Sunday, December 30, 2007

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

- Christmas was great this year. I went home for a couple days, got to see some friends from high school, saw my family, went to two great movies (Sweeny Todd and Walk Hard), and had some great food too. The Christmas haul was different this year, more meaningful. I got a couple of good books, including To Be the Poet by Maxine Hong Kingston and Fragile Things by Neil Gaiman which I was absolutely dying to get my hands on, and also got one of my favorite films of 2007 on DVD, Ratatouille. The real highlight on Christmas though was seeing how much my brother enjoyed the hoodie I made for him. I bought a plain hoodie from Target, bought a bunch of patches of bands he loves and stuck them on, and then used this fabric dyeing technique I found online to put some badass kanji on the back. I was afraid he'd be disappointed it wasn't a game, but when he opened it he was all smiles and I think he felt it was the best present he got this year.

- I've been a cooking explorer these past couple of days, making all sorts of foods I've never tried before and was scared to attempt. I baked some salmon with breadcrumbs and rosemary, made miso soup, and cooked some shrimp scampi last night. They all came out delicious!

- At Best Buy I broke down and used the gift cards I got for Christmas to buy something I need rather than games and movies: an electric razor. The old one I was using was the first electric razor I got, back when I was thirteen, so I think it was time for a change. I also picked up a new USB gamepad for my PC, and let me tell you, playing through Super Metroid again emulated has made me happier than a lot of the new games I've been playing.

- This is a very relaxing, long vacation; one of those vacations where I've forgotten what it feels like to be at work day in and day out. I tried spending the last couple of days not even looking at a clock, and just taking the day as it came, getting done what I needed to, eating when I felt hungry. Not unplanned, just unconcerned with the passage of time. I hope I'm able to spend more weekend days like this.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Modoranai, gafuite shimata Himeguri Karenda

Because I absolutely cannot get this song and this video out of my head:

Monday, December 17, 2007

In lieu of diamonds, gold, and platinum reminders we'll still shine bright.

It's been a while since my last blog post. I feel pretty tired and stretched thin as this month hasn't been a good one so far.

- My dog Tracker died on Saturday, the 8th. He was a calm, attentive, humorous, human, caring and intelligent companion. I know a lot of people say their dog is more like a person than a dog, but Tracker really was. He was incredibly smart, and very expressive. You might remember him as the prettiest of princesses.



I first got him as a puppy, and trained him to be a guide dog for my community service project senior year of high school. He came with me to class a lot, and went practically everywhere my family went because he had to get acclimated to being in different places and situations. He was the most obedient and attentive dog of the batch, and when he went back to the guide dog group for his second year of training we were sure he was going to graduate and become a big part of someone's life. He did pass the training perfectly, but unfortunately they dropped him because he had an ear infection; the dogs have to be in perfect health to go to a blind person. Since then he became our family dog, and a highlight of every trip I made home. We took him to a dog beach in San Diego every year for labor day weekend, and he absolutely loved running into the water, swimming out and finding strings of kelp, and dragging them back to shore.

He had liver failure which had been diagnosed back in November right before Thanksgiving, and was looking better up until the first week of the month. He quickly got so bad and ended up in so much pain they had to put him to sleep. I cried a lot, even though I couldn't be there with him, and also because of that. I'm going to miss him a lot, and I'm sure it's going to hit me again when I get home and realise he's not there to greet me. He was a great dog.

- On my way home from a Christmas party this Saturday night my car broke down. I was coming back on the 5, from this party in Orange County, when smoke started billowing out from under the hood of my car. The radiator had cracked and blown antifreeze all over the engine. I pulled off the highway and was luckily able to get ahold of my friend Jeremy who was just then leaving the party, and was luckily able to crash with him for the night. Yesterday we attempted to patch my radiator and make it back to his house to replace the radiator, but it turned out whatever happened had stopped the radiator fans as well. This meant I got maybe ten minutes from where my car had ended up when it was a smoking mess again. I towed it from there to my mechanic, who I knew was closed on Sunday, only to find out he was closed on Monday as well.
This led Jeremy to offer me his car to use until then, only his car was stickshift, which I have no clue to drive. I spent about an hour and a half at ten pm last night learning to drive stick, then driving nervously home the whole way, including an accident on the 105 which slowed traffic to a crawl and put my skills very much to the test. I just about collapsed when I got home.

That's how my December has been so far. I don't know what Christmas, New Years, and Christmas break has to bring. I'm not hoping it's much, much better. I'd simply settle for normal at this point.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Everyone's blood goes white, 'cept yours and mine

The month of December is upon us! Arguably the most prestigious of months if not in the top five, December contains seasonal cheer, close gatherings of family friends, nippy weather (except for our friends in Australia. G'day Mates!) and the ever present ramp up to a new year which everyone, including myself, forgets about until the day after Christmas when the oh-shit-New-Years feeling sets in.

- I begrudgingly have to admit that How I Met Your Mother is pretty damn funny. I say begrudgingly because I avoid sitcoms, but Nico set me on a path today I could not avoid. A discussion in the office began about the "Slapsgiving" episode. Apparently one of the funnier clips from the episode was on YouTube and Eric related his tale of joy at its viewing. Then Nico related a similar incident with Vince. Then I remembered both Nico and Stuart like the show. I figured that if any episode would display the merits of the series to me, it would be this one. Later that night, I was able to watch the episode for myself, and yes, I laughed. I didn't laugh with the laughtrack! I can hold my dignity on that point, but there were some hilarious moments where I could not stop a guffaw. Particularly the Slapsgiving aftermath, which I did not see coming.

- After this fascinating article on Frank Herbert, I am convinced I need to read the rest of the books he wrote in the Dune series. I was originally planning to stop after the first trilogy, as I had been told that was the strong core of the series. Then, after learning how Children of Dune ends and learning about the plot of God Emperor of Dune, I became convinced I absolutely had to read about a sandworm/man hybrid. Then, with the above article fully digested, I realised I should read the two books after, Heretics of Dune and Chapterhouse Dune.

- A couple rounds of sniper in Team Fortress 2 tonight reminded me how awesome the class is. A couple rounds of medic convinced me the bonesaw is an terrible tool of death, destruction, and general bad-assery.

- I'm really liking Calexico a lot.

- I'm aware I need to ramp up my Christmas gift process already. I'm torn between typical gift giving and creative gift production where appropriate. These dual forces tear at me terribly, particularly after watching The Story of Stuff. Yes, yes, I should not be so knee-jerk reactionary and examine sources further, which I will, but if there were any time of year to pay attention to this message, I believe it's now.

- "In the depths of the mirror the evening landscape moved by, the mirror and the reflected figures like motion pictures superimposed one on the other. The figures and the background were unrelated, and yet the figures, transparent and intangible, and the background, dim in the gathering darkness, melted into a sort of symbolic world not of this world. Particularly when a light out in the mountains shone in the center of the girl's face, Shimamura felt his chest rise at the inexpressible beauty of it." - Snow Country, Yasunari Kawabata

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Save me, Sabrina fair, you're the only one who can.

Hmm, what have I been up to?

- Traveling: Though it's just been to home and to visit friends, I've been on the road quite a bit. Two weeks ago I went up to San Jose for the weekend to visit my friend Matt and his fiancee Sophia. That was quite nice as I hadn't seen them in a while, and there was much to celebrate since they had just gotten engaged. (Oh no, I'm already getting that old, aren't I?) We had fantastic Mexican food and a delicious cajun spicy shrimp dish that Matt cooked himself and which I desperately need the recipe for. In addition we spent some time in San Francisco, rode a subway whence I was shocked the signs were all in English, and encountered an eight-tier mall complex with an amazing digital map. I was a day late home because of the weather, and two days later I had to fly out again for Las Vegas and Thanksgiving. Dinner was good this year; it was just me, Schuyler, Chase, and my mom, so there was quite a bit of food to go around. Organic turkey was delicious, as was the stuffing, and the candied yam/marshmallow casserole we rescued from the towering inferno it became inside the oven. While I was there I caught up with high school friends, saw Beowulf which was good, and got to spend time cheering up my sick dog. All in all it was a very fun Thanksgiving and relaxing too, which leads me to my next point...

- Work: Has been incredibly busy, but I find I'm liking it. It's really not a chore as long as I throw myself into my work and adjust to this hectic pace. Since it's my first "real job" I enjoy what I'm working on and putting effort into my day to day work feels good. I don't kid myself that I've reached anywhere near Nico's level of workaholic-itude yet (new word, not quite sure about the i preceding the "tude") but for a boy who's always been afraid of hard work, it's refreshing to be enjoying it.

- Japanese Dramas: I've shifted modes again, and am off of anime for a while and onto J-Dramas again. New surprise - Bambino. This series follows a young boy named Ban, an amateur chef from Hatake who travels to Tokyo to work in a top-tier Italian restaurant on his college break, and finds it immensely more challenging and rewarding than he could have dreamed. The series gets bonus points for dealing with relationships and emotions realistically, avoiding cliches, and generally being fantastically written. Plus it's about cooking, and I think kitchen drama is enthralling to watch. (The show really does a great job of having the perfect pacing and camerawork to show the intense and hectic pace of working in a professional kitchen.)

- Film: Aside from Beowulf, I've resolved to up my cinematic tastes. I've been getting into Michael Haneke, and The Seventh Continent was a revelation. After reading a Harper's article on his films I decided to watch them chronologically and The Seventh Continent was his first. Set and filmed in the late eighties, it depicts the true story of an Austrian family with a normal, happy life who decides to destroy their house and belongings before all committing suicide. The story is told through some masterful camerawork that shows the mundane routine of everyday life as isolated moments which become unique as they are consistently blasted at us without an injection of plot or perspective. I don't mean to say that there is no plot, what I mean is these images are presented to us plain and simply, and gradually build up throughout the film to portray a gilded cage of consumption and routine that the family has to break out from by the most extreme of methods. This is all Haneke's conjecture, as the family left little evidence to the reason behind their suicide. I took these isolated shots to be a beautiful way of drawing the viewer into the film as a character. The close-ups of hands reaching for toothbrushes, shopping, cooking felt as natural as my own physical perspective in my life. It was so engrossing that I actually felt a distancing at the eventual appearance of the characters' faces on screen. It was a very shocking effect, and one that proves Haneke had immense talent from the very start of his career.

- Food: Green tea is still delicious, as is a bowl of pasta after a long day's work, or the occasional salad. Still struggling to stop myself from eating out so much.

- Music: I've been bathed in a wealth of music recently, as Evan can attest to, and some recent gems have been: Cassette Boy, Pelican, Calexico, and Electric Light Orchestra. Hmm, reminds me I need to go check Daytrotter...

Farewell!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Dreams are all you have, Dreams have held you back, Dreamers never live, only Dream of it

I just had the most amazing split pea soup from the Coffee Table. It's smooth and creamy with a bit of extra pepper and these awesome slices of ham in it, then it comes with these big, thick toasted, buttery sourdough pieces on the side to dip in. It was fantabulous.

The caramel wafers slightly less so; though I doubt anything can live up to the memory of caramel waffles outside the Musee d'Orsay...

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Cantilever, Under Finger

Wow. I have been busy! Between work and extracurricular activities I've been going non-stop.

- Working on three campaigns at the moment with a possible fourth in the works. X-Files is proving to be a bit difficult to handle, as there was a big upset with the huge boxset giveaway we were working with Ain't It Cool News. Hopefully I've got that resolved, and the P2 campaign is halfway over. It's a lot of work but it's still fun at M80.

- Friday went out to see Vince play at The Treehouse. That was a lot of fun; his show was Vince to a factor of 10, him in his element, which was very fun to see. We rampaged as no robots have rampaged before! Nor shall hence! Dancing in the rave room was a blast. I forgot how much fun that is and I need to go again soon.

- Went to PMX yesterday, this little anime con down by PMX. I got a new movie, some decals, saw this breakdancing group who had a panel there, and then got to translate for an interview with a famous Japanese voice actress! A friend from my club runs this review site called Anime Diet, which is apparently much much bigger than I thought, and they were able to secure an interview with Yukana. At the last minute they found out they wouldn't have a professional translator on hand, so they asked me to step in! She did know some English, so she was able to handle some of the conversation, while I picked up the slack and did the occasional translating as needed. It was fantastic and a big step! Currently trying to figure out how to work this into a resume...

- Hung out with my high school friend Leif and his sister last night. Dropped by The Cocaine and saw The Murky Water District, which were very awesome and a band after my dark little heart. Also saw Smile Brigade which were an interesting, energetic, unique act from Seattle. You could tell they had definitely perfected a sound all their own.

- Ended up watching I'm a Cyborg But That's OK today with Evan. It's the latest from Chan Wook Park, who's this star director out of Korea, and known for very dark, violent revenge films. (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, Lady Vengeance) I'm a Cyborg But That's OK, his followup to his Revenge Trilogy, was a fantastical, adorably dark magic realism film about a girl who's put in a mental hospital because she believes she's a cyborg and needs to shock herself rather than eat to survive, and the boy there who fixes her with his magical powers. It was cute, happy, and weird. So very weird. And I loved it! I'm a big sucker for magical realism, and this was quite possibly the most spot-on realisation of the genre I've seen. Bless the Koreans.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Come back to see me, I know they have a rainy season.

It's been a busy week. M80 has sucked up all my time, in a good way. I find I really like the job, really like the frenetic pace, really like doing something significant. Excitedly talking to people about the X-Files is fun. My co-workers are fun too. I can't help but compare it to Oxy. It's been that long since I've been in an environment where everyone has so much energy, and has so much fun. I feel like I've been hibernating; I forgot I used to have this much fun around fun people everyday. It's that sort of environment.

My Malcolm Reynolds costume came out so well! I was really surprised when I put it on, and this costume has definitely earned a reserve place for future costume engagements. I'm thinking I may even wear it at Anime Expo next year.


November's just around the corner and it's going to already be a busy month. I've got a convention, a trip, and then Thanksgiving taking up three of the four weekends. After that...it's December already?? Though I always feel like the year just started by the time it's nearly over, I feel that way again this year. I'm not ready for 2008 and a year closer to the end of the decade yet! Oh, how I'd love a time machine...

Oh yes! As awesome as Portal was, and believe me, it's awesome, I am loving Half-Life 2: Episode One a whole lot more. Valve continues to do no wrong with an incredibly immersive game and a very well written story. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

You Are Not to Blame

I saw four different movies this weekend.

Eastern Promises

An indie film disguised as a mainstream release. Eastern Promises is much more about its characters than the plot they go through. We see the different mobsters grind against each other, pushing and giving till almost the limit, and then coolly backstabbing each other rather than bursting into open violence. Viggo Mortensen was fantastic, and disappears into his character, adding another brilliant role to his resume. I've come more and more to believe that the true mark of a great actor is if you can look at several different roles they've played and find it hard to believe that was the same person behind them all. (Christian Bale being the best example I've seen of this recently.) Mortensen does just that here, and judging from this choice, I'm very excited to see where his career goes. Vincent Cassel is brilliant and insane as always, though on that last point, he seems to play the same character as in Brotherhood of The Wolf and the two Ocean's films. I definitely give him the benefit of the doubt, and think he's just been typecast in America. Making a mental note to look into his French films...

The Darjeeling Limited

Stuart put it best, this is a Wes Anderson film, you know what you're going to get. Quirky, flawed, human characters, an oddly magical setting (in this case the titular train), deadpan humor, and lessons learned all around by the end. As far as where I'd rank this in Anderson's four films, I'd have to place it either second or third, as it's been a while since I've seen Rushmore. My all time favorite is The Life Aquatic.

Lust, Caution

Ang Lee has honed his skills to a fine point here. I admit I haven't seen Brokeback Mountain. I'm not put off by the subject matter, but I was put off by the controversy built up around a fictitious story. If it was anywhere near as masterful as Lust, Caution however, it certainly deserved the Oscars it won. Lust, Caution is the sad, twisted story of a young girl who pins her fate on an adolescent crush, and is dragged further and further into a world of deceit until it becomes the only life she has. I'm reminded of a Jacqueline Carey quote about a razor thin line between love and hate, and it comes to mind here. The passion that Wong Chia Chi and Yee share, though a lie, becomes the only truth she knows, and her hate turns to love though she cannot believe it herself. The film quietly smolders throughout, drawing you into its secluded corners and closed bedrooms, and the lies upon lies upon lies. Tony Leung plays the most magnificent bastard I've seen on film in a long time, and makes you loathe Yee, then come to pity him. Tang Wei is perfect as Wong, and never betrays a flaw in her portrayal. Whether this is beginner's luck or the signs of such a talented actress that she reminds me of Brigitte Lin, remains to be seen.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford

What I went into thinking would be a Western turned out to be a very solemn, intense portrayal of the disillusionment of growing into manhood and the face of fame. The film begins a bit slowly, with a narration that I felt was not needed or at least too obtrusive, but then settles into a quiet, brooding, vivid character piece, couched in a rich setting. Brad Pitt gives a broad, powerful performance that slowly unfurls as both Robert Ford and the audience come to know his character. He proves that he still has all the talent that he's tucked away in recent years, and don't be surprised if the whispers of Oscar around this performance really do come true. Casey Affleck proves himself as well. I've never seen him in anything besides the Ocean films, and this performance shows that he has a long, robust career ahead of him. The camera work in this film is superb, portraying the thoughts of the characters on screen, and making beautiful use of the understated vistas throughout.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

In His Head It's Like The Weather

Nico had this interesting seed of an idea last night. As we were heading out to Lucky Baldwin's he mentioned he had his X-Men belt on, and wondered what his mutant power would be. I added to this that it would have to be something very odd/specific, as X-Men typically don't have just "normal" powers like flying or super strength. (By the way Nico, I did think about it some more and I think your mutant power would be the ability to turn smoke into a hard, titanium-like form. This makes me imagine cool, anime-like battles: like being surrounded by a gang of thugs who have no idea of your power, and you blow a cloud of smoke with a grin into their faces which flies at them as this hurtling, rock-like object. Or being bruised and bleeding in this massive battle, and wounded you reach for you pack of smokes, only to flip it open and it's empty, a resigned "Damn" following.)

So I ended up having this crazy dream last night about myself as a mutant; my mutant identity springing forth from my head fully formed, Athena-like as it were. I was a member of this ragtag gang of mutant kids hiding in the sewers of this Renaissance/medieval city like Lea Monde. My mutant power was a great regenerative ability, and a minor telepathy ability that allowed me to sense the location and size of moving objects in a twenty foot vicinity around me. However, I had been experimented on, ala Wolverine, and all that was left of me was a brain and a spine encased in this sleek robotic body fashioned as a replica of my human form. It was so cool!

I also remember the gang was lead by this woman who had the ability to shapeshift into animals and wore the black leather X-Men outfit. There was a short, squat guy in colorful Gogo-like clothing who could reform his body from any number of pieces it was blown into. There was your standard, super-strong Beast-like guy, with brown fur and eight feet tall. Then there was a guy who could morph into inanimate objects and create copies of himself in these forms, and he was my rival. For some reason the townspeople were not frightened by my form, and there was no explanation why I was essentially a futuristic robot in a medieval city.

So, what would your mutant power be?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Simon's Curse

OMG, a night where I don't have to work on preparation! What is this??

I had a big interview on Wednesday, then my interview with M80 today. I've been preparing for both since last Friday, with barely a moment to myself the last couple of days. My body's definitely felt it with a bit of a sore throat I'm coming down with, and it already feels like the weekend for me tonight because I don't have anything to do.

I think the M80 interview went really well. I demonstrated my passion and severe interest for what they do over there, and I'm really, really hoping I get the position. It would be a dream job.

In what little time I've had outside of interview preparation, I've been marathoning through Dog the Bounty Hunter. I picked up the box set of seasons 1-3 along with season 1 of Inked. Dog is my favorite reality show. He's such a principaled character, and it's very refreshing to see someone who can live their life in such a simple, black and white manner in this confusing modern world. I'm not saying he's entirely naive of the good and bad in people (In fact I think watching the show it's very obvious he's aware of the good in everyone.) but that's what I get from the show.

It's Thursday night and there's a new episode of The Office out. Sometimes I wish I had regular tv.

I've been working towards finishing up Oblivion at last. I'm currently working strictly on the main quest to finish that portion of the game. I'm already head of the Assassin's Guild, and close to the top of the Thieves' Guild. I keep telling myself I'll play back through the game as a magic user, but we'll see if I have the stomach for that...

Kushiel's Dart continues to entertain but shows a bit of weakness. I understand Carey had to add another character into the story due to circumstances, but the plot device of "Hot Blooded Courtesan + Disciplined Monk = HILARITY! People who are opposites don't get along!" is more patronizing than I had thought her capable of.

It feels like it's about time for a new musician. If I could finish getting all of Spitz' discography, they might be it. I'd also like to find an English musician to listen to, someone with honesty but a bit more weight and hardness to them than the stuff I've been listening to lately. (Calexico, Voxtrot)

The Darjeeling Limited's just about out. Time to see my first Wes Anderson film in theaters... I am overjoyed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

I'm thinking it's a sign, that the freckles in our eyes are mirror images, and when we kiss they're perfectly aligned.

We interrupt a Fred train of thought already in progress...

- My music player search has brought me to MediaMonkey which fits several of the following I'm looking for:

- Active directory monitoring to keep an eye on what I add and remove from my music folder (though it's in the paid version)
- Album art display (because this was far too cool of a feature in iTunes)
- Low memory footprint (because iTunes blew me away with the amount of memory it hogged)
- Responsive searching (The search list updates as I type in each new letter of my search term)
- Complete deleting ability (I can delete files/songs from my hard drive directly from the playlist)
- Separate playlist and library windows (I wasn't initially looking for this feature, but I've really come to appreciate it.

If someone has any suggestion for another player that fits these criteria, I'd be more than willing to check it out. Bonus points if you can tell me how to configure Foobar2000 to become this with plugins, because I hear it's damned versatile, but I have no clue.

- I forgot how much I love Jacqueline Carey's writing. She has such a way with dialogue, the narrator's thoughts, and labyrinthine Renaissance political intrigues. It almost fills the hole left by no more Gemmell, and leaves me wanting for a good movie set in this time period with excellent characters/dialogue.

- Brainstorming and drafting up my cover letter for Nico tonight left me really jazzed. Even if the position doesn't work out, I should really start practicing more Javascript/web design in my spare time. My goal: make sites more personal, simple yet intriguing, and with less information-noise. (Nico, I'm thinking of your simple MySpace page.)

- "Such Great Heights". Who did this song originally? I'm listening to the Iron and Wine cover from the Garden State soundtrack and it's goddamn beautiful.

- I have to pimp out the framing/hanging job I spent two hours working on this past weekend because I am so proud of how well it turned out. It involved a plethora of measurements, pencil marks on my wall, and experimentation with sticky-velcro hanging stickers:


- Plain, strong dark chocolate is delicious. As it is with raspberry bits in it.

- I'm venturing into eating healthier. Tomatoes, blueberries and nuts daily, spinach and carrots on occasion, cutting back on sodium. I hope I have the resolve to make it last.

- Blades of Glory was pretty hilarious, but the highlight was definitely getting to see Jenna Fischer in lingerie. I am an easy man to please at times.

That is all.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Painted in my mind on canvases of time

- The job search continues. I realise I don't remember as much Japanese as I thought, and I know there's at least one position I've lost because of my poor skills.

- I'd like to go see Interpol at The Forum on October 23rd if anyone else is interested. Tickets are going for about $33 right now.

- Got back into a bit of Battlefield cause of Mahea. Been pretty fun. Still playing Oblivion otherwise.

- Spent $100 that I completely did not plan to spend on a Last Exile box set featuring Range Murata's artwork and schematics of all the airships. Although it was a lot of money spent on an impulse, I do not regret it.

- Various cravings lately (not all together mind you) : Takoyaki, cinnamon toast, El Cholo guacamole.

- Finally just decided to put down Fahrenheit 451. I can't get behind the idea of forcing myself to read something just because it's significant. If it's dry and bland, and I'm really reading for pleasure, then I'll read something I like. Moved on to Kushiel's Dart accordingly.

- Finally saw Momento. Quite a plot twist and very well made. They were right to give Nolan the reigns to Batman, and Guy Pierce continues to grow on me. (My first exposure to him was as the villain in the Count of Monte Cristo, so I've had a hard time forgiving him.) Saw Curse of the Golden Flower, and it was another visually stunning Zhang Yimou film, though typically melodramatic.

- Framed my AX artwork, now I just need to figure out how to hang them.

- Okay, I have to give ...And You Will Know Us by the Trail of the Dead massive props for their site currently being Elven/LOTR themed: http://www.trailofdead.com/

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

I wanna live, breathe, I wanna be part of the human race

I usually don't like reposting things verbatim, not a big fan of email forwards or those personality tests, but I thought this article was great, so enlightening, that I had to share it.


http://www.cracked.com/index.php?name=News&sid=2370

7 Reasons the 21st century is making you miserable

Scientists call it the Naked Photo Test, and it works like this: say a photo turns up of you nakedly doing something that would shame you and your family for generations. Bestiality, perhaps. Ask yourself how many people in your life you would trust with that photo. If you're like the rest of us, you probably have at most two.

Even more depressing, studies show that about one out of four people have no one they can confide in.

The average number of close friends we say we have is dropping fast, down dramatically in just the last 20 years. Why?

#1. We don't have enough annoying strangers in our lives.

That's not sarcasm. Annoyance is something you build up a tolerance to, like alcohol or a bad smell. The more we're able to edit the annoyance out of our lives, the less we're able to handle it.

The problem is we've built an awesome, sprawling web of technology meant purely to let us avoid annoying people. Do all your Christmas shopping online and avoid the fat lady ramming her cart into you at Target. Spend $5,000 on a home theater system so you can see movies on a big screen without a toddler kicking the back of your seat. Hell, rent the DVD's from Netflix and you don't even have to spend the 30 seconds with the confused kid working the register at Blockbuster.

Get stuck in the waiting room at the doctor? No way we're striking up a conversation with the smelly old man in the next seat. We'll plug the iPod into our ears and have a text conversation with a friend or play our DS. Filter that annoyance right out of our world.

Now that would be awesome if it were actually possible to keep all of the irritating shit out of your life. But, it's not. It never will be. As long as you have needs, you'll have to deal with people you can't stand from time to time. We're losing that skill, the one that lets us deal with strangers and tolerate their shrill voices and clunky senses of humor and body odor and squeaky shoes. So, what encounters you do have with the outside world, the world you can't control, make you want to go on a screaming crotch-punching spree.

#2. We don't have enough annoying friends, either.

Lots of us were born into towns full of people we couldn't stand. As a kid, maybe you found yourself in an elementary school classroom, packed in with two dozen kids you did not choose and who shared none of your tastes or interests. Maybe you got beat up a lot.

But, you've grown up. And if you're, say, a huge DragonForce fan, you can go find their forum and meet a dozen people just like you. Or even better, start a private room with your favorite few and lock everybody else out. Say goodbye to the tedious, awkward, painful process of dealing with somebody who's truly different. That's another Old World inconvenience, like having to wash your clothes in a creek or wait for a raccoon to wander by the outhouse so you can wipe your ass with it.

The problem is that peacefully dealing with incompatible people is crucial to living in a society. In fact, if you think about it, peacefully dealing with people you can't stand is society. Just people with opposite tastes and conflicting personalities sharing space and cooperating, often through gritted teeth.

Fifty years ago, you had to sit in a crowded room to see a movie. You didn't get to choose; you either did that or you missed the movie. When you got a new car, everyone on the block came and stood in your yard to look it over. You can bet that some of those people were assholes.

Yet, on the whole, people back then were apparently happier in their jobs and more satisfied with their lives. And get this: They had more friends.

That's right. Even though they had almost no ability to filter their peers according to common interests (hell, often you were just friends with the guy who happened to live next door), they still came up with more close friends than we have now—people they could trust.

It turns out, apparently, that after you get over that first irritation, after you shed your shell of "they listen to different music because they wouldn't understand mine" superiority, there's a sort of comfort in needing other people and being needed on a level beyond common interests. It turns out humans are social animals after all. And that ability to suffer fools, to tolerate annoyance, that's literally the one single thing that allows you to function in a world populated by other people who aren't you. Otherwise, you turn emo. Science has proven it.

#3. Texting is a shitty way to communicate.

I have this friend who uses the expression "No, thank you," in a sarcastic way. It means, "I'd rather be shot in the face." He puts a little ironic lilt on the last two words that lets you know. You ask, "Want to go see that new Rob Schneider movie?" And, he'll say, "No, thank you."

So one day we had this exchange via text:

Me: "Hey, do you want me to bring over that leftover chili I made?"

Him: "No, thank you"

That pissed me off. I'm proud of my chili. It takes four days to make it. I grind up the dried peppers myself; the meat is expensive, hand-tortured veal. And, now my offer to give him some is dismissed with his bitchy catchphrase?

I didn't speak to him for six months. He sent me a letter, I mailed it back, unread, with a dead rat packed inside.

It was my wife who finally ran into him and realized that the "No, thank you" he replied with was not meant to be sarcastic, but was a literal, "No, but thank you for offering." He had no room in his freezer, it turns out.

So did we really need a study to tell us that more than 40 percent of what you say in an e-mail is misunderstood? Well, they did one anyway.

How many of your friends have you only spoken with online? If 40 percent of your personality has gotten lost in the text transition, do these people even really know you? The people who dislike you via text, on message boards or chatrooms or whatever, is it because you're really incompatible? Or, is it because of the misunderstood 40 percent? And, what about the ones who like you?

Many of us try to make up that difference in sheer numbers, piling up six dozen friends on MySpace. But here's the problem ...

#4. Online company only makes us lonelier.

When someone speaks to you face-to-face, what percentage of the meaning is actually in the words, as opposed to the body language and tone of voice? Take a guess.

It's 7 percent. The other 93 percent is nonverbal, according to studies.
No, I don't know how they arrived at that exact number. They have a machine or something. But we didn't need it. I mean, come on. Most of our humor is sarcasm, and sarcasm is just mismatching the words with the tone. Like my friend's "No, thank you."

You don't wait for a girl to verbally tell you she likes you. It's the sparkle in her eyes, her posture, the way she grabs your head and shoves your face into her boobs.

That's the crux of the problem. That human ability to absorb the moods of others through that kind of subconscious osmosis is crucial. Kids born without it are considered mentally handicapped. People who have lots of it are called "charismatic" and become movie stars and politicians. It's not what they say; it's this energy they put off that makes us feel good about ourselves.

When we're living in Text World, all that is stripped away. There's a weird side effect to it, too: absent a sense of the other person's mood, every line we read gets filtered through our own mood instead. The reason I read my friend's chili message as sarcastic was because I was in an irritable mood. In that state of mind, I was eager to be offended.
And worse, if I do enough of my communicating this way, my mood never changes. After all, people keep saying nasty things to me! Of course I'm depressed! It's me against the world!


No, what I need is somebody to shake me by the shoulders and snap me out of it. Which leads us to No. 5 ...

#5. We don't get criticized enough.

Most of what sucks about not having close friends isn't the missed birthday parties or the sad, single-player games of ping pong with the wall. No, what sucks is the lack of real criticism.

In my time online I've been called "fag" approximately 104,165 times. I keep an Excel spreadsheet. I've also been called "asshole" and "cockweasel" and "fuckcamel" and "cuntwaffle" and "shitglutton" and "porksword" and "wangbasket" and "shitwhistle" and "thundercunt" and "fartminge" and "shitflannel" and "knobgoblin" and "boring."

And none of it mattered, because none of those people knew me well enough to really hit the target. I've been insulted lots, but I've been criticized very little. And don't ever confuse the two. An insult is just someone who hates you making a noise to indicate their hatred. A barking dog. Criticism is someone trying to help you, by telling you something about yourself that you were a little too comfortable not knowing.

Tragically, there are now a whole lot of people who never have those conversations. The interventions, the brutal honesty, the, "you know, everybody's pissed off because of what you said last night, but nobody wants to say anything because they're afraid of you," sort of conversations. Those horrible, awkward, wrenchingly uncomfortable sessions that you can only have with someone who sees right to the center of you.

E-mail and texting are awesome tools for avoiding that level of honesty. With text, you can respond when you feel like it. You can measure your words. You can pick and choose which questions to answer. The person on the other end can't see your face, can't see you get nervous, can't detect when you're lying. You have almost total control and as a result that other person never sees past your armor, never sees you at your worst, never knows the embarrassing little things about yourself that you can't control. Gone are the common quirks, humiliations and vulnerabilities that real friendships are built on.

Browse around people's MySpace pages, look at the characters they create for themselves. If you've built a pool of friends via a blog, building yourself up as a misunderstood, mysterious Master of the Night, it's kind of hard to log on and talk about how you went to prom and got diarrhea out on the dance floor. You never get to really be yourself, and that's a very lonely feeling.

And, on top of all that ...

#6. We're victims of the Outrage Machine.

A whole lot of the people still reading this are saying, "Of course I'm depressed! People are starving! America has turned into Nazi Germany! My parents watch retarded television shows and talk about them for hours afterward! People are dying in meaningless wars all over the world!"

But how did we wind up with a more negative view of the world than our parents? Or grandparents? Back then, people didn't live as long and babies died more often. Diseases were more common. In those days, if your buddy moved away the only way to communicate was with pen and paper and a stamp. We have Iraq, but our parents had Vietnam (which killed 50 times more people) and their parents had World War 2 (which killed 1,000 times as many). Some of your grandparents grew up at a time when nobody had air conditioning. All of their parents grew up without it.

We are physically better off today in every possible way in which such things can be measured ... but you sure as hell wouldn't know that if you're getting your news online. Why?

Well, ask yourself: If some music site posts an article called, "Fall Out Boy is a Fine Band" and on the same day posts another one called, "Fall Out Boy is the Shittiest Fucking Band of the Last 100 Years, Say Experts," which do you think will get the most traffic? The second one wins in a blowout. Outrage manufactures word-of-mouth.

The news blogs many of you read? The people running them know the same thing. Every site is in a dogfight for traffic (even if they don't run ads, they still measure their success by the size of their audience) and so they carefully pick through the wires for the most inflammatory story possible. The other blogs start echoing the same story from the same point of view. If you want, you can surf all day and never swim out of the warm, stagnant waters of the "aren't those bastards evil" pool.

Only in that climate could those silly 9/11 conspiracy theories come about (saying the Bush administration and the FDNY blew up the towers, and that the planes were holograms). To hear these people talk, every opposing politician is Hitler, and every election is the freaking apocalypse. All because it keeps you reading.

This wasn't as much a problem in the old days, of course. Some of us remember having only three channels on TV. That's right. Three. We're talking about the '80s here. So there was something unifying in the way we all sat down to watch the same news, all of it coming from the same point of view. Even if the point of view was retarded and wrong, even if some stories went criminally unreported, we at least all shared it.

That's over. There effectively is no "mass media" any more so, where before we disagreed because we saw the same news and interpreted it differently, now we disagree because we're seeing completely different freaking news. When we can't even agree on the basic facts, the differences become irreconcilable. That constant feeling of being at bitter odds with the rest of the world brings with it a tension that just builds and builds.

We humans used to have lots of natural ways to release that kind of angst. But these days...

#7. We feel worthless, because we actually are worth less.

There's one advantage to having mostly online friends, and it's one that nobody ever talks about :

They demand less from you.

Sure, you emotionally support them, comfort them after a breakup, maybe even talk them out of a suicide. But knowing someone in meatspace adds a whole, long list of annoying demands. Wasting your whole afternoon helping them fix their computer. Going to funerals with them. Toting them around in your car every day after theirs gets repossessed by the bank. Having them show up unannounced when you were just settling in to watch the Dirty Jobs marathon on the Discovery channel, then mentioning how hungry they are until you finally give them half your sandwich.

You have so much more control in Instant Messenger, or on a forum, or in World of Warcraft.

The problem is you are hard-wired by evolution to need to do things for people. Everybody for the last five thousand years seemed to realize this and then we suddenly forgot it in the last few decades. We get suicidal teens and scramble to teach them self-esteem. Well, unfortunately, self-esteem and the ability to like yourself only come after you've done something that makes you likable. You can't bullshit yourself. If I think Todd over here is worthless for sitting in his room all day, drinking Pabst and playing video games one-handed because he's masturbating with the other one, what will I think of myself if I do the same thing?

You want to break out of that black tar pit of self-hatred? Brush the black hair out of your eyes, step away from the computer and buy a nice gift for someone you loathe. Send a card to your worst enemy. Make dinner for your mom and dad. Or just do something simple, with an tangible result. Go clean the leaves out of the gutter. Grow a damn plant.

It ain't rocket science; you are a social animal and thus you are born with little happiness hormones that are released into your bloodstream when you see a physical benefit to your actions. Think about all those teenagers in their dark rooms, glued to their PC's, turning every life problem into ridiculous melodrama. Why do they make those cuts on their arms? It's because making the pain—and subsequent healing—tangible releases endorphins they don't get otherwise. It's pain, but at least it's real.

That form of stress relief via mild discomfort used to be part of our daily lives, via our routine of hunting gazelles and gathering berries and climbing rocks and fighting bears. No more. This is why office jobs make so many of us miserable; we don't get any physical, tangible result from our work. But do construction out in the hot sun for two months, and for the rest of your life you can drive past a certain house and say, "Holy shit, I built that." Maybe that's why mass shootings are more common in offices than construction sites.

It's the kind of physical, dirt-under-your-nails satisfaction that you can only get by turning off the computer, going outdoors and re-connecting with the real world. That feeling, that "I built that" or "I grew that" or "I fed that guy" or "I made these pants" feeling, can't be matched by anything the internet has to offer.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Frontin'

[12:51] Evan Bacon: HO!
[12:51] Fred: Don't be callin me no ho when I roll up in yo spot with the ice on my fingers and slap the white outta yo face.
[12:52] Evan Bacon: :'(
[12:52] Fred: Thas right, BITCH
[12:52] Evan Bacon: :'(
[12:52] Evan Bacon: I like my job a lot when meeting with parents
[12:52] Evan Bacon: and when meeting jointly with teachers
[12:53] Fred: You straight up unleash yo schlong in they face?
[12:53] Evan Bacon: but not when its getting yelled at for basically not having adjusted to the way things get done here
[12:53] Evan Bacon: yeah man
[12:53] Fred: All, COCKSLAP BITCH
[12:53] Evan Bacon: you KNOW it
[12:53] Evan Bacon: Fred, you should be an educator
[12:53] Fred: Yeah, I know you roll straight HARD
[12:53] Fred: Nigga please
[12:54] Fred: They'd throw me out on my ass in five min tops cause I be bringin TRUE education to the chillins
[12:54] Fred: All like, whatchoo do when a ho ain't put out and you dropped the benz?
[12:54] Evan Bacon: you know
[12:54] Evan Bacon: I think you're right
[12:54] Fred: Simple playa, YOU TURN HER ASS OUT
[12:54] Fred: And give her the back a yo hand
[12:55] Evan Bacon: jesus christ fred!
[12:55] Fred: Thas right
[12:56] Fred: I keep it REAL son
[12:56] Fred: See, even yo fly ass can't handle that shit
[12:56] Fred: I be straight up PROVOCATIVE
[12:56] Fred: In fact, that be my pimp name: PROVOCATEUR
[12:56] Fred: Cause I roll all classy with that french Alize shit
[12:57] Fred: All droppin hos with my stunnin repetoire, and the straight up curl in mah voice
[12:57] Evan Bacon: Fred
[12:57] Evan Bacon: your'e the whitest person I know
[12:57] Fred: Yeah
[12:57] Fred: Or am I so white, I'm BLACK
[12:57] Fred: Straight up TRUTH son
[12:57] Evan Bacon: ooooooooh
[12:57] Evan Bacon: two sides of the same coin!
[12:57] Fred: Thas right
[12:58] Fred: Rollin all Two Face style
[12:58] Fred: Droppin straight knowledge and crime on Gotham
[12:58] Evan Bacon: hahahahaha
[12:58] Evan Bacon: ebonic two face
[12:58] Fred: That shit be WORD
[12:58] Fred: You know Harvey Dent ain't got no acid splashed in no face
[12:59] Fred: That shit be for the papers
[12:59] Fred: He straight up be a mulatto brotha
[12:59] Fred: Best of both worlds
[12:59] Evan Bacon: LOL
[12:59] Fred: And white ass, honkey Gotham cops get jealous
[12:59] Fred: So they spin him all criminal style
[12:59] Fred: Straight up the MAN, yo
[12:59] Evan Bacon: I'm so happy that this is being saved in my gmail archives
[12:59] Fred: This shit be goin on my blog right now
[12:59] Fred: All instant-like
[13:00] Evan Bacon: really?
[13:00] Fred: Hellz yes, biatch
[13:00] Fred: You doubt a playa play?
[13:00] Fred: Shit
[13:00] Fred: Where that noise be comin from?
[13:00] Evan Bacon: but
[13:00] Fred: But WHAT
[13:00] Evan Bacon: people in the ghetto of gotham don't know how to use the interweb
[13:00] Fred: The only but I wanna see is a big ole badonkadonk booty
[13:00] Fred: All floppin in mah face
[13:01] Fred: Shit, true knowledge niggas know
[13:01] Fred: You know Two Face got the realz word
[13:01] Evan Bacon: ....
[13:01] Fred: Best drop that frontin, son
[13:01] Fred: That shit get you slapped faster than Karl Rove tryin to step to a Roscoes
[13:02] Fred: Ain't real
[13:02] Evan Bacon: What I think you should do
[13:02] Evan Bacon: is go into Watts
[13:02] Evan Bacon: and go into a restaurant
[13:02] Evan Bacon: and speak like this
[13:03] Fred: Shiiiit

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Because the wind is high, it blows my mind.

It's been quite a while since the last blog update, so I felt I'd throw up some of my random thoughts.

- I spent the weekend down in San Diego with the family. Good times, fun at the beach, good food. It was a bit odd having my host sister/brother's girlfriend there, as this is the first time we've seen her since we found out they had been seeing each other. I saw Balls of Fury, and it wasn't as funny as I hoped, but maybe they'll make it better with the DVD release and deleted scenes cut back in. Got sunburned on my arms; I have to keep an eye on that.

- I received my first shipment of Magic cards in the mail, around 1400 in all. I put together a quick deck late last night, and felt the old memories coming back as I did. I'm really glad to be able to play again, and to have an opponent as excited about it as Evan. I would certainly like to get everyone in on some Magic action!

- I finally broke down and bought myself a new camera. I reason that I need to keep track of my moles after the sunburn, so as much as I need a camera for other purposes, that's the urgent one which drove me to purchase. I've heard fairly good things about Samsung cameras, and I realise I do only need a point and shoot, not the semi-SLR I had my heart set on.

- I'm a bit burned out on anime at the moment. I'm still watching Mononoke for my weekly reviews, but I don't have much motivation to finish Hidamari Sketch or Lucky Star. I should pick back up Claymore and Towards the Terra, as I left both of those series after an episode or two, and I still need to get into Darker than Black. I'm grabbing Guardian of the Sacred Spirit, but my heart's no longer really in it as the track record with recent episodes has been spotty at best, as Evan and Mahea can attest to. I can't wait for the new fall season!

- I love Miller Chill. I saw some ads for this beer and I was a bit apprehensive. It is from one of the huge American piss-beer breweries after all, and I've never liked Miller otherwise. So I apprehensively bought a six pack last week. After one taste, damn, I am drinking this over Corona when I can get it. It's a Mexican beer imitation, with the lime and salt already added. It tastes fantastic. I love Corona with some lime in it. Chill has a nice sharp, almost creamy tasting start to it, and finishes with the lime coming in at the end. Superb.

- You know you watch too much of The Office when you have a dream about Pam Beesley.

- Brick is an amazing, fantastic film, and I highly recommend you all see it as soon as possible. Film noir + conscious high school drama = Yes please!

- Beyonce is the same age I am...

- Steve Iriwin, you live on in our hearts, and our khaki shorts. Crikey!

Friday, August 24, 2007

Happy Birthday, you old fool.

Call this the obligatory Birthday Post. I feel that on certain occasions it's important to write, and it keeps me on some semblance of a schedule. (Though I would like to point out I've posted on both my translation blog and my group anime blog!)

Another year gone by. That's the first thing which comes to mind to say on a birthday. A birthday is such a strange symbol. Is it occasion to summarize what you've learned in the past year and reflect on lessons? Is it a marker that you're still alive, still fighting? A marker towards the glass half empty?

No, I refuse that. I don't think a birthday is any sort of an occasion to be depressed over. Really, I stop and think about what a birthday means to me, and it is a collection of possibilites. I think on events that are still to happen; a birthday is another year to experience, and learn. I'm a dreamer, and that's always left me with more ideas and "what ifs" than energy to act on them, but that is what a birthday means to me. It's an exciting bunch of possibilities.

I don't want to make a list of goals for the coming year. Maybe I should. It would give me something to rally my energy and motivation around. A humble list then:

- I want to improve my Japanese. It's my main skill, the scholarly sum total of my college experience, and looking for jobs recently I've noticed it's slipped quite a bit. I really do love languages, as few of them as I can keep in my head at once, and I want to be able to speak Japanese competently.
- I want to write on a regular basis. Like exercise, writing is a creative muscle that needs to be flexed. The last time I updated my DeviantArt account? I'm guessing six months. That really shouldn't be so. Even if it's terrible crap, I should be practicing accordingly.
- I want to get out more. My recent mold situation impressed on me how much of my life is spent at home, playing with my toys. I'd like to get out, meet new people, make new hobbies, explore the city, and if possible travel. (Also, writer within me, I felt like these things need to come in at least threes...)

So, that's what I'd like to build towards in the coming year. I'm sure I'll have half-baked, colorful notions and schemes pop into my head throughout til the next August 24th, but at the very least I want to get those three done.

Here's to another year. Happy Birthday, you old fool.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Robocop has metal underwear, but that never stopped Anderson Cooper.

Through the many wonderful benefits of StumbleUpon, I found this animation, Imagining the Tenth Dimension.

It's a step by step illustration of how each dimension can be understood, building upon concepts of the previous dimensions. It's a fascinating watch, and a step beyond the familiar first three dimensions (and the fourth if you're all up in Donnie Darko) in a comfortable thorough explanation.

After viewing it, it brings up a multitude of questions, which continue to flower:

1.If the concept of a Fourth Dimension object is the entire temporal “life span” of that object, and one were a Fourth Dimension being perceiving always in the Fourth Dimension, would that not then neccessitate the ability to percieve the Sixth Dimension, which would be all possible points and trajectories in the Fourth Dimension?

2.The easiest way to think of a Fourth Dimension object is as a “temporal snake”, an object wherein all its points in time are perceivable. However, thinking of a Fourth Dimension object in this “snake” form is a Third Dimension form, because one would be perceiving all physical points at once. Would perception of a Fourth Dimension object more likely be knowledge of every single point of such an object, rather than plain, Third Dimension perception of it's physical spaces?

3.If one could travel in the Sixth Dimension and visit completely different timelines within our universe, how does the visiting of other Eight and Ninth Dimension Infinities differ on a conceptual level?

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

When I crane my neck to kiss your head, I know that there is something that I can rely on.

- The Job Search goes on. I had my first interview on Friday, and it went fairly well. It was with ANA (All Nippon Airlines) Trading, and it would be for a sales assistant position selling components to US manufacturers. While the interview went well, I don't want to be a salesman. I think about my current job and how quickly I get tired of having to deal with people, and I can't imagine if that were my entire job. I realise I wouldn't be dealing with John Q. Dumbass-Public, but I still don't think working with people is my forte.

- I grabbed a bunch of new music to listen to. Current favorites are Thao Nguyen off of Daytrotter, Gza, and Dappled Cities.

- The new streaming video feature over at Netflix is really neat! I come home everyday and watch an episode of The Office while I eat dinner. There's no slowdown at all and the quality is incredibly clear.

I thought I had more to talk about. Ah well, later.

Monday, August 6, 2007

He's not heavy man, he's my brother.

I just got back from a good, long weekend up in San Jose visiting my high school friend, Matt, and his girlfriend, Sophia. Caught up, talked late into the night, watched movies, had good food (especially off of Matt's crazy-expensive-high-tech backyard grill), picked up some Japanese novels (in Japanese), got a couple new shirts for a new starter wardrobe, and went to a barbecue with their friends. It's amazing I could fit all that in one paragraph, as the events themselves were immense.

We talked about a number of subjects: family, books, film, languages, childhood. I realised that everyone has a unique relationship with their parents. That I am cultured, and I can talk at length about good authors and books I've read. That I wish there were more time to watch movies in the day. That I love the different rhythms of languages, and I need to step up my Japanese study. That I think three kids are too many to have, but I wouldn't give away either one of my brothers.

I bought two nice, dressy casual shirts while I was in San Jose. I've realised recently that while I'm not into fashion for the most part, I have tended to dress somewhat frumpy the past couple of years. Jeans and t-shirts the entire way. I feel that I need a bit of a change, something that looks a bit nicer, something to wear besides t-shirts all the time.

Well, that was my weekend, description of other fantastic events aside. Hope you all had a good one too!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Spartans, what is your profession?

Oh man. It's been two weeks since I updated my blog. And as many of you may know, its due to the fact that bacterial organisms have been trying to kill me.

Two weeks ago, I discovered that the water heater in my apartment had been leaking, and mold had been growing in the carpet around the closet where it's stored. Unfortunately this carpet happens to be in my bedroom and bedroom closet. While I alerted my landlord first thing Monday, I endured it for a couple of days, until I began to get physically ill. I woke up on the Wednesday following having trouble breathing. Kind of had a wet, hacking cough. Luckily that disappeared the next day, though I noticed after hiking on Saturday that my lungs hurt (this might just be from my terrible lack of exercise). Subsequently I've had a constant sore throat that's refused to go away.

The latest update is the water heater has been replaced, and either the moldy carpet or the carpet in the entirety of my room will be replaced tomorrow. This may mean I'm without a sleeping space for the next couple of days, as replacing all the carpet in my room would require moving all my stuff into the living room.

What have I been up to the last two weeks? It's been rather crazy.

- On the Mold weekend, my mom came down to visit and we drove up to Santa Barbara and wine country for the weekend. We took a map of all the Sideways locations and hit up a couple of them. Plus I had split-pea soup at Pea Soup Andersen's, which I haven't had since I was a kid. That was a staple of our family drives to California and I missed it a lot.

- I finished Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, and started in on Graham Greene's The Quiet American. I love the film and I'm finding the book just as enjoyable. Greene writes superbly.

- Having a mold-infested bedroom has an interesting side-effect: it's encouraged me to get out more. This past weekend I practically lived out of my backpack, with no computer to come home to, and I loved it. I spent an awful lot of time with my friends, went on a great hike with Evan, caught a good movie (Rescue Dawn), wrote and read in various parks, and danced at the Obon festival in Little Tokyo. It's made me question my homebody, sedentary lifestyle, and of course I immediately had delusions of traveling the globe with a backpack full of clothes and meeting interesting people and seeing fascinating places. Maybe that's a bit of a daydream, but I should still get out more.

- Caught a couple of Woody Allen movies. Match Point was excellent, and then because I was feeling bad for only watching movies where Scarlett Johansson gets shit on (metaphorically), I rented Scoop, which was average but funny.

- I let my boss know I'd be looking for a new job in September. He took it a lot better than I thought, especially considering we've been floundering without someone in the other position at my office for six months. He understood that I had to get out and pursue the things that I'm interested in. He even was understanding about working out a schedule for me to interview while I still work at the company.

- I played a good chunk of FF6, and once I'm done with that I think I'll start back into FF Tactics Advance. I never really gave the game a chance and the bit I played this past weekend was fun.

Well, there will surely be updates more often, with or without mold, as I am on the brink of recapturing my computer from the viral organisms holding it hostage. Wish me luck!

Monday, July 16, 2007

The World Outside is Knocking

I went and saw Order of the Phoenix last night with Stuart, Nico, and Warren. I have to say this may be the best Potter film yet. It's been a while since I've seen the third, my favorite, so that statement needs some restraint.

The story felt terribly coherent in this one. You could actually watch and follow the storyline, and there were the magical bits and wonders to catch on the sides. I know OotP was a huge book, and they did an amazing job of keeping the side stories from drowning the main narrative.

This is the book where the series began to take its dark turn and they don't pull any punches in the film. I was shocked at how dark the film was, and how terrible were the defeats.

Admittedly I haven't read the fifth book yet, I'm still halfway through the fourth. However, I hope they keep this director/screenwriter team as they did a fantastic job.

All in all I highly recommend it!

I've got another blog now. I'm starting to do some translation work in my free time in order to get my Japanese skills back up to par and to become familiar with the hurdles of translating. I'll try to inject a couple interesting points here and there. For the most part however it's going to be a straight translation blog, a place to show off my work and keep me motivated.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

My Hometown

Because you've caught me with my pants down and my randomness all showin' off for the world to see.

- That's the second time in two weeks that someone has made a reference to Clerks 2. I guess it's about time I saw it.

- I'm loving me some Oblivion. It's much more immersive than Morrowind. Besides the story, quests, and detailed NPCs, I could just ride around looking at the landscape for hours.

- Really liking me some Otsuka Ai at the moment. And some Shiina Ringo of course. In my opinion the two most talented women in J-Pop today.

- Apparently Acetone gets layers and layers of dried glue off of fixed glasses in seconds. Yay for toxic, deadly chemicals!

- The title of this post comes from the song I was listening to, not any reference to my hometown. Gotta keep my Vegas-Hate proud and out on my sleeve.

- The barbarous, cruel kingdom of Mugicha declares war on my civilized utopia of Green Tea. Oh noes!

- How many times can I watch Big Trouble in Little China in a week? Apparently one more!

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Letting the Days Go By

A blog post in the middle of my mini-vacation. Well, I say vacation because it's pretty cool having my brother Schuyler here, and I had an awesome night tonight. Honestly, work has been very shitty lately and up until four hours ago, I wasn't very happy. But tonight was awesome, with all the guitar hero, Pippintude, YouTube hilarity, and good friends. It was a nice night.

Where does that highway go to?

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Anata ni Te Watashi Takute

Mentally recovering from my ongoing two straight weeks of work. For those out of the loop, I didn't have a weekend this weekend. I had to work Saturday and Sunday as we're moving into a new office. One of the downsides of a salaried position at a small company. I knew it was going to be rough, but I didn't think I'd crash so hard at the end of it.

My family's coming down this weekend. That should be fun. My brother may also come up for Anime Expo next weekend, which would be an awesome experience to have with him. This will be my first anime con, the biggest convention I've been to of three. I'm looking forward to it, but wishing I had a free weekend in between to recover. Ah well, I always say that.

I guess I just felt like writing tonight because I'm feeling rather down and I can't take any st. john's wort before bed or I won't be able to get to sleep. When I stop and think about it, there's really nothing that big to get me down, so it must just be something cyclical and chemical.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Dust Kicked Up from the Desert Floor

Oh man, what an awesome random song to stumble across. The Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon soundtrack was one of the first albums that sparked my love of orchestral music, along with Joe Hisaishi of course. Hmm...I really need to get around to the LOTR soundtrack...

So. New computer. Yeah. That's why you haven't heard from me in a while. That's what I was doing practically all weekend, including beating Half-Life 2 in about three days. Goddamn that's an awesome game. All in all, my sordid tale of computer woes is nearly over, and I'm not all worried about it anymore. (Work on the other hand...)

In addition, Harry Potter just gets better and better. This third book is so much more readable than the first two. I find myself thoroughly engrossed. I don't plan on finishing the next three before July 21st, but I'd like to have at least Goblet of Fire done by July 13th, when the next movie comes out. And I really need to try out this recipe for Butterbeer...

I just noticed I ended every single paragraph with elipses. Huh.

Monday, May 28, 2007

You are so young, So feel alive.

I didn't really feel like posting tonight, but I had to get Voxtrot out there. I think they're my new favorite band off of Daytrotter, even more than Aloha. They're kind of chill, personal, and when you listen to their songs, you feel like you're just sitting there with them playing, like it's a private show for you. I don't know, I wish I could explain it better, but they're very cool, and definitely worth checking out.

I've got a bit of a melancholy feeling, mostly coming from the end of a long weekend. Although I'm training myself, I'm still impatient about the future, and just enjoying myself for a weekend feels reprehensible. I've been described as the kind of guy who gets worried when everything's going well. I think that's accurate, as it's hard for me to relax.

Maybe this should be my movie post too. I saw two movies lately, Garden State and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, that I had been putting off for a while. Garden State because it has particularly sentimental memories attached to it that just wreck me inside. Eternal Sunshine because I heard it was a good movie, heard what the subject matter was, and thought it'd make me terribly depressed. Both are good movies that I'm glad I gave a second chance.

Garden State...As much as I had a grudge against Zach Braff for the aformentioned reasons, I really have to admit that he's crafted something poignant and beautiful here. Maybe it's not easily seen, the movie's very well polished and it feels a bit too clean at times to be dealing with what it's dealing with. Quite honestly though, I feel he's made the When Harry Met Sally of our generation. What I mean is, he's made a movie about romance that really cuts to the heart of the state of romance we've grown up with. His hero deals with finding his purpose and the subconscious drive he feels for it. The heroine is someone who's not quite damaged, but bruised by the world. Weird and easy to trust, she keeps pulling then pushing him away. I really do feel he's captured something here, and I hope this is the kind of film that ends up in film school echelons in fifteen to twenty years.

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind is a bit differently made. There's no avoiding that it's got big name actors in it, but its so brutal and raw. You really forget what baggage you've brought to the film with each of their careers. Even Jim Carrey, who I've had a bit of a beef with since he abandoned hilarious comedy work for the dead-horse beatings of his feel-good movies. But here, damn, after watching the film you really do feel like you've been through the break up of a meaningful relationship. It doesn't come with the attached depression however, both because of the ending and the message of the film, which is that as much as we'd like to forget the pain others have caused us and curse them as bad people, they left us with some beautiful memories and they're just as wondrously flawed as we are. Kate Winslet has a line in the film, "Too many guys think I'm a concept, or I complete them, or I'm gonna make them alive. But I'm just a fucked-up girl who's lookin' for my own piece of mind; don't assign me yours." Just one piece that stayed with me.

So...two films that I didn't want to let in because they might hurt me, but both ended up making me feel better, feel a bit wiser in the end. Hmm. Imagine that.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

And all the boys that avoided you, had somebody else's name.

A bit of an update, as I feel remiss if I go a week without posting.

- I am in full-blown "OH GOD OH GOD OH GOD NEW COMPUTER" mode. I'm finally feeling pretty good about the specs after a little research and a couple calls to change my equipment:

Thermaltake Armor Jr. Gaming Case w/420W Power Supply Black
550 Watt -- NZXT PRC-550 Power Supply SLI Ready
[Socket-AM2] AMD Athlon™64 X2 5600+ Dual-Core CPU w/ HyperTransport Technology
Asus M2N-SLI Deluxe nForce 570-SLI MCP Chipset w/7.1 Sound, Dual Gb LAN, S-ATA Raid, USB 2.0, IEEE-1394 Dual PCI-E MB
2048MB [1024MB X2] DDR2-800 PC6400 Memory Module
ATI Radeon X1950GT 256MB PCI-Express x16
320 GB HARD DRIVE [Serial-ATA-II, 3Gb, 7200 RPM, 16M Cache]
NEC 7170A Dual Format/Double Layer 18X DVD±R/±RW + CD-R/RW Drive
12-In-1 Internal Flash Media Card Reader/Writer

The only thing I'd like to upgrade is the video card, but I'm way over my initial budget, and even I can't justify another $200 for the perfect card. I figure I'll wait and see how the performance is, and if I absolutely have to have the 8800 GTS 320MB (my perfect card), I'll sell the current one and pick it up.

- I'm also in full blown game buying mode, but here my list is comfortably plump:

Half Life 2 (w/CS: Source)
Far Cry
Oblivion
Battlefield 2142
Civilization 4

I may pick up Command & Conquer 3 when I get the new system and if my RTS bug is itching, however I think another Warcraft 3 playthrough (which...I think...I have?) would satisfy that just as well.

- My friend Mike Huang from my anime club had a post a while back on his anime blog (Anime Diet) about easy to watch shows getting...watched a lot more than heavier, serious fare. I suppose upon a momentary rumination this is quite obvious. I regret I've fallen into this trap as well. The latest episodes of Claymore and Darker than Black go unwatched, I'm making slow progress through Bakumatsu (though this may also be due to how it falls apart a fair deal after the first ten episodes). Meanwhile, I'm all but caught up on Lucky Star and Hidamari Sketch. Not really something I feel bad about persay, just a phenomenon that I must admit strikes me as well.

- I rewatched Garden State and...well, perhaps I'll leave that for another post. It'd do good to have a movie review post, as I talk about movies so much.

- Daytrotter. You should all be checking it regularly (and RSS Feeding it, if you're hip). Free studio songs from the best up-and-coming indie bands. New songs go up practically every day, as far as I've noticed. There's a wealth of amazing music to catch on here. I personally recommend Aloha as a good start. Listen to "All The Wars" and tell me that you can stop.

- I think watching my spending and cutting out fast food has honestly fattened my wallet. Although I made some major, major purchases this month, I'm still pretty comfortable.

- My brother has plans to travel to Japan in August. Of course I want to go and he'd love for me to go. Whether this will interfere with quitting plans at my current job (or turn into a job hunting opportunity) remains to be seen, but I just found out about it.

- I started taking St. John's Wort every now and then for the deepest blues. The jury's still out, as it does help, but it's made me feel weird on occasion.

- Hrmm. It's 12:20 at night, but I really want a cup of tea. Shall I get one? I shall. Sleep be damned.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Adhesive Love

Ahh, Stone Temple Pilot's Tiny Music. Another musical memory, though more vague than Radiohead. I picked it up freshman year of high school, and it calls up all those misfit, escapist feelings.

I've heard people say this is one of their worst albums. Maybe that's just because this was the last album before they broke up? (The whole Talk Show/Scott Weiland period. Then got back together again...) I love it though. Every song is a different musical landscape, and I love how they wander back and forth from driving, hard rock to soothing, quiet, dark melodies.

Funny story, I actually saw Talk Show in concert as they opened for Aerosmith way back when. I'd be hard pressed to remember one of their songs now though... For me, STP has always been more about the sound/melody rather than the lyrics. I don't know if that means Weiland is extraneous or not, how much of the music he actually writes, but I think this album epitomizes the best of their sound and it's my favorite.

This just in.

Even on a day as fucked up and horrible as mine is, there can still be some good news: Rev. Jerry Falwell dies at age 73.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

僕らの見えない未来

- I've been fiending, waiting, and dreaming of my new comp for a while now. Possible changes in my summer plans would make the purchase very close, as in getting it early June. I'm planning to buy one from iBuyPower, and these are the current stats I'm looking at:

AMD Athlon 64 X2 5400+ Dual-Core
1 GB of Ram
GeForce 7600 GS 512MB (which I can hook up my brand new 22" widescreen monitor to via DVI)
320 GB HD
Dual Layer DVD Burner

I think the 22" monitor deserves its own post, but not quite. I've been wanting a 22" widescreen monitor for longer than a new computer. I've been waiting for them to drop below two hundred dollars. Just so happens Woot had an Acer refurbished one for $199 this past Monday and I bought without a second look back. It's shipped and on its way, and I can't wait!

- I've just today been thinking of what games I want to get for my new comp. My list so far includes Half-Life 2, CS: Source, Oblivion, FarCry, Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines, STALKER, and possibly Civ 4/C&C 3. I've never really had a comp that could run top of the line, mind-blowing graphic intensive games, so this is going to be superb.

- On the Anime front: Bakumatsu has cooled down a bit. It seems they lost their direction around the 10th/11th episode, and I feel that the story isn't as cohesive. Perhaps it's because the majority of mysteries have been revealed, and now it's just a matter of seeing the series resolve itself. Terra E is still goddamn amazing, and I'm hooked.

- I was really jonesing for some more music from UVERworld, the band who does the opening song for Terra E. Went and grabbed their album, and it is superb (the parts without the unfortunate rap/rock songs). This is my current favorite off the album, ゼロの答. I haven't had my face rocked this hard since AKFG and the Rewrite opening to Fullmetal Alchemist.

- I'm really proud of how I've been able to hold off on junk food this week. I brought all my lunches to work, and resisted the urge to get late night Hat on the way home last night. I tell myself that any money I save is going towards the computer, so that's helped, but honestly I rarely have discipline in this area so it's welcome all the same.

- Going to Nucleus last night really reminded me how I need to collect more Range Murata work (Here too). I really want at least one more statuette of his, and looking through the Robot books, I have to have all of them now. From the looks of it each is a collection of little stories Murata has written/illustrated, but each is completely different in its art style. From schoolgirls playing in the lushly overgrown ruins of Shibuya, to a Heian-era princess being escorted to assume her throne by the twelve animals of the zodiac, to a blood and guts secret agent/assassin story, to my personally favorite, a post-apocalyptic wanderer story drawn entirely in this twilight, soft blues and purple style. Simply amazing.

- I am having the most difficult time finding episodes of the Nodame Cantabile live action series. It's nowhere online...and I want it so bad! This is one of the funniest, most wacky/cartoony shows I've ever seen. I cannot believe how much effort they put into the characterization; I honestly feel like I'm watching a live-action manga.

- I've become entirely addicted to iGoogle. Beyond finally discovering the glory of RSS Feeds (being able to open up Google and check if there's any episodes of my favorite anime out), I've got a bunch of other fun gadgets up. There's my US/Japan clock, Japanese word of the day, Shakespearean insult of the day, CNN/Reuters headlines, Movie times, NewEgg deals. It's even got my Teahouse theme up with little Mr. Fox enjoying a bento/sushi lunch in the shade of some maple trees. I've found my new killer app.

Well, I'm off on a Costco run today. Wish me luck!

Friday, May 4, 2007

In My Place (Part 3 of 3, or The Siren Song of the Animated)

I thought for a while about what to write. This is the third part of...something after all. I thought about writing on lingering outsider feelings I realise I should have outgrown. I thought about writing on how I still don't really know what to do with my life, when I understand no one has it all figured out at my age. I thought about writing on my love of languages (which I think I will still write about, perhaps when I have the time to get really passionately into it...)

Then I figured, well, I've gotten huge into anime again this season, so why not write about that? There are so many good shows to talk about. Honestly this has been the best season for anime in a long, long time. Typically I'll follow one or two shows at most during a season; this season there are six excellent shows I'm following, with another two to three more that are pretty good and may develop further. Here's my list!

- Bakumatsu Kikansetsu Irohanihoheto - Here I am at the very beginning of my list and I'm already fudging it a bit. Bakumatsu technically started in the Winter, early January. However, it's just now finishing up, and it's the best show I'm watching at the moment, so I think it fits. Bakumatsu is a samurai period drama, set in the mid 1860s when Japan was opening up and transitioning between the Tokugawa and Meiji governments. There are several supernatural elements hovering in the background (ancient evil artifacts, and ancient societies dedicated to guarding them) which are close to causing outright civil war in Japan. The main character, Akizuki, is searching for one such artifact, when he crosses paths with a kabuki troupe bent on revenge. They decide to work together for a time, and find themselves in an increasingly intricate web of deceit and traitors, all out for themselves in this tumultuous period. All the typical praises stand for Bakumatsu: superb characters, well-written plot, detailed setting, all times ten in this great series. However, if I had to mention two points which really get me jazzed watching this show... First, the kabuki troupe performs plays every couple episodes, using these tales to publicly reveal the misdeeds of the one they seek vengeance on. I LOVE that Japanese theater is making its way into an anime like this. It's such a rich and deep tradition that has gone overlooked in the recent Japanophilia craze, and I'd love to see more of it. (I'm currently dreaming of a Mushishi-type show, featuring a travelling Bunraku troupe, sort of a scaled down version of Bakumatsu. That would be SUPERB.) Second, I cannot stress enough how well written the plot and characters are, and there is one central character in particular who was just revealed to have conflicting loyalties halfway through the series. It's so well written that this is honestly the first time I can ever remember being on the edge of my seat, furiously wondering what an anime character is planning next. In short, I am hooked.

- Gakuen Utopia Manabi Straight - Okay, I'm getting all my Winter-still-continuing series out of the way up front. This also happens to be my second favorite show at the moment. GUMS (Oh my god, what a horrible acronym which I've never seen/realised until this moment.) ...Manabi is essentially a simple story: set in the near future in Japan, a young high school girl transfers into a small, sleepy school, and single-handedly reinvigorates the entire student body with her energetic attitude. I have a hard time telling if Manabi is an acquired taste or not. The reason I love it is, the animation is AMAZINGLY well done, and two, it's just...so...cute. Being an anime fan, I don't think I could help but develop a taste for sweetly saccharine, feel good stories. Manabi is decidedly one of these. Manabi (the titular character) manages to cheer up her friends and bring them together at every turn. There is no situation she cannot fix by being determined and optimistic. It sounds like a very simple show, and perhaps it is, but really the pure intensity is what's so appealing.

- Terra E - Once in a while, I'll be proven wrong about a series I start watching, and I must begrudgingly admit it's awesome. This is one of those times. The plot concerns a future Earth where society is controlled and regulated by a mysterious government which attempts to weed out psychic/reincarnated souls called Mu in the populace. Those Mu who have managed to escape have formed their own rogue/guerilla group that fight back from the fringes. So enters our hero, Jomy, who may be the most powerful Mu to come along yet, and a key to the resistance's continued fight. The first episode of Terra E sets up the future society and shows Jomy going through his normal high school life before he takes the Waking Day test (a test everyone must undergo to enter adulthood in this society, and the secret screening method to find Mu). This first episode was terribly bland, and follows a terribly bland day at a stereotypical anime high school. However, immediately afterwards the series really takes off. The Matrix-esque plot has been done before, so it's nothing new, but here it is done so well that one can't help but get engrossed. Jomy is so well written, you're there again, believing in every moment of his rebellion against this new life that's been forced upon him. You really want the Mu resistance to succeed, even as we're shown how divided they are by different leaders pulling at the reins. This show is not reinventing the wheel, but it exudes quality.

- Nodame Cantabile - Take one part lightly silly school romance, one part passion for the world of classical music, and mix. It's a misfit school romance set in a music college. Chiaki is the male lead, a musical virtuoso, but with a bad personality, looking down on every other student around him. When he clashes with his main professor, he's demoted to the "special" professor for loser musicians. It's here he runs into and gets inexorably tied up with Nodame, a young pianist who's as airheaded and silly as she is naturally talented. He begins to come around, helping her to become a more disciplined musician, and she inadvertently helps him open up. It's fun, silly, touching, real, and you can't help but love the characters and their quirks.

- Darker Than Black - I would've never watched this show if I hadn't caught it in my anime club. A strange mystical event occurred in Tokyo five years ago and the government has since erected a hundred-story wall to surround the affected area. Human beings with psychic powers are beginning to appear around the world, and battling each other for turf, mystical artifacts, and information as to what's behind the wall. Another familiar plot, but this series has a great setting and tone; dark, gritty, and real. The psychic beings are clearly drunk on their power and it's broken their minds, as they essentially stalk each other as serial killers, methodical and ruthless. This series uses my favorite brand of "magic" as well; none of the powers are flashy, but feel like they could actually fit into reality. For example, one character can teleport matter from one point to another, wherever there is other sufficient matter to replace it. When he does this, there's no brilliant flash or crackling lightning. He simply touches the object he wishes to move, and the matter in the area of teleportation morphs into it. It's magic that could fit into the "real world". All in all a very cool action series, definitely worth watching.

- Hidamari Sketch - Hidamari is obviously an Azumanga Daioh clone, but it doesn't care. It does very well with its premise. Four girls live in the same dorm and go to the same art school. As they live their lives and try to get their assignments done on time, they're very wacky about it. The series has its funny moments, but where it really shines is in the art direction. The artists have used the premise as an excuse to experiment with different drawing styles and backgrounds. They'll even use collages of real world objects as still shots within the show; for instance, every time we see one character's desk, it's a real desk, with real art supplies arranged on it. It's always interesting to watch and see what they'll do next. Oh, and it features one of my favorite nonsensical opening songs in a long time, all about art supplies and narrated from the point of view of an art teacher giving assignment instructions to her class.

Phew. Well, that's a good deal of the anime I'm watching at the moment. (But not all of it...) I have a feeling I'll be blogging about anime more often, now that I'm very much back into the medium and one of my anime club friends has his own blog that tends to fascinate me. So if this is your cup of tea, be sure to check back for regular anime ramblings. Thanks for reading this far! ...And I'm off!

Sunday, April 29, 2007

In My Place (Part 2 of 3, or When the power goes out we'll just hum.)

Goddamn, I love me some Radiohead.

I've started digging up old music lately: Billy Joel, Ben Folds Five, Radiohead. Bands I listened to all the time back in high school. They're all very near and dear to me. Billy Joel was the musical taste I inherited from my mother. She was a huge fan of his, knew every song, used to play the Storm Front album on cassette all the time on drives between Las Vegas and California (I distinctly remember the red flag against black clouds cover). My parents even took me to see him in concert, but unfortunately I was so young I remember very little of it apart from the stage decoration. Same with Sting and Paul McCartney in concert.) Ben Folds Five was one of those musical virii that a friend of a friend introduced to my friend Ian and kind of spread slowly through our little group. We then took "Brick" to our Jazz Band teacher, learned it in class, and in one of my fondest high school memories, performed the song on stage at a high school dance. (I played bass guitar in high school, fyi.)

Radiohead though. Radiohead was the holy grail. Radiohead came down to us from the "cool" guy in our group, my friend Leif. One hell of a musician, very charismatic and thoughtful guy, and the de facto leader of our little group of friends. Radiohead came to me on The Bends, then I went back and grabbed Pablo Honey, basked in the new release of OK Computer, and followed through Kid A and Amnesiac. Radiohead was the soundtrack of my high school years by and large.

The Bends is one of those albums that drags me back to high school feelings. Teenage outsider, high school crushes, young depression, and those little bits of bright joy that would shine through from time to time. High and Dry I could sing word for word. Blackstar was a relationship plan, or rather a 20/20 hindsight of such. Fake Plastic Trees was a story all its own.

One of our friends, Ashley, was this really cool girl who played trumpet in Jazz Band, spent more time in the art room than other classes, and who every single last one of us had a crush on. About halfway through high school she was moving away to Santa Barbara, and Ashley, Leif, me, and Ian spent one long night hanging out for the last time. Talking, high-school philosophizing, playing lame truth or dare games where Leif was the one who got to kiss Ashley, and finally just sitting around, firing off little bits of wisdom, with The Bends playing the whole time in the background. We didn't sleep that night, we stayed up until seven the next morning, when Ashley was leaving for good. Around the early morning, five thirty or so, Fake Plastic Trees came on, and we left it on repeat. Whenever I hear those chords I always remember the faint light leaking in the window, reminding us that our time together was almost over, and the four of us grasping for what last meaningful things we could say to each other.

I come back to Radiohead now, and it still feels familiar to me. It still feels like it says something about my life. The Bends (the song) for that still heavy burden to do something significant with my life, imparted from my parents. Bones for the messed up social interaction whenever I meet new people, still feeling like I can't quite slip into that small talk groove, those first steps of getting to know who you're talking to. Blackstar, as it now seems to paint perfectly clear my last huge relationship and the lingering desire and need that's still slowly fading away.

I come back to Radiohead, to all this music, and it still means something to me. It still inspires me, still comforts me, and more than a new band or song I may discover, it feels familiar. After all these years some part of me has stayed the same. I don't think that's all that draws me back to it, as it it is good music, but I still need it, and for that I'm glad.

Friday, April 27, 2007

In My Place (Part 1 of 3, or Fred Doesn't Come Up with Eccentric Titles for Things He Hates)

Tech Support. I said this was coming, and I've had a lot to say about it for a long time. It took a behind-the-scenes Nico-expose to spur me into action.

Anyone who's babysat knows what working Tech Support feels like. The parents have gone, you're alone with the kid in the house, and the cute little thing brings you their favorite tape to watch. You go to the tv, put the video into the vcr, and then realize you don't know where the remote is or even how to turn on the television, vcr, and the extensive home theater stereo system which is the only way you'll have sound for Barney's Magical Dinosaur Big-Top Adventure. You start to look for the remote, and the kid's just sat down on the couch, expecting the instant gratification of their parents' sure, knowledgeable hand at the Encrypted Ancient Mayan Entertainment Center of Doom. Of course, you've just started to learn your way around this system not your own. You probably haven't used a single one of the exact same components in their system, certainly not to the point where you have a comfortable familiarity with it. As you're getting a basic feel for the system, around the two second mark, the whining begins, "I want Baaaarneyyyy! Where's Baaaaarneeeeyyy! Where??!" Tiny fists begin to pound the couch, legs kick frantically in the air, squeals become shrieks as you hurry to appease the demonspawn's anger and unwavering belief in your total incompetence.

Let me explain why I think people act this way. "The customer is always right." There's something in this day and age about paying money for a product that instantly makes people expect an utter and total slave and master relationship from the manufacturer (and their agents). We are raised on the maxim above and the cliched, pop-culture image of the massive, faceless, evil corporation. If you're giving someone money, they're trying to screw you. Customer-business relationships are no longer about a mutual need to buy and sell product; they are hot-blooded, gladiatorial combat between two ancient races with a bitter, bloody past.

I want to help people, I honestly do. I want them to hang up the phone happy and with their problem fixed. But more often than not Tech Support is a soul-crushing, frightening experience because of the above attitude. Add to this my lucky distinction of working in computer tech support (where each and every system is a unique amalgam of barely compatible parts), and problems often far outnumber solutions.

There are several things people can do to make our (customer and employee) tech support experience much more enjoyable. I'd like to preface this by explaining I don't mean to condescend to any of you, my friends. I don't think you rude, squealing, demanding cherubs. I simply seek to illustrate some helpful tips for situations I know I've found myself on both sides of. (Yes, I'll admit I've been the bitchy customer more than once.)

1. The Customer Service/Tech Support Agent is not your enemy.
- To illustrate the complete converse of the attitude I described above, the agent you're speaking to is not your enemy. They are not there to defend their company as stalwart footmen in the first waves of an epic onslaught. They are there to get your product up and running again, and in the case of a defect, act as your representative to the company as a whole. Don't feel like you need to be ridiculously friendly and pleasing to them, but do remember there's another human being on the other end of the line, and they really do want to help you.

2. The Customer Service/Tech Support Agent is not the Alpha and Omega.
- The agent does not know everything. Now don't take this as ammunition to condescend and treat every conclusion they come to as the ignorant ramblings of a preschooler. Simply keep in mind that the agent most likely hasn't heard of your particular flavour of problem before, and is not familiar with your system. They'll need to find their way through this along with you, but they do have knowledge of the product to bring to bear on the problem.

3. There is rarely call to jump rank.
- I know we're all familiar with using "I'd like to speak to your manager." to get what we want. Unless the agent is being an utter and total prick (I imagine it does happen) this is uncalled for. Well, let me be more specific. The attitude which often accompanies it is uncalled for. The agent really does want to help you, and they're often equipped with all the tools necessary to solve your problem. Asking to speak with a manager will only get you someone more used to dealing with angry bullshit and with a harder company stance who will want much less to help you.

4. If your agent really has been helpful, tell them so.
- If I could get everyone who ever called into a tech support center to follow steps one through three, I'd be happy. This one's just my secret little wish. If the agent you've been talking to really has helped you and done everything they could to solve your problem, regardless of a complete solution, thank them. It really will make their day.

Those are the main points I'd like to convey. Sure, there are many a small, nagging problem that I could address (Mostly problems specific to instructional editing keyboards that even I wouldn't want to hear about outside of work!), but that is the whole of what I'd like you all to take away from this post. If you have any questions about tech support and the rigors thereof, you always know where to find me, your friendly, resident tech support agent. (God I hope not for too much longer!)


(P.S. Yes, Mahea, I know my grammar is probably driving you up the wall, as I haven't written anything this cohesive in a long time, and my grammar is eccentric to begin with. Sorry! Hopefully I'll come closer to MLA standards with more of these long-topic blog posts ;) )