I have a bunch of jumbled thoughts today. The first being about the TV show “The Sopranos”. Every time a season ends I hear people complain that the final show wasn’t that good because nothing happened. I point out that most of the “end of season” action happens in the second to last episode of the Sopranos. The last episode is reserved for follow up to the drama. That has been the pattern but a lot of folks don’t notice. History repeats.

Season ending cliffhangers for TV shows bother me in general. Why do they even exist? Is a cliffhanger supposed to get me to tune into next season’s opener? If I liked this season I’ll probably watch next season if there is a cliffhanger or not. Next season is always three or four months away so I don’t even remember what happened in last season’s cliffhanger anyway. It discourages me from watching repeats too. I know everything is just going to wind up in one big “too be continued” so I grow disinterested until it is actually continued. I like a season ender to wrap up a season. End it y’know.

I pulled out last year’s “Bigfoot” comic series from IDW to give it another read. It has art by Richard Corben. I was never a big fan of Corben’s work back in the 80’s but I never disliked it either. In his stories there were usually lots of naked people with really round body parts who were intent on doing each other harm. Not really my cup of tea but not bad either. Generally his work just left me cold. Not anymore. Corben is an absolute master storyteller now. I’m on board with everything he does. The first of his new work I saw was “Cage” from Marvel back in 2002. I didn’t like the writing by Azzarello and the story was a mess but it was masterfully told by Corben. Some comic book art looks good but when you read the comic the art fails to get the point across. The story just dies. Other comic book art comes alive as you read and it engulfs you in the story. This is storytelling. This is what Corben does so well. Check out “Bigfoot”. It is a horror book that will make you scared of this hairy legend who has been made into a not so frightening clown in so many other mediums. And Corben kills on it.

One more thing to add about last weeks video game blog. I never ever want to spend time in video games looking for a key to a door. I want that bit of hackneyed game play would go away. It’s always the same. My character is standing there strapped with every weapon imaginable including a gun that shoots A-bombs and can kill 900 bad guys at once but I can’t get through a locked door. I gotta go search for a key. Oh boy, what fun! I hate med kits too.

My bicycle helmet is an old fashioned thing (as bicycle helmets go). I got it about ten years ago and it was never as elegant or streamlined as today’s helmets. After a recent crash in which said helmet saved my noggin’ I decided to get a new one. The first thing I noticed while shopping online is that bike helmets have years. This year’s mode is full price, last year’s is discounted and the model from the year before was discounted even further. Who knew? What are they cars? I bought last year’s model. It is comfortable and allows a lot of air to flow through it. Though as I rode off on my bike I had to take the visor off of it. I couldn’t see. The visor was so low over my eyes I had to tilt my head way back to see forward. Who designed that thing? My Old helmet has no visor. Now my new one doesn’t either.

One last thing, I have finally found my limit when it comes to the price of a comic book. I have always been a purchaser of small press black and white comics which tend to be more expensive than mainstream Marvel and DC stuff so I’m no stranger to high prices. But four dollars for a 22 page comic is too high. The aforementioned “Bigfoot” comic cost that much and it was the last book I bought at that price. I notice a lot the new color small press books are coming out at $3.99 and I just can’t plunk down that much cash for one. $2.99 for black and white is fine $3.99 for color and I’m out of there. Ditch the color and drop the dollar is what I say.

This week I bought four comics. Walking Dead 28 and Jonah Hex 8 are regulars. Jonah Hex has a new artist this month so I’ll have to see if the quality holds up. Plus I got the second issue (of four) of the Black Coat, a Revolutionary War story. Lastly I bought Zed 7. I purchased issue one a while ago and haven’t seen another until now. Zed is a comical little alien who has adventures. At least as far as I can remember.
Apocolypse Nerd 3 that I got last week was a highlight. Not only is the lead story funny but Bagge does backup tales of historical Revolutionary War figures that are very funny. Check it out.

I bought a new video game this weekend. It was my favorite kind. Cheap. I decided a long time ago that almost no video game was worth fifty dollars. I used to be one of those who loved to play the latest and greatest video games but somewhere around the time of the first Tomb Raider game that all ended.

The Sony Playstation was in a large part responsible for cooling my enthusiasm. When it first came out everybody loved the Playstation. Everybody but me. I didn’t have anything against it. I wasn’t inherently bad or anything it was just that, in those days, any game that was in 3D was considered impressive. You could make a game about two guys walking down some stairs and if it was in 3D people would rave about it. Game play actually went backward for a couple of years as the technology went forward. I would point out to friends that the new game they loved had horrible game play and their answer was always the same, “But it’s in 3D”.

Lots of bad fifty dollar but in 3D video games broke me of wanting the latest and greatest games available. It is not a good feeling spending fifty bucks on a game, getting home, popping it in the console and trying to like it. That is what I would do. I would try to like it. My friends would ask me how it was and I’d say, “It’s not so bad” or “It’s pretty good” with little enthusiasm. My friends would have that same reaction after buying a bad game. It took about a week to admit to ourselves that we wasted our money on a game. A week of forcing ourselves to play the game as the inevitable realization sank in. We were video game fans and read all the gaming magazines (this was before the internet) so the anticipation for the latest and greatest game was always high. The crash of disappointment was just as low but it took a while to sink in.

I also used to be an early adopter of systems in general. Home consoles and hand helds I had them all. I learned my lesson with the Playstation in this regard too. I never bought a PS2 and got an XBox only a couple of years ago. Until then I was having a good time with the Sega Dreamcast and its stable of cheap last generation games and peripherals. That is the thing I insist on when getting a new system. A solid stable of under twenty dollar games to choose from. This means I am not getting a PS3 or XBox 360 any time soon. A small stable of fifty dollar games doesn’t do the job.

The exception to this twenty dollar rule is the killer ap. It is possible that one really good game can get me to buy a system. I bought a Nintendo DS just because Advance Wars 3 came out for it. A used DS and the game cost me under $150 so price had something to do with it too. I am unlikely to drop $600 on a PS3 or XBox 360 for just one game. As pretty as the Playstation Portable is $200 for the system plus fifty dollars a game is steep. Especially since most of the games are ports and can be found on other systems for half the price or less. And don’t get me started on Sony memory sticks. Still, it is a pretty thing.

The game that I bought this weekend? It is “Deus Ex Invivible War” for the XBox. It got great reviews when it came out in 2003. It was originally fifty bucks but I bought it used for $4.20 tax included. Yes, that is how fast video games become nearly worthless. Does anything lose its value faster than a video game? I can’t think of any other pop culture entertainment that sells for eight percent of its original retail price just three years later. You can’t get a fifty dollar DVD set for four dollars. Even last year’s issues of Aquaman go for more than eight percent of their cover price. And no one wants Aquaman comics.

I have yet another video game rule that keeps me from liking a lot of modern games. I think a game should be able to be played for twenty minutes and then put down. I often only have twenty minutes to play so it is a practical rule but also a philosophical one. I want a game with my video game. So often video games are about something other than an actual game. They are about being in an environment or being dragged through a story. If I stop playing a game for a week or two and then come back to it I should be able to pick it up no problem. That is not the case with a lot of games. In some if you forget what you were doing you will be lost and have to start over. You are really just following one specific trail and if you lose its scent the game is pointless. As a matter of fact there is no game just a path to walk.

I also hate cut scenes though they are hard to avoid these days. I don’t want a story. I want a game. Movies, books and comics are better at telling stories than video games ever will be. I want my game to be a game not a fourth rate movie.

I’m not interested in any game that can’t be saved on the fly. I don’t want to find a check point in order to save. I don’t want to spend twenty minutes going through a level only to die and then having to spend twenty minutes going through the same level to get back to where I was. Saving should not be part of the “challenge” of the game.

Yes, I have a lot of demands of my video games. You can see why I don’t play them as often as I once did.

This week I bought four of my regular comics and didn’t try any new ones. The four regulars are: Red Sonja 10, Savage Dragon 126, Age of Bronze 23 and Apocalypse Nerd 3. It has been so long since Peter Bagge’s Apocalypse Nerd 2 that I forgot the series existed. It is a good book though.

From last week Death Comes to Dillinger 1, a horror western, was only okay. Death is an actual character who roams the old west and he comes into a town (Dillinger) and everybody wonders who he is there for. A man with a sick daughter is especially apprehensive and willing to get into a gunfight with death over his daughter. It is not badly done but reading my two sentence description is the same as reading the comic. Nothing else happens and it is one of those three word balloons a page books. It is only a two issue mini and I assume next issue nothing will happen but the gunfight. There is more story in three pages of the current Jonah Hex book than in a whole issue of Death Comes to Dillinger.

Wyrms 1 is a fantasy comic. I have nothing against fantasy books but one of the things that turns me off to some of them is their preoccupation with royalty. I don’t care who the rightful king is or if they restore the bloodline. I live in the USA where people once fought so that we could get rid of all that royalty crap. It wasn’t badly done. I just don’t care for the subject matter.

I did enjoy Following Cerebus 8. The articles and essays were much more interesting than in the only other issue I picked up which was the first.

As I was working today I had on the TV as I often do. I was listening to a program on the Holy Grail. As “In Search Of” type shows go the Holy Grail is not one of the topics that I find very interesting. The cup from the last supper wasn’t even thought about until 1000 years after it was supposedly used so the “history” of it is relatively new. There is no real history there except the history of people getting interested in the Holy Grail. Then a funny thing happened. As I was listening to the TV they said the passage from the bible that mentions the cup.

King James Version Luke 22:21: “In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.”

The handy old internet found me that quote because my ability to quote the Bible is limited. You gotta dig the internet.

That quote is part of the Catholic mass so I heard it every week for the first eighteen years of my life but hearing it in the context of this Holy Grail show put a new thought into my head. The thought was, “Man, those Holy Grail seekers are crazy”.

I know faith can do funny things to people and has a dark side that is rarely mentioned i.e a lot of people throughout history have been willing to lie, cheat, steal and kill in order to “prove” their faith to themselves and others but I perceived a different type of craziness.

The last supper scene in the Bible is really the ultimate scene. The “new covenant” that Jesus mentions is the whole point of the New Testament. The crucifixion is great theatre and the part that gets all the play but it was really just the price to be paid for the new covenant. Without the new covenant the crucifixion is pointless. The old deal of “No one gets into heaven because Adam and Eve screwed everything up” was over and the new deal of “Follow my lead and you can get into heaven” was born. That is the overall message of Jesus which he delivers at the last supper and what do some people want? The cup.

Why not the chair Jesus sat on? Or his plate? Or his napkin? I’m sure Jesus didn’t just use his sleeve; so find me that napkin! Is it because a cup was actually mentioned that it caught people’s attention? Somebody tell them that the cup is a metaphor. It is no more important than Jesus’s spoon.

I just don’t get it. Jesus gets up and delivers the ultimate speech of his career letting everybody in on the point of his story and all some people can say is, “Ain’t that a nice piece of silver he’s holding”. Or maybe they are just out to prove their faith. At least they’re not killing anyone to do it.