Thursday, November 10, 2011

How to Beat your Siblings at Everything

 The author, 19, and his then-17-year-old brother fighting,
but only because they don't know if they remember how to hug.

by Mr. Brendan Cavanagh

Being the elder brother to triplets a mere year and a half younger than me, I have had to make extensive strides over the years to ensure that my superiority is always acknowledged and respected. Often this can be tough, especially since I've gone away to school for the past year and a half and therefore must exert my influence across state boundaries and time zones. But! If you adhere to the methods presented in the following list (snippets from my upcoming memoir), and you're the eldest sibling in your family (sorry only children, maybe later!), you TOO can reap the fruits of your deserved birthright. Primogeniture, baby.

Chapter 5. When you find yourself in a situation in which you and one of your younger siblings are arguing over who has the right to something- let's say the choice of which channel to watch- simply declare that it's your right to choose, and then patronize them to death by excessively repeating things like, "I know it sucks- it really does! I mean, if I were in your position, I would be upset, too." Speak with the most dryly sarcastic-come-empathetic tone. Trust me, it pisses them off to great lengths. They will become wildly irritated and will quickly give in because of what an utter asshole you are, usually evidenced by a snot-and-tears response of unintended exasperation much like, "Godyouresuchafrgggndick!" before they storm off to another room. This is an easy tactic to employ if you are the most selfish person you know.

Chapter 22. If ever engaged in any sort of physical, hand-to-hand combat with a sibling (hopefully one of the same sex and near your age), whether malicious or facetious, I find that the best defense mechanism and catalyst for victory is the Ultimate Punch, which I borrowed from the movie Hot Rod. As the below video points out, you must first cock back both arms, then propel them forward with fists clenched so as to double punch your opponent's torso, while simultaneously bringing a single leg up swiftly to land a crushing blow to the pelvis. Don't get the impression that this move can inflict any actual pain; no, rather, it is used as a diversionary measure which results in your opponent falling backwards into the nearest piece of  furniture as they laugh hysterically at your pathetic attempt to combat them. As they laugh in oblivious indignation, pounce on them and pin them to the ground for three seconds, or give them noogies until they call "uncle," or whatever you must do to have your sibling concede defeat. Therefore, you win the fair fight without actually harming your sibling, unless they wet themselves laughing at how redonkulous the Ultimate Punch looks.

Don't be fooled! Your sibling will never see it coming...

Chapter 30. Want to sit shotgun in the car? I wish I had an easy solution to this one. Get there first. Or call "Shotgun no rocks" or whatever phrase is appropriate. In this case, if you snooze, you lose.

Chapter 31.  If you want to have any chance of beating your siblings in James Bond 007 multiplayer video games, you have to be Player One on the console. Now, there are a couple ways of securing the first pole position. One way is by asking (nay! demanding) your sibling to grab you a drink from the kitchen while you steal away into the living room and grab the first controller before they can get their plebian paws on it. Or, if by some chance your sibling gets the first controller before you, all you have to do is pretend to check the integrity of the disc or the console while surreptitiously switching the first and second controller plug-ins. OR, if your sibling decides to throw a fit because they, too, want to be Player One (but if you incorporate my methods in your familial rapport, then they shouldn't speak out all too often), then refer back to Chapter 5, and patronize them until their face melts in reluctant, but understanding subservience.

Chapter 35. If things are getting a little slow, and you're worried that your siblings are starting to deem themselves about equal to you, find a food item of theirs that they've been saving to enjoy later, and eat it. This can be a Hershey's bar hidden on the top shelf of the unspoken candy cabinet, or leftover tacos from Xochimilco buried in a box behind several boxes of juice on the bottom shelf of the fridge. Then blame it on Dad. Foolproof.

For more tips on how to train your younger siblings, feel free to contact me! I'm always willing to come to the aid of a first-born.

Uncharted 3 Kinda Sucked

Spoiler. Alert.

May God strike me down, IGN, if what I'm saying holds no true value. But fresh off beating Uncharted 3, I'm not awfully impressed. Impressed, you know, based on the 10 outta 10, game-changing standards you gave me. Maybe the rating was assigned to show that IGN has turned a corner, and is just gonna start giving 10s to must-plays instead of the monotonous 9.5 we've been seeing for years. They promised me perfection, and what I got was greatness; that's my complaint here.

I played Uncharted: Drake's Fortune (the first one!) and was alternatively wowed and bored. The game delivered epic firefights, an alluring plot, and a real movie feel. For once I felt a game had spawned from its story as opposed to its gameplay mechanics and the “wouldn't it be cool if we could do ______ in real life?” factor. Well, maybe that plays a part, but that's beside the point.

The original's story bored me until I encountered a supernatural mindbending twist toward the game's conclusion. For the gameplay this worked wonders. You were brought a new enemy (which was not a Nazi zombie) and forced to change your game. That end bit won me over. Uncharted was a must-have franchise.

Uncharted 2, the game whose release induced me to buy the original and its successor, was a whole realm of level ups. Every aspect of the game had been improved upon, and the boredom I experienced from the first game was demolished by the incorporation of fantastic and astonishing set pieces. Seeing a gameplay trailer for Uncharted 2 in which you had to jump off a building as it collapsed into another building basically sold me on the franchise. Good work, Naughty Dog.

I found new gameplay mechanics at every chapter. What's this, a riot shield? Hey, a propane tank! Oh look, a discernible main villain! And how about that character development? Elements missing from the first one were supplied. The only drawbacks were a bit of cheese from the classic (yet completely lovable) cast and some copycatting of game one in terms of storyline. (Insert last-minute supernatural twist here — but let's not bullshit, it was still really cool.)

So when IGN planted a 10, a God-game stamp on UC3's forehead, my expectations exploded and reformulated into an entirely different monster.

The game I bought, though, colored over the lines of the second installment, this time with prettier ink.

Uncharted 3 begins with a new feel to it, lunging you into an actual passable fistfighting segment. It was fun, it was cool, it was useful. It made Conor O'Brien's UC strategy of punching out everyone ever way more plausible. After that, you are thrown to Nathan Drake's entirely shrouded past. You gain some of his origin story. Cool! Then you go back to presenttown and rock the cradle a bit, beating bad guys to clues for the next thing on your map. Same old, same old. Only this time there seems to be a chance in hell that the bad guys would be where they would be, in other words, there was less “How in the fuck did these guys get into this hidden tomb before me?”ing. You make an epic, epic escape from a magnificent set piece, and move on.

One of the game's three new minor characters (Yes, I said three, minor characters.) then breaks his leg and is never ever seen or heard from again. The only remnant of his existence we have is Elena Fischer (who somehow just so happens to be roped into every game, which I'm actually totally cool with) mentions him, asks about him, and gives us no reason why or how the hell she knows who he is, much less why she cares.

So you begin your quest; you, Elena and Sully, ole pal. You get separated because, well, the game would be lame if you had a partner the whole time. You find yourself on drugs, which leads to one of the game's coolest yet least important sequences in which you sprint through the streets of a crowded Middle Eastern city while fucked up on a hallucinogen. After this, some bitchlady named Catherine Marlowe tells you that your last name isn't even really Drake (thus making you NOT related to Francis Drake! probably) your mom committed suicide and your dad gave you up to the government to raise. All of which is neat, but none of it matters. Nate's attachment to Sir Francis Drake is so strong that it needn't be one of lineage for the story to be effected. And Nate's parents? Yeah? Ok. Also, how did Marlowe obtain these files? Why does she care to notify Drake that she knows? Why are neither of these questions answered?

The problem with this game is that it's trying to be a movie told from the first person. As in, entirely from the first person. As in, we have no idea what the fuck anyone but Nathan Drake is doing. And we have no idea who Marlowe really is, why she's after this croc pot of treasure, what her relationship is with Talbot (who probably hated it when the kids in his elementary school called him “tablet”) and what she thinks of Drake behind his back. There aren't those filling scenes. Metal Gear has those scenes. Resident Evil has those scenes. Final Fantasy has those scenes. GTA has those scenes. Uncharted has Drake talking about his entirely implied failed marriage to Elena (who, and this is one of my pettier qualms, looks different and less distinct). Chloe, character who is in this game for a reason I actually don't know, hinted at a past with Drake at the beginning of UC2 and has yet to fill us in on that.

Speaking of past, UC2 threw two characters that Drake's known before our way without telling us anything about that past. One of them turned on Drake, which was interesting. In UC3, a character with no implied or expressed past joins Drake's crew (and his reasons are not given when Elena, a journalist, asks for them from Drake). There's no new elements here.

Fast forward a couple grand set pieces, including a boat (that FUCKING boat) and a train (I meant “plane,” but I thought it symbolic that I typed train instead), and bam, you're in the desert, and the game is ending.

You go through a grand sequence of fights (which do unfortunately dip into the “How in the fuck did these guys get here” aspect), which caused me many a death, (Side note: I'm generally bad at this game, I trudge through it with zeal.) and lead to the granddaddy of all the hidden tombs. It's the Atlantis of the Sands. The Golden City. The big balls of the game. You open a huge door and, like last time, there's this huge fucking world, (again, more plausible than UC2, it's not underground, it's in the middle of the desert). But the problem is, it's the same thing again. Grand, beautiful city to finish the game in. And you bet your ass it falls apart. As the game climaxes with two of the least satisfying main-villain kills in my relatively brief history of gaming, you run away from the grand, beautiful city because you it's crumbling to shit and you make it out alive thanks to Salim. Who's Salim? Oh, he's the Tenzin this game, except they didn't have time to give him a backstory this go-round.

I cannot help but feeling this is a frankly better ending.

So you escape, there's this feeling of “I'm glad I won't be getting shot at anymore” mixed with “where's my gun, because this game failed to blow my mind so I now want to do it myself.”

Looking back to what Uncharted has done through its history: it set a precedent, then it evolved that precedent, then it expanded that evolution. I'm afraid your Wartortle is leveling up, but refusing to become a Blastoise. This game feels like the last one. With no innovation in the gun system, no new toys either (like the propane, hammer, and riot shield all were), a new melee system that's repetitive after a minute or two, a limited enemy gallery (those big guys who you repeatedly kicked in the nuts were random and silly). You had this nonsubtle focus on set pieces, and in this, Uncharted found the Titanic, Drakes on a plane, and a super cool burning mansion. But beyond that, you have more unbelievable survival — as in, Sully repeatedly dying and then never actually dying; not the hundreds of bullets Drake takes over the course of the game — more tomb chasing, and the same dude-killin'. The puzzles were pleasantly innovative and not boring. The spiders were a cool effect. The childhood scenes were fun. The drug scenes were entertaining, though useless (Arkham Asylum's Scarecrow, anybody?). The desert scenes were necessary but point/ephiphanyless. And the end was ripped right out of UC2, minus the supernatural aspect, but plus the pretend supernature of demon-headed reincarnated baddies, who were as easy to nix as their former versions. The game was cool to have, incredibly fun to play, but not very fulfilling. This game features the worst final boss fight of the three, no question. In the end, you miss the treasure for the sake of saving the world yet again (you think Drake would learn), Sully finds some scoop on the tail end of the hunt, and you get married to Elena again. The ending scene is short — shorter than the last one, I feel. Wouldn't this be a red flag? Your game is supposed to supplement the storylines you left out in the first two, not leave you with crumbs of an ending.

The villain in this game, Catherine Marlowe (whose name I'm spelling with an E on the end purely out of hunch), is half there. She's an ex of Sully's, and incredibly wealthy and in it for some power, though she seems not like the kind of person to seek infinite power, or to want to unleash unprovoked evil. Yet, that's her. Then you have Talbot, who acts as the real bad guy of the game, he's the one who pisses you off most. Like Navarro in the first one. Lassaravich, the villain from UC2, was nasty. Marlowe is as such, but to a lesser extent. The only difference is she's a woman whom Drake wouldn't punch.

In the end, the game leaves you feeling accomplished, but not whole. There's something more to be put in here, as the game's only 22 chapters long. You don't get a sense of completion, it seems more like you just ran out of story in which your background could be laid. At least when Street Fighter made non-sequels, they had the decency to title it the same and just add words to it. I feel like I just played Super Uncharted 2: Among Deceived Thieves Turbo Redux. In Final Fantasy, the sequels are of different worlds. Maybe Uncharted would have been best parting with Nate for its sequels, a la GTA. GTA is on its fifth installment right now, and its been around since the '90s. When a new GTA comes out, it's balls out. They upgrade everything. They make every aspect worth every additional dollar. I feel like Uncharted just went the Madden route, updating rosters, adding a nifty element or two, but I'm getting the same experience sold back to me for 60 more dollars. At least I beat the damn thing. You bet your ass I was gonna beat the damn thing.

It's a great game, but to call it a masterpiece is frankly incorrect.

--Eliot Sill

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I'm sorry

So stressed I want to cry. Swedish course approvals, leases, student visas, math, 2 exams, 2 papers.

Expect a similar post next week.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Nick - All Of You Are Doing Everything Wrong Always

Alright, guys, take a look. This is some plain chicken breast. Grilled, maybe with a little pepper and some lemon rub. Looks delicious. I would eat this stuff for every meal, ever. And I'd be happy about it. So let me ask you a question.

Why the hell would you do this?
Yeah, this.
Look, you've ruined this chicken. This was a perfectly good chicken, and you stuffed it with some fucking broccoli and some goddamned tomato and god knows what the hell else. So good job. Conratu-fucking-lations. You've taken a meal I would have loved, and you have desecrated it, and I don't even know why. I don't think you have a goddamned reason. It doesn't taste better. God knows it doesn't look better. Does it smell better to you? Were you bored?

Yeah, guess what, this doesn't look good either. You've taken some noodles, which is fine, and you've taken some tomato sauce, which I really dislike, but which is also fine if you're into that sort of thing, but that where the fineness ends. I don't even know what the hell else you stuffed into this. There are ingredients in there that I don't even know about. Even worse, you put it in a container, label it "lasagna," and expect me to eat it without even knowing what you could have put into it. Like I'm supposed to goddamn trust you.

Well, guess what, I don't trust you. I don't trust any of you cocksuckers. You all use too many fucking ingredients in your foods. So take your salsa and leave me my plain chips. Take your soups, take your goddamned condiments and get out. Just go. I don't want any of your shit anymore.


Sunday, November 6, 2011

Circle of Power

Is there something wrong with me — is it really that noticeable that I didn't shower today, or yesterday? I don't think so, because I tried really hard to smell me, and I can't at all, so I know it's not bothering you that much.

It begins innocently, with a conversation. I'll politely tell this new acquaintance a joke. A good one, usually. He'll laugh, always, and I'll politely chortle along to acknowledge the humor of the joke. Things are going well at this point. The skies are endless and blue, and social butterfly wings can be seen splitting out of my back like feathers in Black Swan. What could go wrong!, I foolishly ask, and I launch into another joke, certain to forge forever this new friendship in the fires of humor.

Suddenly, from the distance, a friend, Mike, approaches with wild reckless speed. He's heading right for my conversation. My conversation. No, I think to myself. Not this time. Coolly I turn my body 90 degrees in an attempt to box out this social wannabe. At this point, I am willing to make a certain sacrifice to protect my social stability, a sacrifice that involves acknowledging the inexplicable way I've turned my current conversation into what can best be described as a right angle of people. My back to Mike, I smile awkwardly at my dear acquaintance and pray that my realignment has caused a gravitational deflection of Mike's oncoming trajectory.

It's no use. In a brilliant maneuver, Mike swings wide around my defending body and enters the conversation from the opposite side. He makes a joke of his very own. What a stupid joke you moron, but what's this? My acquaintance laughs and turns his attention to him! O, bitter betrayal! Terrified, I jerk my head left and then right, surveying the room. My acquaintance has laughed too loud. A few heads have turned and spotted my threesome. A few bored people saunter over. Now there are enemies coming from all directions. It's all over now, I know. Nevertheless, I'm not giving up yet. I will fight to the god damn death.

With each new person added to the small mob, I try to chip in at the conversation with little witticisms to make my presence known. Everyone totally saw that I was here first, anyway. Again, it's no use. My fruitless desperation slowly gives way to the imminent circle that begins to form and tighten. I start to feel constricted on both sides. My arms are pressed against my sides, and the intense wave of body head shoots my temperature through the ceiling. Voices bounce and reflect back and forth across the walls of the circle, pounding at my small body and beating it backwards, until finally, here I am in my usual position, standing behind the little crack between Mike and Steve. Steve isn't that tall, so I can sort of crane my neck over his shoulder and peer in at the ensuing fun that seems to be going on in a world outside my own. I have fallen. My ego, once stroked, has been reduced to fluttering each time I succeed in eye contact with someone from The Group. I don't quite make out everything they're saying, because the music's kind of loud in here, but I don't really dislike Katy Perry, anyway. Whenever Mike or Steve talk, though, I hear their words easily, and I feel vicariously as if I'm a part of their words, as if in some small way, my presence has some bearing on the wind of influence that blows into them from behind. My acquaintance looks at me from across the way, and I yearn for some kind of acknowledgment, some hint that he knows things were simpler once, more beautiful. There is no spark in his eyes, though, and I can only guess that he's already forgotten my name. I shrink back, hesitantly, and I make one meek and final push toward the circle, but there's no give between Mike and Steve. The Group has everyone it needs. And I am alone. I remember the joke I told just five minutes prior, and I chuckle quietly to myself. Yes, it was a good one. I tell it again in my head. Yes, very good.