Paul Gleason, RIP

Paul Gleason

BURBANK, Calif. - Paul Gleason, who was in "Trading Places" and "The Breakfast Club," has died. He was 67.

Gleason died at a local hospital Saturday of mesothelioma, a rare form of lung cancer linked to asbestos, said his wife, Susan Gleason.

"Whenever you were with Paul, there was never a dull moment," his wife said. "He was awesome."

A native of Miami, Gleason was an avid athlete. Before becoming an actor, he played Triple-A minor league baseball for a handful of clubs in the late 1950s.

Gleason honed his acting skills with his mentor Lee Strasberg, whom he studied with at the Actors Studio beginning in the mid-1960s, family members said.

Through his career, Gleason appeared in over 60 movies that included "Die Hard," "Johnny Be Good," and "National Lampoon's Van Wilder." Most recently, Gleason made a handful of television appearances in hit shows such as "Friends" and "Seinfeld."

Gleason's passions went beyond acting. He had recently published a book of poetry.

"He was an athlete, an actor and a poet," said his daughter, Shannon Gleason-Grossman. "He gave me and my sister a love that is beyond description that will be with us and keep us strong for the rest of our lives."

Actor Jimmy Hawkins, a friend of Gleason's since the 1960s, said he remembered Gleason for a sharp sense of humor.

"He just always had great stories to tell," Hawkins said.

Gleason was survived by his wife, two daughters and a granddaughter. Funeral plans were pending.

He never really got any huge roles, but the few lines he got were often the standout moments in movies. The moment in Trading Places where he turns around and tells and old woman to Fuck Off counts, for me, as the most perfect delivery of a "fuck off" ever filmed.

Awesome, banned Xbox 360 ad →

To celebrate my new Xbox 360 - an ad that's somewhere between an episode of Spaced and the Grand Central Station scene from the Fisher King

The Loneliness of the long-distance RPGer

For a while there, I was deeply in love with Dragon Quest VIII: The Journey of the Cursed King. Western RPGs like Fable and Jade Empire had made me soft, and I was itching for some stone cold dungeon crawling, the type made famous by the Dragon Quest series. Classic RPG gameplay, the likes of which I have rarely seen in this generation of video games. All this certainly isn't hurt by it's beautiful aesthetics: character design by Akira Toriyama, creator of Dragon Ball Z, and the most perfect cell-shading this side of Wind Waker. A beautiful, beautiful game, on many levels.

But having spent a few days away from the Playstation, I'm starting to wonder if I'm just experiencing a mild form of Stockholm syndrome.

I love the fact that it's all stats. It's a huge numbers game, knowing which monsters to battle and with what strategy. I love the fact that, if I was so inclined, I could bust out the graphing calculator and compute the outcome of any battle before I even start it. Guitar Hero it ain't. Ikaruga it ain't. But it's still got this wicked, twisted appeal.

Unfortunately - and this is where I think I've been spoiled - I'm tired of spending 2 hours a night just running around outside a particular village leveling up. Once I've finally reached a level I think is acceptable, I can tackle the quest I'm supposed to be working on, and this might just take a half an hour to complete. But there's still the 2 hours where I do nothing else in the game except repeat the battle-battle-battle-rest, battle-battle-battle-rest strategy. At least games like Oblivion present side-quests to take the grind out of "leveling up" and turn it into something vaguely entertaining. 8 hours into Dragon Quest, I haven't seen one side-quest.

And that's the worst part: if I didn't have to see the look on my girlfriend's face when I explain to her that I'm coming to bed at 2am because I've just spent the past two hours leveling up, I probably wouldn't mind this at all.

[tags]dragon quest, playstation[/tags]

Wii 'Classic' controller →

Wii Classic

Hidden in Nintendo's E3 press pack is a picture of a more "standard" controller. The filename itself is "Wii_Classic_0501.jpg". I'm guessing this answers the question of how we're supposed to play downloaded NES/SNES games on the Wii, since the Wii-mote doesn't seem up to it.

Picture links to very high-res image of the controller.

Playstation 3 (or: Anything Wii can do, we can do better)

E3 this week. Biggest, most draining week in the gaming calendar. Not a chance of getting any serious work done.

First up, Sony annoucing their PS3s. First up, the facts:

  • Two versions

  • 20GB version - EUR499 / 60GB version - EUR599

  • 20GB version will not have

    • Wireless

    • Memory Stick / SD Storage

    • HDMI out

  • Same controller as the PS2 except with Wireless, no rumble feature and - get this - a tilt sensor Releasing two versions of the same console is a smart move. Especially when you choose to remove such non-essential features (the Xbox 360's retardo Core pack didn't include a Hard Drive, meaning developers couldn't develop games using this feature.) Although the lack of HDMI output struck me as a little weird since this limits the PS3 as a Blu-Ray player. And let's face it, half of the point of the PS3 is as a way to sell the Blu-Ray format to consumers.

But the news about the controller is just funny. With so much pre-E3 talk focusing on Nintendo's new Wii-mote controller and how it would change the way we play games like Zelda, it's not surprising to hear Sony announce something similar. But this is so obviously a knee-jerk reaction, it's hard not to hear the collective groan rising up from bulletin boards across the internet. From 1up's report of the Sony press conference:

Ken Kutaragi is out showing off the last PlayStation controller, and basically looks like a sliver version of the Dual Shock 2. What's different? Sony has basically taken Nintendo's idea of a movable controller, and introduced the gyroscope technology into the PlayStation 3 controller. Yes, you read that right.

Kutaragi is looking smug.

'Sup Nintendo?

update: this does not look like a lot of fun

Lost ARG →

hanso.jpg

Everyone still watching Lost? Noone given up yet? Good.

With yesterday's show in the US, the makers also re-launched thehansofoundation.org as part of the Lost Alternate Reality Game (ARG). I haven't had much of a chance to play about with it yet, so I can't tell you if there's any spoilers. But my word, they certainly spent a few quid on the redesign.

Nintendo Wii

For Nintendo, the name "Revolution" had always been a codename. People might say that it had caught on with the public and changing it now will confuse people, but Nintendo were very up-front about this: Revolution was just a codename, just like "Dolphin" (Gamecube) and "Project Reality" (Nintendo 64).

Yesterday, Nintendo announced the official name of their next-generation console.

Wii.

I'm on two minds here. Part of me thinks it's a brilliant, bold move - "Revolution" was too western, and didn't mean as much to its home market. Wii is a standard non-specific word bordering on onomatapaea. Whee!

The other part of me is wondering what names were rejected to come to this one. I'm reminded of an Eddie Izzard sketch, describing how Jerry Dorsey changed his name to Englebert Humperdink.

'Zinglebert Bambledack! Yingeebert Dangleban! Zanglebert Dingleback! Winglebert Humptiback! Slupbum Waller!'

'What?'

'Alright, Kringlebert Fishtibuns! Steveibuns Buttrentrunden...'

'No, Jerry Dorsey! I like Jerry Dorsey...'

'No we can't... Let's see, we have Zinglebert Bambledack, Dinglebert Wangledack, Slupbum Waller, Klingibum Fistlbars, Dinglebert Zambeldack, uh... Jerry Dorsey, Englerbert Humptiback, Zinglebert Bambledack, Engelbert Humperdinck, Dinglebert Wingledank'

'No, no, go back one'

Every Girl's Crazy 'bout a Sharp Dressed Man

No updates because I've been too busy rocking out on Guitar Hero (which got its proper release today - hurry!)

Once I've played through a game, I rarely go back and play it again, unless it offers a significantly different experience the second time around. For example, when you finish Shadow of the Colossus, it unlocks a "hard" mode. Balls to that. I've got an ever-increasing list of games I have to play and an ever-decreasing amount of time to play them in. And especially not when it took a monumental effort to stop myself from smashing the controller to smithereens even on the "normal" difficulty.

Guitar Hero is so perfectly balanced, I can't help myself. I've worked through "easy" and "medium" and now I'm halfway through "difficult." Why? Because, unlike most games where luck has as much to do with your progress as actual skill, I can actually see myself getting better at Guitar Hero. When I first started playing through the game on "medium", I thought it might be fun to see what "I Wanna Be Sedated" was like on "expert" difficulty. I found out: Scary. I was booed off stage before I'd even reached the first verse. Now that medium is a long-distant memory and "difficult" is making me its bitch, I went back to "I Wanna Be Sedated" on expert. And y'know what? I finished it. On my third attempt. But I finished it.

To make matters worse, I'm finding myself replaying songs on "easy" (and "Medium"), just so I can fill the scoreboard up with top marks.

The last time a game hooked me like this -- improving my skill and beating my own scores, just for the fun of it -- was Super Mario Kart on the SNES. An odd comparison, to be sure, but one that makes me happy. I really didn't think people made games like this any more. Fun little games with no real narrative depth that can consume hours and still have you coming back for more.

One other thing I've noticed... playing this game has strengthened up my baby finger no end. It was always the runt of my fingers and even when I played normal guitar with it, it never really did what I wanted to when I wanted it to. Now, it's kicking my other fingers' asses. So, bonus!

[tags]playstation, games, guitar hero[/tags]

Guitar Hero! →

Guitar Hero

Originally uploaded by THRILLHO.

This isn't supposed to be out for another week or so. During the week, I was whinging that it had the same release date as the new Tomb Raider game. But hooray for Smyths, breaking the release date and selling Guitar Hero early.

Now I'm waking up at 9am on a Sunday morning just so I can rock out to Megadeth's Symphony of Destruction.

Feels like I'm 15 again.

Silent Hill 2

silenthill2.jpg

Much as I love "survival horror" games, I have genuine trouble playing them. I like to think this is because I become so engrossed in the game and commit myself to it so completely that the scares are extremely effective on me. But others might say that it's because I'm a complete pussy. I'll let you decide which theory you want to subscribe to. When my girlfriend announced that she'd had enough of the 'cutesy' games I'd been pushing on her (the risible "Hello Kitty" game being the proverbial straw) and wanted to try something meatier, I realised it was time to bit the bullet and bring out Silent Hill 2, a game that had been lying untouched since I bought it almost two years ago. The idea being that she would play most of the game, handing (read: throwing) the controller to me whenever the action got a bit much for her.

Throughout the course of the game, you realise how much the game loves to fuck with you. It's true that most survival horror games like to fuck with you in some way - the cheap-but-fun parlour tricks of "Eternal Darkness" making you think your controller had become unplugged, or the twisted self-referential jokes of Resident Evil 2 and 3 - but Silent Hill turns this into an art form. The static on your character's hand-held radio being a particularly good example. It warns the player that an enemy is close, but doesn't give any indication of exactly where it is. And there's only one thing scarier than something you can't see: something you can't see, but know is there.

By the middle of Silent Hill 2, you'll have collected most weapons and found plenty of ammunition for your arsenal. Even on "normal" difficulty, the enemies aren't particularly troublesome. The ones you can't kill are easy to avoid. At this stage, even my girlfriend was taunting the enemies. I'm pretty sure I heard her smack-talking Pyramid Head.

And that's when the game pounces.

Inside a hotel, you come across a lift. You have to go down a couple of floors and pick up some items. Unfortunately, when you step into the lift (the only way down), an alarm goes off. A helpful sign informs you that the lift, in true videogame logic, has a weight limit of exactly one person. I spent five minutes shouting at the TV. "You sneaky fuckers! There's someone else in the lift with me! Someone on the roof! Someone I can't see!? WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO?!!" Eventually, I discovered what it wanted me to do: my inventory was weighing me down, so I'd have to dump all of my guns and ammunition and go in unarmed. It wouldn't even let me carry a stick to club potential enemies with.

And with that, my shouting went up a notch. I paused the game and shrieked at the TV for a good ten minutes. I knew that I would be in a cramped basement filled with the worst kinds of brain-spew this side of a Francis Bacon painting (see what I did there?). And I would be completely defenceless. In the end, I spent more time bitching and moaning about what I had to do than I spent actually doing it, but that's entirely beside the point.

Not long after the game was finished, myself and my girlfriend went on a late-night tour of Kilmainham Jail, a special one-off tour as part of heritage week, given by a friend of ours. It was all about execution within the jail, taking us through some of the places not shown on the 'normal' tour. I don't think anyone was as freaked out as us - the whole thing was exactly like something out of Silent Hill, right down to the creepy map on the wall.

So now, if anyone asks me if Silent Hill 2 is a good game, I tell them about walking through Kilmainham Jail, constantly checking over my shoulder for zombie nurses. It takes a truly spectacular game to mess you up long after the computer is turned off.