Thursday, June 30, 2011

Knowing Should Know Better

I just recently watched Knowing, an awful movie starring Nicolas Cage. Don't bother seeing it - it's one of those movies that looks really cool and dumb, but the end result is an overwhelming mess that'll make you wonder why you wasted 2 hours on such an unsatisfying piece of crap. Trust me on this. Don't be fooled by Roger Ebert's glowing appraisal of the movie. The disasters are rather unconvincing, and Nicolas Cage winds up being largely ineffective. I don't mind inaccurate sci-fi movies with inane concepts such as digging into the moon's core to find molten gold creatures, or seeding clouds with hurricane-generating pills. The fun comes from the B-plots trying to wrest any sense of shock from the normally static handsome main roles indulging in overblown explanations for whatever's going on. But I expect some kind of intellect to go along with the scene. I enjoy shows better when they're based on good bad science, not bad bad science. I want to be mentally entertained. When the movie dialogue and script are so painful that I can't bother to make it past the first DVD chapter, that's a bad sign. (In olden days, this would before the first reel)

So why am I bothering to talk so much about a movie I didn't like? Without revealing any of the so-called "plot twists", there was a moment early on when the movie lost me from the sheer absurdness of the premise. It wasn't the scene where the silent girl was writing down numbers that voices were telling her to. It wasn't the absurd overblown ritual given to the importance of burying a time capsule. No, what lost me was the exchange between Nicolas Cage and his precocious kid. They were having an exchange outside on the barbecue (not important), when the father said something to his son behind his back from a distance of maybe 2-3 metres away, and the kid turned around and said something in response before going back inside the house. One scene change later, we find out this kid's been wearing a hearing aid all this time. Then Nicolas Cage starts doing sign language in front of him, saying how much he loves his kid. Can you tell what's wrong with this picture?

Every other scene prior and after showed no indication that the kid was deaf, other than he was mostly silent. However, when people talk to him, he acts like a normal kid, with no indication that he's even deaf. The only reason he's wearing a hearing aid in the first place is because he's been hearing "voices" eerily similar to the prophetic girl at the beginning of the movie. That's not a sign of being hard of hearing - that's a sign of schizophrenia. In the end, his deafness is totally irrelevant to the overall plot, and just something the director threw in. For all the effort that Hollywood makes in being sure the details of their background and wardrobe of their characters are accurate right down to the rivet, there's still little niggling things that drive obsessive types nuts. It might be songbirds not being indigenous to the region the story's taking place. It might be weather looking unlike any kind of precipitation. (Hollywood snow looks nothing like real snow) In my mother's case, it's deafness in the movies.

Being deaf in one ear isn't exactly like being blind in one eye. Either you can hear properly, or you can't. If you want to communicate properly with a deaf person, it's important that you face them head on, so they can understand you. It's also best if you use gestures to emphasize certain key words, so they'll understand what you're talking about. Nicolas Cage does none of this with his kid. Every other scene of the two of them together or apart, has them talking normally, side by side, as if he's a normally hearing kid. If you're talking to a slightly deaf kid, every little bit helps. No attempt is made to illustrate what Nicolas is talking about in order to make his message clearer. Then again, Nicolas Cage is so reluctant to talk to his more mature kid about anything, that any dialogue between the two of them becomes moot.

As a movie critic noticed, having a disability gives Hollywood writers license to give them natural superpowers. Blind Samurai can detect the whereabouts of an assassin from creaking floorboards and shallow breathing. Autistic Savants can calculate Pi up to a million decimal points. Deaf people can lipread from a distance of 5 miles.

However, the truth is far from the reality. It's actually harder to lipread than it looks. Sue Thomas FB Eye is able to easily understand what people are saying just by looking at them carefuly. But even though she's based on a real person, they've taken a lot of liberties with the concept. Oftentimes, the speaker will mumble, or there'll be facial hair blocking the lips, making it harder to make out what they're saying. Even the most experienced lipreader will encounter difficulty, since so many words look alike (carpet / armpit), or the mouth doesn't move much in relation to certain words. A tobacco executive talking about "Nicotine statistics" is equivalent to seeing somebody talking with lockjaw. This isn't because they're lying through clenched teeth, but because the mouth moves so little. Equally hard are suffixes, such as words ending in “ing” or “s”. With such few visual cues, I often need input of slight sounds in order to fill in the gaps. More examples are talked about in What's that Pig Outdoors? (Can you guess what this means? Answer at end of post)

Even when a speaker is told to emphasize their words when talking to a deaf person, chances are they'll very quickly revert back to normal speech when talking to somebody else. Even if that second guy is standing right next to the deaf person, the deaf will have immense trouble understanding, since they're no longer taking the time to talk clearly. Even more aggravating is when they turn away, since people are so accustomed to hearing conversations in the background that they completely forget that hearing isn't as easy for some of us. Trying to lipread a conversation between two or more people is like watching two movies on opposite sides of the wall. You have no idea which one to look at first, when they're going to pass their next turn, and no idea if something important was said. Have you seen people talk down to children, then revert back to normal speech in the company of adults? It's the same principle, though I don't need to be talked in simple kindergarten terms. Using gestures to illustrate your points and replacing difficult words is recommended.

Part of the reason there's not much accurate display of deaf people is that there's a very vocal group who worry about losing any of their Deaf culture. The belief that if deaf children start learning how to use oral speech, their sign language will die out, and it'll wind up being a lost language. While they don't object to people who grow deaf later in life to be fitted for Cochlear Implants or Hearing aids, they're adamant about giving the same benetits to young children just starting to learn language. One particularly erroganeous example of self-preservance is a Deaf lesbian couple who wanted to genetically raise a deaf child. This is equivalent to two blind people poking out the eyes of an otherwise healthy seeing baby so it'd be better integrated into "their world" of blindness. The claim that when the deaf child grows older, they'll be able to make their own choice for how they want to live in life is a fallacy. Having grown up with only one way of communicating, would anybody suddenly develop a desire for bilingualism without practice? This is why people have difficulty reading lips at an old age, because they've been ingrained with listening all their life, and have no experience on how to cope without instruction. Why would a deaf child who'd grown up with sign language and no auditory experience want to immerse themselves with something they're totally unfamiliar with?

Some other movies that get on my mother's nerves:

In Tin Man, the main character is born deaf, gets a cochlear implant and when he wakes up in the hospital after his surgery, he can hear the IV tube dripping. This is impressive, because it takes a month to heal and then he needs a speech processor and go through rehab first. After getting speech therapy. in a very short time he speaks as well as a hearing person. This is impossible since he was born deaf, and most deaf people have a certain accent to their speech. Then he makes a phone call and says he got his ears fixed. Just because you can "hear" doesn't mean you can correctly decipher everything properly. You've got to learn how to sort out all the normal noise from the background noise as well as other annoying sounds that can't be filtered out.

Mr Holland’s Opus portrayed the oral approach all wrong. The child doesn’t get any hearing aids or speech therapy and yet, he's expected to speak without help. It shows sign language as the panacea and oralism as abusive.

The greatest offender is Children of a Lesser God, because of the same reasons as above (oralism is abusive, sign language is panacea). Also because the speech therapist who should know better tries to teach a deaf woman to speak at the age of 21 when the prime language learning years are 0 to 5. Not to mention it’s impossible for a profoundly deaf adult to learn to speak intelligibly if she's never spoken before in her life.

It's also why I'm so disappointed with Kingyo Sou, a Shoujo Manga about a girl interested in a deaf guy. (Whose scans I've used here) I'd hoped that we'd be shown the mental anguish of somebody coping with hearing loss and only finding an outlet through rhythemetic music. Instead, we're given the typical stoic but silent guy who has a percussion complex with a Taiko drum. Communication starts out with face-to-face dialogue, but soon reverts to handwritten postcards. Ask anyone who've tried to maintain this method for a long time, and they'll contest that it was a pain.

It's even more hilarious in hindsight, when you consider how ubiquitous cellphones in Japan have become. Even though the story takes place fairly recently, they're not used very often. Using the internet as a communication tool for even easier deaf conversations is only used when the deaf guy goes overseas. Just because the girl is bad with computers is no excuse for not taking advantage of the latest technologies. MSN and message boards are quite a far cry from the clunky teletypewriters (TTYs) that were the only way deaf people could communicate over the phone. Even without TTYs, there's still Telecommunications Relay Service, which can transcribe either written or spoken dialogue between two people on the phone. Granted, it could be a little embarrassing having mushy lines spoken through a confidential third party, but that option's still open.

Oftentimes, when I talk to people and I don't understand something, rather than bug them for every time I don't understand a word, I usually just smile and nod, pretending I understood, so I'd get the conversation moving along in the hopes that I'll pick up the pieces later. Its usually a struggle to put everything together, and I usually ask for a summary after everything's over.

Answer: What's that Pig Outdoors really means, What's that Big Loud Noise?

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Water and Oranges say the Bells of St. Lawrences

Your monthly synchronicity or plagiarism moment for today:

This Bizarro comic of connoisseur of fine water is actually a single-panel condensation of this Cathy comic:

The weird thing about Bizarro (if such an oxymoron is possible), is that going to the main Bizarro home page and clicking the daily comic link only shows a week's worth of strips from last month. To actually see any previous or recent comics, you have to look elsewhere.

Either way, it's a good thing that I wasn't able to find the relevant comic immediately, since it gave me time to find another comic that stole - I mean borrowed from another joke. Yesterday, Rhymes with Orange showed this comic, which should be familiar to surrealists everywhere:

This was a variation of the "Punk Porcupines" that was in The Far Side. In the 10th Anniversary book, Gary Larson lamented that he didn't use the shortened vesion, which this strip took advantage of. Gary's request not to have any of his comics shown online hurts my reference somewhat, but hopefully, people are familiar with the source material to know what I'm talking about.

In another strange coincidence, two different essays ten years apart were recently shown on The Comics Journal, and their sister site, Hooded Utilitarian made the same Warren Ellis claim - that we need more popular comic crap. This isn't a demand for awful comic with lousy artwork and sub-par stories, but comics with quality control that fall within genre trappings

The first one talks about the success of European comics' wide diversity of jokebooks, genre fiction and readable fiction that's the backbone of their entire comics' market. The theory is that, while people want to boost their reputation by lining their bookshelves with high-quality material, they're more likely to have stacks of pulp and trash reading hidden in the baseboards that's been devoured and reread dozens of times due to their addictive nature. It's that amount of impressive immersion that these writers are arguing we need more of. As impressive as ambitious cartoonists whose works rise above the average by-the-numbers stuff, its the typical cookie-cutter plots that keep the rest of the medium afloat. Nobody learned to read by starting out with War & Peace.

The second one focuses on Manga, and while its shorter, its modus operandi is no less different. We shouldn't be aiming at the dozen or so people who're dying to read the continuation of a 20-year old story, but a collection of the most popular generic crap all tossed together into a blender and served into one neat package. Sure, the young reader will recoil in horror years later when they discover how awful it actually was in the first place, but that's a small price to pay if it'll get them interested in reading something.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Anime Grafitti

One of my guiltiest pleasures while skimming newspaper articles was any mention of rising interest in Anime & Manga. Even before the Pokemon craze hit, I was on the lookout for any mention, however small of Japanese Animation/Comics. Since publicity on these were noticeably sparse, I took great relish from any subtle references in American comics, such as Ranma 1/2 on Superman's fridge, to the Joker emulating Piedmon during the climax of the Emperor Joker storyline. I took these as badges of pride that my preferred comic medium were being acknowledged at all.

As Manga's reputation began to grow and outpace American comics to the point where they were dominating sales charts, the bloom fell off the rose, and I no longer grew excited from seeing overt references in order to try to cash in some popularity. Gimmicks such as Manga versions of American S-heroes were short-lived and were closer to American comic scripts with Anime-stylized art than anything else. I would've been more impressed if they'd used Manga-style pacing instead of just design.

Until then, the closest I got to satisfaction was from grafitti in the background of newspaper photos. Anybody who'd first seen these on the streets must've had no idea what they were looking at. It wouldn't help matters much with the obscure reference Ranma is saying here. Unless they were familiar with it, they'd have no idea what it means. Even I, who know about Ranma's idiosyncrasies, am confused with the thought of "Damn that flow!" Even if it refers to water, it doesn't sound like anything he'd say. It sounds more like some obscure gangsta-speak. Maybe it's some kind of urban inside joke? In addition, while the drawing is a faithful rendition of the titular character, it's still a little off. Not the bucktooth, but the fact that even though he's portrayed as a girl, his hair is black, not red. (The eyelashes are a big clue to his gender)

As Manga became more popular, and no longer needed additional help in spreading their reputation as worthwhile reading entertainment, the amount of coverage dropped off, making common usage scarce. Ironically enough, while Anime/Manga design sheets became a natural element in Deviantart pages, there were fewer spraypainted versions once it'd become mainstream, regulating themselves to Hip-hop themes.

One thing I always wondered about is where these grafittis were being painted. I'd never seen any of them while walking around. Then again, I don't travel too far outside my comfort zone, and never bothered to go to any of these locations in the photos. I have no idea if they're even still there, if the city's bothered to cover them up or not. Maybe somebody could bother to check?

Today, I've grown more relaxed at seeing multiple references to what was once an obscure medium. I no longer become thrilled at seeing a cartoony character with large pupils, since that's practically become the norm. While Anime-influenced graffitis in the newspapers are now a rarity, that still doesn't stop me from cutting out any influenced Manga related pictures though. This demotivator of a black hole always reminds me of Akira for some reason.

In other cases, it's the elaborate design of a visual style that stays with me, even if I don't quite understand it. Whenever I look at this French editorial comic, I'm reminded of the clockwork opening to Key the Metal Idol.

Pride 101
"Okay! Now then, pay attention! It's very simple ..."

Yeah, I don't get it either. And I've taken some liberties with the translation, since "Fier" means "Proud" in French. I guess you've got to know who's being caricatured here, as well as what he was doing at the time. (May 7, 2009, if that helps any)

Then there's the Chinese Dance of the Thousand Hands, which is reminiscent of the Buddha Boss from Gantz's 3rd mission. What makes this especially impressive is that all the dancers are deaf. They've coordinated the music to the hand actions through intense timing and visual cues that're spotted offscreen. Even if you know how the trick works, its still an impressive feat, and worth watching.

These are all the Anime/Manga related photos that I've got. If anybody else's got any similar Anime-related grafitti, let me know.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Where it Stops, Only Yo-yo Knows

In Israel, there was a competition using a 100-metre crane to do the world's record attempt for using the longest yo-yo. As childish as it is, this is trickier than it sounds. You've got to take in consideration the falling speed added with the friction of the string spooling out, and then time it perfectly upon rebound before it reaches the end so it'll bound back up the pole. If you miss it on its return trip, you've got to wait for it to do another round trip all over again, which will take awhile, and bug the next yo-yo guy in line from getting their turn. I'm sure there's some math out there to figure out how long it'd take, but I'm too lazy to do it right now.

There's no reason to talk about this piece of trivia other than use it as an excuse to show this comic that I instantly thought of when I saw the news:

This is the kind of thing that well-reputed blogger and yo-yo enthusiast Shawn Fumo would've liked.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Grunty's Final Battle

In addition to all the rhymes in Banjo-Kazooie, I also went to the trouble of going through all the various permutations that Grunty went through while fighting the bear and bird. Since she only fights you once, but there are five different sayings she's likely to spout, you'll only see one of them. Not to mention that while you'll likely see the first few stages early on, the later ones become increasingly rarer. The only way to see her last spell before she tumbles off the tower is to reset the game before she hits bottom. That's the only way to replay against her without starting from square one.

I can’t believe that furry pair
Got right up here, it’s so unfair!
But now the stupid bear must fight,
This battle tests your skill and might!

Those are the opening lines when you first fight Gruntilda. However, if you lose, and you re-enter the arena, she'll spout any of the following:

-I’m not one to brag or boast,
But after this you’ll both be toast!
-So you’re back, you must be thick,
Again you’ll lose, I’ll make it quick!
-Who’s back up here, oh my word,
It’s beaky fool and hairy nerd!
-I can’t believe you’re back again,
Stupid bear and dim bird brain!
-Back once more, you never learn,
That suits me fine, your butts I’ll burn!

In addition, she'll also say a particular taunt when she succeeds in hitting you. In order to see these, you've got to let yourself get hit. Better get that honeycomb after every phase!

-Did you hear that lovely clack?
My broomstick gave you such a whack!
-Hopeless bear runs to and fro,
But takes a whack for being so slow!
-See the swoop and how I flew,
My broomstick made a meal of you!
-Mmm I see you took that one,
A few more and your life is gone!
-Ah, I see it makes you sad,
To know your skills are really bad!

When you get a hit on her by pecking her broomstick, she'll say any of these:

-Ouch my gut you nearly hit,
If your shot was down a bit!
-Ouch my butt, it’s now quite sore,
I’ll make you suffer, that’s for sure!
-Now you’ve got me in a fluster,
Faster spells I’ll have to muster!
-A glancing blow, nothing more,
Now I’ll knock you through the floor!
-What was that, you got me now,
You’ve really angered this old cow!

After each phase, she'll cast a homing spell that'll only be deflected by the Golden Feathers. If you get hit instead, you'll hear any of the following:

-Grunty’s fireball you did kiss,
You’re so slow I can hardly miss!
-My fiery blast you just tasted,
Grunty’s spells on you are wasted!
-These bolts fly with such a whizz,
I love the way they screech and fizz!
-Simply put I’m rather proud,
Your yelps and screams I heard quite loud!
-I hit the bird right on her beak,
Let that be the end of her cheek!

After that, she'll still move onto the next phase of phrases:

-That last whack did clip my ear,
But you can’t get me over here!
-Ahh, it’s time for me to change
My spot, to put me put of range!
-It’s too easy, so I fear,
Now watch me step things up a gear!
-Don’t hit me, that’s quite enough,
I think you’ll find the next bit tough!
-This spot is proving rather rough,
I’ll have to move to make it tough!

In the second phase where she's lobbing fireballs, Grunty will say one of these if she hits you:

-Hah you took another zap,
I got you through that little gap!
-Hear that fireball fizz and bang,
Your hairy butt took quite a clang!
-So I got your there once more,
I knew your skill was very poor!
-That last blast you forgot to duck,
So Banjo’s useless head it struck!
-Oh I got you once again,
Its nice to see a bear in pain!

When you manage to egg her face enough times, Grunty'll say any of the following:

-Ooof, I took another whack,
But watch me give you double back!
-That isn’t fair, I wasn’t ready,
I feel all faint and unsteady!
-That didn’t hurt, I feel no pain,
Grunty’s back to fight again!
-I can’t dodge with all this weight,
Those eggs of yours I sure do hate!
-Argh I’m slow with all this lard,
That egg of yours caught me off guard!

After all this, it's time for another homing spell.

-It’s now time to end your fun,
Here comes a spell you can’t outrun!
-Spell of Banjo homing,
Get him now to stop his roaming!
-See this spell, I’m sure you’ll find,
Its target will be your behind!
-Here’s my magnet spell at last,
Hide and run you won’t get past!
-Magic spell, seek out your prey,
It’s sure to hit, O happy day!

Then it's time for the third phase, where Grunty decides to use longer-range attacks.

-A big old gal I just may be,
But when I fly you won’t get me!
-Now I’m off into the air,
Leaving Banjo stuck way down there!
-Off I fly, ‘cuz then we’ll see,
If you can get the best of me!
-Up in the air I’ll be safe,
At my leisure your butts I’ll strafe!
-See my broomstick, watch me fly,
I’ll beat your butt, don’t even try!

Too bad that Bottles decides to help a little. The replenshing feathers and eggs around the rooftop don't help either.

Not too bad Banjo!
-Now use your arial skills against the old buzzard with this fly pad!
-Quick, use this fly pad to get up there and teach her a lesson!
-Hey Banjo, the old hag’s taken to the air! This fly pad should be of some help!

After Bottle's pep talk, Grunty reverts to trash-talking again.

-Old Bottle brain has taught you well,
But bears don’t fly and I can tell!
-See me swoop and watch me dive,
You’ve not long left to stay alive!
-Soon you’ll lose and when you’re gone,
I have to go and use the john!
-Another hit, that’s how it goes.
Watch me fly and pick my nose!
-Did you know I learned to fly,
At Witch’s school, you can see why!

If she succeeds in intimidating you, she'll say any of these:

-Another hit you took once more,
Please lose soon I’m saddle sore!
-This broom is hard and as it streaks
Across the sky, it chafes my cheeks!
-Fireballs fizz and fireballs fly,
Blast that bear out of my sky!
-Grunty’s spell your body numbs,
An easy task to hit these bums!
-I hold on hard and grit my teeth,
To stop me dangling underneath!

However, if you look past her bravado and zoom in on her butt, she'll say this:


No, she'll say these instead:

-Yoww that beak gave me a jolt,
So you can have this lightening bolt!
-Oooh you snivelling little pup,
Have this bolt, I’m speeding up!
-Arrgh, you got me once again,
Prepare to take this sizzle brain!
-Ouch, now that one really stung,
Take this nasty spell I’ve brung!
-Another hit, I’m getting weak,
I really need to take a leak!

After you've hit her enough times, Grunty'll get the wise idea of using magic to protect herself from any attacks.

-Look at me I’m quite a mess,
Here’s a shield to hide my dress!
-I may be old and rather wide,
But underneath this spell I’ll hide!
-That pointy beak did not miss,
But let’s see it get through this!
-So Grunty doesn’t come to grief,
Here’s a spell I can hide beneath!
-A special shield I need to call,
To stop your hits once and for all!

While you're running around wondering how to possibly get past this impentrable defense, several Jingo statues pop up.

-Grunty captured us Jinjos, now we come for revenge!
-Our new friends are in trouble! We Jinjos will help you!
-For setting us free, us Jinjos come to help our friend Banjo!
-Nice bear and bird saved Jinjos from the Witch, now we help!
-Nasty witch speak too soon, Jinjos come to help bear and bird!

True to its fairy-tale motif, saving all those animals (what species are they??) will grant you greater rewards later on.

-So your little furry friends
Come here to share your bitter end!
-Useless Jinjos sneer and hoot,
Go back right now or taste my boot!
-I hid those Jinjos really well,
But must have used a lousy spell!
-I hid you well for being bad,
Don’t help the bear, you’ll make me mad!
-Come on then you little punks,
Grunty’s spells will make you chunks!

You've still got to put eggs in the statues to make them work though. If Grunty fires on you (and she will) she'll say any of these:

-Your silly friends upon their blocks,
Are going to take a couple of knocks!
-Your Jinjos really are a joke,
Now watch your lives go up in smoke!
-Your stupid friends aren’t much help,
Standing there while I make you yelp!
-Another hit I can’t believe,
You didn’t dodge, why don’t you weave!
-Get used to that, there’s plenty more
Of other nasty spells in store!

When these bear-birds (I think they're bear-birds) rise from their pedestals and hit the witch, she'll say:

-Oooh...those nasty beaks
Are causing swellings in my cheeks!
-Hey, that Jinjo really hurt,
I’ll now rub you in the dirt!
-How that Jinjo stung and burned,
He got me when my back was turned!
-That’s not fair, I wasn’t ready,
Jinjos make me so unsteady!
-Don’t hit me you flying pig,
My anger is now growing big!

After her broomstick's reduced to splinters that don't grow back and fill buckets with water, Grunty will try to remain indignant in defeat:

-Useless broomsticks I can’t stand,
It’s left me stranded back on land!
-That last shot I failed to stop,
So down onto the ground I’ll drop!
-Ooof, you’ve winded me all around,
To catch my breath I’m on the ground!
-I bet you thought you got me beat,
But look I’ve landed on my feet!
-My broomstick failed with that last blow,
Now on my legs I’ll have to go!

However, her shield is still active, making counterattack impossible. That's when an extra-large statue pops up on the battlefield. (How do all these things show up? Flying pads, Jingo statues, and now...)

I am the mighty Jinjonator, activate me...

-That’s no good you stupid jerk,
The Jinjo statue will not work!
-What’s all this, how dare you cheat,
But I don’t care, I can’t be beat!
-Even with your extra friend,
I know you’ll meet a nasty end!
-That rocky moron can’t hurt me,
‘Cuz Grunty will the winner be!
-I really think you ought to run
When I beat him and spoil your fun!

At this point, if you've been taking at least one hit per round, but still filling up on honeycombs after every phase, you should still be healthy enough to hear another of Grunty's taunts.

-Hear the fizzle and feel the pain,
You’re gonna lose a life again!
-The bear is dumb, the bird’s a ‘twit,
‘Cuz I just got another hit!
-Grunty’s aim is rather good,
If you could run I know you would!
-Spells rain down upon your head,
You stand no chance when I see red!
-I’m just warming up right now,
Such fine shots from this old cow!

After you've powered up the Jingonator, Grunty looks a little nervous, but still confident, defiant to the bitter end.

-There’s no way he’ll shift my bulk,
I watch you cry and have a sulk!
-I could take these shots all day,
There’s no way I’m going to sway!
-See your Jinjo fail to work,
He’s nothing but a feeble jerk!
-Grunty’s strength will see me through,
When Jinjo’s gone, I’ll batter you!
-Your crafty plan stands no chance,
I’m firmly rooted in this stance!

These are her famous last words before toppling off the tower. You've got a one in five chance of seeing any of these. It can be really annoying going all this way only to hear something you've already seen.

-I’m done for now, hear me choke,
But look what I’ve got up my cloak!
-That last Jinjo has finished me,
But who laughs last, we shall soon see!
-It’s all over I can tell,
But Grunty’s got just one more spell!
-Poor old Grunty set to fall,
Upon this spell I’ll now call!
-Arrgh I’m beaten fair and square,
Before I go I’ve this to share!

It's worth mentioning that if you don't free any Jinjos in Banjo-Twoie, you get a slightly different scene involving the Jingo King being all alone. It's tricky to get to Grunty's cannon without touching a single Jingo, but it can be done. However, I've never been able to replicate the cinema scene, possibly because I've been spoiled from using the double-speed cheat code, and can't stand running at normal speed. There might be some kind of glitch that prevents me from seeing it.

RARE Lines

This went on longer than expected, so this will be split into several parts.

While most people go about collecting novelties such as bubblegum wrappers, baseball stickers, bottlecaps, cereal box tops, and comic pamphlets, I used to spend my time collecting Fansubbed Anime lyrics. When I attended my Anime club, I would have to endure waiting for the shows to start since they didn’t fast-forward during the opening theme songs. I especially became annoyed at the ending lyrics for the first season of Flame of Recca. (Who! Love is changing everytime!) But like a catchy jingle in Seinfeld, the lyrics that became immensely annoying to me at first, became endearing over time. (Cost-zanza!) Then I got the idea of writing down these lyrics so I’d be able to keep them for posterity. I don’t have any lingering attachment to most music, so remembering Anime opening/ending themes is the closest thing to MTV videos to me.

Only trouble was, the only time I was able to see these lines was at the beginning and end of the episodes, so I had to write down what I could remember from memory, then double-check... in the dark. There were early hazards such as my pen not writing, running out of room on my paper and having to go to the bathroom. This got slightly easier when I was able to borrow some of these tapes back home so I could be doubly sure that I was writing the correct lines as well as commas and punctuation marks. But since I was limited to a certain amount of tapes I could take out, I had to plan ahead carefully. Not to mention that other members might’ve been just as interested in the same titles as I was. Therefore, I tried to copy as much as I could before
and only borrowed the titles I really wanted to

This was made slightly trickier if they showed a release from a different translation team, which would have varying quality. I was particularly dismayed when they showed a Chinese translation, which in addition to using unusual names I wasn’t used to, the subtitles flashed by too quickly, and clumsy short lines such as “It has done” would be repeated often. Some of these translators would take notorious shortcuts by stealing one particularly good translated opening, but completely disregarding the script, preferring to do the translation on their own.

All this is just a prelude to the real meat of this post, which is lines from video games. It occured to me that just as there were catchy songs in Anime, so too were there memorable lines in V-games.

One of the first projects I concentrated on was writing down all the awkward clunky dialogue in Xardion. This wouldn’t be too hard in itself, since most of them repeated themselves when you replayed a level, but they disappeared after a certain point. It got particularly annoying at the penultimate level where there’s a long stream of conversation, and if you missed out on a particular line, you’d have to start out all over from the beginning. That means having to level up all your characters up again so they’d have a fighting chance against the bosses. (I always had trouble against the crab)

What made this harder was that my TV was slightly curved at the bottom, so I couldn’t read everything at once. I compensated for this by adjusting the vertical hold, until the screen was perfectly halfway between levels. Nowadays, it’s slightly easier with emulators and savepoints, but there was none of that back then.

When RARE was still working for Nintendo, they were responsible for some memorable games in their library. In addition to their games being incredibly tough, they also deserved their replayabity by having various different dialogues that would show up at random. I spent a lot of time writing down all the rhymes in Banjo-Kazooie, some of which were only spoken by Gruntilda when you let the clock run out on a timer. Naturally, this disappears when you get the prize, so chances are most of them have never been seen before.

One of the most original features was that every five minutes or so in her castle, Gruntilda would spout off a random saying to the bear and bird. After several hours of waiting around, I came up with the following. If there’s anything I’ve missed, let me know.


I don’t like stairs much in my lair,
They always make me gasp for air!
My filthy bed gives me a rash,
I never wash, I save my cash!
My belly’s big, its rather neat,
It’s years since I have seen my feet!
Long of tooth and stong of arm,
Grunty’s got the lasting charm!
Grunty admits she’s a hog,
I really need a big hot dog!


Tooty says she’s fine with me,
If you go home, I’ll set her free!
Tooty’s fate is looking grim,
It’s because her brother’s dim!
When Tooty is a big old lump,
I’ve just the frock to hide her rump!
Grunty’s legs and stomach thins,
Goodbye to all those double chins!
When I’m nice and slim once more,
Burgers, fries and chips galore!
Grunty’s plan is rather cunning,
When I’m thin, guys will come running!
I’ve got this skirt so when I’m thinner,
It really makes me look a winner!


My next world is the hardest yet,
And you’ll fail on that I’ll bet!
Hey Banjo, you’re looking glum,
It must be hard, being so dumb!
How bright they are, your stupid shorts,
A target for my dumb cohorts!
Monsters chase you, they’re a hounding,
Then you’ll get a Grunty pounding!
Your feathered buddy, that you’ve brung,
Useless like a pile of dung!
Join me now and dump the bear,
That little backpack I will wear!
That ugly bear, you feathered freak,
Is nothing but a stupid geek!
I can see its quite hard work,
To lump around that squawking jerk!
You side with Banjo but change tack,
Imagine you on Grunty’s back!
It really does sound quite absurd,
Adventure of a bear and bird!


I’ve learned this spell, it’s really neat,
I’ll keep it later for your treat!
Many tricks are up my sleeve,
To save yourself, you’d better leave!
Your butt will tell you, and you’ll know,
When my boot swings to and fro!
When the back of Grunty’s hand,
Whups your butt, you’ll hardly stand!
This stupid quest you should stop,
You won’t meet me at the top!


If you think I’m rather soft,
I’ll be waiting in the loft!
Can’t you get here any faster?
Come and face me, I’m the master!
I’m still here, I watch you play,
But I can’t think of much to say!
Why do I talk all the time?
It’s really hard to make these rhymes!

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Ordered Manga Garfield

Chances are you first stumbled onto this blog after I posted my parody of Manga Garfield, which used the first two pages of What's Michael? with dialogue from the first Garfield strip.

However, I was disappointed when the very next update of my Garfield Manga wasn't the 2nd one in sequence, but the last one, which threw the whole thing out of whack. The proper reading order should be the 3rd one, then the 2nd. It's been ten months in between waits, and that's a terrible time lag for a correction.

I contacted the administrator to complain, and found out it was just a case of bad luck. They said that the reason they did so was because I submitted so many comics that they had to rotate them out for variety. There's several comics I've submitted that have yet to appear, mostly involving the mailman and roller blinds, and I'm a little embarrassed by some of them now. Right now, I'm focused on creating larger Garfield comics that won't be regulated to being simple 3-panel edits. Let others be satisfied with contributing repetitive remixes - I have higher ambitions.

The only fault is that most of them won't be seen for a long time, since I've outpaced most of the other author's submissions, and the administrators want to give them their chance in the spotlight. The European Nermal one was an exception, since I asked for the webcomic author's permission to use her drawings before submitting. I was surprised at how fast it went up, since it was more recent than my past ones, but the administrators were probably impressed enough at how well it worked that they allowed it to jump the queue prematurely.

Part of the reason it takes so long for some comics to show up depend on whether or not the contributor submit a text script of the parody in question. Otherwise, it slows down the release time if the administrators have to do it themselves. Especially if it's a long one, and there's several comics there that defy description...

Despite my impressive output, there's some comics I'm a little dissatisfied with. In some of my comics, I submitted them prematurely, only to find additional relevant strips later. When I gave my remixed comic of Garfields with halved panels, I neglected to use all of them. Fitting these in would’ve been a challenge, but I could’ve made it work.

There's also a few comics that I worked on, but later decided weren't as great as I thought. Below are my rejected versions of the Nap Attack! and Monster Garfield comics. They're okay, but not that funny, which is why I didn't include them. If I'm going to have myself for competition, I should have something worthy of taking up my valuable space.

One comic that I definitely didn't contribute was adding to the already tired meme of The World is Constantly Changing. If you've ever seen one, it's taken a life on its own to the point where every time a new one appeared, it spawned at least three more comics with slight variations to the middle line where "Minus" was replaced with anything that sounded even remotely similar. By the time there was a whole week of nothing but the same joke, people were getting sick and tired of it to the point where they no longer felt like coming back anymore. The site might've actually lost a large part of their audience to this. When the administrators were determined to cull the remaining strips so they'd end on a strong finish, they still continued to receive contributions from more people who'd been influenced by the silly concept, each one wanting to put their own spin on the subject. Fortunately, they've learned their lesson and are only going to contribute one "Pudding Pop" strip a month from now on. Even if there are no more (very unlikely), they'll still have enough to keep them satisfied for over two years.

While first working on Jon’s Bad Day, there was originally another Sunday strip involved, but I didn’t include it, because it would’ve interfered with the layout. Just shortly after I sent in my submission, I found another relevant strip that would've perfectly within the strip without disrupting anything. However, despite sending the revised version, it wasn't included. Furthermore, it doesn't look like my earlier version will be replaced with the latest one anytime soon. Let this be a lesson to you - don't submit your work unless you feel you've done absolutely everything you can. Consider this a director's cut version.

Fortunately, my second submission of Garfield’s Birthdays got posted, when I hadn’t included the last two years, so it’s not all that bad. Still wish I’d caught the colour mismatches though.

There were several instances where my comics were slightly edited, but I respect the administrators for doing that. My first comic was much bigger before I learned how to resize my images. The original version of Lean on Me was much more pixelated, but the final version was cleaner. My hockey theme was two layers instead of one, and would've been clever enough had Xkcd not already improved on it. Alternately, my Omaha parody had a certain element removed. See if you can spot the difference.

Even more infuriating is not knowing which comic of mine might come up next, since it's all up to chance. My only clue is the number of comics left in the database, and how many are in my name. I can't risk talking about any of my unreleased comics, since that would constitute as a spoiler, and I like my audience to be surprised. As torturous as it is for me waiting for one of my contributions to come up, I'm sated with the knowledge that there are people who're anxiously awaiting my latest masterpiece. Oblique clues such as "homage to a library cat" or "a Weird Al tribute" don't help either. Of course, it's still a roll of the die on whether you get a worthy one, or a subpar admission.

Now, we just need to wait for Manga Nermal to show up. When it does, you'll be kicking yourself for missing the obvious...

Thursday, June 2, 2011

The Better Half

Evolution of comic characters can be startling if you haven’t grown up with them since their inception. You might’ve seen Harriet and Stanley Parker of The Better Half, but you might be surprised at what they looked like when they were starting out. It can be shocking to see their basic designs before they were molded into what we were familiar with.

The reason Stanley looks so much thinner in some scans is because they’re from the tail end of Vinnie Vinson’s run. Ever since Bob Barnes created the strip, successors kept close to Stanley’s character design of being slightly paunchy with a thin mustache. Since then, Randy Glasbergen (with the nom de plume of Harris) reduced his mustache to nose hairs, and started adding the pounds until he became the fat slob we’re more accustomed to.

Upon first sight, one would think that they were just a ripoff of the Lockhorns, but a look at their publication history shows that The Better Half debuted eight years before the Lockhorns did. (1956 versus 1968)

Truth is, its difficult to write objectively about this comic. It was a single-panel strip with very few thematic themes running throughout. There’s only two characters, either one of which has something wry to say. The Sunday strips is really just four (or five) strips in tandem rather than a typical Sunday comic outlook. This is both a bonus and a minus. If one strip falls flat, there's three other strips that can pick up the slack. However, this also means that the reader would lose either one or two strips a week, depending on the Newspaper’s preferences. On the rare cases where there would be a running thread through all the comics in question, these would be few and far between.

The nicest thing that can be said for this comic is that despite their snarkyness, the couple continues to live together with only mild irritation and frustration. Quite a far cry from the Lockhorns, who’re constantly showing their contempt for each other. It’s harder to show gentle prodding humour than hard-biting comebacks with thinly veiled insults. The latter may account for the Lockhorns’ “popularity”, since it’s in the domain of stand-up comics.

Even so, for all its merits, I can’t imagine there being a potential audience for this comic. It remains rather static in that it only focuses on two characters without even a running conversation between the two of them. (There have been rare in-strip exceptions, but for the most part, they're mostly monologues) In addition, past cartoonists could've plundered old strips for years and updated them with new artwork without anyone noticing. The punchlines are so vanilla that they're hardly memorable. I don’t think any collections have been made of any of this comic’s runs, even though the Lockhorns had some collections.