Thursday, January 27, 2011

What I have been doing

I have been guilty, I think, of not writing much at all lately. Well, I take that back. I have pages upon pages of poems that I've been writing. Stories, though...not so much. Instead, I've been spending some time doing Let's Plays of Lego games. Yeah, I know. If you want, you should check out my YouTube channel!

Bookshelf Studios is the name of my channel and production thingy. Enjoy!

Monday, October 25, 2010

Dynamo, Part 4: Interlude

“Hey, Arthur?”
“How do you get ten babies into a bowl?”
Heavy sigh. “I don’t know, Chaz.”
It had been about four weeks since the shocking hook-up, and Mikey and Kaitlin were still going strong. Once the initial shock wore off, we settled back into our standard routine. Perhaps I should explain exactly what it is we do around here.
The six or seven of us work in a game development company on the East Coast. We aren’t a big name, nor are we particularly cool, or even good at what we do. But what we are good at is marketing. That’s actually partially my department – I work in Promotional Concepts, the truly sick guys responsible for inane commercials, juvenile slogans, and generally everything that frustrates gamers about seeing ads for their precious games. Our company is usually behind ripoff-style games: a few years back, we made a truly awful first-person shooter we called “Floater,” which was essentially Halo On Ice. Almost literally. The game was designed around the idea of frustrating water-based puzzles, including ice. It received the dubious honor of being the worst game we’d ever designed. That marketing campaign nearly made me kill myself. I mean that half-jokingly. It was at that point that I began to reconcile with myself how little my life before the company mattered.
It didn’t make a difference where I went to school, and it sure as hell didn’t matter that I wasted valuable hours of my life studying for a Psychology class in college, a Psych class that taught me interesting things that I would never need again. I wasn’t hired because I was good at marketing. Actually, I started as an intern, working to replace a woman named Christine. Christine had left on maternity leave, and a wise man once told me that a woman on maternity leave is really just a job opening. I grabbed it and weaseled my way into the company with relative ease. This was actually during my senior year in college, which is even more depressing. I didn’t need to graduate college to get a fairly well-paying job where I make up bullshit for a living.
I had no plans, either. This was my life, as far as I could tell. I play old video games, good and bad, mostly pirated from the web. I have no qualms about watching pirated movies, listening to pirated music, and playing pirated games. I once gave this serious moralistic thought, and came to the conclusion that we all die. As depressing as that was, it was a good enough excuse for me to take my fill of what the interwebs had to offer. As it was, I watched a lot of movies and played a lot of games. Sometimes some friends would be having a party and I would be invited, and that was nice. But after the party came a crushing sense of despair and despondence. I mentioned that I contemplated suicide, right? It happens to everyone more than we like to think. That’s my opinion, anyways. I was sitting at home, after a long month of working on the campaign for “Floater.” I’d had a few to drink – I really don’t drink all that much alcohol, but I find it helps sometimes. I was sitting at the desk in my room, in front of my computer, and happened to glance over at my bottle of Ibuprofen that always sat on my dresser, just waiting for me to have a headache or cold or something. It got me to thinking. I had a bottle of sleeping pills in the medicine cabinet – I’d had insomnia for a while as a kid, and every once in a while I get a bad night of endless awake-ness. I could just pour them all down my throat and keep drinking afterwards. No note, no second thoughts, just sweet release. Then I fell asleep. When I awoke, it was a beautiful Saturday morning, and even the spilled beer couldn’t shake the feeling that I’d just won some battle.
Good God, that was more than I meant to say. Let me get back to talking about the office.
Like I said, it was about four weeks after Mikey and Kaitlin became Mikey and Kaitlin. The only real change, other than that, was the newfound gregariousness of Mikey. He was a nice kid, if a little emotionally needy. Dawn and I both agreed that Kaitlin had probably had a good effect on him, overall. Dawn didn’t really like Kaitlin very much – “She’s like a Russian doll, only instead of more dolls inside here there’s just lead” – but she had to agree that the woman was good. She had effectively ripped open little Mikey single-handedly. She was good at her job, too. She worked on the writing team for games, and she actually brought some really original ideas to the table.
“I like that idea, Steve, but don’t you think it seems a little ‘Fable?’ Why don’t we try this: the PC is slowly being phased out of existence by an evil wizard or something, and as such can only interact with certain objects. It’s kind of a puzzle-rpg-type idea. Whattya think?”
She had a damn good head for games. Not just creative ideas – and certainly, they weren’t all creative – but she backed them up with good ol’ bull.
“I know it seems like another Halo rip-off, but hear me out. Why not have the PC be a time-traveler, hunting his nemesis who lives an orbiting ring around the Earth in the year 2300?”
It was funny, though; as much as our office settled back in to our way of life, with a happy – if strange – new addition, one person didn’t seem quite as at peace. Harry, we noticed, seemed even paler and clammier than was his norm; he looked sick every day, and frequently left work early.
Life was at peace, it was true. But maybe Harry’s wan complexion and gloomy fog caught on to us all. Mikey and Kaitlin didn’t last six weeks, I can tell you that. 

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Dynamo, Part 3: No time for dancing, or lovey dovey.

Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and the free days passed without much event. Kaitlin settled in nicely – she jumped right in to our electronic repartee whizzing about the in-office net. All of us – even Chaz – seemed to be holding our breaths for the next Monday. Mikey maintained his stoic silence, for the most part, but there seemed a healthy glow about him that we hadn’t seen before. I shot Patrice a quick message – “Is our little Mikey-poo in love?” – and she agreed that it was decidedly plausible. None of us knew the guy all that well; like I’ve said, there was the rumor that his mom had a little fling with Peter in Management, but that was about it.
The weekend arrived. I’d made an engagement to sit and play Phantasmagoria all weekend, so I didn’t see much of anyone else from the office at all. As usual. There wasn’t much social hanging amongst us company drones, and my friends from college had either moved away or had more serious plans. It was  a little sad. No one I knew just wanted to sit around and game, or watch Sliders, or anything else I spent so much time on in college. I guess I just didn’t grow up as much as them. God, that makes me sound so depressing. I have friends. I hang out. Just not the way I used to, I guess.
Monday came. The big morning. We were all at the office early – even Harry, who had heard the party invite through his paper-thin door. Then – the elevator gave its “ping” of arrival and the door slid open like an elevator door in an office building normally does.
It seemed that our Fairy Queen had found her Oberon. She stepped out of the elevator, glamorous as always – and glanced back, waiting for Mikey. This guy. My God, what that weekend had done for Mikey. His hair looked less unkempt, his clothes were not quite as wrinkled and shabby-looking, and that smile! A real smile, followed by a genuine laugh. I could hear Chaz choking on his espresso.
“Hey, guys!”
For the most part, we’d never heard Mikey speak a word. So the cheery greeting he offered up just about killed me.
“How are you guys?”
“Splutter.” Chaz’s espresso was still giving him some troubles.
“Pretty good, Mikey, how are you?”
“I’m great, Dawn! Thanks for asking!”
The cheeriness, I could tell, was going to get annoying. At least he wasn’t acting all lovey-dovey; not even Hank and Patrice would dare try that.
“Baby, you want some coffee?”
“That’d be great, Mikey love.”
Clearly, the office had changed. Kaitlin had brought poor Mikey out of his shell. And, as awkward as it was, they were now a couple. However the hell that happened. I made a mental note to shoot Mikey a questioning email. New couples are always happy to discuss their baby-fresh relationship. Chaz shot me a message first, though: “DUDE! What the hell just happened! Must have been some party.” I shot one right back: “No joke. Who knew little Mikey-poo was such a stud? That reminds me: I’m gonna shoot him an email asking what the hell.” And I proceeded to do just that.
Mikey responded in under ten minutes. Here’s the gist:
Kaitlin drove to Mikey’s to pick him up Saturday night for the party. She looked sexy, which he said a great deal. When they got to the party, it was a pretty casual affair – some people hanging out, some drinks, some sweet tunes. The party went on into the night, and got crazier as it went on. Not quite an orgy, but not exactly a piano recital either. He and Kaitlin ended up sitting on a small loveseat together. The lights were low, the mood was right. They started talking, and it turned out that they had a lot in common. He went into great detail on this matter. They both liked some indie band, both agreed that Ferngully meant a lot to them as kids, both remembered the rise of Nickelodeon. Long story short, they made out and drove back to Kaitlin’s house. Here in the story, Mikey only put a winking emoticon and it made me feel sick to my stomach.
A fairly standard “falling for each other in a week” story. Fast, probably wouldn’t last too long, but happy and fun. It got me to thinking, though – wondering about how Patrice and Hank hooked up. So I shot Hank an email: “Hey, Hank, our new lovebirds got me wondering about how you and Patrice got together.” He, too, responded swiftly and happily:
He and Patrice were in neighboring cubicles for a while, so they could hardly avoid talking every once in a while. As it was, they didn’t say much to each other, but he said the right things, apparently. He remembers the one that really won her over, the one that made her take real note of him and get them together. It was a silly little thing – she asked if he had a report, and he replied “Sorry, your report is in another castle” – but it worked. She laughed and asked if he played that game, too. And he did. And they talked. And it just happened from there. To put it bluntly, they shagged ever since then. They were happy.
Later that day, I got up to get myself something from the vending machine down the hall – something nasty, hopefully, nasty and fifty cents. As I stood up, I couldn’t help but glance into Harry’s office. Harry sat at his fancy mahogany desk, executive style, in his wonderfully padded chair – we’d all given it a try one day when he was sick, and it made one feel like one’s ass was made of cottonballs and sunshine. His head was in his hands. It looked like he was shaking. I almost got up to see what was up, but thought better of it. Probably some missed promotion or something. And I had work to get done.
Besides that view of Harry, everything seemed pretty happy. Hank and Patrice were still shagging, Chaz was still Chaz, Dawn was still one of my best friends, and Kaitlin and Mikey were a cute new couple. We were a solid, happy group of people, for the most part. But happiness doesn’t really last, you know. Happiness is the breath of air before you dive back down. Happiness is the save state before the boss battle. Happiness is dust in the wind, man. Happiness just makes me wonder what’s about to happen. 

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

You're Dumb

I'm a nice guy. 90% of the time, I'm a pretty good person. But I have a few observations to make.

People who obsess over sports teams, clothing, or anything else: don't make fun of nerds. Ever. Because an obsession with Burberry or Prada or the Dallas Cowboys is no different from an obsession with D&D, Star Wars, or video games. You're a fanboy, too. So don't mock someone for a different obsession. Everyone has one. Learn to deal with it.

There's no such thing as a "smart person who just made some bad decisions." Everyone makes bad decisions. But smart people don't let those bad decisions define themselves. Someone who justifies their life as the product of a few bad decisions isn't smart. They're delusional. 

Don't try to be more than you are. Some people are smart. Some people are poets. Some people are athletes. Just because you can, say, jot a few lines when the mood hits you, does not make you a writer. No more than hanging out in the pool makes you a swimmer. Suck it up. Be good at your own thing and deal with it. 

Don't tell the government to get out of Main Street and leave the governing to the people, and then turn around and beg for no abortions, stricter immigration laws, and general regulation of everything that opposes your personal moral code. There is a middle ground. This is not it.

Stop reading literature and assuming it'll make you look smart. Just because you list Hemingway on your "favorite books" section of your Facebook profile doesn't mean you're intelligent. It just looks like you're begging for attention. 

While we're on the topic of pretentiousness: the same as above goes for movies, too. Just because you know who Ingmar Bergman is does not make you a film buff. 

Respect other people's religions. With the exception of Scientology, just about every religion out there deserves respect, whether you think they're right or wrong. Don't be a jerk. Respect atheists, too, if you aren't one.Just give everyone their due respect.

And finally, just don't be more moronic than you were born. Not everyone is a genius. But you shouldn't feel the need to prove that all over the place.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Dynamo, Part 2: Appearances

It was Tuesday morning. Morning is the time that Patrice goes and picks up the paper from the ground floor. Tuesdays are the days when the paper will, for some reason, be late. She left to pick up the paper at 9:15. She came back at 10:00, a new record. Hank had begun to get antsy, Dawn glanced at the clock every two minutes, and Chaz kept saying “Hey, shouldn’t she be back by now?”
When finally Patrice did return, she brought with her another person. We all turned to face to elevator as she got out, dripping wet. The paper had been late because of the rain that morning – you’d think the Seattle paper services would be used to it, but the case was clearly otherwise. She turned to the interior of the elevator and said “Come on, don’t worry. You just need to talk to Harry. He’s our manager. It’ll be fine.” Out of the elevator car stepped a woman. She was gorgeous. Simply gorgeous. It wasn’t a porn star attractive, either; it was like a fairy queen. Delicate, gossamer, and yet as lithe as a willow bough. She was something else. I heard Chaz start a cat-call, but it died on his lips as if recoiling, afraid of being coarse for this lovely creature. The Fairy Queen, eyes focused on the ground, followed Patrice into Harry’s office.
Conversation began – real conversation, not electronic blips.
“She looks nice.”
“She looks like a tall cool drink of hot, my man!”
“Charles! She seems like a very nice lady. I suppose she’ll work with us now?”
“One would assume so, Dawn.”
“Does Patrice still have the paper?”
“Yeah, I think so.”
This continued. After a few minutes, full of rumor and intrigue and impatience, the door opened and Patrice came out, Fairy Queen in tow. The two stood near the water cooler, the communal watering hole around which our attention was focused. She addressed us, one arm around Fairy Queen’s shoulders in a matronly manner. Fairy Queen’s long black hair didn’t seem a strand out of place, even though she was practically quaking at the knees with nervousness.
“Guys, I want you to meet Kaitlin. She’s new to our company and-”
“Patrice! Newspaper!”
“Give me a shitting second, Chaz. As I was saying, Kaitlin is new to the company and has been assigned to work in our pod, alright? She’s going to be moving into the empty cubicle between Mikey and Arthur.”
Chorus: “Hi, Kaitlin!” She offered a coy smile and waved. I got up – not sure why – and held out my hand.
“Hey, I’m Arthur. Looks like you’ll have to put up with me as your neighbor, huh?” She took my hand demurely, but shook it with surprising confidence.
“Nice to meet you, Arthur. I’m sure we’ll be fine neighbors.”
I could feel Chaz’s eyes burning holes in my neck as I walked back to my desk. Kaitlin entered the cube next to mine and sat down. It wasn’t long before she stood up again, however. She walked into Mikey’s cube. This was something that none of us had dared attempt before; Mikey was beyond “loner” and bordered on “Unabomber.” But Kaitlin entered. We could all hear the conversation.
“Hey, you must be Mikey. I’m Kaitlin. It’s nice to meet my other cube neighbor.”
“Hey, no need to be a stranger. Come on, open up a bit. Tell me, do you like to go to parties?”
“Yeah? I’m having one this weekend with some friends from college. You should totally come along! Get some social interaction. I insist.”
If there was a way to quote stunned silence falling like a heavy chunk of metal onto the carpeted floor of our office, that word would be used here. Nothing can describe the sheer lack of noise that hit us like a cannonball. To say that it was dead quiet is an insult to the dead and to quiet.
“Yeah, sure.”
The office exhaled a deep breath laced with confusion and brimming with gossip.
“Cool! I’ll shoot you an email with the details, Mikey. I’m looking forward to it.”
And with that, Kaitlin returned to her desk. No one was exactly sure what our Fairy Queen had wrought. But Mikey was only the beginning. 

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Dynamo, Part 1: Portrait of an office, undisturbed

There are 50 people who work in my office building, including the nighttime security staff, the janitors, and the executives. In my particular section of the cube farm, though, there are really only six of us. This number does not include my manager, Harry, who likes to remind us over and over that an office is meant to be a socially welcoming environment, that those who work here should be friendly and warm to one another. Harry is bullshit. No one likes Harry. These reminders come squeaking out of his short throat, hissing lispingly around the slightly oversized front teeth that barely hide behind clammy-looking, pale lips. His eyes, too, are pale and watery; his skin, gray and pallid. I hate his nose. It protrudes like an invasive, bulbous beak, both long and fat. He always seems nervous when he addresses us. It’s as if he fears to be around the most antisocial farm in the building. And we really are. We scarcely talk, and when we do, it’s only about business. We’re efficient beyond belief. This, too, is bullshit, by the way. We never speak out loud – freaks the holy hell out of Harry – but there’s a constant flurry of emails and chats and texts and various crazy interpersonal connectivity activities.  
There’s Mikey, the young one. The rest of us – me included – are all in our mid-to-late twenties, a good time to have life goals get sucked away. But Mikey’s too young for this. Mikey is only 20, not even out of college, but word around the office was that his mother banged Peter Bramley, the chief executive in our building. How she managed that we have no idea. But other than that, we really know little about him. He’s quieter than the rest of us, which is really saying something. I mean, at least Dawn and Chaz and I are always sending emails or chatting or something; we don’t speak, but we can still talk. I know for a fact that Patrice and Hank are always talking somehow – it’s no secret at the office that those two are constantly finding any excuse to go have a shag somewhere. Dawn has a theory that they’re actually married, but that since company policy explicitly comes out against in-office marriages, they’ve kept it a secret. Chaz is nearly positive that they are really just each other’s “booty calls.” He likes to tell us that he’s positive that they are both secret sex addicts, and that they just use each other to sate their own desires. Chaz is like that, though.
Chaz is quite a character. I think I would’ve certainly hated him in college – certainly in high school. He’s maybe a few IQ points up from a frat boy. Maybe. He laughs at the crudest things, drinks every night out at a club, and is not ashamed to tell us about his lifestyle. I can’t decide if he’s honestly proud of the way he is, or if he just does it for the attention. I’m no shrink; I can’t tell. He’s a good-looking guy, though – that I will freely admit. It’s obvious how he gets the girls. He has that male clothing model look that girls just seem to die for – Dawn once sarcastically called him “smoldering.” I have to agree with her, even if I hate him.
Patrice and Hank are such a couple. There’s not much else to say about them; Patrice is a pretty woman; not luscious and beautiful, but not very plain either. Just a very pretty woman. The male equivalent can be said for Hank; he’s no model, like Chaz, but he’s not a nerdy-looking character, like me.
Me. I always tell people I’m 25; I’ve been 25 for three years now. I almost forget how old I really am sometimes. I figure that once you get out of college, age comes more in five-year chunks than in single years. In a few years, I’ll be thirty, one way or another. Rounding is good enough for me. I am, as I said, nerdy. I still have scars from my adolescent battle with chronic acne. I wear glasses that Chaz swears are “bitchin,” but in reality, I know they just reinforce my image as the one who, if asked, would love to talk to you about HackMaster. And I cannot deny that I live up to expectations. I’m still a gaming kind of guy, and have been ever since picking up Final Fantasy Seven as a young man. Loved that game. I am not ashamed to admit that I cried like a little baby when Aeris died. I hope you begin to see, now, what grade of nerd you’re dealing with.
I almost forgot Dawn. I can’t believe that. Dawn. Dawn’s the oldest out of our little group; she’s like a mother to us. Sweet as anything, that woman. Everyone is nice to her – even, maybe especially Chaz, who treats her like she is his literal mother. She looks out for us. She has all of our birthdays on her little hanging wall calendar with the black-and-white pictures of dogs, noted in black marker, and on every birthday she bakes a cake for the birthday person. I think she and I are the closest in this office – besides Patrice and Hank, of course. She’s not so much a mother to me as she is a very good friend. Oh, we disagree sometimes: she’s a Republican and I’m a Democrat, for example, and she hates the movie Breakfast at Tiffany’s, whereas I love it. But we get along well about it. As long as we avoid talking about politics or Audrey Hepburn, we’re fine.
Dawn is what you might call frumpy. She’s probably about 50 or so – I’ve never asked her age, and I don’t plan on asking. Here, everyone is only a rough estimate of an age. She too wears glasses, horn-rimmed affairs that look like something out of a Far Side cartoon. Her clothes are always what I think can be safely called “sensible.”
Portrait of an office hard at work. That’s us. Harry, sweating bullets over some fart-catcher in upper-management’s demands. Mikey, always appearing hard at work but sounding out too few keystrokes to be really working. Patrice and Hank, exchanging heart-shaped emoticons with one hand while typing in the data for fourth quarter with the other. Chaz, snorting through his Red Bull – swear to God, that man must go through ten a week – at some filthy joke on the deepest recesses of the internet while simultaneously emailing a programmer on the third floor to ask for those quarterly reports. Dawn, finding some scathing counter-argument to my latest blow against her ideas about taxes (okay, I lied, we talk politics all the time) while seeing how those taxes will affect her ability to pay the rent this month. And me, holding serious debates on the forums at IGN while coding. Such is the life of our office.
Correction: such was the life of our office. Then came Kaitlin. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Mean Girls and The Dark Knight

Today, in my AP -AP, mind you - Psychology class, we watched the Tina Fey/Lindsey Lohan movie "Mean Girls." Now, without going into a full-on review of this movie, I can safely say that it was better than I had expected. Witty, funny...not amazing, but fun to watch. Not a horrible film.
However, while watching, I began to notice certain similarities to one of the best movies of the decade: The Dark Knight. Yes. Active parallels between the twain.
I'll try to explain.
The villianess, Regina George, follows a fascinatingly Harvey Dent-esque pattern of control transitioning to anarchy. As the movie starts, she is the leader of "the Plastics," the clique of popular and ruthless girls at the top of the social food chain. This parallels Dent's role as the golden boy, the leader by the favor of the people. The direct foil to Regina's strict rules and social codes is Janis Ian, a social outcast who wants only to see Regina's destruction. Janis, fittingly enough to her name, plays a two-faced parallel: she is part the Batman, the seeker of justice and vengeance both. On the other hand, she is a bit of Joker; her desire to create social anarchy in order to take down Regina is at times frightening.
However, Janis pales in comparison to Cady, Lindsey Lohan's character. Cady enters the school as a formerly-home-schooled student, awkward and looking for friends. She takes on the role of Janis's companion, helping her infiltrate the Plastics and create social anarchy. However, she is the catalyst for the evolution of the characters into their archetypes come the climax. Cady demonstrates something similar to Stockholm Syndrome, in which she becomes like her "captors," the Plastics, and, in time, comes to replace Regina George.
Regina George devolves from the Harvey Dent of the beginning into the Harvey Dent after his accident: essentially insane and bent only on creating anarchy. In this way, Regina begins to resemble the Joker; perhaps the ultimate evolution of Harvey Dent. Taking her place is Cady, whose desire to take down the evil she saw in Regina has only caused her to become Regina; in a way, she is the Harvey Dent to Regina's Joker.

On the side of good, there are similar parallels. Tina Fey's teacher is the Batman of the day. After the climax of the movie, in which Regina spreads anarchy throughout the school, which descends into a massive brawl and riot., Tina Fey is the character who takes order over the girls and demonstrates to them how their fighting was silly, etc. The main idea is that Fey fights the anarchy that threatens her school - or, from a Batman analogy, her city. The principal, in his own way, symbolizes the police in The Dark Knight: while supposedly the voice of reason and justice, he is unable to hold control over the forces of chaos. The baseball bat that he carries symbolizes the brute-force technique for regulation that is so ineffective against so nebulous a threat. Additionally, the cast on his right hand is symbolic of his being crippled literally and metaphorically, unable to hold back the tide. The only true order comes from Tina Fey, who stands out as the true voice of strength.

There are, certainly, other parallels; however, I haven't seen The Dark Knight in a while, and my knowledge is a little rusty. This seems to cover the main points, though.