Sunday, January 31, 2010


There were a number of things I could've written about tonight, ranging from the common to the niche as the things common to me may not be to others. I could've wrote about the sudden rash of birthdays happening this time of year, but I suppose they happen all year round and I just never notice. I could've wrote about why relatively uninspired games are so addictive, but that perhaps comes simply from the necessity to alleviate boredom or risk brash stupidity. I could've wrote about the process of writing, but that is perhaps too postmodern for me tonight.

So rather than go into the fantastic detail about the way one selects words for best impact, or the way that Magic: The Gathering - Battlegrounds keeps pulling me back despite terrible controls, or the way that I'm slowly going broke from trying to make my friends feel loved, I will not write about anything.

Most people think of nothingness as the absence of matter and energy. It is, but also included should be the absence of thought and spirit. To believe that the physical world is all that exists is an appealing idea to many, but to me it seems absurd. Thoughts aren't physical, neither are emotions. They can have physical reactions in the owner, but they themselves are not something that you can touch or perceive physically. If you're the sort of person to believe that a god exists, then I suppose that would fall into this category as well. Same with a soul.

With this in mind, one can assume that nothingness might not exist. You can't perceive it, if you were to then you'd negate its existence. The mere action of being in the midst of nothingness fills it with a number of things, from the physical to the thoughts of its existence. You can't prove it exists, because proving it exists would undo its existence.

For this reason, nothingness could never become sentient. Should it ever realize what it was, it would instantly blink out of existence, or transfigure into a new being. Maybe that's how God/the gods/other primal natural force that created all came to be. It was an anomaly that realized it existed. If this thought process has any validity to it at all, it would suggest that God was nothing, but blinked itself into existence on its own.

If so, then what was the spark that pushed sentience? It had to have been something besides sheer will power, as nothingness has no will power. Nothingness has no distinguishing characteristics outside of nothing.

Some would argue then that just because nothingness can't be perceived doesn't mean it isn't there. They might argue that one cannot perceive the air, or the chemical reactions that make up a bottle of fizzy-pop (I just love that word). This is not true, as all physical and metaphysical things have an impact on the world around them, and can be known in this way. The gradual shift in my house's foundation will eventually sink it into the ground, but in the meantime it produces squeaks, knocks doors off of alignment, and a number of other things. The bacteria in the air could eventually try to colonize in my lungs, and produce an infection. Everything has an effect on everything else.

Then one could argue that we are nothingness' effect on the rest of the universe, in some backwards sort of way. This could be argued quite easily, but is disproven in the fact that if there is a rest of the universe, then nothingness isn't there. The fact that we are not part of nothingness makes us there, and in this way gives a relationship to nothingness. It shows that we are not nothing.

So when you feel depressed that nothing is going as you planned it to, you can take solice in the fact that you perhaps are going as nothing planned too.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Falaffel and the Oral Orgasm.

I realized earlier today that my readership is either much higher than I'd originally thought or is inaccurate. Perhaps it's deathly accurate, and I'm only talking to each of the individuals in person or elsewhere. It's good to know. Whichever the case, feedback is always amazing. Please reader(s), feel inclined to leave some in some way. You won't be trolling if you go off tangent, nor will you be ignored. I reply to just about everything anyone ever says to me (until the natural end of the conversation, naturally), and I try not to just say "Thanks for commenting!" which would be pointless.

Now that that bit's over, a quick attempt at a long ago promised post. Names have been changed.


We walked through St. Mark's Place in Manhattan, the seven of us. Myself, John, Ivan, Calvin, Sylvia, Caitlin and my love had made our way from the ferry, getting off the train near NYU. I've never been a very good New Yorker, despite living here my whole life. I only recently discovered St. Mark's (as both a street and location) the week before, going to SingSing for a friend's birthday party. On the way there I'd been thoroughly lost, wandering half a mile in the wrong direction, into the heart of NYU. John and Ivan came to this area frequently though, effectively saving my sense of direction.

Our quest was simple: Mamoun's Falaffel. Another friend - who ironically was unable to make it - wanted to try them in an effort to get back to middle-eastern heritage through the stomach. I'd never tried falaffel before, though I'd heard amazing things about it. I knew it somehow involved chick-peas, but that was about it.

The busy street was apparently the center of Grenwich Village, though I'd never been able to go when I was younger. My parents were thoroughly terrified of The Village from when they were younger. They remembered the 70's and 80's, and remembered this area as a den of homosexuality and stabbings. I don't think they realized that thirty years is a long time for an area to change. I saw very little of either while there.

We passed a sex shop and a bar to our right, shortly there after hitting Mamoun's. The restaurant was literally half a basement, with a short set of stairs leading down to the two store fronts that sat under the building. In front was a small patio area with two tables under an awning with a plate-glass window backdrop. If one wasn't paying attention, one could completely pass it without ever knowing its existence.

The ladies in our group almost stereotypically splintered off to hunt a rest room at one of the local places, so the four remaining went inside.

It was narrow and poorly lit. The smell of fresh hummus and oil assaulted us as we opened the door. At the far end of the shaft of a room was the kitchen, counter, and the start of a very long line. The air was much warmer than the winter-bite outside, and music written in sliding keys created an authentic atmosphere. There were three very full tables to the side, almost taunting the line with the promise of deliciousness.

After a surprisingly short wait we were all loaded up with inexpensive chick-pea variants and sliced bits of lamb and pita with no place besides the patio free.

I got a shawarma (similar to a gyro, but the sauce is creamier and lacks the sweetness of a cucumber) and a side order of falaffel. Apparently they're meatballs made of chick-pea instead of beef. A mango juice eventually found its way to my side as well. Shawarma was quite tasty, but very different from how it was described to me ("It's a Middle-Eastern gyro," someone said). Should you ever have one, know that it is nothing like a gyro outside of being a flat bread with lamb.

Then I finally tried falaffel.

I went in for another order after the three in the side order were finished. I also got some to bring home and eat the next day for lunch.

I'm not fully sold on Middle Eastern food, but I went back again the next week. I've often contemplated going back on a more regular basis, but the commute probably isn't worth it from my house. I have found myself making excuses whenever I'm in Manhattan to try to go there though.

The group fully met up again and went home, none of the ladies really liking chick-peas and finding themselves far more interested in the street merchants. It's almost a bad joke how the stereotypes were embraced that night.

I'm sure this probably reads like an advertisement now. I don't care, the amazing that this evening was had to be shared. If you ever go to The Village, try them. They're probably considerably more healthy than all the terrible food you could've got elsewhere for twice the cost.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Voyeurism doesn't work in society.

The things love can make people and groups do is amazing. This isn't just love for individuals, but love for anyone and everyone. Sometimes the drive to do great things for others is there all along, but it needs a push. Sometimes this love is masked in selfishness and promotion, but in truth, a kind deed is done in kindness.

A table for Alex's Lemonade Stand at Ubercon isn't there by accident, nor is it placed there as a gimmick. It's a genuine attempt to give back to an organization that helps a cause that needs helping. Childhood cancer is terrible, and even if it's a dollar a glass (or at least that's what I put in, it was supposedly less), it's not really about the lemonade. No one likes lemonade, let alone potentially expensive lemonade. It's the cause that matters, and that's what prevails.

A Boy Scout troop that stands outside of Pathmark for a day collecting boxes and cans is not doing it to promote scouting, even if that's an occasional side effect. It's an attempt to do right by the hungry in the community. Sometimes the younger scouts are annoying and fail in asking politely, but even the 11 year old that practically begs for you to give that can of beans is still doing something for the community.

The Comic Book Legal Defense Fund (CBLDF) goes out of its way to provide support to comic authors and artists when their rights as artists come under fire. They don't need to gather support for the artists, and it doesn't matter that most of them are in the industry themselves. It doesn't change the fact that they're defending the first amendment rights on behalf of all people, even if the opportunity only presents itself in a graphic literature context.

People need to do more, and we can all start in small ways. Volunteer for community outreach things, read a story to some kids in school. Donate to the Salvation Army when. Do something with PETA if you're into that sort of thing. Take a stance of defiance against injustice. Pick a cause and stick with it until it's either strong enough to stand on its own or until you can't anymore. The only way that anything will ever change is if enough people try to change it. Lobby for a cause you believe in. Don't be afraid to peacefully protest if you hate something.

If the population fought for positive change, then the world wouldn't be as scary a place anymore.

Further references:

Dear Zachary

Rock For Reading
Martin Luther King Jr.'s final speech
Alex's Lemonade Stand

Monday, January 25, 2010

For all of you!

I will now be posting every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday.

Besides obligations in my weekly life that eat the other days, this schedule will make sure I post on a set, regular basis. It will also improve the quality of the content, giving a day or two to write something more in depth than "I found a notebook and it made me sad. I should've been pimp, but instead I was a respectable human being in high school. Boo-hoo."

So yes. Starting tomorrow (Tuesday, if you're oblivious) I'll be posting as stated above. Posts will be long, engaging, and worth your time to read them. It will be bad ass.

In the meantime, feel free to use the tags to find stuff relating to your favorite kinds of posts.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

The itch that comes and goes.

It's technically tomorrow, I can post without seeming like a blog-whore in the timestamps.

All goes according to plan thus far, as the floor space entering my room turns from a narrow shaft to the computer and bed into a carpeted field of empty space. In this journey I've uncovered a dozen old essays, poems, and short stories from earlier in my college time. Some pockets of the collected crap in this room serve as a time capsule.

An essay about Korn, a journal of observations from campus-stalking/people watching, an old homework notebook. These things stand out more to me, mostly relating to the mandatory compositional writing course (111) from 2004. While some aspects of myself are still evident here, I am almost completely a different person. It's a slap in the face with a soft glove. It should be nice, but it's still a slap in the face.

I wrote a three and a half page essay about Korn, giving a half way decent bio of the band through their history. It's mostly opinion through the third person prospective, making it look like fact. There are some citations, but only enough to support the points I wanted to make. Giving it a critique now, I can safely say the following things:

-The style of writing does not sound fitting for an academic paper.
-My use of footnotes for fun was mostly a gimmick, and could've been easily (and more successfully) incorporated into the body of the paper. I blame Chuck Klosterman.
-I made a contrasting point between "nu-metal" and grunge, but I can now counter it by pointing out that neither genre's notable musicians could actually really play their instruments. They knew some power chords and could strum them in time with the snare. Neither was exceptionally revolutionary.
-I had a lot of ambiguous quotes/places for quotes. This was probably because I didn't realize that my friends were quotable people.
-I was too much of a fan boy for a band that only writes singles and filler.

All that said, I enjoyed rereading it, and I don't hate my writing all that much from this time period.

The observational journal, however, is another story. Since it's all observation/stream of consciousness-ish, I can't really rip it apart too heavily for the writing. I can, however, wholeheartedly say that even my ways of thinking have changed. My eye for detail has only gotten stronger, and my opinion of chicken ceaser salad has twisted from one of disdain sans dressing to one of overall displeasure compared to anything with ginger dressing and oranges.

It makes me want to write again, and more frequently. Not just blogging (not that I don't love giving you something to read, but I'd rather do something more in depth most of the time), but essay, story, and poetry. I miss it all so much. After this project is finished, I think I will. For now though I'm enjoying all the history I'm discovering.

I have much more to dig through. Based on trends, I will soon find elementary school work.

Seven year snapshot.

I sift through an old shoebox. The contents of this box vary from a broken vial with a loose cork plunger to old figurines to pay stubs to the dozens of nondescript papers. I look mostly for things with my name and address that should've been shredded years ago. This is an act of mixed paranoia and housekeeping.

I find old lined notepaper with stylized flames watermarked into the background. 2003 our 2004, about. There are notes from a class, telling me what "parsimonious" means. A long, detailed list of rare Magic cards I no longer own and the prices they would've cost if they weren't stolen. I wrote this in early 2004, I think. I find a love poem about a girl crushing on a boy in someone else's handwriting. I can't place who the script belongs to, but I realize I was the subject. I most likely didn't realize this in high school, as I missed a lot of little things like this at the time.

Idly I throw the poem into the recycling box. Old memories are nice, but seven years is much longer ago than I'd like to say it feels. The realization that I could've potentially been with nearly anyone of my choice doesn't feel all that nice so far after the fact. While it's a sign that I was grounded more in the things that mattered to me, and should be taken as a good thing, I don't have the time, need, or use for sentiment right now.

The rest of the box is carefully sorted, discarded, and then the box itself is broken into manageable sections to be recycled. The space it occupied will be better used for my old Yamaha PSR-6, or the hacked X-Box a friend gave me to make space. Perhaps it'll just stay open, ready for whatever should be in its place.

Sometimes history needs to be discarded. Sometimes it should just be recycled.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Magical Friendships (Heart)

I've been rereading a few books from the old Magic: The Gathering series, from when a storyline still mattered. Specifically I'm rereading the Ice Age trilogy by Jeff Grubb (Gathering Dark, The Eternal Ice, and Shattered Alliance). They came out in 1999, at the beginning of my obsession with this game and the books that explained the storyline. I didn't realize it when I was thirteen, but the concepts covered in the stories thus far (still need to do Shattered Alliance one last time) are incredibly complex and relate to a number of things outside of this tiny corner of the nerd universe.

They've made me realize a few things:

-I don't know if I fully trust anyone based on intentions alone.
-Relationships are fragile, temporary, and can only exist while living.
-Relationships of all kinds - not just the popularized definition which only refers to romantic relationships - should be mended when injured, not discarded like a broken toy.
-I identify more with old men in regards to thought patterns and logic, without it seeming antiquated in execution.
-I hate publishing trends for phasing well written books like these out in exchange for much of the crap I sold when I worked in a bookstore.

The last is probably the most important on a larger scale, if I really wanted to talk about our culture, but that's not what I'm aiming for. I care about the way people work with each other, not the way they take advantage of one another for monetary gain.

The following partial synopsis contains spoilers. The books are eleven years old and harder to find now, but if you ever plan on reading them (you should if you don't mind fantasy) you shouldn't read the next few paragraphs.

A character named Jodah inadvertently becomes magical in his biology, aging significantly slower than the average human. Incidentally, a side effect of aging is the accumulation of memories, of which an overabundance will drive one mad. I understand this concept, and the writing presents it in a believable way. More importantly, he is able/forced to experience the loss of loved ones and friends hundreds of times over, as they die while he stays mostly the same. His only advantage over reality is that he can start over without the guilt weighing as heavily on his conscience as he would had they aged with him in his way. The guilt will still be there, and grow worse as time goes on, but at least the person it relates to won't be there to salt the wounds.

Maybe that just drives the damage deeper.

End spoilers. Pansy.

While thinking about this I realized that we can't all simply "start over" whenever we cause detriment to our relationships. Our friends are there for us only as long as we are alive and keep the actual friendship alive. Once it dies, it is dead. No rekindling into a zombie, no rising from the dead. Much like real life, it stays dead.

This can relate to many things. An old flame? Once it's snuffed, it's gone. Former friend that bonked your girlfriend? The damage can never be undone, outside of letting go and determining what matters more. Even when relating with strangers in the workplace, you must keep on good terms. The dead don't buy things (no one will get this reference). Every person you've ever interacted with, to a degree, has a relationship with you. The kind you have is entirely up to you, and how you play it out.

This doesn't mean I'm going to reach out to the man that raped a close friend and shake his hand, nor does it mean that I'm going to hold back from speaking my thoughts even when they might not be what someone wants to hear. It does mean that I will value all of my friends more than I would anything else though, and the people that matter to me will continue to matter/matter more than previously. It's a bit like elevating a pedestal that was already above the others.

More important than all this, I will make an active attempt to not let small things bother me as much as they potentially could. I will go out of my way to be the best individual I can be for all around me, human condition withstanding. I wish I could remember how Shattered Alliance went, though the title alone seems contradicting to the theme I present here. It's fine for the context of Eternal Ice.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

She thinks she missed the train to Mars, she's out back counting stars.

I sometimes wonder what a midlife crisis feels like. I imagine it's not much like other popular crises, as The Flash gets to live and you are most likely going to keep your job if you stay sane. I wonder this more often of late, as I've always had a strange feeling that I'd probably die in my sixties saving children from a burning building as I'm on an afternoon jog. I'm twenty four now, I only have six years to prepare if all goes according to plan.

Will I feel like my life is unfulfilled despite whatever wonders I've built up for myself in that time? Will I find myself unhappy in my workplace, and storm out to become a part-time anthropologist/part-time "costumed vigilante?" Will I decide to join a nudist colony, go vegan, and the other exploits of Harvie Krumpet as a throw away gag? It's difficult to say.

Realistically, senility will be my greatest fear. It runs in my family, on both sides. This isn't to say that it's a bad thing, I'm sure it can be lots of fun. Every day is a new adventure if you can't remember the day before. It frightens me now even. My memory's already pretty shoddy, the prospect of not remembering the things that matter to me is terrifying. I've lived through a lot of things I'd like to forget, but there's far more I'd love to remember.

Senility doesn't only mean Alzheimer's, though that is my bigger fear, it can also mean dementia (Wikipedia's auto-redirection when you look at it). I can only vaguely imagine myself in the future, I've never been able to really ever. That's another topic for another time. In this future image of myself, I half smirk at the thought of trying to saw a piece of wood with a can of air spray. Trying to fix a blender with a chopstick. Making a sandwich with the cat struggling while I put peanut butter on its leg. I find it amusing now, but when the time comes, the novelty will wear quickly.

Yes, I'm sure that's my crisis. I will not be afraid of inadequacy in any way, I will fear for loss of my mental capacity. My thoughts, memories, and reasoning skills are all I really have when all else fails or abandons me. Even when what I have is out of reach, I always have my wits. I will panic and break down into tears without them, or perhaps at the thought of being without them.

I have six years to wait, and a lot to do in this time. Maybe I should start taking Ginko now and see what happens.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Digital killed the Analog (Star?)

I was going to write a filler list of discographies I own (literally, on disk), but I realized just now that it's been a long time since I really got much new music on disk. I'm very close to having discographies for many bands, but fall one or two albums short (usually if it came out in the last three years). It's possible/probable that this is because of the decline of compact disk and the rise of the MP3 (which is terrible, actually. More on this later), but I think realistically it's a decline in my funds and the rise of college tuition.

Assuming that it is actually a media problem, then I have a number of issues with MP3s as a format. To be completely frank about it, MP3s are expensive and transient. They exist only as long as your computer doesn't crash and your mobile device doesn't decide to Hara Kiri. They can be backed up on disk, but most people don't bother. I've heard so many times (and even when I was younger experienced) a crash that wiped music libraries clean. In some cases this means repurchasing hundreds of dollars of music. Some services offer ways to get the music back through licenses and whatnot, but that also means it's something that must be done entirely digitally.

I'm always going to be an advocate for hard copies of everything, I'm the kind of person that backs up everything. I have print copies of everything I've ever written academically (except some of the blog entries on here, ironically), no eBooks, print copies of any recent art I've made (the old stuff was also destroyed in said crash), and other things that fall in these lines. I'm not saying that digital copies of everything aren't useful. They're pretty awesome too. I haven't used a CD player for my portable music in years. I still have a stereo with a CD player and a dual tape deck attached that I use frequently, but that's mostly for plugging the Zune dock into it and letting it play that way. I'd be a liar if I said that I'm against MP3s as a format, or any other electronic audio file. That's how I write/record my music these days.

I do, however, feel that there should be a rise in another physical medium of some kind. If not the CD (though it's still better quality than most MP3's, M4A, ACC, and pretty much anything besides a very high quality WAV), then some other thing. Video's jumped from the casette to the DVD to the BluRay in the CD's lifespan thus far. It's probably time for an update.

This has gotten very off topic and really only outlines my paranoia now. Oh well.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Nature of Attraction

Before I go into this topic, there's something very important to note. Attraction and love are not the same thing. This will not explain love in any way, so don't look for it here. It will explain from my point of view why people fall for people who will not treat them right, and why it's sometimes easier to just move on right away to a new person.

Someone I know recently went through a minor (though to them it seemed major) ordeal over a potential lover (referenced now as "Edgar".) Condensed, Edgar found someone else with most of the same qualities that they had found in my friend, and moved on after a long wait. Edgar wasn't in the wrong, really, because of circumstances that don't need to be brought up. Edgar did however raise an interesting point that I'd acknowledged for a long time, but never put to words. We aren't interested as much in a person as we are the things about them.

"Oh Andrew, if a person is made of things then you're interested in the person. How silly of you!" some would counter. Sure asshole, that's like saying that you can breathe water just because it has oxygen in it.

Example: guy A (Albus) has met girl B (Blair) and has fallen in love and lust (in reverse order) with. He loves that she's witty, and enjoys Shakespeare discussions with him. He knows he likes girls that are shorter than him, and a little wild sometimes. Blair likes guys that are taller than her, intelligent, and practical in their outlook on life. She also has a thing for long hair.

Blair meets most of Albus' list, except that the extent of her wild streak cuts off with the occasional sexual reference. Albus meets enough of Blair's list to be acceptable, but not really a preference. He lacks long hair, and his world view is more free spirited than she's capable of handling. The later is huge, and immediately she has less interest than he could ever have in her.

Albus meets girl C (Clara) and easily brushes off the "loss" of Blair from his mind, since she has all of these things that he's interested in as well. Clara is also interested in him, but because her preferences lean towards his height, short hair, and the fun view of life. She is equally comparable for him, as she has the same things as Blair without being the same person. All other things are important, but not the "must have" list. It doesn't matter that Blair listened to rap while Clara is a fan of country and light pop music. It doesn't matter what the cup size of either was, since that's not a preference on his list either. They are not the same person, but some of the same traits are there.

We draw from this overly simplified example the conclusion that not all people are really snowflakes, as much as checklists when it comes to attraction. Most people are so deep into their lists that they've set impossible placements for themselves, meaning that in some sense they've adopted the "One person in the world for me" outlook. With the population of the Earth right now, they're statistically never going to find that person.

In contrast to this example however, negative traits can sometimes find themselves on the checklist too.

Guy D (Donnie) has had three girlfriends. The first was absolutely amazing for him, and met everything he'd ever look for in a woman (incidentally, the first will almost always set the core list for every person after). She on top of all these things was also schizophrenic and bipolar. Because of all the other traits she has, he learns to adapt and deal with these problems.

His second girlfriend has fewer of the traits, but the schizophrenia is also there.

The third girlfriend has more traits than the second, but is bipolar and also suffers from ADHD.

By the time that Donnie is looking for a girlfriend and has to choose between Elanor (who meets all on his list of positive traits) and Florence (who meets all but one of the positive traits, but has schizophrenia and ADHD), he's more likely to pick Florence, despite her being bat-shit crazy and likely to destroy the relationship.

There are other issues that can factor into it too, but I don't really believe in Freud. While many of his arguments have validity, the vast majority seem to state that he just wanted to fuck his mom. I find that most people don't want their opposing gender parent as a lover, based on conversations. Most seem to want the polar opposite, actually. Without speaking too heavily from personal experiences, it seems that the kind of relationship we have with our parents will determine if we're all Oedipus incarnate or if we actually do procreate for the strength of the species.

This gets more complicated as you look at real people. If Georgette wants all of the following things in a potential lover, it becomes more difficult (barely possible) to find the "ideal."

C-DD cup size
Long, dark hair
120-160 lbs
Highly flexible
Central Asian cultural background
Conservative leaning centrist views politically
Interest in action movies
Interest in Crime Dramas
Interest in Star Wars
Interest in Swing music
Interest in James Joyce
Knowledge of French language
A nervous tick of biting nails down to the cuticle

This list is still abridged compared to reality, but already it gets much more difficult to find a person that meets this criteria. When factoring geography in (assuming that Georgette lives in New York) it can get very difficult to find someone that fits her criteria. Then, assuming that this person is found, the chances are equally slim of meeting this person's own list as the "ideal."

That's why people will "settle," which is not the true term. The "ideal" is nearly impossible to attain. We find people who are best suited for us, and we hope that love takes root and makes the checks on the list work the way they should.

This doesn't mean that all people ultimately find someone less compatible for them than possible. Technically it does, but I retort with "Fuck you, pessimist." When you find someone that you are capable of loving, it doesn't matter what else was left.

I'm sure I'm forgetting points I wanted to make, but it's late and I'm tired.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

The Beatles Loved it so Much, They Wrote a Song About It.

Fun fact: I turned 24 yesterday (technically, since it's after midnight).

My birthday comes each year as a symbol, much in the same way that I view New Year's day. I don't panic that I'm getting older, or that I'm now considered in my "mid-twenties." I don't have midlife crises (I don't think I'm going to meet the high average of the human life expectancy. No real reason, just a strange hunch). I don't go out and do something stupid. Every year I have a small group of people around me, and it's rarely planned ahead of time. I don't care about presents, or money, or odd special activities. I care about being surrounded by people I love. Usually this means my friends, since my family's always around anyway.

An anniversary of the day you were squirted from the womb - not as pretty as it's made out to be. Many claim it's a celebration of life, but those people tend to be short sighted when considering that every day should be a celebration of life. Some see it as death's hand giving them the finger, reminding them that he's watching very closely. These people also see a cup as half empty, and filled with bile. Others see it as a chance for something new, a fresh start. I suppose that's a decent enough goal, but it's only been thirteen days since I did that already. I haven't especially fucked all that much up in that time, there's no real reason for me to "start fresh" again.

I see birthdays as a little of each of these things, because I don't feel that a birthday (or an age, for that matter) should be all that special all the time. Well, no. That's a lie. I don't feel that mine is all that significant. I like having it acknowledged, but much more than that and I almost feel guilty. To an extent it's a matter of fairness, I suppose. I love to do something special for each of my friends on their birthday if possible, even if it's nothing all that big. Even if it's something as simple as a warm hug or a firm handshake or some other gesture that wouldn't've been there for that reason otherwise. In some cases it goes much larger or deeper, but the little things mean the most.

For this reason, I can't object too heavily when my friends do anything for me on my own uterus-eviction day. I sometimes feel mildly guilty about it, or in other cases try to find something that will offset the hassle in some small way, but ultimately I yield to my friends. Perhaps that's why I stay around them so much: they can break through my stubbornness without a thought, and are willing to return the same kindness that was shown them, even when it isn't expected. It's not that they pay for my meal, it's that they refused to let me pay. I had to sneak five dollars in towards tip so it could get through.

As stated somewhere above - I'm too lazy to scroll up to see where it was - I don't really plan much of anything for this day. Never really have, not for years. I'll usually spend it with my girlfriend, or I'll invite some friends to my house for cake, finger food, and board games. It's just like any other day, except for cake. Today was my most-last-minute gathering ever, literally inviting people an hour before we were to meet. That said, it went well for a haphazard setup. Good food, a good group of friends, and random frivolities in a city so close that I never really visit. It was a good night for its simplicity.

A birthday should never be a day of mourning, no day ever really should (except, of course, when you're in mourning. Then I suppose it's fine). Be glad you're alive, and even when the day is terrible (I've had my share of those birthdays too, I feel your pain), celebrate in some small way that you were at least able to see it.

Well. I think that probably went off from what I wanted to say, but that's fine. This is probably still readable. Whenever your day is, Happy Birthday to you.

Monday, January 11, 2010

I'M the King of all Media

I started organizing a few things earlier, and realized that I am not OCD. I have a collecting obsession, but not one for organizational methods. While executing my ongoing operation of room cleaning I found a number of business cards, Magic: The Gathering cards, and a number of other small cardboard rectangles. The Magic cards are beyond organization at this point, I have too many. I played the game on and off (mostly on) from 1999 to 2006. I have at least 10,000 cards, mostly bulk common and uncommon cards from the Masquerade, Invasion, and Mirrodin blocks. I won't be able to organize these fucking things until I have a month to sit down and catalog them all. Some time this year, but not now.

Instead I set out to put all the business cards into a binder. I had this idea months ago, got the sleeve pages and binder, but never bothered to finish. Most of the business cards are contacts I've got for my work with the magazine, so I left them in the office instead of keeping them. I have space in the binder for eighty cards. Eighteen of them are filled so far, from my desk alone.

My books are beyond help right now. They used to be grouped by genre, volume, and author, but now there are just too many for my shelves. They've all been stacked on their sides, sometimes layered on the shelves so none go homeless. My CD's (a testament to my stubborn refusal to go entirely digital) have outgrown their racks as well, but they don't seem to mind staying stacked in front, near homeless. They too used to be organized by artist and album (year, not title), but that was many years ago. Now they are stuffed wherever they will fit.

The most heartbreaking thing is my sheet music. In high school I learned classical guitar, and that came with a limited knowledge of written notation. As the years slip by, the music slowly spreads out from its binder and fills empty spaces they should not dwell. I'm slowly rounding that up, just rediscovered Luis Milan's Pavane for a guitar ensemble. The page is mildly battered, but intact. I caught it in time. Other pieces I had are less fortunate. Bach didn't ware as well in this mess.

That's why I haven't been posting, and that's why my posts will probably include vast lists of things I've unearthed. I haven't decided that last bit yet.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Interactive Art?

Don't mind me, I'm on a video game kick of late.

Whether or not video game design is considered an art form has been debated many times over by geeks like me, and I still hold that in some cases it might be. Ultimately as a whole video games cannot be considered an art, no matter how artistic some are, but in time certain franchises (occasionally from the start) become works of art in the design, rather than just the visual representations they have. Unfortunately it's very difficult to determine which games fall into this category, since most exist solely to make money. In other cases, game franchises that previously held artistic integrity may have lost it as it became a franchise, rather than just a game.

Katamari Damacy (only the first, and maybe the second, We <3 Katamari) is an example of an art game, as the entire game was an experimental statement about consumerism. The game play is essentially rolling up a snowman with two analog sticks. The concept was probably written in an acid trip, and the soundtrack was a very varied electronica-cumshot that was mostly loosely self referential. The visuals were made boxy and overly simplified, almost like Lego mockeries of reality.

The short of the story is that your father is God, who gets drunk one night and smashes all the stars in the sky. As his son, you need to fix it while he belittles you. You do this with the help of a spherical self contained quantum singularity. This mini-black hole will cling to any object smaller than itself, growing bigger while you push it around the earth. Once it's big enough, your father turns it into a star.

As the series went on, it seemed like it was making more fun of itself. In the second game your father realizes the popularity of the first game, and forces you to keep rolling shit up into your gravity-ball so he can keep his fan base. This would've been a fitting end to the series, since the game was better designed than the first. It also featured a long time endurance level, in which you need to roll up one million roses.

The series didn't stop. No more were made for the PS2, but instead ported to many other systems that could better handle the visuals. Why? Namco got greedy. Beautiful Katamari (Xbox 360), Katamari Forever (PS3), Me and My Katamari (PSP), I Love Katamari (iShit), and an only loosely related Tetris-like game has been released for the DSi in Japan rounds out the list of other games in this series. This franchise has only been out since 2004. 7 games in 6 years. From a game that was supposed to be a stand alone. It's become a parody of it's original message.

I don't love the franchise any less now, but it is no longer art.

In contrast, the Nintendo DSi Art Style series might actually fall into the category it's named after, or at least Art Style: Aquia does.

Art Style is a series of puzzle games built to milk the DSi for it's crisp visuals and simple design, and each game is a $5.00 download. There are seven now, making it a $35.00 series to own. I haven't played them all, or even most of them. Aquia is the only one I own, but the game was worth the download.

Aquia places you as a diver going deep under water to discover new breeds of fish. As you do so, you fight off the darkness inherent in deep sea diving and try not to black out from lack of oxygen. You keep this diver alive by moving colored squares into lines of 3 or more with a slider. This slider only moves from left to right. If you clear more than one line in a chain reaction, you get more air. If you don't clear lines fast enough, your screen transitions to black and you lose.

At first, the music is supplied by your slider and actions. All movements in each level are tied to a set key, and give random sounds in that key as you clear your lines. As you dive deeper the level music raises in volume, and by the end you can hear some pretty thumpin' tunes from each level of difficulty. All sound cuts out as you get closer to death as well, replaced by an ominous beep that happens between silence.

What's nice about the Art Style series is that none of the games are related outside of production house and name. Every game in this series is made to have nothing to do with one another, from game play to audio to rewards. Each represents itself.

What makes this (possibly) art is the level of simplicity that exists in such an avant garde exterior. It's layered enough to care about if you're the kind of geek that likes to analyze puzzle games (like me), but simple enough where you won't need to. It's addictive enough to eat hours harmlessly, but not in the harmful way like World of Warcraft or any strategy game.

This was going to be a list, but I don't really have time to give this kind of detail to everything I'd want to list. Here's one anyway, I might reference it again down the line.

Katamari Damacy
Art Style: Aquia
The Sims
LSD (that's what the game was actually called)
Final Fantasy X

An honorable mention is Little Big Planet. In itself it is not art, though it is very artistic. It's beautiful, and the music is wonderful, but stripped away it's just a customizable platformer.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Sackboy just shot Master Chief in the face.

I am bothered by the current state of video game design. This isn't anything important or life changing, but it does bother me as it is a representation of the number one entertainment industry (and still fastest growing) in the United States.

In years prior, there was to a limited extent diversity among games. One was just as likely to find an original action/adventure game on the shelves as they were a fighter, shooter, puzzle, or role playing game (RPG). This was a cross-system boon, and it made gaming more rich for it. With current gaming consoles, it seems that a huge divide exists between which consoles have which kinds of games.

As a child of the 90's that grew up with Genesis, Playstation, and PC games, I played a lot of action/adventure platform games. These were generally games that told a mostly linear story in which a character has to get from point A to point B. Said character will have a set of skills that they will use to overcome these obstacles, occasionally a few new ones will be given as the game goes on. Some were 3D from a third person prospective, some were 2D from a side view. All were fun.

I played others too, particularly on the PC. I wasted many, many hours of my life playing StarCraft and WarCraft, back when Blizzard had better things to do than push digital crack to a helpless population. Civilization II ate large bits of my free time as well, and all were amazing games. They put the player in a position where they need to work out a unique way to pass each scenario. While strategy guides exist, most are terrible. You, as the player, have to think more deeply.

I had RPGs I loved (mostly Final Fantasy and Pokemon games), some terrible fighters (Star Wars made a fighting game once. It was quite uninspired, and while it was bad, it was amazing for it. Mortal Kombat eventually turned into something similar), and lastly there were First Person Shooters.

I liked FPS' the least, and still do. I played GoldenEye on the Nintendo 64 at a friend's when I was young, and I owned a few of the old ID games (Doom II, Quake). I had a lot of these back then, but they were all PC games, and most were too terrible for serious play. Redneck Rampage was the most creative of them at the time, when you play a hick who gets drunk to shoot better and eats pork rinds to walk straight... fighting aliens. With machine guns built into breasts. The game was beyond fucked.

Games are still a big part of my life, but I don't personally own any of the current consoles. My brother has a Wii, my girlfriend has a PS3 now too, and one of the places I work uses all three current consoles extensively, but none personally. This is because I generally don't like FPS'.

Particularly for the PS3 (the technically best, most useful, and most stable of the three major consoles), most of the noteworthy games are either cross-system releases or first person shooters. With what the system is capable of, more should be done that doesn't involve pointing a gun at someone and jumping behind a rock so they can't do the same. The thing that saves it for me is Little Big Planet, which is possibly the best, most creative platformer that I've ever seen. I know it's a year or so old, but that doesn't change the fact that Sony seems to have focused too much on blood.

Microsoft is worse, but their system is prone to killing itself. The 360 probably knows it's only a box for people to release their bloody fetishes through and snaps after a while. I can't blame them for red rings.

The Wii (the technically weakest) system in the bunch has the best games right now, because Nintendo knows that if people love them, they'll keep giving them money. It's a good business practice, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't love them for it. Right now they're fixing my DSi for free under warranty. The games, however, are only notable because they aren't a constant barrage of bullets. The only official Nintendo FPS isn't even this mostly, as it focuses on situational puzzle solving rather than killing space-Nazis or zombies. Even then, Metroid didn't start out this way. It adapted in a way that Nintendo hoped would keep the fledgling FPS players endeared.

I can't say that most modern FPS' are bad either, which annoys me more. I can't even bash them, because Left 4 Dead and Borderlands are too good for me to put down. Portal might be the best game ever made. Even fucking Halo (first only) is a great game. How can I bash these things?

For the most part, because they're not creative. Few innovate heavily on anything, most regurgitate with minor tweaks that will be stolen and done better in the future by another game. At least with Little Big Planet they took an already bloated genre from the past and stripped it down to a character that's literally made of a burlap sack who can only really run, jump, and pull things. There's other stuff that happens as you go too, but in essence, Sackboy is the most basic character you can have.

Some fanboys will be angry at me for this, and point out all the games I've ignored to make my point. Sure, Metal Gear Solid 4 is the best rated PS3 game. It's an awesome movie. Street Fighter IV is also out and golden. That's awesome if you dig antiquated fighting systems that should've been done away with when Bushido Blade introduced the "You get stabbed in the neck, you die," mechanic rather than a life bar, back in 1998. Final Fantasy XIII and Kingdom Hearts III will soon be out for the PS3 too. JRPG's aren't everyone's bag (see Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw).

I want to upgrade, badly. But without the ability to play all the old PS2 games, there's no point. I would buy a system for a small handful of games and online rehashes of games better than all the new FPS'.

Little Big Planet
Katamari Forever
Metal Gear Solid 4
Final Fantasy XIII
Arkham Asylum
Dante's Inferno
Demon's Souls (maybe)
Rock Band

Little Big Planet alone might be enough to sell me a system down the line if I ever decide, or when I have no choice but to switch to Blue-Ray. But after three years, I'd hoped there'd be more. Maybe a Spyro game that didn't suck, or something that innovates as much as Little Big Planet and Katamari Damacy did when they came out. Give me a new Bushido Blade. Something less stale than most of the "Point and Shoot" pieces of shit.