Thursday, December 27, 2007

Dio, can you hear me?

Fortiscule is ready to be the next guitar hero with the ultimate controller, courtesy of Santa: a real Fender Stratocaster HSS in "midnight wine." As soon as he gets some lessons under his belt, he'll be well on his way to becoming a jukebox hero (with stars in his eyes).

Santa also brought him Guitar Hero III, but both Fortiscule and Santa were dismayed to discover that the Rock Band "Stratocaster" controller that we already have doesn't work with GH3. How stupid is that?

Merry Christmas to everybody from Sythbane Squadron!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A poignant moment in COD4

Every now and then, a video game brushes up against reality with the emotion it stirs. One of those rare moments occurred this morning while I was practicing my banjo and Fortiscule was playing a campaign mission in Call of Duty 4.

Fortiscule was playing the mission in which Marine Sgt. Paul Jackson is helping to rescue the downed Cobra pilot. As he fought his way to her, I played "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot," because it seemed appropriate for a rescue. As he carried her aboard the helicopter and they began to fly away, the scene shifted, and we all know what was coming.

I started playing "Amazing Grace" in a very gentle, sotto voice in a slow 4-4 time. As the nuke detonated and swept away all the life before it. I kept playing, and the song began to seem very poignant as Jackson staggered out of the crashed helicopter and looked around at the devastation in his last moments. As his vision faded to white light, it felt awfully sad, and Fortiscule and I were very quiet.

The images and music together evoked a feeling like the solemn sadness I feel when I see a picture such as the one above. Here are some real Marines, honoring a fallen comrade in Iraq. I found the picture at the Third Army site, which says the photo was taken by Marine Sgt. Jason L. Jensen in Barwanah, Iraq, on Oct. 25, 2006. I certainly don't mean to trivialize this dignified event by comparing it to a video game. The game did provide a reminder, though, of who the real heroes are who answer the call of duty.

Bumbling with buttons

On a lighter note, last night I played several rounds of Halo 3 multiplayer with Batsak. It was the first time I've played Halo in more than a month, because I've mostly played Call of Duty 4 in recent weeks.

Consequently, my Halo man provided some slapstick comedy for Batsak's amusement as I was doing melee attacks when I tried to aim, reloading when I tried to throw grenades, throwing grenades when I tried to kneel, and zooming my scope when I tried to melee attack.

I starting remembering the Halo controls after a few rounds -- my controls are set to "Boxer" configuration because I have such a hard time making timely melee attacks in Halo. But overall, it was a sad night for the Sythbane Squadron in the Halo multiplayer madness.

And here's a mighty Sythbane Squadron Sun Crow Clan salute to Batsak for doing well on his exams!

Recent reviews

If you're interested, my official reviews of Mass Effect, Call of Duty 4 , and the video game gift guide compiled by some other Sythbane Squadron members and me are now published on's Techcetera. Please leave comments if you visit, so my bosses will think somebody on the planet reads my reviews!

My thanks to Fartknockker for his recent generous comments about my blog and reviews. Fartknockker is a good comrade and worthy adversary in COD4 and Rainbow Six Vegas, and a member of the no-frags cadre that plays with Big Daddy Ogre. Sythbane Squadron salutes you, noble Ogrerrati.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Hod Rod is funniest movie of 2007

All great men have mustaches, and Hot Rod is the funniest movie of this year.

It brought back for me the death defying stunts of elementary school, jumping my bicycle off a 4-inch-tall wooden ramp. I was going for distance, not height. It was pretty darned impressive.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Ray Park will be Snake Eyes!

Ray Park, who energized "Star Wars: Episode I -- The Phantom Menace" as Darth Maul, and made a frog-guy cool as Toad in the X-Men films, has been cast as Snake Eyes in the new live-action G.I. Joe movie. I saw the news on G4's "Attack of the Show," and now it's all over the Net.

This is fantastic news! What a cool choice. Ray Park's martial arts skill, athletic ability and physical grace will make him a superb Snake Eyes. Mark Wahlberg is supposed to be Duke, which is also excellent casting.

I hope the movie will be a realistic, gritty take on the whole G.I. Joe story, to the extent that they can make it realistic since it's based on a toy line and kids will be watching. I supposed by "gritty," I actually mean "not campy." An example of what I mean is in "Transformers," another movie ostensibly for kids (and their dads). The soldiers in "Transformers," while not the main characters, are depicted very well as real people who are also brave, determined and professional soldiers. They react intelligently to the incredible situations they face and are never silly or stupid. Let's hope G.I. Joe takes the same approach to storytelling, so the movie will appeal to be kids and adults.

In today's world, the G.I. Joe characters could take on a whole new dimension: They represent the courageous men and women who are, at this moment, putting their lives on the line in Iraq and Afghanistan. The G.I. Joe characters should be idealized versions of these real heroes. For the G.I. Joe characters to even catch our attention against the backdrop of real soldiers' exploits in the news every day, they'll have to really be spectacular -- both believable and heroic. If the characters are too cartoony, the movie will just be a joke that even kids will dismiss.

The flip side of the coin, and perhaps the greater challenge to the filmmakers, will be to make Cobra Commander and his henchmen into believable, scary villains. How can an evil genius bent on world domination and his mercenary henchmen even hold a candle to the bonfire of hatred cast by today's terrorists and religious fanatics, who torture and murder their own neighbors in the name of God? Cobra Commander will have to step it up to be that awful and evil.

Hasbro hasn't produced any of the cool 12-inch G.I. Joe toys like the Snake Eyes pictured above for a long time now. I expect the forthcoming movie means they'll blitz us with a mighty wave of merchandising, which is good news to me as a collector.

Ray Park already has been immortalized as a toy in a multitude of scales and poses as Darth Maul. Pictured below are Darth Maul and Fortiscule, when Fortiscule defended our home from a Sith attack.

Who else do you think would make a good character for G.I. Joe? Post your ideas for casting in the comments field below!