I know I don't update it daily. Shut up.

May 18, 2010

On riding a mechanical bull

A marshy floor without a dedicated footpath seems an unlikely road to travel before swinging atop the unforgiving metal hide of a bar bull. Just as your legs adapt the appropriate gait with which you navigate the air-filled tarmac en route to your chariot, all energy is diverted up, up, up to untrained thighs asked to perform a task for which they, and you, know they are not equipped. But you all do it, working in concert to achieve the best grip for the unfamiliar task, asking again an impossible favor of your lower back, your stomach, your arms as they move to catch and reassemble themselves in this coordinated twist of torso.
When it's over, the fall is flat and limp, the world rushing to meet you is not the exciting energy-infused event you thought it might me, and the awareness of your own mortality in the face of challenge is brought painfully to bare. You will not miss the patch of skin shorn away from your arm, but the sting feels like regret given form, failure laid bare in screaming pink and red.
The machine turns away, returning to its former stoicism and day job as joker-sentinel.

May 6, 2010

Nintendo-izing the pantheon

God of War's Kratos: Killing Greek nightmares since 3000 B.C.

Recently I took up the original God of War for PS2. I'm playing it through its sequel to satisfy the craving I have to play the third installment, though I lack the necessary console to do so.
What I do have is a Nintendo Wii, a much-hated system when hardcore gamers hold it up to other systems like Perseus did his shield when he slayed the gorgon Medusa. It's true - they pass up the Wii and leave it behind them but when given a chance, the Wii has enough bells and whistles to dazzle you and stop you in your tracks. Its replayability factor (Zelda, Mario Galaxy, MarioKart, Boom Blox) alone suits me just fine.

Perseus has a shield, and he knows how to use it.

A somewhat sad thought drifted into my head as I slayed a hammer-wielding minotaur the other day. In drifted a thought of Kratos' mortality, a life doomed forever to exist on single systems where his ashen muscles never stretch past a single platform. I dared breathe a hope that Nintendo would indeed revive its Kid Icarus title and kick off a next-gen franchise, effectively capitalizing on the Greek mythos hoopla with its own interpretation of the events that spawned a legend.
Quick recap: Icarus' father Daedalus built the Labyrinth for the minotaur, and was later exiled for helping some douche through it. Seriously - you build the greatest maze the world has ever known and then you help a guy through it? Not in my mythos, pal.
Anyway, Daedalus builds wings for himself and Icarus to escape mutant eggplants, and tells his son that his shoddy design requires them to keep to an altitude of about 490,807,086,527 feet. But no, Icarus has to fly 490,807,086,528 feet (the distance of the earth to the sun) and the wings melt and the plan goes to shit.
What? You don't recall mutant eggplants when you learned the classics? Well, apparently someone in Japan did, because Eggplant Wizards were the main baddies in Kid Icarus.

Eggplants also do this to my mom - she's allergic.

The Cocktease division of Nintendo Inc. produced a hint of what could be with its Super Smash Bros. Brawl for the Wii. In the fighting game (a very lucrative franchise in its own right) we saw Pit, the protagonist of Kid Icarus, mix it up with the likes of every licensed Nintendo character you can think of (and even some that weren't - what the hell is Olimar anyway?)
Nintendo did pull Pit back into view on the Game Boy with "Kid Icarus: Of Myths and Monsters," a game nearly identical to its namesake and is actually so close in scale and design that I'm not even going to link to it even though I have a tab open to its Wikipedia entry right now. I'm that lazy.
When the news hit that Pit was going to land on the Wii, there was a flurry of speculation about the possible development of a next-gen all-growns-up look at Pit and his misadventures with vegetables. A lot's happened with tangential Greek references in the 20+ years since Pit picked up his quiver, but consider this: Nintendo has a story only loosely based on a specific myth, one that if they chose could take a less-fictionalized approach to the entire genre of cylopses, snake ladies, blind witches, and gods modeled after Paul Schaeffer.

Hermes: The underrated god of flying wimps

Fanboyism aside, I joined the throngs lending their voices to the call for an Icarus game. I felt this so strongly that I went directly to the online Wii store and plunked down $5 for the original NES version. I played the first level, remembering how to perfectly time each shot of the arrow in order to eliminate each snake in succession and procure the maximum amount of hearts. What did those hearts do again? OH - wait a minute - I may never know, because this game is FUCKING HARD.
Seriously. An hour later I was no farther than halfway through the level (I estimate, because I never reached the top). And a memory gradually faded into my conscious, a hazy thread of thought so fragile it would wither if I dared touch it - both delicate as a spider's web and as annoying as a hair in the mouth. I realized my friend, Chris Martin, and I used cheat codes to beat the parts of Kid Icarus we couldn't manage on our own. And there was the Official Nintendo Player's Guide, a tome bound in black that provided maps, hints and cheats to the handful of games available for the Nintendo in its earliest, most glorious years.

To Catholic middle school students, this was porn before we knew what boobies were.

Disappointed was I that Kid Icarus fell so short of expectation. A childhood hero's impervious facade had been torn away by time, and I was left with an unsatisfying taste of what could have been.
And unwittingly, I have provided Nintendo with its in.
See, I bet there are many of my generation who long for the memory of what it was like playing Kid Icarus, but not the actual experience. We don't want our reminiscent dabblings in the Icarus world tarnished by 2-D 8-bit graphics, repetitive midi music, and ultra-repetitive button-mashing that requires hours of mastery for just the first level. And if memory serves, once you beat the game you get to play through again. Somewhere Apollodorus is rolling in his grave.
So there's my suggestion, Nintendo: Use your Kid Icarus line to compete with (if not surpass) PlayStation in the war to own the Greek myths. Take a franchise fanboys would immediately embrace (in concept, at first, if not execution) and take the time to do it right. Cripes, you've had 20 years already, and can learn from a successful title that's already paved the way.
You've proven with Metroid Prime, Twilight Princess, Mario Wii and Galaxy, and the Smash Bros./MarioKart/Mario Party franchises that you know how to treat the source material right while delivering a fresh experience.
I'd love to know what you're waiting for.

May 4, 2010

A letter to the stereotype blonde in the SUV parked in the handicap spot

Dear Blonde:

You probably don't think anyone noticed you, but we did. You thought the crimson Escalade would hide you; that its oversized cab and gleaming rims and tinted windows would give you the right to do anything you please. And maybe it does. Maybe in your world, the dyed hair and the face like Heidi gets you free stuff from star-struck wannabes who put as much value on materials as you do.

But here's the problem: You actually look like Heidi Fleiss. That, and not everybody lives in your world. Not the lady who had to walk around your car to get to hers, or the mother and daughter who couldn't stop staring while you yakked on your cell phone the whole time while you were parked. My wife and I certainly don't; it's the reason why we drove around your car just so we could document it:

Now, I might be able to forgive your parking faux pas. After all, you never could bother to actually leave the car. Maybe your lip gloss reflected the sun in your eyes and you missed the lines.

But to park diagonally across two handicap spaces? Really?

Please take notice of the handicap parking sign in front of your car in this photo. Your meathead boyfriend didn't notice, but everyone in the Walgreens parking lot sure did.