How We Hurted Ourselves III

After a day of attempting to recover from Friday’s debauchery – a day which included a show of my own and the realization that I wasn’t really hungry until 4PM – We casually drifted together again at Dave’s. The rest of the sausages and pork tenderloin were cooked, as Dave remembered something he had realized Friday night: Rick had never seen Mortal Kombat.

Well, now I guess you don’t need to see the movie. Rick’s screams were remarkably similar to those produced during GI Joe: The Rise of Cobra.

I think Paul W.S. Anderson get s a raw deal, personally. If I made lists, I wouldn’t be putting his movies in the Top Ten, but they always entertain me, and frankly, that’s all I ask of a movie: enlightenment or edification would be nice, certainly, but I’m largely there to forget my cares for a while. And Mortal Kombat is a not-so-guilty pleasure; Anderson was asked to make a movie out of a video game that is pretty much different flavors of punching and kicking and pulling out spines, and little else. Mortal Kombat is pretty much what would happen if a bunch of kids got together and decided to play Mortal Kombat even though they didn’t have any consoles. You know, play-acting, like I did with my friends when we played WWII decades before Castle Wolfenstein was invented. Rules for the tournament that comprise the movie are improvised on the spot, as required by the plot – which is also improvised on the spot.

So Mortal Kombat is essentially a spiritual companion to GI Joe: a big-budget, loud, but essentially empty visualization of an adolescent/childish pursuit. Prime material for this sort of gathering.

In retaliation Rick insisted on more Pink Lady & Jeff. Did I mention Paul finally made it tot he fest? Paul finally made it to the fest. He was in time for me to hit my 20 minute limit on Jeff Altman, and for Dave to start his next shot across our bows. He admitted that he had never seen it, then hit play, fading back to relish what he hoped would be our cries of dismay and agony.

Oh yeah, the only time Nancy and Ronnie actually made a movie together. Unlike what you may have been told, Hellcats of the Navy isn’t a bad movie. It’s not a particularly good one, but it’s no Dondi. Ronnie plays a WWII sub commander who makes a tough call and leaves a man behind during a mission. As luck would have it, the luckless sap was dating Ronnie’s ex-girlfriend (Nancy) which makes his demise suspicious, to say the least. So he spends the rest of the movie trying to regain the respect of his second, Arthur Franz (as usual, playing a non-commissioned dick), disobeying orders to win the war, blah blah blah. Paul and I were actually enjoying it, but it does get very talky and long-winded in the second act, and Dave actually asked for the return of Pink Lady & Jeff. Yes, he regretted that.

Our actor contingent finally made the scene after their Sunday matinée, and lucky, lucky them, they were there for the return of Mie and Kei and (shudder) Jeff. I had been asked to put on the episode guest-starring Jerry Lewis (double shudder), but I screwed up under the tender ministrations of Dr. Vodka and instead put on the un-aired sixth episode, which featured Sid Caesar, Red Buttons (both on their second eps) and for music, Bobby Vinton and Roy Orbison. Oh, and Byron Allen. This was C-list heaven.

There was a hypnotic awfulness about the show that held people spellbound, and we actually got through the entire episode. Paul had started out lobbying for a “70s TV Night”, which he quickly reneged upon, especially after the Bobby Vinton Medley of His Hits. The casual racist humor which runs through the series absolutely blossoms during a sketch in which Sid Caesar plays Pink Lady’s father, complete with gibberish Japanese. One wonders what the girls thought of this, though they handle it like pros. Frankly, after only a week of this crap, they were probably just trying to make it through their six eps and get back to their sold-out stadiums.

This was really bewildering to those of us – well, only Dave and I, perhaps – who liked Caesar and knew he was funny:

The other amazing thing is, that, I believe alone of all the featured hot musical guests, Roy Orbison is actually onstage with Pink Lady. Most of the others – Alice Cooper, Cheap Trick, Blondie – will give you a blank stare if you ask them about the time they appeared on Pink Lady & Jeff. It usually came down to Mie and Kei struggling through “An naow – Cheepu Trikka!” aaaaaand we cut to a video. Which wasn’t too bad, except that you usually saw the same thing on The Midnight Special a week or two earlier.

After watching this episode, many bitter tears and recriminations – and Rick whining “But what about the Jerry Lewis episode?”, it was decided to spend the rest of the night playing Beatles Rock Band, moving eventually to Rock Band 2 and Dave’s neighbors asking him to turn that crap down. I eventually get talked into picking up the bass guitar for a few songs (though only on the Beatles and only on easy – the playlist on Rock Band 2 is a litany of “who?”s from me)(weirdly, I think i would have done better on DJ Hero, but I’m probably fooling myself), and that’s how the evening wound down. Alan actually outlasted me for stick-around-itude when I leave around 1:30.

I’m going to be shooting at the Houston Hot Sauce Festival tomorrow, so I took Monday off, allowing myself a bit of a sleep-in. Next time, of course, we won’t be pretending that we’re younger and able to pull off such feats as this; Mrs. Dave will be back, with a concurrent return to reason, I presume. I am also going to enjoy pointing out for some time that there was a marked lack of R-rated naughty flicks during this golden opportunity. Ronnie Reagan indeed!

And there’s still that Jerry Lewis episode of Pink Lady & Jeff, just waiting out there in the dark, like Jason at Camp Crystal Lake.

Yet I’m Not Mad.

Oh, Tumblr, you minx. I thought you were over that little flu.

Set up my queue this morning, with no problem. First poster fired off as scheduled. Come to work, finally pin down an interview, check my Twitter feed… oops. Should have been at least two more auto-posts in that time.  Attempts to force a publish meet with the dreaded “Maintenance” page. Finally, get through, and now we’ll see what happens.

I don’t want it to look like I’m complaining; hell, Tumblr costs me nothing, and it’s something I enjoy doing. I’m sure I’m not going to see much of that attitude when I eventually journey over tot he message boards of City of Heroes, which is, after all, a paid service. The game, not the forums.

A long-awaited expansion, Going Rogue, went live officially yesterday.  Yeah, there was much bemusement when Palin’s book of the same title came out, a year or so into the game’s development. The big draw here is to take your hero or villain through a falling/redemptive arc and have them fight on the other side, or even enter a gray moral ground. That’s something that has been asked for as long as I’ve been playing the game – at this point, over five years – so, as you might imagine, the floodgates opened.

I had pre-purchased the expansion some time ago, as it allowed early access to a couple of the new character types in the existing game. The temptation to make a whirling dervish double-pistol wielding Chow Yun Fat hero was too tempting… even if he did wind up looking like Black Dynamite. SO I (and others like me) got an extra day to frolic in the new city zones, an alternate dimension dystopia called Nova Praetoria.

Well, last night… the evening of the first official day… I tried to log on to find some emergency maintenance going on. When I did get one, the mapserving was frequent as the server farms groaned under the load. I eventually logged off earlier than I had anticipated, but this is old news for me. The same thing happened during other hotly anticipated expansions, and I see no real reason it to change. The system of tubes is gonna get clogged, you know?

But I’m sure there will be many dire threats to ragequit on the forums, blah blah blah. That is also the nature of the System of Tubes, and since I can’t change it, I might as well enjoy it.

Motion Control Sickness

Yeah, I’m about a week late embedding this, but I find it hilarious, and it distills perfectly my feeling about the newly announced motion controls for game consoles: motion control is nice and natural for some games, but for the most part publishers are shoehorning motion control onto games that don’t reward it, like the current fad for 3-D in movies that were not intended for same. Like nailing a homemade wooden spoiler onto a car thinking a) it looks badass, and b) you will get better gas mileage, when neither is true.

Please note: not my car.

I should just shut up and let Yahtzee speak breathlessly:

Or at least I would if I could get WordPress to embed a video from that site, so go go gadget Tumblr blog!

Maaaaaaaaagic Colors

“I guess I really overdid it today, huh?”

“Ooh, what a surprise!”

Life with the convalescent who refuse to be convalescent. Heavy sigh.

Anyway, though I’m not as heavily into the videogame scene as I once was (found one game I really like, and just stayed there), I was excited to see Boing-Boing’s story this morning on a new game coming from the developers of Rez, Q?.  It’s called Child of Eden, and it seems to have the same sort of tunnel-vision game play Rez had, only much, much prettier.

I appreciate well-done tunnel-vision games. Rez was certainly one – the clip below reminds me why I wish these guys had done the cyberspace segments in Johnny Mnemonic (that’s the way cyberhacking should look), and the Playstation N2O was a nice try:

but you were better off spending that money on Crystal Method CDs.

The pimp daddy of them all is Tempest, and the modernizations Tempest 2000 and Tempest X3 were fantastic.

That’s all I got. Being pulled in too many directions at once today to be as pedantic as usual.

Was there a point?

That last post got very scattered, yes, I know. There was a point I had intended to make in there when I started writing, and it all got buried. That point was – while I was talking about the quality of the speakers in the Nintendo DS – I was struck by one instance in particular.

I’m still playing Etrian Odyssey II – Heroes of Lagaard. As you know, I’ve typified it as an old school dungeon crawl (which I lurvs), where the lower screen is used to map the dungeon as you travel through it. In this particular labyrinth, you start at the bottom and work your way up, and it has become so overgrown that it is a forest into and of itself – no stone walls or caverns. Seasons seem to change with every five levels or so, and when I got to the third stratum, where it is perpetual winter, there it was, captured with perfect fidelity, one of my favorite sounds in the world: the sound of boots crunching in snow.

Yeah, yeah, I know, you folks in the more Northern climes, like my pal Ken Begg in Chicago, are doubtless sick to freakin’ death of the sound, but as a lifelong Texan, it remains quite exotic to me. I seem to make it to Chicago every two years or so to visit snow (and Ken and B-Fest), and on the rare occasion that snow does not coat the ground… man, I miss that sound.

And since we are speaking of Etrian Odyssey II and my time-wasting activities: I finally got past the twin bosses that were giving me so much grief and continued to advance into the game. At this point, I am starting to mess with the makeup of my party, so here comes some gaming geek stuff. If you’re not interested, well, there’s some links over to the right. See ya later.

Lagaard allows a party of up to five characters, and by and large I’ve been pretty traditional in the makeup. There’s a jack-of-all trades warrior (called a “Landsknecht” here), a tank – high hit points, high defense, decent damage (called a Protector), a “War Magus”, so-so damage but some great healing and buffing magic, a dedicated healer called a Medic (fancy that) and a Gunner. Yes, a character with a gun in a fantasy game. It happens all the time. And once you start leveling a Gunner’s attacks, that character starts kicking ass without bothering to take names.

I’ve been using the War Magus as a backup healer, but that’s really only utilizing half his potential, as many of his special attacks do extra damage to targets that another character has placed a status effect upon – a monster that has been stunned, or had Sleep or Fear cast upon it.

What this means is I should be leveling up a Hexer… a character whose sole function is to cast Curses upon opponents. Yet, so far, I am not. (Though if the Hexers attacked with canes, and were called Curmudgeons, nothing would stop me from fielding a party of five of them)

Minor digression: Lagaard has some attacks, both on the player and opponent side, that “bind” various portions of the target’s body. A Bind on the head lessens accuracy and damage. A bind on the arms prevents the fancier, higher-damage-dealing attacks and magic. Bind the legs, there is no escaping (and that’s card I’ve had to play several times).

Minor digression 2: After a certain number of battles, each character is able to perform a Force Skill. If you’ve played Final Fantasy, you’ll recognize it as a Limit Break. A devastating attack that costs no points to perform. For the Gunner, it’s a Riot Gun, for the Landsknecht it’s All Out, which deals heavy damage to every target onscreen.

Now that you have that information, I can try to tell you about what is distracting me from that Hexer I seem to think I need. Cuz I’m leveling a Dark Hunter.

From the website:

“The Dark Hunters of High Lagaard are similar to those found in Etria; they can still work with either whip or sword to focus on bindings or status ailments, respectively. The key difference comes in their ability to set potentially deadly traps: in High Legaard, Dark Hunters can react to either physical or magical attacks, no matter what weapon they use.”

But wait, there’s more.

Force Skill: Bondage
Using every binding technique at its disposal, the Dark Hunter will bind an enemy’s head, arms and legs, rendering it completely incapable of acting in battle.”

Attacks that bind the opponents legs, arm and head, individually? They are called Shackles, Cuffs, and Gag. Higher attacks in the tier are named Climax and Ecstasy.

I’m leveling up a dominatrix.

The game supplies four possible portraits for each character, but I think this one says it all.

Did I mention this game is rated E – 10+ ?

I guess this may be the “Suggestive themes” alluded to in the ratings box….

God, I love Atlus Games!

EDIT: Now that I’ve gotten a chance to use it, the Dark Hunter’s Force Skill in-game is called “Dominate”, not “Bondage”, as it says on the site. I’m not sure if that’s more or less explicit…

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Now playing: Haggard – Larghetto / Epilogo Adagio
via FoxyTunes

Bodies Electric

As everybody knows, I remain perpetually behind the curve. For instance, perhaps by this time next year, I will have finally seen The Dark Knight.

Which is why I am here to proclaim my love for the Nintendo DS.

Before I bought a used one a little over a month ago, I’d had very little time with one, but I distinctly recall reading the pre-release stuff and thinking, “Two screens. Huh.” And also recalling any number of NES peripherals that went unsupported and wound up on the Toys’R’Us clearance aisle. The Powerglove still looked cool, though. And dig that proto-Wii gameplay:

Time has, of course, proven me wrong, especially if the number of DS Lites I saw being pulled out while people were waiting in line at Disneyworld. Lots of kids, sure, but several adults, too.

The most remarkable thing to me – besides the actual utility of two screens – is the quality of the speakers on this dang thing. Little, tiny thin things, and they sound fabulous. At least one writer called them “surround sound”, and I scoffed… but the dimensionality of the sound coming from these things is awesome.

I picked up an affordable used copy of Final Fantasy III (the one that had gone untranslated for many years, for those keeping score). Uematsu’s music sounds very rich, even coming off a tiny chip. There are some things about modern times I wholeheartedly endorse.

Etrian Odyssey has gone by the wayside for the moment. There was sort of a story in there, but only released in small, puzzling droplets. SquarEnix excels at sort of thing, so I’ve been engrossed in FFIII’s story quite happily.

Also: when Etrian would eventually serve up a boss that ate my lunch, I would go out and grind levels until I was strong enough to take it on. In Etrian, I would think in terms of 10 levels or so. Final Fantasy, generally one is sufficient.

Viewing wise: Watched the first disc of The Wild, Wild West, Season One, and you can’t go home again. Love the steampunk spy gadgets, adore Michael Dunn as Dr. Loveless… but twice in two episodes we’ve seen Jim West turn women from the dark side by simply being Jim West and having smoldering good looks, thereby saving the day. I find I didn’t buy it with James Bond and Pussy Galore, either.

Hadn’t seen The Battle of the Bulge in many years, either, so thank you, Netflix. I liked it, but it still doesn’t beat Tora! Tora! Tora!, in my book. Though TTT seems equally crowded, it had a marvelous, semi-documentary feel. Bulge has a lot of extraneous material that could have been cut with no detriment to the story, and I really have my doubts about that final battle at the fuel depot. Still, good stuff, and it is wonderful to see the Cinerama moments, comparable to the roller coaster sequence in This is Cinerama, which did not translate at all during my first viewing on network TV, in pan-and scan. Blech.

Lastly, saw the first disc of the new version of The Andromeda Strain, which was one of my favorite movies because the science fiction is so darn hard. I had my doubts about this, as the travails of the scientists working inside the underground bunker of Project Wildfire has taken a back seat to thoroughly modern tropes like competing agendas of various government agencies (including the Office of Homeland Security, an unthinkable concept when Crichton first wrote Strain), a cocaine-addicted investigative reporter, and ground-level views of the unfolding effects of Andromeda. Taking the story largely out of the bunker has limited the pressure-cooker race against time feeling the original movie possessed, but darned if it ain’t still compelling viewing.

Blog, Monkey, BLOG!

Well, there’s not much else going on with my life right now, so I might as well.

The job search continues. Much as I’d like to say I’m looking for work 24/7, that’s just not possible, or maybe even sane. I’m starting to get “You have already applied for this position” messages, not to mention entrepreneurial spam in my inbox.

Not having to get up at the crack of dawn has some benefits. I’ve returned to my movie-before-bedtime habit of yore. This does not, alas, mean I’ve watched anything new or exciting. No, it means I’ve revisited some time-consuming stuff I’ve been meaning to for ages. Just finished up the extended versions of the Peter Jackson-directed Lord of the Rings last night. My lord, but Return of the King is a loooong movie. Still loved it.

Viewing them in the course of three days was enlightening. I picked up on a lot of stuff I could not have in a theater, each a year apart, or on DVD, released on pretty much the same schedule. Awesome stuff. Sadly, it also reminds me of how much I wanted to love Jackson’s version of King Kong, but could not. Maybe it’s time to revisit that, as well. But not tonight. Tonight… well, it’s been too damn long since I last watched The Seven Samurai.

In other time-wasting news: Back when I thought everything was hunky-dory, I bought myself a used Nintendo DS. Used, for the price, and not refurbished, because only the DS Lite was available refurbished (and at a price only $20 lower than a new DS Lite, at that). I prefer the size and heft of the original unit.

I had gotten to play a bit on a DS back when I bought one for my son for his birthday, back during the original launch. He’s been through two to date. He keeps losing/getting them stolen, so he and his hoodlum friends are coming nowhere near this one.

The purchase was spurred by one game, which got a mention in the Penny Arcade blog, called Etrian Odyssey II. First person dungeon crawl on the top screen, and virtual graph paper on the bottom screen so you can draw your own fucking map. One forum post said, “Looks okay if you like old school.” Well, it’s absolutely perfect if you are old school.

Turn-based combat, which I prefer. Another complains that you don’t get to see your party. Again old school. Given that your party portraits are mainly anime-style urchins, I find this a blessing.

Since it’s going to be a while before I can afford the DS port of Final Fantasy IV, this is a fine substitute, and I’m really enjoying it.

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Now playing: 20 – The Little Boy Blues – Mr Tripp wouldn’t listen
via FoxyTunes