Friday, July 27, 2007

It's fun to play with words!

The enemies in Resident Evil 4 are NOT zombies. The game is very clear on this point.

Instead, the enemies in Resident Evil 4 are humans that have been infected with something, causing them to shamble around and attack anyone who isn't infected.

. . .

Wait a minute.

Last time I checked, the English language had a word for "humans that have been infected with something, causing them to shamble around and attack anyone who isn't infected", and that word was "zombies". And even if the RE4 enemies aren't zombies "proper" (infected with a parasite instead of a virus, able to speak and use simple tools) they're at least close enough that we can lump them in with the traditional definition. But don't you DARE call them "zombies" on the message boards, because they're NOT zombies. The game said so. And you will get called on it.

I'm always fascinated when creative people, like the ones who made RE4, wield this kind of linguistic power. They are arguing with an entire language, and somehow they're winning. It's amazing, and I want in on it. Here are some of my suggestions for Resident Evil 5:

No more guns. The main character will instead fight with metal devices that fire small projectiles by using gunpowder, and these weapons will be called . . . sherbets. I can't wait to see the first walkthrough that discusses, in minute detail, why the Blacktail sherbet is superior to the Punisher sherbet even though the Punisher sherbet can shoot through more than one enemy at a time.

And speaking of enemies, RE5 should have the things-that-aren't-zombies-even-though-they-totally-are from RE4, but then we'll add these new guys who wear all black, carry katanas, and hide in the shadows. But they won't be ninjas*, they'll be . . . tulips. And when you find yourself swarmed by a horde of tulips, you'll pull out your trusty Semi-automatic Sniper Sherbet and show them who's boss! If you get overwhelmed, you can always bring out a . . . flounder . . . pull the pin, toss it into the crowd and watch it explode.

I'll bet this technique can be applied to all sorts of things. For instance, if I wanted my field of expertise to sound more legitimate, I could just add "science" to the end of it, even if the field has nothing to do with scientific method! Or I could take a clearance sale and call it a "price drop"! The possibilities are endless!

*The Zombie-Ninja crossover is a nearly untapped goldmine. "Versus" was pretty cool, though.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Robert's Rules of Shutup

Human civilization is really about ***holes. All of the systems that we use to create stability are born out of a need to cope with the existence of ***holes, and their craft, which I assume is called ***holery.

Laws - The idea here is that you can only be so much of an a**hole, then you get in trouble. That helps the problem, although some ***holes are crafty enough to work around the laws.

Governments - These are systems created to deal with those crafty ***holes. Since most real ***holes want power, you can use it as bait to funnel them into a single place. That doesn't exactly deal with the ***holes, but at least you can see what you're dealing with.

Once you've done that, you need some way to minimize the effect of the ***holes.

Monarchy - There's only one ***hole. He's a really big a**hole and he's got all the power, but he keeps a lot of other ***holes from getting very far.

Democracy - There are lots of ***holes, but they're constantly tied up fighting with one another. And since they depend on votes to gain control, they at least have to be careful about how and when they act like ***holes.

Oligarchy - Let's just all be ***holes, but collectively, and toward some other people. People who aren't us.

What's interesting about all our solutions to the "***hole Conundrum" is that they are passive. They are designed for people who are not willing to lead revolutions, lobby for change, or tell other people that they shouldn't be acting like ***holes in the first place. The good, by grace of being good, are not motivated to seek power, not even enough to keep ***holes out of power.

And this creates a perception that ***holes are indestructible, that they are everywhere and everyone, that they are always after you.

Wikipedia - There aren't as many ***holes as you think.

The people behind Wikipedia have put forth a really interesting idea. Give everyone real, direct control over something. Give each person power over every other person. Let each one create and destroy.* And most importantly, keep everyone on exactly the same level.

And in doing this, they have made an assumption: that good and useful information will rule, that lies and vandalism will be held back, that eventually ***holes get bored and go home.

Like the other solutions, it's not perfect, but it's something to think about.

*Except on the Harry Potter article, which is locked until further notice.

Friday, July 13, 2007


fua n (2001): a woman seen in the social company of a male friend, when the nature of their relationship is not clear

Have you ever seen some guy you know, and he's out somewhere with a girl, maybe you know her or maybe you don't, and they're clearly "together" but you don't have any indication if it's a date or not? Is she his girlfriend? Is she someone he's dating? Is she a friend? In that situation, she is a "fua", a "Female of Unknown Association".

I've coined a few words and phrases over the years, and I'd really like to see them added into the general lexicon. I'm sure most of these will never take off, but "fua" is one that I think we need, there simply isn't another word for a person in that particular situation. In fact, we also need a term for when a guy is hanging out with a former girlfriend, but you don't know why. Are they back together? Are they trying to reconcile? Are they just friends? She's a . . .

I don't have an answer for that one. I've tried. "Dua" is the only thing that jumps out at me, since she's a "fua" for a second time, but then that loses the whole acronym idea. "Ex-girlfriend of Unknown Association" would make "Egua", which doesn't quite roll off the tongue. Maybe I should just consider the whole thing an extension of pancake amnesia.

pancake amnesia n (2003): a psychological phenomenon where a person will do something they swore they'd never do again, simply because they forgot what was bad about it

Call anyone you know right now. Suggest that you both go get some pancakes. That person will probably say yes.

Pancakes always sound like the best idea in the world. "Of course, pancakes!" you say, "Pancakes are great! Why don't we eat pancakes all the time?" But then, about halfway through your three-stack, you remember: it's fried batter covered in syrup. That's only good for the first few bites, when your body realizes that you're asking it to mix some sort of confectionery concrete in your stomach. At that point you look down and say "Man, I'm not going to be eating pancakes for a while after this."

But even one week later, someone could casually mention IHOP and "OF COURSE, PANCAKES!"

And I know what you're saying. You think I'm wrong. "No, Sam, you just haven't had pancakes the way ______ makes them. If you had those you wouldn't get tired of them." And the sad part is that I know you're wrong, but I'd go have some pancakes the way ______ makes them, because now that I'm talking about it I really want some pancakes.

"Pancake amnesia" might require a lot of explanation to understand, but it's applicable in lots of situations. People have a strange tendency to make certain mistakes over and over again. Fortunately every mistake has a "dune buggy point".

dune buggy point n (2007): the point at which a person knows that he or she has gone too far

This one is a direct reference. There's an episode of "The Simpsons" that deals with a trillion-dollar bill, and at one point Lisa says "We're trillionaires! Let's buy dune buggies!". I love that line because I can imagine it happening. A person has so much money that he runs out of things to spend it on, so he decides to buy a dune buggy, then realizes that neither he nor anyone else has any practical reason to own one. The "dune buggy point" is the place where you say to yourself, "I should probably find something else to do."*

*Dune buggies are cool though. So are snipers. If you had a sniper in a dune buggy, it'd be the most awesome thing ever.

Friday, July 6, 2007


Death was not what I expected.

It was just so impersonal. It's like the first time you fly on an airplane. You've made all these plans, bought your tickets, packed your luggage, picked out snacks for the flight. Then you get to the airport and realize "Oh, I guess all these people . . . they want to go somewhere too." Somehow you forgot that, yes, THOUSANDS of people fly out of every major airport on a given day. You'd focused on the flight itself and how excited you'd be: "I'm off to my vacation!" you'd said, your ticket clutched in your hand.

Then you got out of the cab and realized that it's not that simple, you can't go anywhere in an airport until you solve an elaborate logic puzzle with gates and kiosks and lines on the floor like some kind of "Wizard of Oz" theme park. And you can't ever stop to think because there are about a thousand people behind you who need to go in every direction you're considering.

And that's what death is like. One minute you're freaked out about "oh no the reserve chute didn't open" and "what's going to happen to my car" and "guess I'm not going to eat the other half of that sandwich", then the next minute you're standing in line trying to figure out where gate 352B is. It was quite a shock to me. Yet, at the same time it all made sense. When humanity was young I guess all you needed was one guy on a horse with a scythe. It was Death built for a small, agrarian society. But with six billion people in the world, eventually we required something that could handle huge numbers on a daily basis. So Death became an airport.

But not exactly. It's different. There are all these signs in really big capital letters, and you have to read them before you can go anywhere. The first one just says "YOU ARE DEAD" a hundred feet high. I laughed at that one. I mean, come on, I KNOW. Reserve chute didn't open, ground rushing up, hey there's a deer "hi buddy!", dark, I'm dead, I gotcha. But as I passed by that sign I saw all these people arguing with it. Yes, arguing with the sign. "I am not!" "You'd better send me back right now!" "I pay my taxes and those pay your salary!" And it was like that at all the other signs too:


And then there was all this paperwork. There are huge rooms of people, like God's blood drive, reading laminated booklets of their lives. Some of the booklet really makes sense: people you helped, people you hurt, people you neglected, all things that I think a person should review before moving on to the afterlife. But then some of it is really weird. "Bugs that crawled on you when you were asleep." "How close you came to finding stuff that you lost." "Things you didn't know you ate." I'm not sure if that's information you really need, or if someone there just thinks it's funny to tell you.

There are statistics too, statistics on everything:

"Games of Scrabble won:"
"Pounds of spit produced:"
"Number of monkeys seen:"

And there's a whole section of numerical ratings on things like "Accuracy", "Number of Secret Items Found" , and "Overall Score", none of which are given any kind of explanation or scale. And you know it's rude to look at someone else's form, I mean this is as personal as it gets, but you still have that wandering eye you developed when teachers handed your essays back.

The last page of the booklet is called "How else it could have gone." It's a list of all these bad things that happened to you, like when you got sick or pulled out into traffic at the wrong time or just tripped over your own feet. And next to each one there's a red stamp.

And no matter who you are, when you finish that page you flip the book closed, look at your name on the cover, let out a deep breath, and walk up to the counter with your coat.

But you know, no matter how much of a hassle the airport was, you make it to that plane eventually. You relax, open one of your candy bars, and wonder what the beach will be like.*

*Hell is arguing with a sign.