Show me the money

I’m currently finishing up the final episodes of Gunslinger Stratos. It’s about kids fighting in the future for a science fiction Macguffin. The series is based on a video game, which is quite clear from the finale because it feels like a boss fight. The episode title even sounds like it’s straight out of Chrono Trigger – “Showdown at the End of Time”.

The whole thing is full of cliches about friendship, fighting for one’s dreams, and some light distrust of adult authority. You know, the usual. The show also keeps making a lot out of the belief that humanity is doomed to conflict and war.

It strikes me, though, that probably most of the writers behind this show have never experienced a day of hardship in their lives. The closest they’ve come to war is watching it on the news, though it’s more likely that their experience of war comes from movies and other fictional depictions.

Pontificating pompously about a subject one has no direct familiarity with seems to me like a very teenaged and juvenile thing to do. Which makes sense since this show is made for juveniles and those juvenile at heart.

Anyway, I think I liked writing this post more than actually watching the last episodes of this show. I guess we have to get our enjoyment where we can get it.

At least it was here

I’ve seen what may possibly be the final episode of Community. This show has never been a laugh-out-loud comedy for me, except for this finale, where I was honestly laughing at three points: when the black guy on the stool was revealed, when the dean was shown dancing behind Chang, and when Jeff was strangling Abeds. This is a deservedly meta finale for a meta show. I especially appreciated the dark turn of the board game commercial at the end.

Also, I never bothered to look up the words to the theme song. Turns out it’s darker than you would expect from the peppy sound. Is it about suicide like M*A*S*H or what? Here’s the extended version:

The 88 – At Least It Was Here

Give me your hands
Show me the door
I cannot stand
To wait anymore
Somebody said
Be what you’ll be
We could be old and cold and dead on the sea

But I love you more than words can say
I can’t count the reasons I should stay

Give me some rope
Tie me to dream
Give me the hope to run out of steam
Somebody said it can be here
We could be roped up, tied up, dead in a year

I can’t count the reasons I should stay
One by one they all just fade away

I’m tied to the wait and sees
I’m tired of that part of me
That makes up a perfect lie
To keep us between
But hours turn into days
So watch what you throw away
And be here to recognize
There’s another way

Give me some rope
Tie me to dream
Give me the hope to run out of steam
Somebody said it can be here
We could be roped up, tied up, dead in a year

But I love you more than words can say
I can’t count the reasons I should stay
One by one they all just fade away
But I love you more than words can say

Farewell to arms

After three years I’ve finally finished playing Valkyria Chronicles. Popular opinion of it is correct – it really was one of the best games of the PS3 console generation. Think of it as a World War 2 movie in video game form, except since it’s not based on real history then the female sweethearts do more than pine away at home for their menfolk at the front lines. The grand sweeping emotions don’t get cheesy or mawkish. It’s basically a sweeping war epic, and I feel that bittersweet sadness I sometimes get after finishing an engaging story full of characters who live on in my mind long after the last page is turned or the final scene is finished.


And what characters! The game itself is a sort of turn-based squad game, similar to the rebooted X-COM, but unlike X-COM your squaddies aren’t randomly generated and have short biographies available for your perusal. Knowing the details of your soldiers’ lives adds nothing to the mechanics of the gameplay, but learning that Juno never told her commander of her feelings for him or that Dallas went to an all-girls school makes me appreciate it more when I order them into danger. I’ll miss Freesia, the travelling desert dancer; Jane, who hated the invaders ever since they destroyed her flower shop; Oscar, the coward who became a soldier when his country needed him and his brother Emile, the sickly young man who nevertheless became one of my best snipers; Rosie, the cynical bar maid and chanteuse turned militia trooper; Claudia, the shut-in who couldn’t stay hidden away when her home was bombed, and Karl and Lynn, the interracial couple who were swept up in the greatest conflict of their generation.

There’s a New Game Plus mode, but despite how much fun this game was I don’t think I’ll ever play it again. Once was enough, and more than enough.

Russia’s department of trolls

Your reminder that we’re living in the 21st century:

The Agency

From a nondescript office building in St. Petersburg, Russia, an army of well-paid “trolls” has tried to wreak havoc all around the Internet — and in real-life American communities.

Around 8:30 a.m. on Sept. 11 last year, Duval Arthur, director of the Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness for St. Mary Parish, Louisiana, got a call from a resident who had just received a disturbing text message. “Toxic fume hazard warning in this area until 1:30 PM,” the message read. “Take Shelter. Check Local Media and columbiachemical.com.”

St. Mary Parish is home to many processing plants for chemicals and natural gas, and keeping track of dangerous accidents at those plants is Arthur’s job. But he hadn’t heard of any chemical release that morning. In fact, he hadn’t even heard of Columbia Chemical. St. Mary Parish had a Columbian Chemicals plant, which made carbon black, a petroleum product used in rubber and plastics. But he’d heard nothing from them that morning, either. Soon, two other residents called and reported the same text message. Arthur was worried: Had one of his employees sent out an alert without telling him?

If Arthur had checked Twitter, he might have become much more worried. Hundreds of Twitter accounts were documenting a disaster right down the road. “A powerful explosion heard from miles away happened at a chemical plant in Centerville, Louisiana #ColumbianChemicals,” a man named Jon Merritt tweeted. The #ColumbianChemicals hashtag was full of eyewitness accounts of the horror in Centerville. @AnnRussela shared an image of flames engulfing the plant. @Ksarah12 posted a video of surveillance footage from a local gas station, capturing the flash of the explosion. Others shared a video in which thick black smoke rose in the distance.

Dozens of journalists, media outlets and politicians, from Louisiana to New York City, found their Twitter accounts inundated with messages about the disaster. “Heather, I’m sure that the explosion at the #ColumbianChemicals is really dangerous. Louisiana is really screwed now,” a user named @EricTraPPP tweeted at the New Orleans Times-Picayune reporter Heather Nolan. Another posted a screenshot of CNN’s home page, showing that the story had already made national news. ISIS had claimed credit for the attack, according to one YouTube video; in it, a man showed his TV screen, tuned to an Arabic news channel, on which masked ISIS fighters delivered a speech next to looping footage of an explosion. A woman named Anna McClaren (@zpokodon9) tweeted at Karl Rove: “Karl, Is this really ISIS who is responsible for #ColumbianChemicals? Tell @Obama that we should bomb Iraq!” But anyone who took the trouble to check CNN.com would have found no news of a spectacular Sept. 11 attack by ISIS. It was all fake: the screenshot, the videos, the photographs.