This Week’s Distractions

I am still recovering from my bout of insomnia that had me awake for over 36 hours. It was not easy, but I toughed it out and stayed up until around 10:30 PM. I probably did not wake up as early as I should have to reap the full benefit, but even achieving the former status quo would be better than that episode was.

Because I am still tired, and because the world visible to me has recently transitioned into someplace to be avoided, here is a rundown of the recent distractions, diversions, and dilutions that have caught my attention.

Smarter Than You
iOS, free

Smarter Than You, or as it identifies itself on my device’s home screen, #smarter, is a simplistic multiplayer game. Two people enter the arena, and, well, two people leave, because it’s just a game, folks. In essence, the game is a stylized version of Rock Paper Scissors. Both players select a move and then the game shows the result.

It’s a little more complicated than that, though. Each option (being Arrow, Attack, and Counter) are randomly assigned a numerical value, indicating how much it will damage your opponent should your move succeed. You then select a series of words to form a phrase, such as, “You should use Counter” or, “Attack is my greatest fear.” As you choose the words in sequence, the values of the moves shift around in response.

This is where things get a little tricky. You can say something that indicates you’ll make a certain move and then do something else. However, often the game makes the move highlighted in your phrase have a higher damage, so you need to keep in mind that your opponent might choose that in response. (Both players share the same damage values.) Once you select your move, it is up to the other player to decide which move to send in response. The RPS mechanic determines who takes damage (Arrow beats Counter beats Attack beats Arrow) or if both take damage (Arrow vs Arrow and Attack vs Attack damage both, while two Counters does nothing).

I like the faux psychology that Smarter Than You encourages. You can try to read into the words that the other player chose. You can try to make a guess based on the damage values of the three options. Or you can try to rely on sheer chaos to guide you to victory. Games are short, usually only five to eight turns, so trying to get. Good read on your opponent is not easy. Smarter Than You features a pretty effective random matching service through Game Center (which, while not my favorite game management system ever, is at least a lot better than when it premiered on iOS). You can play several opponents at once. With the randoms, I try to take their statements as truth (“You should play Arrow”) until I see that they are untrustworthy. I guess I should not reveal too much of my strategy, as my main opponent, Heidi, reads this blog…

Anyway, it’s worth checking out, and it’s free, so all it costs is a bit of time. And maybe data coverage from your carrier. (Carrier fees may vary, blah blah. Just find some wifi, why don’tcha?)

Face Off
SyFy, free-ish (if you happen to have it as part of your cable package anyway)

No, no, not Face/Off. I promise you, neither Travolta nor Cage are likely to be seen anywhere near this show.

Face Off is a reality tv show slash competition wherein talented make up artists go clay to head with various fantastical themed challenges. They create make up, prosthetics, props, and other various implements to meet the challenges and then receive critiques from some professionals in the business.

Heidi is the one who sat me down to watch this. I do not ever go out of my way to watch anything that is associated with ‘reality’ (for, did I not at the very beginning of this post, eschew our very reality in favor of distraction?) so if someone I trust does not recommend a particular reality show, it flies beneath my radar. (This is, incidentally, how I started watching MasterChef as well.)

I like Face Off for its wide range of creative inspirations. Often, the contestants are asked to make something scary or sort of horrifying (for making grotesque changes to the human form can often be unsettling, and movie make up has come a long way toward believable illusions). Even so, there is a certain beauty in their finished results, and some inspiration to be found in how the artists go from vision to execution in just three days. The show gives the viewer little tidbits of insight into the craft, though it does gloss over a fair amount of the work, too. (For a 43-minute episode, though, they do a pretty good job.)

I’m finding that the reality tv that I like features talented people doing something which A) they love, B) they’re pretty good at, C) they have room to grow, and D) I’m probably terrible at doing but am interested in learning more about it. This show fits the bill. Heidi and I watch together and discuss our amateur opinions on the different make ups.

Another thing I really appreciate in this show in particular is the teamwork aspect. I don’t mean when the contestants are placed into teams, though that is interesting. The artists on this show seem more ore less cordial with each other. They help each other out when possible. There is not a false sense of rivalry pushed onto them by the show’s producers. It is refreshing to see the other contestants rally to help an artist who is having a tough time due to an accident rather than glory in their failure. MasterChef, for a few seasons, had more of this, but in the last couple of years it feels like it has shifted back toward personal rivalries.

Anyay, good show. Check it out if you get the chance. No real need to watch from the beginning, for you can get an idea of the show from any episode.


Sleepy Hollow, season 2
[see ‘free’ disclaimer above]

Hmm. Intrigued.

Incidentally, there is a free audiobook recording of ‘The Legend of Sleepy Hollow,’ narrated by this show’s Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), over at Audible.

That is all.

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