Rants about subjects only the author would care about


Bush, pictured here just before breaking out in tears over having a sewage plant named after him.

Bush, pictured here just before breaking out in tears over having a sewage plant named after him. Perhaps they should have used Joe the Plumber's name instead.

One of the best things about the Internet, besides the free music, the YouTube poops, and the blatant stupidity wandering everywhere just to be laughed at, is the ability to post your opinion whenever you want it. The only catch is, no one’s going to read it.

As a blogger, I feel it is my duty to represent the community accurately by spewing out my personal and impossibly trivial reaction to a news article, despite the fact that nobody cares about my opinion except me, and that’s only going to last for the next ten minutes.

Take a look at Jeffrey Scott Shapiro’s opinion article on America’s treatment of President Bush. Or should I say “get a load of”? I’m not going to refute him point by point. I openly admit that I don’t have the political knowledge, nor the patience to point out every stupid and downright embarrassing thing our President for the past eight years has managed to do. My argument is simply this: It’s not America’s fucking job to support what it didn’t like.

Since when have we had to do that? The origin of our country is based on us being pissed off, for heaven’s sake. It’s the American way to be unsatisfied with everything every way we turn, then either whine about it, make fun of it, or fix it. It makes me proud to be an American that I can disagree with Shapiro’s utter bullshit despite the fact that I have no standing or respect in the general community whatsoever. I can still do it. I can still be annoyed, and I can still express my opinion. I don’t have to sit around agreeing with everything someone higher than I says or does.

Of course, if you hope to get anywhere in life, you’re going to have to do that. A lot. Whenever you see someone little agreeing with someone big, you can bet they’re doing it because they want something. Makes me question why Shapiro decided to write that article at all. I don’t know anything about him either, but I know about human nature. You don’t support a dipwad like Bush unless you’re either an idiot – and if you’ve managed to get in the Wall Street Journal you’re probably not that – or you want to look good for some reason or other.

When you become President, you’re in the public eye. When you’re in the public eye, the public is not going to be nice to you. It’s going to complain. It’s going to find every bit of background information that suggests you’re not an angel and dredge it up. That’s what the public does. If you can’t handle it, don’t go into, I don’t know, public office?

One final thing – Bush has been made fun of for nearly all of this two terms. Honestly. Check YouTube. Newgrounds. Even “miserable failure” on Google used to show Bush as the first result. You’re complaining about this now, as he’s walking out of office? Or perhaps that’s the safest time to complain. After all, the person you’re throwing undying support towards no longer has the chance to fuck up.

For the past few days I’ve been playing the latest game in the Ratchet & Clank series. Specifically, Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction. I’d venture to say it has all the originality and imagination of the original Ratchet & Clank game, even if the characters are familiar and some of the jokes overused.

The weapons in the game are amazing. You can make your enemies dance, turn them into penguins, smack them across the level with a whip, suck away their energy, encase them in electrified cages, or even just smack them to death with your wrench.

I love the music in the Ratchet & Clank series. David Bergeaud, whoever you are, you’re my hero. Nothing like some upbeat music playing in the background while you’re trying to write. However, those soundtracks are simply a pain in the arse to hunt down. It makes me wonder why they don’t bother to sell the soundtracks of more video games, even on iTunes. It drives me nuts having to search for them and wait forever and a day for them to download.

Really, you can have all the fancy graphics and gameplay elements that you want, but without some decent sound and music, you can’t immerse yourself in a game. Incredible, the work put into this stuff, and it doesn’t even get recognized enough to be available to download.

It may have taken me a good couple of years, but I finally saw Pulp Fiction. I don’t really know what to say about it, but it occurs to me that I should probably write a blog post about it if I liked it.

So why did I like it? I don’t know. Technically, it should be dead boring thanks to the long stretches of dialogue, but instead the meaningless banter is part of what makes it interesting. It should be a bad movie. It should be a terrible movie. It really shouldn’t be funny at all. Why the hell is it so damn good? It doesn’t make sense.

At any rate, it got me thinking about mangled plot lines, and how I should use them more often. Too bad the plot I’m using for the story I’m writing right now is fairly straightforward, if even terribly boring. I’ll probably be posting that soon – The Frogs – so I can torture the rest of the world with it as much as it’s torturing me right now.

Anyway, I gotta get back to writing. This story is sucking the creativity out of me, which explains why my blog posts contain more fail than usual.

Characters by themselves are boring things. Gary Paulsen was one of quite a few authors that never realized this. Every story was the same thing – random kid gets stuck in the wilderness, fends for himself. You don’t really know who the kid is. You don’t care, either, you’re either rooting for him or against him the entire time. He’s not a full character, though, only a ghost of one.

Good characters come in pairs. They trot, crawl, swoop, or stumble onto the literary stage, preparing for their paragraphs in the limelight. The pair might be holding hands, gazing lovingly into each others’ eyes; they might be casting each other suspicious glances, with weapons concealed behind their backs; they could even be actively ignoring each other, entering a story at the same time while completely denying their relation to one another. At any rate, no character can be brought out, and be expected to be believed, by itself.

Readers don’t trust narrators. We’ve learned not to. Take some of Poe’s stories, for example: The narrator convinces himself he is sane, yet there is no supporting character to back this claim up. Sure you are, we think to ourselves doubtfully as the narrator slowly pulls us into his logic. A single character is never to be trusted, because we don’t see how he or she relates to the rest of the world.

As is in literature, it is the same in real life: People, apart from one another, are dreadfully boring. It’s only in mixing that anything interesting comes about. Often, it’s difficult to accept that we’re all human in the end, and if it were not for the rest of the human race, we would yawn ourselves to death. What good is an idea if someone’s not there to challenge it; what fun is anyone if there’s no one irritating them a little?

It’s something I’ve found when I’m writing, too. No matter how interesting a character’s backstory might be, there’s nothing that’s going to bring it out if they don’t bump into someone who mixes with them just right. Sometimes there’s the annoyances, who bug the character into doing things; the naysayers, who question a character’s actions; the listeners, who the character pours his heart and soul into; the lunatics, who throw random witty lines or inventions at the character to see how he can cope with them. My character pairs have so far ranged from the simple “best friends” scenario, to two people forced together by work or fate, to two people that hardly know each other that meet in a bookstore, to this particular pair.

You don’t need to know the characters, really, but it’s a pirate and his baboon. Even they’re a pair, in a strange way. This picture was drawn by Sarah:

More often than not, people fuss when the written word is expressed in a different way, especially movies. I don’t know why. If I have an idea, and someone else can interpret it differently, I’m interested. Maybe this isn’t exactly how I pictured the Software Pirate Captain Queebil and his Baboon, but now I certainly do. It’s an interesting experience, having one’s ideas transformed into another medium; it’s almost as though it’s bleeding out of your head and taking on, however briefly, a life of its own.

I’d hate to have someone steal my ideas, but there’s no harm in adding to them.

As I sit here writing this blog post, I have the house to myself, I have a driver’s license, I have a car, and I have unblocked Internet access. These are the kinds of moments you dream about as a preteen, the ability to go anywhere and do anything you want. I could go out and get something to eat. I could drive to a friend’s house, or at least someone I can pretend is a friend. I could buy music or something off the Internet. I could root through the refrigerator for anything the rest of the family hasn’t gotten to yet. Why, I could even go for a walk.

So why is it that all I want to do is sit down and play video games?

Isn’t it great how we look forward to the days like this, where we can do whatever we want, and then we discover all we want to do is the same old stuff? Sometimes there are beautiful days you just want to sit inside for.

It makes me wonder what I’m missing out on. People will comment on the weather, IM me and say, “It’s a beautiful day!” and I feel a tinge of guilt. I’ve never worked out what you’re supposed to do on beautiful days. Where I live, it’s not worth a walk, and there’s not a whole lot to do outside. I guess I’d rather be writing. Then I let these beautiful days pass, knowing they’re rare and exciting, but I don’t know what to do with them in the first place.

When I’m down by Toms River, I know exactly what to do with them: Go for a walk on the boardwalk. If there was ever a time and a place where I could think best, it would be there. I’m still looking forward to taking a trip down there, alone, over the summer. Down there, freedom and beautiful days make sense. Stuck at home, I’d pass on both of them.

Anyway, I think Ratchet & Clank is calling my name.

Fish are pretty, colorful, quiet pets that require next to no maintenance. They tend to swim around, investigate or be frightened away when you tap the glass, explore all corners of their little tank-shaped world. They also tend to die.

Goldfish are probably the most well-known shortest-lasting fish I know. I’m convinced that’s why the Pepperidge Farm crackers are goldfish-shaped. Cheap to buy a whole bunch of them, but then they go by the handful. (Seriously, though, I can’t stop eating those things. Damn goldfish.)

My aunt tells me about the times when the aquarium in her room actually contained fish instead of dust. She’d wake up every morning at about the same time to a wet, sloshing sound, which was how she knew that once again, a particular fish had tried to escape. Somehow, the little sucker didn’t die as a result of his continuous adventures into the realm of the unwet.

Siamese fighting fish are some of the most deadly fish of all, though. Unlike most fish, you can’t put two of them in a tank together. My brother and I have owned a fair amount of fighting fish, and boy, are they nasty. They also have the habit of either dying randomly, or falling ill and lying on their side at the bottom of the tank for days. Every time you think the thing finally died, so you don’t feel any guilt flushing it (or in my little brother’s case, burying it) it gets another burst of energy, swoops to the top of the tank, grabs some air, and settles back down again.

I’d swear the things were manic-depressive. They’d be fine one minute, but if they see anything that even looks like another Siamese fighting fish, it’s dead. Stick a mirror next to a lone fighting fish and it’ll battle for hours. At one point, we owned two of these fish at once, and they were put in a divided tank. One morning I woke to find them jumping out of the water, trying to get over the divider in the middle just to destroy their neighbor.

Then once they get to be a few days old, that’s when their depressive bouts start. They lay almost completely on their side at the bottom of the tank. More often than not the two fish have different cycles, so one of them will be lying at the bottom of the tank while the other will be zipping around on the other side of the divider. Then suddenly they get over it and everything’s fine again, until one of them gets pissed off.

Really though, fish seem determined to die. Maybe it’s an act of will for some, like my aunt’s old fish. Maybe they just get bored of being in the same tank all the time. But come on! My cat has no problem staying in one spot for most of his life! And owning a pet that’s likely to give up the ghost at any minute and go to that great tank in the sky isn’t a good idea when you’ve got a younger sibling who’s at the age where very death is traumatic.

Boy, pets are just endless sources of blog material, aren’t they? I guess ‘cuz they’re easy to complain about and you don’t have to worry about insulting them. Besides, cats are cute.

Making a video game can best be compared to operating an enormous puppet. Actually, it can’t, but I still have Little Shop of Horrors on my mind, so naturally enormous puppets are too. The more complicated it is, the more people it takes to operate it, and the greater probability that it’ll all come crashing down.

I have a book, one of several, about video game design. In it, it has a little chart showing how many people it required to make a game per generation of video games. Text-based games were innocent enough, they only required one or two people. A lot of basic games could be made individually or in a small group. Around the time of the first PlayStation – the time when I jumped on the video gaming bandwagon – a typical video game needed about twenty-five people to make. A PS2 game needed about fifty, and next-gen games are predicted to need about a hundred or more.

It’s possible I haven’t played enough next-gen games yet (something I hope to fix soon), but I think the PS2/Xbox/GameCube era (technically, the sixth generation of video game consoles) was where classic video games hit their peak. Enough detail to form a rich world and environment, but not enough to make it movielike. Sixth-gen games, as realistic as some of them look, still have an element of fantasy to them that separate them from, say, CGI movies. In other words, sixth-gen games were smooth but not realistic.

So far, it feels like the seventh-gen games don’t give the game designers enough limits. With seventh-gen games, you can throw as many levels and graphics in as you want. Sixth-gen games still relied on tricky algorithms and clever level mapping (especially in the Jak and Daxter series, for example) to fit as much detail as possible in without overloading the system. But now? I look at a game like Assassin’s Creed, and it’s all detail and no design. Honestly, the only reason why it kept my attention for so long was the sheer level of detail. If it were a sixth-gen game, I’d have quit halfway through thanks to the repetitive gameplay.

Soon, though, the impressiveness of seventh-gen games will wear off, and focus will return to gameplay once again. But what about those games two generations before, the fifth-gen games, where it was all gameplay and no graphics?

I miss the old games like Spyro the Dragon. Running around, collecting little gems, deciding who to “charge” and who to “flame”. Going to PlayStation Notebook gives me gaming nostalgia. Okay, so maybe not really, but it might do that to you. But damn, I miss those days. It didn’t matter how good the game looked, because really, you didn’t have that much elbow room in terms of graphics. It was all about whether it was fun.

The new Spyro series sucks, by the way. Know why? Because it’s all graphics and no gameplay. DUH, people.

I’m dying to play the newest Ratchet & Clank game, and I wonder what the makers of Sly Cooper and Jak and Daxter are up to. Hopefully they won’t be hit by the graphics craze and they’ll continue making good games.

But seriously, Spyro kicked ass. I would not want two little dragon horns stuck in my back. And he’d set anyone on fire. Although, the dragons you freed in the first game were kind of annoying. “Thank you for releasing me!” “Thanks for leaving me stuck in this game without any kind of help whatsoever, jerk! Respect your elders? Hah!” The second game just gave you “orbs”. The third game was by far the best, though, where you got to save little baby dragons. When the little baby dragons didn’t give you any useful gameplay tips, well, that was okay, ‘cuz they were cute.

I gotta find my memory card and boot up Spyro again someday. Have you collected all 150 eggs and 20,000 gems in the last game?

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