Gamestop, You Ignorant Slut
Thursday, February 26, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Please enjoy this unintentionally hilarious and pathetic training video that Gamestop shows to their employees. It's a little long, but worth watching to the end.

The video starts okay, as I do agree with the notion that people who sell videogames should recognize that women buy games too. However, the video quickly goes off the rails when they start showing "sample customers." Every woman is portrayed as older, and all have a sort of mom-ish quality to them.

My favorite part is the end of the video, where they remind the Gamestop employees to push the promotion where you can get free magazine subscriptions if you buy enough crap. The magazines they've chosen to attract female customers? Oprah's O magazine, Good Housekeeping, Redbook, Cosmo, Marie Claire, or Smart Money.

Yes, Gamestop. Because clearly if a woman is in your store she's probably just there to buy games for someone else, like her sons. If she happens to play games, she probably just wants to play Peggle, Wii Fit and fucking Nintendogs.

*Sigh*... it's so great to see a game retailer who understands my needs as a lady gamer. I think I"m going to go kill some terrorists in Call of Duty 4 until I calm down.
MSNBC Crew Reacts to Bobby Jindal's Speech
Wednesday, February 25, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist

I feel ya, Rachel Maddow. In the face of overwhelming stupidity, sometimes there's just nothing you can really say in response.
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Zombies and Patterns and Androids, Oh My!
Tuesday, February 24, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Lots of nerd-ariffic tidbits for you folks today.

Videogames: Microsoft just announced the new red Xbox 360 Elite bundle, and boy howdy, is that a nice deal for gamers who still haven't taken the plunge yet.

From ars technica, here are the details:
  • Xbox 360 Elite Console with Exclusive Red Finish
  • Matching red wireless controller
  • 120GB hard drive
  • Resident Evil 5
  • Super Street Fighter II Turbo HD Remix
  • Exclusive Resident Evil Premium Theme
  • Xbox 360 black wired headset
  • HDTV-ready component HD AV, HDMI and Ethernet cables
Sometimes you'll see game consoles packages with throwaway crap games, but in this case, you're really getting a deal as a gamer. Resident Evil 5 is looking to be a stellar game, so you're saving $60 right there. Plus, SSF II Turbo HD Remix is supposed to be tons of fun, so you're getting a really great quality arcade game for free (it's about $20 to purchase on XBLA).

TV stuff: Well, Fringe continues its quest to become the X-files's true successor by announcing that season 2 will be shot in Vancouver (the home of the X-files for most of its run). The show was already renewed back in the fall, so at least sci-fi fans know they'll have one good show to look forward to next season (since BSG is going off the air). Again, if you missed this great show the first time around, do yourself a favor and go find the episodes online. If you're already a fan of Fringe, love Anna Torv, and don't mind soapy Brit shows, you might want to catch the BBC show Mistresses that just started airing on BBC America here in the states. Anna guest-stars as a lesbian bride-to-be who ends up having an affair with one of the female leads of the show. It's nice to finally hear Anna speaking with her normal accent (I often think that some of her early dialogue on Fringe felt stilted, because she was struggling to do an American accent).

Unfortunately, it seems Dollhouse is a little more on the bubble, as ratings dropped for the second episode. Still, hopefully Fox will stick by the show, keep promoting it this season, and give Joss a chance to continue next year. While you wait news of the show's eventual demise (or resurrection, in the form of a renewal), go here to enjoy an interview with Steven DeKnight, who wrote last week's excellent episode, "Target".

General techie stuff: Ars Technica has a really interesting article up on Google's mobile OS, dubbed Android. It's pretty technical stuff, but if you like programming talk, this 4 page article is for you. I'm hoping that Android will continue to evolve, so that the iPhone has a legitimate challenger to their growing smart phone domination.

However, if Android develops fast enough, you may see this little platform start to show up other places. With the release of the new Cupcake version of Android, it may be possible to start envisioning Android someday driving the next generation of netbooks, PMPs and so on.
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Very Important Pancake News!
Monday, February 23, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist

This Tuesday, Feb 24th, is free pancake day at IHOP! Be sure to stop in and get your free short stack. I know I will be going in early to sample the delicious buttery and syrupy goodness.

Nom nom nom!
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Dollhouse Episode 2 Review
Monday, February 23, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Now THAT'S what I'm talking about. This week's episode was a vast improvement over the pilot episode of Dollhouse. I give it a solid A-. I hope that those of you out there who didn't like the pilot give this show a few more chances before you abandon it completely.

A lot of the questions that popped up in the first episode got answered, plus several of the things that annoyed me in the pilot were somewhat fixed as well.

This episode explored the relationship between Echo and her handler Boyd Langton. Watching the pilot, it was clear that Boyd was uneasy with the sinister nature of the Dollhouse, and that the former ex-cop was still very much ruled by his conscience. However, it was unclear why this seemingly moral man would consent to work for such an organization. Episode 2 answered that, as we saw just how deep the handler/doll bond goes. It's obvious that Boyd loves Echo, that he perhaps even sees her as a daughter-figure in his life.

The cruelest part is that this bond is what prevents him from leaving the Dollhouse, since to do so would require abandoning this woman to the wolves that clearly prowl the Dollhouse (particularly the cruel head of security, seen taunting Echo at the end of the episode). The other thing I found really affecting is the fact that while Echo can forget all the details of her engagements, Boyd does not have that luxury, and so must live with the knowledge of all the loves lost by Echo, all the terrible things she has done or had done to her, all the people she's been programmed to desire, and so forth. When she looks at him with those trusting eyes in her Doll-state, he knows that while he is in some ways her protector, he is also a part of the machine that holds her captive.

This week's episode had Echo on the run, as a client hired her under false pretenses, in order to trick her into being his prey in a recreation of "The Deadliest Game of All". Intercut with this plot are scenes from 3 months prior, where Alpha freaks out and slaughters a whole bunch of people on his way out of the Dollhouse. We learned the term for when a doll begins to retain elements of an imprint ("compositing"), and at the end of the episode we see that Echo may be on her way to a composite event of her own. The two stories dove-tailed nicely at the end, as it's revealed that Alpha had a hand in setting Echo up for this encounter (helping the client fake his way through the Dollhouse's background check and hiring a killer to hold up the rescue team). I liked the suggestion of the reviewer over at that Alpha may be intentionally trying to provoke Echo into retaining memories via trauma, in order to get her to freak out much like he did.

The scene of the week goes to whoever played the male doll at the beginning of the episode. He did a great job communicating the sheer terror the dolls were experiencing, as their child-like minds struggled to process the Very Bad Thing they knew was happening.

Things we learned this episode:
  • While the dialogue between Topher and Echo felt stilted and weak in the first episode, this episode helps clarify that it's intentionally awkward, as the dialogue is part of a "call and response" pattern that allows the imprint to fully take in the doll's mind. This lead to a great, totally creepy scene where we see Boyd reading a script to Echo designed to imprint her with an undying trust in him.
  • Alpha is the one who gave Amy Acker's character, Claire, those nasty facial scars. Claire also believes that Alpha was shot dead while trying to escape, so look for future trauma for this character when she finds out that the man who made mincemeat out of her pretty face is still on the loose.
  • Alpha also murdered a bunch of dolls on his way out the doll, but specifically spared Echo's life (we see a disturbing scene of her coated in blood in the shower, surrounded by cut up dead bodies).
  • In their default state, dolls are completely helpless and cannot defend themselves. Boyd asks the obvious question, "Why not just imprint them with ninja personalities?" only to learn that the Dollhouse tried that, and it resulted in violence and death as the dolls apparently turned on each other.
  • Agent Paul Ballard continues to be dreamy this week. He has a next door neighbor that clearly appreciates said dreaminess, though he shoots down her invitation to sample her lasagna (and no, that's not a euphemism... except maybe it is, if the look on the neighbor's face was any indication). Tragically, Tahmoh Penikett's shirt stayed on this week, but thankfully there were no more awkwardly staged kickboxing scenes. I'm hoping Ballard will have more to do in the coming weeks. Since he now has Alpha feeding him information (the picture of Caroline appeared on his desk this week), plus a follow up session with the goofy Russian mobster scheduled as well, I suspect he'll be getting much closer to the truth soon enough.
Things I want to know moving forward:
  • More background on Boyd please. What is his family situation? For example, does he have real daughters of his own? What in his past drives his bond with Echo in the present?
  • Just how many dolls are there at the Dollhouse? How many have been killed in the field? How many did Alpha kill?
  • Why did Alpha choose to spare Echo? Did he know her prior to them becoming dolls?
  • Is Alpha packing one particular imprint, or an amalgam of imprints?
A Nerd Treat For Your Ears
Friday, February 20, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
My friend Mark recently invited me to embark on a new project. He was looking to do a new podcast, and he thought we might be a good fit as co-hosts. Well, we got motivated finally, recorded a test session, and then finally did a full show. So, I'm proud to announce the official coming out of "Across the Nerdaverse".

We're hoping to do a show at least 2 times a month (or perhaps weekly if we can manage it). The topics we'll be discussing will be fairly broad - video games, comic books, movies, television, and general tech talk.

What I'm asking you all to do is help us out by checking out the podcast, letting us know what you liked (or didn't like), and then helping us get the word out to anyone you think might be interested.

You can find us on iTunes here:

We'll be updating our new podcast site at with show info and so forth, so check us out there.
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Get Away From Her, You Bitch!
Wednesday, February 18, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Those of you in the know probably instantly recognized that quote in my post title. For those who are wondering what that's all about, it's a line from my favorite movie of all time, Aliens. I decided to write this post in response to a challenge posted over at Open Salon, asking bloggers to name their #1 movie of all time.

Let's start out with the overall reason Aliens is my favorite movie. Hands down, it's one of the finest action movies ever made.The movie clocks in over 2 hours long, but the pacing is fantastic, and the movie just seems to fly by. The storyline pays respect to the continuity of the first Alien film, but then takes the mythology and runs with it, rewarding fans with gobs of excellent information about how the aliens work. It's exciting, it's well written, and it's infinity re-watchable (I watch it at least 1-2 times a year).

Even today, the production value looks sharp. Part of this is probably due to the fact that James Cameron always consults with military experts, so the weapons and vehicles designed for the movie still look realistic, because they are based on real-life tech. They also did a great job improving on the alien design. In the first movie, it's pretty clear it's a dude in a clunky rubber suit that can't move that fast. In Aliens they looked real and moved like some kind of terrifying cross between a cobra and a mountain lion. They looked like they could practically FLY across the room to snag their victims.

Of course, none of that would matter if we didn't care about the characters. And the character of Ellen Ripley is exactly why Aliens is my favorite movie ever. Ms. Ripley has apparently come to do only two things on LV-426. And guess what? She's all out of bubble gum, alien bitches. In the first film, Ripley spends most of her time running from the alien creature, which was fine, because hey, her arsenal was limited and she wasn't exactly a soldier. However, in Aliens, she gets a full tutorial on the flamethrower and pulse rifle, and she straps up and faces the creature that's been haunting her since the incident in the first movie, out-soldiering the soldiers she's with in the process.

Any feminist can detail all the countless ways that the portrayal of females in action movies is usually lame. Even when the woman is designated as a heroine, a lot of times, she can only kick ass if she shows some skin (Tomb Raider) and/or uses her sexuality to save the day. Contrast that with Ripley, who dresses quite sensibly the whole time in a plain blue jumpsuit. Yes, there is the requisite underwear shot while they're in their sleep chambers, but in fairness, even the dudes are in their skivvies. But for most of the movie, Ripley is the take-charge heroine of the piece, stepping in when the lieutenant cracks under the pressure, single-handedly rescuing the marines herself and then leading them to safety (well, those who avoid being alien fodder anyway). Sigourney Weaver isn't just another pretty face and she clearly wasn't cast just for her looks. Rather, with her natural height and her sharp features, she's a formidable looking woman.

In fact, fans of strong women get two bonuses characters: the female pilot Dietrich, and Vasquez, the ass kicking Latina marine. Vasquez in particular is worth looking at as a model of how to show a female in the military the right way. Her gender is mentioned briefly at the beginning, as Hudson (Bill Paxton) teases her with the line "Hey, Vasquez. Have you ever been mistaken for a man?" But Vasquez gives it right back, in the tradition of great male ball-breaking trash talk, with a "No. Have you?" burn that earns her hoots of appreciation from her fellow male marines. After that, the fact that she's a female becomes a total non-issue in the movie. Vasquez is entrusted with one of the two huge machine guns, she gets to take point, and she generally is a complete bad ass. Cameron respects his strong female characters by simply not pointing out their gender. He lets them integrate with the rest of the cast and have the same exciting battle scenes and heroic death scenes as the other marines.

Avoiding another classic movie trap, none of the women are burdened with a romantic subplot. The only emotional moment for Vasquez is when her partner Drake is killed, but it plays much more like a traditional "noooo!!!!" moment in a buddy war film. Ripley shares only a chaste glance with Hicks, but promptly returns the discussion to the pulse rifle he's demonstrating for her. The movie wisely keeps focus on the action at hand.

One could argue that framing Ripley as the mother figure to Newt is sort of playing into that stereotype that all women are mothers at heart, who will ferociously protect their young. However, if you watch the director's cut, you see in a deleted scene that Ripley actually had a young daughter, who had aged and passed away while Ripley was floating out in space in stasis. This changes the tone of the story completely when looking at the Ripley/Newt relationship. Ripley isn't just any woman and Newt isn't just any girl - Ripley IS a mother, and Newt is the same age as the daughter she just lost. This explains Ripley's semi-suicidal need to rescue Newt, when logic would have dictated that she be left behind. Similarly, when Ripley faces off with the Alien Queen at the end of the movie (an epic battle kicked off with the quote from the title of this post), it really is a battle to the death between two mothers.

It is a testament to this film, and its treatment of its female characters, that the movie is still held up as one of the great action films of all time, resonating with male and female fans alike. In fact, in the recent panel I attended at the NY Comic Con, Ellen Ripley was named the #2 Greatest Movie Badass of All Time.
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Pimp Your Show To Me
Tuesday, February 17, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
When CBS's sitcom How I Met Your Mother first appeared on the scene, I tuned in for the first episode, but ultimately it didn't capture my heart. Perhaps it was the traditional sitcom-y feel of the show at a time when I was reveling in the new comedic stylings of shows like The Office that turned me off. Maybe it was that the show's first dramatic arc - Ted's maybe romance with Robin - fell flat for me, because hearing a character talk about "the girl of my dreams" when you KNOW she's not going to be the titular Mother in the end doesn't hold any tension for me (rather, it seemed a season or two of Ted/Robin romance was something to be endured while we waited for the real contender to show up).

Nevertheless, I didn't watch the show. However, everytime it would get mentioned on a blog, or when I'd scan the occasional recap, I'd get wind of some of the jokes and the ways the characters' plots were moving along, and I'd think, "That does sound like a show I'd like." I had lots of friends online encouraging me to watch the show as well, and they were people who seemed to have corresponding tastes to my own.

Finally, I got word that Lifetime was re-airing the series, showing two episodes every Monday night, starting with the pilot and moving forward. So I finally broke down and set my DVR to record it. And you know what? My friends were right - this is a delightful little show, and I'm happy to be watching it.

I'm opening the floor to all you good folks out there on Teh Interwebz. What show do you wish more people were watching? Specifically, which shows do I need to be watching? I promise to give them a fair shake. I know that a certain Mr. S out there is going to push Friday Night Lights on me, so that one's pretty much covered (season 1 is in my "watch instantly" queue already).

I'll start the conversation. It pleases me that I'm finally able to recommend Fringe to you all, which has seen a huge leap in quality over the past 4 episodes or so. Thus far they've avoided hooking up Peter and Olivia, which is nice, because I'd like to see a show where a male and female lead can be friends without the show forcing them together. Anna Torv is finally winning me over and showing me why Olivia might just be the right woman for this job. And I continue to absolutely love John Noble as Walter Bishop, who steals the best lines every single week (now if only they'd give the other regulars, like Astrid, something more to do).

I also am enjoying the fact that unlike other shows (*cough cough* LOST *cough cough*) that create false tension by having characters inexplicably hold out critical information from their friends, the characters on Fringe actually seem to realize that sharing information is what normal people do. Like, if I were seeing visions apparently inherited from my maybe-dead fiancee, I'd probably go ahead and mention that to my friends as well. In another nice twist, the characters seem to be getting more and more non-plussed by the monster of the week. That's good, because again, if I saw a huge alien slug growing in a guy, mind melded with my comatose fiancee, and saw a woman with a fully functional biotic arm, after awhile, I wouldn't be shocked by anything, such as the lizard monster from a few episodes ago. And the latest episode this past week was a real stand out, with the mysterious Pattern finally starting to make a little sense and Olivia's role in the endgame finally starting to become more apparent.

Moving on, I'm sad more people aren't watching Damages on FX, because Glenn Close is giving the performance of her life in that one. The only problem with the show (and the reason its audience can only continue to shrink) is that it demands that you watch every single episode. I'm not joking here - to miss even a lone episode is to miss crucial information that will mess up the rest of the season for you. That kind of show is difficult to get people to buy into (also, the fact that one of the main dramatic plots involves whether or not Ted Danson's billionaire dumped stock in his company because of insider info isn't exactly one that grabs your interest right away doesn't help either). Nonetheless, the first season was super rewarding for me as a viewer, and season 2 is just as good so far. I recommend you go out and rent just the first disc from Season 1 at your local Blockbuster (or via Netflix). I'd be surprised if you weren't hooked by the end of episode 2.

To help guide your recommendations, here's what I'm watching right now.

Shows I love and never miss: Damages, Battlestar Galactica, The Office, 30 Rock, Dexter, Mad Men, and now Fringe

Shows I watch, but with less fervor: Ugly Betty, How I Met Your Mother, The Closer, Reaper

In other TV talk, via Whitney Matheson at Pop Candy, here's a little tip on a show populated with awesome "Hey It's That Guy!" actors (including the always welcome Jane Lynch and Ken Marino): Party Down
I'm HUGE in the Ukraine
Monday, February 16, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Pryvit to all my Ukrainian readers!

I'm sort of addicted to Google Analytics, which is a little bit of code you can put on your site to track traffic patterns. Google takes the data about your traffic, and allows you to slice and dice it using a variety of spiffy flash tools (graphs, map overlays, etc).

I've noticed that I get regular traffic from the Ukraine, which fascinates me to no end. I mean, I get random hits from all over the world, but they're usually just a hit here or there. However, I see that I get repeat traffic on a semi-daily basis from the Ukraine, all from the city of Odessa. Which begs the question: who is this lone visitor? My mind whirls with possibilities. Perhaps he's an American ex-pat, tracking my random blog to get his daily dose of mindless pop culture blathering. Maybe she's a spy or a hacker, trying to figure out how to steal my identity from her cyber nest in Odessa. Maybe it's Oksana Baiul. I don't know. Who are you?!?!

In other news, I had a moment of semi-fame, as my "Things To Keep in Mind While Watching Dollhouse" post was briefly featured on the front page of in the open salon feed box. I am apparently the most-read post from over the weekend. What's semi-tragic about that is that it's not one of my best posts, so I'd be bummed if people thought that that was indicative of my writing style. In fact, while that post got a lot of reads, and over 30+ comments, my follow up review of Dollhouse (which I am much more proud of and think is a superior post to the one before) only has 4 sad little comments, and scarcely a person has read it, it seems. Such is the nature of the internet, I suppose.
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Dollhouse Episode 1 Review
Saturday, February 14, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Well, the first episode of Dollhouse has come and gone, so what did we all think about it?

I think as a dramatic episode, it was merely okay. A C+ grade at best. However, as a vehicle for information, I give it an A-, because we learned a lot of things about how the Dollhouse runs, which I hope will pay off in the long run. I enjoyed it overall, so I'm down for next week (which is reportedly much more interesting). 

What I thought was interesting is that several of the supporting characters really stood out for me, and I find myself eager to learn more about them. Harry Lennix was great as Echo's handler, and I believe that his apprehension about the Dollhouse is a nice counter to Olivia Williams's character and the techie guy's (Topher) self-assurance that what they're doing helps people. I'm also really intrigued by the Amy Acker character (the woman with the crazy facial scars) - I suspect that her backstory could be really interesting. We know that Amy Acker can deliver - her performance in the last season of Angel was really great - so I hope we get to explore what makes her tick (and twitch suspiciously) soon. I was only somewhat interested in Tahmoh Penikett's character, FBI agent Paul Ballard, but I do want to thank Joss for that gratuitous kickboxing scene where Tahmoh graciously shared his fantastic body with us all.

I enjoyed the badass introduction of the new assassin model of Sierra. Dichen (pronounced "Deechen") Lachman is a captivating looking woman, but at certain angles I can't help but think that she resembles a certain star from the 80s....

Cheap jokes aside, I know that several reviewers who got advanced copies of the first 3 episodes had a lot of nice things to say about the character of Sierra, so I'm interested to see how her character acts in situations as compared to Echo. We have yet to be introduced to the other character who will be featured heavily, Victor, a male doll.

I know some people on the Teh Interwebz thought Eliza's performance was somewhat flat, particularly when she reverted to doll state. However, I sort of liked the wide-eyed, trusting doll version of Echo, since Eliza's eyes had the same semi-blank expression that my cat gets all the time just before he falls off the furniture. I was so-so on her hostage negotiator character, but I'm partial to a more badass Eliza (a la Faith).

Now, for some things I didn't like. One, the opening sequence with the motorcycle racing felt like it went for an eternity and was poorly shot and edited. Two, I missed Joss Whedon's signature quippy feel to the dialogue, which I think may have spiced up some of the scenes (part of the problem is the shifting nature of several of the main characters, since the dolls will be constantly shifting "voice" as they move from persona to persona). 

While I sort of bought Topher's explanation that imprints are an amalgam of different people who have been scanned, and that to capture that person's knowledge, you end up scanning their less desireable features as well, I'm still not sure why a high tech organization like the Dollhouse would choose to imprint obviously crippling features like asthma. Like, was there only one person in the world with hostage negotiation skills? Why scan a person with asthma? That's like intending to craft a high-wire walker persona, and then choosing to scan a gymnast with a fear of heights.

So, what did we learn in this episode?
  • Dolls are actual humans who have had their memories wiped (this is in contrast to my initial impression, which was that dolls were going to be genetically grown bodies that never had a personality to begin with). It seems that many (if not all) of them were probably coerced into joining the Dollhouse, since the first scene between Echo and Adele Dewitt (Olivia Williams) implied that Echo was in some sort of legal conundrum severe enough that she was willing to sign her life away for 5 years.
  • Dolls have a limited period of service apparently. Since they are peddling physical skills (such as assassin training) and companionship among other things, it makes sense that dolls would serve little use after they aged too much. However, it brings up an interesting point: who is there to make sure that Dollhouse holds up their end of the bargain and releases the dolls at the end of their service? Assuming this organization is super secret, I can only assume that dolls are not given the chance to communicate the terms of their service to the outside world before they are taken in.
  • Apparently the process of becoming a doll for the first time is really unpleasant.
  • Dolls are programmed to return back to base if something goes wrong.
  • While the Dollhouse will put the dolls in dangerous positions, ultimately, their #1 concern is preserving their property (since Langsdon was clearly supposed to rescue only Echo if the hostage situation got out of control).
  • One doll, Alpha, may have gone rogue. I believe he's the naked guy you see at the end of the episode watching the home video of Echo. It looked like he was in the home of her parents, which begs the question - did Alpha murder her parents?
  • Imprinting isn't a perfect science, and they cannot manufacture personalities from scratch. Therefore, they had to do brain scans of real life people.
I'm looking forward to next week's episode at this point. My impression of the pilot was identical to how I felt after watching the Fringe pilot - it was okay, but I'm not completely on board yet. Still, just the other day I was catching up on Fringe and was impressed at how much the show has improved over the past few episodes. So, I'm hoping Dollhouse will really start to gel for me as the season progresses. Overall grade for episode 1 is a B-.

One last thing - the first scene where it's revealed that Echo had sex (multiple times apparently) with the client brings up some interesting issues worth debating. Is it possible for a doll to consent to sex? By her actions, I can only assume that the personality imbedded in Echo at the time sincerely liked the guy and wanted to have sex with him. If we assume that personalities are programmed such that they have tendencies only (but not hardwired mandates) towards particular actions, can we say they have free will? Is it ethical for the client to sleep with Echo if he truly does care for her, and she for him? 
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Things To Keep In Mind While Watching Dollhouse
Friday, February 13, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
For those of you not quite as in the know as the rest of the Nerd-a-verse, tonight FOX is premiering the new Joss Whedon show Dollhouse. Dollhouse stars the excellent Eliza Dushku as "Echo", a woman who has her memories completely wiped at the end of each mission she undertakes. She's one of many "dolls" that can be rented out by rich clientele for anything from assasinations, hostage negotiations, mid-wifery (yes, you read that correctly), and even just plain old sex and companionship.

I encourage you to check out this show. Joss Whedon has produced some great TV in his day, and many of us are hoping this next project will pay off for the viewers.

Here are some things you should keep in mind while you're watching tonight's episode:
  • Keep your expectations low. This is the sort of world that requires a lot of time to fully flesh out. Also, it's well known that Fox executives "helped" shape the pilot and early direction of the show, plus Joss himself has said that it took awhile for him to truly decide where he wanted to go with the plot, so the early episodes may only be of average quality.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer didn't really hit its stride till the second season, so a show like Dollhouse may also require patience to hit its stride. I'm going to give the show the full 13 episodes this season to really make an impact on me.
  • While you're waiting for the show to really wow you, enjoy the beautiful cast Joss has so thoughtfully assembled for you (see pic below)
  • At some point this season, there will be hot girl-on-girl action. If that doesn't make you want to watch...
  • Another activity to engage in while you're waiting for the show to get great is to ponder which material Tahmoh Penikett's gorgeous face has mostly likely been carved from: granite, marble or the ivory from a unicorn horn.
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Kindle 2.0 - Is It Finally Time to Buy One?
Thursday, February 12, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
So, the big news the other day was the release of version 2.0 of Amazon's Kindle e-book reader. There was a lot of interest a few months ago, when Oprah talked up the little device on her show, leading her sheep (errr.. loyal viewers) to plunk down big bucks for an interesting, but ultimately pretty flawed device, considering the cost.

I'm an avid reader, and one of my biggest issues when traveling is the fact that any book I want to travel with takes up a lot of space, so I'm forced to often choose the book that fits my bag the best. That means no hardcovers, and only 1-2 paperbacks. So obviously an e-book reader is something that I've been wishing for for some time. I had flirted with the idea of getting a Kindle 1.0, but ultimately decided that there were some serious flaws in the design of the reader and that the price point was a touch too high for me. However, now the question is: with this new version of the Kindle out, is it finally time to take the plunge and go get one?

Since Amazon is NOT giving consumers a price break (it still rings in at $359), one can only assume that the Kindle 2.0 must offer some new features that make it worth our while. While there's plenty new about the Kindle 2.0, is it necessarily improved? Let's break down the new features on the Kindle 2.0.

The picture on the left is the Kindle 1.0 and the right picture shows the new Kindle 2.0.

Change #1: New keyboard layout
Old: bizarre slanted keys with a weird gap in the middle. Butt ugly.
New: round keys with a traditional keyboard layout. Not so butt ugly.
Value added? Yes and no. In the hands-on preview video found on Engadget (see link at the end of this post), you can hear one of the Kindle people telling the reviewer that the device is primarily a reading device, not a writing device. The keyboard is there for the user to make annotations and to type in URLs for the internet browser. I just don't see most users needing to access the keyboard that often (if at all). So why, then, is the keyboard allowed to consume 25% of the device's surface? If the device is primarily for reading, then the keyboard should be much smaller. Eventually, the ideal solution would be an on-screen keyboard, like the iPhone/iTouch has, but the current limitations of e-Ink prevent that. Note: rumor has it that the new keyboard is harder to use, according to this blogger's preview

Change #2: Revamped side buttons
One of the biggest complaints from 1.0 owners was the placement of the huge "Next Page" buttons on either side of the device. It made it almost impossible to hold the device firmly, without accidentally turning to the next page.
New: Version 2.0 has reduced the size of the buttons, as well as making them angled such that the user must push towards the inside of the button, near to the screen.
Value added? Yes. The new button design allows users to hold the device with a much smaller chance of accidentally clicking Next before they want to.

Change #3: e-Ink
Version 1.0 had 4 shades of e-Ink available
New: 2.0 now rocks up to 16 distinct shades of grey. Sexy!
Value added? Yes. The texts will have more subtle shades going on, plus, until they support a full color Kindle (which I'm hoping fervently for, and without which, scientific texts become nearly impossible to support on this platform), the shades of grey will also help make images look nicer.

Change #4: Size and weight
1.0 was .7" thick and slightly heavier.
New: The 2.0 version, when seen side-by-side with 1.0, seems slightly longer in body, weighs on 10.2 ounces and is .36" thick
Value added? Yes. Anything that makes the device lighter and thinner is a great thing in my book

Change #5: Battery life
The old 1.0 had worse battery life compared to the new version. However, it had a removable battery, which allowed users to purchase a spare battery for particularly long trips
New: 2.0 should let users read for almost 2 weeks straight (assuming you disable the wireless) without requiring a recharge. 25% improvement on battery life from v 1.0, however, no replaceable battery.
Value added? Somewhat. 2 weeks of battery life without a recharge is pretty awesome, but in the unlikely chance that I'd be in the Amazon jungle for a month straight with no access to electricity, I suppose not being able to put in a fresh battery on the fly could be annoying. Also, I worry about the cost of replacing the battery as the unit ages, as batteries inevitably lose their ability to hold a full charge as time goes on.

Change #6: Memory
Version 1.0 had 180 MB of internal memory, but allowed users to expand by using SD memory cards.
New: The new version has 2 GB of internal memory, but they've done away with SD slot.
Value added? No. Almost NO ONE needs to be able to carry 1,500 books with them at all times, so the increased memory is irrelevant at this point. Even if there was such a user, the SD slot of the Kindle 1.0 would have accommodated their needs. In fact, the SD slot actually allows the 1.0 to potentially have more storage than the 2.0, as a 4 GB card isn't that expensive to add.

Change #7: *Beep beep ribby ribby*
The Kindle 1.0 just sat there, forcing you to actually, like, read and shit.
New: 2.0 now comes equipped with a text-to-speech function ("talk to me") that will read to you.
Value added? Emphatically no. The point of an e-reader is to allow ME to read the books I want. If I wanted to hear a book read to me, I'd go ahead purchase an audiobook narrated by a professional actor or author (already supported in version 1.0). I don't want a tin robot voice dictating to me.

Change #8: Improved navigation device
The original Kindle had a strange scroll wheel thingy
New: 2.0 sports a joystick type thing that allows the user to input up, down, left, right and click.
Value added? Yes. It is now easier to move around within a document. Users can more easily highlight text (and then use the spiffy new built-in dictionary to look up the meaning of the words they highlight)

Change #9: More HP under the hood
Pages turned slowly, device could feel sluggish.
New: Users lucky enough to get their hands on this little baby are excited about how much faster the response time is for the Kindle. Pages turn 20% faster now.
Value added? Yes. The more responsive a device feels, the better.

Is it time to buy? I'm going to direct you to this blogger's preview which has a great breakdown of why you may or may not want to get a Kindle 2.0. For me personally, the answer is still no. The high price point is frustrating, as is the fact that the pricing model for e-books only makes sense if you assume users were only buying hardcover novels at full price. I'm also apprehensive about committing to a device that won't let me just move PDFs over from my computer (you need to email them to your Kindle), and that won't support other e-book formats out there. Also, as I have said previously, the inability to transfer e-books to a friend or family member is a deal-breaker for me, as it takes away one of my favorite parts of reading - the ability to share a great book with others.

If you decide to take the plunge, go here to order Amazon's fancy new Kindle 2.0

If you require truly comprehensive coverage of all the Kindle 2.0 has to offer, go check out CNET's coverage or Engadget, both of whom got a hands on with the nifty little device. Then go here to read why the press is so eager for the Kindle to succeed.

NY Comic Con wrap up
Tuesday, February 10, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
I'll be discussing this some more later on in the week on my new podcast, but here's a quick round up of how comic con went this week.

First of all, from reports I heard from people who had attended previous comic cons here, this was the biggest one they've had yet. On Friday, all of Saturday's tickets had already been sold out, and I heard one volunteer mention that there were 70,000 (!) people there on Saturday. Because of this, there were endless lines and crowds of people, and Saturday was actually probably my least favorite day of the convention. I spent literally half the day just queuing up for different panels. I had to go into the 4:00pm Torchwood panel in order to secure a decent spot for the 6:45pm Venture Brothers panel. While I'm glad I got to see Doc Hammer and Jackson Publick (the show creators), ultimately, I ended up spending over 4 hours (1/3 of my day) of my time on that panel. For fans of the Venture Bros, tragically, it seems that Henchmen #24 is dead for good. Doc Hammer was fairly blunt about that. I happened to have my notebook containing my crude Brock Samson sketch, which Doc and Jackson signed for me (I'll upload a scan of that later).

The highlight of Saturday was the Robot Chicken panel, which featured Seth Green, Breckin Meyer, Geoff Johns, and 2 other writers whose names I have forgotten (sorry, guys!). Seth Green was especially charming and funny, but he also did a great job answering questions and returning a lot of the love that the fans were directing towards him. At the end of the panel we got a teaser clip from the upcoming season (including a genius retelling of Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, but done as an opera).

Sunday I dragged my friend Chris to the show. Chris is a prince among men for indulging my endless quest to find a Green Lantern figurine for my boyfriend, as well as the hour long Joss Whedon panel, where I'm pretty sure he only understood 20% of the stuff being discussed (not that he isn't smart, but it's that Joss Whedon talk is fairly inaccessible to people who aren't intimately familiar with Joss's previous work). I'm a bit disappointed that they didn't screen the entire first episode of Dollhouse, which was the reason we went to the panel in the first place. They only showed the first 10 minutes or so, and then the rest of the time will filled with Q&A.

I've been somewhat following the blogosphere's discussion of Dollhouse, but it's possible I missed the revelation (evident in the clip I saw) that Echo (Eliza Dushku's protagonist) is NOT a human body created by scientists and then programmed, but rather a real life person who has (for reasons unknown at the beginning of the show) reluctantly signed the rights to her body away for 5 years. That sort of changes my whole perception of what the show is going to be about, in that this new scenario brings up all kinds of ethical questions that the previous one did not. On the other hand, I'm a little disappointed, because the idea of home growing human bodies solely for the purpose of personality imprint was a really neat idea and I had been looking foward to exploring that. We'll see - from what I saw at the panel, it seems to be a toss-up to determine who is more nervous and unsure about how good this show is going to be: me, or Joss Whedon himself.

After the Joss Whedon panel (tragically I did not get one of the coveted tickets to the autograph session, which were apparently more rare than the Golden Ticket from Willy Wonka), we just sort of wandered the floor and made our way up and down Artists' Alley. I scored a couple sweet pieces of art, aquired Peter David's signature, and picked up a copy of the first Mouse Guard graphic novel. I also heard some interesting buzz about David's work on X-Factor, which further backed up some praise I'd been hearing on sites like Ain't It Cool News, so I went ahead and scored X-factor #35-38 (they were out of the highly praised and apparently shocking #39, but I'll go ahead and get that here at my local comic book store).

All in all, it was a great time, and I'm super glad I went and got the VIP pass. My only complaint is that the show hours were a touch short, given all the stuff there was to see, and they really need to come up with a better system than "Stand in line 2 hours in advance" for the more popular panels and screenings. Also, I was pretty disappointed that there weren't more full screenings of some of the upcoming films like Watchmen. Full reels, or death! Don't just give us a measly 15-20 minutes of content. Still, consider my inner nerd fat, happy and content for the time being.
Comic Con day 2 update
Saturday, February 07, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Today I got to do some hands-on action with the following games:
  • Prototype
  • Madworld
  • House of the Dead (Wii)
  • The Conduit
  • Dragon Age: Origins
  • Ghostbusters
I'll be posting more in a few days, plus we'll be discussing it on the podcast this week. If you can't wait to read all about those games, go check out in the meantime.

I also attended panels on Robot Chicken, Torchwood and The Venture Brothers. Tragically, I missed a 20 minute preview of Watchmen :(

Tomorrow's agenda includes the premiere of the pilot episode of Dollhouse. With any luck I will hopefully score tickets to the Joss Whedon autograph session afterwards (fingers crossed!)
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Live Blogging the NY Comic Con
Friday, February 06, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Greetings all, from the NY Comic Con! Keep checking this blog through the day, as I'll be updating it frequently with new stuff.

First of all, enjoy this web photo album I threw up real fast with some pics from comic con. I'll be updating that throughout the day as well.

2:15pm - Currently sitting in a session entitled MTV News and Newsweek's Video Game Clash. Ken Levine (of 2k Boston/Bioshock fame), Steven Totillo and N'Gai Croal are about to talk about video games.

2:50pm - hee hee, one of the developers in the panel just likened the Nintendo Wii to a Teddy Ruxspin. I do agree with his assertion that the kind of games he works on are just a better fit to the 360 and PS3.

There's an interesting discussion going on right now about how the Wii's emergence as the big selling console of this generation impacts people like these guys who make big blockbuster games which don't really fit on the Wii platform.

6:40pm - Just caught a sneak preview of the new Futurama movie. Pretty funny stuff. The plot revolves around giant mini-golf and a feminist eco-terrorist group. The audience was definitely pumped up, which made the viewing experience even more fun.

I also threw up a few more photos from today. Lots of great costumes on display here, including a pretty nifty Chewbacca (the dude may be as tall as the real actor who played Chewy).

Off now to watch a demo on zombie survival techniques. 
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NYC Comic Con tomorrow!
Thursday, February 05, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
Just a heads up - I will be live blogging from comic con tomorrow, for those of you interested in that stuff.
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Across the Nerd-a-verse
Tuesday, February 03, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist
So, exciting news. My friend Mark and I have finally gotten our shit together and just finished recording our first podcast. The title we're working with right now is "Across the Nerd-a-verse" and hopefully we'll be doing a show once a week (or perhaps bi-weekly). As the title suggests, it will be fairly wide ranging in terms of topics we'll be addressing.

I'll be blogging more on this topic as the days go by (including links to the podcast itself, as well as the new site), but for now, enjoy this excellent sketch my friend Mike made of myself and Mark.

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Roomba versus Kittens
Monday, February 02, 2009 | Author: Mad Typist

Roomba: 1
Kittens: 0

Seriously, this is hilarious.
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