Friday, August 22, 2008

And the word of the day is ...

Today's word of the day on is none other than Hobson's choice. so I figured that was as good an excuse as any to begin posting again. Over the summer, we here at Hobson's have been busy little bees. I had an internship at the Daily Citizen, Searcy's daily newspaper, and the other writers were busy with a mix of internships, normal jobs and just general summer goodness as well. Hopefully as the school year ramps up, so will the content flow here.

This post is really just to prime any readers we have left for our return. While we will be busy this semester and year, we will try to keep at least a semblance of regularity with our posts. When this regularity will begin, however is another matter. But be prepared: it's coming.

Thursday, May 29, 2008


Seeing as this is the year for commencements, convocations, and many wonderful confections; I thought it would be proper for a little graduation send off with some flair. In this video, Steve Jobs gives the commencement for the Stanford University graduating class of 2005. It's about fifteen minutes long, and it is a rare look into the workings of one of the most enigmatic leaders of one of the most innovative companies in the world. It's also very touching for a piece of graduation advice, and I would rank it right under Geisel's perennial psalm, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"

A happy graduation to all of our friends here at Hobson's who are doing so. We wish you the best!

via mental_floss

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Red vs. Blue is back

The popular Halo-based machinima from Rooster Teeth productions is back for another run. The first episode of Red vs. Blue:Reconstruction was released yesterday to much delight from fans of the original series.

For those who don't know, Red vs. Blue was a comedy series filmed from within the Halo games themselves. It followed the conflict of the Red and Blue armies as they faced off in an empty box canyon in the middle of nowhere. It went on for five seasons and 100 episodes and was quite hilarious. The characters and their interactions were the main attraction, although the story was fairly funny as well as it developed.

Anyways, now it's back and looking better than ever with their ability to use Halo 3 to film parts of it. The premier episode looked like it was going to be a more serious series until the very end, which foreshadows much of the same things that made so many people love the original series. If you have any interest in Halo, sci fi, machinima or laughing, I would highly recommend picking it up.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

In honor of Jeremy Watson

So we're eating at a Japanese restaurant, right? And then Jeremy gets his miso soup, he dips his spoon into it, and brings up a single piece of tofu. Staring at it, he asks us, "What is this cube?"

And then this happens.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

More Absurd Commercials

By popular demand, I have entered into the tangled mess that is YouTube and have wrestled from it SEVEN more Violently Awesome Japanese Toy Commercials For Your Enjoyment. Of course, by "By Popular Demand," I actually mean people telling me, "man, Luke, that Battle Convoy commercial was really cool."

I was actually going to pick only five, but frankly...that's just not enough.

We'll start with some familiar territory. The Diaclone "Battle Convoy," who would later become our good friend Optimus Prime, also had a brother-in-arms, called "Powered Convoy." This was a large truck which had the same cab as Battle Convoy, but the trailer was now a car-carrier with missiles. For additional greatness, the trailer could transform into a suit which Convoy could ride. This whole figure would later become the Transformer called Ultra Magnus, voiced by the late Robert Stack (in the 80s movie, at least).

Man. Firing missiles. Okay, we're going to navigate away from Diaclone for a while, and visit our friends the Micromen. This next pair of toys have some of the best names I've ever heard of: "Punch Robo" and "Death King." I actually don't know much about them except that I want to have their robot babies. By the way, yes, for some reason, the actual pronunciation of "Microman" is "MEE-kro-man."

Having fun yet? We haven't even begun. The next commercial is for Henshin Cyborg, the precursor to Microman and Japanese brother to the 1960s G.I. Joe. Pay special attention to when the figure transforms ("henshin" means "transform") into a weird bug-faced green guy. That guy is Kamen Rider, one of the most famous costumed TV super-heroes in Japan. I'm not sure why this happens, but I expect it might have something to do with Captain Action.

And now for something completely different. This thing is called "Spy Boy," and I really don't know anything about it except it, apparently, likes to terrorize ACTUAL CATS (TAKE THAT, PETA), and seems to have been part of the Microman line.

Now we're getting to the good stuff. This is another figure with an amazing name, "Death Cross." The figure was brought to the US in the Micronauts line. The creature he's fighting in the commercial is called "Machine-saurer." But whatever! Who cares! There are people IN COSTUMES acting out TOYS BATTLING. I'm going to try to hold back from using the phrase "best thing ever," because we haven't gotten to that yet, but seriously. It is one of the best things ever.

For second-best, we have another Microman entry. This is the Gunrobo, a gun which transformed into a robot. It's not Megatron, but it's from the same series, and was later brought to the Japanese Transformers line as Browning. Prepare to have a song stuck in your head. Also: the singer says "MIKUROMAN NO MISUTERI!" which is basically engrish for "Mystery of Microman." CHANGE CHANGE CHANGE!

And now for the real best thing ever. Really, though. I am ready to claim, without hyperbole, that this really is one of the most amazing commercials I've ever seen. I can't believe Japanese kids got to see these. Their toys are allowed to do all the same things Superman can do, while ours just get to knock over piles of cans. You'll want to watch this one more than once. By the way, this is what Microman looks like these days. He's more flexible than Stretch Armstrong. He can do YOGA. No joke. Anyway, here's the commercial...

Am I right? Now, I know I said I'd give you seven videos, but there's actually one more you should see. Its not as much a commercial as it is a movie. It's about eight minutes long. It stars the Zoids. Zoids are motorized/wind-up, animal-shaped, heavily armed robot vehicles from the 80s. This is a video starring them, made by Tomy. It is epic. Watch it. Watch it for the lulz.

I'm not sure what's up with that store commercial tacked to the beginning and ending.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

A Collective Sigh of Relief

Once again, the earth has come to the point in its orbit we humans (in the Northern Hemisphere, at least) like to call "summer." School's ending, vacations are being planned and summer jobs are being sought. This is as good an excuse as any to be cliché, so I will ask the question on everyone's lips: what are your summer plans?

For myself, I'll be interning somewhere, and it looks like there's a good chance it will be in Searcy. There's just the whole thing of the internships being unpaid and needing money so as to have a place to live and such. We'll see what happens with that.

So what's going on with everyone else? Jobs? Vacations? Road trips? Maybe a concert or show planned? I know Memphis in May is coming up. For you adult-types who have a full-time job and get annoyed at us student-folk blathering on about summer vacation, got any good trips planned, even for a weekend? Let us hear from you, even if you think you're not doing anything exciting over the summer.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A Sordid Tale of Action Figures

--Editor's Note: A big welcome to Luke Jones, the newest author for Hobson's Buffet! *applause* Luke is a fellow Harding-ite and an English major, so maybe he'll help our post average a bit. I know he'll at least have some interesting things to say.--

I'm going to be honest. I was asked to make this post over a month ago. My excuses are: Flying South for the Winter; Using an Off-Brand Controller; the Tunguska Event.

Now that that's out of the way, let's cut to the chase. I'm here to talk about action figures. Specifically, the best action figures, the ones that came out of the '80s. More specifically, G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero and The Transformers. I grew up with these guys. By the time I was coherent, though, it was already the '90s, which were not kind to these humble toy lines. Eventually, they crumbled, bowing to the more visceral forces of Nikelodeon, TMNT, and other slime and mucus-charged properties. Later they returned triumphantly, but that's another tale.

Before this defeat, GI Joe and Transformers languished in the hard-rocking '80s, often meeting each other halfway in both comics and cartoons. Poor Bumblebee was actually mistakenly blowed up by the Joes at least once. Cobra helped rebuild Megatron once, and much later on, the two groups actually met in the middle of WWII.

But did you know that these iconic '80s toy lines are tied up in each others' origins?

Get this. So my Dad grew up playing with the original '60s GI Joes, the ones that were 12-inch military replicas. Back in those days, mothers were still calling action figures "dolls." But Japan, because they can be awesome, knew they were more than just dolls. So in the '70s, they licensed the basic body of old Joe, and turned him into an awesome robot dude! Like I said, Japan can be awesome.

But Japan is only like 12 feet long, so that space didn't allow for too many 12-inch robot dudes for kids to play with. This necessitated the downsizing of big 'ol Henshin Cyborg to the 10cm short "Microman." His small size allowed for extra extravagance in the realm of vehicles and whatnot. Microman flourished! His line was successfully brought to the US in the '70s by Mego under the name of "Micronauts."

As the '70s came to a close, Microman started to wane in popularity. Takara's goal of a unified sci-toy line (including both "real" and "giant" transforming robots) of magnificence was becoming more and more difficult. Around 1981, they introduced a line called "Microchange," featuring household objects which transformed into vehicles and robots that Microman could interact with. Near-simultaneously, Takara also rolled out Diaclone, a toy line consisting of transforming vehicles, robots, and bases. They scaled Microman down to a minute 1-inch figure with magnetic feet for this line.

Meanwhile, across, the pond, Hasbro relaunched the dead 12-inch GI Joe line as "A Real American Hero" in 1982. They downsized the figures to 3 3/4", based on the popularity of Star Wars and--you guessed it--Micronauts.

By 1984 or so, Takara had manufactured a small army of transforming robots of various sizes and scales. But the '80s were already in full steam, and where were the transforming robots in the US of A? Not to be outdone, Hasbro scanned the wide world and found Takara's army of robots, bought the molds to many of them (and a few other assorted robots from more obscure places), and did their own thing with them. They removed the 10cm Microman and 1-inch Diaclone figures, focused solely on the transforming robots, and Transformers was born.

Ironically enough, Hasbro accomplished what Takara itself was trying to: create a unified sci-fi line. For that reason, Takara simply called it quits on Diaclone and Microchange, purchased the rights to sell Transformers in Japan, and did that. It was awesome. There was dancing.

These days, Hasbro owns the rights to dang near everything. I hope you know that there are Star Wars Transformers. Will there be GI Joe Transformers? Only time will tell.

I want to leave you with a vintage commercial for Battle Convoy, the Diaclone toy which would later become Optimus Prime. You will find that commercials for Japanese toys beat American ones by about 6000%.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Artistic License?

Some of you may have seen an interesting story from Yale on some online news services or blogs recently. Thursday, the Yale Daily News published a story about one of their art majors, Aliza Shvarts, and her, well, unique senior art project. Shvarts project was going to be documentation of a series of abortions she had had over the past nine months. She supposedly artificially inseminated herself as many times as possible and took abortifacient drugs to cause miscarriages. She was going to hang from the ceiling cubes of layers of plastic sheeting filled with a mix of Vaseline and blood from her miscarriages and then project videos of her having her miscarriages in her bathtub onto the side.

As can be expected, the outrage was great and immediate. For most of Thursday, this story swept through blogs and news services, with people on both sides of the issue decrying what she was doing. I felt pretty disgusted myself. While I think abortion is wrong, I normally don't have some huge emotional response to hearing about it, but this ... what she did was something way more, and much, much sicker.

This, however, was exactly what she wanted to happen. Later on Thursday, it was revealed that the entire thing, from the story getting into the student newspaper to it spreading and everyone's reactions, was her art project. She never had a miscarriage; she was never pregnant. It was a performance art project to "draw attention to the ambiguity surrounding form and function of a woman's body."

Frankly, I'm pretty impressed. It did exactly what she wanted: it got everyone talking about the issue. Some people, once again from both pro-choice and pro-life groups, have said they are still outraged and angered by Shvarts' actions, even though she didn't really have the abortions. I, however, think it was fairly brilliant. Not only did she get people to talk about it, she got people on both sides of an incredibly volatile issue to agree on something.

So what do you think? I imagine there would be virtually unanimous agreement that her proposed art project would be reprehensible, but what about the "real" one? Do you think it was worth it to draw attention to the issue, or is abortion too serious to even use in that way? Let us know in the comments.

AP Article

Monday, April 14, 2008

The 96th Anniversary of the Drowning of the Titanic

Today/tomorrow is the 96th anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. As most people know, the Titanic set out on its maiden voyage amidst claims of it being unsinkable, and promptly hit an iceberg and sank.

At 11:40 p.m. on April 14, four days after departing New York, the ship hit an iceberg, and sank over the next two and a half hours (which is why some consider the sinking date to be the 14th, and some the 15th: it hit the iceberg on the 14th and finished sinking the 15th). While many theories have been put forth as to why it sank like it did, a recent one has come to the fore-front after the publication of the book "What Really Sank the Titanic."

As the New York Times reports, the book claims weak rivets were what did the ship in. While some ships used all steel rivets, the Titanic used a mix of steel and weaker iron rivets. The fact that two smaller-but-still-huge sister ships to the Titanic, the Olympic and the Britannic, were being built at the same time caused a shortage in iron, and, according to the book, led to the use of iron weaker than what was normally used on ships like the Titanic. Some of the "weaker" iron rivets were used in the area where the Titanic was hit by the iceberg on its bow.

Obviously, there were numerous factors that went into making this tragedy, but many are now claiming that the iron rivets were a major cause in both the ship sinking and the speed at which it sank. Even more factors went into the amount of lives lost, like there being too few lifeboats, men not being allowed onto some under the "women and children first" rule leading to some of the lifeboats being let down half-full, and nearby ships mistaking the red emergency flares for celebratory fireworks.

The article is an interesting read. I would recommend it if you are interested in the Titanic at all. There is also a photo slide show to accompany the article.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Friday's Food For Thought - 4/11/08

Welcome to another Friday! and another Friday's Food for Thought! Where we give you a brief examination of what is interesting and unusual about the world for your mental stimulation. We hope you enjoy another thought-filled Friday!

From the BBC NEWS: Animal dung coffee at £50 a cup.

"A gourmet coffee blended from animal droppings is being sold at a London department store for £50 per cup." To benefit cancer research.

They're not completely crazy, just mostly crazy.

Now then, a team quote! This quote supposedly originated with British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli, but gained great popularity in the States thanks to the one and only Mark Twain. It is dedicated to all of the scientists, politicians, and statisticians who help make the world go round:

There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.

And finally, a video dedicated to tv news reporters. What wonderful moments of humor you bring us daily:

Have a great Friday!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

In Apology

I wanted to make a quick update apologizing for the lack of content in the past week. Three of our authors have been busy rehearsing for plays: myself for "The Bald Soprano," which opens tomorrow night (er, this evening), and Alex and Michael in "12 Angry Men," which will be showing next week. And Drew has been almost as busy as we have with just his normal engineering madness.

Hopefully, we'll have a few posts over the next few weeks, and then get back on a more regular schedule once our non-Internet lives calm down a bit (although it is getting near the end of the semester and term paper/finals time). I have a couple of posts in the works, which I will try to get up sometime in the near future, and we have a guest writer working something up as well. Hobson's's faithful, hopefully we shall not disappoint much longer.

Until then, thank you for your patience, and I will leave you with a random picture for your general amusement.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

[Insert Obligatory 'We're not in Kansas anymore' Joke Here]

Currently, I sitting at my computer (obviously), but with something slightly different about the situation: I am in a 30-minute all-clear before another tornado hits Searcy. After sitting in the first floor hallway of my dorm for about 10 minutes a little while ago while there was a tornado warning, they said we could go back to our rooms for a while until the sirens go off again.

This isn't a huge deal (well, depends on how you rank being crammed into a hall full of loud, sweaty, and, er, fragrant guys, but I'll deal), but it is pretty annoying to have to keep being shuffled around at this hour. Last time Searcy had tornadoes, at least while I was here, was a couple years ago, but it was during the day so we didn't get forced anywhere since we weren't in the dorms, and I actually went and looked at the tornado, along with several other Harding students. I find myself fascinated by tornadoes, though not having been directly affected by one, I'm sure my outlook in this area is a bit naive. However, there is no denying they are amazing things, at least from a scientific or meteorological perspective.

Anyways, I thought I would make a quick update and ask for storm stories. What's the worst situation you've ever been in concerning severe weather, from storms to tornadoes to hail or whatever. Go ahead and throw in earthquake stories or meteor strikes as well. Any close calls? Like I said earlier, the most a tornado's ever done to me is cause me to spend a few hours in the part of my house that is built sort of into a hill, which was a minor inconvenience. It seems that those of us here at Harding and in the surrounding areas may be in for a fairly long night, if the alerts keep happening, but as far as I know, nothing's happened yet. I'm sure there are plenty of other stories out there.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Randy Newman's Faust

Following a recent performance of Little Shop of Horrors, I decided to investigate the story further via The Fountain of All Knowledge. According to Wikipedia, Little Shop of Horrors is a modern retelling of Goethe's Faust. Upon perusing other interpretations of the story of the man who sold his soul to the Devil, I found a musical by Randy Newman.

Yes, as in "You've Got a Friend In Me" Randy Newman.

Apparently, two years before Newman became our friend through Toy Story, he created a musical very aptly titled
Randy Newman's Faust. It is a modern rendering of the tragic tale, with a few noteworthy elements:

First, Faust is a student at the University of Notre Dame, not an alchemistic doctor. In this musical, a spiritual battle for his soul takes place between God and the Devil.

However, the most wondrous element of this musical is the cast:

The Devil is played by none other than Randy Newman himself. God is voiced by James Taylor. The student Faust is played by Don Henley of
The Eagles. Other members of the cast include Sir Elton John, Linda Ronstadt, and Bonnie Raitt.

No, this is not an April Fool's joke. It's much too amazing for that.

However, I thought as much when I wandered upon this information on Wikipedia last week. Apparently, it was not a huge success despite its star-studded cast ["no more than a noble failure," one review called it]. Very little information on the show exists on Wikipedia or elsewhere. [As a side note, Citizendium had no article for
Faust whatsoever. Just in case you were wondering.] No one I have spoken to has ever heard of this musical.

But now I have. I plan on investigating further.

And so it got me thinking: what classic tale could we retell and with what outrageous cast? Any suggestions?

Friday, March 28, 2008

Friday's Food For Thought - 3/28/08

Come one, come all! It's a very special Friday's Food for Thought!

We here at Hobson's normally try to avoid matters that are strictly of local importance, but this story is just too good to pass up. As most people who have some knowledge of Harding are aware, almost all students are required to attend a daily "chapel" service which lasts for about a half hour in which there are announcements and then a short Christian worship service of some kind. Since the entire student body as well as much of the faculty gather for this event with such regularity, it becomes the perfect time for students to plan and commit mischievous deeds of one sort or another.

This Wednesday morning, one such deed occurred, and it seems to echo the themes of a previous post on Hobsons. Upon exiting the doors to the auditorium where we meet, I looked down at the ground and was greeted with the sight of fetal pigs. Someone seemed to have strewn them about all of the exits during chapel time, leaving them to be discovered by students on their way to get some breakfast or go to class. Most people were disgusted, but some like me were highly amused at the absurdity of looking down and seeing fetal pigs on the ground.

With that story in mind, here is your fetal-pig themed Friday's Food for Thought!

From USA Today, a slightly older story about a more aggressive prank involving fetal pigs:

Swim team inpales fetal pigs on rivals' car antennas.

From the TV Show Angel, a character named Willow professes her love for fetal pigs:

Willow: It had to be something specific. There's lots of jars in the world. Can't shatter 'em all. Oh, I mean you could, but, good things come in jars - peanut butter, jelly, those two-headed fetal pigs at the Natural History Museum.

[Wesley just looks at her]

Willow: Come on. Everybody loves fetal pigs!

As for a video, I will not bother disturbing you with most of the youtube results I found in a vain quest for an appropriate video. If you really want to see some fetal pig action, just search for it on youtube.

Well until next Friday, keep your mind active, and don't forget to stop and admire the fetal pigs of your life!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Customer Service

At the beginning of the year, I ordered a lamp. Now, this was going to be one of the coolest lamps ever, and I was going to enjoy it very much when it came in. However, a couple weeks went by, and there was no sign of my lamp. I decided to email customer service at (I'm not going to link to them because I refuse to give them anything that remotely resembles a plug).I did so, and more time went by, with no response.

To make a long story short, several emails later, I finally get a reply saying that they have some trouble with their supply in China (this little shop (not of horrors) that makes all of this type of lamp), and they basically have no idea when it will be coming in. I also get an email from a real person named Marcus, not a department, who apologizes and says they should have kept me up-to-date better. I can cancel my order and get a refund, or I can just wait. By now, I'm fairly steamed because I had to hound them in order to find out that they don't even have my lamp in stock and have no real way of getting it, but I really want my lamp, so I decided to wait it out, thinking it would just be a few weeks.

Fast forward a couple months. I still haven't heard anything from them, so I email them again. I get no reply, and two weeks later, I send another email, both to the customer service address and to this Marcus character, saying how frustrated I am and that I am never going to buy anything else from them again. That gets a response within a day, and they tell me they're sorry and have no idea when they'll be getting the lamps, and in fact they have taken them completely off their web site because they can't seem to get any. And of course, they didn't notify me of this. So now I've asked for the refund they've continually offered, and am waiting on that.

So that's my recent experience with horrible customer service. Let's contrast that. I recently added the Facebook application Chips n Chat, which is a flash Texas Hold 'Em game. I have nothing but good things to say about it: it's fun, very functional, and they have contests going on pretty much constantly where all you have to do is play like normal to win. When I first started, they had a contest where the first 100 people to play 1,500 hands would win a $20 gift card to an online retailer they chose from a list.

Well, I hovered around rank #35 the entire contest, and 2 days before it was over had play 1,334 hands. Suddenly, however, I couldn't load their application to play, from whatever computer I tried. The contest ended with me ranked #40, and only 35 or so people having completed the 1,500 hands, so I emailed their customer support asking them to count me as having won since I would have played enough in those 2 days to make it, or maybe give me 2 more days to play if I could connect or something, and I didn't get a response, so I assumed it was a lost cause. Well, yesterday I got an email saying I was a winner of the contest and I could have my choice of gift cards. I picked, and everything's happy. In that instance, they just fixed the problem and didn't even need to tell me.

So I've had some good and bad customer service experiences in the past few weeks, but that's nothing compared to the ups and downs of a guy named Nathaniel. Read about his dramatic tragedy and astounding comeback and feel happy we have companies like Bungie in the world.

Anyone else have any horrible customer service stories?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Online Music

I am a semi-audiophile. I listen to music constantly in my room and car, but I don't have an iPod or other portable music player, so I'm not one of those people who walks around lost in their own aural world. I'm pretty close though, because I'm normally humming or singing to myself, even if it's only in my head. So anyways, I thought I would share a few of my favorite places to discover and listen to music online.

Aurgasm is where I find a whole lot of amazing music from around the world. With the heading, "Your favorite music you've never heard," Aurgasm is a very simple and very functional MP3 blog. The author, Paul Irish, writes a quick paragraph summarizing the style of the artist he's featuring and why he likes them, where he heard about them, etc., and then posts one or two downloadable songs from them, or occasionally a link to a music video or the like. He also has an embedded music player that scrolls with the page and lets you play all the songs he posts directly from his site. The cool thing is, it's all completely legal and above-board. I was reading at a time when he had some trouble with the RIAA, but there were only a couple of small things he was doing wrong, and since then and as a result has made sure that he has permission from all the artists to use their songs or that they're in the public sphere. He also has always included a link to buy the CD the songs are from. I have bought a CD or two from artists I was exposed to on his site, and have definitely listened many times to a lot of the tracks I have downloaded from Aurgasm.

A recent discovery for me is Afternoon Delight, and it's co-part, Bedtime Tunes. Afternoon delight is updated daily, Bedtime Tunes nightly, and they post single songs that sort of fit in with each site, at least in terms of tempo. Afternoon Delight's songs are more upbeat, while Bedtime Tunes' are slower. These sites are less eclectic than Aurgasm and have more popular music that I have heard before, but have still exposed me to some previously-unheard music. I can't really speak for their legality, because they are pretty no frills: while the sites are very functional and well-designed, they're just a list of songs with a music player up top, and I wasn't able to find even an "About Us" section or the like. I assume if you just listen, then you'll be fine whether they're pirating or not, but both sites do allow you to download the music.

Then, of course, there's Purevolume. This site is a very useful tool for bands to self-promote, and because each band is responsible for the content they want to upload, you can listen and download without fear of an RIAA attorney kicking in your door with a subpoena taped to the bottom of his boot. Another very useful feature is the ability to create listener profiles and keep up with your favorite bands and events going on near your location. Purevolume will show you a list of shows going on in your area in the near future involving any of the artists registered on their site, as well as letting you interact with artists through their profile pages and create playlists in their music player. Your profile page also includes a Purevolume blog, favorites list, photo album and friends list, among other things, as well as keeping a running list of updates your favorite artists make. This site is more for local bands, but because it's the Internet (i.e., global), local bands from all over the world become your local bands as well, and I have spent many an hour surfing the Internet with my Purevolume playlist running in the background.

The last site I'll discuss is yet another fairly recent find for me. Songza, self-described as "the music search engine and internet jukebox," is a very simple online music player that just lets you search for any song or artist and then listen to them. You can't download anything, but it has an extensive library to search through, and even though it's claim that "
Songza lets you listen to any song or band" is stretching it a bit (I've had a few searches bring up no results or stuff completely different than what I wanted), in most cases I've been able to find what I want. You also have the ability to share songs through email, embedding them in your own site, linking to it or Twittering it, as well as create playlists and rate songs. Songza also recommends songs you might like based on what you are listening too. I haven't created an account, so I'm not sure what all it allows you to do, but I do know that an account will let you save your playlists, which lets you listen to them on other computers or keep them after clearing your cookies and such.

These four sites are the ones I frequent, but obviously, there are many, many others. Does anyone have any music sites they're partial too, or have tried out and enjoy? I know a lot of people use Pandora, but I haven't really checked it out yet, so if anyone uses that, you might tell us what you think. I didn't even broach the subject of online radio, so there's still a lot out there.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Friday's Food For Thought - 3/21/08

In honor of the late Arthur C. Clarke, a prolific science fiction writer who passed away at the age of 90 on Wednesday after having some breathing problems, the quote this week is from him. Clarke was the last of the "Big Three" of science fiction, surviving Isaac Asimov and Robert Heinlein. As a journalist, I really like this quote.

"CNN is one of the participants in the war. I have a fantasy where Ted Turner is elected president but refuses because he doesn't want to give up power."

- Arthur C. Clarke

News Story: One very interesting thing going on in the news right now is the case that recently came before the Supreme Court, District of Columbia v. Heller. Dick Heller is a D.C. security guard who filed suit saying that D.C.'s total ban on handguns is unconstitutional. It has now made it to the SC, and this will be the first time that the Second Amendment has been decidedly ruled on by them, and the first time in over 70 years they've even discussed it. One appeals court struck down the ban, but that will now be decided in the SC. Even if they decide to rule that the Second Amendment gives individual citizens the right to own guns, as appears likely, they must still decide on whether the handgun ban violates that right. The SC will decide on this sometime before June when their session ends.

Video: Fair warning - this is probably both the best and the worst thing I've seen in a long time. Just so you know going into it, EVERYONE in the video was fine afterwards.

This week, you get a bonus video. It is a remixed version of the previous one. You can find a lot of these on YouTube, but this was one of the funnier.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

My 10 Favorite Novel Cover Designs

I'll just say straight out that I am a design poseur. I enjoy design a lot, and can appreciate good design, but I tend to act like I know more than I really do. With that said, I can make this post without seeming like I am putting forth a definitive list of great cover designs, or even a list of good ones. These are just designs I have seen and liked, and felt like sharing. The cover designs on novels are many times fascinating; it's interesting to see what they say about the book itself. So without further ado, I present to you my favorite 10, in no particular order.

"Atlas Shrugged" - I am a big fan of Art Deco and the like, so this cover has always been one I liked. This was the cover of the first copy of "Atlas Shrugged" I read, and I liked what it seemed to imply, as well as the general design. You have the sun rising in the background, with rays shooting out, and you have the building to the side, which I always imagined to be the headquarters or Taggart Transcontinental, for those of you who have read the book. Then of course, there's Atlas in the middle, holding up the title itself; I thought that was fairly clever. Anther reason I liked this is that I just like the color green.

"1984" - I tend to be a sort of minimalist with design; I like white space and simple, stark, striking messages. In that respect, "1984"'s cover comes across marvelously. The author and the title in the middle of the book on a white background, with a lidless eye staring out at you. It captures the whole "Big Brother is watching" feeling you get from the book magnificently. Not much to say about this one, and for this, it's a good thing.

"Catch-22" - "Catch-22" is my favorite novel, so it's no surprise it made it onto my list (I never claimed to be impartial). It's pretty basic as well, but one simple thing I like about it is the text. I prefer sans serif text, and the shadow on it gives it depth and makes it stand out. The man and the plane just show main parts of the book, and the ragged edges lend to it's entire tone. I just love this book over-all. It's so ridiculous and dark and funny and thought-provoking, all at the same time.

"I." - This is a book I actually haven't had a chance to read yet, but it is on my list. You can't exactly tell in the picture, but the title ("I.") is cut out of the cover, with the picture of the man on the front page showing through. Once again, simple yet effective.

"The Perks of Being a Wallflower" - The second and last book on this list I haven't read, this continues the simple theme of the last few books. Aside from enjoying the color, I enjoy the text on this book as well, both the typefaces chosen and the drastic differences in size between the title and the author's name. The single picture in corner completes the off-balance feeling you get looking at it, and one of the things that makes me like it more is that it seems almost to be mimicking the mindset of a wallflower. Like I said, I haven't read it, but I can imagine the guy in the picture standing against the wall by himself at a party, looking around at everyone else and feeling out of place and maybe a bit overwhelmed; off-balance. The entire thing just sort of blends to create a single feeling, which I like.

"Franny and Zooey" - To finish up the stark, plain covers, "Franny and Zooey" fits in marvelously with other books like "1984." I probably wouldn't have included this one, since it is so much like some of the others here, except there is a bit of interesting information behind it. This is what all Salinger's novels look like now (in paperback form), and the interesting thing about it is that he has control over what goes on the cover, and after "Nine Stories" was published with a picture of a girl on the front, he has only allowed text on them since. I also just like the design, with the all-caps serif. I don't know what typeface it is, but I like the alternating heavier and lighter strokes, as well as the more angled and curved serifs.

"The Sound and the Fury" - I'll say it: I really did not like this book. I never really got into, could barely follow the story (mainly because I wasn't really paying attention to it and I read it so infrequently it took me several months to finish it), and, while the idea has some merit, I didn't particularly like the switch-off of narrators in this case. But I love the cover design. It sort of sums up what the title says to me: it looks like a storm coming, but not quite here yet; you can hear the thunder in the distance and know that, soon, you will be surrounded by sound and fury, but for now, you can just see it coming. I like the overlapping text, the typeface used for the title and the color scheme in general. I like how "Faulkner" looks like it is on a metal plaque that is worn in but still fairly new. Overall, I just really like the cover.

"The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide" - OK, this one looks fairly plain, but the overall effect isn't. This book is leather-bound, with gold-leafed pages, a gold ribbon bookmark and gold embossing on the cover, spine and back. It is a regal, serious-looking (except for the eye-less smilies sticking out their tongues) volume that it reality contains one of the loopiest, silliest stories I've ever read. The visual irony is COMPLETELY in style for the book, and makes it one of my favorite books I own. Also, the typeface is cool.

"Slaughterhouse-Five" - This is the overarching design of Vonnegut's books currently, and I really like it. The large "V" in the background moves your eyes down the page, and I just really like the symmetry of the entire thing. The horizontal lines contrast nicely with the downward slashes of the "V", and the centered text at the bottom, the picture up top and the wrapping text in the top corners balance the entire thing. It just makes one cohesive feel to the book, and the typeface is, once again, cool.

"The Great Gatsby" - I just had to put this in here. Besides being one of my favorite books, "The Great Gatsby"'s original cover design is one of the most iconic designs ever. There are just so many things to like about it, symbolism being the main thing, just like the story itself. The brilliant crash of lights is like the parties Gatsby threw and just sort of capture the attitude and frivolity of the "flappers" of the times and the characters in the story, yet the lights are blurred, showing Gatsby's, among other's, confusion and struggle. A woman's face stares out over the scene, with iris of a reclining female form, whisping hair and brilliantly red lips. The lights can almost be her jewelry. There's more to say about this one than I can here, so I'll just stop and let you look at it.

I hope this has, if nothing else, made you think about the outsides of the books you read as well as the insides. Like I said earlier, I'm not artist, designer or critic, and these are just my opinions. Does anyone have any cover design they've noticed and liked for some reason or another, or no reason at all? Let me know in the comments section; I'm interested in hearing what other people thing.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Waking Ned Divine

In honor of St. Patrick’s Day, I thought I would write something that is mildly Irish in flavor:

I am not a movie connoisseur, at least not to the level of most of my peers. Generally, I watch a handful of bigger titles, along with most sci-fi and action movies. As for horror, chick flicks, indie … I am a cinematically clueless. I rarely darken the cinema’s door. However, I have recently discovered that holiday breaks from school are prime time for me to make up for all the years I didn’t watch what everyone else was talking about.

Over Christmas Break, I had the pleasure of watching Waking Ned Divine, an Irish comedy. Though I am not extremely educated in film, I can safely say that Waking Ned Divine is strange. The plot is straightforward, but the humor is different. Not British humor, exactly—more like Irish humor, I suppose.

A quick synopsis: in a small Irish fishing village, Ned Divine wins the seven million pound lottery and dies from shock. Finding the winning ticket in his rigor mortis hand, the village conspires to fool the agency into thinking that Ned is alive in order to collect the money.

I would rate or critique the movie, but 1) I have already stated that I am not qualified in moviedom and 2) I watched the flick at around 2:00 in the morning, so I was not lucid enough to fully synthesize what I was watching. I would say that if you are in the mood for something a little different, you might look into renting Waking Ned Divine. Not a fantastic comedy, but everyone needs a little more Ireland in their life.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Pi-day's Food For Thought - 3/14/08

A very festive π Day to all! [Or Albert Einstein’s birthday, if you prefer.]

Today ranks among the most intellectual of all holidays: a celebration of the arcane, irrational value for the ratio of a circle's circumference to its diameter. In order to fully appreciate the mathematical mastery of Pi, this Friday’s Food For Thought is dedicated to 3.141 and the rest ad infinitum.

As there is very little new news relating to π, our story for this week will be substituted with a crash course in Piphilology, the study of obsession over Pi. The goal of this field is to memorize as many of the infinite digits as possible, often by use of mnemonic devices. Example:

The point I said a blind Bulgarian in France would know.

Or, if you prefer, in iambic pentameter:

Now I defy a tenet gallantly
Of circle canon law: these integers
Importing circles' quotients are, we see,
Unwieldy long series of cockle burs
Put all together, get no clarity;
Mnemonics shan't describeth so reformed
Creating, with a grammercy plainly,
A sonnet liberated yet conformed.
Strangely, the queer'st rules I manipulate
Being followéd, do facilitate
Whimsical musings from geometric bard.
This poesy, unabashed as it's distressed,
Evolvéd coherent - a simple test,
Discov'ring poetry no numerals jarred.

All this being said, I will probably be satisfied for the rest of my days to approximate π to 3.141, though I have a healthy yet weirded-out respect for all of you piphilologists out there. To conclude, a pi-related video:

[And don’t forget—Beware the Ides of March tomorrow!]

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Board Game Review - Puerto Rico

Puerto Rico is another one of those foreign games that are tons of fun. In Puerto Rico, an economic and city-building game, you are acting as a plantation owner in the city of San Juan on Puerto Rico during the colonial period, and you control virtually all aspects of life: what buildings will be built, what crops will be produced and which of your colonists will work where, among other things. Your job is to manage the economy so as to make more money, build more buildings and ship more goods than any other player.

Each player plays on their own game board, which is divided into two main areas. There is an island area, where you build plantations to produce one of the game's 5 resources: corn, indigo, sugar, tobacco and coffee; and there is a city area, which is where you build normal buildings that have some special effect, like allowing you to utilize your plantations or get extra money for selling your goods in the trading house instead of shipping them. Each building also gives you a certain amount of victory points, depending on how expensive it is: the bigger, the better. Victory points, as the name suggests, are how you win the game, and they are also gained by shipping out your goods on cargo ships. Whoever has the most at the end of the game, wins.

The game is played in rounds, and during each round each player takes a turn. Now what is unique about Puerto Rico is that during each players' turn, they chose to do a single action; however, after they have completed that action, everyone else is given the opportunity to do the same thing, only the original player gets an advantage for picking that action. Each player selects one of the several jobs during their turn, which tells them what action everyone will be taking and what the bonus will be for the player.

There are jobs like the mayor, in which each person gets to place one of their colonists in a job of their choosing, but the mayor gets to place 2; the settler, who gets to pick either a new plantation to place or a quarry to help with building costs, while the other players only get to chose from the plantations left over; the captain, who gets bonus victory points when everyone ships their goods; or the craftsman, who allows everyone to produce but gets extra goods themselves. There are also the Trader and Builder jobs, which are fairly self-explanatory, and depending on how many people there are, one or two prospector jobs, which only give the choosing player extra money.

There is very little direct player interaction in Puerto Rico; it is a game of management, but how you decide to manage your assets affects the others in a large way. The cargo ships can only hold one type of good and in limited quantities; if there is no room for someone's goods during a shipping phase, they have to get rid of them. Only so many goods can be sold to the trading house, so one player can be blocked from selling their highly profitable coffee by another player beating them to the punch. And then, of course, you have to decide every time you pick a job what the effects of the actions taken will be on everyone else. If someone has just built a new building that will give them an advantage, you probably wouldn't pick the mayor job and let them place a colonist in it to operate it. Virtually everything done in the game affects the other players in some way, because you are all on the same small island, working to be the biggest and best.

Puerto Rico is another wonderful medium-sized group game, for 3 to 5 players. At an hour and a half to two hours, it's a game you have to plan to play, but it is perfect for a weekend gaming night or the like. Puerto Rico has won several international board game awards, and is currently ranked the number one game at, with an overall rating of 8.31 out of 10. With a price tag of $25-30, depending on where you look online, it is most definitely worth looking at and picking up.

There is also a website set up to let you run the game online, against other humans or computer opponents. It is helpful to see how the game works, but be forewarned: if you play against computers, the game moves rather fast and it is sometimes hard to see what their moves were when you are just learning the rules. Also, nothing can recreate the experience of sitting around a table with some friends actually playing a physical game, so if you think you might enjoy Puerto Rico after looking at this online game, I would highly recommend buying it.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Fun With Categories

Here at Hobson's Buffet, we take pride in offering you a variety of eats, if you will. However, I must admit that during our initial meetings, I disagreed with my cobloggists on a very essential part of the blogging process: categories.

The day I discovered the function of categories was a day filled with cyber-jubilation that I cannot describe to you. For the mildly obsessive bloggist like myself, it was simply glorious--finally, an efficient and overly-organized system of classification. I often imagined myself years from now clicking on various categories with delight, knowing that my scattered entries were brought happily together under one categorical roof. How sublime. And unlikely. Honestly, I rarely utilize the categories function of blogs.

But I love it. Deeply.

I say all of this to respectfully disagree with my fellow authors concerning categories. In order to acquire more traffic, it was decided that our categories would be multiple and very specific as opposed to general categories, which was my preference. Therefore, in order to poke good-natured fun at my fellow chefs here at the Buffet, I will categorize this entry in as many wasy possible based upon the following two sentences:

"One man's trash is another man's treasure. However, metal detectors have not yet been built to detect trash."

Obviously, the first sentence is a well-known axiom, so let's begin by posting under "proverbs", as well as "wisdom" and "adages." Seeing as "adages" and "proverbs" are essentially the same, this could easily be posted under "synonyms" and "redundancy." While we're at it, let's post this under "redundancy."

The conversion of trash into treasure reflects "ideology," "economics," and "treasure," which inevitably leads to "pirates." Let's be honest--you were thinkin' it.

I shouldn't be so hasty, though. Let us not forget that there are two sentences, so we should probably post under "sentences" and "two". [You never know when one of us authors will write a long blog entry on the number two.]

Did I mention that those two sentences are in "English"? Can't be forgetting about our good ol' language, now can we? Ooo! Those were both "questions"--better throw that category in the mix.

The trash and treasure both belong(ed) to "men," so let's also post this under "chauvinism." Interestingly enough, trash and treasure both begin with similar sounds, so I think it's only fitting to post under "alliteration," which is a "literary device."

Speaking of devices, we haven't even touched the metal detector, metaphorically speaking. [Guess we should post under "metaphors," just to be safe.] Metal detectors are a glorious piece of "technology," though if they can't detect trash they are quite prone to "criticism," I should say.

Can't use a metal detector without a beach, right? Can't get to the beach without traveling: "travel." That's the third time I've used a colon in this entry, so I suppose it's only fair to post under "punctuation" and "colons." Now that I think of it, colons are also a part of a vital organ, so let's also go with "anatomy." As a side note I hated A&P in "high school," mainly because I was never good at "science." I did, however, enjoy dissecting "fetal pigs."

Meanwhile, back on the beach, we haven't found any treasure yet! There are many reasons why, such as a malfunctioning metal detector, but I think we all know the true reason. That's right, you guessed it: "Nazis." Those quintessential "enemies" of "Indiana Jones" have undoubtedly impeded with our treasure hunting operation. However, more importantly, we have just violated "Godwin's Law," which arose from the "Internet" subculture in the "1990s."

I think that's as good a place to sop as any. [Honestly, we probably should've stopped with "fetal pigs."] No offense was intended, Jeremy/Drew/Michael. I will concede and use your multifarious categories system, but I couldn't resist the opportunity to make "ridiculous statements" first.

[I attempted to post this entry under all of the aforementioned labels, but I exceeded the allowed number of characters.]

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Retro Sabotage

An introductory note: I know that this is my second post in a row concerning video games, but you'll have to excuse me because they are a fascination of mine, and the content of this post will be very different from the content of the previous one. Now, on with the show!

Most everyone has played some of the more classic video games: Pong, Breakout, Adventure, Pac Man, Space Invaders, Defender, Asteroids, Tetris, etc. These things have been around since the '70s and '80s and their gameplay is a very pure experience, usually undiluted by things like narrative and control scheme and other such trappings which usually turn people off to the modern samplings of the medium.

In a way they've become archetypal of the conventions we see in modern games. Pong was not only the first video game for a home console, it was also the first game of the sports genre, being a crude approximation of Tennis. Text adventure games such as Zork had been around a while, but Adventure was among the first graphical representations of the genre with which it shares its name.

Tetris was one of the first games of the puzzle genre which has lately spawned sensations in the casual market like Snood and Bejeweled. Space Invaders (along with its relatives Asteroids and Defender) was one of the first of a genre known as shooters which eventually split into several other genres including: top-down (Space Invaders, Asteroids, Galaga), side-scrolling (Defender, Gradius), first-person (Doom, Halo), third-person (Grand Theft Auto) and some other minor genres. Each was based on both the player's perspective of the one doing the shooting, and the freedom of the shooting individual.

Whew, after a little history lesson there, we get to the meat: Retro Sabotage. This site does riffs on classic arcade games and explores some of the symbolism employed in each by presenting the classic games with a twist. For example, a version of Space Invaders, named simply Invasion, questions the futility of the mission of the last defender of Earth. A version of Pac Man, which they cleverly title The Morning After, explores the various psychedelic effects of the Power Pills which Pac Man eats that allow him to go after the ghosts that normally chase him. The version of Tetris they have up, called Compromise, allows the player to experience playing two games of Tetris simultaneously using only one controller. Each screen is given different pieces, and the player has to decide where and how to place them on both screens.

They have several others uploaded right now, and the site promises weekly updates on every Thursday. I am adding them to my bookmarks in the hope that I will soon see a version of the Super Mario Brothers in which each of the mushrooms Mario eats makes him hallucinate and think that he is seeing oversized pipes everywhere and that small brown mushrooms are skulking about, trying to kill him.

- Via Neatorama.

Friday, February 29, 2008

Friday's Food for Thought - 2/29/08

Welcome to a special Leap Day edition of Friday's Food for Thought here at Hobson's. Random fact: The average American will experience fewer than 20 leap days in their life. This day is better than a holiday, because it only comes once every four years and is used to help make up for the inaccuracy of humanity's timekeeping system! Feel free to celebrate the day by pondering the briefness of human existence and the inability of humanity to accurately quantify the world in which we live. Let's kick off the festivities!

We'll begin with a brief look at the news today.

From WCBSTV: Students Punished After Buying Lunch With Pennies.

"29 N.J. Eighth-Graders Get 2 Days Detention After Forking Over Nearly 6000 Coins."

These students were given detention for holding up the lunch line when they each payed for their $2 lunch in pennies. Legal U.S. tender = against school policy.

Next we'll use a quote from good old Ben Franklin. I'm not sure if this ever appeared in Poor Richard's, but it is very fitting for the image of American culture that is thrust upon us by many major media outlets today.

A man wrapped up in himself makes a very small bundle.

And finally, everyone has seen the number one Youtube video of all time, Evolution of Dance. We know it, we love it; it's much better than the music video of some mopey punk-rock group being on the top. Some man (because no sane woman would do this) has made a parody of Evolution of Dance in which the comedian/dancer is replaced with an animated Optimus Prime.

How ridiculous was that? Too ridiculous. Have a great Leap Day!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Help one of our friends win a $2,000 scholarship

David Manes, a junior at Harding University and one of the authors of Political Cartel, is in a competition for a $2,000 student political blogger scholarship. He is in the finals, one of the top three bloggers in the competition.

Now, the public will decide who gets the scholarship. All you have to do to help is just go to the website and vote for David. It will take just a minute of your time, and you'll strike a blow for small school in near the foothills of the Ozarks everywhere.

Follow the white rabbit to vote.

Side note: I have not been able to vote on Harding's campus, and we think it is because of IP address being the same or something like that. If you're at Harding and don't have a box to check and a button labeled "Submit" to hit, then you should try again off campus, say, over spring break or something.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Guest Blogger: Passive Aggressive

By Kelsey Moon

I’m not a very confrontational person. If I had my way everyone would get along and everything would always be sunshine and flowers. Unfortunately things don’t usually work out that way, but I have a hard time letting people know when something they’re doing is bothering me. In such cases I am frequently tempted to resort to that paragon of passive aggression: The Note.

Just a quick jot on a sticky pad or a piece of notebook paper stuck to the fridge, filled with all the biting sarcasm you can’t bring yourself to express to the recipient’s face, perhaps even adroitly hidden under a layer of innocent sweetness. It’s the perfect way to communicate frustration, except for one problem. They usually don’t go over very well. In fact, the passive-aggressive note almost always makes the person at whom it is directed even less inclined to do whatever it is you want them to do.

I have realized this and do my best to avoid writing them, no matter how tempting it may be. However, there are apparently plenty of people who embrace the temptation open-armed, because there is a website entirely devoted to documenting such zingers left by frustrated people around the office, the apartment, or any other shared space. The voyeuristic feeling I get while browsing Passive Aggressive reminds me a bit of PostSecret or Found, but who doesn’t delight in laughing at other people’s problems?

Some of the notes submitted are intentionally amusing, some are unintentionally hilarious, and others are just strange, as in the case of a girl who came home to find her roommate had employed the blitzkrieg approach and had left 11 nasty (and grammatically baffling) notes around their apartment demanding that she clean up her "dirty."

What a fantastic site. It is a perfect perfect place for reveling in other people’s tactlessness while providing an outlet for one’s own uncivil desires. So now I can both indulge my passive-aggressive urges and keep my friendships!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Oscar Update - "No Country for Old Men" vs. "There Will Be Blood"

Well, the 80th Annual Academy Awards have come and gone, and I thought I would just make a small post in regards to my previous predictions concerning "No Country for Old Men" and "There Will Be Blood."

These two movies were competing in 6 categories. I was right in 4 of my 6 predictions, but as I said in the original post, I hadn't seen most of the others, so I was just predicting between those two movies, so I don't know if I was right or not in regards to which movie would beat the other. So I'll weasel out of it by saying I was right four times, and two times I don't know.

Category: Achievement in Cinematography
I predicted a hands-down win for "TWBB," even over those movies I hadn't seen, and I was correct.

Category: Achievement in Directing
I said that the Coen brothers would take this for "No Country," and I was right.

Category: Achievement in Film Editing
I had no idea what went into this (and still don't), so I predicted "TWBB" would come out on top. Sadly, I was completely off on that one. "The Borne Ultimatum" took the Oscar in this category.

Category: Achievement in Sound Editing
My other failure at clairvoyance, "The Borne Ultimatum" took this category as well. I predicted "TWBB."

Category: Adapted Screenplay
Another victory for me, with "No Country" winning in this category.

Category: Best Motion Picture of the Year
The big one. This was another one I made a blanket statement about who would win, even though I hadn't seen the other 3 movies nominated. I predicted "No Country," and it took it.

My one other prediction, for Best Actor, was correct as well, with Daniel Day-Lewis taking it for his role as oil-man Daniel Plainview in "TWBB." "No Country" also won one of its categories in which it was not competing against "TWBB." Javier Bardem took Best Supporting Actor for his role in "No Country." A complete list of the winners can be found here.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Board Game Review - Intrigue

Game Summary (from rule book): "You begin the game with a palace (encompassing 4 areas) and 8 scholars in your color. You send your scholars to foreign palaces and try to place them in high-salary positions. In order to successfully apply for positions at other palaces (and try to ensure a higher income), you must convince the palace owner of your scholar's excellent qualities. Competition for each position is fierce, and even a hired scholar can be replaced. Everything is allowed -- a little bribe under the table, promises, threats, persuasiveness, and flattery -- and every promise can be broken.

You make money in 2 ways during the game. You collect wages from all of your scholars employed in other players' palaces. You also make money from the bribes that you collect every time someone applies for a position in your palace.

The player with the most money -- collected by whatever means possible -- after 5 rounds wins the game!"

Intrigue is, well, interesting, to say the least. Once you get the game play down, it is very simple. There are only three things to do during your turn: collect the salary for your scholars working in other players' palaces, which is over in a few seconds; decide who to hire in your palace, which is where you'll spend most of your time; and send two of your own scholars to any of the other players' palaces.

The second action is where things get interesting. After people apply to your palace, you get to decide how much they get payed, and which player's scholars get hired when two are vying for the same position. To help you decide, those applying grease the wheels with a little cash, as well as try to wheel and deal to convince you that their scholar should be hired, and at a good pay. But the catch is, it doesn't matter what deals you make or bribes you take: nothing's permanent and every promise can be broken. This creates some very tense moments in the game.

I played with fellow Hobsonian Drew, his girlfriend Kelsey and her roommate, Kat. This, I felt initially, put me at a slight disadvantage, because Drew and Kelsey might work together, and the same might hold true for Kelsey and Kat. However, as I was delighted to discover, the game was so good at creating bad vibes between players that I needn't have worried about pre-game alliances. All it takes is one deal going south for you after you've just forked out for a hefty bribe to realize all bets are off in Intrigue. Thankfully, we all went into the game knowing that's what it was, a game, so there was no lasting harm, even after all of us were back-stabbed by those we trusted. Perhaps even because of it: everyone betrayed everyone else, so there were no hard feelings.

The game was well balanced throughout, and even at the end, when we were only going to get one or two more payouts from our scholars' jobs, it was still very competitive in terms of who would be hired and who banished to the island, although the bribes were a bit smaller. There were all sorts of deals, which were then completely ignored once one person realized the other would be unable to do anything in retribution. It was also interesting to see how being betrayed (or betraying) didn't really affect how you interacted with each other later. If you needed to make a deal to get one of your scholars into a high-paying spot, you made it, even if you had just had the rug pulled from under you last turn. The game is not about trust, but about manipulation, and as such, I enjoyed it very much (even though I lost).