Saturday, August 16, 2014

"The Hedge Knight" and George R.R. Martin's "A Platter of Pork and Bacon"

Virtually nobody remembers that George R.R. Martin wrote "The Hedge Knight" in 1998, only two years after "A Game of Thrones" was first published.  It was a stark departure from the large number of character perspectives found in AGoT, instead focusing predominately on the misfortunes of Samwell Tarly's character.  In fact, because of the novel's bizarre (and frequently sadistic) infatuation with Tarly, Martin even had a working title for the book: "A Platter of Pork and Bacon".  

Years later, Martin expressed significant vitriol for Tarly's character, saying, "In virtually every way, I feel that he [Samwell Tarly] is a repugnant character.  He's fat, unclean and 'craven' and completely devoid of charm.  As he bumbles through Westeros, the only thing that keeps him alive is this overwhelmingly pitiful quality--it exploits our pathos and, although we might hold the rock above his head--and although we may hit him with it again and again--we cannot bring ourselves to deliver the killing blow.  

"Because of this, I'd like to think that I knew I was making a mistake when I first committed him to paper.  All of these characters who are slated for the chopping block, and here is one that transcends death.  You've heard of Pandora's Box?  Well imagine opening the box and finding it brimming with Samwell Tarly's shit, because he's been shitting in this box for a thousand years and just waiting for somebody to open it.  It's spilling over the sides and ruining everything it touches, including yourself.  You've released him into [Westeros] and you'll never get him back in, so now you just have to figure out how to hurt him--to make him pay for simply being."   


"But we can't go out there!" Samwell protested, his pig-like jowls jiggling like heavy slabs of hog fat. Long after he stopped begging for Jon to heed his advice, his cheeks continued to wiggle back and forth. Finally he put his fat, clammy fingers up to his face and stilled them. When he pulled his fat sausage-fingers away from his face, fat sausage-shaped indentations covered his face.

"Gotta do what I gotta do," Jon brooded melancholy, wincing as the cold frost licked at his eyelashes.  "I'm thirteen, Tarly--and a man needs to know when to defend his honor and be a man."

The words were intended to cut Samwell down, yet he ignored them.  "But Ser Crowe! He'll catch us before we even make it to Mole's Town!" Spittle ran down his blubbery pink worm-lips.

"Quit bein' a faggot," Jon snapped, snatching Samwell by the ruff of his disgusting, sweaty cloak. "Ungh, Seven Hells!"  He instantly grimaced, loosening his grip and leaning away from the boy--months of grease and filth and grime had collected in the coward's clothing, making Jon think that he would go up like a candle if even a single cinder came in contact with him. Maybe it wouldn't even have to touch him, Jon thought coldly.  Maybe the craven pig-fumes would serve as all the tinder necessary to immolate this trembling chucklefuck. The thought of Samwell stumbling around, a living flame, made Jon smile faintly. It warmed his cockles. "We. Are. Going."

Samwell practically dug his hooves into the snow as Jon pushed him toward the gate, carving even-toed tracks into the earth. But Jon persisted.

"WHAT ARE YOU TWO SHITLICKS DOIN'?!" Alliser Crowe's growl rumbled through the air like a thunderclap, physically knocking Samwell off his feet. He gasped as tears welled up in his eyes. Jon looked over his shoulder and watched as Ser Crowe leapt over the third-floor balcony and--without breaking eye contact with either of them--landed in the snow like a white meteor.  He then got to his feet, an elegant creature, smiling terribly, eyes wide and wild and the color of frost. "Gonna make water in the fat one! You disgusting, fat fucking pig! You're my toilet now!"

Alliser strode up to them like a horrible blonde Golem, somehow making eye contact with both of them simultaneously.  At that moment, he reached down and pulled his wiener out, and Samwell gasped and wept.


Whimpering, Samwell grabbed handfuls of snow and rubbed it on his face. It instantly melted to slush as his warm piglet flesh came in contact with it. "Be gone..." he bleated. The stink of Alliser Crowe clung to him like a blonde phantom, haunting his every thought. It smelled like sweat and coriander, like old leather and black grease. If only he could wash it off--

"I beseech both the Old Gods and the New, grant me mercy and free me of Crowe!" Even as the words left his mouth, they were weak and unconvincing. His face was sufficiently drenched in frigid snow-melt, but still he could detect the odor. It formed a finger and flicked at his ear, causing him to jerk his head away and gasp. But when he looked over his shoulder, there was nothing--

"PIG BOY!" Crowe suddenly bellowed, materializing behind him. Half of his body was still invisible, wrapped in a magick cloak that turned the wearer transparent as air. Only the nude upper-half of Ser Crowe was visible, a torso floating above the snow like a ghost. "Prayin' to the God of Pork again, eh?" he sneered, practically chewing through his bottom lip.

Without warning, Crowe rolled his shoulders, causing the cloak to drop down to the ground and reveal the rest of him--creamy white skin and an endless forest of rough, tangled, blonde hair.

Samwell fell backwards into the snow and began backpedaling as Crowe stalked towards him. Alliser's eyes lit up as he watched the boy's reaction. "Ser Fatback the Craven Pork Chop," he hissed, his steely gaze piercing Samwell's feeble spiritual defenses. He could instantly feel the man invading his plump innards, dining on his soul-sap from ten paces.

And then Ser Crowe was upon him.



Saucer-eyed Samwell Tarly's lips quivered as he beheld the crate of delicate pastries that sat before him. Repulsive pig-men like Sam didn't experience the emotional milestones of ordinary men...except, here were these milky white legs spread wide, granting him unencumbered access to all the moist cakes, delicate cream horns, decadent strudels, and mouth-puckering tarts he could take into himself. This must be how other men feel when they first lay eyes upon a beautiful woman, or a glimmering pile of jewels, he thought to himself, tingling at the thought of how it must be feel to be a real human being.

As he stood there--a mere swine momentarily glimpsing over the trough, past the fence, and into the heavens and the impossible majesty of gods rendered as tender, flaky flesh therewithin--he began to breathe heavily, and a prickly heat swept across his fat face.

Samwell took one step forward, and then another. His feet felt as heavy as boulders yet, when he lifted them, they were simultaneously light as air; unseen kitchen-magicks drew him forward. He clumsily dropped down beside the crate and inhaled an intoxicating aroma of sugars, butters, and spices--it made him dizzy, and he had to brace himself against the box to keep from falling over.

The sudden rush of saliva made his jaw ache. "How did you end up here?" he asked in a voice had become slow and slurred, as if he were drunk. The crate was undoubtedly a mistake. It was intended for some lord or lady of the North, not for him, never for him. Yet it had somehow ended up at Castle Black.

With surprising speed and dexterity for somebody so corpulent, he plunged a hand into the crate and plucked a danish free from the pile. Wrestling with the excited tremble of his plump hands, he lifted the treat to his face until his nose was pressed against its gooey crimson innards. Go on, it said to him. Dine upon me, m'lord. Eat your fill.

An angel's kiss of sugar sat on the tip of Samwell's broad, upturned nose. He inhaled deeply and held his breath for what felt like an eternity, his secret prisoner, before grudgingly releasing it. It smelled of ripe strawberry fields, hot, bubbling butter, indescribable noise escaped his lips without his consent.

He tested the quince cheese with a single fat finger and, sensing its vulnerability, continued to probe it with additional fingers. "There are...secrets--secrets hidden deep inside of you, and my mouth mouth will release them," he nervously cooed to the pastry. His forbidden lover.

Suddenly the door burst open behind him with such ferocity that it broke free of its heavy iron hinges and collided with the wall, shattering into a thousand-thousand pieces that clattered noisily to the floor like wooden rain. "WHERE'S MY BOY-HOG?" a voice shouted. Ser Crowe's voice.

Tears automatically welled up in Samwell's eyes and his bottom lip began quivering. As fast as a craven piglet could move, he scrambled away on all fours. But corners and dead-ends met him at every turn. "You don't understand!" he cried, scooting under a heavy wooden table. "The food, it's never spoken to me before! It speaks! God is in the food! God is in the food!"

Ignoring him, Crowe announced "you're no real boy," in a tone that stood somewhere between raw contempt and wicked exhilaration. He strode towards Samwell, shaking the earth with each step and knocking dust from the rafters. But then he stopped short of the boy, and his expression twisted into angry disgust. "Ungh, by the Gods, you smell awful! Like a pile of dog shit passed through a sewer-pig." He paused, shaking his head. His eyes darkened.

"Ah, no matter--God's gonna be in you before long."



"Khaleesi, I beg of you, do not sacrifice yourself for the sake of your Khal," Ser Jorah Mormont pleaded with the nubile young albino girl named Daenerys Stormborn, stopping just short seizing her delicate wrists and shaking her loose of her intense determination.

Her pink rodent eyes were cold and her face was a mask of raw, youthful anger as she said, "I know what I must do, Ser." She practically spat the words at the middle-aged knight, causing him to visibly shrink in fear. How queer, she thought to herself, that the child becomes the man, and the man becomes the child. Their love was like that, though: It was a constant, restless swirling of reversed roles, a sexual chase of cat and mouse. Yet neither truly knew who was which.

Daenerys then climbed upon the Khal's funeral pyre, thrust the torch high above her head and held it there so that the Gods might see. The two made eye contact once more before she pitched it straight down into the straw beneath her feet.

Instantly the pyramid of kindling went to flames, surrounding the 9-year-old girl in a twister of golden flame. It swirled around her hypnotically, engulfing her for hours before finally sputtering and dying. In the end, all that remained was a diminished mound of blackened ash and the Khaleesi's tiny white figure, crouching in the dirt like a sun-bleached spider.

"By the Gods," Ser Jorah gasped as he approached her. Through the smoke, he could see that she cradled a small creature in her arms; two more clung to her hair and shoulders. They had the bodies of grotesque cherubs--fat, formless infants--yet their heads were enormous. Nearly adult-sized. As he drew closer, he could see more of their awful features. Each possessed the bloated visage of a frightened boy, with a wreath of twisted black hair ringing their necks where a chin and throat should have been. Their cheeks and eyes were obliterated by soft pigflesh, and a messy tangle of greasy brown hair crowned each of their gigantic heads.

One of them made fleeting, uncomfortable eye contact with him, and Ser Jorah's heart skipped a beat. "You frightened me, m'lord!" the creature stammered. "You haven't seen Ser Alliser Crowe, have you?" The mention of the name set all three of them into a hideous sobbing, and instantly Ser Jorah felt the overwhelming urge to bludgeon them against the hot desert stones.



"You might say this is a Game of Thrones-changer," the weaselly Petyr Baelish practically twirled his perfect mustache as he revealed his latest contraption, the "Combustible Metal Bearing-Launcher". It was a terrible device fashioned from riveted bronze and iron, with a long octagonal barrel and needlessly complex set of optical instruments affixed to the top of it. "I'm certain that it's gonna kill so many pissants."

Varys puckered his lips and gave an indecipherable mmmm, though neither could tell if it was in approval or doubt.

"Watch this," Baelish commanded, and began adjusting the various lenses and knobs. "Even got that twisted old man, Pycelle, to build me a miniature telescope for it. Such a foggie!"

After a few moments, he winced and yanked down violently on the trigger. A jet of flame instantly exploded from the barrel and a heavy brass ball launched across the Godswood. A second later, part of a Weirwood's face exploded in a cloud of splinters and smoldering pieces of wood. "GOT you, you fucking tree!"

Varys' eyes lit up and his jaw dropped. "AHhhhhhhhh!" he screamed excitedly, throwing his arms into the air and waving them frantically.

"You can't use it, though," Petyr said softly and in a matter-of-fact tone.

"What? Why!?" Varys sputtered, pawing at the weapon with pale, powdery hands.

"Because," Petyr growled, pulling it away from the eunuch. "You're a fucking gaylord."

" least..." Varys paused to search the Godswood before he spotted something, "...shoot that bird!" He thrust a finger toward the sky, pointing at a tiny black speck drifting on the breeze. "That one right there! Shoot it!" It would be the furthest Lord Baelish had ever aimed the device.

Evidently happy with that concession, Petyr chewed on his lip and began readjusting the optics. "Gods, Pycelle's such a foggie. He kept trying to warn me about the telescope, like it was complicated or magick or something. And then I totally pushed him and he fell over and I could see his dick under his robe and everything!" Petyr broke into whiny, ear-splitting laughter. "It was hella gross!"

Finally satisfied with his settings, he lifted the weapon and peered through the delicate lenses. "Wait...what the hell?"

"What is it? What is it?" Varys asked excitedly.

"That can't be right. That looks like...Castle Black?"

Varys pushed him to the side and forced his moon-face against the lens. What he saw took his breath away: It was indeed Castle Black...but he could also make out a paunchy, disgusting boy standing out in the snow, alone. As he watched, the boy seemed to look around and, after a moment, began meddling with his soiled black pants. A fat hand disappeared under the fabric before reemerging several seconds later and taking an immediate trip to his nose.

"Sorcery," Varys breathed, vexed.

"No! You mustn't use the 'Eyes of the Crone' like this!" Pycelle burst into the room. "The 'Eyes' are imbued with terrible magicks! You two fools have no idea what you are doing!"

Varys angrily shushed the Maester. "Quiet! Be still!" His licked his lips. "I think...I think he can see us!"

"Of course he can see us!" Pycelle continued, half-limping, half-running toward them. "When you peer into the 'Eyes'...the 'Eyes' peer into you! They open up a door between 'to' and 'fro' in a manner that mere mortals were never intended to use!"

"Speak true, old man!" Petyr snapped, slapping Pycelle with a vicious, downward strike that took the Maester down to his knees.

Varys held his breath as the disheveled pig-boy seemed to turn his head and look straight at him. He felt like he could even smell the boy, a foul stink of stale cheese and fear that burned his nostrils. It was almost like he was--

"Right there!" Petyr shouted. Varys stumbled back, still clutching Petyr's weapon in his now-clammy hands.

Somehow the boy in black was standing in the middle of the Godswood. His eyes were bright with terror, and he instantly lowered his head and hunched over like an ape that was trying to figure out how best to flee. His hair clung to his bulbous forehead in thick, greasy tangles, and his wobbly gut was visible even under the soiled black clothing of the Night's Watch. And the stink--the stink radiating off of him was rapidly worsening: Sweat, piss, and wet dirt mingled with other indescribable notes, causing Varys to reflexively cry out in pain.

"A black swine-cherub!" Pycelle wept.

Without thinking, Varys yanked on the trigger. The weapon barked once again; the boy's tremendous gut split open like an overripe peach. Slippery red entrails spilled out of the wound as the boy let out a soft moan, stumbled, and collapsed.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Some excerpts from J.K. Simmons on "Magnus Monk" and the original Harry Potter universe

It's hard to believe that, back in 1994, Harry Potter was little more than a twinkle in the mind of author J.K. Simmons.  It wasn't until several years later that Simmons committed the character to paper and mesmerized the world--including more than a few "muggles" (re: "adults")--with the twisted tale of a wizard-child.  But there were several revisions along the way to the final product, many of which Simmons revealed in a candid interview after the series came to an end.  Here are some excerpts:    

     "Harry Potter was originally going to be named 'Magnus Monk'--a name I came up with while I was entertaining fellow passengers on the hour-long commute to work.  Like Potter, Magnus Monk was a precocious little boy who had a penchant for magical mischief, although his adventures were very episodic...almost like Superman or Batman or what have you:  A villain threatens London and Magnus flies in on his magic carpet and shoots the bad-guy with a 'haunted Luger', thereby saving the day.  They were very short stories, generally, because Magnus lacked a true 'weakness' and was astonishingly efficient..."

     "...It is true that 'Magnus' (Potter) and 'The Gunga Din' (Dumbledore) were basically carbon copies of Tin Tin and Captain Haddock.  For example, I'd have them running around, gunning down criminals, and the Gunga Din constantly smoked "oriental spices" from an elaborate brass pipe.  It was retrospect, it was actually pretty clear that The Gunga Din had a borderline personality, although that wasn't intentional..."

     "One day, my coworker said to me, he said, 'Why don't you start writing down all of these [Magnus Monk] stories and put together a collection that you can sell?'  I remember thinking that this was a fantastic idea, especially since I was tired of working at the steel mill where some obscure, Soviet-era Thatcherite policy had us working, quite literally, for beans.  Can you imagine such a thing?  Unsurprisingly, trains refused to take the beans as legal tender, which meant that you had to leave the mill and immediately, you know...sell some of your beans to afford the ride back home.  Nobody wanted to buy these beans.  I don't know where they found these beans.  You'd be lucky to get a single quid for an entire pound of them.  So then I condensed a lot of the [Magnus] 'episodes' into a single story and decided to rebrand the main character as something less 'religious' sounding, but still ridiculous.  That's where the inspiration to create Harry Potter came from."
     "Now, I've always seen Hermione as a sort of 'Prince Leia' character.  She's beautiful, but rough around the edges...and she plays a critical role to the resistance against the snake men, who were the original nemeses of the story.  And actually, I feel like I'm deviating from the question a little bit here, but the whole concept behind the snake men--which lives on in Slytherin, Voldemort, and so on--is rooted in concrete historical data.  For instance, there's a lot of reason to believe that our own Earth is hollow, and that the dinosaurs didn't really become extinct--certainly not from a comet.  Rather, they retreated underground and evolved into sapient life.  A lot of world leaders might even be snake men in disguise.  It's very shocking, once you open up your eyes, and discover the reality of our world."  
     "There was going to be an...intimate...scene between Malfoy and Potter.  It was going to be very progressive."

     "When Tom Felton was cast for the role of Malfoy, I would have never guessed that he would end up looking like he did by the end of the series.  If I had, I don't think I would have allowed it.  I don't think Chris [Columbus, the director] would have allowed it."

     "No, I made it very explicit that Malfoy was an attractive, brooding, sensual character throughout the series.  Then they cast Felton 'the Fivehead' and I think a lot of people subsequently lost track of who was supposed to be playing Malfoy in the films.  In fact, I remember somebody calling Matthew Lewis [Neville Longbottom] 'Malfoy' for a significant part of the Order of the Phoenix screening, and I actually had correct them.  I said, 'no, that's Neville.  Malfoy is over there,' and I pointed and they gasped, and their entire body language changed completely." 

     "They told me, 'J.K., we'd like to have your feedback on casting Ron Weasley' because, up until then, I had been quite adamant on the look I wanted for Ronald.  I had always envisioned him as this horrid Irish child and, looking back, there was certainly a lot of vitriol for him in the original writings.  For example, I frequently referred to his behavior as ignorant and 'piggish'...also, his dialogue was strictly phonetic (it was an accent I'd describe as a 'subnormal Kerry-Irishman') and readers had significant difficulty understanding him.    
     "Brian Jacques actually did this a lot in his Redwall series, which had anthropomorphic badgers and mice speaking at great length about food--that's where I got the idea from.  The difference was that Ron would launch into these half-unintelligible rants about unremarkable subjects.  Even commonplace items often mystified him, and his natural reaction was to grow angry.
     "So I discover that the film crew wanted a rather handsome lad to play the character...I think it was Logan Lerman, originally.  I thought the entire thing was ridiculous, and rejected [Lerman].  I kept saying 'more piggish!' and having to describe this awful creature I had created in my mind (and on paper).  Finally, after I thought I would be at an impasse with the film staff, in walks Rupert [Grint] and I remember, I threw up my hands and shouted, 'HIM!"

Friday, December 13, 2013

Father's Day is June 15, 2014

Dads are our greatest treasure:  They're sort of like lifeguards for the gene pool, and they know important skills that will be especially important after fiat money causes the world economy to collapse (things like wood chopping and hunting).  But finding inspiration for the perfect father's day gift can be difficult.  You've probably spent months thinking about it, but there are so many options! 

Finding inspirational stories of the perfect dad simply requires that you open your eyes and see how great your dad is.  These stories may give you the perfect idea for this Father's Day.

Father always carried a bag of nickels around with him.  Whenever you'd do something he approved of, he'd pull one out of the bag and pop it in your mouth with this look of extreme satisfaction on his face.  When you did something he disapproved of, he'd "get five cents' worth out of you" unless the two events happened so close together that you could just spit the coin back into his bag.

Dad would get drunk on something called "slush" (basically a mix of fortified wine and cough syrup) and spend the whole afternoon laying out the in sun, thinking of ways to save the world.  I remember the day he figured out that heavier vehicles got worse fuel economy than lighter vehicles.  He wouldn't stop smiling as he rode his lawnmower to Costco. 

It wasn't even a rideable mower, either.  He just straddled the top of an ordinary Honda gas-powered mower, reached back, and held the throttle down.  The thing got up to 11 MPH so the Costco staff had a hard time catching him.  He kept fake-surrendering and then jumping back onto it when they tried to subdue him.  

"Never give up," he'd always say, "Life will always try to tell you, 'No.  Never.'  But never deal in absolutes."

My dad also had a full-scale replica of C3PO in the den that he would shout insults at when he had a bad day at work.  He'd just walk through the door, head straight to the den, and a moment later you'd hear him calling the robot racial slurs and sometimes you could even hear a glass break or something get thrown into the wall.  I don't know what that robot did to deserve that abuse, but a lot of horrible things ended up happening to it.

When I was younger, dad asked me if I wanted to go camping.  Of course I wanted to go camping.  He led me out to the backyard where he had set up an 8-person tent and said, "We should be able to see some stars tonight."  It was like Christmas in the middle of July.

That night, dad pointed out all of the constellations:  The "Patriot" (a soldier kneeling and aiming a rifle); the "Measuring Cups", (pretty obvious), and some that were even inspired by Lord of the Rings.  There is so much history buried in that night sky. The following morning, he asked if I wanted to continue camping.  Of course I wanted to continue camping.

For some reason, this caused my mom to get really upset.  The two got into an argument and dad said something about how he wasn't even living in the house.  Mom kept shouting, "This doesn't count!  This doesn't count!"

Years later, my dad rode a horse bareback through the forests of northern Oregon and lived off of the land with nothing more than a single shot .22 caliber rifle and a week's worth of military rations.  After four or five days, he returned with wild-eyes stories of how people should try harder to "live off the grid", and got really upset when we asked how we would get electricity in the middle of nowhere.  He'd grow flustered and shout "those people living caves have the right idea!" over and over again.

My dad auditioned for the role of John Proctor in a local version of "The Crucible" because he heard that the character got to have sex with several of the actors and figured that he could circumvent being faithful to his wife if it "was only acting".  Then he got the part and would just shout all of his lines at the top of his lungs like he was deaf or something and all the other actors were like, "What the fuck is up with this guy?"  Under their breaths, of course, because my dad was really unstable, especially under pressure.

He cut a hole in the crotch of his big baggy pilgrim pants so he could have sex with the actors but I guess that scene doesn't actually exist so he just spent like 3 hours screaming in a fake British accent while his dick flopped around like a gopher.

A man goes to the big box store with a list of items to purchase:  Razors, two pounds of cheese, and a couple of pairs of $11 jeans.  Out of the corner of his eye, he catches an employee handing out samples.  He tastes the sample and--wowie--that's some good sample, he thinks.

"I'd like to buy one," the man says to the employee.  The employee throws his hands up and sprints to retrieve the product:  A brand new dad.  Chestnut-colored hair, a encyclopedic knowledge of Chris-Craft boats, 10 fingers and toes, et cetera.

"My wife is gonna kill me," the customer laughs as the employee yessirs and seats the dad on a palette.  Then the employee full-force slaps the dad across the mouth and points a finger in the dad's face.

"You listen to me, you little shit.  I will fucking kill you if you show up as a return.  You hear me?  This is an honest business and we don't have time for this," he hisses at the dad, barely above a whisper.  The two lock eye contact for a long time.  "Better watch out for this one," the employee says to the customer.  "He's nothing but trouble."

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Decoding LOST...

I realize that, even years later, a lot of people are still struggling to decipher the endless symbolism buried within the smash-hit "LOST".  Strangely, the show's writers insist that the overarching themes of life, death, and religion are purely ad hoc and devoid of any greater meaning.  This belies the awful truth. 

Herein I attempt to gently uncover some of the show's fundamental ideas and, in doing so, allow the reader to disarm the many spiritual booby-traps that lurk right beneath the surface (or sands) of LOST.

The Most Important Players:

Jack wrestles with alcoholism and a 3-day beard, even on an island with virtually no alcohol or razor blades.  Develops a serious Electra complex after he loses his wife to his drunkard of a father.

John cannot escape the jungle's calling.  He doesn't represent religion so much as "pagan naturism", banging sticks and bones together so that he might discover the inspiration to write an angry manifesto on "Sovereign Man".  He's the kind of guy who would throat-sing the songs of Mother Nature until his eyes vibrated and he threw up on himself--Mother Nature would reject him.

Hurley challenges himself to eat an entire bush, but quits halfway through because he realizes it is a vegetable.  He is cast as a statistical anomaly...on an island full of plane crash survivors.

Charlie waves "goodbye" to everybody after eating an entire baggie of cocaine.  He dives into the ocean and proceeds to swim away.

Adebisi builds a church to his God (a palm frond with a face drawn in feces) and forcefully converts the other survivors to Islam.

Kate takes her top off and cracks a coconut over her head.  Coconut milk dribbles over her nubile frame.  She bites down on her lip, closes her eyes, and makes a quiet, deep, animal sound.

Michael is the perpetual worry of a doting parent:  Constantly sabotaging his own efforts through self-doubt, and lashes out blindly at others.  He flaps his arms and shouts, "My son!  My son!  My son!" until his brow is slick with sweat and blood runs down his nose.  Finally he builds a complicate glider, launches it off of a mountain, and drifts around the island for several days, throwing spears at people below.

~* --- *~

S1E6:  In this scene, we see that purgatory is inhabited by polar bears and bees.  

"Don't move," the bald man (John) hisses.

Charlie Pace stuffs a statue of the Virgin Mary (made of pure heroin) into his baggy pants.

"Beeeeees," the bald man explains.

Charlie's eyes widen.  He looks down at his naked, hairy feet.  Fat toes and dirty, unkempt nails dig into the husk of an exposed hive, and bees are pouring out of it.

"Wot's uh bee hayve doin' down 'ere!  Bee hayve's s'posed to be in ta trees!" he cries.  There is a massive gap between his two front teeth; A bee flies out of it.

~* --- *~

Michael Searches for WALT:  In this scene, we see how the embodiment of the "bad parent" tries to compensate for his failings by turning to overly-complex solutions:  Hand-built technology and magick.  

After Walt disappears, Michael builds a "Little Boy Detector" out of bamboo and airplane pieces.  He turns it on and it begins making noise.  

"Feedback is good, yeah?" Charlie asks, sticking his face right up against the device, breathing it in. 

"Not on Little Boy Detectors," Sayid clarifies. 

"Yea," Michael whispers, holding the detector out in front of him like a giant metal phallus.  "Yeeeaaaaa..."

"I must admit I am jealous of your newest invention," Sayid says to Michael.  He reaches out to caress the machine but Michael slaps his hand away.  Sayid can't even suppress his sheepish smile as he wrings his hands restlessly.  

"Gonna find me a little boy," Michael growls, thrusting the device back and forth.  All three cackle in unison:  Weh Heh heh heh!



~* --- *~

Time Travel (Part One)

"What does this have to do with time travel?" Jack asked, exasperated.
Using a single finger, Linus gingerly pushed his glasses further up on his face and cleared his throat.
"The Jews," he began, "Had a word for this:  Zman, meaning 'time'."
"So are you telling us it will work?"
Linus giggled.  "I'm telling you that without any Jews, nothing will work."

Time Travel (Part Two)

Faraday wriggles his fingers like an octopus' tentacles; his eyes roll into the back of his head as he performs a mental mathematics marathon.  "Three...uh...err...seventy-six-point-six...mmmhmmm...yes, but, ah, we--" he mutters.

Then, suddenly:  Clarity.  "It is a machine.  A boat, as it were...but for the waters of time."   To punctuate the statement, he spreads his arms wide like a messianic figure.

"A time machine!" Miles exclaims.

", no," Faraday corrects him.  "A time machine would control time.  My machine passes through time."  He climbs into the machine as if to demonstrate, but nothing happens.  "As you see, by simply existing, I am passing through time.  The waters of time are passing over us, coming from 'before' and departing for 'later'."  He grips the wheel of his machine tightly and stares straight ahead.

"Outta mah way, faggot!" Charlie exclaims, slapping Miles to the ground and climbing onto the machine. "I've gotta date with with a bloody dinosaur!"

"No!  No, you'll ruin everything!" Faraday cries, but it is in vain.  The machine begins sputtering wisps of black smoke.  Sparks shoot off in all directions as flames erupt from underneath.

Charlie cackles, eyes wide, teeth popping out of his mouth like uneven pebbles.  His lips and nostrils are caked with saliva and drugs.  He throws his weight back and forth, trying to tip the machine over.  A jet of flame leaps out and consumes him, and he falls from the machine.  Faraday's lip quivers as he makes the expression of a child who is about to be hit in the face.

The machine explodes violently.


~* --- *~

S4E11:  This scene can be reinterpreted a few ways:  The most obvious is that John is a sort of Jesus figure.  But think about John's reputation as a pagan naturist, constantly searching for meaning and reading signs in the ash and animal bones.  From this perspective, our mysterious visitor is using John as the ash and animal bones, consulting the cosmos for insight into the future.  John is a primordial political pundit.  

The year is 1958.  A boy sits in his room, using colored pencils to sketch a picture of a fat, grotesque man with wild, unkempt hair.  This man's name will be...Harley...he thinks to himself.  No, not Harley.  Close, but no cigar!  Then what?

Before he can figure it out, he is interrupted.  "Hello, John," somebody calls out in a low purr.  John looks up and sees a handsome man standing at the window, watching him with an intense, unblinking gaze.  The man is so close to the glass that his hot breath fogs it up, even in the warm weather.

Before John can react, the man pushes the window open and climbs inside.  The smell of clove cigarettes instantly permeates the room.  "My name is Mr. Alpert," the man says as he unties a bindle and begins to gently arrange a series of items out across the floor.  Pictures of two strange men sit before John.  "Which one is it, John?"

John thinks about it and finally points at a picture of a Muslim man who is smiling.  

Immediately Mr. Alpert's expression shifts from optimism to devastation.  "No, John," he growls and begins shoving the objects back into the bindle.  "That was not the right choice."  He stands up, adjusts his bright blue tie, and exits the room.

Exactly half a century later:

John Locke trembles and begins to weep as he watches the final results of the U.S. presidential elections.


~* --- *~

S2E20:  Pretty obvious if you ask me.

Libby stares wordlessly, expectantly, like a startled doe in a field of morning glories.  "I--I love your hair-smell, dude," Hurley stammers, using a line that Bernard sold him for a can of Dharma tuna.  He blinks rapidly and paws at the sweat on his forehead.  "Like, up until now, I've felt like Han Solo without a Chewbacca.  And I'm like, 'dude, I need a co-pilot if I want to get off this island'. you are, you know, with your hair and everything," he reaches out to touch her hair, but she backs away.  "And you could be my Chewbacca, right?  Dude:  Be my Chewbacca."

He grabs her hands and she winces.  "Please, please, please," he mumbles.

"I...just came for a book," she nervously explains.  "Sorry...I really don't want to give you the wrong idea."

"You gotta give him a chance," Michael lectures Libby with a smile.  The smile immediately vanishes when he realizes she disagrees.  "Look:  He's been nice to you.  You're like, 'Hurley, gimme some peanut butter' and what does Hurley do?  Gives you some peanut butter.  Now Hurley's asking to smell your hair.  Ain't cost you a goddamn thing!"  Like a switch being flipped, Michael has become visibly upset.  He paces back and forth like a tiger in a cage, shaking his head furiously.  "FEMALES."

Libby backpedals.  "Look, I don't know if I gave you the wrong idea, I just wanted something to rea--"

"I do not believe this shit!" Michael screams like a woman, kicking a chair over.  He claws at his hair and growls.

Attracted by the commotion, Ana Lucia enters the room like a Latina Gunslinger.  "What're you queers doin'?"

Michael spins around, fumbling for his pistol and firing wildly.  One, two, three rounds miss her by several feet.  Everybody is stunned.  Michael then takes more careful aim and shoots her in the stomach.  She grunts and falls to the ground.

"Dude!" Hurley cries.
"She...startled me," Michael explains halfheartedly.  He turns to the other two and says, coldly, "No witnesses."

Two more gunshots.

A copy of The Feminine Mystique falls from Libby's lifeless hands.


Monday, December 12, 2011

Fallout 2's Auger Quest


While I was studying abroad in France, I found that I had more free time than I had expected.  The campus internet wasn't exactly fantastic, and it was metered to prevent over-usage.  That meant I couldn't use Steam to download new games, and since I hadn't considered bringing very many with me, I was at the mercy of whatever I could find locally.  Of course, being a huge nerd, I used this free time as an excuse to explore the local "Saturn" store (basically a big electronics store; not the sort of place you probably think of when you think of France.)

Yes, I know.  I'm studying abroad in a beautiful foreign country and here I am, scrounging for a reason to spend more time sitting in front of a computer screen.  I am painfully aware of this.

You can imagine my surprise when I found a copy of Fallout 2 in a bin full of classic games.  For all intents and purposes, it appeared to be an English copy, too.  I bought it and headed back to campus.

Cue a relatively significant period of time where I would build a new character, get them to level five or six, change my mind, and start over (I know I'm not the only one who does this.)  After eight or nine times I finally settled on, "Dashing Dongwood", a roguish character inspired by Fallout 3's Herbert Dashwood.

The Den:

The story really begins at the Den.  If you're playing like an abnormal human being--and not trying to break Fallout as hard as you can--you will probably reach the Den about 1:30 to 2:00 hours into the game, depending on how long you spend in Klamath.  In that two hours, nothing remarkable happened.  I slowly punched ants to death; I ran around and stole everybody's shit; I preemptively took Vic's radio from his shack so that I could free him without having to run back and forth between the towns. The usual.

Then I encountered an interesting character while heading to the Metzger's slaver building.

To the casual gamer, this is just generic NPC #3.  (The game likes to use the same 4 or 5 NPC sprites over and over again.)  But to diehard Fallout players, generic NPC #3 is the sprite Fallout's Ian used.  Ian is one of the first characters you can recruit in the original Fallout, and he was infamous for spraying his 10mm SMG indiscriminately--even if you were between him and his target.  I've probably died to Ian's  friendly fire more than I have to enemies in Fallout.  The thing is, 80 years have passed between Fallout and Fallout 2.  Ian should be dead of old age, or friendly fire, or something.

Side note:  According to the Vault wiki, Ian was originally planned to be in Fallout 2.  In a random encounter, you can speak to a character who claims he can be found in an area called "The Abbey" (however, The Abbey doesn't actually exist in the game.)  Alternatively, Ian would have been approachable in Vault City, where he would mistake you for your character from the original Fallout.
The reason this caught my attention is because the, "Hey.  You.  Come over  here." dialogue is not something you normally get while passing NPCs.  As I approach Generic NPC #3, a dialogue window automatically opens up.

Note: I've taken screenshots with the replies I choose highlighted, so you can follow the conversation without me having to post a transcript.  

The rest of Ian's dialogue (not pictured): "...imagine that?  Going to all of that trouble just to get the cold shoulder by the same people who sent you out in the first place?"

The rest of Ian's dialogue (not pictured):  "...found me.  He was in a daze, like he took a Brahmin kick to the skull.  Eventually he told me that the Vault had excommunicated him.  Said they were afraid of what he had become.  Then he starts talking about a place he found out to the East, past a 'city full of Ghouls.'  At first I thought he was talking about Necropolis, a shithole I wanted nothing to do with.  They shoot people like you and me on sight.  Long story short, he was describing a place called Gecko.  Much friendlier Ghouls far as Ghouls are concerned, at least.  He says this place makes your hair stand on end, like there's something in the air.  Naturally, he checks the place out.  But he couldn't find a way in."   

The rest of Ian's dialogue (not pictured): "...had told me.  Something about it, it didn't sit right with me.  So I decided to find out for myself."

Ian's dialogue ends with, "Why do you think I'm alive still?" regardless of the response you choose in this last picture.  You cannot initiate a conversation with him again once the window is closed.  What I get from all of this is:  Your character in Fallout (the "Vault Dweller") gets kicked out of the Vault at the end of the game.  He wanders North until he finds Gecko (and "Auger").  Unable to find a way into Auger, he backtracks aimlessly until he finds himself at Shady Sands, where Ian is.   

It occurred to me that not a whole lot about the story made sense.  Why would they have the Vault Dweller heading so far North, only to turn right back around and find a character (Ian) that--let's be honest here--didn't have a whole lot to do with anything?  And then have the Vault Dweller turn around yet again and end up in Arroyo?  Ian could have been familiar with Gecko because of his history as a Crimson Caravan guard, but why was he placed in the Den?  And why are there in-game characters mentioning him being at the "Abbey", which isn't even in the game (but is close to Gecko and--potentially--Auger.)   

The thing about old RPGs is this:  They hate your guts.  There are no magic compass markers, no hand-holding journals or handouts.  You usually have to figure things out on your own.  When internet searches turned up nothing, I felt like I was back in the old RPG-days, where bad hints were spread by word of mouth and everybody's uncle worked for somebody who said something.  So I took Ian's bizarre story as a challenge.

Gecko (and Vault City):

The only tangible clue I had to work with was Gecko, so after picking up Vic in the Den, I made my way East.  In the game, Gecko is a town built around a large, malfunctioning power plant.  The residents, "Ghouls" (re: heavily irradiated humans that look like corpses), live at odds with their neighbors in Vault City because the power plant leaks radiation into the water supply, which the citizens of Vault City don't particularly care for.  Both towns might try to recruit you to achieve their ends--in the case of Vault City, it's by being a dick and sabotaging the power plant.    

Nothing in Gecko stood out as unusual though.  Conversations went exactly as expected, and my backup plan--repeatedly clicking on random NPCs--only elicited the usual generic responses.  Then I remembered that the developers had planned to put Ian in Vault City.

When I got there, Ian was nowhere to be found.  I recruited Cassidy and the three of us began grilling the locals for any information by clicking on anything that moved.  I abused the Pipboy's "rest" command, so I could check areas in the daytime and at night.  I took up the small quests outside of Vault City, hoping that it would trigger Ian's appearance.  I even aimlessly circled around Gecko and Vault City, hoping to stumble across Auger on the automap.  But nothing.

Eventually I gave up and took the quest from Vault City to resolve the Gecko problem.  Unlike Fallout 3 and New Vegas, your party members in Fallout 1 and 2 can supplement skills you're lacking in, like medicine or repair.  Vic, for as fat and slow as he is, is a fantastic mechanic.  This came in especially useful when I chose to ignore Vault City's advice (re: Sabotage the power plant and massacre the locals) and repair the power plant.  Vault City didn't appreciate this solution, and, after a few choice words with their leadership, I effectively became a persona non grata.  

Returning to Gecko to bask in the local praise, I was greeted with a very unusual warning from one of the NPCs.

 It's difficult to read, but the ghoul is saying, "A little advice.  Don't go East of here."

Of course, to me, that reads, "Go East of here!  There's something really fucking amazing EAST of here!"

East of Here (Gecko):

I exited Gecko to find that my automap had been updated.

In Fallout 1 and 2, large cities were generally represented by a circle about 1x1 grid in size.  Random encounters and smaller locations were represented by a much smaller circle.  My automap showed that Auger--so far East on the map that part of its name was cut off--was most likely not a giant city.

Setting my destination to Auger, I found that I was consistently interrupted by a bizarre random encounter. 

It took me a moment to realize that my party members--Vic and Cassidy--were already dead when the random encounter loaded.  I reloaded my save and attempted to travel to Auger several more times, but ended up with the same results.  Even when telling my companions to "wait" in Gecko, the random encounter would show them dead upon loading.  This makes me think that anybody flagged as having been recruited--regardless of whether or not they're physically with you--are killed upon entering this random encounter.  (Side note: I wish I had recruited Myron ahead of time.)

A very unusual character initiates dialogue with you the moment the worldspace loads, warning you to go back and basically cut your losses.  If you say, "Fine, I'm leaving," you are able to loot your party member's corpses and flee from the location.  However, if you try to travel to Auger, your trip is interrupted by the same random encounter.  If you choose either one of the two remaining options, you initiate combat with the hooded figure and its tribal entourage.

Combat is pretty ridiculous, especially if you weren't planning on your entire party being dead when it begins.  The tribals are typical enemies:  They attack with spears and throwing knives and have a modest amount of HP.  The hooded figure, on the other hand, has about as much HP as a deathclaw (re: a lot more than you) and can make short work of you in hand-to-hand combat.  Every time I would get the figure's health down to "Almost Dead", it would use some sort of aid item that instantly regenerated its health.   

The trick, I discovered, is to game the targeting system a bit.  In other words, your best chance at success is to target the figure's groin over and over again until they're incapacitated.  When they're on the ground, they can't move, attack, or use items.  Then it's a matter of beating on them until they're thoroughly dead.

When combat was over, I searched the corpses in hopes of finding something interesting.  But besides a lot of spears, throwing knives, and healing powder, there was nothing worth carrying.  Assuming the path had been cleared, I continued to Auger.

Auger was a lot smaller than I thought it would be.  That being said, I'm not really sure what I expected it to be--a giant, radioactive hole (a la The Glow), some sort of Stone Henge, a big goddamned head.  Who knew!

As you can see, it looks like a large, crashed machine of  some sort, with what looked like solar panels.  There was a hatch off to the left, but nothing would make it open.  The description for it was simply, "A large wreck."  After several attempts to open the hatch, the prompt told me that I felt very strange.  Usually a similar message would pop up after spending too much time in a radioactive area, but my PipBoy indicated that I wasn't taking radiation damage.

However, I discovered I had picked up a new quest at some point along the way:

For whatever reason, I was supposed to return to Hakunin, Arroyo's Shaman.  Hakunin is a strange character who speaks in roundabout ways.  Also, he talks to you in your dreams and tells you to hurry up if you're taking too long with the Main Quest.  So there's that.


Taking my PipBoy's advice, I return to Arroyo.  Along the way, my trip is periodically interrupted by the corpses of my dead party members.  By that, I mean, I pop up in a random worldspace--like any random encounter--with Vic and Cassidy's dead bodies next to me.  That's not strange, or anything.

When I finally get to Arroyo, nobody is at the bridge to greet me.  Pushing further into the village, I find:

...everybody in Arroyo is dead, and it's not because of the Enclave.  The sole survivor, Lucas, gives me a pretty vague explanation before suddenly telling me that I might be to blame for what happened.

At this point the Auger and Arroyo (main) quests are failed, but nothing ends my game.

UPDATE 1:  I start doing what anybody would do in this situation:  I decide to go to other locations and cause some trouble.  I figure that maybe I'll even find out what the hell I did by traveling to Auger.

In Redding, things were different, to say the least: 

Note the description upon entering town: "The air here stinks of blood and death.  The sun is nowhere to be seen."  Where the "Molerat Mambo" (basically cockfighting featuring Molerats) typically was, there were a bunch of corpses and poles.  The locals stood around, shouting as if there was a fight going on.  I couldn't initiate dialogue with any of the named characters, either. 

There were no more NPCs in the Den, Klamath, or Modoc.  The locations had become, quite literally, ghost towns.

Things were generally normal in New Reno.  However, when I got near the Desperado Casino, I realized something had gone terribly wrong.

As you can see, there is a large statue glitched into the middle of the street, and an interesting decor pattern on the outside of the casino.  Even stranger, the description for the glitched statue is simply, "Frank Horrigan."

UPDATE 2:   Trying to talk to Louis Salvatore yields this response:    

 While most generic NPC dialogue has become some iteration of, "BLOOD!  MORE BLOOD!", the few remaining named characters (that you can initiate conversations with) usually say some variation of the looping dialogue in this screenshot.  Of note is that Louis Salvatore's specific dialogue seems to come from the Navarro generic Enclave soldier shouts.  The same thing happens when speaking to Big Jesus Mordino (Lil' Jesus Mordino's sprite has been replaced with a Ghoul; clicking on him causes him to shout, "Hey!  I recognize that tattoo!")  I imagine this means that many quests have become broken.

 The game has also become relatively unstable.  For example, trying to travel to San Francisco, Navarro, or Broken Hills will crash the game.  This might have something to do with the corpses of my party members, which not only follow me around everywhere I go, but are duplicating.  And talking--although all they say is, "Hey.  You.  Come over here." 

Note that this screenshot was captured at ~1 PM, but it appears to be night.  The day / night cycle seems to have broken, since whenever I load a map, it's always night now. 

UPDATE 3:  Most of the saves I've made after reaching Auger are no longer loading. 

UPDATE 4:  Out of curiosity, I've gotten in touch with members of several forums that believe the copy of Fallout 2 I purchased is different than the ordinary UK final version (1.02e) that is basically analogous to an additional-content "GOTY" edition.  Apparently there is rumor that a second, older version (1.02c) was being worked on and would encompass several cut areas from the original game--including the Abbey and EPA--similar to what can be found in the community-built "Restoration" patch.

While Interplay put its main focus into working on Van Buren, a small crew was assigned to working on Fallout 2's extended GOTY edition, possibly in a last-ditch effort to generate revenue when Interplay realized it was in financial trouble.  The direction this team took with its in-house restoration project were strange; obvious efforts were made to recapture some of Fallout 1's darker setting (by this point, one of the most common complaints was Fallout 2's over-to-top satire and wackiness.)     

For whatever reason (most likely Interplay's acquisition by Titus Interactive in 2002) this version update was supposed to have been scrapped.  However, an initial batch of version 1.02c copies were believed to have been published after an embarrassing mix-up at Titus' Paris, France headquarters.  While these copies should have been removed before making it to market, accidents can happen.  The copy I purchased was indeed version 1.02c--but in typical, scary-story fashion, the CD was misplaced by a roommate and I was unable to find it before having to come back to the United States.