South Park Season 3 (TV DVD)

I'd really only seen episodes of South Park from Season Eight onwards, save a handful I'd caught when everyone was talking about it in middle school, but after Stick of Truth I thought it'd be amusing to check in on the older, cruder days of the show. Now I finally know what that duck thing on the Stick of Truth loading screens was and man, anyone else find it strange to realize this show is so old there's an episode making fun of Jar-Jar Binks?

Early South Park was less satirical more... for lack of a better word, shitpost-y. There's hints of what the series would eventually become in the Pokemon spoof episode, but most of Season Three is KoRN hunting ghost pirates in a Scooby-Doo parody, Moses as the MCP from TRON demanding pasta art and popcorn necklaces, and whatever the hell was going on in "Cat Orgy." Based on the commentaries, Parker and Stone felt this was where South Park started to find its footing, and I can see that.


Wings of Fire: Moon Rising (Tui T. Sutherland, Kindle eBook)

While the first Wings of Fire quintet was about a bloody war, this one looks to be delving into a dark secret from the dragons' ancient past. Moon Rising is a slow boil of an intro to that, taking place in a newly founded school intended heal the wounds of the war, but barely a day into classes somebody is assassinating students. Now keep in mind the first five books dragons had getting their throats slit, their faces melted by acid, their heads smashed open on coral, and frozen solid and shattered. Here? Two dragons die in a fire. You'd think with the aging readers things would get more violent.

In terms of what actually happens, well, it's setup for the upcoming books. Queen Scarlet from the first subseries is still on the loose and looking for revenge, and unbeknown to almost everyone there's an ancient and dangerously powerful dragon entombed somewhere under the school. It's more about Moonwatcher and her struggles with being the first Nightwing in centuries who can read minds and predict the future, powers she never asked for and can barely control. What's more, her confidence issues may be making her easy prey for manipulation by the mystery dragon. But as the only one who may be able to stop the assassin, Moon eventually embraces her powers as neither a curse nor a symbol of superiority to others, but as something she can help others with.

A trope that kinda burns my bananas is when a secret a character has good reason to not want to blurt out at everyone they come across is revealed and everyone else goes "Wah, why didn't you tell us your secret before, I thought you were my friend!" Yes, dear, your reaction to this revelation fills me with confidence that sharing it as soon as you met would have been the smarter move. I can understand taking time to process the secret itself and I realize the dragons here are juveniles and maybe lack the emotional maturity to handle the situation (the one raising the biggest stink is the youngest), but when a character starts screaming "I'm not bothered by the secret, I'm angry you didn't tell me as soon as we met! I would have told you!" I want to reach into the pages/screen, grab the character by the shoulders, and scream "WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU."

This last bit isn't a plothole, just a thought I had. Moon can read minds, but is unable to identify the murderer when you'd think she could match the voices. But you know how people think they sound one way due to the way their voice vibrates their head, then they hear a recording of themselves and think "Holy shit, is that what I actually sound like?" What if the reason Moon can't match the thought to the speaker is because everyone thinks in one voice - how they sound to themselves - but speaks in another?


The Truth (Terry Pratchett)

This is the longest it's ever taken me to get through a Discworld. I started it last December, started over some time this year, and even then it took me a few months to get through it. This isn't because it's bad, but because in the age of social media any novel about journalistic integrity and people only wanting to hear what they already believe is going to be a difficult read. I guess the more things change, the more they stay the same.

By the way, if you've ever heard the phrase "A lie can run around the world before the truth has even got its boots on" this is the book that comes from. What you may want to consider before quoting that is it's the person who wants the lie to spread saying that.

Rating: (Take this with a grain of salt, due to how long it took me to get through this book my thoughts are muddied)

Hades (PC, M)

I started this back in August, but that was the peak of summer, I live in a humid area in a house with no air conditioning, and going through the Asphodel biome in that was not fun. And a question that kept running through my early runs was "Is this game supposed to be kicking my ass this hard, or is this more WoW-induced brain rot?"

But with perseverance you either "git gud" or brute force your way to victory. With each run you gather resources to make yourself stronger, learn which powerups completely break the game (Athena's dash), which could charitably be described as "Meh, better than nothing" (just about everything from Ares), and which are basically suicide (the leeching sword), and discover the red talents are mostly trash compared to the yellow ones (why would you want to do +75% damage to an undamaged enemy over +50% backstab damage? Guess which you're going to be using against bosses more). And with six weapons there's plenty to experiment with run to run. Personally I liked the sword and shield, I really liked the fists, I disliked the spear (it's slow and has no cleave), I really disliked the bow, and I fucking hated the gun. Those last two have the same problem I had with caster classes in WoW, standing there slowly pushing a button and watching a bar fill up between each attack and just wanting to run up to my enemies and knock their teeth out with a mace.

I am never going to get away from that game, am I? I guess pissing away five years of my life on it means it's a part of me forever.

The combat is nice and juicy at first (you know, the first time I beat Theseus I actually said "HAHA FUCK YOU" out loud, and you know what? I don't even remember the last time I did that), but in the late game I found I was just mashing the attack buttons and dashing around like a drugged up hummingbird. The game's greatest strength is the writing, with the standout being the characterization of Hades himself. It's worth noting that while Hades is often the villain in modern takes on Greek mythology like Disney's Hercules or Percy Jackson, in traditional mythology Hades was one of the more benign gods. So while Zeus was turning into mist and swans and banging everything that moved and Athena was being a sore loser in a weaving contest, Hades generally minded his own business (kidnapping Persephone notwithstanding).

Whether Hades is intentionally playing on the juxtaposition between modern and classic interpretations of the mythology or not, when the game starts it looks like Hades is an abusive bastard and the Olympians are there to save Zagreus from him, but as you reveal more of the story you get the idea the Olympians are all arrogant pricks with Zeus being the arrogant prick-iest of them all, and Hades becomes a lot more tragic: he's spent his existence getting kicked around by his Titan parents and then his Olympian relatives, Zeus pulled something scummy and all he could do was watch as everyone else hailed Zeus as the golden child who could do no wrong, he lost the only person who actually gave a damn about him, and after getting sick of the Olympians' shit everybody treats him like he's the asshole. And as harsh as he is with Zagreus, it's more that he wants Zagreus to make something of himself but has trouble connecting with him, no doubt because of his own upbringing. It even tweaks the kidnapping of Persephone to make Hades a bystander in it instead of the perpetrator. Think Zangief's line in Wreck-It Ralph "just because you badguy that not make you bad guy"

The dialogue's not perfect, but given the RNG involved it's as good as you can get. Still, there were some odd moments: one time I had just finished a clear and was given a major plot point, went up to Hades expecting Zag to ask him about it, and Zag started talking about Orpheus instead. Then there's a part where you have to sneak into Hades' bedchambers while he's away. A run or two later I completed the tenth clear and got the ending where Hades himself asks Zagreus to hang a painting in his room. Then I start my next run and get a cutscene of Hades telling me to stay out of his room. Like, dude, you asked me to hang the painting? And despite, uh, certain events in the main ending ending thawing Zagreus and Hades' relationship, they would sometimes dip back into being at each other's throats because those lines were written assuming they'd play out before the main ending.

It's also entertaining to watch the game try to skirt around all the incest that was rampant in Greek mythology, only to falter at the finish line by making one of the romance options your adopted brother.

I'm trying to write this based on my feelings after seeing the credits, because the post-maingame grind to get the epilogue, complete the sidequests, and finish off the achievements left me really burned out. Trying to get some of the gods to acknowledge I'd fulfilled their bond requirements only to have them say some generic shit time after time got on my nerves, and it took forever to get Achilles to start the quest to reunite him with Patroclus instead of talking about your weapon. THEN I had to keep running through Elysium and speaking to Patroclus to advance it some more (and you only have maybe a 50-50 chance of encountering him). And by that point, I'd exhausted almost all the other dialogue pools and most characters were repeating filler lines.