No really, some of my best friends are Elvish.

"It's a unique blend of fantasy and crap... I've dubbed it: 'Fantacrap!'"
-Jay Sherman

As a guy who digs pretty much anything, why is it that I still hate fantasy fiction? By fantasy, I don't mean "stuff that ain't for real real", because reality is terribly overrated. But let's put it this way: My interest in a narrative is inversely proportional to the number of elves it contains. Something about Tolkien, and the derivatives that his work has spawned really rubs me the wrong way.

Yesterday I gave in and picked up Skyrim, mostly because I was hooked on the last two Fallout games for almost an entire year. With or without dragons, it's another open world RPG from Bethesda, so I couldn't say no. Alas, I'm having a hard time adjusting to the world contained within. Let's examine a few reasons why:

1) Elves. I decided straight away I wanted to be a magic user. Bonking people on the head with swords didn't look like much fun. Who are the best magic users? Elves. I don't mind playing as someone who is Elvish, and I've done it in some other games. But these are creepy, long eared, point nosed, snooty looking elves, and the last thing I wanted to do was look at one for 100 hours. Don't get me started on the cat-people or lizard-men. Is it wrong that the minute I look at races like this I imagine the dork who can't wait to get in touch with his inner feline-man?

2) Backstory. What is it about Fantasy stories that drive people to invent centuries worth of back story, tons of kingdoms, and make up those impossibly stupid names for everyone involved? Why isn't there ever a Barbarian named John? It's always Antharkinn the Elder or some shit. Hard to intelligently discuss things with people I meet when I don't know what I'm talking about. My character is a fully grown man, you'd think he know more than diddly squat about where the heck he came from or what's going on in his own damn kingdom. He doesn't have amnesia or anything either. Bleh.

3) Dialogue. How come the minute elves and dragons are involved in a story everyone has to fake an accent? Why is everyone in Tamriel European? Kind of like that movie "Ever After", which was set in Italy, but full of American actors faking British accents because, you know, it's a fairy tale. That was a good movie in any event, but you see my point. It's also really distracting when one of the Nords, who are hyerdi-hyerdi-bork-bork-bork Swedish suddenly starts talking like Hans and Franz. If you can't be consistent, just talk normally. Forsooth, thus, thou, and whatnot.

I don't really care because the game itself is so phenomenal. Really, it's an amazing sandbox, with a few weird quirks. I don't like how every time you brush someone's shoulder they announce their life story to you. Sometimes you'll be in an intense conversation and some dude will just walk into you and push you across the room while you're in a dialog menu. It's also hard to map things to one hand or the other... just more complicated then it needs to be.

But think about it... it's an RPG where THERE ARE NO BASE STATS. In Fallout, I ended up doing ridiculous things like take a Charisma score of 1 and suffer no ill effects. In Skyrim you pick your race and that's all that really matters, skill-wise. Magic is totally intuitive too, with no MP to really consider. If you cast a lot of spells, your magic skill will increase, simple as that. Spells are in books. It's nice to shift the focus to exploring the world, which is oh so vast and pretty. I'm very excited about it. But I'm starting to hate almost everyone I meet just on general principle. Maybe I'll become a dark wizard. The sweet smell of burning flesh. Could take everyone's money too. This could be fun.

There Will Be Blood

I finally got around to watching There Will Be Blood today. Last year I watched the first hour, but wasn't in the right mindset to finish it. Ever since, I've been meaning to finish it, and I'm glad I did. Now that it's over, however, I have no idea what to think of it.

Paul Thomas Anderson is on the short list of my favorite directors (along with Quentin Tarantino, Ang Lee, Bela Tarr, and Park Chan-Wook). Like Tarantino's, his movies do not take place in our reality. Tarantino's world is easier to explain, however. In Anderson's films, real life doesn't seem to exist outside of his characters. He makes sharply realized personal portraits, blown up larger than life with a symphonic soundtrack in full bleepin' technicolor. Many people claim his films are pretentious, but I don't think it's a bad thing to have a huge vision and swing for the fences. While I wasn't big on Boogie Nights, Magnolia was an incredibly exciting picture, despite its flaws. Realism was sacrificed for wall to wall emotional intensity and "ACTING!", and how often do so many actors get to emote so hard in one movie? Punch-Drunk Love is his masterpiece, with a not-shitting-you perfect performance by Adam Sandler. So much was right with that movie that I've probably forgotten anything that was wrong.

There Will Be Blood leaves me with an enormous question mark over my head. The film is incredibly directed, filmed, and acted, but I'm not sure to what end. I enjoyed it immensely, though I felt like there might have been a missing reel right before the flash forward and ending. I guess it's just such a weird story arc that I can't figure it out. The two main characters are almost blatant symbols, Daniel for rampant capitalism and greed, and Eli for American evangelical Christianity. Daniel is defined by his total lack of empathy and seething contempt for all people. Eli is almost certainly insane, but clearly just as petty and one-upping as Daniel. I'm not sure what we're supposed to get out of their relationship, and they're both contemptible bastards. I'm hoping "the point" isn't as simple as that, but it might be. The last section of the film seemed rushed and bizarre, as though Anderson wanted to rip off Citizen Kane, but dropped some bad acid before writing it.

I will admit, however, I greatly enjoyed it. I'm almost certainly going to watch it again, and hell, I might even buy it. It was only 10 dollars at Fred Meyer. Anderson has a way of making films that I just want to watch, for no other reason than that I like their mojo. Still, you want to put a film in some kind of mental box after watching it, and There Will Be Blood one defies my fragile brain to do so.
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    Cryptopsy - "Once Was Not"
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An important public service announcement

Since I recently wrote about Dance in the Vampire Bund, it may have convinced some of you to check it out. And having finally read it (or at least nine volumes of it), I can assure you it's well worth your time. Now take all of the awesomeness in the manga, systematically remove it, and replace it with complete ass. Now you have the anime. For the love of God, and I can't say this enough, stay the hell away from the Vampire Bund anime. I had heard it wasn't too great, but apparently they decided to adapt some other manga, because I have no idea who any of these characters are. I got one and a half episodes in before screaming and turning it off. Seriously, what happened? I have no idea. Somehow they took the manga's mildly creepy lolicon angle and made it infinitely more creepy and disturbing. They replaced the bad-ass hero Akira with some blithering "typical Japanese schoolboy". Mina is... she's just not Mina. Does anyone have any idea what's going on here? Cause I sure don't.

So yeah, Manga = Awesome. Anime = Vomit. And knowing is half the battle.

Currently watching the ADV dub for Ghost Stories with my wife... that shit is classic. And it doesn't hurt my eyes nearly as much as DitVB.


Just finished watching Cell 211, a jaw-dropping thriller from Spain. A prison guard reports for his first day on duty, and while being shown around the place ends up knocked unconscious just in time for a prison riot. Locked inside, he's forced to think at the speed of light to save his skin. You may think you've seen this film before. You haven't. Trust me. First of all, no rape. That's right, a prison movie with no rape. Thank you Spain. Also, Cell 211 pulses with an anger that you might not expect. To some degree, it sides with the prisoners. It's clear from the beginning that the establishment doesn't care what happens to them as long as the incident is kept out of the papers. Kind of like the District 13 films, but with the kid gloves removed. The film begins with an inmate's dramatic suicide that seems gratuitous at the time, but the ghost of that tragic prisoner haunts the entire story. Any more would be a spoiler. You need to see this film. It's awesome as hell.

So why am I infuriated? Apparently it's being remade in English already. Never mind that it's only a year or two old, and an excellent film. Oddly enough, most people seem excited about the prospect. "Hey! Paul Haggis is writing the screenplay! [claps like a seal]" Why, when Hollywood execs see an amazing movie, don't they decide to give it a wide release and convince people they should see it? It worked for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon didn't it? And this is a prison film! Americans love prison films! Why else would Shawshank Redemption be considered a masterpiece by so many people who aren't me? No, they think that the best thing to do is make another goddamn movie.

Yes, I know we're a nation of sheep. I'm used to the trailers for foreign films that have a narration, but no dialog from the film, lest the audience realize it made in a land where people talk jibber jabber. I understand that people really are so stupid that they don't want to be exposed to an interesting movie the minute they learn it came from another culture. But damn anyone who encourages that idiocy. Did anyone need "Eat Drink Man Woman" remade as "Tortilla Soup"? Or "La Femme Nikita" remade as "Point of No Return"? If we're lucky, we'll end up with a film like "The Departed" or "Insomnia" that at least puts a different spin on things. But I'm amazed how few people know that those are even remakes. Anyone too dumb or stubborn to watch Cell 211 should be banned from watching the remake. And that also goes for anyone who won't read The Hitch-Hiker's Guide To The Galaxy because they already saw the movie. You're a shuffling mob of brain-dead livestock, and you can all rot.

Not that I'm angry or anything.
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    Mr Bungle - "My Ass Is On Fire"
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R.I.P. Eric Stevenson (of Only Living Witness)

Only Living Witness was one of the greatest bands I've ever heard, and also one of the most criminally unsung. Many of their small cult following would have sacrificed a limb for them to have released just one more record. Their early work contained some of the heaviest songs imaginable, but only on their second album "Innocents" did it become clear that they were more than just an incredibly tight hardcore / metal band. Whenever I've assembled a list of the greatest albums of all time (and geeks like me do that a lot), "Innocents" has been somewhere in the top three easy. But by the time of its release, the band had already broken up. Sadly, with the recent death of drummer and co-songwriter Eric Stevenson, that book has effectively closed for good. In honor of his passing, the time is right to review "Innocents", as I've wanted to do for quite some time.

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    Only Living Witness - Innocents
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Ponies are awesome

I'm not really a TV watcher, since I can't ever bother to actually sit down and watch anything on a regular basis. My wife, however, loves that shit. So my TV shows of the moment are pretty much whatever she watches. Hey, I even like some of it. Case in point: I've always had a soft spot for "My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic". It's definitely a show for eight-year-olds, but I love the artwork and characters. It's one of those things I get sucked into and that always makes me smile.

On another note, I've never really liked Katy Perry's music. Of course, I'm sure she's a fine person in real life, and is apparently making Russell Brand very happy. Her music has always lacked something for me. Apparently it's ponies. I love this video. And now I love this song. I always was kind of an eight-year-old girl at heart anyway. Hate if you want to, but that will just mean you're a jerk. A jerk who doesn't like ponies.


Netflix FAIL

Since I'm not going to be able to catch "2001: A Space Odyssey" in 70mm at the Seattle Cinerama, I thought that Friday night would be a good night to watch it on Netflix on a nice TV in a dark room. So I queued up the movie (which I'd never actually sat down and watched), started watching it and everything was going great. Monkeys found the monolith, humans found another one and got their minds blown, HAL started to go crazy and right at the Intermission... my stream died. Huh. Okay.

So late Saturday night I decide to finish what I'd started except the movie was mysteriously gone from Netflix streaming. I checked on all of my devices as well as on the computer, and it's gone. As far as I can gather, Friday night was the last night it would be available for streaming, and when midnight rolled around, they just fucking cut me off. I wouldn't have minded if they gave me some kind of warning when I queued it up. Something like "By the way, don't be surprised when the usher unceremoniously boots you out of the theater an hour and a half into the show". Of course, the stream had to die at the exact worst moment for that to happen. Thankfully, Wal-Mart is open late, so I drove out at midnight, picked up the Blu-Ray for a modest $10 and finished the show.

By the way, 2001 is a great movie. I also can see how some people might have trouble following it. Namely, people who aren't prepared for a movie to descend full on into poetry. What makes 2001 brilliant and timeless is that it isn't a movie you go to for "plot". There is one, but you could easily tell it in 45 minutes or less. 2001 is a metaphorical statement about man's journey into space, and what it might mean. It was created shortly before we actually landed on the moon, so it's a perfect snapshot of the optimism and wonder about the cosmos that many have lost. Mostly, you should come to it for the phenomenal imagery and sound on display, letting the mood and experience carry you, and provoke those things called "ideas" that some movies put in our heads.

The film seems to examine the idea that if we were to encounter intelligent life, we might be unable to even comprehend what it actually is, let alone relate to it. It also shows our sheer wonderment at being able to fly among the vastness of space, and the elegance and beauty of man's scientific marvels. Finally, there's the chance that truly understanding the scope of the universe and our place in it might lead to a "rebirth" of man, the next step in our mental evolution. Some might call it pretentious or boring. I call it an awesome time at the movies.
  • Current Music
    Only Living Witness - Innocents
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Dealer's Hall WIN!

Just got back from a long hard day at the Portland Retro Gaming Expo. To be accurate, I only spent about 2 or 3 hours in Portland, and another six driving there and back. It was completely worth it for two reasons. Firstly, I could only handle a few hours in that place because of how incredibly hot, crowded, busy and awesome it was, so I left completely sated. The second reason is all the swag I made out with in the dealer's room.

You know those two or three booths at Otakon full of all the retro and import games? Maybe they've got a Sega Saturn or Famicom for sale? Imagine an entire room filled with NOTHING BUT THOSE BOOTHS. Or more specifically, better versions of those booths. Literally everything I could think of someone wanting to buy from a retro gaming dealer's hall was there. Every system from PONG to Dreamcast. So by the end of the day I escaped with the following loot:

1 TurboDuo system w/ controller
TurboDuo Games:
- Y's Book 1 and 2
- Ordyne
- Blazing Lazers
- Parasol Stars
- Devil's Crush
- Fantasy Zone
1 Sega Genesis Core System
2 standard Sega Genesis controllers
1 3-Button Sega Genesis Fight Stick
Sega Genesis Games:
- Aladdin
- Shanghai II: Dragon's Eye
- Mortal Kombat
- Vectorman
- Shining In The Darkness (w/ Box, w00t!)
Famicom "Duck Tales" cartridge
NES "Dragon Warrior" cartridge
Nintendo DS "Doki Doki Majo Shinpan 2" (the famous "witch touching" game)

Most of it was for me, but I mostly got the Genesis for my wife, who always wanted to play Mortal Kombat on an actual Genesis system. I think having a Genesis is worth it for two or three games, and I've owned and sold several over the years, so why not? The TurboDuo was an unbelievable score. The witch touching game was all for my wife, who already has the first one. This one actually came bundled with tiny witch figures and assorted creepy otaku tchotchkies. I'm still kind of in shock at how well I made out. Estimated Damage? About $450 I think. Good times.
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    Only Living Witness - Prone Mortal Form
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Dance in the Vampire Bund

I picked up volumes 2, 6, 7, and 8 of Dance in the Vampire Bund at Borders' going out of business sale, and it is cool as all hell. I've read part of volume 2, but stopped because it was just that awesome, and I want to start from the beginning now. From what I gather, it's about Japan establishing a special district for Vampires, who have clearly made their presence known. Mina Tepes is the queen of the Vampires, who is really really really old but trapped in a pre-pubescent body. She's apparently ensnared some schoolboy to be her follower, which pisses off his human schoolmates to no end. In addition, she's a master of exploiting beaurocracy, and is gleefully making a huge power grab for the Vampires.

DitVB has gotten a lot of heat, especially in the States because of Mina's frequent lack of clothing. It honestly doesn't seem as creepy in practice because Mina does not by any stretch of the imagination act like a child. There's no moe here to be found. She is a calculating, malevolent, cold-hearted villainess. I'm absolutely jazzed that she's the main character, and can't wait to read more.

Oh, and I'm also hooked on Bunny Drop, an adorable manga about a twenty-something layabout who finds himself adopting a young girl. It's truly heartwarming, and full of mystery. The two of them make a unique and well-suited family unit. I also like the fact that despite the man's lack of any sort of child-related knowledge, he does right by the girl simply by treating her like an actual person (only smaller). Suddenly I have manga to buy! Dammit!

Finally, I'm super pissed that Tokyopop closed and never got around to releasing the final volume of Lady Kanoko. Guess I'll have to turn to scanlations to find out how it ends. Come on Internet, save the day!
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    They Might Be Giants - "Lincoln"
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