Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Happy Anniversary!!!

Six years ago today my life completely and irrevocably changed. I did not know this at the time, of course, but it is true. This was the day that Jessica and I started to date and, six years later, we are planning our wedding; ready to spend the rest of our lives together. Throughout these past six years, she has been my closest confidante and my best friend and I am truly gifted to be able to spend my life with her. Though we cannot be together on this momentous occasion, I know that our hearts are connected in a way that can span the distance that we are apart. As often as I think of her, I know that at least some of those times she is also thinking about me and I take great comfort in this knowledge.

On reflecting over the past six years, I am amazed at how long it seems and how short it seems at the same time. There are so many great memories that we have shared over these years, and it sometimes seems hardly possible that all of them could possibly be contained in only six years. Yet, I can remember our first date at Mentor Beach like it was yesterday. I know that's cliched a bit, but I honestly can remember it that well. I knew at that point that something special was beginning, I just didn't realize how special it was going to be.

Like any relationship, we have had our downs just as we have had our ups. We have always used our love for each other to work through these, and they have only served to strengthen our relationship even further. The result is that, six years after our initial date, we are so much stronger than we were then. This strength has made this forced separation so much easier to bear, knowing that we will be together again soon and then it will be for the rest of our lives.

Thank you, Jess, for always being there for me when I need your inspiration and love. I love you with all that I can muster, and I look forward to all of our years to come.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Reds win six in a row!!!

Some may say that it is too late for the Reds to make a run at anything this year. They may be right, but keep this in mind: since Pete Mackanin took over on July first the reds are 27-19, which is the best during that time span of anyone in the National League Central. So, can the Reds make a comeback of historic proportions? As a long-time reds fan, for as long as I can remember, I believe it is possible.

With the first place Cubs having a record of 66-63 and the Brewers fading fast, it might just take a miracle for anyone to win a decisive victory in the Central. Someone needs to start taking control of this division, because it has been absolutely horrible the last few years. The Cardinals, who won the division last year, only had 83 wins!! Pretty much every other division in baseball at least has a 90 game winner take first place. So, with that said, I would love the Reds to take this opportunity to become the type of team that can do that.

Of course, with them 10 games under .500 with 30-some games to go, they would literally have to win all of their remaining games in order to get to 90. But if the other teams in the central start playing even a little worse than they already are, it might just be possible for them to make it into the playoffs. But lets be serious, I think we all realize that this is a most unlikely goal. However, it would be really nice for them to make a strong showing under their interim manager Pete Mackanin, who many think should inherit the full-time job once the season is over.

Regardless of what happens, I am much encouraged by what I have seen of late. The pitching is finally showing signs of life and the offense has been incredible of late. If they can keep this up, make a few good signings in the offseason, they just might be ready to revitalize this central division and give me the chance to see an all Ohio World Series!!!! Please, dear god, at least once in my life.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

In the Midst of Horrors

With all of the tragedies coming out of the middle East on a daily basis, I have recently come across a very human tragedy. CNN has reported that a 5-year-old was doused with flames and then lit on fire. Thankfully, he has survived. During a war where chaos is the norm and we become accustomed to people dying in the name of a cause, this still strikes a chord. Whether we believe in the cause is immaterial at this point. We are not, and I pray we never become so, accustomed to such brutality towards a child. They have no say in anything going on around them, and of all humans on the face of this earth they deserve to be kept out of world events that some have called the "End Times".

It is insane for me to think that anybody could do this, and even more insane that I would be less amazed if this had happened to an American child. I am sickened at myself slightly with what I have just written, but with the amount of negative attitudes in the world towards the United States I could at least come up with a reason. Not that there is any reason that this should ever happen, but this boy is a native youth and I cannot even in the depths of my soul find a reason why something like this would ever have been planned and executed.

With all of these insane things happening more and more often, I think it is important for us to all remember that we are all human. There are no layers of humanity, one is not better or worse than another. While morals and actions on an individual scale may cause conflicts, we are all inherently the same when looking at ourselves as a species. So I implore anyone who is reading this to make small efforts to make others lives better. I think the movie "Pay it Forward" had the right idea with its message of helping. You don't need to be awarded for your efforts, in fact that sometimes defeats the purpose. Just go out, all of you, and live your life to the fullest.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Review of "Perfume"

"Perfume: The Story of a Murderer", based off of a best-seller written by Patrick Suskind, was a very strange movie. I'm not sure that I could really say that it was bad as far as movies go. I could definitely tell the care that went into the acting and the cinematography, and there are a couple of well-known actors who are in this movie: Dustin Hoffman and Alan Rickman. However, there were many times where the aberrant behavior (as the ratings disclaimer claimed) was just a little too much for me.

Part psychotic killer, part soft-core pornography, and part strange. As such, "Perfume" is just too difficult to really nail down and put into one specific genre. The story, as far as it goes, revolves around a young man born into squalid surroundings in eighteenth century Paris who just so happens to have the best nose in the world (or at least in London). This is claimed by the protagonist himself at one point in the movie. The psychotic, and rather innocently naive, tendencies soon begin to manifest as he is determined to duplicate every single smell in the entire world and he begins to take scents of young women, which unfortunately for them resolves in their deaths. I can't give much more away without spoiling parts of the movie that might not be immediately obvious from the title or the description on the back of the dvd.

Suffice it to say, this movie is neither horrible or great. It is an experience in and of itself, and for that I cannot say that I regret watching the movie. Indeed, I do seem to keep going back to the movie trying to make sense of it. It is not traditional storytelling at all and as such may be difficult for most to stomach. Additionally, I can imagine that many people would become uncomfortable with the blatant sexuality in evidence throughout the movie. If you are looking for a deeper movie than most at your local video store, then I would recommend this. If anything, you should be talking about it with anyone you watch it with.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Michael Vick plea bargain

There can be little doubt in most people's minds now about Michael Vick's guilt. The charges, which have been pled down to felony conspiracy, deal with dogfighting rings that he paid for and took an active interest in. According to CNN, the defense in the case is reporting that he has taken a plea agreement for the aforementioned charge. This plea severely jeopardizes his career, and includes possible jail time. It seems obvious in my mind that Vick saw what was coming and did the only thing he could do. I doubt very much that his supposedly heartfelt statements claiming how sorry he was for what had occurred were in any way genuine. For someone to even be a part of this type of cruelty, they must have a morally bereft soul. Thankfully, with this ring largely put out of operation, dogs that might have been a part of this may live.

Unfortunately, just because this ring was put out of commission doesn't mean that the problem at large is any closer to going away. Here are some links that provide further information about the world of dogfighting and the Michael Vick case in General.

Michael Vick

Sunday, August 19, 2007

All moved in and ready to go (Almost)

Well, I am finally established back down into my apartment in Las Cruces. School starts on Wednesday, but I am going to be getting into a rhythm starting today so that this coming semester goes off without a hitch and I get a great deal of work done before coming back between semesters for Christmas. The first thing I decided to do was to get my room to a point that is, I like to think anyway, close to the level of cleanliness that I have enjoyed at Jess's apartment over the past seven weeks. She would be glad to know, I'm sure, that I came home last night and basically shuddered at the state of my room and the apartment as a whole.

I intend to slowly clean the rooms because I have found that the less anxious I am the better work I do. I suppose this is an obvious thing, but its true just the same. I hope that I can make sure to keep everything tidy throughout the school year and that it will look the same at the end of the semester as it does now!! Well, I'm off to continue cleaning (or playing games) and get myself mentally prepared for a semester that may prove to be the most trying yet.

Saturday, August 18, 2007

Preview of what is to come

Today is my final day staying in Columbus for the summer. It has been a great time. I have done much over the past seven weeks, and I will be sad to see this time with Jess go. Hopefully, this next year will go by fast and I will be back with her and planning our wedding soon enough. Hopefully with a job that pays in the vicinity of 60k (heheh). I don't really have much to say in this post, but I want to say that I will most likely not post either as many times or with such duration as I have since the genesis of this blog.

That was a time spent trying to understand myself as a blogger in this new cyber age. I think that I have had decent postings, but I know it has been very random, though that is in keeping with the name of the blog itself. I will keep posting, but about what and how frequently will be up in the air. I will take anything you have to say with equal measure and attempt to tailor to what you want. Well, have a great work year or school year, and remember what your Uncle Billy says, "Don't buy drugs...... Get famous, and they give them to you for free!!" (Love Actually) Just a joke, drugs are bad!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The Haunted Man

The man sitting in the plush armchair was haunted. This kind of haunting was not one of a ghostly incorporeal nature. Memories haunted this man and held him in a vise-grip from which he cannot break free. He sat quite still in his daughter’s room, looking with fondness and a bit of wry sadness at her beautiful hair and delicate features. So much like her, he thought. He is thinking of his ex-wife and ex-lover, a woman who stole his heart long ago and has never let go.

The haunting began years ago, when his wife began to show the first symptoms of her disease. They had told him that the disease was incurable and mental. They were the doctors, and he thought that they were full of shit. He had often had dreams about these doctors and the things he did to them were not for the likes of pleasant company. His incurable romanticism had as much of a grasp on him as his wife had on his heart. There was nothing that could ever tear them apart. Theirs love was eternity, and their eternity was love.

The trips to the hospital became more frequent as the years went by, and his desperation rose like mercury in an old thermometer as she would yell at him at the slightest provocation. His love for her reduced all of her hateful and spiteful ranting into willowy shades of what they really were, and it was all those dimly remembered fights that haunted him still. I should have known and I should have done something, he thought for the thousandth time. He was angry with himself, and something of this anger was evident in his grim visage as he watched the only remnants of his once dynamic relationship.

His daughter’s soft sigh broke his reverie. He looked at her as a new person each time he saw her. He found this to be a necessary exercise in mental discipline, and allowed him to separate his feelings for his daughter and his ex-wife. It was becoming harder as the years went on. Young Kayleigh began to resemble her mother more and more, her eight year old frame only starting to look like her mother. The man in the armchair was not sure whether this was reality or his mind conjuring up visions. Since the mind is king, he supposed it really didn’t matter.

A small noise drew his attention away from Kayleigh. The noise was so slight that he was sure he hadn’t heard it at all, but it was repeated with a hurried intensity a moment later.

The house was old, and it came with all of the usual problems associated with houses past a hundred years. He and his wife had bought it on a whim during their wonder years and had planned to put some good hard work into it and then sell it for a shitload more than they had paid. Those plans were upset by the untimely, yet not unwanted, birth of their son Frederick. Unlike the ancient house, Frederick didn’t last very long at all. The early death of their firstborn had only hastened his wife’s mental deterioration even further.

Something about this noise that he was now hearing made him pause before proceeding down the stairs to its source. He was afraid. His feelings were that simple and he was completely unsure as to its genesis. It was wrong and he could feel it in his bones. However, as any aficionado of creeper movies is aware, the things that go bump in the night are almost seductive in their very nature and impossible to avoid. Besides, this was his own house on a quiet street in a quiet neighborhood. Were anything to happen, he was assured that his very helpful neighbors would be out en masse to help.

The noise coming from downstairs began to sound like the ticking of an old style grandfather clock. His mind’s eye conjured up a menacing figure of a grandfather clock on the prowl and he began to have serious doubts about his own sanity. No more creeping, goddamnit. This is fucking ridiculous, he thought. He flipped on the switch and saw an empty hallway with bright yellow wallpaper. His wife would be furious at him if she knew how much he wanted to tear down that ridiculous wallpaper. He pounded his head in frustration, attempting to stop himself from thinking about her and the past. The pain brought him swiftly back to his senses.

After going halfway down the old stairs, he noticed that the noise had stopped its slow cadence. For some inestimable reason, this scared him more than the noise had in the first place and he almost lost his will and fled back to the relative safety of his daughter’s room.

“All right, this is ridiculous,” he said. “There is no one here and you know it. You are getting way too addled in your old age.” He said all of this out loud to himself, a habit he had picked up since his wife’s departure. He wasn’t loud enough to wake up his daughter, and there was something comforting in the small reverberations issuing forth from the empty house. He reached the bottom of the flight of stairs and turned into the living room. With a slight tremble in his hand, he flicked the lights on. He stopped dead in his tracks with a look of sheer horror on his face.

“Hello Gerald. It has been such a long time.”

The next few moments would never escape the narrowed confines of Gerald’s memories. She moved with a grace that he remembered so well from their many happy nights together. This time, however, she was not the same woman who had caressed his face with obvious love and attention. This creature was like something transformed. She briefly reminded him of the harpies that he had read about so many years before in High School.

He just barely managed to escape her talon-like clutches as she attempted to wrap her long fingers around his neck. In her heightened state of delusion she posed a threat to him. In normal times, her small frame and delicate features would not have stood a chance against his husky lumberjack frame. These times were far from ordinary, and he knew that he needed to think fast to avoid her attacks even as he was attempting to save her. He knew his first priority was his daughter and he was determined to keep her safe no matter the reason.

“I know you blame me for his death,” he said. He was casting for anything that might tap into the woman he remembered, and the event that had started her spiral was the best he could think of. Her hands were still reaching for his throat, but he believed that he felt a small diminution in her forward advances.

“I blame myself more than you could ever know. He was the world to me…. to us! What happened was unavoidable. You were a great mother to Frederick and you can be a great mother to Kayleigh.”

She had heard all of this before. Perhaps it was the proximity of her only daughter in the room upstairs or the man she had loved at arms length, but for once she seemed to take it to heart. He was not fooled. He had seen her relapse so often during her days at the treatment hospital that he had long ago stopped believing what she said. The love was still there, but that was all that remained. Most of that love was for the memories they had together.

“Gerald?”, she asked. “Is that really you, or is this another trick by the doctors?” He knew she was referring to the various techniques that her caretakers had employed to attempt to help her. Attempt being the optimum word. Nothing that they had every tried had achieved more than a modicum of success. Her mental break had seemed total and irreversible. She seemed to be having a small moment of clarity at this time, and he saw this and he hoped that it might be enough to talk her down and get her back to those who could help her.

“Honey,” he spoke, attempting to speak as if they were still married. In his confused mind, he believed that this would make it easier. “Do you know where you are?”

“This is our house, silly? Don’t you think I know where we live?” she spoke. Though her voice remained passive and even friendly, her physical reactions still bespoke the physical aggression that she had started this conversation with. He knew that the inevitable downswing may be only moments away.

“Of course I know that.” He was finding it difficult to keep his voice from wavering. “I was just joking with you. Now, why don’t you sit down over here and we can talk.”

She glanced towards the sofa briefly, but it was all the time that Gerald needed. He rushed forward and knocked her to the ground. The off-white hospital gown that she had been wearing when she had managed her escape rode up on her and exposed white panties. Something else was evident, however, and it made him pause. Soft bruises were evident around her waist. They looked purple in the bright light of the room, and he thought they looked self-inflicted. This latest revelation was too much for him, and he concentrated on subduing her. This proved difficult as she was now bucking up and down and Gerald had a fleeting image of himself on a mechanical bull. He saw no humor in this. Only sadness.

He did the only thing he could think and he hit her, hard, on the back of the head. He didn’t think this was the appropriate time for restraint. As a former boxer, he knew how to deliver a knockout and this time was no different. She stopped moving altogether, and he was able to turn her over and look at her face. He checked to make sure she was breathing, and then he tied her hands and feet with some rope that he had hanging up by the back door. It wasn’t the tightest knot he could make but it was sufficient to do the job.

He called the emergency hotline and then the police. He double checked his wife’s restraints. Then he rushed up to his daughter’s side to make sure she was alright and had not been too scared by the brief altercation. He reached her door and looked into her room. She was still there. His heart stopped beating as fast and he took a moment to compose himself before he went into the room and woke her up. He was always truthful with his daughter, and this time was no different.

“Hey honey, wake up,” he said.

“Daddy? Its dark still. Is school starting?”, she asked with innocent, wild eyes.

“No honey. It’s still the summer, but I need to tell you something. Your mother is here, but before I let you come and see her you need to know that we both love you very much. ... You know that your mother is not well, right?”

“Yeah.”, she managed. She had begun to sit up in bed and her eyes went curiously towards the stairwell. Quiet, gentle sobs were coming up from the first floor. They had an edge of hysteria to them but had failed to reach that far.

“Some people are coming to take her back so she can get help, but I’ll let you see her if you want. Only if you want to, its completely up to you." He left the question unanswered.

She didn’t answer for several moments, and Gerald could see that her eyes kept darting up to the ceiling then out towards the stairwell. This classic sign of memory made him think that she was trying to remember her mother. She had been five when the break had finally occurred, and he knew that those memories were dim at best. When she did answer, it came in the form of a gesture. She moved her head from side to side slowly as though the decision was difficult for her to make.

“I’m afraid.”

This simple answer from his beautiful daughter made the emotions that he had been feeling bubble up to the surface, and he began to weep. His daughter looked up with watery eyes of her own, though these may have been caused by her sleepiness, and she buried her head in his chest and wrapped her arms around his broad frame. They couldn’t quite reach, but at that moment they were all that was keeping him grounded.

The sound of approaching sirens brought him back to the present, and he gazed down at his daughter once again. Her eyelids were beginning to droop, in danger of closing completely, and he smiled. He knew then that whatever was to happen tonight with his wife and the police, everything would be surmountable as long as he had his daughter by his side.

“Go to bed then, my angel.” She giggled when he called her angel, then drifted back off to sleep.

“Sweet dreams,” he whispered. He stayed for one more silent moment. Then, with heavy steps, he began to walk back down to his ex-wife and the questions that the policeman would have as well as the doctors. For now, however, he believed that her haunting of him had come to an end. He would be content to be there for her as she continued on in her treatments, but he knew now that his true place would be right there in that rickety old house with a daughter he loved and cherished. His last thought was one of joy and jubilation despite the mess that awaited him downstairs.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Michael Vick: the Public has Spoken

Michael Vick has, allegedly, been keeping dogs for the sole purpose of sicking them on each other. Shades of gladiators from the past, this offense is somehow worse in many people's minds than harm or death to fellow humans. Maybe it is because people regard animals as simple creatures with very little if any of the freewill that we take for granted. If Michael Vick were accused of murdering a fellow human being, I believe most people would just shake their heads in disgust and go about on their merry paths. For some reason, however, the fury from many people both in and out of the limelight is quiet a strange reaction overall.

Some people point to Mr. Vick's race and say that he is being treated unfairly simply because he is a black man, but I really do not see this as a viable reason as to why people are seeming to gang up on him. In fact, I would have assumed that his status as a black athlete at the top of his game would have given him several more advantages than others who are at his same societal position. With people often afraid of that race card being pulled, I expected that he would have been given leeway as a black celebrity. However, based on the severity of his alleged crime, people are just so disgusted that they want to see justice for all of those dogs who had been so severely mistreated.

From what I have previously written, I know my bias is abundantly clear. I would like to say, however, that I am writing this intentionally from what I have heard within the public realm. I have not pored over the evidence or been able to look over court transcripts because the trial has not yet started. Innocence or guilt is not what I am specifically interested in, and if he turns out to be innocent then I offer my apologies, but it is the public reactions that I am much more interested in. Unfortunately, regardless of the verdict issued forth with the upcoming trial, the public has spoken which speaks of a possible lifetime grudge against Michael Vick and all he does. We have seen this before with O.J. Simpson, who very few believe is actually innocent of the murder of his late wife. It really is an interesting subject, I think.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Nature of My Insomnia

To be unable to sleep is perhaps one of the most disquieting things that can happen to anyone. I lay in bed, just trying to keep my eyes closed for more than a millisecond just to suddenly realize that I am staring at the dark ceiling and that I have been now for several minutes. For me, it is the incessant chatter that is going on in my brain all the time, but most especially at that time when normality says we are supposed to be shutting down all but the autonomic functions and entering REM state and that wonderful phenomenon known as dreams. Now, I don't mean this in a psychologically distressing way (I do not suffer from Schizophrenia), but in the sense that I am contemplating one thing or another.

I remember when I was a kid this kind of night time seclusion was a safe haven for me and a place that I could go to escape many of the normal adolescent woes that have plagued humanity for time on end. Unlike my fiancee, I have never had the ability to go to sleep at the proverbial drop of a hat. Instead of drifting blissfully off to sleep, I think about one or more of thousands of different topics. I think you can get the idea of just how crowded it can get at times; sometimes I think in detail about books I've read and what may have happened after the last page, or I think about world problems and how I am impacted on a daily basis, or I think about a story that I am considering and how best to turn the storyline, or I quite simply think about the future that Jess and I have in store for us.

The point of all this rambling is that all of this is going on in my mind which makes it very difficult for me to get to that level of personal comfort necessary for my mind to enter the sweet oblivion of rejuvenating sleep. On a sidenote, the fact that I am continually sore these days from excessive use of the Wii (!) is definitely not helping. Additionally, the fact that I will soon be leaving Jess for New Mexico is weighing heavily on my soul and, even though we both know how necessary this degree is for my future, I find myself wishing that it was next year at this time so that we could, finally, start our life together and really start planning our wedding.

Unlike many people, I am sometimes more comfortable wallowing in my own personal reveries than spending too much time with other people in idle banter and conversation. The unfortunate downside to this is that my mind is constantly in overdrive. I pray that with school comes a kind of scheduling that will allow me to go to bed and wake up at roughly the same time day in and day out. After a few weeks I should be getting to sleep with very little difficulty.

The Baseball Journey: A Friendly Game of Toss

The baseball traveled through the air in its familiar low arc, and it began to wonder about the meaning behind its rather small existence. These two had been throwing it back and forth for the last half hour, trying with little success to convince themselves that they belonged in the major leagues. The baseball chuckled at the thought as it went pounding into the small one's thick leather glove at a measly 68 miles per hour!! You call that a fastball?, it thought as the big one bellowed a yell of approval.

"How fast do you actually think that was, I mean really. It certainly wasn't 98, but I'm sure it had to at least be in the low 80s!!", said the big one with an air of smug contentness and a stolid belief in his personal abilities. This made the baseball cackle even more violently as the small one managed to miss an incredibly poor attempt at a knuckleball, despite the pressure of the small one's fingernails digging into its skin, and went skipping over the lush grass before coming to a rest under a line of small evergreens at the side of a small, rather squat ranch house.

It was still sitting there 3 minutes later after the big one forced the little one to run after it because he certainly wasn't going to run after it. The baseball could have cared less, really, for it was content to have a small respite from the cycle that these two insisted on having every time they managed to get together. Still, since it had been stowed away for the last several months in a dank old box with naught but the odd creature or two to keep it company it was quite glad that it had finally been allowed to enjoy nature in all of its strange complexities.

"Man, my arm is completely dead!", said the big one while throwing the ball back to the small one in a high descending arc which allowed the baseball to bask in the warmth of the sun as it went slightly above the canopy of the great oak tree. This really puts it all in perspective, it thought as it crashed down through several layers of leaves and branches into the outstretched glove of the small one. The baseball felt the glove curved around it and it resigned itself to the fact that it was about to be stowed away once again. The small one pulled the glove off of his hand and stuck it, baseball and all, underneath his armpit. Ewwwww.

The two walked slowly and with matching swagger as they both applauded their ineptitudes, or so the baseball believed. If you were good enough for the majors, maybe I'd at least get to travel to one of those great ballparks you two speak about all the time, it thought with a trace of a disgruntled tone. The baseball mitt was thrown into a large plastic bin, passing through a thin layer of webbing that had until very recently covered the majority of the baseball's home (!).

"Hey dude, you wanna go to the beach tomorrow?", the big one asked just prior to slamming the door shut on the suddenly lonely baseball. Well, I would certainly like it, thought the baseball as it sat in the glove unable to do much of anything but reflect on its own inadequacies.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

The Utah Mine Collapse: was it necessary?

I want to preface this post by A) commemorating it to all of the miners trapped in the coal-mine in Utah and B) acknowledging that I know virtually nothing about the logistics behind mining coal in this day and age. I would not like this to thought of as an attack on those who endanger their lives every day mining a substance that many, like myself, rarely even realize is still in every day use.

I witnessed a train passing bye with several beds full of black coal, and I innocently asked Jess if people really even used coal. I said this out of a belief that humanity had realized that this fossil fuel was a rapidly declining resource and had been able to all but dissolve its use. Thinking back, I realize just how naive it is to think this as I spend day in and out in buildings that have may very well be using coal in some capacity. My question is this: Why are we still reliant on a rapidly dwindling source of fuel, and if we still need it why are we endangering people's lives in its procurement?

The technology of today is so far advanced beyond that of a hundred years ago, where many of the horror stories about working in coal mines seem to come from, that I wonder how many of these same horror stories could possibly still exist. Is there no way to avoid the need to send men down into the mines, inhaling coal dust day in and out, and hacking at the cold stone for a wage that I am sure is not enough? It just seems to me that there should be technology out there that should make this unnecessary. It is my hope that the lives endangered in Utah and everywhere that coal mines exist could be made unnecessary if more effort were put into the development of safer methods to extract coal. Or, and this is a radical theory I know, effort could be expended to develop ulterior methods of energy!!!!

Art vs. Gameplay

Video games as an industry is really quite young in the grand scheme of things. We sometimes forget this as the next big thing in video games always seems just over the horizon. Indeed, visions of holodecks and holosuites is not just the fevered dream of Trekkies all over the world any longer. Now that may be many years off in the future, but the fact remains that video games today are getting so ultrarealistic that some people are developing headaches simply because their brain is trying to tell them that what they are seeing simply cannot be that realistic. With this realism, however, has seen in many a knockoff game after another a gradual decline in the amount of attention paid to the real reason people play video games: gameplay.

From my earliest memories of video games, I remember the puzzles being challenging enough and the gameplay being really fun to play around with. One shining example is the first Super Mario Bros. game where there was a general dearth of story, just a save the princess scenario, but that game is still played in earnest by many people all over the world because of its incredibly satisfying gameplay. With today's games I fear that much of this has been lost in favor of the more sensational high-powered graphics seen in the majority of today's games. A synthesis of the two is needed to really create the best possibly video game.

Retro Studios, the developers of the excellent Metroid Prime trilogy have managed as near as possible to combine both into three extraordinary games. Though I have not played the third game, its Wii-oriented control scheme is sure to delight many a fan. Many games rely almost solely on the storyline and cutscenes, with the gameplay seemingly thrown in at the last second; but only after every shaded nuance of the cut-scenes has been seen too. As one might expect, this leads to extremely jarring transitions between the cutscenes and the gameplay. With the Metroid series, I rarely find myself taken out of the moment.

Whether it is through spot-on sound, atmospheric environments, or intriguing and well-designed gameplay elements, Metroid's ventures are a treat to play through time and time again. If only Nintendo would realize what a treasure trove it has in this series and publicize it accordingly, then they would indeed have a great system-seller on their hands but I am afraid that this Metroid installment may fade before it is even allowed to shine simply because people don't have enough knowledge of its brilliance.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Preview of "Too Human"

I have been a fan of Silicon Knights ever since they put out one of the greatest games of all time: Eternal Darkness. As a warmup to talking about Too Human, I want to briefly discuss the merits of Eternal Darkness and what it says about the commitment of Silicon Knights to transcending the art of video games to a new level. Eternal Darkness may have had some small problems, but I was so attuned to the storyline and the visceral images being presented that I found myself not caring about any small clipping problems or frame-rate dips. The game was positively oozing with subtleties, especially with the incredibly innovative insanity effects. With as much care as was evidenced with that game, I have been positively drooling over the possibilities of Too Human.

Those possibilities have been displayed of late by all of the screen shots and videos that have been available on the various gaming sites as well as the homesite of Silicon Knights. Additionally, they have shown through their blog their desire to let their true fans and even those who are not initially fans in on their philosophies about game design as well as the latest news on Too Human. I truly admire this, because I have never known of a game designer to truly care as much about the opinions of their fans as Silicon Knights. They are truly a fans' company.

Too Human
is a game that takes a new take on Norse Mythology, an oft overlooked religion of our past ancestors. As an anthropologist, I am inherently intrigued by the care and attention that they have been evincing surrounding the intricacies of this ancient mythology. It is nice to see them branching out and attempting to educate many of their players about that long-ago culture instead of taking the easy route and taking a mythology that is "easy" and known by the majority of people: such as the ancient Egyptians. Now, I realize that their reimagining of the Norse mythology is adding several fictional components by making them, instead of gods, a highly technological society where it is the technology that makes they "like gods". However, simply by telling a story and allowing the background research to fill out the universe that they are recreating, players will be hard-pressed not to learn something. After all, in this particular medium it is not necessary for Silicon Knights to actively teach us about this universe because we will be experiencing it.

As a video game junkie, I am ecstatic about both the look and the feel of the game. The look is, quite simply, absolutely amazing, and I can imagine that while playing it I might just wander around aimlessly looking at the surroundings. Here we come to the hard part to define, because I have not personally had the chance to play any portion of the game. All I have are impressions of others, which have been very good so far. The actual gameplay seems to be an RPG hybrid of sorts, where it is very action-oriented but with very many branching possibilities on upgrading skills and talents. I'm not sure at this point whether anyone but Silicon Knights is truly aware of just how deep this system might go, but from several hints that I have read I get the impression that it is deeper than most games out there on the market today.

I have a plea to Silicon Knights: Please don't make us wait forever for the game though if it helps to make the game better than even I can imagine I can most certainly wait.

The nature of boredom

Ironically, I am writing this posting on a subject that has in some ways kept me from writing till now. I woke up this morning in one of those strange funks that effects even the most motivated individual from time to time. Whether in response to sleeping awkwardly or some other factor, I do in many ways feel like I woke up on the wrong side of the bed. This is, of course, ridiculous, as there is no right or wrong side of the bed. However, this feeling of boredom is a very strange feeling indeed because it oftentimes keeps you from doing something that would help to alleviate this boredom in some way.

I believe I am correct in saying that these feelings are pretty common amongst people today. Perhaps it has something to do with the fast-paced lives that many of us live. I have had my thesis proposal looming over my head for the majority of the summer vacation, and the fact that I kept prolonging it also kept it at the forefront of my mind. Now, since I have officially finished the first draft, and put it in the hands of my adviser until school starts again, I find myself with no heading and nothing that needs to be done. Somehow, the fact that in this modern-day we have so many things that we can do, that are right at our fingertips, ultimately means that the very decision of what to do out of all these options is one of the hardest to make.

If I decide to do one thing, then something else that might be as much or more fun would be left out of the equations. I might regret doing one thing over another, and then where would I be? This all seems so trivial in a world where people are dying by the thousands, and wars are being fought in the hundreds, but there you are! However, none of that really enters your mind when you are slumped on the couch watching a rerun of one crappy courtroom show after another. It is only when you force yourself to do something that you find yourself slowly and inexorably crawling out of your previous feelings.

Only then will you finally see how ridiculous your feelings were, and realize that there is something worth doing, especially these days. Rewatch a favorite movie and rediscover why you loved it so much in the first place. Put down your feelings in a conveniently timed blog posting for the world to see!! Or, and this is a real hard one, go outside and take a walk and rediscover the beauty that nature has to offer. The point is, make yourself do something and you will slowly discover that you are feeling less and less bored and more and more connected to the rest of the world

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Barack Obama vs. Hillary Clinton

I would never state that I am very politically-minded, indeed I essentially vote strictly along party lines, that is, democratic party lines. However, in the spirit of miscellany, I will post political news from time to time. CNN has reported that a recent gallup poll has shown that Senator Clinton's lead over Barack Obama and John Edwards has increased by 8 points over both. This puts her at 22 points above Obama and 36 points above Edwards. I think it goes without saying that this was going to be far different than any presidential race in the past. For the first time in history, there is a legitimate shot for either a woman or a black man to attain the coveted seat of President of the United States of America!!

To be perfectly honest, I would be happy in many regards for either to gain this appointment. I wonder, however, how much of the general public is ready for either a woman or a black man to be president. I hope to God that I am wrong, but I wonder how many people might vote for the Republican candidate simply out of a desire to keep a white male in power in this country. My only concern is that someone who I can trust to lead this country in these post 9-11 days be sworn in as President, and I believe that either Barack Obama or Hillary Clinton has the ability and the drive. Barack Obama even seems to have the charisma that was so everpresent with Bill Clinton and is so dismally lacking in George W. Bush, but Hillary Clinton has all of the political ties that having Bill Clinton as the First Husband (!) would afford her. It really is a toss-up.

I'm not even going to pretend that I know much, if anything, about the Republican candidates because, as I have stated previously, I will vote straight up and down party lines. Perhaps not the most efficacious manner of achieving something, but there you have it.

Baseball has a new homerun king!!!

Barry Bonds has entered the record books amidst a swirl of media attention and criticism from every angle of the game: reporters, fans, and fellow players. Tuesday night, during a game with the nationals, it has been reported that he has hit his 756th career homerun off of Washington Nationals pitcher Mike Bacsik. For Mr. Bacsik, this is certainly an ignominious entrance into the history books for him, but since he is only one in a long list of pitchers to surrender a homerun to Barry he should certainly not feel ashamed.

I remarked on a previous posting that I was unsure about how the fans of the game will look towards this historic occasion for the game, given the entire steroids controversy. After seeing the replay of the homerun, I am a little less unsure. Although, since it was hit at San Francisco I would assume the fans would be happy, but I defy anyone who calls themselves baseball fans not to get just a little emotional while seeing the homerun that broke a 33-year-old record.

Reds playing (somewhat) better!

It took damn near the entire season for the Reds to show signs that they are a professional caliber baseball team. The starting pitching over the last week and a half has shown signs of resurgence, with Aaron Harang battling through his early season woes where he was giving up 5 or more runs in entirely too many games to perform at the level you would expect from a number 1 starter!! At one point, early in the season, I recall that his ERA was over 5 at least a month into the season, and now his stats read like this: a record of 10 - 3, an ERA of 3.54, and a WHIP of 1.19. As a small baseball primer, ERA stands for earned run average and WHIP stands for walks + hits per nine innings pitched.

Since the all-star break, the Reds are 16-12 which is much better than they had been playing all season. Now, all this may just be my way of finagling the stats to make me feel better about a team that is so grossly underplaying their potential that I adopted a defeatist viewpoint long ago. Lately, however, it does seem that the pitching has tightened up and the offense is no worse than any other team really and suffers the usual amount of bad games. The last game played is a case in point.

They played the Los Angeles Dodgers, a team that is certainly far better off than the reds and in playoff contention, and Bronson Arroyo pitched 6 2/3 shutout innings! Perhaps the even greater feat is that the bullpen did not then immediately surrender the 4-0 lead the Reds had built up to that point. Though this has me high spirited about a team I know will not make the playoffs, something else has me scratching my head at the apparent defeatist attitude of the reds themselves.

A fellow blogger has reported that Jon Coutlangus (4-1, 3.93 ERA) has been optioned to the AAA farm team, while Todd Coffey (2-1, 6.04 ERA) has been allowed to remain on the team despite being sent down to Louisville earlier in the year. I confess that there may be more legitimate reasons behind this move than I am aware of, but all Cincinnati Reds fans should be scratching their collective heads about this.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Peculiarities of Amnesia

I have been sent a link to a news article from Spiegel Online International about a man with no short-term memory. This topic, which has been explored in various different ways in the movies "Memento" and "50 First Dates", is a very real phenomena indeed. Amnesia, as defined by dictionary.com, indicates the loss of a large block of interrelated memories as well as a complete or partial loss of memory caused by brain injury, shock, etc.. Anyone who has ever seen a daytime soap opera is, I believe, very aware of what an amnesiac is supposed to go through while coping with large losses of memory. Unlike these soap operas, Mr. Clive Wearing out of Britain is not suppressing a serial killer visage or that he is his own evil stepson!

According to the article, Mr. Wearing used to be a music producer for the BBC as well as choirmaster for the London Sinfonietta ensemble, but for the past 20 years he continuously comes out of a fog feeling that he has been unconscious but never knowing quite how long. It is difficult for people to imagine this because our memory is so incredibly integral to everything we do in this world. Just imagine it for a second: you wake up one morning and have no idea of anything. You get out of bed, because you can still seemingly figure out your motor reflexes, but after that, what? What do you do? I could conceivably go on and on and on about this because the possibilities are quite literally endless, but I think you get the idea.

I do not hold a degree in neuro-science, so I cannot speculate here on the nature and proclivities of amnesiacs. The following links should explain more than I ever could about Amnesia and its effects.

Amnesia and Memory Loss
Neuropsychological Generation of Source Amnesia: An Episodic Memory Disorder of the Frontal Brain

Price drop on Xbox 360

I have just been informed, via IGN, that Microsoft has finally lowered the price of their XBOX 360 hardware. The Premium Unit, which had previously retailed for $399.99, will be lowered by $50 dollars in anticipation of Halo 3 in September. I suppose the thought is that more people would pick up systems and the game for the same price as they would have paid for the system alone. While I appreciate the gesture, it seems a bit condescending for the average gamer out there to say that this will really even matter for a system known to appease hard-core gamers.

Now if the Wii, a system not appealing strictly to the hard-core gamer, were to do something like this I would say it was a great idea and just might sway an otherwise stubborn parent to budge and purchase the system. But for Microsoft to do it, I would say they would have to make it more worth our while than a $50 dollar price drop. Add in another wireless controller and we would have a bundle worth purchasing, because who is going to want to play Halo by themselves. The vast majority of gamers who buy this game will be doing it for the sole purpose of playing via xbox live and showing the world just how superior they really are (or aren't).

To reiterate, I feel the price drop is a nice sentiment, but when you are paying over 300 dollars for a system alone (without the benefit of either two controllers or a game!!) is 50 dollars really gonna make a huge difference? However, with games coming out such as Mass Effect and Too Human (of which I am eagerly awaiting), I do enjoy the fact that the system is less money because I will then feel better about the possibility of purchasing just one more game.

Update: Mere moments after I post this last news article, IGN has just announced that Microsoft has cut the price of the xbox 360 by $100 dollars in Canada! If this would have been the cut here in the states I might have hummed a different tune, because 100 is certainly more desirable than a cut of 50. With that much of a cut, buying a second controller to play Halo would not be a problem. Why, O mighty Bill Gates, is Canada being treated thusly? Are we richer in general, or just already suckered in by his charms and guile? I don't know, but I just hope that this reaches this land of freedom that we live in!

A night in my head

Despite what the timestamp might say under this post, it is 3:04 in the morning when I am writing this. I have always been amazed how the mind can work in the wee hours of the morning. Is it through a need to complete what must be completed, or is the mind truly just more available to pick from? I am of two minds (pun definitely intended) about this particular subject, as I am one of those students who thrives on the all-nighters when a paper is due the next day. Upon reviewing the portions of papers that I have written at the latest portions of all-nighters I am amazed at how sloppily written they can sometimes be, but yet can be among the most intellectually stimulating portions of the papers.

Though I do not claim to have any training in philosophy, I feel this is ultimately a philosophy question over a biological one. Of course, it could be that I have no education into the biology of the brain that I make these claims. Undaunted, however, I will continue with my philosophical musings (as per the title). I truly believe that it is late at night when all of the ideas that are floating around in my brain make desperate attempts to coalesce into coherent thoughts if only so they can settle down into the blissful respite of a good nights sleep. I find it interesting also that I have just completely anthropomorphized completely abstract ideals, and wonder what that might say about me (but that is most likely fodder for a later post).

Many people find me a little crazy for actually planning and scheduling for all-nighters, and going about it with a kind of gleeful abandon. Indeed, I begin this by usually purchasing a 12-pack (or in extreme cases, a 24-pack!!!) of my favorite drink Mountain Dew. Even though I seriously doubt that this high-sugar and high-caffeine drink has much effect on my anymore, it seems to do the job mentally for me if not physically. The next task for me, once I have settled down, is to crack my back about 7 or 8 times (just make myself loosy-goosy) and then, instead of starting on my paper, I spend the next half hour or so checking my email and facebook and just staring at the screen as if I am going to win some blinking contest again my unblinking screen.

I definitely didn't say that my thoughts coalesced immediately, and I am more than happy to while half the night away watching tv or catching up on inane internet banter in search of those couple of hours in an all-nighter where I get down to business and pour my suddenly cogent thoughts into my paper and suddenly I find that I am done. It is always this way with me, and the suddenness with which I decide that I am done hits me like a jackhammer at times and I feel that I am waiting for my consciousness to catch up with my inspired fingers. After this, just to placate my word-counting self, I run the spell-check on Microsoft Word and am pleased to find that my writing level is inexplicably at a level of 17.5!!! (After checking with others, I have found that my version of Word has some bug that allows it to go higher than grade 12, but I enjoy the ego boost provided by writing at such a high level.)

It is at this point that I suppose most normal people would go to bed, but since I have always had a bit of a sleeping problem I find that I am still in most cases completely awake and in no mood to say hello to the old Sandman. So, at this point I am generally content to do more inanity on the internet and read stories I've already read and watch videos I've already seen. After a little more time spent doing this I seem to catch up with myself and am suddenly almost too tired to drag my stiffening body to my bed, but I persevere!! It is at this point that I usually lay my paper squarely in the hands of the grading gods because there is no way I am waking up early enough before class to actually doing any more corrections.

Monday, August 6, 2007

Review of "Sunshine"

This movie, directed by Danny Boyle, is a very striking example of story-telling. At times during this movie, I was suddenly made aware that I had been holding my breath and that my heart was beating at thousands of beat a second!! (A bit of an exaggeration here, but you get the idea) When Jess and I went to go see it, all we knew was that it was some kind of a space movie. Even the online summary, which includes something about insanity in the depths of space fails to do this movie any justice at all. I've never written a movie review before, so I hope I can avoid any spoilers as I hate it tremendously these days when reviews and previews of movies seem to give away half of what happens.

Editing is really the name of the game when it comes to just exactly how this movie so viscerally effects its audience. From specific audio cues, or lack thereof, to the musical cues which in this movie are so slight that I sometimes forgot that there was really any background music to speak of. Similar to other great movies of the past, the sound in this movie just becomes another element in the story and soon becomes indistinguishable from it. There are scenes in this movie that may be considered to be barren of much emotion, but when sound is added and edited just right it all of a sudden becomes an amazing experience to behold.

The acting in this movie, while playing second string to the visuals and editing techniques discussed previously, does a great job. Every actor has their own part that they play with very convincing realism. Cillian Murphy is good as the enigmatic and shy physicist but shoulders his responsibilities (essentially saving Earth) with much courage. This is definitely a much different part than his turn as the Scarecrow in "Batman Begins". Chris Evans, known from his work in "Not Another Teen Movie" as well as most recently in "The Fantastic Four" really showed another side as well and proved to me that he isn't just another pretty boy getting roles for his appearance only. Rose Byrne shows her own acting chops, and reminded me of her sometimes creepy role in "Wicker Park".

The visuals, though expertly done with the use of CGI, are never too flashy for the sake of being flashy. Instead, scenes of the vastness of space are interspersed very expertly with other scenes portraying the extremely claustrophobic interiors of the spacecraft. Lacking many of the extremely visceral and gory scenes from Boyle's other well-known movie "28 Days Later", "Sunshine" manages to pull off similar anxiety by the careful use of editing and musical cues. In the end, this movie is well worth seeing.

Monsoon horrors

The following information comes from cnn.com:

I would like to dedicate this post to all those who have lost their lives in the recent monsoon activity in southern Asia, specifically in India and Bangledesh! A moment of silence for all.

It has been reported that the death toll has reached 347 in both of these soaked countries. The mere fact that this number seems small in light of other recent tragedies around the globe is astounding to me!! Indeed, I am almost glad that so few have died over all in this particular tragedy. How could I have this feeling? What is it about societies all over the world that has made pain and suffering so commonplace that we scarcely dwell on what has happened, but seem to take many things in stride? I only wish I had any answers at all, but this is a question that has so many philosophical implications about the nature of humanity now and in the past that I am pessimistic that we may ever agree on any one interpretation.

There is more than deaths occurring in this far-flung portion of the globe. The article goes on to say that in addition to the deaths, millions of people have been driven from their homes and forced to live a life not far removed from a refugee camp. Of course, they really aren't far removed from what a refugee is traditionally considered to be. Perhaps the worse thing about the article, and something I had no knowledge of though it makes sense, is that this monsoon season and its subsequent tragedies occurs every year. EVERY YEAR!!!! Duh!, you might say, of course it happens every year as it is a natural phenomena and these countries need the rain. The horrible part is that people die and are displaced every single year because of this supposedly life-giving natural phenomena and most people don't even realize that this is happening.

I have always been, and I am ashamed to say this really, someone who rarely takes the time to read about what horrors are happening in the world. Indeed, I often use the excuses that I am too pessimistic about what is happening in the world or that as an Archaeologist I am too wrapped up in the past to pay attention to what is occurring all around me. As Jess, my fiancee, has remarked on more than one occasion to me, we all need to be aware of everything that is going on around us. In an attempt to do this myself, I will be using this blog as a forum for news articles that are occurring but aren't being covered in any great detail by the popular media. I will inevitably have my own viewpoint on these worldly happenings but, as always, I welcome and encourage others' opinions.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

The worst team in baseball??

Continuing with my baseball theme from my last posting, I would like to say a few things about the strangely struggling Cincinnati Reds. Coming off of a very good season, despite an all out disastrous end of the season which saw them just barely miss the playoffs, they made some decent roster moves that should have given them excellent chances this year. They picked up Alex Gonzalez from the Red Sox and drafted Josh Hamilton from the Rule 4 draft, which was essentially a draft that helped players who had had personal problems in the past (Josh has had widely publicized problems with drugs). Unfortunately, it turns out that a bullpen who had at least been consistent throughout much of last year was a devil in disguise!!!

From the very beginning of the season, games were lost simply because after the starter left the bullpen self-destructed. Even with Ken Griffey Jr. having a career year (finally!!!!), the reds have proven unable to overcome both offensive and defensive woes to even have a chance to contend in a division that was suddenly topped by the Milwaukee Brewers, a former American league team that we have heard little from over the past few years. I wonder, based on what has been happening this year, how much of the Reds will remain going into next year or will they officially enter a rebuilding period where no one on the team will remain safe. Until they can reestablish their dominance of years past, think the Big Red Machine, I will remain a steadfast fan but will keep my post-season hopes alive in my other favorite team: the Cleveland Indians.

The Cincinnati Reds official website

The crack heard around the world

This is not, as some might presuppose, a posting about a long-ago war. Instead, I am discussing another kind of war that is being fought amidst the bases, between congressman and players, and between the media and a game. This game is baseball, a sport which I hold especially near and dear to my heart and which has recently come under a hailstorm of controversy that I can never remember hearing about at any point during the century old sport. The incident referred to by the title is the 755th home-run hit in his career by one Barry Bonds.

The name itself brings people to the brink of arguments over whether he should even be considered for the Hall of Fame or should be arrested and spend the rest of his life in jail. While I have never personally heard anyone hold the latter position, I do not doubt that there are those out there who might have such a hard-nosed position. As a long-time Reds fan, the hoopla reminds me of the backlash over the controversial moves taken by Pete Rose when he bet on his own team when he was a player-manager. For the uninitiated, Pete Rose is the undisputed batting champion with over 4,000 hits to his credit in a game where reaching the milestone of 3,000 hits is considered an event of monumental proportions.

The connection with Barry Bonds is this: many people with knowledge of what these two players have done for the sport itself will in many small ways discount what they have done because of their supposed excesses. Whether this will be through some kind of an asterisk in the record books, as long ago discussed over the accomplishments of Roger Maris when he beat Babe Ruth's single season record, or a complete disregard of the accomplishments in the record books is yet to be seen. With Pete Rose, it was gambling (and this has been accounted for by Pete Rose himself). With Barry Bonds, it is the supposition that he has taken performance-enhancing drugs to increase his productivity on the field. Whether or not he has done as many already assume may never be known to us with 100 percent certainty, but the fact remains that he will break Hank Aaron's long-held record and become the new, but disputed, home-run champion.

Without making a judgement call on his supposed activities, let me just say that I admire his achievement and believe that it will make a difference upon the entire sport of baseball and hopefully bring attention back upon this historic and much-loved American past-time.

Here are some links that should shed some light on the steroid controversy:
Steroid Controversy Deepens
Was Barry Bonds Targeted?
Barry Bonds: Anatomy of a Scandal

A brand new Blog!!

Here we go, folks! I've never done this before but I felt it was finally time to enter this new-fangled cyber age and go online! I do not have a set theme for this here blog, so I would welcome any and all comments from all of you concerned individuals. I hope this will be eclectic enough with a lot of different topics explored with each post to keep readers interested, but sometimes I wonder just how interesting I really am!!!

When I'm not trying to write academic treatises, I spend the majority of my time playing various video games and watching various movies and television shows. From time to time, I am sure that I will have something of interest to say about some or all of these topics. Again, I would like to stress my desire for feedback from any and all readers who deign to read this. Additionally, beyond my own personal musings on subjects that are near and dear to my heart i will be posting links of cool and interesting sites that many should find interesting.

A major reason for my genesis of this blog is that I really enjoy writing fiction. I will be, from time to time, posting my own fictional creations that I hope many of you will enjoy. Since criticism is essential for any writer, I will once again call on comments from you on things you like and dislike. Ultimately, I hope to be able to produce some kind of a serialized adventure where I will produce episodic entries that you will want to keep reading about. More posts to come soon.