Friday, May 23, 2008

Flashback Friday: Life and Death

Back in the day, I played a game called Life and Death. It was, without a doubt, one of the hardest games ever made. I had a friend who was an actual surgeon, and he said real surgery is easier than this game. If people in the real world died with the frequency with which patients die in Life and Death, the population would be cut in half. In this game, patients can die just from the initial incision, not to mention during the actual operation.

The game is now available for free online as abandonware. Amazingly, I still got it to run with no problems. When someone can explain why a twenty-year old DOS-based game works fine while my ten-year old Windows-based Command and Conquer game from 1995 wouldn't run without patches, I'll understand computers.

* Life and Death was released in 1988 by The Software Toolworks.
* The game apparently had a cult following among medical students.
* The original game came with a surgical mask and latex gloves. I don't remember getting those.
* There haven't been many other surgical simulations since L&D's release. One exception is Trauma Center: Under the Knife (Cadeuceus in the original Japanese version) for the Nintendo DS. Also Adult Swim has a parody game called Amateur Surgeon.
* Though the game claims to be based on actual surgical techniques, it included a warning that it was not a substitute for medical care and should not be used for medical advice. I can just imagine what brought that on - "Honey, my belly hurts. Boot up that 'Life and Death,' see what it says." "Well, according to the game, you got appendicitis. Lie down, I've done this surgery a thousand times in the game. Can't be that hard in real life."
* There was a sequel called Life & Death: The Brain. If abdominal surgery is this hard, I can only imagine what a nightmare brain surgery is like.

* Of course, the go-to on the game is Wikipedia. You can download the game for free at Free-game-downloads has the game and a manual, but you have to pay for them. The walkthrough at GameFAQs is a must-have. Reading what steps are required to pull off a successful operation explains why my patients never lasted long.

Related Posts:
* Flashback Friday: J.J. and Jeff
* Flashback Friday: Robotman
* Flashback Friday: Out of This World

Thursday, May 15, 2008

America's Next Plus-Size Model: Whitney Thompson

I didn't watch America's Next Top Model this season. Partly, it's because I'm tired of the show, but mainly it's because my wife is tired of the show. Married guys know what I mean. So I didn't know who won until I read an article that said a plus-sized model won this year for the first time. The show's always had at least one plus-sized model in the ranks, and it always felt like a token, just like the token lesbian. A lot of people are hailing it as a sign of changing times. I was too until I saw the pictures of the winner, Whitney Thompson. I said "that's a plus size model?" She's a size 10! Maybe in the alternate reality of fashion, Whitney is morbidly obese, but I wouldn't even call her plump in the real world. Now Toccara Jones, that was a plus-sized model.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Wanna Buy A Country: Sealand

There's a World War II artillery platform in the North Sea that is the world's smallest country, if you want to call it a country, which the United Kingdom doesn't and has been fighting with since the 1960s. But the owner Paddy Roy Bates has persisted, declaring it the sovereign nation of Sealand, instituting a constitution, printing his own currency, and even designing a national flag. He's now offering to sell the "country" for $977 million. You can check out the ins and outs of this tiny "nation" at their "website" You can also read a first-hand account of "touring" Sealand at London Photos. "I" thought that was "interesting." Always wanted my own "country."

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Better Late Than Never: "Gigli" Movie Review

I know this review is a few years too late, but I just saw "Gigli" on TV on Sunday, and had to weigh in. Here's the summary: "Gigli" is a bad movie. It isn't badly made, technically. Some parts are even good. The problem lies squarely with the story, which is what makes this movie so unforgivable. Someone should have looked at the script and said, "You know, this needs work" before they ever started shooting.

The basic premise of two mobsters assigned to watch a kidnap victim and falling in love is fine. One bad idea was making Brian the kidnap victim a mentally challenged person. At its best, the portrayal of Brian is a rip-off of "Rain Man," complete with an obsession with a TV show (substitute "Baywatch" for "People's Court"). At its worst, the portrayal is an insensitive caricature of a serious illness, clearly intended to be comedy relief. Another problem is that Lopez's character is a lesbian. This should be an insurmountable obstacle to the romance, but in the end, the movie falls back on an insulting and archaic "lesbians just need a good man to straighten them out" stereotype.

This certainly isn't Affleck and Lopez's worst performance, but it's not good either. With her thick accent and vapid expression, Lopez is miscast as an intellectual. At times, she's almost struggling to pronounce all the big words the script gives her. As for Affleck, his character is supposed to be a moron, and he plays it too well, giving us no subtleties or complexity to the character other than a bad Italian stereotype. This leaves us with long stretches of Lopez and Affleck arguing with each other while Brian yells nonsensical or inappropriate things in the background.

The ending itself is ludicrous. I don't want to spoil it, so skip this paragraph if you care. Ready? Okay. In the end, they take Brian to the beach, where (surprise) they're shooting "Baywatch." This is equivalent to Tom Cruise taking Dustin Hoffman to "The People's Court" in "Rainman." It's too cheesy for words.

In the end, the movie is not the worst movie ever made. Compared to "Plan 9 From Outer Space," "Gigli" is a masterpiece. If this movie starred Kathy Griffin and Bruce Campbell and cost $100,000 to make, it might even be a great movie. But "Gigli" was over-hyped and over promoted. With this kind of star power and money behind it, there's no excuse for it being this poor. In that sense, it really is a horrible movie.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Heart Attack: Jarvik's Lipitor Ads

I don't take Lipitor, but I admit to being impressed by the ads featuring Dr. Robert Jarvik. After all, I thought, if the man who created the artificial heart endorses Lipitor, who am I to argue? Then I read this New York Times article that raised some serious questions. First of all, he's not a cardiologist, which surprised me since he built a heart. Second of all, he used a stunt double in one of the ads where he appeared to be rowing. Even the replacement ads show him jogging. Clearly they were trying to send a message that Lipitor will keep you healthy enough to be an outdoorsman. If they're that dishonest about the advertising, what's that say about the medication itself?

Monday, May 05, 2008

Newswire Update

This just in from the New Yuk Times: Hip-Hop Artist and Pop Singer Trade Childhood

It Begins: Miley Cyrus Topless

There's been a big uproar over the Miley Cyrus photo shoot. In case you haven't heard, Miley Cyrus (more commonly known as Hannah Montana) did a photo shoot for an upcoming issue of Vanity Fair in which she appears topless. There's been a lot of hoopla about it being in poor taste, offensive, too suggestive for young girls, but it reminded me of controversy over Britney Spears' infamous Rolling Stone photo shoot. I agree with USA Today that this was a deliberate attempt to copy Spears and help Cyrus graduate from tween idol to adult pop star. It just went wrong because Cyrus is under Disney, and Britney wasn't.

On a side note, I don't think it's a very good photo - too much shadow on her face, her expression seems defensive, and her lipstick looks smeared. It looks like kiddie porn shot in someone's basement. Maybe that was the idea?

Friday, May 02, 2008

Movie Rules: Evil Dead

Movie Rule 345: The villain always dies twice

Examples: Die Hard, Terminator

You ever notice that in movies, the villain is never really dead the first time? This is especially true in action movies. You can almost predict it. The hero pumps the villain full of bullets or drops a car on him or strangles him. The villain lies there, dead. The hero and his girlfriend heave a sigh of relief. Suddenly the villain lunges up again or grabs their leg, and they have to put more bullets in him or run him over or drop him off a cliff. That applies no matter how badly the injury. With the Terminator, he was nothing but a severed arm and he still kept going. In Streetfighter, M. Bison wore a vest that literally brought him back to life. It's a classic. I'll bet the villain's henchmen always wish they had what he had - they die instantly.