Scaramouche! Scaramouche!

Evidently this family rocks out to Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” every morning on the way to school. Pretty darned awesome, but it’s the little tike in the car seat that really makes it.

Batman And Robin: The Musical

From the same amaziballs creators who gave us Conan the Barbarian: The Musical comes this new, hilarious piece of work. Batman: You Son Of A Bitch!

Sad when a parody is about a bazillion times better than the actual flick.

Tiny Wings: Tips & Tricks

Tiny Wings is an iOS game for the iPhone and iPod touch by programmer and artist Andreas Illiger. When it was released in February of 2011, it immediately earned praise as one of the most fun and addictive games to ever hit the App Store. Being a developer of iOS games myself, I’m always skeptical about such claims, but after having spent some quality time with Tiny Wings over the past few weeks, I have to say I agree.

The game is not without some level of frustration which is made worse by the fact that there is but a single interaction method – Touch the screen or don’t. Given such simple controls you’d think the game would be easy to master. Not so. The player slides over hills and vales and either taps to increase their decent or lets up to slow their decent to the ground. Where they land on a slope depends on how well they slide up the next hill and back into the air once again. Tiny Wings is a “height climber” style game ala Doodle Jump where the player tries to get as far as they can in a single session. When the game ends, the player must return all the way to the beginning and start over. The great thing about Tiny Wings is that it’s so engaging and addictive you really don’t mind starting over each time.

By far the greatest challenge in Tiny Wings is mastering the art of sliding. In order to succeed in the game, you’ll need to practice and become really good at hitting just the proper point on hills in order to achieve maximum momentum. Learning this skill can be tricky and when I first started playing I was so frustrated I was minutes away from deleting the game. Trust me when I say stick with it because once you figure out how to slide properly, the entire game’s fun quotient gets amped up by a factor of x1000.

Each hill has a small landing window on the backside that you can hit which results in a perfect slide. This keeps your momentum going and if you stack three perfect slides in a row, you’ll enter fever mode where every point you earn is doubled. Mastering perfect slides is key to climbing the leader boards in Tiny Wings. The more perfect slides you make in a game, the faster you’ll go, the more likely you’ll be to touch the clouds (bonus points) and the longer you’ll be in fever mode. All of these factors add up and when combined with coin collection, result in a higher final score.

In addition to mastering perfect slides, there are a few tips and tricks I’ve learned that may help you get further and score higher in Tiny Wings. As with anything, your milage may vary but as School House Rock taught me, knowledge is power, so here you go:

Nest Up - Take time early on and knock off some of the game’s achievements in order to “Nest Up” to the next level. Every time you increase your nest level you increase your score multiplier. For the first upgrade, you will need to perform 7 Perfect Slides, gather 100 coins in total across all games, and reach the fourth island in at least one game.

Touch the Sky - Try and touch the sky as often as you can because doing so earns you 20 points times your multiplier. Each touch represents an ever-increasing award of bonus points towards your final tally.

Reset Button - If you don’t leave the first island in fever mode, start over. In fact, if I’m not in fever mode one half way through the first island I usually kill my game and begin again. Since you’re so close to the start you don’t lose a lot of time for trying this technique. Trust me, you’ll be glad you did.

Play on an iPad - If you own an iPad I urge you to play on it instead of the iPhone. As of this writing, the game isn’t universal but it doesn’t matter. The iPad’s large, roomy screen makes seeing the oncoming terrain much easier and gives you plenty of space to place your finger that’s out of the way.

The main thing to remember when playing Tiny Wings is to try and stay calm and remain focused. If you miss a slide and start to lose momentum don’t panic just keep at it and get back into the groove as quickly as you can. If you spot a speed coin, gobble it up to quickly get air back under your wings and get going again.

All in all, Tiny Wings is a masterful creation that is sure to give you hours of entertainment and enjoyment. I have to hand it to Illiger because there aren’t many iPhone games that hang around on my home screen for more than a few days. Tiny Wings has joined Parachute Panic, Orba, Plants vs Zombies, Hot Plates and Carcassonne as one of my all-time favorite iOS games. Have fun and fly far my tiny-winged friends!

Hitler’s Waterloo

I’ve been wanting to try my hand at one of these “Hitler learns…” videos since the meme started last year. The historic passage of health care reform gave me just the excuse I needed to give it a shot. Hopefully you’ll have as much fun watching as I had editing. Enjoy!

The Tea Party & The Circus

I firmly believe those who hold extreme views on any topic are less educated about the issue than those in the middle. Such people do not choose to arm themselves with facts but with feelings. Even so, the stunning ignorance of the Tea Party members interviewed in this short piece is nothing short of embarrassing. Person after person admits they don’t know what is and what isn’t in the bill. All they know is what Fox News and Glenn Beck has told them and that’s good enough for them.

If I didn’t have family members of my own that felt this exact same way, I’d think the entire Tea Party movement was a joke. Unfortunately it’s not, it’s deadly serious. The rise in selfishness in the modern conservative movement in recent years has really taken me by surprise. The “I’ve got mine, you’re on your own.” attitude that pervades Republican and right-wing circles is both frightening and counter-culture to the very Christian ideals so many on the right profess to hold.

Some of the Tea Party members in this video don’t believe there are millions of uninsured citizens in our country. To them the emergency room heals all wounds, treats all diseases (even cancer, heart disease and mental illness) and doesn’t raise the cost of health care for the rest of us year after year. This week I listened to caller after caller on the Brad & Britt show phone in to say that they either didn’t care about those who were uninsured or who didn’t believe the rising cost of health care was worse than doing nothing.

The health care bill that is about to be passed in the U.S. Congress isn’t the best legislation that could have been written, not by a long shot. It is a highly imperfect attempt to fix the growing problem of spiraling health care costs that also helps to protect consumers from being dropped for pre-existing conditions (among other things). It is by no means the final solution, but rather simply a step in the right direction. However, if Tea Party members had their way, we wouldn’t even be having the discussion in the first place.

Time Warner’s Predatory Pricing

Like many communities across the country, Greensboro is attempting to lure internet giant Google to the area to lay the foundation for their super-fast broadband service. City officials have begun to mobilize and there is even a Facebook group that has cropped up where citizens can show their support for the project. I missed the following video when it first was posted, but thanks to a comment posting by Jim Caserta at Ed Cone’s blog, it was brought to my attention.

The town of Wilson, NC has become famous in these parts for launching their own, privately held high-speed fiber network. They did this despite enormous pressure from Time Warner Cable. The network in Wilson is also noteworthy because it has demonstrated what Time Warner is willing to do in order to put such locally owned high-speed networks out of business. Catharine Rice gave a presentation recently that outlines the kinds of price slashing TWC is willing endure in order to hold onto business, even while customers in nearby Raleigh have seen their rates rise from 5-50%. We can’t see the data she’s presenting in this clip, but it’s not necessary, the facts speak for themselves.

Time Warner cable has had a monopoly in North Carolina for far too long and I firmly believe that Google’s entry into the region would serve all of us well. I wasn’t able to make it to the initial community meeting to discuss ideas on how to lure Google to the Triad, but I damn will make the next one. I’m tired of paying ever-increasing cable rates for inferior broadband service. I can’t record HD shows in my Time Warner DVR because half the time they’re not available when I tune them in. The price breaks the people of Wilson are getting are almost obscene compared to what we pay here in Greensboro and it’s high time we let them know. I’ve had enough.

Star Trek Online Tips & Tricks

Thanks to Erica, I’ve been playing Star Trek Online since closed beta. The game has evolved and improved since that initial release, but overall I’ve been able to get a solid understanding of what it takes to have fun and play well in the universe that Cryptic Studios has created these last two months. The game officially launches in just a few days and I thought I would take a moment to share with you some quick and dirty tips and tricks that will help any new player function effectively in STO. I wish something like this had been available when I started playing World of Warcraft back in 2004. As I learn more I’ll be updating this post with new tips and things to watch for. I hope it’s helpful.

Playing on a Mac: Although Star Trek Online doesn’t officially have a Mac version, you can certainly play it on one. You’ll need a copy of Boot Camp running either Windows XP SP2 / Windows Vista / or Windows 7 (32 bit). I don’t recommend playing STO using Parallels on a Macintosh, running in emulation mode is too slow. I don’t know how fast your Mac needs to be in order to run the game well in Boot Camp, but obviously the faster the better. I’m running on a 2.8 GHz Intel Core i7 iMac with 8 GB of RAM and the game purrs like a space kitten. TUAW has a great illustrated guide on how to install Win 7 on Boot Camp, check it out.

Before You Buy: Some special in-game equipment and abilities can only be obtained by ordering the game through a certain retailer. If you order the Deluxe Collector Edition for instance, you’ll get access to Next Generation & movie era uniforms and more. Cryptic offers a complete list of retailers and what you get when you order from each of them. Do your research before you purchase.

Take Your Time: Customize the appearance of your character at creation. Changing physical attributes, the look of your uniform, etc after your character has been created costs “money” in Star Trek Online in the form of energy credits. The same goes for crew members you recruit.

Use Your Map: Pressing the “M” key in aboard ship, in spacedock or on a planet displays various types of maps. Before shouting out “where is so-and-so” take a look at your map first, it will often display what you’re looking for. FYI, at Starfleet headquarters, Sulu is in the Admiral’s office.

Linking Items: You can easily link in-game items you pick up in chat by control-clicking on them.

Item Rarity: Energy credits can be earned by selling items in your inventory. The more uncommon an item, the more it’s worth. Items in Star Trek Online follow a similar path as those in Warcraft. White: Standard issue, Green: Uncommon, Blue: Rare, Purple: Epic. I don’t know if there are colors beyond purple or even what they’re called yet.

Loot System: Loot “drops” when certain ships are destroyed, usually the last ship in a squadron. If loot is available to pick up, you’ll see a glowing, floating orange pylon in space or an orange sphere in ground missions. Unlike Warcraft, loot in Star Trek Online is only available to a specific player, so don’t be afraid to pick it up by pressing “F” when you see it.

You’re In Charge: Don’t forget about equipping your crew as you progress. Those under your command will not pick up loot and equip themselves, so it’s important that you do so for them. A low-level shield may not be useful to you, but could be just what your science officer needs to keep from being sent to sickbay every away mission. Be sure to examine everything before selling it.

Instances: As of this writing there are no “realms” in Star Trek Online. The game is played on a single, massive server for everyone. There are however, instances within this server. So you can be talking to someone in zone chat who’s at the same location you are and not see them floating in space next to you. You can change instances by clicking on the small downward pointing arrow in the upper right of your HUD.

Powers: As soon as you get your own ship and are floating above Sol Spacedock, press “P” and open the available list of powers. Drag and drop the shield power management controls into your HUD so you always have access to them during battle. Throwing power to a particular shield has saved me more times than I can count in Star Trek Online.

Emotes: Click the little Starfleet badge icon in the corner of your chat window to list all of the emotes your character can perform. I especially love the “Tug”, “Dance: Robot” and “Prosper” emotes.

What about you? Do you have tips and tricks for Star Trek Online that other players can benefit from? If so, please leave them in the comments of this post and I’ll add the best ones to the list. Thanks and feel free to add me to your list of in-game friends, I’m Kodos@Gedeon.

Favorite Film Funnies

I’ve been seeing quite a few of these “Best Movie Lines” videos on YouTube and so I thought I would take a shot at making my own. It took some work to grab all of the clips, but the result was worth it. Editing this short ode to silver screen silliness was really fun. Next up, my favorite dramatic lines. Enjoy!

Mental Health Break

At the risk of becoming a YouTube blog, I present you with four very awesome videos. Sometimes surfing the web can lead to random discoveries that turn out to be treasures in their own right. After finding these wonderful clips I just had to share so if you have time, be sure to check them all out, they’re really worth it.

Take On Me-A-Ha-Ukulele Cover (via Buzzfeed)

• Hitler Upset By Balloon Boy Hoax (via @arlo)

Pop-up Folding LEGO Temple Set

Intel Rockstar

The new Tonight Show with Conan O’Brian has been hit or miss since its debut, but this wonderfully geeky bit is right on the money. Conan Interviews the co-creator of the USB port, Ajay Bhatt with hilarious results. Check it out, the end alone is worth the price of admission.

Hat tip to Mashable for this post.

Aqua – Back to the 80′s

I’ve always loved Aqua ever since I first heard Barbie Girl, and now they’ve returned with the video premiere of their new hit – Back to the 80′s. Granted this tune is aimed square at Generation Xers like myself, but its still a great song. The beat is catchy and the lyrics are full of pop culture references like the Commodore 64, Banannarama and Moon Boots. Bravo Aqua, bravo!

Radio Host Mancow Waterboarded

Even though right-wing TV personality Sean Hannity is too afraid to follow through on his promise to be water boarded on air, others aren’t. Witness this incredible display by conservative shock-jock Erich “Mancow” Muller having himself water boarded. After lasting only 6-7 seconds he reverses his opinion on the subject and declares without a doubt that the procedure is indeed torture. Are you listening Mr. Cheney?

Sean Hannity will never allow himself to be water boarded on television or on his radio show. If he were, he would be be forced to admit that his position on the treatment is wrong and that water boarding is, in fact, torture. Hannity is a transparent coward who has no right to speak on the subject until he submits to the same treatment that Erich Muller does here. Time to step up Sean.

[hat tip to Andrew Sullivan for this post]

Sound of Music Flash Mob

I love the whole concept of flash mob performances, but this special event from Belgium has to be one of the very best. The moment when all the kids rush down the stairs is just wonderful. Bravo everyone, bravo!

Following Through

I can’t honestly remember the last time I was rooting for my President to succeed so vehemently. So far, Barack Obama has done a pretty good job of keeping his campaign promises. His first official budget, which he delivered to Congress this week, continues that resolve. The sheer fact that unlike Bush, he didn’t attempt to hide the cost of war in Iraq and Afghanistan by leaving it out of the budget signals the true nature of change he represents.

In this latest weekly video address Obama foreshadows the huge lobbying effort that is gearing up to fight the changes his administration will bring. At the 3:40 mark he lays it out bare: they are getting ready for a fight. His answer to those deep-pocketed special interests is even better – “So am I”. You are not alone Mr. President, we’ve got your back. This is going to be good.

Don’t Panic!

If you could open up the fictional Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy and ask it to explain the current credit crisis, the answer would look something like this video. About the only thing missing is the snarky attitude and snotty English accent. Come to think of it, those things would probably make this snoozefest of a subject actually enjoyable. Gets really good around the 7:20 mark.

The Crisis of Credit Visualized from Jonathan Jarvis on Vimeo.

For Wii, Fun Trumps Flash

Video games are supposed to be fun. Any game’s primary purpose is to engage and entertain in ways that are new, exciting and challenging. Which is why early calls from critics and fan boys alike that the Nintendo Wii console was just a passing “fad” were out of their depth. The argument went that since the Wii didn’t have the horsepower, graphics or true HD support that the XBOX 360 or Playstation 3 had, it was doomed to failure.

In September of 2007, the Nintendo Wii surpassed sales of both its rivals and has never looked back. This year the Wii weathered its second holiday season with flying colors. According to VG Chartz the Wii sold an incredible 1.7 million units the week before Christmas. By comparison, Microsoft’s XBOX 360 sold 535,806 units and SONY’s struggling PlayStation 3 sold a mere 239,576. VG states that when December is done, Nintendo will have sold more than 3 million Wii’s for the month, an astounding number especially considering the current economy.

It is certainly true that most fads enter the market in a blaze of glory and then promptly burn themselves out. However, they also rarely have direct competition from similar products. Fans never had to consider “My Pet Log” when running out to the store to own their first “Pet Rock“. Fads are unique and unpredictable and by their very nature, a flash in the pan. From the very beginning, the Nintendo Wii was designed to be the very opposite of a fad.

From the Wii’s conception, Nintendo’s game designer Shigeru Miyamoto said the console was not about graphics or frame rates, but user interaction. He wanted to make a new way for players of all ages to interface with video games, and he succeeded. Unlike the XBOX or PS3, the Wii was the first video game platform that appealed to adults in large numbers. The Wii has become hugely successful in retirement homes where seniors play endless hours of Wii Bowling and even tone their aging muscles with Wii Fit. Hard core gamers can’t stand this aspect of the Wii. PS3 and XBOX fan boys argue that any console granny plays isn’t a “real” system, and is only geared for kids and old people. Somehow they say this with a straight face while SONY & Microsoft blatantly copy the parts of the Wii that people love like motion sensors and customizable player avatars.

Will the Nintendo Wii manage to stay off the competition for yet another Christmas? If I was a betting guy, my money would definitely be on Miyamoto and not Ballmer. That being said, eventually the Wii’s unique game play will lose its novelty and the console’s sales will slow. But rest assured, Nintendo has plans for the Wii’s successor that takes all the best parts and improves the rest. Nintendo didn’t become the giant of the video game world it is today by following others, Miyamoto and company had the vision to lead. They skillfully knew what the rest of the industry is only now figuring out – frame rates and flop cycles will only get you so far, but fun lasts forever.

Time Keeps On Slippin’

Inspired by a recent tweet from my friend Craig, I’ve sat down and thought about the various forms of media / technology transitions that I’ve personally taken part in. This list is amplified by the fact that my 39th birthday is coming up and for some reason, I’m keenly aware of my age.

How many of these evolutions have you experienced? Do you have others you could add to the list? If so, I encourage you to post them in the comments section. Are these changes painful reminders or fond remembrances? You’ll have to decide that for yourself.

• • •

vinyl > 8-track > cassette > CD > MP3

Walkie talkies > rotary > touch tone > cordless > cell

Finger paint > crayon > Lite-Brite > Etch-A-Sketch > Magna Doodle > WACOM

8″ floppy > 5 1/4″ > 3 1/2″ > SyQuest > Bernoulli > ZIP > removable

Apple IIe > IIgs > IIvx > Performa 6400 > Powermac G3 > PM G4> Dual PPC G5

Mattel Football > Merlin > Quiz Wiz > Game Boy > Nintendo DS > iPhone

Laserdisc > VHS > DVD > Blu-ray > Bit Torrent

Coca-Cola > “New” Coke > Coca-Cola Classic > Coke 2 > Coca-Cola Classic > Coke Zero > Coca-Cola Classic

Rubylith > Letraset > Pagemaker > QuarkXPress > InDesign

Adventure > Ultima > Bard’s Tale > Moria > Diablo II > World of Warcraft

Dewey Decimal > microfiche > Encyclopedia Britannica > Wikipedia

Odyssey > Atari 2600 > Intellivision > Nintendo ES > SEGA Genesis > Super Nintendo > Playstation > N64 > Game Cube > Wii

serial > SCSI > USB > Firewire > USB2 > WiFi

Play-Doh > Tinkertoys > Lincoln Logs > Erector Set > LEGOS

It’s a Good Day!

Stumbled across this upbeat video on YouTube and just had to share. This is the kind of thing that my friends and I totally would have made back at RIT, so I feel like these guys are kindred spirits. Considering this mini-musical was obviously shot in a college dorm with zero budget, I think they did a pretty damned fine job. Sing it gentlemen!

Mini-Review of The Force Unleashed for the Nintendo Wii

I like it, you should go buy it. How’s that for “mini”? In all seriousness, I picked up The Force Unleashed for the Nintento Wii last weekend and it’s turned out to be a great purchase. Much has been written about the game, so I’m not going to outline the plot or bore you with technical details about frame rates. I bought the game because I wanted to discover if all the hype that has been spun around the Force Unleashed was deserved. Incredibly enough, it is.

After running through the tutorial, the game quickly earned major geek points as I was able to play as Darth Vader himself! Any game that has the balls to put you in the evil driver’s seat up front isn’t messing around. Although you soon become Vader’s apprentice “Starkiller”, the ability to manipulate the dark side of the Force and wreak havoc on those around you was just as potent as playing as the Dark Lord himself.

Pick up huge objects and hurl them toward your enemies. Toss droids and storm troopers like rag dolls. Hurl your lightsaber across a hanger bay with pin point accuracy to impale your latest victim. After playing for just a few minutes, the appeal of The Force Unleashed becomes clear. Even on the Wii, with it’s less than perfect graphical engine, game play is immersive and tactile. The Wiimote and nunchuck controllers make dueling hand to hand immensely satisfying and almost second nature. The music, story line and straight forward controls all contribute to make The Force Unleashed the first Star Wars game in years I’ve actually liked. I have had to fight with the camera on occasion, and defeating bosses seems too easy for my tastes, but overall it’s a winner.

Unfortunately IGN says the single player levels only took them a total of 6 to complete which is disappointing. I have a feeling that just when I start to really get into it, the game will be over. At least playing on the Wii, I have the Duel VS mode to look forward to which isn’t available on the PS3 or XBOX versions of the game. If you own a Wii and are a Star Wars fan, then I definitely recommend picking up a copy of Force Unleashed. It may not be as good as Nintendo’s home-grown offerings, but it is still solid fun for wannabe Jedi of all ages.

Vote For Hope

An incredible music video with a message that I feel very strongly about. It’s a great example of how good design can communicate an idea effectively.

Hat tip to Andy Brewer for this.