Multiple Sarah Palin Doll Commercials

22 09 2008



The online community has spoken, and it’s using action figures as it’s language or choice. The rapid creation and distribution of a cultural meme has never been easier. Blink and you miss it.

Below are 3 different toy commercial spoofs for action figures based on Sarah Palin (full disclosure, I produced the 3rd one in the list). One of them is an actual toy for sale. The others are parodies.

Are there any other Sarah Palin toy commercials out there? Send me a link!

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Panorama of SF Claw Machine Hell

17 09 2008
[Click on the image below to see a bigger version.  Click again to zoom in.  Sorry about the weak image quality…]
As I was walking through the San Francisco Metreon today, I was shocked to suddenly find myself in a large post-retail space filled with row after row of mechanical claw machines. I stopped short, looking up from the screen on my iPhone and without realizing it, I was surrounded.   It was more than a little creepy – like the final scene in Hitchcock’s “The Birds.”  Literally hundreds of the machines, patiently waiting, filled with small plushies and digital watches, lights quietly blinking – If they chose that moment to attack, there would have been no escape.  

My GTA 4 Stunt and Glitch Run In GTA 4 with X-Play’s Gamer Challenge

15 09 2008

Glitchin' and Griefin' in GTA 4 with the X-Play Stunt Crew

Earlier tonight MediaSapien was one of about 14 people who participated in a multiplayer stunt challenge in Grand Theft Auto 4, hosted by Mr. Sark of the show X-Play and slated to air on G4TV this Wednesday or Thursday. Let me say right off the bat, I admire Mr. Sark’s cool and steady leadership under conditions that can only be described as unnerving. It takes a lot of patience to direct actors. It takes even more to direct non-actors. Now imagine trying to wrangle a dozen hyped-up non-actors, all chattering on headset, and many of who are holding rocket launchers and AK47’s.

Hmm, Focus! GTA 4 needs me!

The group assembled was a varied lot – a few kids who seemed up past bedtime, a couple of rambunctious 20 something’s who were willing to focus, there were one or two quiet players who were very good at the game and focused to boot, and naturally there were a few griefers. Mr. Sark managed to be diplomatic – answering everyone’s questions about the stunts, when the video would air, thoughts on Morgan Webb’s relative hotness – all while coordinating players and recording videos of each stunt.

We tried at least 4 or 5 different stunts, with varying degrees of success. First up was a glitch involving a city bus and a swing set. The goal was to have players stand on top of the bus as it hit the swing set and hopefully fling the players clear across liberty city. Unfortunately, it didn’t seem to work too effectively. A few avatars did get oddly crushed to death, and some were tossed around a little, but nothing from my vantage point looked particularly thrilling. Next it was on to the airport for some runway bowling and coordinated stunt jumps. Both of these were fun and seemed to work out pretty well, in spite of the griefing from the circling helicopters. From there we all piled into helicopters to try another type of “flinging” stunt. By jumping off a roof and onto a hovering helicopter, one can sometimes be chopped and flung in dramatic fashion. Again it didn’t seem too effective. One issue was the sheer number of players, which kinda overwhelmed the Xbox whenever it had to draw them all at once. Clearly the physics of the game was affected as well. Lastly we took a chopper ride out to the Statue of Happiness to get a group shot of all the players leaping off the scaffolding under the secret beating heart of Liberty City’s iconic statue.

Just a few of the the GTA 4 Heroes

We worked at it for about 4 hours, really rallying together as a group in the last hour or so, and ultimately we got the footage Mr. Sark needed. It was fun to be a part of a directed and coordinated project in a multiplayer game. Usually these environments are anarchy, with games descending into pointless team-killing and juvenile name calling. It was refreshing to feel like part of a team – a thing that is so easy in RL, so taken for granted – a dozen or so people following instructions and working together to achieve a common goal. But in the facelessness of VR, it can be nearly impossible to accomplish such coordination.

But this was no ordinary multiplayer game, and no random group of players. We were assembled with a mission. – to create some of the biggest and most elaborate stunts ever performed in GTA 4. And under the leadership of Mr. Sark we accomplished our goal. Are we heroes? Yes, I think we are. We are among the pioneers and patriots – those willing to jump into a chopper blade or take a rocket to the face – if it makes a kick-ass stunt clip.

Check back later this week. I’ll try to post the video here when it becomes available.

Here’s the video.  If you look closely, you can see me (Gamertag: Spark415) during the bowling sequence (00:52)…

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Video Game HUD as Spiritual Mandala

13 09 2008



G4TV posted an interesting conversation regarding the “death of the HUD” in games.  This is a great discussion.  Read MORE here.

I have always been fascinated by the HUD.  No, not the 1963 Western starring Paul Newman, but the Head’s Up Display found lurking in the corner of many video game interfaces.  You know what I mean.  The small map-like radar scope or grid view of the game world that lets the player know at-a-glance his situational awareness.  The player is usually presented as a dot in the center of the HUD, with various icons and graphics representing other players or items nearby.  Every HUD is different, and their variety and depth and significance has become a minor obsession of mine. 

When Mediasapien first came across this site from Cornell University, we were stunned.  Collaborating with Buddhist monks, researchers created a stunning animation of the Kalachakra Mandala – a 2D image that represents the three-dimensional palace of the Kalachakra deity.  Basically they took a 2D sand painting, and extrapolated a 3D model of a five story temple. Go look.  You will never look at sand paintings the same way again.

There is an interesting parallel between the visual language of HUDs and Mandalas.  Even though they come from radically different sources, there is a similarity in the use of icons and signifiers to represent elements of value or importance.  I can’t help but take the analogy one step further and imbue the HUD with the kind of spiritual relevance and guidance within the game that the mandala has in reality.  Think about it, while fighting it out in GTA 4 multiplayer, the player needs the information in the HUD.  To a l337 gamer, the HUD is the difference between life and death.  I definitely do NOT want to sound glib, or suggest that real people’s spiritual practices are in any way trivial. I’m trying to say just the opposite.  In some small way, as games become increasingly relevant in our lives, the language of the HUD reflects this significance, and serves as a visual reminder of the in-game experiences and values of the player.

Recognize any of these?





The following art installation explores the blurring distinctions between the digital and the material worlds in an effort to discover the specific location of spiritual relevance. Projected upon the far wall is a video loop of the artist’s avatar from the Xbox game Saint’s Row, who is seen calmly treading water.

In the corner of the video is a graphic common to many videogames — a HUD, or head’s up display – which shows a top-down “radar scope” view of the player’s location and nearby surroundings, including icons representing potential enemies, goals, power-up’s and other important in-game elements. Placed on a low table in the center of the room is a rendering of the HUD in colored sand which includes many icons and elements of the projected HUD. This sand rendering is made by hand on location, and lasts only as long as the exhibition — it cannot be moved or preserved. This impermanence serves several goals. It reflects the temporary nature of life, and the search for deeper meaning in cultural signs, signifiers and maps. And it challenges the concept “The map is not the Territory”.

How does that statement resonate in today’s mediascape, in which we visit countless digital territories, reference maps that signify maps, and have deeply fulfilling personal experiences in virtual space? Are there any original territories left, or has literally everything become a signifier for something else, an infinite loop of maps leading to other maps eventually leading back to the first -but not necessarily the original — map?

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Ron Jeremy – Avatar Tool Round Up (part 2)

11 09 2008



[ PART 2, part 1 is here]

This update to the Ron Jeremy Avatar Builder tool evaluation includes new Ron Jeremy Avatars from a few Xbox 360 games, as well as the grand daddy of avatar building environment, Second Life.  I’ve also enclosed a couple of found RJ gems and a few disturbing workfiles.  Enjoy.

Elder Scrolls: Oblivion

This game was one of the very first that inspired Mediasapien to begin making avatars.  It is one of the few to include a selection of messy and long hair styles among the relatively limited choices, so it has that going for it.  

The facial hair tool is lame however, limited to little more than shadows, but the abundance of slider bars in all the other categories allow for some reasonably good customization.






Tiger Woods PGA Tour ’08

This game has one of the most powerful avatar-building tools available in a game, called EA Game Face.  Using images uploaded via the Internet or snapped with the Xbox Live Vision camera accessory, the game will generate a 3D model with your face mapped onto it.  You can take the customization further, by changing virtually every aspect including facial hair, blemishes, etc…  Once again, the options for hair were uninspired, so Mediasapien cheated a little by defining a rough RJ hairstyle with the eraser tool.  Surprisingly, the results did not live up to the game’s potential.


Second Life

The tools that SL provide are so rich and powerful, that to fully take advantage of them, one must commit.  Perhaps more than Mediasapien is willing to.  In the past, when Mediasapien had more free time, we were able to create avatars with accessories that had AI, behaviors and features that are simply unavailable in most virtual worlds.  One avi actually wore a big round fishbowl on his head, with flowing water and swimming AI fish.  

To create RJ, we tried several approaches, including using the basic 3D slider tools, as well as the more challenging skinning template, a photo-realistic technique that requires more than a little photo-editing chops.  Neither result was terribly satisfying, but then again, Mediasapien didn’t commit enough to realize the full potential of SL’s tools.

I also uploaded a down-and-dirty head tattoo, which is what SL call the oddly-distorted image file that gets mapped onto your avatar’s head.  This option is less common.  It is far more complex, requiring a high level of photo editing and retouching skills, as well as an active bankroll in SL – each time you upload an image, SL charges $10 Linden, which may only represent a few cents in real money, but those multiple uploads can add up fast while tweaking an image. 

One unique aspect of the Hedgehog that SL does offer options for customizing is his favorite tool – his hammer, manhood, schlong, pee pee.  Whatever you call it, SL offers seemingly hundreds of options for choosing this appendage.  Some basic, others fully animated and customizable.  It seems like “Free Penis” is a popular ad spam in SL and many retailer were using it as a loss leader to lure users into their store.  I chose a free selection which I thought represented the Hedgehog at rest, but it includes a free interface for those moments when you might need to fire it up.  

A few more oddities…

Ron Jeremy in Family Guy

Mediasapien found this graphic was on RJ’s MySpace page…

These are two files I used to create RJ’s SL head tattoo. The first is RJ’s face, distorted to the dimensions required by the mapping tool.  The second image was something I made as a work file and it creeped me out.


Ron Jeremy – The Avatar Builder Tool Experiment (part 1)

9 09 2008



Our Model Our Model

There are so many options for crafting avatars that Mediasapien decided to kick the tires and road test some of them.  Using a decidedly unscientific protocol, each will be put to the test using a single person as the model.  Since many of these apps are geared towards kids and tweens, there are plenty of options for making slender, emo-ish, Jonas Brothers and Miley inspired avi’s.   So in order to make the test challenging, we’ll pick a person who is generally familiar looking but definitely not a typical user of avatar-based games and entertainment – someone older, rounder, less willowy.  Naturally I’m talking about the Hedgehog himself, Ron Jeremy.   Ron is a beautiful Adonis of a man, with an amorous appetite to match.  The years may have tried their best to curse him, but he defies the ravages of time – mostly.  His hairline may be receding a bit and his ‘stashe peppered with grey, his belly may be a few inches larger than in his glory days, but he still retains all the charm and charisma for which he is known – his 9 3/4” dick (unverified).  

So RJ is the perfect model for our test.  Some of the apps will handle the Hedgehog with ease, while many others simply don’t offer wide enough options.  Few if any will include his “charm”.  Here are some of my results:

Ron JereMii

Ron JereMii


Nintendo Mii

Technically I used an online flash game that reproduces the Mii-building experience almost exactly, so the results are the same.  The deceptively simple tool palette masks an outrageously deep creation tool, capable of reproducing almost any face, from RJ to Obama to Darth Vader.  It can even be used to make illustrations and abstract graphics, turning Mii’s into walking postmodern artworks.  Dozens of these celebrity and character Mii’s are available for download via the Mii channel on the Wii.










RJ visits Springfield


The Simpsons online avi maker uses a fairly extensive palette of facial features, body parts and props, all of which are instantly recognizable from the long running series.  You can choose Milhouse’s glasses and Sideshow Mel’s bone-in hairdo among the hundreds of choices.  One aspect of this app is the distinct  Simpson’s visual style, which makes avi’s that are more about ‘type’ than specific individuals.  All of RJ’s ingredients are present, but if you didn’t know it was the Hedgehog, you might never guess.









South Park

Like the Simpsons app, the South Park online avatar maker offers a wide range of body parts and features that are instantly familiar to viewers of the show.  Like the Simpsons app, this one is also highly stylized.  The resulting avatar is funny, if not immediately recognizable.






Meez, WeeWorld, etc..,

There are so many avatar-centric websites and social spaces for the kiddies that I’m limiting myself to just a few of them for this experiment.  The tools provided are so simple that frequently RJ is reduced to a skinny-looking kid with a fake mustache.  One or two of these may be slightly amusing but ultimately these apps are too limited to offer much playability.


If RJ was Picasso...

If RJ was Picasso...



Mr. Picasso Head

This was definitely one of the most fun Flash games that mediasapien came across while researching this story.  Using only elements found within Picasso’s actual artworks, a surprisingly wide range of people can be created.   The added bonus of adding any signature in the artist’s hand is a nice touch.







Mediasapien came across a few oddities during this exhaustive search…  Talk about odd vanity brands… How about RJ Mobile?  A short-lived start up that sold cellular service, ringtones, video clips and games all branded with a cute, ironically harmless looking Ron Jeremy avatar.  Nothing says quality cell service like a washed-up porn star with a mobile phone shoved in his thong.

Would you buy Cel services from this man?











In the current election season, the following image seems like an obvious call to action.  Could it be time for a write-in vote campaign for the next president?








And finally…   Apparently the best example of a Ron Jeremy avatar has been right under our noses for nearly 25 years, first appearing way back in 1983.  Known to just about every gamer ever, he is more commonly referred to as “Mario” and may very well represent the earliest example of a famous person or celebrity to be enshrined in the glow of game pixels.  Ron Jeremy – The original Mediasapien!

The results of this test are a mixed bag, but it’s far from finished.  There will be plenty more to come, including Ron Jeremys built in Second Life, Tiger Woods, and more.  And if you have any RJ Avi’s that you want to show off, send mediasapien a link and we’ll post it.

[Part 2 is HERE]

Little Big Planet Sack Boy Avatar Contest

7 09 2008



[ From LBP News ]

Can’t wait to get your hands on Little Big Planet?  Well this contest should keep you busy for a few hours – and give you a chance to design your very own Sack Boy costume.  One winning entry will even be available for download worldwide.  

Click HERE for the whole story.