Wednesday, January 31, 2007


Mallard HAS been sort of tepid of late, what with all the dopey new year's resolutions inexplicably forced into doggerel form...but man alive, now he's BRINGING the crazy. If there were a competition like American Idol, but where the idea was to be really batshit crazy rather than sing, and there were a whole bunch of deluded wannabe contestants who got rejected because they THOUGHT they were completely insane but really they were only mildly neurotic, Tinsley would be the one who would go in and start barking about how Howard Dean is worried about his cartoon duck's campaign to get some random dude to run for President, and Randy would be like, Dude! You BROUGHT it! And Paula would practically be in tears, and Simon would give his little half-smile and say, Congratulations, you're going to Hollywood, and Bruce would start screaming and jumping up and down in glee, and MAN. I would TOTALLY watch this show if it existed.


Tuesday, January 30, 2007

More Mallard Mallarky

I would like to note with pride that this blog is the number one google hit for the word "Duckfuckery." That'll go on the ol' CV.

Ha ha ha hoo boy. To preview the rest of the week, I think we can expect one or more variations on the following:

-The media is liberal!
-The media is racist!
-The media is racist against conservatives!
-I'm really insufferable!

Okay, so we get that last one every week. Whatevah.

I think racism is certainly going to come up, because otherwise, why this whole deeply unlikely hypothetical scenario? Never mind that it's a bit rich of him to be accusing OTHER people of racism. What makes this even more excruciating than usual is the ridiculous premise. So, um...WHY would you urge some random right-wing crank with no chance of winning to run for President? Why, so you can make lameass anti-media jokes, of course! Was there ever a more forced set-up?

Question: Is it interesting that he can't come up with any actual "RACIST AGAINST REPUBLICANS!!!11" rhetoric to attack and thus has to make stuff up? No, not really. It's pretty much par for the course.

Other Question: could Tinsley REALLY come up with no better way of introducing this guy no one's heard of than by awkwardly sticking his credentials into his letter's salutation?

Third Question: Do you think those few celebrities whom Bruce likes (cf Tom "lesbian orgies in high school bathrooms" Coburn) go "oh god, PLEASE no" when he mentions them, but feel obligated not to say anything because he's nominally on their side?

Fourth Question: Is he actually going to get around to threatening Williams later in the week? 'Cause if not, I'm gonna feel cheated.

Fifth Question: "Bon vivant?" Seriously? Admit it, Tinz: you just thought using a French phrase would make you sound smart. Think again.

Final Question: Why don't you fuck off and die, Tinsley? Seriously, all this good-natured ribbing aside, the fact remains, you're a repugnant little man with no redeeming qualities. Also, a drunk.

UPDATE: Actually, I kind of feel bad about that last one. Tinsley may well have redeeming qualities. It's just that none of them are apparent in his public life, such as it is.


Monday, January 29, 2007

Against the Blog: 3-9

There are a bunch of arms merchants trying to get their hands on the mysterious 'q-weapon'--the one based on quaternions. The quaternionists explain that the weapon has something to do with manipulating time, but it's still very unclear to me. Piet Woevre wins the bidding war, and is presented with a smallish object in a leather case.

Meanwhile, Kit and Umeki hook up, and we get a bit of soft-core pornography.

As the conference is ending, agents are visiting the hotel to keep tabs on things. Among them is Woevre, and when Kit sees him, he assumes the worst and flees. This sets off a chain-reaction of various other people misconstruing his reasons for doing so and dashing off after or away from him. Or just away.

In the end, Rocco and Pino take him for a ride on their torpedo, to an unnamed city, long-abandoned and inhabited now by ghosts. The same--or an equivalent of--the nameless city from earlier?

Piet finds him there, and starts shooting. He glimpses the Inconvenience above and decides he must destroy it, so he whips out the q-weapon, even though he still doesn't know what it is or how to use it. Once he has it out, he gets the overwhelming impression that it's a conscious entity. "Something flashed, blinding him for a moment, leaving his field of vision a luminous green. The sound accompanying was nothing he wanted to hear again, as if the voices of everyone he had ever put to death had been precisely, diabolically scored for some immense choir" (564).

He ends up on his back, stunned. Kit is standing over him. "What happened old buddy, shoot yourself?" he said, with apparently sarcasm/condescension. "Tricky piece of hardware there--" (ibid).

Take it, Woevre screams, and gives the device to Kit, then runs away. Kit hears gunfire. Did he shoot himself?

Back at Ostend, Umeki is soon spending hours studying the thing. It has lenses and mirrors, and it splits light into two rays--Iceland spar again. There's a good bit of talk about it, but it involves math. And physics. Kit has an epiphany, for SOME reason, and realizes that he and Umeki have to part. He "woke knowing for the first time what he had to do" (566), although what exactly this is is not clear. He gives the device to her.

He leaves town.


This oughta be good.

It's true that I am paying rapt attention to Bruce's headlong dash towards rock bottom, as are a few other folks, but does he really imagine that being relentlessly mocked by a handful of low-traffic weblogs is the same as having the attention of "the media?" Sorry, Tinz, but I'm afraid that if you really want the media's attention, you're going to have to go on another drunken bender. Good luck with that!


Saturday, January 27, 2007

Tinsley finally loses it

I know I've said that, or words to that effect, before, but MAN. Here's yesterday:

So it turns out that the last few days, about dog obesity and then about Chinese obesity, were just the set-up for a "joke" about Chinese people eating dogs. Ha ha! But of course, the real fun is in the footnotes, where he really GOES CRAZY! It's quite extraordinary...he really seems to think that "USA Today" is an adequate citation. This is bound to annoy people who, as college students, actually went to the trouble of researching papers and providing sources for said research. If only they'd known they could just write down vaguely-remembered concepts and at the end include a works cited page that simply says "the library." That would have given them a LOT more time for binge-drinking. As it does Tinsley.

As for the third link...well, you could *try* googling "dog-eating," but on the first page, at least, your results would be limited to, A) dog-eating in Korea; B) dogs' eating habits; and, C) hot-dog eating contests. Or, you could check the BBC (I can't believe I'm actually humoring Tinsley here), where this article seems to contradict his assertion that the industry is growing.

I think he barraged us with so many footnotes because he was aware that with this strip, people would accuse him of being racist, not that bright, and drunk all the time. All of which he has more than adequately demonstrated elsewhere. What the hell is going on in his head that made him think that making this unspeakably lame "joke" was WORTH all of this projected ridicule? Science may never know.

Then today he boldly forges ahead to make things much worse for himself:

This is almost too easy, BUT:


Tuesday, January 23, 2007

More from Bruce.

This is the part where we make today's MF funnier and more coherent by substituting the dialogue with the captions from random Family Circus comics.


In other comics-related fun...

The title of this Comics Curmudgeon post, "Jeffy Becomes Electra," has me roaring with merriment. Difficult to say why, but for my money inserting Family Circus-Jeffy into wildly inappropriate contexts seems to always result in hilarity. It has to be Jeffy--none of the other kids will work in this regard. As in my record-breaking, uncontrollable laughing fit when my brother conceived of the idea--god knows how this came up--that the name of one of the Circus dogs should be changed to "Jeffybane." Heh..."Jeffybane." Of course, that would also be a good name for a legendary magic sword.

Bruce stops trying

MF strips rarely contain actual jokes, but typically they at least include sort of vaguely joke-shaped punchlines, so that if you squint hard enough, you can convince yourself that there's at least some token essay at humor going on. This one is notable in that it doesn't even make a pretense of effort. "Fat liberal..." And THAT is all we get! Is this really acceptable? Sure, Family Circus and Blondie and fucking Shoe may all be pretty feeble, but at least they invariably contain jokes. Feeble, pathetic excuses for jokes that no one in the entire world has ever laughed at ever--but at least they're following the implicit comics code, where you're meant to at least pretend to try to amuse your audience. If Bruce is unwilling or unable to abide by this code, perhaps he should take his cranky right-wing brain-farts to a more appropriate medium, such as poorly-mimeographed leaflets handed out on street corners.


Monday, January 22, 2007

Against the Blog: 3-8

Les Chums were in Brussels for a memorial service for General Boulanger--an annual occurrence, apparently. I'm sure there are political implications here that are going right the hell over my head. This depressed them, so they applied for and received ground leave in Ostend, where they are now. Piet Woevre is intrigued by the presence of this skyship, which he can't see but knows is there. He's looking into rumors of some mysterious quaternion superweapon, and imagines that the ship has some relation thereto.

Someone has been sneaking aboard the Inconvenience and spying, maybe. But what about Pugnax? Randolph wonders. Pugnax, it seems, is evolving into some sort of ferocious cyber attack dog, "with a highly developed taste, moreover, for human blood" (550).

Miles is feeling more and more distant from the rest of the crew, what with his visions. It seems that he has encountered one of the Trespassers (you know...the people allegedly from the future), Ryder Thorn, and arranged a meeting with him. They're both ukulele players, we learn, so they have that in common.

So the two of them bicycle along for a while. Thorn wants to know how much Miles knows, but Miles is evasive. Thorn gets agitated: "You think you drift above it all, immune to everything, immortal. Are you that foolish?" (554). He predicts, in a veiled manner, the carnage that is to ensue in this very spot in ten years time, in (I assume--I'm not a WWI historian) the Third Battle of Ypres, but in a broader sense, the carnage of the twentieth century in general. "And that is not the most perverse part of it. They will all embrace death. Passionately....League on league of filth, corpses by the uncounted thousands, the breath you took for granted become corrosive and death-giving" (ibid). Miles is curious but skeptical.

Thorn claims that the Trespassers aren't exactly masters of time, but rather are controlled by it; they can't go back and forth at a whim. Miles reaches out to touch him, and realizes that he's not fully manifest. Thorn, enraged at all this, curses the chums and "your pathetic balloon-boy faith" (555).

Back at the ship, he tells Chick that the Trespassers have lied to them--they can't provide eternal youth or anything of the sort--and that he knew this from the start. "You ought to have shared that" (556), Chick suggests. Miles replies, poignantly:

Overcome as I was, Chick, I knew I would get through it. But you fellows--Lindsay is so frail, really, Darby pretends to be a weathered old nihilist, but he's hardly out of boyhood. How could I have been that cruel to any of you? My brothers?



Fuck the fucking Patriots!

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Senseless observations

I was listening to Stan Ridgway (formerly of Wall of Voodoo, AS IF YOU DIDN'T KNOW!), and I noticed that he has a disproportionate number of songs with women's names in the titles:

Susie Before Sunrise
Valerie Is Sleeping
Whistle for Louise
Peg and Pete and Me
Calling Out to Carol
Uba's House of Fashions
Wake Up Sally (the cops are here)
My Rose Marie

Nine. By comparison, I count the same number by Tom Waits, who has had a much longer and more prolific career:

Ruby's Arms
Georgia Lee
Annie's Back in Town
Buzz Fledderjon
Jayne's Blue Wish

Given Waits' output, I could easily be missing something here.

From Leonard Cohen, we get a measly six:

Dear Heather
So Long, Marianne
Seems so Long Ago, Nancy
Joan of Arc
Alexandra Leaving

Still, given his non-prolficiliciousness, that's better than it looks.

Nick Cave surprises me with a full eight:

Cassiel's Song
Little Janey's Gone
The Ballad of Robert Moore & Betty Coltrane
Christina the Astonishing
Crow Jane
Watching Alice

Again, I may be missing something. I think he would easily win if we were counting names mentioned IN songs--BUT WE'RE NOT! SUCK IT, NICK!

I could go on, but I'm bored of this.

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Against the Blog: 3-7

This is a kind of math-heavy section, so there will no doubt be a lot I miss. Fair warning.

What are quaternions? I didn't know before, and now that I've read the Wikipedia article, I REALLY don't know. But the point is, this article is chock full o' quaternionists.

So Kit arrives at Ostend and tries to figure out what to do next. He ends up in a bar where he encounters a big ol' quaternionist convention which has been going on for some time. They recognize him, somehow, and invite him over, lead by a fellow named Barry Nebulay, from the University of Dublin. They are stationed at the Grand Hôtel de la Nouvelle Digue. Barry notes that the situation is so confused and chaotic that no one's really paying attention on who is or is not registered, and that he can therefore probably just mingle and stay for free.

Adjacent to this gathering, there lives "a cell of Belgian nihilists--Eugénie, Fatou, Denis, and Policarpe, styling themselves 'Young Congo'" (527), in whom The Authorities are taking a keen interest. They more or less sit around, talking about how Africa is going to rise up and overwhelm Europe, and how they ought to assassinate Leopold II. They're definitely more talk than action. And they're big absinthe enthusiasts.

Young Congo recently forged an alliance with "a pair of Italian naval renegades, Rocco and Pino" (529), who have stolen top secret plans for a manned torpedo, which they plan to assemble and then use to go after Leopold's royal yacht. It's not, theoretically, a suicide mission; the idea is to bring the torpedo into contact with the target, start a timer, and then get away as fast as possible.

Why are there no "lady quaternionists," here? Kit wonders, plaintively. They are not common, notes Barry, but points out one "Miss Umeki Tsurigane, of the Imperial University of Japan" (531). She is drinking excessively to no apparent ill effect. Barry introduces them; they talk about math and stuff. As I said, there's a LOT of math in this section, which I am more or less glossing over, because it frightens and bewilders me.

Whaddaya know, he meets Root Tubsmith again, who came to be here in a manner unspecified. There's a conversation about what mathematicians correspond to what poets. Whee! In the casino, he meets an enigmatic woman named Pléiade Lafrisée. She is skeptical about this math stuff, but then Root uses Quaternion devilment to win he ten thousand francs.

At dinner, a quaternionist named Dr. V. Ganesh Rao climbs on the table and "commenced a routine which quickly became more contortionistic and now and then you'd say contrary-to-fact" (539), which culminates in him disappearing, and then reappearing with a somewhat different physiognomy. He confesses that he is unable to reverse the process, and that every time he does it he becomes someone a little different. I can't help thinking that this must be a metaphor for something.

Pléiade has a rendezvous with a shady character named Piet Woevre, formerly of the Belgian Force Publique--a brutal fellow. "His targets in Belgium were not, as newspaper politics might suggest, German so much as 'socialist,' meaning Slavic and Jewish" (540). Woevre is deeply suspicious of this gathering of mathematicians. And Kit in particular, apparently, though I couldn't quite say why. He wants Pléiade to keep him busy that night so they can look through his room. Is the fact that I'm instinctively referring to her by first name and him by last name evidence of some sort of sublimated sexism on my part? It is a mystery!!!11

So Kit, "having against his better judgment accompanied Pléiade to her suite," is baffled to find that she has disappeared, leaving her negligee standing, ghostlike, as if she just dematerialized out of it. He returns to his room, and finds that it's been gone through. By the political police, Eugénie tells him.

Some time later, Kit runs into Pléiade at a café, wearing a hat that really gets him going--he has a hat fetish, we learn. And man, you've gotta feel for him, because judging by a quick google search, there ain't much out there that panders to this particular vector of desire.

She deflects his question about wtf happened to her the other night, and instead lectures him about the history of mayonnaise. As you would expect. It was invented during the reign of Louis XI, she tells him, "as a new sensation for jaded palates at court" (545). She asks him to meet her that night out at the Mayonnaise Works--"and you shall perhaps understand things it is only given to a few to know" (545). So he does. But she's nowhere to be seen. And why are there no workers? Suddenly--oh no!--disaster strikes: the factory starts filling up with mayonnaise, six inches, a foot, and rising! He's gonna drown in this stuff if he doesn't do something! He manages to get to a window and kicks at it, but falls down again. Fortunately for him, the mayonnaise-pressure does the rest of the work, breaking it open and sending him shooting out, landing in a canal, where he is picked up by Rocco and Pino, who are out taking their torpedo for a test drive. They head back and drop him off at Ostend. Phew!


Against the Blog: 3-6

The good news is, this section features Pynchon perennial Pig Bodine (not referred to by his first name, however). The bad news is, he only appears very briefly and doesn't actually say or do anything distinctive. Man, what was the point of that?

Dally is going to Italy with her family to help with the magic act. They're on a liner called the Stupendica. Erlys recounts the story of how she met Merle, and we learn that he knew from the start that he wasn't Dally's father. Dally is irked, though not really *that* irked, that Erlys just up and left her. One evening, Erlys asks, what about that young man who keeps giving you the eye? From Yale, apparently, going over to Germany to study mathematics--yes indeed, it's Kit, obviously.

The only other mathematician on board is a fellow by the name of Root Tubsmith, with whom Kit makes friends.

One night, Erlys introduces Kit and her daughter; the attraction is mutual. She recognizes the Traverse name, and ascertains that he is Frank's brother (she helped Frank escape from Bob Meldrum a while back...remember?). Kit feels guilty that he's involved with the whole Vibe family, and feels that he is in some sense betraying his brothers. So he distances himself from Dally, to keep her away from any danger, although this may be partially just an excuse; it's difficult to say.

"It had begun to seem as if she and Kit were on separate vessels, distinct versions of the Stupendica, pulling away slowly on separate courses, each bound to a different destiny" (514). This has an element of literal truth: the fact is, the Stupendica is at the same time a battleship called the S.M.S. Emperor Maximilian Root Tubsmith discovers this by poking around in the ship's bowels. He is able to ascertain that the two ships were being built in neighboring shipyards, when at some point they "merged." Why? How? It is a mystery! They just did.

And then, bam, the ship transforms. It becomes all grimy and military, and the ship's crew turn into navy personnel and start ordering the passengers around. Kit is stuck below deck in the engine room; his suite has, naturally, vanished. This is where we get a brief glimpse of "an American stoker named O.I.C. Bodine" (517). Oh, I see Bodine! Very funny, Pynch. The Emperor Maximilian sort of wanders around; it's not clear where it's headed or why. Kit learns--I don't really understand the geopolitical significance, here, so I will but quote--that "they were destined for plantation on the Atlantic coast of Morocco as 'colonists' whose presence there would then justify German interest in the area" (520).

When they reach port, Kit, "not convinced he had a future in the Habsburg navy" (521), slips away, along with the other civilian passengers. He starts hanging around a waterfront bar, the Tawil Balak. One evening, a fishing vessel from Ostend, which had recently lost a few members, comes into port and takes Kit on. That evening, he gets into a conversation with a Jewish mystic named Moïsés, who claims that bilocations like that of the Stupendica/Emperor Maximilian aren't too uncommon 'round these parts. The example he gives is of Jonah, who, according to different traditions, traveled to two different ports, "as if the Straits of Gibraltar acted as some metaphysical junction point between the worlds" (521).

On the fishing vessel, the crew comes upon an enormous, overwhelming school of fish. Once they're full up, it's back to Ostend.

Back on the Stupendica, (the Emperor Maximilian is off wandering around somewhere), Dally is feeling kind of mopey over Kit's disappearance. Where? She does not know. She just hopes he didn't fall overboard. Anyway, the ship ends up in its home port of Trieste.


Friday, January 12, 2007

I'll be the judge of who I like!

(and yes, I'm well aware that that should technically be "whom"...)

So here's an avclub interview with Ricky Gervais, in which he says, of The Office:

There's only two people you shouldn't like, and that's Neil and Chris Finch. Finch is a bully, he's one of those people who comes into a room and takes a piss out of someone else, and you laugh, but really you know it's your turn next. And Neil you shouldn't like, because he doesn't care. He was better than David Brent at his job, but it meant less to him than it did to David Brent.

I have to say, I'm not at all sure that Gervais has adequate perspective on the show. Obviously, you'd have to be some sort of sociopath to like Chris Finch; nobody would deny that. But Neil--I dunno, man. Granted, the deck's kind of stacked against him in the special, having him pal around with Finch, but prior to that, he just strikes me as a decent guy trying to deal with a volatile situation. And how much is he supposed to "care," exactly? He's in the business of selling paper--this is not a highly emotionally charged situation.

And as for the notion that David "cares" more...I have to say, no. Not really. He only cares about it as long as it stokes his own ego. That may seem like a harsh assessment, but it's true: look how he doesn't even think twice about it when offered the promotion, regardless of the fact that it will mean his staff will all be laid off or forced to relocate, and how he's unable to understand why they react negatively to him telling them.

He's a well-realized character, but I do think that not working a bit harder to make him sympathetic was a mistake. As far as I can recall, his only really admirable moment is his bumbling effort to console Dawn after her fight with Lee (okay, and telling Finch to fuck off, but that's not exactly evidence of increased empathy). I think a few more like that would have made all the difference.

Against the Blog: 3-5

Anyway, so this is back in England. Nigel and Neville are meant to be discreetly keeping tabs on Yashmeen while she's at school. Did you know that she's supposed to be involved with this Cyprian Latewood fellow? one asks. No way--the heir to Latewood's Patent Wallpapers? Crazy! Then they talk about making opium beer. They are clearly as feckless and sybaritic as ever.

Anyway, Latewood hangs out with his pals and moons over Yashmeen. She's only into her own gender, you fool, they tell her, but that does not cool his ardor. Yashmeen hangs out with her valley girl-ish companions, who think she and Cyprian are a bad idea. He's a "sodomite," you fool, they tell her, but that does not quell her interest. Her unwanted nickname among them is "Pinky."

During break, she goes back to TWIT headquarters, but doesn't find much to interest her. Lew Basnight's presence is unpredictable; he's always here and gone on missions. She becomes increasingly obsessed with the work of Bernhard Riemann and his famous hypothesis.

In the Fall, Yashmeen and Cyprian are both becoming increasingly non-excited about school. She in particular is caught up in her Riemann studies--which interest her much more than her sexual encounters with her various female companions. She decides to go to Göttingen to study mathematics. Cyprian is rather put out by this, but there it is. Professor Renfrew wants something from her, but what? To do something bad to his opposite number, Werfner, Grand Cohen Nookshaft (haha) hypothesizes. She receives in the mail, apparently from Renfrew, a promotional pamphlet for "Snazzbury's Silent Frock," a dress that cancels out sound--"every girl must have one. You never know when there'll be need. Your appointment has been arranged. Bring your charming friends" (500). So, she does. And then, seen off by Cyprian and her various girlfriends, leaves. Cyprian comes to understand that "none of 'this'--whatever it was supposed to be--was quite done with yet" (504).


Dig Tinzley'z mad citations skillz

Maybe we should give him a break, given that the alcohol has eaten away substantial chunks of his brain.*

*source: my ass


Thursday, January 11, 2007

Against the Blog: 3-4

Right. Against the Blog. So! Lake and Deuce, wandering about. They end up in a town where Deuce's sister, Hope, and her husband, Levi, live. In some vague way, Deuce finds himself seeking Lake's forgiveness--what with the whole "killing her father" business. What he doesn't know is that at this point, she's sort of let go of the whole thing, and he cares about it a lot more than she does. Deuce is afraid of ghosts, and worries about Webb's coming after him. "Maybe," he thinks, "I could go out and kill a whole lot of other folks? and then I wouldn't feel nearly as bad about just the one..." (476)

They end up in the quaintly-named town of Wall o' Death, Missouri, where Deuce more or less accidentally falls into a deputy's job, when the townspeople are expecting a guy who never shows up to take it, and he shows up instead.

One fateful day, news come in of Sloat Fresno's death. Somewhat unexpectedly, this fills Deuce with rage: he didn't even do the deed! This wouldn't have happened but for me! Lake is sympathetic but ultimately more or less indifferent, and he storms out, enraged, god knows where, to look for whoever did this--he assumes, rightly, that it was one of her brothers.

He returns after a week, week and a half, having, unsurprisingly, been unsuccessful in his quest. Naturally, Sloat's spirit starts harassing him.

Lake is friends with a sheriff's wife named Tace Boilster. She muses--to Tace's consistent skepticism--that maybe Deuce can change; he can get better; she can sort of redeem him. She feels locked into this marriage, as if it's part of some unspoken agreement.

Deuce gets more and more desperate for forgiveness, trying to justify himself, I didn't know, they told me he was totally evil, what was I gonna do...but she remains outwardly indifferent to his suffering. They have been trying to have children--what a fantastic idea that is!--but it isn't working. Deuce at one point suggests that they "owe" it to Webb to have a child; that this would somehow make up for his murder. WTF, sez Lake, as well she might. He tells her that in Webb's last hours, all he talked about was her. This sets her off, and she bashes him in the head with a frying pan. He gets up, looking like he might try to retaliate, so she beats him with a shovel--though not fatally, as it turns out. Lake later points this out to Tace as some sort of redeeming factor, but she is of the opinion that he only survived because she wussed out. She suggests that Lake and Deuce are locked in a symbiotic relationship--"...that you've both been all along in some unholy cahoots, your own job being to do what you have to to clean up after him and see he gets and stays clear of anybody's payback, incluing your own brothers" (488).


Tuesday, January 09, 2007

New Chick Tract!

Heart Trouble. I have to say, this is a pretty badass tract. There are many things about it that I appreciate.

First, I love how absolutely delighted the doctor looks, in the third and fourth panels, to be telling his patient ("John") about the grim ineluctability of death. Especially in the forth panel, with his arms crossed--boy, is he glad to be doing this! He obviously really gets a kick out of scaring patients shitless. Love your work!

Also: "inside each heart is adultery, causing people to cheat on their spouses." A novel theory of evolutionary psychology, to be sure! Where did this guy get his medical degree?

I am also extremely fond of John in the panel where he's imagining himself holding a pair of guns, and due to the artist's imperfect grasp of perspective, it looks as though he's a really tiny little guy facing a pair of giants. And goddamn! That look on his face as he's admitting to having told lies is just about the funniest thing ever seen in a Chick tract.

"Blasphemy." "Is that a medical term?" And at first you think John's being sarcastic here--that's a medical term, is it, doc? How 'bout sticking to my actual physical condition here? But then you realize this is Chick World, where almost everybody is comically ignorant of the religion practiced by eighty percent of their fellow Americans. This is confirmed by "Jesus? Isn't that a swear word?" Ya know...if Chick Industries can point to ONE SINGLE AMERICAN who is totally unfamiliar with Jesus...well, then apparently I'll have fallen into Chick World myself. That'd be kind of scary.

Other things I like: the way John starts randomly fulminating about how unspecified people should "be slaughtered." A sure sign of a non-Christian, no doubt! The totally random guy who appears outside the consulting room in one single solitary panel, wearing a shirt depicting a dog labeled "Fang." It's the little things. The alleged commercials for all-purpose anti-STD pills. How come I never see these? And how come we're back to conflating moral and physical issues? And of course the ferocious-looking Evil Heart making "grrr" noises. Don't fuck with that guy.

Finally, we have John going "Then I'm a dead duck...right?" To which we all, inevitably, respond "SPITTING OUT PIECES OF HIS BROKEN LUCK!"

All in all, one of Chick's finest efforts in a long time.


Monday, January 08, 2007

Michelle Malkin: evil creature

Yeah yeah--what a newsflash. But this article, which appeared in today's sun-duhzette, had me seeing red. The gist of the article is thus: in April, the New York Times ran story by Jack Hitt which described in detail El Salvador's absolute abortion ban. But wait! One of the women Hitt talked to who had been sent to prison for thirty years, was actually there for killing the baby after it had been born! Calumny!

Malkin takes this and RUNS with it. "The New York Times has no shame," she snarls, and proceeds to bash out a column dripping with rage and contempt for Hitt, the NYT, pro-choicers, and oh what the hell--the point is just to hate as many people as possible.

This hit on Hitt really pissed me off. I frequently admire the pieces he does for This American Life; he's a thoughtful and compassionate journalist. In this instance, he was apparently a little bit sloppy--although the case doesn't seem to be entirely cut-and-dry:

The article said she was convicted in 2002 of aggravated homicide, and it presented the recollections of the judge who adjudicated Ms. Climaco’s case during the pretrial stage. The judge, Margarita Sanabria, told The Times that she believed that Ms. Climaco had an abortion when she was 18 weeks pregnant, and that she regretted allowing the case to be tried as a homicide. The judge based her legal decision on two reports by doctors.

The first, by a doctor who examined Ms. Climaco after the incident, concluded that she had been 18 weeks pregnant and had an abortion. A second medical report, based on an examination of the body that was found under Ms. Climaco’s bed, concluded that her child was carried to term, was born alive and died in its first minutes of life.

The three-judge panel that received the case from Judge Sanabria concluded that the second report was more credible than the first, and the panel convicted Ms. Climaco of aggravated homicide.

But let's say that this is true: it was homicide, plain and simple. Malkin wants to use this to invalidate the entire article. But it's a long--eight-thousand-plus words--piece. The Climaco story is less than seven hundred words. Malkin doesn't even try to dispute the basic thrust of the article--that El Salvador's law allows abortion under no circumstances--she just tries to muddy the waters by flinging as much vitriol as she can at the NYT. From Hitt's article:

In prosecutors' offices in El Salvador, as in prosecutors' offices anywhere, longer sentences are considered better sentences. "The more years one can send someone away for," I was told by Margarita Sanabria, a magistrate who has handled several abortion cases, "the better it is for the prosecutors." She cited this motivation to account for what she has observed recently: more later-term abortions being reclassified as "aggravated homicide." If an aborted fetus is found to have been viable, the higher charge can be filed. The penalty for abortion can be as low as two years in prison. Aggravated homicide has a minimum sentence of 30 years and a maximum of 50 years.

"Cruel," she writes of Climaco's case. "Horrible. Outrageous. And utterly, demonstrably, false." So, any words for all the cases of women going to prison for abortions that AREN'T utterly, demonstrably false? If you're willing to concede that such things do happen, then what exactly is your point? Apparently, the article is "pro-abortion" propaganda. This is just fucking bizarre. Hitt reports the facts of what happens in El Salvador. If that upsets anti-abortion zealots--well gosh. I'm awfully sorry that reality has been so mean to you, but don't you think it's a bit MUCH to start screaming about the people who report it to you? There is a large pile of dead messengers outside the conservative headquarters.

The real question is, why exactly would anti-choice types be upset about women being sent to jail for abortions? After all, abortion is murder, as 190,000 websites--and an equal number of signs wielded by protesters screaming at emotionally vulnerable women--proclaim. This is only the logical conclusion of your belief system. And if you come to realize that you aren't willing to take your beliefs to their logical conclusion, perhaps you should rethink said beliefs instead of getting all enraged at people who report on it.

Also, I'm not totally clear on how we should take this to mean that the Times is EBIL EBIL EBIL! when they themselves were the ones who issued a correction. "The New York Times has no shame?" Well, someone has no shame.


After a consistently nerve-wracking game, the heroic Eagles of Philadelphia slew the evil Giants of New York. Cheers for that.

Then, there was The Simpsons, regrettably. I don't follow the show on a regular basis--for obvious reasons!--but sometimes I think, oh, it can't really be as bad lately as I think it is. But then it is. Or worse. Tonight's episode (an uninspired riff on A Perfect Storm) wasn't notably worse than the norm, but it was still pretty awful. Here are the main problems with the show nowadays:

1. The characters--even minor ones--have become so over-familiar that nobody feels the need to do anything new or clever with them. The writers lazily fall back on established characteristics, and the most obvious ones get magnified, so the characters become parodies of themselves. Oh look, Moe is a misanthrope. Flanders is a Christian fundamentalist. Whee...are we having hilarity yet? It's very easy to lose track of the fact that they actually used to have some degree of nuance.

2. For whatever reason, the writers seemingly have no compunctions with having characters do completely nonsensical and/or out-of-character things in an effort to provoke--although, in fact, they just provoke annoyance. My favorite example is from the episode a few years back where Bart and Milhouse semi-accidentally break into the Flanders' house. When Ned and his kids come back, he freaks out and holes them up in some sort of fallout shelter that they have built. We're scared, sez Rod or possibly Todd. Scared of what? pa asks. All the funny songs we're going to sing? We'll be safe inside our shelter when they come, we'll be safe inside our shelter when they come--Rod and Todd start to relax and sway along to the tune--unless they have a blowtorch or a poison gas injector then I don't know what'll happen when they come, and the kids freak out as you would and seriously DOUBLE-YOU TEE EFF. Goddamit.

3. Both of the above problems could easily crop up in a non-animated show--and the first one, especially, does so all the time. But the problem is, you constantly hear this refrain from supporters of the show dragging its shambling corpse on and on forever and ever: since they don't have to worry about real actors actually aging, the show can go on forever! Awesome! This questionable logic, of course, ignores all the OTHER problems that can and do crop up--but the creators of the show apparently buy into it. So yay, the characters don't look any older. Just a whole lot more annoying/less interesting. Big improvement.

It really sucks. I'm not sure whether I'd say there are actually more bad episodes than good at this point, but it's certainly getting pretty damned close. The show's legacy is being diluted almost beyond recognition. There are times when I forget that it used to actually be good. Is this really the legacy you want, people? It's sort of baffling reading interviews with Matt Groening, who invariably says something to the effect of, we'll keep the show going as long as we can keep it funny. We're always trying to top ourselves, and you want to yell at him: Dude! That ship sailed a LONG time ago! A good five years, even if you want to be extremely generous. He's obviously a smart guy, and Futurama proved that his creative juices are not all drained--all I can think is that he's too close to The Simpsons to have the necessary perspective on it. Which is a durn shame.

But I don't have that excuse. And neither do you. A large, generalized you. Seriously: in any discussion of the show's current suckage, you will inevitably hear the following phrase: "The Simpsons may not be as good as it used to be, but it's still better than 90% of the crap out there. What, are you people fucking crazy Even I, a non-avid television watcher, can recognize how insane that is. I shudder to think what else you must spend your time watching if--e.g.--that "Sideshow Bob in Italy" episode was better than nearly all of it. Seriously, what kind of masochist are you?

I know many other people have talked about this endlessly and more insightfully, but's so demoralizing. It's one thing when bad things are bad, but when good things go bad, it REALLY sucks. The Simpsons, Red Dwarf, Manic Street Preachers, the Berserk manga, Weis & Hickman's Dragonlance books--why can't more people make like Yukio Mishima and go out while they're ahead? In the wise words of Billy Idol, there's nothin' pure in this world. How true that is.

Against the Blog: 3-3

Having met the native woman named Estrella, Frank is now for some reason obsessed with getting a look at the other Estrella, Reef's former lover. To this end, he heads for Nochecita. The town has changed--new inhabitants, some involved in illicit activities; new buildings edging out the old ones. Where's Stray? he asks some of the new townspeople. But he can't get an answer he understands. But then he runs into Linnet Dawes, the schoolteacher with whom he shucked peas the last time he was in town, and she tells him that the woman in question may possibly be found in a ranch near a place called Fickle Creek, New Mexico. So he sets off in that direction. He stays in a loose sort of hotel, in which, "in each room, somebody was staying up working at some impossible midnight project--a mad inventor, a gambler with a system, a preacher with an only partly-communicable vision" (462).

Fickle Creek is experiencing a motorcycle craze. I'm guessing this is sometime around 1910-ish. Rarely are the dates entirely clear in this novel. There's a Hungarian daredevil named Zoltan who, having conquered every obstacle in his homeland, is in town looking for new challenges. For whatever reason, he freaks out at the sight of X-shaped things. I...don't know what significance this has, but he's here, so there you go.

Frank briefly glimpses Stray, who seemingly doesn't recognize him--she's currently running with some local bad boy named Vang Feeley. Seeing this is apparently good enough for Frank, who heads back to Denver. He wastes some time there, until he runs into the Reverend Moss Gatlin ("driving a strange-looking horseless trolley car, with a miniature steeple and working church bells on the back end, and over the front window, where the destination sign usually was, the words ANARCHIST HEAVEN" (465), the guy who converted Webb to the ways of anarchism back in the day. Apparently, the word has gotten around that Frank did away with Sloat Fresno. You should tell your ma, Moss sez. I don't know where she is, Frank replies. Try Cripple Creek, the reverend advises, and drives him there. For the time being, the mine owners have been victorious in Cripple Creek; the union is gone, and scabs are everywhere. Moss, however, confidently predicts that the current crop of workers will be radicalized soon enough.

Frank runs into a teenage kid named Julius, a New Yorker who was part of a variety act, the leader of which absconded with all the group's funds. So now he's stuck doing odd jobs in Colorado. He knows Mayva, and directs Frank to where she works. She runs an ice cream store now, it seems.

Their reunion is affectionate; Mayva's getting by, though not fantastically--she's sort of a pariah in town, having been married to a leading anarchist scapegoat. At least, I think that's the reason. It's not one hundred percent clear to me.

He stays with her for an unspecified amount of time. They talk about Webb, about Lake. Elliptically, he tells her that he's no longer searching for Deuce. At least that's what I think he's saying. It is, after all, elliptical. She tells him that when she was young, she used to dream about running away and joining a carnival--"'and there I was with all o' you, right in the carnival, and didn't even know it.' And he hoped he'd always be able to recall the way she laughed then" (471).

Frank heads south. Where, exactly, and to what purpose? That remains to be seen.


Sunday, January 07, 2007

We are not alone. Ominous music.

To my surprise, there appear to be actual Pynchon fans following Against the Blog--at least four of them, based on blog comments and email I've received. I have no idea how this happened, since inchoatia rarely shows up on search engines, but...well, cool. Welcome all. I hope I'm not spouting *complete* gibberish, and I further hope that my constant Mallard Fillmore ranting isn't too offputting.

Here is another fellow attempting to scale this particular Everest. Here is another. And here is a third, which is actually further along than me, albeit with mostly pretty terse entries.

Against the Blog: 3-2

With Dally gone, Merle decides to quit his job as amalgamator and head for greener--or at least other--pastures. He heads east, "something in the back of his mind convinced that years ago on the way west to Colorado he had missed something essential, some town he hadn't seen, some particular piece of hardware that unless he found it and put it to use, might even cross off a good part of the meaning of his life so far" (449).

He reaches a town called Audacity, Iowa, where the natives are growing restless due to the local movie theater's projector having been malfunctioning for some time now. The projectionist is known as Fisk, and he is most grateful when Merle fixes if for him. While he goes on hiatus, Merle takes over the job, although he is vaguely unsatisfied with the ponderousness of the projection method. "There had to be something more direct, something you could do with light itself..." (451). A foreshadowing of the rise of digital media?

One day--he's left Audacity, apparently--he arrives at Candlebrow U, and recognizes it as the place he was looking for. Their famous time travel conference is underway. Some professor is going on about how time, rather than being linear, is in fact circular, like tornado. And speak of the devil, as he's talking, a tornado is moving towards the university, and everyone heads for a storm cellar.

This isn't just any tornado, though--it's a tornado that comes to Candlebrow with some regularity. It has been christened "Thorvald. Hell, if we can have sentient ball lightning, why not? It is theorized that one might communicate with Thorvald via wave modulation of some sort.

Merle ends up becoming a regular at the annual conferences, doing random odd jobs the rest of the year. One evening, the Inconvenience touches down, and Merle recognizes Chick Counterfly, in spite of the mustache. They are looking for Roswell Bounce in order to procure some hypops equipment, so this must take place prior to the previous sequence. Roswell, it turns out, is right there at the conference. How convenient! He is currently involved in legal action against Vibecorp for the theft of his invention. He doesn't expect to win, but he's still feeling upbeat. He explains his current way of living:

You know how there's some have found Jesus? Well, that happened to me, too, only my savior turned out to be more of a classical demigod, namely," pretending to look furtively right and left, and lowering his voice, "Hercules."

Merle, recognizing the name of a popular brand of blasting agent, twinkled back discreetly.

Roswell and Merle chat about the science of light and time. After seeing a lecture by a German mathematician named Hermann Minkowski, they mull the idea of trying to build a time machine. Why not?


Pynchon/Tinsley crossover!

Yours is not to reason why; yours is but to do and die. Anyway, it makes about as much sense as the original.

Mad Duck Disease

I know it's an exercise in futility to respond to Tinsley in any way other than by laughing at his incoherence and assholishness while at the same time cruelly mocking his alcoholism, but what the hell--I'm feeling punchy.

I don't know what you're referring to when you say "family values," Bruce--I doubt even you have an entirely clear idea what your dipsomaniacal ravings are about. But since it all boils down to teh secks for the family values crowd, I would guess that, in some incoherent way, you're upset about depictions of characters who have teh secks--or, even worse, teh ghey secks--without then going to hell. But the thing is, Bruce, if this stuff was socially unacceptable, it wouldn't sell, and thus it wouldn't continue to get MADE. Hellyweird didn't become the multi-billion dollar unstoppable killing machine of your nightmares by making movies that people hate. I know it's probably hard to wrap your brain around, but there's this thing called "capitalism," and under this system, companies make money by supplying the people with things that the people want. I somehow was under the impression that you were a fan--but maybe I was wrong!

Yeah yeah, I know--you're an embattled minority, in spite of controlling two out of three of the branches of government and having controlled the other one 'til just this week. Boo fucking hoo. You hear this? It's the world's smallest and whiniest violin. If you don't like capitalism, move to Cuba, America-hater! But I'd hurry--this may be a limited-time offer.


Thursday, January 04, 2007

Against the Blog: 3-1

This section is called "Bilocations," which probably means we can expect to see more of this Iceland spar/people being duplicated/parallel worlds business.

At Lindsay's annual medical exam, the doctors detect signs of "Incipient Gamomania, 'that is, the abnormal desire to be married'" (432). What's abnormal about wanting to be married, Lindsay wonders, but this just increases their concern. For reasons that may or may not be associated with this, he temporarily leaves the Inconvenience, for a battery of tests, after which he is to head to the Inner Asian oasis where the rest of the Chums are waiting with the Saksaul. While heading there on camelback, sirenlike voices try to tempt him to leave the trail with promises of matrimony, and indeed polygamy, but he remains stalwart, and rendezvous with his companions.

So, they board the ship and get moving. It's sort of like being under the ocean, except it's a desert. Only they can see and stuff thanks to, you know, magic technology. There are swarms of beetles like fish.

The ship has a paramorphoscope--"one of the few remaining in the world" (436). You may recall that this is the thing you use to find things that have been hidden...dimensionally. Somehow. In charge of this device is one Stilton Gaspereaux. He places the Sfinciuno Itinerary beneath a sheet of Iceland spar, adjusts various lenses and whatnot, et voila--the way is revealed.

But the problem, Stilton explains, is that the closer they get to the alleged location of Shambhala, the more hazy and out-of-focus things get. "Almost as if there were some...additional level of encryption" (437).

Anyway, long story short, they end up at a port called Nuovo Rialto, where, in addition to people, there are giant (as in, camel-sized) sand-fleas, which allegedly evolved to such a size on a diet of human blood. They can communicate with the people in ancient Uyghur, and they're protected, so you can't go around killing them...but they still drink people's blood. Apparently.

The Chums run into a couple of prospectors named Leonard and Lyle, who intimate that there's meant to be oil out here, and that the search for Shambhala may, for some, simply be a pretext for searching for it. HMMM. No modern-day implications here, I can tell.

After the weekend leave, the shit resets sail. They sail around to various ports, doing...well, it's really not at all clear what they're doing. In any case, eventually they finish doing it, and the Chums are deposited back at the Inconvenience. Sailing above the desert, Miles predicts apocalyptic battles in the area which, as Chick remarks, sound very much like what he and Darby previously experienced in the time machine

And now, things get muddled. "Somewhere out past Oasi Benedetto Querini, H.M.S.F. Saksaul came to grief. Survivors were few, accounts sketchy and inconsistent" (444). Their attackers are unknown and invisible--"German or Austrian, would be most likely," Captain Toadflax speculates, "though one mustn't rule out the Standard Oil, or the Nobel brothers" (444). He orders Gaston to get back to England at any cost to alert the authorities. The guy he is meant to convey this information to is "the legendary Captain, now Inspector, Sands" (444).

Meanwhile, the "Taklamakan War" is raging; all sorts of sandships shooting at one another, oil fires, et cetera.

Back in England, Stilton eventually makes contact with Sands, who seems to be something of an incompetent buffoon. He gives Sands the 5-0, and Sands goes off to make plans, which, it seems likely, will involve further military action. End of section.


Wednesday, January 03, 2007


Sometimes I think just reading Mallard is enough to make one drunk. Not that he's ever been coherent, but I get the distinct impression that, post-election, he's just kind of given up--that he's realized that it really doesn't matter what he says. No one's listening. Actually, he should be thankful for that last one. Anyway, if there were a left-wing equivalent to Mallard, I think it'd look a li'l something like this:


Tuesday, January 02, 2007

The Inchoatia Guide to RPGs

Because I'm in a punchy mood. No prisoners shall be taken!

Great Greed (GB)--Election! Law-Making Machine! Beauty Contest! And in the end, you can TOTALLY get gay married. I am so not making this up. Someone alert James Dobson! How this failed to become a hit is unfathomable to me.

Xenogears (PSX)--Less half-baked religious symbolism, more crucified chu-chu, please.

Lufia (SNES)--Silly but cheerful and fun and there's that weird, inimitable Lufia dialogue thing. Also: unexpected, impressive plot twist!

Lufia II--Come ON, people--you SAW them die at the beginning of the last game! How can you claim to have been surprised? A bit less goofy; a bit less fun. Still not bad!

Lufia GBC (GBC)--How could making every dungeon random prove anything less than delightful for the player? Aside from that crippling flaw...well, it's pointless to even talk about. It does have that Lufia spirit, though. Approximately seventy percent of the dialogue consists of the other character marveling about how unbelievably stupid the protagonist is. And the EXACT SAME plot twist as the first Lufia. Not quite so clever the second time, guys.

Lufia GBA (GBA)--Oh god. If this isn't the worst game ever, I don't know what is. I must note this completely bizarre/hilarious gamefaqs review. I don't even refer to my favorite games in such breathless terms. In the employ of Natsume? Deeply, deeply in denial? Or just fucking with us for reasons known only to himself? It is a mystery!

Golden Sun I&II (GBA)--'Cause it's basically the same game. The environment-manipulation-based puzzles are pretty nifty, but holy GOD is the story soporific. If you like watching ten minute conversations that consist entirely of characters making emoticons at each other, this is the game for you!

Dragon View (SNES)--Such a good game. Why is it not spoken of still in the realms of men?

Robotrek (SNES)--Oh god...when I was eighteen, I got into a deeply embarrassing flame war with some guy who made an offhanded comment about not liking this game. My lameness was truly breathtaking. However, my central point--Robotrek r00lz, dood!--remains valid.

Might & Magic (Mac)--The ONLY GOAL is to get a priest to level eighteen so s/he can cast the astral spell. Everything else is window dressing. Frightfully hard, even with strategy guide in hand. Probably fairly bad, but I was addicted.

Might & Magic II (Mac)--The same, only way better. And color graphics! Gasp!

Might & Magic III-V (Mac)--All basically the same, but horrifyingly addictive.

Might & Magic VI-VII (PC)--Fucking ridiculously massive hordes of monsters. Still addictive.

Might & Magic VIII (PC)--Meh. Here's where the series and I parted ways.

Kartia (PSX)--Bachstail! Bachstail! YAAARRGH!

Megaman Battle Network 1-6 (GBA) In order: good, better, almost as good, terrible, slightly better, slightly better

Arcana (SNES)--One of the more obscure RPGs I've played through, for sure. A big ol' dungeon-crawl. Card-themed. I think it would have gotten very tedious without frameskippin,' but I liked it okay.

The 7th Saga (SNES)--Let's say there's some guy you hate. His name's Frederick, say, just for the example. So you kill him, and you're like, phew, glad THAT'S over with. But then you see him again, and you're like, dude, what the hell. And he goes, ha ha, I have returned as Red Frederick and you're like, seriously, double-you tee eff, but you kill him again, and you're like, okay, this time it was for REAL, right? Right. But then you see him AGAIN! Goddamit! And this time he's like, I have come back from the underworld as METAL FREDERICK! So you have to kill him a THIRD time! Goddamn that's aggravating! SHEESH. What was I saying? Oh yeah. 7th Saga. What the hell; I kind of like it. Has its own aesthetic.

Paladin Quest (SNES)--But no game has an aesthetic as jarring as Paladin Quest. Argh! Pastel overdose! Who the hell designed this thing? Well, it's unique, and, though somewhat horrifying, the color scheme is also a big part of what I like about the game.

Pokemon Roy G Biv (GB/C/A)--Seriously, people, there is something WRONG with you. Judged purely as a game and not a phenomenon, Pokemon is so fucking tedious. And I say this as someone who generally enjoys level-grinding.

Dragon Quest Monsters (GBC)--I actually liked this knock-off more, although I did sorta get frustrated after a while and gave up on it.

Vagrant Story (PSX)--You have GOT to be kidding. You have to play if for a while; give it a chance, they said. Fine, I said. Is TWELVE HOURS of torment enough to demonstrate that I really seriously hate it? If not, tough.

Rolan's Curse 2 (GB)--I never played the original. But ugh. Slooow. Slooow. Bosses that you basically beat by accruing a bunch of healing items and then standing there and pushing attack over and over and over. Sure, you can play as a zombie, but it just ain't worth it.

Sword of Hope (GB)--This would probably be too hardcore for me nowadays, but I seriously dug this, sixteen-character passwords and all. This was pre-internet, so I actually had to figure shit out on my own. Good sense of isolation, and hard hard hard. But I won! Suck it!

Sword of Hope 2 (GB)--Much-expanded, to, no surprise, diminished effect. Best part is when you're at an in and it says "would you like to this line should read 'stay the night.'" Or words to that effect.

Live A Live (SNES)--There are no words for the supreme awesomeness of Live A Live. The caveman section in particular is pure genius.

Granstream Saga--I HAVE NO FACE AND I MUST SCREAM. Almost impossible to believe that this came from the formerly-great Quintet.

Defenders of Oasis (GG)--Let's defending! Evocative, though the balance is a little weird. You may not know it, but a lot of the mythology is based on Zoroastrian stuff.

Beyond Oasis (GEN)--Nothing to do with Defenders, unfortunately. Incredibly good-looking, but really shallow.

Crusaders of Centy (GEN)--The plot, never much to speak of, devolves into complete gibberish towards the end. Still somehow charming, though.

Sword of Vermilion (GEN)--It seems sort of okay at first, but the plot, such as it is, is nonsense, and there are few games more repetitive.

Bahamut Lagoon (SNES)--I really love this game, and in spite of occasionally being played for laughs, Sendak is one of the most (only?) sympathetic gay characters in gamedom. know, it just occurred to me that Maurice Sendak is also gay--but certainly not a gay icon, so it seems kind of bizarre that the connection would be intentional.

Madou Monogatari (SNES)--An RPG for small girls that agtp translated a while back. Needless to say, I beat the sucker. Not bad, though generally repetitive.

Magic Knights Rayearth (SNES)--My interest in this sort of anime is hovering around zero, and the game is strictly by-the-numbers.

Threads of Fate (PSX)--Man, what a neato game. Mint is one of the most appealing characters ever, but they're both good.

Shiren the Wanderer (SNES)--Another agtp production! All hail! Hugely enjoyable roguelike.

Chocobo's Dungeon 2 (PSX)--As long as we're on the subject. Not as good as Shiren, but still a lot of fun.

Lunar/Lunar 2 (PSX)--Really good/even better.

Lunar Dragon Song (DS)--A complete debacle. I don't know if a series has ever gone from such heights to such depths so precipitously.

Alundra (PSX)--I think this is my favorite WD production. Almost everyone dies!

Secret of Evermore (SNES)--There's a patch for a two-player mode. It's buggy, but it makes things a lot more fun. I don't agree with the haters in any case, though. It's no Mana, but it ain't terrible.

Breath of Fire I-II (SNES)--Once again: really good/even better.

Breath of Fire III-IV (PSX--Unfairly maligned/somewhat less unfairly maligned.

Grandia (PSX)--ACK! Justin/Feena spawn!

Grandia II (DC)--Not much worse, but not much better, either.

Elemental Gimmick Gear--Seriously, bad translation aside, this is pretty cool. It has a very Crystalis-type atmosphere.

Crystalis (NES)--Quickest last boss fight in gaming history. Pretty groovy, though, especially for the time.

Final Fantasy I-XII, including X-2 (NES, SNES, PSX, PS2)--A good start, one step forward two steps back, unexpectedly awesome, pure magic, neato job system; story not so much, mind-boggling, confused, fucking awful, clumsy nostalgia, soporific, you have to be fucking kidding me, online? WTF?, BARF.

Soulblazer (SNES)--Of COURSE doors and cabinets have souls. Geez. Short but very sweet.

Illusion of Gaia/Time (SNES)--Mysterious and spooky and just plain GREAT. How come everyone doesn't love this?

Terranigma (SNES)--Don't you hate it when suspects pretend to be penguins? Maybe not quite IoG-level, but seriously great. Deserves a better translation.

Radia (NES)--Fan translation by somebody. I named my character Geo, as I do when I'm limited to four letters, and then later on in the game, there was an actual NPC named Geo. was slightly confusing at first. Boy, what a fascinating anecdote THIS turned out to be. Not a bad game, though.

Rainbow Silkroad (NES)--Educational! In the loosest sense of the word. Hey, it's a neato premise: trade along the silk road. Plus, you can get elephants.

Glory of Heracles II (NES)--You would have no reason to expect much from a generally by-the-numbers Dragon Quest II or III clone, but it turns out to be surprisingly neat. The relative lack of mythological color is baffling, however.

Swords & Serpents (NES)--I actually got really far in this primitive dungeon-crawler, until it just got too confusing for me. Your automap of any given floor is deleted after you go so many floors up or down. Which, let me tell you, puts a SERIOUS crimp in things.

Chrono Trigger (SNES)--FFVI is better in some ways, but I dunno--I know it's not very rebellious or non-conformist of me to say this about such a popular game, but pound for pound, this may well be the greatest RPG ever.

Chrono Cross (PSX)--Yes, let's elevate a tiny plot hole from the first game into the sequel's MAIN FOCUS. And let's INVALIDATE everything that happened in that one. What a fantastic idea. Shame about that, because CC does have a lot to recommend it otherwise.

Radical Dreamers (SNES)--Or, you could just play the "interactive novel" of a pseudo-sequel. It's better than you'd think, and some of the later scenarios are seriously whacked out.

Big Sky Troopers (SNES)--Looks like it was designed for four-year-olds, but they'd have to be some seriously masochistic four-year-olds. Another that I was enjoying until I got utterly, hopelessly stuck.

Beyond the Beyond (PSX)--Hey, at the time, it was the only PSX RPG in town, so I didn't hate it, though I probably should have. I got hopelessly stuck in SO MANY PLACES in this fucking game...

Against the Blog: 2-21

So, they head to Candlebrow U. At this university, a fat substitute named--I can hardly believe I'm writing this--"smegmo" was developed, which has proved super-popular and greatly aided the university financially. They use part of the profits to establish a big ol' annual time travel conference

Along with Professor Vanderjuice, they travel to a dump on the edge of town, where the detritus of failed time machines is to be found. They pick through the rubble, but are unable to find anything like the machine that Chick and Darby were involved with.

Alonzo Meatman is allegedly to be found at a dive called the Ball in Hand. A young man of doubtful appearance asks them if they're the ones who want to see AM. "Who wants to know?" Darby asks, causing the young man to freak out and start violently shaking, until finally he just fades from view in "a strange magenta-and-green aura" (410). No one else in the bar notices. Miles suggests vacating the premises before something of this nature is visited upon them. Outside, Chick evokes the "Scientific Officer's Discretionary (S.O.D.) Clause, which apparently allows him to poke around places the crew has decided are not to be poked around in. After some controversy, he re-enters the building. After waiting around for a while, the young man--who turns out to have been Meatman all the time--reappears. He's from some mysterious group, to whose headquarters he escorts Chick. There, they meet up with a guy identified only as "Mr. Ace," who explains that they come from...the future! A dystopic future, as it turns out. Capitalism has pretty much screwed the world over, and those who objected to this were denounced as heretics--so they escaped to the past, where there was some resistance to their colonization. Mr. Ace claims, indeed, that the Chums of Chance were established to stop them, and that all of their mysterious missions are, on a basic level, designed to prevent more future colonists from arriving.

Mr. Ace suggests that the Chums could be of use to the future colonists, if they would agree to accept occasional commissions from them--although, he regrets to say, they will be no more able to provide explanations as to the wherefore and why than their current employers are. What's in it for us? Chick wonders. Eternal youth, is the reply. Apparently, this is NO PROBLEM in the future. Of course, the fact that it's debatable whether the Chums age in any case renders (firefox claims that "renders" is not a word. Whatever you say, dudes) this highly ambiguous.

Chick reports all this back to the Chums, who are suspicious. What if the futurists have not, in fact, come in peace, but to steal stuff from the past? "Food," Miles, the cook, suggests. "Women," opines Darby, the lecherous one. "Lower entropy," thinks Chick, the scientist. "Our innocence," sez Lindsay, the one most devoted to the whole Boys' Adventure Stories aesthetic.

Miles being all psychic and whatnot, Chick brings him along to a second meeting with Mr. Ace. Upon seeing Ace, Miles immediately begins crying hysterically. Back at the ship, he tells Chick that he recognizes Ace, and that "assuredly he does not have our best interests in mind" (417). He explains that he has seen Ace and others at various points through portals that lead to their "home space." He further believes that, ever since they arrived at Candlebrow, the futurists have sent some group to deal with the Chums personally. There might even be a traitor in our midst! Scary! No need to worry, assures Chick. Pugnax would immediately sniff out any traitor!

Now things get REALLY weird.

The Chums are overcome with fear (paranoia?) brought on by the knowledge of these futurists--and it's a fear that suffuses the entire Chums organization. The offer of eternal youth was seemingly meant to shatter their "unquestioning faith that none of them, barring misadventure, would ever simply grow old and die, a belief which many of them over the years had come to confuse with a guarantee" (418).

Some Chums of Chance turned in panic to the corrupt embrace of the Trespassers, ready to deal with Hell itself, to betray anything and anyone if only they could be sent back to when they were young, be allowed to regain the early boys'-book innocence they were so willing now to turn right around and violate on behalf of their insidious benefactors. (418)

As this passage implies, my feeling is that, if they've become self-aware/interested to this degree, regaining this innocence is likely a lost cause.

Some Chums choose to deal with the situation by...well, by becoming other fictional characters elsewhere, seemingly. And thus it comes to pass that our particular group of Chums become students, members of Candlebrow's Marching Academy Harmonica Band.

During their first Spring semester, they are taking a break from studying, when someone wonders: where's Alonzo ('Zo) Meatman? As you might expect, this immediately segues into a loud, raucous comedy musical number.

Apparently, such displays are exactly the kind of thing Alonzo doesn't like, and what lead him to become a regular "squealer." Squealers at the Marching Harmonica Band Academy are well-paid, and thus, strangely, popular with the other students. That morning, Alonzo had made his regular report to the authorities, and then was seen no more.

The Chums begin to doubt:

What if they weren't harmonica players? really? If it was all just some elaborate hoax they'd chosen to play on themselves, to keep distracted from a reality too frightening to receive the vast undiscriminating light of the Sky, perhaps the not-to-be-spoken-of betrayal now firmly installed at the heart of the...the Organization whose name curiously had begun to escape them...some secret deal, of an unspecified nature, with an ancient enemy...but they could find no entries in any of the daily Logs to help them remember... (422; Pynchon's ellipses)

Nonetheless, they remain at the Academy for an unspecified number of years. It is theorized that there may be a duplicate group of Chums doing Chums-related stuff while they do this harmonica stuff--no doubt we should be thinking about Iceland spar, and Luca Zombini's claim to have duplicated several people. One day, they come across the Inconvenience, all shiny and new-looking, with Pugnax there to greet them. The way it happens, it sort of reminds me of the end of the first Narnia book. The Trespassers are still doing bad shit, but now the Chums are better able to deal with it.

Alonzo Meatman reappears, in possession of the Sfinciuno Itinerary, for which the Chums were searching in Venice, and which allegedly leads the way to Shambhala. He's not very pleasant, but he gives it to them.

One night, they receive a call from the Tesla device that gives them all their orders: apparently, Meatman was an authorized agent of the organization (more paranoia--who is who; who can be trusted?); they are now to head to Bukhara, where they will report to "His Majesty's Subdesertine Frigate Saksaul, Captain Q. Zane Toadflax, Commander" (425). The voice further notes that they will need "Hypopsammotic Survival Apparati." What? they wonder. Ah yes, sez, Vanderjuice. I know the guy who invented that thing: Roswell Bounce. You may remember Roswell as the Æther enthusiast who, back in 1-7, taught Merle Rideout the secrets of photography. Not a character I expected to see reappear.

The "Hypops" gear is designed to allow mobility/visibility beneath sand. Roswell invented it, but, he complains, the Vibe Corp stole it from him, so he's only too happy to undercut their prices. Vanderjuice explains the principles by which the apparatus works, although they sound suspiciously techno-babbly to me. The equipments arrives a few days later, and they're off!

Thus endeth part the second! Phew!


More Against the Day madness

Unbeknownst to me, I was at some point linked by another blog devoted to the novel. His summaries are sort of like mine, only with actual insights and stuff. Also, helpful illustrations! Check it out.

Random dopiness

01. Jim White, “Sleepy Town”
I whisper beautiful secrets into the drainpipe at night. I think Jim White is probably one of the most acquired tastes ever, but I’ve done it. Sort of. I get the feeling I said the exact same thing the last time one of his songs came up. 7/10

02. Joe Jackson, “Get that Girl”
Soon, if I’m lucky! This is a great, exuberant song. 9/10

03. Milkcan, “Radio Signal Jam”
Insane Um Jammer Lammy-related nonsense. It’s not a song, but it’s entertaining. 7/10

04. Buck 65, “Riverbed 4”
Attempted suicide on a houseboat. Atmospheric.. 8/10

05. XTC, “Rocket from a Bottle”
Have I mentioned that I like XTC a lot less than I feel like I ought to? I mean, this song is okay, but eh…6/10

06. Gordon Bok, “Mr. Eneos”
I’m positive this song has come up before, but we’ll let that pass because it’s so darn great. Is the title character a Christ figure? 10/10

07. Kimagure Orange Road, “Look Back My Darling”
There are a lot of great tunes from this show, but I’m more or less indifferent to this one. 5/10

08. Dust Rhinos, “Big Man Sylvest”
Or something. It’s fast and fun. 7/10

09. Suede, “Astrogirl”
Apparently, I have a Suede completist (per Word, “completist” is not a word) compulsion, ‘cause otherwise why the hell would I have A New Morning on my ipod? This song…um. It has notes. It uses musical instruments of some sort. What more can be said? 4/10

10. The Undertones, “The Positive Touch”
It takes a positive touch! Er…exclamation points notwithstanding, this isn’t the world’s best Undertones song by any stretch. 6/10


Monday, January 01, 2007

Inscrutable spam

I get this stuff ALL THE TIME. It's bizarre because there's no impetus to DO anything. You might think that picture would have been a link, but you would be wrong.

Against the Blog: 2-20

Up, up, and...further up. But still in the general vicinity of the starting point. Time for some trippy Chums of Chance shizznit!

So they're on ground-leave, and they've set up camp in Central Park, because why not. A lad comes one night and gives them one of their usual mysterious messages; they pay him with an Exposition coin; he judges this worthless, noting that he'd need "d' toime machine" to use it, and the Chums are immediately like, whoa, the time machine? The lad, named "Plug" Loafsley, runs off but returns the next day with instructions for getting to his personal headquarters, the "Lollipop Lounge," which is also a child brothel. Whee! Chick goes to meet him there, and Darby tags along. The place has as sleazy an atmosphere as you would expect. Plug is unwilling to go into the time machine thing any more, but a substantial bribe changes his tune. He leads them out through the fog-choked city, near the harbor--to an electrical generating station, Chick guesses, correctly.

So yeah, fog, fog, fog, et cetera. Very foggy. Like descending into the abyss itself. Dante is quoted. At the place, Plug introduces them to Dr. Zoot, "an elfin workingman's fatigues, carpet-slippers, smoked goggles, and a peculiar helmet punctuated over its surface by not entirely familiar electrical fittings" (402). Zoot shows them the machine, which is spraying sparks, and in general, kind of beat-up and ramshackle. They are skeptical, but Zoot offers them a sample ride, which they take. The machine apparently works, because they see vivid apocalyptic visions all around them, which I will cite, because they're kind of cool.

They seemed to be in the midst of some great storm in whose low illumination, presently, they could make out, in unremitting sweep across the field of vision, inclined at the same angle as the rain, if rain it was--some material descent, gray and wind-stressed--undoubted human identities, masses of souls, mounted, pillioned, on foot, ranging along together by the millions over the landscape accompanied by a comparably unmeasurable herd of horses. The multitude extended farther than they could see--a spectral cavalry, faces disquietingly wanting in detail, eyes little more than blurred sockets, the draping of garments constantly changing in an invisible flow which perhaps was only wind. Bright arrays of metallic points hung and drifted in three dimensions and perhaps more, like stars blown through by the shockwaves of the Creation. Were those voices out there crying in pain? sometimes it almost sounded like singing. Sometimes a word or two, in a language almost recognizable, came through. Thus, galloping in unceasing flow ever ahead, denied any further control over their fate, the disconsolate company was borne terribly over the edge of the visible world... (404)

Chick and Darby are understandably freaked out by this, but then they are plucked back to present time. In his defense, Zoot notes that he got the time machine pre-owned, from a fellow named Alonzo Meatman, at Candlebrow U. He warns them that Meatman is a shady and possibly dangerous person, but it looks like they're going to look for him anyway.

UPDATE: I just realized, from browsing the above-linked blog, that the Dante inscription in this chapter ("I Am the Way into the Doleful City") is the same as the one that the inhabitants of the nameless city put up on an arch to commemorate the destruction, way back in 2-3. So either the nameless city was in fact New York, or we're seeing a parallel of some sort. Given the whole Iceland spar/duality thing going on throughout the book, I would actually be inclined to put my money on the latter...ALTHOUGH, you may note that at the end of that chapter, Hunter Penhallow took a subway seemingly into the future. So...yeah. As is oft the case, things are highly enigmatic.