Trouble Thinking

September 5, 2012

The War Game: Brilliant, Disturbing 1965 Antiwar Film

Filed under: History, Science — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 1:03 pm

Hey! You look even mildly happy! Chase those good times away with this absolutely heartwrenching look at the raw facts of a nuclear exchange involving Great Britain. Even though it was produced by the BBC, it wasn’t shown on television until 1985 because it was deemed to horrifying for TV.

It’s absolutely terrifying from any angle, and it makes me incredibly happy that I didn’t grow up during the Cold War. Though it does make me a little tweaked that we still have exactly the same ability to destroy everything we hold dear today.

So yeah, go find someplace with kitten videos or something now.

January 31, 2011

Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light

Filed under: History — Tags: , , , , — Durandal @ 7:02 pm

This game, you guys, this game. It’s really great. You may have completely ignored it because “Lara Croft” has become synonymous with “really mediocre didn’t they stop releasing them 90’s platformer polygonal boobs”. That’s not what you want out of a game at all, that’s just stream-of-consciousness. Your brain is so tired of Lara Croft it didn’t even bother to insert articles.

I freely admit that the primary reason I bought it was that it was one of the very few local co-op options available on the X-Box 360. Online co-op is nifty and all, but I do actually know people willing to sit down with me. I went in expecting a half-decent co-op platformer, and I was shocked to receive one of the better games of 2010.

Guardian of Light is actually a top-down shooter with a little bit of light platforming, puzzle-solving, and exploration. It’s a simple formula, but strange to see placed on Lara Croft. First of all, the graphics are surprisingly pretty for a download-only game. The incredibly minor story involves trying to re-trap an evil being, Xolotl, who was trapped by the Incans because they weren’t fans of the world being destroyed. Single-player follows Lara putting the genie back in the bottle.

If you play co-op, an ancient Incan who was placed in stasis via magic named Totec helps you out with his magic infinitely-respawning spear and invincible shield. Spectacularly, puzzles and combat change in both style and difficultly when someone is playing with you. It makes the game a lot more interesting when playing through alone doesn’t give away the co-op experience.

Playing with a friend is definitely where the game shines, giving you the opportunity to work together toward a common goal, and adding some minor cooperative gameplay changes, including the very important ability to shout “THROW ME THE ROOOOOPE”, that create a sense of camaraderie that is stronger than in most co-op games in which you’re able to progress without your partner and might even feel like they’re just holding you back. At no point in the co-op game for Guardian of Light could you possibly make it past the death-traps without your trusty adventuring companion. The importance of keeping each other alive is reinforced over and over, and you’re easily able to resurrect so long as your partner is still alive, making you very dependent on one another.

The game is presented as a series of levels that present obstacles in the form of either waves of evil Incan monster-things that you must dispatch with guns that appear to fire bullets roughly the size of your palm, or solve puzzles that take a bit of thinking. The combat is quick and fun, and enhanced by a system of weapon types and bonuses of surprisingly complexity that you accrue over the course of the game by either being granted them at significant moments or as a reward for straying from the beaten path a bit.  Xolotl shows up to taunt you at regular intervals because like all recently-released evil beings, he’s congenitally incapable of just leaving the area quickly and quietly to plan the end of the planet while the heroes negotiate airfare.

Each level comes with bonus objectives and rewards for their completion, the biggest ones being the equal and opposite ones of “score X points” and “complete the level in Y time”. It allows for a minimum of a couple of playthroughs in different styles if you’re into being a bit of a completionist. I found myself doing a speedy run of 4-5 minutes per level, and a “Kill everything/Find Everything” run where I got all the little bonus objectives during my playing of the single-player mode.

There are a couple of DLC packs out, the first of which was free for people who purchased the game last year, and they all seem pretty solid if unremarkable. They add minor challenges for scoring super-high or completing something very fast.

If you don’t have anyone to play with, try the demo on Steam or X-Box Live, if you do have a friend, split it 50/50 and buy it today. It’s really one of my favorite gaming experiences of 2010, mostly because of the spectacular co-op.

August 9, 2010

US-Japan Status of Forces Agreement… Manga Style!

Have you ever found yourself suffering from insomnia, and at 2am wondering to yourself.  “Gee, I really want to learn more about the military and political relationship between the United States and Japan… but it’s so difficult to understand without overly cute cartoon representations of the two countries explaining it to me through metaphor in an appealing visual format!

If you have, then like me, you should seek immediate psychological help. However, while you’re waiting for the men in white lab coats to take you to a better place, check it out!  Our prayers have been answered!

No, I am not kidding you. This is an official publication straight from the US Forces Japan Website

As a man who often thinks of the United States of America as a 5 year old ginger kid with a crazy bunny hood, this publication really speaks to me. The first chapter of a supposedly 4 chapter series on the military alliance between Japan and the USA can be found in it’s entirety here:

The technical term you’re looking for is ” Totally Bitchin’ ”

I can’t read Japanese, but nonetheless I’m astounded as to just how adorable a complicated and sometimes troubled relationship between our two countries really is.  I mean, come on, the little boy’s name is “Usa” and his Japanese friend is “Arai Anzu”. Say it 5 times fast in your best stereotypical Japanese accent, and you’ll get it.  It’s so precious, I just need to post a few more panels:

Who knew policing the world could be so cute?

If the USA and Japan are kids... where the hell are the parents?

I love it. Usa goes around killing all those North Korean cockroaches, and Arai Anzu says some stuff I can’t understand, but probably along the lines of “Thank you so much Usa for keeping us safe.  It’s great that your presence lends us so much political stability; in no way did our prime minister resign recently over controversies regarding his failure to make good on promises to shut down a US military base!”  Precious.

Then again, the more I look at that last panel, the more it looks like the United States is just some asshole kid stomping on bugs and shoving the corpses in girls’ faces.  Hmmmm…. lets not read into that. Moving on.

After this beautiful publication wins us the hearts and minds of every Japanese citizen, I think we need to expand the genre to resolve all of our international disputes.  Just think how much more susceptible Iran would be shutting down its nuclear program if we had an adorable booklet with USA-Iran character analogs explaining the situation in a carefree and non-threatening manner?  Illegal immigration got Arizona all riled up? Make a manga featuring “Mex” the illegal immigrant and “Ari Zona” the cautious but caring family-values oriented American who overcomes her distrust of Mex through a delightful 30 page cartoon adventure that unites the two in the bonds of love and friendship.  I mean, hell, this shit practically writes itself.

Anyways, enjoy the PR masterpiece.  If anyone actually has the skills and inclination to translate this, I’d like to see what it actually says.  I tried searching for a translation, but all I found were people debating which anime sucks the most on military forums. Swing and a miss on my end.

Until next time, stay thirsty my friends.

UPDATE: Apparently the good folks over at Manga Fox have scanned and translated this into English. Many thanks to joshuaism for pointing this out!  (People read this blog? Amazing!)

June 2, 2010

Important Events That Have Occurred on This Day, June the Second

Filed under: History — Tags: , , — Chris @ 9:11 pm

As cribbed almost entirely from Wikipedia and The History Channel.

1692 – The first person is tried in the Salem Witch Trials. She was later found guilty, and executed by hanging. At the time of her hanging the sky turned blood red, witnesses were brought to their knees by screeching in a thousand different tongues, and the devil himself was seen to appear in a ring of flames to claim her soul. I think.

1731 – Martha Washington is born. Shamefully, when I first read this I didn’t think of George Washington’s wife, but rather this Martha Washington.

1740 – The Marquis de Sade is born. Soon, dudes who get boners when ladies hit them will learn that they are not alone.

1774 – The British government, in an attempt to regain control over the American colonies, enacts the Quartering Act, which allowed a colonial governor to house British soldiers basically wherever he saw fit. Unsurprisingly, this didn’t help out at all.

1835 – A big day for fans of animal cruelty, as P.T. Barnum’s circus begins its first tour of the US.

1865 – The US Civil War comes to an end, ending the bloodiest conflict in American history, and marking the end of any all cultural disagreements between the North and the South. End.

1924 – President Calvin Coolidge signs the “Indian Citizenship Act,” granting US Citizenship to any Native Americans born within the borders of the United States. To this day, Native Americans are still thanking him for his incredible generosity.

1935 – Babe Ruth retires from baseball. Whiskey and hooker revenue skyrockets.

1953 – Queen Elizabeth II is crowned Queen of England, the first internationally televised event in history. I’m sure it was all very exciting at the time.

1986 – I am born. All thank you cards can be directed towards my mother.

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