Sunday, August 21, 2016

Take Meta Mars

I almost didn't blog this week. You know, like last week. But I have a lot of good reasons that don't involve wasting my time playing Civilization. Well, I did that, but I finally finished my chapter, did a ton of school work, fought with financial aid, had a busy work week, and am now sitting here with my dog, ready for the attack of the blog.

So yeah, in a nut shell, I went to work and got prepped for the starting of the fall semester. I'm currently halfway through Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. I first read it half-assed when everyone else was reading along to Huck Finn in English class. I didn't really enjoy it the first time around, but I also didn't really understand McCarthyism, nor did I really pay it much attention since I had to periodically pretend that I was paying attention. Now that I'm reading it with a contemporary mind aged about 18 years, I'm noticing more to it. Also, I've never really been too stoked on Bradbury from any of the other books I've read from him (Something Wicked This Way Comes, The Illustrated Man, & Dandelion Wine) but something about this book this time around, I'm enjoying the poetry of Ray's prose. While it seems dated in some regards, particularly the romantic Mars of H.G. Wells and E.R. Burroughs, and the pre-space race knowledge of what it was like traveling to outer space, the novel has a certain charm, mingled with a 1950's paranoia and sense of blind optimism.

I don't care who you are, that's a sweet cover.
A Princess of Mars was quite a pulpy and overly dated adventure. Not like I could expect more from Edgar Rice Burroughs in 1912, but despite its shortcomings by contemporary standards, it still has plenty of things that awoke that boyhood spirit of adventure in me. Even if at it's heart it's a story about a Mary Sue former Confederate officer that basically wins everything on Mars by fortune and force of will. He teaches savage warlords how to love, he rises to the top of the civilized and technologically advanced army in one battle, he ends a bloody civil war, and beds the most beautiful and beloved princess on the red planet. All in a days work for our hero, John Carter. It's one of those stories about the white man's burden that really could be about anyone else, but because it comes from a time of social bigotry and backwards thinking, it's unfortunately really a book about systematic racism and power fantasies. However, it's also just a bad ass, ultra-violent, kinda ridiculous, tell not show, sword and sorcery romp on a dying planet, so it's technically science fiction. The main saving grace is the world building Burroughs does. The world of Barsoom and all it's rich inhabitants are just as much racial space opera expys as all the ones from Mass Effect, but I'll be damaged if they're not both dear to my heart. Speaking of Mass Effect, the Krogan are totally just shorter Tarks missing a set of arms. They even keep Caldor's, aka Varrens. Still, choice read if you don't want to think to hard and just get wrapped up in a dumb adventure story that's fun to read.

Besides my playing Civ (I managed to pull off a culture victory as Gandhi after having to eliminate Kamehameha since I didn't have enough time to wait for Polynesia to come under my influence) and reading Mars fiction, I've been overloaded with work from Spanish class. I wish I had a group of six other ethnically diverse people to form a study group and have wacky online adventures with. Maybe we'd even have a catchy theme song sung by some Alt Rock band. I would type something funny for you to toss into Google translate, but I'm sick of halbar EspaƱol for today, or however you conjugate hablar in Spanglish. I spent most of my time setting up all the ridiculous hoops one has to jump through when learning a language online for credit. The online third party site, with proprietary useless book that's a vessel for the $150 access code so you can participate in the class.

BTW, if you've been under a rock for the last few decades, higher education is a damn grift.

So, book reviews, life update, oh, right... novel chapter. So I just wrote today's chapter. This is essentially a first draft. Not really a rough draft, but definitely all new material that hasn't had much editing. This actually got an upvote on /r/cyberpunk_stories (which is standard), so I've got that going for me. We say it's not about the internet points, but how else am I supposed to gauge if I'm on the right track with the limited fanbase I'm shilling to?

So let's kick some tires and light some fires. Dog:

Monday, August 8, 2016

I'm writing the report.

Clearly my blog is less important than whatever videogame I'm playing all day.

Instead of writing yesterday, I polished off Resident Evil: Revelations 2 last night. So on the plus side, I get to mention it further down the page for your enjoyment. I spent most of last week at work and being really lazy. I tapped away at the chapter a little more, but deleted everything I added, which is something I rarely do. I at least have an outline for the action sequence coming up, but writing it is the eternal hard part. I keep prodding myself and convincing myself my deadline is a real deadline, but producing work with self prodding is left in the wake of fancy flights. And my flights of fancy? Watching TV shows and playing RTS games.

I'll rip out your heart with love!
Speaking of RTS games, I spent a better part of this week and last trying to gain access to my copies of StarCraft and WarCraft III.
 It was me going back and forth with Blizzard's lackluster ticket system to try and get my old account info tied to my new account. All so I could use my already registered CD keys from the discs I had when people still used CD-ROM's. So after constant pestering my request was granted, and I've been beating Orcs with a 2h Warhammer, "For Honor," ever since. It's a good thing Blizzard makes incredible games, because otherwise, I wouldn't have bothered being stonewalled and just called it quits on them forever. But they make games I really really like playing, so here I am, after wasting hours and energy from my day, playing a 13 year old computer game.

In other bouts of unexpected frustration from life, apparently the TAP cards for LA Metro fares have expiration dates. Didn't know that until Friday, when I found out my card I'd been putting money on for--apparently--three years, was no longer active with a freshly loaded balance stuck on it. Of course there's no easy way of knowing this. I didn't find out until it happened and did multiple searches (after checking the not at all helpful website on the back of the card) and read an LA Weekly article. The article also confirmed my suspicion that the city of Los Angeles has no intention of me seeing the remaining balance ever again.

But you know what, I'm glad those are the most remarkable hardships I had this week. Writer's block, sloth, persuading corporate employees to do what I want for videogames, and being cheated out of bus fare by an uncaring Department of Transportation. At least I'm no longer feeling the soul crushing weight of existential worthlessness laced around every moment of my day. I could be living in one of those villages where a warlord comes and chops off body parts from people and eats them to gain their strength.

My story has built empires.
Who knows, maybe we'll all be under police state martial law this time next year and I won't even be able to write this blog without heavy [REDACTED] sections. Who knows what kind of patriotism we'll be faced with in this dystopic future scenario? Dare we hazard guesses lest we speak them into being?

Many lulz were lost in The Meme Wars.

And speaking of nightmare scenarios, I I watched the first half of Buffy season 2. Basically up to the first two parter, What's My Line. I'm not sure if I want to do another review write up of it halfway through the season. I was planning on doing a two part season review, but it's been weeks since I watched What's My Line, and the analysis would be surface level at best.

That and I've been watching other TV shows in full/finishing up shows I've been hanging on. I finished watching Aqua Teen Hunger Force in all its iterations. Analysis: It is the most consistent show at being inconsistent. Basically after the movie came out till episode 100, the show isn't even playing hit or miss anymore. Some episodes are forgettable as hell, other's are clearly violence for violence sake, and the show is always that [adult swim] brand of over the top and avant garde humor/animation. It was an experience, and I'm glad I finally finished the show. Aqua Teen Forever.

I'm now watching Invader Zim on Hulu, because Jhonen Vasquez is awesome and hilarious. I'm exactly halfway through the show (and I love that Hulu has the episodes remaining counter now) having just finished the Halloween episode before I typed this sentence. Concurrently, I'm taking advantage of Animaniacs being on Netflix. It truly is zany to the max.

So, since I'm wasting my brain watching cartoons I used to watch as a child (well, Invader Zim didn't come out until I was already a legal adult), my ability to add any intelligent discourse to the topic of popular culture is wasted on the focus of Buffy at the moment. And when I do write my Season 2 review, it will give due diligence to a slice of culture. Like anyone cares about what I have to say about Buffy the Vampire Slayer season 2 anyway. Am I going to crack open some secret gem that will make everything in the world make sense? Will I unearth some kind of metaphoric overlaying that is a reoccurring theme through all of human storytelling? Who knows, probably not. I guess we'll find out when we get there.

Oh, I kinda forgot to talk about REvelations 2.
Well, I definitely haven't cursed at the television like that in a while. The game's concept of difficulty fluctuates between overloading you with too much ammo that you can never conceivably carry with no enemies, and then waves of shooting gallery style moments where you have no resources whatsoever. While it encourages one to use resources available to you in the area, it leads more to headbanging do-overs because of bad misses at critical moments, or the trademark weak controls that has plagued the series since the original. Well, to be fair, Resident Evil: Revelations 2 has really smooth combat controls for a resident evil game (which is needed since combat is intense and plentiful) but the contextual controls are wretched. Particularly near ledges, and any time you have to manipulate boxes for simple puzzles. Apparently the Revelations series is supposed to bring back the feel of  classic Survival Horror Resident Evil gameplay, and it has that in some regards. But both the first one, and the sequel still lack the atmospheric tension of the original that the REmakes hold onto. It relies more on the, "How the hell am I going to get out of this?" style gameplay, which has its fun and merits, but when I'm just trying to breeze through a game to see the convoluted story arc play out, dying a lot just keeps the ending away from me.

Anyway, here's a dog picture.
I get the feeling we've been here before.