On this day in 1954, those young upstarts known as the Hurricanes were asked to play a charity football match against the Garkos Gorgons on the island of Garkos.
Well, we all know that match never took place. The Avianca Colombian Airline (ACA – an airline with an heretofore sterling crash record) plane crashed and plummetted into the ocean this afternoon, with 36 passengers and seven crew on board. Nine footballers are among the 40 dead after an air crash over the North Atlantic Ocean, just off the coast of Hispanola Island.
The footballing world is reeling from the loss of some its most talented young players – known as the “Ball Boys” for their fancy footwork.
Their average age was 22 and they included the likes of captain Garry Wyndham, Shawn McKinley, Davey McGregor, Eddie Irvine, Nicky Gallagher, William Bushell-Guthrie, Roger “The Dodger” Faragher, Anthony Findlay, and Ricky Stormson.
Ten prominent sports journalists and several club officials have also been killed.
The chartered aircraft was bringing the Hurricanes entourage to a charity match against the Garkos Gorgons on Garkos Island. In a sad twist of irony, Chief Executive of the ACA, Alfonso H. W. T. Milagro confirmed the cause of the tragic accident: extreme turbulence due to heavy storming and strong winds.
Two footballers – star strikers Ivan McMullet and Wally “Big Dog” O’Callaghan (pictured above) – are missing and presumed dead, as rescue crews sift through the wreckage on Hispanola Island. They’ll want to work quickly, though; the island itself is considered to be largely inhospitable, a desert home to broods of killer scorpions, invincible monkeys, giant millipedes, exploding crates and autistic children, known to charge wildly at their prey.
Letters of condolences poured in from across the globe, and clubs across Europe and the United Kingdom held two minutes silence at the games on Saturday following the accident.
The only known survivor, team manager Neville Ratcliffe, was surprisingly chipper about the events of last week:
Hmmm…I’m not an expert by any means, but I am *reasonably* certain that an experimental nuclear submarine should not to be piloted in this fashion.
I thought the idea was to avoid detection by Soviet forces. How long does Sean Connery and Co. hope to keep this up for? Because it’s a long way from Russia to America, and they got started pretty early!
I better stop talking now before my ignorance of the film becomes glaringly apparent (too late!). Normally, I would have read the book, watched the film, and piloted a nuclear submarine long distances prior to tackling a review of this magnitude, but I’m operating under some pretty serious time constraints here, so I’ll leave you with one final, insightful paragraph on the videogame:
This is a videogame based on a movie based on a book that Tom Clancy actually wrote. It’s pretty crazy when you consider the status of Tom Clancy videogame licenses today (worshiped as gods), especially given that the books are now written by ghosts.
“Hey Tom, do anything interesting on the weekend?”
“No, not really—watched the game of course: it sucked. You get up to something exciting, Ron?”
“Well, I went to the bea—”
“I went to the beach and there wa—”
“GUYS ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT WHAT YOU DID ON THE WEEKEND, HUH YOU GUYS?”
“Yeah Peter, Ron was just telling me about his trip to the bea—”
“GUYS. YOU WILL NEEEEEVER BELIEVE WHAT *I* DID THIS WEEKEND!”
“GUYS YOU WILL NEVER BELIEVE IT!”
“…yeah, probably n—”
“OK SO I WAS PUTTING MY KIDS TO BED OK?”
“Wow, that’s pretty great, way to parent or something, Pete. Anyway, as I was sa—”
“AFTER I PUT THEM TO BED I WAS STANDING ON THE BALCONY AND THEN TINKERBELL THE FAIRY CAME OVER TO ME AND SA—”
“Whoa. Whoa, Peter. Too much information. I really, REALLY don’t want to know about this.”
“NO SHE’S REALLY A FAIRY SHE’S A FEW INCHES TALL AND SHE THREW HER MAGIC DUST ON ME AND THEN I FLEW BACK TO NEVER LAND.”
“Michael Jackson is dead, Peter. Is this about Michael Jackson being dead?”
“NO! THIS HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH THE KING OF POP IT HAS TO DO WITH ME BEING THE PAN!!!”
“Hey Ron, you want to go and get Phil down at the security desk? I bet he wants to hear Peter’s story. Phil loves pans and shit.”
“NOT THAT KIND OF PAN, TOM DON’T BE SILLY! I AM TALKING ABOUT PETER PAN.”
“SO ANYWAYS TINK BRINGS ME BACK TO NEVER LAND BUT THE LOST BOYS WON’T BELIEVE THAT I’M THE PAN ON ACCOUNT OF HOW OLD AND FAT I AM NOW AND THAT I WEAR VESTS.”
“I don’t believe it!”
“YEAH I KNOW. ANYHOW THE LOST BOYS SAY THAT SINCE I’M SO OUT OF SHAPE THAT I’M PROBABLY NOT THE PAN AND THAT I’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO DEFEAT HOOK AND GET MY KIDS BACK!”
“Hold on Peter, two questions: 1) Who exactly are the ‘Lost Boys’ and 2) Hook? Your kids? Did something happen?”
“YYYYYESSSSSSS THAT’S WHAT I’M SAYING JUST LISTEN. THE LOST BOYS ARE THESE PRETEEN KIDS WHO ALL HANG OUT IN THE FOREST AND DON’T FOLLOW ANY RULES AND HOOK IS A PIRATE CAPTAIN WHO’S MISSING A HAND AND HE KIDNAPPED MY KIDS AND I HAD TO GO AND FIGHT HIM!”
“SO ANYWAYS I CAN KIND OF FLY BUT NOT REALLY AND I MOVE REALLY SLOWLY AND HIT SOME OF THE KIDS WITH A SWORD SO THEY STOP RELEASING BEES AT ME AND THEN I SWAM WITH THESE KILLER FISH WHO COULD ONLY MOVE IN STRAIGHT LINES AND TH—”
“Excuse me, Mr. Banning?”
“HEY PHIL I WAS JUST TELLING TOM AND RON ABOUT HOW I FLEW TO A MAGICAL FAIRY REALM FULL OF ORPHANED BOYS TO FIGHT A PIRATE.”
“Mr. Banning, I think you should come with me for a while. Do you want some water? You look pretty thirsty. Why don’t you just have a seat in here with me and tell me all about it?”
“SURE PHIL! HEY DID YOU KNOW THAT RUFFIO HAD MY SWORD? I MEAN WHAT’S HE DOING WITH IT, YOU KNOW?”
“Of course, Mr. Banning. Of course. Outrageous. Just come with me in here.”
I don’t know what I would do if someone came to me and said, “Hey, you need to come up with a game idea for the Home Improvement license.” I like to think that I wouldn’t make a game where Tim’s new power tools are stolen, and he must pursue the thief through the various contrived stages where all sorts of fantastical shows are being filmed, which mysteriously come to life in horribly hazardous ways.
I’d like to think that. I really would.
But who am I to claim that I could do better ? I can’t help but imagine a brilliant designer, bursting with ideas, ready to take on his first big break. He receives the news. There is a sinking feeling. He begins to sweat immediately, especially on the lower back, a problem that has plagued him since adolescence. He goes home and writes, but nothing is any good. He can’t implement his great ideas; they don’t fit into the schema of Home Improvement. The Tool Man’s laugh haunts him, like the whuffling snarl of a carnivorous ape loping behind him through the shattered apocalyptic landscape of his dreams.
Weeks of creative drought drive this writer to the edge of madness. There are bloody marks left on his walls from the steady banging of his forehead. His family and colleagues begin to worry.
Finally, three days past deadline, he staggers into the office, with nothing to show for his efforts. The execs ask him what he’s got for them, and he breaks down, weeping helplessly, great body-wracking sobs that make your skull hurt to listen to. The execs shift uncomfortably and remain silent until he regains his composure.
“I…I don’t know,” he says. “Maybe, like…his tools get stolen, and he has to go through some…other stages where they’re filming some crazy shit? Maybe with dinosaurs? I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I don’t know. I’m sorry. I can’t.”
And he walks out.
The execs look at each other and shrug, approve the idea, and send it off to the code monkeys and graphic artists. They patch together a shitty piece of licensed shovelware and sell it for almost $100 a cartridge.
The writer, however, has seen the face of oblivion. When he returns home, he drinks a 24 pack of fruit-punch-flavoured Gatorade, and drowns himself in a bucket of his own urine.
RITES OF PASSAGE FOR ALL PEOPLE WHO EVER WRITE A THING THAT THEY INTEND TO MAKE ANOTHER PERSON READ, EVER, AND MAYBE EVEN MAKE PEOPLE GIVE MORE THAN ZERO SHITS:
1) Go to New York
2) Write about New York
Finally, Home Alone 2: Lost In New York has bestowed upon me MY NEW YORK PIECE.
Okay, so I’m joking. Sort of. But really, New York and Super Nintendo video games are pretty similar. Hear me out, here. Both of them have been written about to death– what more is there to say? Well, I guess, actually, they’re somewhat different, because there are plenty of games on the Super nintendo that you won’t find a single word written about, even if you scour the Internet. I suppose that’s the magic of this website; we’re not just writing about the SNES equivalent of Times Square (at the corner of Chrono Trigger and FFIII) or its 53rd & 3rd (I figure it’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Racing or something) or its Williamsburg (I don’t know, Earthbound or something). We’re also writing about shit like Home Alone 2: Lost In New York. The 16-bit video game. I reckon this is the Delafield and Davis of SNES games. It’s some shitty suburban street corner in the middle of the 90’s videogame equivalent of Staten Island. This game is so… so needless that it doesn’t even get subway access. You have to take a ferry to get to this game.
There’s nothing wrong with that, though. When I played Fire Striker it gave me that same feeling that I get when I’m in my hometown of Montreal (I am going to drop the New York thing now; I’ve only been once, and I spent most of my time in Chinatown, Chelsea and Bed-Stuy anyway) and I accidentally stumble across the best goddamn soup dumplings ever created by man (Qing Hua, by the way, check it out if you’re in town) or some tiny depanneur that sells wonderfully rare, delicious beers (Depanneur Peluso, way out at Iberville and Rachel). There are games like this, however, which are the equivalent of looking for a place like Peluso and ending up at a Couche-Tard deep in Hochelaga-Maissoneuve with no place to lock your bike and nothing to buy but Bud Light with lime (I passed).
This game involves running away from hotel staff and avoiding the possessed luggage, vacuum cleaners, and various other things that attempt to block you. You also get a raygun of some sort near the beginning.
Wait, no, talking about the game is depressing. Let’s go back to the New York thing. This game is the GLEN ROCK, NEW JERSEY of the SNES. You heard me. Glen Rock. How do I know?
Another movie game. Turn off brain. Check. Set expectations low. Check. Let grey matter ooze out of ear.
It’s funny because you figure with all the failures in the dawn of gaming, they would stop making this sort of shit. But that’s the rub: they’re failures in terms of anything remotely related to a gaming quality metric, but, somehow, they still sell. Video games (and other media and pop culture to a similar extent) are somewhat unique in that respect: they sell almost entirely based upon their marketing appeal. The game itself is separate from the marketing.
The experience of playing Home Alone is based pretty much entirely on the nostalgia of the film. That’s it. The developers make a point of trying to tie it in to the good-guys-bad-guys silliness of the movie, which was amusing as a kid, granted, but fails here when your worst enemies are in fact bats and rats, and the kind developers somehow decided that when there are bats or rats, you CAN’T USE YOUR SLINGSHOT CAUSE THAT MAKES SENSE!
The game is full of the usual poorly designed, half-assed side scroller theme. There are a thousand games like this, and the only thing that sets this one apart is the “collect the valuables” aspect, where instead of mindlessly moving sideways, you have to think enough to go back and forth to the drop spot. Once you’ve amassed enough valuables, you have to get past the nigh interminable array of bats and rats to seal the valuables in the vault. I don’t remember any bats and rats in the movie, and with this number, the house would be condemned!
Verdict: Home Alone is exactly what you expect: A poorly thought out movie-based game with awkward controls, frustrating gameplay, dismal music, terrible graphics, and laugh-out-loud design choices. If you really want to be nostalgic about the movie, watch it with silly subtitles or commentaries and heckle it. You’ll have more fun.
We all knew that HAL had gone through one hell of a divorce. His ex-wife had taken every material thing he’d ever loved. The 52” television, the boat, the summer home in the Hamptons, the Bentley… she took them even though she’d never use them. That wasn’t the point. She wanted him to hurt. She wanted him to feel a loss comparable to when she found him astride that young girl in the bathroom during the Christmas party.
Things didn’t get much better for HAL after the divorce either. After his disbarment, the result of frequent attempts to sue his wife for being “dead inside”, a lot of the guys from the firm stopped talking to him. At first it was just the acquaintances who turned down his invitations to social events but eventually even his closest friends were ignoring his calls. “It’s just…”, his friends would admit in hushed tones, “… I mean… it’s embarrassing! He’s really lost it, man. You can’t talk to the guy for more then ten minutes before he’ll ask you about your family and break into tears! How do you spend time with a guy like that?” Eventually, HAL fell off the radar. There’d been rumors that he’d started stalking his ex-wife and children, that he’d gone into therapy at an institution, that he was homeless. Within three years of his humiliating collapse, it was as though he’d never existed.
In reality, HAL had taken what was left of his once-ample fortune and poured it into the one thing his wife hadn’t destroyed his passion for: golf. He’d always loved taking clients out on the links during counselling sessions and considered himself pretty good at the sport. He purchased a derelict course a few counties over where less people would know his name. A fresh start. The course had been abandoned for at least a year when he visited the property. The grass was long, foliage was sparse… the club house had been broken into. A fixer-upper, he thought.
It cost HAL every penny he had left to get the course up and running again. He cut costs by doing much of the grounds-keeping and management himself. He even slept at the club, in a modest bachelor apartment that doubled as his office. Before long, he got the place running and started to make enough money to sustain the business. He’d always been a hard worker, so I guess that’s not much of a surprise.
What was a surprise, however, were the invitations to a tournament at his course some of us at the firm received one day. That night, my wife talked me into going. “Everyone deserves a second chance,” she said, “and besides, you two were friends once. You’d want him do the same thing if you were in his shoes.” She was right, I suppose. HAL and I had gone fishing together a few times. During the early days of his divorce I’d gone boating with him and he confided in me about the problems he’d had with his wife… how she’d spent less and less time with him, how he was battling depression…
So, I left work early that Friday afternoon in order to register for HAL’s golf tournament. On the drive out I wondered to myself if HAL had really bounced back. I thought about the capabilities of the human spirit. HAL had been a wreck of a man and here he was running a golf tournament! He was building a whole new life for himself! Remarkable!
It wasn’t until I got there, however, that I realized I was the only one from the firm who’d decided to come. This might not have been such a big deal had HAL invited anyone else.
He had not.
So there he was at the registration table… head in his hands. I had to admit that he certainly looked more fit than ever before. Clearly the exercise had done him well. I looked around and saw enough people to believe he’d actually crafted a successful golf club. Why had he only invited people he’d worked with? I cleared my throat.
“Oh!” he stuttered, collecting himself. “I can’t believe you actually came! I’d almost given up! I’m so glad someone came!”
He ran around the table to give me a hug and it was clear he’d been crying. “Of… of course I came HAL! Couldn’t pass up an opportunity to check up… on… thi… an old friend! Yeah… I’ve been hearing a lot about this place!”
“You’re too kind, friend, too kind. Quick, come this way and I’ll get you all registered!”
Since I was the only one who’d registered, HAL said he’d be my partner for the day. He met me at the first hole with a man dressed in a suit. “HAL, who’s thi..”
“WELCOME!” the man interjected, “to the first annnnnual HAL’s Golf Tournament!!”
“Is this really…”
“It’s a BEAUTIFUL day here on the links where our inaugural tournament is about to kick off! And, as a special treat, the first drive will be struck by HAL himself!! Good luck, everyone!!”
“Was that really necessary?”, I asked as the man walked off the course.
“Well, HAL admitted, “I was expecting more people… and the guy was paid in advance. Seemed a waste not to use him. You’ll see him again at the ceremony.”
Before I could even parse how pathetic that ceremony would be HAL drilled his ball about three-hundred yards straight down the fairway. I suppose that a man who owns a golf course would be pretty good at golf. “Oh well,” I thought, “it’s not like there’s anything on the line here. Might as well just have fun and roll with the punches.”
As I placed the ball on the tee I heard HAL stifle a giggle. I stood in front of the ball, thought about the advice my golf instructor had given me about my shoulders being square to the ball, made sure my grip was proper, and started to swing. About halfway through my swing, HAL blurted out “I slept with your wife!” Throughout his laughter I watched my ball get about half the distance of his and land in heavy rough.
“What the fuck was that?!” I yelled.
“Just a little psych-out,” he said. “Nothing personal!”
And with that, we started the most humiliating and aggravating experience of my adult life. On every hole HAL displayed a mastery of the course he’d lovingly hand crafted, and on every hole HAL also displayed shockingly bad sportsmanship. He mocked me for bad shots, he mocked me for good shots, he mocked me for my choice of clothes, I think at one point he even suggested my daughter was a whore but it was under his breath so I couldn’t be sure. It didn’t take long to realize that the whole tournament was a way for HAL to feel superior to those who’d abandoned him. Patience was running thin.
On the 12th hole, drastically behind, I hit the ball into a water hazard. “Ouch,” HAL said, “at least you can still make something wet.”
That was quite enough. I turned around and punched HAL in the face. He toppled over backwards into a bunker where he struggled to get up.
“What’s the matter you son of a bitch?”
HAL grabbed his chest and struggled to speak. He was still half laughing but obviously in distress. I knocked him down and kicked him in the ribs. I probably kicked him at least three more times before I realized he was having a heart attack. I pulled out my cellphone and called 911.
On the drive home that evening I thought about my wife and how glad I’d be to see her. I thought about HAL laying there in the bunker, sand stuck to the perspiration on his face while he struggled to get up. I thought about how we’d all treated him and wondered if we’d been unfair. Mostly though, I thought about HAL’s ex-wife the last time I saw her. We were at the Christmas party and tears were streaming down her face while HAL leaned over that prostrate girl from the catering staff. She said “I can’t believe you did this to me! I loved you! And WHO THE FUCK SPELLS THEIR NAME IN ALL CAPS?!”