Thursday, April 30, 2009

Landmark Characters in Video Game Racism: Vol. 1

Welcome, reader, to the first in a continuing series of entries about racist or stereotypical characters in video games. As those of you familiar with gaming know, characters are have not always been presented in the most nuanced of ways. This series will commemorate some notable examples. So sit back, get ready to laugh, feel uncomfortable, and reminisce.

Our first entry harkens back to the days of the Nintendo Entertainment System. Mike Tyson's Punch-Out!! is a game that many of my generation remember fondly for its simple-yet-addictive gameplay, its notorious difficulty at higher levels, and most of all, its colorfully racist characters. Of them all, one stands out above the rest, a boxer whose stereotype was so blatant that he had to be toned down in the transition from the arcades to the home console. Meet Soda Popinski.

Soda Popinski, a champion boxer from Moscow, U.S.S.R. boasted a 33-2 record, with 24 wins by K.O. He was 35 years and 237 pounds of pure Soviet muscle (and moustache). Soda had a habit of drinking bottle upon bottle of soda (hence his name), even sipping during his fights to power up. But Soda Popinski had a secret. That wasn't his real name, and that wasn't soda. His real, original name? Vodka Drunkenski.

That's right, folks. That bottle labeled "POP" was falsely identified. That's vodka. He is drunk. He is Russian. Because, didn't you know?, all Russians are drunks. I will say, to his credit, Vodka is a high-functioning alcoholic. He's only lost twice (before Little Mac came along, of course) in his boxing career, which is pretty good for a guy who downs vodka like water, especially in the middle of matches!

So here's to you, Vodka Drunkenski, A.K.A. Soda Popinski. You introduced a whole generation of kids to the "Russians are drunks" stereotype through punches, blocks, and star uppercuts. And you fit in just fine here, because your shorts are quite short, and parts of Russia do indeed fall well below freezing.

I WANT YOUR INPUT!! Please submit suggestions for future entries in this series! I've got a few ideas, but I want even more. Email me or comment and let me know who YOU think deserves to immortalized for perpetuating stereotypes about various races and nationalities!

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

My Geekiest (But Possibly Favorite) Dream Ever

Alright, so this dream is not that recent. It occurred probably at least a full year ago, if not slightly longer. However, I have wanted to record it somewhere for a while now, and figured this was as good a venue as any, especially because I want to get myself back into the habit of moderately frequent updates. So, here is an account of my geekiest dream ever, which may also be my favorite dream ever.

The dream opened in a weird, larger version of the house I spent most of my childhood in. Meredith and I were helping my mother, father, and sister clean up and pack various items into storage boxes to go into the (enormous in this dream) attic. There were also some cats moving around, which were unfamiliar, but in the dream I recognized them as being our new cats. I went to bring some boxes up to the attic and as I rounded the corner from one part of the attic to another (like I said, the attic was enormous in this dream), I was surprised to find my father asleep on a trunk, because I had just seen him downstairs.

He woke up and started being a real dick to me, saying things like "what the hell are you doing up here?" and "get the f*ck away from me." This is out of character for my father, for those who may not be familiar. I went away into another room in the (massive) attic and realized something was wrong. Using some careful peeking, I realized this person was not my father, but was in fact a shapeshifting monster in my father's form: a doppelganger! I went downstairs and found Meredith and brought her up a different set of stairs into another part of the attic we could spy on the doppelganger from without being seen (yet again, it was a big damn attic.) The doppelganger started moving around and I realized we'd need to take action. I went downstairs and found my real father.

Knowing (somehow) that we would need to beat this thing without facing it head-on, my father and I evacuated everyone else from the house and took gasoline cans and started dousing everything. "Once we start this, there's no stopping. Anything or anyone we find left inside could be and probably is the doppelganger," he instructed me. We managed to finish soaking everything in gasoline without another encounter, lit matches, and got ourselves outside, locking the door behind us. Then I heard meowing, and realized a cat was still inside. I reminded myself that the cat was probably just the doppelganger trying to prey on my sympathies, I stopped myself from unlocking the door, hoped with all my heart I was right and wasn't killing an innocent animal, and watched the house burn.

However, this must not have finished off the doppelganger, because the next thing I knew, FBI Special Agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully were investigating the case, trying to track down and capture the monster. For some reason, for this segment of the dream, I shifted from a first-person perspective to a third-person, watching Mulder and Scully carry out their mission. They successfully lured the doppelganger into small room in a derelict factory/warehouse and managed to lock it inside (it was in the form of some random, kind-of-menacing-looking guy at this point). They went to get back up, and just as they returned, the doppelganger grinned at them through the window of the locked door and collapsed into a puddle of black slime that oozed through the crack of the door and over to a big storm drain in the floor, escaping.

Agent Mulder did not take this turn of events well at all. In his frustration, he proceeded to urinate down the storm drain while screaming obscenities at the escaped creature. During this unfortunate outburst, FBI Assistant Director Walter Skinner and a few other agents showed up and had to remove Mulder from the scene physically. Later, in front of a panel of higher-ups, Mulder faced his punishment. The X-Files were being closed, and there was nothing he could do to stop it. In the back of the room, the Cigarette Smoking Man grinned as he lit another cigarette, finally able to shut Mulder down because of his unsavory tantrum.

The dream shifted back to my first-person experience at this point, and I was checking out the site where we once burned down the house futilely trying to kill the doppelganger. However, for some reason this was now the site of a seedy carnival/boardwalk area, including a particularly sketchy set of motel-style rooms. I had with me a scrap of paper with some sort of clue about the doppelganger, but I have no idea now what the clue was. Now, the odd thing about these motel-ish rooms was that the names of the occupants were posted on the outsides. I crept about, checking the names, and came across one name in particular (I don't recall it now) that I recognized. Suddenly, I pieced together clues that I had no idea I knew, and had not been previously introduced in the dream. The name on the room was the name of a popular internet webcam stripper. In the news, men had been disappearing recently around this area. I don't watch camshows or that much broadcast news in real life, so I don't know how I knew these things in the dream. But I figured it out: the online stripper was the doppelganger, luring victims to its skeezy lair.

At this point, I woke up. In real life, I had to pee. Now, I don't know about anyone else, but for me, once I wake up, I never am able to get back to the dream I was having before I woke up, even if I fall back asleep. I wrote all of the dream off so far as a neat story that I'd never see the end to. Oh well. I used the bathroom and went back to bed. It happened this time. I got back in the dream. Not only was I back in the dream, the dream had continued in my absence, as though I was watching a TV show, left the room, and came back in at a later point. And the situation had become dire.

Somehow I had wound up in some sort of industrial alley or parking lot. I was facing off against the doppelganger once and for all. It had abandoned taking on human faces and appeared before me now as a vaguely humanoid mass of black slime. I realized I had no idea how to fight this thing, when suddenly, light shined down from the sky. Floating in the air above our heads was the ghost of my beloved grandmother, Nonnie. With reassuring and determined smile, she dematerialized into white energy and shot down to the doppelganger, surrounding and paralyzing it. Now feeling like I had a chance, I reached into my pocket and found a Harry Potter wand. Skeptical of its power (but oddly accepting of the fact that I had it at all), I gestured with the wand towards my target and was gladly surprised when a tiny beam of white light shot forward from the tip, passing through the Nonnie-light and piercing through the doppelganger, causing it to make a sound of pain. It worked! And if that worked...

I had a crazy idea, but crazy seemed to be working at the moment. I re-pocketed the wand and took a wide stance. Cupping my hands and drawing them back to my right hip, I gathered energy between my palms. (Ka... Me...) If you are a geek like me, you see where this is going. After charging up for a few seconds (Ha... Me...), I thrust my hands forward towards the doppelganger and called out the last of five syllables (Ha!!!). The Kamehameha Wave exploded toward my foe in a wash of blue-white energy. The light of it was blinding. When I could see again, the area was littered with tiny scorched blobs of black goo.

After a moment, though, the blobs began to quiver, then start oozing towards a center point. The monster was going to re-form, even after that! I leaped into the air (apparently I could hover/fly in this dream too, which was cool) and thought to myself, "Guess I need to use this after all," as I took the wand back out. I used the wand to draw a large circle in the air in front of me, and a similar massive glowing circle appeared on the ground, wide enough to contain all of the blobs. I quickly made sketching motions with the wand and a rune symbol appeared inside of the circle on the ground. As I finished the last line of the rune, the ground darkened within the circle and became a black vortex, pulling the blobs into itself. The glowing circle that formed its border gradually shrank in diameter until it vanished completely.

Now, you may be thinking to yourself, "what kind of bizarre person has a dream involving his or her immediate family, a doppelganger, arson, the X-Files, public urination, supernatural sex predators, the protective spirit of his or her deceased grandmother, Harry Potter, and Dragon Ball Z?" This kind of bizarre person, my friend. This kind.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

We'll Never Bea The Same Again

You've probably already heard the sad news. At the age of 86, beloved actress Bea Arthur has passed on, leaving behind a wonderful career that we will remember fondly. By way of a memorial, I would like to take this opportunity to remember the good times with Bea in the form of a video. We'll miss you, Bea!

PS: Anyone know how to fix the formatting on this to either widen the blog entry space or clip the "widescreen bars" off the video so it fits better on this page?

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Rejected Pug Names

Meredith is very excited about the prospect of adopting a pug from a pug rescue organization. Part of bringing a new animal into a home is giving him or her a suitable name. Below are some names that the new pug will absolutely not be getting.
  • Anything that rhymes with "pug." This includes, but is not limited to: Ug, Rug, Doug, Chug-a-lug, Earplug, Bearhug, Hapsbu(r)g.
  • Dane Cook
  • Popeye
  • Adolf
  • Hitler
  • Adolf Hitler
  • Ugly Motherf*cker
  • Sir Mix-a-Little
  • Puppy O'Daniel
  • Jellyfish
  • Mayonnaise
  • Slave
  • Slav
  • Salve
  • Dr. Dookie
  • Frederick Dog-lass
  • Pug-atory
On a more serious note, if you are thinking of getting a pet, please visit your local animal shelter or a rescue agency (see the hyperlink above for the one Meredith is using). There are so many animals out there in need of good homes that it really makes no sense at all to go to a breeder, pet store (unless the pet is something like a fish, mouse, etc.), or less reputable option. Also, help control the pet population. Have your pet spayed or neutered!

Strike Over, Back to Work

Today the unpopular, rarely-read blog "Shorts Below Freezing" caved to the demands of it's sole employee, blog author Remus Thirty after just over two years of intense negotiation. Thirty had been on strike, refusing to write new entries unless "Shorts Below Freezing" would agree to an employee benefits package including:
  • Unrestricted access to tasty cereals
  • A 22% pay raise, pre-tax (from $0.00 per hour to $0.00 per hour)
  • The best health insurance program that 15% of the new wage could afford
  • Cigarette breaks for employees who smoke (Thirty does not)
  • Video games (this demand was concise, yet vague in its intended implementation)
  • Some nachos
  • A larger reader base
As of this date, all of the above demands have been met, except for the final one. Thirty expressed a willingness to negotiate finally, and returned to work in spite of a complete lack of interest or demand. Watch this blog for updates now appearing with greater frequency than one every two years.