Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Missing Manual: What to Do (Life)

If Life came with an Owner's Manual, all the pages would be blank.

That comes as a bit of problem when you hit a crossroads and you just have no clue as to which path might be the right one, the more correct path, and the one that leads to a spike-filled pit. Besides being devoid of text, Life: The Owner's Manual also lacks proper maps. And really, I'd settle for a simple contour map, something I can point to and say to myself, "Here, this is the high point then there's a bit of a valley then a bit of a plateau..." and plan things around those highs and lows and in-between parts.

But because the pages are empty, you never know if the path you're on is leading to a pointy demise or a fun Friday night with the ghosts of celebrities from the 1920's.

Clues can be found, of course -- a wagon with a broken axle or a bag of money or a fluffy pillow -- but one would have to observe and pay attention to such clues because maybe it's not too late to run back down the road you've travelled and try another path.

Life is no LucasArts adventure game, where I can wander in and out of conversations and situations with the knowledge that there's no way I can make a wrong move. Life is more like a Sierra adventure game, where I can miss some crucial step along the way and simply stop progressing or worse, die. (I'm looking at you Leisure Suit Larry II and your damn spinach dip!) Imagine if you were standing in line at the bank and because you forgot to go to the bathroom before getting in line your bladder explodes. Life is kind of like that: it makes no sense and you'll occasionally soil yourself.

So, anyway, Life is going to happen. It's immutable and forever pushing us forward (or pulling us, depending on your point of view) and if we don't make the choices, explore the forks, we simply get run over by Life's size 14 boots.

I don't even know what the hell I'm typing any more. All I can say, is that there are choices and you need to make them. Not making a choice is worse than making the wrong choice. And that the blank Owner's Manual gets filled in along the way with the past and present -- no matter how many pages you flip forward, they'll still be blank.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

For the Record...

Just wanted to put this "on the record" as far as this blog goes because it's one of the pieces of writing I'm most proud of simply because it seemed to distil -- at least in my own mind -- the complete run of CGW/GFW Radio (on the 1UP Network) in a handful of paragraphs. This was written for the CGW/GFW Radio Reunion at PAX Prime in 2009 to introduce the cast:
A man who flew to Seattle on a flaming burrito,
And woke up on the bathroom floor only minutes ago,
The Peggle-code begging Lord of the Rings himself
Creator of the Monopoly scoring system for PC games
And the "This but this" format of game reviewing,
Getting ready for Frodo's birthday, the real Tingle
A dolphin that can sing like a chicken,
Straight from Chernobyl with the bruises to prove it
George Lucas's worst nightmare, it's
The quiet one with a burning hatred of Mark Millar
And snack machines around the world,
Direct from Dharmaville, Hell Yeah! it's
A prankster with a degree in giving customers the pickle
Straight out of a Second Life acid trip, chomping on candy,
The Punisher of video games, he's here to protect you

Monday, February 27, 2012

Reviews and Sundry

I've posted my positive review of Alan Wake's American Nightmare and I have to admit that I'm still thinking about the game. That tends to be a hallmark of a good game for me. Do I think about it when I'm not playing it? Do I wish I was playing it rather than writing about it? That's what a good (maybe even great) game is to me.

I'm running into this with SSX at the moment. The review is mostly written but I'd rather be playing it. I started writing the review last night and I couldn't remember the name of one of the modes so I jumped into the game to verify.

It was a verification process that took two solid hours because, hey, you can never be too sure about something.

Also, the scene at this link is from "Watchmen" and was filmed mere blocks from my house. There's a ton of CG involved, but that cemetery actually exists.

Friday, February 24, 2012

My Weekend (If I'm Lucky)

SSX landed on my desk yesterday and I couldn't tear into it fast enough. It has been a very long time since I last played an SSX game and the original game was actually one of the first titles The Armchair Empire ever received for review right around the launch of the PS2. (The other was NHL Hockey.) In fact, I actually had to rent a PS2 -- Remember when video rental places did that? Remember when there were video rental places? -- so it could be reviewed.

While there's an embargo up preventing any opinion from leaking out -- it could be construed as a "review" -- I have to say it was great to see the SSX logo appear on the screen.

I've said too much already!

But I hope to spend a great number of hours with SSX this weekend ahead of the review embargo lifting.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Alan Wake's American Nightmare: Early Impressions

So, I'm about halfway through the story of Alan Wake's American Nightmare -- from what I can tell -- and I'm really having fun with it.

It does exactly what I wanted it to do. Answer some questions, present new ones, fill in some blanks, and pay homage to the likes of that one episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation where the Enterprise-D is stuck in a time loop, X-Files, LOST, among many other sources. And even though it does all that, it still doesn't actually answer very much or at least doesn't spoon feed the players the answers to what's actually happening. Instead it allows the player to draw some of their own conclusions; write their own fiction as to why things are happening the way they are. Has Alan has actually escaped the cabin under the lake back to the real world years after the events of the first game and he's just gone batshit insane? Are the TVs and radios conduits to the real world? Is his nemesis, Mr. Scratch, living in Alan's head or is Alan living in Mr. Scratch's head? Am I just over-thinking the whole thing? Probably. But that's part of the appeal of Alan Wake, at least for me.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Cosby Show

I've been watching The Cosby Show the last few days and the difference between the recent and current crop of family sitcoms is a giant trench of quality. The Cosby Show holds up even if the series had its debut in the early '80s. Do you think anyone will remember Full House or Family Matters or Home Improvement in another ten years? I really think they won't.

But the biggest difference I've seen with The Cosby Show -- and this is a perspective that almost 14 years of marriage and 5 kids have provided -- is that the father, Cliff Huxtable, is no wimp. He's not afraid of disciplining his children. And while he exhibits a certain amount of playfulness with and understanding for his children, he's also not afraid to smack them back into line (in the figurative sense, because he doesn't actually beat any of the kids). He cares about his kids. He wants them to grow up and be successful -- not only with a career but as responsible human beings.

In the very first episode, his son explains why he "just wants to be regular people" in a long speech to defend his poor grades and why he doesn't actually need to try that hard. The audience claps in reaction -- as if the kid has upstaged and out-witted his father.

"Theo," Cliff says, briefest of pauses, "That is the DUMBEST thing I have ever heard!"

Cliff Huxtable is no dummy. Can the same be said of Carl Winslow, Tim "The Toolman" Taylor, Danny Tanner (and the insipid Joey and Uncle Jesse), or hell even the dad from ALF, Willie Tanner? No. These other TV dads are simply brow beaten and continually out-witted by the children they're supposed to be raising. (And in one case, by his children and an alien.) Creating a strong father role wouldn't float on television today for the simple reason that smart-ass kids are the norm and parental guidance goes about as far as instructing their kids not to smoke marijuana in the house because for some reason it seems that a lot of parents today would rather be friends with their kids rather than an authority with the responsibility of getting their kids to a stage in their life where (hopefully) they use the life lessons you've taught them to take care of themselves. And not only them, but their spouse, kids, friends, co-workers, humanity at large, etc. Give them the tools; teach them how to use them!

It's astounding to me that it was re-watching a 1980's sitcom that got me on this rant.

And Mom and Dad, thanks! Raising kids is rough business and that's not something I understood when I was growing up. But now that I am where I am, I think I'm beginning to understand it.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Trying for an Official AE Logo

I really need someone with modicum of design talent to take the basic idea presented above and make something awesome with it. I want something that's mostly "basic" so that it's instantly recognizable in profile.

Also, the "ball" the chair is cracking into is supposed to be Earth. Sketching landmasses would have stretched my doodling ability to the breaking point.

1241 Homer Street, Vancouver, BC

I've been doing a lot of research and interviewing for my upcoming feature on Radical Entertainment. They're celebrating 20 years so it's kind of big milestone, especially in the world of game development.

In the process of gathering information and doing interviews, I've become somewhat fascinated by the early history and the stories behind the Who, What, When, Where and Why of things associated with the company.

Most recently this happened while trying to run down information and a picture of the original building at 1241 Homer Street, Vancouver, BC. There are plenty images of the building there now -- a modern residential apartment -- but it has taken me a long time to find any of the original building. I finally found one!

1241 Homer Street, Vancouver, BC (circa. ~1910)
The description found in the "Self-Guided Walking Tour - Yaletown" describes the building:

"Rooming houses such as this one offered inexpensive, convenient lodgings for the many single working men who crowded into Vancouver in the early 1900s. Completed in 1910, the building was designed by architect J. Pearson for David McCall, a CPR boilermaker. The double-entry stair and the wooden cornice and brackets are original, but the gingerbread curlicues were added when the building was renovated for office use."

When I first started doing interviews, there was a legend, myth, story, whatever, that the original building where Radical Entertainment got its start was a brothel at one point. I have yet to actually confirm that rumour but because the building "offered inexpensive, convenient lodgings for the many single ... men" it's not outside the realm of possibility that some section of it was a bawdy house or offered those kinds of "services."

The old building was demolished some years back and the residential apartment building that replaced it doesn't have the same kind of character as the original building.

Radical is (obviously) no longer at that same site. The company moved many years ago to their building on Terminal Avenue, close to the big golf ball of Science World and just south of the Vancouver Pacific Central Station. The trains arriving and departing the station can be seen from the north-facing offices. It's a faint echo of the CPR (Canadian Pacific Railway) origins of the original building. I like that bit of synchronicity.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Gotham City Imposters: How to Review?

It's a good question.
How do I review an online multiplayer game without actually playing the online multiplayer. I suppose the same way I reviewed a box when the game wasn't included. I can review the looks and music and maybe one or two jokes. But no one buys a game, especially a multiplayer shooter, based on those things, do they? It's about how the game plays! Is it fun? Is the action engaging? Is there some inherent level of strategy involved? Do the different classes compliment each other? What about the game modes? Upgrades? The list of questions is a long one and so far I haven't been able to answer any of them for the very simple reason that I haven't been able to reliably connect to a game.

I managed to get connected to a game last night. Kind of cool right off the bat, but I realized there were a mere three (3) players on the map. Three! Fortunately it was a 2-on-1 affair and my team won.  But I've lost count of the number of lobbies that I've suddenly dropped out of or games that have started only to lose the connection even before the map finishes loading. I've spent upwards of two hours now trying to connect to one freakin' game! (The single player experience boils down to training exercises.)

After the first few times I thought it might be NAT settings, etc. so I went in and started messing with that stuff. I always feel a little blind when I do stuff like that. Like making stabbing motions at the keyboard as I edited ye olde and config.sys files in the DOS days. I know I'll get some kind of result but not always be able to foresee what the result might be. Stirring the pot and flipping switches hasn't helped but if I'm to have any hope of providing a review of Gotham City Imposters I might just have to keep doing something until it reliably connects.

Of course, I haven't really considered that maybe there just aren't that many people playing. I won't go down this avenue. Not yet.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Alan Wake: Played It, Finished It, Looking Forward to Playing it Again

Bright Falls has never looked so good.
As a game, Alan Wake really got under my skin. The combat wasn't always spot-on as Max Payne and Max Payne 2: The Fall of Max Payne (by Alan Wake developer, Remedy) but the setting, the psychological X-Files, Twin Peaks aspects sunk its hooks into me in a big way. If I wasn't playing it, I wanted to the be playing it. I burned through the two DLC "episodes" -- "Previously on Alan Wake" still makes me feel good -- and started playing the again from the beginning. Not on a harder difficulty or anything, but just to experience the game again. This wasn't something like Heavy Rain, where I've had the urge to replay but never followed through because I'm not sure I can stand the emotional roller-coaster again. Plus, I know "whodunnit."

I'm slowly burning through the entire series of X-Files -- I should write something about Netflix -- and there are a few episodes, particularly "Darkness Falls" -- Wikipedia describes the episode: Mulder and Scully travel to a remote area of Washington State National Forest after an entire group of thirty loggers goes missing. They soon discover that an unseen force that was lying dormant has been awakened -- which really made me want to stop watching and start playing again.

Alan Wake releases on PC today (in North America) and I finally have a bulletproof reason to dive into the lake again!

Shank 2 for PC

I've seen the Shank 2 death screen more times
than I can count. Stay away from keyboard controls!
Well, you can't say the developers didn't give the ol' college try but the keyboard controls for Shank 2 are horrible.

Horrible in a way that could induce keyboard pounding as you attempt to execute the kind of precision mayhem required of Shank 2. Even the simplest rolls and dodges become complex with the keyboard, which is exactly what you don't want if you're trying to stay a bullet or two ahead of the enemies. And there's this awful thing that happens when Shank breaks out the guns or knives. You have to use the mouse to aim the damn things! Because the switch between melee and ranged happens so quickly, the frustration caused by aiming with the mouse leads to a never-ending waterfall of frustration as Shank fires his weapons into the ground rather than the rushing enemies.

Plugging in a controller remedies the control issue, but it sure doesn't take away from the challenge, which ramps up pretty quickly. At least with a controller it comes down to a little bit of strategy rather than imprecise keyboard key mashing which allows appreciation of the production values.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Keep the Candle Burning

So, it would seem that the hope of wrangling a CGW/GFW Radio Reunion in 2012 have been extinguished unless some kind of LOST-like series of events occurs and the only way for the world to stop skipping through time is to have the five participants complete a podcast reunion before the next jump. While 2012 may see hope extinguished, the smallest of candles remains lit for 2013. Everyone involved isn't ready to let it go and, honestly, neither am I.

And that got me to thinking, what would that candle look like? What would the scent be? Green in honour of a certain Star Wars character and probably scented with candy.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

AE's YouTube Channel: "Scoregasm"

It's big, bright and full of colour! Try not to blink too much -- it might induce a seizure.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Fun, With Chainsaws

The summer my Uncle Ron purchased “The Ranch” I was hired to help clean up the place. The grounds were littered with miscellaneous farm equipment, a clothes washer, steel barrels full of broken glass, a giant boiler that looked exactly like the front of a steam train, a few acres of black berry bushes, a moldering guest house, and so much unidentified junk that when we pulled up the driveway that first day, I wondered just what I’d signed up for. And that was before I even got a look at the inside of the main house that was perched on the edge of the ravine.

It had all the makings of a disaster movie or at the very least a tetanus shot but it wasn’t until a few weeks had passed that the incident with the chainsaws occurred.

From the main road, running parallel to the driveway, was an access road to the ravine and the lower part of the property. Half way down the access road, two trees had fallen and blocked the way. Because of the angle of the bank above it and some large trees further into the ravine, the fallen trees formed a chest-high blockade.

My uncle tasked me with the start of what would later be dubbed “The Wall” in a tone of voice typically used by those suffering post traumatic street disorder. The theory behind The Wall was essentially to stop the house from sliding into the ravine. Having spent some time inside the house by this time, I wondered if letting it slide into the ravine would have been more efficient (and probably more fun).

But I was being paid to work, not think.

To get to the site of The Wall, I had to travel down the access road. Having to duck under the trees while pushing a wheelbarrow full of crushed rock down a relatively steep incline was not a task I enjoyed so I was much relieved when Uncle Ron hefted a chainsaw down the road to take care of the problem. The trees were going.

“This’ll get rid of those those damn trees,” he said. At least, that’s what I think he said. Uncle Ron has a mumbling way of talking. If you weren’t paying attention you might think he was just clearing his throat.

He yanked the the starter and the chainsaw buzzed to life. He brought the spinning chain upwards and started into the first tree. He pulled the saw out and resumed cutting from the top, sawdust billowing out in a cloud. Then the machine squealed horribly and died.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Fortune Summoners on AE's YouTube Channel

Mr. Nash recently took a look at "Fortune Summoners." Pop some popcorn, pour a drink, and pull up a chair. Now you're ready to watch and learn!

Thursday, February 9, 2012

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Take a close look at the picture above.

Okay, just what the hell is going on? The company -- I've blacked out all references because it seems a little mean to keep the name on there, ripe for ridicule -- wants to convey the message that consumers should contract with them because they're convenient and cost effective. But when I look at the strange photo that dominates the ad, my brain can't actually parse out the story behind this couple.

The guy -- presumably Waldo of "Where's Waldo?" fame -- seems completely awed by the way his clothes were dried. His head is almost in the dryer and his eyes are bugging out of his head at the fantabulousness of dry clothes. This might just be the high point of his entire existence!

Meanwhile the woman is trying to give him a hickey.. drag his attention away from the driest clothes in the world. And that weird stare of hers... what is going on there?

Convenience? Return on investment? A picture may be worth a thousand words but "convenience" and "investment" aren't included in this picture.

The Main Problem with Skyrim

Here's the moment I became an
F12 addict.
So far my biggest problem with Skyrim is that I'm constantly hitting F12 to take screenshots. Every vista, every detail, every place I've been, I keep thinking to myself, "Oh man, that looks so cool!"

I've been very careful about staying on the main story path so far because of the problems I ran into with Mass Effect 2. That game would present these seemingly innocuous choices that might (or maybe they didn't) have repercussions down the line. For Skyrim, I've stayed on the straight and narrow and the only exploration I've really done is the distance I have to travel from story point to story point with a decision early on to always try to take the "good" path during NPC interactions (when they didn't try to kill me first).

After the story is done I might go back and do some more exploring. After all, there might be other vistas and caves that are just begging for a half dozen taps of F12.

There are spots like this all over Skyrim. Places you just want to string up
your hammock and drift into unconsciousness.
Just how many moons are there to see in Skyrim? Maybe the ultimate in-game 
moon is the crazy one from The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64).
The spider is only on fire because I'm using some kind of flame spell on it.
(I'm not good with knowing the specifics of what things are called -- the
spider is on fire, that's the important thing.)

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

The Information I Know

It's weird.

Not often does information drop into my lap, particularly secret information. And when it does, it just feels weird. Like suddenly I'm a target for people that want information and I'll need to fortify my stamina against possible torture or even a targeted hit. I get jumpy.

There was a time many years ago that Square Enix sent out a package to one of AE's writers (and a high school friend of mine) that shouldn't have been sent. I received a mildly frantic phone call from a Square Enix rep asking that the package not be opened and that it be immediately returned via FedEx to the Square Enix offices. At the moment I felt like I had been plunged into some kind of global conspiracy. What was in the package? It was obviously important because they didn't even want our writer to see what was in it. Sensitive information, obviously. Evidence of a CIA hit squad taking out targets overseas? Information on extra terrestrials and that most of them are very concerned with giant chickens and belt buckles?

I spent a couple of hours frantically calling our man in Denver. I left messages with the words "In no uncertain terms are you to open that package! Immediately return it to Square Enix." (Clearly, it takes very little for me to be riled up -- maybe it speaks to a larger paranoia.) I was not only worried about the package being returned, but was truly terrified of what would happen if the package was opened, its secret contents spilling out.

In the end, the package was set back. Unopened, its secrets forever sealed.

But the reason for this particular entry is that I'm in possession of information now that isn't widely known at the moment. I'm hiding under my desk, holding my breath and a loaded Beretta pistol.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Armchair Empire's YouTube Channel

Maybe it was a long time coming, but Mr. Nash has been busy!

I'd like to take a minute to let you know about The Armchair Empire's YouTube channel, which will focus on "quick impressions" of games, with commentary.

Check the embedded video below which focuses on "Titan Attacks":

More games are coming so stay tuned!

Monday, February 6, 2012

"Point A" meet "Point B"

Whenever I take a journey, it's all about getting from point "A" to point "B." From my desk chair (A) to the kitchen (B) for a glass of water. Any maybe I'll take a moment or two to scratch the dog between the ears or pick-up some clutter, the journey I'm taking is still about getting from A to B, with no meaning in-between.

The distance between the two is of some relevance. There are all those sub-points between that offer distraction and eduction. Road trips are a good illustration of this. There are thousands of points between Vancouver and San Diego that might offer some distraction and that's exactly what my family might be getting into this summer.

Marshmallows should be eaten. They're
delicious! But not so delicious are
their offensive/defensive capabilities.
A number of years ago, we drove down to Los Angeles (E3) and Anaheim (that amusement park is there, slips my mind, the name of it) and that included all sorts of stops like the Red Wood Forest, Folsom Lake SRA (The Most Terrifying State Recreation Area in California ©), some sand dunes in Oregon, the constant wind off the ocean at Half Moon Bay outside San Francisco, and a lonely gas station on I5. All sorts of distractions to be had! It's on trips like these that the destination -- B -- becomes almost irrelevant except as it pertains to a turn-around point. It really does become about the journey and craziness that entails. Fighting two large raccoons in the middle of the night who have somehow managed to pry off the top of the Rubbermaid container with the dry goods in it. (Marshmallows make for poor raccoon repellent and even worse as thrown ammo for the line "Hey, get out of here, raccoons!") Or taking on LA traffic in a mini-van with extremely limited visibility thanks to camping gear piled to the ceiling. That particular issue was handled with white knuckles and the hope that anyone around us had seen the out-of-state, out-of-country licence plate and take pity on us. That and waves of profanity. ("Mom, what does blankity blank blank of a blank blank blank mean?")

I love those trips. In the heat of the moment it can be difficult to grasp that we were actually having fun but in remembering the events, places, and people we met, it seems that our lives are wealthier beyond measure for taking the trip. I think that's why I'm loathe to take a plane anywhere. There's no in-between. No bizarre roadside distraction, no palpable racism, no tension as we roll up to the booth on the Golden Gate Bridge as we frantically search the floor for change to pay the toll. (There's a certain level of panic too -- I mean, what do they do to out of towners that can't pay the toll? Just direct you to the a piece of road that launches you into the bay?) I don't remember flights. You sit in a tube, you get a pack of pretzels, in-flight movie, some pop, you land, life continues after seemingly being "paused" for a few hours. Road trips are an entirely different thing.

The road, it stretches out in front of you. Experience awaits!

Friday, February 3, 2012

Kneading the Brain

Based on a Twitter recommendation by Shawn Elliott, I picked up Brain Christian's "The Most Human Human: What Talking with Computers Teaches Us About What it Means to Be Alive." And so far, it has managed to poke and prod my thinking self into actual thought. And though the writing is "light" and fairly easily digested, I'm finding that some pages I'll get to the bottom of then re-read the section because my brain is churning on a particular concept that's explained on the page or a concept that's put forward that makes me look away from the book and consider what I've just read. It's a departure from my usual reason for having to re-read something: I zoned out.

I've started to think about who I actually am, my perception of the world around me, and some of the rote pitfalls I continue to be faced with.

And more than that, I'm finding that because I'm thinking more about what I'm reading, I'm retaining far more of the information presented in the book and some of the concepts are really sticking with me, like the concept of creativity and the idea of creating a tool then coming up with a use for it.

I'm about halfway through the book so far and I can easily see myself flipping to page one soon after reaching the last page. It's that interesting. Or maybe that's just my perception because I haven't read much in the way of non-fiction for a number of years.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Headline kind of says it all...

"Raging goat holds woman captive" 
Full text can be found at The Province:
"I tried to shoo the goat away with the snow shovel but it just made it really mad," said Giuliani. 
"He came up the stairs and was jumping all over the barbecue and head-butting the door trying to get in." 
Giuliani lobbed a couple of empty Corona beer bottles at the marauding goat to scare it away, without much success. 
She called animal control, but they were closed for the day, so she called police with the plea: "I'm being held hostage in my house by my neighbour's goat.'"

Quick Book Review: "Spanish Fly"

Ferguson explains the origin of the
cover photo in the "Afterward."
"Spanish Fly" by Will Ferguson could be read as somewhat of a prequel to Ferguson's first novel, "Happiness." There's not much of a crossover apart from Jack McGreary and the mention of the De Valu family (which is a reference to the protagonist of Ferguson's first novel). "Spanish Fly" was a bit of a disappointment from that perspective, and Ferguson has this knack for making most of his characters "sound" very similar. I've read a lot of his non-fiction writing, and a lot of the dialogue and banter in "Spanish Fly" often has the same kind of cadence to it even thought the characters themselves are quite a bit different than he's written before.

The actual story isn't riveting but more interesting. It's a character study more than anything, but there's also a history component when it comes to the cons and the ramp-up to World War II happening in the background. But it sure as hell isn't funny, which might have been the point. There are a few moments of amusement but for a lot of the book it's deadpan serious. At first I thought maybe Ferguson was trying to work a "dark humour" angle but I abandoned thinking about that a few chapters in. With the dust jacket harping on the fact Ferguson has won the Stephen Leacock Memorial Medal for Humour a number of times, I was expecting a little more in the way of actual humour.

Maybe I've pigeonholed Ferguson in the "funny" camp and any attempt at escape -- at trying something outside that particular camp -- results in a a volley of cannon fire in the back. Without the expectation of humour my opinion of "Spanish Fly" might have been different because the story of cons and double-cons and conning the cons in 1930's America is actually good.