Michael Kimball is great. Let's just get that out of the way.
He uses a really strange device in this book. The book is broken up into really short secMichael Kimball is great. Let's just get that out of the way.
He uses a really strange device in this book. The book is broken up into really short sections, and then each section will say something about Galaga. Sometimes the section will say something, maybe about a piece of fan art or a Galaga mod, and then a couple sections later Kimball will say, "That thing I said a couple sections back? That's not real. But I just thought it would be cool."
A few reviewers found it annoying, but I have to say, it really brought me back to a different era of gaming.
Pre-Internet, gaming was hard and confusing as hell. And half of the things you heard about games was third-hand, at best. Your friend's cousin who lives in Canada discovered a secret password in Metroid. There's a kid who's three grades ahead in school, and his brother beat Mario Bros. 10 times in a row and got the REAL ending. Hidden levels, hidden characters, all that stuff was so interesting because it felt like you weren't supposed to know.
The thrill of walking on the ceiling in the first Mario castle, of finding the Warp Zone where text filled the screen. It was definitely a secret. There weren't other places where white text explained what the hell was going on. You found it, used it, and then you were part of this secret club.
Games were packed with that stuff, and as an adult I can see that on some level, you were supposed to find it. Nobody would bother to code a warp zone into a game that they hoped people would never find. Right?
I think what Kimball's book did is take me back to that place. A place that doesn't exist anymore. Where you would watch older guys at the arcade play games and say, "Wait...what the fuck? How did he do that?" Or you'd read a Mortal Kombat III strategy guide and desperately try to memorize the finishing moves before the store clerk reminded you of the game store's status as a library. Currently: Not A.
In some ways, I wonder if video game culture has really suffered in the current age. Now, games are so easy to get. And easy not to get, easy to check out pretty thoroughly before you buy. Which is good for the consumer, but goddamn does it take away some of the mystery. The excitement of picking up a cartridge at Blockbuster and hoping that Green Dog is going to provide you a great weekend of gaming. That's gone. The thing where you go to a friend's house and see Zelda for the first time and think, "Holy shit. I need to preserve this friendship so I can play this game for the rest of my life."
I also wonder if some of the disrespectful shit in the gaming world, if a good deal of that comes from the fact that you're saying something to someone you will never actually meet. It's so different to call someone "fag" in real life than it is on Xbox Live. Especially as a dummy 12 year-old. I was always a little scared of the older kids at the arcade, even though they never gave me reason to be. And girls in the arcade? I always thought that was great! I mean, I was too shy to ever approach a girl. If you think I was scared of the older boys, jesus, that was nothing compared to girl paralysis. But when we were all at the arcade together in real life, I felt like just entering the storefront, just crossing into that part of the mall was all the cred someone needed. If a girl came into the arcade, then she was as much a gamer as anyone. If a girl beat me at Mortal Kombat III and DID know the finishing moves, I was just happy to actually see a finishing move. If a girl wanted to play X-Men with me, that was fantastic. Unless she really wanted to be Colossus. Then we'd have a problem because Colossus was my guy.
At this point I feel like I'm just being Old Man Pete and complaining about the internet. It's not all bad. The access to so much is great, and I think the advent of the more homemade games, the garage band feel of the indie game scene is the best. In some ways the modern age has leveled things. Regular people can make games. It doesn't take a huge studio for someone to make something anymore.
But I miss the past. NEStalgia, as they say.
Just to add on a little something, there are a few video game rumors out there that I think are really fun:
You know what stinks about writing a Choose Your Own Adventure?
I figured it out when I read this. I mean, what stinks other than the fact that I die cYou know what stinks about writing a Choose Your Own Adventure?
I figured it out when I read this. I mean, what stinks other than the fact that I die constantly.
The thing that stinks, if the text is actually good and funny, you don't get to read it. Not really. Because you're following the story, but then I flip past what looks like a hilarious picture of a guy in a convertible with half a head, and I want to know what that's all about.
I've decided to try a new thing here on Goodreads. Basically, unless I think something is a 5 or a 1, I won't be giving it a star rating.
There are aI've decided to try a new thing here on Goodreads. Basically, unless I think something is a 5 or a 1, I won't be giving it a star rating.
There are a couple reasons, and I'll list them here in the interest of full disclosure:
First and foremost, I'll be putting in a proposal to Boss Fight Books, and I'm hoping to interview the publisher for LitReactor. And while I still want to talk about some of the contents, I'm not going to tear apart a book from a publisher I'm going to try and work for/with. I guess you could view this as the death of my honesty, but I don't see it that way at all. I think this is me being honest about how it's impossible for me to be objective in this situation, and I'm proud to be able to tell you and be upfront about it. My objectivity is pretty questionable when I'm reviewing a small press I want to work for, and I think I'll better serve everyone by being honest about it.
Second, for me personally, I think the star system doesn't really work. I can only tell you what I thought of something, but I think I'd rather use my words in the space provided than just click a star. It's just too easy to make a snap judgment and give something a two-star rating, when really it might deserve more. And while that doesn't matter much to me, it probably really sucks for the author.
Now, all that said, I'm still going to 5-star and 1-star stuff. The reason being, 5-star books deserve 5-star attention. If I give something 5 stars, it's because I think it's truly great. And I'm not too generous with those. I've got 87 5-star ratings on here, which amounts to 8% of the books I've starred.
Also, 1-star reviews will still be happening. Because I believe in that too.
So cheers to a new system, and we'll see how it goes....more
Maybe you heard about this one. The book they're pulling from the shelves because it depicts Barbie as being a comHaha, oh man. Barbie? What the hell?
Maybe you heard about this one. The book they're pulling from the shelves because it depicts Barbie as being a computer engineer who is dependent on the help of men.
It's a two-in-one, and the story of Barbie being in actress is ALSO terrible!
In the actress story, Barbie shows up to a play, the lead is sick, and she takes over. It's the Princess and the Pea, and they figure Barbie can handle it with no rehearsal whatsoever.
Now, what's weird, it would appear that Barbie is ALREADY an actress in this story. So what we're talking about is a situation where Kathy Bates stumbles into a mall, they beg her to be the princess in a 10-minute play, she accepts, and everyone is blown away that she's not horrible.
No fucking shit!
But the capper, Barbie's final line:
"I guess I can be a great actress—even without knowing my lines perfectly!"
Sure. I mean, why even do the one fucking thing actors and actresses are supposed to do?
Also, I just want to point out that this production looks to be about ten minutes long, takes place in the center of a mall, and yet there are multiple costume changes, a full lighting rig, and a hair and makeup crew.
What the fuck?
Okay, then we flip the book over (although I guess Barbie would be baffled by this because instead of flipping it over you could just have someone else read it) and get to the computer engineer story.
Now, to be fair, Barbie is in school to be a computer engineer. So maybe she still has some things to learn. But let's look at the Occupation Outlook Handbook. The OOH.
O Mighty OOH, what does a computer engineer do?
Computer hardware engineers research, design, develop, and test computer systems and components such as processors, circuit boards, memory devices, networks, and routers. By creating new directions in computer hardware, these engineers create rapid advances in computer technology.
Interesting. So I guess when Barbie says she's designing a game...that sounds a little off. Oh, but wait. She's not designing the game!
Barbie: "I'm only creating the design ideas. I'll need Steven's and Brian's help to turn it into a real game."
So basically what we've learned is that Barbie, as a computer engineer, is drawing a doggy. It IS a robot doggy, so I guess that catapults us slightly into the computer realm. But I'm really stretching to make people feel better about goddamn Barbie, and that doesn't make me feel good about myself.
Barbie's computer then gets a virus, which she then spreads to Skipper's computer. Skipper is pretty cool about this, by the way. If my brother did that, I'd be kinda pissed. Skipper seems to be more even-keeled than me. I suspect she may have been using drugs. But let's stick to what's explicitly wrong here.
Barbie then asks her computer engineering teacher, who is an attractive lady in a lab coat, how to quash a virus.
Why the fuck a computer engineering teacher is wearing a lab coat is beyond me. I'm sure some computer engineers do, but do they do so in the classroom? If so, folks, I think you're taking advantage of a situation, sort of like when the coach wears the baseball pants in baseball. Seriously, do you think you might take the field at some point? Buy some jeans, asshole.
Barbie tries to fix her computer, and fortunately Steven and Brain come along and help.
Could she have done it without the bailout. Hard to say. But does my confidence in her ability to draw a robot dog give me a lot of faith in her computer skills? Not so much.
Oh, and they don't even SHOW us the fucking robot dog! All that fuss, they have a whole page about how cute this robot dog is and they don't even show us. There was still a chance that I could derive some pleasure from this. There's always a chance I'll be satisfied if there's a truly cute robot dog. But alas...
What do we learn from Barbie?
Well, Barbie sucks. And I don't think there's any way around that at this point.
This is just one fella's opinion, okay? But I DID play with a lot of action figures pretty late into life. Which is a fact I'm somehow trying to use to gain credibility here, and I don't know if that's going to work.
Here's what kind of sucked about action figures: They were what they were. It was tough to have Ghostbusters do a lot besides bust ghosts. It didn't make sense to have Wolverine action figures disappear in the Beetlejuice vanishing vault. I guess there was potential for a Beetlejuice/Ghostbusters crossover, but that never occurred to me until just now. It's far too late now. Sometimes life feels like an ever-increasing stack of missed opportunities.
Anyway, the appeal of a Barbie, she could kind of be whatever. Is your Barbie a pilot? Sweet. Is yours an inventor? Awesome. Is yours half robot with wires sticking out of her head, like my sister's was after I convinced her that we should modify it? Very cool.
Before Barbie had a voice, she could have been whatever. And frankly, if you felt Barbie was too pretty to be an astronaut, well that sounds a bit like stereotyping to me.
But then we'd have no movies. No books. No video games. We'd just have...huh. Whatever little girls decided....more
My writing teacher Tom Spanbauer always quotes this saying:
"When you meet someone, look them in the eye and be kind, because within those eyes there iMy writing teacher Tom Spanbauer always quotes this saying:
"When you meet someone, look them in the eye and be kind, because within those eyes there is a great battle waging."
That's all I could think about while I read this.
You might remember the author of this piece as the Isla Vista shooter. Which you might remember as the event that various news outlets chalked up to the perpetrator being a misogynist. Which also ignited the #notallmen hashtag, out of which came #yesallwomen.
While I obviously don't condone, endorse, or believe in what he did, and while his beliefs are very, VERY far from my own...I read the entire damn thing, and I think that saying misogyny is responsible for the events is a gross, irresponsible oversimplification.
The young man said some very misogynist things, and don't get me wrong, a lot of the writing was certainly misogynist. The writer didn't seem to think of women as people so much as indicators of status. Yes, at it's heart, the piece is misogynist.
That ignores a boatload of other things. And I can't help but notice a pattern. Whenever something like this happens, we look to the issues of the day to say, "Here's why it happened."
Columbine was Marilyn Manson's fault. Or Grand Theft Auto's. One killing blames gun control, another lack of mental health care. Or the parents. Or racism. Bullying. Whatever we're talking about, lo and behold, we then say "Oh, here's why this happened" dust our hands and walk away. We can be satisfied because we have something to do now, an issue to address.
What I can't help but feel is that the response to the Isla Vista killings was a representation of exactly why news is really, really fucked up right now. Because I looked, and there was some very bad newswriting going on right after the crimes. It seemed that very few actually read this manifesto, which was out there and a valuable piece of the story. Yet so many sources used the same quotes from the last 10% of the writings. There are many, many disturbing things in here. Near the end of his life, the perpetrator has a very bizarre obsession with winning the lottery. He makes multiple trips to Arizona because he is 100% convinced he will win Powerball. This happens half a dozen times, and each time he's convinced that the lottery is the only way to change his life.
He makes a lot of references to how he's destined for greatness. Not infamy, but greatness.
He talks a lot about men and women, couples, and he talks about them with obvious immaturity and lack of personal development. He mentions at least three times when he dumped liquids on people, from his car or once after buying a Super Soaker and filling it with orange juice, just because he felt personally attacked by them having fun or having what he perceived as good lives.
There are also parts that were cripplingly lonely. Especially when he talks about his childhood, his anxiety around other people. He talks quite a bit about being small and weak. As a kid, he realizes that basketball players are tall, and he uses kid logic to deduce that playing basketball makes a person tall. So he spends hours shooting hoops at home, waiting to grow. He cries more than any other person in any other piece of writing I've ever read. As an adult, he cries very, very often.
While I say there were many disturbing things, there's also something disturbing the reader brings to the table. Honestly, when he was young, his experiences were not unlike those of most normal American kids.
There was a battle waging within Elliot Rodger. No doubt. Even near the end, towards the very end of this piece, he says over and over how he feels trapped, how he's scared to die and how he doesn't really want to do what he did, but he just feels like there's no other path for him. It's very strange, and he seems very, very scared.
Just to say again. I don't think any of what he did was right. And I would never seek to excuse it.
What I want to say, after reading this, is that...well, I guess I feel like someone shoots up a place, we come up with the quickest answer as to why, and then we move on. We decide what to label the killer, and then we don't think of that person as a person anymore. They're just, simply, a murderer.
Tom Spanbauer taught me something else really important, the idea of unpacking something. You can call someone a dad in a story, and then let someone fill in the details typical of a sitcom dad. But when you unpack that character, really describe, it's harder to ignore the reality of that person.
We pack away killers like Elliot Rodger with a word like misogyny. Then we can say we're not like him, so we're safe. We can check the box and then ignore the rest of an entire life that led to such horrible acts. We do that, file it away, and then we're shocked that this happens again and again.
I'm calling us out for that behavior. For skimming the surface of something, finding the first answer that pops up, and accepting it as the entirety of the truth. It's sad, but we can't read news anymore and know what the fuck happened, what's going on. If you want to talk about something, then you'd better look into it yourself. No one else is going to do it for you.
And news outlets, if you want to maintain any credibility, do the work. Tell the story right, and don't blend in other content just to get clicks. I'll call it out right now, I think Slate is an example of an outlet that fused this particular story with more attractive elements because, let's face it, saying "Someone killed and we can't really say why" is a less clickable story than "Misogynist Killers Endanger Us All." And how will that help your revenue? Who is going to click a boring headline, and more importantly, click the Prudential Insurance banner that's currently (11/20/2014) above the story?
Quick calling out of marketing bullshit, by the way, Prudential, are you aware your ad is at the top of this page? Is that where you want to be? And Slate, is this an accident, having insurance above a story about a killer? Just thought that was interesting.
I guess what I'm saying with all of this, what Tom Spanbauer says is true. Look someone in the eyes, see the battle. If you don't have the time or energy to do that, then don't pretend like you did. ...more
Lobo comics never made sense. And they were the best when they didn't try to.
For the uninitiated, Lobo was a DC comics character created as a one-offLobo comics never made sense. And they were the best when they didn't try to.
For the uninitiated, Lobo was a DC comics character created as a one-off baddie who joined a team here and there, then grew into his own series.
Lobo co-creator Keith Giffen:
"I have no idea why Lobo took off... I came up with him as an indictment of the Punisher, Wolverine hero prototype, and somehow he caught on as the high violence poster boy. Go figure."
Lobo spent his time in a few one-shots and short series before having his own title that ran for 64 issues between 1993 and 1999.
What attracted me to this book as a kid?
Well, it was fucking nuts.
In Infanticide, the plot revolves around Lobo being tricked to showing up on a planet populated entirely by bastard children he's left all over the universe.
In another, a story about just how far a healing factor can go, Lobo is cut to pieces, consumed by snails, and then shat out. The pieces of him eventually reconstitute into man shape and then resume kicking ass.
The amount of violence was pretty crazy. The amount of sex was even crazier. I feel like the creators almost got away with something, that they made it so violent nobody noticed the other adult content. Kind of a switcheroo from the normal, where you can have a movie that's violent as hell, but a sex scene? Forget it.
That explains what's in Lobo, but not what I liked about it.
A brief anecdote:
In 6th grade I had an English teacher whose class had two doors. One went into the hallway, the other outside. She plastered a big sign on the door to the outside that said DO NOT USE.
I used it. Like, all the time.
In fact, I went through the outside, forbidden door, even though it meant I had to walk around the building, come back inside, and god help me, PASS THE OTHER DOOR to get to my next class. It was more difficult for me to use the incorrect door.
Eventually a detention was given, some gum was cleaned off of desks, and my door selection policy was refined.
Why did I use that door?
It wasn't just because it was forbidden. And it wasn't because I particularly hated this teacher. It was because I felt like it was forbidden for no real reason.
That, to me, has always been the attraction of taboo. Not the very fact of it being taboo. The question that taboo brings up: Why? What is it about this that makes it so taboo?
Lobo comics scratched that itch. Why was it wrong to read about a violent, insane, non-hero who cursed (sort of), killed, and was a total misogynist?
I think the answer would be that it might shape how I think. Shape the way I feel about some of those issues. And it did, to an extent. I'm not violent. I'm not insane. I don't really figure on the hero/non-hero spectrum, but I can say confidently that I've never killed anyone and I'm no misogynist. So Lobo comics changed how I feel about those issues because it made me doubt the idea that exposure to taboo material will cause the reader to engage in the behaviors.
Even at a young age, I knew enough to know that the whole purpose of Lobo was that it was outrageous. If you looked at the pages and saw anything resembling imitable behavior, I don't know what the hell would be enjoyable about this.
I ran out the wrong door because I was told it was wrong and didn't believe it. Nobody bothered to explain to me why. I read Lobo because I was told what he did was wrong, and though I agreed that what this fictional character did was wrong, I didn't see the harm in reading about it. So I opened those pages, like I opened that door, to see what would happen. Because, as I suspected, I was being kept away from something for no real reason at all. ...more
These read pretty well. If someone asked me where to start with bizarro, I might point them to the story "HMy rampage through bizarro lit continues...
These read pretty well. If someone asked me where to start with bizarro, I might point them to the story "Hammer Wives." I think it's got pretty strong bizarro roots, but at the same time the setting and basic plot elements are familiar to anyone who reads horror or watches Scooby Doo. So while it's very weird, there's something to hold on to. "Red World" was pretty good too, and that would make a potentially great introduction to bizarro.
On the other hand, I don't know that anything makes a great introduction to bizarro. It's hard to explain, but the very thing that makes a good introduction to bizarro is a good introduction because it's less...bizarro. So maybe the way to go is get crazy right off and see how you feel about it.
The other thing I'd recommend, and this probably won't sit well with everyone, is that you read 3 bizarro books before you decide how you feel about the genre. I think it takes that long to get the feel. And although I say 3 whole books, a bizarro book generally takes a couple hours, max.
I say three books because that's 3-6 hours, and we're talking about a weird, very out-there genre. It's not like I'm saying you have to read all of Moby Dick to know if you like Melville. It's like I'm suggesting you have to at least know what the fuck the ocean is....more
You might notice I just reviewed another title called 'The Faggiest Vampire.' Now we've got 'The Baby Jesus Butt Plug.'
So there's this section of PoweYou might notice I just reviewed another title called 'The Faggiest Vampire.' Now we've got 'The Baby Jesus Butt Plug.'
So there's this section of Powells in Portland that I always feel calling to me from across the continent. It's one set of shelves, all small press, and a lot of it pretty weird. There's the zine-y stuff like 'On Subbing' or the beautiful weirdness of Trinie Dalton. And there's also a big gob of Bizarro.
Rose O'Keefe from Eraserhead Press calls it the book version of the cult section of the video store. "Basically, if an audience enjoys a book or film primarily because of its weirdness, then it is Bizarro. Weirdness might not be the work's only appealing quality, but it is the major one."
Sure, there's times when you can't help but feel like it's being weird for the sake of weird. But hey, people are a lot of ways for the sake of being a lot of ways. I'll take weird over a lot of other stuff.
Every time I go to Portland, I make sure to grab a couple titles from that shelf.
Here's where this gets fun.
I'm at Barnes&Noble last week. We don't need to get into it, but some pretty heinous shit went down at work. My boss, who is pretty cool, said it was alright if I left for the day. "You know, when something like this happens, I say you have to do something that feeds your soul."
Which is how I ended up at the bookstore. And when I saw, somehow, by some miracle there was bizarro on the shelf at my Barnes&Noble, which is exactly 1,210 miles away from that shelf in Portland. Somehow, some of it made its way here.
What I didn't consider, when I picked up a book called 'The Baby Jesus Butt Plug' and another called 'The Faggiest Vampire' is that I'd actually have to check them out.
I have this very old blog post I wrote once about an equation I invented. Basically, it describes the curious fact that the more embarrassing your purchase, the more attractive the checker will be. You can buy toothpaste a hundred times and you won't even notice the checker. Then, you buy Preparation H, and for whatever reason you end up in line at the grocery store, and the checker is the most beautiful person ever. Behind you in line is a modeling scout, and he's about to make the find of a lifetime. Right after you buy your hemorrhoid medicine.
Of course, such was the case at Barnes&Noble. Of course, it took several scans to get in 'The Baby Jesus Butt Plug.' The machine wouldn't cooperate. It was nerve-wracking, then a little fun because I was imagining that the lady would have to call out a price check, across the room or maybe even over a loudspeaker. I know it was hoping for a lot, but still.
Anyway, my soul was fed. My twisted, awful soul....more
First: "That was just a bunch of stuff about Nintendo and the first Mario."
Then: "Well, maybe that's apHere's how my self-talk went after I read this:
First: "That was just a bunch of stuff about Nintendo and the first Mario."
Then: "Well, maybe that's appropriate. I can't assume others have read a dozen books about video game history."
Finally: "Wait...who the hell HASN'T read any books on video game history and BEGINS with this one? The one about a game that is the bastard child of the Nintendo era?"
I was excited because SMB2 (which I can call it because I've done my reading, remember?) isn't something that gets covered a lot. Yes, most of us know the basic story, about the American SMB2 and the Japanese version, how different they were and how odd it was.
But I swear, I just don't need to read another book where -gasp- Mario originated as Jumpman in Donkey Kong.
The SMB2 portions were really good. I enjoyed those quite a bit. I learned some stuff, and it prompted me to pick up that one again. It's actually kind of a great game. Compared to most games of that era, it has pretty amazing variety, feel, and look. So I suppose that's a compliment to the book, that it got me all hot and bothered about a game I wasn't so thrilled about as a youth.
But the rest, I just felt like it's been covered quite often. If this is your first exposure to Nintendo history, it might make for an interesting one. If it's not, CALL ME, because holy crap do I read way too much about this stuff and have NO ONE to talk to about it....more