Isaacistan!

Hello!  Are you a discerning tourist looking for the "it" spot?  Are you sick of played out scenes like Paris, Sealand, and McMurdo Station?  Are you ready for a little adventure?  Looking for a nation that your parents wouldn’t understand?  Have we got the country for you!

 
Come to Sunny Isaacistan!  Isaacistan is a sexy up-and-coming republic that all the cool kids are flocking to!  Come!  Bring your tourist dollars to buy overpriced crap that proves you were part of the Isaacistan scene before it sold out and went all commercial.   Isaacistan!
 

Founded in 1982, The People’s Republic of Isaacistan has long been an important part of the international scientific and diplomatic community.  Initially a free-love commune, in 2007 the government was restructured as a brutal dictatorship.  Since the regime change, our happiness index has climbed to an implausibly high 103% Happiness.  Don’t you want to visit a nation as happy as that?
 

Come and spend!  Unlike certain other countries on the way out, our economy is thriving.  While our long-term economic model is based on the construction and export of our Imperial Death Robot Army, we here in Isaacistan like to joke that our real biggest export is FUN!  But actually it is the robot thing. 
 

Our women are beautiful, our men are amusingly ethnic, and our Murder Squads have been reminded to leave visitors alone.  What are you waiting for, vacationer?  Come to sexy nation that knows how to show a tourist a good time!  Isaacistan will respect you in the morning!
 

ISAACISTAN!
 

The People’s Republic of Isaacistan FAQ

 

Q. Is this a real country?

A. Sure!  The concept of "country" is just a thought exercise anyways, so this country is equally real as all others. 
 

Q. So where are you located? 

A. Where is the other end of a rainbow, friend?  Isaacistan is part of the emerging COUNTRY 2.0 model of nationbuilding.  You see, the old way of forming a country was to own some land and kill anyone who tried to live on that land.  We in the People’s Republic think that land-based countries are for chumps.  I mean, just look at Belgium.  Nobody wants to live there.  Anyone still living in a lame old-school country is a loser who probably can’t get dates. 

Q.  Wait, so where are you?

A. Buckaroo Banzai famously told us that "wherever you go, there you are."  The industrial rockers known as Ministry taught us that "Where you thought you were going to weren’t never there."  And when asked this riddle Winnie-the-Pooh replied "Cottleston, Cottleston Pie."  So it is with Isaacistan. 

 

Q.  What is your economy like?

A. In Isaacistan, our only currency is hugs.  While the exchange rate fluctuates, tourists can get one hug for roughly $20 US dollars.  That’s spending power! 

 

Q. Can I become a citizen?

A. I don’t know.  Do you suck?

 

Q. Kinda.

A. Then you’ll have to take our Entrance Exam. 

It came with postcards!

I hate Final Fantasy.

I hate random encounters.  I hate character grinding.  I hate turn based combat.  I hate lo-fi movies that make you play a crappy game to get more story.  Final Fantasy is not meant for me.  And yet, the other day I bought myself Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the CGI feature film sequel to Final Fantasy VII. I didn’t just buy the movie, I bought the Limited Collector’s Edition of the movie.  Why on Earth would I do that?

Fact is, even though I hate the games, I find Final Fantasy to be an absolutely mesmerizing franchise.  Right off the bat you have the deliciously blunt irony of a game called “Final Fantasy” because it was to be a developer’s swan song before bankruptcy, only to go on to be one of the most important properties in the gaming industry, spawning dozens of other games, also labeled as “final”.  I just think that’s funny.

More substantially, I love that the series proper is an anthology.  Each numbered Final Fantasy game is a separate work, with different characters in a different setting with different gameplay mechanics.  You aren’t even assured of getting a fantasy game, as the series has bounced from generic sword and sorcery to steampunk to science fiction.    That’s twelve distinct games, presenting twelve different experiences, with more on the way. I can’t think of an analog to this in any other medium.

Personally, I think the anthology format is great, but I’m a little surprised that it has worked as well as it has. Despite a lack of recurring characters, and despite the fact that the mechanics have dramatic evolutions from title to title, Final Fantasy is one of the most popular video game franchises in the world.  Each new iteration is automatically a big deal.

And even though each entry in the mainline series is entirely “new IP”, they do exploit both the Final Fantasy name and the characters and settings in a variety of ways, most of which are weird as hell.  The ancillary titles are a beautifully bizarre mix.   You’ve got two spin-off sub-franchises: Final Fantasy Tactics, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles.  You’ve got an increasing number of indirect follow ups set in the same world as one of the core games.  And then you also have a go-kart racing game.  You have fighting games.  You have a snowboarding game.    And you’ve got Kingdom Hearts, a series of games where popular Final Fantasy Characters cross over with popular Disney animated characters, which is a genius concept, and also one of the worst ideas for a video game ever.  You’ve also got two feature films, one a sequel to one of the games, one a movie that isn’t based on any video game at all.

I love the confusion of sorting out the games.  In America Final Fantasy II and III were followed by VII.  When we asked “what happened to IV, V, and VI?”,  We were told that we had played two of them, IV and IV, but that they had been renumbered in the West.  Now that they’ve been re-released in America under their original Japanese numbering, it is impossible to refer to those titles without causing confusion over what game you are playing.  To make up for all the Final Fantasy games that our market  skipped, we got three Game Boy games that were labeled Final Fantasy that were actually part of an entirely different franchise.  And of course, Advent Children is labeled “VII” despite being only the second film, and being a direct sequel to a property from an entirely different medium.

Oh and somewhere in all this mess, there has even been one direct sequel.  It has my favorite title of any video game:  Final Fantasy X-2.  Out loud, that’s “Final Fantasy Ten Two.”  I want them to make a prequel to it called Final Fantasy X-2-Zero.  The game is about pop singers who swap clothes and it’s gameplay elements include “dresspheres” and “the garment grid”.  This is awesome.  I never want to play the game, but I am totally enriched for knowing that it exists.

Final Fantasy is a crazy clusterfuck of well-meaning pretension and low art and goofiness and badassery and sometimes snowboarding.  Looking at it like this, I understand why I spent so many years trying to like these games.

Huh.  I love Final Fantasy.

So did all of this compel me to buy Advent Children?  Nah.  I just love action animation, and Advent Children’s got the goods.

Originally published at The Triangle. You can comment here or there.

It came with postcards!

I hate Final Fantasy.

I hate random encounters.  I hate character grinding.  I hate turn based combat.  I hate lo-fi movies that make you play a crappy game to get more story.  Final Fantasy is not meant for me.  And yet, the other day I bought myself Final Fantasy VII: Advent Children, the CGI feature film sequel to Final Fantasy VII. I didn’t just buy the movie, I bought the Limited Collectors Edition of the movie.  Why on Earth would I do that? 

Fact is, even though I hate the games, I find Final Fantasy to be an absolutely mesmerizing franchise.  Right off the bat you have the deliciously blunt irony that a game that is called "Final Fantasy" because it was to be the swan song of a game company on the brink of bankruptcy would go on to be one of the most important properties in the gaming industry, spawning dozens of other games, also labeled as "final".  I just think that’s funny. 

More substantially, I love that the series proper is an anthology.  Each numbered Final Fantasy game is a separate work, with different characters in a different setting with different gameplay mechanics.  You aren’t even assured of getting a fantasy game, as the series has bounced from generic sword and sorcery to steampunk to science fiction.    That’s twelve distinct games, presenting twelve different experiences with more on the way. I can’t think of an analog to this in any other medium. 

Personally, I think the anthology format is great, but I find it fascinating me that it has worked as well as it has. Despite a lack of recurring characters, and despite the fact that the mechanics have dramatic evolutions from title to title, Final Fantasy is one of the most popular video game franchises in the world.  Each new iteration is automatically a big deal. 

And even though the series itself is entirely "new IP", they do exploit both the Final Fantasy name and the characters and settings in a variety of ways, most of which are weird as hell.  The ancillary titles are a beautifully bizarre mix.   You’ve got two spin-off sub-franchises: Final Fantasy Tactics, and Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles.  You’ve got an increasing number of indirect follow ups set in the same world as one of the core games.  And then you also have a go-kart racing game.  You have fighting games.  You have a snowboarding game.    And you’ve got Kingdom Hearts, a series of games where popular Final Fantasy Characters cross over with popular Disney animated characters.  This is a terribly popular franchise, despite being one of the worst ideas for a video game ever.  You’ve also got two feature films, one a sequel to one of the games, one a movie that isn’t based on any video game at all. 

I love the confusion of sorting out the games.  In America Final Fantasy II and III were followed by VII.  When we asked what happened to IV, V, and VI?  We were told that we had played two of them, IV and IV, but that they had been renumbered in the West.  Now that they’ve been re-released in America under their original Japanese numbering, it is impossible to refer to those titles without causing confusion over what game you are playing.  To make up for all the Final Fantasy games that our market was skipped, we got three Game Boy games that were labeled Final Fantasy that were actually part of an entirely different franchise.  And of course, Advent Children is labeled "VII" despite being only the second film, and being a direct sequel to a property from an entirely different medium.  

Oh and somewhere in all this mess, There has even been one direct sequel.  It has my title of any video game:  Final Fantasy X-2.  Out loud, that’s "Final Fantasy Ten Two."  I want them to make a prequel to it called Final Fantasy X-2-Zero.  The game is about pop singers who swap clothes and it’s gameplay elements include "dresspheres" and "the garment grid".  This is awesome.  I never want to play the game, but I am totally enriched for knowing that it exists.   

Final Fantasy is just such a crazy clusterfuck of well-meaning pretension and low art and goofiness and badassery and sometimes snowboarding.  Looking at it like this, I understand why I spent so many years trying to like these games. 

Huh.  I love Final Fantasy. 

So did all of this compel me to buy Advent Children?  Nah.  I just love action animation, and Advent Children‘s got the goods. 

A man, a plan, a canal

So I had a nice walk today.  The Ohio Erie Canal runs behind my office building, and on a whim I decided to walk the path along the canal.  I’d never walked the path before and I have to say it was pretty neat.  To my left, water.  To my right, the rear of the buildings of Main Street.  At my feet, lots and lots of dog shit.  The pathway itself was constructed for the public, but tucked away.  An interesting mix of public and private. 

 

I used to explore a lot as a teenager.  I used to do things on a whim all the time. 

 

My life has been so reactive as of late.  Between Brandise, Riley, My Mom, Rachel, Michael, Gretchen, Alissa, Ava, Angie, Mitt, Troy, Ethan, Stephanie, and the rest of my long list of loved ones, and the rest of this beautiful world, and the wonderful culture I get to live in, my life literally has enough riches to satisfy four men, and I’ve fallen into the trap of spending so much time trying to juggle my good fortune that I’m not taking the time to enjoy it. 

 

That’s one of them good problems, I reckon. 

 

One of my favorite bits of pop wisdom comes from David Byrne in his film True Stories.  "I really enjoy forgetting. When I first come to a place, I notice all the little details. I notice the way the sky looks. The color of white paper. The way people walk. Doorknobs. Everything. Then I get used to the place and I don’t notice those things anymore. So only by forgetting can I see the place again as it really is."

 

I believe routines provide diminishing returns.  Do something special often enough and you lose the thing that made it special in the first place.  For me, being an adult seems to be about balancing the need to break as many patterns as possible against the need for the stability that life’s patterns provide. 

 

At any rate, I’m glad I took the time to explore the canal a little bit.