Poodle Hat (Weird Al Yankovic)

Poodle Hat is one of Weird Al's more critically panned albums, but I think it's a considerable step up from Running With Scissors. "Hardware Store" and "Ode to a Superhero" are the picks for this album, "Party at the Leper Colony", "eBay", and "A Complicated Song" are also pretty good, and I normally don't care for the polka mixes, but "Angry White Boy Polka" at least uses the polka medium to send up the... well, angry white boy genre of music.

"Couch Potato" and "Trash Day" are okay, but not songs I'd go out of my way to listen to. And I know exaggerated narcissism is a Weird Al staple (see "This Is the Life") but "Why Does This Always Happen To Me" is a little too mean.

"Bob" is annoying and "Genius in France" is nearly nine minutes long but has very little to say for itself. "Wanna B Ur Lovr" is also longer than it needs to be, but at least the song has more to it than "Genius in France" as the lyrics get creepier and creepier until it finally drops all pretense of subtlety.


Pokemon Emerald (GBA)

Holy shit, was RSE always this tedious, did Emerald add a bunch of bullshit, or have I just been softened by Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire? Okay, the dungeon under Mt. Chimney where you get into fights every three steps wasn't in Ruby and Sapphire, and neither were the opening Pokemon animations that drag out the fights. And Emerald reintroduced the godawful NPC phone calls from GSC, forgetting that were was probably a reason they were taken out of Ruby and Sapphire (the same reason they haven't been seen since Emerald). But the encounter rate is the worst I've seen since Black Sigil, and there's something off about the Pokemon distribution; I can't quite explain it, but it's like it doesn't give you the right Pokemon at the right time.

There's one other change Emerald made that initially doesn't seem like a huge deal, but on reflection it's really stupid. In Ruby and Sapphire, the champion was Steven, a character you interacted with repeatedly throughout the game. So when you get to the end of the game and have to fight him it actually means something. But Emerald inexplicably changes the champion to Wallace, the leader of the final gym in Ruby and Sapphire who I'm pretty sure hadn't been mentioned before, meaning the entire arc with Steven builds up to nothing. It also means you have two bosses that specialize in Water-type Pokemon.

RSE feels like Pokemon's awkward teen phase. Game Freak retooled many of the mechanics, notably the addition of Pokemon abilities and stat-altering Natures, the change from stat experience (where all of a Pokemon's stats could be maxed out) to effort points (where 510 points had to be distributed among the six stats, with each capped at something like 250), double Pokemon battles, and the starker differences between the two versions, so it's bogged down with all these new complexities while being stuck in the mentality of the first two games; there's no way to redistribute the aforementioned effort points, and hell, Game Freak hadn't even figured out the Physical/Special split yet.

I hate to be mean to this game because I blew 300 hours of my life on Ruby and it's the Pokemon series that gave the world Skitty (and with it, my grading scale), but I can't ignore that it took me eight months to get through this; I started this back in June right after I finished Silver, thinking I could clear it then move on to Platinum and have a Pokemon-a-thon through the year, but my apathy towards Emerald kicked that in the head.

On a side note, whose bright idea was it to give Rayquaza fucking Outrage? You finally get him to low enough health that he *might* go into an Ultra Ball, then uses that attack, confuses himself, and punches himself to death.


Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded (John Scalzi)

It's strange, Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded is simultaneously brilliant, and struggling to justify its existence. It's basically a "Best of" selection from John Scalzi's personal blog, which raises the question of why spend money on this when you can read the blog entries on his site for free. Well, you have to know which entries to look for, but after that, yeah, you don't need this book.

For the essays themselves, the one on Star Wars where he describes the series as "George Lucas masturbating to a picture of Joseph Campbell and conning billions of people into paying him to watch the money shot" was the most memorable. Scalzi also compiles some articles on writing, be it writing itself, money, or crafting Internet hate mail. And some essays are just musings on mundane little things he noticed, like the implications of a picture of Jesus playing football, cheese, Felix the Cat, and how much "The Final Countdown" sucks, which may not be the most profound revelations, but are still fun to read (especially the cheese one). And what the hell, sometimes it's nice to think about stuff you normally wouldn't.

Some are a little dated. One is on Ellen Fein getting a divorce after writing a series of books on how a relationship should work to preserve your marriage. Except this essay was written in 2001 and was the first time I'd ever heard of either Ellen Fein or the "Rules" books.

There's also a lot of policial and religious essays; Bush and Kerry bashing, an essay on how Republicans, Democrats, and Libertarians all suck, a rant on "Leviticans" versus Christians, calling the Creation Museum "horseshit" at least fifty times, and many more. Just something to keep in mind if this sounds like something you want to pick up.

Oh, and despite "The Dictator of Writing Announces His Decrees" claiming to be Part 1 in a series, Part 2 doesn't exist nine years later.


Unearthed: The Trail of Ibn Battuta (PC)

I haven't played Uncharted so Unearthed being a halfassed ripoff of it is lost on me. But even on its own merits, Unearthed is rubbish.

The game is over in ninety minutes, and in that time the game somehow does both too much and fuck all. It starts out as a cover shooter, turns into Prince of Persia, then goes back to cover shooter. Then it turns into a walking simulator as you plod through two town sections, followed by a "stealth" section where you sneak past a whopping two guards. Finally, the game ends with this godawful driving... thing, where you drive in circles around a city in a car that handles like a cinderblock nailed to a skateboard until the game finally decides to spit up the cliffhanger ending. There's also these brawling segments that make no sense because most of you and your opponents' attacks go through each other, so it's a matter of smashing buttons until one of you falls over. And the punch-tastic quips the characters keep making is the shit frosting on the shit cake.

It's supposed to be the first in an episodic series, but this was released in 2014 and as of writing this in February 2016, there's still no sign of episode 2. Not that anyone's looking forward to continuing the adventures of Captain Shutyourface.

Also, how the fuck is this thing eight gigs?


The Star Wars Holiday Special w/ RiffTrax Audio

Wow, even with the RiffTrax commentary this thing was fucking dire. Every article I've seen about the Star Wars Holiday Special makes it sound hilariously bad, but in reality it's just insanely dull. It's a series of skits where 70s celebrities do shit no one cares about with a paper-thin framing device about gargling wookies and Imperial stormtroopers doing shit no one cares about. I also love how obvious it is that Harrison Ford didn't give a crap about this thing and didn't even try to give a convincing performance. So here's to the RiffTrax crew for providing the only tolerable version of the Star Wars Holiday Special.

Oh yeah, in the scene where Mala and Luke are talking through the monitor while R2-D2 works on Luke's X-Wing, Mike quips "Did he just come back from a Kabuki play? What's with all the makeup?" Uh, Mark Hamill was in a car accident.