Tomb Raider has been advertised as a reboot to the iconic series of video games that started in 1996. It stars the very recognizable heroine Lara Croft, the titular raider of tombs. Tomb Raider aims to be an origin story that relates Lara’s transition from a quite ordinary young woman to a renowned explorer and adventurer. This transition begins with Lara on a ship, resting in her bunk. Lara and her team of archaeologists are searching for the lost empire of the Sun Queen, a mysterious ruler feared for her legendary power to bend weather to her will. Following Lara’s hunch they steer the ship towards the dreaded Dragon’s Triangle, an unmapped mass of water that serves as a graveyard for many audacious ships and planes that dared to transverse its perennial storm.
As we might expect, the ship falls victim to the Dragon Triangle’s merciless onslaught and the crew is separated and shipwrecked on the island that lies in the centre of the maelstrom. Lara only barely escapes the flooding vessel with her life and wakes up inexplicably shrouded and strung upside down in a catacomb. After setting your shackles on fire and plummeting to the floor where you are skewered by a protruding metal bar, you must begin your quest to regroup your companions and escape the island. To accomplish this you will have to fight your way through a island full of crazed sectists and an age old curse.
There are many things I like about Tomb Raider. The combat is amazing. The craftsmanship behind the combat system makes its design look effortless. Whereas each new game implementing a cover system seems to be more awkward and botched than the last, Tomb Raider has evolved the concept to exhilarating new frontiers. Instead of a contextual prompt appearing next to any straight walls, when faced with enemy Lara’s AI will detect cover and crouch towards it automatically. It takes no control away from the player and never interferes with movement or aiming. While melee attacks with your pickaxe are a viable option, your safest bet is a ranged attack. Lara has four upgradeable projectile weapons: a silent bow, an agile handgun, a relentless machine gun and a powerful shotgun. The balance of these combat alternatives is ideal and each of these weapons can carry its own weight throughout the game. Even the shotgun doesn’t disappoint, with its brutal hurt power you can finish off even the most persistent enemies in a few shots should they get too close.
Stealth kills are easy and satisfying to pull off. Many situations are designed specifically so you can test your skill and eliminate threats one by one without detection. The bow is designed for this, later you can acquire a silencer for your gun but either way it’s a question of taking your time and aiming for the headshot. There are a few situations where you can sneak up to a guard and strangle them from behind and though they provide variety serve little purpose since your bow will do the job in less time and no need to put yourself in the line of fire.
While cover will keep you safe from shots you have to be alert for charging enemies, your greatest priority; here’s where your pickaxe will come into use and if your attacker should be a heavy, well that’s where your shotgun shines. Your second priority are the enemies that will force you out of cover with molotov cocktails and grenades. It’s easy enough to escape the frag zone of these attacks. Whether you dodge or jump to safety you can soon find yourself in cover and ready to shoot more enemies, preferably the ones lobbing the explosives. The combat in Tomb Raider feels fair, fast and personal. You know what you have to do and if you do it right you’ll be alive and your enemies will be dead.
Physically Lara is just as incredible if not more so than her previous incarnations. With her pickaxe she can climb up certain surfaces with ease or use it as an improvised pulley to zip-line down rope with the agility of a circus artist. She can also take quite a fall; a 20m drop will stun her for a second, mind. She can just as easily climb up a rope and hang on a ledge. With her bow you can hook a rope onto distant surfaces and use that to climb across or lever objects from afar. Eventually you get your hands on a rope ascender which sounds ridiculous and it’s use is even more so. The rope ascender let’s you jet up ropes like Spider Man and helps you pull on them so hard you can demolish reinforced concrete walls in a matter of seconds.
In less words, Lara is bad ass. She can annihilate armies, pulverize buildings and jump over mountains while making it look easy. It’s easy to make comparisons between the old Lara Croft and Batman, hyper-fit, eccentric, orphaned millionaires and what not. New Lara seems to have more in common with Golden Age Superman. When you are in control of her Lara is practically an unstoppable force of destruction and while I’d love to pin this as a positive there’s a catch, “when you are in control of her”.
Pictured: Bad Ass.
As an origin story, the evolution of Lara is framed as the central theme. Lara begins as an unremarkable woman and ends as… an unremarkable woman who knows how to fight. I would love to say I like Lara but I honestly know nothing about her. Many cutscenes allude that she may in fact be a complete person with hobbies, experiences and thoughts but the story quickly veers away from these moments. It isn’t that she is a blank slate but that she is a completely generic young, European woman and never goes beyond that. I get the feeling any hint of uniqueness was carefully stripped away from her, lest she alienate the audience with her humanity. Lara isn’t absurdly rich anymore because that is no longer cool. Any hint of eccentricity is gone because she has to be relatable to normal people. She has no opinions at all because those are controversial. She never shows any real emotions because crying would make her weak and anger would make her a bad person.
My favourite parts of the game are actually the treasure hunting and the elusive tomb raiding which is shamefully shoved into closets, far from the rest of the story. I don’t like these things because they are fun, treasure hunting is no more than an optional scavenger hunt and tomb raiding is mechanically awful, awkwardly solving otherwise straightforward physics puzzles if not for the fact they had to be hammered out lacking the benefit of a physics engine. The reason I enjoy these snippets is because for the few seconds when Lara picks up a relic, enters a tomb or opens a chest she might let out a hint of enthusiasm that reflects a human being geeking out with the thing she has worked her whole life toward. Regardless of her pain or her worries, she is enjoying something. That’s all it takes to make a character feel human. If for only brief moments, Tomb Raider manages to capture the feeling of awe and wonder it lacks anywhere else.
However, the game seems to revel in destroying these moments. As I mentioned earlier, tombs are quarantined away from the rest of the game and the rest of the game entails running around in the attempt to stop people from dying. I have to go completely against the narrative in order to enjoy a quiet moment in a tomb but the story wants to be a AAA spectacle fest and never allows you an organic quiet moment to do so. Similarly, treasure can come either as relics that Lara can inspect and use her years of study to identify and comment on, revealing details about the history of the island and the lives of its inhabitants or as logs that recount personal testimonies and let us piece together the mystery of the island, you know, just like real archaeology does. The story pisses on all this by treating the audience like idiots and explaining every single, banal plot point while Lara stands agape at realizations that she already made hours ago. I want to explore the island and figure out the story using my abilities, but I’m afraid that inconveniences the extremely linear and uninspired movie it’s unfortunately bound to.
Aside from Lara’s stunted development and the friction it has with gameplay, the story is not great. The villains have absolutely no personality and you aren’t even given a satisfying reason to want them all dead since they are in your exact same situation. Lara’s role in this story can be reduced to a dogsbody who is only capable of following orders and is subordinated to every other character even when time and time again you prove your abilities beyond question. I found it frustrating that after clearing dozens of areas and killing hundreds of trained, merciless men I got no recognition. Every cutscene seems intent on negging me and I have to admit it does succeed at this to a degree. Ironically, other than Roth’s unconsciously patronizing talks about my hidden strength, there is one other person who acknowledges the fact I am a force to be reckoned with and it’s the main antagonist minutes from the end.
Lara spends a lot of time lamenting everything. I wouldn’t have a problem with this if she at least tried to remedy her situation occasionally. At one point she is pitiably drinking rain water and being miserable about it. About 30 seconds earlier I walked past a boat full of supplies among which were several bottles of water, unopened. At the time I was thinking it would be cool if I could pick up the bottles which of course I couldn’t. Early on, she is constantly shivering and moaning about how cold it is as one does when wearing a tank top in a tropical thunderstorm or later in a snowy tundra. It’s a shame there are no jackets lying around, like for example on the dead bodies of all the people I’ve killed. At one point you manage to get back to your room aboard the ship where I was hoping Lara would change out of her torn, muddy, blood soaked, slightly embarrassing clothing into something more practical, alas it was not so. It turns out there is a way to wear a sweet aviator jacket exactly like I’d dreamed of several times while playing this game. It involves shelling out money to SquareEnix, I’m seriously considering it.
Other than the forgettable story and the kind of awesome gameplay, the visual composition is hit and miss. While there are a few moments that stand out like climbing the radio tower and hunting down the wolves that stole Roth’s medikit, the majority of the scenery is dull with barely any colour or life while never quiet going into the territory of horror. The music was pretty dreadful and I ended up muting the obnoxious tribal music clips that ring every time you reach a check point or any other tiny achievement.
I haven’t really talked about the QTEs or the other scripted sequences. They are terrible but this is no surprise. They are a pain in the ass and ruin slightly ruin everything else merely by existing. I loathe the parts where Lara will slip on the same ledge every time whether you made a mistake or not. One time I noticed a ramp that was clearly going to make her slip so I jumped over it. The god of scripted sequences would have none of that bullshit so Lara proceeded to calmly walk off a precipice and die so I could respawn at the top of the ramp where I could complete the sequence like a good sheep.
It’s about time to wrap this up. I don’t want to hate Tomb Raider, but it’s hard. Maybe something that could have improved the whole thing was a fourth and fifth act that followed the “origin story”. Sam Raimi’s Spider Man didn’t limit itself to the death of Uncle Ben and birth of the hero, it had a whole other story to tell after that. I think Tomb Raider needed a second run to flesh out Lara beyond a bruised gopher. I liked the touch of Lara strapping makeshift guards on her hands to use the bow. It was understated and made her feel cooler without trying hard at all. I feel the archaeology sidequests should have figured into the story. With a bit of effort they could have given you a better ending if you used your think pan and cracked the island’s secrets while that information could still be useful instead of the information existing as an inconvenient spoiler. The combat and the story are hard to reconcile. While it is fun and engaging, I don’t think combat where you mow down hundreds of people single-handedly can work next to this otherwise humble story about surviving. In fact, older Tomb Raider combat that had you fighting 5 guys throughout the entire game would work much better. As a compromise, it would have been fine if there were more vicious animals to fight off instead of crazed zealots. I have some hope that future instalments will figure out how to balance all these different ideas more elegantly. In the meantime, I’ll play something else.
The dining table we never use
covered in tiny packages:
Plastic bottles and folded bibs;
Chained pacifiers and neatly stacked pastel overalls
of the smoothest cotton;
Hats and rattles and the tiniest diapers
I ever saw (I could crush in my tiny hands);
A box of powdered milk and a 0+ car seat.
My parents holding hands smiling
and I was closest awed.
I’d never seen so many items on that table.
Only a few months in a whole life were so heavy
the wood creaked.
I never knew where it all went.
Did they ever find a use?
I have a hard time seeing things through. I am a dispassionate and fickle person. I also like to punish myself by doing nothing at all instead of wasting time with something enjoyable. Somehow I was capable of fooling my better judgement into finishing the first part of something. I like Story Time. I’m not sure if it really shines as bright as I imagine it does but I wanted to make something only I could make and I think I managed through ingenuity to leave a grain of personality in what is overall a ball of nonsense.I am quite unambitious and in a perverse kind of way I am quite happy with my life.
I have dreams of doing things; those kinds of dreams that evaporate into clean mist the moment you open your eyes. I think of doing things and meeting people and creating frivolous junk that might make somebody smile and sometimes I do but it all withers away solemnly like autumn leaves.
If I ever do finish Story Time or maybe the better question is if I should finish it, no one knows. I believe endings are definitive and beautiful and I don’t find myself in the mind to satisfy either task.
On a more pragmatic note, I should think about learning some HTML, it looks fucking useful. Someday I might even figure out Java and dare I say CSS. The more I think about it the less inclined I am to do it so I’ll leave it at that. I should also actually create a domain name which is probably piss easy and I don’t even know why I hesitate to do so.
Maybe it’s time to confront reality and accept the undeniable fact that we are all disgusting monsters obsessed with the pettiest of quests in order to maintain our ever brittle egos from crumbling into the cold abyss. Maybe it’s time you read Shamo. Shamo is terrible. It is highly offensive and dark. Most of the time it’s incredibly depressing and pessimistic. Shamo will make you hate humanity. I’m addicted to it.
Shamo tells the story of Ryo Narushima. Loosely based on various real life cases of youth violence, Ryo is a studious teenage boy who brutally slashed his family to death. We meet Ryo as a frail terrified mess being processed into one of Japan’s worst correctional facilities. Soon enough, he meets head on with the underworld of crime. 45 pages in, he is brutally violated and left naked, battered on a cold cell floor. That’s where I stopped reading for the first time, 45 pages in. Years later I read on. On his next confrontation, he half-accidentally bites of his aggressors genitals and manages to come out unscathed. The head psychologist warns him that having rejected his aggressors protection has closed yet another door for safety in his already devastated life. You could say Shamo tells the story of Ryo’s descent into his own infernal Wonderland. Little by little any notion of sense or sanity is completely obliterated leaving only the chaos of human emotions and superstitions.
After these incidents Ryo learns to survive. He adapts. He is born anew. It is a disgusting metamorphosis. From the parasitic, pitiable larvae grows a hideous, mechanical abomination. Ryo develops a large variety of mental disorders. PTSD is the most apparent. He is constantly on edge, always ready to destroy any possible threat to his life and often succumbs to the conditioning of an adrenaline junkie. Soon follow his morbid hallucinations caused mostly by cranial trauma and drug abuse. His most pervasive illness however is spiritual, his guilt. Ryo is haunted by the things he has done, and things he must do to continue living and it is this self-destructive loathing that spins the central theme: Ryo wants to win, if he can win he can find peace, his guilt will never allow him to win.
On the outside, Shamo belongs to the martial arts genre. Ryo learns karate to defend himself. Karate consumes his spirit until eventually fighting becomes more a question of identity than one of necessity. Shamo plays out much like old samurai stories of forsaken warriors and the cynical existence they are trapped in. Ryo is barred away from the normal world. He is a renowned murderer. He is mentally unstable. Characters often remark he is the corporeal manifestation of evil on this earth. His only means of income are violence and prostitution. As he continues to fight, continues to debase himself and continues to give in to his instincts the world becomes more hostile against him and he in turn becomes more hostile against the world in a Darwinian circle of suffering.
As a character Ryo is dreadfully fascinating. He fits very well into the archetype of a Byronic hero. If you ignore his outward appearance of an unstable thug, secretly Ryo is still the academic genius he always was. He’s cunning, relentless and full of scorn for rules of any kind. Most importantly, he is a corrupt being, evil to the bone. There is no level low enough to which he won’t drop in order to get what he wants. Along his journey his actions go beyond the realm of the redeemable. However, Ryo is much more complex than that. As each arc of his story unfolds, he must confront new obstacles and enemies. His enemies represent very recognizable archetypes, hero archetypes. Rangah comes from a poor country and fights to support his large family. Sugawara has devoted his life to martial arts and only fights Ryo because he is forced by honour. Toma is an almost divine existence who gave up his career as a dancer in order to take the role of a messianic emissary of good and save Ryo’s soul. In each of these stories, Ryo is the villain that the brave protagonists have to best. Like evil, Ryo doesn’t go down with ease.
It eventually becomes impossible to make any value of judgement on Ryo. It is objectively obvious that he is a terrible human being. He is repeatedly punished by fate itself for his deeds. The universe of Shamo seems to be overseen by a god simultaneously moral and possessed of a sick sense of humour. The intrinsic evil of humanity is is showcased both as we discover just how responsible our society is for the bastard offspring of malice that is Ryo and just how pathetic and ultimately human his opponents are. Contrarily, Ryo is also a magnetic existence. Many other outcasts become infatuated with him. To many, he is beacon of hope in the pits of despair. An unwavering flame struggling for recognition in a world that crushes unwanted elements.
Ryo’s normal interactions with other characters are always affecting. His relationship with his master is always enigmatic and turbulent. His struggle to protect his younger sister, the only person he shows any real affection for, is heartbreaking. His small squabbles with Tokichi, his faithful friend, can almost put a smile on your face. His general demeanour towards other people, never judging or presuming yet deceptively attentive, is almost admirable. His confrontations are dangerously insightful.
Shamo is a sobering story that makes you reflect on the things you’ve been ardently trained to ignore. I personally find the small grains of inspiration contained in it to be precious and beautiful beyond what a mere recounting can convey. I’d like to recommend it, but I have to warn you about its very disturbing nature. Proceed with caution is all I want to say. The art in Shamo is beautiful and unique and often scary. I hope you like slim, toned muscles because it’s mostly that. It stands its ground as solid martial arts fiction with very good pacing. While the fights themselves stay firmly in the realm of the believable, the overall plot often strays into the fantastical and is plagued symbolism and serendipitous interventions of fate. It’s an intense experience that hides priceless truths. I hope you enjoy it.
A few hours into Tomb Raider, you will climb over a rock and into an underground tropical jungle. At this point you will have fought off a few packs of wolves, nigh harmless bats and a very vicious bear. Fighting in Tomb Raider feels awkward and hectic. One button shifts you from climbing mode into fighting mode where your guns will be drawn reducing your mobility. Lara auto-targets any enemies within roughly a 200º line of sight and less than 20 yards away. So far you have your guns with unlimited, ineffective ammo and possibly a shotgun with at best 4 rounds.
Most enemies are animals who will attack by rushing into you. You can avoid them by jumping to any of 4 directions. Lara’s jumps are gorgeously slow and exaggerated. Jumping out of the way means a near 100% chance you will no longer be facing your enemy, at which point you can swiftly roll and face the opposite direction, slowly turn round or run. Once you get used to it you’ll learn to consider the geography of the room and always be spatially aware of the location of each enemy as well as your position and orientation at the time of landing. It is a lot like chess., speed chess. Much like chess the game is designed so you cannot win any encounters without sacrifice. If you can pull it off, the mechanical jumping, turning and shooting can almost become gun ballet, but it never quite gets there.
Back in the jungle, you walk forward into a spacious green valley. From the bushes appear two tall, thin, red creatures. You were ready to shoot them, you have learnt to be ready for anything by this point. 20 seconds later your two enemies lie on the floor their spinal chords dramatically arching backwards so you can get a perfect look at them, dinosaurs. Two velociraptors if ever you saw them. You walk a little further and you hear a deep drum. A broken bridge covered in shadows crosses the valley and beyond it you can only see black. Limitations of the time prevented further rendering and these limitations are used to set this next scene. Whether you stop when the rumbling begins to rattle the screen or you walk under the bridge soon enough a 5 metre tall, leaf green T-Rex charges at you from the horizon of darkness.
It’s at this point you will probably freak out. I can guess around 95% of people are killed the first time they face this beast. If you stay still it will eat you up and crush your bones in an instant. If you run you will be trampled over and die similarly. The next time you attempt it you will likely notice a barely concealed cave entrance from where you can take your time to kill this impressive museum piece with a few well-timed pot shots.
I think it’s great direction and indicative of great part of the rest of the game. Nothing this far had prepared you for this fight. It is completely overwhelming and the timing is ideal for maximum effect. Tomb Raider manages at every corner to fill you with wonder, fear and an overwhelming sense of adventure. Whether you come out into an ancient temple filled with puzzles and traps, an underground river with a landscape of quaint geological beauty or an arena where you must face an eldritch alien monstrosity the sense of unveiling the unknown, riding the vanguard of discovery is always present.
The puzzles in Tomb Raider are strange and simple. You have to push blocks, turn switches and put keys in doors. Sometimes you have to do this very fast while jumping over spike pits or holding your breath underwater. Most puzzles involve crossing long stretches of slow, careful platforming and climbing. Lara can hang off ledges. She can slowly crawl on a ledge past a crevasse. She can also do a running jump and catch a ledge. This is difficult and not fun. Pushing blocks is particularly slow and boring. You also have to occasionally hunt for hints on the badly aliased walls of a room and decipher them. All these things take a lot of patience and concentration. Some people can enjoy this as some form of Zen meditation, I imagine most can’t.
What I love about Tomb Raider is the loneliness. The game is mostly quiet. There is very little interaction and most of it involves filling people with lead. It’s often terrifying, often unbearably tense. Lara has amazing agility and devastating capacity for destruction, and yet paradoxically she is very fragile. The first time I swan dived into the floor and broke her neck and the first time I heard the scream which signalled I’d fallen a lethal distance I sat paralysed, eyes fixed with terror on Lara’s rag doll corpse, moments that still live fresh in my mind more than a decade later. Both times I had to walk away for a while, but not for long. Puzzles and platforming are slow, laborious and dangerous which only highlights how alone you are, in this deep, ancient cave. The atmosphere during the majority of playtime is oppressive and the obvious isolation pervades the entire experience.
Don’t get me wrong, this is surprisingly empowering. Surviving these ordeals and solving these puzzles without aid can be extremely fulfilling. There’s magic in discovery and accomplishing feats by yourself. You can appreciate the value of independence when you learn to do the impossible and see the unimaginable with your own strength. It’s a very unique emotional palette compared to any video game I can think of or any other medium really.
I’m very much infatuated with the character of Lara Croft. From the very beginning you are wonderfully introduced to her and her world. If you start at the Croft Manor, and you should always start at the manor, you appear in her reading room annexed to her personal gymnastics floor. Here you are introduced to Lara’s superhuman control over her own body. Once you’ve jumped around a bit you can exit into the lobby which is packed with stacks of boxes. Tucked away in the corner as decoration is the Ark of the Covenant. Video game logic seems to kick in when you start jumping over the boxes blocking off the rest of the manor. Lara doesn’t comment on the bother of climbing over boxes because why would she? This is practically the most common form of locomotion for her. Over the boxes and under an arch is the jumping/climbing practice room which doesn’t look like anything a human being would build for their personal use. The surrealism blends perfectly into the naturalism of Lara’s persona. I don’t think it’s coincidental that the game begins just after your guide is mauled by wolves and you are left at the cavernous entrance of a forgotten tomb, completely alone.
There’s one moment, about half way in, where you enter a room and pull a switch. When you exit, the outside world has been completely transformed in a very large yet subtle way. Aside from the mechanical change of the level, that moment of awe at how this world had completely morphed, at how I’d created and discovered this landscape and just how beautiful and mystical the result was is still one of my most precious moments in video games. I don’t want to give away exactly what it is. If you play it I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.
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*This was supposed to turn into Twine. I like Twine and I enjoy the things people do on it but I have a hard time atually making something in it I would enjoy making. HTML is deceptibly deep and when I have the knowledge in my face that anything I’m doing right now could be infinitely better if I could just do X is too tempting so I just spent 2 hours learning HTML syntax and forgot what I was supposed to be making. I don’t think I want to make a game of this anymore but I’m happy with what it is.*
It has always rained. You don’t remember when you first noticed the rain or when you began to ignore it. There are however times, like now, times when you are drifting to sleep on the back of a bus, forehead awkwardly propped against the cold, damp, insipid window and you feel it. The chaotic, complex, numbingly monotonous rhythm of droplets crashing against every building, every road, every blade of grass, every cooling corpse, every melancholic lone tree standing pensively in a back yard forgetting a hundred years of moments that amount to nothing. It is raining. The wind screen wipers 20 yards ahead skid tiredly over the insipid glass like they have a million times before, maybe a million yet to come, unlikely.
When people talk of rain, they talk of sadness. The link being tears. Tears are not like rain. They are nothing like rain. Rain is cold. Tears are warm. When was the last time you cried? Do you remember? Was it worth it? Do you wish you could choose when to cry? You can’t, but would you? It’s scary not being in control of your body. Letting others dictate when your heart aches and when your head clouds and when your skin shivers and when your sight blurs. It’s scary. Would you cut yourself away from them? Would you choose to never see them again? It would be so easy. It would be warm and soft and it wouldn’t hurt. It wouldn’t hurt. It wouldn’t hurt. You want to hurt. You want to hurt and be hurt. You want to hurt on your own terms. You want to be hurt and you want to be loved. You want to look out into the world and defiantly declare with your gaze “I’m here. I’m alive. I’m not alone. I feel and I’m scared. I’m so terrified I can barely move my heavy body. However, you are much more scared of me. You are scared beyond anything I can comprehend. I pity you. I hate you so much. I hate you so much if I let myself my whole being would embrace you, destroy you and hold your remains up as a memento to remember constantly how much I hate you. I hate you and I pity you. I hate you and I am here, alive and not alone.”
You will say this as the rain washes down your body and your hair droops messily, matted around your head and channelling cold insipid rain water onto your features. You will scream, but your scream will drown out in the thunder and the endless drumming of droplets on every exposed surface of the planet. You will stand there, almost unnoticed in the cold midday between dark, murky silver skies and glimmering, filthy concrete ground. You will wait, shimmered in the clean, heavy rain.
Meanwhile you are still drifting to sleep in the back of an ancient, dusted bus, mildly aware of the rain. You hope beyond hope that the a/c hitting your legs heats up a few more degrees. You watch the vast quantities of water swiftly descend before you. Your breath condenses against the glass while your skin smears it with oil. You close your eyes at long last and all you feel is the cold, insipid glass against your forehead, the tepid breeze on your legs from the a/c system and the infinite, indistinguishable beats in the timeless procession of the rain.
You wake up from your dreamless sleep after what seems like and probably is days. You don’t have the strength to move and you can sense disease maturing in your body. The water has risen and floods the bus floor. The motor has drowned and you now wish you had a temperate gust against your legs instead of the gelid, stagnant air that wraps around you. Soon the water will reach the seats and the bus will likely drift into the ocean and sink into darkness, just like everything else. The rain will go on and everything will wash away into the cold darkness.
You think about the water engulfing every surface of the planet and the corpses rotting away and absorbed by the fish and bacteria. You think about everything you’ve ever known crumbling away and every trace that any of this ever happened lost forever. You think about the end and your expression is almost a smile. It is an expression of serenity. You no longer feel the cold. You no longer remember the sensation of pain or the emotion of fear. You close your eyes one last time and sleep.
You dream. In the dream, billions of years have passed. Everyone is dead. It has stopped raining. Everyone is dead but it has stopped raining. There is no one left to see the sky, it shines brighter than anything has ever shone before on this planet. No one will ever see this sky; only you.
One movie that reaaaally makes me angry is Rambo III. Incredibly inferior to all the others. What pisses me off most is the sudden change of tone.
Rambo: Vietnam vet is persecuted by a small town of assholes. So-called civilized country treats its soldiers like animals. *Leave theatre crying like a child.*
Rambo II: Vietnam vet goes on solo mission to rescue American POWs, betrayed by corrupt PMC. Man who just loves his country, isn’t loved back. *Leave theatre crying like it’s your mother’s funeral.*
Rambo III: Vietnam vet goes on solo mission to rescue best friend from USSR base and free noble Afghani people. Blows up helicopters with tanks, defeats tanks with horses and drives off into the sunset. *Fuck communism. Fuck yeah war.*
John Rambo: Nameless old river man accompanies gung-ho mercenaries to rescue naive war relief hipsters. Kills everything, saves hipsters, finally finds the courage to go back to his family. *Leave treatre and immediately call home teary-eyed to make ammends with your father.*
I don’t know what drugs they were on when they shat out the script for Rambo III but it stands as an ugly stain next to what would be a perfect trilogy.
In that respect, it seems in John Rambo they retconned Rambo III out of existence with Rambo still living in Central Asia instead of ever leaving to Afghanistan.
You might want to take my advice and skip Rambo III entirely, it’s not worth the running time.
I don’t like optimism. It’s popular knowledge that most people fail their driving exams in the last few minutes. When you think you’ve almost achieved something, you let your guard down. Thinking things are going to work out won’t help you. Accepting you have very little control over any outcome and deciding to employ that control as wisely as you can does help a little. Sometimes things are bad and people look at me and ask me why I’m still optimistic. I’m not. I just know that when the time comes I’ll regret the things I didn’t do when I could. I’m not the first to say so.
I’ve dedicated a large part of my short life to make the world a better place in small ways. I can’t do much but as I see it as long as I do a little the possibility of someone else doing a little too is still conceivable. I do small things and I harbour the hope that some of those things might bring change. What I’ve realized with time is that change is hard. Depending on who you ask things never change and what we look at as evidence of change is often just a temporary illusion, probably caused by optimism.
There is a very ancient system in place, maybe more ancient than humanity itself. The reason it has survived so long is that the system has slowly evolved and become self-regulating and inert. Like a dark Gaia Hypothesis, it seems human civilization has created defences to preserve the status quo. It seems we live in a bubble of entropy where the constant is suffering. On bad days, destroying the system seems less likely than wading through a swimming pool of golden syrup without drowning first.
Believe you me even I can’t believe what a massive downer I am sometimes. To be fair with myself, I would probably offer a hug to someone in a similar mindset. However, regardless of the sad parts, I’m actually trying to make a point because after all, if I think like this, why haven’t I given up? Well, for one thing there are times when I do feel better and think about all the nice thoughts. For another thing, I have a burning reason that would never let me give up, a reason I have a hard time describing. I used to refer to it as a universal meaning to our actions, a spiritual understanding of the effect we have on a collective consciousness. I didn’t like that explanation at all. Deep down I am a spiritual person but I am also somebody who believes everything that is true must ultimately be describable in physical terms. That explanation came from The Wachowski’s pen in abstract words that took me sleepless nights to assimilate into my perception as a universal constant.
“It doesn’t matter if racing never changes. What matters is if we let racing change us.”
These are the words Racer X tells Speed when it seems there is no possible way to go on. Speed needs to race to keep on living and he only lives to keep on racing. The system promises to take that away from him. He had one opportunity to strike the system at its core and by powers beyond his control that opportunity was stolen from him. If he can’t defeat the system, if he has no control over the outcome of his fight, why fight? Because it doesn’t matter if he defeats the system as long as the system can’t defeat him.
The system exists to oppress and when someone refuses to be oppressed the system has failed. I found it hard to embrace the concept because I would never have guessed the answer would lie in the self. If you’re trying to make a better world for everyone, your personal preoccupations seem like encumbrances. Once you consider it, its perfectly natural that the only weapon that can destroy a faceless, mechanical leviathan is the individual. As long as you don’t give in you have struck the only victory that ever mattered: the freedom to decide who you want to be.
I don’t understand how people see me. I always had a hard time seeing me as other people see me. I’ve always wanted to make my appearance a statement on something. I’ve always looked like a bit of an idiot. I embarrassed myself a lot.
I never liked myself. I looked at myself in the mirror thinking, “I want to be something else”. You can’t do that, it turns out. I am me, I don’t always like being myself. Of course, I knew I could change, but change is hard, and scary. Changing yourself takes courage and resolve. Pretending to be somebody else is comfortable, like velvet.
I do change though. I know I change because I leave thoughts on the way and sometimes I can look back on the thoughts and they feel alien and threatening. I have recurring nightmares that I meet myself, and I freeze. Eventually in the dream both of I let a noiseless scream that rips the universe apart and time goes backwards and I meet myself again. It’s the understanding that I’m a liar who believes their own lies knowing the truth can’t be hidden forever.
Please try and read to the very end before making any premature judgements. Thanks.
I’ve noticed a terribly disturbing trend wriggling its way into our culture over the last few years. I’ve often felt scared of saying it out loud in fear of reprisals, but I’ve been asking some of my most trusted acquaintances and discovered I’m not alone in my worries. However, I think I should introduce myself properly for the readers who might not know me that well. I am a giant, melon-breasted amazon warrior with alien superpowers. Bear with me.
It hasn’t been easy trying living among mortals. I have to hide who I really am in public. Trust me, whenever I try to walk down the street in a white leotard and cape I get bombarded by strange looks and mockery. It’s a humiliating experience I really no longer have the energy to put myself through anymore. I get a lot of encouragement from friends and family; honestly if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t even be here right now writing this. Even so, the world is filled with insensitive and mean-spirited people who seem to have a problem with inhabiting the same planet they do. Politicians secure fat paychecks juggling with my basic human rights while bystanders assert how I was born goes against the laws of God and I will receive my just desserts for my shameless sins. You might be asking when that happened but trust me, I know what I’m talking about and I’m not completely insane, as some would have you believe.
Luckily, even if I my freedom is severely restricted by bigoted jerks in my day to day life, I still find some solace in the few places where I am completely free to express myself and interact with others as I can only dream of in the outside world. I am of course talking about fan conventions. Here people treat and talk to me like a regular cogniscient being and make me feel like I belong in this world. Some of my happiest memories were forged thanks to the love and understanding I’ve kindly received from my fellow attendants and for that I can’t express enough gratitude.
Having said this, I’m afraid I have to return to the ugly issue at hand. The truth is a group of people have been plaguing every convention I’ve attended for long, long time. This group of people goes to conventions aping my natural appearance in order to garner attention from other attendants. Everything. The suits, the hairstyles even the make-up. They’re prepared to spend dozens of hours making incredibly detailed replicas of alien super-powered beings just to make a joke out of me and my plight. Make no mistake, I know from conversations with them that they only dress up like me for fun, they haven’t had to deal with any of the anxiety and abuse I’ve been living with all these years. When I go to a convention, all I want from the bottom of my heart is to not stand out, to be just another face in the crowd and have normal, pleasant interactions with possible new friends. In contrast, those fiendish imitators want nothing but to relish in the spot light, to be the freak show du jour and wallow in their victimization fetish. I’m appalled.
These women and I’m going to call them women because they are all women, PC be damned, are appropriating my struggle and lampooning it for their own enjoyment. I can barely understand why someone could enjoy this sadism and it makes me sick from the bottom of my gut.
I don’t want to sound selfish; I know full well I’m not the only party being affected by these sad, perverse attention whores. A lot of my male, human friends feel incredibly uncomfortable around these filthy tarts. Thanks to their obscene titillation, they siren helpless men, forcing them into some of the most degrading exchanges I’ve ever had the misfortune of witnessing. It’s seems inconceivable that a manipulative woman would take advantage of an innocent man’s sexual urges without any consequence. It’s nothing short of harassment and it’s completely fucked up. I’ve tried issuing a formal complaint to the organizers but I received nothing but apathy as their response. It’s ridiculous that in the 21st century, men still have to put up with this kind of abuse in public. It’s a dreadful state of affairs that is completely out of the hands of the men affected.
Perhaps what’s most perturbing about this problem is the reason behind this systematic attack on our culture. While the majority of these frauds only want to enact their power fantasies on a defenseless audience, there exists a twisted conspiracy under this travesty. There’s a group masterminds that engineered this state of affairs and all for a single goal: money. All this carefully manufactured abasement is nothing but a platform to launch young good-looking women into fame by creating scandal. As I said, it’s a twisted, nefarious plan at the expense of our community and if we stand idle, it might destroy our entire culture because of reasons.
I’ve thought about this long enough and now is the time to put a stop to this. I think it’s fair that we stop this group of assholes from setting foot in conventions. Now, it seems hard to even identify these impostors, what with their aforementioned perfectly crafted disguises, but there is one thing we can still catch them with. A real cosplayer has a deep relation with the character they identify with. As such, they have encyclopedic knowledge about everything that relates to their character as well as the every single minutiae regarding the universe they inhabit, the continuity it is a part of and even the entire medium that spawned the character in the first place. These cunning pretenders have no way of competing against this lifetime devotion to the practice of memorizing pointless shit. The solution then, is to instate mandatory, board-regulated examinations to all female would-be attendants. I should emphasize that these examinations should be rigorous to the point of absurdity. Given the choice between allowing a single one of those vile usurpers or barring entrance to women who, for whatever reason, might have no ulterior motives but miss the cut, well, I don’t think I need to argue which one is more in line with our general interests.
I imagine there will be some dissenters who think men should be expected to jump the same hoops as women. These people are obviously missing the point. There really is no point for dishonest men to try and infiltrate our circles. They don’t stand to gain anything financially or socially so it would just be waste of time and resources. And think of the resources! Naturally, these examinations mean a considerable investment, a necessary sacrifice we have to make in order to protect ourselves from cruel exploitation. It’s just completely unfeasible to carry out twice as many examinations with no tangible gain. Not to mention that the mere idea of me, a simple woman questioning the credibility of a man is the kind of insolence that would earn me sharp slap to the face.
In conclusion, I don’t think the measures I propose are excessive. We are very justified in our worries and should not wait for the problem to grow anymore than it has. I trust we, as a community, as a family, will choose to do the right thing, even if it is a titanic waste of energy, incredibly fucking immature and violently misogynistic.
OK. This is the debriefing section where I’m supposed to point out that this whole article is a work of satire and should not be taken literally, except I won’t. This isn’t satire. This is what you sound like. I’m not making anything up. Satire implies I’m trying to make fun of a certain entity by aping them in an exaggerated manner. As anybody who has access to Wikipedia knows, any position extreme enough is impossible to satirize effectively and I have enough sense to know when I’m up against people who are actually mentally unwell, so I’ll save myself the effort.
I think there is just one point I’d like to address seriously and it’s in regard to the few, embarrassing geek girls who feel these evil, young sexy posers are “stealing your men” which are yours by an unspoken neanderthalic custom of first come, first serve. Fuck you.
And for all you pitchfork wielders in general. If you feel that being geeky is this massive stigma, this load you have to shoulder with dignity; if that’s you, do yourself a favor and fuck off. Being a geek isn’t a sacrifice and if that’s your perception you made a fundamental misunderstanding on the way in. Your problem is probably that you just suck at life in general and at having pleasant conversations with strangers in particular. If being a geek is so awful, by all means please quit while there’s still time for you to regain your life. The world is fucked up enough without your help so save me the effort of trying to convince you that men could stand to treat women with a little more respect, there’s a huge cue behind you. I’m only saying this because I have a sliver of hope that you will listen.
I can’t be certain, but I can guess some readers might find my writing offensive for the wrong reasons (if you find them offensive for the right reasons then fuck you, I can only express my contempt for you by writing a whole other post and you are not worth it). As such, I’m sorry, please inform me of your reasons, I’m not perfect and I’m willing to improve. I’m also very emotional though, but I try.
That said, I’ll send myself off reminding you all that I hate your putrid guts and while I can’t wish all you misogynists out there a slow and painful death because that would be mean and slightly hypocritical, I can still wish for the coming of nuclear apocalypse seeing as you motherfuckers don’t tire on dwindling my will to live.
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