Monday, November 30, 2009

Ludicrous Video Game Tropes, vol. I

Entertainment generally demands something from us: if not a complete suspension of disbelief, then a partial or selective suspension. We accept all kinds of silly conceits to enjoy movies, television or books. Genres and media tend to have their own conceits because the familiar pill is easier to swallow--we accept that the male and female stars of an action movie will get it on eventually as a result of their trials together. We accept that a misunderstanding or revelation near the end of a romantic comedy will cause the characters to throw away everything they've built together, only to re-discover at long last why they were together in the first place. These aren't negative things, except in the sense that they're predictable and derivative. Which sounds pretty negative, I guess. My point is, these familiar themes emerge for a reason: they're convenient ways to resolve problems when you're designing something. That doesn't mean you shouldn't enjoy a chuckle at the worst of them.

Holy Crap Melee
I'm going to ask a straightforward question: given no other information, would you rather be shot or stabbed? The answer is pretty obviously "stabbed." The question gets even easier if you're looking to minimize your damage taken per attack; single bullets kill people all the time whereas a single stroke of a knife is considerably less threatening (though obviously both can kill you). Now why, pray tell, does a swipe from my digital hero's Combat Knife deal vastly more damage to my enemies than a gunshot? If I offered my enemies the same choice I gave my blog readers, they'd take their chances with the gun. They'd take a bullet to the head from that pistol I grabbed in the first level any day of the week. Hell, a cigarette is more damaging to the health of a video game henchman than the average round from a firearm. In the Halo and Call of Duty games (where the mighty Knife is eschewed for a simple Melee Attack function), you're better off swinging your gun like a club than actually shooting it. Think about it: in video games, bullets shouldn't be accelerated to 500mph and launched out of a gun. They should be used as ballast to increase the weight of the gun, so it has more stopping power when you beat your foes over the head with it.

Locked Doors
If there's one thing level designers like better than constructing mighty underground lairs, it's filling those lairs with locked doors. Let's be real here: I am a can-do badass with a heart of gold. I am toting around all kinds of weapons and explosives and equipment, to say nothing of my years of Badass Training. Where's my imagination? I can think of a half-dozen ways to get through a locked door in the absence of high-powered weaponry, and I can think of seven ways to get through the door if I had that weaponry (I'd use the butt of my gun to knock down the door. Duh). When I write the dialogue for a game, it'll go something like this:
Hero: God DAMMIT, this door is locked! (Starts banging his fists on the door in time with the words) It NEVER! GETS! ANY! EASIER!
Sidekick: You know, when I worked in an office building all the doors came unlocked when the fire alarm was triggered. You just picked up that flamethrower and we found all that napalm ammo in the bathroom.
Hero: You shut your mouth! Look, I've been in dozens of these situations. I've probably encountered 200 separate locked doors in my time, all with different key cards that I looted off my fallen enemies. I found every single one of those keys and we're going to do the same now.
Sidekick: You want to at least try the flamethrower--
Hero: Fine! You want to try the flamethrower, wise guy? (pulls out the flamethrower and begins to smash it against the locked door) See? It's useless! You're useless! You're all useless!

Supplies in Bathrooms
Not just bathrooms, either, but any location with totally out-of-place powerups. Good thing somebody saw fit to stash this box of shotgun shells in the toilet! I know when I'm putting together an ammo stash, I prefer to keep it near as much running water as possible. Fallout 3 painted a grim picture of a post-apocalyptic future, but I'm pretty sure the apocalypse was inevitable given that everyone was already stashing ammunition and weapons in their offices. I swear there are more 10mm bullets than paper clips in the average Washington, D.C. file cabinet. I'll call out Dragon Age too: in a game about moral choices, why is it completely acceptable to steal from people in polite company? Hey bro, that's a pretty sweet chest you got there. Mind if my Bard picks the lock and we take whatever's in there? Ugh, just a Leather Cap? It's cool, we got XP.

More installments to come, featuring perennial fan favorites such as Ventilation Ducts and Obnoxious Wingmen! I'm planning a big post later in the week entitled "Mute Assassins: The Silent Killers." Thanks for reading.

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Dirge

Let's start out with this for context. It should be clear to anyone reading this (you have an internet connection and the wherewithal to use it) that the world has some problems. Cable news networks prefer to focus on the DC echo chamber because a constant struggle between two political parties is easier to understand and present than...well, just about anything else. Sports are a little easier to deal with because you can represent any conflict with a pair of integers: this team scored X and that team scored Y. Y > X, so Y is winning/has won. This is the fundamental appeal of the polling numbers you see everywhere--it is the ultimate distillation of a Complicated Thing to a Simple Thing. One just works better on TV.

As an unreasonably reasonable person, this doesn't bother me that much. There are a lot of problems and injustices in the world that need correcting, but I'm of the opinion that things tend to work themselves out. Change will proceed, slower than it ought to but faster than many people are comfortable with. I can live with that. To stay with the Iranian example, what the Islamic Republic's goons have done is reprehensible and unforgivable. But every political prisoner killed, every protester arrested/beaten/raped brings the day of reckoning closer. Iran's ruling clerics, Myanmar's junta leaders and America's "pro-marriage" propagandists aren't just losing--look at the numbers, the polls and the beliefs of the young. They've already lost. While that's encouraging, I'm discouraged by this: I don't think young Americans possess the sense of urgency their forbears had.

In a recent GQ issue, Clint Eastwood criticized "teenaged twits" for establishing a culture of superficiality. This declaration was practically an Onion headline unto itself, as old people have been telling young people they're ruining the world since...well, "forever" doesn't seem like a strong enough word. 400 million years ago, an old fish was grousing about all these young fish and their nascent air-breathing gills ruining fish society. But I have to agree with Clint here. Because you may have forgotten, this band used to exist:

I know, they re-united and still play shows. But they don't write or record new music, so for artistic purposes they may as well not exist. They present a packaged, processed commercial product (4X ALLITERATION COMBO). I respect that because the original product was so excellent, but I don't feel the need to support it. What I'm really trying to say is this: Rage Against the Machine was a really unique force in American culture. They quit at the top of their game, at the time when we needed them the most, and we've really suffered as a society for it.

The Music
I will boldly assert here that Rage belongs in the pantheon of aurally ground-breaking acts like Elvis Presley and the Rolling Stones. No band sounded like them at the time, and while the rap-rock fad came and went it never captured the same sound. Even bands like One Minute Silence and Reveille were at best pale approximations of the idea--they were the Safeway brand. Tasty, but never to be confused with the original. Zach de la Rocha had a raw, aggressive vocal style that lacked production but made up for its lack of sonic subtlety (2x combo) with lyrical subtlety. He was talking about crazy things, the sort of issues American youth was never exposed to outside of your local American Communist Party bookstore. The Shining Path? Mumia Abu-Jamal? Leonard Peltier? There was an entire language of subversion in de la Rocha's lyrics.

And who could forget Tom Morello's guitar work? The man made sounds nobody had ever heard, and he did it without sampling. This was not an extremely proficient musician from a technical standpoint (maybe a tech standpoint), but he could make that thing talk. I can't remember which song on The Battle of Los Angeles had the record-scratch solo, but it needs to be heard to be believed.

This is to say nothing of Brad Wilk and Tim Commerford. The rhythm section of the band was never adequately appreciated, but in retrospect it's easy to see why the band was so good. These guys were a perfect match for each other. They played their roles flawlessly every single night, even though those roles weren't flashy. God bless 'em.

The Politics
This is a little tricky. Rage's politics cannot be separated from their music. There's a natural inclination to try and affect the separation, because many of their views were (to put it mildly) pretty fringe and in America we don't trust the fringe. Unless we're conservatives who sold out all our principles in the name of political expedience and would now like to forget those compromises.

Anyway, the desire to separate the politics from the music is why the most popular Rage songs tend to be the most abstract. "Bulls on Parade" rocks so hard that it's over before you can start thinking about the central image of the song. But here's the thing: the message itself was never that important. The energy was important, and that's what we've lost. Rage was a great band, it was an important band. Rage was, more than anything else, a dangerous band. There was an element of raw rebellion in their music I haven't seen anywhere else in my (short) lifetime. You never knew what was going to happen at a Rage show. The crowd was at all times on the razor's edge of rioting. I went to a couple Rage shows before the end, and if they'd asked the crowd to set fire to the theater we would have. It is difficult to explain in retrospect and with only recordings for evidence, but believe me when I say there was fear in your gut when those lights went down.

But they were HUGE. They played Saturday Night Live. They were all over TV and radio. One of the most dangerous and political and radical and raw rock bands ever to exist was a part of the mainstream, just because they were so fucking good. This was a time in American culture where performers of substance were actually allowed to appear on TV. Rage famously walked out on SNL when their censorship demands weren't met, and terrified NBC pages had to be sent out into the Gotham night to try and find Rage and get them to come back. They played Letterman:

Again, I assert: this show could not happen today. It's Taylor Swift, it's John Mayer, it's acts that are easy to watch and music that's easy to listen to. It won't ruffle feathers. It's safe. Rage pushed the envelope at every opportunity.

And then they left us. They broke up at the height of their powers, after their musically most accomplished album and right before the start (people forget this) of the Bush presidency. These guys were the angriest, most politically radical band in mainstream American history, but consider this: RATM never existed for even an instant in post-9/11 America. Never the twain did meet. The last decade passed and one of the most important collective voices in America was silent all the while. And honestly, I don't even blame them. They were four human beings wrapped up in this band and given millions of dollars. It wasn't their responsibility to continue playing while we ran our country into the ground. It's our responsibility to fill the void.

So at long last, that's the point of all this. That's what I want. I see the things that have happened in the last decade, that continue to happen now, both at home and abroad. And I see a youth culture that's had its energy re-purposed. The energy didn't go anywhere. But it's bottled up in over-wrought emotionality (see: Twilight) and celebrity culture. We direct our ambitions towards purchases and consumption, when maybe we need to just turn it loose and break a few things.

I'd guess that a grand total of zero substantial policy changes were enacted as a result of Rage's music. They didn't change the world. But they didn't have to. Their ferocity and sincerity were their contributions. And to play us off, here is the official video for "Sleep Now in the Fire," a single off The Battle of Los Angeles. Embedding is disabled, hence the link. Brief story behind the video: Rage wants to shoot a video on Wall Street, Mayor Giuliani refuses the permits. They show up anyway, drop their gear on the front steps of the New York Stock Exchange and tear it up. A riot ensues, people are arrested (including a no-younger and no-skinnier Michael Moore), trading is shut down on the Exchange floor for a while. Nobody would do such a thing today, and as a country we are weaker for it.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Cake is a Lie

Our culture tells us daily what we ought to care about. From the news that gets pushed to the front page, the daily echo-chamber fascinations of the cable news networks or the music they play on the radio, your environment and options are being perpetually hewed down to what other people think you ought to like. I add one My Chemical Romance song (it rocks and you can't convince me otherwise) to my library and I have to spend the next week picking bubblegum pop out of my library like so many ticks from the fur of a fellow orangutan. And eating them, 'cause what're you supposed to do? Throw them away? That's wasteful.

We'll start off with a couple buckets of crap I believe have been foisted on an innocent populace by those with their own agendas. And because undiluted Internet Cynicism(TM) is an ugly thing, I'll bring attention to some legitimately awesome things everyone should be appreciating. "The Cake is a Lie" refers to things and ideas that just don't live up to the billing. If you get the reference, props will be awarded at a future date. Save your receipts.

I can't count the number of times I've seen some hippie in the aisles of Trader Joe's, gushing about how much he loves soup. How great it is on a cold day, how tasty the vegetables are. This is bullshit. Soup has an important place in human culinary history, but let's be real: it has always sucked. Soup is the natural consequence of confusion--you have a bunch of food items and don't know what to do with them, so you throw 'em in water and see what happens. Ask yourself whenever you're eating something, "How was this food invented?" In the case of soup, I've put together the following re-enactment:
(Night time in the high desert of Mongolia. Two Mongols are sitting by a campfire.)
Mongol 1: Okay, what have we got to eat? I've got a pot and some water, but no food whatsoever.
Mongol 2: Let's see. I've got a goat's head...and a leather shoe.
Mongol 1: Any other goat parts?
Mongol 2: Just the head.
Mongol 1: I feel you. Is the shoe ox leather, at least?
Mongol 2: No doubt. We don't have anything to flavor the broth, do we?
Mongol 1: I can stab my horse a little and we can use some of its blood.
Mongol 2: I wish I knew how to quit you.

That's how it happened and you can't convince me otherwise. Soup has its place in human events, but we can do better. The sooner we can marginalize it to the point of being just a thin substrate we feed the homeless (much like the Egyptians fed their slaves beer), the better off we'll be.

Womens' Sports
Two things: first, I support the equality of women in all aspects of life. Second, notice how the WNBA ball looks tiny even in a cartoon that's supposed to over-exaggerate how awesome the league is? That ball is actually drawn life-size. It weighs less than 4 ounces, yet WNBA players still shoot 3s by launching the ball off their chests with two hands. Pretty awesome picture, though. I hope she doesn't shatter the backboard with that layup.

I don't really want to pile on when the WNBA and other all-female leagues are struggling financially, but they just don't produce a quality product. I don't hear about sick moves and amazing athleticism, I hear about Hope Solo's social issues on Team USA, and how these women are inspiring young girls. Inspiration is a great thing, but there's a reason I avoid Rick Reilly's columns like the plague: treacly sentiment isn't that compelling. The on-field/court product needs to be there. Crowds of bored schoolchildren watching sports played at 70% speed (though to be fair, 20% ticket price) by teams named after abstract concepts like Freedom and Beat and "Athletica"? Talk about compelling. I'm sorry, ESPN announcer, I can't look forward to tonight's star-studding match-up between the Hayward Ennui and the West Newbury Anaphylactic Shock (there's a team called the Fever, this isn't unreasonable), held in the Johnson & Johnson Feminine Wash Arena. I'm just kidding; they don't get their own venues.

I get that the NHL and NBA have to a limited degree permitted "concept" team names, but these are really bad. Even when they have golden opportunities, they ruin them. There is a WNBA team named the Minnesota Lynx. Not Lynxes, just one Lynx. I don't care if it's a solitary animal. It's a team sport. You know what's compelling? A pride of lions. You know what's not? A single goddamn Lynx. Why doesn't the Lynx have other Lynxes to play basketball with? Because he's an asshole and nobody wants to play with him. The most inexcusable part? According to their website, the Lynx are the sister team of the Minnesota Timberwolves NBA franchise. The exact same organization that took a stereotypically "lone" animal and made it plural for the sake of decorum wasn't about to make the same move for their WNBA franchise. Not on their watch.

Finally, the WNBA is not the first professional basketball league for women in this country. They replaced the now-defunct NWBL (National Women's Basketball League). Ought you take the obvious step of hitching your carriage to the enormously successful NBA? Nah, let's just slap together an acronym that looks like a blackout-drunk text message and call it a day. Good meeting, everyone.

Fucking Vampires
How much do I really need to say? I dug the big zombie bender we've enjoyed for the last few years, because you can't romanticize zombies. You either kill them, run from them or find a nice balance between the two. You don't empathize with them and you certainly don't make eyes at them across the goddamn school cafeteria. Zombies were safe because we could be reasonably sure there weren't any Hot Topic merchandising deals involved.

Honestly, this is what we're seeing: the generation of children who obsessed over Harry Potter (they didn't just read the books as light entertainment) now holds the belief that magic and witchcraft and teenage hormones should all be wrapped up into an eye-rolling abomination of fiction, just as a matter of course. This isn't going away. You've been warned.


The following are things that I like and that I feel are contributing positively to our culture. Please make an effort to appreciate them more and integrate them more completely into your lives. These sentences are almost entirely useless, but I need them to demarcate where the terrible crap ends and the awesome crap begins.

Reasonable Predators
Take a look at this. Apparently prehistoric crocodiles could "gallop" as well as swim. How, exactly, would our civilization be able to advance with these things running around? Short answer: it wouldn't. Our monkey ancestors (every time you talk or write about evolution, one cancerous cell forms in Sarah Palin's brain. Yes we can.) wouldn't have made it out of the trees. Honestly, the deeper you look into the fossil record the more you realize that the world has been a ridiculous place for most of its existence. It was populated by animals so absurdly well-equipped for predation that the lower links in the food chain didn't stand a chance. God had to call down meteors and ice ages just to wipe out His own overpowered creations. Let's thank our lucky stars He takes interest, because even the predators we see today would be pretty terrifying with even some small changes. Sharks that weren't restricted to the water? Tigers with sticky long-range chameleon tongues? Hell, I run for the hills when I see a flying cockroach.

Misery Signals
I don't usually use this space to plug a specific band, show or entertainment product I consume. This is an exception. It's a metal band from the American Midwest, and good innovative American metal is a precious commodity these days. I've enjoyed these guys for a while and it frustrates me that such a quietly, viciously talented band flies so far under the radar. There is a lot of terrible music on the radio and on MTV and all around our country today. These guys do it right. Apologies for going light on the comedy here, but did you really care that much about the positive things I had to say? That's not how the Internet works. Enjoy the song; I don't think the video adds a whole lot. Thanks always for reading.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Concern

I've had this thought before, but devoting a whole paragraph in my last post to the Raiders and how bad they are really brought it home. What if I'm becoming a Raider fan, however slowly and against my own intentions? This has happened to me before.

I adore metal. It's one of my defining personal traits, though it probably shouldn't be. It's just that when you listen to music that offends so many sensibilities for so many people, some eyebrows are raised. It's a polarizing form of musical expression. But I didn't come to it honestly. I started out hating metal; I found it distasteful on a number of levels. But something about it just gnawed at me: how could so many people feel so passionately about a musical tradition and artistic vision on both sides? So it was a morbid fascination to begin with. Eventually, however, my interest evolved. It was no longer simply a morbid curiosity. I didn't really enjoy metal, but I enjoyed its conceits and excesses. I thought it was really funny that you could listen to an entire metal album and not understand more than a half-dozen words of the lyrics. It was so over-the-top that I couldn't help but admire it.

Eventually, I purchased Mechanical Animals by Marilyn Manson. It was followed (don't get the joke? You're about to!) by Korn's Follow the Leader and the rest was history. Wisconsin Death Trip came next. I won't trace the whole progression, but suffice it to say that an ironic appreciation gradually became a legitimate one. I love metal and I can't imagine what I'd be listening to if I'd never happened on it.

So this is my fear: what if the Raiders are the same way? What if, over the course of years away from Foxboro's warm embrace, I'm becoming a Raiders fan? Before you laugh, consider this: just today, I fired up NFL Game Rewind (a phenomenal service if you're passionate about the league) and watched parts of last weekend's horrific loss to the mighty Chiefs of Kansas City. I really did that. I have used a great free utility called MS Paint to assemble the following chart, which I think will illuminate what I'm trying to say. This is for real.

Monday, November 16, 2009

On Football

Understand, before we begin, that I always want to write about football. It is a constant pull. But I've had girlfriends in the past so I'm always conscious of this fact: most people don't give a shit about football. They will stop paying attention as soon as football enters the discussion. It's a niche and should be avoided if you're trying to get people interested in the things you have to say.

This sentence was going to be one last apology before I dove in, but I screwed the pooch by titling the post "On Football." The people I'm apologizing to are gone already. It's just us.

For those of us that love America the way we're supposed to, the annual Pats-Colts game is a hallowed tradition. It's better than Thanksgiving football because somebody decided the Detroit Lions needed an annual Thanksgiving game (blaming George W. Bush). Last night's game was entertaining, as my beloved Patriots blew a big fourth-quarter lead and eventually lost in soul-crushing, hair-rending fashion. I woke up this morning to an inbox full of e-mails related to the game. Most of you were kind.

Here's the tricky thing, though: I'm not broken up about it. I was shocked and upset (more shocked) in the moment, but then I turned off the TV and went about my evening much as I usually would. All the while I asked myself: why wasn't I more upset? Was I losing my enthusiasm for the team? Why wasn't I thrown into paroxysms of rage when the inevitable Colts Home Call came? On his podcast today, Bill Simmons wonders how younger Pats fans reacted. My friends from back home, as far as I can tell, have reacted much as I did. Why is this? I figured it out. It's the Helmet Catch.

On February 3rd, 2008, Eli Manning threw a ball to a marginal receiver named David Tyree, who caught it against his helmet for a 32-yard gain. It ultimately won them the Super Bowl, and it was the most searingly painful sports experience of my life. I don't remember the rest of the drive that ended in a Giants TD and truthfully, I've never even watched a replay of the Helmet Catch aside from the replays they showed in the game broadcast. I went home and put myself in absolute Sports Lockdown for about 2 weeks. I didn't turn on ESPN, I didn't go to a sports website, I even avoided looking directly at the Sports section of Google's news aggregator. Eventually the pain faded, but this is its legacy: my sports-agony receptors are fried. So watching the utter collapse of the Patriots at the end of the game, I felt a little like a mom who just had her fourth kid. Yeah, it hurt. But that first kid was the worst. At a certain point, you've already felt as bad as you're ever going to feel. So in a way, I'm glad it all happened (I'm not).

I also thought I'd put in some effort trying to be funny and throw out some thoughts I've had about the season thus far. You deserve a little sweetness after reading about Tony's Feelings. Here's hoping it's their last appearance for a while.

--Lawrence Maroney is awful. This guy has made a decent living for a couple years on potential and the fact that every 4-5 games he does something decent. Let's just make it official: Patriots fans hate him. We hate his funny-shaped face, we hate his unwarranted dances when he manages to make it into an endzone without fumbling. We hate, most of all, the way he falls down the second a defender lays a hand on him. Kevin Faulk was the featured back last night and I'm sorry--you can't hold a lead like that. So happy trails, Lawrence. We'll draft this guy and maybe he can stay upright.

--I've watched quite a few Colts games this year, and I don't think I've seen Jim Caldwell make a coaching decision yet. Mark my words, he will be exposed at some crucial point in the playoffs. Peyton can't make all your moves for you, Mr. Caldwell.

--I love Jamarcus Russell. "But Tony, isn't he the the worst QB in the league?" Yes, probably. What of it? I'll direct you to the following box score. This is my argument for Jamarcus: rarely do we see such a sublimely terrible player at any position in the league, let alone one who is playing such an important position. Consider also that Jamarcus was a #1 overall draft pick and is making (more to the point, has made) many millions of dollars. His contract is exquisitely horrible and that adds a really satisfying "meta" layer to the Cake of Jamarcus. The man is a Platonic ideal of suck. To me and my boy Socrates, that holds a certain beauty.

Thanks as always for your readership and indulgence.

P.S. I realize upon proofreading that, depending on how you read the Jamarcus paragraph, I may have indirectly and unintentionally compared Socrates to Al Davis. I'm happy with this and will allow it to stand.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Growth Industries

In an effort to keep my readers abreast of economic developments and ahead of the layoff curve, I thought I'd write up a few positions I see really blowing up in the coming year.

"But Tony, the only people who read your blog are your parents and they both have jobs." Thanks Mom and Dad for submitting a question! See you at Thanksgiving.

One of the world's great constants is reproduction. No matter what happens, people will continue to fill the world with new people and those new people will need education. Cutbacks and layoffs happen everywhere, but when people lay off teachers they feel really bad about it. So that's something. The big downside of this career path is pretty obvious: you have to be in a school all day every day for the rest of your life. Say that out loud. Pretty fucked up, right?

At first this section was titled "Police/Military," but I went ahead and assumed my readership wants to keep all their limbs. If you aren't particularly attached to your limbs or are excited about a possible future as a revenant cyborg, don't let me discourage you. 'Cause I ain't fighting. Anyway, the real appeal to a police job is the very economic climate that's giving you headaches. Think about this: half of the people who got laid off 6 months ago are still out of work. The unemployed in this country are increasingly young, male and desperate. What does this sound like? Sounds like a bull market for quiet desperation! As time goes on, this desperation will become less and less quiet. Begin your police training today, and invest in the civil unrest of tomorrow. And when our civilization eventually decays into a sun-bleached dystopia, consider this: why was Mel Gibson's character in Mad Max such a badass? Because he used to be a cop. Even his dog was a badass. I'm done here.

Most Dangerous Game
Do you love the great outdoors? How about pith helmets? With the yawning divide between rich and poor, demand for this position is at an all-time high. Physical and athletic qualifications are a barrier to entry for some, but as long as you can keep your body fat under 20% and maintain decent cardiovascular health you should be able to land interviews. This field has a lot of appeal because it's friendly to entry-level applicants. In a high-unemployment economy it's difficult to compete with established industry veterans, and MDG positions can sidestep these concerns. Don't aim too high when you look at openings--if your prospective employer has his own tropical island, it's a little out of your league. Believe in yourself, but be realistic.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Teh Transf0rmzorz

I received a "Transformers 2: Revenge of the Fallen" DVD from Netflix the other day and have finally gotten around to watching it. I will compose a live diary, inspired by Bill Simmons, to document my reactions to the film in real time. Everything is based on the 4:3 theatrical release, since the precision of my time stamps will obviously be of concern to future generations. Let it never be said Tony Palumbi cared nothing for posterity. Long gaps are likely action scenes, expository dialogue or shots of Megan Fox's ass.

0:01 Movie opens with a bunch of ancient African bush men hunting a tiger on the savanna. Where to begin. First, ain't no tigers in Africa. Never have been. It's an asian animal. Second, primitive people didn't hunt tigers because tigers will fucking kill you and it was too dangerous. They ignored tigers. And now giant evil robots are killing the bushmen. Slightly more credible than the tiger.

0:03 We're now in China, where friendly robots are helping U.S. soldiers find evil robots. Josh Duhamel plays a douchebag. A douchebag who is also the commander of this special unit. The Autobots are disguised as cars, because a fleet of hummers and 18-wheelers and VW bugs and sports cars escorted by U.S. Army APCs is inconspicuous.

0:04 "I smell him," says a robot. With all the amazing scanning tools at its disposal, one robot smells another robot.

0:07 Construction crane turns out to be a Decepticon in disguise. Mayhem ensues in the streets of a Chinese city. Good thing this is a secret unit.

0:09 Debut of the minstrel-show Amos 'n' Andy robot duo. Excellent. By the way, this evil robot was just acting like a construction crane, minding its own business in this city. It's being a productive member of society. These assholes are roaming the globe laying waste to entire cities just to hunt down and murder some other robots on the wrong side of a political dispute. Decepticons = Jedi Knights. THINK ABOUT IT.

0:11 Evil robot is executed by Optimus Prime while he lies helpless on a warehouse floor. Thousands of innocent Chinese citizens have been killed in the mayhem-filled pursuit, with billions in damage.

0:13 Shia LeBeouf is only the third most insufferable actor in this scene with his hysterical parents.

0:14 Megan Fox's ass is introduced to the audience.

0:15 Megan Fox is introduced to the audience.

0:16 Surprisingly entertaining banter between Shia and Megan, with some expository dialogue thrown in. It's poorly timed and doesn't really work, but the writing is good. Imagine what actors might have done with this.

0:17 A fragment of the cube from the first movie falls out of Shia's pocket and turns the appliances into evil little robots.

0:18 Bumblebee wrecks the garage but saves the day. Displays more acting chops than Shia.

0:20 Megan Fox is taking off her clothes while Shia tells Bumblebee he can't come along to college.

0:21 Witty fast-paced dialogue about why Shia and Megan haven't said "I love you" to each other. Snappy is better than nothing. Excellent closing Michael Bay Shot as over-dramatic music plays and the camera swooshes around Megan Fox. Every single dramatic scene is shot right before sunset and the orange light makes Megan look like a pumpkin.

0:24 SOUNDWAVE!!!!! Excellent. He should have been in the first one.

0:25 Said of Optimus: "If God made us in his image...who made him?" Whoa. Whoa. Also, minstrel robots re-appear.

0:26 Massive destruction in China is written off with a glib remark from Snarky Government Stooge. He proceeds to shit all over every single person in the Secret Military Base and talk down to the grunts. There's a lot of expository dialogue about a prophecied threat from Decepticons, then the guy talks shit to Optimus and gets smacked down!!! PWN!

0:31 Shia arrives at college, meets his roommate. Snappy dialogue follows and they become instant friends. Turns out Shia's roommate is running a website out of the room, because these two college freshmen have enough space in their dorm room for a huge office/server room in addition to everything else.

0:32 Oh snap, it's a website that aggregates video and conspiracy theories about the Transformers, which have apparently been covered up really well despite the thousands of deaths and billions in damage in major cities. But these guys have no idea who Shia is or that he was involved with these same robots.

0:33 Shia's mom has eaten a pot brownie for some reason. 10 minutes later, she is reduced to complete lunacy. That's how that works. Also, despite the fact that Shia is going to college "back east in the snow," his college campus in the fall is L.A. on a summer day right before sunset.

0:35 Decepticons are stealing a fragment of the Cube! Because the Government Dick insisted to Optimus that it be placed under military protection exclusively, the Autobots do not respond. I will guess now that he turns out to be an evil robot agent.

0:37 Shia is at a party, while Megan tries to contact him for a "live chat date." This is the emptiest, quietest college party ever. Shia is also seeing all kinds of crazy symbols as a result of his contact with the Cube fragment that made his kitchen turn evil.

0:38 Some skank is all over Shia. Megan Fox is wearing 3 pounds of make-up.

0:39 Bumblebee shows up to the party in car form. There is a legitimately funny frat-boy joke. The skank gets in the car with Shia and Bumblebee doesn't like her, so he sprays fluid all over her and ruins her attempt to seduce Shia. I believe she will also be an evil robot agent.

0:41 Shia meets Optimus at a cemetery just before sunset. He says bad shit is going down and he tells us the Cube fragment was stolen.

0:44 Decepticons go for Megatron's tomb at the bottom of the ocean. "It's 9300 fathoms down!" Over 50,000 feet. I don't think that depth exists anywhere.

0:46 Megatron is woken up and he goes into space to talk to some super evil robot. Turns out Megatron is Darth Vader to this guy's Emperor. The super evil robot even calls him "my apprentice." At least look up a synonym. Disciple? Protege? Anyway, more expository dialogue about how Shia now has the power of the All Spark (Cube) inside his mind, and how only Optimus can stop the super evil guy.

0:51 Rainn Wilson is an insufferably Astronomy professor at Shia's college. I get that he's supposed to be a goofy cartoonish character, but he is laying it on way too thick. Let's be honest: Rainn Wilson has one good role in life, and he's playing it now on The Office. We went down this road with Zach Braff. Let's not go down it again.

0:54 Said of Megan Fox by a tiny Decepticon attempting to steal the shard that "infected" Shia: "You're hot, but you ain't too bright!"

0:55 The little robot is basically Joe Pesci. He is slightly more obnoxious, but only slightly. He is defeated by Megan Fox in a slutty shirt.

0:56 Nice "Bad Boys II" poster on the wall of Shia's dorm room.

0:57 The skank from Shia's college is way too tan. She's also a Decepticon, which I totally called. You can go back and check, I'll wait.

1:01 Megan Fox has flown cross-country to take the shard to Shia, and now mayhem is ensuing with the Decepticon skank. A library gets shot up, which makes sense since books are pretty much the antithesis of everything Michael Bay stands for.

1:03 Why did the Decepticon create mayhem, then go back to her human form, then create more mayhem immediately? What is the point of all these disguises when you break them 10 seconds after assuming them? And why did they take a shitty Scion to flee from the dorms when Bumblebee was around? Where is he?

1:08 Pretty awesome scene of Shia getting his sinuses ventilated by a little doctor Decepticon. It pains me that this is all CGI and did not actually happen.

1:12 Optimus is dual-wielding some kind of fire blades. They own pretty hard, though lord knows why he turns them off when he's hitting Megatron.

1:13 Optimus gets shanked by Megatron and dies. The cavalry arrives almost immediately, so you wonder why Optimus didn't just run until they could link up. He's have to know where they were, right?

1:15 Michael Bay Helicopter Revolving Shot of a rooftop in LA where two Decepticons are talking. Why do robots place so much emphasis on face-to-face meetings?

1:17 Decepticons blow up the U.S. Fleet and attack cities around the globe. Not sure what they are attempting to accomplish. Oh, they still need Shia to complete their world domination and they're telling the whole world to give them Shia. There has to be a better way to go about this.

1:21 Another appearance by the Minstrel Robots. Their faces look like big-eyed monkey faces and they're animated differently from all the other Transformers. Who decided it was okay to put them in this movie?

1:23 Government Dick tells the military guys to stand down and pack their stuff into base, in order to save American lives. Black Soldier says, "That guy is an assHOLE." Remember, I predicted at the start he'd be a Decepticon.

1:24 The way Bumblebee talks is kinda cool. Oh Lord, more Minstrelbots.

1:26 John Turturro finally makes his appearance. While I love the guy, every other line is cringe-worthy. And while the old photos he shows us are black-and-white, a video clip "shot in 1932" is in full color.

1:30 Joe Pesci's Robot Analogue was in Megan Fox's suitcase for half the movie, yet never figured out a way to escape.

1:33 The Gang (Shia, Megan, Joe Pesci and John Turturro) have met an old and non-evil Decepticon. He's a confused decrepit robot who switched sides in the civil war. He provides comic relief. Like most of the comic dialogue, this is actually pretty well-written. And it's delivered by a professional Hollywood voice actor, as opposed to a post-teen fuckwit.

1:39 Now we're in Egypt. Maybe The Gang will see a tiger!

1:40 Turns out the Decepticon Emperor is called "The Fallen." That will save some keystrokes.

1:43 Camels roll through a shot of The Gang's motorcade driving through the desert. Next shot: Great Pyramid of Giza in the background as The Gang's motorcade drives through the desert. In case you weren't aware, they're in Egypt.

1:46 "Hilarious" confrontation with a midget Egyptian soldier at a guard post, followed immediately by a Minstrelbot appearance. Melanin is funny.

1:48 Megan: "You realize I just flew 3000 miles to keep you from getting killed." You know what? That's not such an admirable thing, Megan. That's not really that big a deal. That's 6 hours--7 with a headwind--and they serve you a beverage of your choice.

1:50 Josh Duhamel straps a parachute on the Government Dick and throws him off a plane over the North African desert. He'll probably survive. Probably. But this means he's not a Decepticon, so I'm 1 for 2 on those predictions.

1:51 Fisticuffs erupt between the Minstrelbots inside an Egyptian temple. They'll probably knock each other into a secret door and break through to whatever they're looking for.

1:53 Yup.

1:55 Much like the Crystal Skull in the most recent Indiana Jones abomination, the Matrix of Leadership is just lying on the floor of some tomb. It crumbles into dust when touched, but Shia uses the following reasoning: "We didn't go through all of this for nothing. This isn't how this is supposed to end." And you know what? He's right.

1:58 John Turturro tases Shia's roommate to shut him up. Megan and Shia are right there, but for some reason they get to keep talking.

2:03 Some Army General, concerning the loss of all radio and satellite contact with Josh Duhamel's team: "Something's not right here. It doesn't add up." Maybe the technologically advanced alien race THAT YOU KNOW IS FIGHTING AGAINST YOU had something to do with this?

2:05 I don't claim to know Megan Fox's character that well. I will say this: if I insisted on holding my girlfriend's hand the entire time as we ran across the Egyptian desert for miles, she would not be cool with that. The sweatiness alone would seriously strain our relationship.

2:06 Black Soldier, seeing an incoming force of Decepticons: "We 'bout to get our asses WHOOPED!"

2:08 "No, Megan, cut! Can we cut?" "What's wrong, Michael!" "I need you to bend over while you run towards the camera. Bend over WAY OVER! Yeah, like that! You're trying to keep your head down, remember that!"

2:10 This world-vacuuming Decepticon is specially programmed to inhale the most awesome and explosion-prone stuff first.

2:11 Extended action sequence with heavy doses of the Minstrelbots. Ghetto banter and explosions are in no short supply.

2:14 Bumblebee grabs a cat-like Decepticon's tail, and proceeds to remove its entire spine. He shucks that bitch like an ear of corn. Brutal.

2:15 The climax of this enormous extended battle scene will occur just before sunset.

2:17 John Turturro laying it on pretty thick. He's reminding me of Al Pacino right now, and not the good Al. The yelling Al.

2:20 There is no way to describe what I am seeing. I know I'm doing you all a disservice, but this has to be seen.

2:22 Re-appearance of the old friendly Decepticon. He saves Shia and Megan and Josh, but can be heard to utter "I'm too old for this." I take back every good thing I've said about this character.

2:26 Things got a little misty there, between Megan and Shia and myself. But I've pulled myself together. We'll finish this thing. God, this movie is long.

2:33 Excellent final battle, with Optimus ripping The Fallen's face off and everything. But I feel like there's gonna be hugging and crying and that's what they're doing now. Okay.

2:35 Credits + Linkin Park. What can I even say about this? It's beautiful.

And that's about it. It wasn't as bad as I was led to believe. Hi Mom, because you're the only one who read this far.