Sunday, March 21, 2010

Frank Sinatra and Sid Vicious have one song in common

Tomorrow, besides being a Tuesday and not having to bear the burden of being the Godawful first day of the week but neither can boast to be the middle of the week - a signifier that even if you haven't done anything your being alive has brought you closer to having a day off, is a special day. It will be the one year anniversary of the day I started this blog.

Now, I won't cry - not because my tear ducts were destroyed during my tour of 'Nam, but because when I do my body shakes in uncontrollable dry heaves and makes typing/blogging/complaining impossible, even though I shed no tears but still make a sad clown face but without the round nose and ominous overtones. And honking, too.

But, as I restart this blog after months of neglect after having to abandon it due to censorship controls, I'm really quite happy to know I'm continuing something I enjoyed back then, and still do now. It may prove to be irrelevant in a fast-food society with an appropriate concentration as well, but it's important to me.

Even though I may be wrong, and worse - not funny - it's great to have an outlet again. I can't say what I write is funny; sometimes I myself don't find it funny. I'm trying to make arguments and points that people just aren't interested in even if I had my requisite team of lawyers and experts behind me.

My blog has never been about yakking about my life, or promoting myself, or seeking the cause of celebrity. It can probably be said you can read my blog and have no idea who I am or what my favorite color is (blue). So why do it for the wrong reasons?

I'd argue it's reason enough to take a stand and try to make sense in a world and is constantly trying to make sense for you. I often dream up the most ridiculous arguments, and then try to prove them - even if I don't believe them - as an exercise in articulation.

The reason why is that as individuals that's basically all we have: our opinions and our beliefs. If we don't articulate them first these most personal defining characteristics are up for grabs by active forces who need your dollar, your vote, your attention, your love.

I've said this before: that money in your pocket isn't yours. It's spent already, as is your paycheck you haven't received yet. Your loyalty to brands and your idolization of material items deemed to be valuable make you working for them, not yourself. Your vote isn't yours if you vote for the status quo because you scared of the things that haven't happened rather than making the right choice for the right reasons; you're just voting that way along with the other electoral cattle because change is terrible and constant.

Is your love your own love? Or do we after a while heal over the wound where we've let in our significant other to the most vulnerable part of us? Does "love" before a custom thereafter, a series of compromises and fully delineated lines drawn across the battlefield, as it is since real love - like first love, true love - is a passion that burns and torments and can do nothing but hurt?

Okay, so I'm a cynic; but that's my point - I know I a cynic because I've articulated it myself. However, it is in articulating my doubts, my criticisms, my complaints that I've become hopeful in scanning into the future, my future, the unknown.

For me, it's okay to say "I don't know". I don't know a great many things, but it's not okay to say "I don't know because I won't think about it".

Maybe it's the artist in me who is trying to withstand the constant pressure to abide by outside influences. Maybe I'm just stubborn in thinking my personal untraveled difficult road is the only road for me. But as my life is my own, no one else will live it for me, so too are my responsibilities, my regrets, my dreams, my failures, and my beliefs and opinions.

I don't believe this is at all being arrogant to think we absolutely need to express ourselves; in fact, I think it's a humble stance to stand up to speak for yourself and shoulder the possibility of being wrong.

With that, I'd like to signal a slight objective shift for lasttoblame: from now on I'm going to include other topics besides video games. For one, I'd like to test how wrong I can be about everything else, but more to the point I've moved and don't have a game system, TV, or a house to plug them into. Any new game non-reviews will be far off, though I've played so many (old)games to this point I will have lots to write about.

And so, a year older to add to my credibility, I happy to say I still haven't grown up. See you in the later posts.

Men are from Mars, Women are From Venus; As a Result Gigantic Intergalactic Bugs Invade Earth

How Earth Defense Force 2017 Is Better Than Chocolate, Roses, and Chocolate Roses Laced With Cocaine, and Cocaine

It’s very difficult to love someone; in fact, loving someone is probably the hardest thing someone can do besides make art. Well, that is great art and not government-funded attempts to reconnect with your dad using coprophilia, even though the non-government-funded stuff does pretty well on its own without funding (..or so I have read).

We have to make decisions every day and if it doesn’t involve flipping a coin or entrails being outside where they shouldn’t be, that involves thinking. Now, we’re modern people; we don’t want to have to think more than our own fair share. So why would anyone want to influence their own sound and logical way of thinking by having it twisted and maligned by someone you’ve let into the most vulnerable part of yourself?

It’s great to be loved. It’s hard work to love someone. It’s so hard to do the right thing and suppress your pride and make sacrifices for the better of your relationship. It’s so hard to see things from someone else’s perspective when your emotions take control. It’s so hard not to take things personally from the one person who can break you because you love them.

Why do we love? Why go through all the trouble? Why can’t people just have sex? Bird and bees do it, and we even tell our kids about the results. Why must we have relationships?

The next time you are at a dinner party and it is attended by all married couples and you are single and thirty, then you know just how fictional Bridget Jones feels. What those people are doing is peer pressure: they aren’t urging you to get married because it’s so great – they are harassing you to get married so that you too meld with their collective unhappiness and bear the load by being a guilty participant. There’s a big difference between your single self and these people wedded in blissful union: while your conscience may or may not have an issue with lying, these married folk always have to be careful with what they say because their wedded partner has a stake in the presentation both of them present.

While you take the subway home, they take a trip that starts in a car that doesn’t stop at the driveway, the front door, or bed or the next twenty years or forty years. This is a trip that is built on dreams, guided by hope, and seemingly powered by nagging.

Love doesn’t have to be so difficult, however. Shared interests and beliefs is a mutual haven for reconciliation and inter-relational growth. Furthermore, shared experiences can be a common touchstone for both parties. For example, a great experience to share with your partner is shooting at a horde of gigantic bugs using over-sized dangerous weapons that exact massive collateral damage to the very city you are trying to protect.

Forget black lingerie and light S+M; Earth Defense Force 2017 is that marital aid you’ve looking for all your life.

Earth Defense Force 2017 will make your marriage all the more better, save you still do certain things like have sex once you turn off the TV. This is very important. Don’t say “I’m tired,” or “I rather keep playing and not have sex with you,” or “Again? Didn’t I have sex with you yesterday?” Earth Defense Force 2017 will make your marriage better, but it is you that will make your wife happy. It is but just a marital aide; it doesn’t remember anniversaries, take out the trash or cuddle.

That this game is a great game is besides the fact. Yes, it’s a great game. It is the best embodiment of arcade action, clear subtext and ridiculous suspension of disbelief that a video game has ever been graced with. Even the flaws of this game don’t detract from the experience but instead heighten it. Bad clipping and terrible game physics only remind you how much fun you are having playing it; in fact, these shortcomings only heighten the cheesy presentation and emphasize how you, the player, interact with this game by blowing everything up. Real. Good. That and it is well designed and balanced for replay; changing difficulty levels means shifting strategies that worked for easy levels but not for harder ones.

Don’t tell the wife that because that’s not important. No, what’s important is that you can do all this – together.

Earth Defence Force 2017 has a dual player mode besides the single player, and since this was back in the early days of the Xbox 360 it wasn’t criticized how it didn’t offer online play (in which everyone has to pay for their own copy of the game and game publishers smoke another cigar). Instead, the only option for two players was to sit side by side and watch a split screen down the middle. And because your buddies only have restricted access to your house, you should enlist the one constant available soldier; that, of course, is your "til death do us apart" contractual other half.

What starts out as an awkward silence while watching the load screen becomes a fantastic shared experience of game action glory. What could be listless spectacle becomes a reveling in victory due to the arcade demands of “satisfaction delivered only by success” as well as the downplay of the visual presentation; since we’re not distracted by the graphics we can fully absorb the gameplay and all the fun it provides. Now the two of you are "til frag do us apart until the next game".

It’s arcade action; it’s a language everyone speaks. It’s simple, it’s raw, it’s instantaneous with its challenge and reward system. You suck, you die, and you have fun while you master the skills necessary to beat the game. There’s no levers to pull nor doors to open and no subterranean secret military bass to storm/lost ancient city to explore/sewers with rats to level up with/nuclear power plant about to blow up. This isn’t rocket science, but instead deploys the science of rockets in a much more practical manner. This is just one step above Ms. Pac-Man, sure, but is also three unnecessary steps away from having to talk, I mean REALLY talk about your relationship and where you want it to go and what you expect out of it and let you explore the feelings that you have naturally repressed away since the very last time you had this talk in order to avoid having it yet again.

Earth Defense Force 2017 further delineates the role of husband and wife by letting a man do what he would do in reality: protect his loved one from the awful menace of insidious insects. While there are no jars to open in this game nor lost car keys to find, husbands can help strengthen their relationships with their wives by stepping metaphorically on bugs with rocket launchers.

The thematic strength of Earth Defense Force 2017 is that it takes an irrational fear and turns it rational and logical: of course you must kill these invading aliens, they deserve to die just like the bugs you find in your house – it’s you or them. They take the ordinary and then add the impossible – that spiders can jump, or that normal household insects can shoot goo – and then by enlarging it a thousand times over your darkest fears have spawned rational incentive to want to play this game: that is, because you’re obligated to roll up the newspaper of truth to swat at the legions of evil (because entrapping them in the upside-down disposable plastic cup of mercy with a jack of spades card of mutual existence to serve as the floor of their temporary jail doesn’t cut it).

This effectively cuts out the ominous overtones of “Starship Troopers” and the fascist leanings of doing something which is right for your self but not for others. While Verhoeven’s film was a great satire on the action film and Nazi propaganda, Earth Defense Force 2017 is basically you coming home at night and flicking on the light, over and over again but with suspension of disbelief and without having to flush away your war trophies.

So then allow me to regale you with the tale of my perfect date with the girl-fy and how we eschewed candlelight and roses to beat the last level “Starship” on Inferno level: (to have been read by a young Barry White in his prime in a lone mimosa grove, disused but not forgotten, at sunset whilst butterflies dance, the scent of mangoes linger and the laughter of children can be barely heard in the distance, evoking a strong reminiscence familiar only in the sleep of dreams) (and barring that I will take Keith David, a convertible, and a bottle of Jack Daniels)

I, equipped with dual Lysander Z sniper rifles, and she, with a similar Lysander Z and the mightiest FORK missile launcher available to one so innocent and pure, namely the X20, set out together on our date to see where fate and our love would take us. As she relayed her concerns to me her fears that I wasn’t serious in my love to her, we were beset on all sides by gigantic UFO’s dropping Walking Arms protected by Fliers. “I will explain everything, just trust me and give me time!” I shouted. “But first let’s split up, if just to complete different objectives and to be reunited in joyous rapture at a later time,” I said quickly to avoid long good-byes.

Wordlessly she nodded and unleashed volley after volley of automatically homing surface-to-air missiles. “Come back, I miss you already,” she cried. Using both Lysander Z’s I increased my rifle shooting time capacity and took down the UFO’s first and then the fliers thereafter, and looking back, grinned. However, in her I absence I felt a crushing lonely that only firing guns side by side could absolve. I had traveled a long way to destroy every Walking Arm, a far ways off from the original spot where we once held hands. However, my longing was drowned out by the massive gun being unsheathed from under the mother ship.

I cried, “Look, a massive gun threatening all humanity and obstructing our love for one another!” I steeled my resolve. “We must destroy it… to save Earth and allow our relationship to progress to the next level!”. With explicit instructions I humbly requested my beloved to retreat to the furthest corner of the map whilst unloading upon the massive gun and using the FORK missile launcher to take out the air support. “But don’t destroy until after I’ve killed every Walking Arm and returned to your side,” I pleaded. Then like the voice of a cherub I heard a light breeze whisper to me, “Then I will wait forever to the end of time, and longer if necessary.” Oh, rapture! Oh, delight! Our love is a tightly executed military operation!

After headshotting the final Walking Arm, as I sprinted across the barren urban landscape seeking the warm harbor of my beloved’s embrace as well as shooting the final sniper bullet into the massive cannon. A shot, a kiss, a bang and a crash… in time the sound of enemy forces abided and a chill spread through the pervading quiet.

With just me and her and the massive mothership above us, she confided, “You know, I never thought you were the committed type,” to which I answered, “I am as committed to loving you every moment the best I can as I am committed to making every explosion the biggest I can,” and then turned away, shocked at my own candor. She stepped up and took my hand in hers from behind and said, “I know. Every time a building gets knocked down there’s a little more room in my heart.”

Her confession was punctuated by a metallic clang seeking attention that only a loaded weapon can command. Our reprieve interrupted, we looked up and far in the distance, yet looming larger than life, the mother ship had transformed into its last and most formidable shape. Sprouting tremendous under-hanging arms from which a dizzying array of laser fire erupted, the mother ship hung in the sky, obtuse to us young, idealistic dreamers. Dozens of Fliers buzzed in the sky, underscoring the tension that awaited us.

She drew a breath and burst out, “Let this be it, our celebration of love through fire!” And so we did: two lovers, standing two abreast but enjoined in our hearts, discharging weapons in a frenzy, enthralled in each other but confronting the enemy, gritting our teeth but laughing through the joy.

Reckless. Driven. Exhilarated by amorous bliss, through the blizzard of chaos and in the eye of the storm I might have imagined through the corner of my eye a glint in hers that one only sees in diamonds and madmen. I say “might have imagined” because though I was so busy and distracted by this boss of all bosses in a show to end all shows, a spectacle of grandeur that dwarfs all that come before it and after, I know that glint doesn’t belong anywhere else; so even staring straight onto this most shuddering, humbling, awesome opposing force in my mind’s eye I can still see it, and there this eye winks back at me.

Wielding both Lysander Z’s I abandoned all modesty in ravishing my savagery upon each gun-arm as it revolved into range, as I did in training the untamed dogs of my white-hot rage onto the vulnerable pink exhaust port every time it exposed itself to view. My love used the FORK – X20 to unbridle her fury upon the Fliers, aggravating us with their distractions, and could only sporadically join in directing her primal passion during lulls in-between waves of Fliers.

Alas, it was not to be, my love and I and the victory of humankind. Grievous injuries I suffered, terrible unhealable mortal wounds, and with my hit points dropped to zero, I would soon succumb to the sweet darkness. Having fallen and between short breaths, I could only offer encouragement against the inscrutable deed still left before her to complete. “Go on…” I called feebly, “don’t stop, baby…” Only then did my beloved turn to me and became aware my defeated state. “No, I can’t,” she said, shocked, “I don’t want to finish this without you…” Her will broken, she ceased firing, her gun slackened at her side as the winds of war blew indifferently, first as a stiff gale that diminished to a numbed wind that listlessly dragged it feet along the ground.

However, somehow through the howl of death that same breeze which carried the same cherub as before graced me to send my whisper to my love. By no short definition, it was a miracle. “But you must – you have to kill the mother ship… to save all humankind… for us.” Her unwavering look led me to continue. “Do it then, for me.” Summoning all my nerve, I drew my ultimate breath. “Do it… so that … upon completing … the level… I can… get the... Genocide Gun…” And then, after that, the cherubs would have the breezes all to themselves.

Through the roar of weapon discharge and fiery explosion, there was a silence. And this silence was not heard, being silence, but it began in the heart of my beloved, was drawn out by the next breath she took after a single tear finally traversed the length of her face, and it became something that was heard on that battlefield, up on that mother ship in the sky above, and by the very gods beyond and away that both compel and astonish at the very human nature we are burdened with for all our brief lives, all of us who walk under the heavens.


The world could not continue as it always did. Slowing to a stuttering stop, time scattered, colors bled into each other and the hiss and boom of anarchy faded away to a muted dull thud where everything became an aching grey that blinded every sensation save that for the bloody taste for dire, dire vengeance.

Wanton. Livid. Intolerable, to the degree of cruelty, if that was permissible. It was a inescapable wrath of seething, biting brutal revenge that washed over all the battlefield to scorch and blacken even the dust to brittle glass.

And then, it was over. It was finally and at last over: the mother ship was defeated, the war is over, the Earth is saved! Bested, the mother ship finally gave up her long hidden secrets: namely, that of an extraordinary trance-inducing gory super-explosion of ocular wonderment. Indeed, the mother ship would blow up, and then blow up some more, and then some again, and then again, and then some more.

Her goal completed, my beloved turned to me and, out of breath, said, “We did it. Both of us. Our love prevailed,” and then lapsed back into quiet satisfaction, just drinking it all in but instead just swimming in the dizzy ocean that is completing Earth Defense Force 2017's “Starship” level on Inferno.

And with finishing the game and winning, the next day the two of us would begin the first day for the rest of our lives.

Played to completion (100%) on Inferno mode on the Xbox 360.
Rated 3 out of three stars.

Monday, March 15, 2010


You’ll have to excuse the lateness. Blogging is the fresh trend for self-important hipsters (I have read), and one of the very best features of blogging is how fast a new blog can be ‘published’ for prospective readers to read, printed fresh off the minting press and hawked by sad-looking newsies with puppy-dog eyes and suspenders hoisted high above their modern day relevancy. Well, today is different; besides the invention of belts, I have recently moved from one place in the world where blogs are not available for public consumption to a place where a politically-sanitized white-wash society has its hippest citizens also be its most vocally oppositional.

So, I’ll start writing this blog again.

After being quiet for so long I have had the need to pipe up about a few things, videogames or otherwise. So we have Avatar.

I had to see it. The choice had already been made for me. It’s like looking at cleavage or a compilation of compound leg fractures, you’re just drawn to it unconditionally. In this case, Avatar is the most pleasing three hours you’ll spend relaxing with other people forgetting what you just saw to make room for the next forgettable spectacle you will see. I promise you, I tried going in without any expectations and so I only got angry when I thought.

But when I think I get into trouble and then I ruin the whole experience, just the way it wasn’t meant to happen. Sorry, Avatards.

Look, tools are great. The wheel is something I use everyday. It helps me get to the store to buy my sliced bread. But Avatar is nothing but an emphasis on those tools such that those tools have become important of themselves rather than what those tools were trying to accomplish in the first place. That means that audiences who have been accustomed to these grand spectacles of flash without substance will lower their expectations so long as there is more amazing spectacle to see.

And that’s what Avatar is: purely an argument for the advancement of technology. I’m just like everybody else: I like my white clothes whiter and my uncanny artificial intelligence uncannier. At the end of Avatar when that spear was sticking out of that guy, I thought, “Good,” something I might not have thought if it wasn’t in 3D. But to bloat this technology up to 3 hours and call it a movie goes beyond a fart in an elevator; frankly, it’s just rude. Avatar should be 20 minutes long and be that awesome little flick you see while waiting for an elevator to take you somewhere high or low or far away. Avatar doesn’t need to have been made into a movie.

I know I should have said this months ago when I was living behind the harmonious veil; saying this now is saying this with the impunity of hindsight. But it isn’t like it’s too late, after all. Even though I saw it over two months ago, Avatar has become newsworthy again after being systematically dismantled by the tender mittens of “The Hurt Locker”. According to experts and the respect for authority that society has banked upon, Avatar’s next biggest competition at the Academy Awards was The Hurt Locker. Yes, for this year’s competition two nominated directors slept with each other (at least). It’s the kind of drama that our mainstream media knows how to hype to sell stories of their own. It’s the “King of the World” versus that director who couldn’t have made a more misogynist flick, “Strange Days” (1995).

I know I’ve been out of the blog game for two-thirds of a year, but man people, what have you been doing since I’ve been away? You have near universally acclaimed Avatar to be a “great” movie. I was fuming and rabid that such a boring movie could be so highly praised; I was a deserted blogger without his squeak toy to placate him. Ah, but now I can finally say: where is your “great” movie now?

The truth is, the Academy Awards have never really been about anything relevant in the past. Far too many truly great movies and movie talent gets passed over and ignored. The usual route is that audiences aren’t ready for the great stuff the first time around. It’s edgy. It’s confrontational and controversial. It smells funny. Instead, this “art” (if you will) can only be appreciated over the passage of time which dulls what was once edgy and poignant to be a safe fuzzy cube with no edges that is safe for the tamest palates and, very importantly, marketable.

Audiences will only recognize real talent when the audience is ready, and not when the talent deserves it. So, what you have is Martin Scorsese being passed over when he makes the best films of his life (Raging Bull, Goodfellas) but then finally gets rewarded for being an old white man when the other older whiter men have since passed on. Scorsese didn’t get awarded for making “The Departed”; no, he finally got rewarded for his life’s work when the Academy was good and ready for him.

[Full disclosure: I have not seen “The Departed”. Honestly, I don’t care to. I saw it the first time around in “Internal Affairs”, one of those “I can’t tell who’s a cop and who’s a crook, everybody is wearing black” HK movies. ]

By painting it this way, I am saying that such an outdated and irrelevant institution as the Academy Awards has served as a wake up call to gather praise to those who deserve it and take attention away from those who don’t. Gee, it doesn’t look so good right now for my argument that Avatar sucks and a naked Golden man who only has a long sword to hide his modesty has finally erected a pointed finger at the Emperor’s new clothes.

But perhaps the Academy Awards have changed, and for the better. In her acceptance speech Mo’Nique stated “I’d like to thank the Academy for finally awarding someone based on performance, and not for politics”. Perhaps at last the ‘old school’ mentality of paying your dues is done away with. But then maybe Mo’Nique won specifically because a black woman hasn’t won for awhile, and won’t win for awhile after that. Shine on you crazy diamond, welcome to the machine.

However, to continue this argument let’s consider this system to be sound. The Academy Awards are a true kitchen tile to test the spaghetti-tenderness of modern films. Jim Cameron would support this statement because he won big last time round. He’d say, “Look at all my awards! I’m a great filmmaker!” At this year’s awards even though he came up short he can still say “Look at all my awards!”

If I had to criticize Cameron for one thing (and it’s not like I have criticized him), it’s the fact that with Avatar he has basically collapsed the main thematic themes he has been working with all his career. By turning Avatar as the polar opposite of Aliens, he has dismantled and reused all the best parts of the latter to make the former less the sum of its parts. I mean, with Aliens Cameron originated the modern female action hero and with Avatar you have shallow portraits of chicks talking tough because they talk with hoarse voices (not that there’s anything wrong with hoarse voices). Dude, you’re ripping yourself off, and also doing it more poorly than other guys who have made their careers ripping you off.

In the end, the Academy Awards are still irrelevant to me. If Avatar did in fact win, and win big, I suppose I’d have to write a different blog. But, it’d be even funnier.