Sunday, December 28, 2008

Tamagotchi: Not just for murdering anymore

I had intended to review Vinland Saga today, and Fallout 3 later in the week, but I've encountered some difficulties in my plans. In one case, I found Vinland Saga to be so fantastic that adequately reviewing it could take days. In the other, more frustrating case, I am more or less unable to review Fallout 3 because I'm at my parents' house, where 'my' computer is a pile of parts cobbled together and running Windows 98. Of course, my brother has it installed on his machine, but has more or less set up camp on top of it. So, for lack of anything else to do, I will blog about my Tamagotchi, and virtual pets in general.

When virtual pets were just coming into vogue in the mid 1990s, there emerged two different camps of pets and users: Pets you nurture selflessly out of love, and pets you train to fight. The best known pets were/are Tamagotchi and Digimon, respectively. I personally preferred Digimon, because I felt that you actually received something resembling a payoff for all your hard work.As far as I knew from experience, the greatest payoff you got from a Tamagotchi was its eventual death. You got some measure of pride from keeping it alive for a long time, but the novelty disappeared quickly. Many people I knew started holding competitions to see how quickly they could kill them at various stages of life. Even more people killed the little bastards out of spite for ruining another night of sleep.

Well, twelve years after I killed my last Tama, I've acquired another. I asked for it for Christmas, after my mother hounded me for weeks to know exactly what I wanted. The true answer was 'nothing', which she would not accept. I selected the Tamagotchi for three reasons: price, desperation, and morbid curiosity. Would I be able to love the Tamagotchi now that I had matured into a less bloodthirsty person?

Well, yes and no. Tamagotchi are now much more manageable and entertaining than I remember them being, but this is due more in part to upgrades to the toy itself than to my personal growth. For instance, one can now connect to other pets and exchange items or become friends, or use special codes to go online for further entertainment.

So, my personal experience with my newest Tamagotchi. After several failed attempts to name it and set the time, I finally wound up with a little dude named Chiko. I had thought it was female, which almost excuses the name. Chiko, if you're in cyberspace reading this: I'm sorry.

After a few days, I've managed to raise Chiko up to teenager status, and I guess he's a peacock or something now. I'm trying to raise him up to be something less lame, but I don't foresee that happening. Still, the little bugger is actually fun to play with this time around. Judicious use of the pause feature can save you several hours of sleep, and prevent ejections from algebra class if you're actually young enough to conceivably have a Tamagotchi.

You can even earn money to buy your little friend toys and food. That adds some level of reward to actually spending time on the little bastard. The only problem is that, usually, you have to play the mini games in order to make any money. This would be fine if the games took a little less time to play, or were slightly more intuitive. Even with the official instructions splayed out before me, I have trouble discerning exactly what the fuck I'm supposed to do in more than half of the games. Either I'm thick, or the buttons are less responsive than I'd thought.

I have so far felt no urge to murder Chiko, and I'm looking forward to keeping him alive for as long as possible. Chiko updates may become regular features on the blog.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Song Summoner: I'm feeling like nobody loves me/Funky and I'm a microphone junkie

Well, Christmas has come and gone, and Boxing Day is upon us. I made quite the nerdy haul, including a Tamagotchi (wat) and several pounds of sweets. I also received an iTunes gift card from my younger brother, which has proven to be the most well-loved gift of them all.

Now, I very seldom use iTunes for the sole reason that I have better things to do than drain my bank account on the one (besides caffeine) thing I can be considered an absolute addict to: data. Suffice to say, it's fortunate that the size of my PC's hard disk exceeds my wants. Barely. However, with the gift card, I can just spend $50 and be done with it, never to resort to anything but borrowing and ripping friends' CDs ever again.

I figured I might as well get something besides music and Afro Samurai episodes, so I checked out the games section. Up until now, I had assumed from the paltry offering of games included with my iPod that the only games released for the little rectangular lovely were puzzle games (AKA Games for Your Mum) and clones of Windows Games titles from the 1990s. While I was correct in most cases (Chinese Checkers? Colored Googaw Match 47? Sign my ass up!) I noticed, of all the fucking things, a Squeenix title in the mix. Intrigued, I dropped $4.99 of my play money and waited patiently.
The basic premise of Song Summoner, and supposedly its greatest draw, is that you create military units from songs on your iPod and use your army of Tune Troopers (shit you not) to rescue your cute little brother from evil robots. That is, hand to God, the game in a nutshell. Compared to other Squeenix titles, it's almost childishly simple, which is far from a bad thing.

You play as Ziggy (the fellow with the sword, no relation to Mr. Bowie), and must rescue your brother Zero (lower right; seeing him caused me to yelp for reasons I'd rather not explain) using skills taught to you by the Soulmaster, who is a whole other tub of awesomeness himself.

The game plays a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics without the ripping your short hairs out in rage because the enemy mages have unlimited potions and you can't reach them on yonder rocky outcropping. Naturally, you're controlling everything with the click wheel, which lends itself better than one would imagine to SRPGs. I think that this is accomplished so neatly because the game was created with the iPod in mind, rather than being a port of a previously popular time killer like Windows Solitaire.

In fact, the lengths to which the game goes to remind the palyer that it's an iPod game is one of the most amazing parts of the game. It revels in its platform, and that makes it even more lovable. The most obvious feature is, of course, the ability to go to the Hip-o-Drome and create your soldiers from songs on your iPod. Sometimes you'll even get hints as to what kind of song will make a good Trooper at that point in time. The end result looks something like the lovely lady off to the left here. To my surprise, the incorporation did not end at the unit creation. You actually earn points to give your Troopers an extra boost in battle by listening to songs you've used to create them. The game can fucking tell what you're listening to, which song created which unit, and how many times you've listened to a particular song since your last play.

Graphically speaking, it's a pretty little game. It looks like it plays: a lot like Final Fantasy Tactics for the PSX. The character art is consistent and appealing, the maps are simple and polished, and the system graphics are crisp and easy to understand. I actually have no complaints about the graphics.

The music is appropriately grand. For me to compliment a video game's music is rare, since my relationship with game music usually swings between 'mute-button-jabbing rage' and 'grudging acceptance'.

What about the story? Well, let me tell you a secret: It doesn't fucking matter.The premise is simple, as is about everything else. What does matter is the fact that it has taken me two hours to write this sodding review because this game's siren call keeps distracting me from the keyboard. The game is an absolute fucking bloodsucker. I laid myself down with it last night and put two hours in without even realizing what I'd done until it was too late. I think one reason it's so addictive is because it's just so fucking accessible. If you're a misanthrope like me, the iPod is just one of those things you always leave the house with, because you never know when you might have to ignore someone. Pulling it out of your pocket for a quickie is hopelessly easy, and I've caught myself doing jsut that on several occasions just today. Another factor is the fact that it relies on the same principle that the Monster Rancher games did, more or less. Put a CD in, get a creature in return. The only problem with this is that I have, in effect, 773 files with which I can create monsters. It's like having Mosnter Rancher 2 and being told that you can just go hog wild in the Alternative section of the local record shop. Just One More Syndrome sets in immediately, and those little quickies turn into fullblown gaming sessions mighty fast. When this happens in the supermarket, it can culminate in you running your face right into a pole.

Of course, an hour later I realize that I did not end this article. I had intended to end with a bang.

But I didn't.

Because I picked this fucking game up again.

Get it. If you like music, you'll love it. If you don't fuck off. Actually, if you don't love music, why in the fuck do you have an iPod?


Friday, December 5, 2008

I Review Princess Tutu: The Shamening

I think it's been sufficiently long since my last anime review that I may comfortably subject my three readers to a second one. This will be somewhat unlike my last review, mainly because I intend to put some thought into it and pretend like I have some kind of standard of quality. Hint: I do not.

It's only fair that, since I've already reviewed a series that I can unabashedly enjoy, I should now review one that fills me with deep, painful nerd shame. Allow me to explain, first, how I came to watch and enjoy this girly, fluffy, sparkly, poofy horror of a series.

Our story begins in a cramped, poorly stocked and laid out dealer's room at Vermont's only anime convention, Bakuretsucon, whose Cheeto-scented halls we shall never darken again. Our anime club had traveled over two hours to reach the cramped event that amounted to a hallway, a staircase, and a few personal rooms transformed into viewing rooms. Following our arrival in this dismal place, we spent a total of five hours within those inoffensively beige walls. I was bored after the first hour, hungry by the third, and homicidal toward the end when we lost two of the younger club members and had to send out two separate search parties.

When I was far past fed up with the activities (or lack thereof) outside the dealer's room, I sequestered myself there for a time, and came upon a nice booth with blind boxes for sale. On top of this, the booth also held the only article of Japanese-language printed material in the entire dealer's room. Was it manga? No, it was something even more lovely - it was doujinshi. Unfortunately for my desperate ass, it was for a series I had never watched, featuring characters whose relationship I had no prior knowledge of. As I mentioned, I was somewhat desperate for something of interest to show from this awful trip. So, negotiations began immediately. I asked how much it was, and was both amused and bewildered when he insisted on checking the UPC on the back for the yen price. Not only did he have the only doujin in the house, but he was under the impression that it was official merch. To my delight (and equal horror) I was dealing with someone who knew absolutely nothing about the most interesting item he was selling. Thus, the haggling commenced. I eventually acquired it for the princely sum of seven dollars, fifty cents, and a sizable chunk of my dignity.

To help me understand the book (and to have the boxset in her mitts) the club's vice president/treasurer/puppetmaster (who is also my good buddy) purchased the Princess Tutu boxset for the club library. I tactfully avoided watching it for some time after its arrival, then proceeded to watch the entire fucking thing in the span of one week. The shame was palpable, but god damn it, it was a good series.

I am as serious as a stab in the kidneys. The title is humiliatingly bad, the premise is sappy, and the classical music and fairy tale motif is utterly beyond my ken. But I devoured it like Roger De Bris devoured Springtime for Hitler. However, unlike Mr. De Bris, I feel shame for having enjoyed it. I wanted it to be terrible. I wanted to hate it so badly, but I just couldn't. I want to believe that I've reached the stage of geekiness where I don't have to pass judgment against myself for enjoying things outside my usual realm of interest. I'd like to have that kind of nerdy zen, but I don't yet. As such, I am still incredibly ashamed. Maybe I should be. But, enough about me. Let me try to explain what the series is, and why I *HURP* like it. I will most likely be antagonistic and accidentally spoil some parts of the series.

Like I said, the premise is soul-suckingly lame upon first glance. Anime News Network's summary made me want to kill myself when I read it in an attempt to learn something about the series I was about to watch.

13-year-old ballet student Ahiru is clumsy, good-hearted and sweet... and has a big secret. The mysterious Drosselmayer morphed a young duck into a girl to give her a mission: help a Prince to get the parts of his heart back. With that in mind, she morphs into Princess Tutu, whose magical dances ease the pain and purifies the bad feelings.
That is the single most embarrassing summary I have ever read. More so than the summary for Onani Master Kurosawa, which is about being caught jerking it. It manages to give a greater sense of vicarious humiliation than reading about a character being caught waxing his wizard's staff. However, the people of 4chan put it in a far more appealing light in the now defunct thread on the series:

It drops that formula and becomes a tale of fighting fate from a guy who cuts his hands off and writes all the main character's fates down with blood from his stumps.

Another Anonymous accused the poster of lying. He was not, and that is why the series succeeds in my eyes. It doesn't go so far as to become a deconstruction of magical girl shows, but rather it rides a comfortable mid-line between playing it straight and tearing it down. It falls into fewer pits than it majestically vaults over, but it did manage to frustrate me at times. Now that you know the story (kind of) I'll tell you about the characters. I can actually sum up everything that delights and infuriates me about the series through doing this, as it's largely character driven.

This is Ahiru. She is, arguably, the most important character in the show. She's either the youngest or shortest of the central players; it's never explicitly stated. She has a magical googaw which allows her to turn into a magical girl who must collect other magical googaws to restore the soul of her red herring love interest. Yes, I just spoiled that. No, I don't care. It was spoiled for me, and I didn't care then. Anyway. Like every other goddamned magical girl who has ever existed, she's a bumbling klutz with a reputation for being late for school and having the deductive skills of a wet hat. Unlike every other magical girl ever to exist, she doesn't inspire the urge to snap her little head off like a bored and spiteful child snaps the heads off of his mother's daisies. Yes, she is occasionally exasperating because she will do things during situation in which all signs point to 'no.' Still, she manages to be one of the few female anime characters that I like beyond grudging acceptance.

Here's the prince we mentioned earlier. Yes, he's naked. Yes, you should get used to that. Yes, you will become more or less numb to it as the series wears on. His name is Mytho, and he has no emotions. Shame is an emotion, so... this happens. I don't know if it's symbolic or not. As much as I like the little bugger, there isn't a lot to be said about him. He's a designated victim, more or less. He exists to be kidnapped andto jump half-dressed out of windows. So, really, he fills a valuable role that the token female character would fill in a shounen series. Badump tish.

This angry young man is Fakir, whose name I initially thought was the kind of gibberish name that anime often gives to foreign characters. Chibodee? Not a name. Anyway. Fakir plays the role of the knight, and plays it as well as he can when the villains mock him for it and the tragedy-bent universe he's been written into dumps liquid crap on him most of the time. He's such a serial failure that it's become a running joke among club members who have seen the series. As the knight, his sole purpose is to protect the little nudist prince until the bad guy inevitably kills him for his efforts. He is so dedicated to his charge that I spent much of the series waiting for the love dodecahedron to go rogue and collapse in on itself following a love confession from him. The subtext actually transcended the level of fanservice and became vaguely uncomfortable at times, because it was never played for laughs.

The lovely young lady to the left is Rue, who was my absolute favorite female anime character for approximately 14 episodes. In a 26 episode series, this means that she lasted for over half the entire series in a much coveted position. What knocked her off the pedestal? She stopped being nasty. Yes, I spoiled that too. However, you would have expected it anyway if you're jaded and didn't expect the series to be a direct deconstruction. Unfortunately, I allowed myself to enjoy her stint as the show's antagonist, and was sorely disappointed when she got a heartbreaking (I guess?) backstory and was turned from a grey character to a pearly white one with a dirty sheet draped over her head. I love female antagonists, and I think you can blame Batman for that. How can you not love this exchange (paraphrased) between her and Fakir:

"Get the Hell out of here, you crazy evil bitch!"
"Crazy? Evil? Damn right, I am. Now you get out, pissant."

It was glorious. But, alas, girls can't be nasty unless they have absolutely no reason to be so. There are countless male characters who have been allowed to remain the hateful, manipulative, slaughtering bastards they are under far worse conditions. Whole family slaughtered, forcing you to live alone on filthy streets crawling with human predators from an age when most kids are being weened? Suck it up. Driven to cannibalism and banditry by the ravages of war? No problem! Manipulative adoptive dad who's molded you into a minion? Live with it, yo- What, you're a girl? Get Out of Dark Side Free card! Yes, I spoiled that too. It's for your own damned good.

So, in sum, it's a fine series that needs a better title and to gain a reputation as a deconstruction so I can admit that I like it.

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Worthy Complaint

Why don't video game boxes talk to me anymore? We used to be so close. We could tell each other anything. Nowadays though? Never really tell me anything. What happened, video games? When did we drift apart?

I speak, of course, of the recent trend of filling the back-cover blurb of console games with bulleted lists of the game's features without any allusion as to the plot or point of the game. I'd really like to have some idea of an RPG's plot before I pick it up, rather than see something like this.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Musings on Subbing, Dubbing, and the Future of America's Anime Habit

Keeping up with your favorite series in a legally-sound fashion is damned expensive, and damn frustrating if you don't want to wait about a year before you get your first taste of something that looks genuinely interesting. A single DVD containing less than five episodes will bust your wallet to the tune of at least twenty dollars. These purchases are often made 'sight unseen' in the case of series not aired of the SciFi Channel or Cartoon Network. To people without parents to chunk money at them to finance their hobbies, this is kind of a kick to the face. The argument could be (and has been) made that American viewers really have no right to complain, since Japanese consumers pay about 150% of that price for their DVDs, and in much greater numbers than our pirating asses. Are we ungrateful? Is Japan so driven by consumerism that this difference in buying habits is cultural? Well, maybe it's all that and a lot more.

Let's go back to the 'sight unseen' concept. A great amount of anime released in Japan is aired on television before the DVDs are released, and many that aren't are OVA spinoffs of television series or PC games. Much of the DVD sales are from collectors or fans who were unable to catch up with the TV airings. It's more or less impossible for an American fan to get this sort of preview legally without dropping $25 on the first DVD, or $10 on a magazine that includes a preview and review of the first episode. Of course, the dubbed versions of some series are aired on channels like Cartoon Network and the SciFi channel, but this really doesn't make up for the number of $25 impulse buys people make. This also used to be the case with VHS. You'd plunk down $20 for about five episodes or a single film worth of content, either dubbed, or subtitled and uncut. Perplexingly, the subtitled versions were often sold at a slightly inflated price, despite costing less to produce.

I think anyone would agree with me when I say that the popularization of digital media changed everything in respect to how the market for anime works. The advent of faster internet connections and person-to-person sharing networks revolutionized how we, the consumer, consume things without having to pay. DVDs and digital editing streamlined the fansubbing process to the point where a team of a few people (all working for NOTHING) can adapt an episode that aired in Japan on Sunday to a fully subtitled, annotated version that viewers in English-speaking countries can watch on Friday. That is fucking progress, my friend.

Of course, this means that fansubs are no longer so inconvenient as they once were. They're accurate, they're lovingly crafted, and they're free. To someone who doesn't want to pay for the extra audio track, the choice is kind of obvious: we want the fansubs.

So, who's the villain in all this? Is it the fansubbers for doing all the work for nothing and giving it up for free, or is it the fault of the distributors for sticking to a business model that's been rendered obsolete? In my opinion, neither party is entirely in the wrong. However, I also believe that the companies are going about addressing the issue of tanking sales poorly in that their recent methods may only alienate fans. Rather than demonizing fansubbers, they may find better success through updating their mode of distribution.

First of all, stop dubbing shit that hasn't been on American TV. If you're selling it because it went over well in Japan and you know otaku will buy it, don't bother. Dubbing is a labor intensive and expensive process that drags down release dates and inflates price. On top of that, most fans just bitch about the dub anyway. Dubbing really doesn't have a great reputation among otaku, a fact that becomes all too obvious on message boards and mailing lists full of moaning and bitching whenever something is licensed.

Secondly, consider delving into the deep, strange world of pay downloads similar to iTunes. A couple bucks for an episode that took a week to subtitle seems much more tempting than $25 for four episodes of something you may not even like. Of course, the downloads would have to be of a slightly less than perfect video quality so that people with the collecting fetish will go out and buy the shiny boxsets when the season/series is through.

As American consumers, we often feel just a little cheated in the way our fix comes to us. We get little on TV, we get next to no cool merch besides the occasional wall scroll or action figures (NARUTO YAY OTL), and we have a history of having to nance around legalities in order to watch anime that isn't massacred. And we can't even make doujinshi for all our trouble!

Friday, September 12, 2008

Further Cellphone Bollocks

After many long arguments with Windows Vista, I've got Motorola Phone Tools working, so I can finally transfer shit to the phone.

p2kTools was coded by Borat and can go suck a Christmas dick until I need to seriously mod the thing.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

A Troublesome Compulsion

I own a pink cellphone. There, I've said it. Aye, tis me secret shame. Ever since I received it as a hand-me-down, my pink Razr V3 has been both a treasure and an embarrassment. It's kind of dinged up, the camera is shot, and it's pink. I hope to remedy at least one of those problems tonight.

As of this moment, I have been in the process of spontaneously disassembling it with the hopes of repairing the camera, cleaning it, and getting an idea of its inner workings so that I may more effectively paint or re-house it. So, a quick couple lists to give you an idea of what's going on here:

Non-standard tools I keep in my electronic/PC repair kit:
-Very small, moderately powerful magnet
---Prefect for attracting and even loosening small or stubborn screws lost in deep crevices of parts

-Winn Dixie Customer Reward Card, dated 2001
---Applied for under pain of ejection from my first job. Excellent prier-apart of tiny, fiddly bits.

-Re-purposed toothbrush
---The thing people do to computers...

Things I have learned from gutting the Razr:
-Taking apart a cellphone is, in many ways, less finicky than taking apart a laptop. On the one hand, you're working on a much smaller scale, but on the other, you've got less shit to break.
-Cellphones get damn grody inside. Your ears are filthy things, and you should feel great shame.
-Relatedly, it is entirely possible for pubic hair to become lodged inside a cellphone. You hear that, Aunt Carol? You effectively mail three of your pubes to my poor old mother.

Now, on to experimentation. Since I've gently cleaned the grimy keypad and innards, my mind turns to thoughts of mischief. I think the easiest and least harmful modification would be to add some color to the keypad. If I had some very thin plastic gift wrap, I'd be all set. However, before I go so far as to acquire some, I may dab a bit of dry-erase marker onto the back of one key. In theory, it should come right off. In practice, who cares if I eternally have on funny-colored key on my pink cellphone? Hm. Nah. I'll wait until I can get a new keypad.

So, the phone is back together. The operation was a success, and the patient is recuperating on its charger.

Monday, September 8, 2008

On the Subject of Otaku

I've ruminated on this subject for several years now, always coming close to takataka-ing down something resembling an entry, but never quite getting there. Still, this is a blog called OtaKulture, so I feel obligated to include such an entry.

When I consider this, I realize that the main factor keeping me from writing an entry on otaku is that I keep trying to define the phenomenon in concrete terms, a feat that anyone with more than passing knowledge of nerd culture finds oddly difficult. Just like the term 'nerd', the word's meaning can and does vary wildly from person to person. You could say it's someone who watches anime/reads manga. To that, many would say, "Weeeell, it's not quite so simple."

To many people, otaku is kind of a catch-all term for the obsessed. Most any obsession is applicable, particularly obsessions with visual media and technology. Anime, manga, video games, horror films, computers, etc. The real qualifying factor is obsession, usually to the point that the interest (whatever it may be) influences one's everyday actions and/or way of thinking. It really can be defined as what can happen when your hobbies take you a little too far over the deep end.

With that somewhat nebulous definition out of the way, I'd like to admit my bias here by confessing that I do consider myself to be an otaku. I am an officer of a club on my college campus called, fittingly enough, GMC Otaku. I recently had an interesting conversation with an acquaintance who couldn't wrap his head around the club's name. He tried to kindly inform me that the word has a terrible connotation to it, and if I knew one lick of Japanese blah blah blah on and on. He was understandably gobsmacked when I told him that, yes, I do know what it means, and that I've been learning Japanese for nearly two years. Thus, he swapped tactics. Why, why would you want to associate your club and yourself with something that means something so bad? Why, oh why? Well, the primary reason is that I don't want to be dishonest. Looking around my room at the bookshelf full of manga, the stacks of DVDs either bought legally or awaiting a future in fansub-archiving, and the numerous posters, I find it difficult to think that the term doesn't apply to me. In fact, most of the club's members (pre-freshman membership drive) really could be classified as otaku in most every sense of the word. Of course, some of us have more dork street cred than others, and that can lead to pissing contests the likes of which I'll get into shortly.

As a student of anthropology, I find otaku to be fucking fascinating. As a phenomenon and as a subculture, the idea of obsessive dorks considered to be totally anti-social convening to be obsessive together. It becomes even more fascinating when they start forming cliques, using terms and language not common or present in mainstream language, and defining their own standards of decency. Many things are just different in the context of otakudom.

One facet of this cultural analogy I'm trying so desperately to conjure up is the aforementioned pissing contests. In a subculture brought together by obsession, it's only natural that social standing within the group is in a way relate to just how obsessive or knowledgeable one is in regards to the subject at hand. The issue of whether it's a negative or positive reflection on you largely depends on what sort of toll the obsession has taken on your life. If you came across the knowledge by being creepy and pissing in PET bottles, it is certainly a negative reflection.

I must reflect again on people's strong opposition to the word's use as anything other than an insult. The acquaintance I mentioned earlier in this entry is a fan himself, and quite obsessive, but recoils at the idea of the wok otaku being used to describe anthing but socially withdrawn madness. Yes, the word carries a negative sting in mainstream use, but is it so wrong to use it humorously, frankly, in a way that says, "Yes, I know exactly what you're thinking?" Why yes, I'm fully aware that when I tell you I read manga and can disassemble a PC in a minute or two, you're thinking to yourself that I'm some sort of potentially dangerous, withdrawn loonie.

So, to put it in words that your average college freshman hasbeen groomed to pretend to understand : It's ironic! Quit hatin'!

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

The Devil Went Down to Georgia / He Was Looking For a-- WHAT THE FUCK AM I WATCHING?!

I watch anime porn sometimes. Ohhhh noooo! I used to try to view it with some kind of seriousness, but that's become impossible in recent years. I don't know if the porn is getting more hilarious, or my sense of humor is becoming more twisted. Perhaps it's a combination of the two.

Last night I had the opportunity to watch the seminal classic Requiem, a heartwarming and bawdy tale about a man and his sexy fiddle. Yeah. The basic rundown of the slowly developing (for porno) plot, is that the violin instructor at an all girls school has made a pact with the devil for some reason. In exchange for whatever the fuck the devil fiddle is giving him, he must use its eerie powers to seduce young women. Aside from the possible danger to his employment status, I really don't see why this is such an awful deal. Maybe he's possessed by the devil fiddle. I forget. It doesn't matter. What matters is how bizarre and hilarious the whole concept is.

The devil fiddle has clearly influenced its poor host's fashion sensibilities. In pre-fiddle flashbacks, he isn't covered in buckles. Oh, and the fiddle is covered in belts, because that's just so good for acoustic quality. Really, I don't know what the Hell is up with that. He doesn't even where a whole new outfit. He just straps belts all over his foppy, grey suit.

Unfortunately, the funniest scene is the first scene. It really is like performing after Elvis Presley; you're just boned because the best act of the night has had at the audience. Any scenes following, no matter how ridiculous, haven't a chance of amusing me as much as the scene I have dubbed "Fiddlin' Blowjob!"

Really, it's hard for more elements to clash and tumble together so hilariously as this. A man, a woman, a golden throne, several belts, a violin, some nice drapes, and a dick.

Jesus Christ.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

An IT Technician's Plea

For the past five days, I've been doing some summer work for my college's IT department. I'm stationed in a small office in the library's foyer that we've dubbed the IT Triage Unit. It serves (in theory) to keep students with simple computer problems from rushing down to the basement office where the higher-ups are handling their heavy pre-semester load. In theory, this is a beautiful idea, and would be a great permanent addition to the IT services offered by the school.

In practice, however, it could be described as a clusterfuck. Le cluster de fuck, as the pseudo-French may say. From the never-ending line of freshmen with laptops (and even desktops!) in hand to the belligerent, overbearing parents, it's been a trial all the way. This, of course, is really no one person's fault. It's the first time we've tried this, and we've got a lot to learn about how to streamline it. Still, there are a lot of specific things I wish that students and faculty alike would keep in mind throughout the year, just to keep the deluge of people in our IT office to a minimum. They are as follow:

1. For the Sweet Love of Jesus, Try it Yourself FIRST
I know computers are scary. I know that. They're especially scary, I suppose, if you've been using AOL on your mum's computer for the past eighteen years, and have never had to actually do anything on one. Still, you're legally a grown-up now, and not as many people are going to gently cut you slack for not putting forth an effort to understand new things. Many harried IT techs are none too happy to delay the four other people behind you in line because you couldn't be arsed to investigate the problem yourself.

2. We Can Tell When You're Lying

Really, we're here to help, not pass judgment. Well, we will pass judgment. Just silently and privately. If we ask if you have a pirated OS, do not lie. It only makes it more difficult to figure out why the network hates you. We won't send you to the PoPo to be locked up. Similarly, just be honest when we ask if you use Napster or Limewire or some shit. Really, we don't care.

3. Hide Your Embarrassing Shit

There's nothing more awesome than when the tech opens up your laptop to discover that awesome picture your friends took of you doing shots topless. It's even better when you're not of drinking age. Hell, it's still great when you've got porn sites and FapChan set to open when you start your browser. That makes checking your internet connection really fun.

Yeah, this shit takes five minutes to do. Those five minutes will eliminate those knowing stares from the techs.

4. If It's Free, It Might Kill Your PC

You can do your part to keep your PC from violently bursting into flames by not downloading toolbars, free game packages, MySpace utilities, and WeatherBug. Remember: If you bought a PC two months ago and it's already slower than fuck, it's probably not the poor computer's fault that you've essentially opened it up and poured liquid shit into it. Figuratively speaking, of course.

5. Windows Vista Hates You
It just does. For all its touting of higher security and greater usability, it's still obtuse, and doesn't keep you from easily murdering your own computer.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Thursday, August 21, 2008

GaoGaiGar: Become Light, Bitch

Over my summer break from college, my younger brother introduced me to GaoGaiGar, a giant mecha anime with enough hot blood and toyetic design to choke even the most seasoned whore. Notably, the show is widely accepted to be an homage to classic giant robot series like Mazinger Z and Getter Robo.

The series stars (among others, who arguably matter far less) Shishiou Gai, a man with crazy hair and no body. Note that he is not a crazy man with no body hair, as that title is reserved for Hyuuma. Gai was an astronaut (at the age of 18, perplexingly) until his ship was smashed to niblets and an intergalactic robot lion saved him from certain death. The technology inside the giant mecha space lion enabled Gai's scientist father to build his son an awesome cyborg body that is so neat that I could flap on about it for several paragraphs. I won't. I will end the topic now.

The giant, transforming mecha that Gai pilots (fuses with, whatever) is excessively toyetic. For the unaware, the word 'toyetic' implies that the item or character described would make for excellent merch. GaiGar and its assorted forms and robot pals all have the level of flashy googaws and attention to detail to make fantastic toys and models. This doesn't change the fact that they're totally sweet to look at; in fact, that's kind of the point.

I could continue to go on about the characters, the mechs, who's awesome, why Hyuuma is the Incredible Hulk, and so on, but I shan't. As far as I'm concerned, the main issue is the nature of the show itself. It's an unflinchingly cliche giant robot series, which is not surprising in and of itself. What is surprising, however, is that it was created in 1997, only a year after the deep ripple of angst and edgy whininess that Neon Genesis Evagelion brought to the genre first started its trip to the edges of the pond. GaoGaiGar was a cheesy, hot blood-fueled orgy of yelling and giant hammers conceived and released in an era when that just wasn't the cool thing to do. Further, the series is so extreme in its regression to happier times that it comes off as a six story-tall middle finger to all the posturing emo bollocks that Eva and its ilk stand for. There's nothing even remotely psychological or deep about it, and that's great. Even better, it makes no apologies for this.

One of the charming features of the series is that, while it may not apologize for the crazy shit it does, it often has a stunning degree of self awareness. Instances of characters taking a little breather in the middle of their shouting are a good example of the kind of lampshade hanging done. One episode featured alarmingly equal-rights fanservice culminating in a short scene of an enormously muscled naked man going to town on an unfortunately placed joystick.

It's refreshing to see 90s mecha that isn't riddled with angst and dramatic 'fuck you's to the audience. There's just so much (for me, at least) to enjoy in this series. I think that, for some, a lot of the entertainment value may be lost if you don't 'get' the jokes and references. One character, for instance, becomes ten times as tolerable and interesting when you realize that he's basically Cyborg 002/Jet from Cyborg 009.

The best part, for me, is that the series is fun. It's got great robot design, it has consistently upbeat and cool music, the fights are numerous and entertaining, and it doesn't fuck with you. Gai is not the demons, the characters don't walk around with signs on their chests reading, "I will die or turn evil," and none of the fights end in an elaborate 'fuck you' in order to keep viewers so nervous and depressed that they continue to tune in in lieu of leaving the house and finding a girlfriend.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

3D Custom Shoujo Review

Last week, I was browsing an imageboard, as I am wont to do when not enriching my life by riding motorbikes and eating good cheese. I found a thread mentioning a game called 3D Custom Shoujo, which allows you to create female characters to populate your creepy romantic fantasies. Intrigued, I got myself a copy and fired it up. After a few minutes of tinkering with the disturbingly deep character generator, I started to feel like I might be giving Hitler competition for the title of "History's Greatest Monster."

The level of customization that you can go into is frankly astounding. In fact, it's amazing to the point of being out and out creepy. The entire concept of god-type games that allow you to create and control AI-driven things for your own sick amusement is a little creepy. There is, of course, always a natural progression from 'loving god' to 'bored god.' When you go from raising Sims, to burning Sims, to making Sims that look like people that you hate just so you can burn them, the transition is complete. This game, however, really gives you no option not to take the indulgent, hedonistic path of using your creations for your own twisted fancies. You're more or less expected to ogle and molest your creations. I'd feel like a hypocrite if I didn't express some relief over the game's frankness, since I loathe media that would otherwise be purely entertaining if it didn't try to apologize for the fact that all it has to offer is its entertainment value. So, yes, I'm relieved that the game is at least honest in its intent.

It's unfortunate that the game suffers from some very obvious clipping errors, even with items that are hard-coded into the game. I can forgive the lack of separate voice options and the oft-times wacky camera control, but the clipping is painful. It can't be that hard to fiddle with the physics long enough to keep shoes and arms from phasing through clothing and tits.

Koharu here took me three minutes from start to finish to create, from opening the program to closing Photoshop after resizing the screenshot. In about two minutes, I made a fair representation of a vague idea in my mind, and was satisfied with it. Furthermore, I needed no mods to do it.

Oh, about the mods. They're plentiful and largely screwed up. They range from understandable things like packs that allow you to create male characters and familiar characters, to mods dedicated to making amputees. I've asked a friend to challenge me to build a girl to his wild speculations. Hoping to vex me, he requested a girl with drills for hands.

I sure showed him.