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Pokémon GO

With Pokémon’s 20th anniversary this year, there are still big things happening for the franchise. Recently, Nintendo announced a new pair of titles, Pokémon Sun and Pokémon Moon. Pokémon GO, the alternate reality smart phone app, is starting beta testing in Japan this month.

The release of Pokémon GO opens up a new world of possibilities. There will be real life special events and gyms where trainers can face off against others and earn rewards for their efforts. You’ll be able to encounter “wild” Pokémon in the real world and have impromptu battles with other nearby trainers.

One of the coolest things, to me, is the aspect of immersing myself within the stylized world of Pokémon and creating an experience for others that is as enriching as my own have been. My brother and I have been brainstorming ideas, playing with themes, and generally having a lot of fun discussing our plans for Pokémon GO‘s release. Here are just a few of the ideas we’ve come up with.

  • Our last name is Watts, so we’re thinking of having an all electric-type team. We would costume ourselves as Benjamin Franklin and Nikola Tesla, and have a bluetooth speaker ready to pump out some AC/DC and other electricity-themed music.
  • If we’re able to get others in on the action, we’ve considered setting up unofficial gyms where other trainers can challenge an array of enemies, and if successful, he or she would receive a special badge, just like in the other Pokémon games.
  • We basically want to pretend to be NPCs in the Pokémon universe, and make corny puns and generally have a good time while battling trainers
  • And of course, the ultimate goal is to catch and raise the perfect team to become the most powerful Pokémon trainer in the world! Or maybe at least the most powerful trainer on the block… it could happen!

What are some things you can’t wait to do with Pokémon GO?


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Publicity for Human Head Transplant May Actually Be Metal Gear Solid 5 Viral Marketing Campaign

A few days ago, my co-worker (let’s be real, he’s my work spouse) asked me if I’d jumped down the rabbit hole of “this whole head transplant/Metal Gear Solid V conspiracy theory.” I had no idea what this was all about, so I looked into it. In a nutshell, there is a theory going around the gaming community that the publicity surrounding the upcoming human head transplant surgery is actually a viral marketing campaign for Metal Gear Solid V, an upcoming video game title for current generation consoles. My friend told me some of the basic information and at first it sounded like a bit of a stretch, but as more evidence was presented to me (mainly through this YouTube video by user YongYea) it became more difficult to brush off the coincidences.

A user on the gaming forum NeoGAF originally pointed out the similarity of appearance between Dr. Sergio Canavero and the doctor who appears in the cutscene at the end of MGSV: Ground Zeroes informing Big Boss that he’d been in a coma for nine years.

The top picture is the real life Dr. Canavero, the bottom picture is the doctor character in the Metal Gear game. This is only the beginning. It just gets crazier from here.

Now, the supposed recipient of the head transplant surgery scheduled for completion in 2017 is a 30-year-old video game developer from Russia named Valery Spiridonov. A tenuous connection, but when seen as part of the whole, adds to the compelling nature of the theory and its connection to video games.

Furthermore, a British flag and map of the Republic of Cyprus are seen on the hospital wall during the cutscene, placing it most likely in a British colony on the island. Dr. Canavero (the real-life doctor) gave a talk for TED Limassol (which is an anagram for Solid Metals), Limassol being a city in Cyprus which is very close to a British colony.

The similarities don’t end there. In the Metal Gear series, Big Boss forms a base of operations for his mercenary army called “OUTER HEAVEN“, and Dr. Canavero’s head transplant operation has been code-named “HEAVEN” or the “HEad Anastomosis VENture Project.” Also, many of Canavero’s medical research documents refer to phantom pain, and the full title of Konami’s September 1st release is Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain.

Not convinced yet? Last year Dr. Canavero released a book which has chapter titles like “Clones”, “GEMINI”, “Frontiers” and “HEAVEN”. We’ve already covered the HEAVEN connection, but for the uninitiated, clones play a large part in the storyline of the first Metal Gear Solid game; a group of mercenaries at the terrorist base “Shadow Moses” are known as “Genome Soldiers” and are revealed to be clones of Big Boss, who is the father of twin brothers Solid Snake (the good guy) and Liquid Snake (the bad guy). “Frontiers” may allude to Militaires Sans Frontieres, or “the military with borders,” the name of the private military group that occupies OUTER HEAVEN. Lastly, in the Metal Gear universe there is another pair of twins, who have organic heads and cybernetic bodies, and are named… you guessed it, Gemini.

There are other connections that have been made, and some arguments are less compelling than others. I find myself intrigued by these conjectures, if not necessarily convinced. If you’re still with me, just know that I fully accept that there is a 99.97% chance that this is all just extreme coincidence. In all the presented situations, Occam’s razor says that it’s just a coincidence and that the simplest explanation is that the truth of the matter is on the surface, and can be taken at face value. But if you, like me, are a die-hard fan of the Metal Gear series, you have faith in that 0.03% chance that Hideo Kojima (the mastermind behind the entire Metal Gear line of games) is just crazy enough to pull off a stunt like this to end his wildly successful Metal Gear franchise with a huge bang.

And if you’re wondering if I wear a tin-foil hat, I can assure you that I do not. Instead, I simply line my regular hat with tin-foil on the inside, as I tend to draw less attention that way.


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Ready Player One, a book review

If you’ve been paying attention to recent sci-fi literature or are generally in the know about all things nerdy, you’ve probably heard about Ernest Cline’s Ready Player One. It’s a novel set in the not-so-distant future where an expansive MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role playing game) called “the OASIS” has become the new reality for humans. Conventional civilization and society have gone by the wayside and all endeavors, capitalistic or otherwise, take place in the OASIS.

After the death of James Halliday, the inventor of the OASIS, a video of his will is released explaining that there is an Easter Egg, or hidden series of quests, programmed into the OASIS. A top-10 scoreboard is also integrated into the game, giving players the ability to track the forerunners in the quest for Halliday’s Egg. The search for the Egg becomes a massive worldwide effort, and the key to unlocking the secret is having an extensive knowledge of 1980s video games and pop culture.

The story is told from the perspective of Wade Watts, a teenager whose life is dedicated to hunting for Halliday’s Egg. His OASIS avatar’s name is Parzival, a corruption of Percival of Arthurian legend who is a crucial figure in the quest for the Holy Grail. Parzival becomes an unlikely hero when his avatar’s name is the first to show up on the scoreboard. I won’t spoil anything else by going into specifics, but the story is genuinely fun, surprising, and at times endearing.

I plowed through this book from start to finish in three and a half days, and it was an intense ride through waves of nostalgia. If you’re looking for a fun romp through the glory days of retro gaming with a unique sci-fi twist, I cannot recommend this book enough. Look for Cline’s next novel Armada due out in July.


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The Book Isn’t Always Better Than The Movie

Have you ever been involved in a conversation about a particular movie with a group of friends, when that one friend inevitably posits, “the book was better than the movie,” or “well, see, in the book…,” or, possibly the worst of all, “have you read the book”? If you’re an avid reader maybe you have read the book, but it’s more likely that you’ve only seen the movie and must therefore capitulate to the friend with the almighty book knowledge; but what’s the deal with that? Is the book always better than the movie? It seems like that’s always the case, but if you’ve read the title of this post then you know my possibly controversial stance on the issue. I’ll even agree that most of the time the book is better, but not always.

I recently picked up a book copy of The Prestige, Christopher Priest’s fantasy novel about two feuding magicians at the turn of the 20th century. The book was made into a film in 2006 by acclaimed filmmaker Christopher Nolan, and holds an 8.5/10 ranking on IMDb.com, as well as the prestigious (see what I did there?) honor of being “Certified Fresh” by RottenTomatoes.com. While in theaters, this movie went under the radar for me but when it was initially released on DVD I picked up a copy. It has since become one of my favorite movies, so when I decided to read the book I was hopeful that it would enrich my enjoyment of the film. However, the book emphasized different themes than the movie and had an altogether different tone and form of storytelling — this is not my complaint, but it is worth noting.

Ultimately, the book was less than the sum of its parts; it told its story mostly through the diaries of the two main characters. It’s an interesting approach but it separates two sides of the same events by sometimes more than a hundred pages and in some instances can invoke confused back-and-forth page flipping. The movie version of The Prestige excels by intertwining the viewpoints of both characters into a single narrative causing the “big reveal” at the end to be effectively shocking, whereas the book splits the “reveals” between the two characters in a segmented and less graceful fashion. The book is actually quite enjoyable and stylistically is written quite well, but in what seems a practically impossible task, it serves as a rough sketch of story and characters for the movie version to distill and refine into masterpiece.

Lest you think me a bibliophobe, I have to say that McCarthy’s The Road is a much better read than the movie is to watch. The film serves as a good facsimile but with so much of The Road’s substance being in the prose, the book easily overshadows the film version. To my original point however, Palahniuk has said that he thinks Fight Club was improved by David Fincher, and having read the book (once) and seen the film (several hundred times), I’m inclined to agree. And then sometimes, going back to Cormac McCarthy, you get a book like No Country For Old Men, adapted to film by the genius Coen brothers, and the book and film versions are both so good that they are virtually equals in their respective medium. You just have to know that films and books are both equally valid forms of art, and comparing them can sometimes be like comparing apples to oranges.

I say reject the notion that books always possess intellectual superiority over films, but know that there’s a good reason that mindset exists. So the next time that friend tells you “the book was better than the movie” know that it really depends on which book and movie, and consider that each is its own iteration of the same story.


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Tyler’s Top Five Favorite Comedy Films

5. Blazing Saddles

This Mel Brooks joint is easily one of the funniest movies of all time, and also one of the most overtly obscene. Taking place in the “Old West,” this movie tells the story of a corrupt political boss who, in an effort to ruin the town of Rock Ridge, appoints a black sheriff to the town. Rock Ridge’s presence is impeding the progress of the railroad, but Sheriff Bart soon becomes a formidable adversary to Governor Lepetomane and the owner of the railroad, Hedley Lamarr. Blazing Saddles has many iconic gags and memorable lines, the recreation of which are definitely not suitable for polite company.

4. Office Space

A cult favorite since its release on home video, this movie has spawned a lot of pop culture mainstays, namely the “mmm, yeah…” of Bill Lumbergh, or Milton’s plaint about his Swingline stapler. This movie is funny in an “a-ha!” kind of way, drawing on the frustration with the nine-to-five office job lifestyle, every ounce of which is exhibited through Peter, Michael Bolton, and Samir. Just mention “the copier scene” and anyone who’s seen the movie can relate to wanting to take out their aggravation on an ill-functioning piece of technology they’ve been forced to interact with at one point in their career.

3. The Blues Brothers

They’re on a mission from God, but that doesn’t stop Jake and Elwood from raising all kinds of hell. This film is a classic by any means, and features cameos from James Brown, Aretha Franklin, Cab Calloway, and Ray Charles – giants of Soul music, in this fittingly music-centric movie. The black suit & tie look with black fedoras has now become iconic, and the nigh-indestructible car (which apparently has superpowers because it was kept parked near a power station) is a character in its own right. A lot of the comedy in this movie is big and over-the-top, but there’s comedy in the subtle moments too, such as when Elwood inquires stiffly about the Cadillac the brothers used to own but is placated when Jake explains that he traded it for a microphone. Great movie – but avoid the sequel.

2. Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail

A masterpiece of British cinema, this comedy is one for the truly nerdy. Chronicling King Arthur’s quest to attain the Holy Grail, and his acquisition of knights along the way, the journey is replete with zany characters, ridiculous situations, and danger every step of the way (sometimes with sharp, pointy teeth). This movie is the model of British humor, including the highest of the high-brow to the lowest of the low and levels of absurdity that border insanity. You’ll know you’re in good company if you ask a friend if a swallow can carry a coconut, and their response is to ask “African swallow or European swallow?”

1. The Big Lebowski

Of course this is on my list – it’s probably on yours, too. Endlessly quotable, the Coen brothers struck gold with this comedy film that’s since become a cult favorite. If you know what happens when you “find a stranger in the alps” or if you enjoy imbibing White Russians, chances are this movie has infiltrated your life in some way. There are so many bizarre, hilarious moments in this movie that it’d be pointless to attempt to fit them all into this post. It’s definitely the funniest movie in Los Angeles county, which puts it high in the running for funniest worldwide, and if you don’t agree, well, that’s just, like, your opinion, man.


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Yo! Lemme see that yo-yo, yo!

PICTURE_ONE

Yo-yos. They’re toys. You’ve probably seen some kid playing with one, or maybe you’ve played with one yourself, but what’s the deal with them? Where did they come from? How long have they been around? Who plays with them anymore? I’m going to attempt to answer these questions in a somewhat entertaining manner, and hopefully you’ll learn something about yo-yos that you didn’t know before reading this article. Let’s go!

From Stephen G. Miller’s Ancient Greek Athletics

Yo-yos have been around for a long time. How long? Well, at least twenty-five hundred years. In Stephen G. Miller’s book Ancient Greek Athletics he writes that the yo-yo was a popular toy in ancient Greece, and yo-yos were most commonly made from wood, bronze, or terra-cotta. The vase painting seen above, ca. 440 BC, depicts a Greek boy playing with a yo-yo. As old as the Greek records are, it’s believed that the yo-yo may have originated even earlier in China. Dude, that’s pretty old.

PICTURE_THREESo what’s the allure of this basic toy that’s lasted for more than two millennia? Some might say simplicity, which is definitely a factor, since few parts and a simple design help keep the yo-yo cheap, allowing it to continue to be a widely available toy. Yo-yos typically consist of two circular discs – these days made of plastic – that make up the two sides of the toy, and the sides are kept together by a metal axle screwed into the center of each disc. Each disc also has a groove in the middle for a metal spacer that sits on each end of the axle. A metal ring bearing rests in the center of the axle between the spacers and holds the string, allowing the yo-yo to spin, or “sleep” without automatically retracting up the string.

Image courtesy of YoYoExpert.com

Yo-yos experienced a resurgence in popularity in the 1960s and have been gaining momentum ever since. Yo-yo makers like Yomega and Duncan are major players in the yo-yo world, producing several different specialized models typically tailor-made for looping tricks, or for string tricks. Yo-yo competitions are now as commonplace as radio-controlled airplane contests, model train conventions, and horseshoe championships, finding its own niche culture among enthusiasts worldwide.

Gentry Stein, winner of the Class 1A championship of the 2014 World Yo-Yo contest

So if you’ve got some yo-yos lying around, break ’em out again and give it another whirl! Or if it’s not your thing anymore, I would love to check them out in the store. Now since you’re all jazzed up about yo-yos, enjoy this video of awesome yo-yo tricks!
-Tyler