Saturday, July 3, 2010

momentum momentous

I do not understand E3's insistence that I flail about while playing video games, when what I actually want is to be able to play video games while lying utterly prostrate, surrounded by down pillows and sleeping puppies.

At some point, the dominant narrative coming out of E3 became something like "normal people are going to love this new motion sensor crap; hardcore gamers are just being haters because they are fat slobs who disdain movement and sweating."

The thing is, I already do lots of flailing and the gym. When I come home from the gym, I want to shoot Nazi zombies in the face while splayed upon the couch in a digitally-induced stupor. If Sony, Nintendo, or Microsoft could design a discrete, spill-proof bedpan and a robot to feed me grapes during loading screens, now that would seriously improve my gaming experience. And it's not as though home video game exercise is going to replace real exercise, which requires sufficient space and/or equipment, and more importantly, movements that have little if anything to do with video game actions. It's not as if I can get a Kinect and then suddenly cancel my gym membership. Gaming is a certain kind of experience and exercise is a certain kind of experience, and while combining them can be fun in certain, limited situations (Wii tennis) it will usually be a dilution of both. They already sell televisions welded to exercise equipment, and it certainly hasn't revolutionized how most people watch TV. I'm doubtful, too, that it has resulted in more people exercising.

In short, if a first-person shooter ever tries to make me actually run to shoot something, I will punch it in the face, pick up a Tom Clancy novel, and crawl into bed.

Monday, June 14, 2010

stray thoughts on bad movies: The A Team

Two in one month!

1. In one early scene, a character makes a huge deal about Fate and how Fate brought these two people together and how you can't ignore Fate,...and then Fate is NEVER MENTIONED AGAIN, because the writers apparently couldn't come up with a better way to explain how two people meet at the beginning of a story.

2. B.A. Baracus isn't just a magical black man; he has a magical black van that materializes in the desert when the white guys need rescuing, and then is promptly destroyed for a cheap emotional beat as soon as they no longer need it.

3. In two separate scenes, fake dramatic tension is created by the characters' inexplicable refusal to simply move laterally out of harm's way. Nothing is preventing them from moving laterally except the movie's need for them to almost die so that we will have a reason in Hell to care about what happens to them.

4. Movies like these (dubbed "radtarded" by AS) often find me rooting for the villain because, due to poor plotting, he is usually the smartest person on screen. His victories come from considerable effort on his part and not from things magically occurring to his benefit. Heroes are much more likely to get undeservedly lucky because the movie needs them to succeed, but no one could be bothered to figure out why exactly they would.

5. This movie had eleven writers.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

stray thoughts on bad movies: Sex and the City 2

1. Opening lines of narration: "Once upon a time, there was an island, some Dutch, some Indians, and some beads." This is an unpromising, albeit accurate, preview of the movie's ear for global politics and race relations.

2. The Prestons' Great Recession Horror Story is to have moved from the palatial penthouse suite into a more modestly mansion-like apartment twelve floors down. The camera shots are designed to show us the thrifty narrowness of their fifty bajillion damask-draped rooms. Not for the last time, I find myself thinking this is sort of what Versailles looked like, before the pitchforks and beheadings. Of course, they still keep Carrie's old apartment, which essentially functions as her (second) giant walk-in closet. Like ya do.

3. This is a movie about Americans traveling in the Middle East, and not once does a single person utter the word "war." Apparently the “New Middle East” is actually an alternate dimension lacking in shoulder-mounted, surface-to-air, anti-aircraft missile launchers, IEDs, and armed conflict in general.

4. Speaking of explosives, every time we see shots of those four white cars driving in caravan through the desert, I hope that one of them will blow up and this will turn into an entirely different kind of movie. Maybe the kidnappers will send Big a ridiculous beplumed shoe or atrocious hat as proof of life.

5. Remind me when I’m married to occasionally cheat on my husband, so that he’ll buy me jewelry intended to serve as a kind of gaudy choke chain for reminding me that I’m married.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

on contempt for prose

A few of my favorite things:

(1) The Venn Diagram

(2) The Flowchart

(3) The Russia-is-fucking-cold-DUH*

*Apparently, no one showed this one to Hitler.**

**Not that I'm complaining!

Friday, May 28, 2010

gender bending over backwards

Things I Learned from Movies:
(1) Any superlative group of killers (the deadliest, the sexiest, the tidiest) will invariably include one woman and one black man, and these two will almost always be flanking a good-looking white guy.
(2) Two of these people will probably have sex, and the other will probably die, and it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure how this shakes out demographically.
(3) The woman will have managed to succeed in her traditionally male-dominated profession by having shed some stereotypical aspect of her femininity, like romance or empathy. But not breasts. Never breasts.

True Story:
I was at the grocer after work and a woman came toward me, walking right past a man with an actual child, and asked me where the diapers were. My cart at the time contained potato chips, ice, and bourbon. I wonder, did I look like the kind of person who should know where the diapers are, let alone a person who would know? The answer is yes, because I have lady parts, and being female apparently trumps having actual offspring in the domestic credentials department.

Open Letter:
To anyone who refers to Sex and the City as "the ladies' Star Wars," this lady's Star Wars is STAR WARS.

Monday, May 3, 2010

conspiracy metatheory

Here's a thought: if it seems like almost everyone around you is part of a wide-ranging conspiracy that you're conviced permeates all relevant sectors of society, and in fact goes all the way to the top, what you're seeing might be something called "democracy."

Sunday, May 2, 2010

stray thoughts on bad movies: Obsessed

1. When writers try and present the fault lines in a long-term relationship through clumsy exposition instead of subtle demonstration, it comes off like these two people should really not be married. "But, I thought this about our relationship...." "Well honey, I thought the exact opposite...." This is presented as normal before-bed conversation for these people.

2. Idris Elba seems to spend a lot of time at work talking to his wife, hanging out with his wife, and doing stuff for his wife. When he's not doing that, he's exchanging generic man-chatter with Jerry O'Connell, and making up financial gibberish. Stringer Bell would never have put up with such inefficiency.

3. All the screeching violins in the world will not make the act of trying to close a pop-up window a moment of high drama.

4. As someone who routinely fantasizes about killing home invaders, I have trouble finding fault with Beyoncé's actions in the climactic scene.

5. I take it back. I'm going to start a facebook group called "1,000,000 strong for letting the bad guy fall to his death." When a movie sets up good versus bad in such hamfistedly stark terms, we should at least be spared the Disney villain death. Blondie is an irredeemable nutjob, putative kidnapper, rapist, and attempted murderer. Trying to save this terrible person's life doesn't make Beyoncé look noble; it makes her look stupid.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

a truth universally acknowedged, redux

As I mentioned earlier, I'm lately in the thrall of some seriously epic flintlock fantasy, and I'd be remiss in failing to recognize two precursors to the current infatuation: Fable II (teleport behind a bandit and shoot him with a blunderbuss? Yes, please!), and Pride and Prejudice and Zombies (because giving Elizabeth Bennet a rapier just seems like a good idea). However, this brings me to the subject of Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters, which, in full disclosure, I have not yet read. I've no general disinclination toward either Sense and Sensibility or sea monsters, but the concept is essentially sub-optimal, because if any Jane Austen novel seriously wants for some terror from the deep, it's Persuasion, in which the hero and several supporting characters are active naval officers, and a large chunk of the action takes place at the shore. The novel practically begs for a leviathan to rise up out the ocean and devour Louisa Musgrove where she stands, the vapid twit.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

a truth universally acknowledged

I'm currently knee-deep in Naomi Novik's Temeraire series (imagine if Jane Austen and Patrick O'Brian had a love child that turned out to be a dragon...actually don't imagine that, because on second thought it's kind of gross...), and I think that "deeply mortifying" might be one of my favorite phrases in the regency lexicon. It's more than embarrassment--it's embarrassment that makes you wish you were dead, mort, kaput, and it wells from deep inside, suffusing your very being with a shame that cries out for its own merciful destruction. As a professed fan of shame-based norm enforcement, I find the sentiment delicious.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

the democratization of democracy

Yesterday I discovered that work affords me access to JSTOR, and like the huge nerd I have never pretended not to be, I spent my lunch hour downloading and reading articles from The Law and History Review. It was good times generally, except that it reminded me of one of my big academic pet peeves: contemporary scholars who think that it's still okay to drop whole sentences of untranslated French or Latin into their writing. I know just enough French to find a public restroom in Paris, and after thirteen years of Catholic school, Latin is not wholly opaque. But c'mon, what are we, 12th Century Anglo-Norman aristocrats? Can we please just speak in the vernacular like honest and virtuous yeoman as opposed to, I dunno, elitist douchenozzles?

Monday, February 1, 2010

the difference is often felonious

The importance of punctuation--a sampler:
(1) "Let's eat, Grandma!" versus "Let's eat Grandma!"
(2) "Jack the giant-killer" versus "Jack the giant killer!"
(3) "Eighteen-year-old males needed for adult film," versus "Eighteen year-old males needed for adult film."

Saturday, January 30, 2010

on flying cars and blue women

I've come to love the Sci Fi convention holding that, if and when humans encounter intelligent extraterrestrial life, our innate individualism and ambition will be misunderstood as avarice and irresponsibility by other, more collectivistic races, but we'll show them, because hoo boy, when some super-ultra-collectivistic race, civilization, or network of horrifying sentient machines starts to invade, we'll save the day with our adaptability, scrappy individualism, and boyishly tousled hair. I wonder sometimes if other cultures likewise project their own interactions with otherness into genre literature in this way. Are there North Korean space operas in which roving bands of alien space cowboys are out to destroy the galaxy and it's up to the humans to stop them with blind obedience and mass chanting? I kind of hope so....for the North Korean nerds' sake.