Monday, May 30, 2011

Fact: Reason is a Bad Thing

I've been battling this line of thought lately. It's kind of crazy, but I think it might help to spew it out so that all of my facebook friends (and whoever stumbles across) can read it.

What do nuclear bombs, anthropogenic global warming, and guillotines all have in common? Two things that I can think of off hand: They're all bad, and they're all the direct the result of someone using reason. If mankind had used a little less critical thinking, we'd probably still be hunter-gatherer/agrarian types of people, and we'd probably have a longer longevity (as a species) because of it. Our beloved idol, the human mind, will eventually destroy us. And there are so many ways technological advancement could kill us!

If we'd only used reason for the most basic kinds of self-preservation/community organization, we'd probably be ok. But, with nukes... it's just too late to embrace irrationalism. It'd be great if we were running around with sticks and spears, but irrational folks deciding when nukes are launched sounds like a pretty awful idea. So, I guess we're stuck playing this dangerous game of technological development.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Why Rocky V Wasn't That Great

I've always liked the first four films in the series, and at the end of the day, I think the fifth one is pretty good. I haven't seen the sixth one, but that's pretty well irrelevant. Here's my take on Rocky V.

Before he is a boxer, a husband, or a father, Rocky Balboa is a hero. This is hero image is presented in the first four films. It's formulaic, but people rather like it: Rocky wants to vanquish the Dark Lord (or his boxing opponent) to protect his family from the evil air (or poverty) that will befall them if he fails. However, Rocky knows that he's not strong enough to complete this quest alone. To succeed, he will need council from an Old Man. The first Old Man is Micky, the second Old Man is Apollo, and the third Old Man is Apollo's manager. With the great wisdom he receives from Old Man, Rocky successfully defeats the Dark Lord and light is restored to his financial status.

It's a timeless tale, and it's one that's particularly special to us humans. You could replace Rocky with Hercules, Bran, Cuchulainn, Perseus, Link, or whatever hero you like. However, Rocky V is a slight departure from the traditional Hero's narrative. Instead of an epic quest for justice, we get a sort of Hero's Drama. You can find parallel stories about most heroes. The film portrays Rocky in a transition stage. He is becoming less and less of a Hero, and becoming more and more like Old Man.

Since Rocky is now basically Old Man, it's only a matter of time before another aspiring Hero approaches him. Tommy Gunn is that aspirant. Old Man Rocky of course obliges to help Tommy on his quest to become the Hero. However, as Rocky accompanies the Hero on his quest to find his Holy Grail, his son becomes frustrated by his Old Man's absence. If left alone, who knows what will happen? Will Rocky's son become an anti-hero to stop these foolish quests for virtue? This sets the stage for the drama.

Meanwhile, Rocky assumes the entire role of Old Man, and he is convinced that Tommy Gunn is the Hero who will cast down the Heavyweight Champion. However, like Rocky's son, Tommy loses his way, and he ultimately falls to the Dark Side of the Business. This is where the film fails. Due to the fact that this story has been told a million times, Rocky needs to become the Hero once more and help the aspirant realize his destiny. His son will realize that his father is a great warrior, and that he should try to emulate his every action. After a battle between the Hero and the Aspirant, they work together to defeat the Dark Lord.

Rocky V did not do this. The aspirant Hero is cast aside. They try to compensate by making the aspirant look evil, as evidenced by the early aggression at the gym, as well as his punching of Pauly. However, Tommy doesn't come across as a Dark Lord, because he isn't. Since Rocky and Tommy never reconcile, the film feels incomplete.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

IceWM: Shutting Down the Lazy Way

A little background for those who might surf across this: I'm running Debian Squeeze right now, and IceWM didn't pick up whatever the appropriate shutdown command or script is. So, I found myself perusing these interwebz for a solution. The most common method seems to be adding another user without a password that has access to /sbin/shutdown. Yeah... screw that stuff. Sounds like a headache, especially when there's an easier way. Seeing as my "Ubuntu 10.10 Network Error Fix" post for empathy was fairly popular, I thought I'd add a little more linux rambling. Behold:

If you haven't already, copy the IceWM configuration files over to the .icewm folder in your home directory (they were in /usr/share/icewm on my installation.. snoop around). Open up the preferences file in an editor of your choice (off topic: I like nano and geany). Search for ShutdownCommand="". Uncomment the line by removing the #. Then slip in gksudo \"/sbin/shutdown -h now\"". All together, it'll look like:

ShutdownCommand="gksudo \"/sbin/shutdown -h now\""

That works great, but the only problem is that gksudo and IceWM's confirm logout are going to pop up one right after another. So, I disabled the logout confirmation. To do that, search for ConfirmLogout (in the same preferences file), uncomment it, and change the value to 0.

Easy as pie, right? You'll have to put in your password each time, but for me, that's not a real big deal. But if you're one of those uncool folks who likes to do things the 'right' way, check here for the method I rambled about in the opening paragraph.

Addendum: I was thinking. You may need your name in the sudoers file if it's not there already.

Monday, May 16, 2011

A New Perspective on Fierce Deity

In Majora's Mask, if Link obtains all of the masks and opts to play with each of the four kids on the moon, Majora will give him the Fierce Deity Mask. The mask's name is a toned down version of a more appropriate translation, which is the Ferocious God Mask.

Before giving Link the mask, Majora says something along the lines of, "Would you like to play a game of good guys and bad guys? I'll be the good guy and you be the bad guy." I was thinking about this alongside Hylian Dan's Tower of Babel theory in relation to the game.

Then, a moment of inspiration occurred to me. I think that the mask may well be the proof of Dan's theory. I think this departs in a few places, but the overall implications of divine punishment are very much the same. Here's why: According to the theory, Majora is the result of the pagan (non-Goddess related, in this instance) hexing rituals of a tribe that rejected the Goddesses. Now, how would Majora view the Goddesses themselves? Obviously, if they destroyed the blasphemous Stone Tower Temple, they're destroyers. So, when he offers Link the chance to play 'the bad guy' by wearing the mask of 'a ferocious God', he's really saying that Link is working on behalf of the Goddesses, and that he is defending whatever form of decision making that led to this cataclysm. The Fierce Deity Mask symbolizes the destruction of the Stone Tower Temple by the Goddesses, and Majora's Mask was the 'good' weapon used in Dan's theory.

I think that this is on the brink of being more than fanon. You can play MM a hundred times and still pick up a new tidbit each time. I was thinking about doing a three heart run of it. I might do some of the sidequests after beating it to look for supporting evidence.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Charlie's Top 10 VC Games

I think everyone has their own list of the games from those eras. The NES, the SNES, the Genesis, and the N64 is included in the VC lineup, which is an impressive array of titles to say the least. If you've read any other sections of this blog, then you know this list is going to be Zelda heavy. It is not my fault that Zelda is the greatest experience mankind has ever devised. That's just life. :P

10: Axelay – My likes are heavily influenced by the quality of a given game's music. Axelay has a powerful array of action-geared trance style music. Like Zelda's music, it brings a certain importance to the gameplay. If the ships are being shot down right, you can get 'in character' like it's an rpg. Speaking of which, this shooter has an rpg-style weapon selection system. You pick your guns based on whatever vulnerabilties you think the enemies might have. Axelay is a brief game, but it is a hard game (especially to those of us who aren't really enormous fans of the genre). I've beaten this game twice and I've tried a couple of hundred times.

9: Zelda II: The Adventure of Link – If you like Faxanadu, you'll like this game. It's pretty much the same, except Zelda II has an overworld. Some of the best enemies in the Zelda canon are introduced (Dark Link, Thunderbird, Volvagia, Gooma). Like LoZ, AoL has a brief, but very impressive, soundtrack. The dungeon theme, the battle theme, and of course the fantastic Great Palace theme are melodies you need in your head. The only flaw with Zelda II is that it lacks the customizable gameplay of its predecessor, so the replay value is sort of dampened. But on the bright side, it's an rpg, so you can level Link up with new strategies each time if you choose.

8: Super Mario Brothers: The Lost Levels(import) – I played the SNES version of this game back in the day on SMB All-Stars. I was sort of pissed off to find out that Nintendo had released SMB All-Stars game as a store title. Since I couldn't download that, I ended up getting this one. It looks just like the original NES classic, but good sir: It is not the original NES classic. It is a thousand times more difficult. It really brings something to the table for those of who played SMB1 a million times. I like it. (If you're wondering: It took me about a week to beat it all the way through. Considering how much Mario I've played, that's quite a bit of time. :D)

7: Punch-Out – This game takes a hit for not having Mike Tyson as the final boss. But it's easy, and you have to use unique strategies for each opponent. It's classic fun.

6: Super Mario World – Not everyone is into Zelda, but almost everyone has played Mario at one point in their lives. SMBW is one for the ages. The only downside to SMBW is that the controls are so amazing, which makes the game too easy. Most gamers of average ability can beat this game with seventy or eighty lives. But even so, there are numerous secrets, namely Star World and the Special Zone. And who could forget the top secret area? This is the sort of game that's so enjoyable that you might go as far to look for additional nonexistent secrets. Get it for your kids; get it for yourself.

5: Diddy Kong Racing – I never liked Banjo-Kazooie, but Banjo's first game is somewhere in the area of amazing. Sure, it's a kiddy game, but it is the greatest kiddy game you'll ever experience. The story mode is fun and has a diverse track selection. The weapon controls are sound and usable (not as good as the original n64 version, but that's an issue for most vc games). Then there's a four player versus mode. Make no mistake: This game is better than all incarnations of Super Mario Kart.

4: The Legend of Zelda – Quest 1 is hard. Quest 2 is harder. People say that LoZ is easy once you know what you're doing. Rest assured they're all talking out their asses. It is the hardest game I've mentioned yet, and with Punch-Out on the list it's in good difficult company. If you like A Link to the Past, you'll like this game. It doesn't have the same calibur of story as some of the later Zelda titles, but it does have a lot of customization options. You don't have to play level 1 first. You don't even have to get the sword. There are a million ways to play this game. This is why I think it's better than some of the amazing titles that I put it above.

3: The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – It's basically an A Link to the Past remake, but it's pretty cool to see those Alttp levels imagined in three dimensions. It doesn't have the same kind of relative freedom LoZ does, but it does have an in-game storyline. Plus: The music in this game is fantastic. Everything about this game is fantastic.

2: The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask – It's one of the most impressive titles in the Zelda canon. The sidequests add depth to the game that is reminiscent of LoZ's semi-free roaming gameplay. There's so much to experience in MM. Oh and we haven't even gotten to the fact that it's about Link traveling back and forth through time to prevent the moon from crashing into the earth. If you like Zelda, you need to play this game.

1: The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – It's just like OoT except harder and faster. You can beat A Link to the Past in a couple of hours if you're good enough. Now, the VC version loses points to its SNES counterpart for not having the instruction manual. The manual had an in-depth storyline and backstory for the gameplay. However, you don't really need to know about the Imprisoning War to see that Alttp is a gem. The way the text is worded adds such a mysticism to the story. The dungeons are gruelingly hard, and they will drive you batshit crazy the first time you play it. There is consensus among the SNES generation gamers: This is the greatest game ever made. Thank the Golden Goddesses you were born into a universe in which this game exists.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Pokemon Puzzle League: A Very Brief Fanfic

Ash eagerly ran into Puzzle Village with excitement in his eyes. His lips smiled with joy as he saw Puzzle University, a college he'd never be able to get into. Far off in the distance was the stadium where a new type of Pokemon battle was happening. Without taking another glance at his surroundings, he and Pikachu darted toward the stadium.

With his eyes on the stadium as he ran forward, he suddenly fell hard to the ground. He could feel the metal piercing his side. Beneath him was a series of blue metal bars. He shook off the pain and looked right at his destiny: Misty.

“Ash Ketchum! Get off my bike! Why do you always put my bike in danger? My leg is trapped because of your fat!” She screamed with indignation.

“Gee, sorry Misty! I was just so eager to get to the stadium. They're having a new type of Pokemon battle. It's about puzzles or something. Have you heard?”

“Yes, I've heard! I'm a Gym Leader in it. Now get off me!”

“Right.” Ash stood up, looked at the bike and its rider, and declined to comment on the newly dented tire. “So, Professor Oak just abruptly contacted me on the video phone about it. How does it work?”

Misty stood up, still angry. She dusted herself off and sighed once before saying, “Well, it's simple. You have your Pokemon move around blocks in puzzles and try to get three or more blocks in a row. If you get chains of blocks or score combos, you send trash at your opponent's Pokemon's puzzle. Understand?”

“So, it's like a real life version of Tetris Attack?” Ash asked. “I've got that on my SNES back home in Pallet Town.”

“What's a SNES?” Misty asked.

“A Super Nintendo. Haven't you ever been into my room?”

“Um, no.” Misty responded. “But maybe some time you can show me this Tetri–”

Ash interrupted her statement to brag, “Well, rest assured that I'll win this competition. I may not be the best Pokemon trainer, but I'm a veritable Pokegod at Tetris Attack.”

“I'm gonna beat you, Ash!” And so the two walked toward the Stadium. Ash went on to battle all of the trainers through varying modes of difficult, beating all but Mewtwo on Super-Hard Mode.

The End

Monday, May 2, 2011

2012: Stay the Course!

So, it has come to my attention that people are jumping off the 2012 doomsday train as the time approaches, and perpetuating a sort of Aquarian new age message, instead. As an Aquarius, I suppose I should rather like the sound of that. The world would kick ass if we ruled it. But even so, I think that 2012 believers should stay the course.

Now some point out that the world obviously won't end in 2012. This sounds like a reasonable objection, but rest assured it is not. 2012 was never about the end of the world. It was about roleplaying the end of the world as the day approached. On 12/22, people will wake up, say 'phew', and have a fun story to tell their grandkids.

Furthermore, there won't be a new age of ideals in 2012 either. The world will have the same problems, along with some admittedly hot nude circle dancing, but the problems will never be dealt with due to our new sense of smugness. We begin to say that the nude circle dancing solved our problems, when all it really did was jolly our Roger!

So, why don't we have a massive nude circle dance before 12/21/2012 while perpetuating that the end is coming on that day? Then, we can experience the best of both worlds.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Frustrating Dark Sides

I was a reading a certain book I got for.. a dime. Yes, literature is that cheap here. No one seems to think it's worth anything (local library can't hold all of its books, so they're having a sale. I got twenty books for two dollars!). I won't go into the specifics as they are unnecessary and I'd rather not personally identify the author. They really seemed like a good person. :)

First thing: The veil of Christianity is donned. It's a useful tool when you're trying to get a book featured on Oprah, I'm sure. But, of course, science has proven that Christianity is the source of all the world's problems, so a good self help book tries to ween the reader away from that most dangerous of topics. In a fairly admirable way, the author essentially says, “Show some balls. Pan the theism, get with the pantheism.” And that's to the author's credit, for sure. Eckhart Tolle just didn't have the guts to be upfront like that. But this is after 170 pages of Christian overtones, and it's only a 200 page book. I was pretty shocked by this sudden change of heart, though. First, we're talking to God about our dark sides, and now – surprise! – we're deciding that he's just a metaphor for the universe.

For all of the chicanery, this book is certainly something. I felt a whole range of emotions while reading it. At first, I was sort of offended by the idea of actively embracing evil. For as cool as I am with moral relativism.. there's some absolutist in me, for sure. Anyway, I keep reading, and lulz ensue; it occurred to me that the methods of achieving “wholeness” mentioned are not principally different from running on down to a pentecostal church and getting that holy ghost slapped on ya. Then, in a moment of clarity, I realized that even though the underlying philosophy is silly, the basic points to take away are still good. My final emotion -- and the one that made me take the time out of my admittedly unbusy day to write this post -- was a mixture of pity and frustration relating to the words between the lines. Here's why:

It became apparent from the author's own testimony. Long ago, someone had a bad experience with one of those ignorant, unenlightened, Christian mobs, and the event left the author with a dark side they probably can't even see. This book isn't so much about embracing shortcomings as it is getting back at assholes who banded together to call the author [intentional vagueness here]. I've been there, with the desire for vengeance against the oppressive majority, but it's not a path that leads to anywhere other than writing self-help/angry rant books. Not that there's anything wrong with ranting. Ranting is awesome, which is why I'm doing it now.

Call me a madman, but I see a glorious new day on the morrow. People of all faiths and lacks of faiths will come together, embracing one another, not for their commonalities, but for their distinctions. Young earth creationists will pray to the goddess mentioned in the old testament, and neopagans will develop their own canon of scripture and quote it excessively. Pantheists will look at deists, saying "I love you guys." And deists will do this also unto pantheists. Atheists will form an enormous love circle with agnostics. And such! Well, maybe not exactly that, but you see what I mean, right?

So, yeah, I'm a madman. :)