Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Agents of Saboteur

If one were to peruse the local library or online collection of movies and TV shows made available to us through the internet, one might be quick to surmise that some professions - such as saboteur agent, spy, or some similar construction - are vogue, adventurous, and, if nothing else, sexy. Given, however, that we are all agents of sabotage in that we all seemingly know no bounds in which we can stop ourselves from self-sabotage, one must also be quick to surmise that, once again, Hollywood has lied to as about the glamour of said profession.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Depression as a Reality

It is common for a doctor, or therapist, or even respectful peer or family member to state thusly that depression is a falsely constructed reality, that it does not represent accurately the future, or one's potential, or a fair and accurate assessment of life. Given, however, that indeed, all routes end in failure and death, and all accomplishments are meaningless, it is apt to say that depression is rather the most accurate depiction of life, as it understands and accepts the folly of it all.

Monday, December 19, 2016

To Be a Writer

It's been accurately surmised that writing, when compared to other creative endeavors, has the lowest barrier to entry. To wit, one can attempt to write something given such simple luxuries as pencil and paper, or access to a computer, while something such as, say, painting, requires a canvas and paint set, or access to digital software. Because of this, at various given times in one's life, one usually attempts to write something. Given that the definition of being a writer is fluid, and different people have different standards for what makes one a writer, the present author would like to present the most conclusive and objective definition of writing. Also given that almost everyone writes something each and every day, but given that almost everyone achieves failure each and ever day, the current author proposes that nobody is actually a writer, but instead is merely a vessel through which delusions of grandeur flow, oftentimes in the form of the written word.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Rogue One

I went to the very first 7pm screening of Rogue One on Thursday night. What follows are my simple, first impression, spoiler-free thoughts.


I have a lot of thoughts on this, but I guess I'll not bury the HOT TAKE LEDE and just say that as a movie, Rogue One is more interesting than TFA. It strays from tradition more, it works emotively more, and it doesn't have plot holes that you can drive a bus through. While it's no 4-6 in that regard (they being pretty darn tight all things considered, for action movies), the few plot holes are more Segway sized than Greyhound sized.

I had hopes for this because of the director. Gareth Edwards has made two feature films, his first film, Monsters, is a shoe-string budget film about two strangers tasked with nearly impossible odds as they traverse alien infested Mexico to get to the US. But instead of playing up the Monsters and delivering some sci-fi fight fest, it presents them merely as a constant threat. Rather, the movie spends most of the screen time dwelling on our two protagonist's journey and their relationship in the toughest of circumstances. It excelled as a character piece, and was a not-so-subtle jab at immigration policies and the philosophical idea of national borders.

Godzilla was his first big-budget film, and while it had a good sense of tragedy and scale, it floundered a bit and didn't give enough time to the central characters, pandered to action set-pieces too much, rushed a lot of plot developments, and fell flat because of it.

Still, as I said, I had hope here because Edwards can really make some good characters - believable characters - as a ragtag group even in the presence of insurmountable odds- and oh my gosh that sounds like Star Wars!

And in Rogue One, he does! This is a more emotive piece. Infact, Edwards shoots for more tragedy and drama than any previous Star Wars movie, and while it's not always a success, it works way more often than it doesn't.

But perhaps most impressively is how hard this had to be. TFA had the impossible task of living up to 4-6 and starting the series off on fresh footing, not the bantha poodoo infested one Jar Jar trampled across the prequels with (as much as I still love them). And you can tell Disney wanted to stick with what worked and mirror 4-6 as much as possible. That was hard enough in terms of living up to renewed expectations.

Rogue One, too, had a really, really difficult challenge itself; how do you insert a work into a 7 movie universe as a prequel to the 4th movie that was made almost 40 years ago, and stay consistent with everything already established as cannon while still eking out a new existence?

I don't know! I wouldn't even know where to begin! Obviously, some people did, because almost every concept introduced here, every battle, every world building universe moment, is consistent with the period from 3 to 4, consistent with 4, and oftentimes a direct counter to that voice in the back of your head that would say "well what about..." Credit to everyone involved making this mostly seamless. I was expecting to come out wondering how the hell this would fit without unintentionally retconning or messing up the internal established rules. It frays the boundaries a bit, but manages to come up really clean, all things considered. There are a few things that aren't 100% seamless with 4-6, but it's so close that credit is due.

The main flaws? A few. A couple scenes teeter on the edge of melodrama. An important character is entirely CGI, for understandable reasons, but I ultimately disagree with the decision. CGI is getting there, and has come a long ways from CGI Neo in Matrix Reloaded, but it still pulls the viewer out a bit and reminds you it's all just a movie. Maybe in another 20 years or so. There are also still a decent amount of callbacks, which some love and others not so much, but other than one sort of veering into dead horse territory, the movie isn't nearly as wed to them as TFA was.

All the characters, except one (who is sadly typecast), otherwise, are pretty darn good, and shine in their own ways. The two leads are great, the droid is great. Even the minor characters have their moments.

It's a fuzzier film. The good guys aren't all good, war is awful, and the Rebel Alliance is shown to be just that; an alliance. The travesty of the Empire and the things they do, like, in 4 where they BLOW UP A PLANET are finally given some appropriate weight. It's a departure film. Literally not even 1 second into the film and you realize you're not in Kansas any more. Maybe Nebraska. Or Iowa. You get the drift.

Ultimately, it all just works. It works as an in-universe insert, up through the very last scenes that are so, so good. It works as a character piece. It works as a war piece (which, ironically, Star WARS never really has). It works emotionally, mostly. It works as tragedy. Most importantly, it works as a Star Wars film - a different one, a darker one, an edgier one, one that Lucas wouldn't have made, all due respect to how dark V was, but still, in its own, an excellent film.

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Bad Year

It has not been uncommon, if one is to read certain things online, to find someone proclaiming that 2016 was a bad year. That the combination of fatalities experienced, world events, and other miscellaneous developments conspired to create a year that was, in a sense, a dumpster fire. What the greater collective hivemind seems to forget, however, is the fact that all years are bad. Indeed, if each annual existence is merely a continuous experience of the nature of suffering, then one wonders why we even break up said existence into such things as years or months, given the evident reality and consistency of failure and suffering that exists at all seconds of our lives.

Of course, if one were to assume that the gradual arc of history is one that bends towards justice, one might then proclaim that each year is better than the last. Given, however, rapidly rising income inequality and environmental destruction, it seems that said trend is, coincidentally, about to come to a crashing end. Much like, for example, one's sense of hope.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Mistakes

One would think, given the present author's precarious response to a mistake being that of world ending psychosis, that the present author would strive to eliminate mistakes as a regular, daily occurrence. Given, however, that is not currently the present author's overriding aim, one must conclude that fundamentally, the present author is committing the gravest mistake of allowing all other mistakes to fester.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Energy

If one accepts - correctly, the present author might add -  that the pursuit of one's dreams is the largest expenditure of wasted energy one can fulfill, one may be inclined to ask, then, what pursuit is not, entirely, a waste of one's energy. Given, however, that all pursuits, large or small, end in folly; and all lives, large or small, end in death, one might be presupposed to conclude that there is no such expenditure of energy or effort that is not wholly wasted. Of course, given the then relative equality of futility, one may also argue that pursuing one's dream is no worse than spending one's time and effort at assumedly less depressing goals. Given, however, the unique characteristics of continuing to fail in achieving one's dreams, spending energy to achieve and attempt nothing is, if nothing else, psychologically less damaging than spending energy to achieve nothing while attempting everything.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Murphy's Law

Murphy's Law states, as it were, that if something can go wrong it will go wrong. While a prima facie investigation of life might reveal this Law to be true, it lacks a certain amount of detail that can render its theory rather tame when compared to the reality. For instance, at any given time, there is a veritable multitude of ways in which things can go wrong, often in varying degrees of severity. Given that failure is the epistemological reality of human existence, one might amend Murphy's Law to state that, given a way in which something can go wrong, it will always go wrong in the worst possible way.

Monday, November 28, 2016

The Joys of Homeownership

I sent this as an email to my friend. She said it was hilarious. I am an idiot.



So last night I decided to stay up to get Star Wars tickets. 12:01 they go on sale.

Actually, let me rewind a bit. So my desk. It's kind of a mess but I guess it could be worse. There's this cool Detroit Tigers travel mug I used to make coffee in and take to work. Sometimes I'd sweeten the coffee up with sugar and condensed milk. I haven't used it in months. It's just been sitting on my desk unloved. A sad, empty, unused mug. Every now and then I try to remember to take it downstairs and fill it up and use it to make some nice instant coffee to drink as I head to work like I used to.

Anyways, so last night I get to the site to buy tickets and I wait in line for a bit but by 12:30am I have them. I skipped my meds so that I wouldn't be a zombie, but one day won't kill me. So I have to go to the bathroom so I turn in my chair and get up and go the bathroom. As I reach the bathroom, I hear something in my room fall. It's pretty light sounding so I don't even worry. Go to the bathroom, brush my teeth, etc., etc. Get out and walk into my room.

I could try to describe the smell that hit me, but imagine taking a bag of coffee, burying it in a swamp for 1000 years, taking it out, and then mixing it with 1 year old curdled milk. That's when I realized. The sad empty mug that I hadn't used in forever was not as empty as I thought (it was as sad). I looked. It must have been full to the brim. it's fucking everywhere. A massive spill on my floor, it's sprayed all over some clothes, some books and magazines, game controllers, just fucking... everywhere. And the smell. My god. It's so, so strong. So I just kind of stand there wondering how I could be so stupid when I start to wonder wtf I am supposed to do. It's now like 12:45 and everybody is asleep except me.

There's a roll of paper towel in the bathroom, so I get a bunch and just drench the towels. Just absolutely fucking blast them with water, then grab a bunch of dry ones. I take them into my room and just start super soaking the carpet and wiping it up. The smell is awful. Just awful. Coagulated condensed milk and rancid coffee. And I keep finding shit that is covered in it. And it's all over the carpet. so I keep getting paper towels and wiping it up.

Then I run out of towels. So now I am wondering if it's worth waking up my roommate too, because I already woke up my sister. It's past 1am now. I have a mountain a nasty smelling stained paper towels and I am tired as hell. And the stain has not lightened at all. So I put down my last towels and try to soak it and then do what any dumbshit does. I go on Amazon and try to quickly find some carpet cleaner and smell remover and ship it as fast as humanly possible.

So I search "carpet stain remover." The first item that shows up has like 300 reviews, a good 4.5 score, and is like only 7 bucks. Add to cart.

"This is an add-on item and you must spend $25 to purchase it."

Alright, next item on the list. Also good review scores.

"This is a monthly item you must subscribe to."

FFS.

Next item.

"This is a pantry item and does not include free prime shipping." The fastest I can get it is Wednesday. Not Tuesday. At this point I literally want to call up a customer service rep at Amazon and just rip into them and wonder why the fuck I can't just buy some goddamn fucking carpet cleaning solution on their goddamn fucking website (sorry for the swearing).

Fourth item. PANTRY AGAIN. So I just buy it. Whatever. fuck it. I add on some room scented freshener shit and spend 25 bucks or whatever.

At this point, I go over to my windows, because it's late November in Michigan, and open them as wide as they can possibly go. Now, I only ever open one of my windows, because the other one likes to attract stink bugs.

So I open them up, grab every single blanket in my room, toss them on the bed, and crawl into bed. And then I hear it. A fucking stink bug is flying around. It's banging into the wall repeatedly because they are the stupidest fucking creatures on earth and would probably have sex with their own feces if they could. And now I've got paper towel that smells like shit in the garbage can next to my bed and carpet that smells like shit and I can literally feel the room getting colder by the second. So I just start crying. I just bawl my eyes out, so pissed at myself for ruining my carpet and my room being a mess and it being now like 1:30 and I am still not asleep and I am all worked up and everything. And the smell of shit is just... you know, when we talk about senses, smell is amazing. True fact, it can actually adjust to anything even more than any other sense. You know how a hot tub feels really hot at first and then you get used to it? Or it can be really dark when you turn the lights off but in 15 minutes you can see things? Smell laughs at all of that. It can get used to anything and way faster than any other sense.

It's been like 45 minutes and I still smell every single fiber of the shit.

I didn't fall asleep until after 2. I woke up several times. I got less than 4 hours of sleep.

So I wake up for good this morning and I wish I could use a Star Wars quote here but whatever. So I smell the shit but now I also smell NEW shit. I smell skunk. I go outside to move my car so my sister can get out of the driveway and sure enough, of all nights, a fucking skunk is dead in the middle of the street just one house down. So now my room smells like rancid coffee, curdled milk, and skunk. I literally wanted to puke my guts out so hard I would die. And I am shaking as I walk around from lack of sleep and anger.

So I come back inside and grab a garbage bag and just start tossing shit. Clothes that got the coffee on them? Trashed. Books and magazines? Trashed. Mug? Trashed. Video game controllers? Trashed. Threw away all the paper towels and everything. And the room. Still. Smells. Like. Shit. I turned my fan on to max and seriously considered taking some beer and just spilling it all over the room to try to mask the shit. Left my windows open and hoped for hurricane force winds to come. Because at least skunk smells bad but not like satan took a dump on my carpet.

Anyways my carpet I am sure is completely and utterly ruined and I don't even want to step foot in my room knowing how bad it will smell and that given it's 40 out by the time I get home today I'll get frostbite just by setting foot inside it.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Inspiration as an Illusion

It is not uncommon to, over the course of one's life, stumble upon a book, an album, a movie, a show, that inspires one or affects one in such a way as to attempt their own hand at creating a work. Given, however, the momentous task it requires to create said work, and given the almost assured odds of it failing to ever have the same effect on anyone else, one wonders if being inspired by truly great works is truly something that one should look for, as they can temporarily inspire hope in one's ability and machinations. As always, the actual journey is entirely futile.

Tuesday, November 15, 2016

Gaining Weight

It is without a doubt - as aging takes place and metabolism begins its gradual de-acceleration - easier to gain weight, in the literal sense, as we get older. However, the present author would surmise that volumetric weight, such as we gain by consuming a poor, low-nutrient diet, is rather trivial when compared to the much more rapid and fatalistic attribution of the crushing weight of reality. To wit, one could maintain a steady, healthy weight by consuming a high-fiber, low-calorie diet, and still languish, rendered apathetic and lethargic by the crippling weight of existence.

Tuesday, November 8, 2016

The End of Savings

If, one might so claim, that the end of daylight savings time is a return to a more natural time, one might be supposed to argue in its favour. Indeed, pulling our clocks back an hour, as catalogued over the years, enhances the very characteristics of life that we all share; that is, it causes an increase in depression, crime rates, and fatigue. Given that these are all essentially innate human foibles, one may be convinced to argue that, while non-daylight savings is bad, it most accurately reflects the human condition.

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

A Very Serious Post

There is no sardonic voice here, no self-deprecation (well, maybe... can't promise the impossible), no convoluted language, and no musings about existential dread.

I write this today, not under the pretense that it matters, or that I have much an audience - or even, dare I say it - much a voice. I write this today knowing that it breaks a rule I have with this blog (no political posts. I made this choice for various reasons). I write this today because, it is, unequivocally, an important topic, and one that deserves a modicum of seriousness and thought and consideration.

I write this today to let any and all, or none, of my readers know, that I will be casting a vote on Tuesday, November 8th, for Hillary Clinton.

I could lie and say this decision is easy. I could lie and say it's the only obvious choice, because we are tasked with voting in an election that pits four major candidates, three of which are essentially unelectable, unqualified, and woefully undereducated on matters of policy and politics, and so the one remaining one is obvious.

But I can't. Because right now, America is engaged in bombing campaigns in seven countries throughout the Middle East and Northern Africa. Because right now, America is giving almost unconditional support to a Saudi regime that is unleashing wanton destruction and loss of life in Yemen, creating a human crisis that the media in this country refuses to cover or ignores. Because right now, America is still an imperialist country, forged in constant wars, constructed on the labor and prison of black and brown bodies, and spewing enough destructive pollution to all but guarantee global warming will run rampant, with its ensuing loss of life and created conflict. It is easy to diminish these, to cast a vote, and try to put them away, to compartmentalize the fact that American lead wars and sanctions have left 20 million dead civilians in its wake since the end of World War II. To do that is a terrible atrocity in itself, to minimize the loss of life of those who don't look like me, or those who live half a world a way. I know that, by participating in this election, and in this system of government and country, I am, if not happily, offering my tacit support to further conquest and destruction.

But I also know my limitations. If there is one thing that my undying love of baseball and sabermetrics has offered me, it is an understanding that we are all working with limited understandings. And while that is little comfort to a war victim, or a poor mother, or a jailed weed dealer, it allows me to understand the limitations of the society we have constructed.

Democracy is, if nothing else, an imperfect science. And to think that my values and desires are always going to be 100% correct is folly. At any given time, sure, we all believe we are correct. But we must understand that we have been wrong, and will continue to be wrong. Democracy works as a system because it has built within it systems of dialogue, compromise, and understanding.

One candidate, undoubtedly, represents those values. Hillary Clinton knows more about policy, economics, Washington negotiation, political machinations, and international relationships that I will ever know. She likely forgets more in one day than I forget in one year, to steal a cliché. And while I will not always agree with her positions, much like Obama before her, I trust that she will be making them after examining all facets of the situation and coming to the conclusion that she feels is best.

But as with all things, her candidacy is not in a vacuum. Hillary's opponent, one Donald Trump, is perhaps the antithesis of every value that I, and hopefully others, hold sacred. He is a flagrant bigot, racist, and misogynist, whose reliance on cheating, destroying, and lying seemingly knows no bounds. He has given a face to a violent, disgusting movement that holds white supremacy at its peak, and holds the poor, the disabled, immigrants, women, people of color, refugees, Muslims, at its base, forever to be trampled on, mocked, rejected, and in some cases, forcefully and violently eradicated. This can not be allowed to flourish, to stand, or to be given legitimacy. The fear that many feel about his ascendancy is real because it is based on the very things he has said and done over his existence.

It is, then, most vital that we reject it, wholesale. And the best way to do that, in a democracy, is at the ballot box. There are no perfect solutions in a democracy, no perfect solutions in life, or baseball, or congress, or anything, and the very stubborn hate that has driven a desire for nothing but moral purity is the same strain of thought that has given us the Tea Party and Trump and modern Republicans. I choose to reject this.

I do not pretend that Hillary is perfect, that she will not do bad things, that America will cease to be the country it currently is. But in Trump, we have magnified all the bad things that it currently is, and can be, and so that, at all costs, must be defeated. With that I say:

I'm With Her.

It Does Not Stare Back

It's been suggested that during times of crisis, one may "stare into the void" only to have the "void stare back." This assumes, however, that the void holds a nonzero amount of interest in the one doing the staring in its general direction, which, given the abject uncaring of the universe at large, is an incorrect one. Indeed, it is most likely that, if one were to stare into the void, the void would merely shrug it off with casual indifference, uncaring about an individual's malady or despair.

Monday, October 31, 2016

Temporary

If one works under the correct assumption that all things, except perhaps death, are impermanent, then one, generally speaking, seeks to increase the positive, but still impermanent experiences, while decreasing the negative, but also impermanent experiences. Given, however, society's seemingly entire structure as one in which the latter are a large percentage of one's life, to be pursued only to enjoy a tiny sliver of the former, then one has to surmise that, if placed on a scale, life would largely be a series of impermanent negative experiences leading to a conclusion (death) that is so immaterial that it has neither positive or negative reality, thus rendering such questions as; "is suffering a permanent state during the impermanent state of life, and if so, why must we fear death so?" The answer, of course, is never-ending.

Friday, October 28, 2016

Distractions

It is commonly stated that certain activities, namely such things as TV, or video games, are distractions that prevent one from pursuing their true dreams, and that too much time spent with them can prevent a certain commitment towards furthering oneself along a path that one would most aspire to. Given, however, the reality of pursuing dreams ultimately leading to a sort of existential despair and hopelessness - what with the largely futile nature of dreams - one wonders if, perhaps, these distractions are not preventing one from pursuing their dreams, but are merely preventing one from accepting that said dreams are toast. In which case, by living vicariously through said creations, we merely substitute existential despair with existential longing. Neither, of course, is enjoyable.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Do (Not) Meet Your Heroes

If, as is commonly adjudicated, meeting one's heroes primarily results in disappointment, most readily displayed by said heroes' poor personality, politeness, understanding, or lack of all three, one must come to one of two conclusions, either:

A) Most "heroes" are disappointing as people
B) Most everyone is disappointing

The latter suggests a sort of universal misanthropy that the present author strives to avoid, but the former is, insidiously, almost as cynical, as it suggests that we continually propel those to stardom the least deserving of it.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Disappoint

If, as correctly assumed, the natural state of the present author is one in which disappointment is elicited such that acquaintances and family are frequently let down, it stands to reason that, while having no social network or friendships may be damaging, it also prevents a propensity of disappointment that would be demonstrated regularly by such friendships. That is to say, you can only disappoint so many people, when you only know so many people to disappoint.

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Time Off

One would think that, given a significantly longer time between posts than usual, the present author would have a particularly significant, creative, and evocative post, what with all the time the present author had to cogitate on one. Alas, such is not the case; indeed, such time away only serves to hasten the existential angst the present author has, by way of displaying an inability to stick to the most basic and unassuming of tasks - writing a short, poorly conceived blog post, with no redeeming value, and little narrative purpose.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Three Skips

She stared westward across the ocean as if she had never seen water or a sunset before. The colours were splayed across the atmosphere as if a higher being had taken cans of red and orange and purple paint, opened them, and merely splashed the paint out across the sky.

A pocket full of small stones resided in the pocket of her jeans. The waves ended their encroachment on the sand mere inches away from where her bare feet stood, granules of the fine particles slowly covering her toes. She took a stone out from her pocket.

Three skips. That was it. She side armed it as best she could but on the third hop across the water, the stone she had thrown crashed head first into a wave and ended its journey across the surface. She took out another stone.

Three skips.

She sighed and her shoulders heaved up and down as if they were lifting invisible weights.

A jet ski went by just beyond the nearest buoy, engine loud, water sprayed upwards out its back, mild up and down jaunting as it coasted across the uneven surface. She thought the wind in her hair would have felt amazing at that speed. Instead she settled for the light breeze that brought the smell of salt and a rapidly decaying late summer September warmth to her nose.

Three skips.

She used to come here with her best friend, Sofia, they'd skip rocks and look for handsome boys and guess their names and joke about saying "hi" only to never do so. Sofia could skip her rocks eight, nine, ten times, they'd hop over the waves and seemingly float never-endingly, as if in a hurry to escape the shore, the town, everything, go across the ocean and land somewhere else, somewhere new, where the grass wasn't necessarily greener but was a different shade of it.

Sofia carried a sadness with her when they were done, and the car ride back home on the rural two-lane highway at dusk would be silent, windows down, sad, somber music blaring out the speakers, a mutual understanding between them that didn't need vocalization. They were getting older. They could feel it in their bones. And while nobody would call them old they knew time was finite and the days of being young and pretty and desirable, as women, were becoming a distant part of their past.

Sofia took it worst. There were things out of her control, family issues, job issues, relationship issues, and the ever-present reality of aging. She began talking less. Smiles became a rarer commodity. Phone calls and texts went unreturned. So three years ago, she decided she had enough, and she never woke up again. Never skipped rocks again. Never joked about handsome boys again. It was over.

Three skips.

Another sigh.

The sun was almost entirely below the horizon at this point. It was too cold this time of year for swimmers, for shirtless guys, for kids laughing and parents smiling and cameras flashing.

She had one rock left. She took it out of her pocket and ran her hand along the smooth surface, the pastel grey colouring echoing a sentiment she often shared when she returned here. It was never quite the same without Sofia. The smiles and laughter and lust they shared now bottled up and tucked away forever into a memory that would slowly but surely become more faint as time marched on. She took one last look at the ocean, then, and closing her eyes, side-armed one last throw into the water. She didn't know how many times it skipped. It didn't matter.

One last sigh, and she returned to her car. She pulled out of the parking lot, and the last sliver of sun, the last reflection of light off the ocean, disappeared in her rear-view mirror behind her, never to return again.

Monday, October 17, 2016

What Does it Mean for the Four?

If, as some futurists, health experts, and transhumanists would have you believe, human aging will indeed be cured much sooner than the average person assumes (if one even assumes such a thing is possible), such cure would represent a direct refutation of the Four Noble Truth's elicitation of constant rebirth until ones breaks the cycle of rebirth. Given that rebirth relies on death, one may be presupposed to toss out the entirety of the Four Noble Truths, given this possible development. Either way, it would appear that such a human achievement would accomplish only the worst realities of the Four Noble Truths - that is, one would live in a state of permanent, never ending "dukkha," or suffering, and the entire cessation of rebirth would be rendered moot.

Friday, October 14, 2016

November 9th

While many would jump to the conclusion that on November 9th, after the US election is over, we can all return to a more normal, less despondent world, such conclusion would be faulty. Indeed, that the election has no bearing on one's insignificance, depression, and reality of suffering, renders any exultations of gratitude wholly superficial. The end route, for all of us, is a casket. The universe cares not, either way.

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

From Robber to Baron

The early steps are to copy and adjust. You read something as a 14 year old and love it so you do your own take. You offer a twist ending to your own story after reading The Necklace. You offer a rambunctious language excursion after reading My Cousin, My Gastroenterologist. You try your hand at absurdity after reading A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy.

I didn't even realize what I had done when I wrote it, but the title and mood was similar to a piece I loved months or years ago in a Sixfold writing contest. So I scrapped it, back to the ash heap, try to hit the right melancholy chord some other time.

We learn early from aping those who we enjoy and like but at some point the robbery has to turn into something more individualistic, more brand-worthy. "Good artists copy, great artists steal" might work in the libertarian dystopia of silicon valley but the creative industry generally polices its self to the point of parody. Or maybe every story has been told, and told in every single way, but it's impossible for any one person to have seen them all.

Yet it's still a good novel or a good movie or a good short story that gets the creative juices flowing, unless I've managed to smuggle a bit of nicotine into my system; either way the cost is great. Maybe I'm not destined to write my own piece. Maybe nobody ever is.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

The Cycle

The present author is under no pretext that the author's current home is the one in wish said author wishes to reside. Given that the present author has demonstrated, at various times, a desire to reside in both a larger metropolitan area, and a warmer one, it has been suggested by both the author and numerous others that a move to the southern US, southwestern US, or a more equatorial country (for a grander change) would be good for the present author's livelihood. Alas, given that moving often requires a large sum of money, and emigrating often requires a 4 year degree, said move is subject to a vicious cycle - that is, the present author can not attain a degree that would allow for the accumulation of more money vis-à-vis a better job, on account of limited funds - nor can the present author get a better job that would allow for greater income, on account of the lack of a degree.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Saying Goodbye for the Last Time

For four hours we talked and laughed and rode a bike around Saigon and drank and even had some spicy frog soup. I was in a country where being white meant it was easy to meet people, to have them curious to talk to me, and I was determined to try to use that to make connections and talk to people, something I can't/won't/don't do at home, where I am just another washed up schmuck cocooned in his bedroom. It's nice to have friends in distant places, people you can communicate with to get fresh perspectives, people who can give you tips and advice and help you out when needed. I suppose that's what she is now, after four hours of talk, although 'friend' is loose and maybe we're more acquaintances. She messages me almost every day now, bringing up constantly me coming back, the things she wants to do with me (visit her hometown, eat lots of food, the usual I suppose) and thanks me profusely for making her laugh so much. We talk about work and life and what we're up to. It's nice.

I suppose, eventually, the talks will die down, the daily messages will become every other day, and then weekly, and then every other week, and so on. The reality is that flying across the Pacific Ocean is expensive. She has her own people she knows and hangs out with who don't require thousands of dollars just to visit. Eventually she'll be just another face on Facebook, another friend who could barely be counted as such, posting pictures of life and food and maybe getting married and having kids.

I was nervous when I first met her. But it was even harder to say goodbye. It was a goodbye knowing that we would probably never see each other again. A goodbye knowing that whatever friendship could have flourished there never will. A goodbye knowing that all these moments will eventually be lost to time, discarded, forgotten in old age. Whatever could have happened never will. Whatever will happen is all the more disappointing.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Part 3: Vietnam

Social awkwardness and tiredness (it was late) are a doozy. Step out of the luggage area in Ho Chi Minh City's airport and right into the street. No lobby, no waiting area, just a mass of hundreds, perhaps thousands of people, fighting for taxis and buses and a ride to wherever they're going. We stupidly got in an unmarked taxi that made us switch to a marked taxi in a dark alley that then took us to not quite the right spot.

Vietnam is chaotic. 90% of the traffic on the road is made up of motorbikes. While cars may have to follow the rules of a one way road, the bikes don't, so even on narrow one lane streets they come flying down in both directions. Sometimes, they even hop up on the sidewalk, barreling down as if the sidewalks are merely a second road. Traffic lights are few and far between, and are followed precisely never. Crosswalks serve no purpose. Roundabouts become a sea of cutting across people and honking horns. The horns. Constant.

Vietnam was a country that tried to rip us off a lot. Scammers on sidewalks tried to upsell us by 1000-5000%. A woman began talking to me as I sat on the curb to try to distract me while a man would come by and try to steal stuff out of my pockets. Men on corners tried to sell marijuana, hurriedly saying the word, some of them dressed in official security or police garb. It is an intense experience. Between the constant noise, the pervasive smell of auto fumes, the onslaught of people targeting the 'rich tourist', it is not a place to visit for the faint of heart.

It is a country caught in between two worlds. You are just as likely to find a club or bar pumping nationalist tunes as you are America's latest hits. Chains have begun their steady encroach onto every block and corner, but markets are still the king of the arena. The main downtown area has fully embraced the modern capitalist adage of "the more tall buildings that light up, the better." The view can be stunning.

But I made friends there, some who I still stay in touch, who want me to come back, so that they can show me more of their country. After a few minutes on a bike, you learn to let go of the trepidation and just enjoy the wind on your face and seeing the city from outside an enclosed vehicle. And it's easy to enjoy many of the other little things. Vietnamese coffee. Reasonable portion sizes. Cheap as hell everything. Maybe I'll be back, maybe I won't. the country will continue to change. It is on a trajectory that can not be stopped. That trajectory is largely good, as it means less poverty, less crime, healthier citizens. But it also will eventually wear down the local customs, end the markets, the bikes, the little idiosyncrasies that made Vietnam, Vietnam.

Friday, September 23, 2016

Part 2: Malaysia

Malaysia is grittier, for a lack of better word. It does not disguise its flaws off the beaten path like Hong Kong does. There are homeless outside of train stops, outside of hotels and hostels, graffiti lines the stores and shops and restaurants, sidewalks are crumbling and entire grates can be missing, inviting your foot to fall in. Every now and then the smell of trash from a back alley wafts in, get too close to the river and the stench of rotting fish also encroaches upon your senses.

But there is a sheen to the immediate downtown, a modernity trying to obfuscate the social and economic problems the country is still grasping with, epitomized by the Petronas Twin Towers, all glossy and futurist and sleek, several holograms project into the air as you tour the building, telling you about the history of the two towers.

And yet there's a comradery and fellowship to it all. Bars spill on to sidewalks, fans staying up late to watch their beloved Premier League teams duke it out, then finding their way to Mamak stalls at 1, 2, 3 in the morning, enjoying the bread and curry and such they are famous for. Malaysia is a melting pot, more so than many SE Asian countries, a Muslim majority sharing space with a significant Chinese population, Indian one, and a host of aboriginal people. Mosques and temples and churches dot the city, every kind of cuisine imaginable finds its way into malls, the big  three of the country combining with western standbys and coffee and tea aplomb.

The streets of the city start to echo some of the chaos of surrounding countries, but there is still a general tendency to mostly obey the lights and signs, just make sure you know how to aggressively pass and cut across lanes.

Unlike Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur is far from walkable, highways intersect important routes, impossible to cross, sidewalk quality ranges from pristine to downright poor. Taxis are cheap and plentiful but just like HK and later Vietnam, my white skin appears to be a big sign that reads "please rip me off."

Perhaps most absorbing, surprisingly, are some of the markets, once again reflecting the diversity of the country, goods from a host of world religions, cultures, cuisines all intersect across a busy square, cheap to my western sensibility but not at all lacking in quality, things from Malaysia, Thailand, China, Japan, the UK, and on and on.

Malaysia is a sort of middle ground in the trip, as it were. not quite as rich and modern as Hong Kong, but not as chaotic and unwieldy as Vietnam. Kuala Lumpur was perhaps my favourite city on the trip, a city that it feels that to eat around it would take years - to uncover its nooks and crannies as well - an overlooked city, not said in the same breath as Bangkok or Singapore or Bali, but one who we found filling up our schedule with delights and discoveries with ease.

Thursday, September 22, 2016

Part 1: Hong Kong

The man I am sitting next to on the plane to Hong Kong has a Chinese Passport and a US Passport, and he starts giving us all kinds of insider info on Hong Kong. Before we know it, we know how to get around Hong Kong and how to pay for it.

The subway system in Hong Kong - or MTR, as it is locally referred to - puts every single other system, even the Underground, to shame. It is completely and utterly idiot proof, full of maps and guides and light up signs and directions and every single stop, no matter where, featuring a slew of convenience stores, restaurants, bakeries, restrooms, Wi-Fi hotspots, ATMs, everything anyone could ever need. Not once did we go the wrong direction, or miss a stop, or get confused, unlike, say, in New York City. The trains were on schedule, fast, and we almost never had to wait more than 2 minutes for one. And a ton of them exited right out into shopping malls.

Speaking of shopping malls, I would not be surprised if Hong Kong had the highest amount of shopping malls per person of anywhere on earth. Step off the MTR? Shopping mall. Turn a corner? Shopping mall. Try to leave a shopping mall? Guess what, you just walked into another. They are everywhere, and seemingly all of them busy.

The MTR is strict. No eating or drinking, not even water. You can tell the cleanliness is a bit of a source of pride. There is no begging because it is illegal and strictly enforced. Of course, that doesn't rid the city of homelessness, and with a keen eye you can see the cardboard shacks and shipping containers that house the less fortunate in a city whose housing prices and rent prices are skyrocketing out of control.

Perhaps most strikingly, Hong Kong is an eminently walkable city, and people are out late walking, playing, shopping at markets, and with nobody ever far from an MTR stop, the time commitment required to explore the city is much smaller than it could be.

Yet beneath the relative orderliness of the city lies anger. Lamp posts are covered with stickers exclaiming that "Hong Kong is not China." Nobody in the city would ever dare identify themselves as Chinese. The constant tension of being the same nation but having a different government is there, and Hong Kong, even with all its wealth and development, is a small fish in a big pond compared to the overwhelming might of the mainland.

The city itself, the skyline, is everywhere. It feels claustrophobic at times, buildings seemingly stacked one after another, many of them narrowest at the base. It is even more crowded vertically than New York City, almost no part of Hong Kong is without towering structures standing high above you. It feels like they could all come tumbling down with just the smallest tremor, all the laundry strung out on wires floating down to fall on top of the rubble. But they haven't.

And like many big cities, Hong Kong loves - loves - car horns. Constant honking, even though the traffic was relatively orderly (certainly compared to later stops). One wonders how bad it would be without such a robust MTR system.

As for sightseeing, there's a lot, although given the relatively small area, Hong Kong isn't exactly a country you could spend a year in doing nothing but checking it out. Still, some of the temples are massive in scope and a sight to behold, many offering the only respite available in the city away from the noise. Perhaps most striking is Victoria Peak, a large rise on the south edge of the city that looks out over the urban sprawl at night. Hong Kong's nighttime light pollution is loud and garish and beautiful, and from atop the hill you can see it all spread out in front of you like a glorious artificial wildfire.

In terms of food, you probably owe it to yourself to at least find a nice dim sum place. You absolutely can't go wrong with BBQ pork dim sum, the sweet, soft steamed bun stuffed with smoky and sweet BBQ pork. It's so simple and yet so good, better than any cheap BBQ pulled pork you might buy in a store in America. Better than any hamburger bun. Washing it down with a nice hot green tea just makes it all the more enjoyable.

At its most fundamental level, Hong Kong stood out to me in the following ways; modern, tall, busy, convenient. It is a city seemingly designed to allow anyone and everyone to traverse it, to never have anyone be without a modern amenity for more than a few steps, and to simply overwhelm you with the sheer height and seemingly never-ending sprawl of sky-reaching buildings.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

The Guilt of Attention

It goes without saying that in some parts of the world, particularly the developing world, being a white person still brings with it a fair share of increased attention and curiosity. So it was in Vietnam that people, in general, were way more willing to talk to me (sometimes to rip me off, but I digress) and meet up with me then, say, in America. While this is all born out of a sort of romanticized notion of white people and westerners (a bad thing), I can't deny that the increased willingness of people to hang out with me, go on a date with me, want to get to know me, etc., is incredibly appealing, compared to being a boring, ugly, nobody-cares schmuck back home.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Comfort

Generally speaking, humans - or at least, a large segment of humans - aim to be able to enjoy a comfortable living, furnished by way of income, shelter, and relationship stability, among other things. It is perhaps, then, the cruelest twist of fate that comfort - insomuch as routine becomes it - paradoxically becomes one of the greatest barriers to continual development and accrual of things that may then provide additional comfort. Simply put:

1. We seek comfort
2. Routine becomes comfort
3. Comfort destroys comfort

Alas, such reality is one of the greatest sources of existential dissatisfaction among the population at large.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Pieces

The woman took a drag on her cigarette, then exhaled into the cold air around her, snow lightly falling from above, resting on the shoulders of her coat.

"I suppose," she said, as she shifted her legs, trying to find a comfortable position on the cold park bench, "we don't really ever know another person, we only know what they want us to know."

She took another drag.

"You just have to hope that, what you know about them, and what they know about you, all jives together in the end. I think that's what love is. It's not wholeness. It's accepting the pieces."

She got up, then, grabbing her purse and slowly shuffling towards the station. Some snowflakes were nestled in her hair. She didn't seem to mind.

"My train is here," she said, as she turned to glance at me over her shoulder, "have a nice day."

I watched her walk to the station, the blare of the train's horn smothering the sounds of traffic and the city around me. I leaned back on the bench and stared at the grey sky above. The snow continued to fall.

Monday, August 29, 2016

Learning About Oneself

It's been said that not only is travelling the best way to learn about other people and places, but is the best way to learn about oneself. Given that the more the present author learns about themselves, the more the present author wishes to distance one from oneself, it becomes apparent that travelling may actually be the worst kind of knowledge available to the present author.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

And So We Said Goodbye To Summer

It's electric, really, the oppressive heat and humidity, the denseness of the air, the sun beating down. The heat and humidity that causes sweat to cascade even when lying in bed might be uncomfortable, but when the air feels alive and the sun warms the skin and the light lasts until 9:30 PM, who cares, really? You can go outside, you can explore, walk, see the green grass sway in the breeze, the flowers in bloom, the trees green and full. At dusk the crescendo of bugs is deafening, crickets singing like they have the most important voice in the world. In July, fireflies danced over the grass and flickered and glowed and remember when as a kid we caught them?

In a matter of months it ends, the oppressiveness of the heat replaced by the oppressiveness of the cold, the dry, stale air, nipping at skin and preventing any outdoor activity unless suitably and bulkily covered and guarded. Another summer passes, this one, like many others, came and went too fast, the daylight shorter now, the sun a little less frequent, the warmth a little less extravagant, and all the while, my age a little bit older. Another winter of slipping on black ice, of clearing driveway and sidewalk, of car crashes and death and runny noses and steamed glasses and all the other things that winter brings. No sunlight, no sunsets, no fireflies, no crickets, no exposed skin. Just grey. Endless grey.

Friday, August 19, 2016

Everything Was Explained and Nothing Even Mattered

In between readings of Chicken Soup for the Soul and 80s synth and 90s baggy jeans and tape cassettes and business meetings it was easy to see that a cottage industry for self-help had become ingrained in our culture, an individualist, post-modern rejection of modernist trappings of self, people seeking a voice to identify with and create an ego but wanting the educational abstractness of a layperson. So people turned to self-help to guide them and create an identity and find a guide that spoke on a level that rejected the rigidity of textbooks and academia, the irony of course being that the authors, the successful, became the ivory tower, "gurus" turned into millionaires by simply displaying an ability to project their modernist interpretation of self into the postmodernist rejecting of self the readers promulgated.

What the 21st century did to the self-help industry is remarkable in that it made it even more superflat, more heterogeneous, and yet still shackled to the inherent limitations of "This is Me, So To it Will Be You." That has not prevented the explosion in content, the Medium posts, the listicles, the Facebook shares and the Tumblr reblogs, in direct contrast to claims of the commonality, now, of post-postmodernism. Concurrently, truly, the self can be reimagined through the lens of another completely distinct from financial attainment and educational attainment, our self-help can come from anyone or no-one, an expert, a teen, a comic, a blog, a rejection of not only establishment thought but anything that could aptly be related to it. But again, what is a rejection of an ivory tower if it becomes the ouroboros.

The industry might claim that in its current construction, it has become more deft, more accurate, more knowledgeable, but the base problems remains. If all we are is our experiences, our background, our perspective, as a postmodernist or a modern (but not modernist) practitioner of 21st century identity politics might ascribe to, then surely there is almost nothing these things can do for us, these self-help teachings, these guidelines of random passerby, these "17 ways to have fun in your 20s." It feels, distinctly, like a new bourgeois, peddling not power over establishments, but power over individuals, looking for affirmation that yes, they were right along, while the customers look for ways to accrue the same affirmation; if they only follow these simple steps. All the while, nobody is all the more learned for it.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Die Young

It's been asked, rather existentially, and by numerous people, why the good seem to die young. Many a song and quote and written word express this sentiment in such form. If one works from the assumption that good people and/or things do seem to die young, then it does explain why the present author is getting older and will, in direct contradiction to personal health, live until the ripe old age of 120.

Friday, August 12, 2016

Heroin Dreams

As a regular participant in various dark, twisted, gory, violent, and decrepit nightmares, the present author has grown accustomed to waking up at odd hours drenched in sweat and heart beating furiously against chest. The present author can now assume, as well, that being forcefully held down (in a dream) and then having heroin injected into one's wrist is of much less enjoyable than a real life injection of heroin. While the latter is not something the present author has actuated, the former is, and in a dream state, having a potentially lethal drug forced into you merely results in a stinging pain, immense amounts of fear, and copious amounts of sweat, without any of the euphoric high that real heroin would produce.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Acceptance

It has been said that one must accept themselves before they can accept anyone else. It's also been suggested, however, that one should not accept failure.  Given that failure is the present author's state of being, then, it becomes apparent that self-acceptance violates the 2nd rule thusly stated, and as such, should not be pursued.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mean Kids

One finds that, rather harmfully, the meanest people one will ever experience generally occurs in junior high and high school, when people often look to carve out their social niche by putting others down. This suggests, then, that getting through high school is getting through the worst life has to offer. Unfortunately, the lack of day in and day out verbal virulence softens one as they age, so that adulthood, while not as much of a trial as high school, still seems to each of us every bit as cruelly difficult.

Friday, August 5, 2016

Solitude

There's beauty in the solitude and the quiet hum of thoughts and imagination run wild. Of the creak and groan and every moan of the house being the only noise, interspersed with the occasional traffic or pedestrian on the sidewalk yelling to another pedestrian.

There's beauty in the comfort of your bed, of your space, of your room. The way the keyboard seems to know you on your PC, the clicks of each key familiar and worn, the way your mattress seems to fit to you, your pillow a loving embrace of your skull.

There's beauty in mowing the lawn, in changing the pattern, the grass a diagonal stripe now instead of horizontal, the smell of grass and weeds blown about and leaking in through the windows that are open at night to cool the house down from summer heat.

There's beauty in music, to yourself, headphones on and eyes closed and the lyrics occupying your thoughts and the gentle melancholy of a song that hints at summer's passing and aging and regrets.

There's beauty in the way the tall grass waves in the breeze and the sunlight cascades off of cars and reflects light all about, catching interest with just the most miniscule glance from the corner of your eye.

All these moments of solitude, vital moments, at times, will be forever etched into your brain, their profundity never fully explained to anyone else, lacking the dopamine and instantaneous reward of talking with someone, of laughing with someone, but etching into your head and heart your personality all the same.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

The State

If one were to subject oneself to American politics on a regular basis, one might be aware of the reality in which a number of American citizens (or snake people, until further notice) are running to hold the single most powerful position of political leadership in the world. They have been running (not actually running, mind you) for over a year, and in 90 days, the result of said running will crystalize.

One must, however, have a sort of individual hope brought forth by said political sweepstakes. To wit, the current candidates are so utterly ineffectual and hopeless at possessing a modicum of humanity and empathy, that the only conclusion one can make is that, if such uselessness can elevate oneself to president, all of us must be able, even in our abject failure, at least be able to elevate ourselves to some position of prominence and regard, even if it falls short of being president. In this way, the campaign is rather inspiring, a surefire way to demonstrate that even in failure, with a little sociopathic narcissism, one can accomplish great (or terrible) things.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Normal State

One finds that, humans, as a whole, are apt to have anxiety over upcoming events of varying significance. For instance, one might have anxiety over a job interview, or a wedding, or going out in public, or whether they will die young, or whether their blog is actually worth reading. Alas, such anxiety can render gastrointestinal tracts harmful, and create an entire host of sickly physical responses.

One way, then, to combat having anxiety over specific events, large in scale or not, would be to simply have one's default state as having anxiety all the time. This assures one that they will not have to deal with a sudden influx of anxiety at certain, important times, but instead conditions them to accept anxiety, and all its baggage, as part of the menagerie of life experiences, with the possible result of becoming used to anxiety and simply having it as part of day-to-day existence.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Degradation

One finds that, given the present author's job - one in which very few skills and little mental capacity are required - the present author's skills in areas of math, socialization, learning, and multitasking have all suffered from degradation at not being used. Given the fact that the present author also does not possess any sort of degree that suggests at one point that these skills were in fact present (which, itself, is a very contentious claim), it is reasonable to assume that the degradation of what limited skill the present author even had in the first place renders said author without any appreciable talent or marketable skill.

Sunday, July 17, 2016

And The Night Swallowed Us While Nobody Was Looking

It's 12:30 AM on a Sunday that some people think is still Saturday and someone is working their ass off at their own company even though the healthy thing would be to be in bed and having a good night's sleep.

A man kisses someone he loves in South Dakota.

Restaurants are still open on the west coast where a woman spills coffee on an expensive dress she picked up with some friends at a trendy shop in San Diego so she could impress tonight's date.

Someone drives their car through fields and holds their hand out the window and feels the warm summer air caress it as they see fireflies dance over the tall grass.

A club is just getting started for the night.

A man sweeps up trash after extra hours in Disney World and wonders why he is stuck working the graveyard shift.

In Tokyo a woman sits down for a late lunch. It is the last lunch she will ever eat.

A man kills another man with a gun.

A woman gives birth and decides her child is the most beautiful thing in the world.

Two young kids stay up way past their bedtime watching old Godzilla movies and making shadow puppets on the wall and are oblivious to the existential crisis that awaits them as they age.

The moon is high in the sky.

A plastic bag gets blown down our street but there is no American Beauty to eulogize its existence.

I crawl into bed and decide that today is worth nothing and tomorrow is the same.

The sun sets in Hawaii over the ocean and some friends decide to do the same thing again tomorrow night.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Easy

It's been said that, nothing in life is easy, by an abundance of people from various walks of life. The present author would like to contend that this turn of phrase is not, indeed, a foolproof statement, as some things, like failure, do come easy, rendering the vast majority of humans as disparaging existentialists, and the statement as anything but universal, considering how commonly the present author does, indeed, proceed to fail, demonstrating that some things in life are easy.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Hierarchy of Realities

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs may be a crude and pseudo-scientific attempt to classify human needs, but the present author would like to suggest a new pyramid; aptly named, Maslow's Hierarchy of Realities, in which each layer of the pyramid is represented not by needs, but by what each individual human is likely to experience over the course of their lifetime. Luckily, such a pyramid is rather simple to draw or represent visually, as it contains simply one section that encompasses the entire pyramid, and said section simply reads "Failure," in order to represent the inescapable folly of which all humans suffer under. 

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

DOPAmine

L-dopa? Side effects. Have to have green tree extract. Increases dopamine, but eventually tolerance and melancholy result. So much for a long-term fix.

Serotonin reuptake inhibitors? Prescriptions, only options. Too many and serotonin syndrome kicks in, fatal.

Cigs? Serotonin-norepinephrine-dopamine. Hits all three, feels good, dies down in about 5 minutes, leaves you smelling like shit. Cancer sticks.

Cocaine? Breaks down the blood-brain barrier. Dependence. Withdrawal side effects. Cost. Danger.

Kratom? Inconsistent. Fantastic one batch, dud the next. Tastes like shit. Make your own pills, dozens of them, and swallow them. Work. Time. Dependence.

Kava? Who needs livers anyways. What's the latest? Some swear by it. Others swear it will destroy your liver.

Caffeine? Hah. We're all immune, and those who aren't get the shakes. Limited dopamine agonist. Never felt anything, myself.

So many ways to try to feel better, so many ways to kill yourself, so many prices to pay.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Cigarettes

I will never besmirch someone for smoking. I will besmirch someone for smoking in the presence of others, particularly children, but if you've never smoked a cigarette, it's hard to understand what makes them so compelling, especially to those overworked and underpaid and those with high anxiety, or those in creative industries. It is a triple reuptake inhibitor, an antidepressant on steroids, dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine suddenly coursing through you, confidence coming in waves, an appreciation for the world, a creative spark, a love of people. It remains one of the best legal highs on the market, better than kratom, less memory-destroying than Xanax. It is no wonder people get addicted, people turn to it, people depend on it. We need to be asking ourselves what we can do to provide people who are smoking said positive feelings without having them rely on cancer sticks. Life is stressful. Escapes are sometimes needed. Alas, sometimes the easiest ways to escape carry with them the greatest tendency towards self-harm.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Coffee

One finds that, as one gets older, one is more predisposed to drinking coffee. Given that coffee does not change in flavor as one ages, and retains its bitter nature, one has to wonder what it is that drives adults to drink something that as kids they can't stand - and if it is indeed some deeper metaphor for simply putting up with something we do not like - as everyone else does it, and life is a series of timed events doing things we don't like, punctuated briefly by short timed events of things we do.

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

A Repeat

2016, while possessing qualities distinct from 2015, also possesses some qualities that are similar, i.e., the present author has submitted a large number of short stories to journals and contests in an effort to get published, only to receive rote, bot-formed rejection emails. Given that 2017 will also be like 2016 before it, in this way, it can be expressed that the present author has a degree of ability to predict the future. That said future has an almost 100% guarantee of occurrence renders said ability rather unimpressive.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Amazing

Nothing amazing happens here, nothing out of the ordinary. I've become comfortable with the doldrums and though it's a part of me I don't like it's a part of me all the same and I have to learn to live with it. I used to dream about moving to LA or Miami or someplace sunny and warm but the realities of a limited income and the costs of living somewhere near downtown eventually convinced me to give up on that. Or maybe it was just the fear of change. Who knows.

The other day I sat on our front porch and listened to a song on repeat and vowed to enjoy summer as much as I could, until endless cloudy greys entered and ruined the ambience. That vow lasted a couple weeks.

There's a place on campus where the students put up hammocks in between trees and lie there and sometimes I see one reading a book the old-fashioned way, not on a tablet or phone or what have you. The large water fountain there gently creates white noise but the setting is isolated enough from traffic that it's not a big deal either way.

If you drive to the west for 45 minutes you can look out over an endless lake and watch the sun dip beneath it as boats in the distance gently bob up and down on the waves that are now covered with the red and orange and purple hues that autumn leaves will possess in several months time.

One friend moved to North Carolina and another moved to Arizona and another is stuck in Indiana which isn't so far from Michigan but might as well be because we haven't talked in almost a decade. None of them.

The other day I made tacos over the stove and the kitchen was already 85F and with the gas burner going I became inundated with epidermal moisture. The tacos turned out alright but the soft tortilla shells were way bigger than the hard ones and when I tried to wrap the hard ones it didn't really fit right.

I think people are good at knowing when someone's laugh is fake but they just sort of accept it because they know they'll do it often too.

They're tearing up the road outside work which makes it hard to have the windows open in the morning when it's not that hot yet because it smells like asphalt and the constant noise can drone out the person on the other end of the phone who has the wrong number.

Some of the grass is dying because we haven't gotten much rain in June. The middle-upper class neighborhoods have green grass because they can afford underground sprinklers or lawn care people. Less dandelions, too. That's all my neighborhood is this year. Dandelions. Even when dead they're not so attractive.

On Saturday night two houses down and across the street they had a party or gathering or get-together or whatever it's called these days that went on past 1am on their front porch. They will have many more this summer just like last summer.

Nothing amazing happens here, nothing out of the ordinary. I drove home listening to the same song I've been listening to for the past two months. I don't know where that time went.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Throw Hands

One might be inclined, given recent current events, to "throw one's hands up" in dismay. The current author would then ask, however, where those hands were previously, if not being thrown up constantly at the dismay of the meaninglessness of existence.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Sports

It is said, oftentimes, by people wishing to critique the admittedly large amount of money that circulates around the world of professional sports, that sports are, in effect, meaningless. That they convey no real significance to the world at large, and that the profession, in terms of reputation, should pale in comparison to that of, say, a cancer researcher, or NASA engineer. Given, however, that said researchers and engineers meet the same end as athletes, and do so while imparting material changes on well under 0.0000001% of the known universe, it is safe to say that, using a scale that determines that sports are meaningless, one would have to then conclude that all human endeavors are meaningless, and all end in the same, finite conclusion.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Opiate of the People

Marx may have once said that religion is the opiate of the people (often translated as "the masses") but given the rampant opiate abuse in the US during this century, it seems astute to perhaps modify the original quote. Occam's Razor might dictate the most accurate turn of phrase in this case; in that in modern America, opiates are the opiates of the masses.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Writing Rule

It's been said - at times contentiously, given that nobody truly "knows" a fantasy world or sci-fi world - to write what you know. Given that all the present author knows is abject failure, a sustained, habitual retreat to a bedroom, and a constant, gnawing, 24/7 fatigue, it stands to reason that anything the present author writes that is known, on a personal level, will be a trite, dull, failure of an attempt. To convey such a thing is, perhaps, the highest to which the present author can aspire to. That the present author can not succeed in the use of language to convey such failure and apathy is another strike against.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

What A Lovely Day

It is common, rather much so, in summer, to observe one's outdoor environment and internally proclaim it as being "agreeable" or "pleasant" or "bright and warm." It is common, rather much so, to ignore said outdoor environment upon this realization, and instead spend vast amounts of time in a much more relatively static environment indoors. One observes that this is true on a larger scale than simply choosing not to exercise outside, but is rather a representation of our collective desire to experience new things but falling back on the easy familiarity of routine.

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Give Up Your Dreams

If, as we well know, only 18% of success across a multitude of various fields can be defined by hard work; if, as we well know, our intelligence starts declining at around age 25-28; if, as we all know, the two greatest influences on our life are the wealth we are born into and the genetics we are born with, one must, it must be asked, dare to question why bother trying, why bother succeeding, why bother entertaining the idea of grand dreams, when their very success is almost entirely out of our control.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Roads

It's the little things you notice, how construction season is condensed to 8-9 months instead of the 12 it can be spread out in down in Miami, because of the snow and ice. The roads are worse, whereas Florida is all smooth and steady, Michigan's are battered by 90 degree swings in weather over the course of a year and endless salt and sand in winter, the potholes and cracks turn the flat pavement into off-road excursions. Now, hurriedly, the men in orange vests seal it with rubberized asphalt, the trails of black malleable material pepper the road and age it horribly, they are not perfect fixes and still leave uneven texture. Variation may be the spice of life but for the routes we take, it is their very undoing.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Withdrawal

Brain zaps. Imagine a fuzziness, a static feeling, suddenly in your brain, a minute confusion and disorder. It's a sensation I've never felt anywhere else. It's impossible to explain, nothing like feeling the quick reverberation and buzz (in a bad way) that seems to inhabit, briefly, an area of your brain, not the whole thing, but a subsection.

Fatigue, flu-life symptoms, tired, tired, tired. The pills cause fatigue, to not take them causes fatigue, everything is fatigue, at least they let me sleep. But now I feel sickly and tired and weak and dizzy and sick. Four days, of course, last pills swallowed on Thursday it is now Tuesday and my body is rebelling, withdrawal symptoms in full swing. I eye the bottles on my desk and just want to drown myself in them but tough it out until the evening when I take three of them like I always do. The morning will pick up the rest.

It's Wednesday. The brain zaps are gone now. The sickness is gone now. I have replaced it with the pervasive drowsiness. I yawn, repeatedly, as the morning goes by. The great irony of all this is that avoiding the pills to feel better just makes me feel worse, taking the pills makes me feel worse, too, but at least it is a familiar worse. Fatigue is preferable to an electric storm in the brain. One can always sleep. One can't always reach into one's skull and pluck the very sickness out.

Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Rotting

Little did you know how much your body rots away at the desk where you park yourself 9 hours a day because you have to because it is your job. Whiffle ball, hours of it, legging out singles and doubles and waking up the next day sore, and even the day after that sore. If crystal and liquid intelligence peak in your mid to upper 20s then surely physical form does too, it's all downhill from here, days of soreness and forgetting and missing your turn and needing more stopping distance. The joys of aging are no such thing; pernicious, life is.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Nobody Ever Told Us

Nobody ever told us how many passwords we'd have to memorize.
Nobody ever told us how long to keep the tea bag in the hot water.
Nobody ever told us that the only way to avoid debt was to avoid education.
Nobody ever told us that skunks like hanging out near warm air like the kind that dryer vents expel.
Nobody ever told us how hard it'd be to diet and exercise.
Nobody ever told us that everyone gets lonely once in awhile.
Nobody ever told us to dust the cinder block window sills in the basement where the spiders collect.
Nobody ever told us a constantly running computer would keep the room much warmer.
Nobody ever told us all the answers would be online.
Nobody ever told us how to be happy.
Nobody ever told us how to love.
Nobody ever told us that the gas burners on the stove make scrambled eggs so much faster than electric and why would anyone want electric?
Nobody ever told us that the grass needs early spring crab grass treatment and late spring weed control.
Nobody ever told us that being a child involves having too little control and being an adult involves having too much.
Nobody ever told us to keep drain cleaner.
Nobody ever told us that the bullshit we mastered in school would be the same bullshit we used at work to construct an email to the boss about why the numbers don't quite add up.
Nobody ever told us how often to change the mattress.
Nobody ever told us that the calculus would be lost like the old toys you had as a kid.
Nobody ever told us there would be a vast emptiness when the think pieces stopped being written about your generation and moved on to the younger crowd even if they were never good or positive.
Nobody ever told us how it is to feel old.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Surrounding

Many a great person - if 'great person' can truly be an accurate turn of phrase - have claimed that they ascended to some level of success because they surrounded themselves with good people. This is a worthwhile goal, in general, particularly if the good people one surrounds themselves with represent a variety of backgrounds and viewpoints. However, it provides a sort of negative 'coming to reality' moment for the present author, as, given that the present author is not one of these good people and will never be chosen as such, the present author is perpetually condemned to never be in touch with a great person.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Distractions

By allowing oneself to be distracted by destitute hobbies, such as, for example, video games, one can spend an inordinate amount of time not pursuing their goals via the talent one does not have, thus preventing any sort of disappointment or failure. Thus, it can be said that to continually distract oneself from one's goals and desires is to successfully avoid the reality of lacking any ability to achieve said goals and desires.

Friday, May 13, 2016

Optimism

It has been demonstrated that having optimism about something coming in the future, or looking forward to something coming up, improves one's mood measurably. It could be derived, then, that constantly having something to look forward to is to one's benefit. However, given that the predominant state of future occurrences is one of failure, one wonders how one could aptly maintain optimism about future events, given that such optimism would be routinely displayed as false.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Prolonging the Inevitable

It has been said by people who are smarter, in all manner, than the present author, that to prolong the inevitable is a waste of one's resources - that the anxiety we build up before an event is worse than the actual event itself - and that trying to prolong something that is assuredly going to happen is of poor practice, and we should thus seek to resolve the event on its natural course, and have it all be over.

One also wonders, then, if this is a universal statement; thus one could aptly conclude that trying to prolong life, given the inevitability of death, is also a waste of resources.

Monday, May 2, 2016

We Used to Pretend We Would Be Happy

April changed over to May, you know. You made me promise to move somewhere like LA and send a pic of a sunset on the beach or a sunrise with a coffee or just me being able to wear regular clothes in the middle of January. That was years ago.

April changed to May, you know. You wouldn't guess with the weather. But the weather is boring and to perpetuate the dialogue is something I don't wish to do. You used to talk about seeing the world, or maybe at least Paris and London and Seoul.

April changed to May, you know. The pills rattle around their bottle in the pocket of my khakis, nobody asks me what the noise is and if they did I would have no answer, for to medicate is to be weak and sickly and wrong. America medicates. I've been at this job since 2009. That long, really? I used to tell you how one day I would quit and get a job where I could actually meet people and make friends and then I was almost 30 and it didn't matter because two decades of a wasted life can be three before you know it.

April changed to May, you know. Mother's Day is coming. Perhaps something nice will come in the mail for my mother and other mothers and then you can forget how I messed up something and left a stranger with an odd communication and necklace and wondering who was who. Maybe one day you'll get away from your city and your family and we can talk about how you love the snow and I hate it.

April changed to May, you know. There are people driving cars that were born this century now. The flowers outside my front porch bloomed and then fell to the ground and the bees no longer swarm their purple visage that has been engulfed by gravity and lies discarded.

April changed to May, you know. Maybe this would be the year. The year where things changed. The year where we travelled, the year where we made friends, hung out, made memories, had fun. You told me life sucked and I agreed and we laughed and I drank alcohol and took benzos and tried to go into a coma but all I got was a shitty headache.

April changed to May, you know, but what's a change in name, anyhow?

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Similarities in Youth and Age

While young, one is constantly frustrated by the lack of control one has over various things in life; from bedtime, to diet, to activities. Upon reaching adulthood, one finds that, this lack of control is every bit as pervasive; we have no control over the wealth, or lack thereof, that we are born into, the diet we carry over from our location and childhood, and various other anecdotes. The difference, of course, is that the things out of control in adulthood are routinely labeled as in our control by others, and that we could all be wealthy if we truly tried harder, just as a young child could try harder to skirt their rules. Such equivalency, of course, is false.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Forgetting

At roughly 4:30 AM this morning, the present author was both awake and aware of their present surroundings, given that the surroundings were a bedroom in which the present author most always sleeps. It occurs during that time that the present author had inspiration for a blog post, one which created a sense of satisfaction at the subject of said post. The present author went over the presumed future post in their head several times, in order to commit it to memory. Alas, the present author woke up with no actual ability to recall what the post was to be about. Given that we know that the post would be, as always, of poor quality, this is likely not a major loss.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Lack of Quality

It's readily apparent, looking back upon my many posts on this site, that quality was never a feature of the writing here. It is equally apparent that the posts I once considered to be some of my best were clearly poorly written diatribes. What this means, ultimately, is that likely every post is of poor quality, and apologies are due for any of those who are subjected to them. Like all things, given enough time, the creator will have grown and changed in a way as to admonish their previous work. Such are the complexities of creating and publishing something; will years after the book has faded from shelves, one hate it in the same way they chide their old blogs, or diaries, or what have you? What is the point of constructing something physical, unchangeable, if guaranteed to eventually disavow it?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Spring Malaise

Whereas a winter malaise is brought upon by the seemingly never-ending grey and cold, a spring malaise is brought upon by the seemingly never-ending realization that while the seasons may change, our inability to constitute happiness does not. This is different from summer malaise, in which one is stuck reflecting on youth passed by and wasted days, and fall malaise, in which one is reminded of the futility of existence by the coming of shorter days and the arrival of winter.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

There is No Right Answer

If given many contradictory truths, one finds that, to freeze up and do nothing is, ultimately, the most common response. Consider the following:

It is better for the economy at large to spend and not save money
It is better for an individual's future to save money
You can not take your money with you when you die, and attempting to do so means you gave away your labor for free
Spending away your money early leaves you much more open to economic calamity

Given all these truths, analysis paralysis would appear to be the modus operandi, and indeed, one in which the current author most often resides.

Monday, April 11, 2016

The Nihilism of Practice

If, as modern science corroborates, practice doesn't make perfect, and that innate predisposition explains much of a human's ability to do something well or pick up a new skill, one wonders how much one should continue to practice their passion in a vain attempt to make a living off of it, given exceedingly disappointing results.

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

New Living Space

I have now lived in my current house for several years, its creaks and moans and noises now more than familiar to me, but there was an adjustment period, certainly. How the steps seem to groan, the front door seems to shake the whole house, things that were all new to me when in bed at night or at my desk during the evening. These little things fascinate me and we talk so little about them, how they can make the transition to a new living space a bit more nerve-wracking for those who suffer from grandiose fears. We talk about getting used to a new neighborhood or a new commute, but rarely just the very sounds and smells a house makes and emits. I'm sure, in several more years, I'll be going through the same process again, relearning things that slowly become the familiar aesthetic of the day.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

Having Things to Look Forward To

It's a well-researched fact that just the act of planning something like a vacation lifts the spirits and promotes better mood. So it is that this summer is a busy one for me, featuring a return to Chicago for Pitchfork Music Fest; and then a 2+ week trip to Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia, that is now well along into planning stages. Of course, if one can look forward to such things, one can also look beyond such things, to a post-summer time of no plans, no trips, and winter cold. Alas, the cost of said trips is quickly draining my accounts and will render me unable to travel by my 30s, but until then, I shall endeavor to make the most of my still relative youth. Dealing with the realities of both aging, and financial reckoning, is something that makes it appear as though the next decade of my life will not be a particularly pleasurable one, but I suppose that is not terribly new or unique. We can not see the future, but I can see, finally, the future reality of visiting another continent and more countries, something that I have been planning, frustratingly, for many years. One only hopes that everything goes well.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Kid

You are never too old to be a kid at heart.
You are never too old to be a kid at heart.
You are never too old to be a kid at heart.
You are never too old to be a kid at heart.
You are never too old to be a kid at heart.
You are never too old to be a kid at heart.
You can welcome it back, not too late to start.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

If youth is wasted on the young...

Then it should be said that experience is wasted on the old.

Monday, March 21, 2016

Calamitous Paralysis

The nightmare was bad enough. A device not unlike a record player but significantly larger, and featuring a round, sandpaper like material instead of a vinyl record. It spun rapidly. A man held my elbow to it. Flesh and bone were grinded away. After my elbow was reduced to immobility, the man held the palm of my right hand to the spinning surface, and my flesh began to be rapidly grinded off, strips of dermis sent flying into the air.

I woke up screaming.

I woke up into an episode of sleep paralysis. I still do not know if my entire body was shaking, or if I had the sensation of my entire body shaking. I also wasn't in my body. I slowly floated down from above my bed towards it. Every sound was magnified, loud, my computer was a jet engine and the traffic was a train. Reality was distorted and that was the most innerving thing, that sounds I was wholly familiar with were suddenly, inescapably wrong. The world I knew around me I suddenly did not know. The shaking became worse. I could not move. I was possessed, demonic.

My body slowly fell into place and I stopped the shaking, or the sensation of. I could move again. I rolled over.

The nightmares would follow me the rest of the night, I danced in and out of sleep. I sit at my desk, shaking, for real this time, from an utter lack of sleep. At least I am inside my body.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Alone

The present author has demonstrated, both in 'real life' and via this blog - which also happens to be some manner of 'real life' - an inability to do things alone. This inability has robbed certain activities - pleasurable ones - from the present authors routine, including, but not limited to; movies, new restaurants, and travel. The latter of those is the most aggravating, as it presents a real and present danger to an activity that has largely fueled the entirety of the present author's new experiences. Considering the financial burden and time commitment it - that is, travel, - requires, the present author is under no pretense in which there is always someone to travel with. Given the present author's state of anxiety, however; to travel to a foreign country alone, one that does not speak English, and accomplish both memories, photos, and social connections, seems an incrementally impossible task. That the present author might be in the near term future forced to weigh these anxieties against the possibility of more travel, and that these anxieties directly represent the enjoyment of a trip - vis-à-vis wonderful sights, wonderful cuisine, and wonderful conversation - creates a challenge that will either render a sudden and penultimate defeat at the hands of stress and worry, or a victory over fear. The latter, it can be assumed, is the lesser likely.

Thursday, March 17, 2016

If America is Proof that Democracy Works

It is also, simultaneously, proof that it doesn't.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Before We Got too Old We Wanted to See the World

This August, the present author plans to embark on a trip of 3 weeks to Asia, consisting of, tentatively, China, Vietnam, Thailand, and Malaysia. This trip has been a massive, many year can kicker for awhile, in that it has been theorized for about 5 years, but now appears to finally be taking shape. Anxieties, of course, are apparent and plentiful, but given good company and cognizant travel plans, the trip should ultimately be an enjoyable and enriching experience. The present author will endeavor to escape an ever present comfort zone as much as possible. The author will also endeavor to have fun. The latter is something that we all endeavor to do but often fall short of doing.

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Recent Criticism

The present author, it so happens, has received recent criticism regarding a story, in that the story was an attempt to do too much, to weave too many disparate threads, and was too hard to tackle for an amateur. Likely unquestionably true; this criticism lends credence to the revelations by the present author, in this here very blog, that setting one's expectations too high - too high being any modicum of success - is a recipe for disappointment in all regards. However, it also occurs to the present author that attempting something much simpler and less grandiose will still result in the same utter disappointment.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

The Age of Not Being Cool

The median age of OkCupid men is 31. The median age of people who stay at hostels is slightly younger. Music festivals and concerts trend young.

So the present author is nearing the age in which one can be described as too old. Too old to be cool, if such a thing could ever be said about one who was never cool in the first place. But there is a definite barrier, a reality, if you will, of when ages are revealed, that the present author will soon be the oldest in the group, in the room, at the club. This is not without its existential baggage and sense of dread. At some point, maybe age 30, it stops being cool to be staying at a hostel or to be single and singing - or singling - at a concert, and is instead considered weird.

Perhaps, though, the present author, who is still routinely asked if concurrently attending college, can peddle relatively youthful looks towards a new reality of being 20-something for many more years, even if, the truth of the matter is, there are only a few left.

Or, perhaps, more practically, one who is going through the perniciousness of aging could simply choose not to give a shit, and do and go to whatever they want, anyways.

Monday, March 7, 2016

If Fear is the Mind-Killer

Then boredom is the mind-destroyer.

Meeting Expectations

I have mentioned, in passing, the immense enjoyment I received from a happenstance, coincidence fueled weekend in Chicago in a hostel and attending Pitchfork Music Fest. To say that a lot of things came together to provide me with a wonderful weekend is an understatement. So I had to go again this year. This, of course, brings the thorny thoughts to mind of how the 2016 experience can possibly live up to 2015, when people and place and time came together perfectly. More likely than not, the social bonds I forged in 2015 were remote chance, and 2016 will be a much more solitary, subdued adventure. That I hold out hope for another perfect weekend likely only sets me up for disappointment.

Friday, March 4, 2016

Hostelites and Social Fights

Drunkenly, or perhaps not drunkenly, but certainly angrily, a mixed Australian man and a white American woman debate at 3am in a hallway of a Chicago hostel about privilege, travel, classism, and all, stumbling through conversation that likely happens in many similar locations throughout the world, where generally progressive young adults with better than average access to capital weave their way through whiteness and supremacy and white guilt and middle and upper class guilt and luxury.

To travel the world is to fly - to fly is to pummel the earth with pollution in ways that do incalculable damage. But to travel the world is to also, perhaps, learn to view other cultures, beliefs, people, as human, to shatter nationalist or clan-based ideology. Or perhaps, at its most rudimentary, to enjoy life.

Later this year I will fly to Asia an embark on a multinational journey. I will stay in hostels among people my age, populated by Americas, Europeans, and Asians who all fall into the incredibly enviable position of living a safe life, a comfortable life, and a relatively wealthy one. It is often that one wonders if this is truly the greatest application of the capital on hand that we all have access to; but when you're sitting as a group, swapping stories over drinks and laughing and smiling, it seems as if it is possible to overthink something. Be good, try to learn, do the right thing, and ultimately, have fun. All the social awareness in the world doesn't do you much good if you spend your days miserable.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Favourite Games of Last Gen

Allow me to divert from the general tone of this blog. As someone who has played video games almost my entire life, growing up with them starting with the SNES and Game Boy to today's PCs and PS4s, I figured this would be fitting, given that last gen - that of PS3, Xbox 360, et al - is all but over. Here is a long but hopefully enjoyable read about the games from last gen, including PC games released during last gen's time frame, that I most enjoyed.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

I have chosen to neglect a strict ranking, as I was getting hung up on doing so, but if there were to be a number 1, this would be a heavy contender. Straddling the streamlined nature of Skyrim with the weirdness and heavily dice roll basis of Morrowind, Oblivion is perhaps Bethesda’s most consistent and sprawling vision of what a fantasy world should be. If there’s one thing that might elevate this game over Morrowind and Skyrim, it’s the endearing quality of some of the quest lines. The Dark Brotherhood is a triumph; you feel sympathy for a leader of a guild of assassins as he is framed as a traitor and flayed alive, his guidance suddenly ripped from you and yourself now at the center of a conspiracy to bring the entire organization down, uncovering the darkest, most disturbing quest line of any TES game to date, and one that really probably meant it should never have gotten a T rating. But it’s not the only one that sticks with you; the uncompromising challenge of late Thieves Guild quests, having to memorize guard shifts, or scurrying past blind Elder Scrolls monks. The long slog for Mehrunes’ Razor, a brutal, twisting dungeon of enemies and traps and switchbacks. The twisted, darkly humorous Shivering Isles. This was a game that begged you to come back, to engross yourself in its despair, humour, and beauty. What better moment was there then stumbling out of the sewers in 2006, seeing a vast landscape of swaying, individual grass and trees, sunlight beams, and reflective water, and thinking “this entire world is now mine to explore.”

Need for Speed: Most Wanted/Carbon

I really didn't know how to count this. Most Wanted released for PS2, Gamecube, and GBA... but also DS and Xbox 360. Carbon released for every single console ever created and then some, including all 7th gen consoles and handhelds. They came out in late 2005, and late 2006, respectively. I've lumped them together here out of a "who knows" rule violation or non-violation. The important thing is that these were the best damn arcade racers I ever played, and the nighttime cityscape of Carbon, replete with drifting, racing, cops, and tuning, literally cost me days and days of endless driving. This was driving through an open world just for fun before the open worlds of Burnout and NFS got inundated with "content" every block, when we were expected to drive around town simply because it was fun. That made it that much harder to pull off, from a game dev standpoint, but when it was, it worked so, so well. These games were gloriously cheesy, fast, and accessible. But that’s what made them so good as racing games.

Neverwinter Nights 2

Give Obsidian the D&D ruleset to play with and they will do so. The story was generic, but the cast of characters were definitely stronger than its precursor and the entire Forgotten Realms setting was more alive this time through. As was common with D&D games back then, the amount of options and ways to build your character and play them out meant it would take a ton of playthroughs to see every way to go through the game. Dungeon crawling was challenging and rewarding. Character banter was on point. It's very telling to go back to these games nowadays. From BG --> KOTOR --> NWN you can see the development path that set the stages for another group of games that will make this list, and whose gameplay was entirely derivative of these D&D games. NWN2 still stands as perhaps the most despair inducing and wonderfully party based game of last gen. And I haven’t even touched the mods…

Ridge Racers 2 (PSP)

This addition and the next addition will seem odd and I don't blame you, but there is one thing that elevated them to this high for me. That is, my sister and I literally played the shit out of them, together. Like, I knew every course in this game, mirrored, reversed, upside-down (doesn't exist but you get the point) and every which way like the back of my hand. I can't tell you how many car rides we spent, er, racing cars. If NFS was the Star Wars of arcade racing at the time, this was the LotR. The sense of speed and the way that one little mistake could throw you off was incredibly well done for such an arcade racer.

Tekken: Dark Resurrection (PSP)

Maaaaaaaaybe cheating but YOLO. Same as above. Played so much with my sister. Made so much in-game money, customized every character, had dozens and dozens of battles with every character and hundreds with some. Super polished, 60FPS fighter game that made the perfect portable time. This is the last Tekken release that felt un-inundated and perfectly imperfectly balanced. The series has yet to reach the same height since then.

Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare

Has the single greatest level in the history of FPS games. Crawling through tall grass in the Pripyat ruins, making a long distance sniper shot, then defending yourself from henchman and attack dogs until the helicopter arrives. If every single FPS mission was this minimalist, intense, claustrophobic, and atmospheric, FPS games would be put on the same level as other genres. That CoD never went back and copied that mission is damming. That the series never quite hit the high again of 4, even though they continually pushed the envelope on multiplayer, even more so.

Virtua Tennis WT and 3 (PSP)

Halfway in between the wonderful debut on Dreamcast and the endless rehash of the more recent releases, this arcade tennis series hit its high point. Featuring an incredibly dense and replayable campaign in which you created a player, did skill challenges to level them up, and eventually progressed from 300 in the world to number 1 by playing in real life tournaments, this game sucked up a lot of time. Later matches against top 25 ranked AI were unforgiving and brutal. The skill challenges became tests of finesse, timing, and planning. The hours it took to master everything was more reminiscent of a sprawling JRPG than a sports game. If you could have your week 1 player play your 3 months later player, you’d run laps around your early days; blindfolded, and one handed. The progression of these games was incredibly fulfilling. And at their core was a simple, polished, wonderful game of tennis. Game, set, match.

Valkyrie Profile: Lenneth (PSP)

Mwahahahah I cheat again. I dare anyone to go out, pick up this game, either this port or the original, and without reading a single guide or helpful hint, beat it. If you can, you know your stuff. This is a game that drops you in the world, gives you a time limit, and then says “haha fuck you figure it out yourself.” But it’s so pretty, the platforming and combat so good, and the soundtrack so freaking invigorating that the big swords, heroic interludes, and frustrating difficulty all work together. It’s now very old-fashioned, but it’s one of the most underappreciated and unforgiving JRPGs of all time.

The Burning Crusade and Wrath of the Lich King – Expansions for WoW

WoW itself came out a year too early to count, and MMOs are kind of weird to include in something like this, considering they continually exist over time. These two expansions were for a game that came out before the required time slot, but they also undoubtedly were released last gen and brought sweeping changes to the game. This was the high point of the MMO, before threading and boosting rendered the leveling experience obsolete, when mysteries were still uncovered every day, when Barrens chat was still Barrens chat, when class and race restrictions had meaning, and when the production values were still among the best of any MMO. I don’t know of a single game that will ever leave as big of an imprint on a generation of gamers as WoW did. It is the Goliath, the most successful game ever created, and one that made an entire year of my life a waiting game through class or work until I could log on again. Its scope at the time, its polish, its overwhelmingly superior design and scale made it the granddaddy of all MMOs. Its days are numbered now, but those who played it during its heyday witnessed something that might never ever exist in gaming again; the utter domination of an entire market by one incredible experience.

Monster Hunter (series)

Souls before Souls. Slow, timing based combat. Massive bosses. A super fast ramp up in difficulty. Deep, slow to uncover mechanics. Endless progression. Incredibly varied weapons and ways to play. These games require hundreds of hours if you want to uncover everything about them, and I’ll admit, sometimes, eating a bunch of food pre-battle and hoping you have everything you need buff and equipment-wise could test patience. But when you overcome it all and take down that one boss that is kicking your ass? Hell yeah.

Metal Gear Solid IV

If there is a better opening sequence in a game, I have yet to see it. “War, war has changed…” Snake growls to us, as the incredible battle sequence thrusts us into a war half human and half machine, something entirely sci-fi and entirely real, something that has aged all too well in a world now replete with drones and mechanized weaponry. MGS IV had a lot going on, interspersing ideas of tracking and loss of privacy (incredibly prescient) with its usual gaggle of poop jokes (…). As a game, it was unparalleled, featuring an incredibly replayable campaign whose UI and stealth and shooting mechanics all worked synchronously to deliver an endlessly intense experience, and featuring some of the best boss battles of any MGS game to date. And yet, amidst the technology, the machinery, and the cyborgs, the game ended with you fist-to-fist, trading blows against the setting sun, as two legends duked it out one last time. Fantastic.

Rappelz

You might be saying “What? A slightly obscure F2P Korean MMO that came out relatively unhyped in 2006?” Yes, my friends. It is true. Rappelz shined because it did several things that many F2P games at the time did not:

You didn’t need to pay to progress
The leveling system was not locked down or utterly simplistic
It looked damn good at the time

It was a game that never expanded beyond its scope, making sure you were always playing with other people, and not questing through dead zones and areas that had been left behind. It constantly refreshed itself, and it featured a ton going on in terms of leveling and skilling up your characters. At a time when P2P was still the MMO norm, Rappelz managed to bring some sanity and welcoming attitude into the F2P market.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

Driven by a continued attempt to see the series more console friendly, Skyrim may frustrate with its clunky menues, the repetitive nature of dragon fights, and the engine that is now starting to show its age. But it also features the most in depth characters of any TES game yet, perhaps the most fun and sprawling dungeons, and a host of fantastic sights, from towering Daedric statues to the Aurora Borealis at night. Skyrim may continue the series in a direction older fans like me don't always agree with, but as a massively accomplished open world RPG, it still has few peers.

Assassin’s Creed (Series)

My specific favourites are 2, Brotherhood, and IV. For a series that has been criticized as being formulaic nowadays, I think we forget how much it expanded its scope and mechanics in the first half dozen or so games, particularly from 1-->2 and 3-->4. Before the games became a clusterfuck of map icons and Ubisoft store purchases and buggy PC releases, they were the children of the smooth and silky parkour from Prince of Persia, now interspersed in impressive and intriguing open world settings, and featuring a bit more combat and a lot more stealth. At its peak, there was nothing quite like endlessly flowing from one segment to another, getting your target, and executing a perfect escape. As a bonus? It has always treated women, and sex workers specifically, about as good as any game series to date.

Souls Series

My personal favourite is Demon’s Souls, and I would like to share a moment, if I may. After slogging through 1-1, I walked into my sister’s room and said “you have to see this game.” So she did. I showed her the notes and tips on the ground, the ghosts of recent deaths, the seamless online experience that seemed so groundbreaking at the time, and then, somehow, with palms sweaty, I made it through 1-2 at my first go, cheesing the spider boss at the end, no shame at all. We both exhaled deeply when it was over, knowing what death meant, knowing how on edge the game always put you, both sharing a moment in its intensity, neither of us talking or joking around for the entirety of the level.  The Souls games have never apologized for what they are, and they never should. They are frustrating, patience-testing, and supremely atmospheric. Are they perfect? Nah. Are they still exactly what they should be? Absolutely.

Diablo 3

If there has ever been a non-MMO game that has under gone as many significant changes, additions, and new content, I have not played it. Diablo 3 has become, over time, Diablo 4, completely incomparable to its controversial debut. What we have now is perhaps that most addicting and cromulent action/loot grind of all time, a game whose endless additions, perfect polish, and ever expanding difficulty make it impossible to go without playing for too long a time. Is it as dense or as atmospheric or as well written as many of the games on this list? No. But it would be right near the top for me, because co-opping through another season with Winsord, and the hundreds of hours this game has stolen from me were never not fun, even from day 1. There will be a true Diablo 4 someday, but to successfully iterate on the penultimate loot grind will be incredibly, incredibly difficult.

Mass Effect (series)

There are a lot of things to say about Mass Effect, and many have been said by people much smarter and more talented as writers than me. But to sum it up; take one part massive sci-fi environment, one part Bioware character banter and relationships, and one part thrilling production values, and you have what is perhaps the most majestic sci-fi experiment in gaming to date. There are so many things this series could have done better, and yet, there were so many ways this experience was completely unparalleled at the time. There has yet to be a sci-fi saga this large in scope and this intimidatingly realized; whose very existence had me mining for every conversation and sidequest, wanting to meet every character, wanting to see every planet, wanting to lose myself in its world for good, whose story simultaneously frustrated and engrossed me. Shepard’s saga may be over, but its legacy and the sheer entertainment it brought will never be forgotten.

Dragon Age (series)

Bioware’s other modern single player achievement, and one that underwent a serious period of lost direction. Origins was a throwback to NWN, a party based, pauseable tactical CRPG that felt like a modern take on early aughts successes. In its place came DA2, a more modern action RPG that attempted to bring in flashy combat and quicker fights into the world. To say it went over well with the fanbase would be folly. Inquisition is too recent to count, alas, but even still, Origins is my favourite of the series, as it thrust us into a ton of varied locations, presented a fantastically dark (but never seemingly over-the-top as much) fantasy world, perfectly channeled traditional CRPG mechanics made modern, and brought us one of the best characters of any game ever, in the wise-cracking, god-hating, tradition-blasting, mother-killing Morrigan.

Star Wars: The Old Republic

Speaking of Bioware, SWTOR is the game that will forever be known as the game that ruined MMOs for me. Why? Because this game’s story content and quest content is so incredibly, incredibly much better done than any MMO previous or since then. In fact, narratively, (hold your breath here folks) it is one of the single greatest games of all time. I said it! It’s a shame many KOTOR fans will overlook this because of its MMO nature. But did this game hit it out of the park. Its PvP was almost perpetually balanced and fun, its storyline was always a blast, and its production values were the best of any MMO since WoW first hit. This is, outside of KOTOR, an absolutely must play for Star Wars fans and right there with Mass Effect as a definitive sci-fi experience. I think everyone owes it to themselves to at least level a couple of characters through the campaign. Also notably, the post release support and content additions have been through the roof in number.

Pokemon X/Y

Featuring the largest change in foundational mechanics of any Pokemon game yet, X and Y were the first Pokemon games to feature fully polygonal graphics, and to integrate internet mechanics fully and comprehensively into a Pokemon game. The end result was one of the deepest and most polished Pokemon experiences to date, and one whose sheer number of content, social mechanics, and uplifting (and surprisingly political – not a joke) world made for a relaxing, enjoyable, and nostalgia inducing trip.

Path of Exile

Containing one of the most massive leveling systems of any game, ever, one whose scope and options are almost too large and overwhelming, and feeling like Diablo 2 ripped and placed into an MMO world, Path of Exile is a love letter to loot crawls, to uncompromising customization, to dark colour palettes and hopelessness and dark fantasy, made modern through the internet, and in many ways, what Diablo 2.5 would have or could have been.

Dota 2

Ah, DotA. Has there ever been a game in which you can get yelled at, called a dozen gay and racist slurs, sworn at a hundred times over, be utterly humiliated by your lack of skill, and come away, still, thinking, “my god that was fun and I will do better next time, fuck you all!?!?!?!?” Dota is a game of mixed emotions, notoriously salty players, complex and unforgiving mechanics, and through it all, a deeply rewarding multiplayer experience of close calls, fantastic plays, and… god damnit, will someone go fucking mid lane? And stop pinging the damn map, I get it. Christ.

Final Fantasy XIII Saga

I saved this for last intentionally. I still remember forking over $90 for the Bluray Japanese release of Advent Children all to play the Japanese version of the demo of XIII, way back in the day, and streaming it online for some people in a gaming community I still frequent, myself the standard bearer of Final Fantasy fandom there, wowed by the graphics and combat, excited about all the possibilities the full game would present. It was coming on the heels of XII, one of my favourite games of all time and one of the most comprehensive and intelligent JRPGs ever created.

The XIII trilogy had its warts, and in one sense, it is a disappointment, the first Final Fantasy game perhaps ever to feature a host of times where you think “what if?” What if the game wasn’t as tunnel driven? What if the game didn’t continue to hamfist its own combat system by giving you only two characters to fight with? What if the game didn’t take you away from one plotline right as it got interesting? XIII-2 in many ways fixed the gameplay side of things, featuring a really cool time travel mechanic, and was probably the high point of the series for me, but alas, even still, narratively overburdened by its melodrama and the entire series’ love of awkward names and proper nouns, came apart a bit.

And yet, I still came back to them. I put up with the issues and the what ifs because at the core of these games was a journey Square Enix really wanted us to take, one of forgiveness, familial bonds, and friendship at all costs. From Sazh’s story of personal heartbreak, to Lightning and Serah’s sisterly bond, Vanille’s bubbly narration and her and Fang’s friendship, this was a deeply personal story and one whose scope and world were simultaneously massive and small, sloppy and amateurish and yet personable, swept along by the riveting battle score and the CGI cutscenes. Where the series goes from here, and whatever XV is or becomes, people may not look on XIII as the first PS3 and 360 Final Fantasy experience they wanted, but it’s the one we all got, and for all of its what ifs, fantastical setting, and over-the-top scenarios, it remains unquestionably, undoubtedly, human.