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The Heavy Metal Matador
28 August 2015 @ 08:43 pm
This year is primarily marked with work (which I'd prefer to leave summarized as A Lot But Satisfying and Relatively Non-Apeshit Compared to Past Deployments), fitness (highlights - getting a 4-pack for the first time in my life, biking around town a lot, getting back into powerlifting and finally squatting my own weight again without hurting myself), and stuff I made. It's been a pretty good one so far. So here's the stuff.

I broke my 2-year art hiatus with an '80s Miami gangster interpretation of Dynasty Warriors. Cao Cao - the boss. Xiahou Dun - the right hand man. Xiahou Yuan - the straight shooter. Cao Ren - the conflicted idealist. Or, what happens when I mainline New Wave for the 3 months it took to draw this. It was totally worth the effort, as I leveled up a buttload in the process. I'm happiest with my improved nuance in anatomy and clothing, and my new way of drawing hair.

Our BrotherhoodCollapse )

Here's my con report from the 6th year of Intervention, a relaxed and down to earth convention for independent content creators, which also happens to be the brainchild of one of my best friends ever. This year I learned more about voice acting - and even got to act alongside Terry Molloy, a.k.a. Dr. Who's Davros. We also had breakfast together. Yeah, pretty awesomesauce.

My coworker Brian loves terribad movies. He insisted I watch R.O.T.O.R., a cheesetastic Robocop ripoff. It was so surprisingly hilarious, I had to write a review.
 
 
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: A Flock of Seagulls - I Ran
 
 
The Heavy Metal Matador
26 July 2015 @ 06:56 pm
Half a year between entries once again. Shock and awe for anyone who knows me.

Cliff's Notes of life in G-funk Land (and website updates) -

Dynasty Warriors 5 is still my favorite in the series. I wrote this retrospective love letter to celebrate its 10-year anniversary.

Here's another fond look back on Milon's Secret Castle, a childhood favorite game that the internets love to hate. I may suck at most modern games because minimal depth perception and sense of direction and fast twitch aiming skills, but I beat this supposed impossibility when I was ten. It took me four months, but yay?

I went to see Mad Max: Fury Road because my friends were going, and it looked like reasonable fun. I ended up head over heels in love with its insane craft and adrenalin. Fury Road knows exactly what a straightforward action flick should be and blows it out of the water with surprising nuance and restraint - and also happens to be feminist. Review here.

I'm making arts again, woo hoo. I seem to have improved via osmosis of following pro illustrators while my visual brain was in torpor. I'm working on a 4-character piece and taking my time finishing it to the best of my ability, but it is entering the Zeno's Paradox of its final phase.

We entered the current console generation with a PS4. What finally kicked me over the edge? Fallout 4. Of course I had to get the Pip-Boy edition because I can use more crap in my house when it pertains to one of the very few game series that continues to build on its excellence. I must write my comprehensive review of Fallout: New Vegas - which is probably the best game I ever played, bugs notwithstanding - as I get hyped for the November release. I also foresee myself coming down with a convenient multi-day cold at that time - or just scheduling time off because work is awesome like that.

Speaking of work, the tl;dr version is that this year has focused on a career-defining system switchover and deployment, and I have built - and continue to build - some seriously beautiful, modular, and flexible shit in ColdFusion. I'm not terribly fond of the language - just let me at the underlying Java without all the quirks and "helpful" conveniences that don't do what I want half the time. But Coldbox is a wonderful framework, and I love that I had time to learn and apply it. I PUT ON MY ROBE AND WIZARD HAT
 
 
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Current Music: Rival Consoles - 1985
 
 
The Heavy Metal Matador
08 February 2015 @ 07:27 pm
In my haste to prove my continued existence to friends who primarily communicate via DW and LJ, I forgot to feature one of my more ambitious projects of this past year - narrative video.

Specifically, retrospectives of my two favorite Dynasty Warriors characters - their history and lore, portrayals throughout the series, and my thoughts on how the best aspects thereof should be built on in the future. Each video is ~13 minutes long, which I considered a reasonable compromise between detail and length.

Cao Ren

Lu Meng

These. Took. Forever. The editing process takes some time to learn and maintains unavoidable bottlenecks, and of course there's the scripting challenge of distilling my points into an efficient combination of game footage and narration. I did the stills in Photoshop and the editing in Screenflow, an excellent middle ground between the very limited iMovie - which frustrated me by making a terrible mess of said stills - and the expensive and complex likes of Final Cut Pro. Screenflow also does low overhead full-screen capture with separate A/V (as in a mic or webcam), which will come in handy for any games I play on an emulator. I must get back to that Goonies II Let's Play.

I have a third video planned for Xiahou Yuan, but I've been dragging my feet on buying Dynasty Warriors 6: Special for high-resolution captures of his cut scenes. Ah, the sacrifices I make for shiny happy video quality.
 
 
Current Mood: accomplishedaccomplished
Current Music: Dynasty Warriors 4 - Look Back On Your Way
 
 
The Heavy Metal Matador
31 January 2015 @ 08:46 pm
The last time I posted a journal entry, I was in the middle of recounting my November 2013 trip to China. Then came the polar vortex and a longstanding torpor through which I ground onward and eventually got reinspired.

I made a good amount of novel progress, partly fueled by some excellent critique from quufer. I got addicted to Instagram, bookmarked an absurd quantity of Nanjing photos, and picked up some mutual followers from around the world. I rebooted my personal website as a one-stop shop for the best of my artwork and article-suited ramblings. I reviewed a few local haunted attractions and conventions and brain dumped some advice on writing.

And I finally finished the writeup of China, which you can read here. Please do. It really was a great trip.
 
 
Current Mood: relaxedrelaxed
Current Music: Hozier - Take Me to Church
 
 
 
 
The Heavy Metal Matador
10 December 2013 @ 07:57 pm
As I wrote about this summer, I revived my dinky little YouTube channel five years after the brief spate of Warriors Orochi videos that I created it for in the first place. With some commentary practice under my belt and an operational Super Nintendo, I decided to do a Halloween special for a game I loved enough to map in its 140+ room entirety.

Play time: 1 hour 10 minutes, one continuous take. Upload time over my tin can relay bandwidth: 7+ hours. And totally worth it for the overall effect of One True Video, especially because no one is using said bandwidth during the day.

The Addams Family (SNES) - full walkthrough with commentary

I am working on a similar nostalgia playthrough for The Goonies II, the first game I wrote a full FAQ for. "Work" involves emulator setup (done, courtesy of a button mapper for my PS3 controller hooked up via Bluetooth), gameplay practice (getting there), and commentary brainstorming (cross-productive for general writing creativity and seriously, y'all, I have been grinding forth on That Dangblasted Novel). I want to sound casual and off the cuff, but it helps to stock my mental library with information to relay and subjects to prattle on about while leaving room for reactive silliness. Such as getting on my own case for failing at the '80s by playing the game before I saw the movie. I probably also get doubleplusungood points for reading the MAD parody - The Goofies - before I saw the movie. Or maybe not. MAD owns.

It's been much harder to refamiliarize myself into some semblance of elegant gameplay, but I've made some nice progress - and have also improved on my original route through the game. Just slightly, but it should look good on video, inevitable failfest notwithstanding.
 
 
Current Mood: cheerfulcheerful
Current Music: Cyndi Lauper - The Goonies 'r' Good Enough
 
 
 
The Heavy Metal Matador
28 November 2013 @ 12:17 am
14-hour budget flights are miserable. A googolplex more so with a sinus infection. Never again am I repeating this exercise without enough packed food and iDistraction battery power to last me through a nuclear apocalypse. I stumbled off the return flight like pasty death. Three days later, I'm almost recovered.

The rest was worth the ordeal. Especially as a springboard to Nanjing and its 2000-year-old urban landscape with the pervasive greenery and down to earth splendor that had drawn me there in the first place. And its connection to the Three Kingdoms era - it was the capital of Eastern Wu.

The King and I - Sun Quan MemorialCollapse )

We had a fun group of thirty, a Friends 'n Family subgroup of ten, upscale hotel accommodations, and an excellent guide. Eric kept us informed, entertained, hydrated, on schedule, and as happy as possible within the constraints of the tour - including the obligatory shopping showrooms relegating disinterested folk to a long game of Salesperson Avoidance Shuffle. They do keep the trip cost down, and enough people found them productive. Even so, fndragon wondered when we would get the time share pitch.

Hotel breakfasts were excellent, as were our personalized meals in Nanjing - local specialties recommended for our tastes. Most everywhere else was a limited buffet able to efficiently handle large groups with nebulous time of arrival - and a crapshoot depending on the variety of non-meat available. I had tasty vegetables and bean curd dishes, some specially requested by Eric. I also had a Build Your Own Stir Fry inedibly strewn with meat nuggets by a grill from the innermost circle of cross-contamination hell. At least that place had good cookies.

I got many great pictures, a few small purchases, and a better understanding of China's industrialization and urban culture, including honest talk about its current challenges. I went through the Three Gorges Dam locks during a cruise ship beer bash. I learned to play mahjong with helpful onlookers backseating. I saw an acrobatics show with muscle men and motorbikes, a chamber performance of opera music, and a sex museum. I have a lot to write up and a fragmented dump of trip notes to sort out in the process. Until next time, yo.
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Current Mood: sleepysleepy
Current Music: 24Herbs - Bring It On
 
 
The Heavy Metal Matador
15 July 2013 @ 09:37 pm
I like my job. I like the people I work with. I like walking there, although it's officially too hot to do so in dress pants. This is why we have bathrooms and changes of clothing. My duties largely focus on cobbling together data from various sources into a useful form for department staff. This involves some interesting problems of database optimization and wrangling SQL Server to handle logic that I'm used to dealing with in separate code.

I also worked up the nerve to scratch a longstanding hobby itch. A while back, I got into watching commentated video gameplay. It was fun hearing people's reactions, fun seeing how differently they approached open-ended games that I'd already gone through myself, fun reexperiencing said games vicariously in the background as I poked at art or writing. It also seemed fun to do, but I had performance anxiety and no concept of personal style.

Commentary can't be all things to everyone, so you pick a niche and stick with it - minimalism, constant reactive blather, conversation with the game as backdrop, scripted and smoothly presented MST3K-style. I decided on separate game and microphone capture, with a combination of planned points to prattle about and spontaneous reactions to curate afterward. There's some desirable roughness and an overall casual feel, but I can leave out the more pointless brain farts and redo anything that totally fell flat on its face.

Speaking of niches, there isn't much casual YouTube gameplay of Dynasty Warriors 5, and I couldn't find any featuring my favorite characters. So my crash test subjects were as follows:

DW5:XL Destiny Mode - Featuring Roll and her big brother Mega Man Cao Ren. Includes tips and advice on how to be awesome at Destiny Mode in general.

Cao Ren's story - In which I make stupid references to metal underpants, dramatically recount the siege of Fancheng, and break into a rendition of Stout Hearted Men. This was a trip down nostalgia lane and a collection of the character defining material that made the Rockman an instant favorite with his unique emphasis on humbly waging war with the least harm possible. (Still uploading this. The playlist should be complete tomorrow.)

I surprised myself. Pleasantly. The good stuff to meh ratio was great for a first try, with a nice variety of informative chat and emergent lulz. I kept the vast majority of my rough material as is. I tend to go between Jaunty Teacher and Daria depending on how expository or snide I'm feeling, but it works. I think. I also sorted out my editing process, which is generally enjoyable and efficient. It's nice to relax, not expect perfection, and be happy with your voice instead of flinching at every perceived mistake. I did have some false starts to do over, but such is part of the learning process.

There's plenty of other amusement in DW5 - like Xiahou Yuan's story, which has some funny cut scenes and could also use the comprehensive treatment - but I may not get to that for a while. These comfortably familiar projects were a warm-up to The Big One.

DYNASTY. WARRIORS. 8.

It drops tomorrow. I have it pre-ordered. I'm planning to record and publish my first reactions to each kingdom's story, with all the enormous stages and nifty new characters and interactions that hopefully develop relations I'm dying to see fleshed out. This will also have the upside of preventing me from rushing through the game, as I can only handle so much improv in a day. And uploading, what with our whopping 1 megabit/second bandwidth and the need to share with fndragon and his Minecraft enthusiasm. I'll post the playlists here as they're complete, but you can always camp out on my channel for updates.
 
 
Current Mood: amusedamused
Current Music: Nelson Eddy - Stout Hearted Men
 
 
The Heavy Metal Matador
08 May 2013 @ 10:53 pm
I got the job. Not just a job. The job. The high end programming position I applied to at Penn State, whose listing sought a driven and creative problem solver. The one with an interview I prepared for by mainlining '80s tunes in the Kern Building lobby beforehand, and in which I shed my suit jacket and flexed for a room full of staffers in response to an inquiry about my hobbies. It's a position within a department seeking to grow and develop its information technology division. It's my closest approximation to tenure. Said department has lots of other women, who I had a blast interviewing with. You bet your ass I'm stoked.

I can still walk to work. My office space seems quiet and private. I get a deep tuition discount and a boatload of vacation - that trip to China is A-OK with the management and won't put me in time off debt for the next century or so. I do have to dress business casual - a culture shock to someone raised in the jeans and snarky T-shirt world of web development and research engineering - but I have plenty of comfortable options, and I can use a wardrobe refresh anyhow. It's a good reason to kick me back into the Cleaning Out Clothes for Goodwill Project I started a couple of weeks ago.

I've been a lazy vacation bum. I had a full week where my best defense against doldrums was room escape and tile swap puzzle games. I also had breakfast with penm_rx3, who has a creative writing minor and a planned cross-country move. Which gave me a nice novel-related goal of finishing my first act to send them for some hardcore critique. I do appreciate the honest feedback from my friends who share my tastes and understand what I'm going for, but I need that detailed impression of themes and threads and pacing and prose. I understand that such requires money for the hours of work and experience involved. So if I can help my friends build their bank account and shore up Act 1 as a solid prototype for the rest of my structure, style, and tone - ayyyyyyup. It's moving in steady steps, with previously yet undetermined character chemistry falling neatly into place. I had reached my limits for how much I could plan ahead, so focusing on early content is just what I need right now.

Dynasty Warriors costume DLC is at its best when it involves absurd and/or modern themes. The Wei jobs exemplify this. Zhang He is a literal assclown, and Cai Wenji and Jia Xu are also in the circus because they are a popular fandom ship because matchy matchy let's pair up the new characters together I understand why people like it but I don't feel it at all. There's a lot of assorted military business, Xiahou Yuan is a crime scene investigator (who would totally be eating on the job to prove he isn't disgusted by anything) and Cao Ren is one of those technical rescue team guys. I have a perfect reference photo for him going after someone's cat stuck on a roof, but I've been more about words words words and there goes that damn artistic performance anxiety again. Although for once I've drawn something I don't facepalm at the flaws in two months later. Go figure. I'll get over it. And I do have plenty of in person reference for felines.
 
 
Current Mood: relaxedrelaxed
Current Music: 24Herbs - Wonderland