Friday, September 24, 2010

Some Bob Dylan song

The title of this post should convey the ongoing passage of time. I understand Bob Dylan wrote a number of songs dealing with that idea, but...he also performed those songs, so I'm not going to listen to them. In a world full of talented singers and guitarists, Mr. Dylan couldn't have found SOMEBODY to perform for him? It's selfish, really.

Tumblr sucks
Some lazy asshole looked at a blog and decided, "You know what I could really do without here? The words." Enter Tumblr, the blogging service for the illiterate generation. Rather than developing ideas or doing work, bloggers can now simply post webcam pictures of themselves in various fun outfits, or showing off their nails, or showing off their abs. If that's too much trouble, just link Youtube videos or re-blog posts that other (possibly creative?) people have made. I understand an awesome part of Tumblr is its ease of use on mobile platforms. That is neat. But here's a thought: if a thought enters your head while you're away from your computer, try keeping it to yourself. If you feel the need to share, ask "why do I feel this need? Am I sharing to please myself, or because this is really worth sharing?" Not every thought that passes through your head needs to come out of your dumb fucking mouth. If you have ever posted your current physical location on Facebook, this discussion also applies to you.

Went to the Giants-Padres game Saturday with Nick. He got amazing fourth-row first-baseline seats as a birthday present, and asked me to go. I told him to take a girl, but he reminded me that neither of us even know any girls except my sister. So I went with Nick. And it was a great experience, except for the Giants losing and forcing a nail-biting Sunday conclusion (which they thankfully won to clinch the NL West). We were probably 40 feet away from Aubrey Huff and Adrian Gonzalez, and the best part? To get down to the "Club" level of seats, to which these swanky things belong, you have to go down a special staircase through security. Once down there, you access your seats via a corridor where only Club-seated patrons can go. It's got its own set of food vendors, beer vendors, bathrooms and all the rest; which means you never have to wait in line, except maybe during the seventh-inning stretch (speaking of which, MLB: the DH and the "stretch" have to go). You could literally get a beer during a pitching change, so Nick got five beers and ended up passing out on the floor of the CalTrain on the way home. Great day, except for Barry Zito. I hear big league pitchers walk in two runs during the first inning like...all the time.

Everything's going to hell at approximately the same rate it was the last time I posted. Not much to see here. I will say this: Meg Whitman should die of gonorrhea and rot in hell. ("Would you like a cookie, son?" "Ohh, look...they're little footballs!") I realize it's her right to spend ridiculous sums of money on her own political campaign, because money is the only thing that matters to politicians. But in so doing, I end up deluged with Meg Whitman ads, and those ads are among the worst I've ever seen. Why, you ask? To start with, Ms. Whitman's carpet-bombing strategy began in the Republican primary, where she used far-right populist Teabagger rhetoric to obliterate the reasonable, bookish former state comptroller who was campaigning without the benefit of 80 trillion moneys. Of course, the second her primary opponent was defeated, the Great Satan started carpet-bombing the airwaves with ads excoriating her Democratic opponent. He's a lefty liberal, and she's a moderate conservative with business smarts!

Except for this: because Whitman's only solution to campaign problems is throwing ad dollars at them, I am deluged with her messages and thus I remember them. Thus, I remember that the Great Satan was a far-right-wing populist during the primaries...but mysteriously became a moderate business-oriented conservative the second they were over. And I remember that no matter where I go, I cannot get away from this image of a pantsuited blonde with bad teeth and a face that's too small for the rest of her body. Also...EBay? Not impressed. That was a brilliant idea, something essentially unique on the Web even today, and it wasn't Meg Whitman's idea. Sorry, not much credit awarded for succeeding with somebody else's brilliant idea. The folks at Facebook took a done-over idea and executed it so well that hundreds of millions of people were practically compelled to use it. That's something I can appreciate. Fuck EBay. And finally, let me speak to the idea in Ms. Whitman's ads that "while Sacramento politicians ruined the state, Silicon Valley execs were conquering the world." Government and Silicon Valley-style entrepreneurship are two completely different skill sets. The former requires reconciliation and bitter compromise. The latter leverages your personality with relatively small size of the company to steamroll all opposition and direct all credit towards yourself. I wonder which Meg Whitman prefers?

Even on my personal Pandora station (loaded with metal, electronica and 90s grunge), I am hammered with ads for the Great Satan. I don't even know what the hell she'd do as governor; all I know is that the television tells me California is doomed unless I vote for her. So I don't have much of a choice.

I got a PS3; my only console from the current generation. My original PS2, purchased in 2002, is still working--I decided those fellows over in Japan know what they're doing. I'll expand the game library as I can, but for now the PS3 is purely a vehicle for Bayonetta. Released last year, it's an absolutely absurd action-combat Devil May Cry with J-Pop sensibilities. There's a cover of Frank Sinatra's "Fly Me to the Moon," performed by a 14-year-old Japanese girl Frank would have loved back in the day before there were laws about that. I'm just kidding--it's still legal to tap 14-year-olds in Japan. You can go as young as 12 if you have tentacles.

StarCraft 2 was fun, but as predicted I dropped it after about a month. It's too much of an e-sport: and like most e-sports, it becomes so specialized that a normal human being can't enjoy himself anymore. Imagine a friend invites you to play soccer with him. You accept, and upon arriving at the field you realize that all the players are standing on their heads. They've determined that the best way to play soccer is to run with your hands and manipulate the ball with your feet in the air. And they're right; it's just a more optimal way to play, and you get your ass kicked if you try to compete using your feet to run AND handle the ball. This leaves you with two choices: either you can learn to run with your hands, or you can go home. It doesn't matter how much you hate playing upside down; it's more optimal and in order to compete you have to do things the optimal way.

That's SC2: either you play in the bizarre, scripted, predictable, highly-optimized style that the pro Korean gamers do, or you get your ass kicked. You're not losing because you're a bad player; you're losing because you haven't trained yourself to play in this specific super-optimal way, and the loser on the other end of the Internet has. "Tony, this seems like sour grapes!" It would, except that I've got an excellent record in SC2. I know the "right" way to play, because a friend taught me back in high school (another problem: people who played the first game are at a huge advantage). I just hate it, and I think it's silly and non-intuitive. You keep running around upside down; I'm going to play a different game.

The single-player campaign was about as well-done as anybody could have expected. Tons of cutscenes, tons of dialogue, fun mission objectives and character progression and whatnot. But, uhh...somebody forgot to actually make the dialogue good, or the characters interesting. All we know is that when Jim Raynor is drinking whiskey, he is Sad Jim (similar to Sad Keanu, but with a thicker neck). When he has a gun, he is Tough Jim. When he's yelling, he is Angry Jim. And when he's not doing any of these, he's an Enigmatic Blank Slate--the rarest of all video game characters! Props to Blizzard on putting in the effort from a design standpoint. There's a lot to work with here. It's just that nobody cared enough to take any risks. I actually applied for a job writing SC2 dialogue and cutscenes for Blizzard a year or so back; obviously I didn't get it, but obviously I would have been a bad fit. I want characters to be interesting because of what they do and say, not because of some expository dialogue about their pasts. I want the story to take me places I didn't expect to go. In college, we used phrases like "Show, don't tell." I guess that's a little highfalutin'.

And that's why Gamespot's recent selection of Sarah Kerrigan from the original StarCraft as the Greatest Game Villain Ever makes me want to punch my puppy in the face. I got a puppy, by the way. I'd post pics, but I'm not a girl so I won't assume you care. Anyway, how can a secondary character from ONE GAME be the greatest game villain ever? Particularly when she was a protagonist for the first half of the game, and inhabited a moral gray area even once she "turned?" Kerrigan's in SC2, but she has only a couple lines of dialogue. She's the focal point of the final cinematic, but she's unconscious for the whole freaking thing. No agency, no evil. Sometimes I wonder if anyone else even gives a shit about these things. And then I stop wondering, because I know games are written by a disinterested hodge-podge of semi-literates assigned to other tasks, and they very much do not give a shit.

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