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Have You Ever Looked in the Mirror and Cried? - March 3, 2015

Sometimes in life you have questions that need answers. Sometimes the world promises to give you those answers. Sometimes those promises are lies. One time when I was a little boy, home from school on summer vacation, I found myself watching daytime television, and an advertisement promised to answer one of my most profound questions. All I had to do was tune into the next show. The host asked, Have you ever woken up, looked in the mirror, and cried?

Yes! Yes, I had! I’d done that lot’s of times. You see, I had eye boogers when I was kid. And not just the standard eye boogers in the corner of your eyes that you can pick out with no problem. I had full eyelid sealing boogers. I’d wake up with my eyelids practically sewn shut with boogers. My mom had given me some eye drops to help me get them open in the morning, but it also took a few tears to get my eyes fully open. This advertisement described my morning routine to a T. I’d wake up not able to open my eyes, so I’d stumble into the bathroom and, while looking in the mirror, I’d use eye drops and tears to get them open. As far as I could tell, the next show was promising to tell me how to solve the eye boogers problem. I’d never been more excited to watch a daytime television program in my life!

I was quickly disappointed. It was a show targeted at women and I was bored through most of it. Then they said it, the sound bite from the commercial was in the actual show... have you ever woken up, looked in the mirror, and cried? Yes. Have you looked at your hair and it was such a disaster... Um, I guess my hair was a disaster. ... that you couldn’t stand to look at yourself. No! That wasn’t my issue. I mean my hair was bad in the morning, but that’s not what was making me cry. What about the eye boogers? The show promised to help me solve the eye boogers issue...

Eventually the eye booger problem went away. Maybe because of the eye drops my mom gave me. I dunno. I did learn two important lessons. Firstly, that not all questions have answers, and not all problems have solutions. Secondly, I learned that women have issues when they look at themselves in the mirror. I later heard someone say that when women look at themselves in the mirror they notice what they don’t like about themselves, and when men look in the mirror they notice what they like about themselves. I don’t really know if that’s true or not, but I do know that when I look in the mirror, I’m glad I don’t have a terrible case of eye boogers anymore.

Categories: 1988-1995 K-6

Rust, A Game of Murder! - February 20, 2015

A few months ago I got a text from my friend Kevin saying, Me and some other guys are gonna try the game Rust, you wanna try it too? My brother had also bought the game, and Kevin had already tried playing it with him. Not long after trying it, Kevin sent me a message saying, I hate the game, I want my twenty dollars back. All I did was bang a rock against a tree.

As of this writing, Rust is an early access game, meaning that you can buy it and play it while it’s still in development. It is a resource gathering, crafting, survival game; a fairly new genre of video game. The premise is that you play a character that wakes up stranded in a desolate landscape. There seems to have been some kind of apocalypse, and while there are signs of past civilizations, you mostly have to craft tools, shelters, weapons, and even clothes in order to survive. Unlike many modern games, there is no map of the land to gain your bearings. There isn’t even a compass to tell you which direction you are headed (though I suspect you may be able to craft one). This is why Kevin originally hated the game. It’s a massively multiplayer game and without a map or compass, Kevin didn’t have a way to find my brother. All my brother could tell him was that if he walked down a road they might be able to find each other. That’s what bothered Kevin, but that’s what got me to purchase the game myself.

In rust you can metaphorically walk down a road and find your brother.
I just loved the idea of a feudal world without a map, and the only way to find your brother was to walk down a road without even knowing which way on the road you should head. There was something metaphorical about walking down a road and finding my brother. I had to play the game. So I arrived in the bland world of Rust and sure enough I found a road, and I walked down the road. Realistically in a post-apocalyptic world like that me and my brother would have never found each other. But in the video game world, he could describe landmarks to me over voice chat to lead me to him. In any case, there was a lot of satisfaction when I first saw him running towards me. Had it been possible, in the game, there would have been a brotherly embrace.

He had already started building a house. So I helped with it. You need wood to build, and wood was a scarce resource. Building was a slow process just because of the time it took to gather wood. It was kind of frustrating. Admittedly, I got bored and didn’t play the game again.

Just recently Kevin got over his hatred of the game and was playing regularly. I told him I wanted to play with him. So I did. The game has radically changed in the months since I’ve been away from it. Resources are a little more plentiful, and the landscape is randomly generated. My character woke up on a beach, so instead of walking down a road to find Kevin, I walked down a beach. He and his other friend that were playing the game had already built a shelter atop a rock. That’s what you have to do because people will just raid your shelter if it’s anywhere else. It’s a world of anarchy! In fact you have to construct this weird elevator thing to get into your shelter, it’s kind of annoying, but it’s all you can do if you don’t want to get raided.

Rust is a game of murdering strangers!
So anyway, I originally fantasized about the game as being some cruel world where a bunch of strangers would form a community and work together to build and protect cities. Well, it turns out it’s just an anarchy simulator. Basically the funnest thing to do in the game is go hunting for other players, murder them, and steal everything they have. Most players are naked, because you get killed so often that it’s a waste of materials to make new clothes. The only time I even had clothes was when I murdered a guy with clothes and took them. Shortly after that I was murdered and my clothes taken from me. In another adventure Kevin and I saw a lone man mining minerals. We murdered him and it turned out it was a friend of ours. Too bad, I guess. It’s a savage world.

Anyway, there is a certain thrill to murdering people: Some lone wanderer is just trying to survive, and then he’s murdered. It’s hilarious, in a way. It’s not like the metaphor of walking down a road and finding your brother, but it sure is fun. Anyway, I highly recommend the game. You also need a few friends to play with. A pack of two can kill a lot of lone wanderers, but larger packs are even better. What’s really cool is you can actually voice chat with nearby people. You can taunt them! I suppose you could try to befriend them as well. But even I must admit that when my blood lust hadn’t been satisfied in a while, I was tempted to jab my spear into Kevin’s back.

If a situation like that happened in real life I think people would work together to build civilizations and cities. I mean look at the cities we’ve built today. But when there are no consequences for your actions, complete anarchy ensues!

Categories: Video Game Reviews

Why Didn't My Brother Get Coal? - December 11, 2014

I’m kind of ashamed to admit something. I believed in Santa Claus until I was 11 years old. I was so embarrassed about this fact that I wouldn’t even admit it to anyone until about four years ago when I met someone that believed until they were 12. To be honest it’s not the fact that I believed until I was 11 that I’m ashamed of, it’s the fact that all the evidence was stacked up against Santa.

You better watch out! You better not pout! He knows if you’ve been naughty or nice.
The primary piece of evidence was that my brother never got coal in his stocking. The legend of Santa is that if a kid is nice he gets a present or candy in his stocking, and if he is naughty he gets coal. Well, as far as I was concerned my brother was about as naughty as a kid could get. I mean seriously, one time he asked me to get him his coat because he was cold, and he could have perfectly well gotten it for himself. Also, he always wanted to be Player 1 on Nintendo games.

It never added up, every year I expected that he’d find coal in his stocking, and every year he didn’t get it.

Okay, alright, I have to admit something else, I’m not actually ashamed of the fact that I believed in Santa even though there was evidence stacked up against his existence. What I’m really ashamed of is that I thought my brother was such a terrible person when, in fact, he wasn’t. Indeed, my brother was perfectly fine. When we were young he was pretty much what you’d expect from a brother. Sure we fought (and, sure, sometimes blood was involved), but we also played. And I should admit that one time he saved me from drowning. So, when it all comes down to it, I’d say he deserved presents and candy after all, and I’m ashamed that I thought otherwise.

Wait a minute! He deserved candy and presents after all?! Hold on... Didn’t I say that was the evidence against Santa? Well now, let me think a minute, I think I may have been wrong. I think maybe there is a Santa after all! Nice!

Categories: 1988-1995 K-6

The Problem With Christmas Music - December 1, 2014

I love Christmas music. It’s part of the reason that Christmas is my favorite time of year. With that said, I do have my complaints. The primary one being that Christmas music is only played once a year, and the implication that if you are listening to it outside of December, you are probably some kind of freak.

Okay, that’s not the real problem with Christmas music. The real problem with Christmas music is that there is nothing new. Just the other day someone mentioned to me that most of the Christmas music we have today was written or produced in the 40s or 50s when the baby boomers were kids. Sure a few new songs came out in the 80s and 90s, but have you heard any mainstream Christmas music produced this century? I personally haven’t.

Just today, on my morning commute, I listened to Christmas music on the radio. Sure enough there was not one song I hadn’t heard before. Yes, I know it’s true that on any radio station there is little chance of hearing something new on a particular day. But if you don’t listen to a radio station for a year and then go back to it, there is a pretty good chance that you’ll hear something new (excluding stations that specialize in specific decades). With Christmas music, chances are you won’t hear anything that you hadn’t heard ten years ago.

Without even looking it up, I bet that there is a recent rendition of Justin Bieber singing Silent Night, but it’s still a song you’ve heard before. (I just looked it up. I was right, it’s the last song on his Christmas album.) Pretty much every new artist’s second album is a Christmas album, and yeah there will be original songs on it, but no one is going to listen to those. No one wants to hear them, except for hardcore fans of the artists themselves. My own proof of this is that I really like the song A Snowflake Fell (And It Felt Like A Kiss) from Glasvegas, which came out in 2008, but no one’s heard of that song, not that many people have heard of Glasvegas to begin with. (Their Christmas album also includes a rendition of Silent Night.) So basically I’m proving my point that unless you’re a fan of the artist you aren’t going to like the original Christmas songs from their Christmas album.

I suppose the important question to ask is: Do we even need new Christmas music? I don’t know, but probably not. I’m still listening to the same songs. I still like them. I don’t even care. I’m a little less inclined to tune into the Christmas radio station than I was when I was a kid, but at the same time I’m less inclined to turn into any music-playing stations. Talk radio is it for me as an adult. Kids haven’t heard these songs before, it’s new to them, and the reality is that most of the magic of Christmas is in the hearts of children anyway.

In conclusion I don’t think we really need new Christmas music, but I do think some Christmas songs should be banned, Christmas Shoes, for example.

Smee Died! - October 17, 2014

Smee died! I blurted out to my sister as we were driving together. She looked at me in confusion. From Hook? It didn’t take her long to figure out who Smee was since we both enjoy quoting the 1995 film Hook. Some of our favorite quotes include Death is the only adventure!, I hate, I hate, I hate Peter Pan!, and simply saying the word Grace! to pray over dinner. Yeah, I said, Bob Hoskins died this year. She replied with, Oh, I didn’t realize Bob Hoskins played Smee.

I knew I had left her wondering why I blurted out so strange a fact, so I decided to explain. We’d been driving down the freeway and I saw a vehicle license plate that started with FVK, and I thought to myself, that’s similar to FMV. FMV stands for Full Motion Video, which was a type of video game made in the 1990s where the video game cut together filmed footage of actors. The video being cut together differently depending on the player’s input.

This got me thinking about the game A Fork in the Tale, an FMV game of which I’d played the demo, but not the full thing. Then I was wondering what other FMV games were around that I’d never played. And I remembered that there was this game called Discworld 2: Mortality Bytes which for some reason, having never played, I incorrectly thought was partly FMV partly cartoon (the game I was actually thinking of was Toonstruck). You know, like the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit?.

Then I was thinking that Bob Hoskins was in Who Framed Roger Rabbit?, a film that I saw for the first time this year, and I remembered that a few days prior I had read an article about celebrities that had died this year, and Bob Hoskins was one of them, and I knew that my sister and I had both seen Hook. Hence I declared, Smee Died!

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