blarg?

Ok, Internet, it is now time for you to pony up. I require novel stimulus. Specifically, I require novel musical stimulus. I would like to know what you’re listening to now, in general, these days, have discovered recently, whatever.

This was meant to be just a request for new music, but it turns out that I in fact want more than that.

To be even more specific, I would like to know if you like it or dislike it. And to delve into the truly granular psychological fringe elements of the specificity I require here, I also want to know why you like or dislike it. I require answers like “I enjoy the juxtaposition of an uptempo pop beat with the darker imagery of the lyrics” or “I first heard this song back in an earlier life situation, in which this interesting part of my life which I will now relate to you in intimate detail occurred, and it takes me right back”. Also acceptable are answers of the form “reminder of first love”, where “love” may denote a man, woman, substance or event at your discretion, provided there is an interesting story attached. I truly don’t care to know about the selections you’d normally hold aloft before your peers and declare to be good music if there’s nothing more interesting about it than that. I want to know about the music that sings to you, that dredges vivid imagery out of your subconscious and racks your apparatus with odd, nameless sensation.

Strictly speaking, you can reply that you like a song because, I dunno, it’s kinda catchy, but if you go that route you should do so secure in the knowledge that you’re useless to me.

Be anonymous if you like. Don’t be boring.

Random bits:

Don’t say I never do anything nice for you, internet.

I should preface this by saying that along every axis but a very few, I like my job quite a bit.

So, I got to my desk this morning, and find that my laptop, which I had forgotten to lock up, is now missing. This is super-irritating, but not in the least worrying – this has happened before, and it’s always one of my coworkers trying to make a point about “security”. My reply to that consists mainly of a request for offices with lockable doors and filing cabinets you can’t open with a fucking popsicle stick and doesn’t seem to be getting much traction.

But since it’s the company’s laptop and the company’s time, whatever. I go to work on my desktop and drop it. And lo and behold, midway through the morning I am asked by somebody nearby “so, what is a laptop like that worth, anyway?”

“Nowhere near as much as my time and goodwill.”

Silence.

So, I walked down the hall to get a coffee, and when I got back, there it was. It was like my own little christmas miracle.

I’m a couple of hours into Okami right now and I’ve got to tell you, I’m more than a little bit ambivalent about it.

I was going to take a few minutes to lead up to my thesis here, gingerly drawing my opinions and ideas from their snug housings with mighty tongs of metaphor and analogy but I’m just not up for that right now so, if you would, let me cut the crap: I am torn because two things are pulling my opinion in diametrically opposite directions. Those things are:

  • Okami is gorgeous, full stop. The game is rendered entirely in cel-shaded watercolors, and moving around in the game environment is fluid and beautiful, like wandering about in a vivid Hiroshi Yoshida watercolor. The central conceit of the gameplay is entirely original but still well-balanced, making both combat and interaction with the environment tricky and fun.
  • The dialogue, the writing, is terrible.

And not casually inadequate, either. Comprehensively, thoroughly bad. Past the introduction, there has been virtually no text that I could point to on-screen and say, well, that’s at least in the same area code as OK. Standing here, I can kind of make out OK way over there.

And it’s heartbreaking. They’ve got very different aesthetics but, even so, Okami is visually comparable to Shadow Of The Colossus and the later Cyan Worlds games. The background music is tastefully done and entirely listenable. And somehow it still teeters right on the edge of unplayable. The dialog is just that bad.

One of the first things that happens in the game is that you meet your ANSI-standard plucky, diminutive sidekick; a fairly standard Jiminy-Cricket-type character who provides you with little hints and guidance during the course of the game. This isn’t an unforgiveable sin in anyone’s books, I don’t think; it’s a pretty common device, in fact. Some games, especially the more open-ended quest games, are big and complicated, and to make them accessible to a wider audience this little voice will occasionally spur you on with little hints to get you to over the next hump in the storyline. I don’t think it’s the greatest creative device in the world, but it’s not automatically a disaster, either. In The Ocarina of Time, for example, you’re working with Navi throughout, and Ocarina is a strong contender for the best video game ever made.

But this thing in Okami just. will. not. shut. up. It’s like wandering around the Louvre shackled to an eight-year-old who’s jabbing you with a fork and asking you if you like that, huh, do ya, how about this, jab, between bouts of trash-talking random passersby. And that’s nowhere, just nowhere near the worst of it.

I just wish that there was a way to turn all that stuff off and get on with the game. Even being able to quickscroll past it before it hits my eyes would be fine, but alas.

Lore Sjoberg recently wrote that “writing about technology is like having sex in a bathtub: If you don’t know anything about sex, it won’t help to know a lot about bathtubs.” A good line and true if ever there was one, and worth remembering; great writing requires a great writer, just as much as great code requires great coders. But one of the great joys of Shadow, Riven and their very rare kin isn’t just the quality of the writing. It’s the fact that there was so little of it; what was there was carefully crafted, but no more of it is there than absolutely necessary. Their creators, generally speaking, let the game speak quietly for itself.

Okami, not so much. Very sadmaking.

So, yeah, I’m bad at staying in touch with people at the best of times. Please don’t think that my habits in this regard are a reflection of my actual opinion on the merits of our relationship, whoever you might be out there in the interether; it is in truth a reflection of the merits of this rubber-band-and-hamster-wheel contrivance I’m using for a brain. Which recent reports seem to indicate is more than fifty percent wooden-shoe by weight, incidentally.

I’ve been extraordinarily bad recently, though, and here’s why. One, I’ve recently had my ottawa-area cell number disconnected. I’ve mailed a lot of people my new Toronto number, but if I’ve overlooked you, let me know. I promise, it’s not personal, at least not I-hate-you-personal. It’s likely just I’m-an-idiot-personal, but if you’ve known me long enough to actually care about my phone number, this will come as precisely zero surprise to you.

The other thing is, my spam filter has apparently been Very Enthusiastic recently, and has caught quite a few messages that I actually wanted to see. I’m going to be keeping a close eye on that stack for the next few days, so if you’ve sent me anything recently that really required some kind of reply that hasn’t received one, please resend.

On the other hand, if you were just trying to sell me penny stocks, diet pills, ways of making money from home or bizzare remedies for some perceived defect in my sexual apparatus, that’s Ok, thanks. I’m fine. You don’t need to resend those.