Sunday, May 2, 2010


I've moved this blog to a new location, as Word Press has more features and control options than blogger does. You can find a blog about common things at My schedule is still Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday, with today's blog in the works. I hope you enjoy the new location and layout, bigger and better things are in store.

Thanks for your continued readership and/or bookmarking, it means quite a bit to know that others enjoy my hobby as much as I do.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

"Unplugging": Transitioning from Electric to Acoustic as a band.

I’ve long hated electric musicians, mostly because it’s easy to sound alright without having any real ability. Entire genres are built on this, letting people that have little talent get rich because of their distortion pedals. It’s a cheap trick that anyone can do if they know how to form a power chord (fifth). I don’t say this for jealousy, or as a groundbreaking rally for change. I was taught how to play guitar classically in high school, and now can play nearly any style I really want with the exceptions of Country and Jazz. For me, the way to measure a musician or a whole band is to see how they transition between electric and acoustic.

This is not true for all musicians – some can do things with electric instruments that simply cannot be done with acoustic. I’d name a few, but they don’t really matter all that much for this argument. What matters are the artists that can handle their instruments and songs well… plugged and otherwise. I’ve excluded certain acts from this list because they’re no-brainers (Goo Goo Dolls are a perfect example, since they’re mostly acoustic anyway).

That’s a lot of intro. Enjoy it.

A Perfect Circle

A Perfect Circle was one of my favorite bands as a teenager, and they’ve stuck with me as I grew older. On the albums they have a few acoustic driven songs, but very few that really grab the listener are unplugged. Instead, they’ve got a very good acoustic set of songs that can be easily found online, all of which are mature and breathtaking.

They matter on this list because they’ve done more than just take the same songs and swap instruments. “The Hollow” was completely rewritten and arranged for the new instrumentation, including less conventional drums and piano along with acoustic guitar and bass. This arrangement stays current through most of the acoustic versions available, including “Weak and Powerless,” “Sleeping Beauty,” and “3 Libras.” They all take on a nearly mystic feeling. They are all distinct from and as powerful (if not more so) than the original album recordings.

Coheed and Cambria

It’s no secret that I’m a fan boy for Coheed, but I think this isn’t without reason. I’ve mentioned some of their acoustic work in previous posts. It’s important enough for this to be redundant.

Like A Perfect Circle, they’ve completely re-arranged various songs to transition better into the world of the unplugged. “A Favor House Atlantic” and “Here We Are Juggernaut” are fantastic examples of songs that are far more powerful on steel strings than they could be on nickel. Coheed and Cambria have a much more expansive body of acoustic songs than most other bands on this list. Most aren’t all that special unplugged, but the ones that are particularly grab the listener in a chokehold without letting them up to breathe until the song’s finished. “Favor House” was streamlined to reduce the monotonous crunch of the palm muted power chord chug and boil it down to a raked open progression with feeling. “Juggernaut” most notably now has an airy guitar line… written in a major key, rather than a minor key. It’s slower, and less driving. The track is much more relaxing for it.

Many songs need little work to sound acceptable acoustic, “Welcome Home” is already very well structured for unplugging outside of some effects in the solos. The listener hardly notices they’re even missing. “From Fear Through The Eyes of Madness” sounds just as happy and uplifting acoustic as it does in the album’s recording, with the only needless addition being an octaver on the vocals. This withstanding, the whole piece is lovely. “Blood Red Summer” and “The Running Free” have little changed about them, yet both are somehow better acoustic than they were originally. Maybe this is why I’m such an avid fan.


Godsmack’s first album is one of my favorite hard rock albums of all time. Then they released the second album, and things fell apart for my opinion of them. After another bad album, they decided to release an acoustic album and saved themselves.

Like all other bands on this list, they arrange songs that were previously electric for a new life, and like all other bands on this list, the new versions are usually better than the originals. A notable difference is that two new songs were written solely for acoustic instrumentation, “Touché” and “Voices,” if memory serves. Both are worth the album purchase.

Not everything is so fantastic unplugged, “Keep Away” feels like it was only included because of it’s popularity as the original single. The new arrangement of “Awake” (now entitled “Asleep”) is soulless and monotonous. It’s an inspired attempt, and on principle it’s a nice twist to leave only the bones of the song that convinced so many hundreds of thousands of people to buy the second album. It just doesn’t work very well. Despite all this, they’re still talented enough to stand on this list alongside the other juggernauts.

Rise Against

A neo-punk band can rock out with nylon and steel strings? For serious?


They don’t have all that many songs acoustic, but there are enough to make them noteworthy. Besides already acoustic songs (“Swing Life Away” and “Hero of War”) they’ve done “Prayer of the Refugee,” “Ready to Fall,” “Re-Education Through Labor” and many others acoustic. Stripping down the screaming and strummy chord progressions shows well written, hooky, powerful songs that have pop sensibilities without sacrificing meaningful significance. They aren’t generally all that different from the originals besides the change in vocal tone and naked strings, but that’s enough to make it notable.

Stone Temple Pilots

There are a lot of things that contribute to STP’s placement on this list. Most notably is Scott Weiland in his prime, when he could still control his voice and do nearly anything he really wanted. Didn’t matter that he was a fledgling drug addict, all that mattered was his considerable vocal ability. Everything else for the acoustic recordings was perfect as well: Simple percussion, straight-forward guitar, and nearly unchanged bass. That’s all it really took to make some of the best songs in the grunge era even better.

Most notable are “Big Empty,” “Plush,” and “Sourgirl.” With the exception of “Sourgirl,” nearly every song available unplugged were from the earlier career, with the later being the last real single before the band fell apart (and from what I understand, recently reunited or some silly nonsense). I wish they’d kept up with the acoustic material, they could’ve done so much more.

Honorable Mentions

Pearl Jam – They have some fantastic songs acoustic, but none really surpass the originals in terms of improvements or arrangements. “Black” is the only one that really stands out.
Lacuna Coil – Lacuna Coil probably should’ve been included above just for Christina Scabia’s ability alone, and how nice her voice sounds with acoustic guitars. The problems come from the other singer, who really sounds quite terrible. While the guitarists aren’t bad unplugged, they and Christina alone cannot make the songs sound as good as they do when distortion covers the other guy’s voice. However, “Heaven’s a Lie” is quite awesome unplugged.
Staind – They don’t do anything all that special with their music acoustic, and honestly get kind of boring as they go. The one important note is that they cover songs quite well. “Nothing Else Matters” and “Black” are both lovely. Also, “Epiphany” was already acoustic, but it sounds so nice unplugged. This is probably just Aaron Lewis’ voice being so lovely.
Ill Niño – I really wanted to put this band on the list, but they’ve got a few problems. They’ve only got two unplugged songs (and “How Can I Live?” is fantastic acoustic). The singer also can’t seem to control his voice, which is a huge problem. If he had vocal lessons and they wrote more acoustic, then I’m sure I’d love them more.
No Doubt – Not gonna lie, I was never much a fan of No Doubt. I knew a few songs from them, but nothing ever really grabbed me. Unplugged, they’re a cubic shit-ton more interesting, but they don’t really feel like they’re doing all that much to the music. I enjoy them more this way, but they don’t quite rub musically as a band should when they transition between an amp and a sound hole. I think I do enjoy them more now though, for what it’s worth.


This is just how it works in my taste, you don’t have to agree. Maybe you want to count an act like Pink Floyd, who mostly wrote in acoustic. I love them too, but there’s no transition to really look at. Maybe you want to look at the Paige and Plant acoustic thing they did a few years ago. It was cool, but really fucking weird. Doesn’t work very well acoustic without the aid of an entire orchestra. Doesn’t make the mark for me.

End of today’s rant.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Filling in the blanks.

It is right now five minutes to twenty-two. My eyes sting, my neck is sore, and I am very drained. The balls of my feet are peeling. I want to write something stream of consciousness, but I know I can't right now. A free-flowing thought exercise is easy when you're a touch typist with your eyes closed, but it's much more difficult when that touch typist is tired. I know that I'll have to spell check this while thing, and it will annoy me.

I should keep typing despite typos, but I have a habit of going back to correct my errors as I type them. I've not done it at all this line. I'm very proud of that. I'll hate it later on.

I don't plan on typing very long tonight, it was a very draining day. I suspect that I'll be finished by 22:05 by the time I'm done editing. This room is very warm. That was delicious pasta. Sweat is gathering on my brow like protesters waiting for someone to rile them up. I hope no riots ensue. That was an odd analogy. I'll leave it. It seems fun and edgy, vaguely politically charged. I've been making political jokes all day. I hate politics, I hate them so much. Especially local.

I should go back to playing guitar when I finish typing this. I'm too tired for it to sound like any of the songs I know, but it's a nice way to cap off a tedious evening. I should practice piano for class, but I don't think I have the energy for it. I must make sure I do practice in the morning regardless of what else I do.

When I played yesterday for the class I successfully butchered songs that I know inside and out. Two songs that I've spent a good chunk of time playing in my house just wouldn't come out of my fingers when I sat at the old Grand. It's embarrassing to fail in front of your peers when you know that you shouldn't. Normally I don't really get embarrassed. Normally I'm quick on y feet and can easily smooth over any lumps in the frosting of public performance's cake. Yesterday I jabbed my finger down and scooped out the inside of the pastry to smear on the wall and call art with my terrible performance.

It's 22:06. I'm a minute over my writing exercise. Blast. At the very least, I know I can force myself to write when I don't really feel like it. Just like high school.

My wrist is itchy where a friend's dog jumped on me. I don't think she can control her energy (most dogs, children, and people I know can't), but she was very affectionate. The scratches are nearly faded except for that itch.

Itchy itchy itchy. When I think about an itch, other parts get it too. Now my thumb itches. How does a thumb itch? I don't know. And my knee, and now my left calf.

I should stop.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

We are the Sultans

The street was empty at 11:20 PM, an oddity for a four lane boulevard. It cut through the mostly residential area like a rotten log caught against a riverbed. Formerly green curbs were spotted with refuse from car windows. A McDonald's bag at the stop light, a toddler's car seat next to the freshly poured foundations. A dirt encrusted condom in front of a church. This filth pales to the beauty of the sky, but even that's choked with light pollution.

A man garbed entirely in black paced down the right side of the road, passing houses that should've been more splendid. His side of the street was lined entirely with fences, breaking only for intersections. He could tell the demographics of each family as he walked past by the fences and what could be spied through. A tall white PVC fence with perfectly trimmed grass - the upper middle class family with Mexican lawn care. The chipped brown wooden fence enclosing old Fisher-Price mock houses - the family that suffered when the stock market thought it was best to cower in a corner. The man didn't even bother looking into the chain-links anymore, they depressed him.

His pace was uneven and varied with each song his headphones delivered. He observed that he was shifting more weight to his left side and had been for years, but never noticed until today. He didn't like this fact, but his disdain wouldn't change it. It wouldn't undo his fall down a ladder five years prior working retail, in which he broke his ankle and never bothered to get it looked at. He set it reasonably well himself, but without the aid of medical coverage he couldn't even verify it's status now. He pretended it didn't bother him. The most pressing matter was the letter in his back pocket telling him that he couldn't graduate for another year. It pressed like an iron.

"Sultans of Swing" came on. His mood shifted to bittersweet and his pace slowed. Nothing around him mattered besides finding a reason to smile. He couldn't think about the future now, his plan for the year had just been smashed in it's knees before it could run away with him. Without the degree, there was no chance of finding a job. No job, no apartment. Nothing. For months that had made him smile when he needed to, now it would only twist his lungs.

He raised the volume and sang to himself. Maybe he'd be like Harry. Harry doesn't mind if he never makes the scene. He can play the honky-tonk like anything. Maybe he'd be a musician instead. He could take an old dreadnought guitar and play at public parks for rent. He could get big like Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, even if neither of them could sing and Springsteen's only saving grace was the help from his friends. It couldn't be that hard.

He knew this was a lie. They were exceptions, not rules. Most street musicians died hungry and alone. Most of the time they spent their final days pushing shopping carts full of empty beer cans they picked out areas like this. He knew it was no option, but the thought of playing guitar until he couldn't anymore brought the faintest smirk to his face. That was enough to get him home and into bed.

"Thank you, goodnight. Now it's time to go home."

Sunday, April 18, 2010

On Demagogy.

"Demagogue" has a bitter taste to it by definition, but it doesn't have to be this way. Wikipedia lists four in their article about the word, and none are positive examples. Merriam-Webster has two definitions. The first echoes the Wikipedia page, but the second seems more fitting. "A leader championing the cause of the common people in ancient times," seems closer to my belief. The roots roughly translate to "lead people."

A demagogue is someone with the ability to empathize with people and convince them that something needs to be done. Demagogy is what public speakers mostly wish they could accomplish, and what the successful ones do achieve. It's a skill that's half learned, half inherent. It's a tool for leadership, like philosophy and psychology. In many cases, it's incorporated into this ability when cemented with diction and passion. Maybe that's why all the people listed on the page are such terrible human beings.

I learned the word from a game a few years back (your vocabulary increases exponentially when you play text-heavy games, it's amazing), it was a character class for some terrible table top platform. Upon hearing the ability, I jumped on it. The ability to sway minds and hearts with words is not only powerful, but I'd been learning it since early on in scouting. It was something I'd used in the past to save lives, organize people, and spare people from bodily harm. It's something wonderful that should be more common amongst people in leadership positions.

Demagogy isn't a key to limitless power, nor is it a promise of being able to change the world in a huge way. In some famous cases - Barack Obama most recently - it does. In most cases it's an underdeveloped ability that doesn't catch on most that can make use of it.

It isn't always used to positive effect. The most famous demagogue in history is Adolf Hitler, a violent madman responsible for unfathomable death. He never used force to get to power, he only used words. He believed what he was saying, and he knew how to and which strings to tug to convince his audience that he was telling the truth. When you tell a lie often enough, you start to forget the truth. After a long enough time, there is no more truth for you. People do this all the time, but most people don't have the ability to change minds. This is why it is so potentially dangerous. A demagogue could be anyone.

To the previous example, Barack Obama has a similar ability that gets used to a more positive effect so far. His skill is more learned than genuine, but the skill is still there. The speeches aren't particularly powerful, but the choice of diction is clear and concise. He chooses concepts that are important enough for his audience to hold on to, and tells them the things that he wants them to hear and know. While there are other clauses to most of what he says, he doesn't present them in the same way. No demagogue ever does. They must gather the consent to do what they plan to do, then execute it after. All politicians do this, but most aren't honest or genuine. These are two very important traits in any leader, and for an effective positive demagogue they are the most important traits one can have. There are other outside factors that relate to his presidency, but most have nothing to do with the ability to lead.

This can only exist if there is honesty in the world, because honesty is key. You must be trusted, and be able to trust yourself. You must not lie. You must be able to tell what you believe without fear of judgment for it, because you will be judged. You will be torn apart and criticized. You will not be well received by everyone, but the people that do will welcome you warmly. If you lie, people will know.

This can only exist if there is genuine care for the well being of the people you care about. You will not get anywhere if you're lying and working solely towards personal gain. You don't do it for money or fame, you do it to ensure that the lives of others will be enriched.

In my relatively short life so far, I've been in leadership roles many times. I've worked to help students, scouts, and a number of other young organizations that need voices. I care enough about my peers - even the ones I don't like - to fight for them. That's what a demagogue does, they do what they believe is right. The only thing more important than doing what is right is making sure that what you believe actually is.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

It's not Hippyism.

The little things in life make me happy, things that other people would otherwise shrug at. A friend of mine works at a GameStop, and his branch was throwing out all the excess lanyards they had. As such, I now have an old Bionic Commando lanyard to hold my school ID from while on campus and at work. I didn't even know there was a game by that title until now. Then again, a google search tells me that it goes for $15 new on PS3, which suggests that I shouldn't know about it. The lanyard makes daily tasks far easier than life without it. I am quite satisfied with this surprise accidental gift.

Earlier while doing sound for an outdoor event on campus, I was thanked for doing sound by one of the speakers. I've been thanked in the past, but never genuinely, and rarely during the event itself. In this case a Vietnam Vet thanked me for making a peace-rally doable, even though I was there mostly for the sake of my job. The appreciation was thick in his voice, and it made me happy to know my work was appreciated. I know it is in most cases, even when it's unsaid. It's just nice to hear. Same way that "I love you," still means a lot in a relationship, even after four years with someone.

The small details are what matters in life, at least for me. Probably you too, even if you don't realize it. Everyone focuses too much on what they think will advance them in society, or what will pay the best, or what will get them the most action with the other sex. They don't realize that no matter how much of a status/money/pussy/dick they get, they won't be happy unless they appreciate the daily things for being daily. Why should I care that you're a raving lunatic over losing a game? I just like the detail that was put into the pieces. Why does it matter that a relationship ended? The flowers are in bloom, and you weren't working anyway.

I appreciate life as best I can, and if everyone else did the same, life would be as beautiful as it potentially could be.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Year of the Black Rainbow Review

A few months back I wrote a blog about my expectations for this album, and I nailed it on the head. Now you're getting a song by song fan review.

All Coheed albums have an introduction track. Of them, only "The Reaping" from No World For Tomorrow has had lyrics. It's better this way, the ambient atmosphere building to the opening track always helps build suspense for the overall album. Out of them all, "One" is possibly the worst. It's mostly ambient noise, without much melody to stand on it's own. For each of the other four albums, there is something you can hum about the leads. This one just makes you feel empty. That was the point, story wise, but it doesn't even qualify as a song this time around.

The Broken
Like all other albums in their discography, the pattern continues with a powerful, crowd arousing anthem. "The Broken" is straight forward and heavy, and the unofficial first single. It's the current lead song for concerts, and one of my favorites ever so far. If you had to listen to only one song from this album, it should be "World of Lines." If two, then "The Broken" should be your next number.

Guns of Summer
What's that? We need to show off what the new drummer is capable of? Okay! Guns of Summer has the most ballsy drum line out of any Coheed song so far. While the drums are fucking awesome, the rest of the song is rather... ininspiring. It shows well what they're capable of, but it's not really a very well written song. The chorus is open and free, which contrasts greatly with the insanity in the verses. I'll probably listen to this one less than the others. It seems like it'd be a nice chase scene, or something else with high tension.

Here We Are Juggernaut
Hey, it's a single. It took weeks/months(?) to grow on me, but "Juggernaut" has become one of my favorites of the singles. Initially I loved how diverse and bottom heavy it was, and how uplifting the chorus was, and the bridge, and just about each part individually. I hated how they came together. Maybe it's just weird compositional bridging, or the shift between major and minor. That could explain why the acoustic version is entirely in major, and is one of the best versions of any song they've ever wrote. The album version is good, but it takes time to sink in.

Each album has one of these. The light, usually sappy songs with an airy substance recur, and each is more coherent than the last. "IRO-Bot" was bizarre, "Light and the Glass" was a power-ballad, "Wake Up" was a guilt-trip in major, and "Mother Superior" was too amazing for it's own good. This song has a lot to compete against. It has the benefit of Chris Penne's heavy drum influence to keep it going with an industrial feel, and the dirty guitars playing such a light, melodic piece add an interesting twist to a straight forward song. I like the album version better than the acoustic floating around online. "Far" gets a thumbs up.

This Shattered Symphony
This song is a little too busy for me, and once it's done trying to straighten out it's ADD, I'll be more than happy to review it. I suspect it's a major part of the storyline, but it's nearly my least favorite song on the album. It's heavy, and I suppose the writing isn't terrible, but it sounds too much like it's trying too hard.

World of Lines
I've been dying for this song since they used the instrumental as a background for a studio demo video. It's got a driving tempo and rhythm, a hook-heavy chorus, and verses that don't bore me. It doesn't try to overdo itself, and in the end it's my favorite song on the album (followed closely by "The Broken" and "Far.") You should listen to this one. Even if you don't like Coheed, or progressive rock, or oxygen. This one's good for everyone.

Made Out of Nothing
When the album was first put up on MySpace for all to hear, I felt like this song was the start of a heavy decline in the album. Now that I've heard it more, I really don't mind "Made Out of Nothing" as much. It's still very slow, very long, and not really all that interesting, but it's not bad. It makes a fantastic background sound while doing homework/cleaning/yardwork/etc, and it's got some minor hooks in it too. It'll get stuck in your head, you'll hate yourself for it, and then you'll listen to it again. It's not a bad thing, embrace it. Then go listen to the first half again.

Pearl of the Stars
Surprise! There's a second ballad. This one fits the pattern a little better, but has a Pink Floyd like breakdown/solo 3/5 into the song. I don't like this song very much though. It's disheartening: I love Pink Floyd, I love Coheed and Cambria. I should adore this song and need new pants after hearing. It might be the writing prospective though, lyrically the chorus is terrible. You NEVER rhyme "you" with "you." It's so full of cheese that it might as well give you arterial clogging. It should've/could've been better, but Claudio stepped on his own toes for this one. It's a nice song acoustic too, by the way. Strange flip-flop there. Really, if you start listening at the third minute, you can get straight to the best part of the song. The solo is one of the highlights of the album, but the rest of the song wouldn't ever let you know.

In the Flame of Error
The Pink Floyd theme carries over with the arrangement of this song, but it's quickly shot down. The song is complicated, and can't seem to make up its mind for what it wants to do. Some instances are Iron Maiden tribute, the chorus is driving and powerful, but the weird lapses in and out of "The Wall" era Floyd kind of hurts the vibe. There's also a weird vocal progression that jars with the melody of the song. I don't think I'd ever want to hear this one live. That makes me very, very sad to say. Quite the flaming error guys.

When Skeletons Live
A friend of mine that enjoyed the early leak of the album (he owns the hard copy now, don't worry) kept ranting about how much he loves this song. I gotta say, it's got some really cool guitar work going on. The structure of it doesn't catch me like I really hoped it would though. I can see why he liked it - and I imagine if I listen to it more it might stick with me in the same way too - but I don't think I'm sold on it. Besides that, I hate colloquialisms, and the chorus is built on one. Urgh.

The Black Rainbow
The theme for the past few albums has been a slow, heavy, moody, big finish. "The Light and the Glass," "The Final Cut," and "On the Brink" all set a precedent for "The Black Rainbow," one that's hard to meet. In this regard, it disappoints. It does not stand up to any of the others in the way it should. It's a pretty good jam, and a decent way to end the album, but it lacks the same balls the album started with. Rather than a slow, exploratory piece, it should've been more bombastic. It's very much an atmospheric piece that amplifies the chunk of story it represents, but it's too fucking long to stand as a song. I'm disappointed by this ending.

Songs loved: 4/11 [Broken, Juggernaut, Far, World]
Songs enjoyed: 4/11 [Guns, Nothing, Pearl, Skeletons]
Songs hated: 1/11 [Error]

I am indifferent to "One" (not counting towards the song mark), "Shattered Symphony," and "Black Rainbow." "Shattered Symphony" isn't a wonderful song, but I don't feel ripped off that it's taking up space on the album (as Flaming Error makes me feel right now). "Black Rainbow" isn't bad in itself, but it seems limited in it's use for me.

It's worth buying, but it's very different from most other Coheed albums. If you're a fan of progressive/metal/industrial things, then this album might rub you just right. I'm satisfied with it, but it's only with the promise of other amazing acoustic versions of the songs. "Here We Are Juggernaut"'s acoustic is one of their best unplugged pieces to date (the acoustic versions of "A Favor House Atlantic" and "The Light and the Glass" being it's competition). This also doesn't count the demos and bonus songs in different versions. I'll get to them eventually.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Writing Writer

When I was little I used to make up songs in my front yard. I'd sit at the base of a huge tree and hum ditties to myself until words came to mind. Writing used to be so easy then, there wasn't any effort to it. No worrying about falling into conventions, or being too repetitive, or following a meter and rhyme-scheme. All there was to it was spoken word with a melody.

Time went on and I started learning the ways of "real" writers. You need to pay attention to things like alliteration and allegory, and make sure that your syllabic patterns aren't cliche, or it'll seem like you're plagiarizing. All sources are cited, and the MLA margins and font formatting are too perfect, there's no life left in the writing. Everything that made it raw and beautiful has been ripped from the skeleton leaving a bare, desolate structure with no substance. It isn't always this way, but by and large this is how it turns out.

Things have changed for me now. I try desperately to adhere to structure, but at the same time have lost regard for it. I'll pay attention to the feet of a poem, and each stanza will have the same basic format... but I couldn't care less how else it holds together. I'll inject the soul back into it by breaking the rules a little. Not all the time, and not even in big ways. Little things, like a slant rhyme, rejuvenate in ways that couldn't be with a hard phonemic jab.

Other things change too, the definition of "genre" no longer means "comedy or sci-fi." It starts to take on more broad terms that don't really matter. Poetry is not a genre, it's a format. Nonfiction is not a genre, it's life. Even then, you're getting only half truths for what should be a complete roster.

Comic books and graphic novels - because they aren't the same, and it's not just the use of a buzz word - are "literary genres" too. So are screenplays. And raw notes. It's not limited to "fiction" and "memoir." It's all writing. Everything is art. Everything is beautiful, if you make it so. When you jam format in like steel rods you sacrifice the freely formed splendor that used to come from the writing.

Sure, it sometimes improves the intended impact in your reader. Sometimes it clarifies the point that was made. Sometimes you will want to format your work differently. This is not mandatory to make something worth reading. It is not mandatory to make anything at all.

Yes, I am a writer. I am not famous, nor am I published in any notable work just yet. College magazines and newspapers have put my words to page, and supposedly I'm in an anthology from a scam artist writing site from ten years ago. I'm cool with the realization that my work is - for the time being - insignificant. I only reach a small audience, and they mostly know me in person. I'm fine with that, as long as each of them take something away from this.

Literary greatness is overrated, even if that's what pays. I'll get there one day. I just don't mind waiting.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

On Maturity.

It's funny how such a simple concept is so easily twisted and bastardized. Maturity shouldn't be difficult to grasp, but for whatever reason it slips away from many "mature" adults.

Maturity can be applied to many things. A boy is considered physically mature by the end of his teens. He will have grown in spurts, developed facial hair, and other things kick in. This doesn't mean that his mind matures at the same rate, or that he will emotionally ever mature.

The biggest misconception is that adults are mature. Maturity has nothing to do with age. It is not a miraculous sticker that gets put on your forehead that says you'll comprehend everything and be able to handle life. Legally, I've been an adult for six years. Most of my friends are considered adults at this point as well. Some recent things they've done include fighting over girls, holding grudges over (literally) nothing, playing with plastic knives, lighting themselves on fire, and the complete inability to cope with death. These are all different people - and with my social circle, a tiny percentage of the people I associate with - and each of them has space to grow in various ways. These people are also amazing musicians, intellectuals, humorists, and aspiring politicians. They're all adults, and all reasonably stable. Just immature.

Emotional maturity comes from understanding that there are things that are beyond your control that will sometimes hurt your feelings. The mature response is to deal with it, find something that helps sooth it, and get on with life. The juvenile response is to rage at the world and make hollow threats. No one can overcome all circumstances in life. It is not mature to be the "man's man," and punch things while ejaculating into their coffee. It doesn't matter if that's what you suspect Chuck Norris would do, it matters that you look like a 13 year old that just realized the girl you were crushing on doesn't like boys. Tough fucking shit.

A maturing mind is something vastly different from the other two common sorts, but it is linked to both. When I say that someone is mentally immature, I'm not saying they're handicapped/disabled/whatever other PC terms exist for "retarded" these days. Mental maturity comes from the practiced ability to handle situations that are much larger than human comprehension. Among these are astronomical numbers, death, birth, the question of God, and the realization that all that one does effects hundreds of thousands of people around them. It isn't something that happens suddenly, despite the concept of an epiphany. You will realize that everything dies - including you - at some point, but you will spend years trying to understand it. You will realize that God might not exist, but you won't comprehend the implications for the majority of your life. You will realize at some point that the creation of new life is something inherently god-like, but you won't ever fully understand the intricacies of it. Anyone that claims to is lying. Even doctors - who know the process inside and out (all that sex from med school) - will never fully understand the concept of when/if/how a soul is injected into a new being.

Maturity comes in many forms, but the form it should come in is exercised control and the knowledge of when self restraint is an option and when it should be thrown to the wind. Most of the time the wind gets too much. Hold on to some for yourself.

Errata: "Mature" should never be applied to television and music. "Mature" audiences just existed long enough to have been exposed to it previously. Same way that a kid shouldn't play most Mature games. They can't fucking comprehend what the implication of killing someone is, why desensitize them to it before they know what it is?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I don't give a damn about a reputation.

All my life I've been taught to make everything you do worth having your name attached. This way, you will always be able to take pride in what you do, and others will know to expect quality work from you. While it isn't always possible to be proud of everything, I do take this approach to heart professionally.

I've got several jobs to help pay for college, and I take pride in my work for all of them. I've always had at least one job while in university, but at the moment I have (about) three. All involve customer service, and are specifically service jobs. I'm not servicing the customers (mostly illegal, outside of Las Vegas), but I am garnering the same satisfaction from them. Sometimes it's little things, like making sure they don't fall down a flight of stairs, or fixing the lounge chair they abuse until I need to repair it again. Sometimes it's making sure a building doesn't get lit on fire, or ensuring that the sound system for an event will not only work, but make my constituents sound as good as they think they do.

For every job I have and task I complete, I go out of my way to never half-ass it. I'm very distinct in my approach, appearance, and follow through. If I don't put full effort into my tasks, everyone notices. I'm at a disadvantage in this way; others will only do enough work to stay employed, never going beyond the basics of their duties. They do not fulfill the full responsibility, and little is expected of them. The standard to stay employed is significantly lower. In my case, since I've put my all into everything the entire time, an off day kills my reputation. That's something I can't abide by at this stage in life, I need to hold on to it on a professional level.

That's why I meet my deadlines, why my organizational skills see full use in the workplace, and why I don't fuck around on the job. My making you happy keeps my job safe. While a coworker might demolish your eardrums with a PA rig, I must keep it perfect. While a coworker might leave you to your own devices, I must make sure you have all the information you need to save your self from acting the fool. While a coworker might take a bribe to ignore regulations, I must recommend you put it away or donate it to a children's cancer society.

I don't live through my reputation, but my job does.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter Bunny's Severed Head

We all fear the living dead, yet the vast majority of all religion is based on the notion of life after death. Perhaps it's best to assume that undeath is ultimately the afterlife.

Christians possibly have it the worst off. Their saviour is glorified because he became a zombie. The little known fact about Jesus is that he was considered merciful only because he refused to eat brains. That's why he returned for such a short time before perishing again.

We are not afraid of zombies because they want to kill us. We are not afraid of them because they are nearly unstoppable. We are not even afraid because we do not understand them. We are afraid of zombies because - in a sense - they are a higher level of being than humans. We are afraid of them because we know they're better than us. We were supposedly made in God's image, but zombies were modeled after his son. Therefore, we must all die and come back once more to truly embrace a love for Christ.

...this would all be true, if any of the subjects discussed ever existed.

If you celebrate Easter today, or passover still, or whatever else is around this time of year, then I hope it's happy and full of life.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Fuck this.

I'm never blogging again. I'm sick of all the hate and terrible feedback I get every time I open myself up to the world.

God fucking damnit. Goodbye, reader.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Spring Breaking Walls

"The concept of a 'Spring Break' has always fascinated me, even if it's usually just an excuse for people to get drunk and take their clothes off. I've never celebrated in such a way, though taking my clothes off is always a good idea. I've opted almost universally to stay in the area for the break, with rare exceptions when I was younger to go upstate with my family. I hated those times."

I search offhandedly for my bag of gummy bears.

"Really, if I'm going to have a week and a half off from my classes and work, do you expect me to go do something I won't remember after? Or wake up with an infestation of crab-mites? Or find out that the person in the bed with me looks much less attractive and suddenly more manly than she did when I was drunk? There's no point to it."

Where the fuck are my gummy bears? I ignore it, and keep typing.

"If I wanted that kind of nonsense, I could do it on a weekend and have significantly less memory loss. How many college students do that on a daily basis anyway? If my university wasn't commuter based I imagine there'd be a higher drop-out rate and a much higher level of alcohol poisoning on campus. Why would I want to do that though?"

There they are! I bite the head off of a green squishy bear.

"Besides that, there's so many better things I could do. Gatherings with friends, construction projects (which are actually quite rewarding). Coheed and Cambria concerts that were sold out until this afternoon that you jumped on like the 'Tea Party' to Obama's Health Care bill, except your jumping was productive. These opportunities would be missed in Cancun, or wherever the hell the young and logically handicapped people go get herpes these days."

I smile, kill the last few bears, and my fingers come to a rest.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Some Assembly Required

"Hand me the wing-nut," I say to my stepfather.

I hand tighten the bolt as much as I can, giving the frame structure without permanence. This gives me the option to fix it later, in case we're reading the terrible instructions wrong. The television spits a news story about The President's surprise visit to the Middle East to talk to troops.

"Now we should put the arms on," he assesses.

"No, that's not the next step."

He doesn't really look at the instructions. He knows how this is supposed to look from the picture on the box, to rely on a piece of paper to tell him what to do is below him. Today he yields to me for perhaps the first time ever assembling anything together in the past 17 years. Then again, I'm only here because he couldn't figure out the instructions in the first place. Maybe he realizes that I know what I'm doing.

This victory is small, but just as delicious as any other would be. Nearly every other conflict over the past two decades has ended with neither of us talking to one another for days, and occasionally the harsh confrontation that boils down to his lack of a job versus my disorganized room. I savor this triumph, and get back to the task at hand.

We start to assemble the main basin, burners, and electronic ignition. The living room is a silly place to build a grill. It's his comfort zone, and the only room he's used to anymore. It makes sense, in a way. Had I started the project, it would be outside from start to finish, and christened with a marinated try of caramelized veggies on a stick.

Maybe we're just opposite ends of the spectrum. I'm the young, well educated one and he's the old, stubborn one. I shouldn't expect someone to change their ways when they've had them set since before I existed. It doesn't mean that their ways are right, but it does mean that those ways have become correct for the daily behavior. The same way that "incorrect" and "wrong" aren't the same. To say it's wrong to drown kittens would be that it's morally unethical. TO say it's incorrect to drown kittens would be to say that you're better suffocating them, or lighting them on fire.

Today I am both right and correct, and I love every second of it.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ever been stabbed?

I haven't been stabbed by anyone other than myself either, don't feel bad, reader. You're not alone. I do recommend being more careful next time you need to open something, or modify a power cable, or split a CD in half, or whatever the case may be. Besides the pain, you could wind up with tetanus. That wouldn't be much fun. I've never had that one either, but I'm told it's bad.

I - like millions of Americans - have no health coverage. Supposedly there's some kind of bill that might change that down the line, but there's been no news coverage about it whatsoever. I can't even find "health care" as a search topic in Google. I don't know if this problem will ever be addressed. I can tell you though that I'm one of the lucky ones in the multi-million citizen fail rate of the country. My health is generally perfect, if you don't consider family history at all.

I've never had major surgery, though I've had things taken out of me. I've never broken a bone, though there's a fantastic chance that I broke my ankle a few years back and set it myself. I've never dislocated anything, but I'm mostly sure that there's a nerve pinched in my left elbow from when I jumped over a fence and landed poorly. I've never had cancer, heart problems, or lung disease as of yet. I don't even wear glasses, though both parents do. I might need to soon, but that's only to break even with an insurance company. I pay them to keep me healthy, the very least I can do is get my money's worth, when I start giving them money.

I don't see why someone would need health insurance with a medical history like mine, it seems like I'm death-proofed now. Nothing can bring me down, I don't want to pay someone else to convince me that there's something wrong with me. I'm fine! You're the broken one!

And that's why the dinosaurs died out. They had no health insurance.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

We all got left behind, we let it all slip away.

As promised, I now finish my discussion of disposable media.


This was a difficult task at first, until I realized a few very important things. Not only is a Gamecube a small system (built for being brought as a party favor), but the games came on Minidisk. They're tiny, and easily deposited into a minidisk case. As such, none were left behind (I only own seven to begin with, making things easier). The Playstation 2 games were much more difficult. I left behind Final Fantasy X2, The Sims, Kingdom Hearts, and Unreal Tournament. I'm yet to pack PS1 games, but in the event I do, only King's Field, Martian Gothic, Dragonseeds, and ReBoot will be left behind. All NES games will stay (besides Punch Out!!, one of my favorite games of all time).

I'm not abandoning classics, not really. FFX2 was mostly a marketing experiment that shouldn't've ever seen the light of day. There were a lot of cool things in it, but the whole thing reeked of spin off. The game should've been marketed as a stand-alone, with a new world and new characters. It would've done better, and not tarnished the reputation of an otherwise very good game. Whatever people say about Final Fantasy X, I will defend it better than they will bash it. I can't do that for FFX2. The Sims is an art project. Chuck Klosterman said in Sex, Drugs and Cocoa-Puffs something to the effect of "people playing a game about watching their lives while they play games." I don't play games to get surreal, I play to get rid of realism when I can help it.

Kingdom Hearts is another great game, but I'm not so big on showing constant love for Squeenix. They've failed in the past (see FFX2, most FFVII spin-offs, and most early games), and they know it. Kingdom Hearts isn't a failure (though Chain of Memories was), but it isn't vital enough to my personality. I haven't played it in three years or more, and I don't feel I'm missing all that much. I know what happens now, the grinding wasn't all that great, and the novelty of playing with Disney characters wore off within a half hour of playing the game. There's nothing there for me now. Unrelated, Unreal Tournament was only good for the PC. Getting it for the PS2 was an impulse buy from the used bin. Still one of the only FPS' I will play (besides Portal and Metroid Prime Hunters), but this version is nothing worth holding onto.

The average reader won't know three of the four PS1 games mentioned, and this might not be a bad thing. They were all pretty kickass in theory, but execution killed them. King's Field is a first-person hack and slash that was actually too good for the PS1's engine to handle. I played it recently on an emulator (since my PS1 decided to commit ritual suicide) and the enhanced frame-rate made the game actually playable... but it didn't help. The game was overly difficult, too advanced for the system it was on, and generally moody. Martian Gothic is a generic horror/survival in a haunted house in space. Scared the bejezus out of me when I was a kid, but now it's just cheesy in a bad way.

Dragonseeds was a cool game with a fun premise. You bred test-tube baby dragons to fight against one another in tournaments. They were given weapons, and told to fight to the death against one another. There was no other gameplay besides breeding, fighting, and shopping. What made it awesome was the combat system (preprogrammed moves, trying to foresee the opponent's moves for two turns) and the "wild" dragon area. The game would read the data from your memory cards and generate a random dragon based on what game info you had there... from other games. It's like an own-able MGS moment.

ReBoot was a show in the 90's that took place inside a computer and was made in Canada. The show was amazing. The game came out towards the end of the show's lifetime. It's a piece of shit. The controls are terrible, the motion is difficult without any momentum breakers (you're on Bob's hover-board... he can't seem to walk at all, and you need to pull back to slow down and stop), and the targeting makes me want to hang Bob with my controller cable. The game should've been good, and if the player could walk/lock on, then it would've been. Instead it's unplayable, and only makes for a nice conversation piece.

"Oh writer, how could you abandon those NES games?! I thought you were a real gamer!" Oh dear reader, how narrow minded of you. The old NES games were mostly fun, and it's credited as the system that brought video games to the forefront of home entertainment... but that doesn't make them good. I love the original Mario/Duck Hunt, and Contra. And even Dragon Warrior. I played them all until my controller wore out, and then I went to the spare. I don't care that I'm leaving them behind anyway, because they've all been rendered obsolete. Super Mario Bros. has been done so many times after that it could only get better. Super Mario Bros 3 is far superior, and Super Mario World surpassed that too. Then others came out down the line that were equally awesome, but for systems I'm going to keep, like the DS. My NES is in pieces right now, and I don't own a light gun. Why should I hold on to things that literally are unplayable? Besides that, Ikari Warriors sucks.


This was the hardest of them all, as my readers know. I love books, and in a way they become a measure of my progress as a thinking person. They aren't all/mostly intellectual, but they can't all come with me. It's unrealistic. So a small section of the stuff that was left behind includes most of Shakespeare's work, Pet Sematary, the Lord of the Rings books (including Hobbit), Something Wicked This Way Comes, the Harry Potter series, and most of my Calvin and Hobbes collections.

I don't mind leaving behind Shakespeare so much, he's public domain. I can look him up anywhere and print his work out for my leisure for free. I left behind Measure for Measure, The Tempest, a version of Othello, Antony and Cleopatra, All's Well that Ends Well, Much Ado About Nothing, Coriolanus, and Cymbelline. That said, I kept the other half of the Shakespeare I owned. At one point I was strongly considering becoming a literature major with a supreme concentration in Shakespeare's work. Then I realized it's silly, when he's been dead for centuries. I'd rather study things that are still alive and fresh, rather than trying to breathe fresh life into the dead. I don't love his work any less (though I know many can't stand him), but I don't think it matters that much to have every obscure play he's done. Coriolanus is a fine example of a steaming lump of yesterday's supper that The Bard emitted to pay his bills when he got old. It happens sometimes.

I don't like Stephen King's written work for the most part. He's a wonderful storyteller, and I respect him greatly, but his style of writing is too poppy for my taste. He can create a character's snapshot perfectly in three sentences (usually to kill them a page later), and his stories are beyond words. I just hate his stuff when it's written, and not filmed. Pet Sematary is one of three exceptions so far (the other two being Green Mile and On Writing, the later of which was kept). I loved this story, and the writing was passable because of the build. It's not that I'm a zombie buff, or that I love twisted takes on innocence being distorted. The characters grabbed me better than nearly any other pop-lit novel has, and the story came together perfectly. Why's it getting left behind? I've got somewhere around 400 books, and I can only afford the space for (maybe) 75 of them. This gets left behind in favor of something more vital.

Tolkien is another man I respect greatly, but not for his writing. Tolkien was an amazing linguist, and a man of great conviction to his faith. He's probably the most popular Christian author anyone is likely to read, and most people don't even realize it. I respect anyone who can mix their faith with their personal hobbies (the study of folklore and mythology was a major theme in his life, obviously) and make something enduring. Of all the things Tolkien was, he was NOT a writer. He created the Lord of the Rings series to give his languages a home. Elvish is a fully fleshed language, and LotR exists for it. Not the other way around. The stories have terrible pacing, the characters are mostly bland, and it offers little else besides beautiful shots of being lost in the woods. Just like a certain book later in this list thing. If I wanted to wander in the woods, I'd go do it in reality.

Ray Bradbury's brilliant, but Something Wicked... isn't one of my favorites from him. The evil carnival motif is cool at first, but the entire first quarter of the book is "OMINOUS OMINOUS AND DARK," without any plot development. Cool atmosphere, bad build. Fahrenheit 451 wins instead.

Harry Potter's a lot of fun after the first two children's books. The series really starts at the third novel, with extended backstory. I do like the series greatly, and perhaps if it wasn't so over-saturated in today's culture, I'd bring them with me. I don't really need to though, this shit's everywhere. A few years ago I couldn't look anywhere without seeing something relating to the boy that lived. As the series progressed it got darker, and the writing got more mature. By book 7, Rowlnig took a turn for the Tolkien, wasting half the book wandering in the woods. I actually stopped reading this book for a few weeks because I couldn't get out of the fucking woods. I began to suspect that Voldemort was hiding inside a goddamned tree. This series, while wonderful, is also largely unoriginal. Nearly all aspects - while used creatively - are drawn from most of the same sources Tolkien used. If I owned it in paperback and it wasn't so common, I might consider braving the extra weight. It isn't, so I won't bring it.

Calvin and Hobbes has a very special place in my heart, it was the first comic I really got attached to. Bill Watterson is one of my heroes, and when I was doing a comic strip column for Serpentine Magazine I referenced him frequently. He was my first exposure to many fantastic concepts that I wouldn't've cared about otherwise. He gave some of the best dialogue I've ever seen. He presented the option of imagination. In nearly every way, Watterson shaped me - in some part - into who I am now. As such, I own 10 of the collections. I only have the space for one or two. I still haven't decided which I will keep.

There are hundreds of other books left behind too, including things I got for class and novels I really enjoyed when I was younger. They're innocent victims of circumstance mostly, but circumstance is really all that matters. A man fishing is fine in most cases, unless he's catching endangered fish. Then he's become a felon. These aren't really all disposable, but they must all be disposed of.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Rover. Wanderer. Nomad. Vagabond. Call me what you will...

This was supposed to be about the new Health Care bill, but I realized that I'm not a political writer, and to be perfectly honest, I don't feel it's my place to talk about it just yet. It wouldn't be in my writing's spirit.

Then I considered writing about academia, and why I feel that all teachers should be field tested, but in essence I've already done that.

I then considered writing about my feelings for the status of the DSi, and how I feel about the current assortment of downloadable games (and how few of them actually matter), but instead I decided to shave my mustache. While doing this I realized that I'd rather right about disposable media.

This isn't in the sense that all media is disposable, as "disposable" doesn't have the standard definition in this context. Disposable Media is that which is inconsequential or a passing fancy. I've got a lot of this, most of which that you, my dear reader, will disagree with. Here's a small sampling of things I've deemed DM.


This was the easiest, as I don't really watch very much to begin with. Most notable are the Saw films, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Happy Tree Friends (Season 1), Clerks, Sean of the Dead, and Labyrinth.

TMNT and Labyrinth have a special place in my heart, having grown up with them both practically on loop. I actually burnt out the cassette for Labyrinth. They're examples on this list of films that only hold sentimental value because they were there while I was a child. Neither of them are very good, but both are somewhat memorable. Besides seeing my childhood heroes brought to life through huge suits, TMNT has nothing special about it. Labyrinth has some creative sets and interesting lines, but besides being a generic fantasy with muppets, there's nothing that really forces this DVD into my box of things worth salvaging in the event of a impromptu move to Belgium (not that I'd move there, but they make a fantastic example).

The other films on this list - especially Sean of the Dead and Clerks - are still fantastic films. Sean of the Dead is one of my favorite comedies/zombie movies of all time. My issue/reason to abandon them is that neither are significantly worth the space when compared to the Neverender: Children of the Fence box set, or the first two seasons of Metalocalypse. Just because something's amazing doesn't mean that it's worth making an active part of your life.


This one's much more tricky, as someone that takes great pride in being able to name probably more bands than you, along with singles and (in some cases) who produced which albums. That said, I've trimmed from about 300 albums down to about 50 (I don't want to count, it'll break my heart). I left behind entire discographies on compact disk. Some of them are no-brainers, like the early Limp Bizkit and Creed, but others took more thought and nearly caused me physical discomfort.

That said, the most notable albums or discographies I'm leaving behind are all Metallica, Otep, Mudvayne, and Taproot albums. Also included of note are Steve Vai's The Elusive Light and Sound Vol. 1 (though typing it made me rip the disk to my Zune, having had very good memories with it), Eric Hutchinson's That Could've Gone Better, Billy Joel's Storm Front, and Black Sabbath's Paranoid.

Metallica and Taproot are wonderful examples of what I used to be, ten years ago. I was angst ridden and fancied myself much less than I should've at the time. While both bands have their own merits (Metallica is a genuinely amazing band, and Taproot grew so much as musicians over the span of three albums that they should be commended, and might've actually earned the record deal by now), neither of them really matter to me in the way that they used to. My musical tastes have changed so much that while I can still appreciate them, I don't in a way that binds them to my life. Taproot actually has more songs I still identify with, oddly enough, and they've a very special spot in my mobile media device. Unfortunately they take too much space in my box o' stuff.

Otep and Mudvayne are also examples of things I grew out of, but both came later. Both are well educated in the lyrics and messages (contrary to popular belief), but neither really show the side of me that I want my music to show. I'm not that angry a person anymore, and while the sophisticated approaches still fit my views of the world in many cases, I don't really care enough in this way to save them. I don't love them any less, but I don't love them enough to salvage them should I need to restructure and redesign my life.

The individual albums hurt more. Steve Vai was playing in my ears when I was put under sedation to have surgery in high school. Morphine and Vai together are pretty fucking amazing. This album isn't even all that special, it's the work he's done for movies... but he's so good that even this crap is goddamn glourious. Hutch is an old favorite, and before he got signed he was amazing. I bought this album from him personally, and it shows his ability as a songwriter better than anything he's done since he got his record deal. Ironically, he has a live album (worth saving) called Before I Sold Out. I miss his sense of humor, before he turned into a packaged commodity. His work is still worth listening to, but the original album didn't make the cut like the live one did. And the studio one is comparative shit.

Joel's album sucks when looking at his real body of work. This is no huge loss besides one song of note ("Downeaster Alexia"). Paranoid hurts a lot, it's one of the albums that got me into music in the first place. With enough elements of blues to keep me listening despite folk upbringing, it made me smile and helped inspire me to play guitar. It's one of the first albums classified as "metal." That's pretty badass. Why am I leaving it? The songs are imprinted into my brain, and I can play them all note for note on guitar besides solos for personal reasons. They're getting left behind because they're so amazing that they don't need to stay with me. Besides that, I held on to We Sold Our Souls for Rock and Roll, which has half the album on it anyway.

This is already a pretty epic blog. I'll finish it tomorrow (not Sunday) to conclude with Games and Books. You can guess which one will dominate that post.

Monday, March 22, 2010

On Religion.

I know it's a half hour late. Sorry.

I'm a deist by choice, but its' a choice I came to through logic. I was originally born and baptized Lutheran, but my mother and her husband decided it was much more fashionable to convert me to Catholicism when I was in second grade. They didn't think it was fair that I should feel left out while all the other kids made their first communion. Time went on, I was confirmed in seventh grade. This is about the time I stopped believing.

There were a lot of things that drove me away from Catholicism (and really all Christianity), but the biggest was the realization that a priest has amnesty from the law in the name of God, with the backing of The Church. The Capital-C has the power to keep their folks out of jail, regardless of what laws they break and which sins they confess to one another. Not all clergy are guilty of the grandiose atrocities that Capital-C is getting well known for, but the ones that are there aren't being punished for what they've done. Just like when a cop goes corrupt, they don't usually get reprimanded for it unless it's against another cop. If a priest sodomizes another priest, I'd imagine they'd get punished. Altar boys though? Who gives a shit? For the record, I was never an altar boy, nor was I ever raped. It's not that personal. I just hate rapists of any/all sort.

Further issues with Capital-C arose when I noticed that it was essentially doing the same thing that many government officials attempt, in collecting money from the folks that don't have any to subsist. I probably wouldn't mind so much if the community was funded entirely from the well to do, but we're not all rich. My family isn't, I sure as hell am not. If a buck is all I could afford to toss into the green bucket, that's about all that I could afford. I shouldn't get dirty looks for the absence of it.

Capital-C really pushed me off edge when we were being taught sex-ed in my grade school. The private school didn't really say very much about sex except that you shouldn't do it until you're married. Then they showed us a head-on video of a woman giving birth, to ensure all boners were killed. They didn't talk about condoms, or STDs, or much of anything else. The teachers didn't know that a decent chunk of their class was already playing with the beginnings of it, even if no one'd bumped uglies yet. I was too much of a wholesome nerd to do any of it yet, but I knew so many that were. Funny how the double standards bite you in the balls.

In high school I decided to be an atheist, but only because I didn't know what other options there were. I studied as many others as I could - looked into Buddhism, Judaism, various nature faiths - but nothing really made sense to me. All the doctrine was essentially the same, even if the zeal fluctuated between them. I pulled the word "agnostic" out of Donnie Darko, really liking the gray area between blind faith and cognitive thought. I kept this claim well into the start of college.

After two years of college, I decided that some sort of cosmic power had to exist. I didn't decide because of some stellar event, or because I watched a baby get born (a second time), or because I prayed at random and it came true. Prayers only come true if you fight for them, just like wishes.

I knew people who were overseas fighting for our right to oil, and some had actually died. I knew people who were raped, and couldn't get vengeance for them. I knew people who were psychologically abused to the point where they'd do anything on behalf of their mental captors, Stockholm syndrome taking root. My brother was born with a rare heart defect, the same one that killed my uncle as an infant. Family members have floated in and out of rehab and alcoholics anonymous, and I've heard stories so unflattering about my fore bearers that I was nearly ashamed to claim membership in my family house. Yet despite all of these things, flowers still grow. Babies are still born, children are still innocent and beautiful in their natural curiosity. People still find love, and grow old together. Music capable of pulling people back from suicide is written, and people still take solace in knowing that they are never alone.

While the world is bleak, there is still beauty in it. While we all suffer, there is still something to redeem us and bring reason to life.

I can't believe it's a coincidence, regardless of whatever else I'm capable of believing. I don't feel that any human should have the right to control others with brainwashing in the name of faith. I'm not going to hell because I had a bacon-cheeseburger on Friday in lent with some shellfish on the side. I'm not going to burn for eternity because I support same sex marriage, or because I believe that all people should have the ability to have an abortion, whether they exercise it or not.

I'm a deist because of you.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Timbre and You: Loving Your Meta

Keyboards are awesome, but not always amazing. I've got an old Yamaha (PSR-6) that I've been practicing at home on for my piano class at school. There's a number of things I could say about that, but the class itself isn't important. What is important however is the music that's coming from it, and the skills that will stick.

I was classically trained in guitar through most of high school, for those who didn't know. I still play from time to time, though nowhere near as formally as I used to. I was as likely to shift from Bach into Judas Priest as most guido-clones are to wear too much body spray because the commercials said it'll get their dicks wet. These days I still perform finger style from time to time, but seldom do I ever break out the baroque.

The only thing these have in common is the beauty of musical expression. Even if not for the differences between instrument quality (my Rodriguez classical is much like a grand piano would be) and the enormous differences in skill level, I feel like my guitars speak much more clearly what is on my mind. My psychological timbre is that of a plucked, strum, and muted string - not that of one hit by a hammer.

I think everyone has a sound that their insides resonate with. Not the frequency that your body is, but the actual noises that best represent everyone they become part of. The scientific minded individual is closer to that of a synthesizer. Not because it's techno and they're a robot, or some other base concept. Because it's organized, comes as a control, and can be manipulated and experimented with until the desired outcome rises. The variables come in the pitch and volume, but the tone is universal. If you use square waves, you will have the sound of square. It will be distinct, known, and replicated on any other synth. This uniformity doesn't exist with many other instruments.

Some personalities are harder to place, but that doesn't mean they have no inner voice. Some might be sampled sounds, or perhaps a vibraphone. Maybe a theramin or glockenspiel. Maybe Charlie Brown's parents did sound like brass, it's impossible to tell. I am certain though that I am a guitar, and I'm happy to have realized it. No matter how wonderful pianos are - and they really are quite wonderful - they will never be me. Even when I can play them.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Games filler rant!

Post number 70 is a throw away. Why? Because I have other things that are more pressing. I'll edit this with a proper post after I'm finished with my midterm, work, meetings, and getting an incomplete class fixed tomorrow.

Also; Nintendo needs to step up their game for the downloadable games. PSN's got a pretty awesome lineup. Granted, Nintendo's also much less expensive in many cases, but the quality of games is vastly different. Even just looking at the family friendly things, like puzzlers, Sony's finally matched Nintendo. Never thought the day would come.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Art. Lofty... artness.

If today was any precedent for the rest of the week, this is going to be a very productive seven days, despite the mysteriously vanished hour last night.

For any readers outside of the NYC area, we had a very, very severe storm yesterday that seems to have ended now. It destroyed houses, power lines, cars, and a number of other things with the help of local trees. Needless to say, I'd have to be insane or stupid to go outside for it.

Today was wasted at this computer for the most part, but not in small ways. I got a lot done in Photoshop, and even more done with my Zune. The problem with any software transition is that not all data carries over. When I switched from Windows Media Player to Zune, some things were lost in the transition. Nothing major, only track numbers, album art, and certain albums were spaced into dozens of separate album listings for each track. I didn't fix all of these, but I fixed enough to make my browsing easier. Certain albums don't have cover art either, but that's where Photoshop comes in.

I learned how to use Photoshop in 2003 on Photoshop 7. I'm using a slightly out of date version now, but I didn't stop experimenting after my high school classes ran out. I designed three album covers today, reworked a piece I made for the magazine into a stand alone print, and created a poster for my brother (his concept, my ability). It worked out well.

It worked out so well that I've decided I'm going to try to get ten solid pieces that I'm happy with and try my hand with print sales. Obviously it's not going to be a real money maker, but it's something nice for the side if other people end up liking my work too. I'm also going to see if my friends in Not From Concentrate (a local ska band, check them out) are interested in the cover I did for their EP. If nothing else, they can always use the help until they get signed.

Musically, I started arranging "Sasasan Katamari" for a guitar ensemble. That won't be done for a while. Fun project though.

Also started on a new project, with another few to be kicked off this week. Going to be a good few weeks. I'll fill anyone interested in on the other projects down the line.

Also, like said two posts ago, I might be changing my format soon. More info to come sometime this week.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Empathy Depleted

Everyone's got a right to feel how they want, say what they want, and act how they want within the rights of other people. This doesn't mean that anyone should expect empathy, when that emotional resource has been exhausted. I firmly believe that all people are entitled to sympathy and empathy in moderation, but to practically exfoliate misery into a room for all to breathe no longer qualifies as the need for dry shoulders to cry into. I'm not one to throw salt in someone's eyes after they've been shanked in the gut, but to whine for days doesn't make it heal any faster.

I feel that all people should be capable of doing what is needed when it is needed, even if most don't. If someone is contracted to do a job, it does not matter what else is happening in their personal life. It should not effect their workplace performance. If this is a problem, there is no shame in bowing out and getting someone more stable in their stead. I do not say this to be cruel, I say it for more pragmatic reasons. If someone is suffering, they would most likely not want to do something that could be hazardous and only amplify the misery. The employer will notice the dip in performance, and it will likely only hit the victim with backlash beyond what they can handle at that time. Failure should never reverberate within someone's life in this way.

Beyond this, it's best to think of others when miserable. If the miserable one is an emotional projector - casting emotions onto others - then it's best to avoid the people they care about that can't help the state. It will only bring them misery too, and likely cause friction in otherwise well lubed friendships. Likewise, if they're an emotional receptor - easily influenced by the feelings of others - then it's best to be around people that can bring contentment. They will feel better about themselves, and all friends will know they helped out a loved one.

The true point lies in the length of time that one can wallow in self pity. I know people that've made it an art, perfecting it for a decade or longer. Sane, healthy people generally shouldn't for an extended period of time, depending on the situation. If someone has been forced into a situation that makes them grow up, the circumstances are unacceptable for an extended slant of sadness. No, it isn't pleasant. No, no one likes it when this sort of thing happens. Yes, it is actually a gift that karma threw at them. They should take it with open arms, this sort of thing doesn't happen often.

I hate when the banks of nonsense flood. I'm the one stuck cleaning silt from the surviving farmers.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Tuesday's Psychological Corkscrew

Hot shit, just inside my day's time window. Still Tuesday! This one's going to be a shorty, as it pertains to this blog.

Since I can't seem to regulate and harness my thoughts to repeat at set times and days, I'm considering removing the set posting schedule, and giving it one more malleable. This could limit it to one post a week (which is a lot less work on your part, reader), but I don't feel that's doing anyone a service. I could go back to a post a day, but then there's much more filler and fewer oddeseys into the things that life is made of (in my case, prog-rock, video games, and books by Grant Morrison are likely topics). I could swap it back a day in all cases, putting it at Monday/Wednesday/Friday, but there are so many things I'd rather be doing on a Friday night than writing about whatever I did that day that it would just be silly.

I've been considering this change for the past half hour or so, as I'm not really around a computer frequently enough to make sure I'll have a post at a set time for various days of the week. I could write my work in advance and post it later - it's a very good business practice, and I've done it before - but that requires too much time in one sitting when I could be doing something else that works as well. It's not a long period of consideration, so obviously it's not a matter of dire urgency.

I've been considering a number of other things lately. To cut my hair for the first time in ten years? To abandon all aspirations of writing or teaching and take up a city job in Sanitation or some obscure office? Abandon everything I've come to believe in an become a priest, soldier, or criminal so an organization with much more money can take care of me?

There are benefits to all of these things, and oddly enough, all can work together. I could easily cut my hair to a common length, quit writing and reading alternative literature (which should be the proper term for science fiction, graphic novels, and horror novels that have literary redemption plastered between the covers), and join the Army. I'd be set for life, however long that turns out to be. I wouldn't have to ask any questions anymore. I'd never scrounge for bus money again.

I think I'd hate life though. I appreciate what soldiers do for our country, but I don't think I would ever become one by choice. I'm as capable of following orders within reason and completing my objectives as anyone else, but I have less interest in it than most. I couldn't do it. I respect the people that can more than most others living, but realistically I'm not one of them.

I could get a job wrangling wild 22 lb bright paper, my cubicle decorated with pictures of my family and all the things that remind me of who I could've been before giving my life up, but realistically I wouldn't work out there for the same reason above. I have no interest, and I would fail. Besides that, I'd get better treatment, benefits, and food from the Army in that case.

My insecurity about the future might be the reason why I need to change the posting schedule. That's actually a lie, but I wanted some clever way to wrap it up without sounding like this became a tangent post.

Wish I made money off this stuff. With the whopping 22 clicks on average in, I'd be raking in the pennies.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Anger equates to an empty cup.

Part of being successful in life is choosing the appropriate responses to everyday events.

Earlier I was with some friends to see Alice in Wonderland. Before the movie started, the woman sitting next to me spilled a liter of fruit punch all over my lap. I had some options to consider, but rather than punching her in the face, getting upset, or demanding anything, I calmly removed all electronics from that side of my body, stood up, and went to the bathroom. She apologized profusely, and I'm told that while I was gone she continued and feared that I'd be angry with her.

I had every right to be upset, but I wasn't. It was an accident. It sucks that it happened, but if I'd raged at her it wouldn't've dried my pants. I was uncomfortable for a decent chunk of the movie, my pants are stained slightly red across the right side, and I was sticky after. This isn't worth getting angry over, because it wasn't her intent. With the prices that the local movie theater charges, it wouldn't be anyone's intent to waste a full cup of liquid. That's more than five dollars worth of drink, now undrinkable.

Conversely, I do get annoyed when people are short with me. Especially once they say "whatever." To me, a "whatever" translates to "I'd tell you to fuck yourself, but I don't really care enough to put the effort out." It's one of the bigger signs of disrespect towards me. In this case, I still pushed the olive branch out after the "whatever," and was greeted with short half answers. I don't mind that people can be moody sometimes, or that someone's entitled to say and do what they want. However, when it stems from something that I've already tried helping with (literally) dozens of times, I don't appreciate being snubbed.

When possible, conflicts like this should be avoided. They're silly, and do not amount to any productive sum. They aren't always possible to avoid (especially when they stem from selfishness being passed off as abandonment), but in all other cases they should be steered around like a moose on the freeway. You will not win should you collide. The moose will possibly walk away to stand in the road, blocking other cars down the line, but you will be totaled.

Don't get angry over silly things, but also avoid the moose. It's a trap.

Friday, March 5, 2010

The Juggernaut, Bitch.

I don't speak ill of most avid fans of various things, because I know that I'm a fanboy myself. Not of very many things, but the fact doesn't change.

The biggest/most obvious thing is Coheed and Cambria. I've seen them something like ten times live, I own all albums, the Neverender: Children of the Fence special set, both mass produced live DVDs, the fourth album on vinyl, and a number of shirts and posters. My copy of Good Apollo Vol. 1 is signed by the whole band (old drummer, not Chris). I own the comics that explain the story... all of them, even the ones out of print for the last four years. I have no shame in enjoying this band so much, and I don't feel I should. I love the music, the attempt at a story rubs my geek glands in an appealing way, and the live show are usually more brutal than heavier acts and other genres of music. I have no reason not to love them.

Unlike most other fanboys, I'm not blinded by how much I adore them and their music to see when something isn't good. While I hold that there's no such thing as a bad Coheed show, there are bad shows for Coheed. I've been to shows that weren't as good performance wise, and the crowd definitely noticed. There's one song on the earlier albums that I don't like. Just one. It's not a bad song, but it's too pop-hooky for me. I'm not deluded into thinking that Claudio Sanchez shits gold bricks with platinum crusting on the outside, whether or not it seems that way sometimes.

They have a new album coming out soon, Year of the Black Rainbow. The title's a bit lame, but so far the songs are amazing. They've decided to present a viral press-drumming by releasing various things at the end of 20 timers counting down days, hours, et cetra. Five have hit their goals, two of them songs from the new album.

"The Broken" is a bottom heavy, straight forward song that has a very heavy feel to it. Some lyrics go beyond the plot's limitations and actually reach out like a song is supposed to. Most of their work does, but sometimes it comes out forced for the melodies. "The Broken" has a few lovely lines that I'll probably bastardize down the line and turn into tag lines and titles for posts. The song has a weird balance of shredding faded into the background and hook melody to ensure it's stuck in your head. The song is catchy, made me smile, and sets a nice precedent for the rest of the album.

"Here We Are Juggernaut" is the official single for this album, even though "The Broken" could've easily stood on it's own. "Juggernaut" is a conglomeration of the Second Stage Turbine Blade and In Keeping Secrets of Silent Earth: 3 albums, along with a fat bass sound reminiscent of late Smashing Pumpkins songs. It features some of the lowest vocals Claudio Sanchez has ever recorded, likely a side effect of age and smoking.

"Juggernaut" is a good song, but it hasn't really grown on me yet. Granted, it's only been out for five hours, but usually I go ape-shit by now. I love the IKSSE3 lead work for the choruses, and the SSTB breakdowns between verses. I dig the bass sound, and the drums seem tastefully bland besides Chris Penne's amazing kick drums and tom roll leads. I don't think it's really hit me yet, maybe. Maybe the blend of awesome parts is just too strange to be easily absorbed. That's probably bad (sales wise) but it shows a lot of artistic integrity to release something that's as likely to not be well received as the lead single. Especially when it's already known that you have other songs that would be better as singles. Then again, they did this with the last album too.

"The Running Free" is my least favorite song on No World For Tomorrow. My two favorites were both performed before the album's single was ever picked, and those live leaks gave them huge acclaim. "Mother Superior" and "Gravemakers and Gunslingers" are both much better choices for singles, but "Running Free" got picked instead. Worst song on the album, even though it's still a good song. Same way that "Blood Red Summer" was somehow a single, when it's the only song from them I can't really enjoy. Still a good song, but it's not good for a Coheed song. Like the whole album St. Anger was to Metallica. Actually, the entire decade of the 90's for Metallica barring S&M (because live albums with orchestras are automatically exempt from suck).

So maybe Juggernaut will grow on me. I hope so, there's too much cool shit going on for me not to enjoy it eventually. It just doesn't feel like it had the guidance it should've.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Little People in Extended Metaphor

Right now I'm too sick to really do this. My eyes are closed, and I'm typing by touch. I'll edit it after. My head feels like there's an angry bearded dwarf hitting the side of my skull with a war-hammer over and over, as if I'll let him free soon.

Believe me, dwarf, if I could let you free, you'd be out in the world. I'd love nothing more than for you to get the hell out of my head. Your gold has plugged my sinuses up, and I can only imagine what foul liquid you're pouring from my head. Get out, now.

Realistically, if an angry dwarf were stuck in my skull, he wouldn't be able to come out whole. I would have to take him apart and pull him out bit by bit. Medicine isn't working to dismember him quickly enough, it's just pissing him off. His beard's rubbing the back of my throat, like one of Giger's aliens trying to french kiss a space marine.

I can only hope this dwarf suffocates himself soon.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Can't Fight the Future

“People they come together, people they fall apart. No one can stop us now. ‘Cause we are all made of stars.” - Moby

College has a funny way of taking you away from the things and people you love. Sometimes you're still present for them, but ultimately you're somewhere else mentally, and everyone notices. You don't realize it until much later, but by the time you're finished with your Associates, Bachelors, Masters, or Doctorate depending on personal preference, you are transfigured into a new person independent of who you were when you started.

In high school I used to love to tell stories in my writing, drawing fiction from reality in Star Wars storytelling forums online. I built fantasies around characters loosely based around who I was then. They were facets of the things I liked, aspired to be, and avoided ever becoming. I wrote about an evil mastermind that could shape-shift, but eventually realized he had a soul and shifted away from the Dark Side of the Force. I wrote about a survivalist in a post-apocalyptic environment, after God and Satan have both killed each other off, leaving Earth, Heaven, and Hell behind. I wrote short stories about romancing extra terrestrials as satire.

Now I write nonfiction. It's still wet and thick with detail when I can help it, but nonfiction only leaves so much room for fun. I've stretched out instants that take no more than three seconds in real time to a three page psychological odyssey, in which a mouse click becomes the most difficult thing in the world. I've painted vivid images of college arcades, capturing snippets of tournament gamers by their details to give an accurate account of their personalities. I've delved into the nature of things, described delusions and daydreams with more clarity than reality often brings, and earned readers' sympathies for characters that should have none for their actions.

I never used to write poetry, yet now the structure of verse seems almost comforting in a way.

None of this seems important to you now, and it really shouldn't. People change as they grow older, that's a side effect of existence. College is a catalyst, not an origin. The ways my writing has changed reflect the ways my own personality has changed. I'm not the same person I was last year, or the year before, or five years before that. I like who I am and what I've become, even if I don't like everything about it. I can look back at those years now and draw from them. The experiences, the sights, the people - they're all back story now. A proper base to build the character on for future developments and plot twists.

We're all works of fiction in our own ways, but acknowledging it at least gives ground for the plot. I don't know for certain when the back story stopped and my plot began. I don't know if I'm simply drawn from a writer's mind like my Sith Master was, or if I'm a blur of detail in an overarching piece. I don't know if I'm just trying to survive after God and Satan dueled to mutual demise. Maybe I'm a rhyming couplet at the end of a sonnet.

I do know for certain, however, that right now I like where the story is going. I like the narrative arc, and (assuming that I am the protagonist of the story) my antagonists are not without sympathetic traits. My characters are developed and complex, and I love them all. I'm proud of how my story's coming along.

We should all be proud of our stories.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Games I Obsess Over

Earlier a friend of mine went on a ten minute rant about why she loves World of Warcraft. Her points were all valid and the sort made by fan-children of that game. I don't bash World of Warcraft, even if I do occasionally poke fun at it. All gamers (and most people in general) have a game (or something else) that they obsess over. Most have many.

I've got a bunch. Most reflect various times in my life, but all are amazing games that you should play.

Without any order, my 11 favorite games:

Diablo II: This game is so good that I've recently put it back on my computer. The expansion pack (the only real way to have a complete game) came out in 2001. While it's somewhat pixelated compared to most modern games for the PC, it's aged much better than most games in it's time. I blame Blizzard, since they engineer electronic crack on a level beyond normal human consumption. The game is addictive, has extremely high replay value, and was in many ways a dark humor piece. If you read my blog, then you know I'm all over that kind of stuff.

Final Fantasy VII: My first major RPG is still one of my most memorable. I'm not as rabid a fanatic as many other fans of FFVII, but I do defend it for what it's worth. The graphics have aged like raw meat, story is full of holes, the main character is a stereotype for "generic-stoic-swordsman" that many RPGs have adopted since, and the game takes forever. That said, the graphics were amazing when it came out, the story (holes and all) is quite engaging, the characters are better developed than most video games (even if some are cheesy grabs at niche audiences), and the huge amount of play time only keeps you coming back. On top of all this, the music is fantastic.

Katamari Damacy: An art game, a stoner's daydream, a statement about consumerism - all are applicable labels for Katamari Damacy. The gameplay is simple and addictive (if you can push a ball, you can play this game). Plot synopsis: Your father - God - gets drunk and smashes all the stars in the sky. As his son, it's your job to fix it while he makes fun of you. You do this by taking a self contained quantum singularity and pushing it around on earth against objects. The ball gets bigger as you absorb objects. When it's big enough, your father turns it into a star. All the while he tells you it's tiny, because you are tiny, because he doesn't remember you're his kid in the later games. What a fucked up family.

Gex: Enter the Gecko: This is a sequel to another game I adore, but I remember this one much better. That just means that this one ate my life in late grade school and the beginning of high school. You play a Gecko that was sucked into the dimension of television to fight some metallic asshole that wants to kill you. As you play, you go through many popular movie genres and change costumes as you do. You use your tongue and tail (mostly for terrible puns) while you solve puzzles and die frequently. It made me very happy when I was younger, though when I look back I don't see as much appeal in this sequel as I did in the original. Still worth playing, but perhaps not as much as others on this list.

Gunbound: Oh Jesus. This game ate most of my senior year. That's not a bad thing though, there was a large group of my friends in this game as well. Ten or twelve of us would talk about it mostly in class, then go home and kick each others asses when we got in. It was a lot of fun, until people started hacking it and the host changed formats to only support Internet Explorer. The gist of it is that you're a kid in a tank/on an animal/riding a hovercraft/etc that has to kill everyone else on their vehicles by shooting at odd angles and compensating for the wind. It's very Korean-anime style, and cutesy for it. The game had some really hardcore players though. Worth the time if you're an IE user.

Gunstar Heroes: Best Genesis game ever. It's available on the Wii's Virtual Console. Go buy it if you can. There's some kind of rescue plot to save the world or some bullshit like that, but no one cares. The graphics were very polished, the gameplay was an addictive shooter/action (like Contra, but better. No, I didn't just blaspheme. It's truth), the music was catchy and well constructed, and the two-player mode was just as much fun as single player (the game is very difficult for only one person to beat in a timely manner). I still love the hell out of this game, and I always will.

The World Ends With You: This is the most recent, but it's earned it's spot. This game is the reason why I had screen protectors on my DS, and one of the few RPGs that made me actually wonder what the hell was happening. The story has some interesting metaphysical stuff going on, hooky music, and a unique combat system that will keep you frantically scratching at your screen until you finally get off a huge (two screens!) cinematic uber-death-fest attack with the two characters you're controlling independently working together. If that run-on sentence didn't sell you, consider that you're doing everything based entirely on collectible pins. The game's cool.

Starcraft: The RTS that's inspired most games since then. A lot of my friends play Warhammer 4000, but in many cases Starcraft was the game that got them into real time strategy in the first place. Personally, I started on the original Warcraft, but that's another story. Starcraft is probably the best balanced RTS that I've ever seen, and has enormous replay value. The game has changed competitively over time too, giving greater player interaction. The strategies I used five years ago (this game's expansion came out in 1999) no longer apply in online play. I was destroyed last time I played online in ways I didn't realize I could lose against. Another case of Blizzard pushing digital drugs onto an unsuspecting population.

Pokemon Blue: My little brother got Red, so I got Blue. As time went on I also got Yellow, Silver, Gold (Japanese) and "borrowed" his copy of Crystal. After that I didn't have a portable until the DS, and I'm waiting for Soul Silver for this generation. If you have no idea what I'm talking about, you should really pay more attention to pop culture phenomena.

I was absolutely obsessed with the original Pokemon games. I had 149 at one point, but the save was erased. I had a notebook dedicated entirely to being my personal "Pokedex." I had hand-drawn pictures of each pokemon in there. Looking back I was pathetic, but it was much better than going out and discovering how to knock girls up like other kids in my catholic school were. I suppose being a geek has it's perks.

MediEvil: You play an animate corpse. You were painted by history as a hero, when in reality you were killed by the first arrow in the first volley, shot through the eye. You've been brought back to set your place right, kill an evil sorcerer, and save the people of a country you only have a loose connection to anymore. The game is amazing, and has a lot of quirky humor to the writing. It's a must-play for any PlayStation owner/ePSXe user. I think it's available for the PSP now, go play it.

Bushido Blade
: A lot of people didn't like this game when it came out. Then again, a lot of people are fucking morons. Bushido Blade is one of the most realistic fighting games to ever exist, and I believe the best. There is no life bar, there are no super attacks and bullshit moves. Everything they do is based on swordplay, set styles, and the character builds. If you are stabbed in the head, you die. If you get slashed across a main artery, you die. If you deflect or there is a poor connection, you don't take serious damage. If your legs get bashed with a sledge hammer (yes, it's a playable weapon), you have to fight on your knees/crawling. There was a sequel, but it didn't do the series justice. It should be as enduring as Street Fighter and Tekken, but instead it's lost in the annals of the PlayStation back-catalog. If you've ever considered playing with a sword ever, you should play this game.