Casual Vacency No More for Adults than the Hunger Games

This is being billed as Rowling’s Adult book. But really, without the British swearing and random sex scenes, it is no more adult than The Hunger Games. Better definition would be Young Adult, as the main characters of this book are dominantly 16 year olds, dealing with very real issues, such as physical abuse from parents, druggie parents, underage sex, and high school bullying.

My only thought is that this is defined as an “adult” book so that the 15-18yr crowd will be enticed to read it, as this is the target audience.

That aside, it was an entertaining read and the audio book was very well acted. I think the book could help a lot of struggling teens, but Casual Vacancy is barely an “Adult Read”.


Indie Game: The Movie – The Review

Tonight Jeannie and I went to see the premiere of Indie Game: The Movie at the Rio Theater in Santa Cruz. Having only watched the trailer, I didn’t know much of what to expect. An independent documentary about independent game developers and their struggles with making games. The subject perked my interest enough to get tickets and make a night of it!

When we got to the theater, I knew that this was bigger than I originally thought. The line was longer to get in than I have seen for some established musicians. Granted, one of the game developers was from Santa Cruz, and there is a Game Design department at UC Santa Cruz that was probably offering extra credit to see the film. The crowd was who I expected to be interested in a film like this, neck-bearded programmers who haven’t seen the light of day in years, and some girlfriends who were obviously brought by their partners. I got slightly worried that Jeannie, my fiance who knows video games only from overheard conversations, might get bored watching the film. The less “normals” I saw, the more worried I got.

Phil Fish - Lead Designer of Fez

The film happened to be exceptional! This is something I would recommend to anyone who has ever heard of video games (no experience required to enjoy). From the beginning background score, I knew that a lot of time and thought went into the making of this film. It may be an indie movie, but it didn’t lack the quality of a full scale production. The cinematography was artfully done, with close up shots of the main characters that displayed their full emotion. The flow of the film was masterful, explaining three distinct game development stories while drawing strong parallels between them. Johnathan Blow portrayed the wise man with the successful Braid under his belt. Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes, creators of Super Meat Boy, were the film’s main driving force following the age old Hero’s Journey. And Phil Fish was the emotionally unstable underdog of the yet to be released Fez. The film made me feel these artists’ pain, anxiety, inadequacy, antisocial qualities, fear of failure, feelings of loss, and success as if they were my own. The times when I glanced over to Jeannie, I could read on her face that she was also enmeshed with the film’s characters, and enjoying every moment!

The full realization of how well the film was produced set in when the game developers got on stage during the credits for a Q&A session, and acted EXACTLY as they were portrayed in the film. Meaning, the film perfectly displayed their true personalities. I was giddy to meet the people I just went on an emotional roller coaster with. It was like finally getting to meet the Aragorn, Frodo, and the rest of the Fellowship of the Ring after the battles over Middle-Earth. Instead of meeting some actor who played a part, I got to see the characters, the people. Like no other documentary I’ve ever watched, what I felt that what I just saw was real. It really happened to someone. It happened to them. They are the real life heroes!

Braid - Johnathan Blow

The film was able to grip my heart with the full knowledge that becoming a game developer was a life-long goal of my own. The message of the film was clear: You can become a game developer, but it is not without its late night coding, sleep deprivation, strain on relationship, and bending of your own sanity. However, it also shows that just one or two guys can make a successful game, as long as the gamers are willing to support the independent artists. The movie itself was created by means of  Kickstarter funds. Kickstarter is a new method of funding independent projects by asking for donations in the middle of development, and promising to give the donators a piece of the final product. Very similar to preorders, which have since been perverted by Best Buy and GameStop.

I highly recommend seeing Indie game: The Movie during its cross country tour.

As a follow up, I want to give a review of the games featured in the film. I only have a gaming PC so the soon to be released for Xbox Arcade, Fez, is out of the question (I dearly hope he makes a PC port soon!). I don’t yet have a copy of Super Meat Boy. So far the only game I have played is Braid, but it seems a little weird to review a game that came out nearly four years ago. However, since I didn’t have a blog then, and it is such a wonderful game, maybe I will!

Edit: Just read on Reddit that they gave out a gift at tonight’s screening! We had to leave before the Q&A ended, so we missed out on the free copy of Super Meat Boy 😦  Jeannie was even saying she wanted to try it out!

Super Meat Boy - Edmund McMillen and Tommy Refenes

Limitless Review

There are some movies you enjoy watching, and then there are movies that you may not have enjoyed, but are glad that you watched. Limitless (2011) is a movie that I enjoyed every minute of, like eating a large basket of fried food, but the minute it was done I felt sick. It is the perfect example of cotton candy fluff that Hollywood is producing, all flavor and no substance. Even worse than being empty, the main idiom of Limitless is a damaging one to internalize.

Eddie Morra, the main character of the film, is down on his luck. He has been waiting for inspiration to hit, so he can get over his writers block and finish a book. He happens across an old friend, who introduces him to a miracle drug. After taking the drug, you are suddenly using 100% of your brain power, rather than the 20% that we reportedly use. Basically, it allows you to become a super hero. The one drawback? The more you take the drug, the worse the withdrawals will be. The main driving force behind the plot line in this film is a drug addict trying to assure his next fix.

The problem with this concept is that it only solidifies the overbearing belief in America that we need only to wait, and our shot at the “big time” will come. There is no success through hard work and dedication, only from luck of the draw. Eddie was lucky to be introduced to this drug, and never once achieves anything without it.

This is what film, broadcast, and magazines are teaching us. We watch these amazing stories of people who achieve great things, and maybe someday it can happen to you! But until it does, why not keep watching our stories. You’ll have time to live your own later.

Writing a Blog, not Web Developing

I decided to finally get on the bandwagon and create a blog, after reading this LifeHacker article. Just to make this clear, I am making a blog to improve my writing by writing (a novel concept, if you ask me). This isn’t for some personal glorification, believing I have all the answers, or trying to get all of you to believe the same thing as me. I am going to write to write. If someone get’s some enjoyment or gets offended along the way, it is merely innocent bystanders getting caught in the crossfire.

The first question I need to ask, after having decided what I am going to write about, is on what platform and URL my blog will reside on. This is probably something that rarely crosses the mind of a non-web developer, and unfortunately it is where I have gotten stuck in the past when I have tried to start up this venture. I finally going to let my necessity for perfection lessen and just choose one.

I was bouncing between Drupal (which I am already well aquainted with) and Joomla (which would give me another CMS under my belt). It is easy to get distracted between two opposing beliefs and forget to ask if either is correct. I have decided upon WordPress because it requires the least amount of web development to get going, and this project is about writing and sharing, not web development. Who knows, maybe i’ll export the content to a personal site when I finally build one. For now, I want to think, write, and converse with others.

Writing is a form of scientific thought. By stating things as assertions, they are out in the open, to be examined under the scrutiny by peers.