Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ninja Stole My Bike

Somebody stole my bike a few nights ago.
Maybe while I was in the house.
Bitch move, bike thief.
I use that bike to get to work, and I need to work because I want to have money without being a total asshole who steals bikes off of porches even though they're chained up, and stealing the bike requires busting out not one but TWO wood panels from the railing.
Two huge bummers about this, besides losing my primary mode of work-related transportation:
1. I've had this bike since I was like 11. And it was a good bike, too. It had all ten speeds (even though I only used 3 and 4) and it looked pretty cool. It was white and blue and just sort of a good looking bike, not stupid and small like a BMX or dumb and curvy like a hipster bike.
2. I don't know the brand name of my bike! Shame on me as a bike owner, I guess. I just never took the time to learn it's name, so when I called the cops to file my one-in-a-million-chance-this-is-going-to-work-anyways police report, they were like "What kind of bike was it," and I was like "I don't know," and they were like, "Well this conversation is pretty much finished then, isn't it?"

What really irks me is, in this day and age, I feel like a bike is probably one of the worst things you could ever steal from someone. Like, really, a totally uncalled for bullshit move.
Not only is my bike good for me and good for the environment, I NEED THAT BIKE TO GET PLACES. Two and a half miles is a big difference on foot as opposed to on a bike. Like a half hour difference. So what we have here is a person poor enough to steal a bike hurting the livelihood of a person who's poor enough to actually rely on a bike to get somewhere. This kind of poor-eat-poor attitude is responsible for so much demoralizing in the lower-class of our society, and I would venture a guess that similar circumstances result in the creation of criminals. I mean, why would I bother to go buy another bike? So it can get stolen again? Why not just steal one, if that's the rules my neighbors are choosing to play by?

Oh man, you are just the worst kind of person.

Anyways, I'm putting out a hit on this douche bag, and I'm offering a reward of one incredibly enthusiastic high five to anyone who returns my bike and/or punches the thief in the mouth.
I have reason to believe he looks something like this:

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Perspective

I get embarrassed when I get frustrated about little stuff.
And it's all little stuff.
Because I could die at any second, so really, being alive is pretty damn cool. Don't you think?

Friday, July 30, 2010

An Open Letter to Incoming Western Michigan University Freshman

Dear New Comers,

You can take Kalamazoo, I'm done with it. You can take the student ghetto and the East Hall view and the Westnedge Hill. You can take pit bull puppies for sale on every corner and the north side, which is two miles away from a country club. You can take The Den and the Little Theater and the Dorms. You can take all three blocks of downtown.

It's your turn to go to the WMU theater productions. It's your turn to work at Mongolian BBQ or Old Burdick's or some other shitty college job and hate it. It's your turn to get outrageously drunk on the weekends. And outrageously drunk on the weekdays. It's your turn to get rejected by the Laureate. It's your turn to try and write a book, since you're so smart.

You can take the Welcome Week frat parties and the games of flip cup and beer pong. It's your turn to do your first beer bong. It's your turn to read books and take classes and meet professors that will change the way you see the world forever. You can take playing bass in a bar band. You can take Harvey's and Up and Under's and Shakespeare's. You can take the crackheads on the street that ask for change and you can take the crackheads that live in my building and ask stupid questions.

You can take it all. Just know that I was here first and I did it better.

Love,
Jordan White

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Comedians and the Truth


My natural instinct, when I am thoroughly impressed by something or someone, is to emulate. I think this accounts for a large part of my personality. I interact with or watch or read about people that I respect and admire, and so I emulate them by consciously pushing myself to take on their admirable character traits.

This exists outside of my own personal development as well. It explains my chosen profession (by which I am referring to my attempt to become a professional novelist) because books were the first things that really spoke to be and made sense to me, and their impact on my life was so great that my natural instinct was to create my own.

I think it's fair to say that the only other thing in my life that garners this sort of reaction from me is stand-up comedy. Other forms of art, such as music or poetry or painting or dancing, those are to be admired from a distance because I think that, on a fundamental level, my brain is not geared to understand them. Something about stand-up comedy, though, has always captivated me. I remember the first special I ever saw was Sinbad's "Afros and Bell Bottoms," and whenever it came on Comedy Central I would watch it until it ended. Before that it was Bill Cosby tapes with childhood friends, and later it would be Lewis Black, Mitch Hedberg, Dennis Leary, Daniel Tosh, Dave Chappelle, Bill Burr, Louis C.K. and, of course, Bill Hicks.

When I listen to Bill Hicks, I want to put everything else in my life on hold and run out to a comedy club and become him. I want to carry on that torch, the essence of what he was trying to do, and continue to do it for him. That's the gut reaction I have when I hear him.

What I find so interesting about stand-up comedians is that we live in a culture that is so delusional and misguided and indirect that these men can go up on stages in front of crowds and do nothing other than deliver the truth, and make living off of it. Comedians like Hicks (though I guess there never really was another one like him) have the intelligence and the wit to look at political situations, or common experiences we all share as a species, and strip away the pseudonyms and euphemisms and the pleasantries and expose the absolute, flat-out absurdity of everyday life on this planet, as this species, living within all the strange rules we've set up for ourselves. And I am so astounded by that, that it takes a man with a microphone to remind you that things are not always as they seem.

It seems that this is where we have come to as a race: the truth is so rare that it has become a commodity.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Yeerks

I'm here today to talk to you about yeerks. I know I already wrote a blog about the Animorphs this year, but I don't care. Here's another one.

The reason that yeerks have been on my mind lately is that I've been watching a fair amount of Doctor Who with Lindsay. The premise of the show is that the Doctor is in possession of the last time machine in the universe, and he can use it not only to travel through time but to travel through space. The appeal of this show is that, like with Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, the possibilities are infinite and the overwhelming size of the universe is a central focus of the plot.
Now, I am the kind of person that immediately wants to emulate the things that impress me the most. Case-in-point, I read a lot of fiction when I was a kid, it made sense to me and I enjoyed it, so now I am trying to create my own fiction. Stand-up comedy also has this effect on me. This characteristic applies to more specific genres as well, so when I see a good science fiction epic, all I want to do is write one of my own. And what do you need to write a good epic? You need good and evil. You need the hero and you need the arch villain. You need other things too, obviously, but these are the most important and without them you might as well forget everything else because it'll never work.

And so immediately I find myself unable to write a science fiction epic, because I can think of no greater enemy than the yeerks. I mean seriously.


The yeerks are a race of parasitic slugs that enslave worlds from the inside out by slowly and methodically conquering the minds of each individual in the population. They squeeze their bodies in through the ear canal, wrap their bodies around the actual brain of the person they're occupying, and take full control of that person's every action and movement.

What evil this is! What an incredible concept. These things imprison their hosts within their own bodies. Forever. The host must watch helplessly as the yeerk uses his or her body as a disguise and tricks the host's family members and friends into suffering a similar fate.

But, there's a twist. Because without conquering other species and without inhabiting the mind of other creatures, the yeerks are condemned to a blind existence swimming around in muddy pools. Once they feel the sun on their skin and see the world and learn to eat and speak and run and do all the great stuff other creatures can do, they can't ever go back to that. So it's sort of a bitter-sweet war for them, and a nightmare for everything else in their path.

It's absolutely brilliant and I can't top it. Of all the infinite possibilities that the vast nature of the universe allows me, I simply can't beat a mind-controlling army of emotionally complicated slugs. And neither can anyone else. Just watch Doctor Who. The arch enemies of that show are goofy-ass robots with high-pitched nerd voices.


EXTERMINATE!

Friday, April 30, 2010

BEDA 30: The Final Day

You're probably wondering:
What was it like to blog every day for an entire month? Was it exciting? Was it frightening? Did you feel stretched too thin and run out of ideas and have to talk about muffins?
Well... yeah. That happened one time.

Mostly what happened though was that I took the thing that was most consistently on my mind that day and wrote about it. Writing is an outlet, and it's just about the only one I have. I need to get all of this stuff out of my head, even if it is like trying to express the size of the ocean by seeing the trickle it would become if you were to push it through a funnel. Which is, pretty much, what I think all art is.

Not to say that blogging is art.

Anyways, blogging every day was an interesting experience and I got to make up for a lot of lost writing on this blog. I mean, when I started this thing I thought I'd be updating three times a week about something I learned in college, the book I was reading, and a news and human rights article. It was only after embarking on this mission that I realized this was a goal best left to someone without a full-time job. It was just too much work, which is what BEDA almost turned out to be. More obligations are unwanted in my life, and I'm glad to be done with this one even if it was small.

This year in It's Turtles All the Way Down will probably be a more relaxed year. Less of an attempt at organization or agenda. No more College for Free, no more News and Human Rights. Probably the occasional book, but probably a lot more of the stuff you saw during BEDA. Relaxed observations about the world with attempts at humor.

Now, expect a long hiatus from me. BEDA is over and I have other stuff I need to do.
Not adult stuff, though. I mean like write more web comics.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

BEDA 29: XIII Is Not As Good As VII Because...

Man, I am such a liar.
Two things I lied about in the past 24 hours:
1. That the blog I wrote yesterday would be a work in progress.
Nope! It's done. Aside from a few spelling and grammar mistakes I cleaned up just now, that blog is over with. We're moving on.
2. That I would write about something more interesting that Final Fantasy XIII today.
Nope! You get more of the same. Sorry, Dad.


Lindsay asked me last night what rating (1 to 10) I would give Final Fantasy XIII, and I must say I was hard-pressed to answer her question. I mean, what constitutes a 1? What constitutes a 10? Can it be a 9? Is it that close to a perfect game? But then, when considering the entertainment value overall, it must get points for being such a long game, right?
Well, here is my answer:
It was good, but it was no Final Fantasy VII. And nothing ever will be.

FF VII, both because of the game's quality and the time in my life that I played it, will never ever be trumped for best video game in my eyes, ever. It will never be touched. No other game will ever come close. Every aspect of that game was perfect for me. It is the bar by which all other games must be judged, and typically while I play a game I am thinking on some level "This is not as good as Final Fantasy VII because..."

XIII is not as good as VII because XIII leaves very little to the imagination. All the characters speak with voices instead of text. They are extremely well animated and spend a lot of their time in movie cut-scenes rather than silent, text-based, visually unimpressive segways with awesome music playing in the background.

XIII is not as good as VII because the scope of XIII is too narrow. Literally everything that happens in XIII happens in 13 days, and half of those are flashbacks. This amount of time is completely insufficient to build the plot, the lead-up, the sense of a quest, and the camaraderie between the characters. VII's flashbacks span decades and the game-play itself progresses over what feels like months.

XIII is not as good as VII because there was no world map. By nature of the game I understand that going to different towns and flying around in an airship was impossible, but still. I'm just saying. In VII you got to explore THE ENTIRE world. This freedom of space combined with the passage of time made the scope of VII so enormous that after you played for 60 hours, it really felt like you had played for 60 hours. I'm all for linear games, I don't like side-quests, but XIII's extremely linear storyline and narrow world map made the game feel sort of small to me despite the 54 hours I spent on it.

XIII is not as good as VII because VII's materia system was absolutely perfect and Square should just stick to it and stop messing with other bullshit leveling systems.

XIII is not as good as VII because of Sephiroth. Period.

Alright, I'm done talking about Final Fantasy XIII now. For real. That's all I had to say about it.
And that said, it still was a really amazing game and I really enjoyed playing it. I would recommend it to anyone who enjoys FF games. Unlike that piece of shit XII.
It's just, you know, not as good as VII.

Tomorrow is my final blog in BEDA! Woo!

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

BEDA 28: Final Fantasy XIII

In honor of my dad's birthday, I'm going to give you a full review of Final Fantasy XIII!

Alright, so these things aren't directly related, but it is my dad's birthday and I did finish FFXIII today, so they do have something in common.
Actually, this is a totally inappropriate blog for today because I can't think of anything my dad would be less interested in or understand less.
Sorry dad! I'll write something more interesting tomorrow.
Now, for a full review of Final Fantasy XIII.

The Plot:

The Final Fantasy series is one that prides itself on plot. On the title screen you can see that the character designer for the game gets his name right up front for everyone to see. This position of importance for such a specific role should tell you how important plot is here. Some of the greatest characters in video game history have come out of the Final Fantasy franchise, and it's a position that deserves a lot of respect. It's also a position that must create a tremendous amount of anxiety in the creator, as a failure to follow through on the success of the past is simultaneously guaranteed and unacceptable in the eyes of the gamers. All we want is another Cloud, another Sephiroth, another Kefka...

That said, it is amazing to me how often Final Fantasy fails to offer us a central villain that we can focus on. Really, the two character names that stand out most in FF history are the villains, primarily Sephiroth and Kefka. The names of the heroes are numerous and tend to fade in our memories, but you'll never forget the names of those villains that you hated and attempted to destroy for 50 hours of your life. And yet FFXIII fails to deliver here just as 8,9 and 12 did before it.
A lack of a clear cut central villain always takes away from the plot, but FFXIII made up for it in a way by simplifying the story line to a "save the world" mission and pitting the heroes against everyone while on a clearly defined goal.
Well, sort of, it gets a little muddy at the end.

The Battle System:

Final Fantasy XIII introduces into the series one of the greatest combat systems known to man. It's really like the game designers went directly to the fans and said "What do you like about the final fantasy battle system and what don't you like about it?" and based the style around that.
  • Instead of a long and unorganized list of items that you have to scroll through in the heat of battle, you get like five.
  • Your AI is beautiful and functions on its own through two flawless systems. One is that through the use of your Libra ability you can see the weaknesses of all your enemies and your AI will act accordingly. Two is that, through the new "role" system, the actions of the AI are limited to one of six roles of combat.
  • A rating system after reach battle (based on your speed and represented by 1 to 5 stars) forces you to constantly reevaluate your playing and makes players think differently about the game.
Things I didn't like about the system mostly revolved around the issue of lead-character dominance in battle. I absolutely love to summon, and by the nature of this system you are extremely limited in your summoning ability. By keeping Lightning up front for most of the game, I was limited to her one and only summon any time I wanted to bust him out. Of course I was able to switch around the team and put other characters into lead positions, but once I found a team I was comfortable with and was by far superior to any other team I could think of, I didn't want to mess with all that. Especially as I trudged through a menagerie of harder and harder enemies in order to reach my final destination. I wanted a strong team, not diversity for diversity's sake.
That said, even if I had been able to use all of the summons at any given time, the summons in this game were weird Transformer-esque teammates who came out and fought beside you for a minuscule amount of time, rather than doing tremendous amounts of damage. So, yeah, I thought the summoning aspect was a little on the weak-side.
Also, in the vein of lead-character problems, I was infuriated with the "main character dying = instant Game Over" system. The worst was when the main character (i.e. the one you are controlling) died when the rest of the team remained totally unharmed. Enemies with instant kill abilities and the sudden teaming-up of all your enemies against the main character made this aspect of the game infuriating. However, it didn't happen too often, so it can be forgiven.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

BEDA 27: White People

White people are afraid of black people.
It's true! And I think it can best be described by a comparison to an episode of Family Guy entitled "Patriot Games."

In this episode, Stewie has lent Brian a sum of money that he wishes to be returned. After Brian fails to make good on his debt and avoids his toddler aggressor by wearing a fake mustache, Stewie beats the family dog like mafia loan shark muscle beats... well... guys that don't pay them back quickly enough.
I mean, he really goes over the top here. He pushes him down the stairs, breaks his leg with a golf club, shoots him in both knee caps, and fully immolates him with a flame thrower. He also espouses one of my favorite lines in all of Family Guy history.
Stewie: "Where's my money, man? Yeah, you got money to pay for fake mustaches. How much you pay for that fake mustache?"
Brian: "$2.99."
Stewie: *Shoots Brian in the knee*

HAHAHA! Man that's funny.

So, after the thrasing is over and the debt is repaid, Stewie realizes that he was in the wrong and apologizes for his misbehavior. But an apology isn't really good enough, is it? Brian accepts the apology, but it's not quite enough to make them even. And now they have to live together under the same roof with a tension that builds and builds and drives Stewie crazy. By the end of the episode Stewie actually starts hitting himself in the face in order to equalize the situation, wanting so badly for the beating to be over that he's even willing to do it himself.

And that is how white people view the world.
Seriously. That is the story of slavery in this country.
Except black people didn't even borrow money from us in the first place. We just hit them with a golf club for no reason. And now we think that someday, somehow, they're going to hit us back. This is why people say things like "Obama is going to put us all in concentration camps." It's also the reason that white people get nervous when that Jay Z song "Run this Town" comes on. "Oh my god. Are they really going to run everything? You heard it, right? All black everything! Have you seen that video? They look like guerilla warriors."

There is this real serious suspicion that black people as a community are plotting to do something awful to white people, and white people will jump at anything and say "There! There! They're doing it! The time is now, people! We're getting overthrown!"

I consider myself extremely lucky to be both of a skin color and a peer group where, sometimes, I get to go entire days without thinking about racism at all. I know a lot of people aren't so fortunate and that totally sucks. It's so pervasive and it's so incredibly stupid. It would just make my head explode if I had to deal with it all the time.

BEDA 26: Megaman

And I'm still a day behind. I meant to write two blogs yesterday but I got distracted. Maybe I'll write two today. Who knows?
Today, I want to talk about Megaman.

Megaman is such an awesome game. Especially Megaman 2.

First of all, let me just say that going back to any regular Nintendo or Super Nintendo game is a bit jarring for one reason: they're hard.
In modern games, your character is allowed a lot of leeway when it comes to damage. Enemies in a 3D environment are easy to avoid, health is regularly available, and your HP is high.
In the side scrolling games of the past none of this is the case. Enemies come at you in a straight line, impossible to avoid by the very nature of their 2D environment. The art of dodging comes into play, in which you must wait patiently and study the habits of your enemies before killing or avoiding them to move on. This style of gaming is all but dead in today's video games, and if you don't believe me go back and play Megaman and watch yourself die a miserable, energy explosion death.
Hell, in the first Megaman you can't even shoot at an upwards angle. You have to jump and shoot straight forward to kill the enemies that are above you. Oh, are the evil robots swooping down on you at an angle that makes them impossible to hit? Deal with it.

Also, the progression in Megaman is way ahead of its time. By the end of the game you've acquired the unique and totally badass abilities of eight bosses, making you an unstoppable cyborg of death. And this game doesn't even tell you where to start. At the beginning of the game you have to randomly guess which monstrous robot boss to fight first, and you might fight your way through the whole level just to discover that you're not nearly strong enough to compete. But one by one the robots will fall and you'll slowly become a bone-breaking Terminator-like war machine ready to destroy Dr. Wily.

Monday, April 26, 2010

BEDA 25: One Year Anniversary

Well, I failed to write a blog entry on the 25th of April, which marks the second time this month that I have failed in my obligations to BEDA.
But, I have an excuse.
I was celebrating my one year anniversary of college!
Actually, I was driving home to Kalamazoo in the rain and then working for seven hours.
Still though, it really was my first post-collegiate anniversary.

So what have I been doing with myself since I stopped going to school?
First and foremost I have been writing a book. I once heard author John Green say that writing a novel is a lot like raising a child in that no one is qualified to do it until they have done it. That is to say, you become qualified in the process of doing it.
Attempting to write a novel has been challenging and overwhelming and difficult, but it has also been absolutely fantastic.
My career plan upon graduating college was to get a bullshit job, be poor, and write a novel.
A year after graduation I am over 200 pages into the book, working in the food industry, and driving a 94 Honda that I share with my girlfriend.
So far, everything is right on schedule.
I feel like people sort of wince when I tell them I have a degree in creative writing. And yeah, it's true, in this economy it's much safer to get a degree in something like "business administration with a marketing emphasis and a focus on sales demographics research stuff." But I couldn't do that work. It would make me miserable. As of right now I am perfectly happy with what I'm doing.
It was a great first year out of the black pit of misery known as school. I'm sure there will be many more to come.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

BEDA 24: Golf


As a kid, golf for me might have been like church for you.
It's something I've had to do every Sunday for as long as I can remember. Rain or shine, whether I wanted to or not, I was out on that golf course with my dad.
I didn't really like it when I was a kid. Well, I guess I liked it, but it was never something that I would have done on my own.

But now I like it.*

It was something I had to come around to over many years, but now it's something that I enjoy. I can appreciate the finer aspects of the game now that I was unable to appreciate as a kid.
Golf is hard. That's the appeal. It's really hard but it's also really possible to be awesome at golf (like half the time) and that's a good feeling.
Also, you get to be outside. Essentially you're in the middle of the woods, so that's cool too.
I never thought I would share my dad's enthusiasm for the game, but now that I'm older I really do like it.
I think I can definitely see where disc golf came from now.
A bunch of guys about my age thinking, "Yeah, golfing is okay, but I'd rather just play Ultimate Frisbee."
...
"You guys, I've got it!"

*Actually, in this aspect, golf probably turned out better for me than church turned out for you.

Friday, April 23, 2010

BEDA 23: Uh oh.

It's yet another day in the land of BEDA, and once again I have like five minutes to write this blog.

So...
we're gonna talk about...
muffins!

I don't care for muffins.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

BEDA 22: Growing Up

Growing up was hard.
Not to say that it's totally over. Obviously, because growth never stops until death.

But, you know. I'm back in Commerce and I'm sitting here looking at a picture of myself a few minutes after I was born next to a picture of me on the day I graduated from college. So a lot of, if not all of, the period of my life which is considered "growing up" is over.
And it was tough.
I once considered writing a sample article for The Onion that told the story of a time-traveler who had made his way back to the Jurassic Period. And even though he had been surrounded by gigantic T-Rex that were ready to rip his face off for absolutely no reason, he was still convinced that his own childhood had been more frightening.

It just was, you know? It was really intimidating. Everything was really big and fast and I didn't have the slightest clue what was happening because things never ever seemed to make sense.
In fact, now that I'm older, I look at things that didn't make sense to me as a kid and they still don't make sense. It's like things aren't making sense on purpose, just to trip people up. And I'm not talking about "Why do adults work so hard just for pieces of paper" stuff. That's the kind of thing that made perfect sense as a kid that doesn't make sense to me now. I'm talking about the little things that people say and do that don't make sense at all, and which confuse the hell out of you as a little kid because you expect these people to make sense!
I had a first-grade teacher that made up his own stories when he read to us at circle-time.
I had a third-grade teacher that once asked my entire class (completely out of context) if we would cut off a piece of our own finger so we could suck on the blood if we were trapped in an avalanche.
And on and on and on and on.
I feel like 70% of my childhood was like that. A string of things that didn't make sense to me.

And now I'm older, and I realize the truth:
EVERYONE IS NUTS!
Nobody knows what the hell is going on in the world. The adults you trust and respect so much as a kid haven't got a damn clue what is going on around them, so they say things that contradict the realities you perceive, which makes being a little kid absolutely terrifying.
But I'm grown up now, so I guess things are so bad.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

BEDA 21: Conservatives

Did you know that it used to be illegal and immoral to dissect human bodies after death and this greatly limited our knowledge of basic human anatomy?
Did you know that the first real connection between hand sanitizer and reducing the infant and mother mortality rate at birth was first made as recently as 1847?
Did you know we used to enslave black people, and then openly segregate against them, and even now live in a society saturated by subconscious racism because of this history?
Did you know we used to burn witches?

BUT our species evolved past these mistakes in science, politics, philosophy and morality with something I like to call "progress." Through an evolution of ideas, mankind was able to perceive the world in a different, more sensible way. This made the ideas of the past null and void.
See, I think the definition of a conservative is someone who thinks that progress was good for the last 10,000 years, but isn't good anymore. Like we struggled as a species all the way through history to get exactly where we are and not one inch further.
To be conservative you can't see the time line of human achievement as a living thing extending both behind and in front of us. You have to see it as the stationary past which took place before the stationary present. In the eyes of a conservative, the present is not only stationary, but eternal.
Someone who opposes the progress of morality (such as granting equal rights to homosexuals) or the progress of law (such as legalizing and taxing marijuana, an incredibly popular and incredibly harmless drug) or the progress of science (such as stem cell research) is someone who thinks it will be the present forever.
We need not travel any further into the future. We're comfortable right here, thank you. All the important discoveries have been made. We don't need to figure anything else out or show compassion to anyone that isn't already being showed it.
I mean, look what happened when we freed the slaves. Now a black man is president and he's trying to make sure everyone gets health care! What's next?! What other basic human rights will be ensured to us by the government?!
THE HORROR! THE HORROR!!!!!!!!!!!!

BEDA 20: 4/20

Once again I have dropped the ball and missed a day of blogging, but I'm still writing it before I go to bed, so for me it's still 4/20/10.
And on this international (actually, it's probably more of a national thing. Maybe Canada too...) pot-smoking day, I think we all know what I'm going to talk about.

Moby Dick.
That's right. For the past few months I have been reading Moby Dick, and I can only compare the process to trying to climb a mountain that is make completely out of glass.
I say this because, normally, if I were to compare a book to climbing a mountain, each word and/or sentence would be another foothold, and slowly you would make your way through the novel one foothold at a time. However, the diction in Moby Dick is so elevated that I feel like I can never get a grip anywhere. I feel sort of shut out from the content of the book because trying to get a grasp on the vocabulary is like grabbing a pane of glass.
Does that make sense?
Note: If I were to apply this metaphor to Ulysses, it would be like climbing a mountain made of glass, then a mountain made of rock, then of alcohol, then realizing you were completely lost and possibly in another dimension.

Anyways, I'm 300 pages into Moby Dick and honestly I don't really see what the big deal is. I think this, like Ulysses, is a book that I would need to be taught or that I would need to read alongside some literary criticism to get the most out of it. Because right now it's just some dudes on a boat looking for a big whale.
Whatever.
Maybe as I continue to push through I'll start to understand why the book is considered by some to be the greatest American novel, but probably not.
Right now I'm stretched between four books, and Moby Dick is not winning that competition, so I don't expect to finish it anytime soon.
The four books in question are a collection of H.P. Lovecraft short stories, Nietzsche, the poetry of Pablo Neruda, and Moby Dick.
Lovecraft is winning by a mile. More on him later.

Monday, April 19, 2010

BEDA 19: Computer Apocalypse


Last night Lindsay and I had to make a midnight run to Walgreen's to buy some milk. We had already bought some earlier in the day, but that half gallon turned out to border on the disgusting flavor of the kind of coconut milk you use for cooking* and it had to be replaced.
Here is a quick summary of the conversation we had with the cashier. He was a man probably in his late forties:
Cashier: "I'm going to have to run your card as credit."
Me: "That's fine."
Cashier: "Then you'll just have to sign, but it's going to take a while because our machines are running slow."
Me: "Oh, that's okay."
Cashier: "Yeah, technology is great when it works, you know?"
Lindsay: "Yeah I have that same problem at my work sometimes."
Cashier: "The scary part is, if all the computer stop running one day, little stores like this are gonna be toast."

...

What?
Like all the computers? In the world? And they're all totally beyond repair? Like, Y2K?

I wanted to share this because it was really surprising to me that there are people out there who still think that this kind of situation is a potential reality. As though this whole "technology" thing is just a fad. It won't last, and one day all the computers are going to fail. Then where will we be? There won't be any records of any kind! Airplanes will fall out of the sky! Mass chaos!
I think this speaks to a deep misunderstanding of how the world is working right now, don't you? If anything the change will be completely the other way. As computers become more and more essential to our lives, they will become more of a part of us. Computers aren't going anywhere.

*Yeah, I know what coconut milk for cooking tastes like. Lindsay and I went to an Indian restaurant, and the first thing I saw when we got in the door was a cooler stocked with pop and coconut milk. What was I gonna do, not order it? Anyways, it was awful. Unfortunately for me, the waitress didn't know it was the kind you cook with either.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

BEDA 18: Doing Nothing

It's hard for me to do nothing. There is this ubiquitous guilt that comes with it; a nagging sense in the back of my head that I should be actively pursuing some goal. I should be creating, I should be writing, I should be working, I should be reading.
There are dishes to wash and laundry to do and a dog to walk and books to finish and runs to take and a novel to write and comics to write and blogs to write and floors to vacuum.

It's hard to commit to doing nothing because I have consciously made the decision to forgo any and all responsibilities and instead sit around staring at glowing boxes. (Even though I tend to count video games as at least semi-productive activity because there are goals to accomplish there.)
Most of the nothing I do comes out of procrastination. I sit down to check my internet for five minutes before I move on to my next project for the day, and I end up surfing around comedy websites and facebook.
I have a strained relationship with doing nothing because of the guilt that comes with it, but I also see it as completely necessary to my sanity. If I was 100% productive 100% of the time, I think I would lose my taste for it all together. You have to keep the balance.
Anyways, today is a Nothing Day, and I'm going to go do some more of it.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

BEDA 17: Remaking Movies

I'm just gonna say it: I thought the original Clash of the Titans was pretty bad. That guy's face alone is enough to wreck the entire movie. He looks like a young Jay Leno running around in a loin cloth trying to be an action star. Like, straight-up, dinner-plate face. What a moron. Not to mention he's playing Perseus, a mentally-retarded young man who is an utter embarrassment to Greek myth and possibly the least likable hero ever.

My impression of this film as a whole is that it is generally accepted as a classic B movie, so much so that the kraken scene is actually used in the hella-cheesy intro to Malcolm in the Middle. So why remake it? Well, probably because it's a popular name and most people have seen the original (I myself had to watch it several times throughout my eduaction, including once in college.)
But, it raises sort of an interesting point, and one that I've been saying for years: Film-makers should ONLY remake bad films.
Because what's the point of taking a movie that was already good and just doing it again?
Well, besides making boat loads of money, I mean.
But where's the challenge in that?
Plus, if instead of remaking already successful movies the fellows in Hollywood decided to remake bad movies and make them good, we'd have twice as many good movies.
So that's my challenge, movie-makers. Your first assignment: Chopping Mall. Good luck.

P.S. I really hope they included the R2D2-esque robot owl in the new movie. That would be weird enough to make it worth watching.

Friday, April 16, 2010

BEDA 16: Careers

I spent this morning writing a sample article entitled "What can I do with a Bachelor in Business Administration with a Marketing emphasis."
It truly depresses me that people actually pursue things like this in order to obtain jobs such as "public relations specialist" and "financial controller." How can you live your life like that when it's so nice outside?
I just want it to be summer forever and get paid for doing nothing and win at everything I do and never have to worry about money again and see the world.
Is that too much to ask? To live in such a fantasy world?

People that end up making careers out of what they love and are passionate about are probably the luckiest people around. Because you have to have a job, but if you love your job and get paid to do it, how great is that? You probably see this a lot in doctors and authors and video game designers and scientists of all sorts. I just don't think you see it very much in marketing managers and sales representatives. There is no passion in it, no reward, no meat. Just white collar oppression and I shudder at the thought.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

BEDA 15: Drawing

I wish I could draw. Man do I ever.
When I was a kid I could draw. I used to draw all the time. Mostly I drew monsters, which is probably why I never really developed as a visual artist. Nothing I drew actually existed, so there were no rules I had to follow, no technique to mastering certain aspects of reality. I just drew lots and lots of monsters.
I can still draw monsters, but in the way that you would expect an 8 year old to draw them. Beyond that, I can do little else.
I think visual artists have a huge professional advantage over other artists. Also, it's more fun. Novels take hours and hours to read. Albums take hours to finish, and hours more to fully appreciate. Even songs take whole minutes. But paintings and pictures and comic strips take mere minutes to soak in. Instant gratification! I don't have anything like that.
Except for blogs, which aren't really the same. Like at all.
I guess it's never too late to learn, but, you know I'm busy.
I want to know how to draw.
RIGHT NOW.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

BEDA 14: My Dog

My dog is awesome. She rules and she is probably the best dog ever.
Here is a picture of us together when I had a beard.
Man, you're so jealous of my dog. Look how good she's being. This photo was probably taken after she did something awesome, because she does awesome stuff all the time.

Fun fact: this dog doesn't even need a leash when we go outside. She listens to EVERYTHING I say. I can command her with a snap or a whistle or a hand gesture, so she doesn't run up to people and be all obnoxious like everyone else's dog.
Because she's my dog, and she's way too cool for that.
If you don't own a dog, you should get one, because they're sweet as hell. Just don't expect yours to be as good as mine, because that's pretty much impossible.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

BEDA 13: Relationships

Inspired by two dumb girls in the Radisson gift shop.

Your relationship is not a sitcom episode. You are not on TV, you are not in a movie. You and your significant other are not two species from different planets; you are not two totally foreign specimens who were born thinking and acting differently from one another. Your significant other does not epitomize every negative stereotype of the opposite sex, but you might be able to find traces of each negative quality you're looking for if you look hard enough.
There is no reason to fight all the time. There is no need for absolutely relentless, constant conflict in your relationship. I know that's what TV shows focus on, but trust me, that's not reality. Those are false scenarios that are created by writers in order to present drama, heartache and happiness in a convenient 22 minute package. You are recreating these situations subconsciously because you are dumb.
Stop it.

Side not to this blog: I typed "dumb girls" into Google images hoping for a picture of girls acting like idiots or making funny faces or something. Instead I got stuff like this:















and















Apparently dumb and sexy are synonymous.
Jesus Christ, no wonder we're so fucked up as a species.

Monday, April 12, 2010

BEDA 12: (Nothing But) Flowers


This is a song by the Talking Heads that is featured at the beginning of Clerks 2 as Randal and Dante drive to work. It's an odd song, I think. Odd enough to catch my attention and make me download three Talking Heads albums. Of course, while they take up space on my iPod, I only listen to the track that got me interested in them in the first place.
Here are some of the lyrics, used without permission. Hopefully whoever owns the rights to them doesn't sue me.

"Once there were parking lots
Now it's a peaceful oasis
This was a Pizza Hut
Now it's all covered with daisies
I miss the honky tonks,
Dairy Queens, and 7-Elevens"
and

"I dream of cherry pies,
Candy bars, and chocolate chip cookies
We used to microwave
Now we just eat nuts and berries
This was a discount store,
Now it's turned into a cornfield
Don't leave me stranded here
I can't get used to this lifestyle"

Actually, just listen to the song.
Anyways, as you may or may not have been able to tell from the lyrics listed above, the song is about a future where the damage done by mankind to the world has been undone and, after civilization has fallen apart, the narrator of the song finds himself in a world covered in flowers.
And he hates it.
I think this song says a lot about our ability to romanticize the past. I've never heard someone long for Pizza Huts and Dairy Queens, but those are the things of our childhood. If we were to lose our civilization to any kind of future disaster, whether that be the gray ugliness of nuclear holocaust or to the beautiful re-emergence of nature, we would miss those things. It seems so strange to hear such a peaceful and upbeat song condemn nuts and berries while wishing for a microwave (perhaps with which to warm burritos) but it's a very honest song. It's honest, and like I said, it dwells in the past, going to the point of pleading in the final lines not to be left alone in a new life.
I like that and I understand that. It's easy to live in the past. Adjusting to the brand new cold reality of the future is difficult.
It's probably for the best that we don't have time machines. We'd never get anything done.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

BEDA 11: Left 4 Dead 2 and the Future of Gaming


Man, I really love video games. This is something you know about me if you read this blog. I talk a lot about the Final Fantasy series and wrote an entire entry about my recent discoveries in Pokemon.

Left 4 Dead 2 is currently one of my favorites for a lot of different reasons. But before I get into that, I want to talk about what this game and games like it mean for the future of video games.

The first Left 4 Dead was the first game of its kind that I had ever seen. Upon starting the game, you're presented with a lot of different options, most of which are better used on Xbox live, which I didn't have at the time. There was the scavenge option, the versus option, and the campaign, but there didn't seem to be any actual "game" game. No main story line. Well there was, sort of. You could play the game through from the first campaign to the last, but the menu screen actually made it a point to say "off-line" campaign, like I was doing something wrong. Also, I was able to jump into any point in the game, regardless of my earlier progress (or lack thereof) and that didn't seem quite right to me either.
The unique set-up of this game is indicitive of two things that are happening in the video game world.
1. The removal of really bullshit things.
It's not so important anymore in video games to really struggle with impossible tasks and time-consuming events that can be screwed up at the last second and reset. Instead, enjoyment is becoming the major focus, and the challenges more skill based and less insanely frustrating. Between L4D2 and the newest Final Fantasy, I think this really stands out. Right off the bat in L4D2 you can explore all options of the game. All levels are immediately open. And why not? It's a first person shooter that is completely devoid of plot. The challenges lie in the actual killing of zombies, not getting to the next level, and the gameplay reflects this.
2. Everyone has the internet now.
L4D2, like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, is a game that is made explicitly to be played online with your friends. L4D2's virtual lack of gun variety is one aspect of the game that makes me think developers weren't planning for solo gamers when they designed this title. The choice of weapons is kept simple, as well as the additional items in the game, and the strategy is kept to teamwork. This is also a game that you absolutely can't play by yourself. Even alone you are accompanied by three computer teammates who have to watch your back in case a hunter jumps on your chest and starts ripping you apart. Honestly, I know I wouldn't play this game if I weren't able to play it with my friends back home, talking on my headset like the enormous nerd that I am, strategizing zombie death plots and scrambling for gas cans. More than half the fun comes from being able to work as a team alongside my friends and utterly destroy our opponents.

L4D2 gets right to the heart of what is fun and awesome about multiplayer games, and I think a lot more titles are going to start coming out along those lines. None of the extra frilly crap that comes with so many games. Just the guts of it, cut away from the normal structure, and left to the players to fully realize its potential.

BEDA 10: Failure and Symbiosis

Oh no! Only ten days into the BEDA project and I have failed!
It occurred to me on my way to work yesterday that I had failed to write a blog and wouldn't be home until well after midnight, meaning that my first failure to BEDA had been irreparably sealed.
To make up for it, I'm going to write two today. In this first blog of today, I want to talk about something I've been thinking about a lot lately.

I sort of marvel at the symbiosis of the world. There is this perfect balance and harmony in nature that almost makes me understand why people believe that there must have been some higher power or conscious design when everything began. I say almost because, you know, despite the beauty of nature, the logic of evolution is unbeatable.
Anyways, specifically what I've been thinking about lately is that despite our big brains and all the things that come with them, we're still creatures that live on this planet and are subject to most of the usual rules just like all the other animals. We're just really, really smart animals. Even though we are capable of driving big machines that can go over one hundred miles an hour almost every day of our lives, we still have hardwired instincts just like everything else, and it's these instincts that make the world work. Like this: we are hardwired to be disgusted by feces.
And for good reason! We have to know, without a shadow of a doubt, that it's bad for us. Everything about it is unappealing to our senses, so even without any instruction we know immediately from day one that this is something to avoid.
Conversely, flies and plants love that stuff. It's really good for them. We produce it for them and they consume it. Gross, right? But true.
So I was thinking. We take nutrients, absorb what we need, and discard the rest in a form that is disgusting to us but useful to other life forms.
Well, that's sort of what trees do, too. They take in nutrients, absorb what they need to grow, and use the rest to produce fruit that animals love to eat.
The question is, if a tree had the capacity to be disgusted, would a tree be disgusted by it's own fruit?

Friday, April 9, 2010

BEDA 9: Resumes

Holy hell I hate resumes.
I hate resumes and I hate interviews. I hate having to be a cheerleader for myself. I hate having to pluck achievements from my past so I can twist them and build them up so they sound important. I am far too egotistical to condense myself down to one finely-tuned sheet of paper and say "Here, this is me. This is everything you need to know."

That said, I took a trip up to the writing center on campus today and my resume looks pretty good. I used to have an awful resume, then I had a bad resume, now I have an alright resume.
That kind of makes me hate myself, but I think this is one of those small compromises you have to make in life. I don't want to be the kind of guy who is proud of his resume, but I am.
That said... anyone wanna hire me?

Thursday, April 8, 2010

BEDA 8: Cheating

This was easily the biggest cop-out in the history of cop-outs on this blog. I started this blog yesterday so I could come back and edit it today, but still have a blog listed for April 8th.
But I had a very good reason to be so busy yesterday:
Barthandelus!

Oh man, he was so MEAN. I hated every second of this boss fight. Each failed attempt took like twenty minutes and he was just such a prick the entire time.
But it's over now, and we can all rejoice. Well, sort of. The game's not over yet and I'm sure I'll see him again pretty soon.
Don't expect an update on that day either.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

BEDA 7: Writer's Block


So, as the author and famous video blogger John Green once said, "writer's block is just a different kind of not trying."
This had never occurred to me before I heard it, but now I absolutely, 100% agree.
I don't believe in writer's block. It doesn't exist.
Here's the thing: what do you mean you have writer's block?
Just keep writing.
Not sure where the story is headed, what you want your characters to do, feel like you've written yourself into a corner and there's no way out? Just keep writing. Or delete all the progress you made that put you in said corner. Either way. Those are your two options.
I think I just don't really understand how writer's block could ever exist as an actual thing. Whether you're having trouble with stringing individual words together, or making something specific happen in a scene, or you feel overwhelmed by the magnitude of the project itself, the answer is always to just try harder. I've often heard that sometimes you have to write six pages to get one good page, and I've often found that the one page worth saving is the sixth page you write. It's all about getting into a flow, and simply saying you're stuck and refraining from writing all together will never fix that.
I think maybe a different kind of writer's block would be that you just don't have anything to write about at all. You want to write, but there's just nothing there. It's "blocked." Well, in that case, what's the point? If you've got nothing to say, why try so hard to say it?
Maybe you're not a writer at all. Had you ever considered that? That there are people who are and people who are not writers? Here's how you can tell the difference:
If it doesn't demand your constant attention, if you aren't at all times narrating in your head, planning, and considering your writing, if you don't feel overwhelmed and over-burdened by the pressure to write something good and if you don't feel it would kill you to not do it, then maybe you're not a writer. Or maybe you just shouldn't write. Because if you're not driven to it, and if you don't feel this incredible need to get it out of you, then really, what's the point?
As Bukowski said, "The libraries of the world have yawned themselves to death with your kind."
As Bill Hicks said, "Play from your fucking heart."
I understand being stuck. I understand being frustrated. I understand not knowing how to get from point A to point B, or even not really knowing what point B is. But writer's block as some inescapable doom in the process? I don't think so.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

BEDA 6: Not Having Television



For over a year now, I haven't had cable in my home. I have a television, but I get no channels on it. And it's great. Absolutely fantastic. Here's why.

1. Everything on Television is Crap
Have you ever seen that episode of The Simpsons where, when trapped inside due to an unjust curfew, Lisa suggests turning on the television? "No Lisa, it's primetime!" Bart pleads, but it's too late. Cut to a show called Don't Go There, in which we get the quick set-up/punchline of a downtrodden man saying "You've stolen my manhood!" and the confident nail-filing woman of the 90s retorting "That's petty theft." This to me is a prefect synopsis of 90% of everything on TV. Stupid, low-brow garbage that makes me cringe when it attempts to make me laugh.
And yes, I know I used a television show to make this point, but it's different. I watch The Simpsons box sets. Which leads me to my next point.

2. Everything Good on Television Can Be Watched Somewhere Else
How much do you pay for TV every month?
Your answer doesn't matter. Any amount is the wrong amount.
We live in an age where absolutely all forms of visual entertainment can be accessed, for free, on the internet. Literally anything. So why are you paying $50 a month for bad programming that you can't even control? The Internet is only $30 a month, and it is the actual, real-life equivalent to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy. Oh, you don't know what that is? That's probably because you watch TV instead of reading books.

3. Television is a Vaccuous Blackhole of Thought
The only reason I ever miss TV is that it's literally the easiest thing ever. If you're tired or sick or in a bad mood or just bored, you can sit down in front of the TV for, oh, the next 8 hours or so and zone out. I'll admit, that kind of convenience can't be topped. But, in the long run, I don't really want that kind of convenience. I'm not saying you have to read a book or go for a jog or something. I'm just saying that at least when you watch a movie on Netflix you have to pick the movie out. You have to make a decision of some kind. You can't just flick through the channels aimlessly, watching two-minute bites of entertaining footage for hours on end while your mind makes no choices and you absorb nothing.
In fact, I came across a similar product recently, and I had to cut it from my life completely. Do you know what Stumbleupon is? Because if you like TV, you'll love Stumbleupon. But that's for a different blog.

4. No Commercials
Well, not a lot of them anyways. Hulu has commercials and so do some Youtube videos. But that's about all the commercials I see. You know what I like? When someone tries to start a conversation by saying "Hey, have you seen that one commercial..."
Nope. I haven't. And I'm glad I haven't, because this does not sound like the kind of conversation I want to be in. Let's talk about something else. Anything else besides devious and creatively-bankrupt short films that were designed to make me want to buy things.

My point is simple. Not having a TV in your home is cheaper, less brain-rotting, and more convenient in that when you do decide to sit down in front of a glowing box, you will watch more programming that you want to watch with less commercials.

Or you can keep watching "How I Met Your Mother." Whatever.

Monday, April 5, 2010

BEDA 5: The Arm Gun

Ever realize that you only have fifty minutes to write a blog before the day is over during the month that you promised to write a blog everyday?
Probably not.
Alright, so I just watched Mystery Science Theater 3000: Laserblast, and I was going to write a review of the movie to squeeze this blog in real quick, but I realized a few things that made me deter from that idea. One: If you want a full and excellent criticism of said movie, just watch the MST3K. Two: There is a larger social criticism to be made here: the arm gun.

Arm guns are amazing. Arm guns are universally accepted as being the most badass thing ever. Why? I don't know, but it's true. A gun attached to your arm in place of a hand is so undeniably sweet that you see it everywhere. You see it in Final Fantasy VII via Barrett, you see it in Laserblast, and you see it in 9 year old me.
That's right. When I was about 9 years old (or 11, or 13, I don't know) my dad had a roll of carpet in the basement about three feet high with a hole in the center just big enough for me to insert my arm and pick it up. This served as the undisputed best gun in the history of my imaginary gun games. Suddenly I was transformed from a kid with a plastic gun into a force to be reckoned with. A three-foot long gun on my arm was the perfect weapon of ultimate destruction. Half kid, half machine. Half killing machine, that is. With this giant gun, I was unstoppable in my own imagination, and it was a toy/carpet roll that I cherished more than all of my cap guns and Nerf guns put together.
I just find it interesting that I as a 9 year old, and the writers of Laserblast and Final Fantasy VII (and many more I assume) all independently thought of this amazingly powerful concept. You just can't beat it.
Oh, you've got a gun?
MY WHOLE ARM IS A GUN!!!

P.S. Watch the MST3K of Laserblast, it will not disappoint.
P.P.S Big shout-out to my parents, who made this year's Easter possible and brought out a ham and cheesy potatoes and green bean casserole. Without you guys, I wouldn't have had any leftovers for lunch today.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

BEDA 4: Christianity and Paganism on Easter


Another Easter come and gone.
I like Easter because of all the major holidays I think it is the least big of a deal. Thanksgiving and Christmas are typically these big family events with big meals and a lot of tradition tied in. There are routines on these major end of the year holidays that take up your entire day. Family and turkey and football and schedule present-opening. Easter is mostly for little kids. Baskets and egg-painting and all of that good chocolate bunny kind of stuff. Beyond that, I mean, what do you really do on Easter?
Also, Easter feels sort of thrown together, you know, with the whole nonsensical bunny rabbit and painted eggs. It's a lot of imagery coming out of left field that, even as a kid, doesn't make a whole lot of sense. As an adult the whole thing is pretty ingrained, and while it doesn't cause any confusion or raise any questions, it is still impossible to puzzle out logically.
Here's a connection I never made before:
Easter, a Christian holiday, happens in the spring, a time of fertility, which was widely recognized by the pagans. And what is a universal symbol of fertility? That's right: bunnies!
I'm not 100% on all the details, and I kind of don't care. But it seems to me that Christianity said something like "Hey, as a compromise, how about you come over to our religion and we'll incorporate your traditional symbols?"
This is similar to the whole "Winter Solstice vs. Christmas" thing. Where, you know, Jesus's birthday got moved around on the calendar just a little bit to compete with the pagan Winter Solstice.
I don't want to condescend to you like you've never realized this stuff before, I just think it's interesting and I had to bust out a blog real fast in the dwindling hours of Easter.
In other news, I shaved my winter beard today and Lindsay took a series of pictures that led up to the final shave. They feature me with a goatee, a handlebar mustache, and a regular mustache. I laughed a lot.
Now my face is smooth and Easter is over. What adventures will tomorrow hold?

Saturday, April 3, 2010

BEDA 3: Final Fantasy XII

I'm planning on using this BEDA thing to my advantage over the course of this month by using it to kill two birds with one stone. So, over the next few weeks you might see some book reviews and video game reviews and other short pieces that I can add to a growing portfolio of work I use when applying for jobs. This will not be one of those blogs.

I'm currently playing Final Fantasy XIII, but I'm not to the end yet, so I don't want to jump the gun and review it before I complete the game and see it as a whole. However, playing this excellent game automatically brings to mind other Final Fantasy experiences. It just can't be helped. Even though the games take place in totally different realities and worlds, major themes persist that tie all of the games together. The summons, the items, and the chocobos really jump to mind. So I've found myself thinking about the other games in the series these past few weeks, and one thing in particular keeps coming back to me:
The overwhelming shittiness of Final Fantasy XII.

Man I really hated this game. Everything about it was awful. The battle system was the first to break away from the traditional turn-based style, and it's like the developers were so heart-broken to be moving away from their classic format that they couldn't muster the strength to come up with a better one. Without any time to consider my actions during battle, I found myself thrown into a fast-paced system with just as many options and menu screens as a turn-based battle. The menus were too long and took too much time to scroll through. Enough time for bosses to pick your allies off with ease. The AI at the time was simply not good enough to take care of itself, and so you have a team of inept jackasses casting the wrong spells and healing the wrong party members. Also, if memory serves, you had to scroll through the menu screens to select spells and items while also moving your character around the actual battle. Do I have two left thumbs, Square Enix? How could you possibly let this past the testing stage?

Also, the characters, the plot, who cares? Everything about this game was lack-luster from the get go. Our story begins in the great kingdom of Vlfnzkdy, who are at war with the Frnkrlvmy. King Zlrmnka and Duke Rzlzslzlby are at battling for the right to control the Hrklmshiroo. Or something like that. My point is, every piece of exposition in this story was abrasive. The names and places were hard to wrap your mind around, remember, or invest in at all. This coupled with bland, washed-out, beige and white scenery made for a game that was impossible to get excited about.

And I don't know who told Square Enix that villains are not important anymore, but someone needs to set them straight. When was the last time we had a major villain worth caring about in Final Fantasy history? 1996? When did VII come out? Because Sephiroth was the last great villain, and this was also the nearly undisputed greatest title in the series. Coincidence? Probably not. Oh, and I suppose if you wanted to, you could count Sin from X as the last great bad guy, but I think that's a little different. He was a giant embodiment of evil so huge and ridiculous that I think he can hardly be considered a villain. He took absolutely no time to create. Villains like Kefka and Sephiroth, maniacs bent on becoming living gods, are the kinds of villains we want in our games. XII joins VIII and IX in failing to do this.

Lastly, my final complaint about XII is that there was actually one mission in which the main character had to run around town proclaiming that a fallen prince was still alive. During this part there was a little meter at the top of the screen that showed you how many of the citizens you had convinced, and you had to reach a certain number before you could move on. How lame is that? I absolutely hated that part of the game, regardless of how short it was, and I think it took little more than that for me to condemn it completely and turn it off, never to be played again.

Anyways, all of these things come to mind for me while playing XIII because I think Square finally got their heads on straight and produced the best Final Fantasy I've played in a long time. The radically different battle system is so improved from XII that, like I said, I can't believe XII was even allowed to be released.

P.S. Writing a blog a day is gonna get hard, everybody. Expect to see me cutting some corners really, really soon. Like tomorrow maybe.

Friday, April 2, 2010

BEDA 2: Kalamazoo Exodus

I have to leave for work in ten minutes. This is the perfect time to start writing this blog.

August is coming up on me pretty fast, a lot faster than I thought it would. It's one thing to say "I'm going to move out of Kalamazoo eventually," or "next year," but when it starts to be four months the reality of it is a little daunting. I have to find a new apartment and a new job in a different city, and that's a process I'm not looking forward to. But it's something I have to do.

Last night was my friend Paul Rich's final Kalamazoo hurrah before he moves onto bigger at better things in St Louis, and something became apparent to me: we're all on our way to somewhere else. The people that I associate so closely with Kalamazoo will not be here five years from now, and if I were to stay I would watch them trickle out one by one. I like that idea in one sense, because it makes me optimistic about the future and happy for everyone because their ambitions will lead them to better things. In another sense it makes me sort of sad, because Kalamazoo is so unlike my hometown. I can always go back to Commerce and see familiar faces, friends and family that all live in one convenient place. But five years from now, and maybe in less time than that, I suspect Kalamazoo will be virtually deserted of all the people I knew here. They'll all be somewhere else, and big nights out at the bar and parties with these specific people will be an indefinite thing of the past.

That bums me out, but it's not all bad to leave the past in the past.
Here's to the future.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

BEDA 1: It begins.

Oh sweet Jesus, day one and I already don't know what to write about.
I feel sort of inclined to write about April Fool's Day in some way or another. Sort of tough though, since I haven't pulled any pranks today and I'm not really interested in the origin of April Fools.
I think instead we're going to talk about Friedrich Nietzsche.
Nietzche is going to shatter you world view and then beat you to death with his mustache.

Nietzsche is one of those guys that you hear about all the time but that you've probably never read. For me he was never required reading in my education or a man to whom I attached any specific ideas. Instead he was a name peppered throughout movies and television to make a character seem smarter by having read him.
Example:
"I don't get you Locke. One minute you're killing boars, the next you're quoting Nietzsche." - That guy from LOST who died when he climbed up in the drug-smuggling plane, and then it fell.*
Basically, I wanted to read his stuff for two reasons. One was to see what all the fuss was about. My second reason is this: the most masturbatory thing I do, besides fine-tuning my facebook page to make me as interesting and likable as possible, is to read great and notable authors who I already know I will agree with.
Everything I ever heard about Nietzsche before I read any of his work led me to believe that I would agree with and enjoy him. There is something dark and existential about his reputation. I just recently heard a critic of Chuck Palahniuk's say that he writes like a 16 year old who has just discovered Nietzsche and Nine Inch Nails.
I can think of no greater endorsement.
So, it's the case with Nietzsche as it is with Noam Chomsky and Leo Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. I can sit and read these works and say "Yes! Exactly! This is exactly what I was thinking! I am exactly as smart as Leo Tolstoy OMFG!"

So anyways, I'm reading Nietzsche's The Gay Science right now (the title of which applies to the combination of wisdom and laughter) and I'm really enjoying it. More on Nietzsche later this month as I approach the end of the book, but for now I'm going to leave you with some of the lines and passages that have struck me so far in my reading:

"What is new, however, is always evil being that which wants to conquer and overthrow the old boundary markers and old pieties; and only what is old is good."

"Believing that they possess consciousness, men have not exerted themselves very much to acquire it; and things haven't changed much in this respect."

"Blindly raging industriousness... is represented as the way to wealth and honor and as the poison that best cures boredom and the passions, but one keeps silent about its dangers, its extreme dangerousness. That is how education always proceeds: one tries to condition an individual by various attractions and advantages to adopt a way of thinking and behaving that, once it has become a habit, instinct, and passion, will dominate him to his own ultimate disadvantage but 'for the greater good.'"

"So far at least, culture that rests on military basis still towers above all so-called industrial culture: the latter in its present shape is altogether the most vulgar form of existence that has yet existed."

"What the workers see in the employer is usually only a cunning, bloodsucking dog of a man who speculates on all misery..."

*Sorry LOST fans, this is not the precise quote. But it does express basically what the actual quote was getting at, so get off my back.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blog Every Day in April

It's been about a month (and a half) since my last blog entry. For any and all of you who enjoy reading my stuff, I apologize. But I have a good reason!
Blogging is hard and I have stuff to do.
Alright, neither one of those is totally true, so let me clarify.
1. Blogging is hard.
It's not that blogging is particularly hard. By definition blogging is a form of writing without real rules or restraints or guidelines that I have to follow. I can just rant in a relaxed, conversational tone for a page or two and be done. The real problem is that, since I know people read it, I want the blogs to be good. Maybe not completely amazing, but also not a total waste of time with lots of lazily constructed sentences and spelling mistakes. And this kind of attention to detail and subject matter takes time, which leads me to my next point.
2. I have stuff to do.
Sort of. I work a full time job, but that's not really the half of it. I have this book I'm trying to write and these books I'm trying to read and video games I need to play and a dog that needs walks and a girlfriend that needs cuddling. I've got a lot on my plate, more or less, and it's difficult to make time for the hour or so it takes to write a blog when I know there are other things I could be doing. I mean, Final Fantasy 13 is in the other room for Christ sakes.

Anyways, I've never lapsed so hard in my blogging as I have this past month (and a half) and for that I apologize. Don't worry though, because I'm going to do something totally over the top to make up for it.
I'm going to blog every day in April. Man, it's gonna be a lot of work.

An author I'm familiar with named Maureen Johnson came up with the idea a year (or two?) ago to compensate for her own lapse in blogging. Since then it has become kind of a thing in the nerdier parts of the internet in which I dwell, and I think it's a good idea.
These blogs might actually help me to write blogs the way they're supposed to be written. That is, nuggets of ideas instead of essay-length diatribes about books you haven't read. Also, there may be a return to politics and more frequent looks into my life, which may not be interesting but will at least be constructive for me.
So there you have it! My proclamation to blog every day in the month of April, the end of which will also mark the one year anniversary of this blog. Hurray!

See you in April, suckers.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Education


I know I already did a blog about education, specifically my laughable experience throughout the public school system and college, but what can I say? I'm in the mood to bitch about low standards and the dangerous nature of a country full of stupid people.

First of all, I think that teachers should make as much money as doctors, and that the training and work load should be equally as rigorous. Classroom sizes should be smaller and students should be graded on their creativity, inquisitiveness, complex thinking and problem solving, rather than the ability to memorize facts that are quickly forgotten after the taking of a standardized test. The goal should not be to push as many students that don't know the difference between "their, there and they're" through the system. The goal should be to produce generation after generation of thoughtful, rational, intelligent people. As it stands, the motto seems to be "get an education so you can get a good job." So, what? We end up with a bunch of money-worshiping adults who were able to get through with their basic education without ever understanding that the entire point is to actually become educated.

It really bothers me that people aren't willing to just pour money into the educational system. I literally believe that a higher standard of education is the solution to all problems in this and every other country. Because when the population is better educated and people are able to think more complexly about things, shit will actually start to make sense. We live in a country where creationism is still taught alongside evolution in public schools, where gay marriage is still largely illegal, and where a growing number of absolute psychopaths want Sarah Palin to be president. As though, to paraphrase another internet blogger, the problem with Bush was that he just wasn't stupid enough.
I'm beginning to think that the typical state of our nation's schools is similar to that of Springfield Elementary. Do our text books refer to the Civil Rights movement as "trouble ahead?" Are the kids drinking rat's milk? WHAT IS GOING ON HERE?

It's as though being stupid is just sort of this secondary thing, not really consequential in the larger scheme. Compassion, intelligence, goals, appreciation for life itself, all fall to the wayside, and why? Is it money? Is it religion? Is it a social stigma that instills a distaste for school in children stronger than that of broccoli?
I don't know. But I'm frustrated.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Real Life Stories 4: The Casino


You can get lost in the slot machines like you can get lost in a forest. Rows and rows of them twinkle identically off into the distance. Each brightly lit grouping is surrounded by its own handful of chain smokers in sweat pants with twenty or fifty or a hundred dollars worth of credits pumped into their machines. The old days of buckets full of nickles and manual arms that you crank yourself are behind us, it appears. Everything is button operated, which takes away the charm for me, but not more so than the tacky bullshit they paste over the front of every machine. A casino is a thing that I don't think I could conjure up in my imagination and fake if had I never been to one. I couldn't make this shit up. Ladybugs and Greek Gods and lions and wolves and Elvis, they're all there in big plastic paintings above computer screen slots. Empty drinks and dirty ashtrays don't last long on the ledges of the machines. The place stays clean like a four star hotel, despite all odds. They are overstaffed to the gills with servers and security and the place runs so smoothly you don't give them a second thought.
Walking through the rows with a whiskey and coke in hand I feel just a touch like Thompson, or at least I wish I felt like him. I am to Thompson what a casino in Battle Creek is to Vegas, so I guess it all fits together. This isn't exactly what you get in Nevada, but it's the same breed of ugliness and desperation. Everyone here is so poor, wearing the kind of old sports jackets that were popular in the nineties that you can only find in thrift stores now. They're overweight and they walk with limps and they have bad haircuts. Where do they all come from? I wonder if some of them plan to make a fortune counting cards or betting big money at this casino in southwest Michigan. One man I see only has one eye, and the other is replaced by blank, disfigured skin, as though it were melted shut. At the same moment I smell something like burning paper and I wonder at the coincidence. Or maybe that rich scent in the air is pure oxygen being pumped regularly into the building every so often, and I just happen to be under a vent. A friend of mine told me they do such things, though I thought it was illegal. Who knows? Who knows what pure oxygen smells like, for that matter?
I like to gamble for a few reasons. One is that the feeling of winning, even just a little bit, is basically unbeatable. When the cards and dice start to go your way, even the most stoically atheist (and I am pretty stone cold on that front) start to feel that some force or energy is working with them. Another is that I feel I'm pretty good at it. I play poker and, though I lose more than I win, I take second more than I lose. I was surprised, beyond anything else, when the blackjack dealer took twenty dollars in three hands, which lasted for about thirty seconds.
That said, I was not surprised when a twenty dollar bet on black at the roulette wheel paid out and I doubled my money. And I wasn't surprised that another bet of the same denomination did the same. And another. And another. Above all, it made sense to me.
When the five of us packed back into the car at one in the morning, only two of us came away ahead. Turning twenty dollars into one hundred isn't a magic trick, but it certainly feels like one.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Dr. Hunter S. Thompson and Jimmy Buffett

A few days ago, one of the greatest calamities of my life transpired. It was an event that was so horrible, so unbelievably and inconceivably bad, that the surrealistic nightmare of it all is nearly too much for my fragile psyche to bear. I feel that at any instant I will collapse as I am consumed by burning, radioactive waves of fear and staggering rage that will clash together like the pulses of exploding stars, and my eternal soul will be lost in outer space where I will wander cold and alone forever.
What could make me feel so very, very incredibly awful? Awful like Sarah Connor in Terminator 2 when the bomb goes off and her very skeleton is set on fire? Awful so that it seems, as the doctor said, "the possibility of physical and mental collapse is now very real,"? What could cause me to write with such incredible hyperbole?
Only this:
I have just discovered that Hunter S. Thompson was close friends with Jimmy Buffett.


FUCK!!!!!!!

This is exactly like being a kid and finding out that, before he was the Devil, Lucifer had been an angel. So you're eight and you're like, "God and the Devil used to be friends? Well now I don't know what to believe..."

Only this is like a thousand times worse. And here's why.

I have hero-worshiped Thompson since I first saw Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas when I was fifteen. As a teenager, I was fascinated by his unbelievable need and ability to rebel. To do everything that was forbidden by cultural norms and always come out on top. His life, lived on the edge, and passion for irresponsibility was such an inspiration to me at the time. I felt surrounded by the normalcy of suburban life and of school, and here was this side to reality that I had never really seen or thought of before. It is no exaggeration to say that Thompson literally changed the course of my life. Without him, and others like him, I might have caved to societal pressures and chosen a safe and practical career like dentistry or accounting. Thompson is a standing testimony to living and dying by what you believe in, and made me realize that safety-nets and compromises are for weak-willed villainous scum.
As an adult, I continue to admire Thompson for different reasons. While he is immediately attractive to all males between the ages of 14 and 25 for his balls-out craziness and whiskey-drinking, acid-dropping make-your-own-luck approach to life, he was also a visionary. Thompson, above all, just wanted to do something. He wanted to make a difference. He wanted to be important. He wanted to find the American Dream, he wanted to find an honest politician, he wanted to become Sheriff of Aspen and change the town for the better. Thompson is a towering monument of living life to the fullest and on the edge, but also to slamming your fists against the brick wall of the establishment even though you know you're not going to get anywhere. He was a dreamer and a brilliant writer and a genius and his life-story is enough to give one hope of extraordinary things in the dismal and soulless world we live in.

And then, there's Jimmy Buffett.
Jimmy Buffett is, in my eyes, everything that is wrong with the human species. He is a talentless, gutless, money-hungry, sham of an artist. This is a guy that, after being mistakenly shot at by Jamaican police when leaving the country, wrote a song called "Jamaica Mistaica." Doesn't that just make your blood fucking curdle? What a hack. This is a guy that I have so much personal distaste for that I actually started a hate group for him on facebook, and it's going strong.
The reason I hate Buffett so much is that he's exactly everything Thompson is not. His music is easy and soulless. There is no pain or suffering or sacrifice in his songs. He doesn't live and die by his songs like all the great musicians of our time and of all other times. He has risked nothing and therefore he produces nothing. He plays an acoustic guitar with a great big smile and a flower shirt and a lei and that stupid little wrist band of his, and I just want to watch him die. He is more than a crap musician and a shitty novelist and a smiling idiot who spends too much time in the sun. He is a symbol for all that is disgusting and vile in the world of art. He is my nemesis.

So, watching these two conflicting ideologies come together in friendship... it's really just more than I can handle. What can I do? Do I think less of Thompson? Do I think more of Buffett? Each is equally impossible. I feel betrayed. I keep imagining them together. Hanging out in the Caribbean drinking rum, swimming, driving around on Buffett's boat, laughing it up and having a good time. It makes my skin crawl. This must be what Oedipus felt like. A sinking in the pit of your stomach like a rock dropped into a well, because you know something horrible has happened and there is no way to ever correct it.