Monday, May 31, 2010

Does Professor Snape teach ballroom dancing to Slytherins?

What? Must Minerva McGonagall get all the glory by her gifted Griffindors?

Apparently not! I'd have thought the potions master would have used the opportunity to distill endorphins from the pale pink fogs of interpersonal confusion, not, you know, terpsichoreate per se.

But yes, I should have realized that "Slytherins will be Slytherins."

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Saturday, May 29, 2010

The view from my front porch

Hatsuboku Landscape has been a favorite since Alan Watts included it in The Way of Zen — a book I found excrutiatingly dull to read, but great fun to carry around my junior year of high scool. I have been permanently befuddled by the topic of Zen ever since. It was with immense satisfaction that I found this far more detailed image on the 'net several years ago, which allowed me to see, for the first time, the slanting splash strokes of a fishing village (not a Zen temple?!) by Sesshu at the base of the mountain. It must be said that, for somebody who was all about a special transmission beyond words, Alan Watts could spew the most amazing amounts of verbiage.

I (yes, I!) coined the viral neologism logorrhea several years ago because I'd gotten seriously depressed about never understanding books about Buddhism, despite a cornucopiastic cauldron of bulemic upchuck that accompanied my struggles to express what I'd learned, if only to my self. It wore my friends out very quickly, but the flow etched me to the bone before ever I saw any moon in my own skull bucket. It turned out I like art better than narrative. These days I don't understand art either, but I admire it greatly; while language has turned out to be the great linear narrative fallacy, an illusion, dream, map of maps, and a bit of foxy fun.

What's cancer, compared to that? Not much, I say. Not much.

"Success has many fathers, failure is an orphan." — Anon.

D. T. Suzuki's translation (into English!) of The Lankavatara Sutra was one I read cover to cover in 1975, in Washington, D.C., in a sleeping bag on a bare parquet floor in a one-room efficiency on Massachussetts Ave. I was supposed to be working. Perhaps I was. The book is incomprehensible.


Thursday, May 27, 2010


Is Prince of Persia in 3D?

Is "Persia" the same as Iran? Is it ok to edit out Persian history, especially, say, the astronomer and mathematician Omar Khayyam, or his Shi'ite religious milieu?

Is Jake Gyllenhal actually any whiter than the acrobatic thug in the orginal platformer?

The game always was a revival of (or at least a reference to) British orientalist fantasies about going native. The klaxon throated elephant charmer and part-time ape Lord Greystoke also comes readily to mind (the fact that "apes" are not really "apes" in that story goes without saying, harrumph).

It's fun to have somebody sufficiently dark-skinned around, so's you can kill them, rape their women, and steal their gold 'n jewels 'n kingdoms 'n stuff without a qualm, isn't it?


&dagger"I say! Steady on, old chap! It's just not done!" — Doctor Watson

*Heh. I see Roger Ebert passed, too.


Wednesday, May 26, 2010


Somebody hacked this password protected highway traffic sign yesterday to display an in-your-face offensive message to Florida's hispanic community.

Even I'm offended. I didn't realize there were any braindead geeks in America. This is the kind of stupid prank USC does to UCLA at halftime, but real people don't do to each other. It makes for heat and sadness, and no joke at all.

On the other hand, I've got a few racist poor relations out there in Dim and Dimmerland who would think that sign is funny. (My side of the family, that is. We all landed butter side down for brains across Kansas and Missouri and points southeast. Well, maybe not all...) If you can't be right, be stupid. That combination of wherewithal to hack the sign, plus the whitebread stupidity to launch a public ethnic slur, kind of points to an inside job, frankly. Hope they get the perp.

Hispanics weren't amused; q.v., the daggers from Primer Impacto news anchor Bárbara Bermudo's eyes when this story first broke on Univision.

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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

On the flip side...

Most RPGs have a "decompression chamber" at the end of the game where you can go to deal with the tiny bubbles boiling out of your bloodstream and make you fit for normal human interaction again. Typically, what happens is, a master dungeon opens up after you've beaten the game, and grinding your way through the superfluous post-game level 3000 zombie chickens eventually gets boring, at which point you quit. Or that's the idea. I suppose a few otaku get oppressed by all the left-overs; they haul out their +12 sonic screwdrivers and dive in for three or four more months of gratuitous Grondheimlichkeit.

Not entirely so, Infinite Space — Extra Mode is too dumb to qualify as Hyperbaric Therapy, while New Game+ simply lets you to replay the game and take all your less-travelled paths in the original gameplay. You find yourself recruiting new characters, missing others, going to Enemonzo instead of Zenito, making friends where you found enemies, recruiting Radimir and once again failing to get Rufina, drawing blanks that were lively the last go-round, and so on. It's not, in other words, remotely like winding down. You wind up playing a new game sort of like the one you just finished, with a handful of additional blueprints. Just as addictive. Just as appealing. Every bit as annoying, although you've climbed the learning curve and all you need to do is grind it out. Again.

You have to take yourself by the scruff of the neck, come the wee small hours o' the morning, and put it down. Put it down. Done.


Sunday, May 23, 2010

Focus, Ford

Petty annoyances in the 2010 Ford Focus (metallic blue):
  1. No coach straps or granny handles over the top of the doors. Hard to get in and out.

  2. Push the seat belt release buttons, and the buckle raps the knuckles of your off hand.

  3. With the passenger seat slid forward for short persons (or for leg room in the back), the passenger left kneecap rests against the center console hard edge.

  4. No leg room in back, or at least not for adults. With the front passenger seat pushed forward, some legroom in back, not much in front.

  5. Short drivers crack their kneecaps and elbows on driver's side hard edges and corners.


  7. Center console cup holders are too small and positioned too far back. There are three. The big one is on the rear floor at the back base of the console. The smallest one is sippy cup sized, and about as shallow, positioned just ahead of central storage box. The small one is half-way back on the console. You have to look (eyes off the road) to reach it. No mug handle slot*, no Big Gulp containers, and NO OTHER PROVISION for drinks.

  8. Center console storage is not box-shaped inside, but has deeper hideaways. You have to stop the car and dedicate yourself to the task of finding that spare change you've been throwing in the box.

  9. Floor and side bolts are recessed, but not covered or hidden.

  10. Electronics are cheap and designed to shift attention away from maintenance issues, like mileage. For example, it may be true that that I'm averaging 29.1 MPG after my first 2477 miles of ownership, but that is not per trip or per fill mileage. On my old 2000 Honda Civic, after ten years of ownership, my mileage averaged a rock solid economical 34 MPG. Also, Sirius Satellite Radio has its own button and electronics, although we will never use Sirius Radio after the "free trial" expires.

  11. The Sirius satellite antenna drops out going under bridges or into wooden garages, although it comes back in a few moments.

  12. One other thing... What was it now? Wait... it's on the tip of my fingertips... Oh, yeah. How could I forget? It's LOUD. The ROAD is LOUD. MAX AIR is LOUD. The RADIO is LOUD, or rather, it's unbalanced and you can't fiddle with Bass, Treble, Speakers Left, Right, Fore or Aft, so the effect is TINNY and LOUD. IT'S LOUD.

  13. You can't rip out the old radio and plug in a third party feature-set by say, Blaupunkt or Pioneer. Maybe you can, but the mid-dash front wall would be full of holes, as well as plug ugly. Might be an improvement, at that.

  14. The only air flow that makes a difference when outside temp hits 90° is Max Air, and did I mention it's LOUD? On the plus side, the rearview mirror automatically dims when a semi comes up behind you in the dark. That's cool enough. A dozen minuses, one plus. Scratch an item.
Attention to detail in the Ford Focus could benefit from Human Interface Guidelines. It's as though they designed a top-of-the-line car, then sliced off random features to arrive at the low cost Focus.

Honda, on the other hand, designed the entry-level Civic, and scaled up for their highend models.

In my adult life, I've owned one Renault poptop, two Fords (including the Focus) and one used Buick, and they all sucked. I've also owned one green (with oval rear window!), one white, and two red Volkswagen beetles, and they sucked too (especially windshield defrosters and January heaters), but those Bugs were so damn cool. They were the old Bugs, not the new Bugs. My wife is still driving her second VW Jetta, a money pit for odd mechanical details like an oxygen sensor that never worked right until it was replaced the third time, and $750 of front end suspension repair after 54000 miles, but it's still relatively economical and fun to drive, if not own.

My favorite car, and the one I judge all my others by, is the 2000 Honda Civic EX. I sold it with 104,000 miles on it. I took it to Jiffy Lube every 3,000 miles, and once I gave the Honda parts department about a hundred bucks for a "Honda approved" gas cap, which turned out to be necessary after all. Put a Midas muffler on it one summer not long ago, and that's it. Replaced the tires twice and had 'em check my brakes at 100,000 miles; they were pristine, no wear at all. (Stick shift has some major consequences, done right.) Total major maintenance or warranty maintenance required: Zip. Zero. None. Absolutely none.

I sold the Honda (manual transmission) and bought the Ford Focus (automatic transmission) because age is catching up with me and the stick shift wasn't practical anymore, while the Focus was frankly cheap for an old coot. As in affordable, but also You-Get-What-You-Pay-For cheap.

Ford, take notice. If maintenance becomes a problem, with or without warranty, that will be my last Ford forever.

*There's a slot between the two holes, but it's only as deep as the shallow rear hole. You can't actually use it for mug handle relief.


Friday, May 21, 2010

Game Cleared!

Cleared the game with my timer pegged at 99:59:59. It's been that way for a couple of weeks.

Recommendation, none. If you've ever smoked two packs a day, you know what I mean.


Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Rubber Duckies win in Pennsylvania

Arlen Specter? Gone? AIPAC must be weeping in their Manischewitz.

Yes, such a cruel blow underlines something about 2010's off-year elections and The Coming Tsunami of Doom Doooom I Say: Visceral revulsion among ALL voters this year, aimed (weirdly enough) at ALL Republicans and obstructionist Republicanoids wearing Democratic Party lapel pins.

Plus, America got Joe Sestak, whatever that is. A former three star Admiral, apparently, and a mainline Democrat who looks good to Independents and probably a fair percentage of the brighter teabaggers out there. The left wing loons are not Sestak's natural constituency, any more than the wingnut right, but watch out, guys — the Vast Majority is going to turn out in November and the losers will have naught for consolation but a bath tub full of rubber duckies.

Good luck in November, Admiral!

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Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Winsome Dimpledom

When Betty White reappeared on television, about a hundred years ago, she dropped into the Mary Tyler Moore Show and closed an open oven door with her bare knee. It was ferociously funny.

It made me a fan, about 7 on a one-to-ten scale of funny but oddly irrelevant culture heroes. Is Betty White really Who We Are?

Of course she is! She's the antithesis of aging, a Valkyrie warrior against the horrors of our common grave, an everlasting timeless beacon of perpetual life and joy, a sparkler in the darkness.

She's who we are all right. She's nuts, like us.

When Lawrence Welk finally popped his last cork, I thought I would never, ever, ever have to listen to that deedle-dee-DAH tink deedle-dee-DEE on Sunday nights again. Ever! But American Culture, so to speak, surprised me big time on that one. I should have seen it coming. It's not like I'd never seen a rerun before...

If Betty White ever does die, unthinkably, she too will be carefully wound 'round with Saran Wrap and Duck Tape, the answer from Modern Times to Mummy Shroud and then she will... slowly... dissolve, like Imogene Coca. Like Gracie Allen. Like Edie Adams. Like Betty Boop. Like the hologram of Isaac Asim...erm...Hari Seldon spouting "I told you so" epithegms (sic) to Foundation and Empire, and all and sundry, irrelevant without intention. Like...

Like ancient Egyptians, we Americans hate old people. Old people are zombies. And it's open season on zombies. I take it personally, although I'm just a baby old person (I'm only 65). I get feisty when I see this stuff.

I fight back. Senex bis puer!

A more phlegmatic apothegm, that is!

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Sunday, May 16, 2010

All's fair...

If you head back Wahlstatt to lick your wounds after the ZR2 battle, you have to do the ZR2 battle all over again. Then you head on toward the Taurus base, where you will be wiped out.

The first Taurus battle is so-so, no trouble if you stay on your toes about depleting HP. The second one looks like the first, but the second ship in line is a ringer. That's the one that gets you. Ugh.

I have a fairly high tolerance for levelling up, which is both repetitive and sort of meditative, so I've been heading back to the restricted airspace (spacespace?) of realms that used to be wide open weeks ago, and grinding up Junkyards, Sodalities, Fellowships, and so on... The shock comes hours later when you head bad to Mensa, the staging planet for the assault on ZR2, realize too late that you've overlooked the tiny hidden back-door starlane discovered by the Bad-to-the-Bone pirates (and Kira, at the appropriate moment), that gets you back to Mensa, which isn't there...! You overshot your destination! Which is when the ZR2 gang use you for target practice. Again.

Hours of grinding, back to rust in nothing flat. The nice thing is, I thought the game had glitched and forgotten the way back, but no, you can take your time, level up, and whack the wumpus when you get around to it... (It's a game.)


Friday, May 14, 2010

Where's HELP(Girl)?

Infinite Space has its moments*. If you start up CTA, then go to Help, and ask the helpbot about several (maybe about 10?) topics of possibly mild or only placeholder interest, then Exit Help, you'll get a BOOM! and crew will coming running to ascertain what is amiss. The old Help robot has broken down, it seems, and is now operating at 17% efficiency. Sadly, nothing can be done.

You DEPART for your next destination in the "sea of stars," Star Ocean having copyrighted the universe aeons ago, but before you get under weigh, Professor Minas shanghais Yuri into a closet and reveals the new helpbot, now feminine (the kind that gets your game a "mildly suggestive" rating).

Her name is HELP(Girl), with laser eyes, 7000 volt thermic cutter hands, Medic Level 2 (like Kira, she can heal ships damaged in running battles) and she's a hell-on-wheels battle android during MELEE, in other words, just your average NERD(Toy).

She's also a standard JPRG trope (based on Kannon, the Bodhisattva of Mercy), like the fairy ponds in Ocarina of Time or the "comfort girls" in Japanese-occupied Korea in WWII†, or less overtly, like Belldandy in Oh My Goddess, Nia Lochlain in Part I of the present game, or Gidget in old surfer movies.

Heavy ludological social history aside, those of us who never RTFM will never find this little joke unaided. Lurking in cheat forums turns up a ton of references to HELP(Girl), usually with a snidely smug tone of voice that jeers, NERD(Boy) style, "You don't know what I'm talking about, do you? Heh." At least the music for this incident is light and whimsical.

Here's how.

*My game clock was pinned at 99:59:59 for days before I noticed HELP(Girl), but I gather you can find her anytime after Minas joins your crew.

Speaking of WWIII, have you noticed that Hollywood hates Muslims? Egyptians and Persians galore, yes. Bloodthirsty hashish-addled natives on Arabian sands, yes. Semitic merchant stereotypes in caftans and turbans, yes. Muslims? No. The Middle East is kosher, so far as Hollywood is concerned: Throat slit, heels hung and bloodless, all the Islam poured out and sluiced away into the local watershed with extra salt. It looks like wartime propaganda from here.

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Thursday, May 13, 2010

The Conflagrations of Philosophy

One of the few nice things about getting old is having lived long enough to work out the smartass logical paradoxes bright schoolboys fling like so many snowballs at the tophats of the Age. The one that always annoyed me was an innocence-feigning question: "Can God make a weight so heavy He can't lift it?"

Not that the farrago isn't funny — it is. The issue for me was that I refused to accept the paradox. I could see the nasty class of sophistry it belonged to, but I couldn't for many decades answer the riddle on its own terms, by exposing the cunning hook inside it.

This morning, whilst humming Theme from Harry Potter† on the white throne, the dumb imps of insolence flapped their razor wings near my inner ear and It Came To Me: Imagine, if you will, a tiny ant trying to lift a silver dollar. Now suggest to yourself the equally ludicrous lemma that the ant is a silversmith who made the dollar it's trying to lift. Just so.

The answer to the riddle about God and weights is, God cannot be His own creature, unless you buy into the Trinity in which case Jesus stumbled under the cedars of Lebanon. The purest retort to the moral retards who think this stuff up with their 160 I.Q.'s and Anglo condescensions, is that they've got a bad case of Insufficient Axiom. God is Uncreate, and so — Paradox Lost is simply that She doesn't riverdance in the flickering firelight of narrative fallacy, both here and there, any more than She is bound like Andromeda to the whirling maelstroms of Time.

Whenever I go to the bathroom
I deliver a Number 2.
My exploits would be even greater than that
But I mayn't go dumping on you.

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Wednesday, May 12, 2010

U.S. Foreign Service Institute language freebies

Interesting. The U.S. Foreign Service Institute's pre-1989 language courses are now in the public domain. You can download them and learn a language (almost any language, at that!)

What's fascinating about the Spanish Programmatic language course is that it's also available for big bucks on 10 CD's from a company (here unnamed) that makes a big deal about learning the language from "native rapid speech." It's the same course as the FSI's, with a difference — the FSI's MP3 transcriptions from the original tapes have been electronically speeded up (i.e., time-compressed, pitch-corrected) to fit on the CD's, making the "native rapid speech" both hyperkinetic and non-human.

The FSI's original tapes are indeed "rapid speech" to the untrained English-speaker's ear, but they are NOT, by any means, speeded up. And the MP3's are based on those, not on any artificially time-compressed, pitch-corrected sludge. What you hear is normal Spanish spoken by native speakers, and it's free, in the sense that your tax dollars prior to 1989 occasionally did purchase some very fine things indeed, aside from NASA and Teflon.

In other words, download the FSI materials, and only the FSI materials, if you want to learn a language or two. There are about 40 of them, in various stages of completion.

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Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Kordian Lewandowski's "Game Over (2008)"

Monday, May 10, 2010

O tempora, O mores!

The infantile relationships between men and women in this game are no idle happenstance. Nude Maker — the Japanese hentai videogame company whose corporate culture is evangelically libertarian (at best) — may be good at sexploiting eye candy, but they obviously need help covering imbecilic ineptitude at decent space opera or even playable games.

There's just enough "and then..." in this Yakuza bottle rocket to keep you trying to move forward, but you'll be stymied in places by long, unnecessary delays. This is also the first videogame I've played in which the protagonist murders someone as sequel to a difference of opinion. Also, when the female lead, Nia Lochlain, dies at the end of Part I, the scene is treated romantically. Oh sure, it may seem like gratuitous sadomasochism, but her death is explicitly "noble*," with a genuine seppuku slash across the middle. Watering down the moment, the stroke is a coup de grace supplied by a smiling villain with oddly cultural overtones.

"Infantile," as in, women come in two sizes, Real Women or Virgins, and men come in two sizes as well, Boys and Real Men. Draw a little 2x2 table enumerating the possibilities, and watch the eyes glaze over as the gently boiling Nerd Mode kicks in...

E.g., how "playable" is the battle with Rubriko? The one that comes after Jordeno, where the word "insane" re-enters your head for the first time since arriving in the LMC. You can't go back and level up your fleet, you must engage with what you've got, you haven't saved at major forks in the storyline(s), you can't back up unless you start THE WHOLE GAME OVER, and the odds are at least ten to one in favor of your eventual annihilation. The music is ethereal, like the incessant slow-motion flapping of damned angel's wings at the very apex of their eternal Fall. Oh, yeah... Almost forgot. After that, you get to fight the exact same battle four more times! Conjugating Russian verbs is a real game by comparison.

*Later on, Yuri lets Glorinda go rather than take her hostage, when she threatens to kill herself. Such terrible responsibility, he explains (possibly thinking of Nia Lochlain), is the awesome price of nobility.

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Sunday, May 09, 2010

Sly Fry

(Missing video?)

Instead of that... Escondido? Guadalajara?! (Apparently, the Russian influence was just an accident of future history. There's also German and Old New Mexican...)


Friday, May 07, 2010

Chapter 7 grinding on...

Prerequisites, prerequisites... I'm thinking of changing majors. Lost once at Monarho, and looked up the trick to getting past Michijo Abato. About ready to try again...

On the bright side, my dentist had a cancellation this morning, so I got in early. Mouth should starting working in another couple of hours.

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Thursday, May 06, 2010

Spetses Blockade

For all my griping, I'm still playing Infinite Space. The battle at Spetses Blockade turned out to be trivial after all — retreat to the left, play defense (including unleashing your AA and fighters if necessary), wait for SPC1 to flicker on, then advance. When your (carefully) targeted ship unleashes a Normal attack, hit it with SPC1. Rinse, lather, repeat.

With Kira in the First Officer slot, SPC2 will also light up. If you've taken damage, use it, but be cautious about raising Dodge almost immediately.

That's Phase 1.

Phase 2 begins at Alonnisos, where'll you have to take down the reserve elements of Cadmus' elite forces. Basically, this works the same way, but... There's a weakness! You're facing five ships. Ship 1 is MIDDLE. Ships 2 and 3 are FORWARD, and ships 4 and 5 are BACK. In other words, you're only facing two ships and the flagship, not all five! So take out 3, 2 and 1, and the last two vanish when you take out the flagship.

(Of course, if you do that, you've also lost a chance to recruit Belenko, Cadmus' unenthusiastic but duty-bound admiral, according to one of the fan-contributed faqs. I took the easy way out, myself. So Belenko didn't like Cadmus? Neither did I.)

After the action progresses beyond these two bottlenecks, the business with Cadmus is over quickly, and full immersion resumes.

Yeah, sure. "Trivial." Apologies if you're still stuck there. It took me 61 hours to get by.


Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Inaction Figure


Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Warm, breezy, Spring day

Nice and quiet and breezy and warm around here. Helicopter seeds filling every square inch of the lawn. The honeybee killers are out too, and overspraying every square inch of other people's lawns. Hey, if nobody's watching and everybody tacitly agrees that bluegrass monocultures are better than meadows, who cares if herbicide application certifications go by the boards? When those "lawncare" companies learn how to care for gardens, they'll earn my respect.

The other harbingers are out, too. I heard a red-winged blackbird yelling about which fenceposts were his, and over on Edgewood and 42nd, thereabouts, there was a guy and his wife peddling morels out of the back of a van — $25 for as many as you could snug into a Mason jar, not counting the big ones pointing out of the top of the jar.

Broke a tooth for lunch, so I have to head back to my dentist's office on Thursday. How rosy can your outlook get, before it's time to knock on the old blockhead again...? Nuts.


Sunday, May 02, 2010

Indefinite Spaceout

Is a game good because it's insanely difficult, or just annoying? Go and chess are almost impossible, in my case, probably because I find them both abstract and duller than dishwater. If you lose every single time, your inclination will be to harvest a few sour grapes and move along. Whether you rise or sink, you will find your level, and you may decide that your forte more properly lies in high adrenaline junk sports like paintball pinochle or shark wrestling.

Infinite Space begins with a kid's fantasy of unlikely masculine prowess (think Axe commercials), in which an older (but still early 20's) girl gives you your very own spaceship for no even remotely plausible reason (she's a Launcher, and it's her job!?? From each according to her abilities? Is she a Commie or a philanthropist?) and so invites you to inherit the Universe.

Cool. You grab the opportunity and get out of Dodge. What follows is a tediously lengthy, labyrinthine space opera which severely tests the notion of accomplishment plot, since all your goals are blocked by bad guys even after you've levelled up enough to take them out: There's always a trick you know about, but won't connect to the tenuous reality of the game. But the next level is not impossible — after 58 hours of play, I've arrived at Chapter Five, where the absurd difficulty level takes a huge step up.

Apparently, a lot of people don't like this game. Most of the time you're travelling through space and listening to music that got old after the first four minutes. It's still playing. You can't change the tune. You'd chew off your own left arm to change it, but you can't.

On the other hand, great literature must inform as well as entertain, according to all the best Victorian style manuals, so of course Infinite Space does introduce the bright young boy to the mysterious opposite sex and all the ways in which The Direct Approach and The Casually Witty Remark are doomed to fail. Maybe a little like Archie and Veronica, in this regard, although I never delved very deeply into the dewy depths of those slender tomes.

For all that, the anime portrait art is pretty good. You'd like to meet Nia Lochlain yourself, and the minor members of the ensemble, like Torlo, Poplo, Gadina and Valantin (the dude with the MaxiPads™ on his shoulders) are drawn with broad strokes, some depth and some character. A few of my personal favorites, besides Yuri and Nia, are Nadja Musin, Nerissa Roubis, Brava Soneto, Celina Sioufas, and the slob Leo Folias. There are many more.

All the place names, in fact all the proper nouns (so far), are Russian. (Personal names are localized, though.) Go figure. If this game had been designed by a People's Junior Entertainment Commisariat in the old Soviet Union, I'd believe it. Has it got the red C.C.C.P. decal anywhere? Apparently not, but the incongruously square-cornered "battleships," "destroyers," "cruisers" and "aircraft carriers" (and here you must imagine Tom Corbett, Space Cadet, spinning in his grave) look and feel about as clunky as a second-hand Zaporozhets. Nia's unclassifiable custom ship, the Daisy, has a few nice lines. The rest of the fleets look like they were stamped out of tin for Christmas at Western Auto circa 1950.

It should be pointed out that this game has received far more than its share of official hype, and even game-ruining official spoilers, apparently released as carrots to entice the reluctant, the skeptical and the frankly pissed-off to later stages of the game. If Kira turns out to be an android, and Nia Lochlain plans to commit suicide [Wikipedia], I'm not sure I give a damn about the rest of it.

Here's one of the rare walkthroughs. And another.

So what IMHO is a "good, hard game?" Don't sprain yourself, here's a hint:


Saturday, May 01, 2010

A May Daydream

Imagine a flower garden crammed with blooms of various colors and little windy paths, trees and bushes framing the central area which is obviously the focus of the entire garden.

You climb a little knoll at the southern end and look back. You are surprised to see the figure of a man, laid out in colorful blooms. He is wearing a bowler hat and broad, upturned mustachios. His jacket is oddly English, with white trim on the lapels and pockets and the bottom edge of the coat.

He winks at you!

That's odd. The Garden Guy raises a hand and tips his bowler, smiling broadly, although a mere picture drawn entirely in flowers.

You see an oddly blurred motion under the flowers, tiny figures busily digging up flowers, moving flowers, repotting flowers, replanting flowers... (You remember that the Mall in Washington, D.C. is constantly being dug up and replanted, so the tourists always have flowers and bright colors. The old flowers, still blooming, are thrown away. This dream of yours is nothing like that.)

A woman, also picked out in flowers, with a lot of whites and pinks, joins Garden Guy. She opens her parasol, and laughingly hides both their faces from your gaze.

The blur in the undergrowth has been intense.

The question is, is Garden Guy real? He saw you. The woman saw you. They both reacted to your presence, as plain as day.

Or were they an illusion created by the pixies, smurfs or gnomes, or whatever they were. You don't believe it was fairies. They haven't got a thought in their heads. Where's the Gardener in all this?

I think they're there for the Kentucky Derby. I must be dreaming.

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