This is Chris dot com
Music, Movies, & General Geekery: Life.
by Christopher Grant Harris

Friday, 24 July 2015

Fools Play’s Summer Memories

Summer Fun

Summer Fun

This Saturday (tomorrow!!) will be Fools Play Improv’s only show in August. It’ll be at 8:00 PM at Tacoma Youth Theatre in downtown Tacoma. In order to prepare for this event, the Fools shared some of their most treasured summer memories. Here they are:

HILARY’S SUMMER OF 1994

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Young Hilary knew summer camp would be hell, but her mother would have none of it. “You’ll make friends, you’ll get outside, you’ll earn merit badges,” she reassured Hilary as they drove toward Lake Native Word For Boys And Girls’ Camp.

“Mom,” moaned Hilary, “I think you have to be a scout to go to scout camp,” protested Hilary. “Can’t we just go home?”

“Nonsense,” her mother chided. “We’re here.” They pulled into the campsite, boys and girls playing everywhere. Hilary grabbed her backpack and opened the passenger door. “Now let’s get you registered,” her mother cooed. “And remember to smile! That cute counselor boy is looking your way.”

Hilary winced. “Mom, he’s way too old for me!”

Hilary’s mother removed her sunglasses and gave the boy a once-over from behind the windshield. “Oh, he’s sixteen, tops,” she laughed. “When I was your age…”

Hilary ran out of the car and into the crowd, hoping to lose her mom and survive the weeks ahead.

During that time, the campers learned to kayak, tie knots, reveal their feelings with art therapy, sing songs, and make tampons. Hundreds of kids sitting at long wooden tables in a longhouse that only Mr. Jerson who ran the camp had keys to. There, in an assembly line, they were each part of a process.

One group of kids carefully stuffed each tube with fluff. Another sewed them shut using a stitch they had learned for applying merit badges. At another station the children carefully applied the cardboard applicator.

“This is a sweatshop!” Hilary protested.

“No, it’s not,” said the cute counselor boy. “These things would absorb any sweat and cause the company to reject the product. That’s why we have air conditioners in the longhouse.”

And so Hilary, like the rest of the campers, worked grueling hours hand crafting hygiene products destined to line dollar store shelves in days to come.

“I’ve got to strike back,” she told Benny one night in their cabin.Benny was the only girl Hilary had befriended. They had met when another camper offered Hilary five dollars and a merit page in Aeronautics to abandon Benny on the island in the middle of the lake during a canoe outing. Hilary kept the bribe, but spared Benny, who now said “What are you going to do?”

Hilary thought about it. “I’m going to do all the counselors’ drugs,” she replied.

CHRIS & MIKE’S SUMMER OF 1997

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It was the Summer of 1997. Chris was glued to the TV, his hands guiding him through the just-released StarFox 64. As Chris blasted enemy ships, his brother Mike took a walk outside in the sun. But when Mike returned, he had something in his arms. “This poor cat must have gotten run over,” said Mike. Chris looked up from his game. “That’s no cat,” he exclaimed. “That’s Fox McCloud!”

“What?!” gasped Mike. “You mean from your video game? But how is that possible?”

“Quiet,” gestured Chris, “he’s trying to talk.”

The furry animal Mike carried was badly hurt with visible sores and charred clothing. “An…” it muttered, “Andross…”

“Who’s Andross?” Mike stammered. “Is he from your game, Chris?”

“Beats me, ” Chris shrugged. “I only play this for the pleasurable sensation of the rumble pack.”

Mike and Chris squished their injured companion into a cat carrier and sped toward the vet in their mom’s mini van. Bu they weren’t alone. Screaming down the freeway came several of the exciting, deadly enemy ships and characters from the game. Chris dodged and weaved as the invaders blasted the road.

“I thought my life was crazy before,” blinked Mike, “but now this… This is crazy!”

“No,” said Chris prophetically. “Now this is podracing.” He zoomed the mini van under an overpass that all the enemy spacecraft collided with, resulting in their explosive defeat.

At the vet, the doctor merely shook his head. “The wounds are too severe, and bare the tell-tale signs of having been inflicted by a space monkey,” he sighed.

Fox looked up at the brothers who tried to save his life. “You…” he breathed, “you are the true heroes.” With that, his heart stopped.

“Fox! Fox, come on, you’re okay!” Mike cried. “You’ve got extra lives! Or power ups! Or something…”

“This isn’t a video game!” snapped Chris. “He’s gone. He’s…”

Fox’s body calcified and he became a life-sized amiibo.

LARAMIE’S SUMMER OF 2010

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Laramie had everything he needed to enjoy the beach – save one thing: A tan. The kind of even, shimmering tan that would impress the girls and intimidate his rivals. But getting that ultimate, bronzed coating meant lying on display under the sunlight in public where others might get a blinding look at his pale body. Laramie wasn’t willing to do that. Not for anything.

In order to be the tanned, you must be seen untanned. How could he crack this chicken-and-egg puzzle? The tanning salon offered private booths, but cost more than Laramie could afford. “I’ll make my own tanning bed,” he reasoned. “All I’ll need is a really powerful toaster and a genetic resistance to cancer.”

A few days later, Laramie eyed his creation: A sheet of aluminum foil in which he, the subject, would wrap himself. A defective toaster oven. Bottled spray-tan. Bottled Gatorade. A boom box. Cups, lubricants and magazines. Doilies for taste. Laramie climbed into his foil cloak and set the toaster oven to “Bagel”. Heat waves beamed down on him from the exposed coils, making him sweat off the film of suntan-causing-spray that clung to his skin.

“This is how a superhero might accidentally be created,” he mused.

NEXT WEEK: The exciting debut of the Unbelievable Tanman!

JOSH & JAMIE’S PRESENT DAY

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Jamie loved eating fresh Summer strawberries picked right from the vine of Josh’s backyard garden. Josh had tried various pesticides to discourage Jamie, but he seemed able to eat anything, no matter how many slugs or dogs it vaporized.

Finally Josh went out into the yard with a hose to spray Jamie away. Jamie pushed the hose out of Josh’s hands and they began to wrestle over the strawberry plants. The sprinklers went off. They both got real wet and it was clinging to their clothes and everything. Strawberry juice and fresh garden mud coated their bodies. Some of the neighbors were pretending to text at their windows, but they were really Vining it. “This is some good shit,” said an elderly neighbor.

Finally Josh crawled to the perimeter of the garden, panting. He lit a cigarette. Jamie planted himself next to Josh, but didn’t look at him. After several long moments, Jamie finally spoke. “So what was that about?” he asked.


There you have it. Hope to see you in the audience at the show! BE THERE!

Categories: Fools Play.

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Computer-Generated Magic Cards

There has been a lot of internet chatter recently about recurrent neural networks. Just do a google search of that term if you don’t know what that is; I ain’t here to educamate you on it.

What I am here to do is talk about one of my favorite recent uses for a recurrent neural network: generating Magic: The Gathering cards!

MTG Salvation forum members led by user Talcos have been using these networks to generate new, novel, insane, and hilarious MTG cards. And for your convenience there’s also a twitter account that posts a card once a day.

I laughed SO HARD when I was reading through them. Here are just a few of my favorites:

(They was kicked.)

This. This spell.

Cat Clerics!

Here, look at this card. You can’t have it!

Hellogoodbye!

If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful…

Congratulations: a sorcery

Angelic Sludge

Not ready yet

Go take a look through the entire twitter feed and also the forum thread to see the magic of artificial intelligence hard at work. And also to laugh your ass off.

Categories: Computers, Future Living.

Monday, 13 July 2015

My Favorite Comic-Con Moments 2015

So San Diego Comic-Con is over, and there were lots of big announcements and blah-blah-blah Star Wars blah-blah-blah Batman v. Superman blah-blah X-Men Apocalypse blah-blah. You already know all about all of those, so I ain’t gunna get into ’em.

These are the things that happened at Comic-Con that I really enjoyed:

Junior Braves of the Apocalypse

A friend of mine had a comic book signing at Comic-Con. I still can’t get over that!

https://www.facebook.com/foolsplayimprov/posts/10153462928337328

A FOOL DOES SOMETHING AWESOME: Congratulations to Michael Tanner, AKA the retired GREEN FOOL (on the right with the…

Posted by Fools Play Improv on Thursday, July 9, 2015

I mean, comicbookresources.com even did previews of this book. Hooray Michael Tanner! I <3 my famous friends.

Conan Goes to Comic-Con

The opening segment of Conan O’Brien’s week of shows filmed at Comic-Con was undoubtably the best part:

Joss Whedon’s Twist

Now that Joss Whedon is no longer the shepherd of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, he has time to do projects for himself for a change! First up: an original comic book about an original character:

Joss Whedon's Twist

Joss Whedon’s Twist

Joss Whedon had (unsurprisingly) my favorite single quote of the whole weekend when he described the book:

Basically deals with the most important moral question facing us, which is, why isn’t there a Victorian Female Batman? [1]

Steven Universe Extended Theme Song

There was a Steven Universe panel. And this happened:

I made the mistake of watching that during my lunch break at work last week. Fortunately no one else was around, so I didn’t have to explain that I was crying about a cartoon.

Marceline Sings!

There was an Adventure Time panel, which also contained Rebecca Sugar, the creator of Steven Universe. See, she worked on Adventure Time before starting Steven Universe, and she wrote a bunch of the most memorable songs for them. And she’s written a new song for Marceline. Whose voice actress, Olivia Olson, also just happened to be on the panel. So, y’know, she helped out:

Ash vs Evil Dead

I do believe this speaks for itself. Let me know if you’re confused about anything:

Wrongplayed

And, of course, one of my favorite Instagram accounts: Wrongplayed, that purposefully (and hilariously) misidentifies the various cosplay of the con:

I AM GROOT! #marvel #hookedonafeeling #vindiesel #wrongplay

A photo posted by Greg and Mike (@wrongplayed) on

So that’s what I enjoyed and/or am looking forward to. How about you?

[1] http://io9.com/joss-whedon-just-explained-the-meaning-of-life-to-us-1717277218

Categories: Articles, Cartoons, Celebrities, Comics, Music, My Famous Friends, News, Round-up, TV, Videos.

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

“Of the Month” July 2015

Comic Book of the Month:
A brave is brave Junior Braves of the Apocalypse
by Michael Tanner & Greg Smith
A troupe of “Junior Braves” (think Boy Scouts) heads into the mountains for a retreat, only to return to town to discover that a zombie-like apocalypse has happened in their absence. The boys must use their wits and their Junior Brave training to survive and discover if any of their families have made it through the horrors alive. This book, co-written by Fools Play’s own Green Fool Michael Tanner, is like the fun of The Goonies and Monster Squad meets The Walking Dead in one fantastic graphic novel!

Podcast of the Month:
Conversation Parade Conversation Parade with Open Mike Eagle & John Moe
Adventure Time is a cartoon that has attracted a tremendous adult audience. So here is a podcast where two very smart, very nerdy, and very funny people (John Moe and my pal Mike Eagle) discuss undercurrent themes that run through the show and also interview creators and cast members! It’s a lot of fun to listen to, so DO IT. Oh, and the title of the podcast is based on a rather obscure BMO-created video game from the cartoon. You can watch it in “action” in this clip:

Website of the Month:
North Of Reality North of Reality
A delightful series of (almost daily) short prose vignettes of fantastic, surrealist, and unfettered imagination, often with a sinister or threatening air hanging in the background. I’ve written about Uel Aramchek before when I posted his series of tweets about the “Invisible States of America.” These are like those, only a bit longer and more developed, but still with that same sense of mystery and awe.

Categories: Of the Month.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Where Have You Been, Young Man?

Where have I been?

I haven’t written anything for this here website sing I did the “Of the Month” of June (many days late I might add). What gives?

Well, I must confess: I have been writing. Just not here. Instead…

Oni Press Open Submissions!

Oni Press Open Submissions!

I was writing a comic book pitch to submit to Oni Press’s Open Submissions!

Yes, that Oni Press, the comic book company that originally published Scott Pilgrim, and that is currently publishing Junior Braves of the Apocalypse, the comic book co-written by my pal (and retired Green Fool) Michael Tanner:

The Green Fool writes comics. Why not the Purple Fool...?

The Green Fool writes comics. Why not the Purple Fool…?

So we’ll see! If they like it, there might just be two Fools who are writing comics in 2015.

There’s one thing for sure, though: I like it. And I don’t just mean the pitch that I sent. I mean the process of writing something more than a blog post or an article or a movie review (which I haven’t done in over a year now).

I’ve always really enjoyed writing. One of my favorite days in college was when I wrote over 100 pages of a screenplay in one day. Writing little things for this website and doing Fools Play have kinda kept a lid on my creative cravings for the past many years, but now it’s becoming an itch that must be scratched. I feel I have to write something. Something real and substantial.

So I’m going to take the month of July off from doing anything seriously creative (which means you might get some more posts on this here website), but starting in August I’m going to back off from thisischris.com again to concentrate my creative energies in a different direction.

So in conclusion: read and then pre-order Junior Braves of the Apocalypse by Michael Tanner & Greg Smith.

Categories: Fools Play, My Famous Friends, Updates.

Friday, 12 June 2015

“Of the Month” June 2015

Video Game of the Month:
SUATLSteven Universe: Attack the Light
This is a rather fun li’l turn-based RPG based on one of the best cartoons in existence right now, Steven Universe. The controls are very intuitive and easy, leveling-up is natural enough that you never need to grind (very important to me), and the animations and voices (all the voice actors/actresses from the cartoon) are great. It’s not bad at all for $2.99, and it’s a great companion piece that manages to capture much of the charm of the cartoon. Available on a mobile device near you.

Restaurant of the Month:
icecreamsocial-logo-orangeIce Cream Social
It’s gettin’ hot out there… so instead of taking off all yer clothes, why not get some delicious iced cream? For many a year Ice Cream Social was only available in food cart form, but a while back they opened up a permanent, brick-and-mortar ice cream parlor on the bustling 6th Ave in Tacoma. Results seem to be very positive: there’s often a line out the door on warm days. There’s a good combination of permanent standard flavors as well as a menu of rotating experimental flavors (like strawberry-balsamic). It ain’t cheap, but it’s supremely high-quality.

An example Ice Cream Social menu.

An example Ice Cream Social menu.

Website of the Month:
DayoftheShirtDay of the Shirt
You know how there are now a bunch of different websites that offer cool/nerdy/geeky T-shirts that are pretty cheap (usually $10-$12) but are only available for about 24 hours? You probably know about one or two of those sites, but there are gobs of them. And it would be a real pain to keep track of them all… except for this website, that aggregates them all for you. Updated every hour, refreshed every day. Now you need never miss out on any geeky shirt you could possibly want!

Categories: Of the Month.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

New Article: Mario Kart 8 DLC Numero Dos!

This fast-paced village life...

This fast-paced village life…

Nintendo is doing something super-smart with Mario Kart 8 for the Wii U. They’re releasing DLC (DownLoadable Content) for it. They’ve never really done this before for their Mario Karts, and it is a simple and genius idea. Instead of coming out with a new Mario Kart every few years, just come out with some new tracks and new drivers periodically! KEEP THINGS FRESH!

The first DLC came out last Fall, and I wrote about that here. The second DLC recently came out, and here are some thoughts about the new tracks and drivers. And then you can watch a 1-minute recap video of each of the new tracks! NEAT!

First off, the new drivers!

Animal Crossing Villagers!

VillagarszYES!!1!! The second character (after link) who doesn’t come directly from a Mario game, the Villagers from the Animal Crossing series of games are now here to race around! You can choose either a boy or a girl. They’re kinda medium-weight characters, but they come with the absolutely awesome beetle-themed kart called the “Streetle.” Just look!

So cute! I lorve it!

So cute! I lorve it!

Isabelle

IsABeauIsabelle was a character introduced in the 3DS Animal Crossing: New Leaf. She’s the Mayor’s assistant, unfailingly polite and encouraging. She’s a bit lighter than the Villagers.

Dry Bowser

demDryBownsDry Bowser is a skeletonized version of Bowser, duh. He… I gotta be honest: I haven’t played as Dry Bowser yet. But why would I when I can play as frikkin’ ANIMAL CROSSING CHARACTERS!?

Crossing Cup

Baby Park (Gamecube)

This was my all-time favorite Double-Dash track! Why? It seems so simple (and short), I know. But that’s precisely why. In Baby Park the racers are always so bunched up that it’s impossible to break away from them; as soon as you get ahead you start lapping those left behind. And it’s an oddity in that there are 7 laps instead of the standard 3. On the Gamecube it frequently got crazy as the high-powered items would be used by the slowest drivers, who could be anywhere on the loop. Mario Kart 8 doesn’t have quite the diversity of items as Double-Dash did, so I don’t know if it will get as crazy (I haven’t played it on 150 or 200 yet).

Cheese Land (GBA)

I must admit I have absolutely no recollection of this track. But I never played much of the GBA Mario Kart. But cheese is my favorite food. And this is a pretty neat track, with three different shortcuts built in (helps if you have mushrooms, of course).

Wild Woods

This is the prettiest of the Village Cup tracks. It seems like there are some great background details always going on around the edges of the screen, especially when you pass through a village of Shyguys. There is some good use of anti-gravity in this track, too, some nice curves and jumps, and a flowing water section. It’s a solidly-put-together track.

Animal Crossing

Take a leisurely drive through an idyllic town. This is a very simple course that takes you through typical Animal Crossing locales: some trees, some beach, some town square, past a museum, etc. Apparently there are four different versions of this course, one for each season, each with their own obstacles and slight differences (though not in course shape—that stays the same). So far the game has only presented me with the “summer” version, though. I guess I’ll just have to keep playing it. OH NO. I do think there were some missed opportunities here, though. How fun would it have been to race through the museum, what with all the dinosaur skeletons and bugs and artwork? That’s could have been an amazing stretch of racetrack.

Bell Cup

Neo Bowser City (3DS)

This was a good track on the 3DS. This version has an absolutely gorgeous rain effect added for extra moodiness. Look at how it creates drops and streaks on the camera! Lots of long, spiraling drifts in this one.

Ribbon Road (GBA)

Again, a track I don’t remember very well. But this one is pretty durned stunning, visually. I could scour the backgrounds all day for all of the Mario characters turned into toys, and all of the fun references and Easter-eggy stuff. The track is divided into parts (each with its own color of ribbon roadway). There are some neat shortcuts you don’t need a mushroom to catch, and the undulating road is fun.

Super Bell Subway

The “traffic” course of the group, this one has you navigating around and against a couple of subway trains. But in a neat twist, there is actually a part where if everything times out just right you can drop down on top of a subway train and drive along its roof! This track also has copious excellent background details, especially in the graffiti that litters the underground tunnels.

Big Blue

The second F-Zero course to make its way into Mario Kart, this one is not divided into laps, but rather is one long, undulating course of anti-gravity goodtimes. I tend to like these long, lap-less courses because of the sheer amount of variety you’ll find. Take a wook:


And there you have it. Eight new courses, bringing the grand total up to a bulging 48 total.

Nintendo also did something very interesting: they added a 200cc speed class, making the carts even faster than in the previously-fastest 150cc. It’s pretty nutz (with a Z). It’s impossible without braking to take many of the turns that used be simple! It’s a smart addition to the ouvre, and gives each of the 48 tracks some new life!

Categories: Articles.