H Cups; Cheese; Air-Con's and HD!

Hey Milieu Pals,
Lately I’ve noticed that my cousin Freddy has been updating his blog rather frequently, a clear sign of him making the most out of his 8 – 5 ’employment regime’. Not to be outdone, I have made a solemn pledge to update Hans’ Milieu as frequently, if not more. I will therefore have to split my time accordingly between the television, various gaming consoles and the internet. Oh yeah, let me not forget my friends and family  ! Yes… it is tough life being an academic  .
I still cannot fathom that I am now a University graduate and have thus joined the ranks of an elite five percent of the worlds population. It is surreal, yet I do not feel any different (the full affect has yet to kick in).
According to a series of documents received via our trusted postal system, our graduation ceremony will take place on the 25th February 2007 at the Sandton Convention Centre. I can already hear Pomp and Circumstance in the distance.
This year I will be attempting an Honours degree in Media and Communications. Unfortunately I have yet to be notified of my acceptance, despite numerous calls to the incredibly competent individuals staffed at Student Services, and have thus had the little demon of anxiety delightfully gnawing away at my every conscious thought. Unfortunately Mark, one of my University friends, had the pleasure of becoming disliked by the head of school for the Arts faculty and was thus denied entry into the honours program. He is currently fighting the situation because of the blatant discriminatory evidence compiled against the professor in question. I’ll keep you all posted on the situation once I know more.
For some reason I do not share my fellow peers enthusiasm for returning to our tertiary studies. I cannot put my finger on exactly why but I have an uncanny feeling that it may be related to having loads of free time to procrastinate and ‘jol’ (for lack of a better word). But, it is just a feeling  .
Cheese, Wine and Breasts!
A few weekends ago Wayne (a good friend of mine from high school whose 21st is actually this coming weekend, expect a post in the near future) and myself were invited out to enjoy a ‘Cheese and Wine’ evening with an old friend of ours (Lauren H.) who now resides in the United Kingdom. We were told to arrive promptly by seven o’clock but, as always, we were running on ‘Hans’ time and only arrived at eight o’clock. By this time Lauren and her other guests (compiled of various acquaintances we had known from high school, who were a year a head of us, but with whom we had lost touch) had amorously embraced the sweet nectar of the gods and extemporaneously revealed unheard of truths. This Milieu Pals made for an enjoyable and definitely unforgettable evening .
Out of mere courtesy and adhering to the adage "what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas" I have decided to simply offer a succinct overview of the evening; much to the relief of Karl, Laura, Tsana and Lauren who, once having realised they had a blogger in their midst, unceremoniously pleaded for my reticence. Among the general ramblings associated with partial intoxication there are always a few noteworthy catch phrases and stories that seem to unwittingly escape ones conscious blocks. Such stories include: 
  • Naked meandering with members of the opposite sex, at a pleasure resort (Warm Baths) in the pitch black of night, and then, with the grace of a duck, attempting to dive into a heated pool only to discover that the pool is several feet away. After a few moments of unconsciousness the pain of a fractured wrist, along with various other cuts and bruises, makes its way to your pain receptors and unwittingly makes you aware of the current situation. You realise what has happened but become mortified when you realise that you effectively flashed your ‘V-jay-jay’ to every on looker in sight. I’m telling you I would have loved to have been there, even if only to laugh hysterically  .
  • Breasts! Ah yes, one of the many marvel’s (and my personal favourite) of the female gender! "What?! You had a breast reduction?" was my first utterance upon hearing that someone was effectively ‘post-op’ and on medication, thus curbing her alcohol intake. Unfortunately it seemed to be a necessity otherwise her mammaries would have "F%#$ed up [her] spine" and made "dancing unbearable" (dancing is a requirement of her Drama degree)! She is now a perfect hand filling C-cup and I can honestly say that it suits her impeccably.
  • After some time it was suggested that we all go out and party a bit. However this posed a dilemma for some as they were wearing the incorrect ‘bra’ for the occasion *gasp* . Thus the great ‘bra’ search was initiated (no pun intended, you’ll read in a moment as to why). After a few moments of uninhibited alcohol induced laughter, the girls emerged with what they had unearthed. "Is that a corset?" I asked, as a matter of fact it wasn’t. Instead it had to be the biggest bra I had ever seen… an H-Cup *queue in the tune from the Twilight Zone*. From then on it made its way around the room for everyone to see and caress (the bra that is … and yes, some did caress it). Looking at its owner I could never have imagined her as an ‘H’. All I could think about was how her bra size signified the start of my name  (I’m definitely a ‘boob’ man).

For the most part the ‘Cheese and Wine’ evening was a success and I would definitely like to do it again. Perhaps I will have one at mon petit chateau as I have a new chocolate fondue fountain that I cannot wait to try out (could try a melted cheese dip too…  ). As always it is a welcomed experience to reencounter lost comrades and relive memories of our ‘youth‘ (I cannot believe I can say that now… damn you fabric of time, damn you)!

Xbox 360 HD-DVD drive!
For quite some time I have pondered about whether or not I should indulge my technological curiosities and invest in a next generation DVD format. Unfortunately for the industry and consumer it seems as though we may be facing another BetaMax versus VHS clash of technologies with Sony being directly involved yet again. This time it revolves around two next generation optical formats: HD-DVD (Toshiba and co.) and Blu-Ray (Sony and Co.). Each have their relative strengths and weaknesses, however it seems that the video connoisseur’s of the industry have given a slight edge to the HD-DVD format particularly for its mandatory use of Microsoft’s VC-1 video compression codec (which is much better for visual clarity and quality than the yesteryear MPEG 2 codec) and because of HD-DVD’s iHD (which allows for video commentary, with behind the scenes featurettes, in a picture-in-picture window while the movie plays in the background).

So the question is, which format should one go for? With HD-DVD and Blu-Ray stand alone players ranging from R4 000 – R12 000 one would agree that this is a lot of money to spend on a format that could potentially cease to exist. No one would question an individual who thought twice before making a decision. However, there may be a ‘cost effective’ solution (one that I will embrace momentarily) until a definitive winner in this format war is determined.

I am sure that many of you already know of the Microsoft Xbox 360 and the Sony Playstation 3. What you may not know is that both of these next-generation consoles (they are actually current generation now since all ‘next-gen’ consoles have been released) have the ability to play next-generation optical formats.

The Xbox 360 has the ability to play HD-DVD’s via an additional HD-DVD add-on drive (pictured above) that retails for $199 (approximately R1 800, has not been launched in SA yet) and includes a DVD/HD-DVD remote for your 360 as well as a copy of King Kong on HD-DVD (for a limited time). The drive is also region free and will thus play HD-DVD movies from any locale (DVD movies are locked to the console). The console itself retails for about R2 700 (Core) and R3 500 (Premium). If you already have an Xbox 360 then purchasing the HD-DVD add-on drive makes sense. This is because you will gain a next-generation optical format, which provides superior visual and audio quality, for only an additional R1 800 (totalling R5 300 if you include the Premium 360 unit in the price). Unfortunately the 360 does not have an HDMI connection, therefore the only way to obtain 1080p for HD-DVD movies is via the included component connection (only if your TV supports 1080p via component) otherwise you may need the 360 VGA cable (an additional R250). Not only will the 360 then be able to play HD-DVD’s but you will also gain access to the Emmy award winning Xbox Live service (Video & Voice chat, messaging and online play), Video Marketplace (download movies and TV shows), Arcade Games, Over 160 HD Games, Windows Media Centre/Vista Compatibility and soon IPTV (Internet Protocol Television) with PVR functionality. Microsoft’s aim of turning the Xbox 360 into an all-in-one media hub seems to be coming into fruition. 

The Playstation 3 has the ability to play Blu-Ray movies and games natively, so you do not need to buy any external equipment to gain functionality, a definite plus. However, the console will cost upwards of R5 500 (Core) and R6 500 (Premium). Additionally you will need to purchase an HDMI cable for full 1080p support for Blu-Ray movies (another R600 – R1000) since Blu-Ray movies cannot be transmitted in HD via component (an additional R250 cable) or composite cables (included with each system). If you would prefer a remote control when watching your Blu-Ray movies, you will need a further R350 for the Sony PS3 Blu-Ray remote (an advisable purchase for movie buffs). The PS3 is region locked for Blu-Ray movies and DVD playback depending on your region but it is region free for PS3 games only. If you purchase the PS3 you will not only be obtaining a Blu-Ray player but you will also gain access to the complete Playstation library of games (dating all the way back to the PS1). Sony has also promised an online service for games and an online Playstation Store (akin to Xbox Live’s Marketplace).

One more thing to note is that all HD-DVD and Blu-Ray movies are encoded in 1080p (the highest High Definition format available) therefore if one wishes to take advantage of the superb picture clarity available on these discs you will need a Television capable of supporting 1080p (preferably natively). Right, now to get to the point of my discussion.

As previously mentioned, I was contemplating purchasing a next generation optical format (DVD is so dated now). Since I am a gamer I have decided that I will dive head first into the next generation of DVD’s via my gaming consoles. I currently have a Microsoft Xbox 360 and a Nintendo Wii (a Wii60) and simply await the arrival of the Playstation 3 into South Africa. I have also already placed an order for my Xbox 360 HD-DVD add-on drive, which should be arriving this afternoon (I will be sure to let you know it if does – See UPDATE below), and already own two HD-DVD’s (Batman Begins and Aeon Flux – the latter chosen primarily for technical merit; "this is absolutely the best looking HD-DVD title thus far" DVD Town). I am all for the next generation of entertainment media (if only DSTV could implement HD as a standard format) and cannot wait for ‘next-gen’ to become ‘this’ gen.

(UPDATE: The incompetently inept people working at DHL have managed to delay my order by another day because they said they ‘failed’ to gain delivery approval. This was after calling me this morning and confirming it will be delivered. This is typical South Africa! I am livid at the moment. I have waited the whole week for them to get their act together, this is simply unacceptable  !)

Freezing my tits off!
This summer it has been scorchingly hot. It may only be 35 degree Celsius on certain days but when those days occur I feel like the atomic mesh that is subtlety holding my body as one, seems to slowly begin to give way to the extremities. For years I have been trying to persuade the perentals to install air-conditioning in our beach house, but to no avail.

After arriving back from Australia (particularly Melbourne) we were a little unaccustomed to the usual South African heat. So I simply suggested we get Air-conditioning at our primary home in Gauteng. ‘Lo and behold’, as if this had never been suggested before, my perentals had an epiphany: ‘Air-conditioning = lowers household temperature = refuge from the heat’. We now have air-conditioning units installed throughout the house, which remain on permanently, and hence the expression, courtesy of one of my wacky University peers, "I am freezing my tits off"! I am loving it though, like my personal little winter wonderland. Ah, the joys of summer  !

Viva Pinata

If there ever was a game in which one loses all perception of the space time continuum and becomes interjected within a digital reality, this would be it.

Viva Pinata is a game exclusive to the Xbox 360 and is all about herding and breeding mind numbingly cute ‘Pinata’, "a decorated papier-mâché container of sweets or small gifts that is hung from the ceiling and is hit and broken by blindfolded people with sticks" (Microsoft Encarta Dictionary, 2002). The aim of the game is to attract all 60 Pinata variants into your garden by means of ‘Romancing’ (breeding), evolving or smashing various Pinata and increasing your gardening level accordingly. This simple concept is truly addictive and akin to Pokemon where one has "Gotta catch’em all"!

The game itself is absolutely gorgeous. In my opinion this has to be one of the best looking games currently available. There is no aliasing (such a pleasure) and layers upon layers of graphical eye candy. The animation of the various Pinata are all fluid and without clipping, quite an impressive task considering there are over 60 different Pinata. No matter how long I play this game (nearing 50 ‘real-time’ hours) I constantly seem to notice new little effects put in the game by Rare. As an example, I noticed that after one of the night cycles (the game has a true day/night cycle and weather system) there was actually mist hovering just above the grass as dawn approached. Shadowing in the game is excellent and very well implemented. Everything in the world of Viva Pinata casts a shadow, including self shadowing. I honestly think that this is a game that is equal to, if not surpasses, the graphical fidelity found in a movie such as the original Toy Story.

Viva Pinata may seem like a children’s game, but it is far from one. At times the game may become intensely complex, especially when trying to breed larger, rarer Pinata and poses a challenge even for experienced gamers. The game also features subtle adult and sadistic undertones that children are bound to miss but which makes the game that much more enjoyable for the older audience. Viva Pinata is actually one of the reasons why I haven’t been updating my blog more frequently… I just cannot seem to pull myself away from its awesome ‘candiosity’ and have thus become apart of ‘VPAA’ – Viva Pinata Addicts Anonymous! If you enjoy games such as the Sims, then you will love Viva Pinata!


That seems to be all for now Milieu Pals. Considering I have used most of the day writing this post I think I will go train a bit, have a dip in the pool and play some Viva Pinata (damn this game is addictive), all while awaiting the arrival of my HD-DVD drive!

– Hans

2 thoughts on “H Cups; Cheese; Air-Con's and HD!

  • It\’s about time that you actually get off your butt to update your blog!
    So, are you trying to get into the marketing world with your console sales pitch? I reckon you should get a review website going for techies! Like from the latest cellphones to the newest games on the market! Seriously you are good at it and you should at least try. I still wanna get VP but due to the latest budget plan I have to put it on hold! Not that I am complaining though, being debt-less will be much more rewarding!
    Now, when you speak about the air-cons, don\’t you mean parentals insteas of perennials?
    Well, enjoy the HD-drive for the 360. I am sure the experience will be good.
    Luv f.

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