Monday, March 19, 2018


"You can't say 'more unique,' or 'very unique,'" is a thing pedants sometimes say. "Either something's unique or it isn't!" But is that really true? First, we have to determine what exactly we mean by "unique." Isn't it self-evident? No, not really! And if you're a pedant, you have to care about exactitude in definitions.

If we think "unique" must denote an absolute, there are two ways we could potentially think of it. First, we could posit that something is unique if any aspect of it is different in any way from something else, down to the molecular level. But that's not really useful, is it? It would mean that everything, even mass-produced products, are "unique" in a really trivial and meaningless way.

Alternatively, we could say that something is unique if and only if absolutely every aspect of it is utterly dissimilar from anything else--again, down to the molecular level. However, this seems equally unhelpful, as it means that absolutely nothing is unique.

So what do we do? What do you mean when you call something "unique" anyway? It's pretty obvious that if I call this animal or that academic program unique, I'm not using either of the above definitions. Rather, I'm--wait for it--talking about something somewhere in the middle. It's clear that, for all practical purposes, there's a sliding scale of uniqueness, and if you attempt to hew to absolutes you just define the word out of useful existence. Hence, it's perfectly okay to say that something is more unique than something else or, indeed, very unique, queue ee dee.

I suppose you could make a better case for "perfect," but only a little. In any case, why bother?  Does being tedious really bring you that much personal satisfaction?

Monday, March 12, 2018

Juan Rulfo, Pedro Páramo (1955)

Here's how this novel opens: "I came to Comala because I had been told that my father, a man named Pedro Páramo, lived there. It was my mother who told me. And I had promised her that after she died I would go see him. I squeezed her hands as a sign that I would do it. She was near death, and I would have promised her anyone." In her introduction, Susan Sontag declares that from this, "we know we are in the hands of a master storyteller." But here's my question: do we? Do we really? Because I feel like maybe I personally don't. I'm not saying it's bad or anything, but I feel like the alleged greatness here needs a bit of unpacking, which Sontag fails to provide.
Read more »

Thursday, March 08, 2018

José Lezama Lima, Paradiso (1966)

Welp, this is a Cuban novel. A lot of people seem to think of it as THE Cuban novel, so I wanted to read it. Due to our horrible foreign policy, Cuba has always seemed mysterious and remote to me. Anyway. This is this.
Read more »

Friday, March 02, 2018

Literally indistinguishable

I noted this on facebook, but I also wanted to do it here, because it is the world's most perfect comparison, and no one else appears to have made it.  The Trump White House IS the last scene of Aguirre, the Wrath of God.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Please vote in this important poll.

What is the greatest videogame of all time?

Tournament Arkanoid
Arkanoid: Revenge of Doh
Arkanoid: Doh it Again
Arkanoid Returns
Arkanoid DS
Arkanoid Live
Arkanoid Plus
Arkanoid vs. Space Invaders
Legend of Mana

Friday, February 23, 2018

Repented, seen the light, and played a Switch

Admit it: that is the GREATEST FUCKING POST TITLE ALL TIME. And a google post reveals that I appear to be the first person on the internet to have made the pun. Go me!

The Nintendo Switch: I have to admit, it's a lovely little machine. I never thought I'd buy a videogame console again, but Nintendo sneakily hit my weak spot by making a console that's also a portable. And I'll buy any portable Nintendo system. I've actually never played it in docked mode; as I say: for me, it's portable or nothing.

And you've gotta believe the hype: Mario Odyssey is truly sublime. Easily easily EASILY the best 3D Mario; admittedly, me saying that doesn't mean much, since I've always had a bit of a jaundiced attitude towards 3D platformers, but seriously, it is REALLY good. There's such a dazzling array of different kinds of gameplay challenges, and I love them all. Well actually, that's not true; I don't love the koopa racing segments. But that just points to another thing about the game that I DO love: the fact that it's designed such that you don't have to complete every single possible challenge to see everything the game has to offer. If you're frustrated searching for moons, you can just buy them (with coins, of course, not--*sign of cross*--microtransactions). Perfect compromise.

Of the many things I appreciate about it, one is that it has a perfect relationship with Mario history; it does nostalgia, sure, but in a good, smart way that looks to the future. Let us, for a moment, make a contrast: the mobile game Mario Run. This game is vaguely entertaining for a little while, but let's face it, that's more about the novelty of playing a new, official Mario game on a phone than anything else. It rewards you after you finish races by giving you an absolutely endless array of little doodads and bits of scenery, a LOT of which is, like, eight-bit-style statues and stuff. And BOY you have never felt the hollowness of empty nostalgia more intensely than after you've accumulated a few dozen of these suckers for absolutely no reason with nothing to do with them. Ugh. Whereas Mario Odyssey...boy. My favorite part of the game--hell, one of my favorite parts of ANYTHING--is the celebratory climax of New Donk City, where you play through a sort-of rendition of the original Donkey Kong as the game's vocal theme, "Jump Up Super Star" kicks in for the first time. It really feels like a jubliant celebration of the entire series. It's great! Hurrah! Six fireworks for me, please!

On the other hand...hmm. I don't know if I should say this or not, but...can we perhaps admit that the much-fetted Zelda: Breath of the Wild is actually...kind of...boring...? I mean, I'm not saying it's not an impressive achievement, but boy, for such a massive game, it gets VERY repetitive VERY quickly. I actually liked the tutorial-y bit, where you're getting your bearings and finding your abilities, but very soon after you leave the initial Great Plateau area it becomes clear how very little there is to actually DO. Yeah, the open world seems kind of fun to explore at first, but then you realize that everything basically blurs in to everything else, and then you realize that the entire gameplay cycle revolves around these damn shrines, and while there may be some debate about the relative repetitiveness of the outdoor regions, there can be none about the shrines: they are LITERALLY all the same damn thing. I mean, I agree that regular Zelda-type dungeons wouldn't really work in a game of this scope, but my goodness, the shrines are NOT a good replacement. Bah. Maybe I'll try to get back into it later, but so far (having done a few dozen shrines), I am NOT impressed.  It's doubly disappointing because the last Zelda game, A Link Between Worlds, was marvelous.  What I wouldn't give to see them make a new game in the series using that same engine.

What else? Right now I'm enjoying Dragon Quest Builders, and what I'm ESPECIALLY enjoying is that the dialogue is devoid of those obnoxiously intrusive cartoon accents that Squenix felt obliged to give to the localizations of the DS/3DS games. Minecraft is boring to me, but this is fun. Hurrah!

I also like that so many indie games are being ported to the system. If this is like the Wii and WiiU, there won't actually be THAT many big games that I'm interested in buying, but if there are a lotta cool indies and just a handful of further first-party AAA games (more Odyssey than Breath, plzkthnx), that'll be good enough for me.

Friday, February 16, 2018

Loser liar fake phony, no one cares, everyone is guilty

I don't know if you've noticed this, but I feel like we're reaching the point where right-wingers aren't even trying to pretend that their policies have any sane or not-evil rationale. Take climate change, for instance. It's clearly happening. We see evidence of it all around us. Asian antelope are going to go extinct because of it (do a google search; it's a far too depressing story for me to link). It used to be that your republicans would be actively fighting against the idea that it was a real thing. And sure, you still get the odd "If Global Warming Is Real Why Is It Snowing" riposte, but that feels more like a reflex than anything that's really meant to mean anything. These days, it's more like "whatever: it's not happening or it's not our fault or we can't do anything about it or it's a good thing; choose whatever you want, it really doesn't matter because we're not doing anything about it and you know we're not so fuck you."

Similar thing with taxes. Remember when Paul Ryan tweeted this after the huge tax cuts for billionaires atrocity passed?

He deleted it after being buried in an avalanche of scorn, which suggests that on some level he realized how contemptible it really was as a defense of the indefensible--but it doesn't matter, does it? He certainly didn't apologize or explain or change in any way. It was more like, "here's this laughable defense of our tax cut. What? You don't like it? Well, whatever; we're giving All The Money to our porcine plutocrats anyway, we don't need to justify it, fuck you."

And, of course, let's not forget our passionate love affair with killing machines. Are the NRA blood cult and its acolytes even bothering with the usual bromides about liberty and self-defense? It seems like it's more a matter of "yeah, we're going to continue regularly sacrificing children to Moloch. You know we are, and that it doesn't matter what you say, we're not going to stop, so let's not waste time talking about it, fuck you."

But don't you kind of feel like they've basically always been like this; it's just that in the past, they felt they needed to hide their basic savagery for fear that it would alienate people? And that now they've realized, whoa, our supporters are really just like us; ie, fucking monsters, nothing (other than displaying an ounce of human kindness, so no worries there) can alienate them, so let's go hog wild? It's pretty grim. I don't know what we can do about it.