Vatican Taking Notes from Berlusconi?

As some of you probably know, there's quite a bit of controversy surrounding Pope Pius XII, the Pope who reigned during World War II. While many catholics, including Pope Benedict XVI, wish to make him a saint, critics accuse Pius of not doing enough to help the Jews during the holocaust.

Today, the head of the Vatican Archives, Monsignor Sergio Pagano, has said that there are things in the archive that will completely vindicate Pius, and show that he did a lot to help the Jews. But he can't go into specifics.

"There will be some nice surprises, even as far as the Jews are concerned ... Pope Pius took great risks, even very great personal risks, to save Jews. I can't say more now but whoever wants to open their eyes in five or six years will be able to open them."

On the one hand, this is understandable. There are currently 20 Vatican archivists working full-time on examining millions of pages of documents regarding Pius's papacy, and it would be disrespectful, if not completely reckless, to start announcing details prematurely.

On the other hand, the first thing that popped into my head when I read this was Silvio Berlusconi who, almost two months ago, promised to release a statement explaining his relationship with 18-year old Noemi Letizia, which has not yet arrived. In fact, Berlusconi recently added his voice to President Giorgio Napolitano's invitation to the media and opposition politicians to suspend discussion of "controversial issues" (read: Berlusconi's numerous recent transgressions) until after the G8 summit.

That said, the long finger only goes so far with minor issues and, regardless of what the media from other countries believe, Berlusconi's affairs are relatively minor issues within Italy. When we're talking about the deaths of 6 million people? I doubt it.

EA Sports Active

For the past couple of weeks, I've been working on trying to get myself into shape. Or rather, some shape that wasn't just 'round'. Cutting out chocolate (except when thoughtless fucks come over to stay and bring us presents of giant bars of Dairy Milk). Cutting out fizzy drinks (except when we throw a party and the thoughtless fucks don't drink the mixers). And generally just watching what I eat. And, as a bit of an experiment, I've been trying out EA Sports Active.

I've tried Wii Fit and found it to be a total misnomer. Wii Balance might have been a better name, since that seems to be all it's concerned with. I still use it for its daily "Body Tests", which measure your weight and BMI (and also still finds a way to work "balance" into the equation), but apart from that, _Wii Fit _was a non-starter in my house.

EA Sports Active, on the other hand, has been a huge hit. It actually gets your heart pumping and I'm loving the way it feels like a genuine training session. Or at least, like a more intense training DVD. I'm halfway through my first "30 Day Challenge", and there hasn't been one time where I've thought "I can't be bothered with this", so it can definitely be called a success.

That's not to say it's perfect.

  • Enough with the fucking lunges Christ on a bike. Every session has a minimum of three or four batches of lunges. Even last night, where the trainer says "Today we're going to focus on your upper body!" had five sets of lunges. I'm sure they're great for my fitness, but let's mix it up a bit, please.

  • Why can't it weigh me? I've got a Balance Board. It knows I have a Balance Board. Why the hell can't it weigh me using the Balance Board? Right now, I do my body test using Wii Fit, get my weight from that and manually input it into EA Sports Active. This strikes me as just a silly oversight. Although it also seems like none of the Wii fitness games offer this, apart from Wii Fit. Maybe this is a Nintendo-mandated omission?

  • No abdominal exercises Weirdly for something that presents itself as a rounded fitness program, the game doesn't even try to give any abdominal exercises. Apparently, these will be coming later in an add-on pack.

  • Crappy resistance band The resistance band they supply with the game is not only light as to be almost completely ineffectual, it also is made of a crappy material that will snap if you look at it wrong. My advice would be to buy yourself your own resistance band and use that instead.

Apart from these fairly minor complaints, I'm really happy with EA Sports Active. It's not a complete workout package, but it's not really meant to be. It's intended to gently ease people into regular exercise and to compliment a broader, more comprehensive weight-loss and exercise regime.

Now I just need to stop people bringing me chocolate and I'll be laughing.

Unleash the Beast

Hilarious article on energy drinks from Gourmet.com:

Measuring up the prose of energy drinks against daily life will lead to all sorts of absurdities:

“Julia, can I get you a coffee?” “No, I have a ton of editing to do, I need the venom of a Death Adder which has the power to strike back.” “How about an espresso then?” “I will bite you in your neck if you do not leave me immediately to the challenges of my intense life.” “Look, we all have a lot of work to do.” “You may have a lot of work to do. I have a lot of work to penetrate with my face, inject with poison, and kill.” “Is that your heart visibly beating through your sternum?” “Yes, it is. Jealous?”

Reality Overlay

Now that high end "Smart Phones" are being released with all sorts of built-in doo-dads, like a camera, GPS unit and compass, it means that phones know exactly where they are and what you're pointing them at. Which leads to some interesting applications:

It works as follows: Starting up the Layar application automatically activates the camera. The embedded GPS automatically knows the location of the phone and the compass determines in which direction the phone is facing. Each [commercial] partner provides a set of location coordinates with relevant information which forms a digital layer. By tapping the side of the screen the user easily switches between layers.

This is all kind of difficult to explain in words - check out the video of Wikitude in action to see what is going on...

In other words, your phone gives you a Terminator-style real-time Heads Up Display for whatever you're looking at. Imagine the possibilities - cross it with Wikipedia/Wikitravel to give you the most amazing guide book ever. Cross it with an application that "calls" your phone and you've got the most immersive Alternate Reality Game ever. Heck, if it knows your demographic, then you've got some Minority Report-style personalized ads beamed directly from what you're looking at. Which might sound annoying and intrustive, but when it's this futuristic, who cares?

Wait, Scratch That, Reverse it

Notice anything different?

My blog was drowning under almost five years of cruft and unfocused babbling, so I've decided to do an old etch-a-sketch revamp. Shake it up, start again. This time, less bullshit, I promise. I want to use this blog for writing. Not as a link-dump, or a Youtube proxy (although I'm sure there will be the occasional link and youtube video). Those things will be on my twitter. The old version of the site is still available, but really, where's the fun in that? We can't keep looking back. Got to move forward. Onward and upward.

And with that, on with the show.

Edge's 100 Greatest Videogames

Edge Magazine (still the best videogame magazine out there) recently published its top 100 videogames of all time. It's pretty interesting reading and, being Edge, there are a few questionable decisions. But this is what I love about Edge - they occasionally do some wild stuff, but always back it up with good, solid explanations.

Here's the list along with my statistics.

Legend

Bold - Played, finished Italic - Played, didn't finish Normal - Didn't play.

The List

  1. Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time

  2. Resident Evil 4

  3. Super Mario 64

  4. Half Life 2

  5. Super Mario World

  6. Zelda: A Link to the Past

  7. Halo: Combat Evolved

  8. Final Fantasy XII

  9. Tetris

  10. Super Metroid

  11. Yoshi's Island

  12. Grand Theft Auto: Vice City

  13. Ico

  14. Super Mario Kart

  15. Pro Evolution Soccer 6

  16. Street Fighter Anniversary

  17. GoldenEye 007

  18. Final Fantasy VII

  19. Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

  20. Civilization IV

  21. Okami

  22. World Of WarCraft

  23. Metroid Prime

  24. Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time

  25. Sim City 2000

  26. Advance Wars

  27. Rez

  28. Perfect Dark

  29. Deus Ex

  30. Shadow Of The Colossus

  31. Katamari Damacy

  32. Project Gotham Racing 2

  33. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night

  34. R-Type Final

  35. Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons Of Liberty

  36. Battlefield 2

  37. StarCraft

  38. Virtua Fighter 5

  39. Secret Of Mana

  40. Wario Ware Inc: Minigame Mania

  41. Gran Turismo 4

  42. Rome: Total War

  43. Bomberman

  44. Super Monkey Ball

  45. Company Of Heroes

  46. Quake III

  47. Far Cry

  48. Puyo Pop Fever

  49. Animal Crossing

  50. Shenmue

  51. Pokemon Ruby/Sapphire

  52. Disgaea: Hour Of Darkness

  53. Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2

  54. Chrono Trigger

  55. Counter-Strike

  56. Guitar Hero

  57. Soul Calibur

  58. Tempest 2000

  59. StarFox 64

  60. Pac-Man Vs

  61. Manhunt

  62. Jet Set Radio Future

  63. Lumines

  64. System Shock 2

  65. Darwinia

  66. F-Zero GX

  67. Geometry Wars: Retro Evolved

  68. GTR2

  69. PilotWings 64

  70. Ridge Racers 2

  71. Ninja Gaiden Black

  72. Killer7

  73. Puzzle Bobble (aka Bust-a-Move)

  74. Thief: The Dark Project

  75. Burnout 2

  76. Ikaruga

  77. Football Manager 2007

  78. Doom II

  79. Secret of Monkey Island

  80. Virtua Tennis 3

  81. Robotron 2084

  82. Lemmings

  83. Nights

  84. Phantasy Star Online

  85. Silent Hill 2

  86. Outrun 2006: Coast 2 Coast

  87. Mr Driller

  88. Sega Rally Championship

  89. Tomb Raider

  90. Devil May Cry

  91. Super Smash Bros Melee

  92. Resident Evil

  93. Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door

  94. Gitaroo Man

  95. God of War

  96. Wipeout

  97. Tekken 3

  98. Sensible Soccer

  99. Psychonauts

  100. Crackdown

Statistics

Total played: 72 Total finished: 44

Number of sequels: 55

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Secret of the Incas

I don't think anyone actually understands how psyched I am for the release of the new Indiana Jones film next year. When I was younger and my age was still in single digits, I used to wake up extra early so I could go downstairs and watch all of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom before school. Every day. For about a year. And if I had my copy here with me now, I'd probably be watching it now.

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I came across a film called "Secret of the Incas", a low-budget adventure movie from 1954 starring Charlton Heston which seems to be Indiana Jones' most obvious inspiration. Heston plays Harry Steele (fucking awesome name), a square-jawed treasure-hunter who is determined to find the treasure of Machu Picchu in Peru. Like Indiana Jones, Steele walks around in a big brown fedora and leather jacket.

The similarities aren't accidental either. Rumour has it that before production of Raiders of the Lost Ark, Senor Spielbergo and George Lucas screened this movie (along with China, starring Alan Ladd) for the cast and crew, to give them an idea of the kind of movie they were trying to create.

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Youtube - Secret of the Incas (I) Youtube - Secret of the Incas (II) Youtube - Secret of the Incas (III)

These clips from Secret of the Incas should give you a good idea of how well Spielberg & co. managed to recreate the tone of the earlier movie. In fact, you could go further and point out specific sequences in Raiders that were influenced even by these three clips.

I'd love to see this movie completely, but it's impossible to buy Secret of the Incas. Nothing on Amazon, nothing on eBay. Even nothing on Bittorrent. Some conspiracy theorists reckon the movie is being 'suppressed' by Paramount because of the similarities to Indiana Jones, reckoning that people would be up in arms if they could see how much this film influenced Raiders of the Lost Ark (although I personally think this is ridiculous: if people can't that the Indiana Jones movies are nothing but a distillation of classic action movie staples, then these people should be banished to the wilderness immediately).

Whatever the reason, I can't get a hold of it on the internet. Anyone got a copy of this lying around? I'd be willing to pay good (read: not ridiculous) money for it.

We've come a long, long way together

My idea of heaven - 1991

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My idea of heaven - July 7th, 2007

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Slowly making my way through all of these in roughly chronological order. Monkey Island 2 next. I don't think there's a bad game in here.

BONUS CONTENT Press Play on Tape perform the Monkey Island theme live. If the first 30 seconds don't make you smile, I guarantee the last minute definitely will.

Collecting or clutter?

DVDs, books and games, post-purge

An article over on Unclutterer caught my eye - Is collecting a form of creative hoarding?

As I type this, virtually all of my worldly possessions are sitting in a storage container, waiting for me to pick them up. This includes my DVD collection. I've always thought of it as a 'DVD collection', never as 'clutter'. H. has always thought the opposite. Now, I'm beginning to wonder - who's right here?

For two months now, I've been getting by with the stuff I brought with me in my suitcases. And the only thing that I miss is my Xbox 360. I really wish I'd brought that instead of my PlayStation 2. I could be playing Forza 2 and boosting my achievement score right now instead of playing through Kingdom Hearts 2 and hanging out with Ariel from the Little Mermaid. Which, let's be honest, is pretty fucking fruity.

I tell you what I don't miss though: my DVDs. I brought a handful in a CD folder -- things like 2001, Idiocracy, Spaced -- things I could watch again and again. And I'd say I would miss those if I hadn't brought them with me, but what about the other 1,175?

Let's pick an extreme example: The Tao of Steve. Will I ever watch it again? I seriously doubt it. It was a bad movie and I didn't enjoy it when I watched it. I think the only reason I hold onto it is because I had myself convinced that my DVD collection was like some shiny communist state and every disc was equal. So I would no sooner get rid of 'The Tao of Steve' than my three-disc Criterion Collection edition of 'Brazil'.

But they're not equal. Not even close.

Filling in the insurance forms for the moving company was also pretty eye-opening. Averaging a value of €10 per disc, the insurance on the DVDs alone came to €12,000. And considering the final value of everything was under €15,000, it got me thinking - is this still a collection? Or did it cease to be a collection the minute I started buying things like The Tao of Steve, or Jack Frost, owning them just to own them?

Of the DVDs I own, I reckon there are about 200 that I love. Really love. And I'd be upset if I didn't have these. That leaves, what... 1,000 DVDs I could afford to let go of?

Anyway, it's left me with this food for thought. Would I rather: **A: ** keep convincing myself that it's worth holding onto films like The Tao of Steve, just in case Donal Logue dies a tragic death and its value suddenly skyrockets and I can retire early. or **B: ** sell the cruft on eBay and use the proceeds to buy myself a Macbook Pro and maybe even a nice new Cinema Display.

So - any offers on 1,000 DVDs?