Thursday, December 31, 2009

Happy New Year!

Here’s how the Scots would put it (according to Wikipedia)…

Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an nivir brocht ti mynd?
Shid ald akwentans bee firgot,
an days o ald lang syn?

Fir ald lang syn, ma jo,
fir ald lang syn,
wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

An sheerly yil bee yur pynt-staup!
an sheerly al bee myn!
An will tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

Fir ald lang syn, ma jo,
fir ald lang syn,
wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

We twa hay rin aboot the braes,
an pood the gowans fyn;
Bit weev wandert monae a weery fet,
sin ald lang syn.

Fir ald lang syn, ma jo,
fir ald lang syn,
wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

We twa hay pedilt in the burn,
fray mornin sun til dyn;
But seas between us bred hay roard
sin ald lang syn.

Fir ald lang syn, ma jo,
fir ald lang syn,
wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

An thers a han, my trustee feer!
an gees a han o thyn!
And we’ll tak a richt gude-willie-waucht,
fir ald lang syn.

Fir ald lang syn, ma jo,
fir ald lang syn,
wil tak a cup o kyndnes yet,
fir ald lang syn.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Winter Shenanigans

Buffalo got about 2-3 feet of snow a couple weeks ago. Here's the (painful) proof!

What Videogame Would Jesus Play?

So I was looking at the (short) list of old, cheap games I’d bought over Steam during their 5-day Thanskgiving sale and over the past month or so during a couple random weekend sales.  GhostBusters, Mirror’s Edge, Crysis,  Mass Effect, and Tomb Raider: Underworld was the haul, all for under 15 bucks (Mirror’s Edge I got for $5!  Yay!).  As I was perusing the haul, it occurred to me that not a single good game I’ve ever played or heard of had an overtly Christian theme.  I’ve seen movies and heard music with Christian themes, and quite a few of them were good, but I’ve never actually played a Christian videogame, and all the Christian videogames I’ve heard of sounded pretty bad.


So out of curiosity, I googled for “Christian videogames”, and found, a site that exclusively reviews Christian videogames.  Their last news update was from 9/24/08, but I thought this should be helpful anyway, and I started browsing through the site.  One thing that I noticed pretty quickly was that the reviewer(s) very often felt it necessary to mention that “the graphics are what should be expected from a Christian videogame”.  Translated: that means they are sub-par.  Most of everything else fell into family-friendly territory.  They do run the gamut of genres, but after quite a bit of browsing, the only title I was only remotely familiar with was Left Behind: Eternal Forces, and that was probably due to some random article I’d read in CGM.  For the most part, every title looked like exactly the sort of stuff I avoid when I go game-shopping. There’s probably quite a few decent puzzle and education-oriented Christian games out there.  But that’s just not my cup of tea.


Which got me thinking… how would I expect Christian themes to be portrayed in the kinds of videogames I like to play?  One genre I dig is the computer role-playing game, or crpg.  Crpgs have been a genre dear to me ever since I spent weeks and weeks playing Ultima VII as a kid.  This genre allows writers to work a thought-provoking story into the mix.  Games like Ultima and the stuff Bioware puts out often had complicated plots that requires hours of exposition, a lot of it through dialogue, either through in-game conversations and in cutscenes.  Having a chat in these kinds of games can get very involving: one common element of RPGs is you either get to respond to people like a nice a guy or like a jerk, and there will be consequences for your behavior. 


Sounds like a good fit for a game that’s trying to get some deep ideas across, no?  The one game I found that looked promising is Rebel Planet: Orion.  The makers of this game have taken a period from biblical history, the time after the fall and before the flood, and imagined what the world might have been like during that period.  The story follows Enoch who is on a quest to bring Adam back to a place of faith.  That setup actually sounds pretty decent… if the execution was good, I’d play it.  Unfortunately, the game has been on hiatus since 2005!  That’s a shame, since the game’s graphics looked serviceable (if somewhat bland) for 2005.  They are definitely last-gen today.  But hey, if they were to release it now, they’d be right about where the Christian game tech curve usually is in relation to everything else.  I’m personally hoping they’re working on a revamp of the project.


As much as I love crpgs, my main gaming fixes of late have come from first-person shooters (or fps).  Ostensibly, they are simply run-and-gun action games, but what makes an fps unique is that your viewpoint of the game world is always through the eyes of your character (hence the term “first-person”).  I just love that kind of immersion.  Of course, it’s hard to come up with a game that mixes a high, bloody bodycount with the gospel of *ahem* peace.  And the one recent example of a Christian fps I know of sounds pretty lame.  Want to shoot Roman soldiers with a magic sword to convert them to Christianity, anybody?  Well… you might.  I don’t. 


I’ve actually played a few first-person games where, though there is gunplay, the emphasis is actually on non-violent elements.  Mirror’s Edge, a game whose protaganist practices the discipline of parkour, actually places it’s emphasis on running.  Running across rooftops, running on walls, running away from the cops.  The few times you can fight your pursuers, you have the option of doing so in a barehanded, non-lethal fashion.  The fewer times you can pick up a gun, it severely hampers your ability to, you guessed it, keep running.  You’re usually outnumbered in a firefight anyway, and since it only takes two or three shots to take you down, you usually want to avoid an all-out gun battle.  So, much of the game’s violent encounters involves you dodging, weaving, sliding, and climbing away from the hot zones, with bullets whizzing past your poorly-armored derriere.  Outside of getting shot at, there are plenty of challenging high-rise landscapes for you to traverse with your parkour skills.  It’s a fairly unique experience that, at its best, is more exhilarating than taking out aliens with a rocket launcher.


I’m not saying that we should just take a non-violent (or relatively less violent) game premise and shoe-horn a Christian theme into it.  However, games like these prove that immersive, state-of-the-art games don’t have to have violence at the core experience in order to be engaging.  And it doesn’t have to be The Sims, either.  All it takes is imagination.  A restriction to non-violent gameplay, I think, actually provides a fertile ground for inventive ideas to blossom.  It’s easy, in game design terms, to give the player a gun and say “get from point A to point B”.  It’s harder when you require the player to do it without hurting anyone.  The challenge is in giving the player alternative tools for doing so, and even better if you can tie the tools directly to the message you’re trying to get across.  And, no, pointing a bible at the enemy and pressing “fire” isn’t imaginative.


So, are Christian game devs taking up this challenge?  I think that some actually are.  Case in point: I tried out the demo for the Left Behind: Eternal Forces game, which, despite some glaring technical issues (I think the game crashed about half of the times I loaded it up), had a few core ideas that, if implemented competently, could have resulted in something fairly entertaining.  For those not in the know, the game’s genre falls under the real-time strategy, or rts category.  The rts is a hybrid between strategic and real-time action gaming.  You take command of multiple units, gather resources, and deploy them in a way that ensures your victory on the battlefield.  Once upon a time, games like these were all turn-based affairs: you took your turn and made your moves, then it was your opponents turn.  An rts has both you and your opponent(s) doing everything in real-time.  Whether or not you take 5 seconds or 5 minutes to make your next move, your opponent gets to do whatever it is they want to do. 


What Left Behind does that I found interesting was its model for resource management.  The traditional model for past rts games was that you found resources scattered throughout the map, mined those resources, and used them to pay for your units.  The most important resource in this game is people: the various random citizens walking through the streets of the cities that the game’s battlegrounds are comprised of.  Basically you need to send out the few missionaries you start with, and have them spread the gospel to these people and convert them to your side.  Only then are you able to train and deploy new units.  I found that to be a pretty interesting idea that presents unique challenges from a gameplay perspective.


Now there was some controversy about the game concerning its purported “convert or die” themes… I can neither confirm or deny this aspect of the game, because I couldn’t get far enough into the demo to figure out if there was any way to kill anybody.  Sad but true.  The third level of the demo completely confounded me.  Enemy troops were coming in too fast for me to convert them all with my Christian rock musicians (I am not joking), and I never figured out how to get a more meaningful defense up.  Eventually I just surrendered, uninstalled the game, and moved on to other things.  That said, it was encouraging to see Christian game devs trying hard at doing something new with gameplay, as opposed to simply forcing a couple words of scripture in between levels of a game you’ve already seen or played elsewhere.


So what’s the verdict?  If I’m being brutally honest, as far as gamers like me are concerned, there’s just nothing out there right now worth playing that has a Christian focus.  However, there are people trying.  Maybe someday, we’ll get the videogame equivalent of U2 or Amazing Grace (the movie): mainstream entertainment that does not suck and talks about Jesus in a meaningful way. 

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

First Snow Of Winter


Yup, there it is!  It’s a little late (I took this picture in the afternoon, after much of the early morning shtuff had melted away), but this is the first day we’ve had it this winter.  According to NPR, it picked a pretty good day to arrive… the 1st of December is the official first day of winter.


I’m blogging using Windows Live Writer now, which is a rich client sitting on my desktop that I hooked up to this Blogger account, so now it feels easier to just throw up a post whenever I feel like it.  The program has taken some getting used to… I realized too late a couple days ago that when I tell Windows Live Writer to delete a post, it’s deleting it from my blog as well, not just from my pc.  I lost a whole hour’s of work that way!  Anyway, that post was mostly just me testing out Windows Live Writer and talking about some first impressions of Windows 7. 


Right now, I just realized Windows 7, by default, doesn’t tell me directly when I get IMs over Pidgin.  It just plays a notification sound and I have to figure out myself which program threw that out there.  I much preferred it when the chat window interrupted me.  Then again… I suppose most people would prefer NOT to be interrupted until they are ready.  It just goes to show, you can’t please em all!

Monday, November 30, 2009

And Now I Know…

… how David Copperfield did his Portal illusion.  Or at least part of it.  Here’s what I’m talking about:


The part I mean is where he shows up in Hawaii with the tattoo on his arm and the photo he just took moments ago in front of a live audience.


Now I suspected the first time I saw it that there was some digital imaging trickery involved, but I’d never seen it done for myself in such a speedy manner.  Now I still don’t know exactly what the technical aspects are behind this tech, but I’m pretty sure David’s illusion uses something similar to this:



It takes a minute or two to load, but once it does, it’s hilarious!


As for the part where David and his friend vanishes into thin air from that little platform, well that’s still pretty slick.  Thanks to David McDarby for pointing this out!

Friday, October 30, 2009

Birth Month Wishes From Street Fighter

October was Kyeonghi's birth month (she claims the whole month as hers since her birthday is on the 1st of October), and one thing I did was this little ditty on GoAnimate. It only took 3 hours! Street Fighter by greyhoundbus

Like it? Create your own at It's free and fun!

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Self-Annotating Oxford Trip Video

Self-annotating... I wish!

A couple weeks ago we flew to Oxford, MS, which was Kyeonghi's college hometown for a few years, to attend the wedding of Bill Mackenzie's daughter. Bill was Kyeonghi's spiritual mentor while she was in Oxford, and I've also known Bill for a long time since he is heavily involved with the Navigators International Student Ministries. I like to call Bill the manliest man I know, seeing as how he built the beautiful ranch he and his family has lived on for decades from the ground up with his own bare hands! Ok, he might've had some help, but I like to think he did it with his own bare hands.

Anyway, here's the vid =)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

The Late Late LATE Wedding Dinner Photos

Well... what can I say in my defense. I've been hitting that tournament mode in Street Fighter IV pretty hard! I'm still a scrubby G2-level competitor though, so unfortunately I have little to show for it.

That said, here are some pics from all the way back in late June. Mom and Dad organized a Chinese wedding dinner for us. Friends, family, lots of people came. Unfortunately for me, I was gone too long to be in touch with many of my old school mates, but I was more than blessed to see some folks from SIB and Metropolitan college. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of the SIB folks (Rodney, Paige, Kevin, and Adele) who came. The photos are somewhere out there, but for now they are sorely missed!

Many thanks to Jason Koay, who brought along this ridiculously huge camera to take these pictures. I saw a lot of people carrying things like those around while in Malaysia, though. Apparently it's a fad >_<

Our dinner was held at the Oversea Restaurant at Subang Parade. This is the stage they set up for the occasion. Rarely has my name been writ in such large, purple letters.

This is another view, this time closer to the champagne bottles and the glass tower... thing.

And a closeup of the top of the fake wedding cake! Mmmmmm, fake wedding cake.

Dad was briefing us on what to do when it was time for our entrance. He's explaining the traditional Chinese high-five I had to give everyone on the way to the bride and groom's table.

...... not really.

Here is me and my Kyeonghi, all dressed up and ready to greet our wedding guests! About half of the guests just walked past us, which is fine, because I probably should have been dressed in a tux or something more groom-like. It did save me a lot of awkward conversations with people I don't know.

Here's the photographer, Jason Koay...

... and here's the rest of the Metropolitan College gang. I was surpised how little they had changed, though I guess J.C. (far right) did look very different with short hair.

This is us walking in after our introduction. At least one table appeared to be completely clueless and remained seated. That's what I get for not wearing a tux.

Fake cake, mmmmmmmm...............

I think this us and my parents just before the wedding toast, and I have *no* clue why we have those expressions on our faces. I'll blame Mr. Koay for this shot. Actually, I blame him for a lot of things.

Here we are, being led in a toast by my cousin, Paul Ng (far right, in the green plaid shirt). I must say the Ng family is pretty good at drinking AND roaring.

Paul, me, and my sis, sharing a family moment.

And finally, here's a shot of me doing the rounds of toasting at each table. Kyeonghi must've been worn out at this point because she's not in the picture. Mom was there to pick up the slack, though, good 'ol mom!

It was a really good time, overall. A little bit of culture shock for Kyeonghi, maybe. I'm not sure... I've never been to a Korean wedding. Maybe they're as raucous as we are. I can say from experience they don't have any problems holding they're liquor either! I guess I'll just have to wait and see :)

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I'm So Bad At This

And by this I mean keeping up with my blog. I need to stop playing Street Fighter and post those wedding dinner pics from Malaysia. Here's something my sister Carol posted a while back... part three of her pics while we were in Malaysia. This time she documents our old haunts in Ipoh. A lot of it has to do with eating. Heh.

The Amazing Ipoh Trip Part 3

Friday, July 24, 2009

Street Fighter IV Modding Fun

I created a skin modification for the pc version of Street Fighter 4: Spider-Cammy! It's based on the black suit Spider-Woman.

It's had some exposure on the interwebs, with a few youtube vids showcasing her new tights:

Facing of against Guy-Fei-Long:

Warning: Extreme fan service here... Spider-Cammy VS Maid Chun-Li:

In this vid, she's at 1:18, in a fight against Lobo-Blanka.. I guess you could call it a Marvel VS DC showdown.

Thanks to everyone who enjoys the mod!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Pics From Malaysia

My sister did part of my job for me by posting a lot of pictures of our trip to Malaysia. To be more precise, she posted pictures from our trip to Ipoh, my parents' home town.

You can read all about it at her blog:

Part 1
Part 2

I have wedding dinner pics too, but those are forthcoming...

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Starcraft TV Is Real!

Kyeonghi and I finally made our long-awaited trip home last month. After handing the keys to Tom, one of the fine new friends we've made here in Buffalo, he dropped us off at the Buffalo Niagara International Airport, and we boarded a plane for Atlanta. In Atlanta, I gave Brent a call, so that someone in Knoxville would know we were heading out of the States. Apparently Eleanor remembers us well enough to say "Bernard and Kyeonghi come here now!" or something like that. I thought that was cute! I was a little surprised since she wasn't exactly putting together whole sentences when I was still in Knoxville. I hope she still remembers us when we visit, which will be someday soon I hope.

Anyways, after that little interlude, we got on a plane for a 17-hour flight to South Korea, during which I got to catch up on all the types of movies I never bother to see when I'm on solid ground. My 10-second reviews:

Gran Torino: Laugh-out-loud funny until the female lead gets beaten up and raped, and her brother and Client Eastwood go on a blood vendetta. And then it's not so funny. Instead you feel awful about yourself for ever laughing during the movie.

The Curious Case Of Benjamin Button: Could've been called The Creepy Sexual Exploits of Benjamin Button and I wouldn't have thought it inappropriately titled.

The Transporter 3: The quintessential airplane snoozer. You can doze off, wake up, watch a little bit, doze off, etc etc, and by the end, you would've still been slightly entertained and not feel you've missed anything.

So I was amply entertained on the plane. Kyeonghi watched a bunch of movies, too, but I don't remember which. In between, we ate some better-than-average airplane food and slept as much as we could (which was not a whole lot).

When we finally landed at Incheon Airport, we were picked up by Kyeonghi's youngest sister and her brother-in-law, her middle sister's husband). After a about a half-hour drive, we arrived at Kyeonghi's home, a roomy apartment in a crowded resident area in Seoul's crowded Gaebong district. I'd met my mother-in-law before, (she was at the wedding in Knoxville) and it was nice to see her again. I said hi to Kyeonghi's sisters and soon we we were sitting down to do business... dinner!

Unfortunately, my half-baked chopstick skills just weren't cutting it with those fancy metal Korean chopsticks. They kept sliding through the food! Mom gave me wooden ones to start with, but I was still embarrassed enough that I resolved to learn to hold them the proper way, after all these years.

The rest of the week was full of sightseeing, shopping, and eating, as Kyeonghi took me through several of the fun parts of Seoul.

Now for the photos...

Kyeonghi little baby niece! She was a real cutie.

This pic makes my wife squeal every single time.

How good is Starcraft TV? Even Jesus approves!

A typical Korean meal in a typical Korean restaurant that Kyeonghi frequented in her college days. By this time I'd almost gotten the hang of using chopsticks the right way. It wasn't actually that hard when I put my mind to it.

Kyeonghi poses on the 1st floor of Sam Shik Il, an artsy shopping arcade that sells very cool and expensive artsy things. Or so she tells me... I couldn't tell except for the price tags!

Kyeonghi strikes a cute pose in a cozier part of the shopping arcade.

Self-portrait via iPhone... :p

This is a traditional tea-house.... the building is older than the hills. Way back then it was a house for the gentry class.

Another shot of the tea house.

And this is the tea we had! I think the pinkish tea was a seasonal summer thing. They were both delicious.

One morning we decided to try one of these quick toasted sandwich places for breakfast. The lady made it right in front of us after we ordered.

I ate it right in front of her to show my appreciation.

We visited one of several palaces in Seoul, ChangDeok palace, as part of our sightseeing. Here we are next to what I think was a royal library. Don't quote me on that. What you can quote me on, is those are apricots that fell from the tree. The tour guide let us take some, but we completely forgot to eat any of them before we left Korea.

This was a modest little home away from the main palace buildings that one of Korea's kings built for himself. It is purposefully less flashy and colorful than the rest of the palace (like the library, for example). I guess it's easier to relax and get things done when you're not experiencing sensory overload.

In this pic, Kyeonghi tells me the strange looking rock on the left symbolizes an immortal who watches over the palace. The structure to the right is a chimney that lets our smoke from the palace buildings' under-floor heating system.

Here we are taking a breather at one of the little gates in the walls that divide the palace grounds.

Here's the main palace building! This is where all the pomp and show is held. The little posts you see on the sides of the walkway leading to the main building indicated to all the Korean officials where they needed to stand in assembly, arranged by rank. Furthest from the building are the lowest-ranked officials. It took decades of education and loyal, dedicated service to stand at the final post at the far end, reserved for the highest-ranked and most esteemed officials.

... and here I am standing right exactly where I'm not supposed to, I guess.

Here's the throne room. Large, daunting, and intricately decorated. We weren't allowed inside, so I took this picture from outside.

This is the main entrance to the palace proper. The vaguely humanoid statuettes on the edges of the roof symbolized spirits who, according to Kyeonghi, did not successfully attain dragonhood. Instead, they opt to sit on palace's roofs to guard against evil. I don't blame them, I can figure out how to become a dragon either.

We visited a large Buddhist temple that was close to the palace, where we met this friendly little guy.

Kyeonghi took me to this famous restaurant that specializes in Kal Gook Soo, a kind of soup noodle. It was delicious! We also got a seasonal noodle dish that had a cold, creamy soup with green noodles. That was ok, but I definitely preferred the Kal Gook Soo. The noodles came with a special kimchi that had so much garlic in it, it was like eating whole cloves of garlic straight!

Of course, after watching Starcraft TV I had to get in on some of the action. There's a pc room (or what I'm used to calling an internet cafe) on just about every block in the city. This one's next to Kyeonghi's dentist, which was convenient. I'm losing that game btw.

And then... some Street Fighter IV action! I had to look online for an arcade that had this game, and Kyeonghi was such a good sport to take me there.

We had Tak Kal Bi for lunch after the arcade romp. It's basically chicken and veggies stir-fried in a hot pan right at your table.

We have to wear aprons at the Tak Kal Bi place, or the stuff gets all over us as they cook it.

Here's something the Koreans do pretty well... American fast food! They put their own twists in it here and there. Those are squid rings, not onion rings. And there is bulgogi sauce in that burger. Yummy!

We spent a LOT of time on subways. Public transportation in Seoul is good enough you don't need a car. Here's one shot I decided to take on one of our trips.

And here are the in-laws! Kyeonghi's younger sister and mother, to be exact. This was at a Chinese restaurant after we went to a indoor spa and waterpark.

And finally, more Korean fastfood. This is a pizza place, and yes, that is some gigantic shrimp on my pizza. Shrimp on a pizza?! I know, it makes no sense. Tasted great though!

Next... photos from Malaysia!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


I'm not a guy who thinks government ought to legislate my beliefs or enforce them for people who don't share them. I'm not opposed to the US allowing gays to marry, even though I strongly believe that's not the picture of marriage God gives us in the bible.

Even if we really are better if everyone's straight, there is too little consensus on that point, and a government that aims to represent all its citizens needs to lean towards inclusiveness when it treads on points such as these. And, yes, it may be a challenge to explain to your kids why two guys are walking down the street holding hands and smooching each other, but it was a lot worse in ancient Rome, and Christianity as a religion started off in those conditions. If I'm that desperate for government to force people to act exactly the way I want them to so I don't have to do the job of being a parent, then there's something wrong with my faith.

That said, Perez Hilton is an enormous douche.

I believe he already had his cocktail, or two, or three, prior to recording that. After that tirade, he has the pluck to go on Larry King Live and offer to have coffee with Carrie Prejean so they can talk. Check out the vid on Perez's own blog.

It occurs to me that this is kind of unapologetically idiotic behavior may be his schtick (the blog proudly proclaims itself to be "Hollywood's Most-Hated Web Site!"), but for a guy like this be a judge on Miss USA, and then to proclaim (as he does on Larry King Live) that Miss USA needs to be "unifying", after calling Prejean a "dumb b*tch" for not answering a question in a unifying manner, is hilariously disingenuous.

Usually, when overbearing, self-righteous, loudmouthed Christian leaders go out of their way to tell everybody else how wrong they are and how right we are, I lament how much Christianity is getting set back as a relevant cultural force in this country. I guess it shouldn't surprise me, though, to know there's plenty of those kinds of people to go around.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

A Note For My Boo

My wife likes to leave nice little post-it notes for me from time to time. It always brightens my day.

In return, I do this:

Wednesday, April 01, 2009



Ok that was lame.

I need to come up with something more elaborate for next year. Something along the lines of this. Now THAT took effort!

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Ki Kooooo Ken!

I've been sharing my thoughts about the very bad and extremely (and this is my favorite term to describe the movie) *bizarre* movie based on one of my favorite videogame franchises of all time, Street Fighter: The Legend Of Chun-Li.

Just thought I'd chop it up and share here as well... since I spent so much time writing them!

Lotsa SPOILERS, but the movie's so bad, I'm not sure it will matter.

My first post about the subject:


I saw the movie last night. As for how the movie was, I thought going in with vastly lowered expectations would help (as it has with some movies in the past) but I was still surprised by how amazingly lazy it was. I was expecting stupid, I was expecting boring, but some parts of the story were so poorly thought out that I'm surprised nobody thought to say "I think we need a better excuse for this scene than this".

There's one moment where it seems like they were thinking "well we want a shot of the good guys jumping out of an exploding building, but how are they gonna figure out there's a bomb planted in the building?", and after some brainstorming: "ah screw it, let's get Chris Klein to open a random drawer while he's supposed to be carefully watching the bad guys, and voila, he'll see the bomb. What? no budget for a good-looking bomb? Does anyone have a pager with a blinking light we can use?." Speaking of props, the special effects were Sci-Fi Channel Original Movie bad, which is pretty bad. The plot was just lazy... at points you can tell they weren't trying very hard to find excuses to string together the events they already decided they want to shoot.

The movie is not completely without merit. Kristen Kreuk is ok in the role of Chun Li, though at times her voiceover narration was grating. I thought the movie started out promising, until Bison and his henchmen show up and the stupid gets cranked up to 11. The fight scenes are sometimes ok, sometimes underwhelming. The one really bad fight scene is between Chun Li and Cantana in the ladies restroom, but I'm not sure if it's because of the fight scene itself or because I was still reeling from the awful lesbian dance scene that preceded it. ALL the gun battles were lame.

Aside from Kreuk, the other performances range from bearable, to bad, to sometimes just plain bizarre. Chris Klein as Nash hams it up so much it almost makes it worth watching to gawk in amazement at him. I also kept wondering why he's acting like such a tool, but eventually started enjoying it, simply because of how consistent he was at acting like a sleazy jerk. He was simply epic. And puzzling. Puzzlingly epic.

Michael Clark Duncan plays Balrog so off, it's hard to tell if he thinks he's the bad guy or if he thinks he's supposed to be a big 'ol friendly bear. The scene where he leaves Chun Li to her fate in the torture room is just odd because of how warmly matter-of-fact he is, like he's leaving her to play a game of Trivial Pursuit with the two guys who are supposed to kill her. And this is right after Bison kills her father in cold blood right before her eyes.

Bison was actually watchable. I don't know where IGN came up with their "Irish accent" criticism. Yeah he was an Irish baby, but he doesn't sound Irish. His back story is... interesting, bizarre (yeah that word again), and poorly executed. The basic idea behind his origin mirrors the official canon somewhat, but the execution is so half-hearted, I was shaking my head at how weird the whole thing played and how lazily it was done. Other than that, Neal McDonough is menacing and chilling enough, in a TV-movie sorta way.

Robin Shou as Gen was just plain bad. His delivery was so consistently artificial and forced. He was a LOT better in Mortal Kombat. I can't believe I have to say that. Story-wise, his character was mishandled so badly that by the time he shows up at the end to show Chun Li a poster for the Street Fighter tourney and talk about "Rai Yu", I was wishing the real Gen would show up, poke him in the neck, and make his head explode.

Taboo as Vega got a voice dub, ala Darth Vader, I think. He shows up for one short scene at the start, gets taken out by Chun Li in one fight later, and then he's done. I cannot, for the life of me, figure out why he got as much exposure in the interviews as he did. Other than that, he doesn't appear long enough onscreen to embarrass himself or otherwise.

So yup, bizarre, bad, and lazy. Kinda like Plan 9 From Outer Space. It's not exactly boring... it was too weird and bad to bore me. It may be tedious, depending on how easily offended you are by lazy film-making. That was the first time in a long time I was embarrassed to walk out of a theater.


About whether fans could've done a better job writing an SF movie:

I dunno... I am not sure having fans write the script would necessarily help. I think they just need to make a good movie , period. They need to figure out what there is in the source material that would work on the big screen and what does not, and take the time to pad things out with something that resembles watchable movie material. The problem with this movie is it is just a random mix of ideas which mostly don't work paired with horrid execution. A completely fan-made script runs the risk of being a 2 hour fan service flick... Basically a YouTube fan film you pay eight bucks to see.

I mean there is a frikkin kikoken in the film, which was probably the most awkward thing I've seen onscreen in a while. However, it is "faithful" to the source material. Part of the reason it fails is because the chi powers were poorly explained, but part of it is it's just plain difficult to stick to certain videogame conventions without a good reason.

I don't think it's impossible to make a decent sf flick. I just think nobody knows how to approach with the right amount of care that such a premise requires.


On why the first Motal Kombat movie did so well, and whether it was due to its close adherence to the source material:


I see what you're saying about the 1st MK, but I'd argue that it's not the premise that made the movie work, but the enthusiasm, energy, and plain old competence of the execution. You just have to look at the sequel, which still sticks fairly close to the settings and events of the game, to see an example of how you can adhere to the source material and still fail at making a good videogame movie.

I certainly wouldn't *mind* if an SF movie tried to follow the source material more closely, and I don't doubt there are ways to make it work, but it's more about the execution than anything else. Fireballs, wacky costumes, and people yelling their special moves may not derail an SF movie, but a bad script, a meandering plot, badly choreographed fights, and hammy performances will. I don't care if it's a grittier, relatively realistic approach to the material (see "The Dark Knight" for a comicbook example), or a more fantastical approach (like the 1st MK). What you need is people who care enough and talented enough to put something on the screen worth watching.

For me, the whole point of closely adhering to the source material is not worth discussing. There are plenty of examples of movies that are loosely based on their source material but still work on their own merits. The only people who might mind are the purists.


More on why Mortal Kombat's sequel failed so badly:


How many characters did MK2 and 3 have? They were adhering pretty close to the source material (the setting, Outworld, the characters, the moves), and they still failed. Why did they fail? They didn't know what to focus on story-wise, the plot was all over the damn place, the acting took a dip, and the recasting of Raiden was a farce.

But Johnny Cage died, just like he did in the game. Adhering to the source material has nothing to do with whether or not a movie based on a video game is good. It's nice if they do, but I'm not a purist, and they don't *have* to. What they have to do is pick a few things that work within the context of their vision for the movie, and execute it well.


On Bison, the evil real estate agent:


I got to say though, the whole real estate thing is blown a little out of proportion... Bison's *not* Lex Luthor from Richard Donner's Superman. The movie makes it clear Bison's supposed to be in charge of a criminal organization of the highest order, and the real estate plot is just the one he happens to to be trying to pull in Bangkok, and within the context of the story, he kinda has a reason for wanting that land (even if his overly convoluted plot obscures his reasons somewhat).

His backstory tries (clumsily) to draw him as a man with a mystical and very sinister past... I think Justin Marks (the writer) read Mark Waid's Unthinkable arc on Fantastic Four and took a cue from how Dr Doom got his sorcery powers. I can see where he was going, but it felt rushed and wasn't organically combined with the rest of what's going on in the movie. On one hand the movie is supposed to be a grittier, more realistic take on SF, on the other there's demonic spirits and unexplained chi powers.

I think, if handled correctly, this version of Bison *could* have worked. However there were just too many uneven and unintentionally funny/bizarre elements competing which each other, a clear sign that there was more than one cook telling Justin Marks where to go with his script... either that or he never stepped back to look at his script and realize how bad a mix it was. Bison's whole backstory just looked forced, rushed, and (I'll use that word again) just plain bizarre in the greater scheme of things.


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Pictures Of Our Journey To Buffalo

It's a little late (in keeping with the spirit of this blog for the past two or three years), but here are pictures from the long drive my wife and I took to get from Knoxville, TN, to Buffalo, NY. All pictures were taken by my iPhone camera, so please forgive the relative lack of image quality.

The first day of the drive started out nice and sunny. It was a very pretty farewell to a place I called home for 10 years.

As the day drew on, the snow on the ground got thicker, and the temps got lower. Here's me standing next to the Prius at a gas station, showing off the jerry-rigged setup Brent helped me put together to haul all our stuff to Buffalo. (It worked)

Towards the end of the day, we found ourselves driving through Columbus, Ohio. We didn't stop here, or see anything special in particular. It's just... we drove through Columbus, Ohio. I think the first Wendy's is here or something.

We stopped at a Days Inn a couple of hours after Columbus to rest for the night. The next morning, I decided to take a picture in what looked like about 2 feet of snow (my feet stopped sinking after about the first foot of snow or so because there was enough snow packed under my feet to stop me). I don't think it was cold enough.

We found ourselves driving through Cleveland around lunchtime, whipped out the handy-dandy iPhone, and had it direct us to the best (according to the internetz) Chinese restaurant in the city. It was pretty good, and the dim sum selection was the best I'd seen in a long time. I am partial towards steamed beef tripe, though, so my opinion may be a little skewed. As you can tell from the picture, Kyeonghi was plenty happy!

Next, it was Kyeonghi's turn to pose next to the Prius. We intended this to be a comparison shot with the earlier Prius pic. As you can clearly see, the car is... colder.

The further we drove, the taller the snow piles grew...

... until I could no longer contain my dismay. This particular shot is me lamenting the huge piles of snow that had grown taller than me at a gas station in Erie, Pennsylvania.

Unfortunately, by the time we hit Buffalo, it was late, and the iPhone camera does poorly at night. However, I *promise* the blurry lights out there represent Buffalo, NY!

Thanks for looking!