Sunday, August 31, 2008

Science News: Obama Likes Research

Science News reports that Obama favors non-ideological, transparent science in his morning cuppa Deciderizing.

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Friday, August 29, 2008

Sarah Barracuda: Ready on October 2nd

Republican hopeful John McCain, flushed with excitement from the agonies of Mile High Stadium in Denver, has just dumped his Number Two on unsuspecting American voters everywhere, first term Republican governor of Alaska, pro-life journalist and runnerup in the 1984 Miss Alaska pageant, Sarah Palin, spelled B-A-R-R-A-C-U-D-A, what a relief!

You thought Ferraro, right? Or Dan Quayle? Wise up. This cookie is tough. She was picked for one reason, and one reason only — to sandbag Joe Biden in the first and only Vice Presidential debate in St. Louis on October 2.

A technical term. Technically, it means "can't get a word in edgewise," as practised by the standard female Republican motormouth who fills all the time available for a response to moderator's question, from now to commercial break, with non-stop talkover, presuming that elderly male Democrats are well brought up and would never ever interrupt a woman not that it matters....

The first time I saw this tactic answered correctly was a few years ago on CNN, when Patricia Schroeder returned fire on a GOP shrill the entire world has thankfully forgotten.

I give McCain credit for military tactics. He saw a weakness in Biden long ago, maybe a tendency to get rattled when debating women, and now he's going to hit him with sexual politics. Sarah Barracuda is no Geraldine Ferraro, and Gwen Ifill had better be on her game!

McCain Steam claims "foreign policy experience" for Palin because, and I'm not making this up, "Alaska is next to Russia." Unfortunately, considering the average American's grip on geography, that's good enuff.


Susan Eisenhower at the Democratic Convention

The first president I ever voted for was Dwight D. Eisenhower. I liked Ike in the third grade straw poll in 1952 at Overland Park, Kansas. So seeing Susan Eisenhower, his granddaughter, speak at the Democratic Convention last night struck me as one of the more significant of the evening's minor moments.

Kansas will always be my home, so seeing that tall Kansas girl with the Eisenhower name and the strong Republican credentials give her testimony for Barack Obama really impressed me. So she's an Independent now. Fascinating.

What a challenge for the Democratic Party to find room in the tent for all of us dispossessed former Republican moderates!


Thursday, August 28, 2008

An excellent DVD player for Ubuntu

VLC seems to work about as well as Dell's MediaDirect player for Vista ever did, if not better. (A severe, showstopping MediaDirect crash is the thing that nuked Vista SP1 and forced me to migrate to Ubuntu 8.04 on this Inspiron 1525 notebook in the first place!) VLC's menu interface is absurdly complex-looking when you first approach it, but when you choose to Open Disk..., it defaults to a common sense subset of options. Do the simple thing: Click the OK button on the window that opens up. Then right-click in the movie window and click on full screen. Easy. The movie's own Setup can be accessed onscreen with mouse clicks! [Update: Actually, this depends whether the manufacturer of the DVD has produced a "best practices" Setup menu. Disney stuff always seems to work. The old Cowboy Bebop tv episode DVDs are a bit flaky, but work if you click Navigation → DVD Menu → Audio first, while the Cowboy Bebop movie works fine with keyboard controls.]

Notes — VLC does not enforce region encoding, so you can watch Region 2 (Japanese) anime on your Region 1 (American) boxen. VLC can also use a non-essential decryption plugin, not supported by Ubuntu. Available for Windows, Mac OS X, and all the big Linux distros. Other systems compile from source.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2008

How to fix verbose Ubuntu boot (Hardy Heron)

The symptoms were these: When I turned on my laptop, which runs Ubuntu 8.04 Hardy Heron, the orange and black splash screen comes up, the bar runs over to the right and stops, then the screen switches to text and reports:

* Reading files necessary for boot

Then a lot of text, and finally we're ready to go at the login screen! It only seems simple!

I didn't like the verbose boot. It was not aesthetically pleasing. It was new behavior. It shouldn't be happening. What was wrong?

Here it is:

1) I changed the size of my swap partition when I realized I'd set it up too small on Day One. That caused some of the trouble!

2) But wait, there's more! In System → Administration → Software Sources → Updates, I'd gone in some days ago and checked the "hardy proposed" and "hardy-backports" options, not because I knew what I was doing, but because it seemed like a good idea at the time. This. Had. Consequences.

3) Upon further checking using sysinfo, I realized the swap partition wasn't even active, and I couldn't MAKE it active using swapon !

4) vol_id /dev/sda2 showed a different UUID than the one in (how esoteric can you get?) /etc/initramfs-tools/conf.d/resume ! What the blazes is that, you ask? I dunno, I didn't figure this out on my own.

Ok, so how did I fix it? With the help of the übergeeks at Ubuntu Forums, of course! In a nutshell, the help I got covered the essentials and left some details about my specific situation to the imagination, so this is it:

Getting this wrong ABSOLUTELY WILL screw up your system!
*except in California, where by law you may still hope but proceed at your own risk anyway!

A) Using System → Administration → Partition Editor, DELETE the swap partition, and recreate it in the exact same place and exact same size! This will reassign a brand new UUID to the swap partition, which you may discover using vol_id /dev/sda2 .

B) Using gedit, MANUALLY edit /etc/initramfs-tools/conf.d/resume so that the UUID is up-to-date. Do the same for the file /etc/fstab, i.e., find the swap partition (identified by type swap rather than ext3 and change the UUID to the new number.

C) Because I had been MUNG-ing around in Software Sources and told the system to feed me Ubuntu's experimental proposed updates and and the totally unsupported "hardy-backports", my kernel version was set to 21, but at the moment, the last stable kernel is 19. These are listed by filename in /lib/modules, and will be used in the next step.

D) You need to regenerate some boot information for your linux kernel version using sudo update-initramfs -k 2.6.24-19-generic -u — note that in my case, my kernel was set to version 21, not 19, so I had to use the -k 2.6.24-19-generic switch. If your kernel is right and proper as shown by sysinfo, you can leave that switch out, but be sure to include -u !

E) sudo reboot , and that's all!

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Night of the long knives at the Democratic Convention — Hillary Clinton asked her supporters, "Did you vote for me? Or did you vote for that bald headed woman?" She probably came as close as she ever will to falling on her sword for party unity.

Bill speaks tonight. Jimmy Carter's words may have been illuminating. Al Gore's message could have been a real podium pounder. Bill Clinton can be a study in contrasts. Where were we eight years ago, so close to the promised land? Where are we right now, after eight long years of wandering in the Republican wilderness? Bill's the celeb, not Barack. And as Michelle Wie noted some months ago, when she gave him that big personal check for Katrina victims, the best wood in Bill Clinton's golf bag is his pencil.

McCain does an ironic disservice to his own chances by incessantly reminding us TV rabbits what a celebrity Barack Obama is. Great things happen around the great man. Of course, then, Barack is great.




And those P.O.W. pictures from the Hanoi Hilton? Makes you seem like a panhandler, John, showing off oozing wounds on your own tilted forehead for an ounce of pity.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is the game as good as the fanart?

"For monkeys to speak of truth is hubris of the highest degree. Where is it written that talking-monkeys should be able to model the cosmos? If a sea urchin or a racoon were to propose to you that it had a viable truth about the universe, the absurdity of that assertion would be self-evident, but in our case we make an exception."

(Quote attributed to Terence McKenna)

Update: Answer: No, it's not. The Fallout series is mildly fun, until it starts conflicting with one's Buddhist upbringing, then the theft, mayhem and deception begins to get you down.


Monday, August 25, 2008

Conspiracy, tinfoil, etc.

I'd completely forgotten that George Orwell (1984) invented trolling the past to con the future. Some kind of sly comedy about totalitarian regimes, I suppose. I'd thought Ursula Le Guin (Lathe of Heaven) pwned the idea totally, but I shoulda knowed. It's probably some of kind of well-understood paranoid delusion, anyway. Ain't that a kick in the head?


Sunday, August 24, 2008

Pulse in the ankle of a running Titan

This Science News article about seeing in four dimensions converges with the Beijing Olympics and Tibetan sand paintings, leading me to wonder if one corner of the Mona Lisa's smile has ever wished to be unending, immortal, and extend its ruby curve to the canvas edge like an unruly slash?

Sand paintings exist for a moment, sculptures in the fourth dimension, which the monks round off like glass blowers, sweeping them up, cutting them loose, turning away. There is no loss. There is no never really was. There is only cooling down. I don't know about Tibet. I'm a big fan of Heavy Metal.


Saturday, August 23, 2008

Joe Biden gots Shpadoinkle

The Huffington Post dropped that unusual vocable on us (apparently John McCain is losing his), but I gots no idea what means it. Does Yoda have shpadoinkle? Does Obama? Jest going by context, I'd say Joe Biden gots it large.

Update: Watched the Springfield debut this afternoon. An atmosphere thick with expectation.

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Friday, August 22, 2008

Carrying out the garbage...

I no longer talk about this stuff. I shot my mouth off one day in the eternal silence/internal noise of the web, and some busybody monk from Utah or somewhere told me I'd meet Yama, King of the Dead someday and shortly change my tune.

I told him he couldn't damn my soul to Hell because a medical missionary to the Navajo, somewhere out there on Route 666, had already done that, being a concerned Baptist and a member of the family and all. Who did I find harder to forgive?

The monk, of course. He was right.

Bear in mind, kiddies... John McCain went off to Vietnam in 1967 under the Johnson administration, whose "micromanagement" of the war he held in vociferous contempt, and limped back in 1973, four months before Richard Nixon resigned the Presidency.

He missed the best (worst) part of the Nixon years, and so, as an indifferent student of anything but his own opinions, had neither concept of nor sympathy for what the war was all about on the home front. (Remember Nixon Shocks? Kent State? The Draft? VVAW? M*A*S*H (the one without Alan Alda?) Easy Rider?)

Then too, McCain has long had trouble keeping stuff up. He crashed three A-1 Skyraiders prior to Vietnam, flew "crispy critter" runs over North Vietnam on 23 separate occasions, and seems to have been vastly surprised by the ferocity of his welcome when he ditched his A-4E Skyhawk ($20,200,000 before options and add-ons, in 2008 Iraq War inflated dollars) into White Bamboo Lake near the Old Quarter of Hanoi at the end of his last outing. Catch 22. The experience made him a fervent believer in the Geneva Conventions, an opponent of torture by U.S. agents, an artful dodger full of evasions and moral rectitude under stress, and benightedly enough, an advocate of bringing back the draft in 2009.

That infuriating "micromanagement," of course, owed chiefly to the inconvenient fact that the USSR and the PRC both had nuclear weapons, as Poland is even today remembering. Where memories are long and attention spans actually do, that concept carries with it a certain fallout...

But, hey, if nuclear holocaust bums you out, cheer up! There's a rumor that BestBuy has Nuka-Cola bottle openers straight from the Cafe of Broken Dreams.

(Real fallout, IMHO, belongs in cautionary videogames, not right wing world domination fantasies.)

You'll recall that Nixon jettisoned the gold exchange rate in 1971, which had pegged the U.S. dollar to gold at $35 an ounce. The A-4E Skyhawk price ($860,000 in 1967) is quoted in today's Iraq War inflation dollars, where spot gold trades at $822 an ounce.

The so-called evidence for John McCain dropping napalm on women and children in Vietnam appears to be no more solid than that 1997 60 Minutes confessional interview with Mike Wallace, which doesn't bear repeating here for obvious reasons. "Crispy critters" is a term used by U.S. pilots to refer to napalm-incinerated "gooks" (military status irrelevant); I heard it from a Vietnam vet and former U.S. Navy pilot, then U.S. Congressman Tom Harkin, Iowa-5th, at a campaign stop in Carroll, Iowa in 1971. (Tom is now Iowa's "junior" U.S. Senator, of course.)


Thursday, August 21, 2008

More bees...

Five Ways to Help Our Disappearing Bees is another green website with helpful ways to (hopefully) combat CCD.

What's with Obama? Labor Day is TEN DAYS AWAY, but he's still giving his old primary election stump speech! It's embarassing. I declared for Joe Biden back in the January caucus, but I'd understand if Joe doesn't want to go down with Obama's toy boat.

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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Beware of Snark!

I tried holding out for an "official Obama-Biden" bumper sticker down at Linn County Democratic Headquarters yesterday, but was told those aren't ready yet.

Regarding the latest Gehirnsfahrt from McCain Steam, I've never actually played Dungeons & Dragons, except for a couple of oddly embarassing occasions when it became clear that the only persons in the room who could still pretend in public were the "dungeon masters" and a few of their level eight toadies.

For all that, DnDers 'R Us, and we don't need to embellish our war memorials beyond what Nature bountifully provides.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

McCain: “I’ll follow Osama bin Laden to the gates of hell!”

Dah dah da-dumty DAAAHHHHHHHHHH HUM... I forget, what was it the Flying Dutchman promised? At least he said it during the Olympics, when not even the Devil was watching. (True, but MSNBC has retold the story time and time again without end, so Jack Scratch may have caught up wi' 'im by now...)

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I put an Obama bumper sticker on my Honda Civic yesterday. Contribulated a few bucks to himself, and to Donna Brazile's DSCC.

I could still vote for McCain, though — provided (a) I can convince myself he's not on speed, and (b) pigs fly.

Still, a fake "cone of silence debate" with Obama during Michael Phelps' bid for a record-breaking eighth Olympic gold medal is not my idea of mental competence.... Who's McCain's scheduler, anyway? Sloth Man?


Sunday, August 17, 2008

Michelle Wie ends tied for 12th at CanWoop

Michelle Wie finished tied for 12th place at the 2008 Canadian Women's Open in Ottawa (Ontario). That's 75-70-69-71, tied with Jennifer Rosales and Nicole Castrale at US$36,475 apiece. Katherine Hull got the big bucks.

Technically, I guess that means Q-school in 2009. But the heck with that...!

Frankly, Wie's still got it and she proved it. She finished better than Sorenstam, Webb, Inkster, Gulbis, Ji, Pressel, Neumann, Alfredsson and a few dozen others, including some well-known names who missed the cut, my favorites being Kris Tschetter, Mhairi McKay and Ai Miyazato, none of them in the has-beens category! Wie's only problem with Q-school is likely to be boredom.

Wie is no fool, and she has her head on straight about higher education. My quess is, especially if Stanford graduate Tiger Woods will be making money with his education and not his clubs for awhile, university takes priority, and rightly so.

Michelle Wie can clean LPGA clocks in her spare time anytime she wants to. There's no rush.


Friday, August 15, 2008

Has John McCain really stopped beating his wife?

My theory is, that as a maverick former Navy pilot who may or may not have been addicted to popping speed just prior to getting shot down over Vietnam (frankly S.O.P. among Navy pilots, with designer amphetamines actually prescribed by Navy doctors to "reduce fatique under combat conditions"), McCain's notorious royal rages might actually be all too easy to explain. Why would Cindy McCain put up with visible bruising, though? I mean, with her billions, and all? It must be ruv.

On an entirely unrelated topic, it's good to know that John McCain would never associate himself with, or benefit from, such a sleazeball chamberpot of slimy lies as Obama Nation — yuck, yuck, "abomination," get it? Now that's a kneecapper!!!

Alleged popularity inflated by massive bulk buys by the author and a few of his so-called "business associates", according to the New York Times. My guess is, they'll be using all that rag paper under the boilers at Anheuser-Busch, so it's not a total loss.

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This Space Intentionally Left Bank


Thursday, August 14, 2008

Good Cops Stay Bought

Why does John McCain want to commit American lives and billions to South Ossetia? Man, that's "foreign policy experience," all right...


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Midnight Minus 10 Seconds and Counting...


This space was previously filled with an incoherent rant about unreconstructed Clintonbillies spoiling the Democratic convention, but I see Bush has just ordered some kind of "humanitarian action" involving U.S. naval air forces in Georgia (that's the Georgia Ilya Kuryakin (above, left) came from).

Condoleezza Rice, who at least knows about Russian paranoia, looked terrified in the Rose Garden. Gates stood as far from the podium as he possibly could. George the Terrible seems to have subscribed to the "Aprez moi, le sooner ze better!" view of deluge.

Just gas. Apparently it's not going to be a "Georgian Missile Crisis" after all. Except for John "Gasbag" McCain who seems to have promised Georgian leaders (or was it Joe Lieberman?) that he'd launch World War III if the Rooskies invade South Ossetia.

Like Katrina?


Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Vegan spiders?? Apparently, there's a jumping spider living in Mexico which steals vegetarian lunches from hot-tempered ants in acacia trees.


Monday, August 11, 2008

ゲド戦記 (Tales of Earthsea, 2006)

Goro Miyazaki, the son of Hayao Miyazaki and the unfortunate director of this dingy film before your eyes, seems to have been doing the best he could. In a nutshell, which is all this dog is worth, there have been Portents in the Land of Earthsea. For one thing, dragons are fighting. Herds and flocks have fevers. The King is worried. Arren, the Prince, runs up from ambush and stabs his old man dead through the lights and liver.

Although the story is spoiled already, the rest of this is Spoilers.

Arren runs away, pursued by guilt. Why did he murder his father? We do not know. He does not know. Goro-san does not know. Questions like these leap out of the shadows behind him. Arren gets crazy-eyed. He meets Ged the Archmage, also known as the wizard Sparrowhawk. He meets the girl, Therru, and Tenar, the fat, earthy, farm woman who adopts them all. There is a lot of preaching about Balance in the world. Sparrowhawk and Arren till the earth. Lord Cob's minions come around and carry everyone but Therru off to a dark castle.

Therru meets Arren's disembodied true self. Arren keeps forgetting his sword. Nobody does what they are told (except the bad guys). Therru brings Arren his sword. Big battle with Lord Cob, an "old man" who looks, genderbendingly enough, like the darkly beautiful evil Queen in Snow White.

Therru turns out to be a dragon. Light Unleashed destroys Darkness Rampant. Balance restored. Having won the dragon, who'll turn back into a girl as soon as it's clear that Arren isn't going to stick around and plow the earth some more, Arren decides to go home and arrest himself for parricide.

By credits' roll, Team Ghibli has made a silk ear out of this sow's purse. Lots of beautiful scenery. Random set shifts. Magic tricks. No animals were harmed.

Tales from Earthsea is one of the titles, the fifth in Ursula K. Le Guin's "Earthsea Cycle," on which this thing is based. She wrote a lengthy disemvowelling — i.e., a kind of literary seppuku with implied transference to another artist — claiming that the movie should be known by its Japanese title ("Gedo Senki") because it's nothing like her books.

I disagree. The movie is exactly like her books, only shorter — i.e., long, dull, boring and preachy. Nobody likes seeing their own faults mirrored directly in pithy miniature, in public, by their own children.

Personally, I think Goro killed off the father quickly to get it over with, and wishes he could have been closer to the mark.

So much for Oedipus!


Sunday, August 10, 2008


When I was in college, I used to talk about Zen to everyone I knew. They started avoiding me. Maybe as a kind of retribution, the universe in front of my eyes (and ears) gradually filled up with Jesus Freaks, who felt inclined to talk to me about salvation. I couldn't avoid them.

Finally, as I was slouching at my usual 2-chair table in the Commons (ISU Memorial Union, but don't bother looking for my usual table, everything has changed) swilling coffee and smoking my Winston, a rather unattractive young girl stopped and asked if she could sit down and talk.

Fine, said I. Feel free, provided you don't talk about religion.

The conversation fluttered around the weather and other obvious inconsequentials, and then she ran out of trivialities and began to shake. Her lip quivered. She got up and fled, crying. I hate this story.

When Wisdom dances, the truly wise don't wait around for the last veil to drop off.


Friday, August 08, 2008


The computer played Black, took a nine-stone handicap against the highly-ranked professional, Myungwan Kim (8P), and beat him by 1.5 points. Kim estimated the program (MoGoTitan, playing on an 800-core European supercomputer) achieved an almost inconceivable rank of about 2 or 3 dan, according to the AGA E-Journal (Volume 9, #40) this evening.

Click here for the game record, with comments from the KGS peanut gallery.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

Cable Snooze

It's worth pointing out to the cable fables crowd that political campaigns don't actually register with normal people until some time after Labor Day. There's a long, quiet summer. Nobody but the pros are thinking campaign in July or August.

As far as polling goes, you might as well be asking hibernating bears. So, for example, when the phrase "poll of likely voters" comes up in an August poll, append the words "who didn't hang up on us in something like unhinged fury."

The question is not whether Barack Obama has broken 50% yet. That will come in November, if not sooner. The question is why John McCain is still becalmed in the horse latitudes — and who gets tossed overboard next?


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Paris Pwns McJerk

It's funny I didn't notice the gold stilettoes. picked right up on that.

Nobody believes Paris Hilton wrote this stuff, of course — there hasn't been a Presidential candidate since Pat Buchanan who could boil his own softsoap. Maybe Obama can. Does. Writing takes a lot of time (time it sometime, with a stopwatch, 1000 words).

Perfect delivery, though... :)

My first reaction was that the Paris spoof was at least as good as the "three purple hearts" hatchet job JibJab did on John Kerry (by setting him up for the Swift Boaters.) But it's not a Daisy ad, which was my second thought.

Daisy, if you recall, detonated during the Goldwater convention of 1964. Or so close that nobody ever found the daylight between those two events. Johnson only ran it once. And the Republicans squealed like a stuck pig, but Goldwater's "no vice, no virtue" speech made it easy to believe he was a raving loon.

Nope. Actually, nobody has to take down McCain, either. He'll do it to himself, by himself, in a clearly lucid moment of amphetamine-induced rage, on camera. About one week before the election.

[Update 2008-08-07] Funny thing, this is now being called "McCain's Paris Hilton ad" on MSNBC. That means, whenever anyone says that phrase, "McCain's Paris Hilton ad," the producers pull out this video (Paris Hilton's video!) and not McCain's. Gee, that's incompetent.


Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Finders Keepers

Waking up... The paint on the inside of my skull is old, damp and peeling. Aside from that... How's your day?

On the bright side, my replacement copy of John F. Adams' Beekeeping: The Gentle Craft (Doubleday, 1972) arrived this afternoon. Good. I don't understand how I ever let this one get out of my hands, but it surprises me not in the least.

I'm an idiot about books. For example, I wrote a fan letter to J. R. R. Tolkien ages and ages ago, just as he was getting famous, and he wrote back! I had a handwritten letter from J. R. R. Tolkien, an autograph, signed by him, plus the hand-addressed envelope it came in, and I put that letter in my boxed set of paperbacks (the Ballantine "courtesy to living authors" edition), blithely sold it several months later to the Little Read Book Shop in Ames, Iowa and did not realize what I had done for years. Someone has a nice gift, with my name on it ;-)


Monday, August 04, 2008


The Old Farmer's Almanac has never exactly been Mother Jones, it simply is what it is.

Which reminds me that the AARP these days seems mainly to be an insurance lobby, not the senior citizens political action committee it used to be.

I'm not sure that's an improvement. What if Smokey the Bear took over Joe Camel's old job?


Saturday, August 02, 2008

Still a fan

Michelle Wie finds a little support out there now and then. Just a reminder that though the 18-year-old missed the cut at (ahem?) "Legends" in Reno-Tahoe this week, so did a ton of older guys. Can you even name who won that tournament?

It's a cruel game. But then, the whole point of golf is that normal people can't play this game. It's a natural for that better-than-thou country club cachet. Michelle Wie can play. She's a natural. She's good now, and she'll be phenomenal tomorrow, and a lot of foolish people who wish she'd just go away will vanish in the silence of their private lives.

Parker McLachlin.


Friday, August 01, 2008

Samus has the I.Q. of a brick

I got as far in this stupid game as the first two Baby Sheegoths (whatever those are) guarding the Wave Beam (whatever that is), after spending hours developing the skills needed just to jump onto the floating ice chunks to get over to the Ice Temple. Every time you fall off, you have to recapitulate a long run through various rooms and hazards just to get back to the same point where you jump off onto the first floater, and fall off trying to make your second jump. The game format is absolutely unforgiving — you're forced to polish your mistakes.

I got bored, frankly. Metroid Prime is tedious, repetitive and overrated. The various battles usually reduce to discovering what trick works this time against that not remotely familiar beastie (the War Wasps seem like old Old Home Week compared to most of 'em), the story line is a simple accomplishment plot: Get the Missile Launcher. Get the Morph Ball. Get the Varia Suit. Get the Morph Ball Boost. Get the Space Jump Boots. Get the next thing on the list, and repeat and repeat and repeat. Sound like fun? You need a life.

I understand there's a larger story involved, which is "gradually revealed" as you explore the dungeons and discover item updates. It reduces to finding the boss of the Space Pirates and taking him out. Find the hidden evil thingy ("Metroid Prime," get it?) the Space Pirates covet and destroy that, too. Samus, our hero, is a girl, so we don't even get the age-old narrative hook of Saving the Princess. Saving the Chozo, a tired race of hasbeens who can't even manage to transcend this underdramatized corporeal sphere gracefully, comes in a dim and distant hundred thousandth in my list of immediate priorities.

Beyond that, I'd have to say the art and ambience are second-rate. By comparison, the original Tomb Raider was, for all the clunkiness of its character engine, absolutely first rate. It almost never hit a wrong note, and almost always left the player gazing around in rapt appreciation.

Metroid Prime fails to achieve even simple sinister most of the time. Stuff gets on Samus' visor — "realistic-looking" water droplets and splattered bug guts, mainly. The scenes and settings are no more than slapdash arenas, and one long hall with Yet Another Bug Eyed Monster in the way is much like any other. Like Gotham City, the atmosphere is claustrophobic without suspense. Tallon IV is duller than sparklers on a rainy Third of July.

And Samus has the I.Q. of a brick. She has limitations, and she doesn't help the hapless fool who tries to work her controls. She doesn't get better, as the player gets better. She's like the passive aggressive date who, all shields up, bats your conversational overtures back like tennis balls, never revealing personality, interest, humor, accomplishment, response or charm, until you wonder whether the pizza will be cold and the movie as stolidly unsatisfactory as present reality.

One and a quarter stars for the Misty Visor.

It's hard to strike the proper comparison, but "advanced" controls in the Tomb Raider and Zelda franchises, any of the Star Oceans (but especially the second and third), and most Final Fantasy (especially XII) are way more seamless and dynamic. MP weapons levelups seem additive, whereas most good games give you an exponential sense of synergy and emergence. Maybe it is that First Person Shooter perspective, which is really off-putting if you're used to the good Role Playing Games.