5.21.2009

Don't Be A Stupid Zealot

I was driving home the other day and I saw a bumper sticker that completely floored me. "If Mary were Pro-Choice, there would be no Christmas!" Reading this made me physically angry on many levels and I do not know why, exactly. If you are going to run around on a moral high horse, at least have some sense in your fucking head. I mean, it's one thing to act like your superior to everyone, but when an idiot does it, I just get pissy.

First off, being pro-choice does not mean "abort every baby ever conceived". I know that is what the lifers would like everyone to believe, but rational people that are pro-choice simply believe it is a decision each woman or couple should make for themselves. Otherwise, they'd call themselves "Pro-killallthebabiesyea!" which honestly does not have the same ring to it. Not everyone in this world should bring children into it. In fact, this world would be a much better place if abortion were more common, accepted and acceptible. 9 out 10 stillborn crack babies agree.

Second, I would assume that your intent was to make stupid people lament the absence of presents, Christmas trees, Santa and the other pagan traditions Christians usurped for what we now call Christmas. Based on how few of the holiday traditions are actually inspired by Christ, it seems to me that all we would lose out on, really, is the nativity scenes in front of our local churches. Personally, me not being a Christian and all, I wouldn't care, either way. If you really think the majority of people in the world celebrate Christ's birthday on December 25th, you are deeply delusional.

Last but not least, what your bumper sticker should have said is "If Mary were Pro-Choice, there would be no Christians!" That is really the only thing that would change. Take away Christ and our society would have found some other annual bullshit reason to hang out with relatives we don't even talk about the rest of the year, much less go to visit. I am not saying I wish Christians did not exist, because if they didn't, some other religion would be number one and it wouldn't be terribly different. I am simply saying that based purely on what most of the Christmas traditions we observe have absolutely nothing to do with Christ. So how much would removing him from it really change things? It's not like Jesus is at the end of every Christmas parade, waving at kids in his big red suit.

For the record, this is not an attack on Christians in any way. It's directed purely at idiotic zealots that spout outrageous statements to get their point across. I've read a decent chunk of the Bible in some form or another and I spent my formative years going to church on a regular basis. I believe Christianity, like all religions, has a lot of good qualities and ideals that are worth living by. I also believe that most of the people I have met that call themselves Christian do not come anywhere close to the virtues of the man they claim to idolize. Unless you think trying to eradicate other cultures that do not subscribe to your beliefs is what he would want. It is actually possible to be a good person without being a Christian. Scary thought, I know.

5.14.2009

The Alpha and the Omega

So Dollhouse is done for the season (possibly forever) and I haven't posted my thoughts on the show since Episode 7. That means I have 5 episodes of stuff to cover without turning this into some massive nightmare of a post. So what I am going to do is give brief thoughts on episodes 8 through 11 and wrap it up with my take on the finale and the season as a whole.

Episode 1.8 - Needs - Pointless filler, in my opinion. It opened a couple of doors, I suppose, but overall, I couldn't see that anything actually got resolved. It was actually kind of neat until I realized it was all another bullshit mind game. When I thought it was Alpha or someone on the inside screwing around, I was actually semi-interested. That's if I am even remembering how it went down, properly, because I may not be. This one just really felt like a waste of my time just to watch.

Episode 1.9 - A Spy in the House of Love - This was good stuff. This was what Dollhouse desperately needed more of. From the opening scene when we see someone in the treatment room getting shot all the way through to the end when you find out who the spy is, I was riveted. I knew Dominic was fishy, but his full motivations surprised me in a good way.

Episode 1.10 - Haunted - Again, more pointless filler. What would have saved this episode would have been if you get to the end and find out she died of completely natural causes. It would have been well in line with her obviously high state of paranoia and could have resulted in an ending that was actually interesting.

Episode 1.11 - Briar Rose - Don't look now, but I think I see a point to all this mess! I will refrain from spoilers at this point as to who Alpha is, just in case you are reading this but have not watched it, yet. Suffice to say the appearance of Alan Tudyk as the bumbling, neurotic genius that designed and helped build the Dollhouse was a nerdtastically awesome surprise, as was the ultimate full appearance of Alpha on the scene in the midst of Ballard's rescue mission. Again, this show needed more episodes like this.

So that brings us to the showdown that is episode 12 - Omega. I suppose I can discuss this without spoilers, as well, as far as who and what Alpha is. The nice thing about this episode was that by the end of it, we did in fact know exactly who and what Alpha is and that knowledge made this season worth wading through. The revelation that part of who the dolls are seems to be permanently ingrained in them from who they were before was pretty damn awesome. The finale demonstrated exactly what makes this show remotely intriguing in that all of it revolved in some way or another around the inner workings of the Dollhouse, itself. Seeing Dushku put on a different hat every week is boring. Been there, done that a hundred times and most of those shows weren't that good, either. How Alpha came to be what he is was interesting. Who Alpha was before he came to the Dollhouse was interesting. Watching a bunch of dolls pretend to escape was not interesting, at all.

Next week, we will supposedly find out if Dollhouse is going to live to fight another season. To be honest, if it does not, I will not be shocked. I am not even sure I will be that sad. Whether it was Fox gumming up the works or Joss, himself, this show took entirely too long getting to the point and only about half of this first season was even remotely compelling. Someone needs to tell somebody else that everything that makes this show an entertaining watch begins and ends with the Dollhouse, itself. The assignments are, for the most part, boring and add little to the overall plot, in my opinion. However, the people inside the Dollhouse and why they do what they do, I find absolutely fascinating. Give me more of that and less Alias/Quantum Leap in the second season and I will tune in, every single week (and by tune in, I mean buy the episode off Itunes). Keep filling my brain with pointless fluff, though, and I will not even make it to Season 2.

5.12.2009

Ju-Jitsu as a Metaphor for Life

I watched Redbelt, last night. Due to my adoration for Chiwetel Ejiofor, it's been on my radar for awhile now. The problem is I have to be in a certain mood to watch dramas or I will simply not enjoy them. Being that I went home early from work, yesterday, feeling none to well, I figured what the hell. So I laid back in ye olde recliner, queued up Netflix through my 360 and Redbelt just called to me. I have to say, I am glad it did, as it was an excellent ride the whole way through. I am going to get a little spoilery, but I will try not to give away any of the big shockers.

Mike Terry (Ejiofor) is a Brazilian Ju-Jitsu instructor that approaches the form with a level of zen and admiration I haven't personally seen in films in a long time. Unfortunately, passion for your work doesn't keep the lights on and Mike is out of money to pay his bills. What transpires as the movie progresses is, to one extent or another, a save the rec center film taken deathly serious. It has all you major plot points of such a film. You have the teacher who doesn't want to sacrifice his values to pay his bills. You have the betrayal by someone close to you. Finally, you have the hero painted into a corner and forced to compete against his wishes so the evil man can get paid. Seriously, from a purely plot point of view, you have seen this movie a thousand times.

What made Redbelt so compelling for me, though, was Chiwetel. The guy is captivating to watch and I do not think I have ever seen him in a role that I didn't feel convinced by. From Serenity to American Gangster to this, Ejiofor is an absolute chameleon of an actor. You never see him as an actor playing a role; you just see the character, every time. It seems like so few actors do that, anymore, and I am noticing that a large percentage of those that can are not American. I don't know if it's because Europe is a place where theater is still appreciated by the masses or what, but a lot of my favorite actors, right now, originate from across the pond.

To a lesser degree, I also want to give credit to Mamet and his script. The lack of any insultingly obvious exposition was refreshing to say the least. People seemed to talk the way people really do talk, which is bad if you aren't good at some basic comprehension, but good if you are. One scene in particular showed two people talking with the camera at a distance and when their conversation ends, you know exactly what was said despite the fact that we weren't allowed to hear a word of it. If you've been paying attention to the movie, you didn't need to hear it. I liked that simply because I am sick to death of being spoon fed everything in movies, lately. Give me something to figure out on my own so I can keep my mind engaged.

I won't go so far as to say Redbelt was a great movie, but I can say with certainty that it's in my top ten "Save the Rec Center" flicks. The plot isn't anything ground breaking, but the execution by all involved was good enough that you never get bothered by that fact. I liken this movie to something like Punch Drunk Love, wherein someone took the character Adam Sandler always plays and made him grounded and real. Redbelt is like that, except that idea is applied moreso to the plot. Taking something that is overdone and cliched, only to make it feel fresh and interesting is an admirable feat in my book.

5.06.2009

I Got Your Lance Right Here

So the Argent Tournament has come to the World of Warcraft. Words can not express how excited I was for this event. New mounts, new pets, new purplez to earn and JOUSTING. I was seriously ecstatic at the concept of mounted combat and the day the patch went live, it was the first thing I went to the Tournament grounds to do. In truth, I didn't completely hate it until I got to the Valiant level. I got through Aspirant ok but by the time I got to Valiant, I threw my hands up and just quit. I finished off Valiant doing the quests with the exception of the last jousting match to get to Champion. As a Champion, I have one victory and only a few more matches than that to my name. It is simply not worth my time to take part in so poorly designed a game mechanic.

The reason I hate jousting isn't that I suck at it. I am actually pretty good at it. When lag isn't stacked against me, I can do ok and come out on top, but that is seldom the case. Even when I win, it is still not fun. The monotony of trying to keep their shields down and yours up is so life drainingly dull that it makes me want to stop playing the game. The problem I have with it is that the whole thing revolves around a set pattern that must be adhered to if you wish to win. I have this same issue with the Aces High daily in Coldarra. There is no room for improvisation, whatsoever and that just sucks. Not only that, but if you have lag issues, you can forget it. I can not tell you how many times in jousting I have gone from 3 stacks to no shields at all in what seemed like seconds. Same thing with Aces High. I have been at full health and had the shield going strong and then bam, I am all of the sudden almost dead. Thankfully, we are getting more methods to earn seals in 3.2, so getting the mounts and pets won't feel like such a grind, then. At least, that is my hope,

The worst part is it does not even feel like jousting. You ride in a circle because your mount turns like a 63 Cadillac and just hope you get in position faster than they do. Actually, it feels like a naval battle with how slow you manuever. I want to joust, not play battleship. Then, to add insult to injury, they incorporate this horrible mechanic into a quest in a zone where everything respawns almost instantly. If you want any hope of killing the Bone Commander, you have to pull up the stairs where you can have fun fighting him and the camera. I read somewhere to clear around him and then pull him. I tried that. The gargoyles respawned in the middle of the fight and drained my shields. The only saving grace on that one is I can have a guildy help me beat him down. If Blizzard decides that is a bug someday and fixes it so you can not attack them on your mount the way you can not help in the jousting matches, I may just give up on this Tournament, altogether.

What sucks is I want to like this whole jousting/tournament thing. I love the idea of it and I just wish they could figure out a way to make it more fun. A wider variety of abilities when you are mounted would be nice. I actually think if they took away the shields and just made it a jousting death match, I would love it. It would rely a bit more on luck and feel a lot less tedious. I would like it more, though. In every other facet of WoW's combat, luck is everything. If you go into a fight and all your attacks land in the low end of the damage spectrum and none of them crit, the fight will be a lot tougher than if the opposite happens. Throw in weapon procs and just procs in general and yea, luck can have a huge impact on any one on one fight. These vehicle fights all feel very cold and mathematical to me. You do it this way and you will win, if you do it exactly this way at exactly the right time. No margin for error, no room for a little good luck. Until they change it, though, I will keep killing Chillmaw and stomping Commanders with my guildies for my 4 seals a day. So far, I have my awesome Gnomeregan Bonechopper and I will keep grinding away for my pets and mounts.

5.05.2009

Throwing Me Off Balance

At this point, I've made it through arcade mode on Easiest with every character I need to beat it with to unlock all the gimme characters and Akuma. All I have left to unlock is Gouken and Seth. So far, I am really digging Abel and once I've gone through arcade with everyone and seen the intro movies and other story bits, such as they are, he is one I am gonna focus on. As it turns out, though, he is also part of one of my major gripes about the AI in this game and, really, the one major complaint I think I have pretty much always had about every fighting game I have played; throws are absolute bullshit. Abel in particular, when fighting him in single player, throws constantly. That wouldn't bother me so much if his throws didn't take about 15 to 20 percent of your health off every time. Zangief is the same way only some of his throws take close to half your health away. One move that requires one button press should never be that rewarding. Yes, I know I can spam throw when he is in range and I am getting better at defending against it, but that's not the point. Throws have always been insultingly cheap in the SF series to the point that I think there was a home version of the game that allowed you to disable them, entirely. I could be wrong on that one. Either way, I hate throws, have always hated throws and will always hate throws.

My other major complaint about every Street Fighter since Street Fighter 2 hit arcades is balance. As in, they don't even try to. I would be interested to know how many SF Tournament matches didn't have Ken or Ryu in them. Based on what I saw playing it online, not too damn many would be my guess. Don't get me wrong, I am terrible at this game and will always lose because of that fact. However, it would be nice to lose to someone other than Ken, Ryu, Guile and Sagat. Funny enough, all four characters have a ranged "fireball" attack. What a coinkydink. Maybe if I can get to non-suck stage, it won't be as frustrating, but it sure is tempting to grab Ryu or Ken and go wreck shop, because I know I probably could. 15 years of doing the same moves means I don't have to think with those guys. That's no fun, though. I always thought Ken and Ryu and the other Fireball dudes made the game too easy. I want to beat someone senseless, not spam special moves for 90 seconds. I fought a guy online that used Sagat and literally spammed that Tiger throw thing the entire time. How is that fun?

To bring it all together, I give you the crown king of imbalance and throwing; Seth. Without question, the worst boss in any fighting game I have ever played. All he does is special moves for the entire second and third round. It's infuriatingly cheap and on top of that, the fucker can teleport. They took the worst aspects of every Street Fighter character and crammed them into one dude. What was wrong with Bison? If Capcom didn't want to come up with a new boss, just give us Bison or Akuma, again. Better yet, give us Gouken. You take a character that never existed, give him life as the ultimate symbol of fan service, and sequester him to being just another unlockable? Are you shitting me? I keep hoping news will come down the pipe that we are getting a patch that gives us a boss that doesn't suck, but I know it will never happen. What a shame, too, because he mars what is an otherwise amazing game.