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Malik (4/7/09)

I've been away from most things that are geek lately. I've been unable to find the time for Demon's Souls since the middle of last week, played a tiny bit of Rock Band 2 this weekend, and played my guitar for only a few minutes since last week. It's one of those times where reality is coming fast and frantic for me. Reality is my word, right now, for getting a new puppy and getting ready to cook a feast for Easter.

However, I've still been watching TV. This is usually not enough for me to rant about, but I have to say something today. If you watch House and missed last night, there is a spoiler. If you don't watch House, this is still very applicable.

The worst thing a serious or semi-serious show can do is kill a character off-screen. At the same time, it can also be a very moving thing if done correctly.

For example, on MASH when Colonel Henry Blake was killed off-screen, it was moving and amazing. The reason for it is because they built the episode in which he died around feeling good on knowing that someone was going home from the hell that was the MASH unit that made up the show. He finally was able to return to his family and live the dream of most of the other characters who were drafted into a martial action (read: war) that they didn't want to be a part of. However, on his way home, a reminder of how ugly the conflict was was placed on everyone in the form of Blake's plane being shot down ("it spun it...there were no survivors"). It helped that, according to popular rumor, that the cast didn't know and more or less had to ad-lib some powerful emotions.

On the other hand, a prime example of the stupidity of death off-screen was when Omar Epps' character died on ER. He threw himself in front of a train. No build up, no real explanation (except Dr. Benton being a dick to him), and no real sense of closure. It happened and then he died. The past dozen episodes with Epps' character felt like they were just being removed for no reason. Maybe it built a little drama between Dr. Carter and Dr. Benton, but it never did anything worthwhile. It was the removal of a character and that was it.

So, to see the same damned thing on another show, which features Omar Epps as a doctor, was both sad (as in pathetic) and humorous (that it would be done again). This time, on House last night, Dr. Kutner killed himself off-screen. Why? No real explanation. He shot himself in the head and no one knew why it happened. In fact, this was worse than the ER incident since that one at least had a poorly executed reason (to build tension with Carter and Benton). This one on House didn't do a damned thing and just felt like the most tacked on sub-plot possible in an episode that had enough guest star talent (Meat Loaf) to not call for extra forced drama.

I think, considering that writing talent has diminished in recent years versus the days of MASH, that this type of bull shit is not acceptable for network TV. If a character is dead and if the actor is leaving the show, than make a reason for it. If the actor actually died (like the first female bailiff on Night Court), that's excusable. I mean you cannot get closure in the script with that character when the actor is no longer with us. However, if the actor is alive, make some sort of effort to end things correctly, or do some damned good writing to excuse it if the actor is no longer willing to do his or her role. Don't just pull this "Did you hear that died? Wow," bull shit.

Of course, like with most incidents like this, there are reasons. In this case it's that Kal Penn (who played Kutner) is joining the White House. However, it still doesn't seem to remove a feeling of "that's the best they could do...?" that comes with a character just doing a classic off-screen death.

Yes, Penn left the show, and the acting profession, to do something else. However, it seems a bit weak that he, as someone who says, in regards to working on House, "I'm having an incredible time" could not come in for one last episode. Maybe an episode that could wrap this up in a more thought out way. Maybe he decides to leave House to join Doctors Without Borders, goes to find himself and his heritage in India, gets fired from the team for how (in the last episode with Penn) he let another doctor take credit for his life saving idea, or any number of other less "out there" conclusions to this character.

Then again, maybe the people behind the show were just feeling spiteful about an actor leaving their show for anything else. I could see the team behind House saying "he doesn't want to work here, then I say screw him" and just doing the suicide to close any possible doors for Penn to return. In which case, then the show really has jumped the shark if it's creative team cannot better handle something unexpected...or in this case something that was mildly expected.

So, with any off-screen death, this type of crap needs to end. However, I would love to know which party was responsible for this lack of creative writing. If it's the people behind the show, then I have to worry about the future of any show that would do something so blatantly pathetic.

At least it wasn't as entirely laughable as the death of the kid on You Got off-screen death for a character with no purpose in the plot and basically no screen time.  Now that was beyond hilarious, in all the wrong way.


Malik (4/8/09)

No matter what I do, I just cannot seem to find the time to have some good old fashioned fun recently. Life is just trying too damned hard to keep me busy. The only things I've had time for recently have been real world style chores and to watch an hour of TV at night (usually while eating dinner).

At least I did get about fifty minutes of Demon's Souls last night. However, it was a less than ideal fifty minutes. After taking the loot from my last time playing, nearly a week ago, back to town to be upgraded or deposited in storage, I realized a problem. I needed to do some farming of upgrading materials. The ones I needed were best found at the very start of the game, so I had to waste thirty minutes just farming hardstone fragments off of slimes for almost no experience (souls) and not that many item drops...usually being a large hardstone fragment, which is not what I need.

I did try out a new dungeon area (4-2) for a little time to see what challenges awaited me. That's what caused me to be so upgrade focused, since the enemies were rather relentless.

That's also where I saw the most unusual lemmings in the PvP world. Constantly black phantoms (player killers) would invade my game only to jump off the cliff at the start of the area. Maybe I'm missing something, but this used to be a way to boost your own world tendency to white. However, it also meant that the black phantom would lose a level for each suicide. After the most recent patch, this only leads to a loss of a level for the black phantom and no change for any world tendency. In other words, I kept getting ready for the stupidity of a black phantom trying to destroy me, but then would only see them kill themselves for nothing good...and a loss of level.

While I love the online of Demon's Souls, I have played strictly offline, while online. In other words, I don't summon blue phantoms (friendly other players) and play solo. However, I do enjoy reading messages from other players and I also like seeing the last five seconds of another players life (which the game allows you to do while online) culminating in their death. It's these two things that have kept me from dying since I cleared the first boss of the game. However, the black phantom invasions just don't sit well with me and I'd love to be able to have the option of no real interaction with others and only the message and death-camera thing. In other words, I wish Demon's Souls would offer, but with no blue (friendly) or black (PvP) phantoms.


Malik (4/10/09)

Next week is going to start, for me, with three bonus days on my weekend. On one hand, it means I may or may not be posting much. On the other hand, it meant I could play the next DLC for Rock Band as early as I wanted. At least that was part of the idea.

It fell apart when the DLC for next week was announced as some of the most pathetic crap to make up an entire week of DLC. Yes, the rumored GNA Chinese Democracy album is real and here next week. However, there is nothing else in this DLC set beyond Chinese Democracy.

I grew up as a GNR fan. I mean I was a child of the 80's and 90's which meant I knew Welcome to the Jungle, Sweet Child Of Mine, Paradise City, the cover of Live and Let Die, and so many other classics before I knew about many of the genres (like ska) that now populate my iPod. This was the music I loved.

So, with this level of love for Appetite for Destruction and the Use Your Illusion albums, it broke my hard rock loving heart when Chinese Democracy came along as something that just shouldn't have carried the GNR name. It should have just been the Axl Rose Project or something like that. This is not the same GNR that carried awesome bass lines (via Duff McKagan) or the sweet blistering guitar shredding of Slash. This new album is awkward sounding and lacks any constant element beyond Rose's now destroyed vocal chords.

I mean we all, who love RB2, had an early taste of this change with Shackler's Revenge. It was a weird sounding song that never seemed to find it's true voice or intent. So, $2 each or even $20 for all 13 songs (not counting Shackler) is just not going to cut it. While Metallica and AC/DC both came back from the dead last year with long awaited albums, they were able to be themselves (even if I find Death Magnetic to be crap because of a poorly over engineered factor in the drum levels and unintentionally funny lyrics..."Love is a four letter word"...), GNR did not do the same. The only good that came from Chinese Democracy is that Dr. Pepper gave the US a chance for a free refreshing beverage...which also led to Rose being annoyed.

At least there's already around 550 songs for my RB2 and this can keep me occupied if I find gaming time and don't just stick to my long neglected Demon's Souls.


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