Friday, January 06, 2006

NES Review: Dig Dug

When it c omes to ultra classics, there's probably no one you ask that won't name Dig Dug. And all behold, the translation to the NES was pretty much flawless.

I'm not entirely square on the storyline of the game, but here goes all the same. Rhyme aside, you're some sort of subterranian explorer who's apparently awoken some nasty baddies. Armed only with his high-tech harpoon/air-pump, he digs around just below the surface, trying to inflate the baddies until they pop out of existance

Level after level, the baddies multiply and get faster. The dragon things alone are quite the pain, given their inate ability to shoot fire, and sometimes through a seemingly solid-enough wall of dirt. Alas, it can indeed go through, and it can really mess your day up.

One nice thing, though. You can totally pull a similar version of this tactic on them. If you dig 'almost' all the way through a thin spot, the monster will be prevented from getting at you, but you can still squeez your pump thing through and catch them when they walk up against the thin spot. Beware, though, for as you can see, the baddies have the ability to seeminly transmogrify and fly through dirt, materializing only when they reach a tunnel.

But fear not! They're still vulnerabile in this state, and a well-timed shot from your harpoon on crack will start them on the way to poppitude.

As you progress through the levels, the colors of the soil change, and rocks appear to assist you. If you dig directly under one and a baddie is chasing you at the right time, it'll fall and squish them out of existance. You don't get much point wise for that little maneuver, but hey, You can't argue when baddies die, and you get to up your count of flowers across the surface.

It's a common theme, I know. But kids these days are spoiled. Way back in the day, this game consumed our thoughts and our quarters, and back in the day it was buzzing, booping and popping on our TV screens. You can't mess with an ultra-classic, recognized as such the world over. If you can find an original upright cabinet, kudos on ya, because you have in your basement a part of gaming history.

When you needed a break from PacMan, Dig Dug was the way to go.

Dig Dug - NES - Action/Puzzle

Stop And Think

While it's been fun to watch the Nerd-frontation between Wil, Shane, AJ and Annie, sometimes we have to be reminded that underneath all the fun, life is plodding ever forward, and in the end, despite our humor or even our fame, we're all still human.

Sadly, Annie got some of that reality over the Holidays when she lost her step-mom to cancer. Before I go any further, I want to send my thoughts out to her entire family, and a huge hug as well.

But it's odd for me to do that, really. I'm instantly reminded of my Aunt Mardine's battle with cancer, which she sadly lost when I was in the 5th grade. Here was the world's most perfect person - Loving, caring, fun, always a joy to be around, never smoked, hardly (if ever, as far as I know) drank - reduced before my eyes to a frail woman in a cot in her living room. That. Sucked.

But Aunt Mardine isn't the only thought I have. You see, I still have both of my parents yet. And hearing about someone else close to my age losing a parent, well, it kind of makes you come face to face with the mortality of your own loved ones. I can't imagine a world without Jim an Cheryl Jacobson.

And it's very hard to write about it.

Just another one of the worries on my mind these days. I know I don't post as much here as I did on the Ranch, since most of my efforts are directed at Blog Prophyts. But it's one of the few things these days I can find that I can actually write about without fear of backlash. I really wish I could write more. Maybe someday I will.

It'll be a How-To on how not to live your life...

Evolving Beyond God

You've all heard it at least a hundred times. You know the story, the one where a bunch of kooks want something called "Intelligent Design" taught in schools. The kooks who whine and complain that "evolution is only a theory and hasn't been proven," and that life is so inherantly complex that it "must" have been designed by a higher power. A judge here in Pennsylvania saw it for what it really is: the Biblical (read: Chirstian) idea of Creation, done by the hand of their one and only God, thinly veiled behind a pseudo-scientific language that would make anyone with half a brain chuckle at it at best.

But still, the extreme Right Wing pushes ever forward, emboldened by their victory in Kansas. Even Kansans aren't in Kansas anymore as Creationism is being taught, under the guise of Intelligent Design, in schools thanks to a State School Board ruling on the matter. They're still trying to quash Evolution (a theory, yes, but one backed up by boat loads more evidence than just a book and blind faith). Why are they trying so hard?

Because they fear it. They know it holds more water. And one particular element of Darwin's theory scares them most of all.

Natural Selection.

Oh yeah, it applies to Humans, too. After all, we had Neanderthal man, which gave way to Cro-Magnon man.Cro-Magnon gave way to modern humanity over a short time, and we have in turn evolved into extremely sophisticated, technologically advanced and highly knowledgable versions of our former selves. Since the dawn of modern man, though, our evolution has been less physical and more mental. We've begun to use the power of the human mind and thought process to conquer things evolution would take millenia to overcome on its own, if the current rate were to hold firm.

The belief in a "supreme being" might have worked in a time when humans failed to grasp the reality of the world around them, when we were just beginning to understand what it was we were dealing with. Humans are prone to fearing things they don't quite understand. Early on, it was the elements: fire, lightning, severe storms and natural disasters. Why did these things happen?

"God is angry with us!" the cloth would cry. "We must be more obedient!" Bang. Instant social control. Preying off of human fear in order to establish power for the select few.

But then, we began to understand. Slowly, yes. But failed sciences like Alchemy led to the true science of Chemistry. Philosophy gave way to modern rational thought. Mathematics were used to give things order and explain more complex principles. While mythology still held great influence, we were slowly beginning to understand our world, and by default, becoming less fearful of it as well.

Back then, it was accepted belief that, as God's supposed children, we were at the center of the universe: Everything, including the Sun and Moon, revolved around us. "Not so," said people who sat down and gave it some thought. "We revolve around the sun, as do the other planets we know about!"

"Heresy!" cried the Church! "We are arrogant and believe ourselves to be just that special!"

Now, try and tell someone today that everything in the universe revolves around the Earth. What do you think their response will be? I'll bet dimes to dollars your ass will get pointed and laughed at, and that person will run and tell the better part of the Milky Way galaxy what a complete retard you are.

Why? Science. Things that were once decried as Heresy were challanged as Theory and proven as Accepted Fact through Science.

Once upon a time, people thought the Earth was flat. This had nothing to do with Religion, other than the fact that the people who believed this shared this common flaw with Religion: Ignorance.

"Not so," said Christopho Columbo (Christopher Columbus), "I bet I can sail to China and India by going west!

"You're nuts," said the people. But the Queen financed him, and he sailed. He didn't know there were two continents in the way, and that the northern one had been discovered hundreds of years before by Scandinavians. That in turn led to the journey of one Ferdinand Magellan, the first man to circumnavigate the Earth, proving that it was, indeed, round.

Science scored a secular victory, challanging with Theory and proving as Accepted Fact.

God (and like him, Allah, Zeus, etc.) has always been thought to live in the "heavens above." Back then, we didn't understand the sky too much, because we simply couldn't get up there by ourselves. Traditional religious teachings on death always talk about our souls "ascending into heaven." This would constitute a rise. Sure, now you can say that its a metaphore for moving from this world to the next, not litterally up. But back in the day, that was the accepted truth. God lived in the skies.

"Not so," say the scientists. "Above us is an atmosphere, which contains the air we breathe. And beyond that is a seemingly endless void of nothing, pockmarked by things like rocks and big burning balls of gas, with no breathable air to speak of!"

"Heresy!" Again the Church tried to keep its stranglehold on an unsuspecting and uneducated people.

And again, the Church was challanged by Theory, and eventually proven as Accepted Fact when we developed the power to leave the Earth and travel beyond the clouds.

Walk up to anyone today and tell them that God has a mansion in the clouds, right up there (pointing to a random cloud) all for you when you go to meet him. At the very least, you'll get brushed off with a sigh, a smile, and the rolling of your subject's eyes.

Why? Science.

"But... But... But... The Earth is only 6,500 years old, and people lived alongside dinosaurs, which Noah had on his Ark, and..."

"Not so!" Science has proven that the Earth is a metric assload older than just six and a half millennia.

New trains of thought are replacing old, outdated trains of thought.

Mental Natural Selection.

This is why the Church is afraid. This is why they're trying to exert their influence in this manner. It's a last ditch effort to save itself from becoming obsolete. Darwin's "theory" of Natural Selection states that the weaker version of something dies off as the stronger version comes to dominate. Religion is an ages-old concept based on fear. Science has grown by leaps and bounds, especially in the last 200 years. In that time, Science has undercut Religion time and again, and has come to a point where it is ready to overtake its predicessor as the dominant train of thought.

The extreme Right knows it, and they're trying one last time to sound the cry of "Heresy" by being sneaky and trying to duck around a provision, written into the Constitution by the God-fearing founders of this country, specifically designed to discourage the promotion of a single religion. After all, this country was founded on Religious Freedom, not to be a single-faith theocracy with that faith's doctrines taught on a mandatory basis.

Sorry, Fundies. But schools are paid for by Tax Dollars. Tax Dollars are collected and distributed by The Government. And The Government isn't allowed to get involved in Religion thanks to The Constitution of the United States. That's why your Churches don't pay any Tax Dollars. No Tax Dollars, no Influence. And just in case you thought Seperation of Church and State is nowhere implied in that great Constitution of ours, here it is in white on black:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.
That pretty much covers it. If the US Constitution says that the US Congress can't do it, you've got a problem. No State can override the Constitution. And Congress can't override it, either. Seriously. Are you going to commit political suicide by trying to ammend the Bill of Rights?

You see, Public Schools are just that. Schools run by Public Funding. Teaching the Christian idea of Creationism, over the Theory of Evolution or any other Religious idea, is the sponsoring of one particular brand of religion using Public (Government) funds. It's unconstitutional.

In short, you're going to fail. Again. And this time, your attempt to use Science's strategy against it by attacking instead of being attacked first, will be the final nail in your coffin. Say a prayer for yourselves. The next "victim" of Natural Selection is you...

Thursday, January 05, 2006

And So It Begins...

In a half hour, I'll be somewhere I really don't want to be right now. But I can't avoid it. That's what sucks.

For what will most likely end up being the next four hours, I'll be sitting in a huge room, shaking like a leaf, sweating to beat the band and trying (most likely in vain) to keep my sanity, or what little of it I have left.

A bit of advice: Card.

Monday, January 02, 2006

NES Review: Q*Bert

Ahhh, the classics. You can't fade them at all, and they never really go away. There once was a time when we pumped quarters into arcade cabinets like heroine junkies shoot smack. These games were addicting, even with their simple gameplay structures and concepts. Mention the word Arcade to anyone and a select few names will come immediately into their minds: Pac Man. Qix. Q*Bert.

Ahh, Q*Bert. Lord knows what he is. Basically, he's a hushpuppie with legs, a dust buster-sized schnoz, two huge eyes, and a potty mouth. Yep, that's right, Q*Bert cusses like a sailor in port after six months at sea. But hey, all you right-wing fundie game haters, you don't have to worry. Q*Bert's vulgar display of ouch is limited to a few choice symbols and a bit of medium-high pitched mumbling.

The premise is simple: Maneuver Q*Bert up and down the pyramid, changing the colors of all the available steps to the desired color. Simple, right? Wrong. You've got plenty of problems while you're jumping around, but thankfully, a bitch ain't one. You do, however, have to worry about bouncing balls which will land on your head and induce a swearing fit that would make R. Lee Emery blush. But balls aren't the only things out to get your... your... hushpuppie with legs. There's Coiley, the tweaked out purple snake who thinks he's a Tigger. He'll actually track you down and mush you, so you'd best watch out.

Gravity is your enemy here, but your enemies don't always abide by the laws of Issac Newton. Say hello to Ugh and Wrong-Way, two two-dimensional beings working in three dimensions with one-dimensional minds. They'll hop on the sides of the pyramid's cubes, swiping and clawing at you as they pass. But fear not, for there is a method of escaping all this purple-pixeled peril.

Flying discs are positioned at the sides of the levels, and hitching a ride on one will send you to the top of the pyramid. If Coiley is in hot persuit, he'll bail off the side, netting you some bonus points. There's also the little green ball. Snag it and your enemies will momentarily freeze, allowing you to take care of your business before you go hopping mad or get out of a tight space.

Green isn't always good, though. There are Slick (with the shades) and Sam (with the hair), two green teardrop guys who will reverse the colors of the blocks you've covered, forcing you to go back and do them over. Fortunately, though, these two can't kill you, and you get a few extra points if you catch up and tag them.

OK, so Tomb Raider it ain't. But hey, if you're a sucker for geometry and odd controller angles, then Q*Bert is right up your alley. The NES version is a nearly faithful port of the Arcade classic.

Q*Bert - NES - Arcade Port

Bringing Jeebus To New Media

While working on the other blog today, I noticed something interesting in the ads served up by my connection to Google AdSense.Um, Yeah. I figured it was some sort of site like mine, which is sly and rather critical of the Right Wingnuts. Instead, I find the opposite. Welcome to Sermonade: Bringing new media to a pulpit near you.

So they finally figured out how to snare the kids. It's common knowledge that, since the dawn of the medium, television has been the great babysitter, entertainer, and part-time educator (if kids are smart enough to flip off of Yu-Gi-Oh! for a few mintues to watch something cool on Discovery) of legions of kids. Hell, there's an entire TV Generaion, and the offshoot MTV Generation to boot! They were glued to their sets, and that has carried over to their own kids. Now more than ever, kids are bombarded by media imagery: Crystal clear digital audio and video are only the next step as the Internet Generation takes over.

Kids like the fast moving images. Kids like the flair of slick animation, and the sense of cool they get from doing full motion video on their computers. They eat up anything the media throws at them. Just look at the Kidz Bop! CDs, Bratz, Pokèmon... All of it crap, but all of it generates billions of dollars for their respective trademark and copyright holders.

And now, religion is getting into the game. Gone are the traditions of the past (thank whoever, some of those are so dated it's not funny -- hello Catholics!), and God is moving into the 21st centry. If you ask me, that's just further proof that God is a figment of the Human imagination. He keeps evolving to suit the needs of the Church (those who control the flow of God) in parallel with the evolution of Society.

Look. There's really no need to "spread the word." That's part of the reason history - and yes, modern times - is so peppered with conflict and drama. Religion is still the leading cause of war and death throughout history; It even beats smoking. It inspired three invasions of Palestine (dubbed "The Holy Land" thanks to some scribblings in a 2,000 year old storybook), including one attempted by children that ended in disaster before they ever left Europe. It has cause a radical faction of Islam to fly planes into buildings, killing thousands. It has caused such a rift in American political and social structure that people are bombing abortion clinics and starting extreme fundamental incursion attempts aimed at our modern laws.

Don't even begin to tell me that God is the answer. The way and the truth and the life. It's more like the myth, the falsehood, and the lie. And look what its making you do. Spread the virus and cause the pain. It's that conflict that drives the worlds problems these days. Spreading the virus simply prolongs the war, and I don't mean just the war in Iraq.

Filling kids minds with this stuff makes this all the more sick. You want your kids to be so pure, so innocent and oblivious to the world for as long as you can. You shield them from the "bad images and words" and stifle their development as individuals and human beings. And then you brainwash them by telling them that this fairy tale bullshit is the absolute truth. Who are they to question their parents? They adopt the parents' belief system instead of figuring out their own on their own time.

Look. I'm all for freedom of religion. If you want to believe, believe. But please, do it as an individual. Not everyone wants to share your faith, your message, and the pseudo-sense of joy that you get from thinking that there's this wonderful happy place your soul goes when you die. Some people have conflicting opinions, and you've just got to learn to deal with that. And for God's sake (Ha) please: Leave the kids out of it.

You want them to be truely innocent? Then don't pass on to them the blood on your hands, passed down to you through the generations of hell and damnation that Religion has brought upon the face of this planet.