Friday, December 30, 2011

Is It a Raccoon or a Dog?

So, Christmas is over and New Years is nigh.  I don't think I'll be doing a year-end 'Best of' post this time around.  I saw lots of movies this year but didn't play very many new games.
I got Super Mario 3D Land, among other things*, and breezed through the main game rather quickly.  A review is imminent, of course, and will probably show up in no more than a week.
So yeah, the Tanooki/Tanuki suit that first appeared in Super Mario Bros. 3 has caused me bit of confusion in my life.  I think I've got it all sorted out now.
The Raccoon suit is the one that just gives you a tail and ears and lets you descend slower.  The Tanooki suit is the full-body suit based on the tanuki (a Japanese raccoon-dog) that lets you turn to stone.  In 3D Land, these abilities were combined into just the Tanooki suit; and the suit itself can be found in varying degrees of 'strength' (the basic one only has the "flying" ability, the next includes turning to stone, and there's a golden one that makes you invincible).

I'm just gonna touch on movies for a bit here.  As I said I saw a lot of movies this year; Captain America, Thor, X-Men: First Class, Winnie the Pooh, Paranormal Activity 3, Hugo, The Adventures of Tintin, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows, and I think a few more that I can't remember at the moment.
Anyway, Sherlock Holmes was, without a doubt, my favourite movie this year.  Paranormal Activity 3 was the worst movie I saw this year.  I could edit the post at this point but I think it is far too amusing to just say that I remembered that I also saw Transformers 3 just as I was typing 'worst movie'.  Transformers was really bad; a hell of a lot better than Revenge of the Fallen (which I do honestly consider the worst movie I have ever seen in my life), but still bad.  Paranormal Activity 3 was worse than Transformers though so my statement is still correct.
Tintin, Hugo and Sherlock Holmes are my top recommendations for movies this year.  X-Men: First Class is up there as well.

*My Christmas haul:
-digital camera
-Super Mario 3D Land
-Batman Arkham City (PC)
-Dragon Ball Z Kai Parts 5 & 6 on blu-ray

My Boxing Day haul:
-articulated tripod for my new camera
-new computer mouse; my old one would register between 2 and 5 clicks every time I clicked once
-new USB joypad
-portable 320GB harddrive

Friday, December 23, 2011

Atheism, Video Games and Rants

So, postings have been a bit slow on both of my blogspot sites while I've been going strong and consistent on Tumblr.
The reason I'm posting on Tumblr more than anywhere else is because I've had an itch to write about atheism a lot lately, I want my writings to be read and it's much easier to find followers there than here.  So, if you'd like to read my thoughts on many of the common questions theists ask atheists (things like "why don't you believe in God?", "where does your morality come from?", etc.) then check out my Tumblr which you can get to by the link to the right.

I haven't had too much in the way of new video games to review because I already reviewed Skyward Sword and have not picked up any new games since.  Christmas is in a couple days and I'm likely to get Batman Arkham City so I'll be sure to make posts on that.  As for what I've been playing lately, well I wish I could say I've been working at the sidequests in Skyward Sword but...I just haven't.  The first wave of Gameboy Advance titles for '3DS Ambassadors' was released lately and it is an astoundingly good group of games to get for free:
The Legend of Zelda: The Minish Cap
Metroid Fusion
F-Zero Maximum Velocity
Mario Kart Super Circuit
Wario Land 4
Mario VS Donkey Kong
Kirby & The Amazing Mirror
Wario Ware Inc.: Mega Microgames
Yoshi's Island: Super Mario Advance 3
Fire Emblem: The Sacred Stones

Most of my gaming time as of late was put into Minish Cap which, being an easy and short (but still really fun) game, I completed last night.  I suppose I could give it an 'Outdated Review' post.

I suppose I'll leave it at that for now.  Again, I strongly urge you to check out my Tumblr as it contains a lot of my most philosophical and well-constructed writings.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword Review

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword (Wii) Review

Skyward Sword is quite the package, mixing many elements from past installments of the series and introducing many of its own creation.  It's an experience to remember and let's get right into the why and how of that statement.

As many have been quick to point out, this is the first game in the series to use orchestral music.  On the whole, the music of the game is quite beautiful.  There's little to complain about in the arrangements and, while I admitted in an earlier post to turning down the volume when it came to one particular track, it's a very good soundtrack.
Some problems start to come in the the volume mixing.  There are considerable jumps in how loud the game gets sometimes and it can be quite annoying.  I suppose one could attribute that to the game taking a more cinematic approach than the series has tried in the past, getting a realism out of the audio in that sense, but it is still quite troublesome if you happen to live in an environment not fond to sudden bursts of sound.
In general, the game uses exactly the kinds of sound effects you would expect to hear from what they're used for.  It's nothing too fancy but the Wii remote's built-in speaker does get a good amount of usage.

If you've played earlier 3D Zelda titles, you'll feel right at home with Skyward Sword; for better or worse.  Dialogue is still handled entirely through text boxes.  As usual, all voicework is made of generic gibberish, though some of it with a lot of character.  Early in the game, you'll find Zelda singing and, while the vocal track doesn't actually contain any real words, it sounds quite beautiful.
The heads-up display elements have been revamped slightly.  When first starting the game, you'll notice a bit of clutter thanks to the default display showing a transparent icon of the Wii remote to the right side of the screen with all the functions labeled.  After completing some of the introductory tasks, you get the option of leaving it as it is or either having just the buttons on-screen, or totally removing the HUD all together.
All of the game's cut-scenes use the in-game graphics.  You will not find any sudden jumps in the visual quality during dramatic story moments.  Due to the stylized graphics, this handling of cut-scenes works perfectly well.
The overworld has a somewhat "Wind Waker done right" quality to it.  Beginning the game in 'Skyloft', a floating island town, you go from one location to another by way of flying across the clouds on your pet 'loftwing' bird.  The sky is a large expanse, similar to Wind Waker's 'Great Sea', and is essentially a hub to enter each of the major areas.  While the series has, again, made the mistake of making an overworld hub that is too large for the content that's been put into it, the mistake is far less tedious this time around.  The disconnect between content and size has been reduced greatly.
In any case, the sky is enjoyable to travel.  It looks pretty and there's still a good amount of content to be found when you keep your eyes peeled.
Like most entries into the series, music plays an important role in Skyward Sword's plot but is severely downplayed when compared to previous Zelda games.  Playing songs no longer depends on you to input unique sets of notes and the songs themselves are only performed a couple times each at prefixed locations.
Story elements are treated very well, often with very fantastical imagery and accompanying music.  You'll never be at a loss wondering if what you're seeing is important.

Ever since E3 of last year, Miyamoto has been especially adamant about pushing how beautiful the game looks thanks to the "painted look" approach.  Miyamoto is, himself, a fan of impressionist art so it's no surprise that he seems so happy with Skyward Sword's visuals; they do look very good and very painterly.  However, E3 2010 also gave us some high-resolution screenshots of an early build of the game.  It's a bit sad to say that those are as good as the game has ever looked and ever will look so long as it's played on the Wii's native hardware.  The painted look has been pulled off well in the textures and the shading engine, but the effect is somewhat lost in standard definition.
The aforementioned screenshots were taken from developer's kits that were capable of displaying higher resolutions than the Wii itself outputs too and some of them came really close to actually looking like paintings.
Still, the impressionist look makes the most of the limited hardware and pegs the game among the Wii's best-looking titles.  While you might notice that some of the character models are a bit 'low-poly', there's certainly nothing that can be called outright ugly.

Without a doubt, Skyward Sword has the best-written story of any The Legend of Zelda title to date.  Plot-twists and engaging character development abound, this is a considerable step up for a series that hardly ever had bad stories to begin with.
The setup is more or less the basic setup you've heard before from most games in the series.  Zelda gets pulled from her usual life and it's up to Link to go rescue her.  However, when you really set out on your adventure is where you start to realize you're in for a whole lot more than you would previously expect.
From the beginning, you can start to see more care put into the story than usual.  All the characters you'll find in Skyloft have their own lives and Zelda and Link have their own history with each other.
A little bit into the game, you're introduced to Ghirahim, our central antagonist.  Ghirahim is a wonderfully disturbing villain and his character development is arguably the best to behold in the whole game.
Considering Skyward Sword (like Minish Cap before it) was intended as the earliest point of the Zelda timeline, it does a decent and somewhat ambiguous job of setting up the rest of the series.  In fact, the game even ends on a note that you could say gives a tragic quality to the series as a whole.

When the 'Codename: Revolution's' controller was first unveiled as a TV-remote-like device with a motion sensor, fans of The Legend of Zelda were thrilled to be able to play the next installment in a way that would actually let them swing the Master Sword around.  First, Twilight Princess was ported to the Wii from the Gamecube and actually released for the Wii before the Gamecube, and included motion control support.  However, swinging the remote in Twilight Princess equated to nothing more than a replacement for the B button.  You still needed to tilt the control stick forward to stab, and the angle of your swings could only be controlled in preset ways.
Roughly 5 years hence, Skyward Sword has finally given Zelda gamers the opportunity to truly control the Master Sword with their own motions.  Using the MotionPlus, you can control the angle of your swings just as you would using a real sword; by actually swinging at those angles.  Additionally, you can stab by actually performing a stabbing motion...and all of it works exceedingly well.
Before Skyward Sword, Red Steel 2 was pretty much the only game the Wii had to offer where you could get '1:1' swordplay but there were some glaring issues; motions never seemed like they were being translated perfectly and the MotionPlus itself needed to be calibrated far too often.  The newest Zelda title, on the other hand, has neither of these issues.
The swordplay truly is 1:1, and calibration of the MotionPlus is extremely rare, if needed at all.  About the only flaw that can be found in the MotionPlus's performance is it's occasional losing track of the pointer.  Unlike most Wii titles, the pointer in Skyward Sword is not handled by a combination of the sensor bar and the Wii remote's infrared camera.  When first starting up the game, you will be asked to calibrate the MotionPlus and the pointer and following that, you can unplug the sensor bar.  The MotionPlus handles the pointer which allows you to point away from the TV without the game totally losing track of your pointer.  However, this method also has the trade-off of having the pointer move much slower.
Sometimes, the MotionPlus will think you are pointing away from the TV when you're not however and this is the one actual problem here.  However, the game allows you to press Down on the Wii remote's D-Pad to instantly recenter the pointer if it appears to be out of alignment.  While the problem is a little annoying, the solution is extremely quick and easy.
Outside of the swordplay, you'll find that motion controls are actually used for just about every tool in your arsenal and it all feels very natural and refined.
Since this is a Zelda game, you're going to be encountering lots of puzzles and monsters and, since this game has been designed so heavily around motion controls, fighting monsters is often like it's own puzzle.  Many enemies will guard against certain angles of attack and you'll need to approach them accordingly.  Several enemies will also pay attention to your approach and attempt to change their guard before you attack.  Sometimes you need to be quick to hit them before they counter, others you need to wait it out for an opportunity.  Most every battle requires you to take a calculated approach and understand what you're fighting before you make your first movie.  Otherwise, you'll be losing some hearts.

Avoiding major spoilers, this is about as far as I can go talking about the game.  The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is, at least in my opinion, the best use of motion controls in gaming today, the best action-adventure title the Wii has to offer and, yes, the best title in The Legend of Zelda series.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Haha! Oh, Me.

Well, I just brought up this blog and noticed an art post here instead of on my art blog.  That explains so much. I thought the post had been inexplicably deleted from my art blog when, as it turns out, I clicked the wrong blog title when I went to make the post initially.
Alright, so now for a post that's actually relevant to this blog.
I have completed The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword and will, of course, be reviewing it in the near future.  For now, I can give some additional thoughts:
-While I'm still undecided on considering it the best game of the series, I will say it has undeniably the best story of any Zelda title.
-If somebody dislikes motion controls going into this game and it doesn't make them like motion controls, nothing will.
-It is absolutely a contender for Best Wii Game, Best Zelda Game, perhaps even the best adventure game I've ever personally played, but, like I said, I'm undecided.  Those kinds of labels are going to take some serious consideration.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Kirby Mass Attack Review

Kirby Mass Attack (Nintendo DS) Review

OK, so it took longer to get to this than I had planned.  There's a reason for the delay and I'll get to it in the review*.
I'm gonna try to make the review a little more organized this time by using headers for what I consider the 4 main aspects of reviewing a game (Sound, Presentation, Graphics and Gameplay).

Like most Kirby games, the music is very upbeat, light-hearted and enjoyable.  However, unlike most Kirby games, the music is also fairly forgettable.  I doubt many tunes in this game will end up among classic video game tunes like the old 'Green Greens' theme did.
Still, the soundtrack is good and fitting for the game.  Not bad, just not spectacular.
The sound effects used in the game are just as nice, full of character and, of course, Kirby has the typical gibberish voice clips that have become standard for the series (since Kirby 64: The Crystal Shards).

Being a handheld platformer, Mass Attack takes the standard route of having levels laid out on world maps for you to select.  Similar to Super Mario Bros. 3; one of the first games to utilize this type of level-select; some levels become available to play even if you have not completed all that came before them.  However, it is essential to complete every level in order to finish the game (more on that in the Gameplay section).
The premise of the game is simple as you'd expect from Kirby:  The pink hero is magically torn into 10 of himself and you must complete several levels in order to obtain the power to put Kirby back together.
Throughout the game, you'll travel to five different worlds (Pop Star, and Volcano Valley to name 2) and complete a handful of levels in each.  The worlds all have standard themes, with Pop Star being the basic, grassy area as it's the first world of the game.  In Volcano Valley, you will of course find yourself contending with more fiery environments, brimming with lava and the like.
What little story sequences there are are presented with simple images and text describing the occurrences.  Since there really isn't much story to speak of, this is exactly as simple and straight-forward as you could want it to be.

This game is entirely 2D and, seeing as 3D graphics on the DS have rarely looked very good, that fact is much to its benefit.
 In fact, Kirby Mass Attack is about as beautiful as 2D handheld platformers get.  Everything is very vibrant, colourful and lively and just a joy to behold.  Sprites are richly animated, drawing lots of character out of very simple designs.  The boss battles are always a treat to relive just from how nice they look.
Simply put, the game looks great.

As already mentioned, Kirby Mass Attack is a platformer, and it involves Kirby being split into 10 Kirbys.
While admittedly skeptical after my last experience with a Kirby game, I picked up Mass Attack keeping in mind that Kirby's had a very good track record on the DS.  Canvas Curse, for instance, was one of the best launch titles for the system and was an effective proof of concept in how the touch screen could be utilized to improve gameplay.
Mass Attack employs a similar control scheme, using nothing but touching to control the entire game.  Tapping on the screen 'calls' your Kirbys and is your main method of movement through the game.  Tap an area to the left or right of where they are and your team will walk towards it; double-tap and they'll run.  Tap in a spot above them and they'll jump to it.  You can also 'flick' Kirbys; press on one and quickly drag the stylus in the direction you want to flick it and off it goes.  You'll use this to break blocks, push objects and also to latch onto enemies that are otherwise out of reach.
Similar to the main method of movement in Canvas Curse, you can also collect your Kirbys by holding the stylus down on a certain spot and then you can maneuver them through the air by drawing a line that the group will follow.
When starting each world, you will only have one Kirby.  In order to acquire more, you must eat different kinds of fruit, each worth their own specified number of points, in order to accumulate 100 points which produces another Kirby.  When you have the maximum team of 10 Kirbys, collecting 100 points-worth of fruit gives you additional score bonuses.
Every level has a specified minimum number of Kirbys you must have in order to play it.  In most cases, you won't have a problem meeting the quota.
Combating enemies works simply by tapping on them to call your Kirbys to attack.  The Kirbys will latch on to the enemy and start doing damage.  When the enemy is defeated, they slam it into the ground, awarding your points and fruit.  The number of Kirbys in your team is directly related to how much damage you can do in one go.  Many enemies are weak enough that only a few Kirbys can take care of them with no problem, however some larger enemies will be able to shake your team off even if you have all 10.  In these cases, you simply need to try multiple times to defeat the enemies.
Boss fights are mostly different in that causing damage to them usually involves some very light puzzle elements; figuring out what you need to do to get them in range of attack.
All in all, it's a very simple but still very enjoyable combat system.
*Some moderate replay value can be found in the Medals, hidden Kirby-faced coins in every level.  Most of these are gold-coloured and unessential to completing the game.  Unfortunately, every non-boss level prior to the fifth world also has one rainbow-coloured medal; all of which you must get in order to progress to the fifth world.  This is why it took me as long as it did to get to this review and is also why you must play every level in order to complete the game.  Some of the medals are quite a chore to track down and, in a parallel to Wind Waker, make this an annoying late-game fetch-quest that can really kill the fun.
This is the one glaring flaw in the game's design and about the only thing I'd really say is bad about it.  All in all, the title is still quite good.

With the Nintendo DS on its way out, we probably won't be seeing a whole lot of new games on it from now on.  Kirby Mass Attack is the latest, and probably last, outing for the pink puffball on the DS and it's a quality title that should warrant at least a rental if you're a fan.
Kirby games on the DS have been consistently good and Mass Attack has retained that reputation, utilizing older gimmicks that proved themselves, and adding new tricks to how you play.  Even if you don't see it the whole way through on account of the annoying Rainbow Medal fetch-quest, it is still a very nice experience.
In the end, it's not a revolutionary title by any means but if you want one last title to add to your DS library before the system is all but forgotten by developers, Kirby Mass Attack will work just fine.  

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dang, So Close

So, I've put nearly 20 hours into Skyward Sword now and today, for the first time since starting mind you, I did have to re-calibrate the MotionPlus.  It wasn't even for the swordplay, which was oddly still working just fine.  Instead, the issue came up when I attempted swimming under water (an ability acquired a little while after completing the third dungeon).  Just like riding on your Loftwing, swimming underwater is controlled by tilting the remote in the direction you want to move.
The first time I submerged, I found myself looking at Link in disapproval as he inexplicably constantly spiraled downwards.  One quick calibration and all was right.
Considering the amount of times I had to calibrate the MotionPlus in Red Steel 2 and other MotionPlus titles, this one time in nearly 20 hours of the game is still an absolutely colossal improvement.  Nonetheless, I'm still a little sad that I can no longer say that I've never had any real problems with the motion controls in Skyward Sword.  Oh well.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword First Impressions

It is upon us.
So, The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword, perhaps the last significant title to come out on the Wii, has now been released.  Of course, I did grab myself a copy.  I finished a 3-hour (give or take) play session with it earlier and got a good feel of where the game is going.
Much like Twilight Princess, the game does take a while to really get started.  There's ~20 minutes of playtime before you even get your first sword.  Following that, there's still a handful of things to do before the story gets moving.

The motion controls are damn near flawless.  Occasionally, you'll want to re-center the MotionPlus (which can be done by simply entering first-person mode; press C; and then pressing Down on the D-Pad).  Those occasions are pleasantly rare.  This is, by far, the best motion-control swordplay the Wii has to offer.  Red Steel 2 was on the right track but, admittedly, the MotionPlus needed re-calibration too frequently.
Speaking of first-person mode, in this game you can actual move around while in first-person.  You can actually control Link like you would your character in an FPS game.  However, you can't really do anything besides move while in this perspective so don't expect to play the entire game this way.

The game looks great too.  It's certainly among the best looking games in the Wii's library; right along with Metroid Prime 3, Sonic Colors, and Super Smash Bros. Brawl.  That's not just because of well-done models or the art direction either, the character animation is fantastic as well.

As has been noted by a few of the major review sites out there, this is the first game in the series to have orchestral music as part of the soundtrack.  Most of the music sounds great but there have been a couple tracks that I've found pretty annoying.  I turned the volume down during the 'Wing Ceremony' race as I really disliked the music for that part.

Not too much else to say right now without just explaining controls or spoiling the story.  Right now, it's pretty good.  If the whole game continues along this path of steadily piling on the fun, it should be great.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

10 Questions Atheists Can't Answer Well Answered Well By An Atheist

So, some time ago, I addressed the website and it's Evolution Test.
I discovered that website and the test through a biology student, fellow atheist and friend.  Now, he's stumbled upon another 'quiz' that I've decided to tackle.  These questions were originally posted way back in 2005, but they were recently (2010) re-posted by the same author, on his new website, exactly as they were before.
You can find the re-post here:

For the sake of convenience, I'll quote each question as is in the aforementioned link; complete with spelling and grammatical errors; before each answer.

1.  "Where did life and humanity originate?"
We don't know where the very first instant of life occurred.  Mathematically speaking, there are almost certainly other planets out there that are inhabited and many have been around for a lot longer than Earth.  The very first life probably went extinct eons ago on some very distant planet.
As for humanity, it originated on Earth of course.  Are you sure you didn't mean to ask how human life originated?

2.  "Why is there suffering, sickness and death?"
This is a pretty easy question to answer in the context of real-world factors.  Sickness is caused by viruses/harmful bacteria/what have you.  Death occurs when vital organs fail, be it through force (e.g. murder) or 'natural' causes (e.g. cancer).
This question is, in fact, much harder to answer if you assume there is a god that cares about us because...well, why does he let such things happen?

3.  "What is the cure for man's suffering, esp. his existential lonliness?"
Well, this is entirely subjective.  If somebody is suffering from, say, depression, an upbeat cartoon might cheer them up.  However, if somebody is suffering from hunger, then you wouldn't have them view the same cartoon and expect to cure their suffering.  There is no single cure.
As for existential loneliness, again this is still subjective.  I don't feel existentially lonely at all.  I certainly don't see why being an atheist should make me feel existentially lonely.
Previously I mentioned that in mathematical terms, aliens are practically confirmed to exist; that simple fact may stop some particular individual from feeling "existentially lonely" but may not do the same for another.

4.  "How does an atheist assign meaning to human activity?  Is all meaning subjective, or do some activities have self-evident and objective worth and meaning.  If so, what are these activities and how do you arrive at their value?"
We have conscious thought and instinct; both of these are playing factors in the actions we take.  You could say meaning is subjective in a sense.  I like to choose the course of action that benefits the human race because I sincerely care about our species and would like to see it thrive and better itself.  That path is, in my mind, the correct path.  Others may not agree; they may think humankind should go extinct for the sake of other species or the Earth itself. The latter view may seem ludicrous but there are many people in the real world who do think that way and that has to mean that these things are, in fact, subjective.
Even subjective context doesn't remove self-evident worth though.  Again, I want what's best for the human race as a whole.  I donate to charity every time I go to a fast food place that happens to be doing a charity drive.  With my desires in mind, the action of donating to starving and/or sick children has a clearly self-evident value; because our economies revolve around money and donating money to charity is going to help those in need.

5.  "Are humans of more intrinsic value than animals?  Why or why not?"
I would say yes, but that's subjective for reasons I already covered in my last answer; there are many people who would disagree with me thus confirming subjectivity.
I, not as a spokesman for atheists (as I'm not one, nor is anyone really) but as an individual, think humans are more intrinsically valuable than other animals (and I say 'other' because humans are, in fact, animals themselves) because we are the most cognitively capable species on the planet.  We have the highest standard of problem-solving ability, intelligence, productivity, etc.
Because of this superiority, we are the most capable species on our planet of achieving great things for our planet and for each other.
As much as I love cats, I would sooner kill a cat than another human being.  Thankfully, I doubt I'll ever have to make such a choice.

6.  "How does an atheist determine what is moral or immoral, right or wrong.  Is there any objective standard or principles?"
No, there isn't.  Again, I've covered that already.  If there is no god, and I do not believe there is, then our morals must have Earthly origins and since morals can change drastically from one person to the next, morality is thus undeniably subjective.
And again, I try to derive my morals from a sincere desire for doing what's best for the human race.
I can't tell you how all atheists determine morality as I am not all atheists.  I am one atheist.
As for the origins, I would contest that there are 2 factors that have, for lack of a better word, 'caused' our morality to exist.
The first of these factors is the evolution of instinct.  Throughout history, humans have tended to live in societies that benefited from their inhabitants bearing the traits of a good samaritan.  The inhabitants themselves also benefited from those traits.  Thus instinctual morality, such as empathy for human suffering, can be explained by this.
The second factor is the emergence of consciousness and, in turn, conscious reasoning.  With the ability to reason, we have the ability to choose our course of action based on our own criteria.  Many of us choose to reason based on factors that are, subjectively, moral.

7. "What type of government does atheistic philosophy translate into?  How does it understand the relationship between man and government?  What type of government structures flow from an atheistic world view?  Does it merely rely on someone else's system of thought, like the assumptions of naturalistic science?"
At this point, I can conclude that you do not know what atheism is.  Atheism is not a philosophy, nor is it a worldview.  Atheism is simply a lack of a faith-based belief system.  In fact, the components that make up the word 'atheism', the prefix 'a-' and the root word 'theism', together literally mean "lack of belief system".
Atheists do not universally agree on what government philosophy is right.  They do not have a universally identical worldview.
Let me give you an example:  Penn and Teller are atheists and hardcore libertarians.  I am an atheist and I agree with much of what Penn and Teller have to say on political philosophy, but I don't agree with all of it.  If I had to choose an existing political term to describe my stance, it would be 'libertarian' but I do not consider myself to be 100% libertarian; I have points of contention with that ideology.  TheAmazingAtheist on YouTube thinks, and I quote, "libertarians are idiots".
So in that example, we have 4 atheists who, even though they are all atheists, do not share identical philosophies.

8.  "How does atheism view religions and religious faith?  What about metaphysics?  Is atheism purely materialistic and naturalistic?"
Why do all of these questions assume that the one atheist answering can speak for all atheists on the planet?
Remember, atheism itself is the 'lack of belief'.  Atheism does not 'view religions and religious faith', it lacks them.
As an individual who is also an atheist, I personally view religions and religious faith with extreme skepticism and moderate contempt respectively.
Atheism is not purely materialistic and naturalistic because, yet again, it is not a philosophy or worldview.  Myself on the other hand, I am fairly materialistic.  I like having things, it makes me happy.  But that has absolutely nothing to do with atheism by definition.

9.  "Who are the authoritative writers/books of atheism?  What are the central tenets of atheism, and if they have a "greatest commandment," what is it?  For example, arguably, Christianity's is "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, mind, soul and strength, and love your neighbor as yourself.""
Before I answer, I just want to mention that it was really hard to resist making fun of the horrendous grammar in this question.
Just like it is not a philosophy or worldview, atheism is not a doctrine either.  There are no authoritative writers.  There are no rule books.  There are no commandments.  Atheism itself is simply not having faith-based beliefs.
There are people who write books about atheism, such as Richard Dawkins and his book 'The God Delusion', but they are not our leaders, nor are their books our doctrine.  The people are just that:  People.  The books contain those people's thoughts put onto paper.  Nothing more, nothing less.

10.  "What happens after we die?"
This is probably the most competent, if most often repeated, question on this list.
The truth is nobody can say for certain.  It's an impossibility for anyone to know for certain what's going to happen to them following their death.  However, the same can be said for just about everything of our perceived reality.  Nothing is truly a 100% certainty.  Even scientific laws are concepts that have such a high percentage of certainty that they may as well be 100% certain but really aren't quite.
With that in mind, I can tell you what I would say happens after we die because it is something I am so close to certain of that I may as well be certain.
To start, let's just make sure to establish the fact that when we die, our organs shut down.  This is a confirmed part of dying and an important factor for this answer.
I do not believe we have "souls" that supersede our living body.  My body is me, organs and all.  My thoughts, personality, preferences, etc. are all controlled by my brain.  My brain, being one of my many organs, will shut down when I die just like everything else.  As it goes, so will its functions that control and establish my persona.  Thus, I will simply be gone.
I will no longer have a consciousness to speak of.  I will not drift into a void of nothingness, I will not go to an afterlife.  I simply won't be.
It will be just the same to me as the time before I was born was.
People who aren't me will, of course, continue on, but not as far as I'm concerned because I'll no longer be capable of perceiving anything.
I will eventually decay and deteriorate, as corpses do.
And hopefully my family will be intelligent enough to not spend thousands of dollars on my funeral, trying to ensure comfort that I'm not physically capable of experiencing.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Dragon Ball Z Release Guide

Alright, so here's something I figured I'd try to write up because I'm still seeing a lot of people on forums and YouTube who are confused by all of the different releases of Dragon Ball Z (and understandably so).  I'm going to try my best to clarify the difference between FUNimation's 'Remastered Season Sets', the 'Dragon Box' release, as well as the home video releases of Dragon Ball (Z) Kai.

Part 1:  FUNimation Remastered Season Sets, AKA 'Orange Bricks'
These sets contain footage remastered by FUNimation with a filter process.  The process sharpened the image and cleaned up much of the film-grain from the film masters that FUNimation was originally given to produce the English dub of the series.  The video has been reformatted into a widescreen format; a controversial decision; which crops off the very top and bottom sections of the picture but has also increased the amount of picture seen on the sides (this is because of how 'TV cutoff' works differently with fullscreen and widescreen ratios).  The filter process also causes 'breakage' in the pictures during shaky sequences; in scenes where the Earth is quaking, you'll often see the outlines on characters get broken up.
These sets contain 3 audio tracks; A Japanese language track with optional subtitles, an English language track with the Japanese OST; compatible with surround sound, and an English language track with the US broadcast soundtrack (composed by Bruce Faulconer).  The English subtitles can be turned on with any track but they are solely a direct translation of the Japanese audio and do not often match up with the English dub.
As can be seen in the image above, this release of the series is split into 9 seasons of varying length.  They range between 26 and 39 episodes.
The final disc of each set contains a 'Special Features' menu.  Most of these are just trailers for other shows licensed by FUNimation.  The first season, however, also contains a featurette about the remastering process.
The sets contain guidebooks with character bios, episode guides and some modern art of the characters.
These sets are often referred to as the 'Orange Bricks' by the fandom.

Part 2: Dragon Box Sets
The Dragon Box sets contain footage remastered by Toei Animation in Japan, in a frame-by-frame restoration process.  The picture is sharper than that of the Orange Bricks and there's no breakage in shaky scenes, however the film-grain is more apparent.  The picture is also slightly darker than that of the Orange Bricks.
Originally intended as a Japan-only release, Toei had the series split into 2 Dragon Box sets; both quite pricey due to the amount of material each would contain.  After some-odd years*, Toei finally agreed to allow FUNimation to do a western release of the Dragon Box.
FUNimation's Dragon Box release was instead split into seven boxes; all with similar styling to the two Japanese boxes (i.e. yellow blocks with modern art of individual characters).  The Toei remasters were left entirely intact; FUNimation added an English language track as well as, again, some trailers for some of their other shows.
The sets contain small guidebooks called 'Dragonbooks' with character bios, episode guides, family trees, some modern art of the characters and some of Akira Toriyama's concept art.
These sets contain only 2 audio tracks; a Japanese language track with the Japanese OST and optional subtitles, and an English language track with the Japanese OST.  Bruce Faulconer's musical score is not present in the Dragon Box release.
Dragon Box-styled releases were done in Japan for the Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z movies, the Dragon Ball series and the Dragon Ball GT series as well.  FUNimation has not, as of yet, announced any plans to release these other sets in the western world.

*The first Dragon Box was released in Japan in 2003.  The first Dragon Box set released in North America came in 2009.  Thus it took 5-6 years before FUNimation was able to acquire the rights to release the Dragon Box and, in the meantime, did their own remastered release in the form of the Orange Bricks.

Part 3: Dragon Ball Z Kai DVD's/Blu-rays
I know more savvy fans may wonder why I wanted to address Kai as well since it's technically not the same show; and that's exactly why I wanted to address it.  Dragon Ball Kai, known as Dragon Ball Z Kai in North America, has caused incredible amounts of confusion since its premier in Japan in 2009.
I have seen claims to the effect that Kai is just Dragon Ball Z being shown again with a new name, that Kai specifically refers to a new English dub of Dragon Ball Z, that Kai has the violence extremely edited, among others.  These claims are all false; some more than others.
So first off, let us clarify what Dragon Ball Kai is.  Dragon Ball Kai is, effectively, a director's cut of Dragon Ball Z, produced in Japan.  The idea behind Kai was to edit out the 'filler' to make a more coherent and faster paced version of the show which would also be more true to the Dragon Ball Z manga.  This means that much of the 'staring contest' and 'powering-up' scenes have been cut down or removed.  The Garlic Jr. saga has also been entirely removed as it does not exist in the manga.
In addition to the cutting/trimming of scenes, Toei Animation also did a new remastering process for the sake of Kai which included colour-correction and reformatting into high definition.
An entirely new musical score was composed for Dragon Ball Kai.  However, as I covered in a post several months ago, much of that score has been retroactively replaced after a lawsuit.
On the note of edited violence; yes, Dragon Ball Kai has been subject to stricter censorship than Dragon Ball Z.  Broadcasting regulations in Japan have become stricter since Z first aired.  For example, when Goku and Raditz die, it is no longer possible to see right through their torsos.  The holes have been replaced with dark patches.  Nudity such as Gohan's genitals has also been edited out or covered in some fashion.
This censorship is rather mild at best and the implications remain entirely intact.  The claim made by some that the editing is extreme stems from editing that exists exclusively in the North American television broadcast version of the show.
Currently, Nicktoons and CW4Kids are broadcasting Kai in North America and, since both are meant as very kid-friendly names, the violence is far more edited.  CW4Kids is particularly notorious for extreme edits to the show.
However, these edits do not appear on the home video releases nor have they ever appeared in Japan, either on TV or on DVD/Blu-Ray.
In Japan, Kai was broadcast on television in a widescreen ratio, however the fullscreen ratio of the original series was left intact and used for home video releases.
FUNimation is once again handling the English dub of the series.  Rather than reusing recordings they had already made for Dragon Ball Z, they opted to dub Kai from scratch.  Much of their original Z cast returned along with a handful of recasts.  This time around, FUNimation has made a strong effort to keep the English dub very true to the original, Japanese dialogue.  FUNimation also retitled the series Dragon Ball Z Kai in an attempt to lessen confusion...yeah, we can see how well that worked out.
In North America, you can find releases of Dragon Ball Z Kai on both DVD and Blu-Ray.  Similar to the Dragon Box release, these contain the Toei remasters (the ones made for Kai) along with 2 audio tracks:  Japanese with optional subtitles and the English dub, both using the same soundtrack.
These releases contain special features such as interviews with FUNimation voice actors and directors.
Something to watch out for when picking these sets up is whether you want the 'Part' releases or the 'Season' releases.  As the series has been going, FUNimation's been releasing it in 'parts', each containing ~13 episodes.  Recently, they've begun releasing seasons.  Dragon Ball Z Kai Season One is now available and contains the first 26 episodes (making it a compiled version of parts 1 and 2).

Phew.  Let's hope that can clear things up for some people.

Monday, October 24, 2011

The Out Campaign

So, there's this thing...'The Out Campaign'.  It's been going on for a couple years now but has mostly flown under my radar.  The general idea is to place their 'Scarlet A' icon on your blog/website/facebook page/whatever to label yourself as an outspoken atheist.
Had I known of this sooner, I almost certainly would have taken part by now.  In fact, much of the modification you see to this blog has been the result of trying to find the proper place in Blogger that I can add the scarlet A to my page and doing other tweaks along the way.
The Out Campaign's website ( provides the source code to place the image, so I've got that.  I'm just struggling with tracking down a way in blogger I can use that code to add the scarlet A to my sidebar.  Currently, it's only allowing me to add 'gadgets' to my sidebar which don't agree with the source code.  For now, I'll just place it in this post:

The Out Campain: Scarlet Letter of Atheism

Sunday, October 23, 2011


Kirby Mass Attack review on the way.  I'm very near completing the game.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

The Lion King on Blu-ray

I now own my favourite Disney musical in a hi-def package and thought I'd give a little rundown on the package.
First off, it's The Lion King and it's awesome.  Alright, now the bits specific to the new release.
There is, of course, an audio commentary featuring a handful of the crew that worked on the movie who do a good job of being both entertaining and informative.  There are several featurettes about the movie's production that make for some interesting watches though they do tend to overlap and tread a lot of the same ground as each other.
A little odd that Jonathan Taylor Thomas only appears in one of these features and even then only in a single shot of footage from 1994.
Still, there are lots of tales to be heard that will keep anybody interested in animation and/or film production, well, interested.
My personal favourite feature is the concept art gallery.  The gallery is pretty enormous when compared with similar features on other blu-rays and even conveniently separated into sub-categories.
There are deleted scenes as well of course.  A little different from last year's Diamond Edition of Beauty and the Beast, this package doesn't include the option of watching the 'Special Edition' of the movie; the only complete run of the film viewable is the theatrical release.  'Morning Report' is included in the Deleted Scenes features though.
Also included is a newly animated 'Bloopers' feature; one of those deals where the characters are portrayed as actors and we see synthetic 'mistakes' on the 'set'; similar to how Pixar has ended a handful of its movies.  For the most part, they aren't all that entertaining.
The only feature I haven't been able to try is the 'Second Screen' mode since I do not own an iPad.  All it seems to be is an option to wirelessly stream the movie to an iPad.

Now for the bad; something I noticed when I saw the 3D version in theaters but neglected to mention earlier and is still a present flaw on the blu-ray.  During the sequence of Mufasa's spirit appearing to Simba, near the end, there's a shot that starts as a close-up of Simba and pulls out to a very long-shot where we see the clouds retreating in the sky.  On the 3D version I saw last month and on this blu-ray, the animation layer with the cloud in this shot is totally absent.  This is a pretty glaring flaw and a rather confusing one as well.  While I haven't viewed the DVD included myself, I did find a comparison of the scenes on where somebody pointed out that the cloud is still there on the DVD.
So this mistake is exclusive to the hi-def version of the film which is very strange.

So that is rather troubling and I know it's going to be a deal-breaker for a lot of people which is unfortunate.
Outside of this one glaring flaw, it is a great package and has all the features you could really want with a single movie.  Had the transfer not missed such a huge element of one of the shots, this would have been a pretty much flawless release.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Heads-Up: Four Swords

The Legend of Zelda: Four Swords is now available for free on the Nintendo eShop for DSi and 3DS.  The updated version makes full use of the DS's resolution and also includes a single-player mode.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

2 Months of Caped Crusading, Sword Swinging and Overeating

Well, I just realized the next couple months are going to be very interesting for me.
First off, Batman Arkham City.

Next up, Kirby Return to Dreamland. And of course, The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword.

Monday, September 19, 2011

The Lion King in 3D

Well, today was interesting.  I had planned to get out and see The Lion King in 3D with a couple friends...but they wanted to go on 'cheap night'...a night on which I have to work.
So, after a couple failed attempts at getting other friends to go with me, I went solo.
Arriving at the mall far too early, I grabbed my ticket and began wandering somewhat aimlessly.  I decided to stop at the EB Games and pick something up to kill the time until the movie started.  I nabbed Kirby Mass Attack for the DS; I'll get to that in another post, for now I'll just say it's pretty good.

Finally, it was about 30 minutes until the movie so I decided to get in early and nab a good seat.  I had quite a choice as I was the first in the cinema so I grabbed a seat right around the very center.
After what seemed like far longer than a half hour, the movie finally started...and honestly, it was a rather powerful experience for me; I don't recall if I ever saw The Lion King in theaters as a child so I think this was the first time I had ever seen it on the big screen.  This movie is among the most influential of my personal life and it was quite an experience even if I was all by my lonesome.
And as for the actual 3D...I was very impressed.  If you look back to my review of How To Train Your Dragon, I made a small note to point out that I did not like the 3D effect and what my problems were with it.  That said, there are undoubtedly points of that movie that benefited from the gimmick (the sequence of Astrid and Hiccup flying around on Toothless, in particular).  This time around, I thought the 3D was executed pretty much flawlessly.
My biggest problem with 3D is the borders of the screen cutting off extreme foreground elements; something looks like it's right in front of you until you notice that it's still being cut off with the edge of the screen.  In The Lion King, they handled this much better than How To Train Your Dragon by drawing most of the depth from going into the screen rather than off of it (similar to most of what you'd see on the Nintendo 3DS).
The only bit I noticed as coming right off the screen was the dust that Rafiki catches Simba's scent on.  In the scene where it's flying through the air, it comes right up to you and it looks just fine because none of it oversteps the boundaries of the screen.
I noticed a couple little tricks that allowed the hand-drawn characters to even have some perceived volume to them.  Many of the extreme close-ups (of which there are a handful for Mufasa, Scar, Nala and Simba) seemed to have a light fish-eye lens effect placed on them which helped their snouts appear as though they were 3D, with marginal success.  Also, as I believe the eyes on many of the characters were animated on separate layers, they also seemed to be placed a little further back than the characters themselves which gave more sense to the 'sunken-in-ness' of them; at least on the lions.

For 3D, the flight scene in How To Train Your Dragon is probably better than anything in The Lion King, but that's just one scene.  The characters in How To Train Your Dragon also do a better job of showing true volume because...well...they actually have it, but The Lion King shows commendable efforts at achieving a sense of volume.
All in all, of the two movies I've seen in 3D, I'd have to say the better overall use of the effect goes to The Lion King.  Being on the super-high-resolution of film and being in well-done 3D, this is as good as the classic has ever looked.

Side-note:  This is the first time in many many years that I've seen the non-Special Edition version; it was pleasantly nostalgic to see the Morning Report scene without the Morning Report song.
Also, if I had to pick out a particular best sequence for use of 3D in the Lion King, it would be when Simba chases after Rafiki; there are tons of multi-layered environmental elements going on here that look gorgeous in 3D.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Holy Biceps Batman!

Let's talk about something that's, appropriately enough, nerdy:  Toys!
Well, I have a toy collection that went from being very modest (2007-2008) to being something I'm having trouble finding space for half the time (2011).  Just when I think I'm done with something, I realize there's something else I want or I feel obligated to get something for some reason.
I had long intended for the Revenge of the Fallen Leader Class Optimus Prime to be the final toy, or at least final Transformer toy, I would ever buy.  Since buying that, I've bought the Leader Class Megatron, the Voyager Class Ironhide, Human Alliance Bumblebee, Battle Blade Bumblebee, War for Cybertron Optimus Prime, FansProject's 'Protector' Upgrade Kit, and Masterpiece Rodimus Prime; and that's just the Transformers that I've bought since then.
Outside of Transformers, I have the S. H. Figuarts Piccolo and Gohan figures, the Real Action Heroes Super Saiyan Goku figure, a 3 3/4" Ironman Mark IV toy, and DC Classics Batman.
Now, aside from a complete lack of indulgence-control, one might wonder why I went so far after being so certain that I'd be done.  Well, in a couple cases, there were toys I specifically got in order to compliment others.  I bought the Revenge of the Fallen Megatron specifically to make a pair with the Optimus Prime.
Lately, I've had a similar goal.  Since I have a Batman figure, I want something to compliment it.
There's some choices in characters:  Robin, Superman, or Joker would make a decent desktop counterpart to the caped crusader.  I'm mostly settled on getting a Robin, but then which Robin?  Well, I've never cared for the legless costume Robin so I decided on the Tim Drake one.
The trouble is, the Tim Drake Robin from the same line as the Batman I have is very hard to find, but I just may have a backup!
With Young Justice running right now, there are of course toys to coincide with the series.  One particular subline is meant to be specifically compatible with the DC Classics figures, and thus I finally have the opportunity to obtain a Tim Drake-styled Robin toy.  And here it is:

Wait a tick...what the hell happened to his arms?
OK, the DC Classics line reuses a lot of individual parts from toy to toy, particularly small sections like the biceps because a lot of superheros tend to have very similar physiques.  Now Robin here looks...well pretty messed up.  Most of the toy has his appearance from the show pretty much nailed, it's just those damned arms.  For a character that's typically depicted as slender and acrobatic, those bulging muscles seem out of place.
Oh well.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

ReqDraw: Flop

Well, ReqDraw was a total flop for several reasons.  It was an experimental idea in the first place and I really had little to no idea how much real interest it would garner, I also probably could have done a better job publicizing it.  Oh well, live and learn.  I'm not totally throwing out the idea of doing a webseries though I'm thinking I'll focus on something that's a lesser passion of mine for the next attempt; perhaps just a show about general nerd culture.  I have plenty of content on this blog already that could make some decent episodes.
In any case, the project has been ditched, the video is no longer online and the donation deadline has passed.

Monday, August 29, 2011


Alright, I'm going to do something I've never really done on here before:  I'm going to call out an entire website for perpetrating disgustingly false perceptions and entirely inaccurate information on an important matter.  That matter is the debate of Creationism V.S. Evolution.
The website I'm calling out can be found at the following link:
Upon mere minutes of investigation, you can easily see that this is a creationist website designed to discredit evolution; in principle, there's nothing necessarily, morally wrong with that.  The execution, however, is pretty repulsive.
The "facts" about evolution stated on the site only serve to prove that whoever wrote the exhibits has absolutely no extensive knowledge on the subject and, indeed, fails to grasp the very concept of evolution properly.  Multiple times throughout the exhibits, evolution is called out on being based on random chance, of course leading into the overly common creationist argument that everything looks far too designed to have happened by chance, and thus God must have done it.  This argument fails to understand evolution properly and it fails to realize that it's proposed alternative to evolution is far more improbable.  In summation, this argument is profoundly stupid.  The argument makes the creationists look bad, not the evolutionists.
Evolution is not based on random chance.  In 'The God Delusion', author and evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins agrees that something as complex as, say, the human eye coming into existence by chance is absolutely ludicrous indeed.  Thankfully, however, anybody who actually understands evolution in the slightest realizes that this presents absolutely no hole in the theory.
Natural selection is most definitely not the same as random chance.  Evolutionary changes are brought about by the necessity of adaptation for the sake of survival.

Of especially comical interest is the website's 'Evolution Test'; a series of 15 questions meant to be unanswerable in the boundaries of evolution.  Of course anyone with even a moderate understanding of evolution, such as myself, can easily answer these questions with evolution theory intact.
You can find the test here:

The logic behind the questions is astoundingly flawed.  The first two questions assume that a creature distinguished as being male had to be totally evolved before one distinguished as female could even begin developing.  Considering there would be actually no need for one without the other, the answer to both questions is simple:  They developed in unison.  Evolution branches species in a way that would be beneficial for their survival in their respective environments.  If one branch benefited from a distinction between sexes, then that would be a playing property in its evolution.
Nothing about the theory of evolution states that every individual change needs to be isolated from any others...and that, as you'll see, is a faulty assumption this test makes multiple times.

Moving down to question #5, we have the same mistake again; a list of different features for an eye to work and asking which came first.  Again, this totally ignores the fact that these changes don't need to be isolated; the question is also presumptuous in seemingly trying to assert that every one of these features are totally inter-reliant which is just plain wrong.  Many animals, particularly in reptiles, do not have eyebrows, eyelids, eyelashes or tear ducts.
With this understanding, question #6, just like #2, becomes totally inert.

(Yes, I know I'm skipping questions.  The one's I'm leaving out are just too inane for me to be bothered with.  I have a notepad file with my personal answers to the entire test that I may post at a later time.)

In question #9, we have one of my favourite, common misconceptions of evolution that creationists just love to boast; in fact, this misconception was even ridiculed in an episode of Futurama last year ("A Clockwork Origin").  The famous "missing link" argument.
To quote directly from the test, "Why is it that the very things that would prove Evolution (transitional forms) are still missing?"
My response to this, directly from the aforementioned notepad file, is as follows:  "Just because you ignore all valid findings and evidence and refuse to keep up on scientific literature doesn't mean that your perception of said things is still valid.  In direct answer to the question:  They're not.  Next question."

Question #10 is one of my absolute favourites because it totally and utterly falls apart upon understanding what I've already explained:  Evolution is not based on chance.  There are improbabilities about it, sure, but that sure as hell doesn't make a designer the only (or even the more likely) alternative.  The nature of the question itself even correctly implies that complex creations must have a more complex creator, thus making a designer for complex life absurdly complex itself.
Once again I'd like to refer to 'The God Delusion' by Richard Dawkins as it has a very well-presented and well-written section on the matter of 'irreducible complexity'.

In question #12, while I can't give a list of 50 off the top of my head, I can ask, "why 50?".  Why does it need to be such a number?
I can name two however; the appendix is not necessary to our survival, thus being a vestigial organ.  And for appendages, our skeleton does have a tailbone that goes nowhere.

Question #13 is a very special kind of stupid, but perhaps only when you understand where the proposed prize money is coming from.  I took the test before investigating the website and assumed the prize was being offered by the type of creationist who refuses to accept valid scientific evidence (just like the one who wrote this test!), but the truth is even more moronic.
As you may have noticed by now, the website does have a page specifically for describing the reward.  If you've visited that page, certainly you've noticed that there's an asterisk by every mention of the word "reward" in the large text.  Find the accompanying footnote and you will read the following:
"*Reward of at least $1,000,000 shall be paid in U.S. dollars. It would be no problem raising this amount of money if you have evidence of Evolution, scientists from around the world will gladly pay dearly for it! An independent jury of Evolutionists and Creationists will review your submission and their conclusion is final."
This is quite possibly the most hilariously naive, presumptuous, ignorant and inane statement I have ever read.
In other words, there is no actual, available reward.  It's totally expected that if you, as an individual, can provide proof of evolution, then you can easily collect the money from scientists desperate for what you've found.
This is honestly such a stupid concept that it's hard to even describe why it is so stupid...but I'm going to try.
First off, scientists aren't individually assigned to find evidence for entire theories.  You will never find any one, single person who can claim to have proven evolution single-handedly.  Scientific research is a collaborative effort.  Oh, and guess what?  They are receiving payment for finding the evidence they find.  It's called "funding".  Why would scientists be desperately paying a million dollars for something that they found and they were paid those same million dollars to find?
These are the top minds on the planet working day in and day out to solve these and many many other quandries.
The next problem I have with it...well, I'd just like to answer the question with another, better question:  Why did nobody ever claim the $1,000,000 that James Randi actually had available, ready in the bank and all, for anybody who could prove any sort of supernatural ability or occurrence?

Moving on...
The final question, #15, takes the misunderstandings beyond evolution and shows a glaring misunderstanding of nature as a whole.  To make it simple on me, here was my initial, and still perfectly valid, answer upon first taking the test: "Different areas are different.  Evolutionary branches under different conditions produce different species.  By the logic behind this question, you may as well ask why humans aren't the only species on the planet and why we aren't capable of living underwater."

Now, for a final message directly to the designer of the website:
"Something else about your website I'd like to address, since it didn't come up in the questions, is your 'House that Evolution Built' exhibit.  It's meant to be satire, obviously, but it fails even as a joke because, yet again, the details of the exhibit only prove just how little you actually know about evolution. If you honestly, truly care about making creation seem like the only plausible explanation for life to any rational, intelligent, self-respecting human being, then you should actually be doing your homework on evolution, which you clearly aren't.
You should also make your goal to prove creation, not to disprove evolution.  Despite how much creationists love to do so, a hole in a scientific theorem is not open to say "God did it!  Don't bother investigating."  Of all the potential solutions to these quandries, creationism is among the very least likely.
And finally, stop calling creationism a 'theory'.  It is not a theory.  A theory results when a scientific hypothesis is tested to show solid merit.  There is absolutely nothing scientific about creationism.  It doesn't matter how much you believe creationism is correct, it is still not science.
Your website is horribly constructed, the information provided on it is unsubstantiated and full of logical fallacies and, if you really want to help creationists, you should feel ashamed for making something that makes creationists look so bad."

Monday, August 22, 2011

The Art of Putting It Together

Well, to the say the least I've had some problems with focusing over the last couple months.  To counteract that, I've started making a weekly schedule in great detail in order to get me on track with everything.

Currently, I'm set to devote at least 6 hours a week to writing my comic and 12 hours a week to drawing (outside of work).  I'm still fine-tuning the schedule and there's a good chance I'll be able to relegate more time to those activities.  In any case, I'm getting back into the groove of things with making my comic which I've been meaning to do for several weeks.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

I...Am...LIST MAN!

Erik The Awesome's Personal Top 5 Superhero Shows of All Time

I love superheroes. I love cartoons. I really love superhero cartoons. Getting right to the point, the following is my personal list of the best superhero cartoons of all time.

#5. The Tick
OK, so I'm kicking off with an unorthodox show. The fact that it's unorthodox is not what put it low on the list; if that were the criteria, it wouldn't even be on the list; just that it's a good show, full of great laughs and deserving of mention here. The characters were wonderful, the voice work was delightfully corny and, while the animation wasn't always great, it was always a treat to watch.

#4 The Batman/Batman The Brave and The Bold
Having too hard a time deciding which of these shows I liked more, I decided they would share 4th place on the list. The Batman has a love it or hate it reaction from a lot of fans; I loved it do death. The writing is extremely clever and while under stricter censorship than what it had to live up to, it still managed to be a very solid show. The animation is also consistently fantastic. Not a single shot in the series 5-season run is poorly animated (which is actually more than I can say for the animation of its predecessor).
The Brave and The Bold looked at the dark, brooding character and took a total 180 in the vain of the Adam West incarnation. Did it work? You better believe it did. From the moment I heard of the show, I was extremely skeptical. When I watched the pilot, I laughed my ass off several times and my doubt was gone. We've gotten our dark Batman in two very good shows already, so there's no harm in playing with something so different. In fact, we ended up with some of the best humour to ever come out of a child-appropriate cartoon.

#3 Young Justice
Being a very recent show, it's a bit surprising how strongly I feel it deserves this spot. Right from the beginning, we had very creative and clever writing, with fantastic character interactions, great animation and a solid musical score. Among the internet, I've noticed a lot of flak for Superboy's shallow characterization in the series. Considering the series is still young, I can certainly forgive undeveloped characters since there has, after all, been little time for them to develop.
Plus, I think it's unreasonable to expect a clone of Superman to be a good character.
Robin is awesome, Kid Flash is awesome, Artemis is awesome and Aqualad is awesome. Could we ask for more from the others? Sure, but I don't think we're in dire need of more.

#2 The Spectacular Spider-Man
I can't stress enough just how much I really want to give this show first place on the list. It is without a doubt my personal favourite superhero cartoon to watch, but I'm trying to be reasonably objective.
So where to start with this? Everything that went into this show is absolutely fantastic. Sean Galloway gave it a simple but appealing art style which paved the way for some kick-ass animation. The voice cast is full of wonderful talents, all giving great performances; Josh Keaton as Spidey, John DiMaggio as Hammerhead and Sandman, Clancy Brown as Captain Stacy, Daran Norris as J. Jonah Jameson, Kevin Michael Richardson as Tombstone, Vanessa Marshall as MJ, Steven Blum as Green Goblin, etc., etc..
And that wonderful cast was backed up by some of the best sound design I've ever experienced in a television show. Every last audio cue is so perfectly appropriate. The villains even all had a 'signature sound': Goblin's screaming pumpkin bombs, Doc Ock's hydraulics, Shocker's...shockers, and so on.
But the main deciding point of a show's quality is, of course, the writing. Hot damn did this show have some amazing writing. With extremely clever interlocking between seemingly self-contained episodes, tons of setup and exposition for every character, beautifully integrated overarching themes...this series was nothing short of a masterpiece. Had it survived passed a second season, there's no doubt in my mind that it could have cemented the top spot on this list.
It frustrates me to no end how I so often come to find people who have never even heard of this show. Multiple times lately when I've brought it up, I get a brief pause followed by “Oh, you mean the computer animated one?”...NO!*

#1 Batman The Animated Series
You had to have seen this one coming. Not only one of the best cartoons of all time but also one of the most influential; Batman The Animated Series deserves this spot even if it's not my personal favourite.
There are only 2, extremely minor, gripes I have with the series:
  1. When this show was still in its early days, the animation wasn't anything too great.
  2. Again in the early days, there was no continuity in the show. Characters would suddenly show up without any setup (Robin/Dick Grayson being the particularly glaring example).
Other than that, this show was incredible. Dark, emotional, clever and at times downright heart-wrenching, this series has some of the best writing you'll ever encounter in not just cartoons but television as a whole.
Spanning nearly a decade's-worth of episodes, if you take into account the rebrandings of the series (The Adventures of Batman & Robin, The New Batman Adventures) it's obvious this show was a big deal. It created the ground work for the modern DCAU, allowing an opening for Superman The Animated Series, setting up Batman Beyond and leading right into Justice League.
It's also among the earliest examples in modern cartoons, especially superhero cartoons, to show that animation is most definitely not strictly a medium for entertaining children.
Batman The Animated Series is one of those rare examples of a show that actually deserves the unprecedented amount of praise directed at it.
Where Spectacular Spider-Man was a masterpiece, Batman The Animated Series is that and then some; a lasting masterpiece, one of the most successful and influential superhero cartoons of all time and a television series of the highest calibre.

And now for an additional treat:

The Top 5 Superhero Shows With Wasted Potential

There were other shows I wanted to at least address in this post and this seemed like a fun list to make.

#5 Iron Man: Armored Adventures
I have nothing against re-imagining a hero, though I have to admit the lack of an alcoholic, womanizing Tony Stark is part of what makes this show unappealing; but I can back that up because it basically turned Tony into a very basic, stereotypical teen hero. He became Peter Parker only without the he basically became Toby Macguire.
Other than that, the animation is dull. The character designs don't compliment the cel-shading and the bright, colourful look didn't fit in with the themes of the series.
The characters' personalities were just as dull.
It's not a bad show, it just does everything so conservatively and safe, basically placing itself in a permanent state of mediocrity.

#4 Spider-Man: The New Animated Series, AKA MTV Spider-Man
*This is the computer animated one. Spanning only a single season and making a poor effort to blend the live-action movies with elements of the Ultimate Universe, this show was a pretty flawed concept from the start.
Despite being an extension of the Sam Raimi films' universe, the character designs are derived from the Ultimate Spider-Man comics. In this case, the designs do compliment the cel-shaded look but not the concept or writing.
The plots were relatively dull, the animation was mediocre and the characters were eternally one-note. All in just wasn't very good. Cutting the ties to the live-action films and bringing in a stronger writing team would have improved the series greatly.

#3 Wolverine and the X-Men
I have an unusual relationship with X-Men cartoons. I've enjoyed, to some extent, all 3 that I've seen (The Animated Series, Evolution and the subject at hand) but I never find myself caring to keep up with them. In this case, that feeling was multiplied a good ten-fold.
The characters were dull, the animation was mediocre, and the plot threads were tedious and uninteresting, often giving far too much of a spotlight on individual characters which only served to highlight their lack of depth.
It doesn't help that I hated the art style from the start too and it never grew on me. It seemed like the characters were designed halfway between DCAU and Teen Titans. The problem with the Teen Titans stylization is that it just doesn't work unless you go all out with it; Transformers Animated being a good example (also being animated by the Teen Titans team).

#2 The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes
Honestly, you could take my comments on Wolverine and the X-Men, change the names and they'd be an accurate description of our new Avengers series here. Except for the art style bit; it is stylized, but not in the Teen Titans way.
I've read a lot of flak for the voicework on this series and oddly, coming from somebody with a lot of respect for voice acting, I don't see the problem. If anything, the voicework is the most redeeming quality the show has.
This is the kind of show I watch only when I have absolutely nothing else to do.

#1 Spider-Man The Animated Series
Our friendly neighbourhood web-slinger is getting a lot of attention in these lists. Like any 90's kid, I watched quite a bit of this show. Now, I have a hard time stomaching it.
The series started out pretty solid but plummeted very far, very fast. The animation is bad, the voicework is bad, the writing is bad, the music...well, the music is pretty good, but still.
Like pretty much everything else on this secondary list, Spider-Man The Animated Series could have been greatly improved by a healthy dose of better animation and stronger writing.