Top Five Photos #2

Here are the other five photos from the European extravaganza. Hope you’re keeping up with the disjointed narrative, such as it is!

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The Louvre from within.

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Millennium Bridge headed toward St. Paul’s Cathedral.

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Shoreline near Durdle Door, Dorset.

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London at night.

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The Princess Di-Dodi Al-Fayed memorial in London’s tony Harrod’s shopping emporium. I was amused by their wardrobe — Di is wearing a sheer shift and Dodi a collared shirt that’s unbuttoned and flapping in the sculptor’s imaginary breeze. It’s more Fabio than Royal Family, that’s for sure. I wonder if the Queen has seen it.

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A bonus sixth photo for you. Austin Powers’ roadster, near the British Museum. I had no idea carmakers made vehicles in robin’s egg blue.

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Volunteer Vampire Hunters, Please Call

If you’re a talented vampire hunter, you’re willing to work for free, and you live in the Austin area, here’s your chance. There’s a Craig’s List ad for a vampire hunter or paranormal investigator who can investigate some bled-out animals and worker blackouts.

Hurry! Vampire hunter opportunities don’t come knocking every day. Serious inquiries only.

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Red Robin Gourmet Burgers and the Future of America

Had a Red Robin Gourmet Burger and Now I Am Nostradumbass

So your immodest game writer went to Red Robin, the burger chain, the other night. While the experience is fresh in my mouth (why does that sound wrong?), I feel I must crack wise about what Red Robin gourmet burgers tell us about the future of this country.

red-robin-gourmet-burgersRed Robins are really a microcosm of what is good and bad about the name-branding and big-boxing of America. They’re made from fresh, healthy ingredients. They’re tidy, clean, identical, carefully marketed to Joe Six-Pack, and unerringly friendly.

The staff seem ridiculously cheery; you have to wonder about the pep talks and management, because they’re totally getting it done. I do admit, however, to a flashback to the cynical and often twisted movie Waiting when I saw them gather up twice to sing out birthdays to families celebrating their kids’ special days.

So Yeah, The Burger

I ordered the Whiskey River BBQ Chicken Burger, which is basted with BBQ sauce. It also includes cheddar cheese, crispy onion “straws” (think skinny onion rings), lettuce, tomatoes, and mayo. “Cowpokes and real folks both love this one!” crows their website.

The burger arrived promptly, accompanied by a serving of their piping hot “bottomless fries” and some gigantic crunchy onion rings. At first it looked a little small to me, peeking out of a white paper wrap*, but it’s about the size of a chicken burger you cook on your own grill. The menu photos always look enormous.

So I took a big bite and I had a revelation. Red Robin gourmet burgers are telling the future, and the future is expensive, heavily sauced, carefully manicured, and so full of flavor that you can’t taste what it’s made of. The future is served by marvellously attentive people who refill your soda before you’re done, sometimes bringing you a second glass so you don’t even have to lower the glass to get more.

A bite of my burger was like a little bite of Las Vegas. The glittering lights, the gambling, the dancing girls, and the empty feeling. I followed the cheese, I was diverted by the onion straws, and I was waylaid by the barbeque sauce. The overall effect was pleasurable and comforting, because on an animal level I was happy that I was getting some serious calories. My tongue responded to the sweet and the salty. But on the other hand it had none of the subtle interplay of flavors that truly great food possesses. It didn’t surprise or delight; it overpowered.

And somewhere in there was a chicken breast, flanked by some lettuce and tomato, all yelling to be heard, but no one paid any attention.

My gourmet burger was relentlessly adult but built on childish principles. It’s forgotten what it is. A Red Robin gourmet burger is what mall food looks like when it grows up. And the future is lavish, clean, and bright, but it looks to be overdramatic and desensitized at the same time.

*By the way, this wrap is really a brilliant innovation, keeping the burger together without a toothpick, and making it easy to hold.

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Uncharted 2 Steals Hearts

Uncharted 2 and Naughty Dog Revive the Adventure Genre

The Uncharted 2: Among Thieves SKU and its action/adventure gameplay are dominating the ratings at Metacritic. Adventure games? Zork? Monkey Island? Indiana Jones? Hello again. We’ve missed you.

Uncharted 2 brings back Nathan Drake (Indiana Jones?) for another round of high-stakes artifact hunting, this time to the fabled Shambhala, a remote valley in the Himalayas, where he’s pitted against a fugitive war criminal.

I don’t have a full gameplay review today — just a little celebration, and a link to Uncharted 2’s astronomical Metacritic score and review.

97, in case you’re curious — a point below all-time PS3 leader Grand Theft Auto IV.

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Hogwarts’ Harry: Top Five Europe Photos

Hogwarts’ Harry and Other Pics

Hogwarts School and Harry Potter don’t actually appear in any of my “game writer on vacation” photos, but there is a connection, as you’ve probably already noticed.

So I’ve decided to jump the gun and throw up a top five of the photos I took in London and Paris, with five more to come shortly.

Notice the devious writing trick I used — the non-commital “a top five” rather than “my top five photos” or (heaven forfend!) “the top five photos.” Not really a game writing trick, per se; more of a legalistic way to avoid saying anything definitive.* These are just five photos that I like, for various reasons.

* I recently read an interview with one of my English profs, Nancy Packer, who lambasted the semi-colon. She said it’s the language’s ugliest punctuation mark, and that one should use dashes instead. Punctuation passion!

Sorry about the dorky watermark. I’m submitting these to some stock photo agencies and I don’t want slimeballs leeching these.

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Was amazed to stumble upon this college courtyard in Cambridge. This isn’t even one of the heavy hitters like King’s College; this is one of the minor colleges. I wish my university dorm looked like this. Ready for a brisk game of Quidditch!

By the way, Quidditch is the most ridiculous game in creation. It’s clear that J.K. Rowling isn’t much for game design. She can write the crap out of candy and sweets, though, I’ll grant her that.

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You might recognize this structure. Hint: Paris.

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Brick apartments in Swanage on the Dorset coast.

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Buckingham Palace and the Victoria Monument.

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Hopital de Les Invalides. Napoleon is buried in the cathedral whose gilded dome you can see up top.

Hope you — Harry Potter fans, science fiction readers, and otherwise — enjoyed these ramblings. More soon.

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