Absolutely. Yes, indeed. Hooray for jam. And stuff.

Nothing much to report right now. The beta testing has gone very well so far, but we’re waiting for the music before we can continue to the final version. Helen’s been doing a wonderful job – many of the testers have commented on how great the music is – but she’s having trouble finding the time to finish it all. Which is something I can understand perfectly well, as I have recently taken on a second job and am pretty much swamped with stuff to do. But the money has to come from somewhere, and at least the people are nice.

Nevertheless, my projects remain my main concern. Once Desert Bridge is done, I will finally be able to continue with my novel and finish editing The Great Machine.

In utterly cool news, Verena has finished writing her novel ahead of me finishing mine, and is now transcribing it to the computer. I’ve only read about a fourth of it so far – she wanted it to be in a more finished state first – but what I have read is excellent, and very funny. (I already know the plot, since we wrote an outline together. The ideas are all hers, though.) Once it’s all typed up, we shall begin editing it, and after that start sending it out to publishers. Yayness.

Paul Newman

Paul Newman has died.

It’s sad – very much so. But I’m less depressed about it than I was about the sudden deaths of, say, Richard Biggs or Douglas Adams. While his death is a tragedy, I can think of few lives less wasted: he lived long, loved deeply, created great art and fought for justice and equality. His actions changed, even saved, the lives of others in a multitude of ways. That’s pretty damn good. Death being inevitable, we should all wish for lives as long and meaningful as Paul Newman’s.

the evils of Vista…

I have just realized two things:

a) Jay Is Games wrote about The Infinite Ocean, which explains the sudden influx of people during the summer.

b) My games, with the exception of The Great Machine, don’t run on most Vista systems. Now, I despise Vista, so it’s not the end of the world, but it really does suck for people who have no other choice and would like to play the games. So I am considering possible workarounds, and will post any results here.

And now I have to go let the cat out, because she’s going craaaazy.

Beta testers needed

Desert Bridge is almost complete.

The game is fully playable, all the graphics are there, and almost all of the cosmetic details too. Right now we’re waiting for Helen to finish the music, and then… well, then you get to explore the House at Desert Bridge.

Now, if there are any brave adventurers out there who would like to get an early look, and help me out with the testing process, that would be most delightful. I’d love to hear from people with as wide a variety of systems as possible, as long as they’re capable of playing Windows games. (That would include people running Linux using a Windows emulator! I hate it that my games only run on Windows.) I’m also very interested in older versions of Windows (95/98) and the dreaded Vista (not much of a loss if it doesn’t run there, but still).

Obviously there’s no payment involved, but your name will be put into the game and readme, so at least there’s credit.

Contact me at me AT jonas-kyratzes.net, using BETA TESTER as a subject so that I know you’re not trying to sell me viagra for hot women to forget about world crisis and receive replica gold eCard from Nigerian breast enlargement free meds of unbelievable quality.

black is white, war is peace

Reading about the Berlusconi government’s attempts to rehabilitate fascism, I had to think once again about how society is losing its core values. We live in dangerous times: history is being rewritten as we speak, and our most basic concepts of morality are being thrown out the window.

Not too long ago, it was not a matter of debate whether we should torture people. Torture is a word that describes something evil, something immoral. Like murder. Suddenly we’re told it’s acceptable, even good.

Not too long ago, building concentration camps was something the Nazis did. Now we’re told it’s OK.

Not too long ago, we all agreed that fascism was bad and World War 2 not so very pleasant. But now both Franco and Mussolini are being rehabilitated. And not just by some crazy idiots in their countries: Franco was praised in American newspapers, too. So now suddenly murderous dictators can be good, after all…

And we’re told, over and over, that our core values are things like ‘family’. Families are not a value. They can be good, bad or indifferent. They’re an aspect of social life. Not torturing people is a value. Not being a Nazi is a value. Democracy is a value. But the more capitalism falls apart, the more the financial elite and their representatives will go to extremes to maintain the status quo. And Hitler built roads, you know…

for anyone still harbouring illusions about the Democrats…

From: McCain launches fall campaign as Obama embraces Iraq “surge”

Only a few hours earlier, Democrat Barack Obama, in an interview on Fox television, waved the white flag on what had once been the principal issue in his campaign, the war in Iraq. He told right-wing talk show host Bill O’Reilly that the escalation of US military aggression in Iraq, dubbed the “surge” by Bush and McCain, had “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams.” He went on to threaten military action against Iran as well.

In the end, both Obama and McCain represent the same system. They share some minor differences, in outlook and in tactics, but these are only superficial. They are both there to uphold capitalism and the elite running said system; they do not, in any way, represent the interests of the people.

I know a lot of people will say Obama is just saying all this to get the swing voters, but that’s just self-delusion; we are all aware that the reason Obama was so popular was because he promised change, and presented himself as an opponent of the Iraq war. That’s how he got the massive support he used to have. That’s why McCain is now trying to present himself as an opponent of the Bush administration. Because, as the numbers have shown us, most American citizens are utterly, utterly opposed to the war and to the current administration’s social and economic policies.

But in a political system that is owned by the wealthy and does nothing but defend their interests, neither of the two major parties will ever bring forth a candidate opposed to the status quo.

Bruce Campbell VS Jean-Claude Van Damme

Two of the films we saw at the Fantasy Film Fest had a similar (and meta) central concept: My Name Is Bruce and JCVD are both about two actors playing themselves in a rather extraordinary situation.

In My Name Is Bruce, a young and somewhat geeky teenager accidentally unleashes an ancient Chinese god (and patron saint of bean curd) bent on revenge. The only solution to this terrible threat he can think of is his icon, the legendary B-movie actor Bruce Campbell. (Who is not only a brilliant actor, but a very good director, too. Good comedy is not easy to pull off.) Bruce, of course, turns out to be a sleazy and stupid coward, and Bruce Campbell has way too much fun playing himself that way.

In JCVD, Jean-Claude Van Damme, broke and in the middle of divorce proceedings, gets caught up in a post-office robbery. To add to his bad fortune, the robbers use him to make the police believe that he’s the one robbing the place.

So, let’s see how the two contestants fare against each other!


Round One: Direction

MNIB is directed in an enjoyable, clean way. The photography is simple and lets you concentrate on the movie; pacing, lighting, editing, it all works perfectly. The performances are pitch-perfect, from the major characters to the minor, going for the comedy but rarely going too far. My only complaint is that a few times a sound effect is used when Bruce does something wrong, which is a cheap and unnecessary device and takes away from the performances. Oh, and Ted Raimi, who plays multiple parts, isn’t quite perfect as the Italian painter (though his last scene is hilarious) – the rest of his performances are fine, though, and get plenty of laughs. Those are the ONLY complaints I have about the movie’s direction. That is very good work.

JCVD is “artsy”. The camera is constantly stuck on the actors’ faces. The colours are fashionably washed-out. There are long takes that are supposed to look cool, but feature no content. The annoyingness of a great deal of the performances is mostly down to the writing, so we won’t count it here. But it’s very obvious that the director thought he was making a movie so cool it would out-cool Quentin Tarantino as the king of meaningless coolness. Now, theoretically, making a movie look like this could be fun – especially if you go for the comedy while keeping the visual appearance of a more “serious” movie. But showing us characters we don’t give a crap about endlessly running down streets in a dramatic fashion (or similar “cool” stuff)… when none of what we see actually contributes to any kind of plot… is BORING. Even with the script being as it is, you could have turned this into a halfway decent movie… if you didn’t take yourself and your project so seriously that you become ridiculous.

In round one, a pretentious movie gets the crap beaten out of it by a well-made comedy. MNIB wins.

Round Two: Acting

MNIB features fantastic acting. I mentioned some of it before, as it related to choices the director could have made. But besides that minor flaw it’s all fantasic – and surprisingly, it’s more than just The Bruce Campbell Show. It’s The Bruce Campbell Show With Some Cool Supporting Players. Most of the other characters, with the exception of Ted Raimi’s three, are played straight, which adds to the comedy. As for Bruce Campbell… he’s Bruce Campbell. He plays the part of the dumb, self-centered and cowardly actor with so much dedication that even someone who’s never heard of Bruce Campbell can laugh their socks off. It’s a great performance. (Certain people will, of course, look down upon his acting because it’s “just comedy”. As if comedy was more easy than drama – an absurd notion. Comedy is not just “fooling around” or “being silly”. In comedy, if you miss the right tone, if you miss the right moment, if your body language betrays you or your performance has the tiniest flaw, it immediately becomes unfunny. Making people laugh is an art, and one that is at least as valuable and as difficult as making them cry.)

JCVD himself is good. That is perhaps the most important thing about this movie: Jean-Claude Van Damme can actually act. (I think a lot of it has to do with language. Having him play someone to whom English is a second language is fine. Giving him a shitload of ├╝ber-cool lines straight out of American slang makes him sound funny. It’s normal.) The rest of the performances are very, very unpleasant. Not bad, per se – just unpleasant. The director apparently believed he was doing Reservoir Dogs 2: Belgium. OK, so maybe that’s direction. There’s nothing on the part of the actors, though, that would help in any way, even though one or two of them seem to be good.

In round two, “artsy” and “cool” perfomances put the audience to sleep while exceptional comedy makes everyone feel better about the universe. MNIB wins.

Round Three: Music

MNIB features country music interludes about the movie’s main villain. The hilarity of these has to be seen to be believed; truly a fantastic idea that elevates the silliness to a whole new level. You’re likely to still be humming the damn song to yourself days later.

JCVD‘s music is blah.

In round three, an uninspired and unoriginal soundtrack gets its (fairly small) heart ripped out through its nostrils by the massed artistic brilliance of people singing about Chinese vengeance gods. MNIB wins.

Round Four: Writing

MNIB is incredibly well-written. Again, of course, certain people (like critics, or pretentious filmmakers) will look down on comedy. Because making up new jokes is so easy, right? That’s why we have so little respect for Euripides and Aristophanes, right? And Aristotle wasted his time writing about comedy? And Shakespeare – total nonsense, right? But that’s different, they will scream. And I ask… how? How is Shakespeare’s making jokes about piss and shit so much different? It’s meant to be funny. It’s meant to make people smile. That doesn’t mean it glorifies stupidity and backwardness like a Farelly Brothers movie will do. And neither does MNIB – which is also funnier than Shakespeare. OK… back to the fight. MNIB is enormously well-written. It plays so delightfully with the whole idea of the B-movie actor against the evil spirit, and the jokes fly in all directions: from the absurd, to the over-the-top violent, to the insanely meta. It makes fun of the film industry, of B-movies, fandom, horror movie plots, and Bruce Campbell, all without being hateful (except about the film industry, and that deserves it). Unlike a lot of movies, the comedy is actually achieved, not just hinted at – that is, the lines are written so that the wording perfectly expresses the joke, rather than just being funny on a conceptual level, which is the bane of most comedy.

JCVD has approximately four funny scenes, the first five minutes being the best. The rest of the writing is repetitive and annoying. Characters spend a lot of time having “cool/funny” dialogue like “Go to the back.” “No.” “I said, go to the back.” “No.” “Go.” “I’m staying here.” “Go to the fucking back.” “No.” “I said go.” “I’m staying.” “Go.” “No.” “Go.” “No.” “Go to the back.” “I said I’m staying.” “I said go.” “No.” “Go now.” “No.” “I said go.” “I’m not going.” “Fuck you.” “Now I’m going.” The audience, meanwhile, wishes it could get its hands on the director and the screenwriter in order to kill them by slicing open their throats with shiny Jean-Claude Van Damme DVDs. The overall problem is that the movie takes itself so seriously. This isn’t a movie where someone had the crazy idea that Jean-Claude Van Damme could be involved in a robbery… this is a stupid Tarantino-esque robbery movie that happens to have JCVD as a minor character. Hell, the whole existence of JCVD in the movie is nothing more than a Tarantino-esque meaningless pop culture reference. And we don’t need more of those, thank you.

In round four, pretentious nonsense gets ground into a fine pink powder by its greatly superior opponent, proving that what looks flimsy may sometimes have more to it than what looks cool and serious.


Hail to the Bruce, baby.

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The Good, the Bad and the English

So, what’s new?

Verena and I are getting married. (YAY!)

I just had one of my wisdom teeth pulled out. (NOT YAY!)

We’re probably going to London in a couple of days to see Hellboy 2. (YAY!)

The Punisher (short review)

I used to think Thomas Jane was a bad actor. Then I saw The Mist and learned otherwise: he’s excellent. (Also, he must be James Purefoy’s long-lost twin brother.) Unfortunately, The Punisher is anything but excellent. It has some of the right ideas, and a couple of scenes (especially the one of the Punisher being beaten up in his home by a ridiculous-looking but very strong henchman) are really hilarious… but the music sucks, most of the writing is terrible, the casting is way off (except for Thomas Jane), and it just doesn’t work. It seems to be less than the sum of its parts. Shame, since the people making the movie apparently put a lot of effort into it.

Reign of Fire (short review)

Some movies are so bad, they’re hilarious. Some movie are bad and just blah. This falls somewhere inbetween. The plot, while cool on a very basic conceptual level (post-apocalyptic world full of dragons) is so badly thought through that it makes your head hurt. I mean, the whole movie is based on the idea that there is a species which has only got a single male specimen. Not per colony or group, but for the whole damn species! And we’re supposed to believe they’ve survived for millions of years? Give me a bloody break.

It does have some good scenes here and there – people acting out Star Wars as a fairy-tale for kids – and Alexander Siddig (whom we worship) is in it for a while, but it’s just plain old crap. Also, some of the most ridiculous and illogical sets I’ve ever seen… with flames burning in every corner, decades after the dragons have burned everything to cinders.

Hell, not even the dragons are particularly cool, and dragons are innately cool – I mean, giant fire-breathing reptiles, what more can you want? A lot, apparently.