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  Pop Culture Strikes Back 12:09 PM -- Mon March 20, 2006  

I've finished my latest book - a tiny little thing by Stephen King, The Colorado Kid. As it says repeatedly in it right from the beginning, and even on the back cover, and everywhere I've read anything about it, it is going to be a little frustrating. It's about an unresolved mystery, and that means that the mystery is not resolved during the book, not that this is about the amazing moment when it is resolved. And frankly, it's not an interesting mystery anyway! But I liked the book. Because it wasn't actually about the mystery. It was about the growth of a character who was being told this mystery. That wouldn't have been enough for me in a big book, but this whole thing was 184 pages of very big type - I think it's really more like a 100 page book. It was just right. A fun little thing to read, and I wasn't even really let down by the unsolved mystery (I suppose it helped that they mentioned at least 50 times that it would not get resolved), because it wasn't important.

So as always I don't know what to read next. I guess I could continue on the Harry Potter train. My wife has all of them, and I have read the first one. It was good, but I don't really need Harry Potter so badly.

I have also finished, or at least beaten the final boss of, Spyro: A Hero's Tail. It was a big letdown. I guess I rate it 7.5/10. It was enjoyable, kept me coming back, but it was sorely lacking the fun of the earlier ones. It really felt like (and was) new people trying to ape the original Spyro games. You know, they didn't know exactly what made it special, so they just put in all the actual elements - Spyro grabs gems, smacks guy's armor off and then fries them, Sparx eats butterflies. But the gems don't look quite as alluring, the impacts with the armored guys aren't as nice feeling, and most clearly, Sparx doesn't catch butterflies nearly as aggressively. You have to practically eat them yourself. None of it was quite there. But the one big downside was the bosses, which were awful. In real Spyro games, a boss has to be hit 3 times (I may be misremembering, actually), and you have to dodge all these different attacks and find your opening to do it. In this game, it's the same, except that you need to repeat this 3-hit process 3 times. And up until the final boss, that's annoying and tiresome, but not onerous, because after each 3 hits, the boss inexplicably always proclaims "How could you have beaten me!?" before proceeding on to the next round of the fight, looking none the worse for wear - which saves your progress. Of course, each time they get harder. On the final boss, they throw that out the window, and you have to take the guy down very hard, very very many times. I pretty much only succeeded because I cheated - I bought the "max health in a bottle" item, and then ran off the ledge of the battle 3 times to get the Loser Assist it offers: one butterfly per time you've failed (max of 3). Still barely squeaked by, after 8 or so tries. But more than it being hard was it being repetitive and unfun. That's not what a game should be! Speaking of repetitive, I'm going back now to get the last few eggs and light gems! It's what I do.

So, continuing on pop culture issues, I stepped into the 21st century yesterday and ordered a Nintendo DS. Hooray! I probably should've waited until the DS Lite was available, but it would cost so much more (I suppose the deals on old DSes would've gotten better... oh well, it's an impulse buy). I also got Animal Crossing, Tony Hawk's American Sk8land (a naming convention I will never approve of), and Meteos. A nice broad selection of the classic game types - village living, skateboarding, and meteor puzzling. Should be interesting to play the DS port of the latest Tony Hawk before/rather than the PS2 version. It's the first portable version that isn't a wacky isometric view. The main reason for the DS purchase was Sol's playing of Harvest Moon on our GBA and constantly complaining about the lighting. The DS is backlit. I ordered all the games on eBay, which is always horrible. I hope it goes well. I tried to get the system on eBay as well, but after being outsniped for a solid 4 hours on 10 or 15 auctions (some really good ones that included 5 or 10 really nice games! Augh!), I gave up and ordered a used one from an actual reputable dealer. I'm very cheap, you know.

Also pop culture: We saw V For Vendetta this weekend, and it was very good. To me, there were some weird elements - the way some things looked, the way some dialogue was - that took me out of it, towards the beginning mainly (and I don't mean V's flowery language or truly strange appearance). I can't even really describe what, just sort of a stylistic choice that didn't click with me. The fighting for example was really unimpressive to me, especially the supposedly big finale. Not a lot of drama and excitement to it, as opposed to say a Matrix fight (to mention the Wachowskis, who wrote the screenplay here). But that wasn't really important, and in fact, there is almost no fighting in the entire movie. Actually, something that I would've liked more, and would've majorly changed if I was doing the movie, would've been if V never killed anyone. This is very much a Trigun thing, which I loved. In the very first fight in this movie, he doesn't kill anyone (at least not for sure), and it's really cool to see him taking them down non-lethally, even though he's armed with big knives. Of all the fights, that was the most well-staged, as well. And it's appropriate, because they're not really people who deserve to die, though very much not good guys. Later on, he slays quite a few I would consider innocents. And near the finale (this really isn't much of a spoiler, but beware if you are big on that), he gets someone else to kill someone for him in a way that's really meaningful, and I think could've had a real message behind it... if he hadn't then proceeded to mow down a dozen cops himself. Anyway, that's sort of my desire for morality and black and white, looking for a hero. The movie is more about the real world - nobody's a real hero, though there is no shortage of villains (actually, V does one thing in this movie that really was way out of bounds to me! I was having trouble believing it at first and was looking for alternative explanations, and I think the forgiveness he gets for it is a load of crap). It's a very good movie, with a big political message that is worth hearing: stand up and be counted, fight for your rights, all that good stuff. And it's definitely not black and white, which is nice.
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