I went bowling last night. No really I did. For two glorious hours I laced up a pair of slippery shoes and threw a ball down a greased lane trying to knock down as many pins as possible. And, as expected, I was rubbish at it. In fact if I close my eyes now I can still see a flashing red "Gutterball" sign burned in to my retina. You know, it's nice that my athletic dyslexia includes sports that even obese people can play. Hey you maybe fat, but be content in the knowledge that you're bound to be able to whup my sorry ass at any given contest. Seriously I can't even win at rock, paper, scissors.
Bowling alleys are strange old places. They're almost always full of those novelty machines you find at fairgrounds. You know the ones with flashing lights that offer you the chance to win a stuffed Pikachu by grabbing the poor yellow sod with a metal claw. Our local one is no different in that respect. It has air hockey, a game where you shoot a basketball through some hoops, and enough one armed bandits to satisfy even the most hardcore gambler. But most importantly it has about three or four arcade machines.
Arcade machines were a staple of my childhood. Before the explosion in the home video game market, arcades were where the kids went to get their pixel fix. Sadly, after Sony successfully introduced the Playstation to home owners offering near perfect arcade graphics in the comfort of your own living room, arcades simply became outdated. Nowadays you're more likely to find an Amusement Arcade choc-a-block full of slot machines rather than video games.
Which is a massive shame really, as it means that today's kids won't get that fevered sense of anticipation knowing that they are only two months away from the next big release. Or join an informal queue cheering on someone hammering away at a set of buttons while secretly hoping they fail so that your turn will be that much closer. Or the sweaty realisation that if you can just twist the joystick anti-clockwise at the right moment then you'll beat the game, only to slump away defeated 30 seconds later. Seriously these were the magic moments.
My favourite all time arcade game has to be Street Fighter II. It's premise is simple enough. A bunch of martial arts experts, tough guys, and ne'er do wells travel around the world fighting each other until there's only one left remaining. But despite it's simplicity it had all the elements that, for me, made a video game great back in the early 90's. Wafer thin plot? Check. Badly written dialogue? Check. Characters performing impossible physical accomplishments as if it was as easy as breathing? Check. Really it's all there.
And it also had my favourite video game character of all time. Ladies and Gentlemen allow me to introduce Blanka.
Blanka was a remarkable creation. For a start he was green. And I don't mean like a “rookie” green, I mean “his skin was the same colour as that of a sea sick leprechaun” green. Not only that but he had razor sharp teeth, vicious claws, and massive arms. Having apparently stumbled out of the jungles of Brazil for reasons unknown, he would scratch instead of punch, cut a back flip instead of kick, and leap on to his opponent and bite their face and chest instead of throwing them to the ground. He wouldn't speak, instead he would roar and growl. He wasn't a man per se. He was a monster. And in a video game genre dominated by clichéd character types such as the karate kid, the army guy, and the wrestler, Blanka was a breath of fresh air.
Frustratingly they ended up dropping the ball with Blanka. For the sequels to Street Fighter II, Blanka was re-designed to have a less “ferocious” look. They revealed a convoluted back story where Blanka had been lost in the jungle as a small boy, grown up in the wild, and was now searching for his family. He was given a voice, a real name in “Jimmy”, and even worse a personality. Blanka, it turns out, wasn't a wild and savage beast just wanting to carve up anyone who got in his way. Oh no, he was a sensitive, simple soul who simply wished for peace and harmony in the world and to be reunited with his loved ones. In short Blanka went from this:
But I'll always remember him as he was in Street Fighter II. A berserk monster from Brazil.
Speaking of monsters from Brazil (Gee Note: By the way my new book “How To Seamlessly Segue” is on sale now and available at all good book stores. And some really bad ones as well) werewolves are back in the news again. According to reports a woman by the name of Kelly Martins Becker was attacked on January 28th this year by a big dog in São Sepé. Now what makes this interesting is that according to Becker the dog was bloody huge, and walked on it's hind legs like a man would.
(Gee Note: Or as Yahoo's Babelfish tool puts it when translating the original Portuguese report in to English - “According to description of the victim, creature was similar to great dog. Policy looks for suspicious that it would have used fancy to attack woman.”. Doesn't “using a fancy” sound like something Jane Austen would write? Oh Mr. Werewolf, you have indeed caused quite the scandal with your fancy!)
According to the police reports the dogman scratched at Becker's face and arms, injuries that were noted by the police. And then somehow she either escaped or wolfie got bored and took off. I don't know, I can't actually find a report that lists anything on what happened after the attack. If I did it would probably translate as “lady did run away from dog strong in the back legs” or something. Actually there's not much else to report on this because, as far as I can tell, a woman turned up at a police station claiming a strange beast attacked her. That's all. Nothing else to see here.
Becker did have the good sense to draw a sketch of the said creature. And showing artistic skills that would rival Christopher Davis, she produced this:
Which, if you study it closely, looks kinda familiar:
You know, I wonder if Blanka likes to Disco?