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Archive for August, 2007

               The suspense leading up to the release of one of the most anticipated video games ever is at an all time high. With daily updates at the SSB Brawl website, much has been revealed but not all the questions have been answered. Will Sonic make a cameo in the game?, who is the final boss?, just how many characters will actually be playable? We may only speculate, but the website has offered enough content so far to keep even the most casual Nintendo fan drooling. From what we know, it is obvious that this game will top its predecessor Melee with little or no effort at all.

               First is the aspect of graphics. No the graphics on the Wii are not HD, not even close to the Xbox 360 or PS3, and not really “next gen” persay. But the aspect that matters most in a game is the gameplay itself. Who wants a game where the only memorable moment is looking at the pretty scenery? Super Smash Brothers Brawl will bring something fresh, something new and something just right to Nintendos long lived fighting series. Although the graphics certainly won’t turn any heads, from the screenshots they will most definitely look amazing compared to Melee. Donkey Kong’s fur comes alive with motion, Link breaths as his shirt ripples in the wind and Samus’s armor shines with metallic wonder. The highly updated graphical improvement over the Gamecube’s Meleee is obvious, and serves as mere icing on the cake on the whole.

                The real powerhouse in the game will be its highly addictive gameplay, load of characters and amazing storyline. We do not know much at this time, other than the existence of something known as the “Subspace Emissionary,” which is the story of the game. It looks promising, but I for one am looking forward to the online multiplayer action. What can be more fun than slashing down people overseas as you sip on water and nibble crackers on your couch? Exactly, absolutely nothing. We still have to wait until December 1st, oh the agony. Until then SSB Brawl’s official website ( http://www.smashbros.com/en_us/index.html) will continue to add more characters that are newcomers to the game. Besides Diddy Kong, Zero Suit Samus, Snake, Metaknight, Pokemon Trainer, Ike, Wario and Pit we have no idea. Anyone could show up to join the brawl this time around.

                 If there is one thing we know for sure, it is that this game will offer all the gut splitting, insane aerials, wicked specials, button mashing, combo executing and all out smashing you have come to expect from the SSB franchise. Let us hope that Nintendo has crafted yet another gem in their long line of masterpieces.

 SSB Brawl

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          No matter where you look, history has been filled with secrets. Codes, hidden messages, and cryptograms have appeared in every nation and in nearly every situation. Utilized by the world’s greatest leaders to fool the enemy, and some of the most notorious criminals of all time, ciphers have proved to be both helpful and infamously frustrating in a society full of secrets. No one likes the feeling of the unknown; the idea of a hidden meaning challenges us to think outside of the box, bend the rules if we want to know the truth. When the truth isn’t in plain sight it can be easy to get discouraged. With multiple types of encryption and heightened complexity, technology has only aided in the various ways ciphers can be implemented to serve their purpose. Modern and classical encyrption are just the tip of the iceberg in contemporary standards, and people are consistently fascinated by the intricacies utilized to hide something so simple. Codebreaking forces us to see things in a different light; to analyze and interpret patterns, similarities and subtle nuances that hide a deeper truth just below the surface.

           

          For centuries, similar codebreaking techniques have aided troops during World War II, helped unmask serial killers and solve the daily puzzle in the New York Times.  It has been through the art of encryption that deadly secrets have been kept away from corrupted hands, and enemies have been brought to the floor. For years The Zodiac Killer stalked California and the people who lived there. But besides sending a message of hate, he also sent a multitude of ciphers. Clever and many times intricately difficult, many of them have yet to be solved. Although simple in theory, the Zodiac’s ciphers are part of an entirely different dimension of encryption: psychological manipulation.

         

         Everyone likes a surprise; discovering something they did not know existed, something only they know about. Ciphers and codes offer the surprise factor, but they can also offer something else. As in the case of the Zodiac, they offer a psychological threat. Not knowing the statements of a mass murderer or any threat to security can eat away at the mind of even the highest government official. Always wondering, never ceasing to contemplate the possible implications of the undecoded message of “terror.” Of course the message could be nothing more than a knock knock joke, but that is where the beauty lies. It is this undeniable sense of mystery and myriad of POSSIBLE implications that make ciphers so powerful and mentally enthralling.

          Ciphers can offer manipulation, unintentional influence and even intentional distraction. Although one mere example, the saga of The Zodiac represents a crystal clear example of not only the psychological implications of ciphers, but their ability to distract from the obvious answer at hand. (allowing the Zodiac to continually evade police with little or no effort.)

          Everything serves some purpose and intention within society. Ciphers and undecoded tranfers of data can be Satan’s helper or the savior of an entire military operation. The art of encryption is neverending, always evolving, and continaully changing with each new generation and the technology that comes along with it.

         Very informative site on the subject of encryption: http://www.vectorsite.net/ttcode.html

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This creature is most probably the creation of an environmental problem. Children at a nursery in Weston-super-Mare, England spotted the three headed frog hopping in the garden.

Source: BBC News

The blog famous cyclops kitten, Cy was first thought to be a joke photo manipulation. Living only for a day, It had only one eye and was noseless.
Source: News

The most infamous headless chicken, Mike wowed the world by living for 18 months which indefinitely entered it into the Guinness World Records. It could still live becuase most of his brain stem and ear was left on his body.
Source: Mike The Headless Chicken

Nope this is not photoshop manipulated. A female polar bear named Pelusa turned purple after she was given a special treatment to clear up a skin condition. This has attracted crowds at the Mendoza City Zoo in Argentina. The fur has returned to normal after a few days.
Source: NW Botanicals

Genetic mutation called ‘feather duster’ of a parakeet.

Dolphins has taken a pink hue in the Pear River Delta situated between Hong Kong and Macau. It is not known why they are pink in colour but several assumptions include the lack of natural predators or the pink colour is a byproduct of blushing to regulate body temperature.
Source: 2 Dolphins

The two-month old animal, named Cham Leck which means ‘strange,’ was given to monks at a local pagoda by a farmer who feared the six legged cow would bring him bad fortune.
Source: Steve Quayle

The hooded seal has a large elastic nasal cavity and when fully inflated resembles a large black ruber ball. They are large aggresive mammals that can exceed 3m in length and 400kg in weight.
Source: Canadian Museum Of Nature

The large ocean sunfish vies for the title of strangest fish in the sea. It has an almost circular, flattened body. It weighs up to 2 tons and 3m long. The head is almost a third of the whole body length.
Source: Earth Window

If you had your facts about the Siberian tiger being the largest cat, then you are wrong. The liger is the world’s largest cat, a cross breed between a male lion and a female tiger. They exhibit conflicts between the social habits of the lion and solitary habits of the tiger.

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The following is reprinted from Uncle John’s Legendary Lost Bathroom Reader.

These tidbits come from  Dr. Ray Broekel, “candy bar historian” and publisher of a newsletter called the Candy Bar Gazebo.

THE AIR MAIL BAR. Introduced in 1930 to honor the first airmail flight in the U.S. – in 1918, from Washington, D.C. to New York City. Ironically, the first flight never made it to New York. After takeoff, the pilot noticed someone had forgotten to fill the fuel tank. Then he got lost over Maryland and had to land in a cow pasture. The Air Mail candy bar had a similar fate.

FAT EMMA. In the early 1920s, the Pendergast Candy Company in Minneapolis introduced a candy bar with a nougat center. They planned to call it the Emma bar. But when it wound up twice as thick as expected (they accidentally put too much egg white in the mixture), they changed the name to Fat Emma. Later, Frank Mars copied the idea to create the Milky Way bar.

THE SAL-LE-DANDE BAR. The first candy bar named after a stripper – Sally Rand, whose “fan dance” at the 1933-34 Chicago World’s Fair shocked and titillated the nation. In the 1960s, another stripper bar was available briefly: the Gypsy bar, named after Gypsy Rose Lee.


Red Grange Bar (Image Credit: Gallery of Red Grange Material)

THE RED GRANGE BAR. Endorsed by Red Grange, the most popular football player of his day. After starring at the University of Illinois, he joined the Chicago Bears in 1925 and helped keep the National Football League in business. Unfortunately, he couldn’t do the same for his candy bar.

THE VEGETABLE SANDWICH BAR. One of the weirdest “health” bar ever made, this 1920s vegetable concoction contained cabbage, celery, peppers, and tomatoes. Its makers claimed that it aided digestion and “will not constipate.”

THE ZEP CANDY BAR. “Sky-High Quality.” One of several candy bars that capitalized on the popularity of “lighter-than-air” dirigibles in the 1930s. This one featured a sketch of a Graf Zeppelin on the wrapper. It was taken off the market after the Hindenburg exploded in 1937.


Chicken Dinner Candy Truck [Image Credit: Charles Phoenix]

THE CHICKEN DINNER BAR. One of the bestselling bars you’ve never heard of. It was introduced in the 1920s and remained on the market for about 50 years. The original wrapper featured a picture of a roasting chicken on a dinner plate – a bizarre way of suggesting it was a nourishing meal and encouraging customers to associate it with prosperity (“a chicken in every pot”). The manufacturer, Sperry Candy Co., even dispatched a fleet of Model A trucks disguised as giant sheet-metal chickens to deliver the candy to stores. Several years after the bar’s debut, Sperry dropped the chicken from the wrapper. But it kept the name.

THE BIG-HEARTED “AL” BAR. George Williamson, owner of the Williamson Candy Company, was a good Democrat and a good friend of New York governor Al Smith, Democratic nominee for president in 1928. Smith lost in a landslide to Herbert Hoover, and his candy bar soon followed.

THE SEVEN UP CANDY BAR. Got its name from having seven connected pieces, each with a different center. The bar came out in the 1930s, before the 7-Up Bottling Company began production of its soft drink – so the Trudeau Candy Company owned the trademark rights to the name. Eventually the 7-Up Bottling Company bought the bar and retired it, so they had exclusive use of the name no matter how it was spelled – Seven Up or 7-Up. [Image Credit: I Remember JFK]

THE “IT” BAR. The #1 female sex symbol of the silent movie era was Clara Bow – known as the “It Girl.” (She had that special quality her movie studio called “It.”) In 1927 the McDonald Candy Company of Salt Lake City tried cashing in on her popularity with a candy bar featuring her face on the wrapper. It did well for a few years, then disappeared along with Bow. (She wasn’t able to make the switch to talkies, because although she was lovely to look at, her Brooklyn accent made her impossible to listen to.)

Reprinted from Uncle John’s Legendary Lost Bathroom Reader. ©1999 by the Bathroom Reader’s Press.

(thanks also to www.neatorama.com)

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             If you pay any attention to the gaming industry, chances are you have heard of Spore. Lead designer Will Wright has been in the process of crafting the revolutionary Spore for nearly 5 years. A huge peak of anticipation has begun to form as gamers wait for Spore to finally be released. What’s all the hype about you ask? Well Spore pushes the boundaries of what a game should be, can be, or will be in the future.

            Will Wright has never made games that are generic, normal or even close to anything else on the market. His last groundbreaking success, The Sims speaks for itself in terms of pure genius and a revolution in the types of video games we play. SporeWright has always looked for something more, something deeper to understand through playing video games, a kind of out of the box experience. This idea of “organic” video games in where Spore sets itself apart in the video game universe. Wright has made a world of complete mystery until it is explored. No person will see it the same way, create the same species, or end up in the same position. In a way, it’s alive.

            The mindset behind Spore has a clear purpose: allowing players to discover things on their own, not be showed them. Nothing in Spore is revealed automatically, nothing is clear and nothing is certain until you find out. Wright holds a firm belief in the power of exploration and the imagination. As he calls it an “imagination amplifier,” Spore is much more than just a toy or a video game; it is an opportunity for discovery.               

           Unlike any other game ever dreamed of, Spore allows you to create life. From single-celled amoebas to alien inhabitants, you decide how your world develops. Between clashing species, eating, staying warm and reproducing; every aspect of the stages of evolution can be modified. If fail to monitor the level of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, it will turn into a fiery hell. (A scary possibility of our future I might add) If you flood the earth, you will have a modern day water world, and if you take care of it your world will thrive. Anything you think of can be implemented with Wright’s in game editor. You control your world and the inhabitants that live there. The game’s visuals look stunning, and Wright has created one of the most unique games I have seen in decades. With online play implemented as well, Spore’s world will eventually be created by the player themselves. Species, worlds and the environment will eventually be all player made.

           The ability to see the future of your world is key to Wright’s purpose behind the Spore. Seeing 50 or 100 years into the future is hard for most people to grasp, but Spore allows the player to actually live it. As Wright calls it “reprogramming your intuition;” resetting our minds to interpret changes in our world on a long term scale. Wright sees nearly all the problems in our world as stemming from the failure to have long term thinking, and instead only short term guessing. This, he says, is why video games have the potential to change the world. By refocusing our minds and retraining our intuition to think differently.

            Although the game has yet to be officially released, Spore may prove to be a truly revolutionary experience. Simple, yet strikingly innovative, the game screams to be unique and provide a fresh creative experience.

            After all, Nothing is more fun that feeding your imagination.

              

          

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 Help save the pandas.

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             Awhile ago I saw a video on the TED conference website. Here is the video if you would like to watch it:

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/66

             It is a speech by Sir Ken Robinon entitled: “Do Schools Kill Creativity?” The talk really struck me, and I had to sit down for a minute and ponder just what Robinson was pointing out. The more I thought about it, the more I began to agree with what he was saying, and the more I realized just how big of a problem this is, and the massive potential that lies in correcting it.

             Although may seem hard to grasp for some people, schools in contemporary times dismiss creativity and instead foster speed and standardization. The stringent guidelines, automated teachers, bland worksheets and standard curriculum enforce an idea of a “common” routine. Instead of focusing on each child’s unique gift and potential to influence the world, schools emphasize what a child does not do well. The focus is put on strengthening children’s skills in all areas and in ways that many will never use in their life. We are training students for jobs that may not even exist by the time they grow up, all the while placing personal creativity and expression last in line.

             For years the school system has fallen into a truly dreadful cycle. Math, English and History have always been at the top of the foodchain. No matter what country, culture or language, the hierarchy of school subjects remains the same. Japan, Russia, China, India and any other large nation all follow nearly the same ranking system, while foolishly placing the arts dead last. At the very end of line in importance and value rests the arts: dance, drama, music and theatre. Always deemed less important to the educational experience, they are cast aside, and instead everyone is told to do their math and be quiet. The paradox here is that education has been failing to put enough importance in fostering creativity within the children of our future. instead of building children’s unique gifts, they are scolded and given a tutor to help them in other subjects that are higher on the scale of “life potential.”

           Creativity forms the basis of everything our society constantly revolves around. Every new idea, concept and brilliant breakthrough began with a glimpse into the world of creativity. It is easy to overlook where revolutionary ideas come from, where discoveries are fostered and where the changes in our world are generated.

           Robinson mentions that by the time the average person is an adult, they are afraid of being wrong. As a child it comes effortless, no matter what the situation children take a shot. But as the world has progressed, something truly vital has been lost inbetween. As adults the worst possible scenario is making a mistake, a blunder; something that goes against standards and the norm. This is how creativity has been effectively surpressed, as we continue to fear the chance of being different. As Robinson points out, our education system has been the main culprit of this phenomenon for many years.

          If anything, this talk really points out the loss of potential. The loss of individual cultivation of talents. The loss of human ingenuity and the fostering of genius in the making. The loss of some of the world’s brightest gifts.

          Education can help prepare future generations to face the world, but only creativity can change it.

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