This is what’s it’s good for:
May 30, 2013
May 13, 2013
The Civilization 5: Brave New World expansion puts new focus on tourism and culture, including a new Cultural victory that lets you besiege other civs with just how cool you are with all the works of your new artists and composers. A new trailer goes into a bit more detail, including how the masterpieces will bring in the tourists.
An interesting aspect of the video talking about the discovery of archaeology mid-game. Players can discover artifacts from events earlier in the game, giving your civilization more culture and increasing tourism.
Ha. I got addicted to Civ II many moons ago, although I kind of sucked at it; I was kind of more interested in fiddling with the different cultural trajectories and also “discovering” things in the order in which they first made an appearance in archaeological reality than in developing my civilization and winning (I did it once or twice, I think). “Wait, you have to develop ceramics before iron!” And I almost always used the ‘real’ world instead of a random one. Still, I always thought it was a fascinating game and would probably make a good introduction to the history of civilization for youngsters. I wonder if any teachers have ever used it as an instructional tool? You know, play the game, make a report on what you did, and then compare the game world with what’s known historically. IIRC, there’s some written material within the game that you can learn more about what it is you’ve just “discovered”, like an explanation of what pottery did in terms of food storage and cooking and such.
I like it though. I recall that was the first time I really understood viscerally why Vikings may have reached the New Word but never retained a foothold there when my (Roman, I think) explorers landed there and were immediately wiped out by some Aztecs or something. “Hey, a small group of settlers could easily be wiped out by an already-present group of people with an entire culture to back them up”.
May 1, 2013
Well, Prometheus. Finally got around to seeing (most of) it, as we recently got HBO. I say “most of” it because I missed the very beginning twice and by the middle of it I was so stupefied and bored that I just went to bed. Here is Forbes’ review, which I have to say I mostly agree with:
Where Scott & Co. have innovated on these stolen ideas is by making their characters — who are all bizarrely unfazed by the philosophical weight of their mission and discoveries — do ridiculously dumb things. When they see black alien ooze, they touch it. When they find a giant severed alien head, they bring it on the ship and perform inexplicable experiments on it in an open environment with no protective clothing. When the answers Charlie seeks are not immediately offered by the alien temple — which would be an earth-shattering discovery in its own right — he foregoes further inquiry and gets drunk. When members of the science team are lost in a gigantic, danger-filled alien structure, the mission leaders all go have sex. When a giant wheel-shaped object is rolling toward a couple of characters, they don’t run right or left, but stay directly in its path, like the security guard and the steamroller in Austin Powers.
Mostly everything that happened you saw coming from a mile — no, two — away and, like that say, they just did everything not even remotely like what, you know, actual people would ever do.
But that’s not my main beef! This is:
Screenwriters and directors are not scientists, and will likely fall back on the kinds of formulaic, non-scientific ideas that would occur to people who work in the entertainment industry.
One thing (among many) I’ve harped on here over the years is the sort of cardboard-cutout characters that Hollyweird likes to make Scientists out to be. You know the type: Incredibly brilliant, socially inept, usually working alone, shunned by colleagues who “just don’t understand because they’re stuck in their own scientific dogma”, but who is miraculously proven right in the end. This can work out well, like in Stargate, but here the “scientists” are just so. . . .lame. . . .that you kind of want to run to your office, tear down your framed PhD certificate, burn the paper, and shatter the glass to gouge out your own eyes because you’re too embarrassed to even be associated even indirectly with these people.
And they had to be archaeologists!!!
1) When you find a giant temple complex on another planet, what’s the first thing you do? Map it and photograph it in excruciating detail? Why no, you charge into the main temple and start poking around. I mean, duh.
2) What happens when you find a mummified head? Scan the crap out of it, take samples, DNA, blah blah blah, all in a safe containment vessel (not to mention collecting it in a sterile haz-mat container instead of stuffing it into a plastic bag)? Why no, you stick stuff in it and crank it up until it explodes.
Admittedly, they did have these whack floating orbs that cruised around the whole interior of the temple mapping everything in a sort of LIDAR-ish fashion. I’d give my right arm for something like that. But, you know, they only busted those out after they’d charged into the temple near dark. Without any sort of plan.
So I dunno. I guess I’d like to see the beginning. Otherwise, I think I’ll go watch Blade Runner again. . . .
April 15, 2013
Listening to Frampton’s “Do you feel like we do” through my ’70s-vintage Koss headphones.
Still one of my favorite guitar solos, even though many don’t like the talk box aspect of it. I actually didn’t care much for Frampton Comes Alive way back when, but now I rather adore it.
April 7, 2013
It’s. . . .The ’80s!.
Can’t wait. Well, depends on what they do with it. If they harp on it being “The Decade of Greed” I’ll think it kind of a waste (to coin a phrase, in terms of greed, the ’90s made the ’80s look like the ’60s). Trouble is, most of these shows tell it almost completely from a New York/Los Angeles perspective. I remember one thing about “The ’70s” and fully half of it had to do with. . . .Studio 54. Yeah, because the majority of Americans in the 1970s were hanging out at Studio 54 doing lines of coke off of Mick Jagger’s naked ass. And in the ’80s everyone was driving a BMW.
So I dunno, we’ll see. I’m mostly an early-’80s guy because that’s when I was an undergrad and that is usually the time we remember best. Late teens and early 20s we kind of think of with the most nostalgia, I think. By the late ’80s I was submerged in grad school so I didn’t experience much of it.
March 25, 2013
Tomorrow I’m in the field all day — on an island in the sun and relative warm for a change! — and back late, and tonight I’m sitting my sorry ass in front of the TV to watch some eps of Game of Thrones. Free this week! I’ve only seen like three episodes, all while doing field work in eastern Washington. Funny, at first I thought it was some sort of historical drama, until the third one when they were talking about dragons. Being HBO, it’s got lots of good foul language and full frontal nudity. By Lena Headey. I especially like the little foul-mouthed dwarf.
And did I mention Lena Headey gets naked?
March 18, 2013
In Crystal Dynamics’ new reboot of Tomb Raider, Lara Croft is no longer the femme fatale we’ve grown accustomed to over the years. The new Lara is a bright-eyed archaeologist, learning the ropes of what it takes to be a Croft.
Tomb Raider starts out with trouble right off the bat with an intense shipwreck scene but no back story whatsoever. The next thing you know, Lara is hanging upside down in a cave full of skulls and eerily lit candles. After managing to get herself off the rope, she lands on a sharp metallic object through the side of her torso, which is the first of many brutal happenings that demonstrates Lara’s superhuman ability to withstand pain throughout her adventures.
I’d be lying if I were to say that I wouldn’t be scared out of my wits in fetal position, in such a situation. Luckily for us, we’re playing as Lara Croft, the adventuring archeologist. Now that she was back on her feet, it was time to find a way out.
Probably not going to engage in this one. I had the first series on the PS-1 and thoroughly enjoyed the first one, but the followons, not so much. The very first one was more specifically archaeology-focused (more or less) and most of the levels involved old places, so it was somewhat more Indiana Jones-ish (although I’ve got an Indiana Jones game also sitting around that I never play either). The next two, which I played all the way through, were much more set in modern locations involving modern themes and enemies.
There was a certain level in one of them (2 or 3) that actually intrigued me: Lara was dumped underwater and had to make her way into a sunken ship, like the Lusitania or something, which was sitting down there like a time capsule with breathable air and light and such. That just tickled me, and I actually dreamed about it at one point. Yeesh.
I got a PS-2 some years ago and had one of that version’s Tomb Raider games, but I never liked the controls and I’d sort of become tired of that stuff anyway, so I never went much of anywhere with it. And I probably shan’t be getting a PS-3 or anything so won’t have anything to do with this one either. But I thought I’d pass it along anyway, I like the idea of a hot babe archaeologist game to give the profession a little glamour.
January 21, 2013
before I did: Game over: Atari files for bankruptcy
Atari has filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. and is planning to sell off its logo and videogame titles.
The 30-year-old firm was one of the original gaming pioneers, producing classic titles such as Pong, Asteroids and Centipede.
However Atari is likely to live on, as the move is designed to sever ties with its troubled French parent company and secure independent funding to develop more games for digital and mobile platforms.
I got a replica Atari console a couple of Christmases ago, and played it a little, but not much and I gave it away. We didn’t have one when I was a kid in the ’70s, but I think we had an Odyssey. We got a decent amount of use out of that one. Otherwise, the only Atari games I had much to do with were the regular arcade games. A true technological and pop-cultural touchstone though.
January 15, 2013
The TV show. Review. SPOILERS.
Actually, read KK’s review instead. “Holy shit, this is bad archaeology.”
January 13, 2013
The 20th anniversary of The X-Files that is. September 10, 1993 according to Wikipedia. The early ’90s were kind of exciting for me, in good ways and bad. I went to Egypt in ‘91, ‘93, and ‘94, two times on Don Ryan’s project to the Valley of the Kings and once on my own to the Fayum. The former were productive, the latter not so much. Plus I’d started working full time at a place I’d stay on for 15 years, seeing me through to the end of my graduate school career and a Ph.D. I did my MA thesis in 1989-91. Met the future ArchaeoWife.
I always thought of X-Files as sort of a son of Twin Peaks because each dealt with creepiness and FBI agents, with an additional nod to The Silence of the Lambs. But Chris Carter also got a lot of his inspiration from The Night Stalker series which I also adored. I have most of the set and still pull it out and watch some favorite episodes every now and then. They did black humor remarkably well. I also really liked the Millennium spinoff. Actually, both of those shows got me to not minding the climate around here (Pacific NW) as much, eventually coming to like all the clouds and rain (both were filmed up in Vancouver BC).
I suppose as kind of a science nerd it should irritate me as it tended to go into all sorts of conspiracy theories and pseudo-science, but that never really bothered me. IN an interview, Carter said he was giving a talk to some skeptics society or other and was worried about how they’d react since his show was all about the conspiracy theories and pseudo-science that they were constantly trying to debunk. But he echoed my feelings, saying that it was science fiction shows like this that often got people interested in science in the first place, and that’s very true. And they could be remarkably tongue-in-cheek about it a good part of the time.
I’ll probably do a longer post when the actual anniversary comes up, but wanted to toss this out there now as something of a reminder.