While I’m a little disappointed that neither JT nor Herman Furry Paws, nor “Isaac” wrote in with their column suggestions, I will 25foodgraphic900827.jpgassume that the silent majority of Salad readers (e.g. the silent majority of Americans) wish me to continue focusing my gesamlte shriften on words. But who am I to let my readers’ pleas fall on deaf ears? Is it not I Dash Hammerskjold who lifts this mouse (that is to say, dictates to a beskirted minion in our fashionable Park Avenue offices), or someone else making a poorly thought out allusion to Moby Dick? Was not Yesterday’s Salad founded for the masses, founded as the place where the means of production are uncovered, where every team has a shot at the wild card, DEVO will always be popular, and even the subaltern get their day in court?

With that in mind: the ever awesome Viceroy of Videogames Notwithabangbutawhimper requested turning this into a column about Dutch Pancakes. As I posses neither breadth nor depth with delicate dishes, the long term prospects of such a blog are about as promising as Joe Biden’s chances of being declared Monarch. But, I can point him to the classic Dutch Pancake recipe, as reprinted in the New York Times. Also, as he is still residing in the city of broad shoulders, that somber city, the Paris of the Prairies, the Dubai of the Disillusioned, Chicago, Lord Butawhimper should consider going to the Pannenkoeken Cafe the new new thing in Dutch eating (but, bring something to read).

I am absolutely happiest to report that I have some news for Annie, the fair (in probably every adjectival sense of the word pertinent to people–although I cannot speak for “Of sounds, odours, etc.: Agreeable, delightful. Obs.” as our relationship has not ventured into real space) former mistress of the still delightful Jewbiquitous, who desired some news about water based transport. Hawaii, always at the forefront of technology (?) is now experimenting with wi-fi on their commuter ferries. It is now no longer necessary to postpone visits to Hawaii. Although, it should be noted, the Superferry is still somewhat controversial.

Lastly, someone asking the internet if “Yesterday can be used as an adverb” was directed here. Yes. Very frequently. Also, there appears to have at one point been a debate over whether to call last night “yesterneve,” “yesterev’en,” “yesternight,” or “yester-evening.” I think we all know who won.

One of the hallmark problems of the video game community is vaporware, games which are planned and hyped and never come out. This problem is even more acute in the adventure gaming community, where the homebrew nature of development leads new developers to aim well beyond their reach. However, as a result, the games that do come out from first-time developers are all the more impressive, and TheJBurger’s “La Croix Pan” is no exception to this rule.

“La Croix Pan” puts the player in the shoes of an American sniper behind enemy lines, one day after D-Day. Stranded and alone, the player must defend the strategic village of La Croix Pan, both to ensure the allied beachhead and their own survival. The game is sufficiently brief that any further description would spoil the plot, but it remains tight throughout.

The graphics are strong, particularly the well-detailed backgrounds, which manage to evoke a haunting atmosphere with fairly muted colors. The character models are also drawn with a realism appropriate to the setting; however, some of the animations could use a few more frames. The sound and music is similarly understated, but where present, it is sharp and complements the seriousness of the theme.

“La Croix Pan” is much more of an adventure game than a puzzle game. Thus, the puzzles are focused more on telling the story, with relatively direct solutions that don’t require trying every iteration of the actions available to your character. This is heightened by the fact that every mistake can prove fatal to your character, but thankfully, the author has included an auto-save feature at critical junctures.

Overall, the game is notable not only as a departure from overambitious first efforts, but from the typical adventure game. Dark and tense throughout, “La Croix Pan” may be brief, but its concision serves to showcase masterful scripting and an excellently constrained concept. Although it may be an exception to the rule, one hopes that in the future, neophyte developers will see it as the gold standard to which they can seek to emulate.

There’s a scene in Ernest Hemingway’s sublimely bizarre though not bizarrely sublime, “To Have and Have Not” (Which I find to be a wonderful infinitive construction, Mr. Chairman–what of it!) wherein a university professor ensconced in a local (he appears to have been there just long enough for it to have become local) watering hole engages in a game of etymologies with the roughneck pubians.

“That’s all you guys ever talk about. The old rale. What difference does the old rale make?”

“What’s the old rale?” Professor MacWalsey asked the man next to him at the bar. The man told him.

“I wonder what the derivation is,” Professor MacWalsey said...

“Why do they call it the old rale?” the Vet next to Professor MacWalsey asked another…

Nobody seemed to know but all enjoyed the atmosphere of serious philological discussion.

First, in honour of Hem, the word “ral(e)” comes to us from Newfoundland. Outside of the teeming masses of bored refuges seeking the bright lights and devilish fun of Nunavut, the word “ral(e)” is surely the first thing ever to emerge from Newfoundland. Rale is most likely derived from the Irish raille trickster, profligate. The word means, “rogue, ruffian, or troublemaker.” Ruffian, by the way, is not one of the oddest spelled words in the English language. Though it would appear to come from the word, “rough,” that is sadly a folk etymology. Ruffian is most likely derived from the old French rufyen or a later romance form. Also notable, given the Romance origin, is the now obsolete (e.g. preferred in these here parts) meaning of the term, “A protector or confederate of courtesans.” In other words, even if the pimp doesn’t beat you up he’s still a ruffian.

All blogging aside, tonight’s post is really intended as a poll of our readers. I enjoy focusing the majority of my energies into words. I think that English has lost much of its beauty over the years and we should all do our part to bring it back. I love finding verb forms of nouns that don’t deserve them. Perhaps most importantly, I think they’re great places to start a digression. Somewhere along the way, however, I started to think that our readers preferred other types of columns to the word posts. I’m sort of at a loss as to what to do. I now realize that the only way I will post consistently is if I have a regular angle. Is wordblogging an acceptable beat? I’d like to think that even if you don’t usually like discussing language, that the atmosphere of philological discourse is entertaining, especially when handled with the whim, whit, and whimsy that we at YS pride ourselves on occasionally providing. If not words, what would you prefer? Transit news? Reviews of classic skinema? Hockey coverage? Dutch ____?

I’d really like to hear from the readers on this. Audience is really the only reason to blog.

What’s bothering Mahmoud?

September 24, 2007

Monsigneur …butwithawhimper generally does not comment on the politics of the day, due to the relative surfeit of professional political bloggers, the immaturity of most commenters, and the relative blandness of his moderately left of center positions (for reference’s sake, global warming = bad, Bush administration = greedy and stupid, terrorism = evil, torture = really bad, oppression of women and homosexuals = really bad, single-payer health care = good, peace in the Middle East = very good). However, the legions of protesters and great hullabaloo surrounding the visit of Iran’s Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to NYC made it irresistible to watch. That, and the television in front of the treadmill I use only gets CNN.

Tuning in to today’s much-hyped World Leaders’ Forum at my alma mater Columbia Univ., featuring You-Know-Who, I found that it went more or less as I would have expected. President Bollinger gave Ahmadinejad a thorough rebuke over his record on human rights, frequent executions in Iran, and previous bellicose statements. True to form, Ahmadinejad responded by essentially ignoring Bollinger’s questions and proceeded with his boilerplate, extolling the audience to listen to the “facts,” and citing the Qur’an. The question and answer session was pretty much the same, with Ahmadinejad eliding over the specific charges that audience members brought up about Iran’s human rights record. Yet, after a question about the execution of gays in Iran, I was surprised by both the directness and the vehemence of Ahmadinejad’s response:

“In Iran, we don’t have homosexuals like in your country. We don’t have that in our country. In Iran, we do not have this phenomenon. I do not know who has told you that we have it.”

Primed by the recent scandal surrounding Senator Larry Craig (and oh… Mark Foley, Ted Haggard, and Jeff Gannon, to name a few…) I couldn’t help but wonder, is Ahmadinejad overcompensating for something? I mean, he comes off sounding kind of like that hypermasculine, overtly homophobic guy everybody knows… Am I gay? What? No – who told you? Are you gay? Huh?

Can you hear the voices, too?

September 23, 2007

Mental illness is often used as a dramatic catalyst in fiction, from Shakespeare to “A Beautiful Mind,” and while its portrayal in films and novels varies greatly in verisimilitude, in video games, it is remarkably narrow. In particular, the trope of “your character has woken up with no memory and is accused of an awful crime,” might as well qualify for a genre of game, somewhere on the shelf between “action” and “strategy.” While video game antagonists generally portray a wider array of symptoms, from sociopathy accompanied by hallucinations to sociopathy with a side of narcissism, by the end of the game, the player’s illness is generally explained as the result of happenstance or a transient phenomenon, while the villain’s peculiarities are never explored in depth.

While I am generally in favor of stopping megalomaniacal psychopaths, it would be interesting if games occasionally threw some well-rounded characters with real mental illnesses into the mix, which makes ProgZmax’s “Mind’s Eye” a unique adventure. The game begins with the player’s character recovering from an seemingly ubiquitous bout of amnesia; however, the tone is a bit different from other games, insofar as this rude awakening occurs not in a heavily-fortified military installation, nor in the back alley near a crime scene, but in the confines of a mental hospital. While the protagonist’s quest for self-knowledge inevitably puts him at loggerheads with the staff (some of whom are much more understanding than others), he soon comes across a sympathetic group of other patients who are definitely ill; and not just with dramatic amnesia, either.

Read the rest of this entry »

Recent years have been good for the pirate community. A trio of blockbuster films has resurrected the swashbuckling epic, and “talk like a pirate day” has caught on as a pseudo-holiday. More importantly, the hipster caucus has placed pirates somewhere above dinosaurs and only slightly below ninjas in the pantheon of the ironic, silly, and retro. Yet, there have been precious few quality pirate games in recent years. Although Sid Meier’s “Pirates!” was a welcome remake of an old classic, the grizzled gamers among us have been seeking a successor to “Monkey Island,” one of the great pirate adventure games of yore.

Thankfully, that peg-leg-shaped void within our souls can now be whole again, thanks to Alasdair Beckett’s “Nelly Cootalot: Spoonbeaks Ahoy.” “Spoonbeaks” follows the adventures of pirate captain Nelly Cootalot as she attempts to find out why the titular spoonbeaks, odd but particularly cute birds, have disappeared from the tropical Barony of Meeth. Armed with only her wits, pluck, and an accent from the vicinity of County Durham, Nelly must navigate both the island and the unsavory sea-dogs inhabiting it if she is to get the bottom of the mystery.

From the get-go, the game seems like a grand, careful production. The graphics are amazing: not only are they smoothly animated in high resolution, but they have a style that fits perfectly with the picaresque storyline, like a vibrant cross between Tim Burton and James Kochalka. The effect is enhanced by a number of sprightly sea shanties that subtly complement the action on screen. The interface is similarly well appointed, as well as streamlined, and should be easy to pick up and play even for non-gamers. Read the rest of this entry »