Thursday, August 31, 2006

Awesome: Don Hertzfeldt

The ever-alert Kung Fu Charlie brought this short film to my attention. It's hilarious and speaks entirely for itself.

You should know that it was created by the incomparable Don Hertzfeldt and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Short Animation in 2001.

I guess I'm a little late getting around to this one.

Monday, August 28, 2006

Preview: Ninja Loves Pirate

Great jumping candle-beards, sensei!

Potentially the greatest game of all time has been fashioned from the mangled corpses of the animated undead, and stitched together with twine of ninja and threads of pirate. It's an unholy assemblage that cries out for the sweet flesh of the living!

"Yarrrrgh!" it cries.

"Seishou!" you'll respond.

In news that is infinetly more readable and just barely as important as the Scuderi Engine, Muskedunder Interactive has unveiled its flagship game:

Ninja Loves Pirate.

There's very little to say about the game except just what it is: an old-school 2D sidescroller in which players command both ninjas and pirates to fight hordes of zombies and robots.

Go here and click Downloads to play the demo.

And take that steering wheel out of your pants.

The Scuderi Split-Cycle Combustion Engine

I've mentioned on more than one occasion that I'm perpetually interested in alternative fuels and hybrid/ultra-efficient engine technologies. More than any other practical technology, the combustion engine literally drives our world, and improvements in efficiency are absolutely crucial to the future of automotive and industrial applications.

Traditional combustion engines as we know them are inefficient - grossly inefficient compared to other methods of generating power.

Today's dealership-floor, piston-driven gasoline engine can waste somewhere close to 50% of the fuel it ingests fighting the intake atmospheric vacuum depression caused by the injector manifold butterfly-valve (or carburetor in non-fuel-injected engines). That accounts for half the pollution generated by nearly every combustion engine in use right now.

Also, the contemporary engine cannot balance optimum specifications for multiple qualifiers into one efficient unit. It can't be light, generate minimal noise and vibrations, have a peak torque curve at low RPM and yet maintain substantial torque over a wide power band...all while producing low emissions and being adaptable to multiple fuel types.

There are more reasons, but I didn't set out to bore you with that crap. I just wanted to introduce you to a remarkable alternative engine design. It's the Scuderi Split-Cycle Engine.

The Scuderi isn't the only alternative combustion engine design out there. Not by any stretch. But it is the only engine design to finally take an ages-old concept - the split-cylinder tandem engine - and make it work. I mean, really work.

Scuderi's design divides the four stages of combustion (intake, compression, power, exhaust) into two chambers separated by a pressurized air tank.

Basically, the first cylinder performs the intake and then compresses the fuel-air mixture into the air tank. Then the second cylinder draws in the mix just after top dead-center - right at combustion - to create the power and exhaust cycles.

Normally, all this takes place in a single cylinder with the help of multiple valves. Splitting it up creates a considerably more efficient combustion cycle with far less wasted fuel, and in turn, considerably lower emissions.

The whole idea of an engine that starts the power stroke after the piston head reaches top dead-center is totally contrary to the maxims of engine efficiency. Since Henry Ford, engineers have known that if you start combustion as the piston is on its down stroke, at high RPMs the piston wil outrun the combustion. That problem has never been overcome until the Scuderi.

The addition of high pressure compressed air solves the top dead-center problem by generating so much more power at combustion that the piston can't outrun it.

Anyhow, the Scuderi Group has a great little video explaining how the engine works. In fact, you probably didn't read this and are already watching it.

Actually, you probably didn't read this, then you clicked the video, realized it didn't have any Japanese guys getting wailed in the package, and skipped this whole post altogether.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Art: Arte Com Dobras de Papel

No explanation, just beautiful papercut art. See them all here.

Animusic: Pipe Dream

This is quite old. I remember seeing it for the first time several years ago, but it's still supremely captivating.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Awesome: 3D TV. No Joke.

We don't have flying cars. I cannot use a teleporter to get to work on time. Robots haven't conquered the Earth. And when I come in from the rain, there is no automated voice telling me, "Your jacket is now dry."

The future is largely a disappointment.

Or at least, it was largely a disappointment until I read this: Philips has built and is selling 3D televisions.

You say, "Dude! I'm not wearing some ridiculous glasses so I can watch 3D TV in my living room. That's late 70's-style, nerd."

And I say, "Keep your glasses in your time capsule, doubting Thomas. This TV doesn't need glasses. It relies on being able to trick your brain and your eyes at the same time to make you think those snakes are jumping off the plane right into your living room."


Check this out from Wired:

A new line of 3-D televisions by Philips uses the familiar trick of sending slightly different images to the left and right eyes -- mimicking our stereoscopic view of the real world. But where old-fashioned 3-D movies rely on the special glasses to block images meant for the other eye, Philips' WOWvx technology places tiny lenses over each of the millions of red, green and blue sub pixels that make up an LCD or plasma screen. The lenses cause each sub pixel to project light at one of nine angles fanning out in front of the display.

A processor in the TV generates nine slightly different views corresponding to the different angles. From almost any location, a viewer catches a different image in each eye.

Providing so many views is key to the dramatic results. Sharp Electronics makes an LCD display that projects just two views, requiring an audience to sit perfectly still in front of the screen. With the Philips technology, viewers can move around without losing much of the effect -- one set of left/right views slips into another, with just a slight double-vision effect in the transitions.

The TV can also display standard two-dimensional images, close to HD quality.

See. I told you so.

Read the whole article here. And get ready to buy your flying car.

Anthony Bourdain: Trapped in Beirut

I like Anthony Bourdain.

As someone who makes television shows, I like television shows that break the mold a little.

I like shows that take a tried and formulaic genre and catalyze it with bold thinking. No Reservations is that sort of show.

The show's concept is fairly simple: a known chef, Bourdain, is sent to parts unknown. He samples the local culture, engages the local population and indulges in local culinary flavors. Sometimes he cooks, too.

And in a total affront to contemporary television mores, Bourdain smokes compulsively and drinks religiously. Who's to say how "real" reality television is? Not me. But Anthony Bourdain might be as close as we'll ever get.

Last night, Casey and I watched a special presentation of No Reservations. It was called Anthony Bourdain: In Beirut.

In Beirut started out like any other episode of the show: Anthony flew to Lebanon to seek out the local flavors and culture. He waxed on about the religious diversity and westernization of modern-day Beirut. Anthony and his guide enjoyed a rewarding meal at Le Cafe, a place that epitomized the sort of restaurant Anthony loves for his shows.

And then the tone came down. Anthony got serious.

After the meal, as Bourdain and his Beiruti guide surveyed the site of a political assassination, everything changed.

The streets flooded with Beiruti youth waving Hezbollah flags and shouting. Automatic gunfire rang out on the streets. Something had happened.

Hezbollah soldiers had kidnapped two Israeli soldiers, and from the moment they realized what had happened, Anthony's crew knew they were in the path of an oncoming storm.

The events that followed during the crew's nine days trapped in Beirut were all captured on video. I won't detail the episode here, as that would defeat the point of encouraging you to watch it. But honestly, In Beirut was one of the most eminently watchable, powerful pieces of televsion I've seen in a long time.

I'm going to leave you hanging in the hopes that you'll watch The Travel Channel or order the episode from Discovery Online whenever it shows up. Worthwhile television is hard to find. Seek this out if you have the chance.

Here's a clip of Tony on Larry King talking about the experience.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Something Wonderful: Can

You know, there are moments in your life that humble you beyond words. They are few and far-between, but are undeniable.

Never has one of those moments come from a Sports Illustrated story for me. Until now...

I'm sure some of you have heard the story of Dick Hoyt and his son, Rick. I hadn't until my brother, Evan, sent me the story. It came linked with a video. And honestly, don't even bother reading the article if you aren't going to watch the video.

Read this story and watch that four-minute video.

Be a little changed.

From Sports Illustrated, By Rick Reilly

I try to be a good father. Give my kids mulligans. Work nights to pay for their text messaging. Take them to swimsuit shoots. But compared with Dick Hoyt, I suck.

Eighty-five times he's pushed his disabled son, Rick, 26.2 miles in marathons. Eight times he's not only pushed him 26.2 miles in a wheelchair but also towed him 2.4 miles in a dinghy while swimming and pedaled him 112 miles in a seat on the handlebars--all in the same day.

Dick's also pulled him cross-country skiing, taken him on his back mountain climbing and once hauled him across the U.S. on a bike. Makes taking your son bowling look a little lame, right?

And what has Rick done for his father? Not much--except save his life.

This love story began in Winchester, Mass., 43 years ago, when Rick was strangled by the umbilical cord during birth, leaving him brain-damaged and unable to control his limbs. ``He'll be a vegetable the rest of his life;'' Dick says doctors told him and his wife, Judy, when Rick was nine months old. ``Put him in an institution.''

But the Hoyts weren't buying it. They noticed the way Rick's eyes followed them around the room. When Rick was 11 they took him to the engineering department at Tufts University and asked if there was anything to help the boy communicate. ``No way,'' Dick says he was told. ``There's nothing going on in his brain.''

"Tell him a joke,'' Dick countered. They did. Rick laughed. Turns out a lot was going on in his brain.

Rigged up with a computer that allowed him to control the cursor by touching a switch with the side of his head, Rick was finally able to communicate. First words? ``Go Bruins!'' And after a high school classmate was paralyzed in an accident and the school organized a charity run for him, Rick pecked out, ``Dad, I want to do that.''

Yeah, right. How was Dick, a self-described ``porker'' who never ran more than a mile at a time, going to push his son five miles? Still, he tried. ``Then it was me who was handicapped,'' Dick says. ``I was sore for two weeks.''

That day changed Rick's life. ``Dad,'' he typed, ``when we were running, it felt like I wasn't disabled anymore!''

And that sentence changed Dick's life. He became obsessed with giving Rick that feeling as often as he could. He got into such hard-belly shape that he and Rick were ready to try the 1979 Boston Marathon.

``No way,'' Dick was told by a race official. The Hoyts weren't quite a single runner, and they weren't quite a wheelchair competitor. For a few years Dick and Rick just joined the massive field and ran anyway, then they found a way to get into the race officially: In 1983 they ran another marathon so fast they made the qualifying time for Boston the following year.

Then somebody said, ``Hey, Dick, why not a triathlon?''

How's a guy who never learned to swim and hadn't ridden a bike since he was six going to haul his 110-pound kid through a triathlon? Still, Dick tried.

Now they've done 212 triathlons, including four grueling 15-hour Ironmans in Hawaii. It must be a buzzkill to be a 25-year-old stud getting passed by an old guy towing a grown man in a dinghy, don't you think?

Hey, Dick, why not see how you'd do on your own? ``No way,'' he says. Dick does it purely for ``the awesome feeling'' he gets seeing Rick with a cantaloupe smile as they run, swim and ride together.

This year, at ages 65 and 43, Dick and Rick finished their 24th Boston Marathon, in 5,083rd place out of more than 20,000 starters. Their best time'? Two hours, 40 minutes in 1992--only 35 minutes off the world record, which, in case you don't keep track of these things, happens to be held by a guy who was not pushing another man in a wheelchair at the time.

``No question about it,'' Rick types. ``My dad is the Father of the Century.''

And Dick got something else out of all this too. Two years ago he had a mild heart attack during a race. Doctors found that one of his arteries was
95% clogged. ``If you hadn't been in such great shape,'' one doctor told him, ``you probably would've died 15 years ago.''

So, in a way, Dick and Rick saved each other's life.

Rick, who has his own apartment (he gets home care) and works in Boston, and Dick, retired from the military and living in Holland, Mass., always find ways to be together. They give speeches around the country and compete in some backbreaking race every > weekend, including this Father's Day.

That night, Rick will buy his dad dinner, but the thing he really wants to give him is a gift he can never buy.

``The thing I'd most like,'' Rick types, ``is that my dad would sit in the chair and I would push him once.''

Just for the record, Rick Reilly is (always has been, always will be) my favorite sports writer.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Trailer: Let's Go To Prison

If I could type out the opening riff to The Final Countdown by Europe in words, it would probably look something like this:

Dee do dee doooo - dee do dee dee doooo - dee do dee doo dooooo...It's the fi-nal count-down!

But that looks silly. So instead, I'm just going to post the trailer for Will Arnett's third post-Arrested Development movie: Let's Go To Prison.

Let me say this right now: even if this movie sucks Paris Hilton-style, I am going to see it. You'd have to pay me money to not go pay money to watch Will Arnett in a movie about going to prison.

Because this trailer is so new, details about the movie itself are pretty scarce. I think you'll glean all you need to know about the plot from this teaser, though.

Look for co-star Dax Shepard to take the voice-over lead, and that guy from Boston Public to take the prison-sex lead. All signs point to this film being the feel-good prison romance movie of the year.

If I can find a better trailer somewhere, I'll post it up. For now, this is the only one around.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

A New Solar System?

Scientists are bored.

They're bored and tired of looking at the same nine planets we've been looking at for centuries. They know that the job of science is to press ever forward - to constantly invent new reasons to contradict the scientists of the past.

Science is what scientists decide it is when they're bored.

And now scientists have decided that our solar system needs more planets. An international symposium tribunal of telescope-peering magistrates has redefined the defintion of the word planet. Seriously. Because this has been the most important scientific debate in the history of thinking.

After two - read that, two - years of "intense astronomical debate," science is fresh and new and "teachable" once more.

Prepare thyself for the new and improved, superhot, most up-to-date-est definition of the word planet you're going to see in your lifetime. Science sayeth:

Planets are round. And they orbit a star.

Congratulations, science! The universe is infinitely more understandable now. And your new definition couldn't be more comprehensive. Scientist Richard Binzel, an MIT astronomer, agrees:

We now have a new way to put the solar system together. We think this definition is reasonable.

So kids, get crunk to learn the new 12 to 53-member solar system map! My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Pizzas = old and busted. Teh new hotness is: My Very Excellent Mother Just Served Us Nine Cold Pizzas Under A Winter Sky For The Birthday Excitement You Enjoyed In Your Pants Before The Delivery of Annual Gift Man Abracadabra!

Ha ha! Science is important!

Art: Wonder Woman, Narnia

I started a series of illustrations back in 2003 that I wanted to build around DC's iconic superhero characters. My efforts produced the sum total of one Wonder Woman print and about 8 Superman/Batman layouts. Crap.

Anyhow, you can click her to see the full illustration.

The image below was inspired by a thread on ConceptArt about the most powerful moments from books of our childhood. I chose the White Witch sacrificing Aslan from The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe to illustrate.

The concept didn't progress much past a rough sketch, but I wound up inking and vectorizing what little I had done. It's wholly unfinished, but still has something of what I was hoping to convey in it.

I included a few process shots in there as well.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Tools: Artie

So you're tired of searching through for album art to go in your iTunes library.

You and me both, hermano.

Apparently, everybody uses Amazon to collect artwork for their ripped iTunes albums. It's a ubiquitous process. I do it. Your father does it. Your Aunt Netta watches it every night on the VCR.

Anyhow, you don't have to waste time doing manual searches and dragging artwork one-at-a-time anymore. Artie will do it for you. And Artie will do a good ass job.

Just upload your iTunes .xml library file and let Artie search. Artie returns a very high percentage of correctly-matched album images (at least, in my completely unscientific tests). Some will be misses, and some won't be found at all. But it's considerably easier than doing it all by hand.

Artie wins my Useful Tool of the Day Award. You'll be glad Patrick Moberg thought it up.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Art: DSG

I've been a member of a website called for several years. It's one of the most incredible resources imaginable for an artist - a place to post your work and have it critiqued by others.

When I say others I mean everyone. From the unskilled newb to the respected professional, everyone has the opportunity to provide input on your work.

The beauty of this sort of site (it's hardly the only one), is that you are able to see the work of thousands of others all in one place. Much of the work is done by professional illustrators and concept artists - game designers, art directors, Hollywood concept painters, the lot.

I haven't contributed to the site in a very, very long time - I just haven't been able to find the time. But I dug up these sketches from a few years ago, and thought I'd plaster them here.

These four selections are from the Daily Sketch Group series. Each day ConceptArt posts a new "theme," and members contribute a quick sketch of something representative of that theme.

You will see each theme embedded in the images.

The idea is that you shouldn't spend more than a few minutes on each piece, so none of these are very polished.

Anyhow, I hope you've enjoyed this installment in the Echols Recycles Old Illustrations series. Don't forget to click the thumbnails to enlarge.

*PS: If you have any interest whatsoever, my user name on is "leviathan"

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Video: The Hoff: Jump In My Car

Once you watch this video, you will fever with a desire to gnaw the flesh from your bones and rend your eyes from their very sockets. But, alas! You can never unsee what you have seen.

Also, I think that you only have 7 days to live after watching it.

Just know that this is an official video release from Sony BMG Music Entertainment, Australia.

And also know that I won't be sleeping for weeks.

Top 10 Worst Company URLs has a classy list of the best of the worst corporate URLs.

I suppose the whole point of ridiculing these sites for their failings - while at the same time driving massive amounts of traffic to them - is a bit oxymoronic. But then, why just be moronic when you can be oxymoronic.

Time Waster: Oceangram

Remember that time you were walking along the beach enjoying a seaside sunset, when a small glass bottle with a note in it washed up at your feet?

Of course you don't. Because nobody bothers to send bottle mail via the ocean anymore.

They do it via

Oceangram is a great time waster that provides a totally unique experience for everyone who takes the time to open a drifting bottle. Write a note, stick it in a virtual bottle and set it adrift on the virtual ocean.

Who will find your message? What truth might you discover floating on the horizon? Does this count as pollution?

You can also send a bottle to a specific email address if you'd like to make sure your message washes up on the right beach.

Useless: Google Leetspeak Search

This is totally random.

If you ever felt like the simple Google interface just wasn't r0xx0|2s enough for you, then the l33t search engine is where you need to be.

It's the full Google search engine, but notated with all the juvenile text a 13-year old IMer could hope for.

Not surprisingly, Google has dozens of odd pages like this.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Awesome: Travis Pastrana's Double Backflip

I meant to post this earlier, but just didn't manage to get around to it.

If you didn't watch the X-Games this weekend, then you missed out on some of the most impressive performances in modern sport. And I'm not waxing sarcastic when I say that.

Contemporary "extreme sports" have evolved into incredibly nuanced, highly-technical performances. You almost cannot believe the amount of skill and practice required to execute the stunts, tricks and absolute feats-of-the-impossible that these athletes pull off.

2006's X-Games 12 saw at least two tricks performed in competition that had never been done before: Kevin Robinson's BMX double-flair, and the only one you're going to care about...

Travis Pastrana's double backflip.

Anyone with a heartbeat will appreciate the video.
This is the kind of thing you don't survive if you miss.

Trailer: Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny

Whip crack went his whippy tail, and the beast was done.

And with that, the first official trailer for the first official Tenacious D movie is online. The film is titled Tenacious D: The Pick of Destiny, but it doesn't refer to being chosen by destiny. It's literally...a pick. You know, like the kind you play a guitar with.

It could be a subtle play on words. But I don't think Jack Black could spell subtle if you spotted him the S, U, B, T, and L. He'd just think you were spelling "subtitle" and he'd make a serious face and say, "It's not a French art film. Sha na na nah sha na na nana."

So the question is, how does it look? Well, in a word:

AWESOME..........LY BAD.

Ha. No.

*PS: If you don't like groin punches, sasquatch, 6-armed guitar wailing, the devil tearing up killer drum solos, or humor...don't watch this.

Friday, August 04, 2006

OK Go: Video Made The Internet Star

You probably met OK Go back when their A Million Ways video conquered the internets. Now they've done it again with Video Made The Internet Star.

Here, they've traded the backyard for treadmills, but their signature dance moves made the trip with them.

Alright. No long post about the band or their many other videos. Just some links and the opportunity for you to enjoy something without me rambling on incessantly about it.

Ha ha! Self-deprication is a skill!

The Geek Test

I scored 38.2643% on v.3.1. of the Innergeek Geek Test.

Should I be proud or ashamed? I'm torn.

Click the picture to take the test. Then post your scores, nerds.

Art: Zoo Book

One of the main reasons I started this blog was to have a place to post some of my illustration work. So I guess I ought to start doing it.

Back in college, I did an independent study to earn my last few credit hours before I graduated. For the project, I illustrated a zoo book for children.

Here are a few of the pieces from that book. Some of you might already have seen these in their original form, and will notice I've reworked them for a more consistent look.

Please click to see larger versions.

*If you feel like commenting, I'd definitely appreciate it. Whether you know me or not, your input is very welcome.

Something Wonderful: La Chute de L'Ange

So often I write as the skeptic - as the cynic. But this time I'd like to give you something wonderful; something to soften the cynic's heart.

I confess I know nothing about this tiny film. I could find out, but I'd rather just present it to you:

The Fall of The Angel.

See if it doesn't just make your day.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

We Are The Internet

Ok, I'm genuinely not sure what I make of this.

In principle, I'm an advocate of the message: I love the internet and want it to remain an open, (essentially) free resource. If you've read anything on my site, you already know that I'm a proponent of open-source software, I encourage self-regulation for the web, and I have a considerable distaste for corporate control.

That said, the approach that Leslie Hall (Keeper of The Gems) at takes in preserving web neutrality is...well... It's unconventional. And it makes me strangely ashamed that I know the "celebrities" in her video.

I'm throwing in with Leslie, though. is a friend to echols:construct because we share the same convictions. However:

We don't share wardrobes.

We don't share musical taste.

And we don't share a belief that capes are cool.

All the same, you'll get a laugh out of Leslie, her gold spandex pants and her friends. It's worth a few minutes to hear what she has to say. The video has all the makings of a classic internet "gem" - literally. Watch it here.

*Note: I removed the embedded video from my site, as it has an autoplay I can't turn off. I don't like that.

Maas Digital MER Animation

This is gorgeous.

Maas Digital created what they call a "scientifically accurate" CGI animation to illustrate the progress of NASA's Mars Exploration Rover. It is a stunning, captivating piece of digital science.

Take a few minutes to watch the high-quality version of the animation. It's a large file and will take some time to load on slower internet connections. I assure you, though, it's absolutely worth your wait.

This Maas animation and several others are featured in a NOVA presentation about Mars on PBS. You can watch it - in its entirety - at NOVA's website.

I'll leave you with some still photos from the program.

*Should the link above not direct you to the movie, you will be able to find it here.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Google Earth is Changing Science

Spiegel Online has an excellent article about the impact Google Earth has had on contemporary science.

Geographers, biologists, epidemiologists and researchers across the scientific spectrum have put everyone's favorite virtual globe to work. They've used the maps to track arctic ice sheets, plot outbreaks of bird flu, and even help rescuers identify navigableble and flooded roads in New Orleans after hurricane Katrina.

To quote from the article:

It isn't surprising that the virtual globe, available as a free download in its basic version, has spread like wildfire. After all, it provides a place to put all the hopelessly scattered information we have collected about our world. Namely, on the earth itself. The digital globe finally depicts everything exactly where it belongs.

Should you be unaware of Google Earth, then you're missing out on one of the most engaging and useful tools the internet has to offer. Read the article, then get Google Earth if you haven't already.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Awesome: Guitar Hero PC Clones

Picture this scenario:

You're sitting in the library*, bored out of your mind because books are for nerds. You crack open the old laptop to help alleviate your mind-numbing boredom, but alas! Minesweeper has lost its lustre. You're helplessly staring at the screen wishing modern technology had something awesome to offer you.

You're wishing you had your PS2 and could wail some Guitar Hero. You'd say, "Ha! Take that, books!"

Too bad you don't have your PS2. Too bad you can't play Guitar Hero on your laptop. Too bad...alright, you know what I'm getting at.

Dude. You can play GH on your laptop! Or at least, you can play a freeware clone of it. Check this:

Guitar Hero PC Clone is still fairly beta-ish, but runs very well. It looks and feels much like the original, and everything that's so addictive about GH is here in its PC clone. There aren't selectable modes, like career or quick play - it's pretty much just select a song, set the scroll speed for difficulty, and play.

When you download the full version, the game comes with a library of songs you've never head of (except for a few retro video game themes) - all custom-mapped by users. You can get the game as a standalone as well, but you'll have to put your own songs into the library.

Wait. Your own songs?

That's right. Thanks to Anton Struyk's Freestar Hero, you can have a (fairly) simple editor that will allow you to take any music file (.wmv, .mp3, .wav, etc.) and add your own gem mapping to it. Shazaam!

And that's the beauty of this whole thing: every song you ever thought would make a great Guitar Hero track...can be!

By all means, custom map music from your own legally-obtained library and wail the tracks you wish Red Octane had included in the game!
Just don't be a dumbass and download or distribute mappings for rights-protected songs. Use your music on your computer and you won't go to jail.

Once you've either mapped your own song library or loaded up some songs mapped by others, you're set to play. You can use your keyboard, of course, or...oh, yes it's true...your Guitar Hero guitar.

You'll need a USB-to-PS2 adapter, but hot damn! Now you can play practically any song you want, any time you want, anywhere you want. You'll never read another book again.

As for playability, it isn't perfect. Using the keyboard to rock out guitar riffs feels a lot like using a pair of #2 pencils to drive home a drum solo on your office desk. But the concentration required to master any rhythm game is just as rewarding and addictive here.

Since you can't hold your hand upside down - like you would on a guitar neck - using the keyboard means your finger placements will be completely reversed. The game is designed to work with joystick/pad input, though, so you can use any game peripheral you prefer instead of the keyboard.

There is at least one other GH for PC clone. It's called Frets on Fire and you can get it here. I haven't tried this one yet, but it's on my machine and I'll be giving it a test run soon.**

I realize that very few of the (3) people who read this blog play Guitar Hero...or even know what it is. But if you you've always secretly wanted to rock, then you owe it to yourself to check the game out.

I assure you that the feeling you get graduating from air guitar to Playstation guitar is absolutely worth trying it at least once.

*Patrick, this one's for you, man.

**Update: I haven't been able to play Frets on Fire, as the executable logs an error with every startup. It's an OpenGL conflict of some sort, but I'm not going to fight it. If anyone else gets the game running and would like to post a review, I'll put it up here.

News: The Dark Knight

So this isn't really breaking news anymore, but I didn't have a chance to write a post about it earlier. Here's the scoop:

The next film in the rejuvenated Batman series will be titled The Dark Knight. Production is set to start early in 2007, and The Dark Knight will reprise the same directing/writing crew from Batman Begins. It's likely that the movie will feature more than one of Gotham's iconic villians, but as of now, only one has been cast:

Heath Ledger (of Paws fame) will star as The Joker.

The news was "leaked" last weekend, but Warner Brothers Pictures officially confirmed it yesterday. President of Production, Jeff Robinov, said:

Chris'[Nolan] unique vision is what made Begins such an outstanding film and we could not imagine anyone else at the helm of The Dark Knight...We also can't wait to see two such formidable actors as Christian and Heath face off with each other as Batman and The Joker.

I've seriously spent a lot of time trying to think up some funny commentary on this development. Unfortunately, I think it's probably...not funny. I mean, I made that funny picture up there, but that was about as far as I could carry it.

Using Frank Miller's genre-defining novel for the title of Chris Nolan's second Bat-film is genius. I only hope it gleams some of the brilliance from Frank's book.

Using Heath Ledger's genre-defining acting for The Joker is genius. I only hope he brings the same special "something" to this role that he brought to that movie with the knight and the jousting and those Queen songs.

Ha ha! That was a good movie.