Short Cake Review: Chocolate Guinness Cake

This was the first cake I ever made from scratch. As a novice cake maker creating my own frosting and using parchment paper were both new experiences for me. Other novice cake makers may be as excited as I was to use a recipe that call for Guinness, you may also wish to note that the recipe calls for an amount that does not divide equally into the amount per bottle so you will have to drink some Guinness. The cake was for coworkers at work and was well positively received though there were mixed opinions on how strong the Guinness flavor was. Worth noting that this uses a lot of chocolate and results in a very large cake, I may try doing it half size next time round.

I am unclear whether this heralds in a new era of cake reviews for Doombot, we will see.

Recipe and links to photos behind the cut.


Read More…

Short Movie Review: Pitch Black

This science-fiction horror movie features Vin “The Dungeon Master” Diesel as an escaped convict who’s being transported back to prison—in space. When the spaceship crashes on a world full of whooping monsters that come out at night, it’s up to Diesel’s quick wit, violent tendencies, and shiny eyes to rescue a rag-tag group of misfits who rightfully quip that they should not have flown coach. The dialog is bad, the cuts often feel amateurish, and stupid video tricks (like suddenly inverted colors for dramatic effect) appear to be used without irony. The funny thing is that they kind of had me at the beginning. I was with them for the spaceship crash, the desert world with three suns, and even the unbelievably ridiculous cast (including Wealthy British Comic Relief Guy, children who end up as fodder way earlier than expected, and a girl who I didn’t realize was posing as a boy until everyone was really surprised she was a girl). I was willing to put up with all the ridiculousness for a rollicking sci-fi adventure—but not for a mediocre horror movie. If only they had crashed a little while later and missed the eclipse that happens only once every 22 years.

Short Game Review: Far Cry Instincts (XBOX)

(11 old generation games left.)
I hope you like jungles, lots and lots of jungles intermixed with long loading times.
Far Cry looks rather nice; they clearly spent a lot of time developing the tools to render such impressive scenery (jungle, beaches, a few caves, rain forest, cliffs, swampy jungle etc.) but the gameplay is incredibly repetitive and I feel like some of the levels could have been designed by a program rather than a person. I can not remember the last time I was so aware of how boring the level design of game was, which is striking to me because the levels look gorgeous for a game of this era: they just aren’t interesting in how they are put together.

I can encapsulate the Far Cry experience as such: you sneak through the jungle, you reach a clearing with some manner of mercenary encampment, you can choose to attack or sneak around or just run through really fast, it doesn’t matter there because is another encampment a 5 minute walk away, repeat until you get to a boss fight! They include an assortment of vehicles which is kind of fun but at times feels more like a design decision to let you skips huge chunks of the uninteresting levels. Later in the game you get “feral powers” which apparently was added to the XBOX port and wasn’t in the original PC version of Far Cry. The feral powers make combat a little but more interesting, you can kill people with your bare hands (bear hands?), and see at night and such. In comparison the PC version must have been pretty dull and just a straightforward FPS without them. So a neat mechanic, but I tended to just use the “run very fast power” to skip past areas that were particularly dull.

I couldn’t beat the final boss after a dozen or so tries, but I am sufficiently bored of the game that I have moved it off the “to finish pile.” Usually I wouldn’t bother writing a review for a game I’m so “meh” about but I figure I’d write about these last few last-generation games I have. I had thought about trying to beat all of these before picking up a 360 but given that I have 11 to go and there is at least one 30 hour RPG. (I think my game completion rate since starting grad school is about 4 per year…) Then I thought I should just finish the XBOX games (only 2 remaining in the pile) and then I can unplug that and pack it away, but a recent time sensitive special deal I saw for GTA4 with an XBOX 360 might defeat even that idea.

Short Game Review: Gun (XBox)

(12 old generation games left, though Gun was also available for the 360.)
Basically Grand Theft Auto in the Old West (“Grand Theft Horse” if you will.) The story of revenge, betrayal, and surprise parentage was pretty good as far as a story for a sand box style video game goes. I enjoyed the visual depiction of the wide open expanses (scaled down to be traversable in video game time) but the town areas felt empty and completely un-populated in way that just seemed lazy from a game design/system resources. Towns are simply places where you can go to accept new mission or hang around outside 3D models of buildings you can’t enter with occasional people you can’t actually interact with. My brother pointed out the somewhat disappointing game mechanic that all the horses are the same and there is no horse that is really “yours” and is faster, better, etc. Every time you start a mission or such you just grab (or “jack”) the nearest horse and away you go.

When Gun first came out there was controversy over the depiction of Native Americans, effectively the issue is that there are several levels where you just kill countless droves of them because people who design games feel that killing many people is the necessary appropriate action one must take before you can accomplish tasks such as crossing a bridge or going to the next town. Using this same kind of logic they later become your friends after you kill droves of ex-Confederate soldiers. (Remember only crazy ex-Confederate soldiers led by an evil villain were disrespectful to native peoples.) Basically the same kind of general disregard for issues of race/culture/class/gender you’d find in most video games. I played this the same week the new and controversial trailer for Resident Evil 5 came out so Gun felt almost quaint in comparison to that…

In short as far as game play goes Gun was generally fun and sufficiently engaging enough that I played the story mode all the way through, but I’m left wanting a bit more; perhaps I need to go watch some more Deadwood or play a game of Deadlands (Jason?).

A Desperate Attempt to Ride a Meme’s Coattails

Contemplating an alternative to Rickrolling, I have decided to try to start flipsiding. It’s not that the Rickroll isn’t sufficient as an artful prank all its own; it’s just that I love that video. Peppy music plus embarrassingly ridiculous visuals does it for me in all its forms.

Nerd Sense Tingling!

Please allow me to gush for just a moment, and witness a brief glimpse at just how big a nerd I am.

For years now I have been complaining that Spider-man deserves better video games, and we have the technology. Such a game needs Grand Theft Auto-style roaming capabilities, and a feeling like you’re actually making a difference in the environment. (I also thought it would be neat if you were framed for a crime and had to do some wall-clinging stealth action scenes to find evidence to prove your innocence, but my friends assure me that Spider-man is only fun to play when he is swinging, jumping, and punching.)


Read More…

It’s the year 2008: where is my hoverboard? I *want* my hoverboard.

In our continuing coverage of all things hoverboard (a topic that our demographics clearly show that readers crave), we bring you the latest developments in hover technology.

Researchers at Cornell University—my alma mater, no less!—have apparently managed to pair superconductors with magnets in order to make hovering vehicles theoretically possible. Of course, science is not without its catches: in order for this to work, the temperature needs to be under -300°F. If you’re wondering, the coldest temperature ever measured on Earth was apparently -129°F, so seriously, people: it’s time we start doing something about this global warming shit. If we keep going the way we are now, we’ll never have hover vehicles. Then what will you tell your children? “Sorry Bobby, but because I couldn’t go without driving my Hummer to the corner store, you can’t have a hoverboard for Christmas. Because they don’t exist.” I hope you enjoy having your children grow up hating you with every fiber of their being.

Anyway, if I can earmark my donation for hoverboard research, I might actually consider giving money to my college for once. Let’s see: I’ve got about two dollars in change in my pocket…and some lint. I expect return on my investment. You’ve got seven years.

Actors I Hated Who Are Now Okay by Me

BRAD PITT

Hated: During the early “heart throb” stage.
Grew on me: First as a crazy dude in Twelve Monkeys, then as Tyler Durden in Fight Club.
Actively sought out: Snatch, in part because he looked badass and funny in the trailer.

GEORGE CLOONEY

Hated: During ER and that stupid Batman movie, when he seemed to be little more than a smirk with some stubble.
Grew on me: In O Brother Where Art Thou, where he made me a fan of the Soggy Bottom Boys.
Actively sought out: Good Night, and Good Luck, and now Solaris, despite crappy reviews. He’s in SPACE!

BEN AFFLECK

Hated: All the crappy stuff he did after Good Will Hunting, including the stuff I didn’t even see. Daredevil was enough to sour me for a good long time.
Grew on me: As a director, actually, on Gone Baby Gone. Even casting his little brother turned out to be a good move.
Actively sought out: Remains to be seen. Wonder if he has only one good creative project in him per decade.

The Respectability of Selling Out

If you’ve been with us awhile, you might remember that I’ve ranted a bit before about Shepard Fairey’s “obey” product line. His “Andre the Giant has a posse” and “Obey Giant” stickers started as a funky art project and grew into a guerilla marketing campaign for a clothing line sold through overpriced urban boutiques.

From an visually aesthetic standpoint, I’ve always enjoyed his art style, and so it has kind of bugged me that he has billed his work as politically subversive, encouraging reflection on speech and oppression. (Seriously, see quotes from the post linked above.) It’s really hard to make a “power to the people” claim when “the people” need to find a specialty store and shell out fifty bucks for the right to wear your political art in public—especially when plenty of the pieces in your clothing line feature no discernible visual or textual statements beyond a tiny “Obey” label over the pocket that might as well say “Stüssy” or “Volcom” for all that its fashion-conscious wearers care.

And this is why I am glad that Shepard Fairey is going legit.


Read More…

Spaced: Above and Beyond

Bilbo: “I let my principles get in the way. I punched a bloke in the face once for saying Hawk the Slayer was rubbish.”
Tim: “Good for you.”
Bilbo: “Yeah, thanks. But that’s not the point, Tim. The point is, I was defending the fantasy genre with terminal intensity, when what I
should have said is ‘Dad, you’re right. But let’s give Krull a try and we’ll discuss it later.'”

Spaced remains my favorite sitcom of all time—heck, quite possibly my favorite television show of all time. I’d hung onto hope that a third series might air at some point, bringing closure to the characters. But with the release of a region 1 set of the DVDs coming this summer, and the likely crappy Americanized remake looming on the horizon, that seems less and less likely.

While I do own region 2 DVDs of both series, I don’t have the super special collectors edition, which includes a “making of” featurette with Simon, Jess, and Edgar. I’d heard that there was a little extra for fans at the end of that piece, so in search of closure, I went to find it online—which, thanks to the godlike nature of YouTube, wasn’t very difficult at all. So, if you’re curious about what the future holds in store for Daisy and Tim, there you go.