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 bit.ly, 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.