Thursday, February 3, 2011

Absolutely Nothing

So how can a person who literally does nothing all day hope to be respected by the rest of humankind? "Nothing" generally consists of occasionally letting the dog out so he can bark at the neighbor's dog -- because to hell with that whiny chihuahua -- and maybe exerting the necessary force to push the "change-channel" button on the channel-changer. That's really what the last four or five years has been for me; just, you know, watching TV. Eating. Sleeping. More or less. That's what I hope will be on my epitaph: "Ate, Slept, Defecated. A Life in Words."

Ah, but with no particular specials skills that rise above the cream of the crop, how does one stay motivated to keep moving? Knowing that you're an inadequate human being certainly doesn't help one's positive outlook on life, and doing "nothing" cannot be properly displayed on a resume without expecting a raise of the eyebrow and maybe a few laughs from a would-be employer. Nothing is something! Can't you see it? It takes one jerk-of-a-person to say, "Hey, I'm blind, but I'm going to climb this 29,000+ foot mountain anyway just because, yeah, you know, no biggie," and another person to say, "I'm alive and I was given the tools necessary to make a difference in the world, but to hell with it, I'm gonna do jack shit. Ooh, look, reruns of Seinfeld!" That...that is tenacity: though the world expects it all from you, "nothing" is on the top of your to-do list. It's supremely difficult! I have first hand experience!

Tom Hanks' fictional character -- who will be unfortunately referenced here -- was once marooned on a island with just a volleyball, a productly-placed Fed-Ex package, and his sanity. He started talking to the volleyball and he didn't open the potentially life-saving package, but despite these two acts of lunacy, his sanity still existed within the confines of his newly-Robinson-Crusoe-christened heart. However, he lost it once he wanted to get back to civilization. See, a lot of what someone does (I'm assuming) alone on a deserted island is absolutely nothing. You do what you need to survive (harpoon the fish, break some coconuts, conduct oral surgery with an ice-skate, etc.) but even end up doing a whole lot of nothing. It breaks a man. Accomplishing something is easy. You just tell yourself, "I'm going to [for lack of a better [and non-repetitious] example] climb a mountain today! Okey-dokey, here I go!" At the end of the day, you feel good about yourself -- you've gotten your exercise, you've gotten your scenic vista, and you've done something that only a chosen few [read: possible thousands] will get the privilege to do.

Doing the exact opposite and still feeling good about yourself? It's rough. It's like grabbing your metaphorical soul and violently rubbing it against a rusted cheese-grater. Tom Hanks' character couldn't mentally handle wasting away doing nothing with his life, so he broke. He went back to civilization to pursue "accomplishments" and "dreams".

What a pussy.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Random Dreams: Part Five

We were out on the Florida Marlins' baseball field, which, for some reason, was really on the beach. Home plate was the shallowest of the positions on the field, but near-everything else was out in the ocean, with the poor center-fielder being the deepest of all. I was the third base ball boy, and I kept missing every foul that would roll in my direction. Finally, upset by this, one of the umpires decided to start throwing me pop-flies. The crowd -- consisting of a bunch of 300-pound fat people -- shouted in anger when I could not catch a single one of them. Who could blame me? I was technically treading water while trying to catch baseballs.

The inning was over, and I trudged into the dugout, which also happened to be a seafood restaurant. Unfortunately, at that time, the tide came in, along with a bunch of sword fish with saws for noses and sharks with fish hooks for teeth. Course, they started biting us. Clutching high onto a nearby chain-link fence, I looked down at the water below me and saw them ferociously hunting for a shred of savory Florida human leg meat. I could have sworn a morbidly obese woman was grabbed and taken into the depths of the ocean (or baseball field, in this case). The tide eventually subsided, and I sullenly walked into the dugout/restaurant.

However, as with most weird dreams, I was almost crushed by a woman who was not 300-pounds, but closer to a thousand. I could clearly see the glistening ripples in her magnificent fat rolls jiggle as she came rolling towards me. Helpless -- powerless -- I tried my best to run, but this woman was more or less taking up every square inch of the place. Like a steamroller traveling at about three miles an hour, she undulated towards me until finally, my feet moved and I ran the hell out of there.

Another obese woman screamed -- not because I was almost crushed to death, but because the second-baseman was being scooped up whole into the mouth of a great white shark. That's when the phone rang in real life.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Like Running Errands in Animal Crossing

One of the most satisfying aspects about playing a game in the Fire Emblem series is the ability to watch a terribly weak, low-stat character grow into something of an unstoppable tank. Granted, depending on said character, this could be easier said than done -- some units, by design, weren't entirely meant to be an all-around great warrior. Sometimes you just end up with someone like Meg.

Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, being a remake of the very first game in the series, has that character-building, cocaine-like addiction. Chances are, you'll find a character that looks particularly cool, and you'll say, "All right, Barst, I'm going to give you this hand-axe and this regular iron axe, and we're gonna tear through hundreds of enemy soldiers without a sweat." Once or twice, Barst will get struck down by an unlucky critical hit thanks in part to a agile sword-user. You'll curse, soft-reset the game, and remember to not send Barst anywhere near that enemy again. The blue-haired unit you'll have by the end of the game will statistically look much different than single-digit rookie at the beginning. Whether or not the designers feel the same way, Fire Emblem has always been about growth and mostly forward momentum, both systematically and thematically.

If you happened to play the ninth Fire Emblem game, Path of Radiance, first, you'll more than likely won't be able to enjoy the remake on the DS quite as much as you would, say, Radiant Dawn. Shadow Dragon feels extremely bare-bones. Many of the recruitable characters have maybe a few lines of dialogue, and then disappear into the ranks of your army and are never used or seen again. And those passive abilities -- as seen in the better entries of the series -- that are able to make your characters into hulking behemoths of destruction? They're...not here in Shadow Dragon. Supports, too, are non-existent.

Remember that this is a remake of the very-first Fire Emblem; the series has definitely grown and flourished with improvements over the years, despite still having the same basic formula. Still, Shadow Dragon's overall design just doesn't really hold up -- one, a majority of the maps are giant, sprawling landscapes, with maybe a tree or a bridge here and there. While "giant sprawling landscapes" is easily something a publishing company could use as a positive bullet-point, it doesn't work here, since the open areas really leave no room for any intricate strategy. A line of cavaliers could race their way toward your party, and the only real way to deal with them is to form a wall of characters yourself or send one of your over-leveled units out into the front guard. If you send a two-man party out to confront the enemy, chances are they'll swarm one of your characters and stab him or her to death. Since you're fighting on wide-open landscapes, you really don't have much of a choice in regards to character placement.

Every Fire Emblem's main protagonist (or "Lord"), begins the game, much like every other character, as a vulnerable marshmallow. Marth, in this instance, is no different. The problem here doesn't lay with the fact that he'll get handily crushed early on, but instead lays with how he's the only person with any diplomatic skills. See, as a player, you'll want to use Marth. He's one of the better characters in the game! But most of the time, you'll have him running errands by visiting villages and capturing castles -- not fighting enemies and not gaining experience. No other character can visit a village, talk to the locals, and thus grab a few rare items. Here's a general scenario: you'll have your main fighting force on one side of the map; meanwhile, Marth with be on the polar opposite, collecting maybe a red gem and definitely little experience. Next minute, you'll have taken out the enemy general (usually a bulky bastard with a Killer Axe), and Marth will take another three turns to rush from that village to finally conquer and clear the map. The "constantly-pushing-forward" flow found in other Fire Emblem games is somewhat missing here.

Yes, forward momentum -- usually, as the underdog country, this series has your army pushing through hordes of enemies into order to reach a specific spot on a map (such as a castle). The designers sometimes switch the objectives up a bit by creating a different scenario where you're maybe defending your home base (as seen in Path of Radiance) or simply task you with a "defeat-100-enemies-before-all-hell-breaks-loose" objective (in Radiant Dawn). These missions generally stand out; not only do they mix up the tedium for something different, but they also have some sort of meaty gravitas behind them story-wise. When you're not trying to accomplish a different objective, you're conquering waves of troops -- you're moving forward, getting closer to that long-sought goal. Nearly every mission in Shadow Dragon is similar to this as well -- which is fine for the most part -- but there exists a certain amount of tedium here, probably because Marth is quite often playing errand boy. You're not moving forward. Instead, you're traipsing through another day of Animal Crossing.

Intelligent Systems, the minds behind the Fire Emblem series, is now working on a remake of the sequel to Shadow Dragon, and it largely looks the same. Whether or not the game will follow in the footsteps of the blandness set by its predecessor remains to be seen, but hopefully it won't be afraid to mix things up a bit.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Random Dreams: Part Four

I don't know why, but I've been dreaming a lot lately. I'm guessing it's because I'm getting too much REM sleep, due to the fact that whenever the alarm erupts into a fit of unwanted noise, I just end up hitting the snooze button. Right now, sleeping a little later is something I'm allowed to do! Other times, say, when I have an actual job, I won't be given the pleasure of such weird dreams.

Anyway! This morning I rode through some wet cement on my bike, but it wasn't entirely on purpose. I just didn't see it before I rode through it, that's all! Unfortunately, the Mexican dude there that had just laid the cement dashed over to berate me -- he didn't speak a word of English, though, so he had his young son translate for him. Why this kid wasn't in school was beyond me, but here he was, translating angry words in my general direction. I apologized, and the issue was quickly resolved.

A couple days ago, in reality, I had watched Pineapple Express, a movie you can tell was made just because the producers wanted to make it, which is nice in an industry where money rules the place. Sadly, the film isn't actually any good. Never mind the critique -- the point is, Amber Heard played the protagonist's girlfriend in Pineapple Express, so, of course, she also happened to appear in my dream. Nothing naughty went down, mind you! We just ended up playing a game of tag.

Then her mom showed up and told Amber she had to go home. Sigh.
Bye, Amber. Don't know why you were in a bikini, but I guess that's just how things are 'round here.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Random Dreams: Part Three

When I awoke this morning, I remember that I had dreamt the ground opening up and spitting giant, flaming boulders upon the surface of the earth. These boulders were the size of buildings; I could gauge the size because these fiery colossi demolished a few when they first began erupting from the earth. Of course, I ran at full speed away from them, and, of course, since I am able to tell the whole story of the dream, I was able to get away.
The strange aspect about the boulders is that they just didn't roll around like normal rocks effected by normal laws of physics, no -- they seemed to be controlled by a will of their own, and if they spotted any person or building in the vicinity of their "eyesight", they rolled in that specific direction. Luckily, I was the protagonist of my own dream. As such, protagonists do not die, much less get crushed by gigantic, flaming boulders.

A little later in the dream, I escaped from downtown and hijacked, of all vehicles, a Hummer. Thing is, I couldn't drive it out of the parking lot, the thing was so big. So, I ended up attempting to climb this steep incline, and thus the Hummer rolled onto its top.

That's when I woke up.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

This Isn't About The Hangover, But Here's a Picture of the Movie Anyway to Make This Post More Readable

I was at Target last night, trying to find a fucking copy of The Hangover, which, by the way, is not a movie worth the effort of scouring an entire valley to find. The great thing (note: sarcasm) about living in a small valley is that many stores don't receive as many shipments as they would, say, in the city -- as such, you've got to put a little more "oomph" into your search than normal. We don't even have any normal movie-rental places. So, you're Indiana Jones, and you're traversing deadly, icy streets and dodging oncoming deer to finally discover a copy of a sacred film where four dudes get in some deep shit in Vegas.

But surprisingly, this worthless block of words isn't about The Hangover, no sir; instead, it's going to be a short analysis of how my mind functions in an otherwise normal situation. Here's the dealio: we're at Target, we've gotten our Sacred Cow of a Movie, and we're standing in line. Pretty normal. To point out that, hey, I'm pretty broke and I really shouldn't be buying anything, let alone a movie I probably am not going to like all that much, I make this comment about how I'm from Aspen and can afford every little item that may come into contact with my well-manicured fingertips. I try to say this with a posh-British accent, hoping to get some sort of reaction.

I get a reaction, but not the one I was expecting.

"Well, aren't you pretty snobby."

This comes from the cashier, who's currently checking out the people in front of us. I turn, looking deep into her eyes, trying to figure out whether she's serious or not. Oh, she's pretty fucking serious, you can tell by the look on her face. My friend, fortunately, says, "Oh, he's not really from Aspen."

No response from Miss Priss.

I'm pretty dumbfounded at this point, because a) who takes anything seriously these days when you've got the fucking Terminator in office and b) I could set fire to a pile of fresh dog shit in the middle of the store and nobody would notice, I'm that inconspicuous. Anything I say is dust in the wind.

Long story short, the cashier has someone take over for her before she can ring us up, she walks away, and we leave.

It's not that great of a story, really, especially not one to write about. Thing is, I wasn't really angry that this person whom I had never met was calling me out on something that actually wasn't true, no -- I felt guilty because my performance wasn't up to snuff. Normally, you can tell when I'm being sarcastic, but here was this person who did not know that some dumb comment I made was actually, truly falsified. I am not from Aspen! I do not have a Bently sitting in my garage! I don't speak in a posh-British accent! I don't need a monocle to see clearly through my left eye!

More than anything, I wanted to apologize to her because I hadn't given her my best. Otherwise, she would have been in hysterics about how funny the entire I-have-no-money-yet-I'm-buying-this-completely-overrated-movie situation was. It's pretty funny! It's not, but still. Why so serious?

P.S. -- I Wuv You, Target! Thank you for relieving me of such undignified greenery!

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Gee-tar Siren Song

What exactly is the appeal of being able to play a guitar, anyway?

You get women. And...that's about it.

As I see it, the guitar not only seems like a tool to create music, but also the male version of a siren call to woo the fairer sex.

Way back when, I tried to play the guitar. I thought it would make me cooler -- that I would be able to enter the annual high school talent show and have all the girls hoot and holler and whistle as I strummed the chords required to play whatever song I scientifically decided would earn me the most, how you say, feminine street cred. Even if I wasn't handsome, even if I had a rotten personality, even if I consistently shot loogies from my mouth whenever I spoke; if I was able to play the guitar, none of that would have mattered. I would be a god. An ugly, disgusting, unlikeable, musical god. But the women would love me.

All right, so maybe that's a little exaggerated. Still, there's no denying that the guitar has some societal power here in the world. You can't say something to that effect of the french horn, for example.

Before I was physically and mentally conscious of myself, my instrument of choice was, of all things, the flute. I had probably chosen it because I was actually able to get some sound out of the damned thing. Thinking back on middle school band class now, it's strange how my classmates' chosen instruments perfectly complimented their categorical personality. All the loud people played the trumpets, the stoners and underachievers banged the drums, the shallow valley girls tooted and squeaked their clarinets, the tall people played the tubas, the didn't-quite-fit-in-a-specific-category people played the trombones, and the frickin' dainty-ass wafers were on the flutes. I was quiet and shy; thus, I played the flute.

I remember a call my band teacher made to my parents before I had made the flute my permanent instrument of choice: he wanted to make sure that it was all right if I, a certified teenage dude, played such a homosexual instrument.

"Why the hell not?" I think was my response at the time. "I can get sound out of it, so I'd like to play it."

Some years later, I quit. I wasn't getting any better, and most of the material we were playing just didn't interest me anymore. I was tired of music -- at least, tired of playing music. So, despite all of that, I decided to pick up the guitar instead, though not because I thought I would enjoy it, but because it would get me somewhere. Playing the guitar meant I was moving up in the world. All I needed to know was the three chords required to play Hey Jude, and my course for success was set. Money would start rolling in by the millions, I would have to hire a couple bodyguards to help stave off the tons upon tons of women from lovingly suffocating me, and best of all, I would be happy just knowing that it took little to no skill to get on that gleaming, shiny pedestal of Gee-tar Awesome.

Okay, so I don't really think like that, but it still stumps me as to why the guitar is such a nationally-lauded instrument. I've boiled it down to a couple reasons:

1) The Rock-Star Lifestyle

Seriously, if you're a rock-star, you're a god. Being able to shred some sort of quick melody, your fingers jumping up and down the frets, is more heroically viable than conducting heart surgery on a dying patient. Add in some head-banging and long hair, and to the guitar-loving world, you can do no wrong. You could insult somebody's mom and get away with it -- that's how loved you are. I guess the rock-star lifestyle isn't what it used to be, though, but that's probably because now anyone can get in on a taste of the action. How, you ask? Well:

2) It's Because of Guitar Hero and Rock Band, Bra!

A lot of musicians have been complaining in the past couple years about the fictional reality that these artificial music games create for the millions upon millions of dorm-room kids who have played them. These musicians claim that pressing buttons on a plastic guitar does not, in any way, compare to actually strumming a bona fide guitar -- instead, these dorm room kids should get out and actually pick up a piece of the real action. While these sentiments are entirely true -- bragging about how you can conquer some Dragonforce riff in Guitar Hero is kind of sad, really, when you think about whether or not you could actually play the song on something not made entirely of plastic -- I think the main problem musicians have with these games is that they give everybody a glimpse of what only a select few musicians could hope to experience. It's like finally joining an exclusive club where you're able to eat genuine crab and lobster all day, gorging in some succulent deliciousness; then you find out that they make fake crab and lobster and sell them at the local supermarket, a place where the Average Joe goes. Oh, and the fake stuff tastes just as good.

3) The Guitar Has Nothing to do with the Mouth

If you've played some sort of instrument that requires a certain amount of lung capacity, then you certainly know about the amount of saliva that accumulates every time you blow into the thing. Spit valves, for example, are kind of nasty. And so is the human mouth, a place where bad breath could run rampant, or where teeth could be the most delicious shade of yellow. Or brown, even! So all the women out there will be delighted to know that the guitar has nothing to do with that orifice. They can rest easy. That's why all of the most "romantic" instruments (I'm thinking Lady and the Tramp here, with the accordion), don't need any wind power to use. The same goes for the guitar, which is the number-one pick for people who want to get women, but don't want to look like a nerd plucking the violin or bash their social lives against the wall solely by playing the accordion.

(I like the accordion, though! It's just, most people don't.)

And that's the success story of the guitar. I can appreciate those small number of people that can actually play it, and play it well, but for everyone else, I don't want to hear you strangling a dead cat. I know you're trying to get ahead in life. Believe me, I've been there. But you just sound...terrible. Put your time instead to becoming a doctor or a veterinarian. Animals need saving, too, and the ladies will love you for it.