May 2002 Archives

Getting into the Sims

Lately I've been getting a lot of traffic to In Sequence from people looking for information on the Sims, so I thought I'd share some general information on the topic, including some links to some of my favorite Sims sites.
First, for absolute beginners, here's how to get started: the core product, and all you need to get started, is The Sims (available for PC and Mac through Amazon, or at any store that sells games, e.g., Best Buy, CompUSA). There's no need to buy an additional strategy guide, since the game comes with a good tutorial and a well-written instruction manual. Later on, you may want to buy one of the additional add-on packs, Livin' Large, House Party, Hot Date, or Sims Vacation, each of which adds a unique element to the game.
Your first stop online should be the official EA web site, which has downloads, links, community features, and news about the game. Macheads should additionally visit Aspyr for several Mac-specific downloads. For learning more about the game, I have relied heavily on the excellent how-to essays and cheats available at The Wage of Sim, which is shutting down at the end of June. So hustle over there, especially you Macsters, because the essay on converting PC skins to Mac files is essential reading.
The look of your characters in the Sims can be customized through "skins," which can be downloaded off the web from any number of sites. Based on my own interests, I've uncovered Disney skins, Star Trek skins, and incredible comic book skins. I was recently browsing the enormous skins collection at the Sims Resource and found skins for the Simpsons characters, the Addams family, an unnerving variety of clowns, Jesus and his son Jesus Jr., a couple of Bollywood stars, and Dick Cheney.
There are a few gay and lesbian Sims groups on Yahoo, but all in all, there's not much in the way of dedicated resources for us Queer Simmers. Nonetheless, there are many riches to be mined from other sites. I give my absolute highest recommendation to Roman Sims, which--besides showcasing an out-of-control obsession--provides many downloads for those of us who can't watch Ben-Hur without snickering. Skins of scantily clad gladiators and wispy-looking women swathed in sapphic robes await you, along with the inspiring Sims tale, "House of the Dolphin." Look for the bathhouse scene.
I am also keen on Nighttime Sims, a vaguely Gothic site which houses a lovely collection of retro wallpapers and sumptuous art nouveau bathrooms. Of course, I needed the Andalucian patio set from Interior Design Sims for my Southern California-based Sims, who enjoy their indoor/outdoor lifestyle with landscaping objects courtesy of Simorphor. I also got my Sims next generation gaming consoles at 7 Deadly Sims; even if I can't afford them, at least my Sims can.
Finally, there's more Sims stuff headed our way. Gamers.com has an entertaining article on the upcoming Sims Online, while GameSpy has details on importing your Sims characters into the new SimCity 4.

E3 2002 Report

I survived E3 2002, and all I got was this Lara Croft pin-up and a massive earache. The ear pain came from several hours of communicating by yelling into the ears of others in order to be heard above the sound of car crashes, sniper fire, clashing swords, and all the other cheerful, twinkling noises that video games make.
Not that I'm complaining, no. My friend David and I were in gamers' heaven as we perused the booths, although he was often preoccupied by the fact that so many of the attendees were his height (6'4"), an improbable fact which he felt must contain some secret message. I, meanwhile, was concerned with the secret message I kept hearing from the trade show floor, and it was this: "Is there really anything wrong with owning 3 gaming consoles? Huh? Is there?"
I hate to say it but the game that really captured my attention was Panzer Dragoon Orta, an X-Box exclusive. The visuals for this game were mind-blowing. And here I was, all set to buy a Playstation 2 ("Is there anything wrong...?"). Other things that looked tasty: WarCraft III (PC), Mario Sunshine (GameCube), Age of Mythology (PC), Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Playstation 2), and The Lord of the Rings (X-Box). Unfortunately, a lot of the most touted games (The Sims Online, Doom III, Everquest 2) were invitation-only or required you to stand in a long line, just for a peek. I skipped that.
There was plenty of other fun stuff to see, too. I got to see Tony Hawk skating a half-pipe, and Evolution Robotics had their new robot roaming the floor. But perhaps the most exciting thing of all was the unexpected appearance of Fear Effect 3: The Inferno, starring our favorite lesbian console hero, Rain! I questioned the folks at Eidos about the title but they said they had zero information on it. However, from the footage I saw, it's quite clear that Rain's special relationships will continue to be highlighted in this new saga.

Future of blogging response

Crazy Tracy, Mistress of the Dykewrite webring, has asked all member bloggers to post something about what we think regarding the future of blogging. Currently there is a lot of attention being given to the inevitable mainstreaming of weblogging. Certainly it is unfortunate that members of the right have taken so enthusiastically to weblogging. However, I see it is an extension of the co-opting strategies that have served the right so well in the past.
Co-opting is also a mechanism of capitalist markets. In the process of assimilating the truly new, unique phenomena often get made over into the same old shit. As those very late capitalists known as the Borg might put it, "We will add its uniqueness to our own." For instance, I have noticed that as mainstream media personalities enter Blogistan, they tend to extend into the blogging space the same insular arguments and preoccupations found in conventional media (e.g., just how egocentric is Andrew Sullivan?).
To the extent that established media continues to resist weblogging, they denigrate its readers and authors with an unimaginative array of putdowns: "Most weblogs are boring and badly written," "You can't trust weblogs because there don't adhere to journalistic standards," "Weblogs are a popularity contest," and so on. But blogs wouldn't be making news in general interest publications if there wasn't something at stake.
The "something" is the freedom to act within a newly-defined digital public sphere, including the ability to communicate, develop, and trade ideas, experiences, and works with others. It's a concept that the Internet has given a global life to through a wide variety of technologies and formats, including blogging, peer-to-peer networks, DIY webcasts, fan fiction, and open source code, among others. Individual blogs may succeed by being intensely personal, but blogging matters because it is changing our world.

Meet the Jennings

It's Joe's Birthday! Happy Birthday Joe!
To commemorate the birthday of one of my most faithful readers and commentors, I would like to introduce all In Sequence readers to the Sims version of Joe, seen here receiving a back rub from his partner, Sim Peter Jennings. They were the first gay male couple to be introduced to my Sim neighborhood, which is largely overrun by dykes.
Real Joe was fretting about not having a boyfriend when I decided to put Sim Joe in the neighborhood, so I decided to give him a virtual one. I decided on Sim Peter Jennings because I am devoted to Peter Jennings in much the same way that Rosie O'Donnell is devoted to Tom Cruise. I think Peter is an ideal man, despite the fact that he never returns my e-mail or takes my advice regarding his sometimes questionnable ties. So I gave him the gift of gayness and made him one of my Sims.
Sim Peter Jennings is on the journalism career track (naturally) and is presently working as a meteorologist. Sim Joe is a very successful paranormal. They live in a retro-furnished house with a large pool and enclosing privacy fence that allows them to live their hedonistic lifestyle in peace. Peter is something of a comfort queen and if he can't have a long bath and a nap he gets a little pissy.
Right now I am really regretting not having the House Party add-on, because then maybe I could throw Sim Joe a birthday party. Does anyone know if this is possible with House Party?

Intro to 3D Animation

My friend Joe--bless his comics-lovin' heart--took me to see Spiderman the other day. I loved the opening titles and the way the lines of the cobwebs morphed into a 3D wireframe image of Green Goblin. Sitting through the previews reminded me that the summer movie season is here, with its bonanza of special effects. Not so long ago I read Isaac Kerlow's excellent primer The Art of 3-D Computer Animation and Imaging, which provides a comprehensive introduction to the process of creating 3D animation and special effects. So now I will feel a bit more literate about what goes into making some of these blockbusters, as well as many of the games I play.
If you already have some knowledge of digital imaging terminology--say, from using Photoshop or QuickTime--you will find this book to be an interesting overview of a wide range of 3D technologies, production methods, and modeling techniques. For someone with no prior knowledge of digital imaging processes, this book might be a bit difficult, but worthwhile nonetheless. There is also a companion web site, which includes excerpts from the book and a variety of resources and links.

Deep in Lego Space

From the popular television show, Star Brick: Voyager, comes this familiar shot depicting a tender scene between Captain Katheryn Janeway and Seven of Nine. Here, the Captain--who had previously freed Seven from the evil Block Collective so that she might become an individual set of bricks--watches Seven sleep while contemplating ripping off her clothes and taking her to bed as part of her Captain's perogative. Image created with the help of The Lego Character Generator, via BoingBoing.

Star Wars II Premiere

(No Spoilers.) All praise goes to my sister, whose total ass-kickingness I humbly acknowledge here. Because she is the one who got me my ticket to the Los Angeles premiere screening of Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones, which I've reproduced here. If you're a fan and want a fan's perspective on the film, I'll give you the essential information right now: I think it's right up there with Episode V. I just loved the hell out of this movie.
I arrived at the Grauman's Chinese Theater yesterday at the time requested, about 2 hours early. As I descended the stairs onto Hollywood Blvd., Darth Vadar, 4 storm troopers, and Jango Fett crossed in front of me, making their way to the threshold of the theater, where they would greet the entering audience. Across the street, a crowd had gathered in the record-breaking 96 degree heat to watch the stars arrive.
Once inside the theater, I joined the other seated audience members in trying to pick out celebrities from among the better-looking and better-dressed people heading for the reserved middle seats. You would be surprised however, at how difficult it is to spot famous people in a crowded, semi-lit theater. Nonetheless, there was no mistaking Samuel L. Jackson when he entered from the back, looking stylish in a cream-colored suit and matching Kangol cap.
The actor who played Jar-Jar Binks introduced the film, which I suppose is a good segue into what's wrong with the movie. Like most fans, I had some strong reservations going into this film. First, there was the sad memory of Episode I to contend with. And, I was frankly worried about the romance at the heart of Episode II--not to be hard-hearted about it, but I'm at the age where nothing could bore me more than the idea of watching two people under the age of 20 fall in love.
But neither of those concerns proved to be a problem. The plot ticks along at a face pace, and Natalie Portman is so meltingly luscious, Hayden Christensen so broodingly charismatic, that it was easy to get wrapped up in the movie right away. However. Some of the dialogue is a bit awkward, with the result that some of the performances at times lack conviction. Luckily, those moments mostly occur in the first part of the film, and the involving plot and swift pacing quickly erased them from my memory.
Episode II is incredibly rich in detail and offers fans the kinds of rewards one would expect from a serial. The foreshadowing of future events, the resolution of backstory, and the echoing of familiar themes give the film its unique narrative texture. For that reason, the more you know and understand about the series--the inter-relationships between characters, the timeline of various events--the more satisfying this particular chapter is. Like Episode V, Episode II thrills by dramatically asking provocative questions that will need to be resolved in a later movie.
The art direction in the film is spectacular, although in some instances, the compositing of scenes is a bit rough. But in scope and consistency, the art direction, special effects, and costuming was superb. Actually, I can't say enough about the art direction. Let's just say that if you like lots of scenes of dirty, hot metal you're in for a good time. I also especially liked the deep bass effects on the soundtrack and recommend that when you do see the film, that you find the theater in your area with the best available sound system. MTFBWY.

Villainous Garlic Breath

In case there are any aspiring comic book writers out there, here is a plot element that I offer to you, gratis: the evil villain goes to The Cheesecake Factory for an early Mother's Day dinner, where she orders delicious Shrimp Scampi in a rich sauce filled with whole cloves of roasted garlic. The evil villain eats said dish, thus obtaining the Flaming Breath Odor of Death. Soon thereafter, the evil villain realizes the power of her mighty breath weapon. The world is threatened, demands are made, etc., etc.

BLUE MEANIES!

The other night, my Cute Little Red-Haired Girlfriend and I watched the DVD of Yellow Submarine in all it's glorious eye-popping color and joyful tunefulness. I loved seeing it again after so many years, although I had a strange, anachronistic sensation throughout that I was watching MTV.
The chief Blue Meanie is so deliciously fey! He really is one of the great animated gay villains--up there with Scar from The Lion King. I adore his mad, high-pitched giggle and the way he pets "Glovey" like he's a prize French Poodle. And that pencil mustache is so John Waters! If I were a man I would definitely wear a pencil mustache. It's so chic and yet so trashy at the same time.
The extras on the DVD were not extensive, though they were informative. I was surprised by the sketchiness of the storyboards considering the lushness of the backgrounds and the complicated design of the creatures, but thinking on it further, I can see that the motion of the scenes is fairly simple. There was also an interesting discussion on the DVD regarding Yellow Submarine as a voyage, a variation on the Odyssey theme. The two go hand in hand, I guess: linear theme, simple motion.
I also enjoyed the interviews, where various artists discussed the difficulties of bringing the distinctive look of Yellow Submarine to film. One person mentioned that the Blue Meanies were originally supposed to purple, but that difficulties in using quantities of purple on screen either by themselves or in combination with other strong colors influenced the decision to use blue instead. Another pointed out that the main character designs were created as flat illustrations, and that getting them to animate naturally once the designs were complete was at times challenging.

Hello Kitty Gaming

Two of my favorite things--computer games and Japanese character goods--are being brought together in the upcoming game Hello Kitty Football Cup 2002. In this new PC game, a giant-sized, 3D Hello Kitty roughs it up on the soccer field with realistically depicted human players. I hope the game developers understand that they can't stop here--character goods/game fans will now want to see Chococat Golf and Bad Batz Maru Snow Boarders Xtreme.

Weblog changes

I've been wanting to write for a few days now just to say welcome to all the new visitors who've come to In Sequence in the past few days--those who came because of the reference on Boing-Boing (around 1,000 new visitors over a period of 3 days) and decided to stay, and those who are visiting via the new DykeWrite webring, which is off to a great start already.
A few things to notice: unfortunately, the Blogger engine appears to be having a problem with Archives, so the monthly archives are missing from the front page. You can still read older posts in the topic archives, or you can access the monthly archives through the topic pages menus, which do not make use of the Blogger engine.
I recently started using the blogrolling service and have moved my favorite blogs to the front page, where more people will see them. There are now two new images of me in their old location, on the "About this Weblog" page.
Finally, as I welcome my new readers I also want to send a big warm embrace to all my long-time readers, especially my commentators and you crazy, friendly guys from Brazil. Thanks for dropping by.

Someday my She-Hulk will come

I went over to Apple's QuickTime Trailer Theater this morning to watch the teaser for the upcoming Incredible Hulk movie. I have to admit I left a bit dissatisfied, I guess because the memory of the Bixby/Ferrigno transformation still has such a vital presence inside my brain.
What would really grab my attention is a Sensational Savage She-Hulk movie. The only celebrity I can think of who really has the body for the She-Hulk is Chyna. But then who would play the Hulkstress pre-transformation? Casting ideas, anyone?

Wacky Disney Racing

I know there are lots of folks who are mad at the mouse these days, so it is with some chagrin that I offer here my recommendation of the Playstation game, Walt Disney World Quest - Magical Racing Tour.
Let me begin by saying that Magical Racing Tour is not for everyone. However, if you satisfy the first criterion for liking the game, you've passed them all, as far as I'm concerned. So ask yourself: Do you love all things Disney with a pure, child-like love? Is there a special place in your heart reserved for golden memories of bygone trips to The Happiest Place On Earth? Do the words "Get Out Your E-Ticket" cause you to shake uncontrollably and break down in tears of loss and regret? In short, are you from Southern California or Florida?
If any of the above questions inspires you to answer with a heartfelt "yes," then you will love this often overlooked cart game. All others, I am afraid you do not meet the height requirement for this attraction.
The game has a simple premise, which is so win a series of races. In that effort, you take the role of a Disney character and race through a Disney-themed environment in a Disney-style vehicle. Some reviews of the game have criticized Magical Racing Tour for not including the primo Disney characters, like Mickey, Minnie, and Donald, and it's true, with the exception of Jiminy Cricket, who appears a as unlockable bonus driver, the choice of characters is third-tier at best.
However, although the characters do have distinct driving abilities (I recommend using the zippy Amanda Sparkle), they are for the most part invisible in the game--placeholders representing the player's agency. The real stars of the show are the race tracks themselves, which are based on the attractions of the various Disney resorts.
Because Disney rides are often marvelously crafted simulated environments--the Jungles of Africa becoming a backdrop for the Jungle Cruise, or a decrepit New Orleans estate serving as the locale for the Haunted Mansion--the race tracks are in fact virtual versions of these simulations, or, in other words, simulations of simulations.
The detail and charm of the various tracks varies, as does the difficulty level. I recommend starting out on one of the easier tracks--for example, Dinosaur, or the Tomorrowland Speedway--before working up to the more difficult tracks, such as the Pirates of the Carribean and the Haunted Mansion, which require more advanced maneuvers. The vehicles also vary in their sensitivity to the track. Particularly notable driving experiences are offered by the snowmobile in Blizzard Beach and the rocket in Space Mountain.
While full racing speed is fairly fast, in Time Trial mode you can go as slow as you want, which allows you to take in the scenery around you. Later, in Trophy mode, you will be encouraged to fulfill the typical Disney visitor's dream of going "off the tracks" in order to explore hidden areas. Surprisingly, the best track by far in terms of emulating its resort counterpart is the Haunted Mansion track, a little masterpiece in its originality, atmosphere, and level of challenge. You'll probably need the excellent driving advice found I found over at GameFAQs in order to get through this level.
Finally, while the Disney soundtrack is in some cases quite enjoyable--the surf music at Typhoon Lagoon stood out for me--even the most die hard Disney fan may want to remember the mute button after several loops of "Yo Ho! Yo Ho! A Pirate's Life For Me" in the Pirates of the Carribean track.

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