Monthly Archives: December 2014

Give Credit Where Credit is Dunkleosteus

If you have been to my site before it is likely you have seen this guy above.  That’s Dunkleosteus, probably the most famous ancient fish to ever exist.  He is the paragon of placoderms, a carnivore nonpareil, and the very representative animal of the Devonian Period.

I wrote about Dunkleosteus in my first “Ancient Animals and their Fakemon” article where I talk about him and his fakemon counterpart, Clunklesteel.  While setting up the article I had to find appealing images of the placoderm so I could make the article stand out.  The drawing seen here was one of those images.

Unlike other images of art and photos where their source could easily be found, this image came up a blank.  Every time I found a site that hosted this image it directed me to a site which directed me to another site and so forth.  Some sites even came up blank citing no original source.  Eventually, I concluded that this image’s original source had either been deleted or lost to the maze of the internet and so I gave up and continued on with my article without citing anything for it.

As such, when the article was published, this image of a Dunkleosteus and his diver friend became the latest in a long line of sites that hosted the image without quoting the original source.  The article’s popularity had launched it so far up the Google Image chain that it became one of the top results for the “Dunkleosteus” page.  For the past six months or so, many people would come to my site through google image search or when other sites would direct them to my site as if was the creator of the image.  As such, it has become the most popular article on my site garnering about 21% of the entire views (out of the 50+ articles and the homepage).

I have become increasingly uncomfortable with this and now I finally did something about it.  In order to get this weight off my shoulders I had to find the person who made this image.

After doing some digging, I ran across a series of images that had a similar layout to the Dunkleosteus image such as the one seen below.

The image came from a program on the Animal Planet channel called Animal Armageddon.  A show about different kinds of extinct animals in Earth’s history.

At this point you may say the search is over but I was not convinced.  The Animal Armageddon website itself just shows videos of the animals and not the images I was searching for.  There had to be an artist that was behind them.

Image searching Animal Armageddon had given me the results I wanted.  Far from the top image hits I had found a blog that finally claimed ownership of these delightful prehistoric animals.

His name is Sebastian Meyer and his website can be seen here.  When I saw his website’s subtitle of “Concept Design / Creature Design / Visual Development” I knew that I had found the right guy.  He had worked on several different movies, such as Star Trek: Into Darkness, as well as several different projects, one of which was Animal Armageddon.

Clicking on that link reveals a whole host of images that are similar to the Dunkleosteus image (http://www.sebmeyerart.com/#/one-stranger-too-many/).  I knew my search had come to an end when I saw the Dunkleosteus image as the very first image you see on that webpage.  What’s more, there’s another image that showed more poses of the Dunkleosteus and I think they are quite lovely.

Unfortunately, Sebastian Meyer’s website looks dormant as it was last updated in February 2014.  But nonetheless, I want to make sure that people know he is the OG.  He’s the guy that made one of the best Dunkleosteus images ever.

I have already updated my first article using this image so that people in the future know who is the true artist.  Hopefully, his website will see traffic and garner interest in the internet community.  I may not get as many hits to my site now then I once did but I don’t care.  I want to be known for the material that I made just as I’m sure Sebastian Meyer would want to be known for the work that he has done.  It’s only fair to give credit is Dunkleosteus after all.

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Random Memory Connections: December and Zelda

Many of us have weird memory connections where we associate one item, subject, scent, or taste, to something else that may be completely unrelated.  Seasons are like that for me; whenever a particular season comes along, I become drawn towards certain things that on the whole have no relationship to it.  In particular, whenever December arrives, I usually get in the mood for some Legend of Zelda.

Back when I was a kid, we didn’t have a NES, but my brother showed me the wonders of emulators.  By the late 90s these things had already become plentiful and were able to more than handle the NES’ outdated 8-bit graphics.  Anyway, one game that I played a ton of was Legend of Zelda on the NES.  This game was phenomenal and it was quite fun to play albeit challenging.

I have to stress at this point that playing Zelda on an emulator made the game easier than it was (especially for Zelda II).  Many times, I would makes a save state on the ROM right before entering a boss room, if I failed then I can just quickly reload that save state and battle the boss again and again until I eventually defeat him.

But that’s besides the point.  For some reason, I remember playing Zelda in December.  Perhaps that’s when I first started playing it but it doesn’t matter.  One particular memory I have was when I was in the graveyard battling out with the ghosts and hoping I would eventually find the Master Sword.  After that, my brother and I went to the grocery store and bought multi-flavored candy canes for a Christmas party my parents were hosting.  Outside, it was your typical December day in Kansas, cold and cloudy.

I assume this mixture of strong emotional connections, Christmas+Cold+Zelda, helped me associate Zelda with this month.  It’s pretty funny because when I get a hankering for Zelda, it’s never really new Zelda I want to play, it’s the old games like the first one on the NES or A Link to the Past.  They have such a nice quality to them that its easy to replay them again and again.

I guess that’s the main reason why I like NES Zelda.  I have such a strong fondness to it that I can’t really place it for any other game including Pokemon.  It’s very much a kid’s game in the amount of exploration you do.  Unlike most of the sequels’ strictly linear structure, NES Zelda’s laissez faire style was so endearing you can’t help but feel like an honest Adventurer.   You were, for the most part, not limited to where you can go or who you can fight and provided you saved up enough rupees you can access a good chunk of the map early on.  It again reminds me of my childhood.  While I was growing up, we lived in the still new part of town next to a newly built golf course.  The amount of outside exploration I did was outstanding as I became aware of every part of, what seemed like to me, my large home.    I especially remember thrashing through the woods with my wooden sword and swiping at every branch that stood my way.

As such, the NES Zelda seem to call to me and want me to explore the land of Hyrule all over again.  To rediscover its secrets and defeat the bad guys.  The best part is that my usual confliction between my love for both outdoors and video games is erased when it gets miserable out.  With all qualms aside, I can sit back, relax, play some Legend of Zelda, and let the good times roll.

As many of you have noticed I have updated the website for a new design, I welcome any new opinions on it if you so desire to tell me.

What is the Source of Batman’s Villains: Gotham or Batman Himself?

I’ve been doing research on a major upcoming article on Batman but unfortunately it is not ready.  However, while I have been combing the literature, films, video games, and TV shows, I came face-to-face with an interesting question that has pondered Batman fans and creators alike for the past 30 years or so.

What is the source of the Batman’s crazy villains, Gotham or Batman himself?

To the casual person, this may be surprising; Batman, one of the most famous superheroes of all time, is the source for his own antagonists.  But to anyone who has been exposed to Batman before, this idea is not farfetched.  There have been times where he not only causes a supervillain to be born but he actively encourages their existence as well.  Many of the supporting characters in Batman’s world, such as the Gotham Police Department, psychiatrists, hell, even Hugo Strange accuse him of making Gotham worse because of his supervillains.

Opponents to this argument, however, firmly believe that Gotham City is the source of madness.  This is perhaps a more recent argument though I could be wrong here.  While growing up, I always assumed Gotham was just like any other big city; yeah, it may have its fair share of problems but it’s still a place many people would call home.  This is further highlighted by the rest of DC’s cities as Metropolis, Central City, and so forth have their supervillains as well.

But Gotham’s status as a truly messed up city was not brought to my attention until Nolan’s Batman Begins where Ra’s al Ghul wanted to purge Gotham of its sin by killing everyone in it.  You might think this is an overreaction to how bad Gotham is but if you go through the literature, you begin to realize how right Ra’s was (except for the genocide, that’s bad).  Gangs own the city, police officers look the other way, city leaders are corrupt, and simple necessities like safety are just non-existent.  And through this corruption, normal people become corrupted and turn into the supervillains that we know and love today.

Both of these arguments have some merit of truth but which has the stronger influence?  Let’s dive in and find out.

Spoilers for Arkham Asylum and City, Gotham as well as a host of other Batman universes.

Batman initiates and encourages his own supervillains’ existence

Let’s start off with a controversial subject, the Joker.  I think the Joker is probably the best example for this argument.  In some interpretations (such as the Burton movies or the Killing Joke) Batman is indirectly involved in creating his arch-nemesis.  To me, I’m totally fine with that as it makes the rivalry that much stronger.  But many people like a Joker that has no background, one whose origins are as mysterious as his motives.

Even so, some people interpret Joker as the living embodiment for the force of Chaos with Batman as the symbol for Order.  Joker knows that Batman has a strict code of honor and he tests, goads, and pushes Batman to his limits.  I first became aware of this symbolism in the Dark Knight where Joker’s actions eventually came to experiments Batman and wondering if he can break him (“an unstoppable force meets an unmovable object”).  These two opposing forces, which have rarely been equaled, make them the most famous superhero and supervillain combination ever.

I think the best example of this comes from Miller’s Dark Knight Returns.  When Batman retired, the Joker became catatonic and could barely function.  He had lost his purpose, he had lost his drive.  But when he saw that his best friend had made a return, he fully recovered.  It was like nothing had ever happened.  And their rivalry and battles in the comic I think is among the best in Batman history.  Of all the sources you can use, this is probably the pristine example of Batman promoting his enemies.

The Riddler is another fine example of Batman promoting his enemies.  This guy’s ego is something.  He yearns to prove his intelligence.  He wants to be three steps ahead of everyone else and laugh at them for their stupidity.  Only Batman can match his riddles and put a stop to his crime.  This only further stokes the Riddler’s ego as he wants to find that Riddle that can even outsmart the Batman.  I assume that if Batman decided to not even play Riddler’s game and leave him alone, the Riddler would go mad and not know what to do with himself (he would probably go into a catatonic state such as the aforementioned Joker in the Dark Knight Returns).

Bane is another villain that Batman inadvertently creates.  Bane’s nightmares as a child always took the form of a bat.  When he heard about Batman’s control over Gotham through fear, he realized it was his destiny to conquer his childhood fear by conquering Batman himself.   Much to Batman’s displeasure…

One of the most famous episodes in the Animated Series, “the Trial,” actually confronted this topic.  In this episode, Batman’s supervillains kidnap him and accuse him of making them who they are today.  Representing Batman was Gotham’s new district attorney, Janet Van Dorn, who herself accused Batman of promoting the supervillains and preventing them from facing true justice under the law since they were captured by a vigilante.  This accusation initially seems well-founded but…

Gotham is the source of Batman’s psychotic supervillains

…Janet Van Dorn defends Batman and breaks down each of the witnesses’ accusations by saying they were the cause of their insanity and crimes, not Batman.  Jervis Tetch would have still kidnapped the girl he pined for and Poison Ivy would have still been the Bioterrorist she is today.

Even so, the Animated Series does not support this side of the argument that Gotham causes supervillains, to find proof, we’ll have to look elsewhere.

I want to get the TV show Gotham out of the way first.  I think it would be cheating to use this as a source to prove that Gotham makes its own villains.  Mainly, when you see a Batman-prequel, you want to see all the bad guys and what they are up to.  As such, many of them are already messed up.  Zsasz, Penguin, and even Ivy are already sadistic, cunning, or just plain odd.  And Harvey Dent is…errgh…let’s not go there.

Regardless, there is one scene I want to talk about from Gotham.  In episode 8 of Season 1, “The Mask,” Gordon and his Captain were musing why Gotham had a sudden surge in crazy people.  They then supposed that the source was from the death of the Waynes.  Their deaths caused the city to lose hope and begin this spiral of insanity.  I kind of like that, it points to why we see these weird people coming forth and doing awful things.

I think one of my favorite explanations for crazies in Gotham, surprisingly enough, comes from the video game Arkham City.  Now, this is subtly imply so take this for what you will, but if you solve some of Riddler’s riddles, you are revealed the story about Wonder City and holy crap I love it.  In old Wonder City, Ra’s Al Ghul’s Lazarus Pit had caused all of the city’s inhabitants to go insane and be transferred to Arkham Asylum.  And guess what?  Lazarus Pit is directly beneath Arkham City!  I love it!  The Pit could be the reason why so many people just go insane in Gotham.

Real direct proof does come from Arkham City though.  In the Victor Zsasz side mission, he explains to you over a series of phone calls how he became the wonderful person he is today.  When he was financially broke, he decided to gamble his last bit of money at the Iceberg Lounge.  Eventually, he came to the final table with the Penguin himself.  However, the Penguin and his goons had scammed poor Victor and he lost everything he had.  Defeated, he walked through the streets of Gotham and found his first victim and…er…relieved him from his sorrow of this world.  This is pretty good proof how Gotham’s messed up nature can lead to its supervillains.

I think by far the best example of Gotham creating its own supervillains come from none other than Harvey Dent aka Two Face.  Here is a man who fought against the corruption and cowardice of Gotham.  Elected on a fair campaign of a promise for a better tomorrow, he fought tooth and nail to clean the streets of Gotham.  His do good attitude had even made him a suspect in many different universes that he may be Batman himself.

But his obsession and his passion drove him to a breaking point.  When the acid was flung to his face, he had changed.  A change that was driven by the incomprehensible evils of Gotham.  And through this change, he split.  Half still retaining his do-good attitude, and half mirroring the ugly city that had created him.

What do you think?  Both have their elements of truth but which do you think has the stronger influence?  The Caped Crusader or the Worst City Ever?  I want to hear what you have to say!

Aged Like Fine Tasty Tonic: 10th Anniversary of Paper Mario: the Thousand Year Door

I wanted to write this before the year was up but let’s talk about Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door.  Specifically, happy birthday to it!  It was released ten years ago on the Nintendo Gamecube and is by far one of the best games on the purple lunchbox.  After playing it again this year, I have to say that it has aged like Tasty Tonic indeed.

For the unenlightened, Thousand Year Door is a sequel to the RPG game, Paper Mario on the Nintendo 64.  Debuted in 2004, many of the original features of the game, such as partners, star special attacks, star pieces, and more have been retained if not enhanced.  Many new features were added as well including audience interaction and the ability to turn into a variety of paper-themed objects such as airplane, boat, and paper tube.

One of the main things people will talk about in this game is the humor.  TYD proves you can be funny without being crass.  Fourth-wall-breaking, slapstick, visual gags, and more makes TYD funnier than its prequel.  The game’s heavy use of humor does not distract the player from the overall story and can even enhance it such as the boss Doopliss.

It’s safe to say that with the improved humor comes improved characters.  Mario may be as flat (PUN) as ever but his partners have more depth in them compared to his N64 partners.  It’s almost tempting to reset certain scenes just so you could hear how your partners react to certain weird scenarios.  Intelligent Systems also made sure the partners didn’t become useless after their introductory chapters.  Because of the more complex puzzles, I was using them up until the end of the game.  I especially like Goombella who is far more useful to you than Goombario and more hilarious (especially when she’s telling male Goomba creeps to go stuff themselves).  It is truly sad when you say goodbye to them at the end of the game because they help make the game so memorable.

As a side note, it’s fun trying to get all the enemies in the game into her journal. GOTTA ANALYZE THEM ALL! Image from http://papermario.wikia.com/wiki/Goombella

Because of the cartoony (dare I say…papery?) design, the graphics have aged as well as the humor.  The animation runs fluidly even when a lot of enemies are on the screen.  This is especially nice when you are performing to an audience of a 100+ individuals.  The background models may betray the game’s age but the character animations themselves are pretty slick.

The story itself may at first seem just like the N64 version (i.e., collecting 7 powerful stars) but the few crucial differences make it stand out.  For one thing, Mario is not defeating Bowser and relinquishing his control on the Mushroom Kingdom.  In this game, Mario is fighting the X-Nauts for possession of the Crystal Stars in the land of Rogueport.  The Crystal Stars can be held by bosses who have no relationship with the X-Nauts and sometimes they are held by kind (albeit strange) characters!  This means that the story is not constrained to a formulaic plot and instead is more open to what it can do.  This is why we can get such memorable chapters like of Glitz and Glory, 3 Days of Excess, and especially For Pigs the Bells Toll.

I think of Glitz and Glory is my favorite chapter due to its setup as a gladiator setting but with a mysterious undertone.  It’s kind of cool how one chapter built up a lot of story just from talking to all the side and background characters.  The baby-Yoshi partner is also a nice especially how you can name him and get a variety of colors (I named mine “Tyson” cause I just watched Cosmos that week…).  The game’s intermissions can also be very entertaining as you control both Peach AND Bowser (as seen below)!

The game for the most part is relatively easy with a few challenging moments (especially the end boss) so you can get through it without having to stress out too much.  Grinding is actively discouraged as the amount of star points you get from an enemy goes down as you level up.  If you were looking to challenge yourself though you should try out the The Pit of 100 Trials.  This is by far the hardest part of the game as you have to go through 100 levels of enemies with no hopes up resting.  The last time I went through it I got up to about level 85 or something before I finally fainted.  I’m going to attempt it again but this time with more life shrooms.  I also recommend to equip the Happy Heart and Flower badges along with the Heart and Flower Finder badges as they can definitely aid you in the long run.

Thousand Year Door is one of the best sequels you can have for a game.  Not only does it retain the original premise and game mechanics from the prequel, but it enhances them and adds additional features as well.  If Paper Mario on the N64 was a 9 then the Gamecube version is a definite 10.  This game was fun to play 10 years ago and its just as fun now.

Confidence Restored: Reaction to Jurassic World and The Force Awakens Teaser Trailer

Two teaser trailers for two very hyped movies have been released less than a week apart from each other. The Jurassic World trailer came out on November 25th while Star Wars VII came out on November 28th, 2014. These trailers, both covering very different franchises, are connected by a very important trait that will help make 2015 a very special cinematic year.

These two movies are representing franchises that have become on the whole tired and stale.  For instance, the last Jurassic Park movie was released in 2001 and that was on the whole not very well received and was quite underwhelming.  There were a lot of neat ideas in it that just didn’t play out like they should and there were a lot of missed opportunities.  The climax against the Spinosaurus was anti-climatic and the confrontation with the Velociraptors didn’t have any consequence.  Also, the only people who died were at the beginning of the film despite the protagonists many chances of facing their demise (*cough*BILLY*cough*).

BOOO! Also, how could you not know that was a Spinosaurus???? Image from http://jurassicpark.wikia.com/wiki/Billy_Brennan

Jurassic Park III’s performance certainly put a damper on the franchise and with the death of Michael Crichton I thought the film series had finally come to the end.  So imagine my surprise when I heard they were making another film…

That same surprise was magnified greatly when I heard that Star Wars was also getting a sequel.  The last three films, AKA “the prequels,” were certainly met with its fair share of criticism.  When I heard how George Lucas wasn’t going to make more films due to the response from the fans I was quietly rejoicing.  I like Star Wars but maaaaan I don’t want those kinds of films again!  To be fair though, Star Wars, unlike the dormant Jurassic Park, has quietly simmered throughout the decade with the release of a moderately successful television series, some video games, and more.  Star Wars has always been in the background of my mind, never fully forgotten but never fully focused.

And with a resounding “eh” we watched it. Image from http://www.scified.com/community/forums/topic/38773

And now, both franchises will see their release in 2015.  It cannot be stressed how important these films are to their franchises, especially for Star Wars.  The success of the franchise depends on them.

As such, the success of a film can depend on their first trailer.

So how did they do?

For starters, the Jurassic World trailer made me giddy as hell! When this trailer was released all my paleontology buddies, including yours truly, was posting this trailer on their Facebook wall and commenting back and forth on the prospects of this movie.

AND OH MY GOD THAT MOSASAUR! AFAKJBAESWIFDSFOAIDPSF

This trailer looks awesome!  My prospects for the movie went up many times after I saw it.  I couldn’t help but laugh when they were talking about the genetically modified dinosaur.  It’s great!  I can just imagine if Ian Malcolm saying something like “Life will find a way, bitches!” if he heard about the crazy dinosaur breaking through the park.  Chris Platt also looks good but I’m kind of concern about the boy…the Jurassic Park movies always have kids and they can be misses.  This kid looks like he can be as stiff as Sargent Bland from Godzilla.  I’m hoping we can get some awesome adult protagonists like in the first movie.  We’ll see…

I was at first critical on the Star Wars trailer but after viewing it for a second…and third…and fourth…and fifth time, I had a change of heart.  My initial concern came from the abundance of CGI.  I remember reading an article a year ago that the Star Wars production team was going to use a more diverse set of special effect tools instead of just CGI for their films.  The trailer didn’t showcase that too well.  But what the trailer did show were some very nice costume designs AND everything doesn’t look clean anymore!  Okay, that may have come from left field but in general, the prequels’ sets and props look quite sterile and bland while the original trilogy’s props have a more dirty and used-look to them.  This trailer brought back that used appearance and it looks really nice.  I also love that broadsword lightsaber.  Everyone has been poking fun at it but I like it, it looks kind of cool and not exaggerated.  I’m all for continuing the series forward with new and inventive ideas as long as it doesn’t look ridiculous.  Oh and that final scene with the Aluminum Millennium Falcon was AMAZING.  If I wasn’t convinced before watching the trailer, I am now thanks that that one scene alone.

And why?  Why did my cautious attitude toward both of these new films break down and replaced with newfound confidence?  If I were to point to a single source it would be the music.  Both of the franchises’ famous themes, composed by the great John Williams, made a smashing return in the trailers and salivated your nostalgic mouth.  It gave us, the fans, the restored confidence in these films.  They haven’t forgotten who they are and why they are good.  They are going back to their roots while bringing something new and exciting to them.  The slightly tweaked themes are probably the symbol of both of these new films and what they represent for their franchise.

And with that, dear readers, I leave you with this.  In the Jurassic World trailer, we are revealed that the park has officially opened but something bad has happened to it.  Not a huge surprise mind you but it’s still nice to get that confirmation.  But that’s Jurassic Park!  The whole franchise is one big analogy for Chaos Theory!  Shit’s gonna go down!  But what about The Force Awakens?  Very wisely done, we are not revealed what the plot will be…because unlike Jurassic Park, Star Wars does not have to follow a strict plot device.  And now that the new films are true sequels, they are no longer constrained on what will become.  They are now their own identity.  And what that identity will become will be most interesting indeed…