Thursday, August 16, 2018

Cataline Asks his Readers a Question

Why did you start reading for pleasure?

This is a question every writer should ask his readers.

Please answer in the comments.

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

President Trump's Omarosa Problem

The latest non-issue to obsess the Left is of course Omarosa.

This one really is a  nothing-burger but we are well into the silly season and press is grateful for anything until congress gavels back in after Labor Day.

I suppose it does highlight a problem that Donald J. Trump has always had and that is the Alpha Male's need for dependency. 

Form  the Hierarchy.

Alpha: The alpha is the tall, good-looking guy who is the center of both male and female attention. The classic star of the football team who is dating the prettiest cheerleader. The successful business executive with the beautiful, stylish, blonde, size zero wife. All the women are attracted to him, while all the men want to be him, or at least be his friend. At a social gathering like a party, he's usually the loud, charismatic guy telling self-flattering stories to a group of attractive women who are listening with interest. However, alphas are only interested in women to the extent that they exist for the alpha's gratification, physical and psychological, they are actually more concerned with their overall group status.

Most of this is reasonably accurate except for that last line.  They don't really care about their status within the "group." 

What an Alpha cares about is the group itself.

If there isn't a group readily available for an Alpha to lead then he will recruit one.

The big thing that a lot of people don't understand about leadership is that it's dependency relationship.  The Alpha is the guy that the rest of the group depends on.  The need for people to be dependent on the Alpha varies from Alpha to Alpha.  I'm afraid that in the President's case it's always been a fairly extreme one.

The easiest way to create dependency from your group is to recruit C-Listers.  Which bluntly Donald Trump has done all his life.  He was rich enough to land an A-List hottie for a wife but he never chose one. All three were C-List models. He could have bought his way into the NFL as a minor team owner but he was a much bigger fish in the USFL. That entire league was dependent on him to make a big splash as a team owner.  Then there is his choice of pornstars to bang, Stormy Daniels was never at the top of her profession.  The list goes on and on, you can pick plenty of examples yourself.

But the bottomline was that the C-Listers were going to be absolutely loyal to him because they were dependent upon him. He would for the most part value that loyalty in turn.  Hence the problem of Omarosa. 

He had a lot of baggage in tow when he landed the Presidency, except that when he became president he hit the big time of dependency.  The people that were dependent upon him now were all A-Listers.  His long time C-Listers almost immediately started getting in the way of them for fear of losing the God-Emperor's favor.   Thus creating the very rocky start of his Presidency.

For a while the press will pretend that there is some devastating tape with the President detonating the N-bomb on it somewhere.  The problem is that they've been looking for it for two freaking years and Omarosa doesn't have it.

BTW: Police yourselves on the comments.  I'm being monitored again.

Monday, August 13, 2018

The Disney Identity

Beloved Reader:  (long tired sigh) Okay, you old fart, why are you mad a Disney Princess movies?

Cataline: Glad you asked.

Did you notice that the latest Disney villain kind of sucked?

He shouldn't have.  Tomatoa had a great little song that was written by the over-rated Lin-Manuel Miranda  and performed by the under-rated Jemaine Clement.  

He was well designed.  And for as brief a time as he had on screen, he still managed to pass Cataline's Character Test.  You can describe the character of Tomatoa without referring to anything he said or did.  And that's a good thing because he didn't get a chance to say or do all that much.

He was barely there at all.  In fact you could excise Tomatoa from the story completely and you wouldn't notice he was gone.  

From a plot perspective there was no reason to include him at all.  Why have villain if he's not going to matter to the film at all?

The answer is tradition.  Moana is a Disney Princess movie and that means they have to have a Disney Villain.  Even if they don't.

That didn't use to be the case.  Back in Walt's day, the villain drove the plot.  The villain provided both the conflict and the MacGuffin that moved the story forward. Defeating the villain was always the climax of the story.

The characters were set and the conflict was external.  It was Man versus Man.  Or to be more accurate Princess Versus Evil Queen but you get my point.

The Little Mermaid was almost the last of true Disney Princess movies that followed this formula.*  The characters were pretty much the same at the end as they were at the beginning.  Perhaps a little wiser for having learned an important life lesson about giving into temptation but that was it, in terms of character development, because they character didn't need to develop.  It was a film for little girls and it wasn't supposed to teach them to be anything other than little girls.

For those of you who weren't around at the time.  Disney was having some major problems in those days.  For better than a decade it had had an anemic corporate leadership that spent all it's time wandering around asking itself, "what would Walt do?"  After having barely fought off a corporate raid that would have gutted out the entire company, Walt's son-in-law was fired and Michael Eisner was brought in to helm the Disney.  

Little Mermaid was one of Eisner's first projects and it was a huge success.  So he went to it's creative team and asked, "What else have you got for me?"

The answer was that they had this terrific idea.  Treasure Island but in SPACE!

Eisner blinked for a moment and said, "I'll think about it...maybe. But in the meantime, Richard Williams looks like he's finally going to complete the movie that he has been making for thirty freaking years; The Thief and the Cobbler.**  Come up with your own Arabian Nights themed movie and beat that one to the boxoffice.  Make sure it has a thief in it."

A little disappointed the animators left the Presence.

Animator 1: So what do we do?

Animator 2: Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves?  

Animator 1: Nah, too violent for a kid's movie.  How about Aladdin?

Animator 2: Well, not too violent but Aladdin isn't a thief either.

Animator 1: He is now.

Animator 2: Isn't this making a thief the hero a little problematic for a Disney movie?

And the answer to this question changed everything.

Animator 1: Not if we make a him a better person by the end of the story.  Aladdin's journey to becoming a better man is the real story here.  Everything else is incidental and in service to this goal. 

Animator 2: Brilliant!  Let's do lunch

Aladdin was where they first changed the nature of the conflict to Man versus Himself. The conflict became internal and it was all about identity.  Jaffar was a pretty good villain even if the parrot managed to be even more annoying than Robin Williams.  But the climax of the story was Aladdin's adopting a new identity as a more noble version of himself.  Casting off the glamour of being a fake prince to become a real one. Defeating Jaffar was the Anti-climax.  Just some cleaning up that needed to be taken care of.

Aladdin cost 30 million to make and raked in about half a billion world wide which made it something of a hit.  So the Animators went back to Eisner.

Animator 1: So about Treasure SPACE!

Eisner: That still sounds kind of original.  What else is out there that you can you rip off?  Anime is starting to take off now right?  Some Japanamation kid's thing, maybe?

Animator 2: What like Kimba the White Lion?

Eisner: Sounds perfect! Simba the Lion or whatever.  I already love it!

The theme of identity was explored more thoroughly and quite explicitly in the Lion King.  The Prince who blames himself for the death of his father the Great King and abandons his identity, to run off into the forest and live as a wastrel. Again the climax of the film isn't defeating his uncle Scar.  It is when Simba chooses to reassume his identity.  Although this time it is the prince as Hero and and Redeemer.  This is literally one of the oldest stories there is.  The first telling of it being the murder of the god Osiris by his brother Set and his son Horace avenging his father, then ascending his throne.

Another well known aspect of the Lion King was the fact that it was viewed as an African-American Disney movie, even if it starred Mathew Broderick and half the cast was White.

Preening is very important to Lefties and at a boxoffice haul of three quarter of a billion dollars world wide, there was a lot to preen about.  The Lion King proved to them that they could both virtue signal and make a shitload of money.  Everyone was delighted with the result.

Animator 1: So about Treasure Island in...

Eisner: No.  Look we have a really good thing going here with ethnically friendly animation,  Jim Hawkins in SPACE is not ethnically friendly because being English just ain't ethnic.

Animator 2: Well what if we make Jim...

Eisner: Not. Ethinic.  Also see if you can make it a Princess Movie.  Beauty and the Beast raked in north of 400 million world wide.  If we make an Ethnic Princess Movie we should crack a billion, easy.

Pocahontas, made 300 million world wide so it could hardly be viewed as a failure but when you are expecting a billion it's no reason to cheer either.

After a bit of soul searching Disney decided there was nothing wrong with their formula, it's just that the story didn't really give the protagonist a lot to do except be romanced by John Smith.  Yes, she was exploring her identity as a Native American Princess but she was almost a passive character in her own story.

Eisner:  Okay, we'll try this again but this time we need a more actively heroic Princess.

Animator 1:  What's in it for us?

Eisner (hangs head):  Make us money and I'll green light Treasure Planet.

After digging they came up with the more or less true story of Fa Mulan.

In Mulan the Disney Identity quest becomes the absolutely central MacGuffin that all other events are in service to.

Look at me
You may think you see
Who I really am
But you'll never know me
Every day
It's as if I play a part
Now I see
If I wear a mask
I can fool the world
But I cannot fool my heart
Who is that girl I see
Staring straight back at me?
When will my reflection show
Who I am inside?

From that time on, the formula would be set in stone.

It was a call to reject traditional values and adopt new ones.

This was a concerted effort to plant the seeds of feminism in little girl's minds.

And that is the answer to your question Beloved Reader.  That is what is wrong with Disney Identity movies.

*Beauty and the Beast was produced more or less concurrently with Aladdin and came out a year earlier. 

**The Thief and the Cobbler is yet another Hollywood tragedy.  Richard Miller really did work on this project for thirty years.  It had some of the most beautiful and amazing artwork ever drawn.  When Warner Brothers agreed to finance it to completion they assumed ownership of it.  When Miller went over budget they fired him and hired a completely talentless hack to finish it.  And that man just butchered it.

If you do take a look at it, keep in mind that ALL of this was done by hand.  There were no computers involved at all.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

GenCon 2018 May Be My Last

Pictured: Girls that weren't at GenCon this year

The  picture above is from 2014.  You would have had real trouble finding anything that hot this year.  I won't say there weren't a few good looking girls.  I distinctly remember seeing two of them.  But that was about it.

I took a few pictures of the kind of girls that were in costume this year and then decided I didn't want blind my readers. 

Bottomline: The Body Positive Movement has ruined Cosplay.  I have never seen so many gigantic asses shrink-wrapped in spandex in all my life.  There was a booth there, Beauty and the Geek, they sold bootie shorts with a superhero theme and proudly advertised that they had sizes from Sml to 5Xl.  Don't get me wrong, there have always been a few clueless cows, who show up every year looking for some attention from the eternally thirsty.   But 2018 was the first year that they were not only in the majority but the vast majority.

By day three the hot chicks had vanished entirely.

The GenCon dealer room is usually one of the big reasons to go but this year the dealers apparently heard that the horrible Trump economy had put money in peoples pockets and that they desperately needed help getting that stuff removed.  Everything was DisneyWorld prices. 

There was a pall over the whole thing this year.  The energy, which in truth is the real reason I go to GenCon, was gone.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out why that was.

Meet Gencon's Guest of Honor for 2018.  

Yep they went full SJW this year and made that thing the GOH, due to her contributions in gaming.  Despite the fact that she literally couldn't tell the difference between Doom and Fallout 4.  She's that much of a gamer.

When SJWs are in charge, everyone pretty much walks on eggshells.  They were feeling free enough to bring a bit of ANTIFA with them.  Jeremy Hambly, was sucker punched at bar in the wee hours of Thursday by some sad piece of shit card game designer who has developed a game that appears to actually be worse than Depression Quest.  So props for that asshole.

GenCon is owned by Wizards of the Coast and this is the year they have decided their SJW convergence is complete.  They have begun sneering at and giving the finger to their own customers.  

Next year, it's going to be DragonCon for me.

Thursday, August 9, 2018

Blogs and Ends: Star Wars News

At the insistence of basically everybody I will be watching, then reviewing Cobra Kai.  AFTER I plow my way through Dallas and Robo.  Which appears to be a comedy version of Cowboy Bebop with truckers instead of bounty hunters.  As a man who was a boy in the Seventies, Space Truckers are impossible for me to turn down.


Star Wars IX: The Fan Servicing.

Yes, I am aware of the true meaning of that last word and if you don't think it's an accurate description of what Lucasfilm wants to do us, you have no business being here.

The casting in this thing is ludicrous.

They are bringing back Carrie Fisher's electronic ghost, after swearing they weren't going to do that.  They have strong armed Mark Hamill (three picture contract) into being a Force Ghost and made the poor bastard take some pot shots at his own fans. Billy Dee Williams has been hauled out of his vat of formaldehyde so Lando can fuck the Millennium Falcon.  Fan favorite Rose Tico will be back as well.  And for some reason we get to see Maz Kanata once more, (honestly, I'd be more excited by an appearance by Dexter Jetster).  Finn will be there and since Anthony Daniels is still alive so will C-3PO.  And most hilarious of all, Captain Phasma apparently survived her latest humiliating beatdown and is scheduled to return as well.

Bottom line: everyone is going to be there despite the fact that a cast that huge can't advance a plot.*  There are also three new characters who are yet unnamed.  Keri Russel who is old enough to play Rey's Mom will be playing Rey's Mom.  Richard E. Grant will be playing someone evil because that is what he does now.

This thing is going to be as long as it is terrible because it's incredibly obvious just from the casting alone that they have no intention of telling a story.  It's just going to be three hours of call backs to the first trilogy.   Mind you, I can't blame Abrams for not telling a story, after the incompetent Rian Roundhead Johnson completely ruined all of the setups from The Force Awakens.

The interesting thing about The Last Jedi is that every time I think about it, I come up with new reasons to hate it. I was posed a question by an acquaintance at GenCon.  If The Last Jedi wasn't a Star Wars movie.  If everything and every character in it had had different names, would I have hated it as much?

The answer is not as much.  It was still a boring film with no sense of tone or consistency whatsoever.  But if it wasn't connected to the Star Wars universe, I would have yawned loudly during the middle of Canto Bight scene and left the theater.

But after a moment I came to the conclusion that if it hadn't been based on Star Wars it would never have been made in the first place.  There were story preconditions and suppositions you had to know about before the film started.  The Last Jedi can't even stand on it's own as a theoretical model of film craft.

In conclusion, Star Wars IX will undoubtedly be terrible but I don't see how it can beat The Last Jedi as the worst Star Wars film of all time.


Something for Gamers

Okay, I'm done here.

*Yes, I know, Avengers Infinity War.  Lets face it, J.J. Abrams is nowhere near that good.  Although if he steals the ending from that movie, then, yeah, I'll have to go see this one.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Cataline Does Not Recommend: Bioshock Remastered

REPOST from December 2016
Okay how many of you would inject yourself with a random bottle of Glowing Red Shit just because some guy on a radio, who you have never seen before, said you should? -- Cataline Sergius

Bioshock is now ten years old.  Wow, think about that for a second. That much time has crept up on us since the first Bioshock game came out.

2007 was a different world.  Twitter existed but no one was polluting the world with it  America had not yet endured the misery of a single day of Obama in the White House. You could still play Captain Kirk with a clam shell cell phone.  And PC gaming was on life support.

PC gaming was over back then.  Everybody knew it.  Consoles ruled the electronic highway with an iron hand. Game devs regarded the PC market as a back water that was clearly dying out.  You can't really say they were wrong either.

At that time PCs constituted about fifteen percent of the gaming market.  Enough that it was still worth porting games from consoles but not enough to pour resources into making games specifically for them. About the only original game I can think of that was a PC only release that year was Command & Conquer 3. (*Don't bother to correct me if I'm wrong.  I don't really care*) Everyone was convinced that PC games were dying out.  Given what they knew it wasn't a bad bet.

Games were designed and built with consoles and only with consoles in mind.  PC ports were clearly something that were deeply resented and performed only unwillingly.  When they were done at all.

Enter Bioshock.  A Game of the Year that no one on Earth plays anymore. There is more than one reason for that.

The 2007 PC port of Bioshock was a disaster.  While PC graphics were better than on consoles, who the fuck cared? Because it was almost impossible to make the bitch run.  Your only real hope for getting Bioshock to run reliably on a PC was to install it on a brand new computer and never do any updates...on anything.   I spent many an hour on gaming forums trying to find out what reconfiguration would finally do the the trick. I got to go through the usual infuriating ritual of seeing an exact description of my problem, a few suggestions offered and then the original poster saying, "nevermind, I fixed it." THREAD LOCKED

I eventually did get it to run by the way.  And played it through to the end a couple of times just to unlock the various endings.

Time passed and my disk copy got damaged.  So about three years ago I picked up Bioshock for a song on a Steam Sale.  Once again I couldn't get it to run and this time I said, "fuck it."

However, last week I saw a new tab next to my old Bioshock tab that said Bioshock Remastered.  It was free so on a whim I hit Install.

This time it actually loaded and ran without any trouble at all.  Which was a refreshing change.

What was not refreshing was the game itself.

Back in 2007 the Doom Clone had morphed into the much more console friendly FPS.  Speed and precision were replaced by cover tactics, due to the clunky, inaccurate and slow console controller. Fans of the PC Doom Clones got bored fast.

Gaming had other problems as well.  This is from my review of Bioshock Infinite:

Gamer Gate got it's start in the 1990s.  Gaming mags were taking off but had a major problem.  A typical review usually read something like, "This is a good game. I like it very much."  There would follow two or three pages of technical prattle and that would be it. 

Editors decided that they could either teach gamers how to write or teach writers to play games.  They made the wrong call.

Writers could learn to play games no problem but it would never be their passion.  Writers care about characters, plotting and story structure.  They find game mechanics dull and tedious. They liked good graphics though.  They were super keen on those.

Oh and left wing politics, so you had better have those too.

Consequently, they started reliably giving good reviews to games  with a good story line that leaned left and looked pretty. 

Bioshock passed these tests with flying colors.  I will grant that at the time I actually enjoyed the game.  The Anti-Randite politics were annoying but I so used to being bombarded by lefty messages I barely objected to them back in 2007.  

And the producers had clearly studied up on Rand.  It was a Cliff's Notes version of Objectivism by someone who clearly hated Objectivism but they got a lot of it right.  You can even make the argument (*weak as it is*) that Andrew Ryan's betrayal Objectivist philosophy was what lead to the fall of Rapture.    

There were attempts at making characters that were multi-dimensional.  Like the insane Sander Cohen who ruled Fort Frolic and would have made the Joker envious with his dedication to "Art." There was Ryan's close friend Bill McDonagh who eventually tries to kill Ryan to save Rapture and is executed for it.  Then there was Brigid Tenenbaum an Aspie-Russian-Jewish-Nazi-War Criminal, (*trying a bit hard there guys*) who eventually discovers her humanity through her maternal instinct.  
The second map is in some ways the most interesting part of the story.  As it traces the rejection of Ryan's atheism by the common workers for Christianity.  However, this is not and was never meant to be a Christian story.  The underground Christians are clearly to be viewed as desperate, ignorant and pitiable.  And you never hear about them again for the rest of the game.

The interesting thing about this game and indeed about all of the Bioshock games is that they are all about paternal relationships.  

And about Nihilism.  Let's not forget about that.  Atlas turned out to be just a conman who just wanted to take over the joint.  Never believe in anything is the battle cry of this series.

Bioshock isn't that a good game and that is the truth of it.  It's an FPS built with consoles in mind. The action is slow and clunky. The automatic regeneration feature makes the combat pretty much pointless.  The Adam/Plasmids thing may as well be magic.  The mini-games are just annoying.

But then it was never really meant to be a game, now was it?

Bioshock was always an interactive movie.  The game part just came along for the ride.

As for the Remaster itself.  They honestly didn't need to put the work into it that they did.  Just making the game actually playable would have been enough. However, they have sharpened up the graphics quite a bit. They added little things here and there, like starfishes on the walkways and a school of jellyfish that I don't remember being there.  And a walkthrough Museum of stuff that was cut in development. Also a director's commentary that I refuse to listen to on general principle.  None of this adds to or improves the gaming experience because it can't.  Bioshock is at it's core a weak game.

2007 will be a decade ago in about 30 days. Obama is about to vanish off the stage never to be heard from again. Almost every cell phone is now a computer.  And Computer Gaming not only isn't extinct it will have exceeded console game sales by a billion dollars this year.  Now everyone is murmuring about the looming death of the console.

 Steam has rebuilt the entire PC gaming market. There are independent games all over the place.  Tales from the Borderlands have drawn a deeper line between games and interactive movies. And you can find actual Doom Clones again. YAY!!!

I had to ask myself.  Is this why the rebuild of Andrew Ryan's world feel so unsatisfying?  And I decided, no, that wasn't it.  The reason I don't like it is much simpler.

Bioshock was never that good in the first place.  It was over rated because of it's Left wing politics.  That was what it really brought to the party.  That is what the media truly loved about it.  It was a simple, very easy game with hard left politics as it's core belief.

Cataline Does Not 

Monday, August 6, 2018

Anime is Great...It's the Fans That Suck: The Manga Years

It didn't matter.  There is a belief that stuff is cheaper in the PX which is vaguely and marginally true.   Back when everyone in the Exchange system was in uniform, (from the truck driver who picked up the merch at the factory to the guy at the cash register) because of that and regulation forbidding the Exchanges to turn to a profit, everything thing got sold to GIs at wholesale.  So, yeah back then real savings. 

By the time I was in, various greedy business men had managed to get all of that changed.  What was left of the Exchange system was a grossly inefficient government run monopoly.   We got charged MSRP for everything but since we were on a Federal Reservation, there was no local or state sales taxes.  Not that those bodies aren't constantly trying to figure out ways to do just that.

Regardless, I could tell that Anime had gone mainstream when it arrived in the PX (Technically the Marine Corps Base Exchange, for some reason we couldn't officially call it a PX even though we all did).  It was there for all of a week in 1996.  Then it vanished without a trace.

I knew exactly what had happened.  A General's wife had bought Ninja Scroll at the insistent pleading of one of her grandspawn...And then she watched it.

Banished without a trace.

I felt an odd sense of loyalty to Streamline Video.  Carl Macek's company had the air of a Little Guy Who Made Good about it.  Streamline dominated discussions about Anime in America.  What titles had they bought the rights to?  Why weren't they doing a reissue of Laputa?  When would they be releasing Wings of Honneamise (the answer to that last was, never, BTW)  That was because Streamline was the biggest frog in a small pond.  Until a genuinely big frog moved in.

I wasn't wild about Manga Video at first because there was just a whiff of the corporate raider about them.  They were moving in hard and moving in big.  I was in the position of some being some fanboy in the audience at First Avenue who was a fan of Prince long before anyone else had heard of him.

Silly reaction to be sure but there it was.  Manga had an actual distribution system in place was going to be selling their videoes at the standard market price of $19.99.  And there was no getting around it.  That was a lot cheaper than Streamline could manage.  Just a couple of years before they were charging $35.00 for everything (call it $60 dollars in today money).  Sure you wanted to buy, the real stuff but realistically you pretty much had to hope your local Blockbuster would carry it so you could then rent and pirate it.

So Manga had a big price break going their way.  But what they really had going for them were the best titles available in the 1990s.

Wings of Honneamise:  Was their halo-title.  It was repeatedly voted the best anime film of all time but various groups whose opinions really don't matter but I got to say they had a point here.  It's probably the best (hard) science fiction film of all time.  It's world is a very intricately constructed alternate history built around man's first flight.  But unlike in our world, this was a badly funded backwater of a military program.  It's members were few and dispised by the members of the of the real military.  It's primary plot concerned it's hero's quest to find a moral center.  It still holds up well today.

Macross Plus: This one must of hurt Carl Macek, You know he had to have wanted it.  It was a worthy successor to the original Macross series. At least when it was released.  In truth it hasn't stood the test of time.

Ninja Scroll:  Probably the most popular of all of their titles.  And it has to be said, it's understandable.  It was a first rate action film with characters who all had pretty decent story arcs. The action scenes were very influential through out the rest of the ninties and into the early double 0s.

Patlabor:  This one had a lot of everything going for it and it also seems to be the one that was completely forgotten about which is a crying shame.  I will grant it was a little hard to get into because all of the characters had been pre-established in an OVA series that was famous in Japan but hadn't made it to the USA at time of Manga's release of these two movies.  This title gets remade...a lot but the original is hard to find.

Ghost in the Shell:  Also very influential and of all of these titles it seems to be the one that has stood the test of time.

Don't get me wrong, they also carried some serious garbage.   Devilman comes irresistibly to mind.  But Manga Video was able to do what Streamline couldn't and brought Anime into the mainstream.

Today, Manga is like Streamline before it, a dead nameplate (at least in the US).  But for a while it was the king of the hill.