Look, This Is All Bill Murray’s Fault

As long as he keeps doing awesome things, I’m gonna keep posting them.

Today’s moment of Bill Murray awesomeness is: taking tickets at a minor league baseball game, surprising the entire crowd.

billmurraybaseball

The whole story — including a gif-film of the renowned actor taking tickets and handing out autographs — can be found at the link!

Star Wars Despecialized Edition Hits The Web

So you hate the Special Edition, and who could blame you? Sure, the X-Wing pilots actually moving their heads like, I dunno, real people or something was fine, but inserting Hayden Christenson into Jedi and dubbing out Boba Fett’s voice? Fuck you, George, seriously.

Old school, baby. That's how we roll!
Old school, baby. That’s how we roll!

But Disney will save us, right? Sadly, no. Typical Hollywood bullshit, but it boils down to Fox having distribution rights for Star Wars “in perpetuity”. That means “until the stars burn out and the galaxies collapse into black holes”. (This, despite paying $4 billion goddamn dollars for Star Wars, lock, stock, and barrel. Disney needs better lawyers.)

So that’s it. Star Wars, the real goddamn Star Wars, will never be available in HD, right?

Not so fast.

It seems that a group of fanatically obsessed Star Wars fans — and I know from fanatically obsessed fans —  have taken the latest Blu-Ray release of Star Wars Special Edition and, using a massive number of other sources, edited, color corrected, cleaned, enhanced, and God knows what else to create the definitive release of Star Wars.

Just Star Wars. The real Star Wars. The 1977 Star Wars. There’s not even an “Episode IV” at the beginning (because it was added later). (Okay, certain color inserts from the 1981 re-release were used, but really, how didactic can you get?) The 1977 Star Warsin HD.

And Han shoots first.

Lucasfilm says it cannot be done, because the material to do it doesn’t exist. A huge group of fans, working in tandem over the Internet, went and did it.

Boom.

One small problem. This is, of course, a strictly underground sort of thing. You can only get it through, ah, not commercially approved sources. Which can be problematic.

I, personally, would never search for the Star Wars Despecialized Edition, version 2.5 on various popular Torrent sites like The Pirate Bay or Kickass.to. I absolutely would never waste the days — literally, up to 3 or 4 days, depending — downloading a 17 gigabyte MKV file, no matter how brilliant the colors are said to be. And I would certainly never risk getting a DMCA notice from Disney, who are very proactive in defending their copyrights.

(Why 17 gigs? Here’s just some of the audio options included in the Despecialized Edition: lossless DTS-HD tracks for the original mixes, a stereo mix, a mono mix, an isolated score, four different commentary tracks, and dubbing tracks in ten different languages and dialects. (But Lucasfilm just cannot ever release the original version. No one could. It’s unpossible.) And that’s just the audio included, mes amis. It’s a big file for good reason.)

So don’t do it. It’s not worth the risk. (I, myself have never watched it.) Plus, piracy is wrong and stuff. The FBI says so. There’s jail and fines involved.

But if you were interested in not pirating the movie, and thus not stealing money from out the mouths of Disney employees’ children (I know what I just wrote, and I meant it), you could instead find out about the heroic measures taken by psuedonymous figures across the Internet to save this cinematic landmark, this cultural touchstone, this incredible science fiction masterpiece from oblivion at the hands of its owner. That whole fascinating story (but not the movie) can be found at the link!

Stand Still. Stay Silent.

I’ve got a short attention span. My favorite books begin with a bang, and don’t stop moving until the end: The Dresden Files. Monster Hunters International. Joe Ledger.

Boom! Excitement, right off the bat.

Which makes “Stand Still. Stay Silent.” stand out all the more. The webcomic, written and illustrated by Minna Sundberg, reached “page” 167 before its first real action scene. It should say something about how well done the comic is, that I stayed with it for that long without there being any violence, actual or incipient. A long wait without any violence, but when it does happen it’s some scary fucking shit.

Don’t worry about those blood-spattered sawblades on the front of the train. They’re strictly decorative.

The background:

“Stand Still. Stay Silent” is a post apocalyptic webcomic with elements from nordic mythology mixed in, set 90 years in the future.

It’s been 90 years after the great cataclysm that ended of the old world. Most of the surviving population of the Known world live in Iceland, the largest safe area in existence, while the safe settlements in the other Nordic countries; Norway, Sweden, Denmark and Finland, are small and scarce.

Countless mysterious and unspoken dangers lurk outside the safe areas, the Silent world, and hunters, mages and cleansers will spend their lives defending the settlements against the terrifying beings. Because of a great fear towards everything in the Silent world no official attempts to explore the ruins of the old have been made, and most of the information about it has turned into ancient lore, known by few.

But now, at last, it is time to send out an research crew into the great unknown! A poorly funded and terribly unqualified crew, but a crew nonetheless.

The comic thrives on mysteries: What was the sickness that killed everyone? Sure, people believe in magic, but is it real? And the monsters, are they real? (Ayup. Hence the violence. But you don’t know for sure until page 167. And it is terrifying.)

The comic has a strong and unique art style, with a unified (and distinctive) color palette that somehow (don’t ask me how) melds post-apocalyptic with semi-medieval. I’m a sucker for good art, because it a talent I wholly lack and I love to just bask in incredible works that I am incapable of even imitating. And Sundberg’s art, to my untutored eye, is incredible.

onni

The series is about an expedition into the Silent lands, and they’ve only now just left the “safe” areas (again, hence the violence). Clearly, there is a lot of story left in Stand Still, Stay Silent. (BTW, that’s how you avoid the monsters, called trolls: don’t move and shut the hell up.)

So long as it stays as intriguing and exciting as it has so far, I’m on board for the whole ride. Even if there are “decorative” sawblades on front of (and atop. and on the rear of) the train.

(One tiny little niggle: the characters are hard to tell apart sometimes. An endless procession of blond Scandinavians with identical haircuts and similar features makes it difficult to tell one from the other. I’m just saying…)

Something I’ve Never Done: “Build-A-Bear” by Gene Wolfe

And in the spirit of zigging and zagging (which this blog most definitely represents) I present to you a most singular and extraordinary link.

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Build-A-Bear“, a short story by Gene Wolfe (very short, just a couple of minutes to read), illustrated by Paul Campbell (above).

No review, other than to say I highly approve of the ending. I’d do the same myself.

Give it a read!

Bioshock Infinite: That’s Some Depressing Shit

WARNING: I’m about to spoil the shit out of Bioshock Infinite and its DLC, Burial At Sea. Just so you know. If you have any interest in playing the game, don’t read any further.

BioShockInfinite_HERO_RGB
She dies. He dies, too.

Bioshock Infinite: A racist religious fanatic (Zachary Comstock) who oppresses his black workers and executes mixed-race couples rules a city in the sky called Columbia. Right away, not a happy town (despite the sunlight, laughing kids, and charming, if anachronistic, music). You (Booker Dewitt) are soon ready to see his face smashed in by the local rebels, the Vox Populi. (Plus you get in more than a few licks yourself, slaughtering your way through a hundred or so of his soldiers.)

The rebels get some guns (courtesy you and the timeline traveling Elizabeth) and they proceed to massacre pretty much everyone who isn’t them (including the pre-teen son of a city Founder). Then they turn on you. Then you kill their leader, Daisy, and a bunch of their soldiers.

At the end of the game (during a 45 minute unskippable cutscene!) you find out that the main villain, Comstock, is actually you, from an alternate universe. And you find out his daughter — Elizabeth — is actually your daughter. And that to stop Comstock, you need to kill yourself before the decision point when you two split. Which also kills Elizabeth.

So you do. Everybody dies.

Burial At Sea, Episode 1: You’re Booker Dewitt, the same protagonist from Infinite. Only you’re a private investigator in Rapture, the undersea city from the original Bioshock (from 2007). Elizabeth, whom you’ve never met, hires you to find a 5-year-old little girl, Sally.

Long story short, you turn out to be Comstock, not Dewitt, but you didn’t know it. Elizabeth set you up to get murdered. You die. A bunch of enemies also die (because shooter).

Elizabeth, surprisingly lives. For now.

Burial At Sea, Episode 2: You’re playing Elizabeth who, despite the events of the first game, is alive. You’re after Sally, to rescue her. Somehow. You move in and around significant events in the Bioshock (2007, not Infinite) timeline, setting up the post-apocalyptic underwater living hell of the first game.

Yup, it’s all your fault. You destroy Rapture, killing thousands or tens of thousands of others, including other little girls and boys, all to save one little girl. Then, at the end, you die. (Tell me you’re surprised.)

A villain smashes your head in with a wrench (grim callback to the original game, there), then stops to ask you a question. The answer to which — “Would you kindly?” — allows him to enslave an innocent human and order him to murder a bunch of people on an airplane. For starters. (More murders follow, see Bioshock for details.) Then, in appreciation for your help in advancing his master plan, he bashes your brains in again.

You die.

So, if you’re keeping track, in the three Infinite games, the protagonist dies in every single one. Once by suicide, once by Big Daddy (a traditional death in this universe, at least), once by getting murdered by the villain.

I didn’t think about the following point the first time I played Infinite, because the 45 minute cutscene that ends the game is so long and complicated and nonsensical that it obscures most important part: due to an utterly contrived (and metaphysically nonsensical) plot point, your suicide is what saves the day.

So you kill yourself. Day saved! Yaaay! Wait… What?

And the two DLC’s have the same downer conclusion: the protagonist always dies, for utterly contrived reasons, again and again and again. That’s some depressing shit.

I’m not sure why Ken Levine (the auteur behind the various Bioshocks) kept going back to that well. It’s possible his artistic pretensions drove him to embrace the downer.

Downer endings are the lazy man’s introspection: the pretentious will applaud your deep insight and artistic courage, when the truth is that such endings are no more intrinsically insightful than an invigorating, uplifting victorious ending.

What Ken forgot is that the Bioshocks are games, not novels or French motion pictures. Games are supposed to be fun, not a meaningless, joyless, souless grind (MMORPG’s and Diablo III excepted, obviously). And stealing your victory hurts the fun part. Especially when it happens for a nonsensical reason.

It’s the sort of thing that makes players of tabletop RPG’s feel murderous and resentful: “Rocks fall, everybody dies.” Yes, GM’s can kill the whole entire party at any moment for any reason. So can game designers. But this is a last-ditch option, to be pulled out only in extremis, when events really call for it. It’s not something that should be resorted to every single time. Which Ken did.

Ken wants to make deep, introspective, artistic games. Which Bioshock was. Infinite, and its add-on episodes, just aren’t. Not because they’re downers, but because they make no sense. The deaths are forced and the insights are false. For a series that aspires to greatness, that’s a fatal flaw.

Single Comicbook Sells For $3.2 Million

Why? Because it was this single comicbook:

Action Comics #1

Yup. Superman’s very first appearance, the very first appearance of a superhero, meaning this single issue gave birth to a an entirely new genre which, 76 years later, would culminate in a movie about a talking racoon and nearly-mute (but intelligent) tree.

This single issue was on sale on eBay for the last 10 days (just closed yesterday), and the final bid was a whopping US $3,207,852.00. That’s a lot of money.

Why so much? In short, it was a very special issue, even for Action Comics #1. The Christian Science Monitor has all the gory details, at the link.