Home (or: I think Sony just killed Second Life)

sony_home.jpg

Today at the Game Developer's Conference, Sony officially announced "Home". Home is so many things, it's a little complicated to describe.

Pitched as somewhere between Second Life and MySpace, it's a social space where PlayStation 3 owners can meet PlayStation 3 owners. They do this by navigating an avatar (similar to Nintendo's Mii, but more realistic and with more customization options) around a 3D world. Each user also gets a private space - a virtual apartment - which they can customize as they see fit. They can invite people into this private space and launch multiplayer games, or stream music and videos from their PlayStation 3 to the other people in this room. Sony's Home includes a virtual 'trophy room' where people can display their 'entitlements' (Sony's answer to Xbox 360's achievements) as moving, 3D trophies.

Oh, and it's all free.

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This was Sony's ace in the hole. A completely unexpected, beautifully executed masterstroke that almost makes you forget about all of Sony's fuck-ups with PlayStation 3.

Almost.

Right now, Sony is still talking about the possibilities of Home, and although a lot of these are still pretty blue-sky suggestions, they do give you some idea of what an online virtual world is capable of when you've got the weight and muscle of the entire Sony Corporation behind it. For example, using its ability to stream high-def movies, there could be movie premieres (in a virtual cinema) of Sony Pictures movies within Home. And for the MySpazz crowd, there's the possibility of in-game appearances by their favourite Sony BMG bands.

I bet the makers of Second Life won't get much sleep tonight.

Brown Bag Films - Copying again?

Via YouThoughtWeWouldntNotice:

A few months ago, someone spotted that Brown Bag Film's "Bears" Lotto campaign looked suspiciously like Matt Everitt's Ricky Gervais Bears. The thread on CreativeIreland.com has some interesting discussion, including a couple of posts by Matt Everitt himself, saying

I was told about this and after watching the ad (and falling off my chair) and emailed Brown Bag who of course denied that they would ever do such a thing and said that they could'nt see any similarities.

What can I do? Not a lot.

Brown Bag Films defended their position by suggesting that Bears3 are "obscure" and hadn't been broadcast.

How similar are they? You can make up your own mind

Matt Everitt's Bears3

Brown Bag's Lotto Ad

Now we have a similar situation. The new Argus Car Hire advert from Brown Bag Films looks suspiciously like the terrific opening title sequence from Steven Spielberg's "Catch Me If You Can". Hardly something they can claim as "obscure".

Can you see any similarities?

Argus Car Hire advert

Opening credits of Steven Spielberg's Catch Me if You Can

10 Kilometer Mix

Speaking of mixes...

Just before Christmas, I took part in the Port Tunnel 10k run. I hadn't run much before then. In fact, I would estimate that if you if you took all of the times I have run in my life and added them together, you probably wouldn't get 10K. So how did I go from lazy fat ass to the bronze Adonis I am today?

Well, it's entirely down to my special 10k iPod playlist* These songs helped keep me going when I couldn't see anything in the port tunnel except the steam from other people's sweat. It kept me going when I realised that, after 5 minutes of actually being in the tunnel that I'd seen everything the tunnel had to offer and the next hour or so would be like watching paint dry. Really painful, exhausting paint.

Anyway, so here's the mix. If anyone's got any suggestions for additional, suitable song, please let me know. I'll put them to the test next time I go to the gym.

  1. We Want Fun - Andrew W.K.

  2. Still Waiting - Sum 41

  3. Noise Brigade - Mighty Mighty Bosstones

  4. Training Montage (Rocky IV) - Vince DiCola

  5. Girls Own Love - Andrew W.K.

  6. Life During Wartime (Live) - Talking Heads

  7. How I Could just Kill a Man - Rage Against the Machine

  8. List of Demands (Reparations) - Saul Williams

  9. Bump - Spank Rock

  10. Movies - Alien Ant Farm

  11. Dancing in the Dark - Bruce Springsteen

  12. Witness (1 Hope) - Roots Manuva

  13. Music is my Hot Hot Sex - Cansei De Ser Sexy

  14. Heart's On Fire (Rock IV) - John Cafferty

  15. Fat Lip - Sum 41

  16. 99 Problems - Jay Z

  17. Flashdance / Fame - The Dan Band

  18. God Hates a Coward - Tomahawk

  19. Fuckin' Spend - High Speed Scene

  20. Glory Days - Bruce Springsteen

  21. Jump - Van Halen

  22. Holing Out for a Hero - Bonnie Tyler

  23. Jesus Walks - Kanye West

  24. Shimmy - System of a Down

  25. Million $ Man - Imperial Teen

  26. This Month, Day 10 - Cansei De Ser Sexy

  27. Goin' Out West - Tom Waits

  28. You're the Voice - John Farnham

Notes:

  • Yes, there's a lot of Andrew W.K.

  • Yes, there's a lot of 80s power ballads

  • Go for the single version of "I need a Hero" - you don't need six minutes of Bonnie Tyler wailing

  • Every life goal should be achieved with Vince DiCola's "Training Montage" playing in the backround

    • Well, the four or five weeks of training I did beforehand may have helped a little

Death of the Mix Tape?

Inspired by an article in the Observer some weeks ago in which Sean O'Hagan talks about the way our 'digital lifestyle' has killed the mix tape, Tom Farrell (who still gets my vote for Ireland's funniest blogger) recently wrote a post on the subject of mix tapes which reminded me of the response to the Observer article I had drafted but not yet finished. So I finished it.

Reading Sean O'Hagan's story of the emotions he felt while recently compiling a mix tape is fascinating and I'd encourage everyone to read it as an eloquently-written piece of nostaligia. But I strongly disagree with his article's suggestion that mp3s have somehow made music less personal and I think he's just plain wrong to suggest that "mix tapes" are somehow dead. They're not - they've just evolved.

The "Mix CD" is the most basic 21st Century representation of the "Mix Tape". Sure, it might not be as difficult to compile these as it was to compile a mix tape, but this doesn't mean they're any less important or meaningful. I would even suggest that these are more important, more meaningful. With the actual creation of the CDs mostly taken care of by software like iTunes which allows the user to just click and burn a CD, more time can be spent putting thought into the content of these mixes. This means that the medium is no longer the message. The message is the message.

One of the traditions of the thumped.com Christmas bash is the 'mix exchange'. Everyone who comes is encouraged to bring a mix tape/cd, put it into a box and in return, this entitles them to take someone else's mix from the box. I've gotten some great stuff from this, and in recent years, have seen this taken to the next level: Mix DVD featuring some of the year's best movies (it's not like this is any more or less legal than a mix tape).

And what about when we outgrow CDs too? Well, we're already seeing the next stage in the evolution of the mix tape. Sites like Out of Five offer weekly themed collaborative mixes. Collaborative! Can you imagine the logistics of trying to do a collaborative mix tape?!

Personally, I think the whole thing has less to do with the death of the mix tape or music being less personal and more to do with the fact that the writer has reached the stage in his life where mix tapes are somehow 'immature' and music isn't the most important thing in his life. He and his friends have become old farts: grown up and settled into a rather rigid existence; less willing to try new things.

And After all, It's hard to put thought and effort into a mix when you don't have anyone to give it to.

Review: 300

So the IFF Surprise Film was 300. Not that much of a surprise. The queue was a bigger surprise - jesus, I've never seen anything like that. Even the premiere of the Lord of the Rings movies had shorter queues.

Anyway, 300 completely floored me. It's a love song to graphic violence and romantic heroism, told with the most stylish visuals this side of Sin City. The movie suffers from more than a few jerky moments with a lot of the dialogue falling apart as hammy and unconvincing, but I personally found that these were mostly in the parts where the screenwriters actually tried to by historically accurate ("Return with your shield, or on it" being the most obvious). The political sub-plot had real trouble hiding the fact that it existed only as 'filler' and illicited an inappropriate titter from the audience, which only highlighted its awkwardness.

But who cares about all this? This movie is about the action sequences and these are what make the movie stand out. Probably not the most epic battles ever filmed, but definitely the most beautiful and balletic. The fact that this was filmed in a warehouse means we never see more than a handful of 'real' people on screen at any one time but the director works this to his favour, giving each individual skirmish an intimacy that would be otherwise lost.

Tremendous stuff. Gives me high hopes for what Zack Snyder can bring to Watchmen.

Review: The Fountain

Have you ever had a movie finish and end credits roll, with the entire audience sitting back in stunned silence? Maybe it's just the type of film I tend to go see, but this has only happened to me a handful of times. The Fountain being one of them.

The Fountain is a love story. Rather, it's three love stories, told across a thousand years. In the past, a conquistador searches for the tree of life to save his beloved Queen. In the present, a doctor searches for the cure for cancer to save his beloved wife. In the future... well... a guy travels with his tree, in a bubble, to a dying star wrapped in a nebula.

Hey - noone ever said this would be easy.

Arthouse blockbuster or blockbuster arthouse? Either way, this is not a welcoming film. At times, the ambitious storytelling threatens to derail the entire production, and the more cynical among us would almost certainly have trouble giving this film the room it needs to breathe. But for the more persistent, there's a great reward - something completely and defiantly unique. A sci-fi movie with a very human heart. A film that can leave an entire audience breathless.

I would say this is as close to unmissable as any movie I can think of.

10 Favourite C64 Games

The Great Escape

I think I got this with my Commodore 64. I seem to remember a Christmas Day where the rest of my family was off watching the Great Escape on TV and thinking to myself "Fuck you, last-generation losers. With this super-powerful computer, I AM Steve McQueen. I AM the Great Escape." The game itself didn't really follow the movie very strictly, but I still like the way it forces you to follow a pattern and 'keep up appearances' while you're digging your way out. Never finished this game though. I got into my tunnel, was heading under the fence -- I could taste the freedom -- when, with no warning, my C64 crashed, taking a tiny bit of my heart with it.

Ghostbusters

Most movie tie-ins on the C64 are of the side-scrolling shooter variety ('sup, Robocop?). And this probably could have worked with the Ghostbusters license. But instead, they went down an altogether more interesting route: part-resource management, part action. You have to build up a Ghostbusters franchise into a profitable venture while dealing with the escalating amount of paranormal activity. Whenever I get bored and want a C64 fix, this is the first game I reach for. Oh, and the synthesized speech is still amazing.

Last Ninja 2

In this game, you play the worst ninja in the world. Running around a park in broad daylight beating up jugglers and mimes doesn't seem very ninja-like to me. And what kind of ninja staunchly obeys the "keep off the grass" rule? A fucking pussy, that's who. Okay, so it's not exactly Ninja Gaiden, but it's still pretty awesome.

Bruce Lee

I never, never understood the point of this game. You run around a weird temple, trying to collect... what? Lamps? While being constantly chased by a ninja and a fat guy? Still though, you're motherfuckin' Bruce Lee!

Zorro

Zorro is still the most punitive game I've ever played. It's stupid and dumb and I hate it. But I can't stop going back to it. Maybe one day I'll actually, y'know... finish it. I imagine that would be like the end of WarGames and my C64 will turn to me and say in a Stephen Hawking voice, "A strange game. The only way to win is not to play."

Barbarian 2

Wolf from Gladiators, Maria Whittaker's tits and graphic decapitation. How could a pre-pubescent boy not love this game?

Beach Head

I remember being so engrossed in this game, I missed a bunch of swimming lessons and as a result, only got a silver medal in the end-of-year contest. Every time I see that silver medal I think about how, if I'd just played a little less Beach Head, it could have been a gold medal. And then I think "Fuck it, it was totally worth it."

Park Patrol

I can't really explain this. I'm a messy bastard, but I really enjoy this game about tidying up a park. Cleaning vicariously, that's what it is.

Goonies

Much better than the barmy Nintendo version, this was a platform game where you took control of two of the kids and had to use both to solve puzzles. Kind of like a proto-Lost Vikings. For example, to get past the first screen you have to navigate one kid to the roof to print fake money and distract the Fratellis while the other kid ran into the basement. Further on, the screens get ridiculously hard and you'll find yourself blowing through each of your eight (EIGHT!) lives just trying to figure out what you're supposed to do. Download Goonies from c64.com

Master of the Lamps

. I originally played this game on the Amstrad CPC-464. You try playing a game with colour-based puzzles on a crappy monochrome green-screen monitor. Only when I played it again on the C64, on a colour telly, did I finally get to appreciate just how incredible this game is. Sound puzzles, colour puzzles, geometry puzzles and a kick-ass magic carpet ride tying them all together. Years ahead of its time.

Forget Barcamp, where's Ireland's SXSW?

BarCamp Dublin will be taking place in a couple of months and, despite the fact that it's happening on my front door (I work in the Digital Depot), I probably won't be attending. In short, this is mainly because I don't think it has that much to offer to me. I have a blog, but I write mainly for my own enjoyment rather than as a means to rack up subscribers (you should see some of the some self-indulgent posts I have lined up for the next couple of weeks - wow). So with its heavy focus on blogging, search engine optimisation and unexciting technology which, frankly, was of no interest to me three years ago and is of even less interest to me now, BarCamp Dublin gives me no compelling reason to attend.

Now I've spent the day browsing through the SXSW website and drooling over the list of nerd-focused talks they will be giving, I can't help but wish that Ireland had something similar. What attracts me to the SXSW stuff is the completely open nature of the festival. Rather than limiting themselves to a few topics, they've made sure there's something for all types of nerd: movies, music, games, design, blogging, programming are all on the agenda. And because of this, it seems to be completely open, no sense of exclusion because of a lack of interest in a particular topic.

Panels that really caught my eye were:

Why hasn't Ireland seen a similar event? It's not for lack of talent. We have an abundance of talented, charming and articulate nerds that could give similarly interesting talks on a similarly diverse range of topics (although there's also an abundance of 'squeaky wheels'). Perhaps it's because the geek community is so fragmented that it's hard to rally them all together. The bloggers converse with other bloggers, the designers converse with other designers and so on. Perhaps rallying them together for a truly welcoming unconference with something for everyone would be too much effort.

But it would be a thing of beauty.

Then again, what do I care? I'm out of here soon.

Pancake Tuesday!

Pancake Tuesday, boys and girls. A magical time of year. You can eat as much as you want, but because they're only pancakes, you don't look like such a savage. In school, we used to brag about how many we ate. Since I didn't get any pancakes last year, I'm going to make up for it this year by gorging myself until I've got pancake batter coming out my ears.

Pancakes

100g flour 2 Eggs 200ml milk, mixed with 75ml water

  1. Sift flour into a mixing bowl.

  2. Make a well in the centre of the flour and break the eggs into it

  3. Whisk well

  4. Slowly add the milk and water, whisking as you go

  5. Cook in a pan over a medium heat

Toppings

  • Sugar and lemon juice. It is vitally important that the juice be from a plastic lemon. Otherwise it may as well be any other day of the week because it's just not Pancake Tuesday with plastic lemon.

  • Nutella. Nothing else. Okay, maybe ice cream. You'll be bouncing off the walls for days.

  • Bacon and maple syrup. Friend in work gave me a bottle of maple syrup from Canada, since all I seem to be able to find in Dublin is maple-flavoured Golden Syrup.

  • Blueberries. Awesome when they're dropped into the batter as it cooks in the pan.

So what's your favourite filling?