Wherein unreasonably free time is dedicated to proving Jonah Hill is funnier than you.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

Mario Kart Double Dash

What it Is:

Why I Wanted to Play it: I loved Mario Kart for SNES, the N64, and the DS. Double Dash itself is #48 on Metacritic's list of all-time top Gamecube discs, making it the fourth best-received racing game on the third most popular no-longer-next-gen system. Mostly, though, I'm a ヨッシ fan, and he's not in SSX3.

Why I Hadn't Played it: Console video games and failing college don't mix.

Why I Just Did: On Tuesday I bought MLB 2k7 for DS, because I'm a statistics wonk and baseball is just numbers. Unfortunately, 2k7 is the worst video game I have ever played in my life; it's like a throwback to the pre-Tecmo Super Bowl technology when you couldn't save any games, except it completely lacks any of the compensatory charm of the era. To cleanse my gaming palette, I fired up Mario Kart DS to remind myself that DS games *can* look good, only to remember I recently bought a better, brighter version of it in the form of Double Dash.[1]

Why I'm Glad I Did: While I've seen what better hardware can do for Nintendo characters in the trailers for Smash Bros Brawl, the Gamecube is more than adept at handling the cartoony-aesthetic of Nintendo mascots. A realistic Mario falls squarely into the Uncanny Valley anyway.[2]

Double Dash still dazzles with course design. No course better emphasizes this than DK Mountain, a jungle track with guard rail-less turns, avalanches, and teetering rope bridge right before the finish line. Of all its features, however, none is more satisfying than the giant barrel — visible in the embedded video — which catapaults you over a chasm and onto an anthropomorphic volcano. If it wasn't so difficult, it would be adorable, which leads us to the cons[3].

Why I Wish I Hadn't: Despite having beaten all the Mario Kart games — save the Game Boy iteration — I haven't even unlocked any new courses on Double Dash. That same variety which would make racing against humans so thrilling becomes heartbreaking when I'm seconds away from Mario Circuit's Finish Line and Pirahna Plant jumps at me, allowing the randomly chosen Best Computer Character to pass me.

Granted, Double Dash isn't a racing sim, but most courses are ludicrously non-racing-friendly. I would rather have another Baby Park — seven laps around a simple elliptical track — than be frozen by one more obnoxiously oversized Slipice. Of the 12 original tracks, I only like three: Baby Park, Toad-Circuit-on-Steroids Mushroom City, and the ヨッシ-shaped Yoshi Circuit.

Don't even get me started on the whole "double" angle of the game engine. I'm grateful all my favorite tracks from Double Dash are included on the DS game (which somehow packs in twice as many tracks the GCN disc), sans the two-characers-per-car feature.

[1] One of the first things I did once I became gainfully employed was buy a Wii, and one of the first things I did after getting a Wii was buy a bunch of GCN discs. I now have three GCN discs for ever Wii one I have. This may turn into a ludology blog and fast.
[2] Don't worry; these are not pictures of Bob Hoskins
[3] And I don't mean no Noonien Singh

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Van Wilder 2: The Rise of Taj

Why I Wanted to See it: I've been a Kal Penn fan since his line in American Desi[1] about what Indians and Black people have in common. Although the stereotypical nature of his Indian character "Taj" in the original Van Wilder was saddening, I found myself actually enjoying the movie one late night (for what it's worth: ditto with Eurotrip and 100 girls[2]). Throw Taj to the forefront, mix in some colony-metropole shenanigans by sending him to England, and I was in Dependency Theory heaven.

James BondageWhy I Hadn't Seen it: Either I missed the press screening or nobody told me when it was. I forgot, I mean, it was so long ago...

Why I Just Did: The Namesake got me all in a Penn-lovin mood.[3] More importantly, the Rockets/76ers game wasn't on national TV like the ESPN® website claimed it would be. only played 27 minutes so at least I didn't miss much.

Why I'm Glad I Did: Even a broken clock is right twice a day, so there were a few quotes that will stick out in my mind: "Nerd-per-willing chick ratios." "A horny, little care bear." "FLUX CAPACITOR." "Oh, our first fight!" "Milwaukee." In the small favors dept, somehow, Taj's family wasn't a crazy collection of caricatures.[4]

Why I Wish I Hadn't: No, it wasn't funny. Yes, it was sophomoric. At times, it made little to no sense.[5] Most of all, though, I'm disappointed by how superficially the whole India/England inextricability was treated. Having Taj's nemesis Pip be so blindly racist served to sequester the issue to one small segment of the story, but the real problem is how anti-Brown sentiment permeates all of British society. I'm not trying to say England is an especially racist country — nearly every state has its groups that it hates almost a priori — but it's not just the styled Highnesses that call desis "Pakis."

Expecting nuance out of a movie that made a running joke out of the phrase "diarrhea face" is obviously asking too much. Nor could any decent diasporic satire emerge when the Irish/Scot/British conflict is likewise treated as a trifle. Maybe I should be happy Taj gets in a "gora" jab, let alone that the most offensive thing about Penn's other-ness this time around is his total inability to maintain a realistic accent. Time was, Penn would never have been the star of a movie like this (and, given his lackluster box office record, he might not for a while unless the Harold & Kumar sequel takes off[6]). Shouldn't I be grateful for that?

[1] For the record, I knew about American Desi because I used to visit its producer's website, not because I had some sort of post-colonial assimilation story fetish. Well, not back then, anyway...
[2] Both happen to feature former Nickelodeon stars. Then Kal Penn appeared in
Love Don't Cost a Thing, which was rampant with Nickelodeon-ness, but I think that's one tangent too many.
[3] Unfortunately, I did not particularly care for the movie, mostly because I think the book has too wide a time span to condense (cf.
Roots). On the plus side, Tabu was gorgeous.
[4] I love alliteration. Should you not feel the same I suggest you give up on this blog
toute suite.
[5] Of all my gripes with its nonsense sensibility, I want to know why Taj would become a n English history TA when the subject so vehemently bores him. Why is going for a PhD, then? How much lying went into
that statement of purpose (and can he teach me how to replicate that by December)?
[6] Certainly, John Cho wouldn't get to make this movie, so let's not go patting ourselves on the back just yet.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Invitation to Charms

The Namesake was the last straw.

Since giving up my admittedly ill-conceived dream of being a cultural critic and joining respectable journalism, I have missed three — three — Kal Penn movies. I no longer had an outlet (let alone an impetus) to perform Foucauldian archaeology on the socioeconomic origins of, say, Epic Movie. For You, the Moviegoing Public™, this was no great loss, but I became increasingly nostalgic, much like an erstwhile high school star with memories of grandeur.

See Bass[y](Just kidding: please don't shoot me, Bassy.)

Every halfway decent blog needs a hook, and as funny as it would be to simply sprinkle my prose with semi-appropriate links to The Onion, that would also be creatively bankrupt. Thus, in keeping with my desire to catch up on Kal[1], I'm going to barrel through the many movies, games, music, and comics I've missed while trying to make that paper/because I wasn't making that paper before. Look for a retrospective on movies Disney forgot, an incontrovertible proof that Lance Bass is a better actor than Usher Raymond, and my declaration of the best "Garden of Peace" sample (hint: it's not one of these).

First up: Van Wilder 2: Rise of Taj: Colon.[2] Between miscegenation, semi-breakthrough sexualization of an Asian-American male actor[3], the sticky politics of Kal's crazy-fake Indian accent, and the carefully constructed hotness of Holly Davidson, I am convinced this movie can't be as bad as They say.

[1] Now there's a catchy name for a blog!
Wait, did I just steal a joke from Aqua Teen Hunger Force?
[3] The Guru already sexualized the Asian male, although its star was Canadian and, in any case, Penn doesn't play an Asian-American in Van Wilder.