o · tac · ra · cy [oh-tok-ruh-see]
1. government by otaku; a form of government in which supreme power is


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The KFC Double Down? Double Disgusting... PDF Print E-mail
Written by Vincent Diamante   
Wednesday, 14 April 2010 19:46

KFC's Double Down Sandwich

The Double Down is a horrible sandwich.

I guess I could stop there, but let's keep it going.

The Double Down looks horrible.  Okay, looks aren't everything, but honestly: any traditional burger will be much more pleasing to the eyes.  The contrast of golden colored toasted bun and dark grilled beef?  The bright red tomato complemented by green leaf lettuce?  The Double Down has nothing of the sort.  Rather, its orange on yellow on white motif evokes memories of the worst of elementary school cafeteria food.  The lighter color of the grilled version is even worse, drawing visual comparisons to bathroom sponges.  Perhaps something could have been saved if the bacon wasn't so shy but, alas, the local KFC had both sandwiches sport bacon slices smaller than other fast food joints "junior" versions of bacon burgers.  About the only thing good about the Double Down's presentation is it tries to set up the lowest of low expectations for just how bad this sandwich will taste.

KFC's Double Down Sandwich

It almost succeeds there.

The Double Down tastes bad.  Okay, the original recipe chicken fillet ain't bad, if you're into that.  I can tolerate a few pieces of the stuff myself.  Unfortunately, they had to diminish it with slices of Monterey Jack and Pepper Jack "cheese" with no discernible flavor and and a plain as plain can be Colonel's Sauce.  Despite the almost scary artificial color of the condiments, the stuff between the chicken fillets had absolutely no kick.  The texture of the melted cheese and sauce also did an excellent job of detracting from the eating experience, complementing the decent juiciness of the fillets with a pastiness that made every bite pure torture.  The bacon could have went a long way toward saving the sandwich; however, the little bit of bacon in both of these sandwiches did nothing to enhance the flavor.  Perhaps any sort of meatiness or saltiness it could have provided was sucked away by the sheer disgustingness of the cheese and sauce that smothered it.

And that's not even the worst of it.

KFC's Double Down Sandwich

The Double Down is a bad value.  Each sandwich is five dollars.  Think about that!  Five dollars goes a long way in today's fast food market.  Subway has their five dollar foot long sandwiches that beat the Double Down in every way.  McDonald's and Wendy's are providing options including fries and beverage at the three dollar level.  Carl's Jr. has their large variety of Six Dollar Burgers which provide more flavor and more calories for the same price or even slightly cheaper.  Even at KFC, five dollars can get you chicken and sandwich meal options that include sides and drinks.

So there you have it.  Normally, this is the time where one might suggest that it's worth one try.  I'm not going to do that.  The Double Down is: Horrible.  Verging on inedible.  The worst fast food sandwich I've had in years.

Please don't eat one.

Undergoing the Otaku Transformation PDF Print E-mail
Written by Vincent Diamante   
Wednesday, 20 January 2010 20:47

Back in 2006, when (former?) game designer Will Wright was entertaining questions about how awesome Spore would be, he talked for a decent amount about: his inner otaku.

Oh yes, was he an otaku.  He loved him some crazy Russian space ships and rocked books about astrobiology a little too hard.  And we all loved him for that.

During both his Comic-Con and GDC talking stints that year, he encouraged people/game devs/creative types/aliens to "develop your inner otaku."

Me, well...!  There's a whole lot of otaku in me.  Or rather: otakus.

(Yes, I know you don't add an 's' to make Japanese nouns plural, but I needed it for the effect there, see...)

I've got the anime otaku and the game otaku, sure, but then there's: the music otaku; the camera otaku; the audio otaku (who is always at odds with the music otaku); the computer otaku; the food otaku; the sports otaku; the HCI otaku; the gun otaku; the dollar store otaku; the... the...

I'm sure there's more, but they're probably hiding in here, somewhere.  Probably pretty close to the anime and food otaku, who seem to have shrunk as the months have passed.

Yeah, I'm just not the anime otaku I used to be.  It's been years since I've downloaded a fansub.  My most recent anime purchases were merely series I had watched long ago and felt the need to buy to show some modicum of support for the since imploded US anime industry.

Now, back in the day, I probably would have chalked it up to me deciding to be "mature" and forego the "otaku lifestyle" or some other nonsense that my younger self would have only a vague idea about.  Honestly, I buy in to what Will Wright was saying back then.  Even now, I can see him in some thousand dollar suit echoing shades of Gordon Gecko, proclaiming, "Otaku.  Is.  Good."

Ultimately, the problem lies in me: I'm just not that awesome enough to sustain continued development of all my inner otaku.  Which is okay.

In 2010, I'm no longer the heatsink otaku I was back in 2001.  Back then, I could get into a debate about cold-forged heatsinks (such as those from Japanese manufacturer Alpha... remember the 6035?!) being better than skived fins (was never the biggest Thermalright fan... and you could never have one big enough to deal the CFM those things needed for performance).  Nowadays, I just use the heatsink that came with my Shuttle PC and I'm done.

Back in 1998, I fit way too many facts about anime and game seiyuu into my brain.  I could rattle off all the voices for the Sotsugyou Saturn games... never mind that I didn't have the games, or even if I did, I wouldn't understand a lick of what they were saying.  (Not that I can now, but that's another problem...)

Back in high school, I prided myself on reading almost entirely non-fiction.  Now I've got Haruki Murakami's Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman sitting on top of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities and Max Brooks's World War Z.

Curses on my memory, that keeps me from realizing the path that I've taken to become this shell of VINCENT DIAMANTE that houses such different otaku within it today...

...and... oh.

Oh.  I'm okay.  I guess I'll hang around the way I am for now... until some other otaku decides to take up residence.  Maybe I should redevelop that cosplay otaku that used to be in here... hadn't seen him in more than a decade.  Or maybe I should find that Scriabin otaku that used to dominate my musical personality...

In the Richard Linklater film Waking Life, a woman in a cafe talks plainly about the earnest fiction of identity in the simplest, most comforting biological terms one could conjure with regard to the human condition: "Our cells are completely regenerating every seven years.  We've already become completely different people several times over... and yet we always remain quintessentially ourselves."

Seven years, eh?  Let's see if I can get it to the point where I can at least remain the same person from the beginning of writing a short blog post to the end...


Ah well.  No can do!

Here's to a good 2010: one that finishes stronger than it starts. 

I Got A Seven (7!) Patty Whopper PDF Print E-mail
Written by Vincent Diamante   
Sunday, 25 October 2009 14:45
The Seven Patty Whopper

Guys in Japan celebrated the launch of Windows 7 with a 7 patty Whopper.  Hacker types this side of the pond used their own open source methods to hack their own 7 patty burgers.

Me, I just went to the local Burger King and ordered one.

Yeah, the cashier looked at me incredulously as I ordered it, but the order went through swiftly enough.  On top of the regular Whopper, you just order six extra patties at $1.39 each.

Final price after tax: $12.54.

I ended up sharing the burger with three friends.  Check out more pics on my flickr...

A little off-camera flash goes a long way... PDF Print E-mail
Written by Vincent Diamante   
Monday, 19 October 2009 21:55

Yep... It's been a while.  I've been busy.  Teaching classes, writing music, and trying my best not to go crazy.  Mostly succeeding at it.  But that's not what this post is about.

This post is all about some pictures I've taken using off-camera wired and wireless flash.  Because man do I like flash.  Rhymes with smash.  And panache.

When I was a kid, my first autofocus SLR was a Minolta Maxxum 3xi.  This was a pretty mediocre camera for photographers.  Couldn't manually set the film speed.  No spot meter.  No shutter speed and aperture viewable in the viewfinder.

But it did have one of my favorite features ever: wireless camera flash.

So there I was, this snot-nosed elementary school kid wielding an SLR in the right hand and holding a flash in the left, taking "artsy" looking pictures (read: abstract with lots of dutch angles) of his classmates courtesy of some strong handheld sidelighting.

It's not all that much different nowadays.


Anonymous at Scientology in Los Angeles

By far my most well known picture is one I took last year of some of the participants in the Los Angeles Anonymous protest of Scientology.  Thanks to a Creative Commons license, the photo has been seen by way too many people on sites from CNN to Fox News.  It's a pretty good shot, and it was incredibly easy to do.  All I did was walk down the street, see those three guys standing together, asked the fourth to come join them, and then I take a picture of them the same way I took pictures back in 6th grade: camera in the right hand, flash in the left.

Back in the day, the Minolta film flash auto exposure system was arguably the best in the world.  The Sony digital flash system that succeeded it is perhaps not quite so awesome (more to do with the physical properties of digital sensors vs. film than inability on Sony's part), but it still did an amazing job at lighting up the extremely close foreground and maintaining the background.  The combo of bright sun backlighting the scene, a single sidelighting flash, and Sony's Dynamic Range Optimizer locally raising shadows in the scene maximized the final image impact of the subject, shot ultra wide at super close range to accentuate the subjects' eye-lines.

Lately, I've been noticing cosplay photographers talking about using large-aperture normal to telephoto lenses to get their subjects to really pop in the image.  Me, I also like having the subject of the image pop.  I just tend to think first of doing it with my portable lighting setup than with a wide aperture lens capable of delivering super smooth bokeh.  I've gone through three digital interchangeable lens camera systems in the last decade (Minolta/Sony, Pentax, and Olympus), and with all of them I've made extensive use of off-camera flash, both in automatic and manual settings.

Here are a couple of examples:


Alice @ Fanime 2008

This is one of my favorite night shots.  I had one of my other cosplayer friends hold a single wireless flash aimed at Alice directly to the right of her.  Yeah, the Pentax's auto focus system wasn't perfect, and you can tell this copy of the lens isn't the best, but the picture doesn't rely on that.  Instead, it's all about the super high contrast, well-lit subject, save a half-illuminated face, shot in pitch darkness.  I actually had two wireless flashes at my disposal at this time, but I can't remember if it was me being smart or dumb deciding not to fill the other side.  I'll go with smart.  :)


Anime Expo 2008

Here's another one from the same year, shot with the same system.  Now armed with a slightly better copy of the lens I used above, I shoot not just the subjects, but also the background (the unused Kentia Hall of the Los Angeles Convention Center).  This time I've got flashes out in front of the subjects, both left and right, and both on manual power settings.  I actually expose for the practical lighting (note the 1/5th sec exposure) and I just sorta "kiss" the subjects with very low power flash, maintaining the strong shadows and the industrial mood created by the ceiling lights while establishing the proper look and feel of the costumes.


Hikaru Plays in the Pool

And now back to using daylight flash.  Here's one that was done with a single flash on an umbrella behind my right shoulder, a Canon Speedlight 430 EX triggered through an Elinchrom system.  Full manual on the camera, full power flash.  People talk about using large apertures to separate the subject from the background.  Here, I think the flash did a pretty good job at that while I shot at f/6.3 to ensure more than enough DOF and optimum lens performance.


Chun-Li and Sakura

Now to end this post with one from Anime Con Carne.  Compared to this crazy action shot that dominated the shoot, this one took literally seconds to conceptualize and execute.  Here we've got Chun-Li ostensibly downed momentarily by a smug Sakura.  Both are well front-lit by the sun, but off picture left, one of my friends is aiming a flash right at Sakura, helping her to pop out of the fairly bright background and establish herself as a subject equal to Chun-Li, despite occupying significantly less space.  (Yes, I know I blew out the highlights, but that's just what I do...)

So there's my post on how I've used flash over the years for costumed subjects.  Of course I've used off-camera flash for plenty of news and documentation purposes.  It's not like good lighting is solely for the realm of fashion photography...

"Rule-based games are not a superset of videogames..." PDF Print E-mail
Written by Vincent Diamante   
Friday, 25 September 2009 21:00

A few minutes ago, after having bumbled around a dark room in a sickly stupor attempting to clean yogurt from the greatest mousepad ever (the HandStands Laser ultra thin mouse mat), I tweeted something:

"Chris DeLeon responds to Jesper Juul's http://bit.ly/129BdP with http://cdgdl.com/lessons/ga..."

Long story slightly less long, Chris found an older (though no less relevant now as then) post on The Ludologist and decided to respond on his own site with some: fun and interesting stuff.

ALSO: the anti-spam CAPTCHA on my visit to The Ludologist?



Yep.  My day is made.

Your Best (Wii) Buys Are Always at Fry's... PDF Print E-mail
Written by Vincent Diamante   
Monday, 14 September 2009 19:55
Latest cheapo game acquisition: Blast Works / Wii from Fry's ... on Twitpic

So there I was, wandering the aisles of Fry's, trying to figure out what to do with my $20 of store credit when I saw: Blast Works for $5.22.

Blast Works, as some of you may know, is a game for Wii based on TUMIKI Fighters, a rather fantastic bit of freeware gaming from shmup creator Kenta Cho.  Blast Works is also: a pretty good game.

At $5.22, it's a friggin' STEAL.

Surprising me with ridiculous bargains is par for the course at Fry's.  Their Wii section, however, was downright RIDICULOUS.  Sure, there's the usual fare of kiddy and casual, but how about Battalion Wars II for 10 bucks?  Guilty Gear XX Accent Core for 11 bucks?  Target: Terror for 5 bucks?

Okay, let's forget about that last one...

Seriously.  There are some nice deals to be had at Fry's for the Wii.  Good thing one can use the Fry's website to search for all Wii items arranged by price.  Check out some of those sub-$1 deals...

What I Learned From Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie PDF Print E-mail
Written by Vincent Diamante   
Wednesday, 26 August 2009 21:38

The other night, I watched Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie (劇場版 カードキャプターさくら) for the umpteenth time since purchasing the Japanese DVD way back in 2001 (my very first Japanese media acquisition).

Then I watched the dubbed Cardcaptors movie, courtesy of Geneon's US DVD release.

First thing's first: the dub is bad.  It's pretty easy to find that much on the internet.  Mania.com (formerly AnimeOnDVD.com) begs us: "For all that's holy, do not listen to the dub of this movie. Dubs like these are the ones that keep Japanese language fans from giving credit when due that there are good dubs out there."  Like the many user reviews dotting the internet, I share the frustration at the dub's poor quality.  However, I'm equally frustrated at why it's considered so bad.

Mania.com's review, like others on the internet, focuses on things like the mispronunciation of Sakura's name and changing the subject of report card talk from math class to music class.  I can't help but think it's classic missing the forest for the trees, considering: the story is totally different between the dub and sub.

Cardcaptor Sakura: The Movie is a story of unspoken love transcending time to manifest itself among the heroes of the series, eventually recognized and placated through Sakura's near-superhuman ability to empathize with her adversary.

Cardcaptors: The Movie is the story of an evil magic student's vengeful spirit, seeking retribution against the "twisted" teacher who imprisoned her in a book to keep her from taking over the world.

Just a bit different, right?

I suppose I could go on about stuff like how American cartoons require the clarity of explicitly evil antagonists and simple relationships, but I also wanted to touch on the second part of this dub/sub discussion: the music.  Besides the easy gimme stuff like switching music styles from the original's jazz fusion to pop-rock with peppy vocals (jazz fusion wins, of course...), there's the issue of how and when the music is used.  Take the following scene taken towards the end of the movie.  First in English:



And now in Japanese:


As you can probably see and hear, there are some interesting differences between the two clips.

First: the instruments.  After the more ambient music ends, the English adaptation has some basic rock drums for the beat with middle of the road synth horns and strings on top: a fairly small virtual instrument ensemble.  The types of instruments are the exact same in the Japanese version: drums, strings, and horns.  However, the sound is drastically different.  Everything is much lighter, with the low-end de-emphasized and the high end active.  There's actually plenty of timpani and snare in the original, but they don't dominate the same way the rock kit does in the adaptation.

Second: the composition.  The adaptation features a relatively simple composition, with the beat in the foreground and the melodic instruments not executing much approaching melody.  Harmonically, it can be a considered a big ole V-i chord progression from beginning to end.  The original soundtrack is much more active both melodically and harmonically.  Despite the fairly short amount of time it had, the music established a rhythmic motif in the comping strings (one significant enough to warrant repeating toward the end of the piece) and a rather memorable melody in the high strings.

Third: the timing.  (This is actually the thing that made me want to write this post.)  In the English adaptation, there's a fairly long piece of ambient music that precedes the piece featured in the clip.  That piece of music ends and the new piece of music begins once Sakura's wand strikes the card.  In the Japanese, the music begins as Sakura throws out the card to be unleashed.

The following is kind of nebulous, but please bear with me.  I find it interesting the differences in how the event of Sakura saving herself from her watery predicament are scored.  However, I find it even more interesting how the event is cordoned off by the score.  In the English, the event is delineated solely by the physical consequence of Sakura's action of activating the card.  In the original, however, both Sakura's intent and its consequences were scored by the music.  This got me thinking about meaningful actions: actions that have sufficient intent and consequence, especially within a game context.  I've always found it interesting how Japanese game design enjoys playing with the concept of intent.  Compare the explicit obfuscation in the world of Japanese fighting games to the context sensitive face buttons in Gears of War.  The input into a BlazBlue arcade stick might seem crazy (it often is, from an abstract sequence perspective), but many can't help but look at the visual/narrative output as rather clear and considered.  Then you've got strategy games like StarCraft, where the consequences formed by layer upon layer of intentions can be absolutely bewildering... compared to Sega's Valkyria Chronicles, where the consequences are utterly predictable.

Okay, maybe it's not all that much, but I just wrote this post to say: Thanks, Cardcaptor Sakura.  I think you taught me something, even if I am stretching for it, and it's not totally clear what exactly it is.

(Also: I had no idea Kaitani Naomi (singer of the movie's ED theme, Tooi Kono Machi De) released a new album this year, and a remastered version of the movie came out in 2007...  ARGH!)


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