Wednesday, April 27, 2011

prejapan report

So last post I said I had nothing between me and Japan thought-wise, but that was not quite true. Actually, that was not even remotely approaching true. I still had one major mental roadblock preventing me from thinking about this trip and likely in some sort of self-defense mechanism also stopping me from worrying about the trip. It was, SURPRISE, Tetris. Now, I wouldn't say my amount of Tetris playing has really increased in the last month or whatever, but the quality certainly has changed. Before I played Cultris or some other multiplayer version mainly, which, although still pretty intense, at least had regular bits of downtime and I could win just as well going like, 80% as I could going 100% most of the time. Not so with Nullpomino 40 line, which is what I just sorta arbitrarily decided to get good at. Actually, it wasn't really arbitrary, it was a decision I made after thinking about stuff like why I was playing Tetris or video games or competitive games at all and like, sliding scales of skill and strategy and finger dexterity blah blah but that line of thinking was a stupid mix of obvious and tedious that, although I feel glad about "working out", I don't feel the need to recreate on this blog.

Actually, the majority of the content on this blog is long rambling recreation of previous lines of thought that are usually pretty obvious on retrospect and seem tedious to read or write, usually consisting of long paragraphs tangentally related to whatever topic the post was supposed to be about with lots of rambling sentences starting with "Actually", refuting the previous sentence on some trivial detail, moving on to a bit of self-deprecation and then concluding by promising to get back on the topic at hand, i.e. a recent Tetris goal being a mental hurdle to the trip to Japan and a brief summary of other minor events recently that have distracted me from my upcoming major event, which this sort of tangential distraction from the blog topic at hand is actually a nice little analogue of, and really, I can't help doing it because I love reading it so much when David Foster Wallace does it, and I do want to talk about The Pale King in this post so we'll go ahead and get back to that.

Things I thought about instead of Japan in roughly reverse chronological order

Competitive hockey, to wit, game 7 of Vancouver vs. Chicago
I watched a decent amount of professional sports when I was a little kid, I think I got out of it for the most part around when Pokemon came out. Back then I liked it just because it was exciting and there was a lot of simple, raw, statistical knowledge I could accumulate and simple opinions I could form off of it and that really appealed to me then (and, let's face it, now). Since then I actually began to appreciate watching competitive games on a strategic level, and recently I have started to just enjoy watching serious competition in pretty much any game I can think of. I don't know when or why exactly I expanded from enjoying watching people compete in games I enjoy to just enjoying watching people compete, but with this change it actually seems pretty natural, in every way but the stereotypical ways, for me to enjoy watching pro sports.

I think if I was to start doing it I would probably watch like, tennis, soccer maybe and probably hockey. I remembered today how much I liked watching hockey just for basic entertainment and excitement sorta stuff, but I also made an unprecedented effort to follow it on a strategic sort of level and it interests me there too. Lots of macro/micro positioning tradeoffs, lots of snap assessments of risk/reward, typical fun stuff. One thing that I like thinking about with team sports that you don't see much in video games is the idea of communication, though. Sure, there's an art to getting the message across in stuff like MMO raids or big FPS matches or even crap like DotA, but there there's a lot of really convenient ways to do it very explicitly. Out on the field you have to like, shout and crap, and there's a much bigger focus on just implying things and having an understanding before you go in, I'd imagine. I think that's the thing that impresses me the most. There was a really exciting part at the end of period 2 when Vancouver was doing some serious shield pressure and what amazed me even more than the precision of all the shots was the positioning of the team to receive rebounds and pass to the ideal setup. There always seemed to be exactly one guy exactly where he needed to be doing exactly what he needed. Imagining the level of training and communication required to get that positioning perfect in these extremely critical situations is quite fun.

But I dunno the level of commercials and crap, plus I've got beef with like, I dunno, this whole athleticism angle, there's too many factors when it comes to pretty much every second with anyone having the ability to screw slightly up, it makes it hard to theorize or develop any sort of "metagame" or whatever when there's not very little you're guaranteed. So I dunno.

Ore no Imouto episode 14
Uhh enjoying this series quite a bit still. Pretty happy with this "route". I like uh the new character, the Fujoshi, can't think of her name. Last episode was funnier than this, though. I'm interested in how it'll end but not compelled or anything. As I am a ""indie" game developing guy" (official title) I was a bit annoyed at how they depicted game development but for all I know they could be way more accurate than whatever nonsense we've been doing. On a scale of 1-100 where 100 is Madoka this episode gets a 7.
Best moement: Obviously the scene where Kuroneko's on his bed.

What the heck is a best moement and why are you acting like you regularly review anime episodes?
The best moement is the most moe part of the episode, obviously. It's like, somewhat of a parody of other anime reviews I've seen? Or maybe a parody of reviews of things that aren't anime but like, the anime version. Or maybe it isn't a parody at all I have no idea what I am doing sometimes. And maybe I will review anime episodes like this since I am following so many anime these days and have little to show for it??

New netbook
I bought a netbook today. I am happy with it. Someday I will "cut my teeth" with Linux on that, perhaps literally, perhaps only literally if it turns out I don't remember what that idiom means correctly.

Anyways expect this to lead to more frequent blog posts maybe as writing now is more convenient. For example, I am writing this from bed.

Breaking 50 in Tetris Sprint

Okay yeah so Tetris I forgot about this one. Yeah playing a lot of Nullpo sprint and yeah. Had various goals, first to break a minute, which was pretty trivial. I was playing at speeds capable of breaking a minute for quite a while now. Next was to break 55, I think, which was also pretty easy. Then breaking 2bps, much trickier. Then breaking 50. Now, it actually took me longer to go from breaking 55 to breaking 2bps, like, I was stuck at a wall of like 53 with a speed of 1.96bps or something for much longer than I was for my 50.88 time, but the 50 barrier was psychically much more imposing. 4x.xx scores, while not great, are at least in the good range, in the range of people not really screwing around. I felt like once I broke 50 I could really start to become part of the "good Tetris people community". I felt like once I broke 50 I could comfortably step back from the game somewhat, maybe go back to multiplayer, hopefully try to nail down some of the fundamentals I've been lacking (like not being able to rotate both ways, geez, how could I go so long without doing that?), etc, etc. The more I thought about wanting it the harder it seemed to get. I would get like 51.xx over and over. I knew I really had to get it before I left or else the three weeks of no play could set me back. It was getting desperate.

So, let me paint the scene. My dad is picking me up to go home-home before the trip for some final packing. I'm already all packed up at home-away-from-home. I have no more responsibilities there before I leave. I spent the whole morning packing etc. and haven't played any Tetris yet. My dad will be there in like an hour or so, so I don't really feel like working on anything substantial. Obviously this is ideal Tetris time. I start blasting the Waka Flocka Flame. I start singing along in a Russian operatic voice as best as I can because the house is empty. Just like I admit to doing strange things on my blog because it empty. Conditions are ideal. This could be it. I'm playing fast but failing at clutch things. Getting frustrated.

Then, a knock at the door. I can barely hear it but I process it somehow. I consider pausing the game but figure, eh, I'm halfway through and doing well so far, I'll finish this one - likely to be my last before the trip. And I guess it was the thought of my dad out on the doorstep but dang I did it I did it I deed eet just pulled it out at the end and then ran around the house yelling and then answered the door and my dad was like "what's up" and it took a bit of excited explaining and maybe a bit of hyperbole ("I'm the greatest Tetris player on earth!!") for him to understand "what's up" on some sufficient level. And for a bit I was all happy but I realized within an hour or so that I "LaMont Chu'd it" to make a really bizarre Infinite Jest reference: I was already wanting to break 45 and transferring over all the properties of breaking 50 to breaking 45, etc, etc; there was no emotional state of sub-50, it was just the emotion of wanting sub-50 still. But I realized that pretty soon and had enough of a metarealization to change my ways and now am actually pretty content with sub-50, joined Harddrop as I had felt I "deserved", decided to slow down for now and rethink how I played, etc, etc. Now I have the netbook, though, and it's "small but feisty" enough to run Nullpo in many more places where I have bits of downtime, so there's really no escape. AH WELL.

Nichijou episode 4
My love for this show continues. Mai-chan heavy episode, that's good. Feel like they're toning down the idea of like, mundane things taken to Gurren Lagann-esque extremes, at least toning down on the frequency, probably because people were complaining it was getting old? I cannot relate to these complaints; I think I'd be happy with that indefinitely. Oh well, still plenty wacky. And that OP, oh wow!! The full version + PV is mad swag. Uh so this gets an 8. I'd like to see where it goes from here though. Escalation? Transition into some compelling plot like some sort of deconstruction nonsense?
Best moement: Probably Nano buying the snowman, or the student advisor playing jump rope.

A-Channel episode 3
Okay so I often referred to K-On as "scientifically designed moe", like, a team of scientists had come up with the most moe anime possible. A-Channel is "engineered moe". It is an important distinction! Think of it in terms of scientist vs. engineer stereotype jokes, though, not in terms of actual difference between the jobs. A-Channel is brutually, ruthlessly moe. It's like, you want an insert song every episode? You want a perverted male character? You want to just like triple up on character archetypes? Episode archetypes? You want to just throw in some new character design elements that don't even really make sense? No one can stop this madness. Episode 3 wasn't quite as just insanely moe as episode 2, but I feel like episode 2 was really a test of their limits, what they could actually get away with. And we let them get away with it all! This is like if they flew the Hindenburg to the moon. It's madness! And they pulled it off, the glorious bastards. They went way over the top and threw every single moe feature, often in massive quantities, into one monstrosity and cut out everything that wasn't absolutely necessary. This feat of moengineering efficiency is only matched by the infinite depth one feels from the hole left by the total lack of heart in a series so obviously driven by profits that one almost feels being mocked by their shameless attempts to capitalize on the otaku lifestyle: lonely, romantic, protective, hopeless - a sad existence to be sure, but what remains of their dignity shouldn't really be subjected to their uh, wait, where was I going with this? Anyways my only real problem is that the show is too new for me to get all that merchandise for it when I go overseas. And that this episode also gets a 7.
Best moement: Uhh probably change room scene. It's really that easy, folks! This anime will make hotcakes look like molasses on the shelves.

Easter is a time when you eat a lot of tasty food. Some folk also like to remember the resurrection. Now, I have yet to weigh in on religion at all on this blog, and I'm not about to start now, but I will mention how odd I've been thinking it is that Easter is less of a big deal than Christmas. Just thinking out loud here and paranoid about somehow offending my few readers but like, think about it. The birth of the Messiah is a big deal, yes, but I mean, everyone gets born, Son of God or not. Yes it was a virgin birth, sure, but if my understanding of the theology is right, nothing really changed much soul-wise just by him popping into mortality. The actual significant event was his death and resurrection and ascension to heaven, right, because that is when he received the burden of man's sin and such? I dunno. I dunno. Just seems odd. I wonder if it was always the case. I know like long term historical the specific time dates and even time ranges were chosen more out of convenience by aligning them to existing holidays, but were the level/type of celebration/whatever also carried over? If so, what are the "natural" levels of celebration between the two? If not, when did the gift giving/major holiday aspect of Christmas emerge and why didn't Easter get as much? Was it borne more of the time of year and not the actual origin of the event?

I dunno I suppose I could look this up but since the world is going to end soon it doesn't matter.

Godspeed You! Black Emperor
God's Pee is the sort of apocalypse I'm down for. Turns out some nine Canadians were actually messengers from immortal purgatory and have been judging the Earth for some time via making music and monitoring the response. Some idiots yell "Woo" between songs and then GY!BE sings the song that ends the world. Yes yes.

Seriously though good ass concert. The Sadies opened, I had always liked them alright but I gained a lot of respect for them after the set. They were really on point, excellent showmanship without seeming showy, really fun tunes, I dunno. I just think they maybe had some part in rowdying up the crowd? Because the crowd was rowdy. Maybe it was the alcohol or maybe people's default concert behavior is just too strong a learned behavior to just drop, even when it was required. And it was required, in my eyes. GY!BE had all the haunting mystique that I had imagined them to have ever since I first heard them. They were withdrawn, distant, serious. They moved about the stage setting up with a mysterious precision that suggested arcane rituals but with a diligence that suggested they were the roadies instead of the band. Efrim was gloriously lionesque and seemed to have only the loosest grasp on where he was. Moya faced away from the crowd and played with a sort of brutal dignity that was maddeningly compelling. Maruo splayed on the ground when not playing and sipped at beer and the way he stood up to play seemed profound in a way I couldn't describe. For some reason I kept thinking the line "Still likes a good beer in evenings." but I cannot quite figure out what I'm thinking when I think this. Aidan was a colossus. I passed him on the way out and he instantly redefined in my mind how intense someone can be. Sophie was graceful and mysterious and skilled and tragic and all that and I was probably completely in love with her in a minute or so. The other guys were good too but I couldn't see them as well from where I was. I cannot tell you if their stage demeanor was an act or what but it was so perfect and in line with what I had hoped that I really have to believe they are actually the sort of people I imagine them to be. It is the only way they could make the music they make. I picture them sitting around like this, writing things. It is a haunting and beautiful aesthetic.

Oh and the music was good, clearly. As was the little film they played with it, which added more to the atmosphere than I thought it would. The parallel destruction of the film and descent of the music into pure sonic terror was chilling, and the reemergence of the more melodic themes all the more powerful when accompanied by a literal light emerging. They played some new stuff too, which was great.

So uh the bad thing though is that the crowd, as I said, was rowdy, and would cheer and shout and stuff between songs and sometimes even during songs, although thankfully it was usually loud enough that I couldn't hear it then. This bothered me more than I thought it could. It pretty much bothered me more than I thought anything could. See, I like Godspeed a lot, yeah. More than that, though, it's a band I take really seriously. Like, I only listen to their music in ideal conditions and only whole albums through and c, the music is a very sacred, very mysterious, immaculate, distant, powerful thing. Something that I couldn't even begin to imagine actually seeing live in the first place - it would be like encountering a dragon in the woods or perhaps a less lame analogy. So for people to take it less seriously than that sort of surprised me, although I guess I can understand it. It's just not a thought process I could ever begin to have. I don't know where these people found the nerve to think that someone, be it in the band or somewhere else in the crowd or anywhere else in the world or the history of mankind, someone found it enjoyable to devote some valuable audio processing cells to hearing them go "Woo" over the band playing, or even silence in the presence of the band. You think the band cares what we lowly mortals think of their music? You think they don't understand what we think of the music much more than we ever could? How could you think you understand music that sounds like this, that has this message, if it actually makes you feel like doing anything but sitting in stunned silence? But they can. It's just a thought process I can't understand. Like people who eat their own feces.

Moving on to me being a hypocrite: The Room
So the night before GY!BE I saw the exact opposite of GY!BE, that is, a showing of the unintentional comedic masterpiece The Room. Tommy Wiseau was there too! He autographed a DVD for me and we took a picture together!! Swag swag swag!! He answered a question from me about working with Tim and Eric during his Q&A but his answer was "mad unsatisfying". And then we watched it! And shouted out lines and threw spoons and stuff!! So there it was okay but I dunno I guess I'd feel bad if some dude in the audience was wanting to take it all seriously but was being distracted by 300-esque fight-in-the-shade plastic spoon silhouettes. Anyways yeah I'm sure anyone reading this can imagine well enough how much fun this all was.
Best moement: ANYTHING DENNY!!

Madoka episodes 11 and 12
Okay here's a good contrast to The Room as well, and another good example of something I took mad seriously. I watched these episodes with my roommate. We both used headphones to improve the sound quality. No one made a sound until like, half an hour after we watched the last episode.

They were good, obviously. I'm going to write more about them in another blog post because this one is long enough.

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