30 November, 2008

Better Living Through Chemistry

Despite my natural and simplistic approach to life, I have a pretty progressive attitude toward modern technology. I don't really care about having the newest gadget on the market (being a fan of the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" motto), but from a philosophical standpoint, I embrace technology as the power of man, and I fully support the idea of "playing god". My feeling is, there is no god, so we might as well play him, because nobody else will. Hence I am, in general, sympathetic toward the transhumanist agenda.

However, when it comes to introducing foreign chemicals into my body, I'm very reluctant. I never do any drugs, and I absolutely hate taking medicine. It doesn't make a lot of sense - if I'm sick and in agony, and imbibing a certain chemical compound has a high chance of making me feel better, my course of action should be obvious. Yet I'm still reluctant.

From a holistic perspective, one might choose to argue that the human body is well prepared to deal with various sicknesses on its own, without modern medicinal assistance, and that otherwise, we wouldn't have survived this long. Well, I also think there's plenty of evidence to the contrary. Even personally, I have had more than my own share of evidence that the human body is not equipped all that adequately to deal with even the mundane sicknesses of the world. Being sick for months, with or without medicinal aid, is not an unfamiliar experience for me.

In fact, recently, I've started wondering if maybe I have a deficiency in my immune system (which certainly doesn't seem to be very immune). God forbid I should find out that I have AIDS and just never realized it. I remember narrowly avoiding talking to a doctor about a particular extended sickness back when I was a wee lad. I spent a whole week out of school (which is almost certainly my record), but ultimately, my reasoning for not going back was more psychological than physical. So I sucked it up and went back to school rather than see the doctor. I really wish I had seen that doctor, though, for the psychological problem moreso than any physical problem I might have/had. Course, confronting my problems has never been my strong suit.

Around the time of my senior year in high school, I was taking DayQuil regularly. It's fucking ridiculous to think of it now - I had to take DayQuil daily just to feel normal. I wasn't addicted to it, I just needed to have it because without it, I would not have had the constitution to face the unending stresses of school life. I could have quit at any time, there just wasn't any logical reason to.

In my senior year of college, I stopped taking DayQuil. Heh, I don't mean to suggest that I continued taking it nonstop for those four years. I would take it off and on as my condition dictated. But I remember taking it regularly to stave off some sort of cold that year. And it got to the point where, even taking the stuff, I didn't feel any better. It was just as bad. I still couldn't get to sleep at night through the coughing. So I just quit taking it. I figured, if it's not helping, then I might as well get rid of it.

These past couple years, I've been living a sedentary lifestyle, which has allowed me plenty of time to sleep, even more time to rest, and very limited contact with other human beings (and their oh so horrible germs). And yet, I haven't stopped coughing for the past two and a half months or so. I frequently tell myself (I actually say this, I don't just think it), in a firm voice, "Stop it. Stop coughing. Just stop." Course, it never works.

I could take medicine, but what's the point? If I had to go out somewhere and do something important, yeah, then I'd try to take something to ease the agony. But if I'm just laying around anyway, I'd rather not pollute my system with foreign chemicals. Seriously, I am strongly against the idea that I should have to constantly take a specific substance just to be normal, just to be me, just to be.

On the other hand, if you think about it, food is kind of the same way. Although there's the option of variety, the fact is, you have to keep taking food in order to survive and maintain energy. So medicine shouldn't be such a big deal, right? Well, when they start making medicine in the form of little chewable chocolates (that actually taste like real chocolate, and not have some funky medicinal tang), then I'll start taking them. I mean, even the Cold-Eez that I do take on the occasion that I can spare some change to buy some, while it's not an unpleasant flavor, it's not exactly like chewing on candy, either.

Another thing I've been considering is the possibility that maybe some playa dust got lodged in my lungs or something while I was out in the desert, and now it's wreaking havoc on my respiratory system.

Shouldn't getting a lot of rest improve recovery time? Or does getting exercise actually help by keeping your body strong?

Go see a doctor, go see a doctor! Bah, humbug.

29 November, 2008


Ever since losing my camera at Burning Man, and being forced backwards a technological step to the previous camera I used, which, though impressive when I first started using it, I cannot help now seeing as utter crap, there's been a huge depression in my interest and motivation for taking pictures. I'm still very much interested in photography, though, and thus I've been pining for a new camera. I've never owned what I refer to as a "real" camera - meaning, the kind of camera that "photographers" use, as opposed to the kind of camera that regular people use who are more interested in taking snapshots for the family album than they are in creating art. And right now, I'm staring at one of those "real" cameras and I'm seriously considering buying it.

Never mind my financial situation. It's not often that I feel that a certain course of action is "just right". Perhaps I'm deluding myself with impossibilities, but I can't help thinking that maybe, with a camera like this, I could actually start a path to becoming something of a professional photographer. Of course, I define "professional photographer" in my own specific, idiosyncratic terms, but the point is that maybe I could take photos good enough to make some money off of, and somewhere down the line, maybe I could actually reach a point where the idea of shooting models isn't just a pipe dream. It might be a long road, but it's gotta start somewhere.

So I'm looking through photos on Flickr, and I can't help thinking to myself, there are a lot of people out there taking really good photos. And I ask myself, who the hell am I to think that I could ever be good? I mean, I'm sure many of these people are just taking good pictures, without making a career or lifestyle out of it - so how could I honestly expect to ever create something that's worthy of people's attention, let alone money? If there are so many good photographers out there, how can I expect to ever make a splash? What does it take to "make it", and why should I believe that I have that?

"Why am I now so attractive when, just a couple of years ago as a butcher, nobody wanted to know? Why all that applause just for playing guitar?" (Peter Green)

Okay, I'm not oblivious. I realize that this is a lot of negative thinking that maybe I shouldn't be doing. But as the person that I am, I just don't know if it's better to dive in head first and believe in yourself, or hold back and play it cool. I guess you could say, "what is there to lose?", but that doesn't shake the confidence I have in my ability to fail.

I'm reminded of Naruto, and his conviction to one day become Hokage (leader) of Konoha Village. Never mind that everyone doubted him in the beginning; his determination has always been unwavering, and through the years, he's proved that not only might he have what it takes, but he may actually be the right man for the job.

So is announcing that you're gonna be something and then working towards it relentlessly enough to ensure that it will happen? I'm not so sure, but even if it is, I'm still not confident of my ability to work relentlessly towards a goal. But should I just give up on life? If I don't have enough confidence that I'll ever accomplish anything worthwhile in life (which is a pretty accurate assessment of my current situation), then what point is there in anything? I could just try accomplishing something, simply because I seem to have nothing to lose, but even then, it's hard to muster the motivation. I'm just having a really really hard time *believing* that I can accomplish anything. God, this sucks.

So, should I become Naruto and just say "fuck it, I'm gonna be a winner"?, and then do it?

The problem with convictions (and everything in my life), is that they depend on moods and certain perspectives, and it's hard for me to stick to one for long before finding myself back in my cozy little pit of despair where nothing really matters.

On the other hand, even if I never become a good guitarist, I still think that that guitar may be the best thing I ever bought in my life.

Struggle, struggle, struggle, that's all life is. I've always maintained that if god would give me even a small taste of the good stuff, that would be the motivation I'd need to be a better servant. If he could just show me that I'm not alone, that I'm not in this all on my own, I'd be more than happy to return the love. But in the absence of his presence, I have to believe that I could struggle my entire life and get no reward whatsoever. The least he could do is dangle a carrot in front of my face. An actual, physical carrot that I could see and smell, not some illusory dream carrot that doesn't really exist. Show me a real carrot, and I'll start running. In the meantime, don't be surprised if I decide there's no point in getting out of bed in the evening.

Fuck you, god.

27 November, 2008

Giving Thanks

Not to get all sappy, but since it is Thanksgiving, here are just a scant few things that I am thankful for (remembering that quality trumps quantity):

*2D Girls - Maybe they can't do everything that 3D girls can do, but they're a hell of a lot easier to approach.

*The Blues - It's comforting knowing that there exists a musical expression for the pain and sadness I carry in my heart.

*Pirates - I'm more of a ninja guy myself, but when it comes to stickin' it to The Man, pirates are the people who remind us all that "no law can be sacred but that of my nature".

26 November, 2008

Consumerism (or Luciferianism)

I don't understand money. I never understood money. It doesn't jibe with my fundamental nature. Money is the fuel of life in modern society. You need money to do anything and everything. But the paradox is that you have to spend the money you have in order to do those things. So how can I consolidate the desire to have money with the need to spend money? Should I spend my money on this? Or should I save it for something else? But if I spend my money here and now, I'm not gonna have it later for something else. Even if the money I have right now is more than enough to afford these things, how can I know that I won't find myself in a situation later where the money I have isn't sufficient? It's just all so freaking screwed up, and I just can't get it straight in my head.

I think about going and hanging out at coffee shops. Take a book. Read for an hour every day. Worst case scenario, I get out of the house and get a chance to read more. Best case scenario, I happen to meet some cool people, gain confidence and experience in social situations, maybe meet some musicians that might wanna jam with me, maybe meet some girls that are interested in art and photography. But I can't justify hanging out at a coffee shop regularly without spending money there. I may not actually be kicked out, but generally the amenities offered at a place such as this are understood to be there for paying customers, more or less. To go in once or twice and not pay isn't a big deal, but if you start using their shop as a living room, they're gonna expect you to compensate them in some manner.

I think about going out during the day and just wandering. In the car, since walking won't get me anywhere worthwhile. I have nothing else to do, so meandering about town all day long isn't really gonna cut into anything important on my schedule. Going to stores, malls, maybe even museums and conventions and concerts and movies and who knows. Get used to being out in the world, as well as being around other people. Who knows, maybe I'd even come across a job opportunity that could actually interest me, like at a music store or something. But all of this costs money. Even if I just loitered places and didn't buy things (or services), I'd still have to pay for gas, and for food - neither of these expenses exist when I stay at home.

I can't afford to blow money like this - a few bucks here, a few bucks there, every single day. Which makes it harder for me to get out there in the first place. And even if I managed to get a job first, to provide a source of income, that still doesn't change my fundamental nature - why spend all this money now if I might need it for more important things later. It doesn't change the fact that deep within, I just don't *agree* with the way society runs. And that's what's stopping me from being Joe Everyday. I just don't agree with this world, no matter which way I try to look at it, it just doesn't fit. That's why I don't understand how to do normal things that other people do without thinking. They look at me strangely and ask why I'm having so much trouble with something so simple, and the answer is, I just don't get it. It doesn't make any sense. Why am I here? Why in this world? Who the hell decided things should work this way anyway?

Who knows...

21 November, 2008


When did I start looking forward to Thanksgiving more than Christmas? On Thanksgiving, I can get up at a reasonable time (not more than a couple hours earlier than usual), eat a huge and satisfying meal (the best meal of the year, in fact) among a mercifully small crowd of family, and then lounge around the house the rest of the night, doing whatever I feel like. On Christmas, I have to get up early in the morning (which is the absolute worst time of the day for me to get up), after the previous night's crowded, claustrophobic family party, and then stay up all. day. long. until the evening (after dinner) when I can finally stop visiting family and just collapse into bed. And that's not even mentioning the consumer nightmare that is gift-giving (let alone the preparations for it)! Give me a break!

20 November, 2008

Defined by Disorder

Yesterday I found myself studying the MBTI (Myers-Briggs Type Indicator) system for defining personality types based on Jungian theories. (A brief aside: I don't hide my distaste for Sigmund Freud, but even though Carl Jung was also far from developing a solidly scientific basis for psychology, I have a lot more respect for him, and his theories take on an almost romantic, mystical quality for me). Although the MBTI system is far from perfect in terms of pigeonholing the population into distinct personality types, I don't think there's much doubt that it's a lot better than something like astrology, and regardless of the system's limitations, I'm discovering that there's quite a lot of depth to it, and much wisdom to be gleaned from a grounded study of the various personality types and particularly the boundaries between them.

So I've been trying to figure out just which personality type best describes me, and I'm having a little trouble. There's no doubt that I am an Introvert, and it seems pretty clear that I am more iNtuiting than Sensing, but after that it gets a little tougher. There's a test I've taken a few times over the past couple years, and I've gotten pretty consistent results. The trouble is, I've always been just barely above the midpoint for those last two attributes, so while this particular test would mark me as Thinking rather than Feeling, and Judging rather than Perceiving, the fact is that it is possible that I could easily swing to the other side given different questions.

To further complicate matters, I took a different test elsewhere (at mypersonality.info) which expectedly marked me as an iNtuitive Introvert, and placed me just above the midpoint for Judging over Perceiving, but instead of Thinking, I scored Feeling with a slightly larger distance from the midpoint than I had on the previous test (in the opposite direction). Of course, no one of these tests is foolproof and 100% accurate, but I feel like my rational scientific side is battling my temperamental artistic side.

So I'm willing to believe that I truly exist in the middle of a couple of these dichotomies, but I'm still curious about what kind of people fall into each personality type - especially the ones I'm teetering between. Who knows, maybe I can relate better to the average population of one group more than another. Unfortunately, reading summaries of the personality types hasn't helped a whole lot, because depending on the source, I can find myself agreeing with the description of multiple types, or none of them. But, I found an alternative solution - exploring message board forums dedicated to specific personality types.

So far, I've explored the INTJ and INTP boards more than others. From a purely superficial perspective, I would definitely say that I am more of a Thinker than a Feeler, and that whatever part of me "Feels" (understanding that the nuance of the term in this context is not necessarily obvious) is either subdued or not as fundamental to my being as the part that "Thinks". Additionally, I briefly browsed an INFx (can't remember if it was J or P) board and was unimpressed with the personalities on display. On the other hand, the INTJ and INTP boards have both provided quite a bit of discussion that I can find interest in.

As much as I want to find out one personality type that fits me the most, even if it's only a little bit better than another one, my opinion on where I fit unfortunately tends to sway quite a bit depending on who's offering the description. Although the test I took three times would yield the narrow margin toward INTJ over INTP, I'm finding from people's own descriptions that the INTJ's tend to be more action-oriented, dedicated to seeing their plans implemented, whereas the INTP's seem to be more concerned with the formulation of the plans only. In that case, I'd lean towards the INTP side of the spectrum. On the other hand, I'm hearing things that suggest that INTJ's are more concerned with organization and order than INTP's, and that would sway me a little in the opposite direction. Maybe I should just content myself with being labeled an INTx, with potential circumstantial F preferences...

The bottom line is, regardless of how I decide to label myself, it's exciting finding a discussion board with other people who, in general, think in patterns that are not entirely alien to my own.

Another thing that crossed my mind while trying to pigeonhole my personality, is just how much a disorder defines a person's identity. How much is a disorder an obstacle that blocks a person from realizing their true, latent identity, and how much is that disorder a fundamental part of that person's identity? Is the disordered me the real me, or is there a realer me hiding inside somewhere, afraid to come out? After all, what would I be like if I didn't have this anxiety disorder? If I never had it? How much different would I be? What kind of person would I be? Would I be essentially the same person, minus the anxiety, or would the lack of that obstacle have allowed certain inhibited aspects of my personality to shine through? Is it possible that I could have even been an extravert, or at the least, outgoing? Does that capability exist within me? Is it merely locked away, or is it just not there to begin with?

There's a specific reason why I question this. Looking at my brother, at times, is kind of like looking into a funhouse mirror. An upside-down funhouse mirror. A cracked, upside-down funhouse mirror. A cracked, upside-down funhouse mirror in one of those old abandoned funhouses that are almost definitely haunted. I've always considered myself a loner, and now he is whole-heartedly embracing the loner's manifesto. But the more he characterizes himself as a loner, the more I tend to question how much of a loner I really am. I mean, in practice, I consider myself to be more of a loner than he is, but in my heart, I don't think there's any question which one of us is truly a loner. The way I see it, my brother has social connections, but would rather get rid of them. In contrast, I have hardly any social connections, but I long to have more of them. The reason I avoid people is not because I don't want to be around people, but because this disorder I have makes it uncomfortable for me to be around people. Can I truly be a loner if being alone makes me feel alone?

I guess I probably shouldn't question it so much. Not all loners are alike, that's one of the fundamental tenets of lonerism. You'll never see us banding together. It's just that, I don't feel content being who I am. I don't want to be me. I wish I was someone else.

18 November, 2008

Anime Chekku

Being that I'm a NEET, and a self-described hikikomori, it occurs to me that maybe I should mention with a little more frequency the anime I watch, as it seems to be part of the territory.

Sakotsu Moe

I recently watched a 4 episode OVA series titled Kyou no Go no Ni ("Today in Class 5-2"). The sole reason I picked it up is because I read that there was a scene in which the characters describe the appeal of a girl's collarbone, in contrast with the more common focus on breasts. Naturally, I had to check it out for myself. Turns out to be more of a joke than a serious discussion, but it was still pretty amusing - which is the way I'd describe the rest of the series, as well. Despite the questionable combination of ecchi and elementary school, the series manages to be quite funny and even a little bit endearing, without, in my opinion, crossing the line. As a summary I read elsewhere puts it, this is 5th grade the way you *wish* you remembered it.

Hikikomori: Homicidal Teens of Japan

I don't like the stereotyping of hikikomori as violent recluses just waiting to explode on society, which is why I'm hoping that the delusions of the main character and hikikomori of new anime series Chaos;Head (based on a visual novel) turn out to have some kind of supernatural substance - but regardless of how it turns out, this is looking to be a pretty interesting story so far. I really liked the character of Kusunoki Yua at first, playing the part of the shy long-haired otaku girl - but unfortunately that largely turned out to be a ruse (presumably). Even so, the way she hesitated before sending that email, only to use the hand of her huggable frog plush to push the button, was totally cute. And the girl that sings in a band - totally hot. The fact that she looks like Ayanami Rei probably helps.

More Fun With Hikikomori

I'm also currently enjoying the series Hayate no Gotoku!, which features the radiant rich girl Sanzenin Nagi-ojousama. In addition to being a hikikomori (with a lot more money than most hikikomori), she's also got tsundere appeal. That's a pretty powerful one-two punch. And the series itself is quite amusing, chock full of parodic anime references.

All Grown Up

I finally watched the first [and second] episode of Naruto Shippuuden. I've been meaning to get on this series ever since I finished the first Naruto series (no mean feat), but you know how it goes. Three years have passed, and things are supposedly gonna get serious now. Naruto returns to Konoha Village after training with Jiraiya. The first order of business is to test Naruto (and Sakura's) newfound powers. And that's where Kakashi comes in. When Kakashi shockingly pulled down his mask to reveal his sharingan before the bout - that's when I knew things really were gonna get serious. I'm looking forward to what's in store.

Suicide in Second Life

I didn't really think of it this way at the time, but the more I think about it now, the more it feels like I committed suicide in Second Life. I couldn't deal with the people, so I just disappeared. And do you know what the best thing about suicide is? There are no consequences. Sure, the people I had befriended in-world might wonder where I went to, whether I'm alright, and why I left without saying a word to them, but the truth is, so long as I choose not to back out on my suicide, I will never have to face any of that. It no longer exists to me. It's a clean break. Now if only first life was that easy to escape from.

I've never seriously considered suicide only because I've never considered death to be a better alternative to living, despite how crappy my life is/has been. My opinion on that is subject to change if my life ever gets significantly worse than it is now, but for the time being, that is where I stand. If I knew for a fact, for example, that if I killed myself, I could be reincarnated as someone else, then I would have to seriously consider it.

Job Seeker Poll

Are you afraid that employers can see your Facebook or MySpace pages?

>Yes, my page could negatively affect my job search.
>No, my page is set to private.
>No, I use my page to promote myself to employers.
>I do not have a page.

This poll bugs me, because the provided answers are insufficient. I have both a MySpace and a Facebook page, even if I hardly ever use the Facebook page, and haven't used the MySpace page much recently - so I clearly can't pick the last option. I definitely don't use either of my pages to promote myself to employers - I have those pages for purely personal purposes - which rules out option number three. My Facebook page /may/ be set to private - frankly, I don't know - but I do know that my MySpace page is totally public, and that's the way I prefer it. Thus, I cannot choose the second option in the poll. And while it is true that my page could negatively affect my job search (what search?), I'd be lying if I chose option number one because then I'd be answering that yes, I am afraid that employers can see the page.

This is my answer:

No, my page could negatively affect my job search, but I don't care in the least, because I'm not interested in projecting a polished and perfected - and utterly fake - image to my prospective employers. I'm interested in my humanity, and it is all the quirks of my personality that makes me who I am, and that is the person you would hypothetically be hiring, not the perfected image I might otherwise choose to present.

The fact that this is even an issue is proof of the sorry state of affairs modern society is in...

17 November, 2008

Naptime is No Longer Safe

Generally, I don't take naps - despite my fondness for sleep, I'm of the mind that napping is something only kids do. That having been said, when I'm feeling *really* tired, or just miserable, crawling into bed for a period ranging anywhere from 30 minutes to 3 hours during the middle of my waking period can be a lifesaver. Although in this case, it was sort of the opposite. That's right, just as Freddie Krueger comes for you anytime you nod off, no matter where or why or for how long, now Death too has descended upon naptime.

I've pretty much been sick for the past two months, since returning from the big trip. I've been even more miserable than usual the last couple days, though, as my coughing has recently gotten rather violent - and has at this point contributed to an unfortunate headache. Needless to say, I felt like lying down for a bit today as it was still early in my waking period and my head was already swimming (I love that expression, though I don't love the feeling). So I fell asleep for a good two and a half hours, only to wake up breathing rapidly from an exciting and harrowing dream. It wasn't quite as terrifying as the other "nightmares" I've had that pit me against Death, but I did get pret-ty close to death at the very end. Luckily, I just got up and the dream is still fairly fresh in my mind, so allow me to explain.

The setting is one of the shops over in the lot that's being consumed by the Walgreens that's scheduled to be built soon. But it's not any shop that I'm familiar with, and it was actually in one of the shop slots other than the ones I've spent lots of time in (which are closer to the road than the one I was in in my dream). Although, it was kind of coffee shop-ish, because there were a few of us (family/friend types) hanging out and chatting in the shop. But the lighting was brighter, and the atmosphere was more casual and less hip.

Anyway, there was this one guy, that I wish I could explain better, because there were other details about him that I don't remember, but I guess I can say he was the type that seemed nice and friendly but turned out to be...not. In any case, he was driving around the parking lot and I was sitting in the car with him, chatting about who knows what - I have no idea why, but that's how it was. As he drove close to the exit to the parking lot, I was about to ask him if he was actually /leaving/, since it wasn't /my/ intention to leave at that moment, but before I even asked, I was sort of 'dumped' out of the car. I don't know how exactly, if the guy pushed me out or I just got out voluntarily or what - I suppose it's one of those ambiguous dream details. At any rate, I found myself on the pavement watching the car drive away (and, indeed, leave the parking lot).

Unfortunately, there was a police car nearby, for some reason watching the car I just came out of (perhaps he knew what I would soon find out - that the guy in the car was actually a pretty mean character). I guess he maybe thought I had something to do with the guy, because he came straight for me, lights a-flashing, soon as I left the car. Then again, at the time, I didn't have any reason to believe he was coming for me for any other reason than I'm me. And cops tend to have it out for me. For no good reason. Although, did I mention that I was naked the whole time during this dream? I was, though I didn't *feel* naked - nobody seemed to notice or care (least of all myself).

Well I came to the conclusion that the cop was approaching me not because I was doing anything illegal but because he was just a corrupt and perverted cop (perhaps an even more frightening prospect). The thing that tipped me off was the way he instructed me to pose just before he was about to take my picture (for evidence...or something). I got the sense that this didn't feel like part of a cop's typical procedure. Lucky for me, in my dream I was a lot more straightforward than I really am, and I not only cursed at the cop, I even slapped or punched him (can't remember specifically). I was also lucky that instead of retaliating or being stubborn, the cop actually backed off. He drove away, and I went back to the shop where the others were. (This is really a pretty pointless detail, but I find it interesting that there was a grassy hill with a tree on top of it, right in the middle of the parking lot - which isn't the case in real life).

So somehow I find myself running from the guy from the car earlier. Apparently he's a psychotic murderer, and for some reason he's after me. It made more sense in the dream. I was pretty desperate at this point to hide, so I ran to the back of the shop and locked myself in the bathroom. There were some developments I don't clearly remember that had me back at the front of the shop, but it just ended up in me running back to the bathroom just as the psychotic murderer entered the shop. I slipped into the bathroom and locked the door, wondering if the murderer knew I was in there, and if not, how long it would take for him to find me. So I opened the bathroom window and slipped out into the alleyway between shops (still naked, by the way). At this point I had the instinctive feeling that the murderer was right on my tail, and that he'd kill me (or worse) the moment he caught me. So I stumbled through that window and climbed over some stuff, including a fence, as quickly as possible. I found myself in a yard and made a break for it, hoping I could throw the murderer off and find somewhere safe to hide (back home, maybe). This daring escape from the shop happened all so very quickly, and I awoke in the midst of it, still feeling the effects of the chase - breathing rapidly, as I mentioned above. It was quite exciting, indeed.

14 November, 2008

Every Fight Is A Fight With Freezer

There are two scenes from DBZ, both from the Freezer Saga, that periodically resurface in my consciousness, and that I can relate to my life. Both of them can be described as "Saiyajin prepares to fight Freezer".

The first involves Son Gokuu. For a rather large portion of episodes, Gokuu trains to become stronger while in transit to Namekkusei where he will have to face off against Freezer, to protect his friends (and, of course, the universe). But when he starts getting close to the planet, he ends his training regimen and takes a few steps to prepare himself for battle. (I may have the order of these mixed up, but that's not important). First, he cleans himself up. Then, he eats a huge meal to restore his energy. And then he takes a good long sleep. After all of that is out of the way, he spends the remaining time before arrival posed in a standing position, presumably concentrating on the fight ahead, perhaps in some form of meditation, mentally preparing himself for the ordeal that will follow.

It is this part that I can relate to - the mental preparation. Before I head into an important situation (or as it turns out, even many unimportant ones), I like to, whenever possible, spend some time mentally preparing myself for the ordeal ahead of me. After I do everything else to prepare myself, I feel like I need some time to just stand there and steel myself mentally against the obstacles that will inevitably assault me.

Then again, maybe it's just me fretting over all the little things that ultimately won't matter, and making an excuse to delay launch just a little bit longer.

The other scene I relate to involves the other important Saiyajin in the story, Bejiita. There is a scene, before the anticipated fight with Freezer begins, where Bejiita himself steels himself against the battle ahead, in a slightly different way. This occurs, if my memory serves correctly, right around the scene where Gohan and Kuririn are fitted with Saiyajin armor (from the "washing machine"). I think they take a nap, or at least leave Bejiita alone for a bit, and that's when Bejiita places his hand against the wall, bows his head, and works through the sheer terror that shakes through the core of his being at the mere thought of facing off against Freezer - a monster whose power Bejiita knows better than most.

Whereas Gokuu takes a more peaceful and composed (even enthusiastic at times) approach to the anticipation of a coming battle, when facing Freezer, Bejiita is, simply put, absolutely terrified. And honestly, I think that's closer to the way I feel before an "ordeal".

The trouble is, this sort of thing doesn't happen to me only when I'm up against a major scenario, like giving an important presentation or taking an important exam or something that could otherwise have a significant impact on my life. It doesn't occur only when I'm fighting Freezer - it happens every single time I go to "battle", even when it's just with the expendable small fries who don't even have a name. In other words, it feels like every "fight" I have to fight, is a fight with Freezer.

Can you imagine the impact that would have on a person? If everyone they had to fight against terrified them just as much as Freezer, regardless of how strong (or weak) they actually are, could you blame this person if they gave up fighting and went into hiding?

Could you?

09 November, 2008

Opening Stages (or Focusyn)

Now that the neighborhood coffee shop has (reluctantly) closed down to make way for yet another Walgreens in the area, you'd think I'd finally have some rest from having to perform every other week. But the Open Stage there was so popular (or at least so treasured by its regular attendees), that it has splintered off into two (two!) different new Open Stages. One of them is hosted by folk rock band The Primatives, who hosted the other one, and is located about a half hour drive from here. The other one is closer - only a little bit farther than the old one - and hosted by the Stickman, who was a regular and celebrated feature of the old 'stage. And guess what - their schedules are scattered relative to each other, so now I essentially have an Open Stage to perform at every single week (with some exceptions - holidays, months with five fridays, unexpected cancellations, etc.)!

Okay, this is good for me. I know. I've been practicing guitar a lot more the past couple months. And that's a very good thing. But it's still a lot of pressure. The farther Open Stage is cool because it actually has a stage (a pretty tall one, in fact), which is good performing experience, but also adds a lot more stress. The closer Open Stage is a bit less formal (with no real stage). An interesting side effect of the splintering of the old Open Stage is that each of the two new ones feature a number of familiar faces (which provides comfort), while adding in some fresh faces (so you get to hear new performers, and new people get to hear you). And even though *I* get bored playing the same songs over and over again, since each of the two stages feature different audiences (with maybe a few occasional crossovers), I can play a song a couple times before it gets tired. Or I can try a song out at the more informal stage so that I'm more comfortable playing it at the slightly more formal stage.

Enough of that for now. Let's talk about learning. A few weeks ago, I learned the basics to the song Too Rolling Stoned by Robin Trower - a fantastic blues rock song by the way. I can play it fairly well, minus the solos of course (unfortunately). Now, it took me some effort to work out that main riff you hear at the beginning and after each chorus. I had a tab for it (I wouldn't have been able to figure it out otherwise), but it was still tricky getting the timing down, and the tab itself was a little iffy (as they always seem to be). I had to listen to the riff in the song over and over again, listening carefully to the pitches of each note, and the timing between them, etc., to get the riff down. Eventually I got it, after a lot of effort. And being able to play it feels really really good. And this is the stuff I really wanna be able to play, as opposed to boring chords. Moreso whole solos than just riffs (though riffs are fun in their own right).

But a solo is like a dozen different riffs (or "licks", if you will - and that's just for a short solo) strung one after another, usually played fast. So it generally takes the effort of learning one riff times a dozen (or more, for the longer solos), to learn a solo. And that's a lot of effort. Of course, some solos are pretty easy, and some are really hard, and they all vary in difficulty. I'm sure other people - "true" musician types - can work stuff like this out a lot easier and/or faster than I can. But I'm not here today to talk about envy. I've proven to myself that I can work this stuff out if I really really work at it. And the portions of solos I can play are some of my favorite things to play - example, the opening riff for Steppin' Out played by Eric Clapton on the Bluesbreakers LP (I know, I'm mixing up riffs and solos now, just try to stay with me).

Another thing I love to play is the first four "measures" or so of I'm Going Home by Ten Years After, featuring Alvin "Fastest Fingers" Lee - as seen on the Woodstock film. Sure, four "measures" doesn't sound like a lot, but when it's Alvin Lee, baby, it's like a universe's worth of flurried notes (it's not really, but it sure feels like it). Just tonight I worked out the next four measures or so (with tons of effort), including getting past a part that's stumped me since I learned the first part. I gotta practice it a lot now to cement it into my memory, and a few of the sections are still weak, but it feels great to play it, even if I have to slow it down a bit yet.

My point here is, I can work this stuff out if I really work at it, but my problem is making the effort. I have some kind of mental deficiency that creates a strong desire within me to avoid doing stuff - moreso stuff that either requires effort or induces stress. I *want* to spend all day every day for months working out solos and stuff - and can you imagine what that would do for my playing ability? But I just can't get myself to *do* it. As soon as I come up against a wall, I feel a strong (really really strong) desire to turn around and take a nap or something, rather than chip away at the wall. This is why I'm a failure at life. But no amount of telling myself to "just do it" makes it the least bit easier for me.

And this is why I'm "just a picture of what I could have been".

04 November, 2008

Death Stalks My Dreams

I had some more vivid dreams last night. I'd love to describe them in detail, but unfortunately I don't really remember the details. I do remember, though, that one of them had me facing death again. I was being chased by some madman for some reason, or something like that, and I was holed up in the house, hiding. The part I remember involved somebody banging on the door from the outside and tossing an axe through the window (shattering the window in the process, of course) and chopping the door to pieces. Pretty intense. I'm starting to get the feeling that maybe Death is stalking my dreams or something. That'd be terrible if I just didn't wake up one of these days after one of those dreams. I just hope Death doesn't decide to go all Freddy Krueger on me. *That* could get messy.

02 November, 2008

Silent Hill 4: The Room

Having just beat Silent Hill 4: The Room for the first time, here are my general impressions. It helps to realize that the game was originally intended to be a spinoff of the Silent Hill series. This goes a long way in explaining why, though it definitely feels like a Silent Hill game, it has certain elements that veer from standard expectations of a Silent Hill game.

The game centers around The Room, which you, as Henry Townshend, are stuck in, since the door is chained shut (though from the inside). You travel to various "worlds" through mysterious holes that appear in the apartment, and it isn't clear if these are just dreams or reality or what. Interestingly, there's only one save point in the entire game, and it's in The Room (which despite being the "safe haven", starts to get pretty creepy later in the game as it gets more and more haunted). Since you're frequently coming back to The Room via holes that show up all over the alternate worlds you explore, there's still plenty of chances to save your game. Although, it does get kind of tiresome after awhile to go through the hole and back into the apartment every single time you want to save your game, or shuffle your inventory.

Which brings me to another innovation this game features. You can only carry a certain number of items at one time (ten or so). Everything else has to be stored in a chest in The Room. Early in the game, you get a notice warning you to travel light in that other world, or else you may regret it. Which is true, because you never know when you're gonna pick something new up, and you especially want to have space for the important things. Which means you can only carry so much health and ammo at once. It's not so bad, since there are holes leading back to the apartment pretty much everywhere, but it's still a pain after awhile to go all the way back through the hole every time you need to grab something or put something away.

The plot of the story is totally Silent Hill worthy, about a serial killer named Walter Sullivan who seems to be continuing his killing streak from beyond the grave. One thing I noticed in the game is the lack of boss fights. From what I can recall, there were two battles that could be considered boss fights, and one of them (the one that's not the final boss) was hardly even that. On the one hand, bosses scare the crap out of me, but honestly, the experience suffers a bit from not having them.

The other major difference about this game was the inclusion of ghosts and hauntings. There were still the usual Silent Hill demons roaming around, but this time there was a large emphasis on "ghosts", which, while definitely cool in concept, are incredibly annoying, considering that they can hurt you psychically, just by being close to you, and that they are effectively IMMORTAL! I hate enemies that I can't kill. There are certain items you can use: the Saint Medallions nullify the ghosts' psychic attacks; Holy Candles can be placed to kill off the ghosts (although they sometimes have a tendency to come back); and there are a few Swords of Obedience scattered about that you can use to pin a ghost down indefinitely. And these are all really cool gameplay elements, but the fact that there are only so many of these items, and the medallions break after a certain time of use, means that a lot of the ghosts you just have to run from.

Speaking of items breaking, let's talk about the weapons. This game is shy on the guns (providing only a pistol and revolver), choosing to focus more on the melee weapons, it seems. Some of these can break if used too much. Which, again, is interesting, but makes me hesitant to ever use them. Still, I wasn't too bothered by fighting my way through Hell with a steel pipe, axe, or even the Pickaxe of Despair (very powerful, but slow to use), pulling out the pistol for those hairier situations. Of course, there were always the immortal ghosts to bug me...

Oh yes, there's also the matter of the camera. Inside The Room, the game utilizes a first-person perspective, which just takes a little getting used to. It was pretty jarring at first though. Thankfully, the majority of the game (including the sections with combat), revert to the traditional third-person perspective, although the camera angle and movement (despite the fact that you can force it to just over your shoulder, good for combat) can be frustrating at times.

There are five main worlds throughout the game - subway, forest, building, apartment, and hospital. You actually end up going through each one twice (except hospital), and unfortunately, it gets a *little* tiresome towards the end. As for the Silent Hill "transformations" we've all become used to, there's much less of it here. You still get the same idea, contrasting The Room with the worlds, and especially in the apartment world, but there's less of a focus on that actual transformation, and going through one place in both worlds and marking the terrifying differences. Also, I found there to be, overall, less darkness in this game. Not to say that the game wasn't terribly creepy, but I think it's a little bit less creepy than the previous SH games, environment-wise.

Final game stats seem a little lighter (meaning that there's less of 'em that seem to count) than in previous SH games. My first time through, play time clocked in at just over 11 hours, with 62 saves (I've always been a heavy saver), and 633 kills (which I have reason to believe is a high number). I got the "bad" ending out of four possible. I want to try for the others, but the experience has left me a bit drained and I'm not sure I have the energy for it. My rank was a mediocre 5.5 stars.

At any rate, it was an enjoyable game. Creepy, too - definitely. Deviations from the expected formula may water down the Silent Hill experience slightly, but it's still generally a Silent Hill experience, and the innovations, for better or worse, were certainly interesting to try out. And you can't miss the storyline if you're a Silent Hill fan.