltimore Police Department.  Jimmy also often drags into the picture his homicide drinking buddy Detective William "Bunk" Moreland whose admirable dedication to his job is offset by his infidelity to his wife.   The series also bring in and out of view other characters who help, hinder, or are the targets of the main detectives of the series. 

Most of the series follow the investigations of the drug gangs that plague the city of Baltimore and the corruption which blights any successful attempt to unroot their influence on the decaying city.  With great acting and a no-pulled-punches look at the lives of this intricately connected cast of characters America comes close to providing a thought provoking series that was mostly being delivered by BBC imports.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Guild

Felecia Day was once an out of job actress with a few guest appearances on Josh Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer series and similar TV roles.  She then played World of Warcraft and got to the point where she knew she had to stop and do something productive with herself to pay her bills.  So as an actress in LA she started writing a script about the one thing she enjoyed doing at the time - MMO gaming.  The Guild is humorous look at the in game and out of game lives of massive multi-player online role-playing gamers (MMPORGs) loosely based on Felecia's experience with World of Warcraft.  The show features fives fictitious gamers from very different walks of life who play some fictitious on-line role playing game together in a guild - a team of players who have dedicated their current game time to helping each other progress through the common game they play. 

The show is mostly written from the perspective of Syd Sherman (AKA Codex) who is also played by Felecia Day.  She is a 30 something prodigy violinist who had just lost her job at a local orchestra and has become a hermit with her online gaming as her only social outlet.  In game she plays her guild's healer (the fantasy equivalent of a combat medic).  She is supported by four other players from very different walks of life.  There is Herman (AKA Vork) who also is a hermit living off of his dead father's pension and is the guild's leader.  There's Clara (AKA Clara), a stay at home negligent mother of three and even more negligent wife, who is the guild's magician.  There's Sujan (AKA Zaboo), a "Hin-Jew" college student and guild warlock whose talents include cyber stalking and imposing his affections inappropriately on Syd.  Tinkerballa (AKA Tinkerballa) the guild's ranger is in real life a sulking Japanese tart and pre-med student.  Finally there's Simon (AKA Bladezz) the guild's rogue and machiavelli character who is in real life a street smart player, charmer, and ex-child model.

The shows are originally web-based and episodic and usually run for 5 minutes an episode following a story arc each season mainly about Syd and her guild mates going through some crisis that forces them work together (and meet) outside of their in game lives.  We actually never see the characters interact in game but instead get the anecdotes and dialogue that would normally have meaning just in the game. 

The show has gain popularity since it's webisodic release finding many fans into gaming and geek culture.  The fourth season featured geek star, Wil Wheaton, as the guild leader of a rival guild.  The show overall is well written and funny even for those not into (or aware of) the gaming culture.  The show was originally distributed on their web site,, via YouTube links but was then picked up on its second season by Microsoft for exclusive premiere viewing on Microsoft's XBox online network as free downloadable content.  The season would only be available on the show website once the season finished release and are as well released for purchase in DVD sets from their site and through I-Tunes.