The Summer of “Math Horror”?

It’s only been one month in what we normally consider “the summer months”, but as I look through all my favorite Let’s Players on YouTube, I see a fascinating trend.  A trend that I personally refer to as “Math horror”.  What is math horror, you ask?  Well, allow me to explain.

Somewhere around early June (possibly earlier), I became aware of a game known as Baldy’s Basics in Education and Learning.  It’s often abbreviated to simply Baldy’s Basics, and I plan on using that from this point onward.  It’s a game that has stolen the hearts, and the imaginations of countless people on YouTube, and it’s not necessarily hard to see why.

Baldy’s Basics, in short, is what you get when 1990s edutainment games and Slenderman have a baby.  You have the popular Slenderman trope of wandering around some random location, collecting seven things, all the while avoiding the big scary dude who wants to eat your face off or whatever.  Then you have the edutainment portion of the hybrid, where in Baldy makes you do math problems before you can truly collect the thing.  Not to mention everything in this game looks like it was drawn in Paintbrush (the drawing program that would eventually become MSpaint).

I myself am very familiar with the old edutainment games.  Being the son of a first grade teacher, my mom often used me as a test audience for videos she thought about showing to her class, or games she thought about putting on the computer (more so the first one).  I played with such forgettable “games” like Hanging Out at the Treehouse, Fatty Bear, and…  Well okay, I forgot the name of it, but it was basically a Busy Town game.  Some of these were adequate, although I never really felt like I was learning anything outside how the game itself worked.  Others…  Were dumb at best, and patronizing at worst.  But regardless, this is not unfamiliar territory for me.

Then we get to the Slenderman portion.  I’m just going to come out and say it: I never understood the appeal of Slenderman.  I mean yeah, the idea of being chased around by a big spooky scary guy who wants to murder me to pieces is fine, but why am I collecting these notes?  How the hell did I end up in this forest?  What did I do to make Slendy so god damn angry at me!?  Or is it more of a wrong place at the worst possible time sort of deal?  It’s one of those concepts where when you’re booting it up for the first time, it’s fun, it gives you a scare, and you’re willing to forgive things like the abstract nature and the udder lack of plot…  But when you decide to play it MORE than once, it kind of starts to unwravel.  Especially if you’re like me, and find yourself overthinking things.

Also, Slenderman has been around long enough to where the fan games and the spin-offs wore out their welcome a long time ago.

The first time I watched a Baldy’s Basics playthrough, I was suspecting it was going to be more of the same.  Collect seven notebooks while something spooky chases you.  And yes, that technically is what Baldy’s Basics does.  However, there’s so much more to Baldy’s Basics than just the standard Slenderman ripoff formula.

For starters, there’s other characters whose one goal in life is to inconvenience you EVEN MORE than the angry bald guy in the green sweater ominously slapping the ruler on his palm, reminding you that he’s going to “spank your rump” the moment he catches you.  You’ve got a principal who monitors the halls to make sure you can’t run, or use items like soda to repel Baldy, or food to regain stamina.  You’ve got a little girl who seems oblivious to the fact you’re about to get spanked into oblivion, and wants you to stop and play jump rope with her.  You’ve got a bully that swipes items from your inventory.  Recently, the developer added a…  Robot, thingy, that can either give you a speed boost, or smoosh you in a corner and leave you a prime target for Baldy.

Then, there’s the math problems.  You have to do math in order to collect the notebooks, and at least one out of every three problems is complete and total jibberish.  [INSERT ALGEBRA JOKE HERE.]  The more problems you get wrong, the angrier, and the faster Baldy gets.

The math problems are what have led to a lot of intrigue with Baldy’s basics.  I’ve heard people liken Baldy’s Basics as a whole as an allegory of American education.  IE, you don’t learn anything in school because it’s useful, but rather, because society beats you to the ground if you don’t.  Then you exit school, and realize you didn’t even NEED a generous chunk of what you learned there.  [INSERT ANOTHER ALGEBRA JOKE HERE.]

Another theory I’ve heard is that Baldy HIMSELF is an allegory for the frustrated teacher.  The teacher who wants his children to learn, but gets frustrated to death with the fact his kids are dumdums, or government keeps flopping down nonsensical standardized testing like No Child Left Behind or Common Core, etc.  So much so, in fact, that when a child can’t even do basic math, it sends him in a rage.

Whether these, and other theories are what the developer was going for, or if this is typical game theorist “seeking meaning where there is no meaning for that sweet sweet YouTube revenue” fair is something that either remains to be seen at the time I’m writing this, or has been explained and I just don’t know where to look.  Either way, it really says something about your game when people are trying to find meaning in a game mostly designed to be a cheap edutainment themed Slenderman clone.

In recent days, I’ve found that the fan community has begun the march towards Baldy fan games.  For the most part, these fan games focus more on concepts like “play the game as Baldy”, or “play the game as the principal”.  All novel ideas on paper, but they wear out their welcome within the first minute or so.

However, there are newer games that basically lift the concept of doing math and running from not-Slenderman popping up here and there.  The most well known of which being Advanced Learning with Victor Strobovski.

Strobovski takes the Baldy’s Basics formula of having to do math and running for your life, but cranks up the creepy factor even more by making the school look even more grotesque, and cranks up the difficulty even more by adding a SECOND antagonist who wants you to forget about running for your life and attending his cooking class.  Otherwise, he comes looking for you, drags you to the cafeteria, and kills you himself.  I think.  Also, the principal’s detention system comes with warnings now, and while nobody I’ve seen has maxed out their warnings, I’m about ninety-nine percent positive that three warnings results in you getting killed to death.

On top of the horrors of the school itself being ramped up to impossible levels, the math problems are significantly harder, too.  Not exactly algebra, of course, but definitely more advanced than Baldy’s 2+5 and 5-3.

While Victor Strobovski is the only other game like this I’ve found so far, I know trends.  And I have a really good feeling that the trend of math horror will only grow from here.  We will most certainly see other math horror games throughout the summer, and possibly even the rest of 2018.  A lot of them will suck, no doubt, but whether the game sucks or is actually halfway good is irrelevant.  Math horror is popular right now, and the likes of Markiplier, JackSepticEye, PewdiePie, and 2LesbiansPlay will probably be subjecting us to a lot of it in the oncoming weeks.

As it stands right now, though, I’m okay with that.  So far, the concept has held my attention, and I’ve liked what people have come up with so far.  Much like the Five Nights at Freddy’s games, I can guarantee immediately that these games will wear out their welcome just as quickly, but for now, I’m liking this concept a lot.  Probably because I’m not much of a math person.

 

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Do I REALLY Want a Twitter Account?

I’ve contemplated getting a Twitter for the longest time, but it seems like the more I think about it, the less I really want one.

I’ve tried other avenues of social media to promote myself or my projects, and have found the results…  Mixed.

I’ll try to keep my opinions brief (I could go on article long rants on each one of these individual services probably), but here’s the situation.

Currently, I use Facebook, and nothing else.  It was working pretty good when I started, and I have a following there.  I’m not one of those crybabies who’s about to whine and complain about FB censoring my right to freedom because they won’t let me shout and post racist shit on my profile while masterbating to pictures of Donald Trump and Pepe the Frog anymore, but at the same time, it pisses me off I have to “boost” posts to get any attention outside my followers.  Boosting, for the record, costs about ten bucks bare minimum.  Per post.  That fucking blows, I’ll agree.

I don’t use Instagram, because I’m not a very picture oriented person.

I don’t use Snapchat for more or less the same reason.  Also, everything I’ve heard about Snapchat sounds stupid.

I’ve played with Minds.com in the past.  The site ITSELF insists you boost like Facebook, but if you don’t have money, you can accumulate boost points that act as money.  Don’t quote me on this, but I think one hundred points is like one dollar, and you earn fifty points for logging in every hour.  People can donate points, though I have no idea how.  So it’s got that going for it.

It’s just too bad that Minds was a bit on the glitch side when I used it.  The glitches were pretty minor things (IE, the profile pic would never upload), and whoever programmed the site labeled the buttons in the source code with descriptions of what the buttons LOOK LIKE instead of what they ACTUALLY DO.  For a screen reader user, that’s pretty counterintuitive most of the time.  “Thumbs Up” and “Comment bubble” are pretty self explanatory, I’ll grant you, but what the hell does “red circle” mean?  What the hell does “downward arrow” mean?

And of course, there was the community itself.  Again, this was over a year ago, and the Kekistan crowd seems to have dissipated down to the extremely diehards who haven’t figured out the joke stopped being funny months ago (assuming it ever WAS funny in the first place).  Back then, though, it was in full effect.  And for every let’s player, or indie musician with something interesting to show off, there was some dipshit posting his favorite pro-Trump Condescending Wonkas or Skeptical Black Kid or whatever memes are popular with the kids now.  Yeah, no thanks.

Still, even if the Kekistani are in full force there, Minds is still a better community than fucking Gab.ai.

Jesus Christ, Gab.ai.  I still can’t remember the last time I ever felt more unwelcomed in a community.  Granted, nobody actually declared social media war on me there…  In fact, they pretty much ignored me completely.  Which is probably the best thing I could’ve hoped for.

It’s one thing to be a conservative, and I realize everybody sounds like an opinionated asshole on social media, but good lord!  Every single person on Gab sounded like they had an agenda, an axe to grind, or were just pissed off at the world.  Was it really THAT infuriating you got banned from Twitter?  Seriously, you guys went well out of your way to build your own version of Twitter!  Seems like there’s no need to be so god damn amped up for war.

Bottom line: I’m not touching Gab with a fifty foot poll, and I still can’t believe a friend of mine suggested I try it out.  He does realize I’m a lefty, right?  The Gab crowd would eat me alive if I made more of an effort to post anything beyond Incredible Hulk memes and talk about the that year’s world series.

As far as I know, Twitter is the only social networking site I haven’t used yet.  And I’ve refused to use it for such a long time on the grounds that Twitter is fucking stupid.

I like to rant, as this blog may indicate.  The last thing I want to do is count characters, and divide one rant into twelve tiny posts.  Also, Twitter has NEVER been a shining beacon of intelligent conversation.  Need proof?  Donald Trump uses it all the time!  If I needed proof that Twitter is a waste of time and energy, that right there tells me everything I need to know.

At the same time, though, I’ve thought about getting one for business purposes.  I could use it specifically to promote my books, or my podcast that I haven’t done since May, or even let people know I might be streaming something soon.  Or any other possible project.  Hell, I might even use it to bitch about the net neutrality repeal and jack off to The Vegas Golden Knights like I do on Facebook!

All I really know for now is I’m considering it.  If I do decide to do it, I’ll post a link to it all around so nobody is lost.  Hopefully.  We’ll see.

NEW PROJECT!: The Helen Tamzarian Papers

Earlier in the week, I mentioned I’d begun tinkering with a new project.  I also mentioned it doesn’t usually mean good things for said project when I’m working on something else right next to it, but compared to COLA, and The Grand Finale, this one is actually holding up so far.  Worst case scenario, I see myself taking a break from it when I run out of ideas, finishing Realm of the Warpigs like I probably ought to be, and coming back to it either when I’m done with Realm of the War Pigs, or till I acquire another spark of inspiration.

The second thing I’m working on right now is an idea for ANOTHER series.  I have yet to come up with a title for the book I’m currently working on, but the series title overall is The Helen Tamzarian Papers.

The story concept came to me while pondering one day: “What would the story of Superman look like if it was told from Lois Lane’s perspective?  And what if the Lois Lane character was a Hunter S. Thompson caliber trainwreck?”  Hense the original working title of Fear and Loathing in Metropolis.

Helen Tamzarian is many things: a journalist, a pill popper, an alcoholic, the worst representative of the bisexual community since Anne heshe, and an individual who probably ends up causing more mayhem and destruction than the supervillains.  She finds herself in the dead center of the power struggle between a corporate billionaire bent on world domination, and the superhero who wants to stop him.  When she isn’t drunk, or high, or getting into it with either the hero, the villain, or the paper’s newly hired photographer, she finds herself musing: “Which one is the worst: the one with countless billions and no moral compass, or the one with superpowers and a near psychotic dedication to morality?”

Admittedly, this probably isn’t the most original premise for a story in the superhero genre.  I don’t THINK anyone’s tried the gonzo journalism approach to this genre yet…  And if someone has, I’d sure like to read their work.

As much as I would love to make no guarantees, the fact I have an idea for a whole series, and the fact I’ve already got a good twenty pages of writing down might indicate this thing might actually have a future.

More on this as it unfolds.

And no, I haven’t given up on Realm of the War Pigs.  Worst case scenario, I’m taking a break on that one until things become a little more stable.  I’ve got to get my shit packed, I have to call numbers to get things switched on, and plenty of other stuff, and the last thing I want to do right now is read over my own scribbles and remind myself how much I hate my own work.  I’d rather just get the ol’ plot bunny out of the way.

Do people still say plot bunny?  What the hell even is a plot bunny?  No one ever explained where that came from.  I know what it is in concept, but where did it come from?

Whatever.  New project.  Enjoy it when I get around to finishing it.

That Moment When a New Idea Emerges

Something I always hate is when I’m in the middle of one project, and an idea for  second project shows up in my head.  It happened when I was writing The Majin Among us with the long since shelved project simply titled COLA, and it’s happened now.

For those who don’t follow my Facebook page, why the hell not!?  Also, amidst the vast amounts of links to Vegas Golden Knights news and net neutrality arguments, I do post progress reports on my projects that are too short to include in a blog post.  If you’ve been following my Facebook page, you’ll know that Realm of the War Pigs, Book 1 of The Highway Men, is in the proofreading phases.  I finished the writing for it this past Thursday, and before I pack my shit and move into mynew apartment, I have been getting as much proofreading into the second draft as possible.

Then, earlier today, I decided to just sit down, and write out a thought in my head.  This thought, as of this writing, has since become one chapter of a new idea I have for a…  Thing.

I know for sure this much about the project.  Essentially, it’s a superhero story told from the perspective of a reporter.  Not the most original idea, probably…  Although so far, the reporter in my story is a Hunter S. Thompson caliber mess.  Articles often devolve into rambling madness, she often hooks up with both the hero AND the villain.  There’s probably some bingedrinking and some peyote involved, but I haven’t gotten that far into the story yet.

The original title was going to be Fear and Loathing in Metropolis, but I figured DC would sue me into oblivion for that one.  So I’m making a universe of my own.  Which I honestly like better.  Also, I don’t have to slog through hundreds of thousands of articles on random wikis about this or that.  I can really just make it up as I go when it’s MY universe.  All the more reason I tend to favor fictional towns and fictional worlds.

This is in no way or shape guaranteed to manifest into anything right now.  While I AM tinkering with this idea in my downtime, a lot of my energy is focused on finishing book 1 of The Highway Men.  The rest…  Well, the rest is focused on the move.

The thing about The Highway Men, though, is that I’m planning on making it a more episodic series.  Sure, it would benefit the reader to start at book 1, and read them in order.  However, if you’re like my mom, and pick up book 3 thinking it’s all the same no matter what, you probably won’t be as lost with The Highway Men as you might be with something like The Gael Saga.

An episodic series means I can take breaks from it when I get bored, and focus on other ideas when I’m not feeling it.  Trust me, after The Gael Saga, I don’t know if I’m going to do another continuous series like that.  I was very proud of how that series turned out, and I still am for the most part.  However, I still remember how much of a slog that project ended up being, and how much I wanted to work on other projects while I was banging out book 2 and book 3.  Especially book 3.

With a more episodic approach, I can either keep riding the momentum all the way into the next one, or I can take a break and try out a new project idea like I appear to be now.  It’ll probably annoy the people who want me to just shut up and write their favorite series…  But whatever.  If the internet has taught me anything in my lifetime, it’s that it is literally impossible to please everybody.  I’m thankful for every fan I get, and every review I receive, but at the same time, I’m in no hurry to give the pen to the audience.

Again, I can’t guarantee anything will come of this tinkering.  However, if something does, I’ll be sure to talk about it here as well as my facebook.

How The Vegas Golden Knights Reinvigorated My Love for Hockey

In 1999, I discovered the majesty of hockey.  More specifically, I played my uncle’s copy of NHL 99 for PlayStation1, and fell in love with the game.  The video game was fun to play, and the sport itself was actually pretty exciting to watch.  Sure, there’s the occasional hockey fight, but the actual game ITSELF is actually pretty entertaining.

Originally, I picked The New Jersey Devils as my team.  Largely because I seemed to win with them every time I played with them on that old PS1 game more than any other team.  Also, they would go on to win The Stanley Cup that year, so you better believe this fledgeling hockey guy was going to pay attention to this team.

Naturally, the moment I started cheering for them was the moment they started sucking.  Because that’s just how it goes with me and sports teams for some reason.  But I digress.

Even if my favorite team wasn’t one of the greatest anymore, though, I still watched the games any chance I could.

Then the hockey strike happened in 2005.  Or maybe it was 2006.  I forget when it was exactly, but it was definitely in that time frame.

Hockey did eventually come back, but by then, I wasn’t nearly as excited for it.  Until about 2013, when The Devils made it to another Stanley Cup.  Unfortunately, they lost to The Kings.  Also, there was talk of ANOTHER hockey strike, but I can’t remember if anything came of that.

Basically, ever since the first hockey strike, I’d gone from hockey nut to occasional spectator.  Until The Vegas Golden Knights came into existence.

I’ll admit, I was skeptical.  Intrigued, but skeptical.  I, like a lot of other guys, joked about how The Vegas Golden Knights was a first year team consisting of nothing but D-list hockey players whose better days were behind them, minor league call-ups, and maybe a few free agents nobody else wanted.  Furthermore, their coach used to be on The Florida Panthers staff.  And I found out in recent months that The Florida Panthers are so bad, they’re one of two possible candidates for getting shipped to Kansas City.

A brief aside: Kansas City has been the NHL’s impending threat to mediocre teams for at least a decade now.  First, we were going to get The Pittsburgh Penguins: a team that, at the time, had seen better days.  They suddenly improved, and Pittsburgh wanted to keep them.  Then we were going to get The Nashville Predators: a team that was, at the time, so bad that I didn’t even know they existed.  But then they got better.  I think they even won The Stanley Cup the year they were being threatened, so there you go.  Now, according to my friend, frequent cover artist, and now a fanatical hockey nut who puts teenage me to shame, The Florida Panthers and The Arizona Coyotes are the next possible candidates.  Though they didn’t even touch the playoffs, Arizona improved their game tremendously as a result.  Knowing the pattern, Florida will probably be in the playoffs next year, too.

So yeah, we don’t have a hockey team to cheer for.  And lord knows The Devils have the worst habit of forgetting they’re halfway decent at this game around January these last couple of years (seriously, how the hell did you guys make it to the playoffs this year?).  So a curiosity like the brand-spanking-new Vegas Golden Knights is DEFINITELY worth exploring.

I’m not abandoning ma boyz in Jersey by any stretch of the imagination.  However, one of my favorite podcasts ever once said that you were allowed to have two favorite teams, provided they play in different conferences.  Jersey is in the eastern conference, and Vegas is in the western conference, so by that logic, I’m good.

And after this fascinating season of hockey, I’d say I’m not just good, but I’m actually golden.  Heh, see what I did there?  I’m funny.

My friend mentioned to me that The Vegas Golden Knights were originally going to be called either The Knights, or The Aces.  Both would work just fine in my book, honestly.  Then, a random commenter on the Facebook page mentioned that they went to Vegas for a “golden shower”, and that the team should call themselves The Golden Showers.  Obviously, it was a troll comment, but whoever was in charge apparently decided to roll with it, and the next thing you know, we have The Vegas Golden Knights.

No seriously, this is a thing.  You’ll have to dig pretty deep into their Facebook history, but this is most certainly a thing.

Between this, and the previously mentioned fact they’re a bunch of D-listers, call-ups, and rejects coached by a man who worked for one of the worst teams in the league, you would probably keep your expectations pretty low.  I wouldn’t have blamed you, either.  Lord knows I was keeping MY expectations low.

Then, they started winning.  A lot.  So much so, in fact, they were in first place in their entire division for the majority of the season!  They didn’t always win, but they won a lot.

Unsurprisingly, they made it to the playoffs.  And here, this was where everybody was saying their luck would run out.  Not only did it NOT run out, but they even swept their speculated rivals, The L.A. Kings, in the opening round!  That series, despite the shear domination of Vegas, was one of the most exciting series I think I’d seen in years.

The San Jose Sharks, and The Winnipeg Jets would also fall to the golden glory of Vegas, and their spot in history was sealed.  Even if they DIDN’T win The Stanley Cup, they would still stand tall as the first expansion team in history to make it to the finals, and no asterisks like there were in the case of The St. Louis Blues.

Sadly, their luck would run out in the finals.  The Washington Capitols: the last team ANYBODY thought would make it to the finals…  Well, other than The Golden Knights themselves, anyway.  The Washington Capitols of all people made it to the finals, and they dominated.

But all the same, I was more invested in hockey this year than I have been in a very long time.  It also helped that I’d found an app that links to every radio station that brodcasts hockey games.  So even though I live in FUCKING KANSAS, I don’t have to settle for that three or four times out of eighty-two that my favorite team(s) are on TV.  I could just listen to the games from Vegas’ local station.

Theoretically, I can listen to that station whenever…  But the station that plays VGK games is an affiliate of FOX.  Yeah, no thanks.  I get enough conservative loudmouths from one particular Uber driver.  Don’t even get me started: this thing is already all over the place as it is.

While Vegas didn’t WIN the Stanley Cup, I’m VERY interested in seeing what they do next year.  Till then, The Golden Knights can say with certainty that they are the team that reinvigorated my love for hockey.

All that being said, watch as they spend the entirety of the 2018-2019 season sucking harder than The Buffalo Sabers.

The Upgrade Blues

I don’t usually blog about how my day was, or what sort of internal affairs are going on behind the scenes.  Try to, anyway.  This story, however, feels like it ought to be shared.

Before we get in to things, though, you need to know this.

For about a year and a half now, I’ve had a Google Pixel XL as my cell phone.  I bought it in November 2016 when I decided I had enough of my Galaxy S5’s shit, and I had a generous amount of birthday money from family burning a hole in my pocket at the time.  So I figured I’d splurge, and buy a new cell phone that was top of the line.  On the down side, Pixel was such a popular cell phone that the local Verizon Wireless store was out of stock, and wouldn’t be IN stock till about January 2017.  But the important thing is I DID eventually get my Pixel XL, and it was probably the best cell phone I’ve ever had.

Then this past weekend happened, and suddenly, my phone started behaving a little weirdly.  If I tried to make phone calls, the call wouldn’t connect, and the phone would just lock up.  I’d have to reset the phone entirely.  It’d also lock up like this if I tried texting someone through Message+ (Google Messenger seemed to work just fine, though).  I’d either be typing, or dictating my message, and in the case of the former, the microphone would just switch itself off,  and the screen would lock up in BOTH instances.

I tried to fix this the best ways I could think of.  I tried uninstalling and reinstalling the apps, and that did nothing.  I tried alternate dialers (I use Rocket Dial) and alternate messengers.  As I said before, Google Messenger seemed to work just fine, but the dialer didn’t seem to matter.  Also, fuck the default dialer.  It’s like staring directly into the sun, the way my eye sight works.  I even did a factory reset, and obliterated everything on my phone.  That seemed to work…  Right up until I tried to call someone.  Then, we went right back to the problem we were having.  Also, I lost all my music, my audiobooks, my photos (all six of them), my bookmarks…  The list goes on.  A whole bunch of sacrifice for a whole bunch of nothing.

Left with no other alternative, I took my phone to the Verizon store.  I already have to swallow my pride regarding the fact my phone service is provided by one of the big 3 who are, as of this writing, mere hours away from firing up the machine that will bring about an era of tiered internet, premium passes for stuff that was previously free, and the outright blocking of websites on the grounds that they’re competitors, possibly with superior service to the service your providing (IE, YouTube > Go90).  However, as things stand, they’re the only place that sells and maintains Pixel.  Also, I’ve had T-Mobile and AT&T before, and they both suck.  Hilariously, AT&T is number 2 in the big 3.  The only other provider out here is Sprint, and they don’t support Pixel either.  Furthermore, my entire family declared bloodfeud on Sprint decades ago after falling victim to their hiring and layoff practices, but that’s THEIR story to tell more than it is mine.

Bottom line: You have nowhere else to go.  So shut up, take a bite, smile for the camera, and tell the world that this shit sandwich is delicious, retard.

ANYWAY!

I went into the Verizon store…  And proceeded to stump the woman who tried to help me with my Pixel.  She was convinced that my OS was third party, which no, it isn’t.  As far as I know.  I didn’t change anything in the OS whatsoever.  Unless wallpaper counts, in which case I made it a solid black background to make it easier on my good eye.  The dialer is definitely third party, but it isn’t something you have to gut the OS for.  You just install it, and use Rocket Dial instead of the default one.

The only suggestion she could offer was uninstalling an app called Clean Sweep.  Frankly, I didn’t even know it was on there in the first place, so whatever.  Sadly, this did nothing.

Left with no options, I resigned myself to upgrading to a Pixel 2 XL.  Which means I had to go through the reinstalling process all over again, AND get used to some of the new querks of the Pixel 2.

Having had this phone for all of two hours now, I can say with certainty that my overall reaction to this phone is…  Mixed.

On one hand, the colors are a lot more faded than they were on my Pixel 1.  The Spotify logo, and the call button on Rocket Dial used to be a pretty standard green, but now, they’re sort of a faded greenish-yellow.  I have the brightness set on 75%, but it STILL feels like the screen is dimmer than it used to be.  It’s something I definitely have to get used to.

Fortunately, the second time around, I didn’t have to reinstall anything the hard way.  I still have to log back in to everything (fortunately, I remember all my various passwords the second time around), but my music and my audiobooks that I reinstalled from the first time are still there.

Also as a negative, my cell phone bill went up a whole eleven dollars.  Not to mention that my in-store credits only covered so much of the cost for the phone itself.  Considering that I’m moving to a new place soon, this kind of additional cost is literally the last thing I need right now.

On the positive side, though, that extra eleven a month is because of protection services I put in place.  Protections I DIDN’T have the first time.  Protections that see to it I don’t have to give them the OTHER arm and leg if I need a replacement.    Also, if I just want to upgrade to Pixel 3 when it comes out, I can apparently just do that now with minimal-to-no cost if I understood correctly.

So yeah, I have a new cell phone.  So far, everything seems to be working just fine.  I DO notice Rocket Dial’s buttons tend to stick a little when I press them , but I’m making calls now, and nothing’s locking up.

As far as the problems with the previous phone go…  I’m stumped.  The Verizon store was stumped.  I will not be even remotely surprised if they take my phone over to HQ and dissect it for research purposes.  I mean yeah, it’s an out of date model, but who’s to say this won’t happen in NEWER models too?  Whatever the problem was.

I did become a little suspicious, and possibly even ANNOYED at the prospect that maybe Google is following Apple’s douchebag example of activating programs hidden in the source code that intentionally fuck with your phone if it’s not the newest model, thus forcing you to need the newest model.  That right there was originally one of the bulletpoints I proudly put on my list of reasons I give Apple the finger and recommend Pixel, or even just Android phones in general to people in the market.  But I guess if Google is going to do this now…  Then no wonder I switched over to Ecosia.  Probably ought to find me a new email provider while I’m at it.  This sort of bullshit will not stand.  Unless it’s the Android OS altogether, in which case it’s a harsh reality we all have to live with.  Because fuck Windows Phone.

I haven’t ruled out the possibility I’d gotten a virus from browsing…  Things, on the net.  Not going to lie, I heard about a website called WikiFeet recently.  Hear me out.  The concept of a wiki dedicated entirely to archiving photos and videos of women’s feet from the most mundane, usually nonpornographic places…  This is one of those things that’s so unbelievably absurd that I just had to look it up.  I mean come on, who the hell would waste their time on this when RedTube, or some video host dedicated ENTIRELY to foot stuff I don’t know of, is right there?

Oh, and for the record…  Yeah, WikiFeet is just as dumb and unsexy as you think it is.  Not unsexy in a gross way, but rather, unsexy in a “Yeah, it’s a closeup of a woman’s feet wearing a pair of sandals.  So?” way.  This seems like the kind of porn people had to make due with back when dialup was the norm.  Or like the kind of thing ELEVEN-YEAR-OLD footguys look up because all the obvious porn gets blocked by the filters their parents put on their tablet or whatever.  I don’t know, I guess I’m just harder to impress at the ripe old age of thirty-two.

And yeah, that little aside right there is going to do WONDERS for the foot fetish rumors the critics in my head are trying to spread after The Gael Saga.

All I’m really saying is morbid curiosity brought me there, I had a look around, wasn’t impressed, logged off…  Then a day later, my phone started to malfunction.  I’m not saying it’s THE reason, but it’s definitely a top suspect in my list.

Whatever the reason may be, my Pixel 1 is gone.  It’s been taken by the Verizon people, most likely to be disassembled and its pieces used to make a Pixel 3 one day.  Maybe.  I don’t know what caused it to flip out, and I probably never will know truly.

If you’ve experienced the same, or similar problems lately, I encourage you to leave a comment detailing your situation.  Or if you have an idea how to fix that problem (N B4 “don’t visit WikiFeet”, because I’m probably never going to after that anyway), comment with that.  I don’t usually encourage comments…  And I shouldn’t have to.  But if YouTube is the world we live in, apparently I have to get on my knees and beg like a bitch for your comments.  So yeah, leave a comment if you think it applies.

 

My Journey to ConQuesT

I’m no stranger to conventions.  I’ve attended Anime Festival Wichita a couple times.  I watched Anime Nebrascon go from small little convention being held in a community college to massive convention occupying an entire hotel in the span of four years.  I attended Planet Comicon last year to watch Kevin Smith and…  Uh…  The other guy (not Jason Muse), record Fat Man on Batman.  I attended a horror film convention a few years ago, and met the guy who’s distribution company holds the rights to the Puppetmaster series.

In all those conventions, I’ve seen all the usual attractions.  I’ve seen the cosplayers posing for photos.  I’ve seen the guys show off their remote control R2D2s, and in more recent years, remote controlled BB8s.  I have an autograph book that, while not exactly filled from cover to cover, has some names you might recognize if you like American voice actors, and obscure film stars.  I even contributed suggestions for an anime themed improv group’s “suggestions in a hat” game once or twice.

In other words, I’m not a stranger to this sort of thing.

However, I’ve never been to ConQuesT before.  Not until this past weekend, anyway.

I went with a couple friends, not entirely sure what to expect.  Right out the gate, they had to help everybody’s favorite professional blind guy find the RIGHT convention, because apparently, the hotel hosting ConQuesT was ALSO hosting a tattoo convention on the other side of the building.  And if you’re wondering at all, yes, there actually was a surprising amount of overlap between the conventions.

Honestly, as far as atmosphere went…  It was pretty quiet.  I did see some folks in costume, but compared to the madness of your average comic book, anime, horror film, and whatever convention, things were pretty tame.

In large part, this is because ConQuesT is more dedicated to scifi and fantasy literature than anything else.  Book people are definitely as proud, but maybe not quite as loud as some of the other fandoms out there.  Also, with a lot of books not having pictures or film/TV adaptations, cosplayers most likely have to use their imagination.  At absolute most, I saw someone with a very intricate raptor costume, and someone…  I wanted to say the polar bear from The Golden Compass, but that was mostly because one of my friends described them as big, white, and furry, and polar bears are the first thing that come to mind when I hear that description.  It would’ve been hilarious if that polar bear was drinking a Coke.  Just sayin’.

Of course, the main event of any convention is the panels.  Unlike a lot of your usual panels, though, there aren’t a whole lot of Q&A with guests.  Rather, the guests usually have a lecture prepared, or the staff had an event planned out featuring them that might or might not have been a good idea in practice.

And of course, in my attempts to become a better shameless publicity whore, I handed out cards to everybody who’d take them.  And left what I wasn’t able to hand off on some table in the lobby for guests to pick up.  Or for housekeeping to throw away.  The important thing is I got rid of them.

I attended Steven Barnes’ panel on Afrofuturism: a subgenre of scifi and fantasy focused primarily on black individuals and their rolls in society and culture.  I have to say, I wasn’t expecting it to be such a powerful presentation.  Even if there was a mix up over whether his room got the whiteboard or not.  Once we actually got in to the nitty gritty, this was the kind of lecture that, at the end, left me nigh speechless.  I suddenly felt a little bad about having never read any of his books prior to attending.

I got to meet him afterward…  And found I had nothing to say.  I ended up shaking his hand, handing him my business card…  Then, three days later, I realized I just pointed the man who’s a driving force in afrofuturism fiction to MY work.  MY work includes The Gael Saga.  Within Gael’s rogues gallery is CharKendrick Parks: AKA, Spook.  Spook…  Well…  Let’s just say Spook is probably not going to win me any awards in political correctness any time soon.  No, I didn’t exactly hand the character a bucket of KFC and tell him to go play basketball while he and his homies listen to Gucci Gang or anything horrible like that.  However, if you’ve read The Hood and the Heroine, and read the chapters Spook narrates…  Yeah, the rules of political correctness dictate I’m probably going to hell.  And I only made it worse by possibly directing a guy trying to make a positive name for Black America without using hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter in that direction.  Shit.  Oh well, wouldn’t be the first time I accidentally burned a bridge.

Another panel at ConQuesT I absolutely adored was “Author Speed Dating”.  The premise is simple: there’s eight authors, and eight readers.  Each reader pairs off with an author, and the author tries to sell you their book.  This, right here, is an awesome idea on paper, and it did not disappoint in practice.

True, some authors were better at selling me on their fiction than others.  Sean Demory and Van Plexico were definitely my favorites, advertising such works as Polukaville, and The Sentinal trilogies respectively.

There was another author I met who’s book intrigued me, who’s condition intrigued me MORE, and…  Unfortunately, I forgot her name.  I’m SORRY!  I just remembered offering to shake her hand, and she explained she had a nerve condition that resulted in tremendous pain if someone touched her.  Even wearing clothing apparently hurt.  I can’t remember her name, and I can’t remember the name of her condition, and after pulling up a tab that had all the ConQuesT guests, I’m unfortunately not recalling anything.  Although I’M DEFINITELY positive it wasn’t Dora Furlong.  I think Furlong wrote the Monster Keeper series, as well as the Olympus Talent Agency series.  Both of which sound fascinating as well.

I did go to other panels…  But if I’m being honest, those ended up being a bit more meh than I was expecting.  They weren’t bad by any means…  But I wasn’t really feeling them at the end of the day, either, you know?

I only hung out for Saturday’s festivities due to only having enough money for one day, friends wanting to get together on Sunday, and Monday being my day to sleep in, get some writing done, then forgetting I’m a Baha’i for a split second and getting piss drunk stupid while watching The Stanley Cup with family.

SEMI RELATED NOTE: GO VEGAS!  FUCK THE CAPS!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at ConQuesT.  Maybe next year, I can actually register as a guest.  It’d be fun to try the author speed dating on the author’s side.  Maybe sharpen up my sellsman skills in my quest to become a better publicity whore.

Noir: My Thoughts

Christopher Moore is one of my all time favorite authors.  I started with A Dirty Job, then read all three of the Bloodsucking Fiends trilogy, and pretty much set out to read as many of his books as I could possibly get my hands on.

Admittedly, Moore is…  Not for everybody.  Especially in recent years, with stories like Sacre Blue, and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff.  These are pretty avant gard, considering the guy had made a living telling humorous stories about either a fictional town out in the middle of nowhere, or in a fictional San Fransisco that reminds me of Kevin Smith’s Jerseyverse.  Or Askewniverse.  Or whatever we’re calling the Jay and Silent Bob movies nowadays.  The Jay-And-Silent-Bobiverse?

Also, if nothing came from the 2010s, my fascination with film noir happened in this very decade.  All you bitches feeling nostalgic for the neon-colored nightmare of shoulder pads, toy commercial cartoons, and Reaganomics don’t know nothing about nostalgia.  I was going back to the days when movies weren’t even in color!  I was going back to the days communism actually seemed like a legit threat to anybody!  I was going back to the day when a high budget movie was around six figures at absolute most!  You want to talk nostalgic?  You don’t know.

I forgot where I was going with this.

Oh right, Christopher Moore wrote a noir book!  My favorite author?  Writing one of my recent favorite genres?  I literally commented on his blog: “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”.  No really.  Look for the sample chapter for Noir on his blog (if it’s still there).  You’ll find my comment right there!

ANYWAY…

I really had high hopes for this book.  And…  Not going to lie…  It’s not one of his better books.  Yeah, I’m starting to think I might have jumped the gun on that one.  It’s fucking No Man’s Sky all over again.

It’s not a bad story by any means.  Comedy wise, “the kid” was probably the funniest thing about the entire story.  I mean yeah, the fact the main female character is named after a variety of British cheese is KINDA funny I guess, but a lot of the humor…  I don’t really want to say it fell flat, but considering I read Christopher Moore books frequently, I’m kind of familiar with his pacing, and his style of joke telling.  It’s like watching a new episode of a long-running sitcom that hasn’t managed to hit seasonal rot yet: the jokes are there, and you know they’re funny, but they aren’t really gut-busting hilarious.

The very beginning of the book is basically a fucking trigger warning to all the delicate little snowflakes out there that this book takes place in the 1940s, and therefore may use some slurs that were acceptable then, but aren’t now.  Although I got to say, I was expecting a lot worse than what I got.  Sure, he used the word “colored” a few times, and a few slurs for Chinese people.  I don’t know, maybe having friends who masterbate to Trump and praise “the glory of Kekistan” have desensitised me to the point I feel nothing anymore when I hear racist remarks.  Or maybe I don’t offend nearly as easily as this current generation of weak-willed pussies.  I’ll honestly believe either one.

Get past the trigger warning, and you get a story that is…  Okay.

Really, my only real gripe with the book is that there’s two narrators, and the second narrator waits till way into the book to introduce himself.  The epic reveal…  Honestly, I can’t decide if it’s funny, or dumb.  Possibly both, but maybe leaning more towards dumb.  It’s one of those choices that, on paper, probably sounded funnier.  And at the moment of the reveal, it DID kinda give me a chuckle.  But prior to the reveal, I found myself constantly wondering why it went from first person to third person every other chapter.

The audiobook is read by Johnny Heller.  Heller is a man of about two or three voices at absolute best, and they all have a bit of a Marlon Brando quality to them.  However, it’s a reader that fits the theme of the book just fine, so I give it a pass.

Overall, it’s not the worst book I’ve ever read.  It’s not even the worst Christopher Moore book I’ve ever read.  Really, though, I’d recommend some of his other titles before recommending this one.

The Philosopher’s Flight: My Thoughts

The Philosopher’s Flight is a book I really wasn’t expecting to like.  Or even read, honestly.  It got recommended at the book club I’m a member of, in rather hilarious fashion.

Basically, we discussed the book of the month (The City and the City by the HIGHLY over-rated China Mieville).  Then, talk of what to read next came up.  A woman who comes to the group off and on picked two books out of her purse, slapped them down on the table, and said: “Here’s your choices.  Pick one.  I’m not running out and buying a third book.  Pick one.”  I laughed, and went with the side that picked Philosopher’s Flight on the grounds option B was a clichéd young adult dystopia novel that lost me at the blurb describing the overused, overdone premise every young adult novel throughout the 2010s has used.

So we read The Philosopher’s Flight, and I got to say, I liked it a lot.

Robert is a young man, living in a world where “philosophy” actually refers to magic.  Also, magic seems to come more naturally for women than it does for men, although a few men can perform magic as well.  Like Robert, for example.  Magic, or “philosophy”, consists of being able to draw sigils with certain ingredients, and through the power of magic (I guess), stuff happens according to what sigil you drew, and what you drew it with.  IE, aluminum results in teleportation, silver results in stasis, corn powder (I think) results in flight…  They allude to a combination of sulphur and bonemeal that makes a really nasty death spell, but it never gets used.

Robert wants to join the rescue squad, and serve his country in World War I.  However, because most men can’t perform magic as effortlessly, or at all, it’s an uphill battle just getting through the academy.  The person recommending this book for the club suggested that it was an inverse to the whole “strong independent woman who’s strong and independent and a woman proving to the men how strong and independent this woman is.  Did we mention this is a woman who’s strong and independent?  Because it’s super important you note that this is a strong independent woman.” fad we’ve been stuck in for the last three or four years now by basically giving the WOMEN the power, and making the MAN prove himself.  Admittedly, I assumed the women were going to have more influence in this world than they had.  IE, I thought they’d hold the majority of political power, cultural influence, and men were treated like objects who cooked and cleaned and all that.  While women in this universe are more adept at “philosophy”, they still don’t have a whole lot of influence outside “philosophy” circles.

Also, did you know that in the old days, a woman could run for office, but couldn’t vote?  According to the resident SJW of the club, yeah, that was actually a thing.  They brought it up in this book, but I thought it was just part of their universe, but it’s actually a thing!  Weird, right?

Getting back on track…

This book is definitely a departure from the kind of things I read.  IE, not a whole lot of fight scenes, and not a whole lot of magic and mysticism outside “philosophy”.  And I’m okay with that.

A common criticism the story seems to get is that it tries to tackle several themes, and only really resolves one or two.  A lot of this gets attributed to the fact that this is Tom Miller’s first book, and perhaps he’s still trying to figure things out.  I personally attribute it to the fact that Robert is really your classic case of a country boy in the city.  A lot of these themes get brought up as environmental factors, but the primary focus of the story is definitely that Robert is just trying to get through the academy, and live out his life long dream of working in rescue and evac for the U.S. military.

The audiobook is read by Gibson Frazier.  He does a really good job with the material he’s given, although it’s kind of hilarious to hear a guy give the cliché dum jock voice to female characters on occasion.  I guess in this universe, women have to take up roles like captain of the sportsball team, so I guess they can be dumb jocks just as much as…  You know, I’m thinking too hard about this.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that this is book 1 of a series.  A series that, as of this writing, is still in the works.  Honestly, as much as I enjoyed this book, I’m hesitant to read any further in this series .  The book ended pretty conclusively in my opinion.  I mean yeah, they could probably elaborate on the very specific details of what went on during the montage that was the last three or four paragraphs…  Also, the prologue.

I forgot entirely about the prologue until the book club got together.  And understandably so.  The prologue contributes literally NOTHING to the plot of this book.  I GUESS it provides a little context on how “philosophy” works, but it’s nothing you couldn’t pick up for yourself actually reading through the story proper.  Nothing that’s ever brought up in the prologue EVER shows up in the story.  So much so, I wonder why the hell the author even bothered.  Outside the possibility of page count, but I figured that’s why he included a glossary of terms that you’ve probably long since figured out by ACTUALLY READING THE BOOK.

Some writing advice I’ve gotten over the years is this: never start with a prologue.  Don’t start the story in the middle, and flash back to three weeks earlier.  Don’t use a prologue as a foreshadowing tool for something that happens in book 2 or book 3.  In fact, just don’t do the prologue.  Ever.  Start the story at chapter 1, and go from there.

The Philosopher’s Flight could’ve probably benefitted from this advice.  Lord knows I don’t do prologues anymore for this very reason.

One thing Miller and I are BOTH guilty of, though, is beginning chapters with quotes that foreshadow future events in the chapter.  This is one of those things where in it works if it’s done properly.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel like it was done properly in Miller’s book.  For example, he shares a passage from Danielle’s campaign speech from all the way into the 1930s: at least fifteen or twenty years after the story takes place.  Then we have an epic final battle between Robert, Danielle, and the villain of the book (a dude who totally gives me Fred Phelps vibes), and I felt virtually NO ergency.  Bitch, I already know Danielle survives!  And as a result, it kind of kills the suspense.

These are some nitpicks I had with the book, but despite those nitpicks, I actually really liked the story quite a bit.  Will I check out future books in the series?  Well…  We’ll see.  For what it’s worth, book 1 was definitely not a bad read.

 

Aggretsuko: My Thoughts

Not going to lie, my relationship with anime over the last few years has been…  Rocky.  In my high school years, anime was this amazing beautiful thing that captivated me and mesmerized me.  here and now, it’s a thing that comes around on Saturday nights, and serves primarily as background noise while I do literally anything but watch it.  Because lately, I can predict what the plot is going to be with a grand total of one, maybe two episodes.

Dumdum McRetard wants to become the very best like no one ever was.  Maybe it’s the king of the pirates, maybe it’s the wizard king, maybe it’s the great hokage.  Whatever you want to call the very best, that’s Dumdum’s goal.  Unfortunately, Dumdum has no grace, no tact, no intelligence, no social skills, no table manners…  In fact, why are we even focusing on this guy?  Badass Van Asskicker, Dumdum’s long time rival and significantly more competent counterpart, is often times the more fascinating characters in these shows.  But wait, there’s a twist!  You see, despite the fact Dumdum McRetard is a hopeless fucking idiot with no chance in hell of making it up so much as one rung of the ladder, it turns out he’s the most powerful fucking person in the entire universe!  And thus, he accomplishes his goals based entirely around dumb luck.

The end.

A Carl Rove production.

Lather, rinse, repeat, dub it into English, and hand it off to Cartoon Network for their dead horse of an anime block.

Call it whatever you want: Naruto, Bleach, Black Clover, Fairy Tail, Seven Deadly Sins, My Hero Academia…  Really, at this point, the list goes on.  I’m so fucking tired of this concept!

Netflix does have a significantly more varied selection of anime…  It was through Netflix I watched shows like Welcome to the NHK, and most of Moribito.  Unfortunately, with Netflix, the one fatal drawback is the show doesn’t always come with an English dub.  Yeah, I’m one of THOSE people: the guy who’d rather not spend a binge session reading subtitles and actually hear English come from my anime.  Call me a weirdo if you must, but if I wanted to READ for a few hours, I’d get a book.

So yeah, I haven’t really been keeping up with anime in the last few years.  I’ve heard some titles, found one or two of those titles on Toonami, saw exactly what I was getting, and went back to bingewatching Baskets or something.

Then, earlier this weekend, a friend of mine introduced me, and another friend to Aggretsuko.

I got to say, this show is actually pretty entertaining.  A lot more entertaining than a furry anime based on cubical drone life deserves to be, that’s for sure.

Meet Retsuko.  She’s a “red panda” (which I just recently discovered is a legit thing), working the cubical life, putting up with horrible bosses, and a life that honestly doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere.  But when she isn’t working, she’s going to the local karaoke bar, and screaming her lungs out to death metal!  It’s very Phineas and Ferb in the sense there’s a song of the day, but it’s more akin to Metalocalypse in the sense it’s metal.  I’m fairly certain they rehash the same two or three instrumentals and just put new lyrics to it, ala Nurima Daikon Brothers, but I’m not all the way through the series just yet.

Trust me, this is definitely looking like one of those shows you don’t have to watch all at once if you don’t want to.  if you’re like me, and bingewatching four different things at the moment, that’s a good thing.  Of course if you have nothing going on, and just want to binge the shit out of this show, that’s good too.

The acting, at least on the English dub, is solid.  Although I’m about 85% positive the person performing the death metal is not only a different voice actor from the one providing Retsuko’s voice, but I’m also about 85% positive the death metal singer is a guy.  I could be wrong about that, but as a bit of a connoisseur of the genre, I’m pretty good at picking out female shriekers from male shriekers.  I think I was only wrong once in my entire life, and that was with the band Crisis.

It’s not the kind of show that reinvents the wheel.  In fact, I remember thinking to myself that this was a show that joined the “kids show for adults” fad of the early to mid 2000s about a decade late.  Then again, I don’t expect Japan to be keeping tabs on what’s popular here in The States, so I give this one a pass on that front.

I’m noticing a lot of metal coming from Japan lately.  Between this show, and Baby metal (a Japanese metal band who’s avant gard even by Japanese standards), it’s hard not to notice a trend.  Or maybe metal was always big in Japan, and I’m just now noticing.  I don’t know.  All I can really say is the stuff I’ve seen from Japan lately is a pretty decent change of pace.  The American metal scene right now consists primarily of the djent fad, a few hand-me-downs from Denmark, and Five Finger Death Punch.  If this is the best we can do, maybe it’s time I look into Japan’s metal scene more thoroughly.  And my gateway was a red panda with a cubical job.  Hey, I’ve had dumber origin stories for how I got into scenes and fandoms.  I should tell you my story of how I got into the New Jersey Devils fandom some day.

I’m getting off track.

All and all, Aggretsuko is pretty good.  If nothing else, it’s a very refreshing change of pace for me.