Thursday, June 28, 2012

How the Star Wars Prequel Trilogy Could Have Been Good

Considering I was, literally, the last generation of kids to love Star Wars before the prequel trilogy was released, and was still a kid and loved the new episodes, I think I have a rare view on the saga.  While I can be not too aware of my cultural surroundings at times, I'm not too socially retarded so I am in the know that basically everybody else who knew star wars before 1998 hated the new episodes, while the other camp is still too young to go on the internet without parental controls, and so their voices are not as loud (also their numbers are probably paltry compared to the old school nerds).  Then there's the fact that in the last decade the internet has expanded its audience beyond loners and smart people, so the sheer volume of information coming from the later generations, and the companies with a presence to take advantage of these new demographics, makes them harder to find.  So far, I think I have heard positive feedback online from a number of people in the single digits, although I admit I did zero research (get used to this.  Seriously, my method is to just pop on whenever I have the weakest of ideas and just start typing shit and see what happens.  90% of my started posts get junked, and if I wasn't such a star wars fan I would be unsure if this would ever get finished), and I'm sure there are some young adults out there making their arguments in favor of.  Or perhaps the new generations just don't care, and this realm of the internet is still the domain of the old and nerdy, and forever the projected opinion will be of disdain for episodes one through three.

Well, I liked them.  I would say loved, but that is looking more and more like childlike ignorance and the accompanying lust for laser battles and spaceships, and the signature combination thereof that these movies fulfilled.  Looking back, though, I can see why most Original Trilogy fans hated them, because the elements I was ignorant of, or that I didn't fully comprehend, just kind of destroy the feel that the old movies cultivated.  Hell, even Return of the Jedi, while my favorite episode in the past, is now kind of cheesy.  But I'm not here to talk about that, but the first three.  While certain characters, boring plot, and terrible dialogue (I could recognize the last one by the time 'Sith' came out) really made the whole thing a painful ordeal, the core of the movies was still valid and awesome.  The story of Anakin becoming Vader?  I think that was the one thing Lucas nailed with the new movies.  I almost want to believe that he is just a tired old man, and all he wanted to do was tell that story, and everything else was just "fuck, I should have made 'A New Hope' episode II, lets just use filler of senate meetings to stretch it into three movies".

To get the flaws out of the way, and I KNOW I am not saying anything new, and definitely not mentioning all of them, but for the sake of presentation I do so, lets start with Anakin.  Phantom Menace was like a premature ejaculation.  Lucas was looking through all the porn files of his brain's computer that were his SW ideas, and just threw them all together and said "done!" before actually getting serious.  There were the good, which I will get to, but there were some just awful elements and plot devices that were entirely unnecessary or even killed the pace of the movie.  Most of these were caused by the decision to focus the plot on a 10 year old Anakin Skywalker, an immaculately conceived 'chosen one' who was really just a kid who sucked at reading scripts.  That's the problem with child actors; they are rarely good at what they do.  That's why Niel Patrick Harris was famous well into adulthood, and continued to act his whole life.  He was good at it.  What's Jake Lloyd done since PM?  I don't know either.  Yet it was decided that he was perfect to be the center of the new Star Wars.  I get that the whole purpose of the prequels, that is to add depth to the original trilogy by giving a whole history of the conflict it focuses on.  And again, I sympathize with his predicament in having to fill three movies with what could have been two, or even just one really long movie.  Anyway, he did it wrong, and Phantom Menace could have been just a bit better if they removed Anakin from the major role or the movie entirely.  The whole first intallment could have been a prelude/prequel, telling the story of the Republic and the Jedi Order before the schism.  I will admit, it was cool to have Liam Neeson training a young Obi Wan.  Hell, that should have been the entire focus of the movie.  To learn how Obi Wan failed Anakin, you see first how he came into the position to take him as his apprentice.  Taking Anakin out of the story lets the Kenobi story flow better, and sans all the whining to boot.  Also, he becomes the hero of the story, and there would be no need to rely on a cascade of accidents to make it look like he saves the day.  He could just, you know, save the day, all on his own, being the badass Jedi he is.  This wouldn't even require an entire removal of the kid, they could pick him up, say some mildly foreshadowing things about his great potential, drop him off at padowan school and go right back to shooting lasers at things.  You get to shoehorn in young Vader without making a boring movie about some little bastard saying cute but obviously scripted things.  Or even better, don't make him the 'chosen one' at all, just some other kid learning to be a Jedi that they meet in the temple at some point and quickly forget about.  Cut to the second movie, and he's suddenly Obi-Wan's apprentice.  No need to tie a story of how the kid knew and shared adventures with Obi before their pairing, just how fate turned out, and if Anakin was given care to another Jedi, that person would have been the hermit in the desert at the beginning of episode IV.  In short, it was a bullshit move to try and get younger kids interested in a new SW series, which was superfluous to begin with because I was 7 and I loved a 15 year old movie starring only adults, because what I got out of SW wasn't some kid my age but people I wanted to grow up to be, and also explosions and lasers and spaceships.

This would also take out the full-length, real time podracing scene.  It was cool, but just dragged on and on, and maybe, if George really wanted it in there, as it doesn't need to be about the kid and could have just been about them needing to get parts for their ship via gambling, it could have been background action over some of the important but drudging dialogue about senate debates and contract disputes and property taxes, or whatever most of what filled large chunks of time in the senate hall, that could have been reported back to the Jedis in an abridged manner.  Say Padme tells Neeson the gist of the meeting while the race is going on, and as they wrap up each interchange we cut back to an exciting part of the race.  Repeat until all of what needs to be said is said, just as the race comes to a close finish.  Probably saved 20 minutes of movie with that edit alone, and it still doesn't change the basic plot.

The worst, absolutely worst part of the first movie was the Jar Jar character.  There are probably terabytes of ranting against just him on the first results page of google alone when searching for things that made PM terrible, so there is nothing new to say on this.  But I will just take a moment to point out how blatant a clone he is of antiquated stereotypes of black and asian people.  Not just him, but the entire Gungun race, although he stands alone as all the worst parts put into one guy and given 20% of the dialogue, despite being nothing but a hindrance, and annoying while being so.  Similar to the Anakin character, he could just be let go, but even more so as he had nothing to do with anything, at all, and his absence only makes the experience better.

After all this, plus better dialogue, action and supporting characters, you're left with a decent movie about what the galaxy was like before the Galactic Civil War (the conflict in the OT) during the reign of the Old Republic and before the Jedi died off, and even nicely sets up the events that lead to the era immediately before that, the Clone Wars.  Qui-Gon and Obi-Wan are Jedi security to protect the queen of an economically oppressed planet and must defend her from a Sith assassin, culminating in a climatic battle and duel with Darth Maul (in my opinion one of the coolest movie bad guys ever, in terms of appearance and style).  Qui-Gon dies, Obi-Wan becomes a true Jedi, and the defeated faction begins turning the gears of war that lead to the Clone Wars.

The second movie, Attack of the Clones, was a step up and all around a better movie, but still lacked something to make it good.  For one, the new Anakin, despite being a different actor, is still a whiny little turd.  The period of this episode is during Anakin's training with Obi-Wan, yet he acts like a self righteous, undeserving and selfish dick.  Perhaps this was intended for the character, add some arrogance to get you to see him as Future-Vader, but I feel it really keeps you from liking him, a vital part of making his fall from grace tragic.  The reasoning is that he is very good at being a Jedi, and knows it, so he acts like he should just be made a master already despite showing clear signs of not being anywhere near ready for the role.  Okay, I get it, but again, I hated that guy and not seeing him get punched in the face made the two hours before his hand gets sliced off quite unbearable.  Other characters were less hateable, and actually I didn't mind anyone not named Skywalker speaking.  Jar Jar makes an appearance, but his two lines were done and that was that.

The story was slow, uninteresting, and convoluted as hell.  There were a few action scenes before the climactic battle at the end, but it just wasn't enough to compensate for the angsty romance or, somehow, longer senate scenes. The senate scenes only established Palpatine's road to emperorhood, and the romance was unnecessary.  Sure, its cool to know how Anikan met the ass he tapped to make Luke and Leia, but we don't need to know how she didn't really like him that way, but wait, she did, but wait, he can't fall in love, but wait, he'll do it anyway, but wait, he's not allowed to get married, but wait, they do, and, oh yeah, no consequences for breaking a cardinal rule of the Jedi Order.  This could all have been summed up with Padme admitting from go that she wanted his cock.  Fucking chicks, man, adding an hour of lovey crap on average to every movie.  So many missed space battles.  Anyway, yeah, so Anikin gets married, Palpatine is setting himself up for power, and Obi-wan traces an assassination attempt to a bounty hunter that cloned himself specifically so the Republic could build an army to fight nothing, except now there is something, and this is never fucking explained despite being a crucial point to the whole saga.  Oh, and the bounty hunter clones himself a special one that turns out to be Boba Fett.  WHY?  Why was it necessary, beyond toy merchandising, to include him or offer a backstory of any sort?  He was cool enough being a faceless badass with no story at all, leaving you to use your imagination?  Oh, sorry, right, Lucas hates imagination, at least in other people.  I think it reminds him he lost his.  But anyway, the army of Fetts is accepted by the Republic to fight this sudden enemy of robot armies, even though a magnet could do just that, and off they go to blow shit up!  Yadda yadda, the bad guys lose, turns out they were designing the death star, etc, movie ends.

Same as PM, AotC is still a solid movie.  You have Anikin training under Obi, and they are put on security detail for Padme while she is in town to sign a treaty or something, an assassin tries and fails, and after a shorter chase scene they catch her and learn that her orders come from someone on a planet specializing in the production of clones.  Obi goes to investigate while Anikin stays on watch.  Meanwhile, Palpatine could use the threat that the assassin was sent by the cloners, assume power and take control of the facility (all under shady pretenses to cultivate his evil personality), thus acquiring an army to formally declare war on the Separatists.  Turns out Anikin and Padme hook up while Obi is gone, and they keep it secret as Anikin would be expelled from the Order for pursuing a relationship.  War breaks out, Anikin runs off to fight, bitch isn't seen till the next movie.  Obi and Anikin arrive on a planet hosting the factories making the robots, and attempt to do some sabotage or something, are spotted/caught, first battle of the Clone Wars occurs right there as they had a corps of soldiers waiting in orbit that drop down and storm the factory.  Battle battle battle, perhaps some spaceships take off to dogfight amongst the capitol ships, and good guys win, end movie with foreshadowing of the next episode.

Finally, there was Revenge of the Sith.  Of the prequels, this one was good as it was, sans the carryover that I took the liberty to exclude from the others.  Still, some room for improvement.  For one, I mentioned the crappy dialogue?  It was all Anikin bitching about how he still wasn't a master Jedi, despite being all awesome and whatnot.  It's expressed that they feel he shouldn't be a full master, as he is married and carries anger from losing his mother that Sammy J can tell is corrupting his motives.  He knew full fucking well when he got married that this would affect his prospects, but he said he didn't care.  Well, he lied.  But, if he kept his relations secret, as I proposed, this wouldn't be the case.  He could still be angry over his mother's death, and that would be reason enough to not promote him.  Then, you get to hear the enemy robots talking to each other.  This is retarded.  For one, they are combat droids, they shouldn't have the need to verbally communicate, what with wireless data transmissions that don't require broadcasting your dialogue to enemies.  Also, they say stupid ass shit, like "yep, this looks like a jedi ship!" and then screaming "woah!" when surprised.  The fuck.  They're robots.  In the time it took for it to scream like that, a computer would have recognized the situation, established the path of the fall, and automatically correct its stance as to not fall.  But no, they weren't robots, but slapstick comedians.

The secondary bad guy, Grievous, is pathetic.  He's a biological creature that's striving for robotic immortality, has somehow killed at least four jedi despite moving like a hip-replacement patient, and is named just so sloppily that they may as well have named him "Mr. Badguy."

And the ending, just... ugh.  Padme dies from losing the will to live?  If that's all it took, then emo kids would cease to exist.  Also, isn't she in a room filled with medical equipment and robots programmed to automatically begin reviving a dying human?  She may have slipped into a coma, but god damn it those machines would keep her heart and lungs going forever.  Anikin could have killed her in a fit of rage, or she could have flown her ship into a meteor, anything, but christ, that was lame.

Finally, how the Jedi are killed off is stupid.  They are supposed to be these feeling creatures that detect what no other can, yet can't feel a change when the soldiers they've been leading for the past few years suddenly change their allegiance?  Bullshit.

But, considering the edits I made, you get:

Anikin and Obi are bravely fighting the war, Palpatine tells Anikin he knows of him and Padme, bribes him with offering to train him as a personal apprentice with the promise of power and the freedom of pussy, and Anikin accepts.  It gets found out, Anikin fully defects, turns out Padme got knocked up and doesn't tell Anikin about it until the kids are born, he flips out and kills her, and in his final battle with Obi gets burned and mutilated as he does.  The Jedi scatter after Anikin turns coat and massacres the heads of the Jedi Order, and one by one either fade out or die off, save Yoda and Obi.  Like I said, it was a good movie on its own, so not much outside of that main arc needs adjustment.

And there you go, the prequel trilogy made less shitty, possibly even awesome.  Sadly, this will never happen for real, and we are stuck with Lucas's crappy half-formed ideas, and even when he does change this train wreck around he'll somehow make it worse, like add more Jar Jar.  But this is my opinion.

I Fucking Hate Commercials

Commercials are deception incarnate.  Their entire purpose is to get you to buy Brand A's shit over Brand B's, even though both are likely the same stale turds.  They are designed to tap in to your sub-conscience and convince you their product really is the best out there, and keep you thinking about the company they were created for.  I for one cannot tolerate this.  I do understand some businesses really do depend on getting their name out there, and the best way for that is to maybe buy some airtime or rent some ad space, and that's fine.  I still don't like them, being all "there," but they are necessary for local or small companies to squeeze themselves into the market.  I only feel the true abhorrent rage inside when I see or hear an ad for a company that, before the advertisement, I knew full well existed and what they offered in terms of goods and/or services.

Take McDonalds, for example.  The spelling alone, what with two capitol letters trying to mug a poor lower-case 'c' is enough to remind me that, somewhere, there is a red and white building serving not-old-enough-to-be-tossed food made by people who either wonder where life went wrong or are not yet old enough to buy liquor.  I don't need 15 seconds of auditory rape to enforce this fact.  I live in the US, I fucking know what McD's is.  Most of their ads are just images of people looking like they get orgasms with each bite they take set to crappy music, and others script dialogue that makes me wonder if its actualy legal to target the mentally handicapped exclusively in advertising.  Top it all off that entire ad campaigns can cost the company billions just makes me wonder why exactly they find maintaining brand recognition for an international, multi-billion dollar company is so much more important than actually paying their workers enough to care about their jobs to the point we finally won't associate cheap, cold, greasy food with sadness and misery.  The point is, billions are being spent per company to perform redundant tasks rather than improve the welfare of the very people that make their financial system operate.  McD's may have been a bad example, as they only donated a few thousand dollars to a continent they offended over a famine, despite being in the food industry and commanding more money than any other non-governmental entity in history.

As with needlessness, the blatant lying is another aspect of advertising I despise.  For example, Verizon and AT&T's 4G commercials.  They each have this part where they whip out these coverage maps, displaying their mighty command of red ink while the other guys are struggling with blue still.  Both companies said this about the other.  Now, I'm no professor of things or such, but something tells me somebody is lying.  My guess?  Both.  The stronger of the two networks would probably kill to match the shittier map, while the better map is what one of the marketing guys saw in a wet dream they had.  In fact, I can attest that most of what they say is covered is not.  When 4G was new, there was a billboard that said "Fastest 4g in [Your Area]"  I'm not even joking with that, the font of my city was different and everything.  Anyway, the kicker was that, wait for it... we didn't even have 4G available in our area.  Not a single part of the network was built in our region yet.  We wouldn't get it for months after the sign went up.  And I'm guessing people bought from that particular company during that time under the assumption they were getting the better product.  Well, they got no product, because they were still using the 3G their old phones used, which basically means the company stole from them through deception, a misdemeanor offense.  Just saying.

For a different variety of advertisement, there is the portrayal of their customers.  Commercials for women will paint the wife as the smart, sensible and ultimate decider in the family's life, and the husband would surely die wandering the wilderness of suburbia without her guidance.  This may appease the more narcissistic housewives out there, but it completely cuts men out of the market.  My impression is that the product must be too difficult for me, as a penis-holder, to be able to use, even if it's yogurt.  Fucking a, that one where the lady is talking about all the flavors of yogurt she has, while the husband is frantically tearing the fridge apart, looking right at the damned cups that have written on them every word the woman is saying and deciding if its something yummy, it just cannot be sugared milk products.  That's chick food!  But no, if women buy 51% of the total product sold, you can bet your ass the commercial will tell you men are incapable of figuring out what it does.

If it's a man's product, like body wash or scented shampoo, then just slap in some boobies and explosions and wait for the money to be shotgunned into your face.  I mean, what the hell?  I love me some tits just as much as the next guy, but this is two thousand fucking twelve.  There is porn literally two pages away every time I open an internet session.  Why do ads continue to show us scantily clad women in an effort to sell more of their shoddy product as if I would buy it in a desperate effort to see more boobies?  If I start feeling the urge to see breasticles, I'm not going to buy alcoholic piss water, I'm going to go on the internet and type "lesbian threesome" into my search bar.  Done, and I lost zero dollars to a bunch of lying dickheads.

But, even with all this, they still know we frequent internet users look at things all the time, so there are ads there as well.  This is nothing new, as the first popups were being designed before there actually was an internet, but the tactics used in internet advertising are just cruel.  Pop-ups, for example.  I'm sitting here, playing some browser game or reading up on funny anecdotes, when suddenly, your screen is not yours to command, but belongs to a full page ad for shit not even idiots would want.  In fact, whenever an ad forces me to watch it, I make the conscious decision to never buy from that source, ever.  I probably wasn't going to, but I definitely won't now.  What's worse is the popups that don't have an x to click, at least not right away, so you have to sit there for a few seconds before you even have the option to ignore it.  Then, the x will be wherever the fuck they felt like putting it, and is typically only slightly larger than the pixels on you screen.  You need to have sharpshooting skills Marine snipers would envy to hit that x.  And, of course, the x will sometimes be a lie itself, taking you to some shady ass site that's just dumping spyware and malware into your computer, opening a new tab to some other shady site, and if you're lucky you get a new browser window that will never load.  Oh, and some popups are automatically brought up in a new window, but they never expand, sitting on your command bar in silence, hoping you don't notice long enough for it own your hard drive and to set your homepage to "" which is a total scam, as there was no lovin' and nothing was smooth.

As always, I have more, but I'm already rambling and if I go on I will just make less and less sense through my rage fits.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

My Stepmother Killed Some Birds, and Other Pet Deaths

On one of our annual summer visits to our fathers house, my brother got a parakeet for his birthday.  A little blue and white one that he named Gino (later Gina, after it was old enough for gender ID).  While we were in the bird store, a woman asked my stepmother, "Gail", what kind of bedding to get for two macaws.  She told them cedar wood shavings would do, and they bought a large bag and left while we were still in the store.

Now, the thing is macaw droppings react with cedar to produce some toxic (to them) gas, and they will suffer seizures and quite possibly death.  We didn't find this out until later that night while Gail chit chatted with my father, who upon hearing this tried calling the pet store, but they were closed, and even when he finally did get in touch the store had no way of finding the people.  Sooo... two dead $1400 birds, unless the owners were smart enough or had the resources to correct the mistake.  However, this was in semi-bumblefuck South Carolina, in an era when dial-up was still going strong, so unless they were net savvy middle aged bible belt denizens, or lived near a library (let alone knew where any were), they probably didn't realize until it was too late.

Anyway, she was not done, so one night she had her lovebird, Buster, out.  This was bad.  This was a female lovebird that had never gotten laid, and the bitch was a demon.  This thing would go directly for your ears and bite as absolutely hard as it could.  Sometimes it would let you perch it, only to lull you into a false sense of security as it bites the skin between your thumb and finger.  Now, take that and throw in a smaller, younger female bird and think about that.  Did you see a parakeet with one leg and a broken bloody wing?  I sure did.  Poor thing bled out within a day.  God damn that woman was stupid.

It wasn't just birds Gail had a habit of killing.  Several dogs have lost their lives at her hands, one of them just a puppy.  The first murder was that of her longtime black lab cleverly named Midnight.  Midnight was an outside dog, and would often seek refuge from the heat in the shade of one of the cars.  On the day in question, she was under my stepmother's, right in line with the wheel.  As Gail backed up, she went right over the dog, then, wondering what that bump was all about, put it in drive and went right back over Midnight, finishing off with a little doggie yelp.  Sad and such, she got a replacement puppy, but forgot that outside dogs need water and the little guy died of heat exhaustion.  The third one was a German Shepherd, which snapped the puppy leash she totally spaced out on replacing and promptly got hit by a truck.  No more dogs after that.

Those are all the suspicious murder cases for Gail, but luckily for me and my therapist's bank account my parents also allowed me to witness the demises of beloved furry friends.  I had a turtle for a week, that my dad thought would be chipper to bring to my daycare as a 'class pet'.  Well, these daycare workers cared jack shit about a herd of 4 year olds playing with a turtle that they "set it free" in the back playground.  We found it a week later in a pile of leaves, which I threw up into the air to see the turtle crash to the ground.  I brought it to Snack Lady (I don't remember their names), and she was all "Ooh, what's that?"  One little bastard said that we found it on its back, and that they die when that happens, so the stupid bitch just put the squirming turtle in the fucking garbage can, and no matter what I said she wouldn't take it out.  I cried for I don't even know how long.

Around the same time I had two cats.  One was Tee Tee (he had a sixth toe on his front paws and they stuck out like 't's), but he ran all the way back to his original owners house (the only animal I ever owned that didn't get killed, btw).  Then we got Tiger, and he was just swell.  I pet him and he didn't claw my ass up, he played with little balls of whatever, and all around was an awesome cat.  Until my mom killed him.  He liked to nap on the garage door when it was open, and my mom closed it one night without calling him down and he got pinned on the top of the door.  We discovered this as we loaded up in the car to go to daycare.  I think I was getting numb to the pain already.

Fast forward a few years when my mom caved and got us a cat, then another.  The second one, Tigger (I did not name him that, he came with it, but ironically he was the same breed as Tiger) climbed up on my lap while I was on the computer one day.  He did his usual craw up on my shoulders, but I was hunched forward too much that he fell back and broke his neck on the desk, collapsing into a violent seizure and dying.  On my lap.  The older cat, Skittles, got fleas when we moved to our new house, got very depressed, and on top of a lifetime diet of dry cat food (we just didn't know), just stopped eating and died.

Most recently, I had a hand in the death of a family pet.  My grandfather was in physical rehab for a few months after a fall, and I was tasked with checking up on the cat.  I did good for a few weeks, but one day I forgot to check in, and later forgot that I forgot, so in all a week passed before I got back.  This was November, so we had the heat in my grandfather's apartment going, on low but still.  This seemed to speed up the evaporation process of the water bowl, and even with one of those large water cooler type dishes the cat was dry for some time.  She was almost immobilized, but only barely able to drag herself to the water bowl or the litter box, which after a while wasn't even possible.  She lingered for a few days, went blind and just wasted away.  I felt terrible, because my grandfather had only that cat to remind him of his deceased wife and daughter, both of whom were former owners of the cat.

That's the gist, right now I have a 3 year old dog that has had some close calls but so far so good.  She's my first dog, so yeah, I'm going to be sad as hell when she does finally die a decade or so from now (dear god please let it be a full life).

Oh yeah and lots of fish.  I think the water where I lived was, like, sub-par.  They grew tumors on their eyes.  I'm glad we moved.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

This Actually Happened

Last year I had an eventful evening that would change my view of the world.  I posted this on one of my forums a few weeks after the fact, so some things were a tad foggy, but its still my earliest record (I have told and retold this many times).  Here is what I first wrote, copied and pasted from that forum:

Okay, Im gonna tell you a little story about meeting up with some old (now former) friends after about 10 years, then I want to know if it actually was as weird and creepy as I took it. Its a bit long, but so many things happened, each just lowering my standards one by one, that I cant really skip too much (this is abridged). Here goes...

I started doing a paper route for some extra cash in january. I noticed one of my customers had the same last name as two kids I used to be friends with at a YMCA summer camp I went to as a kid. So, one day I left a note in one of the papers asking if it was them. A few weeks later, I see someone walking down the street as I was doing my thing and they called to me, and it turned out to be one of them. I was happy to see I was right, and told him to give me a call and we could catch up. We end up agreeing to meet at a local diner at 7pm. I show up there about 6:50, order a beer and wait for them to show up. At about 7:45, I get a call from my brother saying they called the house asking when I was going to pick them up. WTF? I never said I would pick them up, and they're older than me so I assumed they had a car or cars, or at the very least a license so they could borrow their parents' car. I shrug it off, and drive down to their house. I knock on the door for a good ten minutes before their dad answers, apparently not knowing I was even showing up. He starts talking, and his voice is so slurred and his language so slang I had no idea what he was saying, so I just kinda nodded and smiled. FINALLY, the one kid I talked to comes downstairs and tells me his brother IS STILL SLEEPING, and has to get ready. He invites me to see his room (I hate going into peoples' rooms, dont know why), and all I see is trash, toys and a dirty mattress on the floor. He picks up a wooden tanto replica and says "Yeah, I collect swords!". The tanto was the only one. He then shows me this "awesome book he bought at Barnes and Nobles", which was a picture book of ancient civilizations aimed at 10 year olds. He starts going on about something or other until the other one finally comes out of his room, and then we head back to the diner.

It's now 8:30, and my beer is completely flat and warm. I chug it and ask for another, because already I know Im gonna need it. We order, and while we wait they just grill me on the most random things ever: "Do you still hang out with (other kid I havent seen in 10 years)?" "Do you still play pokemon (I do, but I wasn't gonna get them going on that in public)?" "Are you christian?". That last one only bothers me because I remember they were devout catholics, and I knew this was going to be a sticky topic through the night. I said "kinda", and they decided to start praying. The food finally came, and I ate mine as fast as I could just to get out of there. They, however, enjoy a more prolonged dining experience. Now, the one had a burger, and he covered it with soooooo much ketchup that every time he took a bite, globs of it would pour out onto everything, including his hands and face. Not phased, he just continues eating until he looks like courtney love. He decides that now would be a great time to finally wipe some of the slop off his face, so he gets up to go to the bathroom. But then, he gets another great idea: eat all of his food, then wash his face! It all seems so obvious now! He doesnt even bother using a napkin to at least get some of it off, but rather just makes a bigger mess for later. Ugh. Im already wishing I never put that note in the paper. Meanwhile, their beverages go empty (did I mention they ordered FUCKING CHOCOLATE MILK?!?), so they think it would be awesome to harass anyone who walks by for a refill. The first sees a waiter taking someones order across the aisle, and just says "Hey, get me a refill!" and shakes his cup until the guy turns around and, bless his patience, says 'sure thing' and refills it. He comes back, continues to take his customers' order, when the other decides to follow suit, shaking his glass saying "can I get a refill here?". Interrupted for a second time, the waiter just grabs the cup, refills it and brings it back without saying a word, then finishes his order-taking.

They continue to eat as I sit there trying to pretend to be somewhere else, and they continue bugging me. "Hey, want to go to Vegas next week?" "Should I build a christian theme park (not even joking)?" "Hey, want to go to LA next month?" "Oh wow, 3doors down (I was wearing a concert tee)!" to which he whips out his cell phone and starts playing music IN THE FUCKING DINER. More stuff happens that I wish I could forget, but its really more of the same so I wont bug you with it. You get the gist. The last thing that happens before we leave that has haunted my nightmares was when an old lady walked by and asked if the two kids were twins (they were, I forgot to mention), to which the most christian of the two replies "Yeah, baby, you looking for a good time?" She laughs, probably because she thinks its just a joke made by todays progressive minded youngsters. I just sit there in absolute horror and disbelief, while he continues to say such things and she continues to just let it slide. His comment after the whole incident was that he "needs to keep up his A-game". Our check comes, I throw money onto the table and tell them Ill meet them at the car. I immediately smoke the hell out of a cigarette and contemplate just driving away, but they come out just as I find the keys in my pocket. Damn.

The drive back was a bit surreal. They talk about this time that their mother was cheating on their dad and he came home, although they seem to have no idea she was in fact cheating. Im determined to get into a fatal accident by now. Sadly, we arrive in one piece, and as Im trying to say "bye forever" in not so many words, they bug me to play rock band with them. I tell them one song, and go back inside (Im too nice to simply say 'fuck off'). We go upstairs, and I discover the damn thing is STILL IN THE BOX. He pulls out the guitar, and its broken at the frets. Instead of hearing what I was hoping, which was "Oh, I guess we cant play!", I heard instead "You don't mind". Not "You dont mind, do you?", but rather an assertion that no, I do not in fact mind playing with a broken piece of shit. So as hes struggling to connect the thing to the Wii, the other one comes in asking how good I am with history. I say that im okay, so he starts asking me questions for his friends HIGH SCHOOL HOMEWORK. I dont know if they failed a bunch of grades and are still in HS, or if their only friends are still in HS. Either way, that was fucking weird. I just tell them to tell their friend to google it (It was beyond easy and retarded to not know yourself), but they harass me until I tell them. The first still not having figured out the mystical process of AV plugs, I tell them that it was late and I HAD to be home. I left, saying things like "Ill see ya around", and once I got home I scrubbed a whole layer of skin off my body in searing hot water, and still felt like there were microscopic versions of their heads crawling on me.

That was it.  Since I posted that, I had a few run ins that were excruciating.  The first was a phone call that was a sum of me saying "Im too busy (and not desperately bored enough) to do anything with you", and then a message a little while later asking if I was ready to go on that trip to Las fucking Vegas that was mentioned in passing at the diner.

A few weeks later, the mom pulls out of her driveway as Im doing my rounds in their area and hits my car.  I didnt notice it at first, because I was at the back door of a house, but I heard a crunch and thought "hope that wasnt my car".  I come back out to see my car in one piece, and their thunderbird idling in their driveway while the mom just sat there.  I thought she hit the truck she was milimeters from, so I got in my car and drove off.  At the next stop, I end up getting back to my car at the right angle to see a huge dent right behind my front passenger tire and another right behind the door.  At that moment I could see exactly that she had done it, because the dents were just wide enough apart to fit her fender, I remembered the positions of the vehicles and knew exactly how she pulled out, and on top of that I didnt have a single dent or scratch on my car until then.  I tried calling them, knocking on the door, and even more notes in the papers I delivered there, but never heard any response.  I just stopped delivering altogether, because fuck it, and they stopped paying and had their subscription dropped.

Finally, on literally my last week of doing that god forsaken paper route (seriously kids, dont ever do it), I see the one kid wandering around (he said he just likes to walk around in the dark at 4 am).  He comes up to me, right in front of one of my customer's houses, and starts drilling me on why I never got back to him.  I was still not pissed off enough to say "screw off", and I was in front of my best tipper's house so I kept it quiet and blamed it on the fact that they never got back to me about the car.  He must have seen through the BS, but instead of being all "Oh, I get it.  Whatever man"  he asks if I "hate him".  How immature and insecure in yourself do you have to be to ask someone if the reason they dont want to hang out with you is if they hate you?  At that point, I just shook my head and said "see ya" and drove off.  The rest of the route I was looking over my shoulder constantly because I was slowly making my way to their house.  I never did see or hear from them again, but damn, I am fearing that day.  What will I do?  I would like to just go all out and tell them every defect in their personalities that makes them weird ass people, but chances are I will feel nothing but sympathy for their tragic cases (I am quite conviced they are some level of retarded; I didnt notice it when I was 12 because thats how 12 year olds act, but not 21 year olds) and just make up some sorry bull and get away as fast as possible.

But anyway, thats what happened, and hopefully others will think twice before rekindling older friendships.  Like, maybe they stopped for a reason?

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Essential Gaming II

Some more games I've spent a measurable fraction of my waking life playing.  Enjoy.

Star Wars Battle Front II-  I do believe I owe my terrible 1st semester grades of 2006 to this little baby here.  I had the first one, and that was awesome and all, but the moment I played the second I owned no other video games.  I have hundreds of thousands of kills, a 'general' ranking, and legendary status on all the medals.  I have to put the AI on elite just so im sure they can hit me.  And thats not particularly skill, but the powerups you earn eventually turn you invincible with a death cannon for a gun, so its more about how much time I wasted playing this game.  That was only because it was a very, very, very good game.  The levels were intricately detailed to give vantage points while still looking natural and evocative.  The controls are quite straightforward, being a shooter and all.  The best part is its a third person yet handles just like an fps.  There's even a FP mode, but its kind of lame as you cant see your gun.  The multiplayer is incredible, especially in "Conquest" mode.  You build fleets and play risk in space, only you get to do the battles too (with purchaseable powerups, of course).  Another upgrade from the first and probably the best feature of the game are the space battles.  Still not quite actually from the movie kind of battles, but you still have to face enemy fighters and attack the command ships, which you can also board and take out from the inside.  Its a well rounded, easily playable and highly addicting game that will surely cost you your GPA.

Shadow of the Colossus-  Hands down, will forever be in top percent of great games.  The world was so well designed I thought I was there, and would actually compare scenes in the game to real locations, saying "It looks just fucking like that".  The bosses, if you are unaware, are the only enimies in the game.  The challenge is finding them, and with said detailed world that is usually a very stressful ordeal.  Once you do find them, you then have to kill them in order to harvest soul spaghetties (I dunno, just play it and see).  Some of the bosses are aggressive, and will attack you on sight.  Others will hunt you down (in a maze).  Its the ones that dont really fight back that give you a sense at what is going on; these massive creatures have existed for probably millenia, and you just come in and end their reign, and one by one they die.  There was also the hidden garden with the poison fruit on top of the temple, which was pretty cool except after defeating 400 little lizards and eating their tales (or was it the fruit?), I was able to get up and see what the fuck was so secret only to look around a 50x30 courtyard.  Whatever, it was cool.  There was also a prequel, ICO, it didnt really follow the same gameplay, but the feel of it is the same in that good, eerie sort of way.  I did hear about a third installment (the stories and style shift, but theyre of the same world), but It was for ps3 and I lost track a while ago.

Alpha Centauri-  Gameplay is basically Civilization in space (well, an undeveloped alien world), but the setup has its own flavor and all that.  You land on the planet as one of seven faction leaders (military, economy, religion, humanitarianism, totalitarianism, ecological, and academic), and you watch your units evolve from little 1/1/1 scouts to hovertanks, battleships, jets, missiles and even nukes.  You can win the game through several options (if you havent guessed it, I only ever won by conquering); domination, controlling all the money, uniting everyone in peace, or doing science so hard you evolve past humans.

Homeworld-  An awesome 3D panoramic space RTS game.  You had a mothership travelling through space, and on the way there are some encounters both good and bad and you build a fleet of ships to defend yourself.  Some of the bigger capitol ships get pretty badass, and nothing beats watching the enemy fleet get pummeled from all sides by every ship youve got.  The controlls were a little bit to learn, but I was kinda young when I got this one.

Pharaoh-  Sim City in Ancient Egypt.  Plus you get to build pyramids and sphynxes and obelisks and all sorts of cool shit.  You also have to worry about appeasing gods, and sometimes if you dont you can get screwed over.  Disease, disaster, bad economy.  That last one is a bitch because its a dominoe, and next goes house values, people leave, you no longer have enough workers, buildings catch fire or collapse because the workers left want to work at the wood cutter, even though the are no more loggers and police, fire stations and architects posts stand empty.  You could manually move them there, but you usually dont know the situation until something happens and its too late.

Goldeneye-  Nuff said.

Monday, May 30, 2011

With Apologies to Blue Oyster Cult

In Feb. '10 I was working a paper route*, so I listened to the morning radio shows a lot.  The localest station was running call in contests for tickets to a BOC concert, and one day I thought I had the answer.  I usually dont call in myself, but nobody was getting the right answer (made up by the djs), so before I turned off my car to go in the house I decided what the hey, give them a ring.

The question was "What winter olympic sport would men like to see Lindsay Vaughn compete in?".  I got through, that itself being an achievement because the lines are usually tied when they run these contests, and gave my answer.

"Cross cunt-try."

Everyone in the room busted up laughing (including the stand up comedian guest dj), and when they finally regained composure the main guy said "Wow, that's not the right answer but I gotta give it to you just for that."

Fast forward a month to the day of the show.  I go to pick my brother up from his college having gotten no sleep since 3 am (and I had only a few hours of sleep before that).  The lack of sleep and greasiness of the food we ate (cheesesteaks, made by PA dutch locals) made the drive back a little uncomfortable.  We got home at threeish, I decided not to take a power nap and left for the concert at 7.  The opening bands were terrible, and the whole time we were saying "free tickets" in our heads.  Finally, a screen comes down and plays the cowbell sketch from SNL, and after that BOC starts playing.  By this time we had maneuvered to the near front and were parked right in front of a speaker.  I was in physical agony, and being brown-noted like no other.  Unable to take anymore, I peace for the bathroom.

This being my first time in that particular club, I had no idea where to go.  I went down some stairs and asked a girl where the bathrooms were, and she said "upstairs".  I didn't know how far upstairs (in hindsight, it was quite obvious, but I was also a little intoxicated), so I went all the way up.  I found myself in a small room with a bathroom, and just wanting to get some relief I dove in and went to town.

After some epic abdominal pain followed by indescribable bliss (all set to Godzilla, which was awesome), I left the bathroom and got my first real look at the place I had found.  Liquor bottles and food was scattered about, and I realized that it was the hospitality suite.  And the bathroom fan was weak.  And their show was almost over.  So, I quickly flew down the stairs, unnoticed, and got lost in the crowd.  I got to see Dont Fear the Reaper and Burnin for You, so I was at least present for the songs I know well.

I never heard anything about it, and they probably never noticed or blamed it on an employee.  Either way, I just want to say that I am sorry to the band and the establishment (Croc Rock) for any inconveniences.

*Worst job ever.  I did the math and I was getting payed $3-5/hour, as well as the havoc that it wreaked upon my car.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Stupid Shit I Did When I Was Younger

We've all done stupid shit, or are on the path to creating a small legacy of stories to reminisce over at reunions.  Here are a few of my stories, from retarded-stupid to 'what the fuck is your problem?'.  Bear in mind the age I was during the events retold below (or in one case please forgive me).

15; Stole a garbage can from my HS cafeteria-One day after lunch, a group of friends and I thought it would be jolly good fun to jack one of the refuse bins (they were on wheels and right next to the door, this should have been anticipated).  We had no plan on what to do once it left the doors, so we ended up just walking it down the hallway.  As the crowd thinned, we were able to drag in enough people to surround and effectively hide it from authority figures.  Soon, it was just our ring of people all huddled together around the can walking down the hall.  We sang* to cover up the noise of the wheels before someone had the bright idea to pick it up.  Once we got to the main crossroads of the school everyone let go of the garbage can and split, leaving several confused security guards (I love how thats normal now) to wonder what the fuck kids these days think is funny.  Oh, except I was laughing my ass off too much to have heard everyone agree on when to drop, so I was left holding the garbage can by the freaking handle.  I have no idea what gave me the brilliant plan I had next.  You see, after all other people ran off laughing and the administration got a decent look at me, I decided to run for it myself.  Only, I never let go of the garbage can, and the first path I chose was right up a flight of steps.  With every stair I went up the wheels on the garbage can banged into one themselves and eventually the whole base broke off.  Rid of half the weight (they were heavy ass wheels), I flew up the steps and into... a security guard who was holding a radio and knew everything.  She grabbed me as I threw the bin at her, and that must have done the trick because I slipped out and bolted down the hall, never to be caught.

*"a la la la la la la la" with no tempo or stable rythm and all discordy.

18; Shat on a vending machine-So I was high and on top of a building that had vending machines below it, and I had to shit but these were my early stoner days and didnt want my mom to hear me taking a shit and going back outside at 2am so I had like three options and this one was the funniest.  To wipe I used my boxers, and to dispose of the boxers I used a can of Axe and a lighter.  Was awesome, until a cop rolled by just as I was smacking the drawers on the wall.  Luckily, I was wearing THE most comfortable shorts ever made (I still use them as my "Im doing every single boxer I own" laundry day pants) and had no discomfort in the six block sprint I ran laughing my ass off.  Im not sure if they ever cleaned it off, or even thought to look up there, or if rain washed it away but I will never have a soda from that machine ever again.

10ish; Jousted-Im not sure exactly how old I was, but it was after "A Knight's Tale" came to vhs and my brother watched that movie every single day for weeks.  We got it in our heads that we could find sticks and get on our bikes and run into each other.  My plan (for fuck's sake why I dont know) was to be as hurt as possible, which was awesome because thats exactly what happened.  I had a gash from my nipple to my armpit and my brother was basically stabbed in the chest with a blunt piece of wood.  It took us three or four tries to figure out that it was basically the worst idea ever and call it a day.

10ish still; Javellened my brother with a broom-Dont remember too well why, but my brother walked into a room and I threw the broom at him, hitting his eye and giving him a minor concussion.  We lied our asses off, saying he fell down the stairs and hit the bookshelf at the bottom, and to this day I dont see how our mom wasnt contacted by child services.

11; Prank phone calls-The best part of this is that we (my brother and I) did this literally within months of caller id coming out.  They were still running the commercials, unveiling the wonders of knowing who's calling before you pick up!  But yes, we thought it would be cool so we dialed a random number (same area code luckily), found one that had an answering machine and left dozens of the most obscene, disgusting and horrifying messages our young little minds could concieve (76% involved dicks and butts/poo).  We thought we were so clever and hilarious, sitting in silent victory as the evening went on until about 830-9ish when we got the call back.  Our mother was in tears as she screamed at us, and even smacked me over one particular message involving monkeys.  I was grounded for probably the longest I had ever been, and for this I missed a lot of pokemon episodes.  And at 11, that was worse than death.

As usual, theres more, but this much took longer than I thought and I could always use more fodder.