Friday, February 21, 2014

Hang in there, Ukraine

I don't know if anyone in the Ukraine will even see this.  I hope so, but I honestly don't know.

If you're reading this, that's good.  It means you're still alive and still fighting.

I won't pretend I understand every nuance and detail of what's going on over there.  I do know your president had a chance to make some serious changes for some serious good for all of you, and he folded to suspected Russian pressure.

I know most of the world is nearly oblivious to it, and I'm sorry for that.

I get more of my updates via photojournalists uploading straight to various social media sites, and it's chilling.

The police in their matching uniforms, neatly arranged battle formations.

The protesters dressed as everyday civilians, wearing whatever they can find to protect themselves, showing more unpredictability in their guerilla-style movements.

And here and there, in the pictures, there are priests and other members of the clergy, only asking that the bloodshed stop.

And I can't imagine what it's like for you there.

The ones who put themselves at risk just to strike back at the ones who stand as your oppression... I can't figure out which side of the razor's edge between courage and madness they're actually on.  Perhaps it takes a bit of both to have the kind of hope for change that's required to fight back so hard.

I respect you all, the ones throwing the molotov cocktails and the ones raising their fists in the air and the ones huddling in a corner just praying for it all to be over so they can have a moment of peace.  Truth be told, I don't know where I'd be if I were in your position.  None of us ever really can until it happens.

Hang in there, Ukraine.

I don't know if the leaders of my country or any country are planning on coming to help.  Truth be told, from a global standpoint, I don't think any of them feel that they can.  Nobody wants to get involved.  "This is an internal conflict" they say.  And to a certain point, they're right.  You're fighting for the soul of your own nation.  You, the people, are making the hard choices because it's worth losing some landmarks and some beautiful things in your country for even just that chance to grow and become great.

I saw the before and after pictures of your Independence Square.  Before looks so clean, so neat, with nice pretty architecture and a general air of peace.  After looks like a warzone, the only color to offset the blackened ash and the grey skies is the orange of the flames and a few red splashes of blood.

It's sad, and it's painful to see, so I can only imagine what it's like for you to be there, seeing it in person.

I hope you get through.  I hope you succeed in your goals and get the chance to be the nation you want to be as a people instead of the nation you're forced to be by someone else who isn't even you.

I'm cheering for you, and I hope even one of you hears it.

If you need motivation, remember this.  Freedom is worth it.  Anything at all that "it" may be, freedom is worth that sacrifice.  So don't stop fighting.  By fighting for it, you have freedom.  Even if nobody agrees with you, even if nobody admits that you are free, if you are fighting and raging against everything that wants you to be a prisoner, even if you die in that fight, you are free.

So fight on, Ukraine.  You deserve to be free just as much as anyone and everyone else.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Super Bowl

I followed the game just fine. I understand the rules and such.

But ultimately, the only reaction that comes to mind is Roy from IT Crowd saying "Did you see that ludicrous display last night?!"

Poor Manning. Twelve seconds into the game, his face defined the remaining 59:48 of play time.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

J.K. Rowling and the Relationship of Uncertainty

Okay.  So J.K. Rowling said in an interview that she felt Harry and Hermione should have ended up together in the Harry Potter book series.

Personally, I think it was perfect how it was.  This idea that because Harry is the primary hero, he's "supposed" to end up with the main female protagonist is laughable in my mind.  If Rowling *really* believed it should've been Harry and Hermione all along, I'm pretty sure she would've written it that way.

Having said that, I fully respect her right as the author to want to change what she's written.

This is actually not what's bugging the shit out of me about the whole situation, though.

No no no.

What's really annoying is the sheer volume of people who are referencing various scenes in the movies, like Harry and Hermione dancing in the tent during Deathly Hallows part 1, as evidence that it was "supposed to be them all along".  People "ship their relationship" (that particular turn of phrase is another rant for another time) for no reason other than what?  Their misguided ideas that the main protagonists always wind up together?

Please.

Let's go ahead and look at the issue by comparing Hermione and Ginny from the start.

And no, I'm not talking about comparing the actresses who played them in the movies.  I'm talking in an obnoxious literary purist way.  The characters in the books are the focus.

Hermione always was the intelligent friend.  She was the advisor to Harry, the one who served to reconcile Harry's lack of academic ability and his eventual prodigious use of magic.  At no point in the entire series did Harry or Hermione ever demonstrate even the slightest interest in each other as anything beyond friends.

Ginny, meanwhile, was smitten with Harry right from the start.  And in later books, Harry finds himself keenly aware of Ginny's other relationships, complete with irrational feelings of jealousy.  Ginny becomes a symbol of Harry's growth into adulthood, both in his ability to form a romantic relationship and his decision to end it at the end of Half-Blood Prince in order to protect her from harm.

Now, as I said, I fully respect Rowling's right to disagree with her own decisions.  However, I think the story is fine the way it is.

Non-smoking

I quit smoking seven months ago, cold-turkey.

I find the only thing that still triggers a craving is these commercials for different products meant to help you quit smoking. It's like they're all telling me I can't *really* be done with smoking unless I get their help.

They can go fuck themselves.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Terraria

I know, I know.  Another new game.  In my defense, Terraria is actually a game I've had for a while now.  I have had it on two PCs and pulled the trigger on getting the XBox version.

Terraria is a combination side-scroller, world-explorer, crafter-grinder-gear-upper-dungeon-runner-oh-god-where-did-Thursday-even-go type game.

The graphics are purposely simple.  The focus is not on having a gajillion polygons to display a rock.  It's actually focused on simple graphics that do enough to show you what that particular gridspace is for.  But in that simplicity is a surprisingly complex world of opportunity and possibility.  If you can imagine it and you're willing to be creative, you can make it in Terraria.  I often find myself building massive fortresses and complexes just to see how they stand up to an army of goblins.

Case in point, my best world on PC was called "The Vault".  I stored all my building and crafting materials there and constructed traps and pits around every entrance.  I mean lava pits, poison dart traps that fire on a timer, and trapdoors that drop the enemies into burning scream holes of death.

It's a fun, relatively kid-friendly game.  Yeah, it is rated T for Teen, but I mean... it's cartoonish blood at best, and if anyone remembers Ren and Stimpy, trust me.  Kids can handle it.  Seriously.

The learning curve is really gentle, and the game even comes with a tutorial.  You can pick it up for like ten bucks on Steam and 15 on XBox.  I recommend it if you're looking for something to kill time with.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Borderlands 2

Okay.

Bought another game because I'm a grown-up and can do what I want. This one came recommended by a few different friends, so I had high expectations right off the bat.

And I was not disappointed.  The learning curve is a bit steep if you're coming off of Care Bear mode games.  I made my first character, Salvador the Gunzerker, and got right to it.

The interface is intuitive enough and the storyline offers enough guidance without feeling restrictive.  Controls are a little clumsy at first, but that may be because I got spoiled by lock-targeting in other games. Once you get used to having to actually point a gun at someone's head to kill them, it evens out.

Class style.

The Gunzerker class is very much a charge-in-guns-a'blazin' style class. I underestimated the importance of this when I first got going. With gun accuracy diminishing rapidly as your target distance increases, you've got to be practically in their face to kill them.

Which is kinda the point of the Gunzerker.

Okay. Ambience and environment. The bad guy du jour is Handsome Jack. He is, without question, a sicko. He also delights in cutting into your radio and taunting you all the time.  I think I'll enjoy beating him to death.

The violence in the game is to the point that it actually becomes absurd. Testing a gun at the pawn shop involves going to the firing range where the targets are alive, strapped to a board, and struggling.  The good Dr. Zed is a doctor like Dr. Pepper is a doctor. As in very much not really. He's definitely not board certified. Anywhere. His idea of surgery is punching his "patient" (victim) in the throat until the "patient" (seriously poor bastard) either dies or gives up the loot he swallowed.

Violence is beyond insane because most of the baddies are, in fact, insane as well.

Graphics are impressive. Yeah yeah, PC master race comments, move on. I'm talking about the style. Think gritty comic book. Think steampunk. Think cell shading in the way of Legend of Zelda: Wind Waker.

It's pretty awesome. I'm currently only at level 10 and I can already say the talent specialization is *very* much like early WoW with the points and ranks of talents.  Mainly I'm focusing on more ammo and better defenses. These are, I think, critical to being a mindless rampaging death machine.

Anywho. So that's me on Borderlands 2 so far. I'm sure I'll post more on it as I continue playing.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dead Rising 2

Anyone who knows me knows I'm a fan of zombies.  I love them.  They're fun and they represent the decline and fall of society as we know it.

I recently got an XBox and Dead Rising 2.

Why this particular game?

It was a gift.  A particularly well-chosen gift, I might add.

I've only gone a little way into the game so far, but I have to say I'm impressed.  There's an early escort quest with a lady named LaShawndra Dawkins.  You find her standing on top of a bar with a pipe wrench, holding back a group of zombies and bitching about her cowardly husband.

"What's impressive about that?" you might ask.

Well, nothing about the quest in particular.  It's your standard escort quest.  But the character herself, LaShawndra, is ugly.

I mean this in the nicest of ways.

She's wearing a bright yellow mumu with what looks like a matching set of house slippers, and she's hunchbacked.  Also, her face is kind of busted.

Hang on, I'm still explaining.

The reason that her appearance is impressive is that the developers opted for more realism in this game about zombies.  So many other games have nothing but the Hollywood version of pretty for their characters.  This game has ugly people in it too.  Just like real life.  And, just like real life, old people can become zombies, too.  I think I've killed more than a few zombies in game that were decomposing *before* they died and came back as face-biting rage monsters.

Not much else to say so far, honestly.  Just thought I'd talk about a different game.

In completely unrelated news, I've also tried Magic: The Gathering on XBox... and I think I can see why it has such a following and has lasted for so long.

In other completely unrelated news, I nearly chopped off my left middle finger while I was making a cutting board.  The irony is not lost on me or anyone else who knows about it.  Six stitches and some groovy pain medication injected into the finger and I was back to normal.

Yesterday, I made the fiscally responsible and uber-manly choice to remove my own stitches rather than pay a doctor my copay plus a deductible to tug strings out of my flesh.

I think this was a good choice.

Anywho.  Still not sure if I'm going to keep going on this blog or not.  I may wind up converting it to a general gaming blog.  But I don't know.  I'm also working on a half dozen other projects, so this may fall by the wayside again.