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Detect Deceit: How to Become a Human Lie Detector in Under 60 Minutes

I first read about micro-expressions in Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, which explained the budding behavioral science of reading emotional cues enough for Gladwell to piece together an argument, but never laid out how to utilize them.

The second time I heard about micro-expressions was after a friend recommended the show Lie To Me. Continue reading

Edge of Tomorrow

Edge Of Tomorrow

I usually like to couch my film reviews by first taking a look the movie trailer or the material it’s originally based on, and asking myself if this is something that lived up to its promises. Edge of Tomorrow is an adaption of a screenplay taken from a Japanese light novel called All You Need Is Kill. So for this one I relied wholly on the trailer to inform my decision. Continue reading

When We Left Earth

When We Left Earth

Quick! Can you name the 3rd astronaut to accompany Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong to the moon? You know– what’s his name? The guy who orbited Earth’s only natural satellite, while Buzz and Neil hopped around on the lunar surface trying to find rich cheese deposits?

Continue reading

Maleficent Featured Image

Maleficent

Sleeping Beauty is one of the few Disney movies that I was never terribly interested in as a kid. I’d like to speculate on a younger Loon not liking it because of “bland two-dimensional characters,” but that’s assuming a pre-teen is capable of nuanced judgment. Which is not likely. I’m not sure what it was that turned me off to the film, but I doubt it was the character of Maleficent. Continue reading

SLC Punk

SLC Punk

“There’s nothing going on. That’s what I saw when I looked out over the city: nothing. How the Mormon settlers looked upon this valley and felt that it was the promised land is beyond me. I don’t know, maybe it looked different back then.” –Stevo

A few months ago, I found out my husband didn’t know who Matthew Lillard was. In order to correct this, I asked myself what the best possible film would be to reflect the value of this actor.

The answer? SLC Punk. Continue reading

Transistor - Concept Art

Transistor

Transistor begins with a scarlet-haired woman standing over a fallen man. She cuts a tragic figure, a sparkling city shining in the distance beyond her. Sticking out of the man is an unnaturally large turquoise sword. We watch for a moment as the woman seems to mourn this man, taking his coat and putting it on, its warmth only scant protection from the night.

Then the sword begins to speak.

Transistor - First Moments

This is Transistor. You control Red, a woman who has taken this talking sword, this “Transistor”, to find those who killed her friend and left her for dead. To do so, you must navigate a city that is beginning to fall apart. The setting is gorgeous: a mixture of 1920’s art deco, a dark Bladerunner-esque dystopia, and a cyberpunk aesthetic that can often make one think of the neon-lined computer world of TRON. As the city goes through different phases of disrepair, you wander through scenes that are nothing short of jaw-dropping. Even destruction has a haunting beauty in this game, and I will freely admit to stopping more than once to take it all in.

In Transistor, the writers are not afraid to leave you wondering. What I just told you is virtually all that you know as you begin the game; you hit the abandoned streets immediately, trying to make sense of why you are here. And let me emphasize the emptiness of this world. There are enemies aplenty, but people to talk to are few and far in between. Your only true companion is the Transistor, a sword that somehow has the capacity to talk. This sword becomes your rock and solace in a world that is strange and hostile to you.

Transistor - Motorcycle

It is impossible for me to emphasize enough how much you come to rely on the Transistor as a source of information, a way to defend yourself, and as a friend keeping you from the brink of despair. The relationship between Red and the Transistor is given even more weight when you come to realize that Red’s voice has been taken away from her. Consequently, your wanderings through the city feature the running commentary of a sentient sword, given vivid life by one of the most brilliant voice actors I’ve ever heard (Logan Cunningham). The Transistor is hopeful, uncertain, and confident all in one; he is a truly three-dimensional character which is made all the more impressive considering that, at the end of the day, all you get is a voice.

Red herself is alternately strong and vulnerable, trying to stand up to a world that seems out to bring her down. She is able to respond to the Transistor by typing out replies at computer terminals that she finds. It is a simple touch, but watching Red type out her answers, think, and then delete and reword what she wants to say makes for a unique way to get into her head. You get a deep sense of her emotional state. At times it becomes almost heartbreaking to watch, seeing the two characters struggle to find hope and meaning beyond the horrible events that befall them.

Transistor - Gameplay

If the haunting imagery of the city and the relationship between Red and the Transistor form the heart of this story, then the brains of it is in the gameplay. Red and the Transistor are a formidable team. Red uses the sword to defeat the unsettling and bizarre cybertronic enemies that stand before her. You come to learn unique powers that the sword can use in battle, from emitting beams of light to letting you zip around the city in blink-steps that leave liquid shadows behind you. You can mix and match your powers in many ways, creating void spheres that kick enemies in the air or massive explosions that seize control of all enemies within it for a limited period of time. Through the entirety of the game I was unable to test out every possible combination; there are so many options at your fingertips that the combat often becomes a fascinating chess-like game of infinite variance. And this does not even mention your ability to carefully plot out your movements in frozen time, setting up each combination that you want, executing them all in milliseconds as the Transistor and the music roar out in victorious cadence.

All of these factors coalesce into a game that is not only beautiful and moving, but also engrossing and genuinely fun to play. It is a shorter game than most, but there is so much going on here that, after finishing, I immediately started over a second time, not wanting it to end. As I finished, I turned to my girlfriend and, without hesitation, pointed to Transistor as one of my top 5 favorite games of all time. The story of Red and the Transistor really spoke to me and made me yearn for more of this dark and haunting cyberpunk tale. It is not often that I even think about crying over a video game, but I admit I came close at the end. Such is the power of this story.

Transistor - An Unlikely Pair

As a parting comment, I want to apologize for my vagueness in this review. I feel like I could go into greater depth regarding the story, the characters, and how the events play out. But my goal is not to spoil, it is to encourage you to experience this yourselves. So go now and do that. It is only $20. But, I assure you, it is worth every penny and more.

Fahrenheit 451

3 Dystopian Novels That Don’t Scare Us (Because We Live Them)

In the past I’ve commented on three works of classic fiction which, by and large, have lost the ability to make us quake in our boots. These are novels that warned us of government oppression, public apathy, and technology gone rampant. Now they scare us about as much as warnings about potholes and tsunamis in Montana. I’m more apt to stand up and take notice of an E. Coli scare than I am to worry about Big Brother someday monitoring my activities. Because they already do.

Here are a few more examples of once-horrifying predictions of the future, which came true without us raising much fuss. Continue reading

Dynasty Warriors 8XL Zhao Yun

Dynasty Warriors 8XL

Imagine a game that lets you play as the founding fathers as they declare independence from Great Britain. For each battle you select from a series of them. For one, you might have the options of George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, and Samuel Adams. For another, you might have Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, and Eliza Pinckney. You idly decide to take control of Benjamin Franklin and then march him off onto the battlefield, with thousands of men on your side and thousands of infamous Redcoats on the other.

Now imagine running up to an enemy soldier. You know you need to defeat him to win, and so you press a few buttons. You’re expecting Franklin to pull out a pistol and off the guy, but something entirely unexpected happens. Franklin launches forward, smacks the officer in the face with his cane so hard that the poor guy goes flying fifty feet into the air, and then you watch in utter disbelief as the chubby founding father screams at the top of his lungs as a massive bolt of lightning descends from the heavens to strike the foe in midair, splitting into a thousand balls of electricity that arc through every enemy in the surrounding area.

Congratulations. Now you have a sense of what it is like to play Dynasty Warriors 8XL. Continue reading

blackfish_01

Blackfish

In the scientific community there exists a self-awareness test, which is used to identify creatures in the animal kingdom capable of consciousness. This test involves smearing ink or otherwise marking the animal’s face while it’s sleeping, and showing it a mirror when it wakes up. If the animal can easily identify itself in the reflection and reacts to the ink, we immediately stop hunting it for sport because it has a mind complex enough to recognize its own existence. Continue reading

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