Thursday, July 31, 2008

I'm a professional writer!

And here is my first article! That article has occupied my time for the last few days so I'm glad to have it finished.

Now, two questions pop to mind, no doubt. First, how did you get this job? Second, how much does it pay?

Well, I'm going to answer the latter first because I'm in a saucy mood. It pays nothing because the site has only been up since February (suspiciously, the same length as English Muffin Power Hour). Well nothing unless you help me. There are two ways in which I can get paid $20. The first is if my article gets 20K hits. So if you own 100 computers, please visit my article on each one. The other way is if I make the front page of Digg. That would require you to make a Digg account and "Digg" my articles.

Second, I never actually interviewed for this job. I was offered the job because I made a series of smart posts on one of their articles. After one particularly well-researched comment, I got an e-mail from the web site owner with the job offer. Just goes to show you never know who is reading what you write.

The Movies

Let me start this post out with some good news. The Dark Knight is incredible. If you do not go see it before school starts, you are a bad person. Not seeing this movie will corrupt your moral fiber.

But, this post is not to lavish praise upon the Dark Knight with its compelling characters, stunning action sequences, and clever plot. Oh no, this is dedicated to two movies I had high hopes for but failed miserably. Movies that disappointed me so much that it defies any normal simile. I speak of Cloverfield and Beowulf.

These movies seem like they would be right up my alley. After all, Cloverfield is about a Class 5 Sea Monster terrorizing New York City. And Beowulf is defined by the monsters he fights. He really fights them all. He fights a Class 3 Ground Monster (Grendel), a Class 4 Sea Monster (Grendel's Mom), and a Class 5 Sky Monster (the dragon). All he needs is to fight a Cave Monster and he'll have a full house. And yes, I have developed a bureaucratic method of Monster Classification, with Class 1 being relatively docile and Class 5 being some sort of apocalypse monster. The details of the system are for another day.

Here's what Cloverfield did wrong. First they made an 80 minute monster movie and spent twenty minutes, a full quarter of the film, at some party before the monster comes out. And the success of Lost seems to have convince J.J. Abrams that explanations are for suckers. Because not once in the ensuing hour of monster mayhem is an explanation given about anything. In retrospect, it was probably a good idea, because when I did get an explanation from the internet, it sucked. I'll let Wikipedia explain it.

Abrams described the creature as a baby who has been underwater for thousands of years

A baby, that is thousands of years old. Yeah, that makes sense. A truly ancient baby. And it gets worse. According to the viral sites, the monster was awakened by a satellite crash by some sort of deep sea slushee company. That's right. They expect me to believe that, first of all, a company big enough to have oil tankers and satellites would produce slushees. Second, they expect me to believe that there are valuable ingredients for slushees in the deep sea.

But it gets worse. In the film, when they have the occasion to explain something, they don't do it. For instance, one uninteresting survivor that the cameraman likes for some reason gets bitten by the inexplicable dog monsters that live on the giant monster. You think "well that is unfortunate" until she gets to a medical center and all the doctors freak out when they see it. So they drag her into a translucent tend and she explodes in silhouette or something. What a let down. I know, in theory, what you don't see is more terrifying, but in this case, we desperately needed to know what to be afraid of. I'm sure being blown up is bad, but it hardly seems like getting an entire hospital worked up about. Worst case scenario is that it is really disgusting. Not quite a national security concern.

But it gets worse. Somehow the monster is unkillable. The viral community insists that it is because the monster lives in the deep sea and is immune to very low and very high temperatures. I want to know how that renders him invulnerable from point black annihilation! So what if he can stand some heat, what about all the deadly, deadly shrapnel? Or the concussions from impact? Worse yet, the cameraman gets eaten by the monster, drops the camera, and the main character goes up and gets the camera. Never mind that the monster is big enough to swallow the cameraman whole. Never mind that the camera should have broke when dropped from 30 feet in the air. Never mind that there is a city destroying monster in front of the camera. No, let's get it back because J.J. Abrams still wanted to waste more of my life.

Then finally, one last blow that ruined the movie. At the end of the movie, there's some indistinguishable blurb that, according to the internet, when listened to backwards is "It's Still Alive" said by the main character. Now this is a bit odd because of the much talked about Hammer Down procedure wherein the Air Force drops a lot of bombs on it and blah de blah de blah. Clearly, it didn't work. But isn't it obvious that a bombing run that failed to kill a guy under a bridge in Central Park would also fail to kill a much larger monster?

For the sake of brevity, I'm skipping over the "alternate" endings (which were exactly the same) and the inexplicable nature of the fireballs the monster throws at the start.

Beowulf should have been a slam dunk. It's a classic tale of Norse Mythology. But Robert Zemeckis decides that, as the director of Back to the Future, he knows way more about Norse mythology than the Norse did. Allow me to list just a few of his more noticeable mistakes.

1. How about instead of a mead hall, we made Heorot a castle. Everyone knows the vikings had castles... NOT!
2. How about we make Grendel have really sensitive hearing so his senseless murders were justified?
3. How about when Grendel attacks, we make the fire burn blue and flicker, making the whole hall look like some sort of 6th century rave?
4. How about we incorporate the rise of Christianity into the movie for some reason even though that region would not convert for another 500 years?
5. How about we make Beowulf fight Grendel naked?
6. How about we replace everything the book says about Grendel and his mother with Angelina Jolie?
7. How about we don't even bother animating a different look for the character of Grendel's mother? It can literally just be a CGI Angelina Jolie that floats and stuff.
8. How about we imply that Angelina Jolie has sex with the rulers of Heorot to create monsters?
9. How about we forget all about Beowulf's Kingdom and never mention it again?
10. How about we change Wigluf from Beowulf's last loyal thane, a young prince from Sweden, to his oldest comrade-in-arms?
11. How about we change Beowulf from the consummate Norse Hero to some sort of whiny manwhore?
12. How about we make killing a dragon with your bare hands not cool?

Those twelve concepts the Zemeckis had for Beowulf are why I hated that movie so much.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Trip to Atlanta- Pictures Later

This weekend I helped my sister move her worldly belongings from her apartment to that supply depot at the end of Raiders of the Lost Ark. I did not know my sister had that much stuff as we filled up all of her section, and snuck some DVDs into the Egyptian Artifacts of Unimaginable Power section. I am confident that nothing horrible will happen to the DVDs, like say Ra the Sun God melting them all.

After working up a sweat lifting crates and probably invoking the wrath of a 5,000 year old mummy or something, we visited our grandparents. It was good to see them again. I've seen them less and less frequently over the years as I have had more things to do and they've been able to do less and less. Even at ages 84 and 85, they're still kicking. Perhaps not as strong as they used to, but humans weren't designed for over 80 years of wear and tear.

The next morning we took the relatively short trip from Knoxville to Atlanta. I have always loved the Atlanta Braves, to the point of jingoistic loyalty and blind regional hatred to their rivals. It sounds bad, but really, has Philadelphia produced anything worthwhile since Will Smith? No, because they are trying to keep the Braves out of the postseason. Maybe if the Phillies disbanded, there would be another movie star from that town. it's worth a shot.

But I digress.

Once we get to the stadium, I am rife with excitement of cheering with 30,000 other like minded individuals as the superior Braves will no doubt annihilate the Nationals. Except they didn't.

I could go on with agonizing details of the Braves ignoble play, but I'm trying desperately to block it out of my mind. Instead I'll let Chipper Jones summarize it:
Those Little Leaguers from Columbus who won the World Series could have beat us

But even threw the Little League play, I remained persistent. All the Braves needed was a touchdown and a field goal and they'd be back in the lead. Then the seventh inning stretch came. Finally, something I could rely on to be good in a game filled with incompetence.

"Ladies and gentleman" said the announcer "please rise to honor America..."

With the singing of Take Me Out to the Ballgame, I thought. I've gone into a great deal of detail about how patriotic and freedom loving that song is.

"In singing..." yes, go on.


At that point I had had it. You can play like little leaguers on the hottest day of the year when it's 85 in the shaded part of the stands and I'll have a nice time. But if you do that AND remove Take Me Out to the Ballgame, then you have crossed the line.

I could take it no more. My family and I left right then and there. Pictures of the event will come later.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Crap, is it tomorrow already?

Well I meant to write this today. Shame how the time flies when Rush is on Colbert. Anyways, some of my more astute readers will recall my dwindling fondness for the Facebook application Nations. Well, as you know and indeed this very blog is validation of, I cannot resist an opportunity to put my two cents in. Now, you know I have an uncanny ability to be right, even when I'm clueless (point in case: I successfully argued all matter was made of triangles, unaware that Plato himself agrees with me). Below is a transcript of my message to Nations developer and his response (the funny ends here, but it will be back).

I know you get a million messages about Nations a day, but I hope I might hold some sway since you've had my review on top of the list for about two months.

I have a simple suggestion that could drastically improve the realism of Nations.

Randomize the issues.

Before you write me off as a crazy guy, hear me out.

The problem I've been having with Nations lately is I figured out which of my friends started their nations a day before I did. Now I know exactly what issue I'll have tomorrow. It ruins the gameplay on two levels. First, it gives me an advantage because it removes the surprise value of the issue. Second, it ruins the realism of the game because regardless of how I deal with terrorists, I know that tomorrow I'll have to deal with malfunctioning traffic lights.

I understand why it is necessary to give the bigger, more complex nations bigger, more complex problems. But there is a simple way to solve this.

Before I continue, I must confess I have virtually no knowledge of programming games for facebook. I understand some concepts but not how they should be executed. So I apologize for being vague.

You wouldn't completely randomize all the issues a nation gets. Instead you would create large blocks of issues (for example, a group of seven), have the program randomly order them for each nation, and then give the issues to the nation in that order.

The more issues you can get in a block, the better. It's not the same as creating a comprehensive system of issues that respond to your choices, but that'd be too much to ask of a free game. It would, however, address the issue of predictability and increase the realism of the game.

Thank you for your time.

~Hunter Barry


Thanks for the thoughts. You will be happy to know that we plan on randomizing the issues with the new user interface... once it has all the bugs out.


+ Z. S. Morgan

Translation: You are much more awesome than I could ever hope to be. I bow before Hunterian Superiority.

It never hurts to ask.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Baseball Tragedy

This evening I, like every red-blooded American, watched the All-Star game. If you didn't watch it because you were doing something more patriotic such as beating up the King of England/Kaiser of Germany or creating an engine which runs on apple pie and dreams, I'll fill you in.

It's a tragedy. I don't mean the play (although as of this post, Dan Uggla of the Marlins is trying his best to lose it for the NL). I mean the 7th inning stretch.

It is an American tradition that after the top of every 7th inning, the crowd sings "take me out to the ballgame" because you will look completely insane if you ever try to sing that song elsewhere. It's been that way for 100 years.

But tonight, they decided to sing "God Bless America", a trend that grows increasingly popular since 9/11. Now I am as patriotic as the next guy, probably even more so (who else can claim to have fought the Nazis, terrorists, and the space monsters which threaten the democracy of the future). But you have to draw the line. America gets it respect at the start of every game, when everyone in the ballpark removes their cap and pays their respect. If they don't, the crowd will sense a traitor in their midst, and rip him or her limb from limb is a bloody spectacle.

Or at least, that's how I imagine it. No one has been bold enough to defy the National Anthem at a Major League Park.

The problem is that "God Bless America" is not quite thematic. Sure it's a catchy song, but what's it got to do with baseball? We're entering the final two and a half innings of play, in a battle that will settle which geographic region of the country is better at recruiting a baseball team for all time (or the next game)? Nothing! But "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" is a dream come true. Why? Because you are at the ballgame. Why else would you be singing this song? All you need are some peanuts, which are conveniently located at the concession stand for the bargain price of $5.

A rip-off? Not according to capitalism!

And if the home team wins (because, no doubt, you root-root-rooted for them) there is a legitimate chance there will be fireworks.

Capitalism and explosions. All thanks to one glorious song. Nothing could be more American. Not even America.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Belated Fourth of July Story

I recognize that I am horribly late with this story. However, it is a good story nonetheless.

My good friend Bean has a nice habit of hoarding fireworks on sale on the fifth of July. I'm all for this method of celebration. It promotes the two greatest things about America- capitalism and explosives.

Anyways, on the fifth of July, we're setting off fireworks, which I surprisingly suck at. You'd think with my proud history of blowing things up (usually in video games), I'd be a natural. But no. While everyone of the Beans was able to set off their miniature bombs with what could on be described a smoldering twigs, I had to use a candle lighter. I wouldn't feel bad about it if the others had been struggling. But this felt like using a military-grade flamethrower to start your campfire while all the other Cub Scouts were rubbing sticks together and getting roughly the same effect.

I'll skip over the nuances of the night and get to the main event. The Beans had acquired a series of grenade-like fireworks which could only be fired out of some sort of mortar and had a fuse so long that they were able to wrap it around the firebomb around a dozen times. The first one went off without a hitch. It was a magnificent explosion and proved my fireworking superiority in all fields (except lighting, arguably the least important part of fireworks).

After a few more fireworks, I decided to go with another grenade. After I loaded it into the mortar and lit the fuse, I trotted back a few steps to better appreciate the firebomb in the sky the grenade was destined to become. Unfortunately, this one went off with a hitch.

The first sign that something was subtle. When the standard firework is launched, you see a small ball of light rocket quickly into the heavens. However, this time, an unholy green flame arose from the mortar and lingered.

Now, I am a man of logic. There were several cases where it would be feasible, even advantageous, to have unholy green flames arise from your mortar. For instance, suppose you made a bet that Lucifer, Prince of Darkness, would come to your fireworks show. Well this blaze might just be your ticket to getting $20 from your friends. But I digress.

I decided to hasten my trot away from the firework/potential portal to Hell. At which point, the mortar exploded. In a glorious technicolor blaze, the mortar was no more as sparks and plastic shrapnel were scattered across the field. Of course, I had gotten a safe distance away by that point.

And by a safe distance, I mean only some of the ex-mortar and sparks flew past me.

Suffice to say, I had proven my superiority in fireworks. No one's fireworks were good enough to destroy a mortar and no one else was bold enough to survive point blank annihilation.

To this date, nobody knows what caused the mortar to explode. Some argue it was Hunterian superiority in explosions. Others state I put the firework in upside-down by accident. I let my readers decide.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Gift Card Conundrum

On Wednesday, my good friend Pimpmaster Doug threw a party for me. Sure it was a week late, but nobody, and I mean nobody, is in town during the week of fourth of July. I failed to realize this truth in my younger years and was disappointed by the turnout in many a birthday (specifically, my 10th when only two people came and one forgot a present).

It was a good time as approximately a dozen people crowded into the bus at Mellow Mushroom. Sure there were easily four conversations going on at once and it was impossible to get a refill, but it's the reaffirmation of the fact that I am beloved by the masses that counts. Arguably, this blog is all about he reaffirmation of the fact that I am beloved by the masses. But I digress.

Anyways, once you graduate high school, the standardized gift giving unit becomes gift cards. We all know that if you try to make an educated guess without a list of demands from a person, you will, at best, get the wrong, incompatible version of the product (e.g. Caddy Shack in Blu-Ray instead of DVD). At worst, you will get a similar, yet cruel bastardization of the product (e.g. Caddy Shack 2). So the safest route is to get the person a gift card and express in clear terms exactly how much you appreciate them and trust them to find something they like, when they like.

Gift cards are always good, but especially when holidays and birthdays roll around. If you are lucky, you will be able to compile a very nice collection of cards and be able to go to a store and buy everything you could want guilt-free. However, my friends did not collaborate that much.

WARNING: I really do appreciate the thought and effort that went into acquiring a gift card and I thank everyone who did give me a gift card very much. I do not begrudge you for failing to collaborate, I blame the spirit of rugged individualism this country inspires.

I now possess a $10 Hastings gift card, a $20 Target Gift Card, a $20 Xbox Marketplace gift card a $25 GameStop gift card, and a $60 Best Buy card (that one was a collaborative effort).

It is an impressive collection, but what I need now is some sort of universal gift card shop.

"You're thinking of money, Hunter" some of my sharper readers will say.

To which I respond, money is a HORRIBLE GIFT. Unless it is a check from your grandparents or distant relatives, but family is immune to these rules. It doesn't show any thought or premeditation to the gift. Plus, there is no guarantee that it will be used in a fun manner. Last year, a friend of mine tried to get me the Xbox Marketplace card so I could get the game Shivering Isles but couldn't figure out where to get it. He figured that $20 would be just as good. Little did he know that within the week, I had used that money for fuel, not fun. Gift cards ensure that the person needs to buy themselves a gift with that money.

On the bright side, I will clearly be able to credit who exactly I got my paid-by-with-gift-card stuff from.

P.S. Those of you who forgot to give me a gift card can redeem yourself by coming up with a gift card exchange shop. I'd go there.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008


Okay, I've been busy lately but now I am thoroughly exhausted from two hours of ultimate frisbee.

The big news is I will turn 21 tomorrow, meaning I will be one of the few to not drink underage (unless my mom spiked the orange juice, which she may have).

The smaller news is my friend Bean and I finally got around to the Never Ending Setlist in Rock Band. This may seem minor or trivial, but bear in mind that I failed 6th grade Band. Any minor positive reinforcement regarding my musical talent is a rarity among rarities for me. I was playing lead guitar and Bean was playing bass. The best part about playing guitar is you can always comically mispronounce the names of your role so that you are playing a guitar which is made of lead (probably too heavy and I bet it wouldn't sound good) or that you are strumming a some type of fish.

Another good thing about rock band is it lets you live out the fantasy of being a rock star in virtual form. I kept my rocker as close to myself as I felt I could. So he ended up with long flowing hair, a bandanna, and sunglasses. I also got him a double-neck guitar so I could pretend I was Jimmy Page... if Jimmy Page wore a bandanna. Sometimes, the immersion of the game was ruined by the clicking noise the guitar controller makes whenever you strum it or the annoying squeaking noise it makes whenever I miss a note. But if I close my eyes and use my imagination, it'd feel like I was up on stage with Mick Jagger, beating a mouse while tap dancing.

Bean and I formed a band right after Christmas, when I got Rock Band. We were the "Glorious Mausenheim Orchestra". We even have a band logo (a fireball with "GMO" written in Gothic letters) and motto (OMG! It's GMO!). It's pretty cool, for something abstract and intangible. You even get to pick where your band first meets (London). We began as a band which does crappy covers of songs by The Clash and Nirvana. But as our fan base grew, we began doing crappy covers of the Rolling Stones, Boston, and Black Sabbath. We became international superstars. After months of touring, GMO traveled the globe until we were invited to the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame (they really lowered their standards). The only odd thing about this invitation was the concert we had to play to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, the Never Ending Setlist, was that it was in Moscow. Because when the public thinks of rock n' roll, they think Moscow?

It was probably a trap set by bitter communists to assassinate me. But what the hey? It's worth the risk of dying to be immortalized.

But I digress, I was fully prepared for three hours of rocking. There were just under 60 songs and I thought that five minutes a song would be a fair assumption. Unfortunately, one of the criteria for getting a song in Rock Band is it must be freakishly long. The ordeal ended approximately seven hours later. I admit, 2 and a half hours were spent recovering from the first three hours of rocking. As the final notes of "Won't Get Fooled Again" appeared on screen, I new I had entered the echelons of those few great rock n' rollers who themselves had a friend and seven hours to kill.

Plus I got to see an awesome pretend pyrotechnics display.

I haven't let the success go to my head. My character still wears the same bandanna and sunglasses. Only now he plays his guitar in a suit of armor, made of gold. And I replaced with double-neck guitar with a more modest single neck guitar, also made of gold.