A dose of sarcasm

Yahoo reports:

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – As lawyers for Britney Spears and her ex-husband fought a court battle over custody of their two young sons, a publisher said on Friday that the pop star’s mother is writing a book about parenting.

I suppose it’s going to be sort of a what-not-to-do kind of thing, right? Or is it going to be called How To Pimp Your Daughter, Ruin Her Life and Get a Book Deal Out of It? Either would be fitting.

Religious publisher Thomas Nelson said it will publish “Pop Culture Mom: A Real Story of Fame and Family in a Tabloid World,” by Lynne Spears. Nelson spokesman Curt Harding said the book, to be out next spring, will be about Lynne Spears’ raising three children and will have a religious element.

Well, I’m sorry for all religious people. I guess more than a few of them will buy it, but let’s be honest: using your children as a gateway to fame and money while turning them into little more than deranged prostitutes with no grasp of reality isn’t exactly something Jesus would’ve… appreciated. In fact, I almost think he might’ve, you know, objected. Strongly, even.

Meanwhile lawyers for the pop singer and her ex-husband Kevin Federline were in a Los Angeles court to argue over whether the two have complied with court orders over parenting and, in Spears’ case, random drug testing.

And that’s all because her mother did such a wonderful job of raising her daughter that she managed to turn her into a proper drug-gobbling panty-losing Christan girl. Hallelujah!

Jesus frickin’ Christ… when Kevin Federline Kevin “Yuck” Federline himself – starts looking like a rational person, something is deeply wrong with the world.

Spears, 25, and Federline, 29, split a year ago and for months have waged a custody war over Sean Preston, 2, and Jayden James, 1, as Spears’ life slipped out of control.

It was in control before? Really?

The pop diva, who rose to stardom on the Disney Channel, has spent time in drug and alcohol rehab, clashed with paparazzi and become the fodder for numerous jokes after being photographed in public without wearing underwear.

Well, what do you expect when someone starts seeing the world through the lunatic eyes of Disney? All that fake sweet sugar-coated optimism with its boiling undercurrents of oppressed sexuality and misanthropy can’t be healthy.

On Thursday, a judge dismissed an automobile hit-and-run case against her after she settled with the owner of the car she hit, and she pleaded not guilty to a lesser charge of driving without a license.

But her singing career appears to be rebounding with a recent single, “Gimme More,” that is topping digital download charts, and a new album “Blackout,” set for release October 30.

Oh dear. More is certainly not what she needs. (It’s also not what we need; I once, quite by accident, was forced to listen to her rendition of I Love Rock N’ Roll on the radio. It still hurts.) The only two things Britney Spears needs more of is sense – and the idea that music is actually art. It’s fun, and it’s meant to be fun, but it can also be beautiful and mean something at the same time. It can even mean something fun – like, you know, a lot of rock ‘n’ roll did. Freedom and joy and rebellion and hope – instead of repetitive prepackaged cliché bullshit.

Actually, it’s not two things that she needs, it’s three. She also needs underwear.

Still, family Court Commissioner Scott Gordon in recent weeks has yanked visitation rights from Spears only to reinstate them after she complied with his rulings.

Gordon has ordered both parents to seek counseling and hire a parenting coach. He has told Spears she must submit to random drug testing twice a week.

A model Christian family, I suppose? Ironically, in more than a few cases the answer would be “yes”. Poor old Jesus. You put so much effort into something, get your ass nailed to a cross, all to make a point about humility and sacrifice and tolerance, and what do you get? You get Lynne Spears using your name as a PR device to sell books about her career as a female ponce.

It’d be funny if it weren’t so depressing.

a short comedy break

They gave Al Gore the Nobel Peace Prize.

*audience laughter*

No, seriously.

*more laughter*

I’m not quite sure why they did it. I guess a powerful commitment to making yourself the centre of attention by pretending you are the great crusader for the environment – after you’ve spent eight years as Vice President doing nothing about it – does pay off.

Seriously, people. There are certainly more disgusting figures than Gore – Bush, Kerry, Blair, etc. But just because he’s occasionally put forth an idea which isn’t catastrophically idiotic (Bush), appallingly opportunistic (Kerry) or just butt-crawlingly evil (Blair), doesn’t mean he should be elevated to being the god of the Vaguely Progressive There’s Something Wrong With The World But We Refuse To Use Our Brains To Analyze It movement.

Oh well. Back to Desert Bridge.

UPDATE: Strangely enough, some people linked to this post. Even stranger, though, is the fact that they only quoted the penultimate paragraph, and in some cases seemed to think that my opinion is somehow right-wing. Which, I guess, might happen if you don’t actually read the paragraph above. My point is that Gore is a hypocrite, not that doing something about global warming isn’t important (is is, in fact, one of the most important issues in human history). Furthermore, an in-depth discussion of global warming must delve into political matters – after all our policies and methods of production are a large part of the problem. So no, Mr. Gore, it isn’t just a moral issue – it’s also very much a political one.


Posted by Jakob

I just have to ask, what is your opinion about the film “An unconvenient truth” by Al Gore? (I don’t know if you have seen it but you have surely heard about it) I haven’t seen it yet but from what I have heard it seemes like it makes peoples eyes open up for the problems with nature.

Even if he sometimes indicates that it is worse than it actually is..

My problem isn’t that the movie makes global warming seem worse than it is. It doesn’t. Global warming is a HUGE problem. Probably worse, actually, than the movie predicts.

My problem is that the movie is all about Al Gore being the superhero of environmentalism. And he isn’t. The man was Vice President for 8 years. What did he do in those years to help stop global warming? NOTHING. And don’t tell me about Kyoto. Kyoto was a joke, nowhere near what needs to be done, and in fact the United States pushed to weaken it, not strengthen it. And I repeat: Gore was Vice President. He was one of the most powerful men in the world. And he did NOTHING.

So the very idea that he is this great crusader for the environment is basically just spin. And that’s what he got the Nobel for. Not for what he did, but for what he claimed he did. Which isn’t much. Except support the illegal and immoral war in Kosovo, in which radioactive weapons were used. Like the German Greens, who also supported that war and now portray themselves as a power for peace, that sort of screws up his credibility.

Beyond that, An Inconvenient Truth does not really talk about the causes of global warming on a political level. It more or less fails to mention, say, giant corporations and their policies. In fact, Gore’s often-repeated message that “The climate crisis is not a political issue, it is a moral and spiritual challenge to all of humanity. It is also our greatest opportunity to lift global consciousness to a higher level” is a wonderful way of avoiding the truly inconvenient truth: that to battle climate change, we must change our socio-economic system. Changing the way we live as individuals isn’t enough. Recycling soda cans or not washing your hair too often or using better light bulbs will not save the planet. Even Gore’s own film makes it obvious that the problem is huge – and it follows logically that the measures to combat it must be of equal scope.

But Gore is ultimately a representative of the very system that has for so many years prevented people from taking global warming seriously, and his main interest is in making himself appear oh-so-wonderful. It’s just PR.

It makes me miss Carl Sagan. Now there’s a man who was capable of explaining the scientific aspects of an issue in a fascinating way while also not neglecting its social and political implications.

UPDATE III: I just realized that I barely mentioned how ludicrous it is to give Gore the Nobel Peace Prize, given his support of so many wars. So I’m going to steal this quote from the WSWS:

Vice President Gore, however, is hardly to be identified with the cause of “peace.” One of only ten Senate Democrats who voted for the first US war against Iraq in 1990, he was second-in-command of an administration that dispatched US troops to Somalia, Haiti and Bosnia, financed death squads in Colombia, bombed Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan, maintained an economic blockade of Iraq that caused the death of an estimated 500,000 Iraqi children, and waged a devastating air war against Serbia.

Blackwater thoughts

As you may have noticed, there’s something of a controversy going on about Blackwater USA, a mercenary army in the employ of the United States. They’re making quite a bit of money in Iraq, and have been spending quite a bit of their time shooting civilians. So now a number of people have been going on about Blackwater being too trigger-happy and that something has to be done about it.

It’s not that I disagree. Obviously terrible crimes are being committed by Blackwater, and the people responsible need to be brought to justice. But let’s think for a moment. Who are the people responsible? Is it just Blackwater?

Or let’s put it another way: why do some people think any of this is surprising? Blackwater consists of mercenaries, for Dog’s sake. And not just that – they’re mercenaries whose job it is to oppress a recently invaded and conquered country, which has turned from a fairly stable secular dictatorship (not nice at all) to a land ravaged by a religious and political civil war (even worse). Their job is to keep Iraqis from trying to win back their nation’s freedom.

So what do you expect? They work for Bush, not Santa. It is a proven fact that terrorizing the population and murdering innocents is part of George the Conqueror’s official strategy, as it has been the strategy of tyrants and dictators throughout history.

And it’s not like Blackwater is the only security contractor killing civilians for no good reason. Even if you throw Blackwater out of Iraq, even if you send observers and create new rules and whatever else is being proposed – none of that will change the fact that the Iraqi people are being occupied by a foreign imperialist power, and occupation has always meant violence. Because people don’t like giving up their freedom. Even if they weren’t free before they were subjected to this new dictatorship.

If you want peace, you have to be peaceful. Getting out of Iraq would help. Christ, apologizing would help. Not killing any more people would certainly help. The main reason monsters like Osama bin Laden have any supporters is because Western foreign policy has driven them there. Do you really believe people are so eager to blow themselves up because they dislike someone’s “way of life”? Bullshit. People cling to their lives – always have, always will. It takes extraordinary circumstances to drive someone to that kind of insanity – circumstances such as having your country bombed, or having foreign governments support a regime that decimates your people and quite possibly your family and friends.

People don’t blow themselves up because someone, somewhere happens to be allowed to do something that they think is immoral. To a guy living somewhere in a poor village in Afghanistan, American freedoms aren’t real. They’re something you see on TV, something far away. Almost fiction. Not enough to give everything up for. But the smart bomb that kills his sister, or his child, or his parents – now that is real.

Obviously there are also other reasons – poverty being a particularly important one. People on the edge of starvation don’t – can’t – think clearly. People with full stomachs and a comfy bed are much less likely to go and blow themselves up. And the Bushes of other countries know how to use that – that and religion – to make people hate the faceless “Americans”.

But I think we can safely assume that decades of war, oppression, murder, assassination, bombing, colonialism and imperialism may have something to do with the problem.

Babylon 5: The Lost Tales – Voices in the Dark

The Lost Tales

(This is the IMDb review I wrote. I hope to write a longer, more detailed, and even more emotional review at a later date. You know how it is with these things, though, so it might take a while.)

Babylon 5 is probably the best television series ever made. It’s not that I have an uncritical “fanboy” view of it – it just happens to be the most thoughtful, complex, well-written and touching bit of television I have ever seen.

While B5 is not really a franchise, there is a lot of unexplored space (no pun intended) in the B5 universe; space which should allow for some very interesting stories to be told. The Lost Tales is just that. Not another series, or a pointless and unrealistic “cast reunion” thing (as some people would have wanted it to be), but small stories about the characters and the world that we have come to love. An anthology.

Previous outings into the B5 universe (apart from the series itself) have been mixed; In the Beginning was quite brilliant, for example, whereas River of Souls and Legend of the Rangers suffered from bad direction in one case and studio interference in the other.

Voices in the Dark is everything that we could have wanted it to be. Visually, it beats just about everything out there to a metaphorical pulp – both the special effects and the camera work are just stunning. Musically, Christopher Franke outdoes himself yet again, making me wish he’d done the music for Crusade. (Yes, I see the logical arguments behind using another composer for that series. However, the music in Crusade sucks, no matter how you look at it.) But above all, B5 is about the characters and the story, and that’s where the Lost Tales truly shine.

The actors are, as cliché as the phrase may be, simply superb, adding another layer of complexity to already deep characters. Bruce Boxleitner’s Sheridan in particular is just brilliant; the mixture of humour, empathy and authority makes for a remarkably layered and likable character.

The writing is not just fantastic, but thoroughly enjoyable. From snappy one-liners to long discussions of the role of religion in a spacefaring society, JMS has once again crafted a web of words that will be remembered and quoted for years to come, filled with an intense love of humanity and with hope for its future.

Does this sound over the top? It isn’t. I wouldn’t write such emotional words about The Legend of the Rangers or Thirdspace – but when it comes to this first installment of The Lost Tales, I can go on and on. This is the real deal. This is storytelling of the highest quality.

Enjoy it.

P.S. Since writing this, I’ve looked around the net and read some reviews. That was a serious mistake which almost made me lose my faith in mankind. It’s amazing, really – people will claim any kind of nonsense just to attack something that is too intelligent or thoughtful for their tastes. Someone said the episodes were too talky (umm… hello? not everything has to be about space battles, you know) , someone else claimed the effects were bad (and I’m a Norwegian cephalopod), and yet another deluded soul claimed the original series stole liberally from other shows. The last bit in particular just made me shout WTF? at the top of my lungs. If there has been a single original sci-fi series on TV in the past twenty years, it was Babylon 5! That’s not a matter of debate – there just isn’t anything even remotely similar. And don’t say Deep Space Nine, that’s absurd. DS9 is fine, but it’s a completely different kind of thing. Another drooling ghoul claimed Galen’s lines were badly written – when Galen has some of the most astonishingly brilliant lives ever! Maybe it’s because they’re so Shakespearean, and some people think that’s “unrealistic.”

This always happens to B5. Why is it such a crime for a show to be literate and intelligent?

It’s just sad. *sigh*

Beware the Belching Moose

It’s just so heartwarming to see the mainstream media help raise awareness of global warming. It’s important that people get a clear understanding of the issue at hand, its causes and consequences.

Belching moose add to global warming

OSLO (AFP) – A grown moose belches out methane gas equivalent to 2,100 kilograms (4,630 pounds) of carbon dioxide a year, contributing to global warming, Norwegian researchers said Wednesday.

“Contributing to global warming” – how wonderfully vague. That’s like saying that a kid peeing into a river contributes to a flood.

That is more than twice the amount of CO2 emitted on a round-trip flight across the Atlantic Ocean from Oslo to the Chilean capital Santiago, according to Scandinavian Airlines.

Yes. Only you’re comparing what a moose does in a year to what a plane does in a day. Which, of course, is entirely convenient – since the point is to make us think that global warming is caused as much by nature as by man.

“An adult moose emits about 100 kilograms of methane gas a year. But methane gas is much stronger than carbon dioxide, so to get the equivalent you have to multiply by 21,” professor Odd Harstad at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences told AFP.

You know, I just checked to make sure today isn’t April 1st. Somehow the name Odd Harstad smells of a joke.

With an estimated 140,000 moose roaming Norway‘s forests, that is a total of of 294,000,000 kilograms of CO2 per year.

Oh teh noes!!!111 That much! I wonder how that compares to, say the amount of CO2 emissions from gas fuels in Germany in the year 2004. 294,000,000 versus 49,174,000,000. Somehow I think that gas fuels are a bigger problem – and we’re only talking about a tiny bit of the full amount of CO2 emissions in Germany (220596 thousand metric tons).

But Harstad said that was no reason to begin killing off the entire moose population.

How generous of him! Especially since they are such a threat to the environment!

“Moose have very important functions in nature. They are ruminants that eat the grass. If we don’t have ruminants, we have too much grass and that changes the landscape and has consequences for the flora and fauna,” he said.

What is this guy professor of? Professor of Stating the Bleeding Obvious?

Harstad said the figure of 100 kilograms of methane gas was a rough estimate based on earlier calculations for beef cows in Norway.

It’s good to know that people are investing their time and money into important research subjects that will help save the planet.

As is the case with cows and other ruminants, methane is produced from the microbes in the moose’s stomach which help break down the roughage they eat.

It also comes out of the ears of dumb scientists and bad reporters.

Because methane gas is stronger than carbon dioxide, it is considered even more harmful to the environment. Both methane and carbon dioxide are so-called greenhouses gases, one of the main causes of global warming.

And I guess we’re supposed to make an connection, aren’t we? Greenhouses gases are a main cause of global warming, moose and cows emit methane, so the cause of global warming is… MOOSE!

Once Upon A Time

Inside Myself / Once Upon A TimeHelen Trevillion is not only a wonderful person (and friend), she’s also an absolutely stunning musician. I’ve been complaining for ages that she should release a commercial album – and now she finally has! To add to the fun, it’s a double CD. Oh, and it’s called Inside Myself / Once Upon A Time. That’s all you need to know.

Now all you have to do is to follow this link and buy it. Trust me. It’s absolutely worth it!

Of course you might say that the only reason I’m writing this is to convince Helen to write some music for The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge, but actually she’s already said she would be interested, and it’s my own incompetence (and lack of time) that is to be blamed for the fact that she hasn’t even seen the demo so far. Me silly.

Seriously, though – my enthusiasm for Helen’s music is not even remotely faked. She’s the real thing: an independent artist with a unique voice (literally and metaphorically). Even if I didn’t love her music itself – and I do – that is something to be celebrated in today’s world of unspeakably boring commercialized crap.

The Last Winter

We saw The Last Winter because it has Ron Perlman in it, and we love Ron Perlman. We were, of course, fully aware of the fact that he has made more than a few bad movies, but the synopsis for this one sounded interesting.

In the Arctic tundra of Northern Alaska, an advance team working for a petroleum exploration company is engaged in a massive project to exploit the oil resources of the pristine land.

After one crewmember is found dead, a disorientation slowly claims the sanity of the other members of the team as each of them succumbs to an unknown fear.

That does sound good, doesn’t it? It’s like The Thing , only with the potential to talk about the political and moral issues involving oil. And, as the official site tells us, that it very high on the film’s list of priorities:

This chilling supernatural drama is the latest offering from Larry Fessenden, an acclaimed director of intimate horror spectacles, whose trilogy of Horror, No Telling, Habit, and Wendigo, tackle themes of contemporary life- environmentalism, addiction, class conflict, aggression, fear and madness.

The Last Winter will be his boldest, most explicit, most challenging film to date, dealing with man’s insatiable quest for oil in the face of environmental revolt.

And that’s where the real trouble begins. See the phrases I put in bold? That’s a summary of everything that’s wrong with the film.

The plot is as follows:

A bunch of people are in Alaska, about to drill for oil in an area that was previously off-limits for such things. The team consists of the Oil People and the Green Dudes. The Green Dudes have been sent to make sure the whole project doesn’t screw up the environment, but the Oil People aren’t listening to them. But even if they did listen, it wouldn’t do them much good, because environmental conditions are deteriorating and Mother Nature is pissed off. In the end they’re all killed by the Ghost Moose of Doom.

There are a number of problems with all this, but first the good points. The movie looks awesome. The landscapes are fantastic, well-shot, and at times genuinely frightening. The actors are all really good, especially Ron Perlman and James LeGros as Main Oil Man and Lead Green Dude respectively. The music is very beautiful, and quite fitting. And the film does achieve some very frightening moments. Before one fully understands what’s going on, that is.

It would all work quite well, if – apart from some minor weaknesses, like the characters being too distant from the audience – the film wasn’t so obviously Green. Now don’t get me wrong, I’m very much in favour of protecting the environment. That position derives both from moral issues and from scientific fact. But the position that this film relentlessly hammers in is not even remotely scientific – it’s all about Mother Nature striking back at us (as if Nature was some kind of active being) and about desecrating the land with our evil civilization. At some point the characters have to choose between going to some other Oil People or to an Inuit village (Noble Savage cliché anyone?) but of course they choose the evil Oil People and then die. We get the impression that had they gone for the Mystic Natives, they might have made it. And the movie culminates in the fact that the creatures responsible for killing the characters are… Ghost Moose! I kid you not. At that point, it becomes entirely impossible to take the film seriously anymore.

The film’s values represent a kind of nihilistic humans-are-bad kind of attitude that I find disgusting, and its theme is being treated in such an obvious in-your-face preachy kind of way that it’s just annoying. And the thing is, I agree that climate change is a problem! I agree (as do all respectable scientists) that climate change is the result of human activities! But all this Mother-Nature-is-angry bullshit just pisses me off.

It would have been perfectly simple to make a horror movie about global warming. The ice is warming up. Evil stuff if coming out. Evil stuff eats our protagonists. Fine, there you go – that would’ve been great. That would’ve been scary. The scariest thing about this film is the people who think that Green is a political attitude. (It’s not. The Green Party? Give me a break. You can’t reduce your philosophy to that one issue. Witness how brilliantly that worked out in Germany. Greens in favour of radioactive weapons! Yay!)

All in all: not bad to watch once. Very well-made. Fails on the philosophy side of things, which isn’t a bad side to fail on. Extra points for trying.

Black Sheep

Commentarium will be back up soon – and much better than before – but for now I’ll just write down a few thoughts about movies I’ve recently seen.

Black SheepBlack Sheep is supposed to be a splatter-comedy in the vein of Bad Taste or Braindead, or, to some degree, the much better (and funnier) Shaun of the Dead . As the title suggests, the movie is all about evil flesh-eating sheepazoids.

Now that’s a wonderful premise if ever I heard one. Seriously. Sheep-related humour goes back hundreds, even thousands of years. Sheep are funny. They’re white, fluffy, stupid, and people do all sorts of nasty things with them. And violence involving sheep, as the Worms games have so wonderfully shown us, is inherently hilarious.

Hilarious is one word which does not describe this film. Sure, there are laughs – about one every five minutes or so. But what comes in between these laughs is rather boring.

There are two reasons for this film’s lack of success, both leading back to one source. The characters aren’t interesting (or even fleshed out) and there is very little creativity in what the sheep actually do (and what is done to the sheep). In other words, the fault lies with the writing. Where are the sheep-related jokes? I counted two (“Baaa-stards” and the sheep-shagging thing). And where in Dog’s name is the sheepy violence? I realize that the film had a low budget, but Peter Jackson’s old films had less money and managed to do more. Since realism doesn’t seem to be an issue, why so little human-sheep interaction? All we get is boring characters that we don’t give a fuck about running from scene to scene, pursued by sheep. There’s some gore, but it’s uninventive and not funny.

Furthermore, it’s not about anything. The film would be so much better if it had an additional level of satire, like Shaun does. If only the religious taxi driver, who shows up at random near the end of the movie, had been a main characters. The religious metaphor of the flock versus killer sheep. Now that’s got potential. Or at least give us sheep as conformity. Sheep as cuteness. Sheep as something. Anything.

Basically the entire film is based on one joke: killer sheep. But the fact of killer sheep isn’t funny. At least not after the first ten minutes of seeing them. What you do with a premise is what makes a film funny or not. And this film does next to nothing.

Even a well-directed film will fail if the script sucks.

All in all: watch Hot Fuzz, or Shaun of the Dead. Or Braindead.

Random trivia: While watching the film, I saw a character reading Michael King‘s The Penguin History of New Zealand. I had read Michael King’s Being Pakeha (a fairly interesting book on white New Zealand identity, even though I despise the concept of national identities of any kind) and wondered whether the director, Jonathan King, was related to him. I checked it out on the Wikipedia, and he’s his son. Cool.

The Graphics of Metroid II

[Note: I’m not very happy with this. It’s been sitting around, in draft form, for more than a week now. Perhaps my mind is simply too preoccupied with my novel and The Strange and Somewhat Sinister Tale of the House at Desert Bridge, but I just can’t turn this into a coherent piece of text. Nevertheless, it’s not doing any good just floating about unfinished, so I’ve decided to publish it now and maybe rework it at a later date. So, when reading, please keep in mind that this is a draft.]

Since a number of people apparently enjoyed my old article about Knowledge and Fear in Metroid II, I decided that it was finally time to write down my thoughts on how the graphics of Metroid II contribute to the scariness.

Now, before we begin, let me make one thing clear: I do not belong to that foolish and wrong-headed group of people who replace an actual opinion or position on artistic matters with nonsensical wankery glorifying their own lack of skill or vision – as in a lot of what passes for modern art, or as in critics who will glorify any crappy old film or book because it’s a “classic” but refuse to recognize that the modern world can produce classics too (Harold Bloom causes intense teeth-grinding in me, but there are worse examples in the world of academe, such as the Frankfurt School of pseudo-Marxist nihilism).

I’m saying all this because I’m about to argue that the graphics of Metroid II are, because of the very limitations of the Game Boy, better than those of Super Metroid, the game that followed it, and I wouldn’t want people to get the wrong impression.

The graphics are obviously just one aspect of what makes the game scary; in fact, it the combination of several factors (design, music, graphics, etc.) that achieves that effect. I will analyze this aspect separately, but the others should be kept in mind.

Metroid II takes places on an alien, inhospitable world. Or at least that’s what it has turned into, especially with the presence of the life-sucking Metroids – we are shown that it once was the home of a now-gone civilization. Although the point of Metroid II is to track down these creatures and kill them, much of the gameplay is actually concerned with exploring the planet.

To me the “feel” of the world in Metroid II is unique, and an important part of what makes the game scary. The graphics, obviously, are limited by what the Game Boy can do – and the game designers have, intentionally or not, turned this to their advantage. According to the Wikipedia‘s technical information the Game Boy featured:

Color Palette
4 shades of “gray” (green to (very) dark blue)

This does not exactly provide for a huge variety of colour. Super Metroid on the SNES, on the other hand, was far more colourful. Just compare these two screenshots:

Super Metroid

Super Metroid‘s graphics are more detailed and much more colourful. And yet Super Metroid never felt particularly scary to me. Sure, the world is alien, but in a way that is more exotic than threatening. It is, at times, almost pretty. Which is not to say that Super Metroid is a failure – I enjoyed exploring these environments. But judging from the look of large parts of the game, it’s supposed to be scary. Yet even though the design of the monsters is evil and disgusting-looking, the colourful palette makes them less so.

I may be missing the vocabulary to describe this properly.

The thought I’m trying to formulate is that the colours – or rather, the lack thereof – in Metroid II make the game scary because the game looks alien. We’re supposed to imagine planet SR-388 as a deserted and ruined world. The game’s look reinforces that feeling; quite strongly so, in fact. “Less is more” is a stupid phrase, but think of the difference between the film Alien and its third sequel, Alien Resurrection . In the first film, very little can be seen of the monster; in the final one, there are tons upon tons of gooey and gory images. Alien is scary; Alien Resurrection is boring.

But that’s not quite right, either. The difference in the Alien films is how much you leave to the imagination; that’s not what makes Metroid II scary. Perhaps one could say that Super Metroid tries to look more realistic (or at least to present its world in terms closer to our reality), and that makes it – on an almost instinctual level – less scary. Less alien.

I would even say that the blockiness of the graphics in Metroid II, their relatively low detail and the constant repetition of patterns, is an advantage – the game has a look which is both consistent and unique. This is the strength of graphics that do not try to be realistic: instead of simulating something else and failing, they create their own atmosphere. Metroid II does this remarkably well.

To demonstrate: there is an unofficial colour version of Metroid II. It’s well done and it doesn’t look bad, but it looks far more accessible, far more human – and far less scary. Our world is colourful and we can relate to that; it’s the strange greenish desolation of the original game that unnerves us.

I’m a writer, not a graphic artist. I feel that my not knowing the proper terminology (much as in my article about Metroid II’s music) is preventing me from saying what I really want to say, and this is enormously frustrating. Nevertheless, I hope at least a little gets across to you.

In more abstract game design terms, this is another case of having to give a game the kind of visuals that it needs. More, in terms of dimensions and resolution and colour and all that, does not always mean better.

A philosopher kicks the bucket

French philosopher and sociologist Jean Baudrillard, a well-known postmodernist and all-around cynic, passed away a couple of weeks ago, to the jubilation of people who think that sentences in an academic work should have content that is actually comprehensible. Living as we do, however, in times where linguistic wankery is deified and true thought is the object of scorn, the media have decided to tell us just how wonderful the old bastard was:

Typical is a gushing obituary in the German Die Zeit newspaper, which notes his “hatred of French egalitarianism,” and goes on approvingly to describe Baudrillard as a “reactionary prophet” and “ Apokalyptiker of the counter-Enlightenment”-i.e., someone preaching the end of the world, who takes up arms against all that is progressive in modern human thought and science. In fact, the largely uncritical reception of Baudrillard’s work in the press says a great deal about the current decay of bourgeois public debate and, in particular, the utter degeneration of layers of the former left-leaning intelligentsia over the past three decades.

The above quote is from “But the Emperor has no clothes!” French philosopher Jean Baudrillard dies in Paris , which is an excellent article (even if you don’t agree with every point), but which you may not want to read if you think that socialists eat children. If you have the slightest interest in modern philosophy, however, please do read it; it is extremely refreshing to see any criticism of the pure idiocy that is postmodernist philosophy, and to see its connection to the so-called left. If I have to read one more postmodern “left” or “radical” academic essay that consists of meaningless twaddle (literally meaningless; just a bunch of long words that don’t actually signify anything) I’ll puke.

Seriously, having been exposed to so much postmodernist thought, I’ve developed a real hatred for it. It claims to be “radical” but what it is, in fact, is the very opposite of that; it is inaction, relativism, nihilism, and in most cases just pure nonsense. It’s sad, but if this kind of philosophy continues being embraced by the “left” there will never be any progress at all.