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Sci-Fi and Sushi: Blast from the Past

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Cloud is all grown up…

Joe Erickson (@SweetJoesus) and I dug up our most notorious Final Fantasy VII fanfic from our high school days and, against the better judgment of the universe, decided to record the two of us doing the voices, musical numbers, and commentary. Joe plans to release it in a three-part podcast on Scifiandsushi.com, and the first piece hit the Web last night.

This presentation is free on the Web and can be downloaded on most podcast apps. I was listening to it on my iPhone this morning, and I almost drove off the side of the road. Joe and I have been friends for a very long time, and I don’t mind bragging that we are absolutely hysterical together. We should have done this a long time ago.

I would like to caution my readers, however, that this podcast is not for the faint of heart, nor is it politically correct in any way, shape, or form. The script we discovered and comedically reenacted is about 15 years old, so the views and themes expressed therein in no way coincide with our current sympathies. In a nutshell, Mel Brooks would be proud, and due to its foul language alone, this podcast would probably garner an R rating. If you follow this blog for my musings about the beauty of symbolism or my family oriented anecdotes, this podcast is probably not for you. Moreover, if you’re not a fan of Sci-fi/Fantasy and the Final Fantasy series, you probably won’t get all of the jokes (though we go into great detail explaining some of them).

Anyone still with me? Feel free to geek out with FFVII: Roadtrip (Part I) on Scifiandsushi.com. I promise that–at the very least–you’ll laugh your head off at our reactions to our adolescent stupidity. The voices are ridiculous as well. I play Cloud, Sephiroth, Tifa, Cid, Vincent, Rude, Elena, Leonardo DiCaprio (this was written around the time Titanic came out), a white rapper, and the Midgar Zolom, amongst many others. If you ever wanted to hear me make an ass out of myself, this is your opportunity. -.-

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Gearing Up for the Holiday Season

 

I wrote this rant last year around Christmas time when my wages were garnished and the Mayan apocalypse was looming overhead. I decided I’d dust it off and see if I could apply it to this year’s holiday season. While reading it again, however, I found myself amused at how much has changed in a year—and how much hasn’t.

Rather than fictionalizing the truth, which writers NEVER do, I’ve elected to leave it (mostly) intact and write retrospective side notes, which will probably render this post completely unreadable.

Enjoy.

Let’s face it: times are tough, and some of us have the Great Recession Blues this holiday season. But in the spirit of Christmas, we should all stay positive. After all, just think of all the life experiences we’ll get to monologue about to our grandchildren when we’re nigh senile and losing that inevitable battle with diabetes. Screw how our grandparents had to live off green bean casseroles and bunny jerky from those rabbit drives during the Great Depression. We would-be survivors of the obesity epidemic are clearly the real victims here.

Below is a list (26 is a nice round number) of my favorite Great Recession gripes this (last) holiday season:

·       Vacuuming the house before guests arrive involves peeling the duct tape off your vacuum cleaner, shaking the dust into your dumpster through a hole in the bag you’re planning to reuse (and all because you don’t want to waste the other piece of duct tape that’s holding it to the filter), and sealing the jury-rigged contraption back together by tying off the original duct tape in your best approximation of a fisherman’s knot. (Yup. This is still the situation. Orecks suck, and those bags must be made of solid gold…)

·       Your Christmas present to your spouse is to promise to pay her medical bills by the end of 2012. (Yeah, that didn’t happen.)

·       Your strategy for putting up the Christmas lights involves signature moves from Assassin’s Creed because you can’t afford a ladder. This might even include trying to freefall head first into a haystack if you get really desperate. (Replace the Assassin’s Creed reference with a Borderlands reference, and it’s essentially the same scenario.)

·       The apocalypse for you doesn’t seem like it should include an alignment of celestial bodies—no, it’s what happens when all your major appliances at your rental property are functioning properly: dishwasher, disposal, refrigerator, washer, dryer, and microwave. You pray for this. (Still praying for this!)

·       You’ve nearly gotten in a car wreck due to mentally debating how someone as mediocre as Frank Sinatra could possibly have gotten so famous, especially half-drunkenly uttering “dupe de dupe and hickory dock” probably due to forgetting what he was singing about in the first place—this is because your kids want Christmas music 24/7, and your only on-the-go entertainment is your stock radio that occasionally flashes Satanic symbols across its digital clock because it is possessed. Your logic train derails, and you draw the conclusion that Frank Sinatra must have made a deal with the devil. (I’ve since discovered that the lounge singer responsible for “The Holiday Season” is not, in fact, Frank Sinatra. I take nothing back.)

·       You’re considering making a deal with the devil like Frank Sinatra. It’s okay if you too have to change your last name to include some kind of vice like avarice or gluttony. Daniel Avaricio. You can live with that.

·       You have to wrap and unwrap your dog before you can play with him. No, he isn’t one of those Japanese robotic dogs that your kids are demanding for Christmas. He just has an infection where his tail was recently amputated due to it being slammed in a door in a failed attempt to escape being dressed in a hoopskirt and put in a fashion show by one of your little darlings. After over a grand in medical bills, you keep flashing back to that scene from Gladiator in which the chiseled African dude puts the maggots in Maximus’ infected shoulder and declares, “They will clean it. Wait and see.” You even bring this up when there’s a fly buzzing around your bedroom one night. Your spouse looks at you like you’re crazy and hands you a fly swatter. Financial salvation is then splattered all over your wall. Normally, you’d be impressed with your critical hit against a flying enemy, but this time all you see are dollar signs… (Mr. Gram has since made a full recovery and is back to swimming on land and rearranging our couch cushions into a doggie fort.)

·       When you go to court over your debt, your creditors sympathize. (Heh. Now it’s just the student loans…)

·       Your desktop computer is old enough to have a name, a backstory, and an invented personality. You may even make excuses for her—I mean it—when it (she!) freezes. (Victoria’s still ticking. Where do you think I found this file?)

·       You still have a desktop computer.

·       You’re able to feel vindicated for continuing to use Netflix despite the price increase because paying for cable seems outrageous. Having your mom TIVO Knights of Mayhem on NatGeo is good enough for you. (I’m over Knights of Mayhem. I tried watching Full Metal Jousting too, but I just felt embarrassed for those guys.)

·       The majority of your entertainment comes from free sources on the Internet that you will never, ever sponsor or even bother to log in and “like”. But you gripe about the ads. (Don’t do this. Take the high road, and let your good example show me the error of my ways…)

·       You’re considering making Christmas presents for your family this year using simple but artsy designs cribbed from Etsy and the clearance rack at Michaels. (Done and done.)

·       You’ve spent more money on your pet’s medical bills in the last three months than you’ve spent on food. Yet you’re still fat. This is because the McValue menu is cheaper than buying groceries.

·       You’re considering going back to school for your doctorate just to avoid paying your student loans. (Taking four Spanish classes to earn my doctorate in English makes for an ironic deterrent.)

·       You’re considering quitting your “real” job and delivering pizzas just to be able to pay back your student loans. Education? Who needs that? But pizza…

·       You’ve yet to replace the gas cap on your piece of crap car. You consider the inaccurate gauge “running on empty” insurance. In a way, you know you’re just punishing your car because it won’t stop screaming… (Wow. This was before my glove box was operated by bungee cord and my passenger side window was stuck in the down position.)

·       You’re so unreasonably upset by a bad deal on Pawn Star that for hours you go over in your mind how you would have handled things differently.

·       Cleaning up your rental’s yard with hand clippers, a rusty wood saw, and a spindly rake is a viable alternative to paying $40 for a landscaping crew. When you finish, you pat yourself on the back with, “I just paid myself $40! That’s like a half a tank of gas!” (A year later, none of this has changed. Especially the gas part.)

·       Your text messaging app on your phone crashes so much that you miss the days of AIM. (Ha! I have an iPhone now! And it’s slowly swallowing my soul!)

·       You work in Florence. (Still guilty.)

·       The other day, one of your students delivered a quintessential statement for the town in which you work: “My dog used to chase the neighbor’s chickens until my daddy beat ‘im with one. That’s how he learned him how not to chase them chickens no more.” Let me rephrase this. Dog training in Florence involves beating a dog with a chicken. BEATING A DOG WITH A CHICKEN. (Sorry, but I’m still not over this.)

·       You work in Florence. (Do you know what I received for Teacher’s Appreciation Day last year? A bottle of Sam’s Club water and a Crystal Light packet. Sure, there was this little paper decal of a knight…)

·       On Thanksgiving, you played bumper cars with a family member’s vehicle because he/she parked you in, but you are still keeping the event under the radar in hopes that he/she won’t notice. (Anybody care to guess who I hit?)

·       Ten years ago, you collected swords and armor. Today, you forge swords and armor in Skyrim. When you’re finished, you bitch about the graphics in real life. Skyrim might seem like a luxury, but you have to consider that it’s 200+ hours of entertainment for $60. This is to tide you over because you haven’t been to the movies, gone on a vacation, or had any kind of outing without your kids in at least three years. In fact, when the Fates conspire so that you take only your spouse to Wal-Mart (or the hospital), you refer to this as “date night”. (Replace Skyrim with Dragon’s Dogma or Dark Souls, and it’s essentially the same thing.)

·       Your favorite bedtime story is Go the %#@* to Sleep! Then you have nightmares in which your creditors write your obituary. (Now I fall asleep to The Walking Dead and have nightmares about my publisher getting eaten by zombies before the anthology can be released.)

·       You’re considering revealing the true identity of Santa Claus to your young children just so they pay you some respect. “Hey, kiddies? You see that robotic horse with the mane made from orphans’ hair that really whinnies and poops plastic turds all over the carpet? Santa and his gender confused little helpers didn’t make that shit. I paid for it out of my recession salary. So who’s magical now? THIS bearded fat guy.” (My eight year old still believes in Santa Claus. She’s pretty much the only kid in the third grade that does. She was devastated the other day because her teacher told her that the toothy fairy should be filed under ‘fiction’ on a genre worksheet. Em says we should have one more Christmas before we break her heart, but considering that little Aurie also believes in Thor, I’m starting to wonder…)

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Filed under Education, Family, My Writing, Publishing, Rants, Reading, Writing

21st Century Digital Boy…

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***Spoilers Abound***

Yesterday, my Digital Self awaked from a coma of productivity that lasted for at least 8 months. I know this because when I logged into Dark Souls (one of my favorite games despite its somewhat absent storyline) to play the new DLC, my created character’s name took me aback.

Sir Balmus. I chuckled and selected that save game.

I had forgotten (how I don’t know) that the handle I had chosen for Dark Souls is the same as Reese’s handle in my Cyberpunk story, “The Wolf of Descarta”.

I had forgotten more than that, honestly. But traipsing about the undead killing fields with my trusty Divine Zweihander (because God gave you two hands for a reason!), slaughtering baddies in PVE and PVP, and teaming up with random gamers to beat down nigh-impossible bosses made me remember why I turned to writing Cyberpunk in the first place.

Reese, my protagonist, lives in a divided society where the lower caste is pacified through simulations, and after so many insertions into the Dream Box, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur. Extraction becomes a kind of mental whiplash. Time in the mind and clock time become discordant. Identity issues ensue.

And that’s just the first three pages.

I felt like Reese going up against Artorias the Abysswalker as Balmus, who–like Artorias–bears the title Wolf Knight. (And no, I didn’t jack this. Descarta has been around in novel form since my college days, whereas Dark Souls was released in 2011.) The bosses in the DLC are, of course, insanely difficult, so after soloing the fallen knight and beating him down to an inch of his life, then getting screwed by a hit box issue (and cursing his mother, brother, offspring, and pets), I decided to summon some assistance.

I’d like to say the blue phantoms and I made short work of Artorias right then and there, but the truth is he beat the snot out of us seven or eight times. Imagine an anime-inspired, basically airborne, possessed shell of blue armor oozing darkness whilst deftly whipping around a great sword with all the force and celerity of a jet propeller blade, and you’ll have some idea what we were up against. It was like Final Fantasy VII’s Cloud Strife and Soul Calibur’s Nightmare had a really, really ugly baby.

In short, the help wasn’t much help. I kept wasting my Estus flasks on healing the party, who died anyway, and then there were none left for me.

So after slaughtering my well intended PCs for what seemed like the umpteenth time, it came down to a battle of flippy-flippy slashy-slashy between the Artorias and I, and I was just a little bit more stubborn than the AI. Now I have his armor and his new sword and his new shield along with his wolf ring and old sword and… The list goes on. You get the idea.

So you’d think that would be enough, right? Hell no. I was determined to finish the DLC in one sitting, and I basically did just that. The only reason I’m not still slaying undead and casting Abyss spawn back into the Abyss is that I ran out of new things to kill, and the new PVP servers that came along with the DLC weren’t working for me this morning.

I even wasted some time phantoming in other people’s games, helping them kill the new bosses despite already having every upgrade I could possibly get for my covenant (an online group of gamers with likeminded values, at least within the framework of Dark Souls).

When it was finally time to unplug, I had to take four Advil and a hot shower. (My head is still pounding harder than these keys.) There was also that weird moment of confusion when I looked in the mirror, as if I was expecting to see someone else. So Descarta. The idea that these virtual warriors who risked their lives with me online this weekend are people I will probably never meet is well represented in my fiction as well. In Descarta, the law forces a separation between Reese’s waking world of disappointments and his digital dream.

Some people (like that Slushmaster weirdo featured in Rejection: Greatest Hits) don’t understand the appeal of Cyberpunk as a genre. They claim that suspending disbelief and attaching themselves to a simulation is difficult because said simulations have no bearing on reality. Of course, I could make an argument that GOOD cyberpunk finds a way to make the virtual affect the corporeal, but one could also make the argument for a good book or movie as a form of simulation.

I mean, if none of it touches reality in any way, where does the time go? Into the Abyss?

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Filed under Fantasy, My Writing, Publishing, Rants, Reading, Science Fiction, Writing