Thursday, October 4, 2012

O.C.D. (OCARINA COMPULSIVE DISORDER)

Dear members of the jury,

I never owned a Nintendo 64. in the late 90s when it was all the rage, all my friends had one, and the best games where the multiplayer so I never came around buying the system. I probably logged the same amount of hours on Starfox or Smash Brothers as an N64 owner. To this day there's people who will do anything with me except play Goldeneye, so as you can see I pretty much got that console's full experience......

SERIOSLY THOUGH, I'M PRETTY GOOD


Except for one game.

I had always heard "Ocarina of Time" is the best game made for N64. Some have gone as far as to say it may be the best game in that generation of consoles, and some have taken it as far as saying it's the best game ever. But since it was a one player game and I couldn't beat my friends in it, I had no interest. What fun is a game if there's no chance it may ruin a friendship? So I skipped "Ocarina" and moved on to other titles, and as I got older, to other consoles.

Fast forward to last weekend. My friends decided to have a retro game night and have some drinks. We did all the classics. Mario Kart, Smash Brothers, 007. We also had quite a bit to drink, so as a responsible adult I decided to crash in their couch because I may have had some blood in my alcohol system. Now something peculiar about me is that when I drink a lot, I wake up early the next morning, so it's no surprise then that I regained consciousness at 8:00 a.m. next morning while still under the influence.

I started getting bored since everyone was sleeping. I couldn't do a multiplayer game, so when I spotted Ocarina of Time, I thought I should give it a try. Now if you have played this game before, you understand what I'm about to describe. If you haven't, then give it a try, and you will see why things turned out the way they did, and why I ask for a verdict of "not guilty".

Ocarina of time was advanced for its time. The controls are simple, fluid and intuitive compared to the glitchy games back then and even some of the newer ones. The graphics are smooth for an older system and the game world is beautifully rendered, each character has its own pixelated quirks, the uncanny attention to detail seen in the rising and falling of the sun and moon. The music is masterfully composed and adapts to each environment and situation with barely noticeable transitions. But all of it pales in comparison to the story and interactivity. A classic tale of good against evil. The story of an outcast underdog finding his true calling, rising up to the challenge and realizing his potential. Seems pretty standard stuff until you sit with the control in hand. I can't describe why this game draws you in so well, I would guess it is a combination of all the things I have described, but the result is one of the most immersive experiences I have ever had in gaming.

THE BEGINNING OF A MASTERPIECE AND MY JOURNEY TO COURT

That Sunday I played almost 12 hours.

I didn't want to stop. When you read a good book you don't want to put it down because you want to know what happens, but with this game I didn't want to stop because I was the one that made things happen. It was me. I had to take the character from town to town, I had to search for items and go in each quest, I had to fight each enemy and figure out each puzzle. The character was an extension of me. Every game aims to do this. I can confidently say none had done it like Zelda: Ocarina Of Time.
Saying this game is addictive is an understatement. One could even say that its potential to influence the player is quite significant and may affect an unprepared, highly susceptible individual, affecting his state of mind. One could go so far as argue that if said individual allegedly did something stupid and possibly criminal while under the influence of such as strong force then the blame should be placed on the Nintendo company for making such an overwhelmingly good game and that individual should be absolved of all charges.

With that said let me explain the chain of events that brought us here today. After that fateful day of unrestricted exposure to the Ocarina of Time experience while under the influence of a free flowing fountain of Jameson's fine Whiskey I made my way home. I guess if I could be blamed for something it would be that I liked the video game so much, but surely that's not illegal. So when I changed my cellphone's ringtone to "Navi" ( A character in the game that accompanies you trough your journey and constantly warns you of danger), it was only to show my appreciation of the game. Little did I know that the new sound, when I received texts or calls, would trigger the response it did in my state of inebriation.

I heard the first text around 8:00 P.M. Now in the game world, night time is very dangerous. You are more likely to be attacked by monsters so when I heard Navi's voice saying "Listen" I freaked out. I tried equipping the Kokiri sword and Deku shield. Obviously I had neither one, but after extended play, my mind was still in game mode. It seemed logical at the time to acquire these items. I fabricated a crude sword and shield out of harmless cardboard. CARDBOARD. Cardboard is just like thick paper, that's why I believe the assault and battery charge on various police officers are so preposterous. In any case, my phone kept going off. I now know my friends where just trying to find out if I got home, but as stated, I was under the influence of Ocarina of Time's spell so at that point I honestly thought my life was in danger. Each new text or call was perceived as a warning of imminent attack. This is why I ran into the mall with my new gear. I knew I needed some health which is why I began eating everything I could find in the food court and the reason I stole the green woman's dress from that store is because I knew I couldn't face any enemies without the proper magic tunic. This is how much hold Nintendo's masterpiece had on my mind.

So it is with the utmost sincerity that I apologize to the 12 ladies and gentlemen of the mall security team. It was not me that was throwing delicious Cinnabons at you screaming "why don't these Deku nuts hurt them?". It was not me you chased trough the various stores and it was not me that repeatedly jabbed and spin attacked with a cardboard sword giving you countless paper cuts and minor bruises. If you should be suing anyone it should be Nintendo, or may I suggest, the company you work for because of not providing proper training to deal with individuals clearly under the influence of a Nintendo game.


IN YOUR DEFENSE, CAN THERE EVER BE SUCH TRAINING?

I want to extend that apology to the fine officers that took the call. By the time you had arrived my phone was ringing over and over as friends and family tried to reach me. That in addition to your sirens and lights made me think I was about to fight a boss battle in my Nintendo fueled confusion. So please forgive all the running around and the very light injuries caused by the cardboard sword and the toy boomerang, which by the way I still don't recall where I got or how I became so proficient with. If I may suggest something though. Should something like this happen again, please go straight to the taser. As we all found out that night together, pepper spray just makes me think a bad guy hit me with a fire spell.

At this point I want to also apologize to all the vendors and stores situated around the fountain in the main courtyard. None of you would have had to see me naked or would have heard me describe in detail and at the top of my lungs all the overtly erotic things I still had not done with "Princess Zelda" if I didn't really believe I was losing all my life points because I was on fire. Please consider taking legal action against Nintendo for all the psychological trauma caused by this incident.
So all in all, I think that if we could all agree that none of this would have happened if Nintendo had not made such a fanfokentastic game as Ocarina of Time, with the capability to influence a susceptible mind such as mine, then we could also agree that this embarrassing episode is really not my fault, and that without the need of jail time I have learned a valuable lesson. So lets just put this all behind us and forget it ever happened and if you bring back a verdict of innocent, I promise to stay out of trouble and lay low, specially because they just announced the new "Grand Theft Auto" and I'm dying to play it.

Good Times.

Monday, August 27, 2012

BLACK BELT IN AWESOME

I've always been a fan of Martial Arts. I'm trying to remember chronologically as best as possible and I would say it all started with old Kung Fu flicks. My entire upbringing was bombarded by ancient fighting techniques making their way to the Americas. I grew up with Ninja Turtles, Karate Kids and Kung Fu the Legend Continuesesessss? Whatever, the point is that from an early age I realized that being born in this side of the world was the best thing that could have happened to me because unlike all those suckers in the East that invented all these martial arts and practice all day long, here in the West I could learn all those techniques in a matter of months by doing regular household chores and listening to 80s pop music as long as I met the right Sensei.

 NO NEED TO PLAY DRESS UP ANYMORE

And so at the tender age of around 12 I decided it was time to start my journey. I found this old Chinese guy that hung out in the back of my middle school in his sweet van and asked him if he wanted to be my master. He was pretty excited about it, maybe a little too much, but I took that as a good sign, and so I was ready to start my training until the cops showed up and arrested his ass. I was pretty bummed for about 10 seconds and then I realized it was pizza night so I went home. I did end up renting a whole bunch of books on fighting techniques from the library and started learning the history of the different martial arts. But even at that naive age I knew books weren't going to be enough to quench my thirst for blood.

My parents always preached nonviolence so there was no way to convince them about the benefits of putting their child in ass kicking classes. I also suspect that they had figured out I was a little asshole so that may have had something to do with it. This put me in a predicament. With no money for lessons I started seeking out people that could teach me whatever techniques they had learned from different arts and wanted to practice with me. Over the next couple years I met friends that had actual training and learned as much as I could about what they practiced. I didn't just ask them to teach me moves, I asked for their opinion as far as how applicable the techniques where, what they saw as strengths and weaknesses, the spiritual side of their chosen art.... actually I learned that shit on my own, I mostly asked them to teach me some sweet moves. I became the punching bag for a lot of them but with all that ass kicking, I actually got pretty decent exposure to Judo, Tae Kwon Do, MCMAP, and Pencak Silat.

I ALSO GOT EXPOSED TO THE BUSINESS END OF A KENDO STICK ONCE BECAUSE MY FRIENDS ENJOY BEATING ME UP.

One of my favorite stories actually happened while practicing Tae Kwon Do with a Marine fresh from bootcamp and MCMAP training on my birthday. We where doing some light sparring and my mom came over to tell us it was time to cut the cake and all that fuzz. I should have listened to my mama, but I didn't so we went for one more round and I got my two front teeth kicked out by accident. I grabbed those suckers, cleaned them up and shoved them back in place and spent the rest of my birthday at the emergency room high on morphine and getting my lips stitched up. Good Times.

So after years of dipping my toes in the proverbial water, I find myself in a position where I have both the time and means to actually practice a Martial Art. I have decided to start Gracie Jiu Jitsu and I'm pretty excited about it. I always like putting some sort of teaching in my writing but honestly I just wanted to share this with whoever cares. I guess the lesson is that it is NEVER too late to go after whatever you are passionate about and when you want something you should work towards it no matter what. Good Times.

 

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

DON'T TELL ME WHAT TO DO!

Yesterday I finished the "Hunger Games" series by Suzanne Collins. I myself had no idea until recently, but apparently these books have been around since 2008 and have received very positive reviews. The series even stayed in USA Today's best sellers list for 135 weeks in a row. Yet I had never heard of them. The books never came up in conversation with friends, I never saw any pop up ads for them online and the dumb-dumb box never asked me to run to my library and buy the paperbacks. If it wasn't for the fact that a movie was made there's a very good chance I may have never known these books existed which is a little sad. However, thanks to some Hollywood executive who I'm sure doesn't care about the money and only cares about the work, the series was adapted into film.

As if by magic the entire world became aware of the existence of these novels overnight. The universe has made sure I can't go one day without hearing about how great they are. According to the intertubes, "The Hunger Games" film set the record for the third best opening weekend box office sales of any movie in the U.S. with a bling-blinging $152.5 million. I have no doubt that a large chunk of people went to see it because they where fans of the written work, but the reality is that the majority of movie goers where there because of the marketing campaign behind it. The media made it trendy!

Now don't get me wrong, I think it's fantastic that there's some much exposure to what I consider a pretty good work of fiction, but it makes me a little sad that the reason it's receiving so much attention is not because of the merit it deserves but because someone decided that they could make money off of it. And this has always been an issue for me because I don't like people telling me what to do.

The position I'm taking is a difficult one to defend because when this stuff happens pretty much everyone wins. The author receives both fame and fortune, the work receives exposure, fans get to see the adaptations of something they cherish, everyone makes money, everyone gets what they want, everyone is freaking happy... except me. Because I found out about "The Hunger Games" from media specifically designed to MAKE me like it, then I have a creeping doubt in the back of my head as to whether I truly enjoyed the work or if my feelings where tainted by the greedy hands of the advertising industry.

It sounds pretty paranoid to think that some TV ads have enough power to sway the way we feel about things. If you are anything like me (for your sake I hope you are not, but I just needed a good transition), you could probably argue that you have never run out of your home to buy something just because you saw a commercial for it, and although that's probably true, I wouldn't start patting yourself on the back just yet. The advertising industry makes between 300 to 680 BILLION Dollars a year. Go ahead, take some time to wrap your head around that number and the implications behind it. This money is not only spent on filming and printing advertisement, a good chunk goes to research to find the most efficient way to have an effect on the public. There's actually mad scientists figuring out ways to trick you into getting crap you don't need and they are pretty good at it. The companies with the highest marketing budgets tend to make the most profit because advertisement works. One commercial may not get an immediate reaction from you, but constant subliminal bombardment, brand recognition and psychological manipulation will definitely do the trick and that always makes me wonder.

I understand that in the way I see the world is a combination of nature and nurture so it can be argued that my opinions aren't truly my own, but they do belong to me, and so I have decided to make a stand against the huge monster of advertisement.

Thank you for letting me know that things exist oh puppet-masters of marketing, but I will stand my ground and decide WHEN, HOW, WHERE and WHY I will enjoy something. I will give things merit according to my own point system and not the ratings you manipulate because when we let you "guide" our tastes we end up with crap like Fifty Shades of Justin Bieber at Twilight featuring Kanye West and this cannot be tolerated anymore.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

HOW I DISCOVERED THE MEANING OF ST. PATRICK'S DAY

One of my favorite things about living on the melting pot that is the good old U.S.A. is the ability to celebrate different cultures by getting completely hammered with whatever their local poison is. You can bet your sweet ass that you will find me pounding tequila and Corona's on a "Cinco de Mayo" or sharing a stein of Bitburger over a plate of jagerschnitzel during "Oktoberfest". But there's one specific holiday that holds a special spot in my heart, and that is St. Patrick's day.

I CAN LIST SOME REASONS, BUT HERE'S A PICTURE

For me, there has always been something appealing about St. Patrick's that I just can't quite put words to. Maybe it has something to do with how cool bagpipes sound. Perhaps is the fact that my favorite beer in the world comes from Dublin and flows like rivers that day. It is also possible that a couple of "Irish Car Bomb" shots always make me feel like I will live forever or the undeniable cheer of a good Irish ditty. Hell, for all I know it could be the fact that I get to wear my awesome kilt and give my naughty bits the freedom they deserve. The whole point is that i put quite a bit of time and effort into making sure March 17 of every year is a magical day that I usually don't remember.

But this year, something happened. as I prepared my wardrobe and my liver for the upcoming St. Patrick's I noticed a disturbance in the force. I felt like I wasn't as happy as I could be. Try as I may, I just wasn't excited about the holiday, and the more I thought about it , the sadder I became. With only one week to go, I finally broke down. With my head in my hands and tears in my eyes I spoke out loud. "What the hell is wrong with me?"

I WENT TO THE GUINNESS STORE TO FIND MYSELF

"Nothing is wrong with you laddie!" Said a voice with an Irish accent. I looked up and in a corner of my room sat a tiny little man wearing a green suit, a matching bowler hat and smoking a wooden pipe. "Who are you?" Said I as I removed the safety of my 12 Gauge shotgun and aimed at his adorable little face. "I'm a friend" said he, as I instructed him to lay face down on the ground while I frisked his tiny little suit for potential threats. "I'm here to help you laddie" he told me. "I'm here to teach you about the true meaning of St. Patrick's!" I was shocked. For years I had participated in the celebration of this day, but the tiny person was right. I had no idea what the hell the meaning of it was. Sure I knew it was an Irish holiday, and that it was named after a patron saint, but that was it. There was no real understanding of why I was supposed to be honoring. I was just as bad as the guys that wear "Tapout" shirts and don't watch U.F.C. or know anything about Mixed Martial Arts. I was the asshole that brings a carbon fiber stick to a pool hall but can't make a single ball in. I was getting drunk in St. Patrick's and I had no idea why!

"What can I do?" I asked my new diminutive friend. "First get that shotgun out of my face, then follow me on a magical journey so that together we can find the true meaning of St. Patrick's. That way  you can enjoy it again". And so we did, we went on a wonderful adventure to my kitchen and got a pair of shot glasses and a bottle of Jameson's Irish Whiskey and we downed the whole thing, then sat down in front of my computer and pulled up the Wikipedia page on St. Patrick's. It was incredible. I learned so many wonderful things which I thought about copying and pasting here, but then the little man took my hand away from the mouse. "You must not do that laddie." he said as he looked past my eyes and into my heart. "It is not up to you to share this information until you get drunk on St. Patrick's and decide to be a preachy, pedantic asshole. Until then each person must make the conscious decision to look for it in their own because you can't truly love and honor anything in life until you truly devote your time and effort to understanding it." And with that he jumped out of my window and disappeared in the bushes.

I was confused by what had just happened for a second, but I no longer felt sad. I had discovered the true meaning of St. Patrick's and could therefore love and honor it by getting wasted out of my senses with the knowledge that I understood what it was and wasn't just participating so that I could fit in. When I looked at someone else and said that I loved that holiday I could say it with pride. I may not have a foken ounce of Irish in me, but I felt as if I could go trough a thousand potato famines right there and then. I closed my window, walked to my calendar and put a smiley face on the 17 of March and then stumbled to bed to sleep off the whiskey as I whispered to the world "Merry St. Patrick's day, and and to all a good night".

That my friends is how I discovered the meaning of St. Patrick's and I hope that a valuable lesson is learned by all as far as liking things without taking the time to learn about them. As a side note however, I just want to make a public service announcement. I found out from my local news that a midget pimp was breaking and entering into houses in my area. I did not have an encounter with a Leprechaun which I guess would explain why he was wearing a bandana over his face. This little foker is armed and dangerous and you should not approach him in any way. Call the police immediately.

THANK YOU FOR THE LESSON AND NOT STEALING ANYTHING

FACEBOOK THERAPY

I can trace the beginning of my very misguided love for psychology to 8th grade. I clearly remember this because I used it to get close to the ladies. It's not that I had somehow mastered the intricacies of the human mind at that tender age and found it easier to communicate with the other sex, it's just that no one else around me had any idea about it so I could literally lie and everyone would be none the wiser. I saw the power of understanding the human psyche, so I joined psychology club, slept trough most of it and then walked around my school with a clipboard and some vague questions about the meaning of "Limp Bizkit" lyrics or something like that and asked cute girls for their opinion and their phone numbers for "further research". It totally worked. "People your age are complete idiots, Andy, learn about me and together we can be manipulate them with your superior intellect because you are so freaking smart". It was the first lesson Lady Psychology ever taught me. Sure it wasn't a good lesson, and maybe I made it up, but the point is that it got me interested in the scientific study of the mind. And as I looked further into it, I realized that it was a wonderful tool that could not only aid my 15 year old self quest to "score" but it would actually fulfill my need to understand myself and help others. And so I have played with the idea of actually following psychology as a career for a quite a while. I don't want to get into too much detail, but a myriad of obstacles and a lack of confidence had prevented me from pursuing my goal of a Doctorate in Psychology until not long ago. So imagine my disappointment and dismay when, after finally working up the courage to follow my dream, I discovered that just like beepers and common sense; my dear, dear psychology would no longer be useful in the future.

I know what you are going to say. "Andy, what are you on about? Psychology is a growing field, we have barely began to understand the mysteries of the human mind. There's no need to worry about Psychology going the way of the dinosaur any time soon!". Well first of all, let me tell you that if you are saying that, you are wasting your time because you are talking to a computer screen and there's no possible way for me to hear it. I don't need any training on the field to inform you that you are nuttier than squirrel shit and you need to quit that before someone sees you. With that out of the way, I ask you to allow me to retort. Psychology IS a dying field, and it's all because of Facebook.

You see. Facebook has quietly but surely become an integral part of everyone's life. At first it was harmless enough. Just a way to keep in touch with friends. But then as it grew in numbers and it amassed power, people decided to let this virtual network become a living, breathing stage for real life. Facebook became the meeting place for the masses. Like a courtyard in high school or the break room at your job, Facebook was the place where people could make small talk then just get back to whatever it is they where doing. Unfortunately just like in those other places, certain people have discovered that by acting out in specific ways, they can now get all the attention they need without the effort of actually interacting with other human beings.

I want to suggest a party game. Everyone has a laptop and a pint glass. Log on to Facebook and have all participants scroll down their post feed at the same time. Every time a friend has vented about their shitty lives or work or stress take a one finger sip. For any relationship (or lack thereof) drama take down two fingers. A public breakup it's worth four fingers and an actual couple fighting online means you must skull the whole foken pint. The winner is the last person standing and if you really look at the implications of that last statement, you will realize the extent of what I mean by "winner".

The reality is that writing down our pent up emotions is a very helpful tool for dealing with them, but the layer of anonymity created by seating behind a screen, and the false sense of understanding and acceptance we get from everyone pressing like on our short rant about how "every1 in da wrold is reely stoopid" has created a terrible phenomenon I like to call "Facebook Therapy". Now don't get me wrong, I'm not saying the occasional rant will lead to your demise, I'm talking about those that have allowed the social network feed to become their main outlet when they have trouble expressing themselves. And although the action of venting in itself is not detrimental, it is the repercussions of that action that can be even more damaging to people than the post itself. You see, the lack of intimacy and connection with a real human being will, in my opinion, have three very negative effects.

First, the person venting feels a false sense of being heard and understood when others simply "like" or agree with whatever it is they are saying. If you needed to share your fears and frustrations with a close friend, and after opening up to them they gave you a thumbs up and said "like" then walked away you would probably feel pretty bad, but this is completely fine online. The reader doesn't have to engage the poster more than necessary because that quick acknowledgment is just enough to show that you care without getting on the way of your "Farmville" time. So even though the poster might have been reaching out for someone to listen, they have to settle for some artificial empathy which may not be a big deal if you are bitching about a coworker, but might be the worst possible thing for someone that may already feel isolated and disconnected.

Second, if someone does challenge or disagrees with the rant, then it's very easy to simply ignore that comment because the bottom line is that you aren't dealing with another human being, just a computer screen. There's an artificial barrier when we use devices to communicate with each other, whether is text or online or even talking on the phone. No other form of communication can be as complete as talking face to face with someone else. Take the time to observe two people conversing (try not to hide in bushes with binoculars as the police apparently tend to frown upon that) Notice not only what they say, but the way the hands move, how the bodies are positioned, the way they move closer or farther away, the tone of voice, etc. The point is that there are a whole lot of other processes going on that convey information which are lost when we interact trough a device. So now, no matter how much you care or empathize with the person, whatever response you post will have a degree of artificiality that can be more harm than good.

The third and possibly worst effect from "Facebook Therapy" is that your business is now online for everyone, and I do mean EVERYONE to eventually know,no matter how private your profile is. Let's use my "Facebook as the water cooler at an office" analogy. Let's say you are upset about whatever and so you put a sign on the bulletin board to vent your frustration. As people walk by the water cooler, they see the sign, maybe try to cheer you up, and you feel a better, however, life continues past the water cooler right? These people may talk about your issue among themselves, but probably to others that were not meant to be involved to begin with. Now your business is out in the open in a less controlled way. Now imagine how those people feel when every time they go for a drink they find a new post about a new issue in your life. Little by little they might feel less and less sympathy for you and may possibly end up alienating you altogether.

You know exactly what I'm talking about because it is a big part of the social network experience. I myself made a conscious decision to avoid not only letting my dirty laundry air online, but to make an effort to interact with others in person as much as possible. I plan to get my attention the old fashioned way, by being loud and obnoxious everywhere I go. Basically to not fall into the sweet, sweet laziness of receiving artificial attention online before I end up in the unending cycle of feeling like crap, posting about it, waiting for the world to care, feeling like they don't, therefore feeling like crap and starting the process again.

People could end up all kinds of messed up from this, so now that I think about it I may have to thank "Facebook Therapy" for really foken people up. I never thought I would say this, but thank you from the bottom of my wallet Mark, your creation will one day make me as rich as you!