Friday, September 30, 2005

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

I know that yesterday I said that I was going to post today but instead I've decided to skip out on work and see Serenity. The post, tentatively titled "The Atlanta Driver's Handbook" will have to wait. Sorry about that.

I can report that I've done more extensive research into what is and isn't stressful in Indigo Prophecy and have some results to report. In an early part of the game, Lucas, the killer, takes a leak in his apartment. This destresses him. I then had Lucas pick up a picture of his dead parents and immediately got him all stressed out again. Later in the evening, Lucas returned to his apartment, stressed to the gills. Peeing did nothing to reduce his stress but picking up the picture only moved him further to the edge of despair. So, from this we learn that while peeing is only relaxing part of the time, having dead parents is a permanent bummer. Here's a handy breakdown of what is stressful and what isn't, for cops and killers alike:

Not stressful:
Drinking water
Drinking coffee
Drinking alcohol (makes one wobbly though)
Playing guitar
Beating up on a heavy bag
Saving drowning children

Picking up pictures of dead family members
Getting your amorous advances rebuffed by your ex-girlfriend
Not correctly deducing the cause of the coroner's findings
Not getting to have sex with your girlfriend before going to work
Murdering someone in a bathroom

As you can see, the full gamut of the human experience is represented out here. So remember folks, peeing = good, sometimes and murdering = bad all of the time.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Bits and Pieces

I'm trying to post on a weekly schedule, honest I am. Sometimes things get in the way, like my staggering laziness. Fear not, for soon I shall be back on schedule. I have a number of hi-larious posts coming. At the very least, they sure sound funny in my head. Hee-hee-hee. There goes one now.

For now, I'll play some catch-up and leave the science dropping for tomorrow.

I was in beautiful Fort Worth, TX at the beginning of this week and all I can say is damn, that place is fucking hot. Supposedly it was "abnormally" hot, which at 100 degrees, probably goes without saying, but I have my suspicions that "normal" is probably in the 90's. I was told today that it rained after I left and now the lows are in the 60's, which proves what I've thought all along, that Texas hates me. The Sundance Square area of downtown is nice, and very easy to find your way around. I wasn't there long enough to explore the city in depth, so I'll hold off on recommending it as the vacation wonderland you've all hoped and dreamed for. I will say that the panhandlers there are some of the nicest pandhandlers who have ever asked me for money. Very polite, for whatever that's worth.

While I was gone, I wasn't playing any video games which is a shame because every developer known to man has decided to put out a game in the past 2 weeks. I bought Burnout Revenge because I wanted to crash cars and not go to jail for it. 2 days later, X-Men Legends 2 came out, so I bought that because I wanted to beat up mutants and not go to jail for it. 2 days later I bought Indigo Prophecy because I wanted to have my body taken over by an unseen force, stab some guy to death in a diner bathroom and then investigate the murder as a different character and not go to jail for it. Or something. Now, Far Cry Instincts has come out, and I'd like to play folks in it online, something that has to be done the first week a game comes out before The Collective moves on to their next greatest game. At this point, I've given up all hope of buying a 360 at launch as there's no way I'll be done with all of these games in 2 months. Plus, it seems silly to rush through games I'm enjoying so that I can trade them in for a console that could very well follow every other launch in console history and launch with absolute shit for games.

While we're on the subject of games, the aforementioned Indigo Prophecy is a strange animal, a strange animal indeed. It's like an adventure game, but without all the pointing and clicking. I mentioned the plot before, so I won't go into it again, and can't really as I've only played for a couple of hours, but I will say that whatever malevolent force possessed your character has also taken up residence in the games camera system. I can understand that this game, in trying to be like a movie, relies on multiple camera angles, however when I'm trying to actually do something, and there's a time limit, changing up the camera angles all willy-nilly is really fucking annoying. It's bad enough that I killed some guy, but when I'm trying to hide all the bloody evidence from the waiting police office as I run around my apartment in my underwear, the least you can do is not keep switching the camera up on me.

Other than that, the game is pretty cool, and it gives you a glimpse into how the European game development community views those of us in the states. For example, in New York City, African-American men all walk around to soulful jazz-funk riffs. I bet you didn't know that. This was a part of the black experience I had never heard of. I have also learned that peeing is considered very relaxing by our game development friends across the Atlantic. The players in the game have emotional stability meters that start out at Neutral and go down to Suicidal (happiness is not an option in Indigo Prophecy) and various things in the game will raise or lower this meter. Taking a piss raises this meter for the men in the game by a hefty 5 points. Drinking water and/or coffee also raises this meter, thereby raising the possibility of achieiving total emotional neutrality by drinking and peeing all the live long day. For the record, if you are in the men's restroom with your female partner and you pee, while it may be relaxing for you, it is 5 points more stressful for her. As if your pee carried stress from your body into hers. Ew. Similarly, if you decide to get unstressed by a whopping 20 points by engaging in a little pre-work nookie with your girlfriend, your partner can cock block you by calling you up and demanding your lazy ass get to work pronto. No destressing for you romeo. Now that I think of it, the African-American community isn't presented in a very flattering light in this game. Either they're peeing in crime scenes in front of their female partners, or they're late for work because they're sexing up their ladies. Then, once they get to work they dodge the co-worker they owe money to, offering to repay it only if they can be beaten at basketball. I guess cotton picking didn't make sense in the context of modern day NYC. Well, at least he's got that groovy soundtrack to walk around to. Later in the game I hope to play as Kim Suk, the resident math genius/grocer.

Burnout Revenge is an interesting game in that it made the racing more fun and the crash mode less fun, which comes out as a zero sum gain for fun-ness. X-Men Legends 2 is pretty much the same game as the original X-Men Legends, but now you can play as evil mutants. Seeing how the game doesn't provide branching paths, one where you rescue nuns and the other where you barbecue kittens, the fact that you can play as evil mutants doesn't really make a difference in the gameplay experience. Lou Diamond Philips resumes his role as Forge. If you listen closely, after his lines you can hear him mutter "I was in Young Guns!"

Finally, I was watching the news this morning as I usually do and they had a story about how gas prices are rising. The news reporter tried to use a tape measure to demonstrate the rising prices, as if the viewing audience wouldn't know on their own that 2.99 is bigger than say, 2.69. Had it snowed right then and there, allowing the reporter to use his tape measure to report on rising gas prices and the amount of snowfall, I think he would have died from sheer ecstasy. They then interviewed people at the pumps to hear their angry tirades. One guy said that it was ruining his business because he did construction and he had to keep driving from jobs to Home Depot. I can sympathize with that guy. He's probably on his own, trying to earn an honest living and can't afford to underbid jobs so anything that eats into his operating costs eats in to his profits by extension. Then they showed this lady, and her exact words were "I buy premium, and I'm very angry". OK, well, if your car doesn't need premium, then, oh, I don't know, fucking stop buying premium. If your car needs premium, then sell it and get one that doesn't require premium. I drive a Maxima, and while I'm not rolling in a Benz-o, it's a pretty nice car and that premium shit don't get within 5 feet of my ride. It's all regular all the time. And, what the fuck are you getting angry about? Try being angry about something you can actually change. Unless your righteous fury is going to reorganize OPEC and make us less dependent on foreign oil, all in one fell swoop, I'd say to shut the fuck up, buy your gas and be on your merry way. What I would have liked to see is the construction guy overhear her complaining and brain her with a ladder. Then the reporter could get involved and try to pry them apart with his tape measure. Then a black guy could walk in front of them, bass track grooving around him and take a nice, relaxing piss. Shit, I'd pay to see that.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Meet the Parents

Dear Abby,

OK, already I'm thinking we need to rethink this whole name thing. After all, I don't want to feel like I'm writing to an advice column every time I want to talk to you. Either that or I'll have to rethink my salutation. "Greetings dearest Abby" or perhaps "Salutations fair daughter". Whatever. We'll deal with that once you can actually read.

So, how's Russia? How's the hospital? Have they let you see sunlight yet? No? Huh. Well, I'm sure they will soon, and if not, we'll be coming to get you soon and here in America, we have tons of sunlight. Well, no more than any other longitudinally similar place on the Earth, but our sunlight now has extra Calcium! OK, that's a lie too. Do you still have your dolly? When you come home, you'll have a bunch more, including your great grandmother, as her name is also Dolly. We'd appreciate it if you didn't try and stick her in your mouth, but then again, she may not notice. She's getting up there in years. We still have your chickens and will bring them with us when we come to bring you home. I know it probably seemed mean to bring you this bounty of playful farm animals only to cruelly remove them from your grasp. This was the first in many decisions where we have to keep the big picture in mind, at the expense of whatever it is you actually want. Had we left the chickens with you, most likely they'd end up with some other kid, and we can't have that. Screw those other underpriviliged children! Kidding. No, we want to make sure you had them for the long trip home, which is why we took them. Plus, and please don't be offended by this, they really stank after spending multiple hours in your mouth, so they needed a bath.

I thought this would be a good opportunity to introduce you to the rest of the family and let you get to know your mother and brother and I a little better. I know that it's confusing getting thrown into this new family and can be quite disorienting, but keep in mind that we're good people and we love you very much already. On with the introductions.

Real name: Linda
Age: 32
Occupation: Technical Writer
Likes: her family, Tom Welling, Pizza flavored Combos
Dislikes: Whining, cooked tomatoes, the fact that she isn't retired

Your mother is a fantastic person. I've known her for 14 years now and she never ceases to amaze me. She's a lot of fun to be with, is very accomodating, but isn't afraid to bring the hammer down when needed. She's the more nuturing of the two of us, being more apt to give you a hug when some imagined slight has been brought against your person, and then tell you to get over it, whereas I just tell you to rub some dirt on it and carry on. She's also the one who will sing happy birthday with you over and over and over and over while on a walk. I don't do public singing. Her areas of expertise around the house include laundry, washing dishes, vacuuming, dusting, picking out furniture and managing your daily experience be it in regards to needed immunizations or keeping track of Yellow Shirt Day and Bring A Dead Fish to School Day at daycare. She is also way hot, something which I'm sure grosses you out despite you not knowing what that means.

Real Name: Brandon
Age: 33
Occupation: Quality Assurance Engineer
Likes: Video games, comic book characters, tattoos, tattos of comic book characters, comic book video games, meat
Dislikes: Whining (sense a trend here?), the state of the country, fish

I can't say whether or not I'm fantastic, because that would be somewhat conceited. Well, that and I think I'm pretty normal. I didn't do so well adjusting to the whole kid thing when we brought your brother home, but I'm much better now. I tend to be the sterner one between your mother and I, but am learning to lighten up. At the same time, when your brother comes in crying because the floor assaulted him, I'm usually not going to be all that sympathetic. The floor has been nothing nice to me since I've known it. I'm responsible for cleaning the bathrooms, cleaning the basement, mowing the lawn, cooking, menu planning, paying the bills, research on home electronic purchases and your general sports/music/movie education. This last part is particularly important as your mother would have you believe that Pearl Jam is not the greatest band in rock today, which makes her a dirty liar. I think you'll see that we've divided up our responsibilities pretty well and you would do well to not ask us to mix skill sets. Just as you would not want to ask your mother to make you anything more complex than a sandwich, you're not going to want to accept my assurances that you are, in fact, protected from Polio.

The most important thing I can tell you about your mother and me, is that we love each other very, very much. We are the best of friends, and have been for a very long time now. You might think we like each other more than we like you and your brother. Let's just say that it's a different kind of like and leave it at that so as to not cause any bad feelings. I will say that come time for college, I'll be glad to have the two of you out of the house, while I'll want her still with me. After all, these pants won't clean themselves. Kidding!

Real Name: Ben
Age: 2, soon to be 3
Occupation: toddler
Likes: Music, yogurt, getting his way, ordering people around
Dislikes: varies depending on the time of day, not getting his way, the dogs coming remotely close to anything he has even a passing interest in

Your brother is a very good kid. He is also adopted from Russia, so when you're teens and need something other than a hatred of your mother and me to bond over, you can bond over your common heritage. We brought Ben home when he was 7 months old and although he was much bigger for his age than you are for your's, once he got home, he really took off. He is a good natured, even tempered kid who rarely gives us any troubles outside of the usual toddler activities. I can't say this behavior will continue once we bring you home as he's quite happy being the center of attention, so don't take it personally if he seems to hate you. It's all temporary. He enjoys talking about pretty much everything, so while I'm sure you'll be able to pick up English from him, good luck actually using it. He already knows who you are, and appears to be excited about you coming home, but he also thinks that the coasters make a sandwich, so it's hard to tell.

Along with the three of us, you have two dogs that will probably annoy you as they annoy your brother. For the most part they're OK, but once they're gone, don't even bother asking for another one cause it ain't gonna happen. You also have a bunch of grandparents and an aunt and uncle or two. Our's is not a big family, and you and your brother are pretty much it for young kids, so while there won't be any other kids to play with at family gatherings, there also isn't anyone else to dilute the very important grandparental gift giving fundage. Welcome to America, where the dollar is king.

Hopefully this gives you some idea as to the family you're coming home to. I think we're a good one, and I would say that the other folks in here with me would agree. I know that we all love you already and we can't wait to have you home.

See you soon.


PS - Just because I like video games, it doesn't mean you get to play them, so don't get any bright ideas.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

When the Levee Breaks

Usually I don't do this, and by this I mean post about politics. First of all, I don't really think it's my strong suit as I don't have the time to find out more than what the news is telling me, to the point where I feel I can speak intelligently. Also, I figure there are a hell of a lot more people out there who can post about these kinds of things better than I can, so why not leave it to them and instead post about what I want to post about? Unfortunately, for all of us, I need to make a change to that policy, for this post anyways. I have been thinking about this post all week, and I don't think I'll be able to move past it and write about other things until I get it out there and be done with it. For those of you who don't care to read about hurricanes and inept public officials, come back tomorrow and read about my soon to be adopted daughter. She's a cutie. Still here? OK. Well, you asked for it.

What the fuck? I mean seriously? What? The? Fuck? At what point did we stop being the biggest superpower in our little corner of the universe and become, what appears to be, a 3rd rate government run by stumbling retards? Every day I read new details about Katrina and her aftermath, and every day I get angrier and angrier and angrier. Every aspect of this horrible tragedy has been so unequivocally fucked up by our fearless leader and his band of fuckwit cronies that it defies logic that this person is in charge of our country. I mean, it's not like we didn't have some idea before of how bad things were, but this is the icing on the cake. A cake made from toxic flood waters with a creamy filling of ineptitude and iced with drowned body frosting.

You would think, that when something of this magnitude happens, we'd want to step back and figure out what went wrong. Well, you'd be wrong. Sort of. The administration doesn't want to play "the blame game". They don't want to be "blame-gaming" at this point, unless, of course, the blame is pointed at state and/or local officials. A "senior Bush official" told both the Washington Post and Newsweek that the Lieutenant Governor of Lousiana didn't ask for state of emergency status until September 3rd, and had she done earlier, the federal response would have been quicker. Problem was, she asked for it on the 26th of fucking August, something recorded on the state of Louisiana's own fucking website. Louisiana's seal is Pelicans. How cool is that? Anyways, yes, we wouldn't want to lay blame on, oh, I don't know, FEMA, for waiting until after the storm had hit to propose, not send, propose to send 1000 workers into the area. And we certainly wouldn't want to take issue with the fact that said workers should "convey a positive image" about the government's response. You know what would convey a positive image? Actually fucking rescuing someone.

While we're on the subject of rescuing folks, how is it possible that Harry Connick Jr, Sean Penn, and like, every reporter ever born is able to make it into New Orleans, but the massive might of America's military can't? I have seen Harry Connick Jr. in concert and spoken, ever so briefly, to him after the show. He is many things, tall, good looking, a gifted piano player, charming performer. One thing he isn't, is Paul Fucking Bunyan. When one tries to imagine who they would want orchestrating their dramatic, wilderness rescue, Harry Connick Jr. does not come to mind. Perhaps, now he should. Ditto for Sean Penn. Were I stranded on a boat somewhere, needing a rescue at sea, I would not expect Jeff Spicoli to come to my rescue. And for all of those right wing assholes mocking Mr. Penn and saying that it was only for a photo op that he rescued those people, who the fuck cares? He could have a camera strapped for his forehead for all I care, at least he was rescuing people, which is more than I can say for your sorry ass. They had an article in the AJC about a guy who managed to orchestrate the rescue of his son, and dozens of his son's college classmates, who had been stranded in their dorm, using only a phone and the power of his mind. So he can make some calls and get all of these people brought safely to dry land, but FEMA can't figure out how to find their ass with a map and a flashlight.

But no, we don't want to play the "blame game". We don't want to be blame-gamers all blame-gaming and game-blaming and some such. Hell no! Freedom is on the march! Mission accomplished! Trent Lott may have lost his house, but don't worry, he'll build a better one! One thing, here. Is it not too much to ask that the spokesperson for the leader of the free world have a sufficient enough grasp of the English language that he doesn't have to make up words like "blame-gaming". I mean, there has to be what, two, maybe three hojillion words, at least, in the English language. Wouldn't one of them worked better than "blame-gaming".

No, we certainly wouldn't want to be blame-gaming, unless we're talking about the poor. Oh yes, those dirty, dirty, poverty stricken assholes who didn't have the common decency to get up on out of there and not die and then float down the street. Those selfish, selfish bastards. One theory is that the poor didn't leave was because they didn't want to lose out on their upcoming welfare checks. Well, I guess that's one way to put it. The other way would be that when you live check to check, the end of the month usually means that you don't have any money, so that upcoming check is the only thing that will allow you to leave in the first place. And we all know how big those welfare checks are, and that had they only arrived a day or so earlier, the poor would have climbed aboard their gilded yachts and sailed off into the sunset, champagne bottles popping in the pre-hurricane glow. Cause when I think of a group of people that has the means to evacuate at a moment's notice, I think "poor". Honestly, what kind of sick fuck can look at the utter devastation brought on these people and think, for one second, that they, in any way, deserve it simply because they don't have a lot of money? How is it possible for that person to not just drop dead on the spot because they're so fucking evil?

But it's OK. I understand. Those poor, they're just so poor, and so black and so underpriviliged that you can't feel anything but anger towards them. I mean, here you are, an average guy who wants nothing more than to drive around in his fancy imported sedan, drink 4 dollar Frappucinos and maybe give the wife a poke inbetween bringing the kids to ballet class and riding lessons. The last thing you want is some dirty poor person reminding you that your country, and possibly you by extension, isn't doing nearly enough to help those that can't help themselves. That your country left them to die in the streets or in the Superdome, or on their rooftops. Who needs that kind of a downer? It's football season!

But don't you worry, because our government is on the job! Bush is going to find out what went wrong "over time". Yay! Saints be praised! That's a relief. Let's hope that "over time" means in the next few days, because last time I checked, we're only 7 days into what is traditionally the worst month in hurricane season, a season that lasts until late November. Plus, it's not like every crack-pot fucking terrorist in the world just saw how monumentally unprepared we are, and is now thinking that maybe a WMD isn't such a bad idea right about now. Don't worry Mr. President, I'm sure the hurricanes and the terrorists will wait for you to figure out what went wrong.

Speaking of crackpots, what do antiabortion radicals and al Qaeda have in common? They both feel that Katrina was the wrath of God! Charming! You know kids, terrorism starts at home. I don't know about you, but if I were a moderate Republican, you know, an old school fiscal conservative kind of guy, uncomfortable with the way my party has been hijacked by the religious right, this comparison would make me shit my shortbread.

But again don't worry, our government is on the job, firefighters have been deployed and are patiently waiting in airports and posing for photos with the President. We can't spare people to rescue folks, not when there are valuable leaflets to be handed out. Besides, according to the Senate, things are going "remarkably well". Whew! That's a relief. Here I thought things had already gone to shit, been eaten by something that likes to eat shit, and then shat out again. And don't you worry, because even though 10 billion has been appropriated for aid, Senator Burns of Montana is on the case. According to him, the Senate is going to "ask for a little more accountability for how that money is being spent and where it is going." Again, whew! That's a relief. Hey, Senator, any chance we could ask for some accountability for the $28 million in "disaster relief" appropriated to Miami-Dade County for Hurricane Francis, when Francis came ashore 120 miles north of Miami-Dade County? Senator? Hello? Well, I'm sure he's busy. Just so we're clear, accountability for dollars? Yes. Accountability for deaths? No.

I've been watching everything that has gone down since Katrina, the good and the bad, and I can honestly say that this is the first time I've come away from this kind of disaster feeling worse about humanity. I know that there are good people out there doing good things, like donating cash, making t-shirts, and creating websites to hook families up with housing, but overall, the way that our leaders have responded to this, make me feel like we're all miserable fucking human beings. Usually I see the good that people do and it makes me feel better about humanity, but not this time. This time all I see is greed and a base defilement of the human spirit.

I am, by nature, a musical person, in that I can usually find a line from a song to help me connect with how I'm feeling. This time I've got two for you, from Led Zeppelin and Better than Ezra. I think they sum up things nicely:

All last night sat on the levee and moaned,
Thinkin’ ’bout me baby and my happy home.
- Led Zeppelin

All my rage
Sits inside
When even the finest things
Are leaving you hollow
- Better Than Ezra

Moaning and hollow. What a horrible way to be.