Colours of the Matrix

Well, it was only a matter of time before I did something about the Matrix, wasn't it? Quintessential nerd movie that has already been endlessly picked apart. Well, what's one more?

Colour plays an important role in the Matrix movies. The tinting is as much a part of the mise-en-scene* as the set and props, giving the viewer subtle clues as to the nature of the setting. Scenes taking place within the matrix are tinted green, scenes taking place on board the ships in the 'real world' are tinted blue and Scenes taking place within 'zion' are tinted brown. he truly hardcore Matrix nerds have used these 'clues' as part of some obsessively detailed theories regarding the underlying meaning of the Matrix movies.

But we'll do no such thing here.

  • Holy shit. Did I really just say "mise-en-scene"? Shoot me now.

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Stew Station

Finally got around to checking out Stew Station, which opened up next to the Namaste Indian on North King Street, right around the corner from where I live. Like the sign on the door says, they specialise in stews and other soup-based dishes, and the menu seems to change regularly. The restaurant seems to be chasing the Gruel dollar - a very relaxed, homey atmosphere with straightforward, uncomplicated food. But it seems a little out-of-place on North King Street, like it should be closer to the Epicurean Food Hall. But no matter! With development in Smithfield finally starting to bear some fruit (a Thomas Read that has yet to be even half-full, the opening of the Light House Cinema soon), maybe Stew Station is just a little early to the party.

Anyway, since we live so close, I got the food to take away. I got the tomato soup with meatball for myself and a beef and vegetable for H. Reasonable value too: EUR7 for a hearty meal (EUR7.50 if you eat in). The stews were tasty. Comforting, but didn't feel entirely healthy. But then again, that could have been the massive dollop of carby, starchy, delicious, creamy mash that came with the meal.

Now all they need to do is change their opening times (7pm weekdays, 6pm weekends) to handle the post-pub crowd and serve Coddle, and Zaytoon will be displaced as my favourite drunk meal.

I'm moving to Rome

(x-posted to Livejournal because this is big)

So, after months of agonising over where H. would be posted for work, the big news finally arrived yesterday.

They're sending her to Rome.

Well, me and H... I think we've got something special. Something I don't want to give up, y'know? So I'm going with her. I'm leaving my job, my apartment, my friends and family, and going to live in Rome for the next three years.

Now, let me make it clear, I'm fully committed to this and I'm delighted she got Holy See and not Vilnius (or, God forbid, Addis fucking Abbaba), but my brain is still reeling from the shock of it all and I'm having trouble trying to understand exactly what this means. I tried to get my head around it yesterday but instead ended up staring at a wall and muttering "fuck... fuck..." for twenty minutes instead.

What am I going to do there? No idea. The pessimist in me is looking on this as my life being turned upside down for a few years and panicing at the enormity of it all. The optimist, however, is seeing this as the great etch-a-sketch of my life being given a good shaking. Erase, start again. So I'm completely open to suggestions for what I could do with my new life. I'm roughly halfway between "Ride around on a Vespa saying 'ciao' for a living" and "Do a TEFL course and teach English". But you're a bright, creative bunch. Any other suggestions?

When are we going? Again, no idea. A few people got posted yesterday, so HR was understandably swamped and managed to duck out before H. could grill them for details. Hopefully it won't be too soon. We need to sort out a going-away party.

Playing on my DVD player this weekend:

  • Godfather I-III

  • A load of Fellini

  • The Italian Job

  • Suspiria

  • Season 1 of Rome

A Sober look at the Nintendo Wii

Now that I've had my Wii for almost two months and the shock of the new has worn off, I think it's time to step back and take a good, hard look at the system and see what needs to change before it can become... ahem... "the most successful console of all time."

"Hey, what's your friend code?"

True story: I was listening to someone I know on the radio today talking about the Vista launch - the presenter mentioned that he was crazy about the Xbox 360 and said that they should swap gamer tags. "Sure," my friend said, "I'm $foo." Now, I can guarantee he'll have a few extra friends on Xbox 360 tonight. People he could play games with in the space of a few minutes. Leaving aside all other parts of their latest console offering, Microsoft nailed the online aspect. They made it ridiculously simple for people to find each other and play online.

Nintendo's online strategy has been built around the idea of protecting children from sexual predators. The idea being that if you make the system ridiculously cumbersome, the sexual predator will lose interest and go back to stalking teenage girls on myspace. So we're left with the following: If I want to add you as a friend, I have to give you my 16-digit code, you put this into your Wii, and then you have to give me your 16-digit code and I have to put this into my Wii. Except we can't actually exchange codes over the Wii, so we have to find some other way of getting our friends codes to each other. But once we have independently added each other, that's when the fun begins! We will be able to... well, we can't play any games together yet, because there aren't any games to play online yet. We can send each other messages, I guess. And send each other Miis (those cute characters that are popping up everywhere). Apart from that, uh...

The exchange (and entry) of these 16-digit codes is so awkward that I have actually traded Wii friends codes using Xbox Live. If that doesn't set alarm bells ringing in Nintendo HQ, there's something very wrong here.

And to top this all off, Pokemon Battle Revolution -- the first online-enabled Wii game -- will require an entirely new, completely separate code for friends to play with each other. I mean, good grief! Iwata-san, protecting children from online predators is commendable and all, but surely the rest of us shouldn't be punished as well?

And now even big developers are telling Nintendo that the Wii "Friend code" system is broken and dumb. So there's hope yet.

Post-launch Game Drought

Zelda aside, there hasn't been a single truly compelling purchase for the Wii since it launched. Wario Ware: Smooth Moves is a fun diversion, but the system already has a bunch of games based around mini-games, so it's hard to get excited about a bunch more. The upcoming release pipeline is pretty bleak, with no real excitement until Mario Galaxy in June. Until then, we get a bunch of lackluster third-party titles and ports from other systems (Price of Persia being a port of the PSP version(!) of the game).

Come on Nintendo, people knew there was going to be a bit of a drought while you found your feet. People still went and bought the system on the promise of something remarkable. How's about you live up to that with more than just mini-games?

Features Removed From Virtual Console Games

When I first spoke about the Wii's Virtual Console in December, I said

But the games that you play on the Virtual Console will be pixel-perfect versions of the games you played on your NES, SNES, N64, Megadrive or PC Engine. As the man says: Nothing added, nothing taken away.

Turns out this isn't quite true - Nintendo removed expansion port functionality from Nintendo 64 games on the Virtual Console, which means that you can't save data on some games (such as ghost data on Mario Kart 64), but more importantly means that there will be no rumble in VC games, despite the presence of a rumble motor in the Gamecube controller. These may be relatively minor issues, but all the same, as someone who is being asked to pay unreasonable prices to play these games, the least I can expect is the same experience. I mean, it's only right. Right?

Misc issues

  1. Wireless out of the box! Always-on technology! Why can't these two things come together and give me an experience where my Wii doesn't have to do a 15-second connection test each time I connect to the Wii shop?

  2. We're no longer dealing with bricks-and-mortar distributors and export laws, so why can't I buy games from the US Virtual Console shop? Why are Nintendo only going to allow me to buy games that were originally released in Europe? Playing games that were never released here is half the reason I love emulators so much.

  3. I was going to make a joke about straps here, but then I figured, nah...

Jameson Dublin International Film Festival

Advertising in videogames isn't necessarily a bad thing. In games set in a 'realistic' universe, it can add an extra element of realism. Except when there's just one product being advertised. For example, Rainbow Six Vegas - are you trying to tell me that only ads on the main strip in Las Vegas are for Axe Deoderant?

Well, that's what it's like in Dublin this morning. Overnight, virtually every advertising space seems to have been taken over by ads for the Jameson Dublin International Film Festival, which 'launched' last night.

There's a complete list of the movies on their website. Here's the ones I'd be interested in seeing:

This is England

Shane Meadow's previous film, Dead Man's Shoes absolutely blew my socks off. Can't wait to see what he does with this story of a gang of skinheads in the 80s.

Half Nelson

Y'know... I might take some shit for this, but I really enjoyed The Notebook. It was cheesy and soppy but it had James Garner bawling his eyes out, so I figure it's okay. And Ryan Gosling was pretty good as the lead. And with an oscar nod for his performance in this, I'd say it's worth checking out.

The Dreamers

Eva Green in the nip.

Once

This Irish movie did really well in Sundance. But will my seething hatred of Glen Hansard keep me away? Probably.

Naked Lunch

Naked Lunch! On the big screen!

Fast Food Nation

Dramatization of the non-fiction account of the crazy goings-on in the fast food industry. Eric Schlosser was interviewed in last week's Observer and came across as a thoroughly nice bloke.

Sunshine

Any movie that can draw comparisons to Tartakovsky is at least worth a look. The fact that it's Danny Boyle, Alex Garland and Cillian Murphy together again? Well, that's just a bonus.

Surprise Film

A tenner says that this will be Darren Aronofsky's The Fountain.

Game On, London

My girlfriend is amazing. Despite the fact that she can barely tolerate videogames, she still whisked me away to London last weekend, just to bring me to the Game On exhibition in the Science Museum, where I could play virtually every game ever made, on every system ever made. Just think about this for a second: this is like someone who is lactose intolerant having a milkshake with you, just because it's your birthday.

Amazing.

I got to play SpaceWar*! And Space Invaders! And Steel Battalion (with the huge controller)! And the old Star Wars Arcade game! And a Playstation 3!

Actually, this last one wasn't that amazing.

They were running a demo of the racing game, Motorstorm. When I took the controller, I noticed that the controller wasn't set up to use the motion control. So I went to quit the current race and turn it on. Except, on this pre-release hardware, running this pre-release demo, clicking "quit" causes the machine to freeze. Hard. The PlayStation 3 itself was enclosed in a plastic box, so they started by trying to squeeze a bent metal coathanger through one of the ventilation holes to hit the 'reset' button. When this didn't work, they had to get a drill to remove the plastic box.

Fortunately, my amazing girlfriend was on-hand to document the faces I made as people scrambled about with power tools trying to fix the obscenely expensive piece of consumer electronics I just broke.

PS3 at Science Museum

Yeah, she's amazing.

More photos from my trip up on Flickr

    • running beside a PDP-1, but not on a PDP-1

Elite Beat Agents

eba.jpg If Full Spectrum Warrior can be used to train soldiers in the US Army, I don't understand why crisis negotiators and bomb disposal teams aren't using Elite Beat Agents to train their new recruits. No other game comes close to teaching you the importance of staying calm under pressure like EBA.

Elite Beat Agents is the English-language version of Osu! Tatakae! Ouendan!, a cheerleading game which appeared on the DS in Japan a while ago. It's basically a rhythm-action game, requiring you to tap the screen in the right place, in time with the music (the unbearably cute J-Pop of the original replaced with unbearably cute western pop in EBA). Simple, right?

Wrong.

The whole time you're playing, your "Elite Meter" is trickling down. Tapping the screen at the right time will top this up slightly (How well you tap the screen in time with the music affects the amount that this gets 'topped up'). Miss a note and your Elite Meter drops slightly. If your Elite Meter drops to nothing, it's game over.

There's a point, roughly halfway along your Elite Meter where it turns from yellow (fine) into red (danger!). Once you cross into the red, your on-screen cheerleaders stop cheering. They stand there, panting, until you manage to bring the Elite Meter out of the red. With all its liveliness and constant movement, the sight of your cheerleaders standing completely motionless, is the most distracting thing in the game.

If you get into the red, it's very easy to drag yourself back out: all you need to do is score some perfect hits and boost your Elite Meter. But when you realise your cheerleaders aren't dancing, you panic. You start keeping one eye on your Elite Meter. Then all sense of rhythm goes out the window and it's virtually impossible to get the perfect hits you need. In other words, if you panic and lose focus, it's game over. It took me a long time to learn this. Frustration almost drove me to shove the stylus through my DS while trying to crack "Jumpin' Jack Flash", but I got there in the end.

So if you ever see a guy defusing a bomb and humming 'Sk8r Boi', don't worry. You're in good hands.

So far, Elite Beat Agents hasn't been given a UK release, but DS games aren't region-locked, so buy a copy from eBay and enjoy.

{games, nintendo, DS}

Technorati Tags: ds, games, nintendo

iPhone and some questions

Apple did the expectedly-unexpected and announced the iPhone.

It's a widescreen iPod mixed with a mobile phone mixed with a teeny-tiny Mac for Safari and Mail. Put simply, this is the most awesome piece of consumer electronics I have ever seen, so far. And I've seen a lot.

$599 for 8GB version. $499 for 4GB version.

So, some questions:

  1. Released in June in the US, but Q4 2007 IN EUROPE?! WHYYY? Oh the humanity.

  2. 5 hour talk/video battery life, 16 hour audio battery life... but what's the standby life?

  3. Who will be the carrier partner in Ireland? I'm guessing this will be O2, since they've got a lot of ties with Apple, but...

  4. Why partner with Google for the maps and search, but partner with Yahoo for the mail?

  5. How does it know where you are for the location-aware maps stuff? Cellular towers? Or is this a feature of 3G?

Update: Answered in the actual keynote - there doesn't seem to be any location-awareness in the phone. Steve had manually entered "Moscone West" as as 'saved location' in the maps application

  1. Are there any other differences between the two versions? Because I can't imagine anyone not springing the extra $100 for the larger capacity one.

  2. What kind of graphics chip is powering this beast?

Oh yeah, and there was something about a media streamer that's coming out in February, but who the shit really cares about that? Especially since it doesn't even output in 1080p.

101 Ways to Save Apple

In honour of today's Macworld keynote (hoping for: iTV, Leopard release date), here's a blast from the past: Wired's 1997 article "101 Ways to Save Apple".

Some of these are deliberately off the wall, but some of them have been adopted by 'new' Apple. For example:

**98. Testimonials.** Create commercials featuring real-life people in situations where buying a Mac (or switching to a Mac) saved the day.

So Wired is indirectly responsible for Ellen Feiss?

What would Eddie Hobbs do?

Ten Thousand Euro, Shredded

Ten Thousand Euro, Shredded

This is ten thousand euros, in tens, twenties and fifties, completely shredded. Seamus gave it to me on Saturday at Rock and Roll Motherfucker in Voodoo.

And now I don't know what to do. With enough effort, I could probably crack this open and sellotape all this back together. But is there more than EUR10,000 worth of effort involved? Either way, it's still one of the most unique and depressing birthday presents anyone has given me.