September 16, 2004

As a matter of fact, the wheels HAVE stopped.

So I's modulating from a D to an A 

when I saw your eyebrows bendin' my way.
I was ready to go but I guess I'll stay;
since, you know, I write, I get the final say.
Nothing's ever my fault, 'less it makes for good fiction,
while I'n always put you under interdiction.
So take some advice, babe, and save us some friction:
don't whine, don't fuss, don't correct my diction. Yeah.
Some words I'm putting into Bob Dylan's mouth. Unfair? I'm sure it's nothing he's scrupulous about.

September 08, 2004

Family values.

this is an audio post - click to play

You know, I think it's healthy that Diane and I can bond over Blood on the Tracks. Heh.

September 06, 2004

A bit of fluff.

I am going to exercise my taste for weird gadgetry in the midst of all the important events surrounding us. You have been warned.

In a SAAN closeout center (Canada's answer to Marshall's/TJMaxx) in Marathon, I picked up a truly bizarre handheld game for about $5. It's called the ESOP, and is functionally identical to any other 118-in-1 brick game, such as this. The game part isn't what's interesting, though; it's the packaging of the unit and the design of the unit itself that's unreal. Really, I need to post pictures, but here's a description of the unit:

Somewhere in the ESOP's shady past, I believe, lies a clever Playstation hardware designer. He looked at the PS's controller and said: "Wouldn't it be neat if it had a built-in screen?" He managed to convince someone to finance him, a bunch of cases for these controllers were made, but then something happened that ended the project. This left loads and loads of PS controllers with latching screens on the surplus market.

Here, I think, a Taiwanese company got an equally clever idea. "We have loads of these 118-in-1 talking brick game PCBs, loads of LEDs, loads of chips," they said, "but nobody wants to buy them in the ugly cases our OEMs have been selling them in. Those PS controller shells, with a proper paint job, might look cool enough, though." So they did a little retrofitting, got the boards into the cases, and painted the case metallic blue, to make it still more reminiscent of the Game Boy Advance SP. But they needed a name. They cast around and decided on ESOP -- it told lots of stirring tales, after all. Best of all, they decided on a slogan for the unit: Friendly & Natural. (The appeal to the Canadian distributors seems obvious, doesn't it?) Except the idea didn't sell too well and they all ended up at a clearance center. Ah well.

Again, the unit is a metallic blue PS controller with a flip-up LCD screen in the center (several of the LCD blocks are dead on my unit, making gameplay even more exciting!). The ESOP logo is printed on the back of the LCD screen and again on the controller underneath the screen, and the "Friendly & Natural" slogan is printed above it in both cases. It really is a PS controller -- it has all four shoulder buttons, though they're nonfunctional and glued in place -- but each direction is a discrete switch (i.e. you can press multiple directions at once, if it turns you on), and there's a button in the middle of the right hand keypad to turn the unit on and off (leading, as you might expect, to accidental shutdowns).

There is one more bizarre aspect to the unit: the box advertises "DFE - dual flash effect!". "Dual flash effect" refers to LEDs mounted on the face of the controller, in front of each shoulder button set, that flash whenever the unit plays any sound effect. I can't begin to imagine the design process there.

A short note about the games, just because I feel boorish. There aren't, of course, 118 games. There are ten games (some of which don't seem to actually work), each with loads of level/speed settings that raise the total number of selectable options to 118, somehow. Half are obvious (Combat ripoff, Breakout ripoff, Grand Prix ripoff, Snake ripoff, Tron MCP cone ripoff(!)). I don't understand what the hell two of them are about: there's one where, well, square blocks explode and then you die (?); there's another that has as its splash screen a stick figure flexing its muscles (?), but the game actually consists of blocks falling and then you die. The other three are special: there's one where, apparently, your character, a dot, has to climb up conveyor belts (more dots); there's another where an inverted pyramid breaks into pieces and you have to shoot them as they fall (maybe a crack-brained reinterpretation of Space Invaders?). The final game, though, is a triumph: you play as the car from the Grand Prix ripoff and shoot falling Tetris pieces. Whee!

There is no information about this unit online, but I found a really funny engrish text while searching for it.
Taewool also has the worker welfare system called “Funny 

Culture Making” that provide birthday parties, health
care check, Influenza vaccination, and events to employees.
Flu vaccination is no laughing matter, I know, but the translation still cracks me up.