Saturday, December 25, 2010

Duck Comics: "Letter to Santa"

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Duck Comics: "Too Late for Christmas"

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Some people are NEVER HAPPY.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

And the beat goes on.

"Republicans Block US Health Aid for 9/11 Workers." There's no way to talk about this shit without sounding hyperbolic, but when you think about it, you'll realize that I'm right: if, in an election, you have a choice between a republican and a serial killer, you are morally obligated to vote for the serial killer, who, whatever his faults, is at least much less efficient at what he does.

My darling dear you look so queer...therefore, you were inelligible to serve, and thus you weren't maimed. Good deal!

So it looks like don't ask, don't tell won't be repealed any time soon. Not that it's a surprise or anything--heck, why SHOULDN'T a minority party stop dead in its tracks a bill that most Americans want passed? That's what democracy is all about, right?--but I can't help harping on things like this because I have a hard time even convincing myself that we're really living in such a deeply spiteful and stupid age. But there you have it!

Honestly, though, while dadt is symptomatic of our whole plumbing-the-depths-of-fucked-up-edness situation, complaining about it specifically strikes me as being somewhat akin to watching Nero fiddle as Rome burns and be most concerned about the poor timbre of his fiddle-playing. Anti-gay discrimination is nauseating and indefensible, yes, but we're talking about a government that has explicitly made it clear that its biggest concern is to make sure that the rich get richer and the poor get fucked; a government that, due to willful blindness and a breaktakingly insane set of priorities, is determined to not even make a token effort to hold off the upcoming environmental apocalypse. When you consider all of this, you sort of have to shrug and say well, yes, okay, I'm against this in a philosophical sense, but "oh no--gay people can't murder foreigners in the name of a monstrous government that hates them!" is a cry I'm somehow finding myself having trouble rallying around.

Final Fantasy V Advance

I don't know what part of the human brain it is that just enjoys seeing small numbers become larger numbers, but whatever it is, it's the only thing that made me finish this here game. This is the second time I have played through FFV; the first, of course, being the fan translation well before there was any sort of official version in English. Finding out that this was something that could be done was a real holy-shit moment: obviously, at the time--and this time, for that matter--FFs IV and VI were very high indeed in my gaming pantheon, and the idea that there was another game in the series, smack-dab between these two giants, was just brain-melting. How could it NOT be a thing of beauty and a joy forever?

Well, long story short, it managed it somehow. Never particularly warmed to FFV, did I. Obviously, nostalgia is at least a factor here, but I roundly reject the idea that it's the deciding factor: there are plenty of other eight- or sixteen-bit games that I played at around that same time and still look back on fondly. But this one, I dunno.

Even the game's fans generally concede that the story isn't much to get excited about. When you're an RPG, there are limits to what your story can really do (unless you're Mother 3); one does not expect truly literary feats. But if you know what you're doing and know your limitations, you can create some pretty effective emotional impact. Why do so many games have stories that kick off with an exile? Because that taps into our deepest fears and insecurities and like that. It's an easy bit of shorthand to get us involved. Redemption is another big one--I suppose I don't have to elaborate as to how that ties into our religious/mythic narratives. There are other good ways to do this. Point is, though, FFV doesn't do any of them with any degree of effectiveness. The characters are mostly bland ciphers (and the main character is a dickhead who enjoys torturing turtles--true story), and the plot is just a mess. I know it's been remarked upon derisively so often as to make the observation banal that the villain of the piece is an evil tree, but still: the villain of the piece is an evil tree. There's just no weight to any of it. There are definitely intangible factors here that I can't really articulate--not saying this raw material couldn't have been molded into something special. But it really wasn't.

But never mind that! the fans will exclaim, 'cause all that is trumped by--big ol' trumpet fanfare--THE JOB SYSTEM! ALL HAIL THE MIGHTY SYSTEM OF JOBS!

Or, you know, not. Okay, so it's cool that all the characters have a different sprite for each job, though it would be cooler if this were evident outside of battles, and yeah, okay, there's a certain amount of freedom with what you can do, but really, people, what does it all amount to? There are places here and there where it's gonna be necessary to think somewhat strategically about this stuff, but generally, you take two fighter-types and two mage-types, and bam, you're done. For all its vaunted flexibility, it doesn't ever feel particularly necessary to me. Or much more interesting than FFIII's substantially more limited job system, to be honest. Sure, it paved the way for the sublimity of FFTactics, so there's that, but in itself, it leaves me pretty cold.

(A brief note on the music: yes, there are a few good-to-great tracks, but people who think that as a whole the soundtrack is anywhere near the level of its predecessor or successor are insane.)

So why did I play through it a second time? Well, because I didn't really remember much about it, I suppose. As with Seiken Densetsu 3, it has a certain atmosphere that is kind of enjoyable even if the specifics aren't so great. And the fact of a GBA port--with bonus stuff!--gave me the impetus I needed. And I have to say, it was a surprisingly painless experience. The translation, at any rate, was a big improvement over the fanjob; not that it makes an inert story into anything great, but it at least makes one of the characters--Galuf--kind of likable, so there's that (it also changes the former Cara into "Krile," which may be more accurate but nonetheless makes her sound unfortunately like some sort of alien). And yes! The fact that, as alluded to above, I am the kind of person who likes to see small numbers become larger numbers means that I did enjoy leveling up jobs, in a mindless sort of way.

I also played through the bonus stuff because, hey, why not? I was Interested to see what new material the developers could come up with. As far as I'm concerned, FFIVA holds the record for Most Awesome Bonus Stuff--the Lunar Ruins is a truly exemplary dungeon, and a blast to play through. FFVA's bonus dungeon?'s better than Chrono Trigger DS's, at any rate. I played through it fairly avidly, just to see what was coming next, but it lacks the variety and interest of its predecessor, in spite of some tough new bosses (including the absolutely ferocious Neo-Shinryu). There are also new jobs--Oracle, Cannoneer, Gladiator, Necromancer--but while it's cool to see new character sprites, the actual jobs are pretty redundant, and there is always the essential fact--which the developers seem to have missed--that the fact that you get them so late in the game means that you can--and will!--easily max them out by fighting the 199-AP movers, and then forget about them. The necromancer in particular opens up new vistas of pointlessness: sure, you get to see ol' Butz in a cool skull mask, but you don't get the job until you've completed the entire bonus dungeon (save for an easy and pointless "boss rush"). There is simply no earthly use for it.

So anyway, I got my guys to level ninety-nine with all jobs mastered, beat the entire damn thing, Neo-Shinryu included, and now it seems highly doubtful that I will ever again find occasion to play Final Fantasy V. Huzzah.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Duck Comics: "Uncle Scrooge and Money"

I've felt like my recent DCR posts have been insufficiently political. Not that you ALWAYS need politics, but still. This is to make up for that a bit.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Republicans no longer even trying to avoid appearing cartoonishly evil

Actual headline: "Republicans block child nutrition bill." Comments not recommended, unless you find the spectacle of people yearning mightily for the days when we didn't have to pretend to have a "society" and could just beat one another with tree branches at will somehow edifying.

Of course, the reason for blocking this is "costs." Look, I know this is probably obvious to all y'all, but it's something that really can't be said enough: nobody--NOT ONE PERSON--in Washington gives a shit about "deficits." If you're a Republican, you pretend to care deeply about them as an excuse to fuck over poor people--ANYONE not in the billionaires' club, really--as much as possible (not saying they're especially bright, except in an instinctive, lizard-brain kind of way--the flesh of billionaires is gonna taste as good as anyone's in the post-apocalyptic hellscape--but being stupid doesn't mean they're not evil). I know that sounds cartoonishly evil, but that's because it is. If you actually cared about this shit, you wouldn't care about tax cuts for billionaires MORE THAN ANYTHING ELSE IN THE WORLD. This shit is minimally complicated. If you're a Democrat, you probably don't actually jerk off to the thought of fucking over poor people, but you know that people on the other side do, so you pretend that you're in favor of doing it too, albeit possibly marginally less roughly. This is a wise strategy, because what possible problem could there be with trying to compromise with the criminally insane?

A snippet of dialogue from the girls sitting next to me in the student center

“Everyone deserves to be treated nice. Even Hitler deserves to be treated nice.”

“Girl, he would've killed our black asses.”

“He knew how to get shit done. Boom boom boom. I couldn't be President, 'cause I wouldn't want to give up power. Fuck this shit, we're going into a dictatorship, motherfucker. I'd be like that guy out in Cuba. I forget his damn name.”