I Have Moved

This was, well, fun, but I have moved here for all intents and purposes now:

Please update your bookmarks.

posted by sam | 5/23/2007 02:25:00 AM


Serioussam Begins

Every time someone disses a movie I like, I try to defend it, but mostly give up. It's a testament to my slacker virtues that movies like Ocean's Twelve( hates it, and with good reason), The Mummy (everyone loves to hate it), and Crouching Tiger(well this one actually is kinda overrated, but you get the picture) go undefended.
I try to abstain from actually starting flame wars on what are just 2 hours of pulp entertainment. Plus everyone deserves their own opinions. Therein, of course, lies the dilemma. You can come up to me and say, hey Sam, I am of the opinion that duck billed platypuses pee from their mouth, are devil's rejected children, and the eggs they lay are actually made of solid gold.
Sure you have that opinion, but that doesn't mean you're not wrong. Anyone can tell you they hate Pulp Fiction cause, hey, that's their opinion. But you know, you KNOW, that they're wrong.

So yeah, let's talk about the new Bat movie.

*evil grin*

I've always thought that remaining absolutely, steadfastly, honest to a source material is not necessary for a movie adapting a book or a comic. I understand that there are a lot of decisions that need to be made to adapt a work of literature into cinematic form, and some changes may have to be made. I can live with that. It all depends on how successful you are in pulling it off. I have never cried over the exclusion of Tom Bombadil or the inclusion of organic web shooters, nor do I ever intend to.

If you want to look at the most honest adaptation of a comic book superhero, Daredevil's director's cut is the closest, and we all know how well it did. Begins comes close as hell. So close it is to some aspects of Year One that I was surprised not to find a special thanks to Frank Miller somewhere in the credits.

Of course, there is no “definitive Batman”. In his long, long, time in the club of most recognized superheroes the world over, he has gone through so many re-imaginings, creative visions, makeovers and whatnot that he may mean a whole lot of things to a whole lot of people. This movie does not attempt to give you a definitive Batman, but it does borrow a lot from some specific comic book issues. If those issues constitute a definitive Batman for you, you are going to come back pretty happy. If your idea is maybe a bit different, say the Adam West series, you might want to sleep on your decision to go watch it.

The last few years have seen superheroes being taken seriously, especially the movies they star in. They might have met with varying degrees of financial and/or critical success, but all of them have tried to take themselves as serious movies, not frivolous, psychedelic, camp movies (Bat 3 and 4, I point my fingers at you). Movies like Spider-man and Hulk have delved deeper into the psyche of the men behind the mask (or as the case may be, big green body). Begins takes this further.

Batman, along with Superman, has the best known origin stories of all the superheroes in the world. Why then, the need to retell it? Maybe Nolan wanted to take the franchise in a direction where he only could do so by starting at the beginning. I was a bit skeptical about it, but it blew me away. That is the best stuff in the movie.

Batman Begins is divided sharply in half is a serious drama, the story of a young man who leaves his home and fortunes to find himself and his place in the world. He is taken under the wing of a mysterious man called Ducard who provides him with a father figure to look up to. Ducard becomes his anchor in a world he is trying to understand, and Bruce flourishes under his training. Under Nolan's skill, this complex and dark story acquires a whole new resonance. It becomes fresh.

The second half of the movie deals with Wayne returning home after finding out that the League of Shadows wants nothing less than the destruction of Gotham. Bruce starts collecting his gadgets and items, slowly reaching a defined figure that will become a symbol to save his city, a symbol that he will operate under – the symbol of a Bat. Christopher Nolan understands the tumult inside Bruce Wayne, and all of it is subtext. When the subtext becomes the theme, he starts losing the thread.

Nolan understands Bruce as a man on a quest, and he has some fantastic actors at his disposal to make that work. The film starts as a film about people, the decisions they make, and the effects those decision have. As it moves into the second half, Batman becomes someone who reacts only. It becomes about the big action pieces and car chases. It may be because of a fantastic first half that we want more grit and drama, but the second half does feel a bit out of place with the first half.

The second half, and especially the third act puts Batman directly in the seat of an outsider. Things keep on happening, and he reacts to them, punches a few people, blows holes in walls, and..whatever, I don't care. It may be my idea of a definitive Batman speaking, but I think the detective deserves a better treatment than to play second fiddle to Lucius Fox's problem solving skills.

Don't get me wrong, though, there is something very very right about the movie. The actors. Christian Bale plays Bruce so well, that he ends up being the most fully drawn out Bruce Wayne in cinema. His Batman is a little rough, however. He can't decide on a pitch of voice, and the mask makes him look fat in the face. The movie, is bay and large about Bruce Wayne, the title notwithstanding, and Bale nails that.

Michael Caine is fantastic as Alfred. Alfred has always been the heart of Batman, the soul behind the machine, and Caine gets that. He plays his role magnificently, and keeps it understated enough so as not to appear a Father Figure to Bruce.

Gary Oldman has a thankless job, that of depicting a pretty straight character, with not much to do in the first movie of what is quite possibly the second beginning of a franchise. So, it's almost heartening to see him play Jim Gordon as a weary yet good policeman in a city corrupt and festering with crime.

Liam Neeson is Ducard, Bruce Wayne's mentor. The role is quite simple, and he's done that already in Star Wars, but Neeson keeps his character grounded. The character is very underplayed, and the chemistry with Bale hits the bulls eye.

Tom Wilkinson is Carmine Falcone, played with aplomb, and a little twinkle in his eye – I loved him. Cillian Murphy can't control his accent in the movie, and his Crane comes across as a creepy doctor, with a nothing villain in a mask as his alter ego. I don't wanna talk about Katie Holmes.

The again, maybe I do. Comparisons of this movie with the first Spider-man is inevitable, however futile it may be. One thing they both have in common is badly realized leading ladies with facial deformities. (the droopy eyelid for Dunst and the retarded lopsided grin for Holmes) While someone may say that Holmes is worse that Dunst, I have to point out that Dunst is Mary Jane, while Holmes is another addition in a long list of unnecessary bat-girlfriends. They have to get the former right, no matter what, and I will not except a whiny, weird chick in substitute. I don't care for Katie's character. At all.

The third act of the movie is something that I have very harsh words for. Explosions and blasts are used as closure, and things just keep on spiraling out of control for the director. It turns it's back to the excellent(and may I also add relatively CGI less) character drama that preceded it. The finale tries to make up for it to quite an extent, and as always, Oldman is dependable.

Never pre-judge a movie – the golden rule that every serious movie fan should follow. I always try to steer clear of the influence being exerted by all the hype and posters and trailers. I like to walk in, and let the first ten-twenty minutes of the movie grab me. Which they did, in this case. This is probably why I found the third act disappointing. It has no relationship to the first and the second acts of the movie.

The finale however, is something that is just sprung on you. The cheers in the auditorium drowned my emphatic screams of, “Year One, Year One”. Yeah, it's that cool. All in all, a great movie that is sorely let down by it's loose third act, but a good movie nevertheless.

Hell, but that is just my opinion. :P

posted by sam | 6/26/2005 12:41:00 PM


"If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence.” — Bertrand Russell, Roads to Freedom

posted by sam | 4/28/2005 11:23:00 AM


Love in the times of video games

Let's call this the story of the untroubled times. Let's imagine a boy, late teens, just out of school, fresh into college. For the sake of anonymity lets just call him S, hm? He is living the good life, enjoying every bit of college and the myriad possibilities of fun and intoxication it promises. Exploring life, and as yet unspoilt by the harsh realities of having to work for a living.

This boy, then, one beautiful August morning sees this girl. Unassuming, confident, slightly aloof. And beautiful. Hmm, he is intrigued. Distracted even. He has the next party to plan, video games to play, books to read, friends to meet, and study if need be; in short, no time for frivolities and yet... he is drawn to the girl. Yes, he is most definitely intrigued. He tries to strike a conversation but our boy is kind of shy too. I say 'kind of', because he does manage to speak to her. It takes a few days but speak to her, he does. They strike up an easy friendship.

The girl - fun loving, charming, intelligent, sometimes careful to the point of extremely cautionary, and yet at other times playful and teasing soon opens up to him. With emotional attraction comes physical attraction and more often than not, vice versa. Come September and he is in love. The big 'L'.
The boy thought he knew everything about girls and relationships. She proved him wrong. There were more surprises in a day with her than an entire month with most people. She showed him things he didn't think were possible. The passion they shared was at a height unparalleled hence, and unmatched since.

Yet, one day the relationship ended as abruptly as it had started. For years he pines for the same emotional and physical torrent he went through - stumbling from one relationship to another, sometimes surprised, but mostly disappointed. Other relationships and priorities took his time and attention now. Yet he knew that one day she will come back, something will bring you people back together.

It happened. There were a few hiccups in the beginning, and slight moments of embarrassment, but slowly it happened. The passion is unbelievable, the emotional storm even greater. This is what he was missing for so many days! Such long years had he waited for this to happen! The conversations, the long drives, the frantic moments of passion and the quiet, tender moments of love - everything is so much better this time. But without so much as a preamble, this time too comes at an end. He is not as heartbroken as the first time round, but the abruptness of it all does leave a slight sour taste in his mouth. Yet he knows that he will look back at these times as one of the best he has ever had.

That is my summary of Half Life 2.

Really. It's that good. And steam is that bad.

This may be the longest introduction for a game review I have written yet, which is thoroughly ironical considering the game starts without so much as a 'Hi, this is the story'. You wake up in a train, the G-Man tells you to '...wake up Mr. Freeman. Wake up and smell alalalala ... what the ROCK is COOKIN!'
Heh, the last part is entirely real in my head.

Screenies at Gametab

So yeah, its vague, yet stylish. The future is here, my friend, and dang, it looks good. The aforementioned train ride is Atmospheric with a capital A, as is the rest of the game, and serves to suspend your disbelief for a solid 15 hours(or more). If there is one thing that Half Life 2 does, it puts into sharp focus how much is possible in games now. For people who thought the Source engine will not be able to be as good as it's colleagues, I have one thing to say: you were wrong, you jabroni ass.
The environments look real, the physics is a constant source of jaw dropping moments, and the game is understated, stylish, interactive and real all at the same time. The engine is well optimized too - so much so that mid range systems run the game pretty well too. In your FACE, Doom III. This was personally to me one of the best business decisions by Valve - they have managed to hold on to a larger consumer base. But making the game sometimes unplayable because your content system is underdeveloped is, as the they say, teh suxx0rz. Also suxx0rz is the packaging of the box, which is cheap.

But that is not what I want to discuss. The boy didn't care what clothes the girl wore or what bus she caught to come meet him. No-siree.

The game, when it runs, is 'fried gold' (to borrow a phrase from another Year's best). This is fat free entertainment at it's best.

Half Life was one of the first games to be unapologetically first person. You WERE Gordon Freeman. No cutscenes, no sounds for the protagonist, even no dramatic death animations in third person. Lots of games since, including the excellent MoH:AA and Call Of Duty have used that technique to convince you that you are the protagonist and immerse you completely. HL2 does so unashamedly. Where such a technique is very useful in games like CoD, where the story is basically non existent to the extent of being relegated to text on the loading screen, in Half Life 2, it tends to confuse you a bit.

You have no idea what you are doing in City 17, what happened in the 15 or so years between Black Mesa and now, or who are those taser welding mamus after your ass. But that is perfect because Gordon is feeling the same. YOU, Dr. Freeman, don't know what the hell is going on. You slowly figure out the 1984-esque setting of the city and the general feeling of oppression is well conveyed through the actors and the scripted sequences. (if you still have no idea what's happenin, you might wanna see this:

Despite the mute protagonist, the game delivers a knock out dose of emotional involvement, mostly thanks to some extremely well done scripted sequences and dialog sequences. The story is not told at the back of the box like most shooters, either. The events and characters unfold as one big adventure, and the story you get out of the game is a superset of all your experiences in the game. Levels and environments serve to move the story and the adventure forward, and as such may seem disappointing to people used to doing things in more than one way, a la Deus Ex. But that is not Half Life 2's strength. Its strength lies in it's ability to consistently and repeatedly create richly diverse and believable environments that encapsulate the game play brilliantly and succinctly and give us not a sand box in terms of gameplay but a rollercoaster ride. And what a ride. Escape, rescue, friendship, betrayal, revenge, redemption, triumph, salvation - all these are the milestones in the narrative of the game, and it is all good.

The story is not unique, and most of the times, not even apparent. But all of the story elements are also drawn to excellence by brilliant character models and fluid animations. Complementing the rest of the game, the characters are gorgeous to look at and - this is becoming the operative word in describing HL2's graphics - real. Valve are the masters of Level Design, and they have proved that with HL2. The progression is logical, well paced, and of course, always well constructed. The whole thing just looks spectacular, and feels even more so, considering the physics that are integrated in a seamless manner to the environment and the gameplay.
Your experience is constructed so much around the real physics that they have even incorporated a Gravity Gun, and made it almost a central piece of the adventure, considering so much depends on it. It gives you the incredibly useful ability to pick up and throw inanimate objects like barrels, blades, crates etc., thereby using it as a weapon as well as a puzzle solving device. As a side note for the FPS aficionados, the puzzles are fairly simple, yet diverse and satisfying in the payoff, and serve to further the adventure feel of the game.

Focus, rightfully, is on the combat and the 'Shooter' part of FPS. The enemy AI is usually adequate, and the scripted sequences and coordinated attacks are fun and challenging enough. The alien nasties scare the heebie jeebies outta you, and the soldiers are a source of constant frustration as the attacks are varied and the AI unforgiving. Yet, there are some times you curse the AI. Especially when you get a few team mates to fight with you later on. Bizarre situations where you are stuck with 4-5 guys in a narrow corridor make you think: why?

I mean, let's try this: grow several bugs that are over three feet tall, wear a hazard suit, get in a corridor and order the critters to attack someone at the other end of the corridor. Problems. See? The path finding is actually pretty good, but the design decisions some time bring a few problems to the forefront. So it's no Rainbow Six.

Nevertheless, the nasties give you quite a few scares, and while you may think they could be smarter, it doesn't take too much away from the game. In particular, there's a certain alien crab thing that jumps on you, shags your head, and releases it's... er, stuff, on your face. Not only is that totally gross and mostly false, your health drops to 001, and starts regenerating slowly as the hazard suit releases antidotes. This guy and the returning 'rope-alien-thing-on-the-roof-that-sucks-you-to-it's-mouth-and-eats-you-slowly' are my two worst enemies. EVER. I hate them in a good way though. A good villain will always inspire dread, and I fear them. A lot.

Apart from the stuttering bug that Valve fixed some time back, sound quality is generally superb too. The environmental sounds are truly wondrous and ambient, the voice acting is quite good (not as good as the first one, though, methinks), and the surrounding sounds of machinery, radio chatter etc. are incredibly atmospheric.

All in all, I'd say this is pretty close to the perfect FPS. Some bugs and a strictly OK AI may take away some points, but the fact remains that this the most fun you can have with your PC (apart from pr0n). Some people may nitpick, as is usual with games with such hype, but sum of Half Life 2's parts is very very solid. It's a rare game that can survive its own hype. Half Life 2, even with it's burgeoning mass of hype, does so with enough panache to spare.

These, then, are my favorite games from 2004:

10. Unreal Tournament 2004
9. Tribes: Vengeance
8. Pro Evolution Soccer 4
7. Katamari Damacy
6. Sly 2: Band of Thieves
5. Rome: Total War
4. Burnout 3: Takedown
3. Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
2. Half-Life 2
1. Sid Meier's Pirates!

posted by sam | 1/24/2005 12:10:00 PM


Rest in peace, Mogambo. And remain Happy

posted by sam | 1/12/2005 11:34:00 AM


Two Thousand and Five, Anno Domini

So 2005. Tsunami. Will Eisner. LJ+six apart.

Hell of a start, I must say.

Happy New Year nevertheless, have a good 2005.

However, I am not here to remind you of the calendar change by screaming "HAPPY NEW YEAR!" (in capitalized text too!) and run off like an excited 7 year old.
(Though otherwise it is a wonderful age to be. I'd be 7 all my life and only complain while doing homework. Honest.)
I'm not a writer with awards strung around my living room, and I am fully entitled to use the following as a poor excuse for segue:


I am here to mostly write a post, since I don't want 2005 to be the year when blogging died, 2004 already being proclaimed as a year when it got boring. I'd stand else where in the argument (namely off screen, chewing corn on the cob, because God knows that's the only civilized way to have it), but I guess that doesn't matter, since Warren Ellis was the one doing the proclamation in question. Mr. Ellis, I shake my fist at you. I am also here to tell you that Transmetropolitan by Mr. Ellis is one of the most masterful and deadly cool comic book series written, the earlier issues ranking up there with works of Moore, Gaiman, and of course the works of Eisner lording over all of them.

But I am mostly here to do two things: One, to tell you that in the post modern, interweb writing world, it is okay to start sentences with And and But. And second, ( :P ) to tell you a story, the veracity of which I leave you to decipher on your own.

It all started in Janpath. I met Raja, Hyacie, and Anupma. While Raja has proven himself to be a straight male, he has a freakish knowledge of bargaining with novelty shopkeepers, and a shared(with the other two) warmth for shoe shopping. So the three of them shopped for Juttis in the absolute center of Delhi, as I watched with amusement the event. It is fascinating, watching 4 grown people (3 to 1) arguing over the price of ethnic juttis. Though I was the guy standing in the corner staring at the pavement intensely and muttering "fair's fair" in favor of the shopkeeper, I'm sure the amusement of watching that sight must be someone else's.
I dislike bargaining. I like things to be of a uniform price. I prefer barter. I am strange, and you must laugh at me, because staring at me embarrasses me.


And we talked about a lot of things. Like how Shiva has always been a cool God. You don't mess with him. He's strong, wise, and terrible when angered. Hes got a third eye which can emanate an uber ray of death. He is most definitely cool. Damn straight. But all the tees that you see of him are the ones you've been seeing since childhood, if you have ever had a calendar fetish. Why doesn't someone do a cool representation of him, (respectfully of course. You don't want to see what Genius Chang would do to him) and show it to me? We talked about how Charlie Kaufman copped out and created a Dharma and Greg like couple among all his lovable, oddball characters in Spotless Mind, and how just like Shahrukh Khan, Jim Carrey doesn't have a job description in the movie. And whatever happened to Spike Jones? We saw a poncho and loudly sang the theme to The Good The Bad and The Ugly. Hyacie, my favorite Mumbaikar right now, bought a lot of hand made paper, and that was very cool. There was a militant salesman intent on selling everything and annihilating all competition. He wished me a Happy New Yearses.

Much, much later, I told them something I haven't told anyone - I have a mortal fear of Mumbai. It has Bhai Log, devil trains from Hell(or Colaba or wherever), it has Shiv Sena, Chandni Bar, celebrity couples who don't know how to kiss, and gay rapists. However I like very much the people I know that stay there, and I respect their courage in continuing to do so. It also has Goga Kapoor and Aroon Bakshi. You don't know who they are because you don't watch bad hindi movies. I do.

So then we also bought DVDs, shopping for which I like immensely and with a passion unrivaled except for when I shop for books and games. And it was then that Raja proclaimed that Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is his top movie this year. As also the fact that Collateral will not feature in his top ten this year. Both statements sparked a minor debate, and I promised to do something that I am about to do now:

My Top Ten Movies of the year 2004. (Not ones I saw, because I also saw a lot of older movies, like Musa, which is pretty good, but it actually released in 2001)

There will be movies here you don't like much, and there will be excellent ones that you'll hate I missed. But you could take a list out too, you know. The ones you don't like are here because they are good, but you don't like them. That doesn't make them bad. The ones you miss aren't here because I haven't seen them. My bad grasp of segue continues as I use:


10. Finding Neverland
Nope it's not that great. But Johnny Depp does to this what he couldn't do to Broken Window. He elevates the movie into greatness.

9. Ab Tak Chappan
The only Indian movie in my list, but what a movie. I haven't seen the better ones that are touted for Oscar nominations, but I intend remedy-ing that. But AT56 is cool. Deadly cool performances, uncompromising direction, best background score of the year. This is what a Factory movie should be. Not Gayab. It starts with a quote by Nietzsche, and ends with the protagonist starting on a journey to become the superman that Nietzsche philosophized. Brilliant.

8. Collateral
I like Michael Mann, what can I say? Plus great performances, and a background score that reminded me of Indian Ocean.

7. Kill Bill Vol. 2
You want me tell you about KB V2? You're crazy. Go, watch. See what the words seminal and cult mean.

6. Spider-Man 2
Raimi has been one of my favorite directors since his Evil Dead days. I even liked his curry flavored The Quick and the Dead and his much under appreciated For Love of the Game. The Darkman movie was his audition for Spidey. And thank God the producers liked what they saw. The perfect balance of in jokes, emotions, humor, and action this year.

5. Primer
I shouldn't have seen this movie. I haven't seen this movie. I love this movie. A stray torrent did a lot of good and a lot of bad. I intend watch this at least 6 times to completely tell you what I think of it. As of now, it stands at number 5. The smartest movie this year. And my favorite Indie movie.

4. The Motorcycle Diaries
You may or may not like what Che Guevara had become or stood for later in life. But watch this movie for the single best camera work all year, and a bloody good story of the growing up of two friends, their journey, and their bonding.

3. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter... and Spring
I cheated a bit here. This movie released in 2003, but got a US release in 2004, when I actually heard of it, and then watched it. If you don't think this counts, just move the previous movies one step higher, and bring in my number 11, Spartan in at 10. :)

2. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind
Easily one the best movies of this decade, and classic Charlie Kaufman. Sardonic, funny, poignant, and loopy. It just lost points on the basic introductions to the main characters. The boring, uptight guy meets the colorful hippie. That the characters were, in due course of the movie, established as very much different and well fleshed out (except Carrey's job. I hate it when the main character is started as a blank. I admit that it was Charlie's way of letting us connect to him, but I've watched too much SRK movies for my own good.), brought it to number 2.

1. Shaun of the Dead
The best movie all year. One of the best zombie movies ever. In my top ten list of funniest movies ever. Brilliant. If I ever write a script as brilliant, or direct a movie with such accomplished story telling and such fine performances, I'd have accomplished something. Some faux movie connoisseurs may scoff at my choice of number one, citing the 'intelligence' quotient of Eternal Sunshine, Garden State, or Primer. If you see this movie, you will know what intelligent film making is. You will realize that a zombie movie can be as important a piece of cinematic glory as a celebrated scriptwriter's newest. If you don't, you are welcome to be pretentious.

Movies I did not see last year, that I have been told are great:
Ray, The Aviator, Million Dollar Baby, House of Flying Daggers, Infernal Affairs, A Tale of Two Sisters, Sideways, Ong-Bak, Maria Full of Grace, The Incredibles.

The Worst movies I saw in 2004:
Since there can be no "top" 10 for worst movies, here they are:
Musafir, The Terminal, Polar Express, Asambhav, The Punisher, Saw, Van Helsing.

I will continue my rantings on 2004 and my fear of whole cities as evil entities, until I find something worthwhile to talk about. Next up, probably: Games and Books and Comics.

BTW, I've donated, have you?

posted by sam | 1/06/2005 12:09:00 PM


Katamari Damacy :)

Katamari Damacy :D

Katamari Damacy ^_^

Katamari Damacy?

Katamari Damacy!

posted by sam | 9/17/2004 11:10:00 PM


AW lovin'

When you have more fun playing this:

Than doing this:

You know graphics don't matter squat!

posted by sam | 9/17/2004 02:40:00 AM


trave L

posted by sam | 9/09/2004 06:00:00 AM


Late Shri SeriousSam

There was once a person who said he was never late for anything. He told me that once he had decided that a particular event would be central to his day, and that his whole day, in fact, would be structured around that event, he owed it to that event to make sure he is never late. I would like to say I agree with him. I would also like to say that I am never late for anything. But that is far from the truth. I am always late. For everything.

This is not something I do consciously, dammit!

But it happens nevertheless. In a way, you can look at my journal entries and see it has been quite late since I made a post. It is also a fact that I write my journal entries quite late into the night. This has nothing to do with my actually being late for dates, interviews, my job, or even Doctor's appointments, but it's a place where you can see my chronic lateness, and wag a righteous finger virtually. You can even shake your virtual head, all the while giving me a virtual sardonic smile. You can do all these things to my face too, but God knows I get enough of them.

My journal entries are also an indicative of my internet usage, which has become unreliable since I switched service providers to Sify. But they give me 24 hours of free unlimited download in a week so's I love them.
It's hard not to.
But I manage.

Another thing sorely lacking in my life to get my creative juices flowing(and hence making a solid gaming post) is quality gaming. Not your usual multiplayer LAN gaming which I get a LOT of, but quality time with my PC. She misses it and complains I don't love her anymore, at least not for her Graphics Card. I mean, I know friends who own GBA SPs, PS2s, X-BOXes, and generous enough personalities to let me molest their gaming peripherals, but I want to play a good PC game!

Here I must digress(as usual) and tell you about this crazy co worker of mine. He is a nice enough fellow, and is slowly approaching 1337-ness in his programming skillz. What makes him interesting for YOU is that he says crazy things like, "OMG! THIS GAME WILL OPEN YOUR HORSES!" if he happens to like it. He claims every movie and/or game he likes is "Ultimate". He says it with such conviction that you are hard pressed not to believe that Paycheck, that awful, awful movie that must not have Philip K Dick's name on it, was in fact the last one you ever need to see, since it IS the "ultimate" movie. Apart from having little grasp of superlative words, he is a mean CTF player(though still not better than me, much less ultimate). If there is anything better than Ultimate, it will OPEN YOUR HORSES!

So this sayer of crazy things that don't even make sense and me were discussing video games in general over lunch, and he said the stupidest, and some how the most thought provoking thing he has ever said. He said that, "Single player games are like masturbating. Multiplayer games are like sex". My argument was that TWO player games should be like sex; true multiplayer must be an orgy, and in more cases than not, a big, gay, orgy. But that didn't swerve his stand a bit.
And I'm not saying he was totally wrong. He was onto something, but the sex analogy was a bit long drawn.

And that, in a metaphorical way entirely, is what I have been missing - masturbation. An overwhelming single player experience that makes me climax with gaming pleasure. A good, well made, single player game. It's been a long time since I ever got my hands on one, though.

- - - -
The kind of reviews that most good games get truly confuse an average gamer, since seeing text like, "The single player game is insipid, and the AI is lackluster" next to a score of 8.5 is crazy. One way around this predicament is to actually play the game and find out. But like most techies, I have a job that tries to fuck me in the ass whenever I am not looking(enough with the sexual analogies!)
So an easier way out that that I devised, and that works in most cases is this:(I thought of patenting it too)
Games with a score of 9.0+/10 are actually quite good. They may not deserve a 9.0 in you opinion, but they are good games, and give you a good time by all measures. Game with a score of 7.0-8.0 are actually fun to play, only the publisher didn't feed enough money to the websites and magazine to get a better score. Sure, its a fan only or a hardcore only game, and may have a few things that you don't like, but its still fun. Games with 8.0 to 9.0 are where the real shit lies. These games are awful, and the reviewers had a hard time suppressing their disappointments after the big hype. These are the games that pay their way to good scores.
This system worked in most cases, and I was pretty happy with it, even with the exceptions. I hate repeating myself, but


Ominous as the capitals and bold face looks, the game has much less to offer. The game had a huge hype behind it, and awesome looking screen shots and videos. Everybody hailed it as the next best shooter, the game that would save PC gaming. The reviewers went crazy in trying to one up on the praise of the game. 98%, screamed the reviews. Then came the actual player complaints. As sophisticated as the technology in 2035 is, nobody has heard of duct tape. You play a highly trained space marine, but your guns don't have light attachments. The flashlight has to be turned on at the expense of your gun. You can either see what you're shooting, or actually shoot it. The levels are all samey, the same pipes, doors, crates, everything. And the game play is generic.

This is all before I got to play it. Like I said, I am always late.

So this is the late Doom III review. Everything you heard about the game: the good, and the bad, is true. First thing you notice is that the Mars complex is extrermely dark, even before the shit has hit the fan. How they get any work done is beyond us mortals. Then, (cliche alert!) all hell literally breaks loose(God, I hate that phrase). And you get your gun in action. Its still dark. Neither man nor satan like light on Mars. Hell, once you see the pseudo outdoors, even Mars doesn't like light on Mars. So you switch between the flashlight and your gun like a street hobo trying a juggling trick, and fight your way through an horde of, well, TENS of enemies. Heh, I know that was a cheap shot.
Technologically the game is a question mark. It looks more beautiful than Nicole Kidman in Far and Away, and God knows I wanted to kill Tom when I saw that movie. It is even more beautiful than Rita Hayworth, man. You unpack the textures lib, and you see a normal map, a bump map, a planar map, for every texture. It is so cool, you actually think there is geometry where there is only textures. This is in direct opposition to UT2004 where every single thing, IS, in fact, geometry. So if the goemetry is minimized by cool technology, why does the frame rate drop like the sensex during the congress victory? I know not.

This is not to say that it is all textures. There are some very cool machinery and pipes (always pipes) that make the levels look gorgeous. And the damn game is scary. The sound of the game, one thing nobody hyped, is so well done that I give it my award NOW, fuck the rest. It scares the crap out of you if you use headphones, which of course, is the only way. The enemy models are lovingly rendered, and they truly inspire dread. The problem is that it gets old after a while. One major design flaw is that the most enemies spawn as soon as you pick up health, ammo, or armor. If you don't touch a single ammo cache, armor shard or health pack, the whole game gets over real fast. You get so used to the whole thing, that the scares get less scary after some substantial time in to the game. And what lacks is big fights with lots of monsters. Its like Doom married Resident Evil and a had a baby.

I guess what I am trying to say is that it isn't as good as the "100%!" crowd would like us to believe; it is no saviour of gaming culture. But is no as bad as the later complains that you see on so-called "honest" reviews. Its a good game, with kick ass sound, Trent Reznor music, great looks, and adequate AI. It has some mean monsters, and a good survival horror paced gameplay. Only thing wrong with the game is its Level Designers. They have concentrated more on the looks, and have gone wild with the punishment/reward gameplay. They are dangerous people who should be sent west.

They have forgotten the face of their fathers.
- - - -
[I am reminded tell you that you must read King's Dark Tower books. They will OPEN YOUR HORSES!]

If you already have, ignore the capitalization of nonsense phrases and remember that I am always late. Part of the reason, I have found, is that I love my home. Its a fifth floor apartment overlooking a very busy road, and it takes me more than an hour to get to office, but it's very difficult for me not to feel ok in my home. And as such, my inertia makes me prolong my stay at home until the exact time, which in a city as chaotic as Delhi, is suicide. By the time I reach my designated location, I am already 35 minutes late, if not more. Most cities have a preferred mode of transport, and that is the lifeline of the commuters in that city. Delhi works in a opposite manner. People will do anything to reach where they want, on time, with sufficient ease, and most importantly, in the cheapest way possible. I am late because Delhi doesn't plan its commute. I cannot for the life of me travel from A to B taking the EXACT time needed if I cannot plan what to do. And Delhi's traffic make an effort to make that impossible. I like that however, it helps me be an asshole.

This is also because of a very different trait I have, my Gamer gene. Most anal(and non anal) people who reach places on time, wake up in the morning, and plan their day ahead. The moment I wake up, the first thing I ask myself is, "what games will I play today?". This is the most important question you need to ask yourself.

You can think this is bullshit, but this is the truth. A truth so powerful that, yes, you're right - it will OPEN YOUR HORSES!

For your stable doors to burst open with a righteous neighing and stomping, you have to understand the concept of videogames as an totally non derivative artform of your generation. But that is a discussion I partake in when I am full of beer or conscientious affection towards the discussion. Or both. I promise to open your horses soon, however.

I am also late in posting a meme from 's. 12:40 in the night and a cool 13" Hulk action figure by my computer is looking at me angrily for being not only late, but for creating a whole post as an excuse. Sometimes I tend to believe in the conspiracy that life is interesting when you're half awake.

posted by sam | 8/24/2004 12:32:00 PM



See the beautiful normal map?
no? Turn your flashlight on..
OMG!! a zombie, quick! switch to your gun!
Oh, crap. Where’d he go?
OMG!!!! *dead*

See ammo
pick it up(mmm ammo.. my favorite!)
Monster spawns.. OMG!
kill kill kill


If you don’t pick a single piece of armor or health pack or ammo, you’re golden baby. This fucking game is that simple. Scary though.

posted by sam | 8/19/2004 10:30:00 PM


So yesterday was Independence Day. Merry, Happy, and all that. Do me a favor, all of you. Wherever you see a small paper Indian flag lying on the ground, soiled and discarded after yesterday's fervor, just pick it up and put it in your pocket (or bag). If you don't know what to do with it, just snail mail them to me(collect, if you're so inclined). Ask for my address and I'll give it to you.

Simple. Not a patriotic duty or anything. Just a favor from a friend to another, eh? Thanks.

posted by sam | 8/15/2004 09:53:00 PM


The name is Bond... James Bond.

But you wouldn't like me when I'm angry.

posted by sam | 8/03/2004 01:27:00 AM


[My back, my back.]

You know its been a long time since you posted when pun23 raises from the dead and make posts about Joe Orez, the badass actuary.

Ahem. So apparently, contrary to what you thought, dicks are always surrounded by nice people. beatzo, thyla, and arunjeet have chosen to buy/send me cool things, despite me being, well, me. They rock, and you should read their journals, and always remind me to make sure they're safe when Armageddon comes in about 14 months.

I am going to catch Spider-Man 2 the first day it hits India, and that rocks as well. Of course I'll let you know of my unwanted opinions on it, but I suspect on a scale of one to sauce the movie would be fucking ravioli.

Which is all the more reason for me to treat with cynicism, trepidation, and horror, the travesty that is called Pavitra Prabhakar [read Beelzebub's son.] Consider this part of my post, "mere ko gussa kyon aata hai" part the second. First the names - they sound like some bad Shiv Sena joke about Spider-Man, not to mention reek of unoriginality. If the head honchos at Gotham are chuckling at their own brilliance, I really pity them, and their sense of humor. Second the redone origins (Sadhu baba, if you didn't know) - utter, pure hatred seeps from my very soul at the talentless fucks who decided to write this comic. Not a single trace of originality is visible in sadhu/tantrik/mystic dude 'granting' spider-like powers to a boy. The art, then, in chronological order - isn't so bad. Its been lambasted as mere poster art(which it is), and spitting copies of Romita Jr and Alex Ross artwork (thats a bit iffy, but I can see that too). But if whatzizname Genius Chang something can draw good, coherent sequential art, (no proof yet on either camps), at least it won't be an utter failure. But, BUT the dhoti sucks ass. We hatess it. Nasssty dhoti. Not only does it make as much sense as foreigners wanting to see "Hungry India, Poor India", it also seems highly impractical for an superhero to wear a tight fitting jersey or something on top, and wear a loose flowing cloth for pants.
Some people are very, very opposed to the whole transcreation, Indian translation bit in principle. These are probably the same people, who say, "Yuck! Hindi Movies?!" at the barest mention of catching a flick in their own mother tongue. I would very much like a good Indian superhero comic. And if all your originality peaks at Nagraj, sure go ahead and create an Indian spidey. But make it well. Brian Michael Bendis was given the task of creating a spidey for the new generation of comic book readers, a today hero. Well, Ultimate Spider-Man happens to a triumph, in my books. Since genetic experiments make more headlines than vague radioactive ones, the origin was modified. A school kid as a photographer was a bit tacky, so they made him a web designer at the Bugle. These, and more such choices in all the super funky issues make the new transcreation a thoroughly enjoyable, as well as a very successful franchise. Makda Maanav is meretricious, and you know it.

Still on comics, but away from my object of cynicism - Gotham finally started The Ultimates. By the time they catch up with my reading, though, it will be another year. Along the fun ride that I know you'll have, there is a discussion about which actor would play which Ultimates member in a Hollywood adaptation. Funny, considering the entire series is an experiment in cinematic storytelling in comics. Ironic, really. The funniest part is when Fury contends that he'd like Samuel L Jackson(THE man) to play him. If you look with one eye closed and the other gazing lazily, even then you'd be able to make out that the artists have draw, colored, inked Nick Fury in the image of Sam Jackson. Maybe this is some post modern shit that I can't get (this ain't video games, honey.) Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that Val Kilmer would make a good Captain America, Michael Jai White should play Nick Fury, Johnny Depp should (please) play Tony Stark, Quentin Tarantino as Bruce Banner, and Viggo Mortenson as Thor. There you go, that is what I call a blockbuster. Oh, and Ashton Kutcher should play the dumb civilian who gets squished when the Hulk squats to take a dump. :D

I put in Michael Jai White as Nick Fury instead of Sam only because I prefer Gaiman's interpretation of a hard as nails, muscular Fury from 1602 over the attitude over action one in the Ultimates. Neil Gaiman course being one of my favorite comic book script writers, as well as, uh, authors. I've read a lot of books by him lately, and of them, American Gods is a book that has become so personal, I don't even know or care if you'll like it. I like it, and thats that. Coraline, Stardust, and Good Omens, however, I can recommend with ease and quite a bit of confidence. Books remind me - ! heads up. Bill Bryson's A short History of Nearly Everything is out in paperback. Its been out for some time now(a month, I think), but then its been more than that since my post, eh?

I have also finally converted all of my regular LAN party people to Battlefield 1942. *takes a bow*. The game is frantic, and huge scoops of fun, and all of you who don't play it really should. If you're in India, you can get good pings on Kawabonka, you really must try. The best part of course is Indian players NOT sayin things like, "ur a fagat. fagats dont go to heaven." when you kill them. Ragnarok Online has also started their India servers. Its no World of Warcraft, but its better than nothing. Its free these days, and later the monthly fee is 250 INR. People with sucky PCs have a chance too, now. Go here, and they'll actualy send you a free disk. And you should all start saving your money to upgrade your sorry machines. Doom III cometh.

posted by sam | 7/22/2004 12:25:00 PM



If postmodern games are to be created, and by extension applied as an art form, a deconstructionist form of video game journalism has to evolve. All I see is PR.

posted by sam | 6/10/2004 07:45:00 PM



My one line Yuva review

That guy who plays the student character called Vishnu looks a lot like my good friend Anshul, who makes movies as well. Freaky.

(ok thats two lines.and now three. and four. oh shit, five...)

Weird Facts about things that choose to surround my life:

-Times Of India thinks the GRE and GMAT are 'prestigious' examinations. I wonder if they'll give anand a Bharat Ratna, then?
-There's a confectionary shop near puneet23's house that says in big bold letters: FRIENDS Bakers and Freakers. I get the Bakers part, really I do. But I think its not a good advert of their products if they say they freak as well.
-Also near the same place is a Dry Cleaner's shop. The business establishment is called "Albino Dry Cleaners". They clean Human Beings as well? To a nice and shiny white? Remember that time when I told you people are stupid? I rest my case.
-India is obsessed with marriage. Yup, all of it. And maybe its just me, but go see Yuva. While Mani Ratnam was completely at home writing the movie, once he got to directing it, he seemed a bit uncomfortable during the parts where the character played by Esha Deol decides to move in with a guy called Mikey. He(Mani) wasn't too sure about what to do with it. He seemed to have written that part in because he thought that would make him understand the young, not the least because he thought it was ok. Now, don't go flamin me, I think it IS me. But the fact remains that India as a society, is fucking obsessed with marriage. It is measure of success(Hamaara bachaa settle ho gaya), it is one of the choicest of abuses(terey baap ke shaadi hai kya?), it is used to chide children(yeh kya ganda kamra hai? dahej phaila rakha hai?) and it is used as a form of jest(tere bache jiyen tera khoon piyen). This of course from a North Indian standpoint because thats who I am thats where I've spent a substantial part of my life. How can I say then, that the whole country is afflicted with this malady? I have friends and they told me. Don't go denying it or you WILL get married. Thats not going to be pretty.
-Oldies sitting in a chartered bus (in a minute) in Delhi will not be polite to you, in fact they'll be quite rude if they can help it, and make you feel very unwelcome UNLESS you have breasts. In which case they'll be helpful, kind, and protect your breasts with their magical force field of lecherous stares.. Gotta love em.
-Unlicensed Luxury buses charging 50% extra fare and plying from big residential locations to major office complexes in Delhi are called "Chartered" buses. They're called that despite nobody actually chartering them. Heh.
-rajasen is now Page 3 glitterati. HT city, 25th may. Nuff said. :)

Ze Fairy Tale
I don't particularly like prologues. Especially the ones that seem like they are trying to grab your attention, but really are an obscure passage meant to confuse you into reading more so that it makes sense. I'll see if the tale needs a prologue at all after the story is complete. Which means my prologue is scrapped, and into the bin. Oh, and I'm writing the book on paper and pencil. This is to fool myself into thinking it is a bigger deal than I make of it. :) I'm still leaving a blank space with the protagonist's name, can't think of one that could be suitably vulnerable yet strong. It will come to me though. It usually does.

Chetan Bhagat's Five Point Someone is a book that proves that a good writing style or rich prose is not necessary to tell an effective story. My bias towards Indian authors writing about Indian things not withstanding, I enjoyed the book for all its purported mediocrity. Not a book that can be recommended easily, but it does tell a story that can give you a few chuckles. Good for hyuks. Although I must warn you the narrative suffers from Iamcooltooitis. That is a fairly common malady that affects new writers writing semi autobiographical stories wherein the protaganist, however bound by self loathing and lack of confidence gets to do cool things that the author thinks should have happened to him, or at least his main character out of empathy for a fellow geek. Not that it is a bad thing, but that is one of the things that lends the book a certain naivete... which can be charming or stupid, depending on which side of the jaded book reader fence you are on. On the other hand, Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time, is so funny, and so utterly devoid of the unecessarily patronizing sweetness, trademark of children's fiction, that it WILL endear itself to you. Do give it a shot if its light reading you're into these days.
Finding the hardcover edition of Douglas Adams' Dirk Gently omnibus, in mint condition and for 150 INR can do things to your sanity. So please take whatever I say with a pinch of salt.

You owe it to your numbed brain to watch Lost in Translation. Twice. And do everyone else a favor and shoot yourself if you find Murray anything short of brilliant. I found Lost In Translation this sort of Anti Megatokyo movie. While I am sure Piro would have loved it, its this movie that doesn't seem to exist in the same universe as Megatokyo, much less the same Tokyo. Nevertheless, my resolve to visit that country is strengthened even more. But I digress. LiT has a certain mellow happiness to it, despite being sardonic and even sad at times. I am a screenplay geek, and LiT is in my book of most well written screenplays ever. Another thing, why is it that each time I watch Memento, I come to a different conclusion about Leonard's life?

posted by sam | 5/25/2004 01:11:00 AM

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