Thursday, February 27, 2003

There is something peculiarly happy about listening to the Dixie Chicks' "There's Your Trouble." Maybe it's that this was the first Chicks song I ever heard. Or maybe it's just really good music. The nifty thing about the Chicks is that they have all sorts of cool instruments, and they play most all of them so they know how to use them, too.

So Rose's birthday was two days ago, and it was evidently a rousing success, which I am glad of. Other than providing the music (which wasn't even mine) I didn't have that much to do with it, so I won't give the complete blog-down to those of you who don't know where to get that yourselves. Still, I'm glad that she had a good birthday.

It's kind of amazing to me how far Rose and I have come since I started this as a way to let people see the parts of me that don't get much play at Stanford. If you check back in the archives, you can get an idea of just how far. I can still remember buying that blue glass rose with Shanah at Knott's, thinking it was the perfect gift to express how special she was to me and trying not to think about the all-too-real prospect that by the time I saw her to give it to her it would all be over. As it turns out that's exactly what happened, but I'm still glad that I got to give it to her. Even if my first uses of the Blue Rose blogname were irresponsible and immature.

The subject of my blog will have to do as a segue into what I actually intended to write about tonight: namely, fantasizing about my birthday surprise. One of the nifty things about Rose's birthday was that it brought together people from all different areas of her social existence. True, those disparate areas didn't mix very much, and there was maybe even some social tension - but she liked it, and after all it was her birthday. Now, I'm not saying that my friends could arrange for the guys to get up here, and I'm certainly not expecting anybody to try. But it would be awfully cool. I think the agenda for my ideal Stanford birthday would go something like this:

1). Play video games with guys (a little AvP action, a little Jedi Knight II, if only to show them how cool that lightsaber is). Maybe have some Smashing time.
2). Dinner out with the guys, to talk about nerdy gaming stuff.
3). Phoenix Earth session.
4). Dinner out with Shanah and Rose.
5). Movie with lots of people. Either something artsy (Moulin Rouge? Chicago?), cool (Alien Resurrection? Predator 2? Starship Troopers?), wistful (Beauty and the Beast? Tarzan?), or horrible (Dungeons & Dragons?).
6). Dancing with lots of people, including but not necessarily limited to the Ailouriskai and Alanna and Lady and Rose and Shanah and Chariessa.
7). Worship.
8). Storytime, either with something symbolically significant (Enchanted Forest? Song of the Lioness?) or that I can read really well (James and the Giant Peach?)
9). Family time, possibly combined with storytime.

Of course that's not a very practical plan, seeing as how it involves two dinners, the presence of the entire Phoenix Earth party, a Phoenix Earth session (which would require me to have a session planned in advance and would take about six hours out of the day), and a movie (which would take a minimum of ninety minutes). And not everybody on the guest list implied above would be comfortable with a worship set. And of course as much as I like dancing with Lady she'd probably feel kind of odd coming to a birthday party for me, depending on the guest list. But hey, a guy can dream.

Wednesday, February 19, 2003

I have figured out Dutch Schaefer (who is part of the Alien vs. Predator universe evidently because he's Arnold's character in the original Predator). I actually like Dutch more than Linn in a lot of ways. He has three great drawbacks: he can't jump (well, he can jump a little), his gun overheats after two bursts, which makes it nigh useless at long range, and he's slow. However, he has three great advantages: he has no weapon (or rather, his cybernetic arm is his weapon), so his offensive power isn't diminished when he gets knocked over, he hits harder than anybody else in the game, and he can pick up a weapon in the form of the pipe, which does massive damage and knocks people down with a single hit.

Dutch really only has two special moves, but they're pretty good. One is this kind of bull rush thing he has, which besides getting him in close where he can lay the smack down trumps most other moves in the game, including the smasher alien's charge attack. Second is his dragon punch thing, which only works when an alien is near by. That by itself isn't so great, but he falls in slow motion and you can blaze away with his smart gun while you fall, which makes it pretty cool and devastating against bosses. So it turns out that Schaefer's pretty cool after all, though I still prefer the predators.

Viennese is coming up soon, which I am very psyched about for a number of reasons. For one thing I have a wonderful date, who besides being pretty and witty and charming is one of my most favorite people to dance with. And besides Chariessa, there will be other lovely people to dance with as well, such as Rose and Shanah and Lady and lots others I'm sure except I don't remember precisely who all is going of the dancers I know. Additionally, Viennese gives me a chance to dress up and be gentlemanly, and generally have a high-class date. And I'm more or less organizing things this time around, which makes me feel competent and organized. Well, I am competent and I can be organized, but I generally don't feel that way at Stanford. So this is a nice change.

Saturday, February 15, 2003

I've decided that I like playing the predator hunter more than the warrior. Linn may have more potential, but I'm not at all sure of that (though she does have a mightier gun, even if it's not as good for clearing paths as the famed predator shoulder gun). And the hunter is just so kinetic, especially once I learned that he has a higher-velocity version of Linn's "kick off of one alien and into another, then back again" move (though the hunter's version can't be repeated as often as Linn's). And this game is all about style, and the fact that everything on the screen is just so high-energy. I've even gotten used to the orange armor, and I have so mastered that Blanka-ball move he has.

I'm listening to the City of Angels soundtrack right now - have been for several days, actually. Although I think this show has some flaws in its writing, I really like some of its numbers. Stine has been added to my very short list of Characters I Would Love to Play (the others being Javert and Pontius Pilate). And of course I love to sing Stone's songs too - and I just love Gabby's songs, and Oolie/Donna's. This is music where the background is not boring (far from it, in my opinion), but isn't trying to steal the spotlight. And because the songs actually advance the action, rather than merely expanding on some point that has been made in dialogue, they really offer potential for acting, too. Ah, happy sigh.

Thursday, February 06, 2003

I have a terrible feeling about this. Lord, let this cup pass from us - not to some other nation that we would pass our bloodshed to, but let the necessity pass from mankind. France is wrong. I don't like talking about politics, but France is wrong. "Iraq must answer their questions and cooperate more effectively?" No, Iraq musn't - because there is no compulsion upon them to do so. If they don't, then what? What is the "or else?"

But enough of that. I was going to blog about the great bane of my existence, The Stanford Fund, but my blogs have been very grim lately so let's have something more light-hearted. Such as a discussion of the great and august Alien vs. Predator, which it turns out you can buy in arcade machine format for a mere $240. Some day, I may do that.

In the meantime, Twilight gave me the game as part of my Christmas gift, and I've been working my attack-button-pounding skillz. Looking back on it, I think AvP was remarkable in its day (1994) for the fact that everything felt so kinetic. Older 3D-wannabe sidescrolling games feel kind of slow and wooden. Alien vs. Predator does not: stuff is flying around the screen all over the place, and you slip into this waltz-like state where you're doing stuff but not really thinking about it: just experiencing. Of course in this case you're not experiencing a dance, just the visceral thrill of watching cool stuff happen on screen - and maybe (if you're like me) screaming taunts at your exoskeletal foes without really consciously formulating the words.

AvP is an icon in my memory of all-too-brief, all-too-expensive moments in arcades (this was before arcades ceased to carry anything other than 3D polygonal fighting games, racing games, and DDR: The Really Final Mix, We Mean It This Time), when playing a video game was an emotional thrill ride. And now I own it for my very own, and have at last begun unlocking its mysteries in moments snatched from my work. I have mostly completed my analysis of three of the four characters:

Linn Kurosawa
Linn is your stereotypical cybernetic Asian gravity-defying female martial artist who totes a pistol and a katana and sports a combination of orange tiger striped pants and steel armor. For all that, she's incredibly cool. The way to play Linn is to never stick in one place. If you can get in among a bunch of aliens (placement is one of the things you learn in games like this; by "among" I actually mean on the edge of) you can whoop up pretty well, but what you really want to do is go bounding around the room kicking aliens in the face and jumping off of them to kick other aliens in the face, ad nauseum; and bound around the room stabbing aliens in the head with your katana. The martial arts skillz are really only there for when circumstances are such that you can't jump on people - or when you get behind them. Linn also has the advantage of being the only character capable of laying down sustained fire, since her pistol doesn't overheat but runs out of ammo (of which it has a lot). The downsides to Lt. Kurosawa are that her gravity-defying ways actually make it difficult to hit people sometimes (for this reason, the bigger they are, the more Linn has her way with them) - and she just has no reach whatsoever. Which is why man invented (so to speak)

The Predator Warrior
This predator (who is my favorite predator, on the basis of sheer cool good looks) totes a spear in addition to his cream-colored predator getup. It took me a long time to figure out the difference between the game's two predators, but I finally have it. The warrior is good for getting in amongst (and it really can be amongst, with him) a bunch of aliens and laying about until their acid-spouting bodies are all twitching, headless, on the floor. His melee attacks have both range, power, and speed - and he can lay about him in all directions, which is cool. The trick is that you have to know when to call the alien-bashing quits and bug out (pun intended). His aerial moves really only exist for the purpose of getting him in close with the exoskeletal baddies. This is in contrast to

The Predator Hunter
who is, as his name implies, best in a one-on-one context. The hunter is really a lot like a cross between Linn and the warrior, as evidenced by the fact that he wears orange but is, you know, a predator. He carries a double-ended glaive (except we have a katana and an Asian female in this game, so it's called a naginata) and while he can beat on aliens fairly well, he's really another bouncy character. This is because he has the capability of bowling over immense number of aliens while falling from the sky. Once they've all been properly knocked over of course you can lay into them with your naginata, but that's dangerous because he lacks the ability to cover himself from both sides in a melee as well as his warrior cousin. The hunter, I've found, is much easier to use than Linn while retaining a lot of her aerial nature - and of course he has that cool predator shoulder gun.

I still haven't figured out the fourth character, Dutch Schaefer, who's a big hulking American cyborg with a smart gun for an arm. It may be that I already know all there is to know: being a white man, he can't jump; but having a gun for an arm, he sure can beat on people. Which is all there really is to it: walk up to them and beat on them. He actually does have the most powerful gun in the game, I've noticed, and he has this dragon punch move that lets him shoot while falling in slow motion (Linn and the hunter have the same move, but without the slow-mo part). I think that mastering that move will prove to be a critical part of playing Dutch, since it would let you beat on aliens until you're surrounded, then leap out of the fray and pepper them with gunfire. But let's be honest, he's neither female nor non-human - so how cool can he be in the end?

Tuesday, February 04, 2003

Sometimes I wish that Blogger had a "current music" thing like Livejournal does. It seems like a lot of blog posts get inspired my music - or anyway a lot of mine. Right now for instance I should be revising a story for my fiction class, but instead I'm blogging because I'm listening to Shania Twain's Up! (specifically "Forever and For Always" and "It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing") and I feel like blogging. If someone ever writes a book about my life, I hope they take the time to seek out the girls in it. The fictional ones, of course, like Alanna and Honor and Cimorene and the Babysitters' Club that have shaped my idea of what it means to be a romantic and a man whose word is worth something. And also the real ones, like Rainbow and Princess and Thea and Shanah and Chariessa and Blue Rose and of course Maelana and Mother, and maybe the Ailouriskai and all the rest who are too many to remember. Of course there are other ways of getting at my life, but I feel like there's something special about the girls: not just that there are daughters of Eve for whom I have conceived what I hope will be a permanent affection, but that I believe God has laid out the plan of my life such that the girls are, more often than not, agents of His plan (you can tell I'm feeling profound because I bothered to capitalize the divine pronoun). How can I forget watching Star Wars I with Thea at Universal Citywalk, passing underneath that arch that proclaims that the most beautiful girls in the world pass beneath it and thinking how true it is? Will I ever visit the Commons without remembering waiting for Princess because she was late, not that it mattered once she was there? And I could say similar things about Stanford girls, but for modesty's sake I will refrain.

This is a change of topic, but I've been meaning to blog about Iraq for some time now and this is as good as time as any because Up! has switched tracks to "In My Car (I'll Be the Driver)," and while this reminds me of Thea's Explorer and driving down Valley Circle with Rose and riding in Shanah's Ginger and all sorts of other girl-related topics, it kind of breaks the wistful mood anyway. So Iraq.

I don't really have an opinion on Iraq, and I admit to some confusion as to people who do (because I don't really, deep down inside, believe that I'm a 1/300 millionth part ruler of the United States). Do I think we're going? Yes, absolutely. Do you know anybody who doesn't think we're going? Do I wish that we weren't going? Well of course I do - the thought of war with Iraq makes me sick to my stomach and makes me want to cry, actually, as I imagine it does for a great many of the fighting men and women on both sides of the Iraqi border. I understand better than most of my peers, I think, just what kind of human suffering armed combat in the modern era entails - and I'm sure I understand it infintely worse than a great many uniformed citizens who are preparing to thrust themselves and their subordinates into the teeth of what Dionysus yesterday called "the deadly lead."

Yet forward they shall go all the same when legitimate authority orders them to do so, and I think they will be right to do it. I wish, with Frodo, that none of this had ever happened - but it has happened, and the question now is what to do about it. We can sit back and hope that good comes out of Iraq, we can sit back and hope that Saddam comes out of Iraq, or we can go in and take him out. And when we do, as it looks like we shall before the next Orientation Show, I will pray that our boys be granted good targets, that they go into combat with stout hearts and no fear of death but that which is common to man (Americans home in body bags? Of course they'll come home in body bags! Are we so far degenerated that we now fear death with the rational mind?), and that those who must die die quickly. If once war is begun, in my estimation, let it be prosecuted not with the dentist's pick but the hammer. Else the valor and victory, the sacrifice, the courage of fighting men in the face of unimaginable terror means nothing. And it ought to.

All of this, you will see, ignores the propriety of toppling Saddam in the first place. As I said, I don't have an informed opinion about that. I think that Saddam's regime has twisted priorities and that the people of Iraq will be better off without him, but I have not bothered to do the research to back that opinion up. I don't see that it particularly matters, because so far as I can tell we're going in one way or another, barring act of God.

Then again, God would be no god worth my fealty if he weren't capable of averting a mere political inevitability. And if you don't think that he's capable of averting the inevitable, then I submit that you don't understand the fundamental reason why the Old Testament is included in the Christian Bible. So until we do go in, I will pray that the Lord make the fighting unnecessary - not because I believe that death is an evil that ought to be avoided (what then? Does the man who wears the helm of salvation fear to be dead? And if a man does not wear that helm, or if he refuses it, whose fault is that?), nor because I believe that the suffering of a family deprived of father or brother or son is an evil that ought to be avoided (what then, do we now declare the pain of the heart to be evil?), nor because I believe that either side's soldiers fight for an unjust cause (will they fight for politics, or for their buddies? And who will say that a man should not lay down his life for his friend?) - but I will pray that the aims of God be accomplished without war because I do believe that God is grieved by the sorrow of those who cry out to him in their affliction, and because I do know that he is a great deliverer.