Just as good as a Peanut Butter and Jelly sandwich.
Wednesday, April 30, 2008
Monday, April 28, 2008
Criminals are an ugly, cowardly lot more worthy of pity and disdain than admiration. This is what you'll learn playing through the single-player campaign in Rockstar's Grand Theft Auto IV. The series cheered (and criticized) for glorifying violence has taken an unexpected turn: it's gone legit. Oh sure, you'll still blow up cop cars, run down innocent civilians, bang hookers, assist drug dealers and lowlifes and do many, many other bad deeds, but at a cost to main character Niko Bellic's very soul. GTA IV gives us characters and a world with a level of depth previously unseen in gaming and elevates its story from a mere shoot-em-up to an Oscar-caliber drama. Every facet of Rockstar's new masterpiece is worthy of applause. Without question, Grand Theft Auto IV is the best game since Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time.You play as Niko Bellic, an Eastern European attempting to escape his past and the horrors of the Bosnian war. He arrives in Liberty City to experience the American dream, only to discover his cousin, Roman, may have fibbed a bit in his tales of success. Starting from nothing, Niko makes a living as a killer and enforcer, a bad-ass foreigner who appears to have no morals. The longer we stay with Niko, the more we see that there is a broken human being inside, one who would give anything to escape the person he once was.
Don't worry, GTA's famed over-the-top action and tongue-in-cheek humor are intact, but there is a new level of sophistication in the characters and the game world that raises the story above the norm. As Niko becomes mired in the death throes of American organized crime, he begins to become more self-aware. Niko's struggles with his ruthless nature never inhibit the gameplay, but instead enhance the emotional gravity of a brilliant storyline. The more absurd the action becomes, the greater we feel the very real pathos of Niko Bellic.Much of the credit goes to the artists at Rockstar North who created as believable a city as possible. Liberty City is inspired by New York, but not beholden to it. While there are many parallels, Liberty exists in its own universe and rightfully so. Many open-world games have cities that feel as if they existed only from the moment you first turned on your console, but Liberty City looks lived in. It's an old city and each block has its own vibe and its own history. Drive around Liberty City and you'll be able to identify each individual block. Though Liberty is filled with brownstones and a myriad of similar brick buildings, you can tell one from the other, just as you can in New York. Go to an affluent neighborhood and the street is likely to be newly paved, the pedestrians better dressed, the cops more plentiful. But head to Dukes or Bohan and you'll find streets nearly stripped of asphalt, homeless people wandering about aimlessly and criminals preying on the weak.
Watch the people and you'll witness some amazing things. At one point, I saw a woman stopped at a light, looking in the rearview mirror right before she was rear-ended by a man ogling a girl on the street. The man got out of his car and went to the woman, checking to see if she was okay. This had nothing to do with Niko or a single action I took. These were the citizens of Liberty City going about their day. And it was just one moment in a day full of incidents.Hang in one area of the city long enough and you'll see how traffic and pedestrian flow changes as the day progresses. When it rains, people bring out umbrellas or shield themselves with a newspaper and run for an awning. Cops chase petty thieves unaware that walking down the street is Niko Bellic, cold-blooded killer. There's a perfect balance of mumbling doomsayers to remind you that the reason this city never sleeps is because it's full of nut jobs. People go about their day, only altering course when Niko inserts himself into their lives with his crappy driving or excellent marksmanship.
Buy music through the game!!!!
Liberty City isn't as big as San Andreas, but is far denser. There's a lot to see and do and, like New York itself, very little wasted space. When you enter buildings, there are no load times -- you open the door and you're on your way up a flight of stairs to the roof. The only frustration is that there are literally thousands of buildings in the city, but most of them cannot be entered. With the exception of some clearly marked entertainment hot spots and mission-specific areas, there's nothing to indicate which buildings are open for business. So you might find yourself walking into a lot of doors trying to find which one will magically open. It's a little much to expect to have the interiors of every building rendered, but that doesn't make it any less bothersome that you can't go where you please.The idea of a "living, breathing city" has always been somewhat of a joke in gaming. Every city in the past has felt artificial in some way. But Liberty City feels like a real place. And its history is built not only into the architecture and the people, but even in the music. There are more than 200 songs in GTA IV and many of them were recorded or remastered with specific references to Liberty City. You'll hear songs on the Classics station referencing the city, as if to suggest there's decades of history built into the culture. The soundtrack is an unbelievable blend of rock, pop, reggae, R&B and hip-hop. But more astounding is how well the songs and the DJs blend into the city itself.
It's this level of integration that makes Liberty City such a believable place. You won't just hear "America's Next Whore" advertised on the radio; you'll see posters when walking down the street and spot ads on the Internet. GTA IV takes aim at all of the modern forms of communication. Along with radio stations (a staple of the series) there are full programs and ads you can watch on TV and a fully browseable Interweb. You could lose hours of your day surfing the 'net. That may mean sorting through junk mail, clicking on random links, using Love-Meet.com to find dates, or reading the news. There are multiple websites that cover news based on missions Niko's completed. You can read different takes on these events if you want to get an idea of how your actions are perceived in different political corners. You might never bother looking at all, but like so much of GTA IV, there are dozens of hours of content waiting to be either discovered or ignored.
"The idea of a 'living, breathing city' has always been somewhat of a joke in gaming. Every city in the past has felt artificial in some way. But Liberty City feels like a real place."To make itself more modern -- as opposed to Vice City and San Andreas which were "of an era" -- the focal point of Niko's world is his cell phone. You'll receive calls and text messages from friends and business associates on your phone. This is the mission delivery system. You may launch into a mission just by answering a call, but more often you will be directed to meet at a specific location to initiate your next objective. Or you might just have a conversation that serves no purpose other than to deepen the characterization of Niko, his friends, or even his enemies. The good news is that, just like in real life, you can talk on the phone while driving your bus through a police blockade.
The phone is also used as an organizer to remind you of critical events (dates with slutty online girls) and can be customized with new ringtones and wallpapers. And just as in modern life, the phone can become a nuisance. Date Carmen and she will constantly be ringing your digits and sending texts checking in to make sure you aren't sleeping with some other girl. Yes, there are needy people even in Liberty City. You'll also get casual calls during missions. You can always ignore the ring or you can pick up. It's most likely a friend calling and asking to hang out. GTA is a clever game brimming with hundreds of thousands of lines of dialogue and Niko will almost certainly have a pun-laced response to turn down a pal if he's in the middle of a helicopter dogfight.
This doesn't mean you shouldn't give your potential friends the time of day. Throughout Niko's journey you'll have the opportunity to strengthen your bond with some of the people you meet. It's not necessary to take your Jamaican braddah Little Jacob out for a drink or game of pool when he calls, but doing so is to your benefit. If someone likes you enough, they'll give you access to their special ability. For Little Jacob, that means being able to call him day or night for discounted weapons. Packie, the angry Irish wannabe mobster gives you car bombs. Dwayne sends a pair of his homies to assist you on missions. The benefits of taking friends out on the town go beyond these tangible attributes. Friends also provide commentary on life, the city, Niko, and the story. None of it is essential to completing the game, but all of it is fascinating. The dialogue in GTA IV is rich, funny, brilliant, insightful, and engaging. So many times your reward for beating a mission isn't a new weapon or an elaborate cinematic cut-scene -- it's just dialogue. That is often reward enough.
"There are cringe-worthy conversations, where you see Niko being sucked into the depravity of these peoples' lives to earn a few bucks or gain a long-sought revenge."There are a number of places you can take your friends when you go out on the town and you should base your decision on what they might enjoy. There are mini-games for darts, pool, and bowling. But you can also check out the god-awful cabaret or watch one of several comedy sets by Ricky Gervais and Katt Williams. Perhaps the most challenging (but satisfying) activity is going drinking. Your level of drunkenness is relative to the person you take out. Little Jacob and Dwayne aren't so bad, but take a sweet lass like Kate out and she'll have you (literally) falling over yourself. When drunk, it's difficult to walk and even more of a challenge to drive. You don't have to drive drunk (in fact, it might make you ill doing so as the camera sways as if you're out at sea), but it's fun to give it a try. Drunk friends tend to be more revealing as well. Kate will tell you what she really thinks of you with just a few drinks. If that doesn't weaken your self esteem, nothing will. The only issue with making friends is that it's a distraction from the main story. For the first time in a GTA game, the story is actually a greater draw than city exploration. That's not to say driving around the city hunting for Easter Eggs isn't enjoyable, but the story is so compelling, you may find yourself singularly focused till its conclusion. The wild cast of characters is part of the reason things are so entertaining. The voice acting is top notch and the characters are each immediately identifiable and unique.
Some are loveable, but there are many who are despicable. There are cringe-worthy conversations, where you see Niko being sucked into the depravity of these peoples' lives to earn a few bucks or gain a long-sought revenge. That's a credit to the writing, to make what would normally just be some thug you're doing missions for earn your contempt. That's a mark that you care for Niko; that the story has gotten to you. There aren't many games that can pull that off.As an added twist, GTA IV gives you occasional morality choices. There are people that you don't have to kill in a mission and you can decide whether or not to waste a bullet. These events don't change the plot or open new missions later on. Occasionally it affects dialogue, but more often it is simply the game asking what kind of person you are. And there are some gut-wrenching decisions you make at points that create an emotional response I never imagined I would get from a Grand Theft Auto title. There is one significant choice you make towards the end of the game that opens a new path and an alternate ending. There are two worthwhile endings to uncover and are incentive for playing through a second time just to see how much more depressing life in Liberty City can get.There are more than 90 story missions that will take anywhere from 25-45 hours to complete depending largely on your skill level. I was certain that the missions would get repetitive at some point, that sooner or later it would get redundant. It never does. Though many missions boil down to the same basic parameter -- go to location, kill people to get to target, chase target, kill target -- it never feels repetitive. The locations of missions, the variety in the enemies, the dynamic aspects of the AI, and the dialogue keep GTA IV from ever feeling stale. In fact, this is a game that can be enjoyed with multiple playthroughs. It's just that good.
The best mission comes close to the halfway point, when you and Packie McCreary decide to rob a bank. In what becomes the recurring theme for Niko Bellic, everything about the job goes wrong. The cops have the bank surrounded and there's no easy way out. Instead, you and the gang must battle through the streets and into the subway to escape. It's a lengthy, epic fight that I could replay a dozen times and still enjoy. A great deal of that pleasure is due to the refined combat system. Though Grand Theft Auto has always been about action, it has never provided a great targeting system. That has finally, truly changed with GTA IV. Hold down the trigger and you can lock on to an enemy (or civilian). You'll see an indicator of their health. You can adjust your aim slightly with the thumbstick so that nudging up a little can help you earn some headshots. Partially depress the trigger and you have free aim, which is great for targeting tires or specific body parts. With skill, you can take down enemies faster in free mode. But auto aim is a great help in larger battles or for those who aren't as adept with a controller.
Better is the cover system. Tap the right shoulder button and you'll take cover behind the nearest object. If you see it in the environment, you can probably take cover behind it. That includes walls, dumpsters and cars. You can aim while in cover and when you hold the trigger to fire, you'll pop and shoot. You can also blind fire rather effectively with any weapon -- including an RPG. The cover system is fairly smart, so if you want to move from one side of a door to the other, just push towards where you want to go and tap the cover button. This also works when you are fairly far from cover. Niko will roll or perform a slick slide to get to safety quickly. There is a stickiness to the cover system similar to Gears of War, but since the cover button isn't tied to your run button, you never accidentally enter cover.While GTA doesn't have many issues, I will admit that the cover system is not perfect. There are times where you will take cover on the wrong side of a corner, leaving you exposed. These instances aren't too common, but over the course of dozens of hours, you'll certainly encounter them. You also un-stick from cover when you use your phone, which can sometimes make calling Dwayne for backup or Carmen for a health boost a little trickier than necessary.
"The best mission comes close to the halfway point, when you and Packie McCreary decide to rob a bank. In what becomes the recurring theme for Niko Bellic, everything about the job goes wrong. The cops have the bank surrounded and there's no easy way out."Most games with a cover system make the mistake of turning cover into the central focus of gameplay. But cover in GTA IV is more of a natural progression needed to facilitate heightened AI. Enemies have a variety of AI protocols. Some are cowards (gotta love the fat cops running for the hills when you start killing the boys in blue), most try to avoid being shot by taking cover, and a few still stand in the open. If the AI is going to be able to hide behind cars and other parts of the environment, it's only fair that players have the same ability.You don't have to use cover if you don't want to. I'm sure there is some way to beat missions just by running and gunning. After all, this is still GTA. There's no one right way to beat a mission. You're free to get creative. But ignoring the cover system is like never stealing a car. This is a major piece of the game. Use it often, because it works well and it's certain to keep you alive longer.The cops aren't about to let Niko run through the city with guns blazing, even if he is capping bad guys. Sooner or later, you'll run afoul of the law. The wanted system has been revised and makes for more dynamic chase scenes. When you're wanted, your radar displays the police search parameter. The smaller the wanted level, the more local the search. Your goal is to get out of that circle and avoid being seen by the cops. Get spotted and the circle re-centers on your new location. This becomes more of a challenge when you reach three stars, because a police helicopter appears. This eye in the sky has an easier chance of spotting and following Niko -- and directing other cops to your location.
Unless you want to be O.J., you need to change directions, get out of the sight of choppers, switch cars or go on foot. Whatever you do, avoid line of sight, because once a cop sees you, you're location is reported and the search changes its focus. This makes escapes from four stars and higher incredibly intense. Pay 'n' Spray shops still exist, but must be entered when cops aren't looking. To be honest, I used this one time in 40 hours. It's an outdated idea in some ways and more a nod to GTA's of old than a great resource.The new wanted system puts an emphasis on your driving and navigation skills. Fortunately, you can set a waypoint on the map in the pause menu and get an adaptive GPS-guided route. This same system is used to guide you through missions. There is never a point in GTA IV where you have to wonder where to go or what to do next.
"That a game with great AI, an awesome physics engine and a detailed open world, runs so well and with such short load times is a technical marvel."I should mention that the driving has also seen an upgrade from past Grand Theft Autos. Rockstar's RAGE engine coupled with NaturalMotion's Euphoria engine creates a game world with some stunning physics. Each brand of car handles differently (you can actually see the suspension in action as you make sharp turns). What will really surprise people is that these physics work with characters while in cars. So Niko's weight shifts to one side as he makes a turn and his head snaps forward when he slams the brakes. There is also a full neurological system built into Niko so that his body knows how to react to other objects. At one point I drove an ambulance off a high stunt jump. The cinematic camera swung around to show Niko taking his hands off the wheel and covering his face before impact.
XBOX 360 vs. PS3
You will see the effects of NaturalMotion throughout the game, whether it's how bodies react when you slam your car into them or the way a gangbanger leaps away from a grenade. The physics system is the connective tissue that grounds the action into something resembling reality. And it's one of the main factors that makes GTA such an impressive-looking game.Past GTA titles have had mild-to-serious framerate issues and technical glitches, because the games were trying to do far more than the PlayStation 2 could handle. While GTA IV is pushing the PS3 and 360 to the limit, it also runs amazingly well. Sure, there are framerate hitches here and there and (particularly on 360) there is some texture pop-in, but it actually runs better than I expected. That a game with great AI, an awesome physics engine and a detailed open world runs so well and with such short load times is a technical marvel. For that, I can forgive framerate issues and some noticeable aliasing.
The art team gets major kudos for creating a living world. There is great texture work in the environments, a nice field-of-vision blur of buildings in the distance, some excellently modeled cars, ball-jarring explosions, phenomenal water effects and one interesting-looking Eastern Euro for a lead character. Sure, it's not a game that runs perfectly all the time, but the technical elements almost never get in the way of the gameplay.For those wanting to know which version looks better, the edge goes to the PS3. The textures and framerate are comparable, but the PS3 has far less pop-in. The 360 has richer colors, but the PS3 has better anti-aliasing making it look a little cleaner. Because GTA IV can preload onto the PS3 hard drive, the in-game loads are faster. Don't worry Xbox owners, the load times are rarely more than 30 seconds and don't occur very often. The slight visual edge goes to PS3, but the 360 is no slouch. Either version will do you proud.
16 PLAYER Modes, Online, Finally!!!!!
If you're wondering which version to buy, the best suggestion is to consider what your friends will purchase. That's because online multiplayer has made its way into GTA IV and it is awesome. And, like all great things, it's best played when drunk and with as many friends as possible.Multiplayer is accessed via your phone from the single-player game. Everything is active in Liberty City online -- the cops, pedestrians, traffic, and weather. And yes, the entire city is open to you and 15 of your closest friends.To keep you and your pals from getting separated, GTA IV offers a party system. The party lobby is actually set in the outskirts of Liberty City. You're given plenty of guns and some vehicles to mess around with. You can stay and fight or run around the city if you like while waiting for the host to set up a match. And boy, are there a lot of options to choose from.
There are more than a dozen multiplayer modes if you count team and free-for-all variations. The bread-and-butter of multiplayer is Free Mode. This is a no-rules game that drops you into Liberty City with up to 15 other people to do as you please. You can invent your own custom games, waste time shooting one another or explore the city. As with almost all of the multiplayer modes, there are loads of options for the match. Turn on cops and each player will get their own individual wanted level. Set the time of day, weather, flow of traffic, weapons available -- there's very little you can't customize. Free Mode taps into the very core of GTA gameplay, which is to run around the city causing mayhem. Only now you can do it with 15 other like-minded individuals.There are a number of other creative multiplayer offerings. The standard Deathmatch and Team Deathmatch can be interesting, since the cover system often slows the game a bit so it isn't as fast-paced as something like Quake. Unless, of course, you choose "all rockets" in which case death will become you many, many times. Mafiya Work has you and your competitors receiving phone errands from a mob boss. First to complete a mission scores some cash. Car Jack City has players vying to steal specially marked cars and return them in as pristine a condition as possible to a drop off point. Turf War is your standard capture-the-point. Or if you like vehicles you can try out GTA Race, which is like any other racing game except you can get out of your vehicle, jack your competitor's car and finish the race in any way you like -- or just blow up other people for the hell of it.
"Everything is active in Liberty City online -- the cops, pedestrians, traffic, and weather. And yes, the entire city is open to you and 15 of your closest friends."And then there is Cops n' Crooks, the best of the objective-based multiplayer games. This has two teams, one side lawmen, the other hoodlums. The crooks are trying to get to a randomly selected extraction point and the cops are trying to arrest them with bullets. This mode forces teamwork, as both teams must strategize on the fly and rely on one another to assist in navigation. It's a fun, addictive mode that will likely be the most popular of the team offerings. On top of the various competitive modes, there are also three co-op offerings. These three "modes" are missions similar to what you might experience in the single-player game. Niko doesn't exist in multiplayer, but you still get cut-scenes and some unique dialogue wrapped around some fun missions. Co-op supports up to four players and only has some minor variables. Your objective never changes nor do the locations. You can up the difficulty and add more traffic if you want a challenge, but none of the co-op missions struck me as anything worth playing more than a couple of times. It's nice to have, but probably won't be what gamers buzz about when discussing GTA multiplayer.
As with just about every game, there are both ranked and unranked matches. Ranked matches are the only way to progress up the ranking system (from 0-10). Progressing up the ranks not only makes you feel better about yourself, but it opens up new clothing and accessories to better customize your character. There's not a lot of pull to rank up, though, because many of the modes don't use your custom character. The co-op modes and Cops n' Crooks use a different cast, so if those tend to be your primary focus, having new outfits for a character you never see isn't going to mean much.I won't go so far as to say that GTA IV is the best multiplayer out there, but it's definitely among the best. Having Liberty City in full effect and only seeing occasional instances of slowdown is a real treat. When a few million people load hop online, it's anyone's guess how the game will hold up, but from my experience, playing with 16 people in Free Mode only caused occasional hiccups. Certainly not enough to make me stop playing.
Closing CommentsGrand Theft Auto III was a revolutionary title, one that inspired a whole new generation of 3D action games. Grand Theft Auto IV is just as big a leap forward, though perhaps in subtler ways, and sets a new benchmark for open-world games. Everything in GTA IV works in harmony. The story would be nothing without the city; the city gains realism from the physics engine; the physics compliment the improved AI; the AI would make no sense without the new cover system. And on and on. There is no one major weak aspect.
A "10" is not a score we give out very often. In fact, the last time we gave a 10 to a console game was Soul Calibur in 1999. A 10 doesn't mean a game is perfect -- it means a game is pushing boundaries, expanding a genre, and doing many things to a level so far above and beyond its competitors that they overshadows any flaws. Certainly, GTA IV has some issues, the most noticeable being the occasional flaw in the cover system, but there are many more pieces of GTA IV that are better than anything I've seen from a game in the past decade. We don't give 10s often -- just to games that merit the score.
And, for a second opinion: from Chris Roper
It's not very often that a game comes along that turned out to be pretty much exactly what I expected, and yet also managed to wow me practically every second. Grand Theft Auto IV is a GTA game through and through, but its execution is so epic and fantastic that you can't help but be in awe at the fact that it has come together as well as it has. Rockstar North has really outdone itself and has issued proof that it is not only the founding father of open world games, but also the undisputed king of the genre.
GTA IV manages to break every negative stigma from past games in the franchise while keeping the series' core gameplay intact, albeit much more in-depth than ever before. The new aiming and cover mechanics, while not perfect, do a fantastic job of completely changing the way combat works while keeping it at least as intense as we'd seen in past titles. Mission progression is paced incredibly well, and side things like managing relationships directly impact your game.
Liberty City is simultaneously the most realistic and immersive location we've seen in a game like this. The amount of detail that you'll find here is astounding, not only visually but with regards to the things pedestrians and whatnot will do. Watching someone yank out a newspaper and hold it over their head while running for cover when it begins to rain is just one example of the personality and small touches of realism that you'll see everywhere.
But while the mechanics, side missions and other core gameplay elements are all fantastic, it's the story and overall presentation that elevates GTA IV to heights very rarely seen in gaming. Rockstar North has once again done an amazing job of walking the fine line between humor and seriousness with characters that you're immediately able to connect to. They're almost all bad people, to be sure, but each of them has character weaknesses and vulnerabilities that make them real. Characters have reasons for doing what they do, and it's apparent that they also have morals and inner demons as well. The cast plays perfectly into a fascinating story that is not only is easily the best of the franchise, but one of the best you'll find in gaming anytime soon.
I could go on and on about why Grand Theft Auto IV is one of the best games we've ever seen and why even folks who are easily offended should play it, but that would be pointless. The only thing you need to know is that you have to play this game. Period.
Friday, April 25, 2008
Reminder to the public: GRAND THEFT AUTO IV will be in stores in 4 days!!! That's April 29th. I'm gonna let that go for now, cause it's inappropriate to sport wood on the job... but you better believe that Monday or Tuesday there is gonna be something special. A blog of love like never before, cause I'm running down everything about number 4 and when you hear it and see it you want it. Trust me, my roommate Kevin didn't even want it. After reading one article on http://www.ign.com/ he went and paid the whole thing off that afternoon. Viva Niko!
Fridays, when you're at work, are that special pause in between the week and sooooooon to be weekend. Kind of like that kiss, when you give it you know it's okay to round second. Or if you're me, you just blitz over to third and come right home. It's cheating yes, but you scored didn't you. Yes, you did.
Shout outs to D-Block! What? I just want to be cool too. I knew that wouldn't sound right coming from my mouth.
It seems like an Absinthe day to me. Good bye fried rice, hello fried chicken!
I had a dream the other day where my mother beat the $#!t out of me, Mortal Kombat style. When I described it to Kevin and Nelson, I kept starting the story "I had this dream that my mother sat on my face and beat the $#!t out of me". As you can imagine, I made it to sat on my face and both of their faces turned cold... and quick. Those eyes, so dead. I'm not attracted to my mother.... she makes to much money for me. (note to self: get an appointment with Dr. Freud ghost... right away)
Okay kiddies, that's gonna do it for me. See some of you tomorrow night at the Arlington Cinema N' Drafthouse. Maybe I'll bump into some of you at the Caveat auditions, I'm hoping they give me a shot, I'm really excited about Improv at WIT. And, anyone going to the BBQ on Sunday... bring ham, and homemade Mac & Chee.
Thursday, April 24, 2008
KINSHASA (Reuters) - Police in Congo have arrested 13 suspected sorcerers accused of using black magic to steal or shrink men's penises after a wave of panic and attempted lynchings triggered by the alleged witchcraft.
Reports of so-called penis snatching are not uncommon in West Africa, where belief in traditional religions and witchcraft remains widespread, and where ritual killings to obtain blood or body parts still occur.
Rumours of penis theft began circulating last week in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo's sprawling capital of some 8 million inhabitants. They quickly dominated radio call-in shows, with listeners advised to beware of fellow passengers in communal taxis wearing gold rings.
Purported victims, 14 of whom were also detained by police, claimed that sorcerers simply touched them to make their genitals shrink or disappear, in what some residents said was an attempt to extort cash with the promise of a cure.
"You just have to be accused of that, and people come after you. We've had a number of attempted lynchings. ... You see them covered in marks after being beaten," Kinshasa's police chief, Jean-Dieudonne Oleko, told Reuters on Tuesday.
Police arrested the accused sorcerers and their victims in an effort to avoid the sort of bloodshed seen in Ghana a decade ago, when 12 suspected penis snatchers were beaten to death by angry mobs. The 27 men have since been released.
"I'm tempted to say it's one huge joke," Oleko said.
"But when you try to tell the victims that their penises are still there, they tell you that it's become tiny or that they've become impotent. To that I tell them, 'How do you know if you haven't gone home and tried it'," he said.
Some Kinshasa residents accuse a separatist sect from nearby Bas-Congo province of being behind the witchcraft in revenge for a recent government crackdown on its members.
"It's real. Just yesterday here, there was a man who was a victim. We saw. What was left was tiny," said 29-year-old Alain Kalala, who sells phone credits near a Kinshasa police station.
(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: http://africa.reuters.com/ )
Well.... what do you say to get an inward chuckle out of you guys after that story? Yep.
Wiseacres was lots of fun last night, it felt like almost every comic in our area was in there at some point last night. Generally does though, here's a question: "If you're not there on Wednesday, where the f*ck are you?" there's nowhere else to go. Have these comics joined a Fight Club? Eli, where were you? I missed you.... no homo.
I never realised how many truly (I am not referring to "Urban") funny black comedians we have in our area. Weems, Way, EJ, Tim Miller (he needs a nickname or something), Herbs, Seaton, Fowleezy, Mr. Terrance.... maybe I need switch it up and start sagging my pants. Apparently that's back in style. I saw a guy last Saturday content to hold his pants up, but he had to grip, literally, damn near his knees to hold them up. If that's what's cool, I think I'm good where I'm at.
I don't like children. That is all.
My supervisor explains things to me like I am a small child. Most times I don't mind but then there are sometime where all I can do is look off in a strange direction and think the things I dare not say. Well, yesterday she caught me in the gaze and called me on it. I don't really remember what happened or how I explained my way out of that, but I know that 2 minutes later I was volunteered to represent my section organizing a party for my floor. Could she have masterminded the whole thing, or did the gaze just happen to look into her window of opportunity. Either way I get to sit around doing nothing for an hour today.
If I ever find myself unable to blog, I'm going to steal one of Mike Way's blogs and copy and paste. He's doing enough work for almost that whole list of comedians(see above). What kind of man would I be to give a link, like you've never read his blogs before, he's more consistent than a clock. His name is Mike, and he's got way too much free time... those are his words. http://comelaughwithmike.blogspot.com/
Wednesday, April 23, 2008
Just in case you haven't heard it yet, thought I'd put that out there. I don't really get the controversy though, if you're black I feel like it's your perogotive to say or not say that word. Whether or not everyone can say it?.... I repeat :If you're black then you decide how you want to embrace or shy from that word. It's got as much power as we give it.
I saw Cloverfield last night... not a fan. I guess that if the writers were being completely honest the movie would have been about 25 minutes long. Cause from the second that the plan changed from saving my @ss, I'm out. Let me just ruin a minute of the plot, trust me it's not important, here we go. A female calls our protagonist and says "Help me", his friend and the only character worth liking, Hud, immediately says "But, she's that way, you know what else is that way.... That MONSTER". It's at that point that I wanted Hud to walk away and set the camera on the ground. I'd have stood up and clapped d*cks with Nelson, no homo (what would that look like? Hmmm... no, no homo). Instead, he says "We're coming with you"...sigh. That's where they lost me cause I wouldn't even come back for Chapstick, which I have a deadly addiction too. I'm a Chap addict, but I would just get by and let my face turn into Tommy Lee Jones before I'd risk going back into town. Couple of things I wish had happened. This one is stupid, but I wish that a black man would've walked by and saw that thing, all I'd want him to scream is "White people"(it had white skin, but that thought made me chuckle to myself last night). Told you it was stupid. Secondly, it screamed like the monster that they admitted ripping it off from, Godzilla. For the sheer joy of a cheap laugh am I to believe that no one recommended having a scared Asian running down the street screaming "Godzira!!!"? Come on now.
I'm making a muscle right now, know what it looks like? Ray J's most private business. No, he doesn't have "A Very Muscular ____", his just makes a turn to the right. A SHARP turn to the right, as far as sphincters go anyway. Disgusting, DO NOT WATCH THE KIM KARDASHIAN SEX TAPE!!!! There is a lot more Ray J than there is Kim Kardashian. At one point, between different speeches chalked full of slang about how thugnificant he is, he dances. But this is the jig a 13 year old does when he first finds out where the va-jj is... except he's still having sex while doing this dance and making a face like he's fighting a $#!t. Did I mention that when his ____ takes that sharp right turn, it's accompanied by a vein big enough to be on Andre the Giant's part. DISGUSTING Ray J. May God forever bless you with clothes, cause I don't want to live in a world where Ray J's just walk around clothe less. And surgery is probably a good suggestion. Why does it not mention that when you search that video online. Distraction? Hell yeah.
Gotta go to lunch so, we'll do this tomorrow. Hope to see muchos comics at Wiseacres tonight, we'll see how that goes.
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
Monday, April 21, 2008
Friday, April 18, 2008
I hear nothing but GREAT things about Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Can anyone say "Rainy Sunday at the local Matinee"? Yeah you can.
Thursday, April 17, 2008
Wednesday, April 16, 2008
DUMFRIES, VA 22026
Height: 5 ' 06 "
Weight: 180 lbs
Tuesday, April 15, 2008
Sociopathy is classed as an anti-social personality disorder (APD). As a consequence of their behaviour the sociopath has the image of a cold, heartless, inhuman being. But do all sociopaths show a complete lack of normal emotional capacities and empathy? Like healthy people, many sociopaths love their parents, spouse, children and pets in their own way, but have difficulty loving and trusting the rest of the world. Furthermore, sociopaths do suffer emotionally as a consequence of separation, divorce, death of a beloved person or dissatisfaction with their own deviant behaviour.
Sources of Sadness
Sociopaths can suffer emotional pain for a variety of reasons. Like anyone else, sociopaths have a deep wish to be loved and cared for. This desire remains frequently unfulfilled, however, as it is obviously not easy for another person to get close to someone with such repellent personality characteristics. Sociopaths are at least periodically aware of the effects of their behaviour on others and can be genuinely saddened by their inability to control it. The lives of most sociopaths are devoid of a stable social network or warm, close bonds.
The life histories of sociopaths are often characterized by a chaotic family life, lack of parental attention and guidance, parental substance abuse and antisocial behaviour, poor relationships, divorce, and adverse neighbourhoods. They may feel that they are prisoners of their own etiological determination and believe that they had, in comparison with normal people, fewer opportunities or advantages in life.
Despite their outward arrogance, inside sociopaths feel inferior to others and know they are stigmatized by their own behaviour. Although some sociopaths are superficially adapted to their environment and are even popular, they feel they must carefully hide their true nature because it will not be accepted by others. This leaves sociopaths with a difficult choice: adapt and participate in an empty, unreal life, or do not adapt and live a lonely life isolated from the social community. They see the love and friendship others share and feel dejected knowing they will never take part in it.
Sociopaths are known for needing excessive stimulation, but most foolhardy adventures only end in disillusionment due to conflicts with others and unrealistic expectations. Furthermore, many sociopaths are disheartened by their inability to control their sensation-seeking and are repeatedly confronted with their weaknesses. Although they may attempt to change, low fear response and associated inability to learn from experiences lead to repeated negative, frustrating and depressing confrontations, including trouble with the justice system.
As sociopaths age they are not able to continue their energy-consuming lifestyle and become burned-out and depressed, while they look back on their restless life full of interpersonal discontentment. Their health deteriorates as the effects of their recklessness accumulate.
Emotional Pain and Violence
Social isolation, loneliness and associated emotional pain in sociopaths may precede violent criminal acts. They believe that the whole world is against them, eventually becoming convinced that they deserve special privileges or rights to satisfy their desires. For the rest of us it is unimaginable that sociopaths are so lonely -- yet they describe their loneliness and social failures as unbearably painful. They each created their own sadistic universe to avenge their experiences of rejection, abuse, humiliation, neglect and emotional suffering.
Violent sociopaths are at high risk for targeting their aggression toward themselves as much as toward others. A considerable number of sociopaths die a violent death a relatively short time after discharge from forensic psychiatric treatment due to their own behaviour (for instance as a consequence of risky driving or involvement in dangerous situations). Sociopaths may feel that all life is worthless, including their own.
In the last decade, neurobiological explanations have become available for many of the traits of sociopathy. For example, impulsivity, recklessness/irresponsibility, hostility and aggressiveness may be determined by abnormal levels of neurochemicals including monoamine oxidase (MAO), serotonin (5-HT) and 5-hydroxyindoleacetic acid (5-HIAA), triiodothyronine (T3), free-thyroxine (T4), testosterone, cortisol, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), and hormones of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal and hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal axes. Other features like sensation-seeking and an incapacity to learn from experiences might be linked to cortical underarousal. Sensation-seeking could also be related to low levels of MAO and cortisol and high concentrations of gonadal hormones, as well as reduced prefrontal grey matter volume. Many sociopaths can thus be considered, at least to some degree, victims of neurobiologically determined behavioural abnormalities that, in turn, create a fixed gulf between them and the rest of the world.
It may be possible to diminish traits like sensation-seeking, impulsivity, aggression and related emotional pain with the help of psychotherapeutic, psychopharmacological and/or neurofeedback treatment. Long-term psychotherapeutic treatment (at least five years) seems effective in some categories of sociopaths.
Psychotherapeutic treatment alone may be insufficient to improve symptoms. Psychopharmacological treatment methods may help normalize neurobiological functions and related behaviour/personality traits. Lithium is impressive in treating antisocial, aggressive and assaultive behaviour. It is found that mood stabilizers such as divalproex (Depakote), selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) and neuroleptics have documented efficacy in treating aggression and affective instability in impulsive patients. To date there have been no controlled studies of the psychopharmacological treatment of other core features of sociopathy. Cortical underarousal and low autonomic activity-reactivity can be substantially reduced with the help of adaptive neurofeedback techniques.
"Ben" was raised by his aunt, as his parents were divorced and neither were capable of or interested in caring for him. As a child and adolescent, he had numerous encounters with law enforcement for joyriding, theft, burglary, fraud, assault and battery. He was sent to reform school twice. When he was 21 years old, he was convicted of armed robbery and served a year and a half in jail. His only close friend was another violent criminal; he had many short-term relationships with girlfriends. At 29, he killed two strangers in a bar who had insulted him and was sentenced to forensic psychiatric treatment. Norman was diagnosed as a sociopath.
Ben showed little improvement over the course of seven years of behavioural psychotherapy and became less and less motivated. The staff of the forensic psychiatric hospital considered him untreatable and intended to stop all treatment attempts. Ben's lawyer arranged for an examination by a forensic neurologist, who subsequently found that Ben suffered from severe cortical underarousal, 5-HT and MAO abnormalities, and concentration problems.
Ben was started on d,l-fenfluramine (Pondimin), a serotonin-releasing drug. Acute challenge doses (0.2 mg/kg to 0.4 mg/kg) produced significant dose-dependent decreases in impulsive and aggressive responses. After one month, an MAOI (pargyline [Eutonyl], 10 mg/kg) and psychodynamic psychotherapy were added. Pargyline produced some normalization of his electroencephalogram (EEG) pattern and was titrated up to 20 mg/kg over five months. Neurofeedback was started after two months and continued for 15 months. His EEG pattern gradually normalized, and his capacities for concentration and attention increased.
Ben continued to receive d,l-fenfluramine and psychotherapy for two years, at which point he was discharged from forensic treatment. He voluntarily continued psychotherapy for an additional three years and, in the four years since his release, has not re-offended.
It is extremely important to recognize hidden suffering, loneliness and lack of self-esteem as risk factors for violent, criminal behaviour in sociopaths. Studying the statements of violent criminal sociopaths sheds light on their striking and specific vulnerability and emotional pain. More experimental psychopharmacological, neurofeedback and combined psychotherapeutic research is needed to prevent and treat sociopathic behaviour.
The current picture of the sociopath, which is reflected in the leading diagnostic criteria of sociopathy is incomplete because emotional suffering and loneliness are ignored. When these aspects are considered, our conception of the sociopath goes beyond the heartless and becomes more human.
Thursday, April 10, 2008
All those violent ends
Documented in my living years:
Gandhi, Kennedy, Luther King
Indira and her son; Aung San,
Benazir and her father
All standing up to lead.
Now a quiet Karen, exiled
From his home in Burma.
Padoh Mahn Sha, a man of peace
Stood up to lead.
A solitary calling, his wife dead
His children far away.
Sharing food with him, and hope
That precious spark, and talk,
Makes this violent end
So different from all the others.
Shot to death alone
Sitting in the sun on his verandah.
Weep and remember Padoh Mahn Sha
Weep and remember Burma,
And then stand up to lead
Against the assassins
Against the dictators,
For peace, for peace, for peace.
Feb 2008, Juliet Rogers
Wednesday, April 09, 2008
That wasn't true, but I'm into random hate these days. It's just funny to me. Sorry Justin, unless you actually wear them. Cause then I'm not sorry.
I need a new hobby... like prayer.
Co-workers are the only friends that really make me nervous. At any given moment you are one laugh/joke away from being asked to come down to HR. Someone could have the sickest humor you've ever seen, but then you crack a joke about a dead girl and find out that their daughter was killed. Which is why I only talk to one of my team members, who I knew before my promotion. Everyone else gets a big stupid grin from me as they walk by and the usual casual gab. But one day.... Nude run down the hallway. I'll be fired of course, which is why I'll have to have another job for that run. "Oh my God, he's naked. Uggg!, he's swaying in so many directions all at the same time!" Cause I'm blessed.
Well that's gonna do it for this portion of non-sense. We'll chat on Hersday.
Tuesday, April 08, 2008
The video shows 16-year-old Victoria Lindsay curled up on a living room couch, shielding her head from the repeated punches of a teenage girl while other girls scream in the background.
It was March 30, shortly after 8 p.m. Six girls had gathered in a Lakeland house to confront Lindsay about trash-talking about them online, the Polk County Sheriff's Office said.
But they didn't stop with words. Lindsay told investigators in a sheriff's office report that April Cooper, 14, had slammed her head into a bedroom wall, knocking her unconscious. The blows resumed, primarily from 17-year-old Brittni Hardcastle, after Lindsay awoke in the living room, according to the sheriff's office.
The incident was recorded on video the teens planned to post on MySpace and YouTube as retaliation, the sheriff's office said.
"Ooh, yeah, baby. Ooh, yeah!" a girl says in the background. The sheriff's office said the voice was that of 16-year-old Cara Murphy, who was holding the video camera.
Both Lindsay's family and Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd on Monday called for legislation against such "shock videos" or for social-networking sites to enact standards to prevent posting this type of material.
These videos are "causing our children to take on a different culture and think this is fun, funny and OK," Lindsay's father, Patrick, said in a phone interview.
His daughter, who suffered a concussion, has permanent hearing loss in her left ear and blurred vision in her left eye, he said. She also has nightmares. "She's scared. She's upset," he said.
After releasing Monday a three-minute video segment of the beating, Judd said he didn't want to fulfill the teens' aim of publicizing their attack but thought it important "to educate the parents about what their kids are doing."
"It's incumbent upon us as a society not to accept this," Judd said. "This pack mentality is just absolutely absurd. ... Regardless of what this victim may or may not have said, there's no justification for this."
The sheriff's office charged eight teenagers in the attack, six girls whom investigators say took turns beating Victoria Lindsay and two boys whom they say acted as lookouts. All are charged with felony battery and felony false imprisonment.
Three girls - Hardcastle, Brittany Mayes, 17, and Mercades Nichols, 17 - also are charged with felony kidnapping, the sheriff's office said. Judd said the girls drove Lindsay around and threatened to beat her again if she reported what occurred to law enforcement. Then they dropped her off at an intersection.
One of the teens, Stephen Schumaker, 18, of Lakeland, was booked into the Polk County Jail. He is free on $5,000 bail.
Because of their ages, the others are being held at the juvenile assessment center, the sheriff's office said. Judd said he has asked prosecutors to charge all of them as adults.
All the girls who were arrested attend Mulberry High School, arrest reports say.
'The Truth Will Come Out'
The attack occurred at the home of Nichols' grandmother on Calendar Court West, Judd said. The grandmother had allowed Lindsay to stay with her and Nichols over spring break. She was at work during the beating. She was appalled upon learning what had happened, Judd said.
Schumaker's father, Robert, has denied his son's involvement, saying neighbors told the Schumakers that Stephen and the other boy, Zachary Ashley, 17, were not at the house acting as lookouts.
Ashley's family declined to comment. However, Nichols' mother, Christina Garcia, said Ashley's mother was trying to obtain surveillance video from a convenience store to prove Ashley was at the store at the time of the beating.
Garcia also denied that Nichols beat Lindsay.
Lindsay "embarrassed these girls," Garcia told News Channel 8. "She said she was going to kick their you-know-what's," and called them "slutty."
Reached by phone, families of the other teenagers either declined to comment or said more details would be revealed.
"If it happened, it happened. We'll have to see what takes place," said Hardcastle's grandfather, Charles Platt.
"We know what Brittany said and it's a lot different than what's being told," said Mayes' grandmother, Martha Proctor. "The truth will come out."
Judd: Lindsay Didn't Fight Back
Asked about the teens' claims that they were not involved, sheriff's spokeswoman Donna Wood said the investigation supported the charges.
Judd added that one of the boys stuck his head in from outside and told the girls to quiet down because neighbors could hear the fight.
Investigators reviewed the video frame-by-frame and found no evidence Lindsay tried to fight back, Judd said.
On the video, Lindsay stands up once Hardcastle stops hitting her and says, "You want me to leave, I'll go home."
A girl in a red T-shirt steps forward and punches her.
"No, you're not leaving," Hardcastle says, shoving Lindsay against a corner by the front door near glass shelves holding knickknacks.
"Don't hit the shelves! Don't hit the shelves!" can be heard in the background; the sheriff said the voice was that of Nichols.
Hardcastle and Kayla Hassell, 15, scream at Lindsay, asking what she doesn't like about the other girls.
"It's not fair, Brittni!" Lindsay yells.
"It's perfectly fair! It's one-on-one!" someone replies from off-camera.
"You have to fight back. Fight back!" Hardcastle yells, punching her again. "What, you gonna cry like a little girl?"
Someone off-camera - the sheriff's office says it was Murphy - let the other girls know when the video was about to end.
"Seventeen seconds left," the girl says as the blows continue. "Make it good."
Monday, April 07, 2008
-Alone in the Dark(apparently there is a sequel for this coming next year)
-Bloodrayne(2 & 3... did no one admit the first was a piece?!)
-In the name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale
-House of the Dead
There is a list of movies that are German, but no one would care cause we're no in Germany are we. Though I am sorry that "Ze Germans" have to endure even more of his horrible movies than we do. No one deserves that. Bottom line is, suck is suck. And if suck were given out in quotas, he has used his, his family's and even some acquaintances'. Uwe Boll's movies suck. The only reason that you would remember any of the movies above is because when you saw a trailer for them you said to yourself or whoever was next to you "Whoo, that s#!ts gonna suck. Let's go see Harold and Kumar:Escape from Guantanamo Bay!" Okay so there is now way that you could have said the second part, cause that movies a little too new. If you were unfortunate enough to spend your money on one of those then you understand why any one that wants to see a good movie version of a film is left flaccid once they find out he's directing it. Oh, did I mention he writes too. The only time that I recall being happy with anything I've seen in one of the two movies on that list I've seen was this: In BloodRayne, the main character is played by the bad Terminator from T3:Rise of the Machines. She's just be kidnapped and in a jail cell from the 12th century cause they're in 12th century(I could be a couple hundred years off, not important). Out of the middle of nowhere there is sex scene, but it creeps up on you. It isn't until some guard rips BloodRayne's shirt thing off and these beautiful breasts spill out that you realize "Oh my God, the Terminator's naked.... YEAH!!!!!!" And that is what happened with me, then I ran and got Nelson and saved him the agony of watching the entire movie. I rewound and watched them spill out togefa( that's slang ).
Well, Uwe Boll's last movie In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, was so bad that magazines and various sources (don't I almost sound like I'm in the biz? Nah? why not?) say that he will not be able to make an expensive movie again. No studio is going to give him $70 million dollars to make a movie again. I truly am shocked that he made that last one for that much money, cause in the trailer, the effects looked worse than Superman: The Movie. Is he pocketing all of the money? I wouldn't be surprised, he's German. No offense to any Germans that frequent this pleasant little blog, I just don't trust you. Which leads me to my point...
A petition was started and guess what people are banding together for? That's right, they want Uwe Boll to stop making movies, FOREVER. this is funny to me for so many reasons. You have to love the fact that a kid grows up wanting to make movies. He actually sets out and does it, and guess what? He gets noticed. Next thing you know, he's a grown man who is in the entertainment industry and making deals for ridiculous amounts of money. He producing, writing, directing and apparently pocketing money from these big adaptations of popular video games. At first, the movies make a decent amount of money until people start to recognize a name that shortly becomes it's own insult... Uwe Boll. What do they do when they think they've had enough, and the movie industry won't stop letting him make films? They ask him to quit because he's terrible. I love the time that we live in.
Uwe Boll just had an interview, and the journalist informed him about this petition. Uwe Boll made a statement that if the petition were to reach 1 million signatures, he would give the people what they're asking for. Here is what it reads:
To: Dr. Uwe Boll
Help us stop this madman from doing what he loves to do.... ruin video game movies!
As I'm sure many of you know, Charlton Heston passed away on Saturday night. I like remembering him this way, it tickles me. Oh, and the media is softening the blow of this by following it with "Beyonce and Jay-Z are know married!!!!" Damn Beyonce, I was coming, I just needed to handle some things first... oh well, there's always Kelly Rowland. Other than that, Catholic University show with the Fowlest, Travis Irvine, Will Hessler next week. FunnyFest in Calgary May 2-8, first time going to Canada. And, of course, Funnybone stuff that always makes me smile. See you guys tonight at Spy Lounge, don't be shy.
- Tyler Richardson
- I blog during work to keep from sleeping. Unless people from my job are monitoring this, in which case "I love my job; I have a family". My dog Max is the man too. Other than that I think reading this blog gives a pretty good idea of what I'm about. Red Jell-o, need I say more.
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