Sunday, December 22, 2013

You Don't Get What You Paid For

Schadenfreude is pleasure derived from the misfortunes of others. This word is a loanword from German. The literal English translation is 'Harm-Joy'. It is the feeling of joy or pleasure when one sees another fail or suffer misfortune. It is also borrowed by some other languages. -- Wikipedia
Don't reach for the halo too soon. You have plenty of time to enjoy yourself, even a little maliciously sometimes, before you settle down to being a saint. -- Edith Pargeter
Debacle: 1. a sudden and ignominious failure; a fiasco. -- Google
Man goes to doctor. Says he's depressed, life is harsh and cruel. Says he feels all alone in threatening world. Doctor says, "Treatment is simple. The great clown Pagliacci is in town. Go see him. That should pick you up." Man bursts into tears."But doctor," he says, "I am Pagliacci." Good joke. Everybody laugh. Roll on snare drum. Curtains. -- Alan Moore, Watchmen
During the off-season, the Brooklyn Nets signed Paul Pierce and Kevin Garnett. They are going to pay $80 million in luxury tax for what, as of this writing, appears to be a lottery team. They're currently 9-17. And, oh yeah, Brook Lopez broke his foot and is done for the year.

There are several lessons here.

1) The NBA isn't Major League Baseball or Euro soccer. You can't buy championships in the L, and all the complaining that only large markets can compete after the Heat signed Wade, Bosh, and LeBron in 2010 and that small market teams wouldn't be able to keep up is pretty much bunkum now. The New York Knicks are 8-18; the Chicago Bulls are 10-16; the Los Angeles Lakers are 13-14. Meanwhile, Oklahoma City has the best record in the league at 22-4 (woah!), followed by Portland at 23-5, then San Antonio at 21-6. So much for that reasoning.

2) False entitlement delusions of grandeur in sports always backfires. Just because you're a billionaire like Mikhail Prokhorov or a six-time champion like Michael Jordan doesn't mean you can have everything your way. This shit ain't Burger King. Prokhorov is probably realizing this now; Jordan probably will never*.

3) You can't "Dr. Frankenstein"  a basketball team, nor can you create a microwavable instant-breakfast fanbase in a Petri dish. Nothing works that way. New York will always be the Knicks' territory, regardless of how poorly run that franchise is. Sure, you could wait a couple of decades to build up some hardcore fans and hope that the tide eventually turns in your favor (see: Clippers, Los Angeles), but waiting doesn't seem to be on the Nets' menu.

4) Has anyone seen Andrei Kirilenko lately? Is he going fishing on Lake Placid?

* But I dig the new Hornets logo!

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Nothing Ever Really Dies

I still remember the first comic book I bought myself*: X-Men No. 248 from 1989, Jim Lee's first penciling duty on the title. I pulled it from the creaky rotating comics rack at Brant Smoke & Gift, on Brant Street. I was eleven years old.

I started my comics collection by piling each new issue I bought, sans bag and board, next to my writing desk on my bedroom floor. After a few months, one pile became two, then three, and eventually I knew I had to find a better way to protect my collection. I wanted to make sure my comics didn't get ruined so that I couldn't read them anymore; they were so fragile. At the same time, other kids were collecting comics too, but rather than having any interest in the stories contained in the books they purchased, they bought them as an investment** and kept them sealed in poly bags, usually without reading them -- you know, because that would "break the spine" and devalue the book***. Every little fucker, myself included, was convinced that issue whatever of Doctor Strange or Deathlok was going to be the next Detective Comics #27.

Kids are so fucking stupid.

During my adolescence and into adulthood, I would fall in and out of love with collecting comic books. But I never stopped loving the stories.

---- ------

I don't remember the first horror movie I watched. I do remember watching a shit ton of them, mostly slasher movies, as an elementary school kid, usually at sleepovers. I can tell you exactly where and when I watched a certain movie over my entire lifetime****, but I can't tell you what the first horror movie I watched was. This is weird to me.

I bought the Friday the 13th Part III novelization from the paperback rack at Brant Smoke & Gift when I was eleven. I went home with it and hid it under my bed because I felt like I'd committed a crime. I was young and had an interest in fiction wherein people are murdered, brutally. At that age, curiosity so often feels criminal.

Kids are so fucking stupid.

As an adult, I've watched fewer horror films than I did when I was younger. Maybe because real life is scarier than anything cinema can offer.

Kids are so fucking tasty with Frank's RedHot...

* not the first one I read. My uncle would regularly buy me comics -- Daredevil, The New Mutants, a really great one-shot in which The Thing fights a scaled wrestler that eventually turns into an alligator -- when my family would visit Nova Scotia in the summer. I N C E P T I O N

** Sell your Bitcoins now!

*** The comic book industry, realizing this new dynamic in its customers, went on to exploit its younger -- or dumber -- collectors who wanted to both preserve issues and read them by releasing issues wrapped in their own plastic bags. Buy one to read, another to save! And, hey, each bag has 1 of 7 collectible cards! Buy one bag to save, buy another to get a card! #kompugacha

**** Seriously. Test me.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Aim for the Bushes

I think I came within a few centimeters of grievous injury on my way home from work.

At Yeoksam Station, the card reader on the turnstile wouldn't read my card. The stile still turned though, so I went past and ran down the stairs to catch the train. But because my card wasn't scanned at Yeoksam, it wouldn't register at Gangnam when I transferred. No problem there really; they have those weak knee slappers to block you if you haven't paid your fare. A toddler could push through those.

The Jeongja Station transfer connecting outbound passengers to Jeongja Station proper has the same knee slappers, so when my card, predictably, didn't scan there either, I walked through. There's an alarm that goes off, but no one can hear it when the rush hour crush is coming through, and nobody really cares anyway. Smooth criminal.

Jeongja Station proper, however, has the old turnstiles. There's also a gate for senior citizens -- who ride for free -- to either get buzzed past if an attendant is at the gate (there rarely is) and a button for seniors to press and talk over an intercom to get buzzed through.

I had three options: 1) Hit the button and explain the initial error at Yeoksam (no thanks; that would be like confessing to jay walking in a second language to someone who doesn't give a shit), 2) Hit the button and try to pretend to the intercom guy that I'm a senior citizen (this would have been comedic if they have CCTV at the gate, which they likely do), or 3) hop the turnstile (fuck yes!).

See here, I'm no scofflaw. Option No. 3 seemed like it would save trouble for everyone. I've hopped a few turnstiles in my time, and always because of a machine error. I'm not a Warrior hunted by rival gangs and police* who has to get back to Coney Island for safety; I just wanted to get home, feed my dachshund, maybe watch some basketball.

So I hoisted myself up onto the turnstile, pulled up my legs, and propelled myself forward. My right foot caught one of the stile bars on the way down, though, and gravity almost had its way with me. Somehow I righted myself. I don't know how, but I did. Both of my feet hit the floor first, hard, and the impact ran up both legs and into my testicles. Not a pleasant feeling, but it beats being splayed out on a subway station floor with a cracked skull.

Three takeaways from this experience:

1) An innocuous chain of events can so easily lead to tragedy.

2) I could probably ride the train for free every day if I wanted to.

3) Boys will be boys. As mature as I consider myself to be, the instinctive allure of climbing/jumping** sometimes takes over. Never allow me to get on a trampoline.

* RIP, Fox.

** Bran Stark likes this

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Fantasy, Final

I'm not an RPG guy. Or, rather, I am one and I just didn't realize it. I've self-actualized this fact only recently.

In 2008*, Kmork, that madman of mercurial mayhem, suggested I play Chrono Trigger, recently ported to the Nintendo DS. I'd always shied away from RPG games until then; the grinding to level up, random battles, D&D fantasy tropes, and the boring turn-based nature of the genre (or so I thought, having suffered through more than a few excruciatingly awful RPG games in my youth**) made me reluctant. But Kmork ensured me that Chrono Trigger was largely regarded as one of the best video games ever created, and a rudimentary Internet investigation proved that he was correct (as always, unless he isn't).

I'm sure that there are millions who would attest to the power of religion (billions, in that regard) or to the healing properties of homeopathic remedies; I wouldn't trust their word if it were tattooed on the inside of my eyelids. But entertainment is another matter. If enough people -- people who are knowledgeable, passionate, and, most of all, intelligent all around -- praise a video game, my interest is piqued. Fourteen years ago***, I moved to Korea. And while I was initially apprehensive of eating things like raw fish, chicken feet, grilled cow****, and so on, I understood that if a culinary dish is beloved by so many there must be something special about it.

So I played Chrono Trigger, and it was a glorious experience. The story, the characters, the score (THE SCORE!!!)...I will forever, fondly and thankfully, reminisce of Chrono Trigger***** in the same way I remember Star Wars, The Wire, the LeBron-era Miami Heat, Dostoevsky novels, the films of Martin Scorsese and Stanley Kubrick, and The Bat roller coaster at Canada's Wonderland for the rest of my life as a paragon of entertainment.

So, why, if I enjoyed Chrono Trigger so much, didn't I seek out more classic RPG games? I'm not sure. Maybe it was because I thought nothing could top that experience*******. Maybe I was busy doing other things; as you get older, there is less and less time to pursue new interests. Your leisure window starts to close, and stuff that you'd like to do gradually becomes stuff that you want to do but don't have time for. Prioritization. Mostly, it's because work gets in the way.

And that's when serendipity stepped in. I edit video game localization, the translation of a game released in one language (in my case, Korean) into another (English, although I'm brushing up on my Dothraki). When I have downtime at work, I'm encouraged to play video games for research purposes. It's awesome********.

But Pac-Man and Temple Run don't offer much insight vis-à-vis game localization research. Those are games I enjoy playing these days because I have so little time to truly invest myself in a game like Chrono Trigger. However much I yearn to invest my time in watching the four-hour version of Once upon a Time in America, listen to The White Album in a sitting, or collect every star in Mario 64, I don't have the time. I've fantasized of a Henry Bemis-esque scenario in which I'm locked inside a fallout shelter during a nuclear apocalypse*********, because how else can I find the time to play an epic video game?

Enter: Final Fantasy IV. For the past three weeks, I've been grinding on that worthy at work like sandpaper on an incisor. It is the only RPG game after Chrono Trigger that I have loved immensely. It is also only the second RPG game I've played after Chrono Trigger.

There comes a point, not unlike conception, physically or abstract, where curiosity turns into interest, and then the next step, where interest becomes a passion. As it relates to video game RPGs, I have Kmork to thank for, first, being the spark plug, and, later, in the present day**********, being my RPG guru.

Like attempting to describe a dream, no one gives a shit about one's solo video game accomplishments. That said, beating the four Archfiends is an intense accomplishment I will always remember. It was trying, as all memorable experiences are. I was nervous. My hands were shaking. I won. I fucking won.

Then I slipped on ice on the walk home and broke my hip.

* which, damn, is nearly six years ago. It really does feel like it was yesterday.

** Double Dungeons for the Turbo Grafx 16; which, I imagine, is like having an early attraction to horror/fantasy and reading the Twilight series as a gateway.

*** over a third of my life! That's very cool, and also quite scary. Time really does keep on slippin' (slippin', slippin') into the future, Steve Miller.

**** Never again. Not because I love dogs, which I do, but because I hated the taste. I tried it, didn't like it.

***** I'm doing so right now! /meta

******* which is a dumb reason. I'd call someone who refused to watch gangster films an idiot if he stopped after seeing The Godfather. Goodfellas, yo!

******** Game testing, however, is not. Driving a Ferrari is fun, I would imagine. Building one, crash testing one, I imagine is not. Unless you're a masochist.

********* In this version, Bemis's broken spectacles are substituted by a thrown Dual Shock controller.

********** "later, in the present day" ... 88 miles per hour