All posts for the month July, 2007

So with what looks like a slow, struggling recovery, I may be wrong about the stock market's resilience. It wouldn't be the first time. To be honest, fancying myself a technical trader, I've never been very good at the buy-and-hold game. Accumulators probably had a ball with this dip. I took it as an oppotunity to accumulate high dividend stocks. I am no baller in this arena, and I will not play the rebound on a court I don't know. I'll remain cautious, and more importantly, I will not regret gains I might miss out on. That's my style, I'm stickin' to it.

After Nintendo's amazing financial statement came out, Sony follows up with equal aplomb… in the form of pompous bullshit. It's shocking that Sony CFO Kobuyuki Oneda said:

"Actually, because the number of units [of PS3] sold was not as high as we hoped, the loss was better than our original expectation,"

Ignoring the massive costs of R&D, support, and over-manufacturing, let's just think about the sheer illogicity of this spin. If I were the worlds ugliest hooker and had my legs spread on the street next to a bedpan with "five bucks a fuck" scratched into the rim, I'm less of a slut than the rest since no one would be taking me up on the offer.

Get real.

Meanwhile, I am trying very hard to find an Xbox 360 to buy, probably an elite. I've already pre-ordered Bioshock, and I'm just waiting to see if the system price drops on August 12th. This coming gaming season is going to be unmissable, and the raving reviews of the 300 HD-DVD makes my wallet suicidal.

I've been flinching since last month but the blow didn't come til this week. The stock market took a beating this past week, and I was fortunate to have put myself in a safe place before it happened. Well, relatively safe. My 5-year cyclical safety portfolio has been losing half of what the S&P 500 has been losing, which is comforting considering it still has some dividend help, but I made a bad decision on keeping some real estate. Overall, I've lost the majority of my gain since two months ago, but it wasn't much to begin with. The bulk should still come from dividends and long-term growth.

On my trading portfolio, I put myself in a very safe place with international stocks and the Brazillian index, but putting money on gold as a hedge hasn't worked out. The problem is that the market is not falling on inflation data or other economic symptoms. Rather it's a adverse reaction to the end of cheap money, the credit that's been fueling leveraged buy-outs and sub-prime mortgages. In this situation, it's a general aversion to risk and credit, and therefore gold suffers as well.

Other than that, I've been doing very very well this year. However, my inclination is that the stock market is going to get worse before it gets better. The fact that the market pierced its trendline so fiercely without any sign of a let up by Friday is not good. There aren't too many safe spots to stand at the moment.

We had a great movie summer this year, but after E3, it looks like we're going to have an even more amazing holiday season for games. Some the ones that really caught my eye:

Call of Duty 4
Mass Effect
Super Mario Galaxy

Also amazing was the Wii Fit "game" that Nintendo introduced, causing me to seriously consider picking up more shares in their stock. Their ability to make disposable fads never ceases to amaze me. Or maybe I'm just so shaken by the prospect of Metroid Prime 3, Smash Bros. (this year!!!), and Zelda: Phantom Hourglass. But even more amazing was EA's admission that "we are boring people to death." Games like Boogie and EA Playground are spreading the crepuscular rays of hope that the industry's great heartless game factory has a human pulse.

And although I keep swearing not to, I can not help but criticise Sony once again for it's utter disrespect for gamers. Hot on the heels of Microsoft's announcement of an awesome retroactive 3-yr warranty for the 360, Sony decided to drop their own bomb. Playstation 3, the 60gb version, is shedding $100 off its tag. Brilliant right?

And then Hirai tells us that that SKU of the PS3 is no longer in production. How disingenous can they get? If that kinda of bait-and-switch is what they think E3 is for (remember the original Killzone 2 trailer? See the latest in comparison), then they've truly lost their minds. And if they haven't, that would be even worse.

Hello from E3 mania-land!

There been much debate about the necessity of the third-person perspective in the esteemed Fallout series, and the apparent lack of it in the upcoming Fallout 3 from Bethesda. With pipe in hand, tweed jacket ensconched, I present my scholarly nerdface, and ruminate on this and other social trivialities.

For me, the third-person perspective and turned-based combat was and is integral to Fallout. Why? Well, ask yourself what was it that made Fallout so memorable. Invariably, the answer will be that feeling of survival, embodied in its post-apocalyptic theme, and your emergence from such a harsh world. Unlike other RPGs, you weren't a hero to anyone but the superstitious lot in your pathetic little village. Out in the wastelands, against bandits, slavers, feral mutations, and that inescapable radiation build-up in your body, you felt fragile and suffocated even as you leveled-up.

With the overhead perspective, you could see the lay of the land, and really drink in how forgotten and lonely each town was. You could see the fallout. Unable even to choose how your character looked on creation, you were just one of many characters, no bigger, no more colorful, just another face from the desert. Until your avatar donned the power armor (and even then), you didn't stand out. It was a starkly egalitarian world.

And then with the turn-based combat, you could experience the tension in immediate survival. You were made to make life or death choices in you tactics against unfair odds, have the time to dread impending death, and watch those actions play out in a violence even more punctuated by how sudden it was compared to decision making mode. Every used action point spelt committal, and clicking the [END TURN] button faced you with consequence and fate. One moment you were the saviour of the wastelands, the next you were a putrid mess of flesh riddled with laser gatling shots. And you had the entire eternity before ending your turn to contemplate it.

So it brings me great pleasure to hear that Bethesda has chosen to make the morally relativist distopia (post-topia?) of the Fallout gamescape true to the originals; perspective and turn-based combat are back! I'm always impressed when a company can take another's vision and step up to the challenge. Conscious of how empty and undirected Morrowind is, I am glad to see how honestly they've taken up the task of making Fallout a different game, and not just a clone in drag. Time will tell, but I'm very excited with the details coming out about what is sure to be a new epic, if only the fanboys give it a chance.

Been a long time since I had time to post.

There is a funny thing about fanaticism on the internet, namely that it lacks temporal coherence. I find it so beyond rational to be criticized for criticizing the early Transformers designs now that the movie is out and the Transformers look badass. One fellow said I had not done my "research." Research of what at the time? The internet preserves your words in stone, forgetting the context of the time so that I can look "dumb" months after I make fair criticism. I think they're just forgotten that polemic can be something besides Whine Vs. Fact.

So anyways, the movie wasn't bad. You could keep the same movie and just swap out the director from Michael Bay to Ridley Scott and I would have declared it a victory, since I just can't support his selfish directing style and how he wraps his two arms around the military's cock, then jumps up and down to stroke out a caricature of patriotism. What, did you think it was an accident the military helped out so much on the film?

ILM's robots were phenomenal in motion, easily the best robot animation work ever done. I didn't like how overdesigned they were, and sometimes couldn't tell which way they were standing/flipping/facing, but it is not easy to make a 20ft robot move stealthily across suburbia. Just… what the fuck was that medic bot doing the whole time? They should have held him down and shoved the magic spark into HIS cowardly go-bot chest. And I still think Megatron could have been a gun… no… a fuck-all rail/satellite gun, that's right. He wasn't all that scary, dunno why any of the rest were hailing him in their Jar Jar garble.

Oh yeah and Megan Fox was damn hot.

If that were all my summer movie quota though, I would have been left blue-balled. I definitely didn't need Optimus Prime's idiotic state-of-the-union address, no matter how bad the liberal media has gotten. But c'mon, that speech would make Bill O'Reilly roll his eyes. Guess something needs to balance Michael Moore's "intellectual" crusade against healthcare in which he shows us that Cuba treats rich Americans when even America does not. Just don't ask about the real Cubans.

Fortunately, Ratatouille marked itself as the next American classic, a perfect animation told with perfect story and Pixar's trademarked ability to engage morals, entertain, and avoid cheap laugh fads. Their work is timeless. I no longer need to go to France now; the city shots were so amazing I fought to not lose my breath to a mere projected image as I sat in a stunned theater. And while the story was simple, Pixar told it the way the peasant dish of ratatouille was cooked in the movie- simply, but with aplomb and passion.

Having visited Pixar a couple times, I can tell you that the movie was that good for a reason. Stepping onto their campus was like stepping into Disneyland for the first time. Walking past their man-made tobaggan snowbank, into their airy art-filled mega-loft, onto their Segway highways connecting cubicles, past their gigantic theater, and around a workplace stuffed with relics and artifacts of childhood endearment from the Golden Age, you just knew. This was the Willy Wonka chocolate factory of 3D animation.

Xstine and I both looked at each other after the film, eyes tearing with some jealousy. I asked myself why I left a potential route into film fx and animation for the games industry. Then the endless credits came, and I remembered why. Nevertheless, to all the hardworking, brilliant artists and TDs who worked on this magnificent piece, congratulations! You've added something tangible to American culture. And you did it without giant killer robots (no pun intended, they do great work too).