Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Apparently, I'm Climbing Everest Every Night

I went to the sleep clinic recently to get my sleep apnea (which I knew I had - it runs in the family) diagnosed and treated. The results: Apparently they consider anything over five episodes of breathing cessation per hour to be a diagnosis of "sleep apnea", and over 30 per hour is "severe". I averaged 130 per hour. That's one-hundred-and-thirty.

My O2 saturation levels were below 90 for 70% of the time I was asleep, and dropped to a low of 53 at one point. It seems to be typically about 80 for people staying at the main Base Camp on Mt. Everest, for crying out loud. I don't know why I haven't just suffocated to death in my sleep before now.

Friday, March 16, 2007

No Blood For Peanut Oil!

Q: What Are We Fighting For? A: Peanut Storage.

As Reason's Hit & Run describes it, the "pork-encrusted Iraq emergency funding bill" includes $74 million for peanut storage in Georgia, $25 million for spinach growers, $120 million for the shrimp and menhaden fishing industries, and various other junk, totalling $20 billion of the $124 billion spending bill.

One assumes these things don't actually have anything to do with Iraq, if only because the alternative is even more terrifying: That our Iraq strategy is somehow dependent on an adequate supply of peanuts, spinach, and shrimp. Perhaps we've decided that all we need for a stable Iraq is to get them hooked on Thai food.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Reviewin' Fool

Tideland - Terry Gilliam's latest movie: The one that about 75% of critics thought was atrociously awful, and the other 25% thought was a work of genius. Yes, it's somewhat divisive. In the opening scene, the main character of the film, a 9-year-old girl, cooks up a hit of heroin for her junkie father, and then helps untie his arm after he shoots up, and puts his cigarette out for him so he doesn't burn the house down as he sinks into a stupor. By the end of the film, she will have spent time nestled in the loving arms of his decomposing corpse, made friends with a strange woman with an uncomfortable obsession with taxidermy, and played kissing games with a brain-damaged adult male. Gilliam has described the film as "Alice In Wonderland meets Psycho", which seems appropriate. The film depicts a group of people who seem about one or two steps away from becoming The Texas Chain Saw Massacre family.

One thing that amazes me is the number of critics who completely missed the point. This is amazing because, before the movie begins, Gilliam himself appears onscreen and speaks directly to the audience (warning them that "many of you will hate this movie"), and he explicitly states the point he was trying to make, which is that children are more resilient than most people nowadays give them credit for. "They're designed to survive," he says, "and when you drop them, they usually bounce." Where many of Gilliam's other films deal with the tension between fantasy and reality, sanity and insanity, this one is about the tension between childhood innocence and adulthood. As such, there are things in it that are horrifying when seen with an adult's perspective, that are... well, let's just say "less horrifying" when viewed by an innocent child.

Personally, I would rank it somewhere between awful and genius. It's not Gilliam's best film (that would be a toss-up between Brazil and Twelve Monkeys), but it's less disappointing than his previous movie, The Brothers Grimm, and I'm frankly mystified by the extreme level of animosity some critics seemed to have toward it.

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Heck, I'll Review Anything

Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened - Not bad at all. First of all: It's a traditional adventure game (albeit with a 3D, GK3-esque interface, rather than 2D point-and-click) featuring Sherlock Holmes investigating a global conspiracy of Cthulhu cultists. How could I not play this game? Better yet: Despite being essentially a Cthulhu by Gaslight adventure, it also remains true to the authentic Holmes stories by not including anything that is unequivocally supernatural. The story ultimately leaves it ambiguous whether the cultists' activities would actually have awakened Cthulhu and destroyed the world, or if they were merely insane. Furthermore, this game is blessedly free of anything like the obnoxious timed stealth puzzle that intruded into the previous game in the series. The graphics are at times breathtaking, with lovely animated reflective water, bump-mapped surfaces, lovingly modeled gory, dismembered victims... Voice acting is consistently above-average for computer game voice work. I didn't encounter any game-crashing glitches. All in all, a solid game for adventure fans, Holmes fans, and Cthulhu fans. And you don't even need to leave the house to play it - it can be purchased by direct download.

However, I will say, "The Awakened" is sort of an uninspired title. I sort of prefer the original French title, La Nuit des Sacrifiés. Also, in a peculiar affectation, many of the characters in the game appear to be named after various personalities from the early history of pen-and-paper RPGs: There's a Dr. Gygax, a man named Arneson, and a couple of books authored by E. Otus and D. Niles, although they seem to have left out the obvious Petersen.