Saturday, February 27, 2010

Shannon Tweed must be so disappointed

So apparently Gene Simmons's son is a dirty plagiarist who has lately been posing as a comic writer/artist. Nick Simmons, "creator" of Radical Publishing's Incarnate, thought he could get away with blatantly copying art from Tite Kubo's Bleach, one of the most popular comic titles in the world.

Bleach on the left (B+W), Simmons's Incarnate on the right (color):

Amusingly, while there had been whispered accusations of theft dating back months to when Incarnate #1 debuted, this story did not make news until broken earlier this week on a GameFAQs forum thread. Reading that thread now, what's funny is that the topic creator, superbot400, initially seems complimentary toward Simmons and is merely intrigued at the "inspiration" taken from Bleach. As the thread goes on, even as superbot400 uncovers more and more damning comparisons, the general reaction is more curiosity than outrage. The thread quickly caught the notice of the Bleach fan community, however, and we know where things escalated from there. In no time at all, the story blew up and spread across major comics and anime/manga sites, prompting Radical to immediately suspend publishing on Incarnate.

I get that drawing is hard. In lieu of live models, it is quite common for artists to use images they've seen, perhaps in the works of others, as references for poses. Sometimes the line between harmless borrowing or homage and outright plagiarism becomes blurred.

This is not one of those difficult cases. Before anyone starts to feel sympathy for Nick Simmons, let me assure you that it's not just one or two panels that he has stolen. It's, um, more than that. If that's still not enough, let me direct you to Simmons's deviantART page, where, in his first journal entry, he warns, "If you steal my artwork, you will pay. In cash. Spank you very much and good night." SPANK ME?! I think not. What especially disgusts me about this whole thing is that Simmons, in addition to stealing from Bleach and other manga, even plagiarized amateur work from other deviantART members.

Of course, now we're all just waiting to hear how Nick, or, better yet, Gene Simmons, will respond. From my perspective, all Nick can really do is apologize, then fade away and enjoy his father's money in quiet. Or I guess he could skip the apology part altogether. Laying low may not be that easy, however, considering that the Simmons family apparently has a fairly successful reality show running on A&E (season 5 set to premiere in less than a month).

In the interest of objectivity, I should note that Simmons had previously admitted to relying heavily on a team of "assistants" provided by Studio IL. I can't find very much info at all on any of these people, but I wouldn't be surprised if Radical contracted Studio IL to make Simmons look good by basically doing all the work, while Radical just used the Gene Simmons connection to drum up interest in the book. So there is a very slim possibility that this plagiarism is Studio IL's doing, although that would not make much difference for Nick Simmons, who has, in any case, been all too happily taking credit for the work of Tite Kubo, among others.

I just feel bad for cover artist Jo Chen (Runaways, Street Fighter, Buffy Season Eight), who got roped into turning in fine work on a shameful project.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

My Top 5 Fat Guys of TV and Film

Kevin Smith's size in the news recently reminded me of my high school biology class. I don't remember much from that class, but I do remember my teacher saying that, aside from fat people, homosexuals were the only group that society at large was still allowed to openly discriminate against. My biology teacher was not at all a fat man, so I thought it an admirable show of compassion for a group that, true enough, most people were all too happy to deride. I don't remember what it had to do with biology, but I learned something that day. It's hard out there for a fatso, apparently even for a figure of Smith's stature.

Smith enjoys success as a director and screenwriter, but his public embarrassment got me to thinking about the struggles that fat guys face trying to make it in front of the camera. When Orson Welles literally exploded in the sound booth for Transformers: The Movie, it was not only a once great actor and filmmaker who died that day. That was the final nail in the coffin for the cultured, intelligent fat man in Hollywood. Looking back in search of great fat guy roles from the last twenty-five years, truly it is slim pickings. Like Welles, James Earl Jones possesses an awesome voice recognized all around the world, but when was the last time he was given a meaty live-action role to chew on? Rarer by far than the eloquent black, the respectable fat guy is the veritable white whale of screen acting. These days, the token fat character is often a jolly stereotype, ostensibly easygoing and unashamed, yet clearly meaning, with an impervious-to-criticism heart of gold, to discourage open mockery of innately hilarious physical attributes. Take Hugo from Lost, for example. I loathe him, not because he is morbidly obese, but because he is shallow and uncomplicated. Yet, when I criticize his character, I am automatically denounced as a "size-ist." In my opinion, characters like Hugo do more harm to fat actors than I ever could.

Nevertheless, I have scoured my memories to produce a handful of legitimately inspiring fat film and television characters. So, without further ado, let's get rolling (not literally) with my list of "The Top 5 Respectable Fat Guy Performances of the Last Quarter-Century," though I should warn you that there may be tears.

In the realm of the respectable rotund, John Rhys-Davies probably has an edge by virtue of being British. Just as much as Patrick Stewart is usually the go-to actor for refined bald man roles, Rhys-Davies is the guy you want to lend a bit of class to a fat guy role. You'd think I could fill this list with just his performances, but the sad reality is that, just like Patrick Stewart, Rhys-Davies has been relegated mostly to token supporting roles in film. That's disregarding his slumming it in direct-to-Sci-Fi Channel features. His finest work was on television as Professor Maximillian Arturo in Sliders.

As the scholarly elder of the motley crew of dimension-hopping Sliders, the professor was the unsung best character on the show. Rhys-Davies delivered consistently the most layered (multi-dimensional?) performance, depicting the professor as an egotistical intellectual, clearly threatened by his young student's genius, yet also proudly supporting him as mentor and surrogate father. Q-Ball was the brain, Wade the heart, and Rembrandt the soul, but I always found Arturo to be the true guts of the team. Through the more socially challenging alternate universes of the first two seasons (the good ones), it was his sagacity and informed morality that all of his compatriots relied upon to guide them.

Alas, in keeping with the historically shabby treatment of portly actors, Rhys-Davies was fired in the third season and replaced by Kari Wuhrer, his character seen off with one of the least dignified deaths in television history, perhaps topped only by every other character exit on what proved unexpectedly to be the most sadistic show of all time.

Truthfully, I don't remember very much about Mr. Belvedere. I just remember that, as a kid, I wanted a Mr. Belvedere of my own AND I kind of wanted to be him.

Apparently, the Mr. Belvedere character first appeared in Gwen Davenport's 1947 novel, Belvedere. He was first portrayed on screen by the non-fat Clifton Webb in the film Sitting Pretty. My Mr. Belvedere was the American sitcom incarnation played by Christopher Hewett.

Like Professor Arturo, Hewett's Lynn Belvedere, English Butler to the American middle-class Owens family, was a man of fierce will and ego yet also wisdom and humanity, alternating between butting heads with the youngest of the Owens children and lifting the brat up upon his figurative shoulders as a support through all the trials of growing up. And, while I'm sure, like most family-oriented sitcoms of its vintage, the show was often ridiculous and has aged horribly, my young self found Mr. Belvedere to be simply the classiest character on television.

Middle America may remember kung fu film legend Sammo Hung for his role as Sammo Law, fish-out-of-water detective on the Walker, Texas Ranger lead-in program, Martial Law, co-starring Arsenio Hall and Kelly Hu. Yeah, I know, there's not one thing right in that statement, yet it really did happen. On Martial Law, Sammo was saddled with the wretched double of being the gentle fat man AND the no-speak-English babyface Chinaman. A much better showcase for his abilities was the Hong Kong martial arts-crime film SPL: Sha Po Lang (AKA Kill Zone).

As the untouchable Triad boss Wong Po, he was about as far as you could get from Sammo Law. Fat Marlon Brando was a sad, disgusting joke, but kingpin Sammo was truly fearsome. Part of it was the weirdness of seeing Sammo as a bad guy, but this was far more than just a novelty performance. When a determined detective resorted to fabricating evidence to finally bring in the Triad boss, Wong Po did not stop at merely unraveling the flimsy scheme. As he totally annihilated the entire police squad, ordering hits on those who had the gall to cross him, and pummeling a few of them himself, any notions of a slapstick Sammo went out the window. And whereas Rhys-Davies and Hewett were simply the best actors for roles that were not explicitly written as fat, Sammo integrated his corpulence as an asset to his performance. Wong Po's luxurious proportions were a proof of his absolute power.

Yeah, I could only find three, and I was seriously reaching for that last one. Shall we widen the list to include fat females as well?

Rosie O'Donnell is a worthless piece of scum and a total waste of space. I hate her with every fiber of my being.

Free Money

Stupid Apolo Anton Ohno, after coming in third behind two South Koreans in the 1000 m short track speed skating final, tries to console himself by pointing out that he has medaled in three separate Olympics, which none of the other competitors can boast. Not to suggest that Ohno is anything less than world-class, but does he not realize that there is a limit to how many representatives South Korea is permitted to send to the Olympics? Probably even the twentieth best South Korean short track speed skater would still be at least at Ohno's level. As in the 1500 m final, the real story in this race was the cutthroat competitiveness among the South Koreans themselves.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Just Dance

Figure skating may be the marquee event at the Winter Olympics, but I was not expecting much from the men's competition. Watching the Turin 2006 games, I found it lacking the aesthetic beauty of the ladies and pairs. Presumably the emphasis was more on the power and athleticism of the men, which only made it all the more pointless when most of them did not come close to meeting the ridiculous technical demands of their own routines. After the first few guys fell on their asses during last night's way too long programs, it looked like I was in for more of the same from Vancouver 2010, and I ended up falling asleep through the middle rounds. But I woke up just in time to see American Evan Lysacek's performance. I knew how very close to the lead Lysacek was after the short program, so, after seeing him turn in as nearly flawless a routine as I've ever seen, I was finally interested.

Evgeni Plushenko, leading by the slimmest of margins after the short program, would be the final skater of the night. Four years ago, the men's singles event might as well have been "the Evgeni Plushenko show." Alone in his mastery of the quadruple toe loop, he was the only guy delivering on the one promise of the men's competition. The other guys probably should have been competing against the ladies with their yawn-inducing triples. But, at age twenty-seven in Vancouver, Plushenko was now old for his sport and coming out of a three-year retirement. In the short program, he remarkably still had the quad, and that alone carried him above his younger rivals, but his landing had been uncomfortably close compared to four years ago. Moreover, the announcers had made much of the fact that he had little going for him outside of his jumps. Lysacek was younger, fitter, and his free skate routine more strategically choreographed to take advantage of a scoring system that awarded bonus points for jumps in the second half. His immaculate performance had been the only clean one all night. But Lysacek had not attempted the quad. With Plushenko expected to be weaker in other areas, that left the quad as the one open door for the Russian. So, with all eyes on him, the defending champion was finally under real pressure to be as good as he could possibly be. What more could any viewer have asked for?

Of course, Plushenko knows very well that the quad is who he is, and he probably needed no extra incentive to go for it. So he did. Going for broke, he skated according to his own demanding standards for the sport, committing no errors and landing his quads cleanly. Yet somehow he still lost. Too sloppy seems to have been the ruling.

Seeing the scores, I wasn't sure what to think. I was at first reminded of Athens 2004, when Russian gymnast Alexei Nemov's high bar routine received a lower score than American Paul Hamm's far less exciting performance, leading to an eruption of boos that stalled the competition for several minutes. I didn't expect any such outcry from the Canadian crowd here, but, seeing Plushenko's sulky expression during the medal ceremony, I was then reminded of Russian female gymnast Svetlana Khorkina, who in 2004 came in second in the all-around. Khorkina would shortly thereafter claim that the judging had been fixed in advance to award American Carly Patterson the gold. I had no doubt whatsoever that Plushenko would voice similar complaints against the judging. Sure enough, he has, and, though I wish he could have handled matters with Nemov's grace, I have to agree with Plushenko.

Shaun White himself said that his gold medal halfpipe performance from Turin would, at best, have barely qualified him for a spot in the finals at Vancouver. In the world of men's figure skating, however, even fours years after Turin, still nobody else was able to land the quad like Plushenko. If anything, it seemed the quad was this time given less significance, with Lysacek, among other top contenders, not even attempting it. Of course I have no idea how the scoring system works now, but I suspect the judges, having heard my complaints after Turin, have been deliberately trying to steer the sport away from the blooper reel of hopeless men feeling pressured to go for tricks beyond their abilities. The thing is, even though I found the Turin programs mostly a joke, I cannot support this step backward. It would be one thing if there were no men who could pull off the quad. If Plushenko is the only guy doing it cleanly and consistently, that just means that he's in a class of his own. Maybe, pound for pound, Lysacek was the best. But this isn't boxing. If nobody else can hang, that doesn't mean you lower the standard to accommodate everyone else while punishing Plushenko.

I understand that Lysacek won fairly according to the rules as they are, and I don't mean to fault his steady performance. I just don't think those rules are fair. The quad is unquestionably the most challenging maneuver in figure skating, yet it is not even valued at a full point more than the triple axel, which everybody performs! The reward is in no way equal to the risk, and, as it is now, figure skating is no more a sport than Dancing with the Stars.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Heroes, Volume 5

I wasn't expecting to ever bring up Heroes again on this blog. I thought the show was imbecilic to begin with, but it did have some rare virtues, namely its brisk, filler-free pace and its resistance to such suspense conventions as weekly cliffhanger endings and "raise two questions with every (non-)answer" (seriously, who actually likes that). The writing only deteriorated over the next two seasons, and, by "Volume 4" (which was actually the second half of season 3, for those confused about how long the show has been on), I was watching only for the unintended humor offered by the repeated blatant lapses in logic and continuity. After having missed the first several episodes of this season (mainly because I didn't care enough to know when they were on), I hadn't planned on watching any more Heroes. A Hulu marathon on an empty day caught me up, however, and now, having disparaged the show previously, I feel obligated to give this past season some due props. This may have been the most dramatic positive turnaround a series has ever seen. The fittingly titled "Volume 5: Redemption" was, not only the best season ever of Heroes, but actually a pretty good show besides.


The writing was definitely improved, exhibiting a firmer grasp of the show's characters and concepts, as well as some actual attention to continuity. This was immediately evident in the largely rewritten main dude, Peter Petrelli. This was a guy who, in (the admittedly strike-shortened) season 2, left his romantic interest stranded in a post-apocalyptic future and, not only made no concerted effort to save her, but has never mentioned her again since. It's probably too late to rescue that subplot, but at least they remembered that, before he became preoccupied with fighting other superhumans, he was once dedicated to helping people as a nurse. For at least the first few episodes of season 4, using his powers to save people as a paramedic, he became a likable, even admirable character, soulful and empathetic, instead of selfish and obnoxious as before. Meanwhile, his nemesis, Sylar, who over two seasons experienced more preposterous identity crises than most pro wrestlers over their careers, finally underwent a change of heart that I can almost buy. But the show's improvement was due, first and foremost, to the addition of Robert Knepper ("T-Bag" from Prison Break) to the cast as Samuel Sullivan, the season's antagonist.

Knepper's tragic performance as Samuel, in many ways a more polished version of his scene-stealing character from Prison Break, was, not only the best character this series had ever had by far, but also the most compelling new character this TV season, and perhaps the best TV villain in a long time. With the power and charisma of a Magneto, this carnival proprietor was exactly the sort of antagonist that this story had been sorely needing. Perpetually aware and justifiably mindful of the bitter division between the gifted and the normals, he offered his fellow specials a home and family, while naming society his enemy. His case would come to exemplify everything frightening about the emergence of a new class of human. At the same time, those specials who answered the call, to defend that world that had persecuted them, would serve as a reminder that it was ultimately their choices as human beings, and not their superpowers, that defined them. Of course, that was even truer of Samuel.

At first glance, he was a masterful schemer, always appearing at just the right time and place and with remarkable perception to offer the heroes guidance and promises. Because you knew he was the antagonist of the story, you assumed he was playing a long game, manipulating them for unknown but assuredly nefarious ends. But his promises were surprisingly not empty, his advice was sound and based in truth, and, even when seemingly exposed and backed into a corner, he would own up to his failings and find his way out with reason instead of lies. Even as he made his moves, seemingly setting his plan into motion, his endgame grew increasingly ambiguous, leaving you wondering if maybe he himself had not made up his mind and was in fact walking the line. Most telling were the glimpses of Samuel in his private moments, revealing, not an evil mastermind, but a spiritually fragile man driven by the same needs, desires, and disappointments that drive us all. As he recruited specials with offers of sanctuary, constantly reminding them that they were different from normal people, perhaps he was really trying to convince them that they were like him, because he was the one that needed them. And perhaps, in the end, he was deceiving himself more than anyone else. The more you learned about Samuel, the more you could not help rooting for him. It was not that you wanted to see evil triumph over the heroes, but you hoped against hope that life might work out for him. His campaign finally arriving at its inevitable end, his arc was a better X-Men story than any of those live-action movies.

Season 4 was hardly perfect--the plot still had its share of holes, and most of the returning characters were still trash--but Knepper's performance made it all worth it, delivering a truly three-dimensional character in the most unlikely of places. His accent, attire, and age sometimes seemed off, but all that was overshadowed by his thoroughly convincing command of the character's psychology, selling in turn his tremendous charisma, ambiguity, and human frailty. He got me feeling more for Samuel Sullivan than I have for most characters on any number of better series, and he made Heroes, week after week, the one show I looked forward to more than any other. Although a season 5 has yet to be confirmed, the end of this volume set up the next. Samuel's story was fairly well resolved, however, and I still don't give a damn about what lies ahead for the heroes. If it does come to pass, I will probably watch, but if it doesn't, Heroes will at least have ended on a high point.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Mercenaries Reunion

Famitsu (scans at has revealed the final two playable characters for Resident Evil 5: Gold Edition's "Mercenaries Reunion" (as well as the significance of the mode's title). Get ready to welcome back Chris and Jill's original sidekicks, Rebecca Chambers and Barry Burton!

I believe "Mercenaries Reunion" is just the old "Mercenaries" mode from RE5, but Capcom is adding eight new playable characters. Previously, they had revealed Excella (Wesker's female partner) and Josh Stone (Sheva's mentor). Four other "characters" were actually two extra costumes each for Chris and Sheva. For the last two slots, I was expecting something lame, like another pair of alternate outfits, though I had my fingers crossed for Leon and Claire. This reveal may actually be even better than that.

Within the series timeline, Rebecca has not even been mentioned since the original Resident Evil. Barry was last seen briefly in RE3, but then he was seemingly written out of continuity in Umbrella Chronicles. Series devotees have been waiting a long time for Capcom to reveal whatever happened to these two. Unfortunately, this being just a silly bonus mode, there won't likely be any answers here.

Of course, the real attraction of Gold Edition is probably the "Lost in Nightmares" scenario, a new chapter expanding upon and making playable the flashback sequence that had Chris and Jill tangling with Wesker in 2006. Maybe at some point during the mission, Chris and Jill will reminisce about old times with Rebecca and Barry, leading to a flashback within a flashback.

That's not very likely, but this is still cool news. Really, it's kind of what I wanted out of RE5's "Mercenaries" in the first place. Back in RE4, the surprise guest appearances of HUNK and Wesker were genuine crowd-pleasers, and they and Krauser had unique signature moves (HUNK's neckbreaker, Wesker's thrust punch, Krauser's infected arm) that provided very different experiences from playing as Leon. In RE5, Jill and Wesker were compulsory inclusions. They were still cool and did have a few unique weapons and skills, but every character had moves for every situation (neckbreakers, stomps, etc.), so nobody felt quite so distinct anymore. I don't know if Rebecca and Barry will possess any amazing techniques, but at least they'll bring the fanservice.

Interestingly, unlike RE5 Chris and Jill, HD Rebecca and Barry are instantly recognizable as the same people from the GameCube games. In fact, without any direct comparison shots, I could almost mistake them for the same models. I don't know whether this is a deliberate artistic decision or just laziness. Regardless, the Rebecca render is especially awesome (although I sadly don't expect there to actually be any dual-wielding going on).

Monday, February 8, 2010

That Yellow Bastard

So Nintendo has been running the "Pikachu-Colored Pichu" event, wherein a shiny Pichu for use in Pokemon Diamond/Pearl/Platinum has been made available for DS download exclusively at participating GameStop locations across the country. Naturally I was there on day one. Too bad Pichu wasn't.

Now, I want it clearly understood that this was not my first rodeo. Having attended every Toys"R"Us Pokemon event dating back to the Mew giveaway for 3rd-gen (back when we actually had to wait in line for hours to trade with a single sweaty employee packing a loaded GBA cartridge), I've been doing this for a while, so you can well imagine I've got the procedures down pat. Drive over at twilight, park in the back lot, duck my head low, turn on my DS and start downloading over wireless from the safety of my vehicle, all to the soothing ambiance of passing young children explaining Pokemon to their parents in the background.

As I drove over to that GameStop, the plan remained the same. I parked my car outside the store and readied my DS to download the Mystery Gift.

No signal.

I couldn't understand what the problem was. I was parked even closer to the presumed source than I had been with any of the Toys"R"Us events. I could only guess that maybe GameStop's Pichu-distributing server was not as dispersive as the ones at Toys"R"Us. That left me with only one option, off-putting as it might be.

I walked into the store, knowing full well that there would be almost no way to hide myself in that tiny establishment. Seeing customers waiting in line and browsing the shelves, I could only hope that clerks and patrons would keep each other occupied as I made myself as inconspicuous as possible, a lone adult male playing Nintendo DS while standing in the corner of a GameStop store.

Still nothing.

A less determined man might have given up at this point, but that's not me. I got in line behind two customers and waited for assistance with my Pokemon download. Some minutes later, my turn came up and, thankfully, there was no one else waiting behind me.

"Um, do you guys have this Pokemon thing?" I asked weakly.

"Oh, you mean the pre-order for Heart Gold and Soul Silver?" replied the young female clerk.

"Um, no, the poster on the door says there's a free download?"

She looked baffled. Clearly, I was dealing with an amateur here. Then I noticed that she had, sitting right in front of her, a stack of fliers advertising this very promotion.

"Uh, it's this thing," I said, pointing to the fliers.

She picked one up as if noticing it for the first time.

"Hey," she called over to the other clerk, also a young woman. "Do you know anything about this Pokemon download? It's a Pikachu-colored Pikachu? Pichu?"

"Oh, yeah, I think there was an e-mail about that. It might not be set up yet."

This second clerk was understandably distracted, however, with helping an older lady customer, who was there trading in games with her 6'4" thirty-year-old son. I guessed the games were his, though she had been the one doing all the talking. As their cashier processed the transactions, I noticed the mom looking at me. I smiled sheepishly in recognition before turning away.

"Um, can you set it up?" I asked the first clerk.

"Oh, they're supposed to send us a thing," answered the second clerk. "I don't know if we got it yet. (Boss) didn't mention anything about it, and I have no idea how this works."

"Sorry," apologized the first clerk.

And so I walked out of there bitter, ashamed, empty-handed. The Pichu would have to wait another day.

(Pichu Bros. perform the Fusion Dance to DNA Digivolve into Captain Planet. Probably.)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars

When I heard that Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Cross Generation of Heroes was to be a Wii exclusive, I seriously considered importing a Japanese Wii just to play the one game (because obviously I'm not into any of that gray area "modding" stuff). The expense would have been a bit much for an impulse purchase, however, and that allowed me some time for sense to kick in. By the time Capcom announced the North American release of Tatsunoko vs. Capcom: Ultimate All-Stars, I was not really all that jazzed about it. Don't get me wrong, I was very happy to see it coming stateside, and it would still be a day-one purchase for me. But, during that long wait, I had picked up many other fighting games and come to realize that, for me, this would be just another.

There's no denying that I collect a lot of fighting games. But ultimately the only ones I spend a lot of time actually playing are the Street Fighter titles. (Note: I regard the Capcom vs. SNK games as essentially Street Fighter.) This is not because they are necessarily better than other fighting games. It comes down to the characters, and, again, it is not that Street Fighter has better characters than other games. The problem is that, even though I still love the genre, I no longer have near the time or mental energy to be learning new characters, and, in fact, probably the only time my discipline matched my enthusiasm was back during the Street Fighter II days. Or perhaps I never had a great capacity for knowledge and had already nearly filled it by the time Super Street Fighter II came out. Thus I don't even really like to use "The New Challengers" in Capcom games that include them. So if a new fighting game comes out with few or no SFII characters in it, then I am pretty much mashing, and that's not what I call a fulfilling experience.

Marvel vs. Capcom 2 was kind of an exception, which was why I was initially so excited about Tatsunoko vs. Capcom. But viewing match videos of Tatsunoko highlighted just how much of an anomaly MvC2 really was. MvC2's three-on-three format and liberal assist system produced an experience drastically different from Capcom's earlier Marvel fighting games. You could select a character for your team based strictly on their value as an assist, and the especially potent anti-air assists opened up completely new strategies. What was once a very offense-oriented game of rapid button presses became much more deliberate. With anti-air assists discouraging frontal assaults, long-range characters and defensive play could actually thrive. MvC2 Cable (backed by Captain Commando's assist) was probably the only character in a non-Street Fighter fighting game that I felt comfortable using, because playing him was less a matter of practiced combos than of strategic placement of his beams to keep out and lock down opponents. Of course, there were still extremely effective hyperactive characters such as Magneto and Storm. On the whole, the game boasted the most distinctly varied play styles of any Capcom fighter.

Tatsunoko is much more a return to the earlier Marvel games. Starting over with a much smaller cast, it's back to two-on-two. Assists cannot be summoned anywhere near as frequently as in MvC2, not that any of the assists are particularly useful anyway. Without the protection of anti-air assists, it's much harder to maintain range for a defensive game, so it comes down again mostly to furious exchanges of combos. The Tatsunoko characters may look exotic, and they are all fairly well-designed and fun to play with, but they are more conventional overall than the best MvC2 characters. There is nobody so committed to one extreme strategy as Cable, and the flow of every Tatsunoko match feels largely the same, despite the characters' differences. The only really exceptional designs are the two giants, Lost Planet's PTX-40A and the awesome G. Lightan.

There is some strange notion out there that these games are more accessible than more traditional tournament fighters, such as Street Fighter IV. Personally, I've never found this to be the case. The whole dynamic of the game stresses big combos, which require manual dexterity and practice. If you don't have the technical skill to wage an offensive game, then you will get completely crushed by a more aggressive player, because the game doesn't really equip you with any other means to back them off. Granted, the combos are much easier to pull off than in SFIV, and button-mashing sometimes can look like the real thing. But because the game expects you to deal damage in combos, individual hits do less damage overall than in other fighting games. That low damage translates to longer rounds, which means there is greater leeway for error, which means luck is less often a deciding factor, which means a player of lesser skill will have a much harder time prevailing. An older, now more "hardcore" game like SFII may feel more difficult to play for new players, but they probably would still have a better chance of winning just by luck in that game, since a simple throw in SFII does about as much damage as a super move in Tatsunoko. I honestly think that, for the casual player, competitive proficiency is no more attainable here than in SFIV, but the amped-up audiovisual feedback makes for a more exhilarating experience, regardless of the outcome. So Tatsunoko makes casual players feel like they are accomplishing more, even if they are in fact losing by the same margin as in SFIV.

Oh, I probably should mention the "easy mode" control schemes that Tatsunoko offers. The Wii Remote is not ideally set up for a six-button Capcom fighter, and even the traditional Classic Controller controls are somewhat simplified in this game. But there are even more casual modes that provide one-button combos and shortcuts for special and super moves, so even an inexperienced player can tap into some of the deeper mechanics. If you go that route, then the game really is more accessible. I've said it before, but every fighting game should have a mode like this.

Back to the characters, which are the heart of any fighting game, there are only two SFII characters, so I'm in trouble there already. Of course I've never heard of most of the Tatsunoko characters (aside from the Gatchaman characters and Tekkaman Blade, AKA Teknoman), but I wouldn't move a single delicate piece of that lineup, considering that the licensing complications were such a hurdle in getting this game out of Japan. I mean, even if they had put Speed Racer in there, what would the likelihood have been that he would have made it into the domestic version?

I'm more curious why the Capcom half of the cast is so wack. Only five of them are actually fighting game characters and, while I understand that this is an all-star roster encompassing Capcom's entire catalog, the final list is not even close to the Smash Bros. of Capcom. Viewtiful Joe--that makes sense. But where is Dante? Where is Phoenix Wright? Where is anything from Resident Evil? Radd Spencer and Super Joe? Arthur and Firebrand? Where is Mike Haggar?! The Mega Man in this game isn't even the real Mega Man!

Instead, we get Soki from Onimusha: Dawn of Dreams, the fourth and least successful of the Onimusha games. Sure, Onimusha is a top-ten Capcom franchise and, fair enough, there may be complications with using Samanosuke and Jubei again due to their having been modeled after real-life actors. Even so, most people don't even know that there was a fourth Onimusha. Nobody knows this guy. It's nice to see Rival Schools crossing into another fighting game, but Batsu was probably the least exciting representative possible. As for the new bloods, how well do you think that some Lost Planet mech with an unpronounceable name and Frank West, the hero of Dead Rising (but not Dead Rising 2) will be remembered within the Capcom canon years from now? I guess Saki from Quiz Nanairo Dreams (I don't know either) is the requisite obscure character, but is there really room for such nonsense when they don't even have the real Mega Man in there? Finally, did anybody really need Roll back? She was cute as a joke hidden character in the MvC games, but she should not again be taking up a valuable spot that could have gone to a more legitimate fighter.

Now, were the selections of Strider and Captain Commando in Marvel vs. Capcom really any better? Well, actually, yeah, I would take Strider over most of these fools. His series may have been retired after only two mediocre installments, but he's cool, and both he and Captain Commando kind of fit as Capcom heroes to stand toe-to-toe with the Marvel characters. They would have fit even better here as counterparts to Tatsunoko's anime characters.

Maybe I would have preferred something a little more familiar, but the game is fun. It is technically well-designed, probably more so than SFIV, which, for all its refinement, was still afflicted with that backward "Revenge" system. It is very much the successor to Capcom's earlier Marvel fighting games, so if you liked those, then you should enjoy this. Really, if you enjoy 2-D fighting games at all, then you should enjoy this.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

The Grudge

If I've been sounding odd lately, here's the deal: I was enjoying dinner out this past Sunday, when I was rather rudely reminded of a most unpleasant story from my past, the memory of which I am ashamed to say still gets me riled up, much as I would like to believe that I long ago moved beyond it. Although I doubt I will ever forget it, it is an episode that I have heretofore kept private, because, even though I have always felt myself the wronged party of the story, I worry that it will still make me smaller in the eyes of those who would hear me fixating on it. For the very few people who already know the story, I can't promise that this will be the last time I tell it, but perhaps the rest of you will find parts of it enlightening. So, without further ado, let's go back to high school.

Spring 2000 - I was nearly finished with junior year, and it was time for me to select classes for my next and final year.

For math, it was either Math 150 or AP Calculus. A college-level course, Math 150 was supposed to be the most challenging option, and that traditionally would have made it my choice. But I had studied enough to know that there was no future for me in mathematics. I was not fearful of the challenge, but I had no one else to impress besides myself, and I no longer cared. It was time to start acting sensibly instead of idealistically. None of this advanced math I learned would be staying with me beyond that class. Why labor another year for nothing? On the other hand, I already knew and liked the teacher for the AP Calculus class. So it was decided then--AP Calculus was to be, in all likelihood, my final math class.

Not long after I submitted my selection, that AP Calculus teacher announced that she was moving on to better things, having accepted a position at the local community college. Oh well.

Fall 2000 - Senior year. AP Calculus was my first period class. The teacher, new to the school, was one Mr. J. No, wait, that's too obvious. Let's just call him Roger. Before the semester was over, he would become the one man I truly considered my enemy, but, going through introductions that first day, he seemed nice enough.

On the second day of school, I arrived several minutes early to first period. There were only maybe two other students in the room when I got there. Studying his roll sheet, Mr. Jaffe turned to me and asked if I had attended Green Elementary. I had not. He seemed surprised and confused by my answer. He had apparently known or heard of another student of the same name at Green Elementary.

Eerie. It was not an uncommon name, although I have never met another, but this was not the first time I had heard about this. Flashing back to eighth grade, a classmate of mine had previously mentioned having known of this other Henry at Green. This classmate could not provide any more details, and, to this day, I have no idea if there ever really was such a person. Whatever.

Later that first week, Jaffe outlined his plan to get to know his students better. He invited us all to meet with him during the daily free study period. He laid out a schedule that had him meeting in alphabetical order with a few students per day over the next week. Of course, he noted that this would be very casual and, despite the schedule, attendance was strictly optional. STRICTLY OPTIONAL. On my scheduled day, I declined to show. Neither he nor I ever mentioned it afterward.

A short time later, Jaffe decided to begin class by offering some frank advice for all of us planning on college. A proud UCLA graduate himself, he described the crossroads before us. We could be nameless numbers, keeping to ourselves, quietly attending to our studies while going unnoticed amid crowds of thousands of students. That was an option, and it was okay, he said, although his tone, highly judgmental, spoke a contrary sentiment. Alternatively, he told us, we could be active, vital participants and contributors, sharing in and embracing the college experience as he knew it. Or we could be nameless numbers, he said again.

Now, all this so far has been prologue, though perhaps the relevance of these details will become apparent later.

The story officially began, however, one Monday, still early in the school year, when Jaffe asked me, having arrived early as usual, whether I had been in class the previous Wednesday. Shouldn't he know? He's the one with the roll sheet. He need not have specified the day; I had not suffered any illnesses during the school year yet, so I had not missed a class yet.

Tuesday, I arrived early again. Jaffe called me over to his desk and explained the situation. He informed me that he had received a detention slip for me. The charge was truancy.

Now, anyone who had ever had a class with me--classmates and instructors--would have thought this absurd. I was not necessarily a model student--my participation scores would have been on the low end--but I was a straight arrow. Truthfully, I HATED missing class, because I didn't have much else going on in my life.

But Jaffe was the new guy; he didn't know me that well. He asked again if I had been in class the previous Wednesday. He told me that his own records indeed had me listed as absent that day, but he supposed that maybe he had made a mistake. My answer--the truth--remained the same. He seemed to accept my word, and I thought that was the end of it.

The next day, I arrived early again and he called me over again. He held out a detention slip and told me that I needed to serve the time for having skipped out on the first three class periods last Wednesday. I began to insist again that it had been issued in error, but he cut me off.

"They had a signature!" he yelled impatiently, as he thrust the detention slip at me.

His intensity startled me, and it took me a minute to process his words. I didn't understand what he meant, but other students were beginning to fill the room, and I didn't want to get into this in front of everyone, so I took my seat. As I sat in a daze while he lectured, I slowly grasped the full horror of my situation. At some point during third period on the previous Wednesday, someone had apparently signed in my name on the tardy sheet. So there was evidence, however flimsy, against me, while I had nothing but my own word, which Jaffe flat out did not believe. What followed was one of the most miserable realizations of my life.

Back then, I had this picture in my head of me over here, The World over there. We were too incompatible to ever be friends, but we could exist apart in separate grace. But this incident exposed that grace as a sham. There were evidently people out there who hated me for no good reason, who wished to do me harm just because. And that was not the worst part.

Jaffe may not have noticed, but I had been in class that day, in which case there should have been witnesses. Yet, as I looked all around me in that classroom, feelings of despair and isolation nearly overcame me. I had no friends in that class, nobody who would even have noticed whether I had been present or not on some random Wednesday. Maybe I could have asked the girl sitting in front of me, and maybe she would have vouched for me just because she was nice. But not even I would have trusted her memory on that. I was a quiet student who kept to myself. There was nothing memorable about me, not on that day or any other.

As the worst first period of my life wrapped up, however, I suddenly recognized my way out. Again, the charge was that I had been truant for the first three periods of class. Jaffe's records were consistent with that accusation, but what about my second and third period teachers? They had been around much longer than Jaffe. They knew me and liked me, and I trusted them.

Rushing to my second period class, I asked the instructor if he had received any detention notices for me. He sounded surprised that I knew he had. As it turned out, he had received the slips and thought them so ridiculous that he had simply sent them back without even bothering to involve me in what he thought was a clerical mix-up. My third period teacher then said the same. That settled it, right? The evidence was much more strongly in my favor. I had two teachers with hard data to back me up, and I now felt confident that there were others who could vouch just as well for my character.

I headed to the administration building during my free period and informed the receptionist that I needed to resolve a detention case. She referred me to an office I didn't even know existed. The head of the "department of detention" was some Latina lady I had never seen before. She looked not even thirty yet. Let's call her Ms. S. She listened to my story, but I'm not sure how much she understood. There was no "case file" to look over. She just glanced at my detention slip, which didn't tell much. To my severe disappointment, she either had no real authority or had no idea how to wield it. She was just another bureaucrat with no answers beyond the standard procedures she'd been drilled in, which clearly didn't cover my complicated case. She told me that, as long as Jaffe maintained his position against me, the case would remain open until I sat that hour of detention. Her personal advice was that, even if I was telling the truth, I should serve the detention anyway just to get it over with.

Was she out of her freaking mind? Ma'am, you do not know who I am, but I do. It may be about all I know, but I will not compromise on that for all The World's satisfaction. I will make this ship my coffin if it comes to that, but I will not be bitch-slapped. No, I would live my way, and they all would be the ones to bend, not to me, but to justice. To truth.

The detention was scheduled for Friday. It was still Wednesday, so there was time. I attended the rest of my classes as normal that day.

On Thursday, I did not arrive early, and first period proceeded as just a regular class. I returned to Jaffe's room during my free period to go over the situation as it now stood. I insisted again that the charge was bogus, noted that I had my other teachers as reliable witnesses, and explained that, according to Ms. S, I only needed his support now to resolve this once and for all.

"Who is Ms. S? You were not in class!" he replied, again sounding exasperated. Pretending to be busy overseeing a club meeting, he gave me no other response except a threatening look that seemed to be daring me to keep it up.

I was actually extremely pissed off by this point, but, as always, I hid it rather better than he had. I would not be baited into a dramatic scene, which I grew increasingly convinced was what he sought. At any rate, I was done dealing with him. His mind was made up, but he, like Ms. S, did not seem to get that I was NEVER serving that detention. I was done wasting my time asking useless fools for help. It was time to move on to demanding satisfaction from people who actually mattered.

Walking out without another word, I headed to the administration office and explained my case to the receptionist, somewhat more forcefully this time. She was an older lady with a Slavic accent, and I didn't know what her responsibilities really were, but I was determined that she was going to fix this immediately. She responded by digging up the tardy sheet for that day, and, sure enough, someone had put my name down in the middle of third period, although it was block letters and not really a signature. I was silently furious, not only that someone would do this to me, but that they could get away with it so easily. I explained to her how flawed this system of zero verification was, after which she asked for a sample of my handwriting for comparison. She then asked another old lady to take a look, but they found the comparison inconclusive. Nevertheless, without asking for any further evidence, they canceled my detention because I looked like a "good head." Still not feeling satisfied, I asked them what measures they had in place to stop this from happening again. They answered quite honestly that there were none.

Having cut through the bureaucracy and overcome Jaffe's insane determination to railroad me, I had finally gotten the false charges dropped. It hardly felt like a victory, however, as I had already suffered the injustices of having my time wasted and my character placed in doubt. And there were still unanswered questions nagging at me. Who would have framed me? Why? HOW WAS IT THAT JAFFE HAD ME MARKED ABSENT ON THE VERY DAY THAT THAT SOMEONE FRAMED ME FOR TRUANCY?

I shall warn you now that the facts of the case end approximately here. What follows is speculation, and I will leave it to you to decide whether I am proceeding reasonably.

I was not in the habit of making enemies, and as I considered all the possibilities, the prime and only suspect was Jaffe himself. What was his motive? Young guy, new to the school and the job, didn't know me, maybe he wanted his own episode of Boston Public, with me playing the delinquent. Maybe he felt slighted by my having missed our attendance-optional meeting, so he wanted to teach me a lesson. Maybe he had even convinced himself that he was helping me out by teaching me the hard way the value of connections. His pretentious lecture about nameless numbers spoke to his self-importance, so I wouldn't have put it past him to manufacture a situation that would cast him as some maverick TV teacher absolutely determined to help his difficult students even against their wills. And guess during which period he didn't have a class to teach. Yep, as I discovered after a bit of investigating, third period was his prep period, so he had motive and opportunity.

For a long time, I was all but certain that Jaffe had indeed been the one to frame me. Then, over the years, distance from the events calmed me down a bit, and I began to consider another possibility. Maybe, when he marked me absent that day, it really had been an honest mistake. I remembered, on the second day of that saga, when he had asked me to check my memory against his records, he had shown me his attendance book, which had me listed as absent on that Wednesday. I noticed at the time that his method, which may have been standard, was to mark the boxes on the attendance grid for students who were present. Absences were denoted with empty, unmarked boxes. Because there were typically far more students present than absent, there were likewise far more check marks than blanks on any given day. A careless person, too automatically checking off boxes down a column, might well have missed a space or misplaced a check. Maybe Jaffe was an especially careless roll taker, who made that mistake frequently, in which case the chances of it happening on the very day I had been framed for truancy would not have been that terrible. It was conceivable, if not excusable. In that case, he would not have been corrupt, as I previously believed, but merely incompetent.

As for who had framed me, if not Jaffe, it could only have been some random young offender who happened to know my name. I'll probably never know the whole truth, but I do know that Jaffe wronged me by siding against me when the better evidence pointed in my favor, by dismissing me with undue anger when I was the one suffering the injustice, and by making me feel miserable, if only for a moment, over my pathetic social situation. How could I not hate him?

For the rest of high school and beyond, Jaffe was a dead man to me. There would be no more arriving early to his classroom, no more morning greetings, no courtesy laughing at his lame jokes in class, no acknowledgment of his existence whatsoever unless a curt reply was directly demanded. We never discussed the incident again, and the truancy did not impact my report card in any way.

June 2001 - High school was nearly over and I had already been admitted to a university. Classes done and my immediate responsibilities taken care of, I took a few days off to attend my brother's college graduation, returning just in time for my commencement ceremony rehearsal. As I arrived on campus an hour early that morning, I bumped into a classmate. It was the girl who had sat immediately in front of me in AP Calculus--the one I thought would have no idea whether I'd been in class on any given day. She welcomed me back and asked me to sign her yearbook. I did so, after which she offered her sympathies for how the book had turned out. I had no idea what she meant. I had had a friend pick up my copy for me in my absence, but I had not yet collected it.

Upon receiving it later that day, I flipped to my picture. A printing error had left another student's name superimposed over mine, such that it was just an illegible mess of overlapping ink. Every copy was affected. My name was the only one that had turned out that way, and that was my only appearance in the book. And that was the second time (that I know of) that my name had been misprinted in a high school yearbook (it had been misspelled in my sophomore year). I should have asked for my money back, but I didn't think to at the time. Oh well. I knew my own name, so what really was the harm?

Fall 2008 - I received a letter from Jaffe. It was not a personal letter; it was sent out to all alumni of my high school. Apparently it was the school's fortieth anniversary, and they wanted past students to update their info for the records. Seeing that Jaffe had been placed in charge of this operation, I was disgusted to learn that, not only was he still teaching, but he had somehow risen to a position of greater influence. The memories still burning, I did not respond to the letter.

I did not attend the fortieth anniversary celebration, but my mother did. While driving home from work that day, I received a call from her. She told me that they had my class yearbook on display, and she wanted to know why my name was messed up. I explained that it was a printing error that had affected all copies. She asked why I had never had it fixed. I tried to explain that it was not quite feasible for the school to recall all sold copies and print a second run just to appease one student. She didn't sound satisfied. Neither was I.

January 31, 2010 - While I was enjoying dinner out with my family, my sister asked to be reminded why I disliked Jaffe. She was a current attendee of the same high school, and at one point I had advised her to steer clear of Jaffe, because he was a bad man. The other day, however, he had apparently been the guest lecturer for one of her classes. She thought he seemed nice enough. Thus the greatest fury of my life came rushing back, and now here we are.

So there you have it. Perhaps the only thing this story has revealed to you is that I can be a small and petty man who can bear a grudge. I apologize if I've disappointed anyone. I'm just going to treat this as therapy. I feel better already, and hopefully next week shall bring a return to normalcy.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

What Goes On

I sometimes feel that we are capable of being only as great, or as good, as the occasion. Surrounded for most of every day by my fellow taxpayers at work, "good" seems ever more an archaism. I wish I were a good person, but what does that even mean?

I've been at my current job for nearly three years. In that time, there have been few new hires--understandable given the economy--so you might think that I should be fairly well acquainted with everyone by now. That's not exactly the case. Most of the faces are familiar to me, but there is limited occasion for interaction with co-workers not seated within the immediate vicinity of my desk, and even those conversations tend to be brief and of an extremely superficial nature. Then, every few months, new seating arrangements are assigned, and I find myself in the company of neighbors with whom I may be more or less compatible.

In these circumstances, I find that there are not very many opportunities for making a good impression. Because I am quiet and keep to myself, I suspect that, for most people, I come across either as a dullard or a creep. A few older ladies will think that I am sweetly innocent, like a fresh young babe perhaps. I will admit to being dull, maybe not worldly wise, and I can't really help it if I somehow exude a creepy aura. Extended exposure will reveal that I am utterly harmless, and I don't so much mind the other misconceptions. It is maybe not an ideal situation, but I can hardly resent others for failing to see beyond the surface, when I myself make so little effort to invite them in. Indeed, I regret that, whenever someone does show an interest in getting to know me, I am usually the one failing to show equal interest in them. Moreover, I am no less prone to forming opinions of others based on little personal familiarity.

There is one co-worker in particular that I took an almost immediate disliking to. He looks like a hippie Jesus with poofy hair. I'm not personally a fan of big hair, especially on men, but perhaps the Jesus part is by design; he also sports a chain necklace with a steel crucifix resting on a bed of his highly visible chest hair. I don't understand why he is permitted to persist in his incomplete button job, which I find obscene, but I'm not one of those dress code narcs. Perhaps he gets away with it because he is generally well-liked around the workplace. The supervisors will tell you with much affection that he's "a good guy"--words I rather doubt they would use to describe me.

Given, as stated, how little opportunity there is for truly doing good in this environment, I'm not sure what the basis of this prevailing opinion is. Frankly, there isn't much that he or anyone else there actually does, period. Rather, he is a popular fellow, I suspect, because, quite unlike myself, he speaks often and he speaks well. I do not mean that his speech is eloquent or his statements perceptive. But he must be charismatic, because I am always hearing girls complimenting him on his opinions or giggling at his witticisms. I am not certain what exactly he is saying that so impresses these young lasses that are his preferred company. I am usually busy doing my job while all this goes on, and only the shriller voices make it across to where I'm sitting. But I am sure that it is not just the girls indulging him out of pity or politeness. They are the ones stopping by his desk several times a day for the pleasure of his company.

The work sometimes requires that he consult with the supervisor seated closer to me, and it is then that I am witness to some of his act. He'll insert himself into any conversation that catches his ear along the way, boldly stating his hackneyed opinions as though with biblical authority ("James Cameron is a hack," "Clapton is the greatest guitarist of all time," "We started this war for oil," etc.). Perhaps he'll spot a music CD on someone's desk, at which point he'll be happy to recommend a new and better band that you've never heard of. And he should know what he's talking about because, after all, he sings and plays guitar for a band of his own. It is a manner that can easily intimidate more fragile egos into acquiescence. (Perhaps, given the girls' reactions, I should say "impress" rather than "intimidate," although I do believe "intimidate" is accurate, whether or not the girls realize they are being intimidated.)

I do not consider myself a superior judge of character, nor do I mean to boast by suggesting that I am uniquely immune to his charms. Seeing as how I am not a pretty female, his performance is obviously not meant for me. And even if it is a performance, which is merely my suspicion, that does not preclude his being in reality possibly more intelligent than me. In fact, I should think it rather a compliment to him that his appeal seems beyond my understanding. That said, while I may or may not be justified in finding his behavior irritating as so far described, what I actually feel is a more intense dislike. Allow me to elaborate with some additional observations, though I cannot guarantee that they will make my position any more rational.

The door-opening scenario may be the one daily opportunity to do a trivial bit of good. In the case of this Jesus, I have found that he is admirably consistent in his habit of holding the door for pretty young ladies, to which they may respond with a "What a gentleman!" or some similarly flirtatious expression of gratitude, which is then met with a cute "You're only just noticing?" Considering that I've witnessed this same scene with the same players well over a hundred times, the girl must indeed be some kind of mental retard. But that's not the only thing I notice.

We work the same shift and on the same floor, so quite often he and I will be approaching a door at the same time. In this case, when he is ahead, he will brusquely proceed forward without any acknowledgment of any man behind him. Conversely, many times have I been the one holding the door for him. For this, I get no thanks and again not even a glance in my direction as he steps through without any hesitation.

None of this especially bothers me. There are some people who just won't hold the door for others. Perhaps they lead hurried lifestyles. I can understand and accept that, and it's not as if I am old or infirm so as to actually require anyone's assistance with opening a door. If they have to get somewhere, or even if they just think they do, then I would certainly not want to slow them down at all.

But let's examine another common situation. What about when there is a girl thrown into the mix, in addition to us two guys? Suppose he is first to the door, and it is an inward-swinging door. He will pull the door open and we will both see the girl pass through first, but then, as I approach to follow, he will step in front of me and leave me to catch the door on my own before it swings closed behind him. What is up with that?! How much time could he be losing by continuing to hold the door for one more person? Mind you, this happens almost every day.

Now, etiquette demands that a man hold the door for a lady, but maybe the rule is hazier when two males are involved. I suppose one could see it as emasculating for a man to have a male peer holding the door for him. That could explain both his disinclination to hold the door for me and his lack of appreciation when I hold it for him. That is not how I operate. That is not how most guys there seem to operate. Timing has sometimes even resulted in a lady holding the door for me, to which I offer, not an apology, but my heartfelt thanks. Perhaps this Jesus is just eccentrically old-school. But I cannot properly play the prosecution and the defense.

Based on the limited data collected, how then should we assess his character? When his day of reckoning comes, will he be seen and judged as the image of goodness that he projects to most people for the better part of every day? Or does his senseless discrimination, admittedly minor and ultimately inconsequential, reveal something critical about his nature? His girlfriend(s) may truly love him and think him a man of good heart. But how does he act when there is not a pretty female to impress? I cannot accept him as a "good guy," because I perceive truth only in his rudeness, but am I seeing too little or too much? Mercy is a virtue, and perhaps my way is too harsh. Perhaps there is no practical difference between the appearance of virtue and the reality of it. In that case, if he appears good most of the time, then perhaps that's good enough.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Mr. Nice Guy

I'm a nice guy.

I may not be a friendly guy. Or a funny guy. Or pleasant.

But, believe me, I am a nice guy.

Not all the time, mind you! That would just be too much.