Tuesday, October 25, 2011

#44 -- The 2011 Halloween Survival Guide

BY THE WAY: An updated version of this column, and all of our other reviews, can be found on our new official site: http://www.ghostlittle.com/ No ads, no Google bullshit, just content. [The 2011 Halloween Survival Guide]

". . .we've never seen a girl go as a sexy-marmot, but, c'mon, that's a total double-whammy. You'll be all, 'Nice marmot.' And she'll be all, 'I'm a sexy-marmot!' Allow it!"

Halloween is a special day that brings out a person's full potential. The competition is intense and you either step your game up or you die, probably in a gutter or in a vat of acid or crushed in a glass-recycling machine. Normally, people are complacent and restrained, uncreative and sleepwalking. Not on Halloween though! No, no, you party at a post-graduate level of child-like euphoria on Halloween. More universal and fuzzy than Mardi Gras, it's the Super Bowl of partying, and fuck you if you say anything about New Year's Eve! All you have to do is show up on New Year's -- it's an exhibition game. They let the pine-riding scrubs come out to play on New Year's. Most of those people will get cut from the party team before the regular season even starts.

No, you have no choice but to show up with your game face on for Halloween. There is no avoiding it. It's the holiday you can actually, truly, legitimately enjoy without suffering contempt for other people, family members, religions, or whatever (more on the religion thing later though). All you need is a decent quantum of liquor and a straight-bangin' costume. 

Halloween is time-compression. Halloween is being fired out of a nostalgia cannon into a frozen margarita and after you land and make yourself comfortable, you get to talk to Julius Caesar, Han Solo, a mermaid, Batman, a girl in a unitard, a mime, Troy Polamalu, Mia Wallace, and, let's say, a coked-out, pre-crisis George W. Bush. Were you ever twelve years old? Did you enjoy being twelve years old? Did you also enjoy college? How about adulthood? On Halloween, for one night only, all the things you that love are coming back for reunion concert. Abe Lincoln is still alive! So are all the members of The Beatles! And Dostoevsky is back and he's handing out apologies for being an old, hideous Russian fucker! And all this stuff is happening again all at once!

Again, all you need is tip-top costume. A good Halloween costume can be difficult to come by, and by all means, if you have a good one, go for it! Seriously, people love punny costumes and outfits that are jokes unto themselves. Simple shit like taping single-serving cereal boxes and paper knives to your shirt -- add some ketchup, and boom, you're a serial killer. That said, you can also have no fucking clue what to do, and that's where we come in. While kicking around ideas for Halloween costumes up in the third-floor conference room at What's That From Headquarters (WTFHQ), we realized that if you can't come up with anything right off the bat, you should begin your brainstorm with this one rule in mind:
"Will this costume help me survive the apocalypse?"
It's a pretty easy litmus test to keep in the back of your head as you pull your costume together. The facts are these: Halloween is a limited engagement. Halloween is a battlefield. You're going to be dealing with harsh environments, long walks, varying temperatures, October weather, drunk sluts, and combative cosplayers that think they suddenly can fight like Cloud Strife. Nice sword, buster.

On this night, it's the party at the end of the world. It's Escape From LA. Be like Snake Plissken. Be ready. You need to go into this night prepared for every contingency and you need your costume to be just as ready. Here's how you survive an apocalyptic Halloween like Kurt Russell himself:

First, you need to be able to maneuver. Like a ginned-up ninja. This means no bulky box-costumes. Avoid extraneous wings if you can and go easy on excessive streamers or unattached mummy-bandages. We had a friend in college that we were able to track across campus because he was molting toilet paper off of his costume. It wasn't even like The Last of the Mohicans, "The grass is bent, he slept here recently" bullshit -- it was, "Hey, look, a swath of destruction and Costco toilet paper. Yup, check it, he vomited here, the vodka's still cold." 

Two of our friends went as a mousetrap and a washing machine, respectively, a few years ago and they were fantastic costumes to be sure. But what if they'd gotten stuck in an elevator on the west side or wedged between two couples groping at each other on a couch at some party? Then where would they be? In an inadvertent five-way, that's where. Five-ways are only legal in Utah, which is ironically the only state that has outlawed Halloween. Therefore, rule one is maneuverability. If you're dressed as Deadmau5, it'll be hard to run, negotiate a crowd, or fight off a Level-5 Stagger-Bro that can deal poison AOE-damage and confusion if he breathes on you. Being able to dress up as Optimus Prime would be awesome, but wearing a cardboard box will do more harm than good, so if you can avoid it, be built to hustle.

If it were the apocalypse, you would want to be able to outrun the deluge of Portuguese Fuck-Demons (see fig. 1) that are set to be unleashed -- same goes for Halloween. 

(fig. 1)

Second, layer your costume. This means that you should try to incorporate a jacket or even a hat into your actual costume. Or gloves. Gloves help almost all Halloween costumes. They add something -- heat, mostly. And they make you feel like Jason Statham.

You're going to be facing all kinds of outdoor temperatures in late October. Conversely, you're also going to be indoors and getting into drunken dance-offs for a lot of it too. If you're a baller and don't mind the cold as much, you can deal with wearing long sleeves indoors and out, and that's fine, but don't take off the upper layer of your costume because it gets too hot at the party and all of a sudden, you're just a medieval knight with tin-foil sword and a t-shirt from your team-building retreat in 2003. You want the ability to put on and take off layers and still be in costume at all times. Be conscious, survival is priority one at the party at the end of the world.

Another thing, avoid having any accessories that you have to carry. Travel light and keep your hands free in case you need to engaging in fisticuffs with a Disney Princess-swarm or a tequila-soaked T-Rex. This means you don't want any armaments that you can't holster or strap to your shoulders. We're talking staffs, wands, guns, swords, guns that are also swords, pet birds, bows & arrows, hatchets, and buckets. Exception: canes. Canes are an exception because you don't actually hold them and you're going to need something to lean on. Guaranteed. Also, canes are fucking dapper as shit, which is a good veneer to fail over to if you're waffling on a costume. Jauntiness is next to godliness. Plus, if you're carrying a cane, it gives you a non-essential something to be stolen from you.

That's a good thing.

If your costume ends up destroyed by the end of the night, you're doing it right. Like a Delorian being hit by a train, your costume is an infernal contraption, and it must be destroyed as soon as you've gotten yourself safely back to 1985. For obvious reasons, you'd best not have any actual sentimental attachment to anything you're wearing. The apocalypse only lasts for one night, then it's back to reality (oh, there goes gravity). If something is lost or left behind, be glad -- yeah, that's right, you had a cane, but no big deal, some girl stole it back at the last party and said she'd track you down and club you to death with it at the second party. See, now you have an in with her! (Guys really need that ice-breaker, right? (Can we get a "Heey-Yo!" up in this business?) Men are awkward and simple, and the threat of violence is the only thing they can process cleanly.) Nevertheless, you want your costume to gradually dissolve. Nobody likes a drunk, fully-costumed lobster after midnight. You should be molting stuffing and eating your own claws by 9:30. Who gets more cred? Somebody riding the train on November 1st dressed like a ninja turtle, or a somebody wearing knee-high green socks, missing a shoe, carrying nunchucks, and fixing their orange headband?

Masterfully-executed segue to the drunken-hookup subject. It's true, more relationships being on Halloween than any other day (Source: years on this planet). Sure, those relationships usually don't make it to New Year's (We want to say something to New Year's, if we could. Hey, New Year's, go drink poison!!), but that's not for months, so what the shit do you care? It's Halloween and you're bringing your A-game. You're here for that girl. You know, that one over there. The one dressed like a rodent. Seriously, ladies, why such bizarre sexy-animals? Sexy-mouse? Sexy-cat? Sexy-butterfly? Sexy-marmot? Okay, we've never seen a girl go as a sexy-marmot, but, c'mon, that's a total double-whammy. You'll be all, "Nice marmot!" And she'll be all, "I'm a sexy-marmot." Allow it!

And don't try to subvert the stereotype. Please. Don't try to make a statement and go as a sexy-moray eel or some shit. This goes for guys and girls alike trying to create costumes that comment on the Halloween-industrial-complex. Would you fucking smile for once? Have some respect for the sanctity of this beloved American past-time built on sexual frustration, sugar, and libidinous manipulation.

In all honesty though, there is a lot of leeway in the Halloween gender-politics and it caters to almost every audience, prudes and man-whores alike. Want to hook up with some rando dressed like red riding hood? Do it. That girl is out there. Want to use Halloween as an excuse to build up the courage to finally talk to that boy you like, maybe get a little real, maybe get a little strange? Get after that. Sin your pants off. You can use Halloween's powers for good and for evil when it comes to this kind of shit. If it really were the end of the world, it'd be nice to have somebody to watch it blow up with. You can be a little different on October 31st.

However, you are NOT the person you are dressed as. You have not become that person. You have not become one of the guys in LMFAO if you picked-out your hair and slapped some fuck-ugly shades on your face. Don't sing along to the words in Party Rock Anthem -- those men are not singing and they are not saying words. And they are not men. But it is possible that they're the only people on earth able to compose the musical genre known as "Party Rock," and we really do not exaggerate on that. Oh, but back on topic, keep in mind that you have not inherited Thor's personality or lightning powers, should you wrap a towel around your shoulders, do some push-ups, and fashion a pretty sick Mjolnir replica out of a gallon-sized Poland Springs bottle, two shades of duct tape, and an old veal mallet. You have not become Barney Stinson because you've put on a suit and bleached you hair. 

You cannot become Don Draper

Put on the costume, smoke your cigarette if you must, and get on with your night.

In fact, the only costume that you can inherit abilities from is the plain-clothes + goatee version of yourself -- Mirror, Mirror-You only works at a party that's mostly your close friends, so use it sparingly. Once executed though, you are licensed to drop into character and act like a total fucking nut-sucker for once -- or, conversely, a decent human being. We're looking at you, Cabatingan! 
Next, have a few explanations for your costume. You don't want to tell somebody what you're dressed as, then have to go into an entire explanation about who Inspector Tequila is and how he once killed a dozen guys while holding a baby and fuck you for not knowing your Hong Kong cinema! No, you need an alternative. If anybody asks, you are not just Inspector Tequila, you're a Triad-head, a Chinese gangster, never mind the fact that Chow Yun Fat was a cop in Hard-Boiled, not a criminal. You're already right and they're wrong, so, whatever. Fuck 'em. If it takes too long to explain what a Triad is, just say you're an enraged clarinet player. All the best Inspector Tequila costumes include a clarinet, despite its violation of the no hand-held accessories rule. 

Unless you somehow strap a clarinet to your back. That will end up raising even more questions. And it will be uncomfortable to sit down.

Oh, also, wear good shoes. An accessory to the maneuverability clause. You might have to walk or dance a lot. You don't want to be stuck in heels or ski boots.

Ignore the "War on Halloween." There's a War on Halloween now? Jesus on ice-skates, you've got to be kidding us. Is it the pagan thing? It's the pagan thing, isn't it? Because of Halloween's pagan proximity, it's bad. Alright, then cancel Christmas -- yes, we are playing that card. It's an old card, it's dirty like thrice-used Sumatra grounds at a Seattle coffeehouse, and it smells like cat pee. We play it now. Cancel Christmas. Cancel that pagan December holiday that celebrates giving and familial happiness in the cold months. While you're at it, cancel the Fourth of July. The guys that founded America wanted this big damn country to be based on a complete governmental separation from the Christian church. What a bunch of enlightened agnostic dickfucks.

Finally, don't dress up as something offensive. Go as something offensive -- and clever! Don't go as Steve Job's ghost -- go as a bricked iPhone. Go as Siri (either have her queued up to answer questions, or be smart enough to come up with your own). Go as something offensive-adjacent. That way, you get the panache of being funny and current while not offending that dude or lady you're trying to bang.

Because debauchery and maliciousness is all that October 31st stands for, right?

And that's really all there is to it. Go forth and conquer! See you at Thanksgiving. 

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-- Doberman
on Twitter  |  @GhostLittle_WTF

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

#43 -- The Organ

"Everything was terrible and none of it was true."

A lot was said in that shortened minute and the problem was that the Organist couldn't hear what the whispering men were saying further up ahead. Then again, if he had, he was sure that they would have stopped him, and everybody else, all just to talk to him alone. No, the whispering men stayed in their invisible voices, looking back at the Organist and carrying on with their conversation as they led the tramp party onward, parting the wire-branches that reached and bent at their arms and legs. They had begun their walk what he estimated was a few miles back inside the hollowed-out crater that harbored their boats and their road had been smooth the entire way with packed mud that left no tracks. The line kept in single-file, two prisoners, then one of the whispering guards, two more prisoners, then so on in the same order. Hungry and weakened, nobody tried to run, even though they weren't bound in any manner to speak of. Their restraints were much simpler. The sky-red rocks reminded the Organist where he was and the air he was breathing would no doubt hold him back, hardening his lungs like treated horse-hair. The oxygen was too hot, he knew he couldn't escape, not right now, and the whispering men hadn't talked to him yet and he wanted to keep it that way.

Caged wasn't where he wanted to be but it was where he needed to be. He needed time. It was the only resource he had and he wasn't going to give up that advantage up by making enemies. He wasn't going to give up anything. He needed time and answers. He would be ready and he would fight at a moment of his own choosing.

At the end of the path, they came to the ledge that overlooked the shallow valley, an expansive view accommodating a lazy, fatigued mind, drawing focus away from the darker edges down to the dominant, shaking white structure at the center. The rest stared and the Organist immediately tilted his face away and put it in the corner of his eye, not turning his back, but not looking. Even at his vision's edge, he saw that hulking, repugnant thing had rhythm, expanding, growing out, then it shrank back into itself, contracting, and that made the Organist think that surely he was either imagining things or that the building was, in a way, breathing, and when he thought this, he looked cautiously to the structure's incomplete foundation. People were at its base, working. The buildings on the valley's edge were dark and they were covered with thin, semi-black ash. These low-buildings were only two stories but there were gargantuan tubes or vents of some kind that were much taller all along the surrounding rim and they stood silent, their sources traceable back to the valley's center. They were made of metal and they shook harder and more visibly the closer they came to the white structure. All of them fed back to the middle.

A whispering man motioned to one of the prisoners. After a hesitant moment, the prisoner tilted forward, waited a second or two, maybe hoping to no avail that the suggestion would become a verbal demand, and he complied at last and walked forward and he was told something when they took him aside. The Organist scraped his fingernail on the pen in his pocket while he watched this man whisper in the prisoner's ear. When they were done, the prisoner faced the rest of them, mouth partway open so it looked like he might talk. There was a complete disconnect between what he wanted to say and what he had to say.

He gulped air first and his mouth hung even after he'd stopped breathing. It looked like he was in a little bit of pain and his skin started to crack and his lips had begun to bleed.

There was a semi-conscious moment and in a tightened, quiet voice, the man said, "You will build the organ." And then, slowly, but with no caution, he began taking steps backwards away from the rest of them. The whispering men watched them all watch him. 

The prisoner would not look over his shoulder. He wasn't allowed. His face was pointed straight at the Organist when his heel caught on the ledge's edge, his soul snatching back his eyes and his heart for a final second to say a hurried goodbye and he was gone. The Organist held back, watched him fall right back with a torn half-yell, the first audible noise in ages was all gone so suddenly and right then, more than anything, the Organist forced himself not to exhale too quickly. It made his body shake a little and his mouth filled with spit. 

Don't do it. Keep your body still. 

Then, as always, he was trying to avoid the whispering men's attention.

Time went. The top of every day meant that the whispering men would bring them from the low-buildings that were made from brittle wood and mud and they would bring them to where they would work. The labor would last until they were told it was done and they would be returned without warning back to the low-buildings in the valley perimeter. A blind young man lived in the valley and his window faced the building that the Organist was placed into, so they would talk when they could, which wasn't very often. The blind young man was a good storyteller, a nice change from the others, who would rarely say anything at all, and the Organist felt it was better to keep talking than to remain quiet, even in a place like this, even in a place that thrived on quiet.

"What's your name then?" the blind young man asked when they first met.

"Me? That's an easy question. Like everybody else around here, my name is Nobody," the Organist said. "Just, Nobody. For now. For a while, I suppose."

"Clever," the blind young man chuckled, knowing the lie's origin, and not caring, he asked, "So does that make me Polyphemus?"

"Only if I was the one that blinded you."

Time was difficult for the Organist to follow. When the minutes were in a row, things felt alright, but when he thought about things later, trying to remember what that happened, how he had gotten from just over there to right here, the minutes felt shortened. The sun hung in one corner of the sky and it stayed there at all times and there was no night, just times when they were told to work and times when they were allowed to rest and they could talk, if they did so quietly. Curiosity eventually got the better of him and the Organist asked Polyphemus why he thought the sun was like that here.

Polyphemus placed his hand inside the Organist's mind in response and pressed on a part of his brain that wasn't familiar and he said in his paced, gradual cadence:

"Listen to me closely. Listen and understand, if you would. In the universe, there is only one thing that needs to happen. 

"Once, the center of the universe flung creation outward when it realized its energy had become dead. Light reached out as far as it could, slowly. This dead energy, once part of the center, which is called the Arc, needed to gather itself back up. Matter and creation strengthens itself.

"Energy needs purpose. Dead energy creates a void. The Arc spins the energy in and out, this is the only thing that needs to happen, Nobody.

"In this place, this valley, there is a precise focal point through which a particular DNA code can focus a particular audio frequency pattern, and that will be the signal to the Arc that the universe is ready, that the energy is no longer dead. A certain member of the human species, on this one planet, reciting a certain sound may seem random, but it only seems random if you aren't looking for it or if you don't have time to look. Don't be surprised that this just happened to be possible on a planet as significant as ours, or that the circumstances happen to be as specific as sound and deoxyribonucleic acid -- just a macromolecule holding together some chromosomes, really. This planet is both vital and insignificant, just as the right sounds and the right chemistry are both useful and inconsequential in the entirety of the universe. It isn't good timing, or fate, or coincidence, it's chance -- a mighty chance. A million-million galaxies have come close to satisfying the exact conditions across spans of time insignificant to the human mind and chaos exists to give energy the time it needs.

"Out here, in the expanse, there are pieces.

"Out here, in the expanse, the energy is cycling, restoring itself, creating life, creating chaos, and waiting to be breathed and if you believe this, then listen closely, Nobody, perhaps you'll be surprised, and if not, you can always go back. You can always go back.

"There is no way to tell if the Arc understands life. Life's significance is different to each entity, each person that stands beside it. The Arc can't see life the way a human does, but that does not mean the Arc is wiser simply because it thinks slower and it does not mean the Arc is greater because it lives longer. Necessity changes but it can always be proven true. What is necessary is the identification and endurance of understanding the energy that makes the life beside you significant.

"Those that upset your ability to identify value are themselves either incapable or afraid to place values themselves. What is happening here is happening to you, Nobody. You are not deaf though, nor are you mute. If you are focused and confident and fearless -- and these are not things that you can enact upon yourself by a force of will, but rather intangibles crafted by memory and time and places -- then this one place, this terrible valley, they will be the days that pour energy into you. You must have the strength to see and the strength to understand.

"You can always go back. You can always go back to fear and indifference, Nobody. Or you can live -- and take it all in, why don't you?"

The Organist lowered himself down and slept on the floor in the dust. 

"If you want to escape this place," Polyphemus remarked to the Organist the next day, "You will have to go to that structure they're building at the center."

"If I wanted to escape this place, I'd starve myself to death and die," the Organist retorted. "No, when I leave this place, I doubt it will be because I want to or when I want to. But if I'm going to live long enough for that to happen, things are going to need to change, my friend."

Knowing that his work was done, Polyphemus' voice followed his eyes, and words left him altogether a day or two later, all to the pleasure of the whispering men who abhorred the noises. Gone but hardly lost. It was the Organist who was given a new voice and he began to fight with the whispering men whenever he had the chance, knowing that his friend had become silent for a reason and he would not abide dishonor against his wisdom. There was no compulsion in him to play it quiet anymore. These confrontations were few at first and then increased in frequency. The whispering men were usually too many and the Organist was not armed, unless if he managed to lay his hands on a rock or mortar brick and he was able to sometimes, occasionally drawing blood on them, his own blood being drawn was a given. In the muddy hole they threw him in, down below the reach of light and sound, the Organist continued to listen and continued to live.

Everything was terrible and none of it was true. 

The time continued to go and he began to believe that not all of the whispering men were content. Once, after the Organist had spent lengthened hours in the hole, he saved one of them from slipping in. The edges had been slippery. He could have let him fall, the hole was down below the reach of light and sound, but he didn't, he caught his arm without hesitating. The whispering man was thankful and on his next visit after getting another fight, the Organist cajoled some words out of him.

The whispering man's words were, "Well, why do you think we're here?" and he said then in a normal tone. "For many years, I believed it was because we were building the structure to please the King. I don't believe that anymore. That isn't the real reason. We're here to be punished. All of us. Look at how we whispering men punish you. We do it because the whispering men punished us when we were your age." 

The Organist nodded, understanding in an instant. "Has it always been bad? Was it ever good?" 

"It's worse than you think," he went on. "Somehow, in this place, the most hurtful things gravitate towards specific people -- the things that will hurt you the most find you. We look for them ourselves. They find us. We accept it -- that they're there. Here, weaknesses are discovered and drawn up. You've seen some people be starved. That is what hurts them the most. Some are abused physically. To them, there is no greater shame to them than to be beaten. Others are attacked mentally or emotionally because that is how they are most fragile. I've taken eyes and I've taken tongues and broken bones and spirits. Everything here happens for a reason and everything is always happening, no matter how chaotic it may seem. It is all arranged, all prepared, all exacted, all that is given will be twisted away. We want it. If we stopped, this place would die and all the hurt up until now would be for nothing, and the King wouldn't have his aria."

"The aria. Do you know where the aria comes from?"

"It comes from the arrangement. The single sound, the aria, will be sung in the structure, in this opera house, when it is completed. That is its purpose." The whispering man pointed to the tubes and vents that ran from the white structure, out to every corner of the valley and up, towering high and releasing visible, hot air jets. "At the right time, the opera house and the Organ will be assembled and the King will release the Soprano who will sing the aria exactly as it must be sung and then we will be done here."

"Where can I find the Soprano?" the Organist asked right away.

The whispering man smiled. "Every twenty-three hours, the Soprano is given one to wander the streets and then is forced back. I don't know what the Soprano looks like, nobody does, but if you were to look, I believe you could get lucky."

"Perfect. I'll just make sure I remember to look. And to get lucky." 

"Remember to breathe," the whispering man reminded and it made the Organist stop to think for a second, which gave the man the chance to add, "Just remember. Now that you're looking, now that you've gotten these ideas into your head about why you're here and why things are like this here -- you're going to start noticing things. You'll start seeing nothing. Or you might start feeling suspicion. The universe is smaller than you realize. It's closer than you realize."

The Organist considered the whispering man's advice for about five minutes and then left, walking in long strides and quarter-thoughts until it started to rain and he was forced to seek shelter. This might give him trouble. The water was hurled down to the ground and it came with wind and lightning that pranced and barbed the sky, faster and brighter than anything he'd ever seen, all of it veiling the hard-yellow sun and replacing it with shocking flashes, exchanging black with white and back again. There was no thunder, just rolling images clipping the visible to the invisible. They came together and then came apart. The air changed and control was loosening. It was losing to the chaos.

There were things to consider. The weather brought calamity and nobody noticed him moving with ease about the muddying paths between the buildings. The idea was clear in his head: find the Soprano, find the King, find sense. That was the answer. It was easy, a calm hand ushering him, lightening his steps, spiting his weighted clothes. So why this rotten feeling?

New life moved him and he used the energy. He found traction, even in the muck, deciding to sprint right past the other workers, now suddenly forming more images and what the King might really look like. The Soprano would be able to show him the way. Water poured off of the rooftops in heavy streams. He stutter-stepped and helped a fallen man back to his feet. The Organist placed his hand against a wall for balance. Then, he felt the building inhale and then breathe out. He wanted to take his hand off of it immediately. This metal tube was shaking with an inhuman noise and something was rushing through it in long bursts. Far off, his eyes were drawn to the venting-towers that lined the valley perimeter, groaning, releasing a blurred mixture that had to be air, electricity, and sounds. 

"Don't worry," the Organist tried to assure the man as he carried on. "Goddamn, what's happening now?" 

The storm must have come from some weird and distant maelstrom, he assured himself, it was all too immediate and suspicious. And then he heard the man say something soft as he hurried on. The Organist's throat flickered. A corner of his mind was struck, turning his thoughts blunt, making him lose focus. Instead of remembering what he was supposed to do, as clear as it was before, all he could think of was what the man might have said -- the warning, or the advice, or the condemnation. It became stranger, even as he moved away, the soft words stayed in the Organist's ear, right with him, ringing, even audible inside the storm. The wind picked up then and the soft words did too and it wasn't just the man he'd helped that was whispering now. The Organist realized the words were there in the wind and in the weather and in the world, speaking just out of reach and when he lowered himself closer to the sopping ground to try to catch them, they became a wobbling murmur wandering between definitions and he felt the blood pound in his temples.

It pushed down and he needed to know. He couldn't black out and he demanded the simple task from his body, to merely maintain then and there, standing at the base of the structure, the very Organ itself, a dozen steps leading up to the center of it all and he began to drag himself onward, forgetting his senses and becoming thoughtless. One step, then the next. The Organ rumbled in anger at him and now he was looking right at it. It was a furious thing that struggled under its own girth, heavy columns trembling to keep themselves up beneath the storm's gathering strength, belched grease and disgusting noises that had never been music.

"Objections?" he shouted up at it. "Or is this just for show?" The stones that the Organ had been built from vibrated, rolling in and out with busted, foamed wind and down below its chipped mortar was strained, glossy guts that kept getting redder. Blood and rock dripped from high places, breath speeding up. It reached for air and exhaled a drowning, rippling roar below what nature can make and it closed, vicing tighter onto his throat. The Organist steadied and made himself stand and he ordered himself to move. And he ordered himself to look this time. The grotesquery churned in front of him, always moving, sometimes seeming to reach for him, never making a complete effort though and it stayed put, the way buildings do -- so all it could do was roar louder and louder. 

The roar went on unheeded. Wet dust was discharged from the cracks in the foundation and coagulated at his feet. 

He demanded of himself again. Gather your thoughts. Focus and understand. Nobody attempted to stop him. The other workers had run when they saw the whipping torrent descend. Whispering men pulled closer to one another on steps' edge, watching him and saying whatever they wanted, it had stopped mattering. 

He walked on. The King had to be near. He went to the top of the steps and he passed between the angular columns there, pushing open a small door with smooth hinges at the Organ's entrance. The sound surrounded in him but he could not hear it. Down the hall he went, electricity forking within the rain outside the ornate skylight overhead that somebody had taken a lifetime to build. 

He looked up at it in admiration. 

"No question," he said to himself. "Getting very close." He started to gather speed and moved into a sprint. One sound, a new sound, overpowered the rest, dominating the air. And then the aria reached him, riding the singular, clear voice. 

It burst out from the corridor's end, flinging open the doors to the sight -- a man at a table on a balcony over the massive theater that reached its end at a stage. 

The Soprano sang and the King sat. 

He was covered in flies and he looked quite deaf. The King extended his hand with an offer to the Organist, tea, in devilishly-designed silver cup -– their deep and swirling designs would have been more distracting if the Organist felt they held substance or a reason for being. From where he stood though, they were boasts; empty threats. On the balcony, he looked around and the dark reds and soaring ceiling and many of the ornaments around the table were designed with that deep airiness too. But there was no rhyme or reason. It was focused and it was purposeless.

"You know, I've thought about this kind of place," said the King. His voice felt close and it didn't echo much. "A lot went into it. A lot went into it and I was amazed it could ever exist. Never thought I'd see the day. It has everything, it had everything. The design, the stage, the colors, it was sort of like every turn in the halls was waxing poetic somehow, and all these seats here, rows and rows of them, it amazed me. I can barely count the things. The more I stay here though --" The Organist watched him think. "I was afraid to stop and look straight at it. All of it. Now, every time I do, I see this golden paint. It's distracting. Look outside. What am I saying? You just came from there, from the state of you. When I arrived, this was the only really good thing in the valley. This place is built to make you suspicious, keep you looking over your shoulder or out the corner of your eye. You won't see the truth on your first try though. This place feels desperate. I feel like if I looked at it funny, it'd fall apart. This place is getting old. I can't fix it."

The Organist sipped from the cup. "Tea. Intimidating," he remarked, speaking mostly to the thing in his hand. It felt flimsy and fragile to the touch. "But please. Don't even speak." The Organist held up a hand, not tensing and he kept facing down at the table and gradually raised his eyes to meet the King's as he spoke. "You don't possess a strong enough command of the English language to scare me --"

The Organist took one sip from his cup and stood. "Enjoy yourself," he said to the King. "If you can, please, enjoy yourself." The King's face was motionless and the Organist didn't think he had even noticed a word either of them had said. "Thought so."

It was a simple matter to circle down to the theater's main level and approach the stage. At a distance, he moved quickly. When he came closer, she forced him to slow. All of the empty seats watched the Soprano close on her final note and in all her beauty, she held him in place, and standing alone and still before her unfolding shadow, she accepted the light's adoration for a moment more and at last, she stepped to the front of the stage, toes curled over the edge.

-- Ghost Little
on Twitter  |  @GhostLittle_WTF

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

#42 -- The 7 Great Movies That Will Make A College Student Both Wise And Emo

BY THE WAY: An updated version of this article, and all of our other reviews, can be found on our new official site: http://www.ghostlittle.com/ No ads, no Google bullshit, just content. [The 7 Great Movies That Will Make A College Student Both Wise And Emo]

"An inexperienced film-junkie still in his larval form though might call it the best mobster movie since Goodfellas and he'd be unanimously fucking wrong."

The trouble with good movies is that people often try too hard to like them. Hungry people try too hard to like them. Students are particularly hungry for identity and for understanding and there's a lot to like in movies they've been told are great and there's no reason not to like them. Like scarves and black coffee, great movies pick up fair-weather fans, and more relevantly, gloom-weather fans. They can be powerful. These movies can cause pretty heavy impact, unloading weighty messages that free minds can't help but cull for meaning. It can be too much though. In the vernacular, they can fuck with young heads.

For these reasons, and more to be detailed later, we give you the 7 great movies that will make a college student both wise and emo, in no particular order:

1) Do not watch Dead Poets Society. You will never have Robin Williams as a teacher. In fact, it's more likely that you'll go through school silently, miserable to the last hair fiber, misunderstood because you couldn't even define yourself if you tried, defiant, maybe, but incapable of identity or credibility. The lesson in this movie is: "Don't be a pussy, go for it." That's a terrible lesson to teach to budding teenager at prep-school. "Subvert the system" is a better credo at that age. Nobody but Robin Williams would condone acting like a brash individual at that age and that's because Robin Williams is an honored, Zelda-playing, highly-profane and highly-successful, Julliard-trained actor. If you're out of college, and trust us on this, it isn't too late to go all Dead Poets and become a carpe diem'ing basket case. In fact, the timing is perfect! Most people are so grounded in a shitty work-routine by adulthood that a genuine, bright-eyed, poetry-quoting, art-loving individual is welcomed with open arms. If you tried to emulate the Dead Poets attitude in college, you'd be held in contempt by your peers as a grinning, overachieving wannabe and you'd be a social outcast to the lexically-flaccid, just like the kids in the movie.
INSTEAD, watch: Stand By Me! Metering out a pitch-perfect nostalgia dosage. It's a movie about the scariest adventure you never had as a kid with the best friends you ever had or never realized you had until way later. It's got tons of cool swearing and a child threatens Kiefer Sutherland with a revolver. It's such a better movie than Super 8.

2) As awesome as it is, Fight Club does more ill than good. It's an ironically glitzy ad for anarchy and nihilism. It's all good until you realize it's all about how you'll eventually go crazy in adulthood and the only answer is to stop caring and have sex with Helen Bonham-Carter and, let's face it, then nobody wins. We love this movie to death and most people will be able to watch it and say: "Yeah, that movie was sick. On with life!" There's a certain crowd though that will start dressing like Tyler Durden though and start wearing cheap sunglasses indoors and act aloof in their American literature classes and chew lots of sunflower seeds all the fucking time. In the 1990's, Everybody wanted to dress like Kurt Cobain, who dressed like a slob and didn't care -- his fans cared. They cared so much that they wanted to be indifferent just like him. Fight Club is the greatest pitch for hitting rock-bottom during a midlife (quarter-life?) crisis, the moment when you stop caring, utterly powerless against our own self-pity. Don't be like Ed Norton. Ed Norton is a pussy.
INSTEAD, watch: Wanted! James McAvoy begins this movie as a pussy. At the end, he shoots Morgan Freeman in the head from a mile and a half away as revenge for betraying and lying to him. That's badass. He becomes badass because he realizes he's a pussy capable of more. Be like James McAvoy. But don't shoot Morgan Freeman. Ever.

3) Requiem For A Dream will make you want to drink yourself to death. It's got, you know, that one song, more than double the editing cuts of a normal movie, and, like, fifty gallons of heroin. The movie is so elegant in the beginning, approaching the band of drug users like your ever-compelling junkie cousin at the beginning of Thanksgiving dinner and he's got great stories about accidentally selling his pool table to an undercover cop on Valentine's Day. That's funny. For a while, that's damn-funny. Then he starts saying that he needs to eat his own skin right around when the mashed potatoes are being served. The only way out for you is to rip the pouring spout off of that bottle of Cuervo and black out Requiem For A Dream's very existence from your memory. Killing 10,000 braincells to forget, genocide, is a justifiable reaction to seeing Aronofsky's hate-crime on happiness. At least The Fountain had a heartbreaking love story.
INSTEAD, watch: Equilibrium! If you haven't seen it, take a DVD (not a Blu-Ray) of John Woo's The Killer, have sex with it, swallow some Xanax, and then read Brave New World. Yeah. It's kinda like that. And it's that good. Christian Bale stops taking his meds in the future and starts doing bullet-karate on people. Near the end, he cuts a guy's face off of his skull with a katana in one stroke. All because he stops taking drugs!

4) Stop quoting The Boondock Saints. Goddamn, what a great movie. It's so dang delightfully misguided in its grandiose delivery (and something that its sequel pokes fun at (one of the only things its sequel does that's worth mentioning)). The movie opens with a preacher describing the Kitty Genovese story, then delivers some kind of mashup of Watchmen and V For Vendetta by way of South Boston. Well done, Troy Duffy, you read yourself some Alan Moore. As utterly entertaining as The Boondock Saints is, its final question distills into a fairly binary decision about vigilantism, yes/no? Do you have faith in the system? Can normal people justifiably be touched by inspiration and go on a bad-guy killing spree? If they can speak Latin and dual-wield pistols, fuckin' a-right they can! It's a superhero movie. An inexperienced film-junkie still in his larval form though might call it the best mobster movie since Goodfellas and he'd be unanimously fucking wrong.
INSTEAD, watch: Punisher Warzone! Now, Punisher Warzone and The Boondock Saints are awesome for similar reasons but the difference is that Punisher offers no pretensions about what it is. If Boondock was the gritty retelling of the original Punisher story, justification for vigilantism intact, then Punisher Warzone is The Boondock Saints: The Videogame: The Movie. The Punisher alone kills fifty dudes in the movie, one of whom dies because he is punched in the face so hard, it becomes concave. Justified!

5) Where to start with Garden State? This is a Zach Braff power-fantasy. And now you suddenly remember what stomach acid tastes like. What, you think if you run off to the movie industry, you'll come back to town, truly indifferent to your own success because of over-medication, and Natalie Portman will be all quirky-pants hot for you? That would be neat. Again, we can identify with this movie on most levels, it's just going to depress the hell out of anybody aged 16-22. It's about somebody else willing you out of a pretty deep depression and finding you're stronger than you probably ever gave yourself credit for. But to experience that sensation, child, you need to be utterly depressed first. Emerging from a dark phase in your life is great to look back on but you shouldn't kill yourself first to rise higher. That's what Vegeta does, man. Don't be Vegeta. Don't be Zach Braff either. He's a punk in real life. If you never act like him in the first place, you won't have to be a depressed wallpaper-sheet of a human being.
INSTEAD, watch Rango! These two movies are entirely unrelated. But seriously, have you seen Rango? It's the Pirates of the Caribbean CG-animal cowboys sequel that we deserved but never got. There's a part where anthropomorphic moles ride bats and play Ride of the Valkyries on a banjo, washboard, and jug!

6) Why do so many girls own a copy of American Beauty on DVD? First, there's Kevin Spacey going through a midlife crisis. Then there's the kid with the video camera trying to understand beauty in trash. Wait. Okay, stick with us on this. Beauty. . . beauty, beauty. . . American beauty?! American beauty is destructive and American beauty is hard to capture and American beauty is ugly and American beauty is often secretive and forbidden and it is misunderstood and until you walk that road, that miserable road, you will never have come close enough to American beauty to understand it. And. . . that's the name of the movie! The entire movie as an Americana art project vomitorium. Notice we used the term "art project," built with great purpose around the notion that it will be a many-sided sniderohedron that some folks just won't be able to comprehend, and they'll throw awards at it, just 'cuz.
INSTEAD, watch: The Incredibles! Best Pixar movie? Tied with Wall-E and Up. It approaches the superhero mythos and midlife crises with more elegance than the Watchmen movie while aping the Fantastic Four's powers and family dynamic. It's a love-letter to Americana, rather than a eulogy.

7) And finally, whatever you do, don't watch Donnie Darko. Ever.
INSTEAD, watch: Inception! Dream thieves, spiral-gravity, snowmobile chases, questionable realities, espionage, heavy weapons, heavier themes -- a heist movie, in reverse, about the very concept of drawing an audience into a movie, and letting them decide if the world is real or not.

We realize we might have been generous with the "great movies" label, particularly in Donnie Darko's case. 

Recommended related reading: 
[The 10 Types Of Bombast In Storytelling] by Ghost Little and Doberman

-- Doberman
on Twitter  |  @GhostLittle_WTF

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

#41 -- "Vanquish" Reviewed | * * *

ONE MORE THING YOU SHOULD KNOW: A more complete version of this review, and all of our other reviews, can be found on our new official site: http://www.ghostlittle.com/ No ads, no Google bullshit, just content.

". . .fighting stupid with stupid."

Know this: the "rocket-slide" button in Vanquish pulls double-duty as the "smoke-cigarettes" button.

Remember a long time ago when you were an American kid and your parents forbade you from doing certain stuff, knowing that that stuff was really, really bad for you ('cuz of all their adult experience) and you had a friend that lived in a house that smelled just a little too weird to be considered safe and you went over there simply to play a Nintendo Entertainment System? That kid's dead now. Your friend, not you. You're reading this, you're definitely alive. But he's definitely dead. He's dead because of an explosion he saw at the end of Bionic Commando where your playable character, Radd Spencer, mecha-whipped Hitler so hard that the motherfucker's digital ancestors tasted your cool chrome claw and his head blew up, splattering somewhere between 18-35 pixels of gore against a 19-inch TV.

Back in the 90's, can you believe that people thought Mortal Kombat was bad for children? Nobody realized that it was a joke. Strange that all the politicians making these kinds of judgments have themselves not ever acknowledged an ironic moment in their lives, opting instead for paranoia and assumed worst-case scenarios that somebody, somewhere, somehow will discover Their Secret, and then they'll just be frantic old men trying seal up their sex dungeons at 4am with concrete and bricks and snotty spit. Not a single elected official could laugh at Mortal Kombat and nudge the dude (or lady-dude, they do have those) next him and say "LOL, can you believe this shit? Lookit that blood! There isn't that much blood inside a person. LOL again! Let's bomb Yugoslavia." MK was developed by men that were deep fans of stupid kung-fu films and awesome 80's action movies and, assuredly, they were fans of Itchy & Scratchy and Looney Tunes. The finishing moves were so gimmicky and hilarious and the kids cackled with glee at the one ninja that tore off his mask to reveal a reptilian maw, slinging his tongue out at his defeated opponent's face at a distance, masticating on its fleshier parts for nary a second before rubbing his ninja/lizard-belly in satisfaction. The kids got chortles while concerned parents looking on, shaking their gray hairs in disbelief. Children live to illicit a reaction from adults because they're only sort of stupid, and if they know one thing in this world for sure, it's that they're just peons in adults' world. They want to conquer the world -- it's the basic, dominant concept they default to until sex becomes a viable alternative, at which point, the desires will merge, mesh, and kink together. Kids will mimic anything that gets a reaction out of their parents, miniature-trolling comedians that they are, so the joke is that they just want to get a laugh and be done with it.

They don't actually want to tear off a woman's skin in a forest full of living trees though. 

Parents don't believe it. If a kid sees something moronic, they'll emulate it, even if it's entirely fucking impossible and stupid. Videogames were, and continue to be, stupid, just as they were, and are beginning to become less, awesome. While not yet of-age kids "illegally" played Mortal Kombat and Doom, concerning their caregivers to no end, it was the 18 year-olds that could legally play these games that we should have been worrying about. They were the ones playing the games and saying: "This if fucking awesome!" glancing down at their limitless erections. Those American men grew up to make the tasteless, ultra-gory fighting games of the late 90's and early 2000's or some low-rent bullshit FPS on PC like Soldier Of Fortune while the kids raised on MK were now playing the surprisingly bloodless Goldeneye 007 on the Nintendo 64, the system of Mario Kart and Zelda. And it was good.

Out of the failed promise of Perfect Dark in the year 2000 -- the N64 game that should have been the last videogame ever made, and was instead just Goldeneye 007 again with a slower framerate -- the world was given the Xbox and Halo: Combat Evolved in 2001. Finally, the children weaned on the giggle violence of Mortal Kombat and the frenetic gunsession the N64 gave the world, had G.I. Joe: Space Swearing: The Game, from Bungie, the creators of Marathon II, which should correct be cited as the first PC game to let you hold a shotgun in each hand at the same time.

A few years earlier, far across the ocean in Japan, a man named Shinji Mikami wrung his hands together, crafting his first joke for Capcom Ltd., a game called Resident Evil, which featured voice acting as elegant as a canine dry-heave and a gruesome horror plot that wouldn't appeal to the Evil Dead II: Dead By Dawn fans dumpster-diving behind Sam Raimi's house. Now those were movies that made schlock-horror fashionable! They are highly-compelling in their slap-stickiness and that's why their style is best confirmed by word of mouth. The best art is misshapen from one angle and well-formed from all angles and it needs, and is worth, defending. Mikami loved well-formed horror because he knew it was secretly gleeful and he had a breakout hit in Resident Evil, one that was obsessed with violence and with winking. 

And then came Halo. He wrote down a letter to himself inside his own head with invisible ink and it went like this:

"Spaceships?!" he cried. "God-fearing aliens? Machismo? Men that trundle under the weight of a fucking ton of plate armor and rocket rounds? They have the gall to call a two-weapon carrying capacity 'realistic?' They're not serious. This thing is style-dead -- it has to be a fucking joke. They're deliberately chewing the scenery, aren't they?"

They weren't. The Halo franchise was as serious as a heart-attack -- sure, it had buttery controls and the occasional comedic moment, but at its core, it was about hard, righteous human soldiers delivering bullets, fast, to warbling space-heathens. Plus, 9/11 had just happened and Americans were desperate for gun/religion metaphors and we were double-damn (Damn! Damn!) sure weren't going to find them in Super Smash Bros. Melee (* * * * out of 4), which was such a purple piece of shit made for babies that The New York Times had to print a correction, confirming that Melee had turned a bunch of straight boys into gay women. Nobody liked the GameCube. Americans thought it was a joke -- a discolored lunchbox that couldn't play DVDs or Halo. Zelda became cel-shaded, Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest stayed with PlayStation 2, and all the athlete-bro-dude-mans in the US that had secretly been playing Counter-Strike and Unreal Tournament as teenagers and they loved it, despite it being frowned upon by all 'dem meaner boys, wanted a BLACK SYSTEM that could play Madden 2003 and Chappelle's Show Season 1 on DVD, and they bought Xboxes, which is a console that plays Halo. Out of that ashen age, men that had grown with both the PC shooters of old (Quake, UT) and NES action games like Mega Man, Gradius, and Contra, had come into money. They knew what good gameplay was, they knew that high-resolution televisions existed, and they bought the Xbox 360 the moment it came out in 2005.

Clifford F(ucking). Bleszinski once said that he made Gears of War on the Xbox 360 hyper-violent because nobody had figured out how to make diplomacy as much fun as chainsawing apart people you don't like. Go play Heavy Rain if you don't believe us. There isn't as much of a market for somebody that wants to inhabit a miserable middle-aged man as their avatar, no matter how artfully crippling sadness is simulated. Videogames are entertainment and leisure, and leisure cannot subside on sadness alone. For example, the first time we played Shadow of the Colossus (* * * * out of 4), when we reached the last boss, we were so distraught that we couldn't finish the game. If you don't understand why, then go YouTube "Shadow of the Colossus Agro fall." Almost six years later, we're playing the game again, this time in HD, and it's really pretty fantastic. Shadow of the Colossus will take you about eight or so hours to finish the first time around and no movie is that long, nor should it be. Nobody sits and reads a book for eight hours and nobody should play Shadow in one sitting and the game is planning on that. Its story is constructed around that very concept, crafting it so you don't realize your semi-silent avatar's descent into darkness, all in the name of doing something traditionally videogamey (killing big monsters) in the name of a videogamey prize (save the princess). This concept can work as a movie or a book but it works best as a videogame, the same way Watchmen works okay as a movie, but delivers its message better as a book. As a movie, it's just another semi-intelligent film about superheroes in decline, masquerading as a glitzy action movie. The point is that Shadow wasn't all about real-world unhappiness and immediately-human tragedy. It had a creepier, meaner emotional spine in addition to being a great giant-slaying simulator. That's how games should engage the intangible weight -- engage it in the way that is unique to the medium. 

The clock struck 2010 AD, and Shinji Mikami decided it was time to play a trick on all those self-serious videogame-makin' foolio's, and that trick was in the form of his own game called Vanquish and it was good. Vanquish mocks all the games that are trying to emulate the videogame/movie/explosions/recognizable-IP, as produced by Jerry "The Bruck" BruckAgain, trend permeating entertainment right now. Its male characters chew the scenery with alligator jaws. The protagonist, Sam Giddeon, is the idol of every Japanese boy that grew up wishing he had been an American. Sam throws his grenades like a college football quarterback (as his backstory gives reason for (he was one!)) and he rocket-slides and chainsmokes like the hardest-edge anime character never to exist. Burns, Sam's support character, is a roughly 9-foot tall, vintage-80's version of Schwarzenegger after drinking a smoothie blended from all six hosts of EPSN's Sunday NFL Countdown. He is boastful, pun-obsessed sociopath with mild militaristic-Asperger's, resembling what Ron Burgundy would have become if he'd skipped newscasting in favor of the army, where he promptly got his entire platoon killed and grafted a bionic-gun-arm to his shoulder during his mourning period.

They fight Soviet robots on an occupied space-colony orbiting earth that has a microwave beam that could boil every soul in New York City alive. Stop right there, you've struck oil! Are you fucking kidding? Apparently, during the development on Street Fighter II, it didn't being as a fighting game, it's only mandate was that the characters be large on the screen and move with obvious, unique animations so it would catch people's attention in the arcades -- the fighting game concept came after. Vanquish must have come to life in a similar fashion -- its thesis statement is: "We're gonna show these dumb fuckin' western developers how silly their games look, and all our characters are going to be such obvious caricatures that the rest of the game will practically write itself."

"Western games trundle like lazy glaciers? Give our hero a rocket-slide that's four times faster than most racers!"

"Western characters' voices sound like they eat cigarettes with dinner instead of asparagus? Let the Sam Giddeon, Master & Commander Of Cool, smoke in the middle of battle, if he so pleases!" (Also, the robots hate the cigarettes (and try to shoot them when they're tossed away.)) 

"Western games' dialog sounds like something out of a Robert Heinlein novel? Let's have our heroes actually steal lines from Starship Troopers without a trace of irony."

"Western games have red, white, and blue stories about psychotic jingoism and hyper-nationalism? Have the villains literally be SPACE-COMMIES!"

It's like a call-and-response commentary on the state of the industry. And what's even better -- unlike some joke-games, like No More Heroes (* * out of 4), which strips out modern game design frills so all we can see is the stupidity of we waste our lives playing games (we so DO NOT waste that time!) -- is that Vanquish plays it cooler than any game ever. We mentioned that swimming has never been done better than in Majora's Mask -- well, movement, at least in an action game where your primary mode of killing is "gun," has never been better than it is in Vanquish. It turns walking into fun and it turns running into "YEEEEEEEEHAAAWWWWW!!!" Your character is basically an atomic bomb and you are riding that bomb down to ground zero. The game gives you slow-motion skills that recharge so fast that you're gripped by fear if you're not in it. On harder difficulties, if you aren't rocket-sliding or slow-mo blasting a goddamn sniper-bot, you will be afraid for your life. It is the whippiest exhilaration since outrunning your brother around the perimeter of Block Fort in Mario Kart 64's battle mode. Zelda: Ocarina has a two-handed claymore blade called the Biggoron Sword and it has a leaping-attack that deals eight-times the damage of your starting sword, but it also leaves you open to attack. Every melee attack in Vanquish feels like you're using the Biggoron Sword; in HD. 

Some shooters have a bunch of different types of sub-machine guns with dot-sights and silencers. Vanquish has a lock-on laser weapon that you have to charge up to track up to eight targets, their acquired-target chimes are grippy and melodic. It charges up and unleashes seeker lasers that fuck up their targets like deadly plasmic-spaghetti from half a world away. There's a death-orb gun that floats through walls and encourages the very matter that the bad guys are made of to forget that it exists. All of these guns can be found in the game's survival mode, which is unlocked after beating the campaign. Survival mode is the final test of a game's brilliance. If it were out of context and endless, would it still be fun? Yes, Vanquish is still fun. It is always fun. It surprises you every step of the way. It's too good to be true.

It's silly. Would you rather it be silly and joking, or a dead-serious? In a videogame that simulates this much murder (against robots, technically, but that's yet another point being made, which you'll see in three sentences)? Is that a serious question? Well, the violence in Vanquish has only the noblest of intentions. Vanquish is a joke on the seemingly-bloodless culture Call of Duty has inflicted on us. CoD is the game your parents warned you not to wander so complacently into, so representative of "What Life Oughta Be Like" and it sucks up your time so much that you convince yourself that it's worth it because it sucks up your time so much and. . . waitta sec. CoD is the lowest-common denominator for a sub-culture that is wider than you'd like to admit, don't side with it. We can't believe how much people defend CoD -- it's a big boy, it doesn't need defending! Instead of giving you Stockholm Syndrome, Vanquish teaches you kung-fu in an hour and then takes a year and a day to teach you the secret reason why you should never use it. Vanquish makes the color gray sexy because it knows what to do with every other color. Once you play Vanquish, the question: "What superpower do you wish you could have?" ceases to be relevant. Some of the time, Vanquish is trying its hardest to make you look cool, but most of the time, without even noticing, you're making Vanquish look like it "totally meant for that to be awesome on purpose," one moment after another. Nothing lingers in Vanquish and that's how you know it's honest with its joke. The humor works in confidence in the background and it reminds you that you are still capable of adoring something with such child-like voracity because it's an unique and it's unsafe and it's ironically rebellious and amidst all that, its fundamentals still manage to function at a higher level than its peers. Its competition looks like a middle-schooler in a rented tuxedo by comparison. Vanquish has a personality that is highly-stylized, in that it indirectly points at its own insanity, using a series of fun-house mirrors and a fake neck-brace.

Even when you forget it's a wonderful comment on where videogames are these days, it is joy at 88 mph, taking you back in time to a moment where it didn't matter if something was moronic or violent or forbidden or realistic or had a purpose, Vanquish succeeds at fighting stupid with stupid.

* * *
(out of 4) 

Recommended related reading:
[Sly Cooper and the Thevieus Raccoonus  |  * * *] by Doberman
[Killzone 3  |  * 1/2] by Ghost Little
[The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask  |  * * * 1/2] by Ghost Little 

-- Doberman and Ghost Little (in that order)
on Twitter  |  @GhostLittle_WTF