Saturday, March 29, 2008

No Title This Time

I'm too angry to come up with a witty title this time. Why? Because apparently in this country, at this time brutally murdering children is considered controversial.

For those too lazy to read the story, there was a 15 year old middle school student who was gay and liked to go to school in makeup and jewelry. Whenever bullies teased him he'd tease back by hitting on them. Well, one day one of the hate-filled little bastards got tired of the fact that his punching bag wasn't feeling enough self-loathing AND SHOT HIM TWICE IN THE HEAD.

AND THIS IS CONTROVERSIAL.

To anyone who may not know what to think about this, here's what you think: Children murdering other children is wrong. I really don't think I'm breaking any new ground here. Is it really that radical and unfounded to say that?

The controversy here is over wether or not it was a hate crime. In other words, the question is "Did this kid kill his classmate because the other kid was gay or because he just thought it would be fun?" Here's a better question: Does the previous question have any right answer? Is there any answer you could possibly give to that question that would make it okay for a 14 year old to shoot a 15 year old to death? The answer to that question is no.

For that matter, and I never thought I'd say this, what happened to the days when if you wanted to hurt someone in school you'd just punch them? I had a kid who always used to hit on me too. I told him to stop several times and he never would. So I hit him in the stomach. You know what? He stopped after that. It wasn't that long ago all you needed to be a man was your own two fists. Now we have middle schoolers shooting each other and the worst part is that it's so bad now that people find that NORMAL.

It's things like this that make me embarassed to call myself an American. It is a very sad day when a child murders another child and it becomes a political issue.

You know why? Because this kid was strong. Look, I don't care how you feel about transvestitism, you have to agree this kid had a strong will. He knew who he was and he was going to be the person he believed he was, and he didn't let anyone tell him he shouldn't. That is how he should be remembered. He should NOT be remembered as a martyr for the political agenda of some douchebag who never even knew him.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Television Review: The Most Awesome PSA Ever



Watch it. The whole thing. I'll wait. Seen it? Now weren't the 50's great?

The message of this video is so laughable that you'd probably never imagine this PSA was made if you hadn't seen it. Hell, the damn thing starts off by saying that hitchhiking is awesome. It's a "good way to get from one place to another." Of course, we know today that hitchhiking is in fact the most dangerous method of transportation, second only to riding inside the mouth of a great white shark that has had Hitler's brain transplanted into it.

But to be fair, this was made in the 50's, back before video games and rap music introduced the world to violence and invented crime. Back when this was made hitchhiking was safe, right? It turns out no. You see, there is a secret evil lurking amongst this otherwise perfect transport system.

THE HOMOSEXUAL.

That's right. The Homosexual. Just like sith, there are only ever two gays in existance: The Homosexual and The Bicurious. Previous The Homosexuals have included Elton John, Ru Paul, and Richard Simmons. The current The Homosexual? Who knows? It could be anyone! Even....YOU?

It is the hidden nature of The Homosexual that lends added terror to this beast. How do you know when the person you're talking to may be The Homosexual? Well, according to the PSA you can tell because The Homosexual is friendly, just like our good gay friend Ralph from this video.

Okay, so we've identified our The Homosexual, now what will he do to us? In the video we see Ralph pick up a young man named Jimmy, they become friends, they go to Ralph's house, and then Ralph drives away...ALONE.

Wait, what? What did he do to the kid? We're never told*, so I guess they're leaving it up to us to imagine a horrible fate for poor young Jimmy. Maybe Ralph raped him and left him naked in the woods to die from exposure. Maybe he killed him and skinned him to make a suit. Or, even more terrifying, maybe he gave him a ride and dropped him off at his house and nothing weird happened at all, except that now Jimmy has been infected and will become...The Homosexual! (Yes, gays are a lot like vampires too.)

Bonus Points: The fact that the worst thing they can say about gays is that they're nicer than straight people is pretty funny, but they get bonus points mostly for the Boys Beware sign at the beginning of the PSA. Because everyone knows The Homosexual can never be female.




Annotation from The Future:

I eventually discovered the missing last half of the PSA and what happens to Jimmy is both lamer and more hilariously psychotic than anything I could have guessed. As it turns out, Ralph molested Jimmy. That's not the hilarious part. No, the psycho part is after that happens, then the police proceed to arrest Jimmy...for being molested. They eventually drop the charges (which were what, exactly, officers?) and release him into his parents' custody where he is presumably beaten to death for getting too close to...The Homosexual.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Top 5 List: Top 5 Worst Video Game Cities To Live In

Cities in video games are already typically terrible places to live, and for obvious reasons. If they weren't full of enemies to fight, then the game wouldn't be very fun, would it? But some are even worse than others and since making lists is easier than writing real reviews, here's another Top 5.

5. San Andreas, Grand Theft Auto
Yes, it's the gritty city from GTA. I think this one's fairly self-explanatory; San Andreas gets on the list not just because of the fact that your main character is a criminal, or there's rampant gang wars, but because most eveyr game will eventually end up with the player saying screw it and just deciding to see how much shit he can blow up before the police take him out. But San Andreas only gets number 5, because the police will eventually take your ass out, so there's still some semblance of law and order. That's more than you can say for some of our others.

4. Post-Apocalyptic London, Hellgate: London
Hellgate: London is a Diablo remake/homage set in near-future London after a demonic invasion has reduced most of the city to ruins. Humanity hides out in subway stations and other subterranean areas and fights against the demons.

I'll admit it. If it weren't for the constant threat of death, lack of resources and luxury, and maddening horror around you, I'd almost be willing to live there. It would be a little fun almost, with everyone left living together in relatively small places underground, not able to venture out it would likely foster a closeness and a real sense of community. Like a sleepover that never ends. Either that or it would drive everyone completely, criminally mad. Unfortunately, it's the latter. Almost 90% of the people you'll meet are certifiably insane and the other 10% are certifiable douchebags.

Also there's that constant threat of death, lack of resources and luxury, and maddening horror all around you thing I mentioned earlier.

3. Anywhere, Ratchet & Clank series
Between RnC's slapstick humor, intrigue, and explosions it's easy to miss the subtle Orwellian horror behind it all. No matter what planet you go to it's all just as bad. The galaxies on display are horrible places ruled by massive corporations where deadly monsters roam wild in the streets, highly deadly weapons of mass destruction are for sale to anyone who wants them, and villains murder and destroy at random.

Your hero is no better. In the first game your mission to find Captain Quark takes you to a planet overrun by slime monsters where the police are desperately trying to save the city, and to progress you must destroy both sides. In the second game Angela causes a store to be overrun with monsters, resulting in at least one death but once you discover she's a chick all is forgiven. Even when the plot isn't making you be evil there's still the robotic citizenry of these planets scattered around, who the game never penalizes (and in fact often rewards) you for killing.

2. Paragon City, City of Heroes
From the superhero MMORPG City of Heroes, Paragon City is an advanced city home to hundreds of superheroes, be they NPCs or player created. Supergroups abound and dozens of heroes patrol the streets at all times. So you'd think Paragon City would be mostly free of crime, right? Well, you'd be wrong.

A simple walk around the block will lead you past three purse snatchings, five muggings, two drug deals, a few crazy cultists murdering people, and maybe a few random ambushes, all in broad daylight and right out there on the street corner. Oh sure, there's a police department, but the cops, even on the rare occasion they decide to go out on patrol, have been known to walk right past crimes taking place. There's also Longbow, a corporate militia comprised of humans and low-ranking heroes whose job is to police the city, but they're also total mercenaries and are even less effective than the police.

But why Paragon City and not the City of Villains equivalent, the Rogue Isles? Simply put, because the Rogue Isles are a third world shithole populated exclusively by outcasts and prison escapees that even Paragon City didn't want, and is harrassed constantly by the hundreds of supervillains that call it home. That doesn't make the Rogue Isles BETTER, but it does make the fact that they're a terrible place to live a lot more expected. Paragon City is a first world highly advanced culture with the best policing you can find (the cops and Longbow suck, but it's still a city of heroes) and yet has a crime right bad enough to make Washington DC look like a glittering utopia. No, screw that. Paragon City's crime rate is higher than Washington DC, Detroit, and New York City if they were somehow mashed together into one and then shipped to the Sudan.

1. Your City, SimCity series
The SimCity series of games allows you to take the role of mayor, city planner, supreme leader, and god of your own society, ruling over it completely as you strive to build the ultimate utopia. At least if you're a liar. We all know why we play SimCity, and it's not for the joy of dealing with their effed up super-strict rules that will likely drive you bankrupt before your population even hits 500.

More realistically, SimCity lets you act out your destructive impulses as you rain down disasters on your fair city. Or, even more realistically, SimCity is the ultimate horrifying spectacle of human evil as every game quickly degenerates into random bulldozing because even the disasters just aren't devestating enough for you. The temptation to wreak havoc makes SimCity a lot like Grand Theft Auto with one major difference. After you bulldoze the orphanage, call down space aliens on the hospital, and take control of an army tank to blow up a residential district when you finally get down destroying you're still the unchallenged supreme leader of your city. You are above the law, and not just in the celebrity sense of you can get drunk and hit someone and get off scott free with just an apology, you're above the law in the sense that you can carry out an extended genocide against your own people and when you're done you're not only still in power but they love the shit out of you.

To all the people who downloaded maps off the internet just so they could ravage them with disasters, to all the people who played the disaster scenarios in the original over and over and quit every time once the fires went out, and to everyone who placed military base zones in SimCity 4 right from the start just because they wanted to drive the tank and blow up their city with it, I say this: thank you for making Your City the most terrible place to live in any video game ever.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dissecting the Hays Code

Not sure how many people know about this. Most people probably know bits of it, like the fact that there was a rule that forbid them from showing Jeannie's belly button on I Dream of Jeannie, but once upon a time there was a code governing all films and television that would be made.

Is it any wonder the majority of movies back then sucked? A few mentions...

To paraphrase, evil must be wrong, good must be right.
As they explain in their reasonings, later, this rule does not mean that the bad guy can't be a sympathetic character, just that the thing they're doing has to be shown as bad and destructive. In other words, if a character in your movie rips off his friend and makes millions of dollars, even if he later gets arrested and thrown in prison forever, that will not be allowed to appear in the movie. That's simply unrealistic.

As they go on to say later, there are some sins which are obviously bad and repel people such as murder and rape, but there are others that can be attractive such as "daring theft," "sex sins," etc. Is it wrong to say things as they are? I say it is not.

"Law, natural or human, shall not be ridiculed, nor shall sympathy be created for its violation."
Later on they explain that no movie can ever suggest that a criminal or rebel is right in challenging the state, nor to suggest that the system as a whole is corrupt. You heard it here first folks: Imperial England and Nazi Germany should have won, according to the people who wrote the Hays Code!

Look, I get what you're saying, people who wrote this. That people should be patriotic, and a movie that forces them to think of their nation as bad is hurting their patriotism. But sometimes a country IS bad and people need to think for themselves and figure it out. America was not founded by people who believed questioning their place in society was a sin. It was founded by people who realized corruption when they saw it and did something about it. Think about this, too: how would the second world war have panned out if Albert Einstein, rather than fleeing to the United States, had instead remained in Germany and blindly allowed Hitler to do as he pleased with him?

Note: I'm going to mention the nazis a lot. At least wait until the end before you call Godwin on me.

"Hence the important objective must be to avoid the hardening of the audience, especially of those who are young and impressionable, to the thought and fact of crime. People can become accustomed even to murder, cruelty, brutality, and repellent crimes, if these are too frequently repeated."
Now you know where Thompson got it.

"Revenge in modern times shall not be justified. In lands and ages of less developed civilization and moral principles, revenge may sometimes be presented. This would be the case especially in places where no law exists to cover the crime because of which revenge is committed."
Goodbye, Batman! Goodbye, Hamlet! Goodbye, Poe!

"The treatment should not throw sympathy against marriage as an institution."
Again, imagine all the timelass dramas and romances that would have never happened if people actually followed a rule like this.

They go on later to talk about impure love. Actually, they're not talking about homosexuality here (remember, this is before people acknowledged its existence) but rather rape and seduction. These things must never be presented comically nor sympathetically. Okay, yeah, no rape. But seduction? Goodbye....90% of films and television shows presented after the 50s.

"The effect of nudity or semi-nudity upon the normal man or woman, and much more upon the young and upon immature persons, has been honestly recognized by all lawmakers and moralists. Hence the fact that the nude or semi-nude body may be beautiful does not make its use in the films moral. For, in addition to its beauty, the effect of the nude or semi-nude body on the normal individual must be taken into consideration."
Nonsense. Patent ludicrosity. How can the expression of beauty be immoral? Is a rose immoral? Is a sunset immoral? No. So how is the human body's presentation immoral?

I can see where's they're going when they talk about improper use, such as putting nudity in just to give your movie a little "kick." But to suggest that nudity and semi-nudity can never be used for plot and can never be shown?

"The reason why ministers of religion may not be comic characters or villains is simply because the attitude taken toward them may easily become the attitude taken toward religion in general. Religion is lowered in the minds of the audience because of the lowering of the audience's respect for a minister."
This I can't make fun of. This one was just plain prophetic. Seriously, who do YOU blame for the wave of religious cynicism in America today? It's not the Priest touching the boys that's the problem, it's the liberal media telling you that the Priest touched boys. ...I think?

To its credit, they don't just say Christians here. They extend this to all faiths, so according to the Hays Code it is equally wrong wether you slander a Catholic Priest, a Jewish Rabbi, or...whatever you call a muslim holy man. Stupid maybe, but discriminatory the Hays Code is not. (Except later when they talk about White Slavery being wrong to show, but say nothing about blacks.)

"The just rights, history, and feelings of any nation are entitled to most careful consideration and respectful treatment."
Yes and no. For example, what about a World War II movie where the nazis are involved. Is it right to say in that movie that all Germans are evil because of a few bad apples at the top, or that German heritage is something to be ashamed of? No, that is wrong. But is it right to insist that the nazis themselves were bad? Most definitely yes.

***


Is it any wonder the majority of old movies were lame and stilted, dancing around real issues to present mindless pseudo-entertainment? But for that matter, is it not the fault of this code that the modern media loves so much to defy these rules for no other peurpose than to defy them, so much like a kid so long denied a candy that when he finally gains access to it he gorges himself?

Look, I'm not going to say there's not a lot of bad messages out there or that a person like Jack Thompson doesn't ALMOST have a point. As the people who wrote the Hays Code says, this media reaches a lot of people and is accessible and understandable by all, so if you're a parent or guardian to a youngster it is important you monitor what your children watch so that you can protect them.

But the next time you start to think that a person like Thompson is right and we need a code in place, think about this: if these codes were in place throughout history, the entirety of Shakespeare and Poe would have been banned. Elvis? The Beatles? Never would have happened. We live now in a world of highs and lows. Yes, there's bad movies both morally and artistically, but there are also movies that are bad morally and good artistically as well as ones that are good morally and bad artistically, but I've never seen a movie that was good both morally and artistically. Wether it's Christian video games, old cartoons that are usually only enjoyable ironically (or at best are good in spite of the good morals, not because of them), it's just impossible. Stories are about conflict, which you can't have when everyone is moral and lovey dovey. I'm not saying you have to go to the extremes like Itchy and Scratchy (another example of bad morally and bad artistically, but that was the point so it's okay) but if these people had their way we'd live in a world full of mediocre shlock, providing mindless entertainment that would soothe your spirit but would never stimulate your mind, and no one would like that. Freedom of expression, all expression, is necesarry for art. As has been said: either everything is okay to write about or nothing is.

Remember, also: Nazi Germany enforced a similar code. They banned all music except German folk songs, they banned the Bible and many other works of literature and film. Now's where you call it, Godwin fans.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Special Review: MSN's Wedding Advice Sucks

Ever since MSN became my homepage (I think it happened when I installed a toolbar or something and I don't care enough to change it.) I've enjoyed reading their columnist Miles Stiverson's occasional wedding advice columns. It's not because I intend to get married, I don't. It's more because I enjoy the insane Bridezilla ravings that are attached to them. It seems for every good piece of advice (like their advice in Worst Wedding Advice Ever where they suggest that it's horribly offensive to tell a bride-to-be to save her money and buy a house because she'll just get divorced anyway) there's two more suggestions that suck. Here's some highlights.

How dare you ask me about transportation and lodging after I invite you to my wedding?!
From the 10 Biggest Mistakes Wedding Guests make, Miles rants about the audacity of those who dare to ask how exactly you intend to get them acoss country for your big event, going so far as to say they're "treating you like their personal concierge." Sure, he does go on to say the best way to deal with it is to just give them the damned information, but asking someone to do something for you then calling them out when they requests details as to how they can do what you want kind of makes you a dick.

I demand free stuff! NOW!!!
It's in a lot of them, but most notably Couples Speak Out: Worst Wedding Gifts Ever. Some of their examples are awesomely bad: an empty gift card, a regifted tray with the original card still included, a framed invitation to the gifter's wedding which had occured several months prior, and a book entitled "Why Men Love Bitches" for instance. But when you're bitching because someone gave you a George Foreman grill or a ceramic statue maybe it's time to stop being such a cunt. Some of us aren't Mr. Moneybags and maybe you should just be happy you're getting anything at all.

The first thing you should do is cut guests!
Are you kidding me? Come on, people. This is quite possibly the worst advice EVER. But it's not just Stiverson, or even just MSN. I've heard this advice in lots of places as a wonderful way to cut costs and generally fix anything that could ever be wrong. In the real world this destroys friendships, costs people jobs, and breaks up marriages before they even begin. I hate to sound like the very people I'm mocking, but you have to realize that when you say "Sorry, we're uninviting you because we don't have room at the reception" what they hear is "and we decided that having you there was less important than having Aunt Tina, Aunt Tina's Drunken Boyfriend number 3, and her five screaming bastard younguns, none of whom we've spoken to in three years for good reason." There's no way to uninvite a wedding guest that WON'T just translate to "I hate you and everything you stand for" in their mind, so don't do it. If you don't have the foresight to only invite who you need I guess you'll just have to swallow your medicine with a grain of salt. Either that or accept the fact that you are an unforgivable douche who is going to die alone and will totally deserve it.

Runners Up
Hating on wedding guests who request you make arrangements for food that will suit their diet.

"Adult-only" weddings, and venomous bile spewed at those who dare to commit that unspeakable atrocity known as "having children and not wanting to leave them with a babysitter for a week."

From Wedding Guests: Guests Behaving Badly: "We placed wedding cameras on every table. After we got back from the honeymoon we were looking through the pictures when we came across one of our male guests exposing himself. We were so mortified!" If there is any divine justice this mortification would have been accompanied by the fine lady fainting. Her husband would have lost his tophat and monocle as he exclaimed "My word!" I also sincerely hope the man who took the picture wrote on the back "This is what you're missing."

Spite at an aunt who got the bride's 14 year old brother shitfaced and he, among other things, told all his family members how he really felt about them. If anything this aunt deserves a medal for creating the most awesome wedding story ever.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Video Game Review: A Few Mini-Reviews for the PSP

Warriors of the Lost Kingdom
A mediocre dungeon crawler for the PSP. It doesn't really bring anything new to the table and has limited classes. An interesting change is you don't use money in the game. The shop operates by a trade system - in order to buy certain items you have to trade other items. While interesting on paper this provides an extraordinary amount of annoyance as you'll have to go through complciated trade chains to get what you really want rather than just being able to fork over cash. Also worth noting is that the female Dark Seeker character's default armor is actually called bondage gear in the game. And you thought Bloodrayne was bad...but at least WLK admits they're pervs.

KR Rating from The Future: [2] BAD

Star Wars Battlefront 2: Renegade Squadron
You undoubtedly remember this game. Pretty much every TV channel played commercials for it twice in every commercial break, signs were plastered around every electronics store, they even released a special white Vader PSP to commemmorate its release. When it was finally released it cost half again the usual price of a console game, much less a PSP game. It also managed to be a profound disappointment on every level. Don't get me wrong, I could never fault a game for not living up to the hype, but this isn't even as good as a regular game. If you've played the other Star wars Battlefront games before you'll find nothing new here, and if you're anything like me you'll get so good at this game as to totally trounce it within the first hour or so, and I'm not even usually that good at video games. Of course, there's the character customization angle, which was the main selling point of the ad campaign (customize your units, better your squad), but honestly they didn't even fucking try. The extent of customization is exactly nine options for each faction and the extent of the "bettering your squad" is that there is no bettering. You have all of the weapons accesible from the start and have 100 "points" to spend on equipping them, and this number will never change. There's no room to grow, no unlockables, nothing at all to keep the novelty of this game from wearing off within the first few hours.

KR Rating from The Future: [1] HORRIBLE

Rogue Galaxy
Rogue Galaxy is a game that, I can't believe I'm actually saying this, got horribly ripping off everything around it right. You play as a blonde, handsome young man who was raised by someone other than his parents on a desert planet* before his home is attacked by enemies and he escapes the clutches of a tyrannical galaxy-spanning empire to go on an adventure with a crew of spacemen and discover his hidden destiny. If that sounds familiar to you it's because I just finished talking about a video game based on the movie it's stolen from. (You even get a robot that talks just like C3P0.)

But it can't be all that bad can it? Oh, you naïve fool. Gameplay is not slightly but EXACTLY like Final Fantasy 12 (which is forgivable because Final Fantasy 12 is just Chrono Trigger in 3D anyway and has no right to call out anyone else for being uncreative) and I'm fairly certain at least one of the PCs is Yuna.

But none of that changes the fact that Rogue galaxy is a fun and lovable game and is definitely worth a look. Just don't expect anything ground-breaking.

*For that matter, video game designers, Hollywood, and everyone else: Earth can not be the only planet in the universe with varying ecosystems. The idea of a "jungle planet," "desert planet," et cetera is not only highly unrealistic but also stupid and lazy.

KR Rating from The Future: [4] GOOD

PS. If your first reaction to the last review was "But Rogue Galaxy isn't for PSP"...good for you.