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Category: Entertainment



This was written in 2018 immediately after seeing Les Miserables at the Paramount Theater in Seattle. Because I had a lot more fun writing this than I did actually seeing the production, I’m sharing it here.


PART I: Recapping the First 90 Minutes in 5 Learnings

Revolutionary France death sentence

  1. All but a rare few French people are serious jerks.
  2. Inspectors will NEVER forgive stealing a lousy loaf of bread.
  3. Two people can fall in true, mutual love by merely seeing each other on the street.
  4. Jean Val Jean is kind of a moron for not realizing until now that he really should consider moving away from the one town where everyone knows he has a criminal past.
  5. Oh, and the French are revolting.

PART II: A Few Issues with the Script

Empanada, the girl raised with Croquet, spends 15 minutes singing of her love for Guy.*

She is then immediately fatally shot.

She tells Guy of her love. He cradles her and says he loves her and will always be there for her in her life.

Then she dies.

Then a full minute of combat or talking or something else unmemorable happens. A minute having passed, Guy then feels distant enough from Empanada to sing of his undying love for Croquet.

(* We call him Guy because it’s a French name and I can’t hear clearly enough to catch his name. Also, it is fitting, because though he is instantly lovable, he is also amazingly generic.)

Then he passes out and Jean Val Jean sings of something that was unintelligible with the acoustics of the corner I was sitting in, but whatever it was, he holds this sustained high note at the end of the song for like 45 seconds, which gets a huge round of applause and makes the ghost of Whitney Houston rise briefly from the grave.

Then a little boy sings of the glory of child soldiers and is immediately shot dead.

When Empanada was the first to die, Fabio said the battle would be won in her name. 10 minutes later, everyone is shot dead except Guy and Jean.

First, Guy sings of Croquet, and now this. Empanada gets no respect.

Oh, and at some point Jean lets the captured Inspector escape. The Inspector finds good in Jean Val Jean, and he cannot reconcile a world where he can see good in a bread thief, so he jumps off a bridge and kills himself. Seriously. This happens.

Jean Val Jean carries Guy’s body through the sewers, beneath Arkham Asylum. (I think; it gets a little unclear here.) He passes out and is robbed by Croquet’s former foster dad, because if you think it’s a small world where you live, you obviously haven’t been to France.

The Penguin from Gotham, added in 2022 in case you’re reading this on the Internet Archive in 2144 or something.

Jean wakes up, carries Guy home, and with her love still strong even though Guy has somehow become the Penguin from the Gotham TV show (seriously: outfit, cane, hair, limp, all of it), Croquet nurses him back to handsomeness.

Then they get married, Guy punches foster dad (because small world) at the wedding, and finds out Jean Val Jean was the one who saved him.
Knowing Croquet is safely in the hands of our generic hero, Jean goes off to die of shame for having stolen bread to feed a child 35 years before.

The ghost of Croquet’s hot mom appears and thanks Jean for raising her daughter, and says “come to heaven and I’ll show you some real thanks.”

Croquet and Guy show up and say Jean must live and stay with them. Jean looks at Croquet’s mom, who is now, creepily, joined in beckoning him to the afterlife by Empanada’s ghost. (Don’t do it, Jean! Empanada may be dead, but she’s still jailbait. Jeez, dude!)

Jean Val Jean decides eternity with Hot Ghost Mom is somehow preferable to sitting around and cramping Croquet and Guy’s generic passion, and immediately dies.

In Heaven, Jean joins the Choir of Dead Ineffective Barricade Revolutionaries, who apparently know how bad the acoustics are in my corner, because they start singing about whether I can hear the people sing.

No, I actually can’t hear the people sing. Not clearly, anyway.

Guy and Croquet are apparently concerned as well, because they sing along despite not being ghosts.

Then everyone bows and I run to beat the crowd to the bathroom.


Oculus Rift S – Quick Hands-On

This is a quick hands-on impression of the Oculus Rift S from the view of a flight sim player. It’s not a full review (plenty of those around) and it’s focused on the rather niche category of flight simulations, which is where the Rift S turns out to really prove it’s worthwhile.

Despite the lukewarm reviews and the minor upgrades in specs, Matt Wagner’s commentary on the Rift S’s clarity in DCS made me order it from Amazon (where I could return it easily if not impressed).

I’m *not* returning it. Spent the evening flying flight sims in it and it’s clearly a worthwhile upgrade for sim fans. You would think it had much higher resolution than the original (CV1) Oculus Rift, given the additional clarity. The screen door effect (visible pixels) is just *gone*. (At least, for my eyes.)

Some impressions trying various flight simulators:

  • Prepar3D v4.51 probably sees the most significant improvement, with instruments just dramatically easier to read. Everything looks sharper as well.
  • Matt Wagner wasn’t kidding about DCS. The view from the F-86 Sabre cockpit was just amazingly sharp.
  • IL-2 Battle of Moscow/Bodenplatte/etc is by far the best looking of them all. With no screen door effect and the efficient VR engine, the visuals are just stunning. Flew the P-47D around and was blown away.
  • Also tried FlyInside Flight Simulator, and while that one’s in very early access, it worked and looked great.
  • I haven’t tried X-Plane 11 or AeroFly FS2 yet, but I have no doubt they’ll be awesome given all the other sims.

A quick game of Beat Sabre showed the controller tracking to be as good in that game as with the OG Rift with three sensors spread around the room — it never lost tracking.

Random notes:

  • The 80Hz vs 90Hz refresh rate difference from the original Rift isn’t noticeable
  • I was thinking I’d need to use headphones since they dropped the earphones and added tiny speakers near your ear. But the audio is surprisingly clear from these, and it’s nice to be able to hear sounds in the room if someone comes in. This was maybe the biggest pleasant surprise. I wouldn’t use them for music (no bass) or watching movies, but it’s fine for flight sims.
  • The internal tracking on the controllers works well
  • Soooo much easier to set up than the original Rift or the Vive without all the tracking stations
  • You now define the room by laser-drawing the border with the controllers instead of having to walk around in view of cameras, much easier
  • Even with three cameras, the original Rift would sometimes lose track of tracking and I’d find my head sticking out the top of a cockpit, down by the rudder pedals, or on a wing, and have to re-set the VR view. Didn’t happen once with the Rift S.
  • Unlike some of the professional reviewers, I actually like the new headband better than the original Rift’s. Easier to adjust for different users.
  • My one negative so far? There isn’t the big gap around your nose that I used to peek down through on the OG Rift to view the keyboard when playing sims. I’ve had to lift the headset a few times to find a key.

Answering Some Questions

I posted an earlier version of this on a couple of simulation and gaming forums, and some questions came up. Here are the answers:

  • Field of view is supposed to be slightly better than the original Rift, but I couldn’t see a difference.
  • Because the new screen is LCD based instead of OLED, the blacks aren’t going to be as… black. But flying around in Prepar3D and IL-2 at night, the night sky and scenery looked about the same as it does on a monitor — it’s not washed out or gray.
  • Oculus Tray Tool (and everything else I tried) works fine. I used it to set P3D to a supersampling rate of 1.5 and it looked super-sharp.

If you’re playing action-based VR games, games with cartoony graphics, or really anything outside of vehicle simulations, I’m not sure the improvements in the Rift S would justify an upgrade from the original Oculus Rift CV1. But for flight sims, the Rift S awesome and I have zero regrets on the money spent.

I had an HP Reverb on order as well, thinking the increased resolution would be a big benefit in sims. But I just cancelled that order, because the Rift S is so sharp I’m quite satisfied, and the Oculus solution is going to have much better frame rates than the Reverb’s higher resolution will afford.

I don’t know what the cancelled “Rift 2” was going to be, but the S might as well stand for “Sim edition” and it’s a nice upgrade for my usage scenario.

(If you decide to buy one and use this Amazon link, I’ll get a couple of bucks in Amazon credit, which would be cool and appreciated.)

I’m excited to hear that Electronic Arts has been selected to produce the next wave of Star Wars games after the shuttering of LucasArts. The news that DICE, BioWare, and Visceral will be doing Star Wars titles should please most

Now, I probably shouldn’t post this, but I just got hold of a secret document outlining EA’s 2015 gaming lineup, and I had to share the excitement!

  • Battlefield: Hoth
  • The Sims 5: Tatooine
  • Jane’s Combat Simulations: Incom T-65 X-Wing
  • Need for Landspeeder
  • Sarlacc Age: Origins
  • Blasterstorm
  • Kingdoms of Alderaan: Reckoning
  • B.A.N.T.H.A.
  • Command & Conquer 27: Corellian Dawn
  • Force Effect
  • Medal of Honor Spaceborne
  • American McGee’s Leia
  • Madden NFL 16
  • Archon IV: The Light and the Dark Sides
  • Plants vs. Wookies
  • Trash Compactor Keeper
  • MySims Podrace
  • Privateer 3: Millenium Falcon
  • Rock Band Cantina

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