February 2002 Archives

Which way will I go?

I recently read GameSpot's series of articles previewing what games will be coming out for the X-Box, GameCube, and PlayStation 2 over the next year or so. Until the time that I decide to plunk down several hundred dollars on one of these next generation consoles, I intend to work myself up into a frenzy of consumer anticipation by going over the pros and cons of each set-up in minute detail. I feel that will make my final purchasing choice that much more satisfying.
X-Box has two games coming out that make me drool. The first, Circus Maximus, should be released next month. It's basically a Roman-flavored chariot race in which the contenders bash each other with nasty weaponry while they compete. What more can you ask for, really? The other game I'm interested in is Project Ego, a role-playing game in which the main character interactively matures based on the decisions that one makes during the game. If you act ugly, you age ugly.
The GameCube already has the incredibly cute Pikmin available, plus the future title Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem sounds really creepy. In Eternal Darkness, the player character has a "Sanity Meter" (something like Fear Effect's Fear meter, I imagine), which constantly moniters how close the character is to madness. If the character gets too whacked out while adventuring, he or she will begin to hallucinate, which changes the game environment. I love the idea of a Sanity Meter! I want one right now!
PlayStation 2, however, has the hands-down winner now with the game State of Emergency. I guess it must be because I'm from L.A., but the idea of a riot simulator is just irresistible to me. Things never get too quiet around Los Angeles, but I like the idea that if I ever get nostalgic for, say, the 2000 Democratic National Convention, I can always break out the console and relive the olden days.

Meet the Torres's

As promised, I'm introducing another one of my Sim families. Readers, please meet Sims B'Elana Torres and Deanna Troi-Torres. They are pictured here hugging in front of their pinball machine. As befits a character based on a Klingon, B'Elana is on the law enforcement career track, and as you can see, she looks very smart in her police uniform. Deanna is on the science track.
Of all the families I have created so far, I enjoy playing with these two the most. They are a "fun" couple--very boisterous and unpredictable. However, Deanna can usually be counted on to take long, luxurious baths, and, as one might expect, B'Elana gets on very well with her neighbor, Xena Amphipilous (who was introduced in these pages earlier). In honor of B'Elana's career in law enforcement, I have given their house a castle design in order to make it as secure as possible.
I must also confess to a recent Sim family failure. Inspired by those who attempt to spice up their game play by introducing evil Sims into their neighborhood, I decided it might be fun to see what would happen to my families if I moved in a less desirable element. And so it was that I created the Sim family Donald and Dubya Rumsfeld. Immediately these two captivated my attention. Donald and Dubya fell in love in record time--with very little prodding from me--and I soon saw how perfect their mating was: Sim Donald, the debonair, older man, paired with Sim Dubya, his much younger trick. It was a classic December-May affair.
I was pleased as punch when Dubya was offered a position on the Slacker career track. I had previously prepared for his introduction to the game by downloading several items from the "Sloth" and "Pride" sections of the 7 Deadly Sims site: a TV set poised on top of a broken TV, a half-filled laundry basket, an American flag. Now his personality seemed to be shaping up as a perfect fit for these items.
Once the Sim Rumsfeld family had moved into their new home, I marveled at how quickly my other gay male family (to be introduced here later) appeared at their doorstep for a visit. I had no idea how lonely they must have been for other gay male couples! Everyone got along swimmingly, even though the Sim Rumsfelds were somewhat closety by comparison. Even though they lived together, they insisted on having two single beds that they pushed together at night for sleep.
Wouldn't you know it, Sim Dubya seemed to be blessed with dumb luck. He was always getting calls telling him he won $5000 in the lottery or something similar. Art imitates life, I guess. Anyway, soon the Sim Rumsfelds were swimming in money. A terrible feeling of fondness was growing in me for Sim Donald and Sim Dubya. And then it dawned it on me: I could not play with my Sim families without growing attached to them. I wasn't one of those players who could heartlessly stalk and kill my Sims, or even sabotage them. To put it quite simply, I love my Sims.
I could see where this was all leading. Soon my affection for the Sim Rumsfelds would, no doubt, begin to bleed over into real life, and I would develop a feeling of closeness to their real life counterparts. Even more frightening, just because I like my Sims doesn't necessarily mean they like me. Who knows what dark deeds Sim Donald Rumsfeld might be capable of? I owed it to my other Sims to solve this problem, and solve it fast.
I think you know what comes next. It was time to admit failure and evict the Sim Rumsfeld family from their new house, and from the neighborhood. Time to hit the delete key and not look back.

Science Heroes of Tomorrow

I just whipped through the third book in the Harry Potter series, which features the unwholesome villain Sirius Black--a grim, sunken-faced character with long, matted black hair. Every time he was mentioned in the book, I was reminded of comic creator Alan Moore, who seems to cultivate a sort of locked-in-the-cellar-madman appearance. I wonder if they could convince him to appear in the movie? I hear he's interested in magic these days, so perhaps an appeal could be made.
It is only recently that I discovered Alan Moore's title Tomorrow Stories. Reading numbers 10 and 11, along with the companion piece, 64 Page Giant America's Best Comics #1, provided me with that rare experience where one decides, on putting the book down, that one needs to go out and accumulate not just the next issue, but all available back issues.
This task of collecting back issues has been made infinitely easier by the fact that America's Best Comics seems to bring out hardcover collections of back issues with furious speed. But I ask you: doesn't this put a damper on the collecting impulse? Must they make it that easy? I mean, now that our national economy has been shown to be a complicated shell game run by Ivy League-schooled frat boys, why bother to get up in the morning if not to hunt down the elusive Tomorrow Stories #3?
Most of the tales in Tommorrow Stories are quickies--short, parodic stories about an event, a style, a character, or what have you. The comic "DeadFellas," for instance, remakes "GoodFellas" with Vampires instead of mobsters. The bizarre "Vermin" brings back Hitler and his followers as a band of particularly aggressive cockroaches. Moore scripts most of the stories, but the artists rotate, which serves to highlight their contribution.
While the tales are extremely eclectic, they are mostly told using a recurring cast of "science heroes." My favorite of these is Cobweb, depicted here in a drawing by Joyce Chin, with her faithful sidekick and servant, Clarice.

E-Classic serials

I'm a big fan of electronic literature, and especially of my beloved Rocket eBook Pro (I wish I could recommend an electronic eBook to my readers, but the Rocket eBook Pro is no longer on the market--I love it past all reason, even though it has been a bit glitchy), so I was thrilled to hear about the site Classic Novels, which serializes books in the public domain. Once you've signed up for a title, the site sends you an easily-digested chunk of text each day in an e-mail. Seeing the movie The Count of Monte Cristo reminded me that many of these older texts originally appeared in serial form in newspapers and periodicals. So in some ways, this idea is a revival of the old serial format, which appears no longer to be commercially viable, but which has found renewed life on the Internet.

Possible Patrons

Wired ran a story recently on the several candidates being put forth by Catholic groups for a proposed patron saint of the Internet. I decided it would be a good idea to form an opinion on the subject, since there are many occasions when such an innovation would be appropriate. Having read the biographies of the various candidates, I'm backing the lead horse, Isidore of Seville. Because aside from having an encyclopedic knowledge of various disciplines, he also has a geeky name: Izzy.

My intro to Japanese Comics

I recently took it upon myself to read Frederik L. Schodt's book Dreamland Japan: Writings on Modern Manga with the goal of educating myself about Japanese comics. In retrospect, I can see I should have first read Schodt's earlier book, Manga! Manga! The World of Japanses Comics before tackling Dreamland Japan, but I was nonetheless able to get my bearings quickly enough and found the book to be an excellent primer on the subject.
I was especially intrigued by Schodt's discussion of Osamu Tezuka's Princess Knight, the title that gave birth to the girls' manga genre. Tezuka apparently spent much of his childhood in the town of Takarazuka, host to a unique form of all-female popular theater that features male impersonator stars. Schodt traces many of the stylistic elements of girls' manga, including the trademark overly-large eyes and ambiguously gendered male characters, to the influence of this particular form of theater.
Just as I was finishing Dreamland Japan,my friend Ariella gave me a copy of Comics Underground Japanfor my birthday--she had looked it up on my Amazon Wish List! Now that is a true friend for you. Anyway, I had wanted the book because it included many underground and avant-garde comics, several of which were discussed in Schodt's book. Choosing this as a first exposure to Japanese comics is a little like introducing yourself to American comics by reading a collection of R. Crumb's, but it was what I was most interested in, so that's where I began.
The work that I was most attracted to in Comics Underground Japan tended to be--to put it in Western terms--of an existentialist and/or surrealist bent. I liked the dreamlike quality of Steel Pipe Melancholia by Masakazu Toma, the cryptic folklore of Kazuichi Hanawa's Mercy Flesh, and the outright absurdity of Muddy Wehara's work. And then there was Hideshi Hino's tragic and violent Laughing Ball, about a circus clown incapable of expressing sorrow--in my opinion, the strongest story in the book. The caption in the frame reproduced here says, "Laughing Ball is a childlike freak...who can do nothing more than laugh innocently."
Speaking of stories with freakish clowns, I have seen many of the films likely to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Picture, and I hope if Moulin Rouge does not claim the top prize this year that it at least is recognized for Best Use of Insane Clowns in a Major Motion Picture, or perhaps Best Revival of Tuberculosis as A Major Plot Element. If you have not yet seen this truly deranged and wonderful film, I urge you to do so. "Truth. Beauty. Freedom. And above all things, Love!"

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