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preachers in the street September 25, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in onanistic bullshit, things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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Fifteen years ago, fifteen years from then, I thought I would be standing on a stage like the band that played tonight, night after night into the longest night. It was something I thought I knew would happen, but never did. I was fifteen and my heart sang starstricken dreams as I stood, arms uplifted, a player on a slumbering stage, and waited for the world. I thought I knew all things about time and god and love and death. The world never came to me; I went to it. I met people I wish I’d not. I became, briefly, whom I wished I had not. I learned about truth and life and love and other trite things that stubbornly resonate, like empty vessels under electric storms. And if there was one song, my song, it waxed crazy and dumb and young, and dreamt stages glowing gold and dark.

You could have asked me if I understood, then, what I would come to understand now, and I would have told you that I did, and not been able to do anything but tell that lie, without ever knowing why. I couldn’t tell you now what at fifteen I would have done. I would have laughed. I should have laughed. I, now, would have reached out, put a finger on that unweary cheek, told you it was okay. And now I laugh.

Today the mirror says, look away from what is past, into dreams long-extirpated, into bliss, into a patient accretion of all that gentled you — that asks but what did you regret? and what did you expect? and I pause and say nothing, everything, and briefly, I realise it is true.

And looking at the face I grew into, I shut my eyes and find myself finally able to say; yes, it was me. Yes, I am, I am, a different dream.

The sun on my skin, the wind in my hair, here it is — gold, in October, the honied homecoming scent, red cedar. And the song has changed, as all songs do. Or my ears have, or the world has, or all of us, or just me, and you.


synaesthesia September 20, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in pseudo-informative bullshit, things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.

You’re a subtitle in my head.

You might have heard of the oddity known as synaesthesia, the merging of two or more senses. Some synaesthetes see colours when they hear sounds. I see you talking in monochrome text. The colour/sound association is such an archetype of the condition that I hadn’t realised what I experience is classifiably synaesthetic (not least because it seems prosaic to me, compared to gustatory synaesthetes who taste lemon when they hear ‘k’).

Well, I’ve finally found someone else who sees everything they hear in text.


…which is top Google search for ‘when I hear people speaking I see subtitles’.

The trigger for this query stemmed from a joke my colleagues were running in the kitchen at work; they were getting passersby to ‘help them work out a code problem’ by saying it out loud and having them write down (there was a bit more to this) p, 3, n, 1 and 5. Most people get it after completing the word; some canny individuals get it after writing the p3.

“‘Penis’?” I said the moment I heard the sequence, and didn’t understand their surprise. I didn’t get why the joke would possibly work on anyone until I remembered that most people get direct aural input from speech. It wasn’t until late high school that I realised that having subtitles in your head isn’t a universal experience.

I know there are plenty of other people who are quite capable of converting the letters; but for me the association between sound and text is inexorable. I will see letters/numbers in print somewhere in my head. Usually in Arial, Helvetica or Times New Roman, white floating on a black field.

Perhaps another way of explaining it is that most people read by converting text to sound; for them reading is double the effort of listening. For me it’s the exact opposite.

There are some odd aspects to all this, like how it’s really hard for me to make out song lyrics (I’m fine with the actual pitches, just not with the speech aspect — most of the time the words don’t even exist to me), or how I used to have the worst trouble in school spelling the simplest words out loud. ‘C-A-T’ is a struggle. Breaking a word into letter sounds is an alien concept. Soldier is [soldier]. Cat is [cat]. It is what it is. Every word is visual gestalt, an indivisible conglomerate.

I have heard Japanese is processed similarly by fluent readers. Not because the characters are pictures — very few have any remaining pictorial root — but because of their necessary visual chunkiness.

I read by processing huge chunks of text rather than going word by word. I don’t remember ever not knowing how to read, so maybe this oddness is a function of that.

I had the most horrible time maintaining concentration in classes because extended amounts of speech are unbearably arduous for me to process while maintaining focus (too slow. Being impatient doesn’t help).  I have to focus pretty hard on conversations to figure out what people are saying, especially if they have accents or are speaking softly.

I can’t play games with very slow text output, either. It’s unbearably frustrating to have to wait for word/sentence/paragraph chunks to drip onto my screen. It’s like having a conversation with someone who spells every single word to you instead of saying it. Somebody tell me how t-h-i-s i-s a-t a-l-l t-o-l-e-r-a-b-l-e.

Often I pronounce words the way they’re spelled (eg, salmon), which has led to my having gotten a lot of stick over the years. I’m still filled with a child-like pride when I remember how to pronounce a word that is phonetically counterintuitive. If I hear foreign words, I have to know their spelling system or it’s almost impossible for me to remember the words I’m learning. I ask people to spell out confusing names for me so that I can chunk the letters into meaningful units and then remember their appearances.

There’s only one word I’ve ever had serious trouble with, and it’s bizarre. It looks ‘wrong’ no matter how I look at it. I have no idea why. I know how to spell it, but I don’t know how to spell it. It doesn’t exist as a natural [word unit]; it gives me a queasy feeling. Sometimes, if I concentrate hard enough, words start to look like text patterns rather than ‘words’; that’s how bizarre looks to me.

I don’t have eidetic memory, but I do have good general visual memory.

This isn’t exactly the same condition that the blogger linked above does; she can’t hear voices, pitches or accents in her head, but those aren’t an issue for me. I have a decent grasp of scansion in text and have no problems with music. Just speech. I often have trouble recognising voices on the phone (possibly due to aurally-triggered cognisance anxiety). No, my hearing is neither damaged nor abnormal, and if anything is better than average when it comes to aural tests like micropitch differentiation, etc etc.

Is it useful? It’s not great that I have trouble with lexical-auditory functions, but I process text very easily; it’s just the way I’m wired. Hell, I don’t know any better.

See what I’m saying?

I glossed over the mainstays of synaesthesia because I didn’t want to tarry too far beyond my personal experience with it. Here are some links for additional pursuit:

http://otherthings.com/uw/syn/ <- a fascinating representation of the most commonly-known type of synaesthesia (or synesthesia if you must). Check out the flash demonstration at http://otherthings.com/uw/syn/flash/syn25.html. I definitely don’t experience that. Seems as though his synaesthesia doesn’t involve letters as text but as flashes of colour sensation.

http://icanhascheezburger.files.wordpress.com/2008/09/funny-pictures-one-in-every-five-kittens-can-see-captions.jpg <– a waggish take on the issue
and a recent anecdote: I went to the dentist and had a new hygienist assigned to me, who had an unusual name (to me). I transliterated it to ‘Aneece’, but not knowing how to spell it (the timing was off and I missed my window to ask) made me so uncertain that I couldn’t say it until after I received my invoice and saw his name spelled ‘Aneez’ (though it did sound more like Aneece with ‘standard’ English pronunciation). Until I know how something’s spelled, it’s not quite tangible.

wind, growth, bus August 14, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in onanistic bullshit, things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.
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We (in this place, at this time) live in a time and place where being considered liberal and open-minded has become a tenet to aspire to. Yeah, it would be nice if people would actually stop talking about being open-minded and just fucking be open-minded. Or just stump up some integrity and stop wasting my time. It’s taxing, dealing with some miasmic melange of the two; viz: “I’m open-minded, but only about things I’m not narrow-minded about.”

I’d rather hear the words people aren’t saying when they say something they don’t really want to say. Maybe we just don’t always want to hear the truth even when it’s something we should hear. Well shit, you run, you hide, you lose your life. You could get hit by a bus. Keep staring into the sun; don’t flinch, don’t look away.

Spit and shake. I see you never; we can be professional about our mutual disregard. Let’s be polite. Let’s be honest. Is it more polite to be honest, or dishonest?

Sometimes I want to stand before the wind and hear what the wind shouts back.

What two people say to each other doesn’t necessarily make sense. It’s like a matching game; sometimes we learn to speak in pulses, with fluency. You keep stumbling along, keep guessing, and one day you strike the right notes. It’s all about congruency; hit counterpoint, pause, stop, unfurl the patchwork harmonies of the heart. The beats aren’t always what you thought they were. Better adapt before the melody breaks. You know it’s going to end someday. Better make the best of it.

Earlier this week I was walking for the sake of feeling the ground beneath my feet; across the street a man sobbed and wailed, a cadenza of rage that split the heavy black sky. I don’t know what the wind told him.

Perhaps the spectators standing by were looking for the same; perhaps we were just waiting for something to lurch us along, all of us overwhelmed by our own rhythm. Perhaps we were waiting for a conductor, waiting for a baton, for a wave to unify. Warbling alone, meandering along, looking for someone to syncopate the breaks in our souls, singing hello, hello, I loved you, goodbye.

On a different day, on a different coast, I opened up my mouth. Lungs filled with fragments, I flew emotion into the wind. The wind shrieked back; she took my words and twisted them and turned them into words I never knew were there.

There I was, and here I am.

Autumn was coming. Autumn was coming, sweeping last remnants of summer away, sweeping us into the dark. It was never about the getting; it was about the giving-up.

Night crackled, white sparks flared, blazing storefronts shuttered into sleep. The bus came battering down the road, hurtling, honking, reeking metal bolts and limits breaking, crashing forward with a great steel groan. I smelled the sharp acrid rage of it. I smelled it coming. A foot from losing skin and cartilage and life, I stood there and let the wind shred my face. And I didn’t bat an eye.

space: a cat, in a box July 17, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.

The way we dress the spaces we choose to inhabit says all we need to say about ourselves, in less time than it takes to take off our shoes.

What’s in your box? I keep a rug, a chair, a few cushions. It starts to feel crowded. I like it like a hollow shell.

Space, it’s relative; 12 Brazilian students crammed themselves into a one bed flat before they got booted out and I came. I can’t fathom this tub being large enough for two. 535 square feet for 12 people; that’s 45 square feet per person. I stand 5ft 1 and take up 535 square feet of living space. It seems a reasonable amount to me. I say that I don’t feel a need to have more space than this, but perhaps one day I will. In the style of Schrodinger I vacillate; yes or no, yes or no, and who can tell until the moment comes?

On a plane, someone takes up 200 dollars’ worth of your 600 dollar seat, and suddenly inches are a matter of insufferable magnitude.

Back to personal space; you’re not paying me any rent, so here’s an eviction notice.

My landlord drops in from New Zealand to take a look at my apartment. He’s thinking about finding a job in Vancouver. Either I find a new flat or I bring down the entire Vancouver VFX industry. 

Webworked cells, blind windows. This is living, ant-style. A foot of wall, that’s all that spares me the indignity of shared rooming. I value my personal space enough to fight you for it, in a cage surrounded by half a million strangers.

You come into my parlour and you’re that much closer to me, threading through the cloistered chambers of my heart. You come into my closet and leave yellow leaking down the side of my lavatory bowl — what should we call that?

My landlord leaves. I slip on new shoes and teeter to the door. And I, five inches taller, pause.

At my height, I don’t see the dust on the top of my refrigerator, nor on the tops of doorways.

At 6ft 2 my landlord sees things I should have cleaned, had I realised space exists outside of my band of sight.

My cat, who inhabits my flat at 0ft 9, looks up and sees the dust that lies beneath.


It’s all relative, like with those Brazilians. They sat on a crate with wings for a few hours, then piled their mattresses into an even smaller box. You gotta envy that kind of gumption. You gotta wonder where they went. I gotta wonder where you’d go.

Writhing down wormholes, surfing past singularities, breaking time and space to get to where we want to be. Space, she’s a hard lover. I loved once but would not stay; continents always drift away.

Don’t, don’t think of that; today is here, today is now, skimming the sweet salt susurrus of sea, snow peaks slumbering by your sail, six knots in a lazy haze.

As you said first, as you said best. We were too different, though at our end I loved you, either way.

Wind rises, earth turns, sun sleeps. A speck on a speck in a deep blue sky, I stare hard at the night. The stars are smaller than I can see; summer fades to fall debris.


Kiss me before flying, baby. I’ll see you on the other side.

the gleaner July 17, 2008

Posted by eatnorthamerica in onanistic bullshit.
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Uglyskins was like patchwork, stitched together from a hundred different types of skin.

I craned my neck to get a better look at him through the letterboxed window. The orderly fumbled with the key to the grimy door.

“All yours, sir,” he said, eyeing the neat cut of my coat and shoes, sleek against the pitted concrete floor. He stood aside.

I went through the doorway, and the door shut behind me. I looked at the man within. The unforgiving fluorescent light winked on and off and on again.

He had come to the stained soft walls of the cell nameless and silent, and he lay on the unyielding cot, arms and legs stiff in the restraints at his sides. His hands were balled into tense fists; they quivered occasionally, in perfect harmony with the tic of his pale blue eyes. I could not tell his age through the ruin that was his face. He was stitched together from a hundred different beings; I could not tell how many of them were human.

“I’m Doctor Sands,” I said, swallowing, and walked towards him. “What’s your name?”

Closer, he looked like nothing that should have walked on two legs, or four, or eight. The stitches were tighter around his eyes and mouth, but it made them none the prettier. His eyelashes were gone. I could not tell how he might have looked in one skin.

The blue eyes kept blinking. His mouth was slack.

“I’m here to help,” I said, lowering my voice. “Tell me what happened to you.”

Last year, fresh out of my internship, I had seen a man who bathed himself in acid to rid himself of the invisible ants that crept endlessly over his skin. I had thought, for the first time, that a man should have the right to his death.

I had seen men who had performed arson upon themselves, men who had pared their flesh from bone, but I had never seen anything as hideous as him.

Perhaps it was the guilt that made me reach out and put my hand on his. Perhaps it was the warmth of my hand, and my pity, that snapped his livid gaze to mine.

“I ate them all,” he said. “I ate the girl in the red hood, her wolf, the swan boys, the girl with the goose, that giant man. The snow white girl, the rose red child. All of them playing their parts for centuries. Saying the same words over and again. I set them free.”

I turned the names over in my head. For a moment they seemed familiar, and then the feeling was gone.

“Why this?” I asked, and I touched the threads that ran through his hide.

“Someone must remember,” he said. He shook his head, and whimpered, and shook.

I caught sight of a dark mass on the underside of his shoulder, pushing his arm up from the cot.

Something clumped and ugly sprouted from his skin, breaking through a film of blood and pus. It was hard to see in the cell, but in the wavering light it shuddered and parted, like a clot of feathers.

years later December 10, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in things that are not quite things we know, verbiage clusterfuck.

years ago, you were rattling down the railway with possibly one of the most beautiful people on the planet and the way the sun hit their face through the dust-smeared window told you, told you that all the proportional possibility of golden curves and judicious symmetry sat quivering on the gently-fraying seat before you; there it was, an ineffable display of human construction.

and then years later you met them again and realised that years later makes a difference, because time, time has a tendency to pass.

it’s exactly what facebook’s doing right now; throwing up pictures of people you never saw after the day you walked out of the gates of school, and maybe making you realise you never knew how old you really were until you saw how old everyone else really was.

rune factory (NDS) October 20, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in farcical review bullshit, onanistic bullshit, things that are not quite things we know.
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My stomach consumed itself on the third day, right as I was coming up to Toytown.

I collapsed against the gates, and when I opened my eyes, a girl said; “Would you like my hoe?”

She said, “I think you look like a farmer.”

She told me her name was Mist, and that she thought I had it in me to do great things with soil and loam. She told me there was a spare hut I could stay in.

She gave me the hoe.

On the way to the hut she’d so kindly pointed out, I saw a young man toiling on the farm, skin beaded with sweat, breath heaving with exhaustion. He was chopping up a stump with an axe. His face was numb with exertion.

“Hey,” I said. 

“Rune,” he said. “Call me Rune.”

“Rune,” I said. “What do you do?”

“Once a day, I brush my animals,” he said, not quite meeting my eyes. “To each one I go. Hi-de-ho. I run my brush over their hides, their scales, their radiant hair.”

He paused; a flush peeped through his skin. His voice swelled and scurried on. 

“I raise my axe, three times per stump. It’s taken me a while, but I’m just a few bits of wood away from 2000. I don’t care if I have to start going down to the dungeons to get more wood, I can’t wait. I’m so close. I’ll have a bigger house, soon. And then Mist…” 

All he wants to do is chop a lot of wood and make a lot of money so he can finally buy that massive house he’s always wanted; the house that will let him move in the double bed he’s been lusting after for months; the bed that will let him move in the woman he’s been lusting after. For months. He’s been chopping wood for months.

You can’t get a real kitchen unless you’ve got a big house. You can’t get a real bed unless you’ve got a big house. You can’t get that girl who looks at you all special. It don’t matter if her lovemeter is maxed, she’s just another capitalist pig. Better start wood chucking, chuck.

Rune said he was waiting for the stumps to appear in his field again, overnight. With the dew and the strange glowing spheres that let him stay up later than any man I’d ever known. I figured if I wanted some monsters of my own to brush I’d damn well better get back to my own farm. Lord knows I could feel the axe handle in my hands already; Lord knows my palms were imprinted on the grainy wood. Lord knows I’d be chopping wood for the next few months.

“How about you?” he asked, scratching his chin.

I shrugged. “I’m just looking,” I said. “For a place to stay. For a while. Until I find something else.”

Next morning I talked to Mist again, trying to figure out why Rune liked her so goddamn much. 

“Ha ha ha!” she said, her face crinkled up into a smile. “Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah.” 

I don’t know. To each his own. I wandered around the town, talking to the townsfolk, all of whom were politely repetitive. I met a girl out by the pier; she was hot, in a ninja kind of way. I got the feeling she really liked fish; she said, “I love fish.”

I tilled some land, sowed some seeds, got really tired, went to bed, woke up, got a cave pass from the mayor. I went to the dungeons. I smashed some monsters in the face with my hoe. I went to bed again. I woke up. I went to the farm.

I saw Mist standing in the garden again, and wafted a hello over to her.

“Ha ha ha!” she said, her face crinkled up into a smile. “Blah blah blah, blah blah, blah blah.” 

I asked Rune about it, and he just shrugged. He wasn’t one for big talk, either. He just did his thing, and he did it well. Still, he said, it was frustrating that Mist said the same thing every morning when he greeted her. Hey, you can’t rationalise love.

“You try it,” he said. “You try talking to the rest of them. It’s creepy, it’s unsettling. But I love her. I want to marry her, man.” 

I listened to Rune. I talked to the rest of the townspeople. They didn’t say much; they never said much. I got into a routine with them, and we became closer, although we never really spoke. People talk small talk, sometimes minute talk, and this talk was infinitesimal talk.

The ninja-ish girl liked me, because I fished for a fish, and then I gave her a fish.

“I love fish. You are awesome,” she told me.

I gave her another fish.

“I love fish. You are awesome.”

It kind of went on like this for days, and then I stopped seeing her. It just wasn’t working out. I stopped talking to the townspeople, too. I stopped farming. I just went to the dungeons, chopped wood, mined for gems and metal, and bought myself a fridge. I bought a kitchen. I learned how to bake a cake. Life went on.

When I came back to the farm a few months later, Rune’s house was larger. Bigger. Better. I saw the silhouette of a woman through the foggy window.

Rune was standing by the gate, watching me.

“How are things?” I asked, watching him.

He met my gaze. He let his shoulders raise, briefly. He met my gaze, through the mist.

Inside, the woman, barely a girl, moved back and forth, dusting down the sheets, pottering to the stove.

What was there to tell him? He had it, his dream right there in his hands. Tomorrow he’d be brushing his animals, one by one, scraping hearts from their frowning faces. He’d gotten to the stage where they loved him just enough to water almost all his plot, but not quite. He’d said it gave him a little sense of purpose, watching the water stain those last three squares. Knowing that it, as so much else in his world, was ephemeral. That he’d be there again the next day, filling in a blank slate.

I looked at his eyes — void as stars! — and bade him good night. He didn’t reply. We didn’t talk. It was the talk that came after infinitesimal talk; null talk. As I was walking home, I saw him as he’d been; bright eyes sparking as he talked about his dreams and hopes.

It was a week later that I moved out, just a hundred logs short of 2000. Spring was in season, the frigid morning air lapping at my neck as I meandered through the drowsy town, past my droning friends and loves, past Rune’s tidy farm. He stood in the middle of his plot, surrounded by a host of glowing orbs, just standing, staring.

I waved to him, but he didn’t see, and after a moment I began to walk away, down the road and out of Toytown, maybe to go home, knowing I wouldn’t be back.



Rune Factory has rather attractive graphics, but I got bored of it after four days and haven’t picked it up since. It is deeper than the other Harvest Moon games in that I stopped playing those after a cumulative total of four minutes. The townspeople have nothing interesting to say and do not even convey the illusion of having something interesting and possibly humorous to say, unlike, say, the idiot-looking animals in Animal Crossing: Wild World.

The dungeons, new to the Harvest Moon series, are reasonably entertaining and even slightly nethackish in that they respawn every time you go back into them and you feel slightly paranoid about dying. Which is a rare feeling to have in a modern game.

The chopping wood bullshit was probably the biggest factor that led to my giving up, as even with a megapowered axe it was still the most annoying and tedious task you could be expected to do six million times for fun. It is even more annoying than weeding in AC:WW. It’s a chore, but does it have to be so much like actual work?

Smashing monsters in the face with a hoe was moderately enchanting, though. For a time.

pink PSP, it’s October 11, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in things that are not quite things we know.
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fucking hideous!!!

I want a PSP Slim, though (that isn’t one. these are). PSP Lite. Whatever. Not least because numerous cover-switching efforts have resulted in one of my recessed screwheads getting fucked; my analog stick is screwy and I can’t unscrew it to un-screw it. 


look at this bullshit!

At least it was company-sponsored. best: PSP Fat Free.

The loathsome DPAD of the PSP Fat is apparently no longer a total piece of shit. I modded mine by affixing some plastic bits to make the contact easier, but it still blows compared to the Nintendo Xpad.

KOTAKU SAY: “The D-pad itself does get a proper rehaul and finally feels like, well, a D-pad. It’s incredibly responsive and not mushy like the current iteration.

-Also, new PSP is equipped with enhanced feature to temporarily store game data from UMD, reducing load time during game play.”

I’m sold.

Dualshock3 controller looks like an evil mechanised crab.

Here are some pictures which look strangely similar to the pictures that I posted of Toronto when first I moved here. Right down to the spartan nature of my living room, although I think I forgot to post that.

 people getting owned by rain

people getting owned by rain as I watch from my balcony. mirth, people, mirth

spartan is a mindset

 spartan, not cheap

and some pictures that are just random as fuck

funnel cake sim

funnel cake sim


fucking awesome?


on masterchef tomorrow


like I will be, Torontonian institution Sam the Record Man is gone.

Look at that snow. I am leaving before that bullshit happens.

farcical review bullshit: final fantasy VII: crisis core is……… October 8, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in farcical review bullshit, things that are not quite things we know.
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1.5/5 if you don’t already feel involved in the FF7 universe, 3.5 if you do.

Are you and the Final Fantasy VII universe involved? Do you like cutscenes? Really? You’ll probably like this game. Be warned; this is not a happy game.

The looping track on the official website is a wistful mix of yearning strings and pop beat that perfectly encapsulates the overall mood of Crisis Core. Here’s a shocker. Our hero Zack is actually likeable. He does his best to remain upbeat and positive despite all the nastynasty that’s about to happen to him. It’s like a big countdown to a whole lotta angst, except for a change our alter ego isn’t being a whiny bitch.

The game looks great. Kind of Kingdom Hearts-ish, actually. The pacing is mostly good, although the story’s hokey at times and most of the new characters feel rather mashed-in, including an utterly loopy antagonist named Genesis, who has a penchant for reciting lines from his favourite play and throwing apples at people. Still, it drags you along to the next stunning cutscene, to the next plot point, to find out what was going on behind the scenes. Then things get really weird and Zack starts to wish things would just start making sense. Maybe, like me, you’ll become Zack for a while, hoping a positive attitude will make everything all right, knowing deep down you’ll never succeed.

It’s kind of refreshing, unlike the gameplay. 

Maybe you like playing safe, simple games; maybe your idea of the perfect game is one where you just have to hit attack and occasionally heal, or cast a magic spell. Mine isn’t. I like the concept of an action remix of VII.  See, Crisis Core kind of pretends it’s an action game, but maybe you won’t like because it’s not safe enough; maybe you won’t like it because it’s not dangerous enough.

The game doesn’t break free from the mould VII cast; you run around, fight battles, get story. It’s different in the details. They polished the edge off the slick but shapeless mass that’s the ubiquitous combat system. What we get is VII‘s active time battle system playing groupie to Devil May Cry, popping out this hybrid horror on her back in a ditch.

In combat, you cycle through attack, materia and items with L and R. Circle activates the command you pick; press it in standard attack mode and Zack will run forward and hit the nearest opponent. It’s not the most rewarding of moves. Sometimes you’ll dodge, mostly you’ll be hitting circle over and over again, limited by the timing of the slash animation, broken by the automation of the system. That’s your action button right there. No jumping, no combos. No more linking materia together like you could in VII, just tonnes and tonnes of limit breaks.

In previous FF incarnations, we were rewarded with special attacks for powering up our limit break bars, maybe by taking hits, or going into low health mode. Something reasonable, anyway.

The limit break mode in Crisis Core is completely random.

On the top left of the screen, three dials spin constantly. Occasionally they expand, fill the screen, and eventually come to a stop, all on their own. The game rolls up special moves and summons for you; some are cute, a pat on the back for following the FF franchise.

You’ve got cutscenes in your combat.

Crisis Core dismisses your input as a player of games; doesn’t trust you to hit a button or let you pretend you’re calling a bunch of slots. Shouldn’t videogames be an interactive experience? Is this really what people want?

I run through endlessly bland missions, limit breaks interrupting me every quarter-minute. I find a curse ring. It deactivates the slots. Jackpot! Then I remember. The only way to level up is via the limit BS. I consider cursing myself anyway.

I start wall-hugging to avoid the random combat. A box bumps Zack out into dangerous ground, into a chain of irritating random encounters that buffet him around. We end up further back than we were. The dials spin.

Onward ho.

Sometimes the camera rotates 360 degrees, mostly it won’t. It’s like what they must have done to the designers; blinkered their vision. You have to wonder; why risk making these spin-offs different at all, if what they really wanted was to play it safe?

Zack is waiting. I soldier on. 

You can access missions from any save point, short missions that are quite perfect for the portable nature of the PSP. Not a bad idea. Squeenix could have created a variety of mission types that would have been interesting and different and maybe even fun to play through, but no; you’ll be doing the same thing repeatedly — run around, be harassed by random enemies, find treasure, kill the boss.

For over two years, their designers had to have been doing something while their hi-res art team was knocking out slick hyperpoly renders. It’s as though they aspired to be different and got scared halfway. By what? By whom? Who were they trying to please? Ain’t nobody getting offa this train.

VII‘s lovingly pre-rendered Midgar, now there was a city with soul, a Dickensian sprawl of misery and squalor. With a lot of cleverly-lit doors you could investigate if you chose to. Hell, if you wanted you could steal 5 gil from a child’s set of drawers as he slept, and come back later to watch him crying, and damned if it didn’t make you feel a little bit like a prick.

In comparison Core feels kind of dead. Yeah, VII‘s cutscenes look downright shonky in comparison, but VII‘s a richer experience by far. It’s rough around the edges, but the roughness makes it pretty sharp in spots. Ten years down the line, we’re at the opposite situation; we’ve got all this power and we’re not using it right. Time to disembark.

You, you doubt me, you who have yet to run through a bunch of square rooms that look exactly the same. You who have yet to run through these rooms seven million times.

Very inspired level design. And yet: I actually like the game despite all the bullshit you have endure to get through it.

Bursting through blandness, moments of beauty surface; Zack runs past the Junon nuclear sunrise, down the gleaming Shinra Building stairs, through the eerie Nibelheim gloom and it’s nostalgic, a throwforward to times that get only darker. It’s a nod to you who played VII when you see familiar faces, old but young. Still, there’s always this ominous sense of dread, this looming certainty that everything’s going to go up shit creek.

It’s the fascinating thing about this game; there’s no hope, it doesn’t matter what you do, yet Zack’s still trying. He doesn’t know. We’re drawn to tragedy, and stuck in a game like this, Zack’s tale is replete with it. His story is a black hole of misery, and he beckoned to me; fell to his knees and begged keep playing.

So I did.

Square had pretty grand ambitions, tossing up the formula of Final Fantasy VII and trying to shake out something new. It’s hard not to think they should either have played it completely safe, or gone all out. It’s a little sad, thinking about what could have been.

It’s quite possible you’ll like Crisis Core. It’s a cakewalk down memory lane, ends quite tidily, if depressingly, comes full circle and wraps beautifully into the original game. Just as you knew it would. Play it for Zack’s sake, play it for him; like the gameplay, he never had a chance.

colors: in monochrome September 13, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in farcical review bullshit.
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Did you know the DS has a pressure-sensitive screen? 

Look, Colors.

This kind of freeform gaming is exactly what we need; a step towards the future, a symbol of our own personal quests towards a brighter and better future. With more colours. Which is exactly why this review should be in monochrome, lest we forget what colours do for us.

So the thing about the world’s current hypnotised obsession with 3D graphics is that it’s losing a lot of the spark that existed in the day of the 2D world, when polygons were just a novelty that looked mostly like concentrated ass (surely you remember how asstastic Alone in the Dark looked). Now we’ve reached the depressing stage where 2D’s just a novelty.

You know, a good dose of 2D is exactly what we need from time to time, even if only to remind ourselves that we live in a world that’s largely three-dimensional; do you think that maybe, just maybe, we don’t need this emulated in every single game we pick up?

The funniest thing is; my income relates directly to our current sickly obsession with 3D art. Or should I say — my erstwhile income?

I certainly don’t mind when 3D’s done well (let me introduce you to a close personal friend of mine; the King of All Cosmos; his sense of style is ineffable and effortless; his world is the perfect incarnation of a 3D world that’s so perfectly conceived it’s almost 2D), but lately it seems we’re getting to the point where all we’re doing is going through the motions of a technical exercise; more polygons! more normal maps! more textures! And bigger! Quite frankly, I could care less if the characters I’m playing with look like real people. I could care even less if the characters I’m making look like real people.

My next point: the DS isn’t the best system in the world for 3D graphics, and I like that about it. Forget the hyperpoly (it’s like hyperbole, really) bull, how about that?

That this game-that-is-not-a-game gives us more opportunity for interactivity than most games do says a lot about the medium. Really.

Let’s just look at the touchscreen; the gimmick that’s making me pick up my DS (which I paid for) more than my PSP (which I didn’t).

Prodding at the DS, you might say the touchscreen is the fundamental mechanic that makes this machine a new beast. Not the dual screens, no. Those are just resolution extensions. But the touchscreen, which I was too reserved to embrace, wormed its way into my ratings; I think it has a lot of potential. We’re just not using it that way. Yet. It’s still young, it may grow.

The one thing I’ve seen the pressure sensitivity used for is a Japanese calligraphy teaching game; at least, I think it’s pressure sensitive. 

Were you one of the lucky people who had the glorious goodfortune to play in monochrome, before the world was wowed by 4 colour CGA, before the world was wowed by WoW?

I had an Apple II; it had two colours, green and a murky brown that passed muster for black in the night. It had games like Space Invaders and Wavy Navy that had ships that were ten, twenty pixels or so, but I could tell those ships were ships, and everyone along with me. And the games were pretty damn fun to play.

What exactly has colour given us? At first we had the pure remarkability of having 4 colours onscreen, then 16, then 256, then millions, the sharpness and crispness of our images expanding exponentially with each iteration of monitor divinity. I don’t think the same sense exists with HD; it’s very pretty, but it hasn’t blown people away quite the same way.

But what has it done for gaming?

Years after the Apple II+, I played Tetris on a beastly 386; it was in VGA, wonderful. Not so long after that, I played it on one of those monochrome Tetris monoclone machines that were flooding Asia and quite possibly the entire world, and — it didn’t make a difference.

We’re not doing enough with the potential of colour, just like how we’re not really doing anything with the pressure-sensitive screen of the DS, a miniature Cintiq if ever there were one (my 400 dollar PDA doesn’t have a pressure-sensitive screen for god’s sake).

I draw a grid on my DS screen. I put a cross in it, then a circle, another cross, until I’m at an impasse. Then it hits me; I’m free to do whatever I want in this game, and the lack of limitations is killing me.

What to do, where to go, how to do it? I don’t know. I plot out a little chart on the screen tracking my potential career progression. It bisects the screen neatly. Bottom-left, meet upper-right. At least we’re optimistic.

I start planning tomorrow’s schedule; finish my resume, polish my portfolio, do something productive. Suddenly it hits me; I don’t have that much left to do.

I trace a line around my DS’s insensitive screen. It takes a while before I realise I’m re-enacting a scene from Tron: Light Cycles. I close my DS.

Today’s over. Turn out the lights.

Colors! It could be the best game you’ll play all year.

subsurface shit scattering September 11, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in artshit, productivity 101, things that are not quite things we know.
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poking at caustics #2 September 11, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in artshit, productivity 101, things that are not quite things we know.
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the silhouette that time forgot September 9, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in artshit, productivity 101, random bullshit.
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small things.

respite from work: my reactionary bullshit stance against the evil powers of the PS3. Textures are not finished. AND PROBABLY SHALL NEVER BE.

I found this on my hard drive from sometime last year, crapped out while I was being paid to rap out models with 6-7000 polycounts/normal maps/specular maps/alpha maps. It was that way.

Media Molecule: you’re my new love September 8, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in farcical review bullshit.
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FINALLY! SOMEONE USES NEXTGEN CAPABILITY THE RIGHT WAY. I’ve been in love with Little Big Planet ever since the first trailer came out, but I feel it’s worth pointing out to those of you who don’t spend much time in the gaming world.

This is awesome; it’s like Rare using all the roaring angelic power of the 360 to make brightly-coloured cartoon pinatas. Innovation! What an alien concept. Imagine; using the power of PlayStation to foster a world that’s as resplendent in interactive glory as it is in beauty!

It might even be fun.

I’d totally want to work for these guys if they weren’t based in the UK.

Art links:

http://dric.lil.to/ – wandering star – katamari-esque

http://agasang.egloos.com/ agasang

http://maggi.new21.net/ maggi

words that need to die September 8, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in farcical review bullshit.

Today’s entry revolves around words that need to die.


Not only

…because my PDA’s handwriting recognition system won’t pick them up unless I manually enter them into its dictionary and I resent this immemesely! but also for these words are inimemecal in their seditious defilement of the aesthetic space known as the internet, and of that other aesthetic space known as my sanity
but also

…well, where’s the advantage in either of those words suppurating in the mire of popular consciousness? We survived just fine before meme besmeared the forefront of the blogroll and we’ll survive just fine without it, I tells you. I also tells you, the real reason I detest both these words so devoutly is this: they’re cog catchwords in the perpetual motion machine of the blogosfear illiterati.

People sometimes use meme and schadenfreude the way they should be, like the things that they are (words) — and! people sometimes use them because meme (substitute the other offender, if you must) is a word that everyone else has suddenly discovered and must use so they might join the memetic club. I tells you, yours are malignant, yon memes.

Ask me about the other one!

Naw, I’ll be concise.

Schadenfreude is the German word for deriving pleasure from the misfortunes of others.”

Now there’s an opening variegated in flavours of unimaginative, all of them tasteless. Excellent; spend the first line of your introductory paragraph explaining the first word of your article; it takes me one line (hell, one word) to figure out the rest of the article isn’t worth reading.

Oh God, I turn the television on to get away from the stupidity of the plebweb and what do l hear?

“There’s a German word…”

I shit you not!

If I actually need to look up a word, I’ll use a dictionary, thanks.

Also, when I said “today” — I really meant “sometime last year, when I was really angry about the abuse of two specific words that serve no purpose but to aggravate the living shit out of me”. Today, in the sense that I just found this verbiage sprouting all surreptitious-as-you-please on my PDA.

More than a year later, these assholes are still recycling that stupid schadenfreude line. That includes you, if you’re doing it; stop it!

addendum: but here is an example of how you might temper your abuse with grace; this guy is not an asshole.

regurgitating the cne September 2, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in things that are not quite things we know.

Today we’re talking about the Canadian National Exposition, where the international goods hall consists of booths with titles as selectively swanky as “Produce of France, China and India”. Booths that sell, for example, socks! 6 for 2 dollars. How very cultured.

Apart from having multicultural socks, the CNE has a bunch of reasonably fun rides. I say reasonably because puking makes me deduct points from the fun value of any given activity.

I never (well, almost never!) get sick on rides, but here’s a moral-laden story for you; don’t eat a corndog right before going on a ride that spins you forwards, backwards, widdershins and shinnerwid. Oh, it wasn’t just me! Everyone else felt pretty grotty after that one. It looked like a good idea at the time; the ride gave longest time for money. Too bad after a certain point (stomach battling through intestinal tract) time != fun. Everyone got very quiet halfway through; when the blender stopped, we lurched off the staggered platform. Rails, rails, a clever invention.

Oh, and if you’re still feeling nauseous, don’t immediately go on the big loop (the one that is, literally, one big loop-the-loop).

God knows if it was the corndog (I’m leaning towards this line of thought myself) or the car ride back that tipped me over the edge. At least I didn’t feel like barfing until I got to the relative safety of home.

Delayed-blast puke, the first puke I’ve puked in over two years. Fascinating.

to be, again, redundant: September 1, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in things that are not quite things we know.

I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to fly back to London purely because I didn’t want to go through the old carpet stench of Heathrow security.

It’s only half the reason.

Think it goes back to my original schtick? The one spamming alienation, basted under a veil of verbiage?

Let’s leave that to simmer for a while.

Eight months ago, eight months back along the line between Cambridge and London, I’d been working for a multinational company whose business card got me more than its fair share of credibility. It got me excited, back when I was fresh out of school. I flew places, stayed in five-star hotels, gave interviews, feasted on my expenses. Nothing lasts forever. It got me bored.

The problem was the same old problem; I didn’t want to be where I was, I didn’t know where home was, I wanted to know where home was.

Looking back at that December, from the perspective of this September, I find it ironic that I was working on a project called Home.

Eight months ago, I rode the line past the last stop, through the air. I left thirteen years of England, swapped rain lullabies for the banshee shrieks of gales and hails.

It’s been just another journey.

I got a new business card, one that didn’t do very much, look very good, or last very long.

I went to Jackson Hole, Wyoming; New York, New York; wandered around Ontario, saw a really big bunch of waterfalls.

After eight months, I still haven’t learned to stop lurching into the corner of my bed. I have a testimonial of bruises on my left shin. That’s a sign of something, anyway.

I didn’t find home here. Maybe I would’ve, if I’d been here for more than eight months. It’s a moot point. I’m looking for a new one. I’ll tell you when it’s found me.

One thing’s good; I’m coming to grasp the idea of living without regrets. Meaning; despite the ups and downs of the past 0.667 of the year, I feel pretty good about most of it, and wherever I’ll end up at the end of it. Being able to say that isn’t a bad thing, though I’m going to miss the friends I’ve made. And still, the friends who aren’t here.

I’m shocked, however, at how many of them (you) are succumbing to the lure of progeny. I’m too young to spawn. You know, the older I get, the more I feel like my own life has only just wheeled out onto the runway. When’s take-off? Oh, you say curing the problem of my singlehood would be the first step. I say you’re just being cynical.

Eight months down the line, the line with an end I can’t quite picture, and I’m sitting by my balcony, making posts titled with really bad puns, the CN Tower bisecting my sky.

And all I’m thinking is, FF0911, that’s the colour they’ve turned it this month. Conspiracy theory, anyone?

being productive August 30, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in artshit, productivity 101, things that are not quite things we know.
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omgwtf3omgwtf. bbq.

999 fine silver, slightly sloppy workmanship, but I’m rusty!

the other earring is an exclamation mark!

fucking around with caustics August 20, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in artshit, productivity 101.
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or maybe just being a caustic fucker.

that boundary’s kind of screwy.

to be redundant: August 18, 2007

Posted by eatnorthamerica in things that are not quite things we know.

The katamari idea didn’t work. I have been laid off, along with 50% of my studio. On the bright side, I no longer have to pay back my relocation package!

I’m now exploring the world of extended vacation time. Any suggestions? (After I get my resume updated, that is.)