Tuesday, April 30, 2013

We Can't Control The Universe & Other Terrible Navel Gaze-y Thoughts.

I should know better than to assume there is reason for the way things happen in the universe.

But sometimes I just can't help it. It's human, isn't it, to look for patterns even when there aren't any?

Like when it seems that the moment one issue in my life starts to clear up, something completely new and unexpected goes wrong. Something as lame as I get a haircut to simplify my life and easy the weight on my neck. Then, in the process of driving away from the salon, my car's engine starts to spaz out.

Or, when it seems that something is just destined to go wrong, like a fixed point in time. My engine spazzing out reminded me of how, two years ago, I was rear-ended one evening by a pizza delivery girl. There was no visible damage, it hadn't even felt like that much of an impact, she was freaked, and we both had places to be- so I just shook it off and said that we both seemed to be fine so no need to call anyone about it.

The next morning, my car was totaled in an accident that was my fault.

I still don't really understand how it managed to happen. And I'm still desperately sorry to the man who also had his morning ruined by the accident. But we were both alive and uninjured, and that's a pretty big upside. But it was almost as if I was supposed to lose that car that week.

But it takes some pretty big balls to say that's how things work. That there's a reason why an incredibly nice woman that wouldn't hurt a fly develops a rare disease that turns her brain to mush and kills her before she can meet her grandchildren. That there's a reason why anyone gets cancer when someone that smokes 3 packs a day stays fine. That there's a reason why any baby just doesn't make it to see their first birthday.

And, of course, once I remove myself from the moment of "Oh my god, my car will not move forward and there is a line of angry drivers behind me! Aaaaaaack!" I realize how ridiculously small and silly my car troubles are compared to everything else in the world. I can get my car fixed (or hope that it fixes itself magically overnight) as I can afford to get my car fixed.

And all it takes is two seconds on Facebook to see someone that is having a week a thousand times rougher than me. To be thankful that my biggest concern is, really, that I need to clean out my car before I take it to a mechanic. As it is truly ridiculously trashed on the inside. That is not a problem. Not by a long shot.

But I do feel like I can't control things. And I wish I could, just a little. So, I'm going to go do what I always do when I feel like I can't control things for anyone, let alone myself.  Go donate my lunch budget for the week to DonorsChoose.org. And maybe watch some Gilmore Girls.

I'm sorry I can't help out more, you guys. I'm here for you, though.

Post-C2E2 Regrouping and Conference Recovery

As my previous two posts might've suggested, C2E2 was a bit of an emotional roller coaster. Possibly just too many people. Too big of a crowd. And the fact that I couldn't turn my neck to the left for most of Saturday.

Oh, and the CTA not putting up signs earlier about how they were shutting down the Wells Street bridge as of Friday night. Thanks. That made us a littler crankier than usual.

On some less pop culture-y notes, I'm just going to do a general post-convention wrap up. My job requires me to work at a handful of conferences at convention centers every year and I've gotten so I have a bit of a recovering process when it comes to them.

1) Hydration. Conference centers are very drying. McCormick Place is actually one of the better centers at keeping this from being a problem, though. But it still isn't that great. Also, I was fasting on Friday (I had blood tests done right before walking down the street to hop on the con shuttle) which also resulted in me just not taking much of anything in until later in the day, since water was getting boring fast.

2) Washing the convention grime off of you. This is especially important with comic conventions, folks. ReedPop tried their best to get the word out there to folks that two of the basic steps for going to a con are showering and deodorant but it's not going to reach everyone and those of us that did shower then also end up smelling like the non-showering folks anyway. I was dead on my feet Saturday night but there was no way I was going to bed without at least washing off all the excessive make-up, pollution from my face and plopping on a gentle over-night clarifying mask. I then spent most of Sunday scrubbing and moisturizing every bit of me down to rubbing coconut oil into my toe nails. I started Sunday with a shower and then also ended it with a shower.

When I have work conferences, this is still a must due to how active I am (usually running all over the place all day when no one else is) and end up doing a coconut oil and sugar scrub in the hotel each night to refresh myself.

3) Rest. Maybe you don't need this one as much as I do. But I couldn't turn my neck to the left for most of Saturday, though, and my face was way too tired to emote again for a couple days. Add in the walking to public transportation and either standing in crowded spaces or sitting in crowded spaces- I need to just spend a day in bed and spread out (as much as the cat would let me, that is) and rub out some sore muscles.

4) Space. Holy mother, I need space from people. My senses needed to de-activate a little. I may have spent it listening to Things You Missed in History Class episodes and reading Anne of Green Gables.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Post-C2E2 2013: Alone in A Crowd Part 2

See the previous post for where this started for more backstory....
Not from C2E2, but from the Paley Center in Los Angeles. I felt it was relavent, though.

My roommate and I know each other because of fandom. Many of our other friendships have either started via fandom or have been strengthened by fandom. But we've both also been that person that's all alone. It's a bit of a "hermits united" effort with very little effort.

Sure, it's probably normal to be the one person in your family that gets a Battlestar Galactica reference. Or the only person in your office. But there's something also so isolating about knowing that you have so many things in common with the people around you yet you feel like you can't speak to them. That you can't enjoy things the way they enjoy them. That there's an invisible glass between you.

It's not a gender thing. It's not an age thing. It's not an intelligence or "how nerdy are you" thing.

It's just a thing.

But we've also both been to conventions where we don't speak to anyone other than vendors trying to sell something. She's more out-going than I am- she likes to cosplay, she likes to strike up conversations with people, she likes to be photographed, she likes to take photographs with other cosplayers. Like I said, she's awesome enough to offer to go up and ask a question for me if I'm too shy to go up. She will drag me down autograph lines and start conversations when my jaw locks up too much. But she feels it, too.

We had whimpers of conversations start up with strangers here and there, but nothing that continued. We spent two days submerged in geekdom and didn't make any new friends. Two years in a row. The closest we got was the adorable baby on the shuttle that was drawn in by my glasses (especially when I do the Marty-from-Grease glasses wiggle that makes it look like they're dancing on my face) and kept looking at us.

I just can't manage to put myself out there to be part of the community I'm in. I specifically don't wear even a fandom-y t-shirt to conventions. I don't attempt to make new friends via twitter. I haven't updated my livejournal in ages. I don't friend anyone on facebook unless they friend me first. I don't even comment on message boards outside the private one I have with some friends.

I haven't even told anyone, other than my roommate, that this site exists.

But this goes back even further.

 I went to my first convention alone as a teenager and left after an hour. They get too overwhelming for me if I don't have someone else there to ground me- to be the lightning rod. Even the small ones, which I've also gone to alone, I end up leaving soon. I realize that I just can't make the connection with anyone. When I moved across the country on my own, I went to special movie screenings where I could've spoken to people but didn't. The friends I made were a fluke- I was lucky they were extroverts and into so many things I was into. So willing to be my new fast friends and family. And then their friends became my friends.

I try to make an effort to make sure to comment on websites (blog/news-style ones, mostly) that I like, but often realize that it has been 3-to-6 months since the last time I left a comment (thanks, Disqus!). I'm not a "regular" anywhere. And I really almost never comment on YouTube. I'm only just reaching the point where I'm making an effort to "Like" things I do like. That's why this site does exist. To make me speak. To maybe, every once in a while, say what's not already getting said? I can't be the only silent person, can I? No, because I see the view counters on my blogger account. I know how many visits I get yet end up with not a single comment (and, no, I'm not fishing here).

I think people still don't really understand fandom. People understand the vocal members of fandom- but they don't speak for the rest of us. That's part of what is so isolating. Oddly enough, I think part of why I suddenly felt the need to silently disagree with Peter Davison was due to Doctor Who fandom. Maybe that's why I feel so outed- because I feel like I'm not allowed to be in my favorite fandoms anymore. I don't want to be the negative person that won't leave the party and ruins it for everyone, but it also makes it hard to continue to love what I loved when everyone moves on without me.

I have nothing against Matt Smith, but I don't like the current run of Doctor Who. I went in cautiously to the Steven Moffat era, having seen how worn-out the Russell T Davies specials had been and knowing the show needed a breath of fresh air, and found myself let down even more than I could imagine. After just over a season and a half, I had to stop making myself miserable by watching it. And now I feel left behind.

But since I'm not one of the people speaking, I feel like I'm completely left out now.

No, that's not quite it. I don't know, honestly. I just do find fandom to be a very isolating "crowd adjacent" experience. That much I know is true.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Post-C2E2 2013: Alone in a Crowd (Part One)

Roommate at C2E2 2012 as her alter-ego
This was the second year my roommate and I ventured to C2E2. And the second time where, despite having 3 Day Passes, we were dead on our feet before Sunday arrived.

I really wanted to walk Artist's Alley this year a lot more than last year. I wanted to find some original art to purchase for decorating our apartment as well as possibly find some artists to commission for work to be used in the re-design of this very site (or rather, design, as this stock blogger.com template was never supposed to last this long). But we didn't make it to Artist's Alley until Saturday and by mid-afternoon it was so overflowing in spots that I couldn't even reach some of the tables. I grabbed some cards, though, as did the roommate. I only ended up buying a couple things. There were a few items I'd love to go back for, but there was no time and I'm better off waiting to spend the money (I tell myself).

Hopefully, though, I will find someone to help create some original art for this site (feel free to email lamb@invisiblerobotgirl.com with some examples of your work if you'd like to help. Any art I end up using will be paid for, the signatures and credit of the artist(s) will be displayed, and links will be displayed prominently on the sidebar leading to your own site/portfolio/ect).

Next time, though, I think we'll try to make an effort to hit up Artist's Alley either on Friday (which is always lighter) or only in the mornings. The crowds were definitely bigger this year and are probably going to be bigger next year.

 But, while the crowds grew, the variety of booths on the floor shrunk. This time around, it seemed that way too much was just the re-selling of mass produced items. A lot of the same t-shirts at different booths. A lot of the same toys. One booth blatantly had items that were marked "Exclusively at Walmart"- with the new Walmart logo and spelling. Hand-crafted things were hard to find and when we did find them, some just weren't worth the price. It started to really get ridiculous once we hit the steampunk booths. The same 20 mass produced pocket watches that are all over the internet at every booth, and giant price mark-ups on anything with gears glued onto it (and this is coming from a girl that owns a handful of items with that description).

The panel selections this year were much better than last year, however. Which probably has a lot to do with the increase in numbers. Kevin Smith was doing one of his An Evening with Kevin Smith events for a separate fee that sold out months ago. Patton Oswalt did a Q&A in the IGN theater that already had a line when we showed up an hour and fifteen minutes early.

Patton was fantastic and loose, despite how lackluster some of the questions were. Only about two girls asked questions out of the whole lot. I have this wonderful weird reaction to famous people I like and/or admire where I not only just freeze, I shutdown and implode. So, the roommate was elbowing me to see if I could come up with anything to ask and she would go ask it for me. But I couldn't. 

The best part of Patton's panel was the insult war he and Brian Posehn were having during it. Posehn was in the audience and started texting snarky geeky insults to Patton. Then Patton would read the text outloud and insult Posehn back (sometimes not in that order). Most of the comments were about each other's height (Patton being short, Posehn being tall) and weight (both being overweight). And Patton ended the whole Q&A with reading the final text from Posehn, which just read, "Go back to Dagobah."

On Friday, we only made it to one panel and to make sure we had seats, we ended up sitting in on the end of the Marvel panel on how to break into comics, which was very very awkward as all the advice was very outdated and referring to how the comic book industry functioned in the 90s. While it's likely that Marvel still functions like that, it doesn't seem like a great way to have a real career in comics. The next day, we did essentially the same thing, but were sitting in on the end of a Vertigo panel. The Vertigo panel seemed a tad more in touch with how the industry is today. Also: funnier. They were actually mostly just presenting on what was coming up next for Vertigo rather than intending to advise- but some of the questions were the same.

The one panel on Friday was the Felicia Day Q&A. It was packed to the gills but really enjoyable. She wasn't there to promote anything and she was, well, Felicia Day. How do you go wrong there? The thing I liked about Felicia's "panel" was that she knew how to encourage reactions out of the audience without making it seem trite. She requested that everyone that asked a question also tell her where the best pizza in Chicago happened to be. She then also started a slightly Packers/Bears battle without meaning to. But I love that she knew how to get people talking and feeling comfortable with her. Because she's Felicia Day.

There was one bug that starting to gnaw at me during the panel, though. Felicia mentioned that in the past 8 or so years, there have been more "geeky" girl characters and that it's nice to see that they are showing up more in shows and being portrayed as silly yet also brilliant. And the "fake geek girl" issue was briefly touched on. But... something didn't sit right with me.

On Saturday, after the line for Patton Oswalt, we decided to head right up to wait for our next panel: The Fierce Females of Television. Originally, there had been some thoughts of staying put so that we could see the 1960s Batman panel with Burt Ward and Julie Newmar (my roommate even played with dressing up as Patrick Swayze in To Wong Foo... and getting a copy of the movie for Julie Newmar to sign. I adore all things Batman and especially Julie Newmar, but we cared a lot more about the Fierce Female panel and knew we could get better seats for that than we'd manage in the IGN theater without VIP badges. 

So, we were third and fourth in line for the Fierce Females, but we were smart. The room was lined with people that couldn't get seats because they didn't come soon enough. There was a ridiculous under-estimate of how big of a room would be needed for the panel. The speakers were Ashely Eckstein of Her Universe and Star Wars: The Clone Wars; Janina Gavankar of Arrow, The L Word, and The League (she's Shiva!); and the Queen of the Nerds- Jane Espenson. 

Ashley, Janina, and Jane
 While all three are awesome ladies, this was a ridiculous theme for a panel- at the very least, it should've been longer. Anyone that has ever heard or read Jane Espenson speak on writing knows that she should basically be getting the IGN theater treatment. She was the first to arrive and got a huge applause just on her own. Last year, we went to her Husbands panel (which happened again this year, but we missed it) and we both walked away high on inspiration from Jane and suddenly desperate to create our own web content (my roommate got over the buzz in a few days/weeks- I did not). Janina really didn't get to speak much until the end about how it is difficult to be a strong minority actress and how the current issue is that she's mostly getting casted as cops, lawyers, and lesbians because strong female characters tend to be those. And Ashley didn't get to speak enough about both voice acting and the troubling realization that led her to create HerUniverse as no one bothered to create quality sci-fi inspired clothing specifically for women before.

They talked a little bit about a lot of things and were only able to briefly consider it. But even before the panel started, there were things being said that don't get said enough: like how drag queens and transgendered people should be included in panels like that one with women and how there have always been more women then men cosplaying as the TARDIS and what exactly that means (Is it that it's so open to creativity that anyone of any size can feel comfortable making it their own? Is it that we've almost co-opted the TARDIS as a female- even before it was brought up in the show- because of a lack of female characters that fill that role of strength and amazing power?).

Maybe that's why such a large crowd (which was very mixed gender-wise) was drawn to that panel. We just want someone to be asking the questions outloud that no one else seems to bother to voice. I still wanted to hear more. I wanted Ashley's take on how difficult it is for women to get into voice acting- especially dramatic voice acting. I wanted Janina's take on why all the strong women role are cops, lawyers, and lesbians but not always people that are given a spotlight in shows that have those characters. And I wanted to ask Jane about if she thinks that there's a flaw with most mainstream writing where writers tend to favor to write characters that are writers.

The bug that started to gnaw on me on Friday started to gnaw a little harder and deeper.

Here is one of my favorite costumes from the con, to brighten things up while I try to figure out what this bug is:

We went back to the floor after that panel, having some time before we'd sneak into the Vertigo panel in order to get good seats for Peter Davison's panel. This was when Artist's Alley was getting tight and I was starting to feel discouraged with what I was able to see. I felt like I was surrounded by things that belonged on Escher Girls. I was really struggling to find existing pieces of female superheroes powerful poses OR in perspectives that didn't have their boobs be the center piece (and often with their nipples showing through the costumes as well). The powerful poses thing was almost ridiculous- as anywhere I looked, there was a female cosplayer doing one for a photo. It's not that difficult to figure out- a powerful pose is one that someone that feels strong and confident naturally stands in! Ugh.

Insert random awesome Cyborg Darth Maul:

So then there was the Peter Davison panel. Which I have no pictures of as I was worried about my phone dying before I got home (as the CTA plotted to make the weeks I planned to take the Green Line as frustratingly difficult as possible). He was AMAZING. I almost typed "Awemazing" because my brain couldn't comprend the mixture of amazing and awesome that he was. Just a lovely lovely man with the patience of a saint. You can tell that he has been doing panels for decades because he could turn the worst questions (and non-questions) into chances to tell wonderful anecdotes. I could've listened to him for hours. I did feel terrible for him with the amount of awkward "So... you're, like, related to David Tennant now, right? Is that awesome? Can you tell him I love him?"-types of "questions". But, seriously, if you ever have a chance to go to an event with him speaking, I really recommend making an effort to go to it.

But one of the questions he was asked was about how Doctor Who has gone from obscure to mainstream- first in Britain and now, in a much smaller window of time, in the US. He brought up how fandom brings people together and all of a sudden, I found myself whispering in a sad tone to roommate, "... but it doesn't."

She agreed. Later on, we were at dinner and trying to figure out why we felt that way.

See Part Two for the rest of my thought process on that matter.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Close Your Eyes and Think Of Anne Shirley

"I think amethysts are just sweet. They are what I used to think diamonds were like. Long ago, before I had ever seen a diamond, I read about them and I tried to imagine what they would be like. I thought they would be lovely glimmering purple stones. When I saw a real diamond in a lady's ring one day I was so disappointed I cried. Of course, it was very lovely but it wasn't my idea of a diamond." - Anne Shirley, Chapter 13 of Anne of Green Gables

I possibly think of Anne of Green Gables too often. If there is such a thing. The above quote is not especially important in the grand scheme of things or even the grand scheme of the fictional life of Anne Shirley, but it's one that bounces in and out of my head with some amount of frequency. And has nothing to do with the picture I've chosen from the classic TV special, other than how I always was amused with the thought that Marilla decided to give Anne some fringe when she had to cut the green out of her hair.

Of course, I think of Anne's quote about diamons when I see almost any precious stones matched with their proper names for the first time. I've never been one to really pay attention to them, as I like glass pearls for my jewelry and my birthstone is the color of B12-infused urine (also known as "topaz"). So, the one year I went to the Gem Show in Tucson and found myself surrounded with little (and gigantic) stones I was unfamiliar with, Megan Follows's voice saying that line was ringing through my head all day.

But it's not just that. Anne Shirley, although she is fictional, is speaking for readers in that moment. Those of us that grew up with our noses in books and knew the meaning of words we had never heard outloud. Knew of hundreds and thousands of items outside our daily lives only by the beautiful twists of words an author had used to describe those items. And where the author failed to describe an item enough- either for assume the audience would know or to be vague enough to let the reader fill in their own gaps- images still appeared in our heads. Forming an alternate reality for each reader, where the spaces were filled with details that had to come from their specific history and life.

Colin Shepherd has a piece in The New Yorker today about a similar issue. Except instead of diamonds not living up to expectations, he writes of the Met and how it's missing something he desperately wanted, an item of mythology in his childhood: the bed that Claudia picked out for sleeping in when she and her brother ran away to live in the Met in From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler. The Met no longer has that specific bed on display and it's resulted in the museum becoming a sore spot for Shepherd, for crushing his hopes of one day being able to see that same bed that Claudia described.

And, in this era of visual adaptations of everything, the quote also comes to mind almost every time a beloved book is adapted into film, television, comic book, ect and what-have-you. It came to mind, most awkwardly, when a portion of Hunger Games fans reacted not-so-well to finding out that they had managed to just not realize that Rue was black when they read the books and then made racist fools of themselves for complaining about the casting of Amandla Stenberg.

But, even so, their complaints would not have suddenly become justified if it had turned out that Rue had at some point been described as having light skin. Because it's a little ridiculous that something like the Hunger Games in those books, which specifically pick two random kids from each of the districts in what used to be North America, would have that many caucasian-y looking kids selected. But... whatever. That's an argument for another day.

The point being: that twelve-year-old Anne Shirley just assumed that diamonds, the beautiful rare stone that was mentioned so much in stories, would be purple. Because that was what was beautiful to her. And that realizing that diamonds were not purple made her feel like her world fell appart for a day. Maybe she didn't realize exactly why, and maybe I'm reading too much into Lucy Maud Montgomery's writing, but in more recent years that moment has struck me as Anne realizing that what she values isn't eye-to-eye with what the world at large seems to value. And she was scared and sad to realize that.

It's like the moment where you realize that racists still do really exist. Or, say, the moment you realize that some small minded person was so offended that a teacher grieving the death of her mother happened to give another woman's name as her partner in the obituary that the small-minded person wrote to the teacher's Catholic school and got her fired after 19 years of employment. And that small-minded person and the school feel that they can rationalize their spiteful hateful decisions by claiming that loving the people you love falls under "immorality or serious unethical conduct" yet sending a hateful letter to get someone innocent fired from their job- that's not also immoral or seriously unethical? I know the parent is not an employee of the school, but they should be ashamed of themselves.

That people like that still exist... it's like discovering diamonds aren't purple.

To end on a less "gah, people are awful" note: The Canadians are planning on making a 13-part new adaptation of Anne of Green Gables. Your mileage may vary to the point of still thinking that counts as "gah, people are awful". But... hey, there are worse things.

This post went in a million directions I didn't intend to originally send it in.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Backseat Gaming: Infinitely BioShocking

A bit of history first: I am not a gamer. I'm just going to put that out there first. I have some mild neurological issues and one of the many downsides of it are that when I get tense, my body doesn't really know how to process it other than "oh, something that will hurt us is happening. Send out pain to protect us from further pain!"

This is why I can't deal with seeing horror movies in the theater. This is why I'm not a big fan of "awkward" humor. This is why I watch other people play video games a lot more than I play them myself.

It's not so bad, really. When I was growing up, my sister had a Nintendo and rarely let me play but often let me just watch her and her friends play. It's like she somehow knew I'd experience the majority of games in my life as a backseat player. By the time I developed the neurological problems, I was living with her and my brother-in-law. From playing his consoles (XBOX and, briefly, a PS2), I realized that I physically felt terrible pain and tension from anything other than racing or puzzle games (and Guitar Hero, a few years later)- and even those caused problems if a timer was involved. The only way I could enjoy other games is by watching him play. I spent quite a few nights being entertained by watching him play Counter-Strike on XBOX Live and lose his mind whenever someone suddenly decided that they were going to a "knives only" mission.

Then, when I moved out on my own, I could never afford a console and couldn't justify buying games for my MacBook Pro beyond versions of The Sims. My roommate has a Wii and I've played second banana on a few of the LEGO games but mostly watch her. For any other games I'd like to witness, I find Let's Play videos online.

For plain play-through videos with audio commentary provided by the player, I just YouTube search until I find someone that I like the playing style, video quality, and commentary of. This varies greatly from game to game.

For games that I'd like more discussion and light-hearted takes on, I prefer watching the group from Video Games Awesome. They seem to have found the perfect angle and ratio for appearing on screen yet still displaying the game footage and their live chatroom scroll all in the same screen. They make it feel like you're at a live party playing through the game, though they do release at a relatively slow schedule and, because of the amount of effort put in and how they want to cover everything necessary, they don't do night-of-release videos.

So, let's move on to BioShock Infinite. There be vague spoilers in these lands. You have been warned. I have minimal exposure to the System Shock and BioShock games that pre-date it. I know the plots, the twists, and what they're generally known for. Horror-Survival is not usually my bag- especially when creepy/gross imagery is involved. But back in 2010, I clicked on a link to the first teaser trailer for BioShock Infinite and was reeled in by the wit displayed in the action as well as the beauty in the design. I was reminded of one of my favorite children's novels- The Twenty-One Balloons.

A year later, everyone was talking about the E3 demo and I remember seeing the first few minutes and then I stopped watching. Not due to a lack of interest but due to the fact that around E3 2011, I was in the middle of a terrible cross-country move and trying to start a new job. It was impressive and very "what the hell is going on?!" but I just didn't have the time or energy to be interested beyond making a note to look into the game when it came out. Then another year went by and I realized the game was not out yet. I saw the viral videos promoting it... and the game still was not out yet.

Then it came out. And I spent a whole weekend watching videos of play-throughs.

It was fascinating to see the different playing methods from person to person. And I'm not talking broad strokes like the decision to throw the ball at the couple. Just a difference of those players that opened fired on anyone and everyone once they were exposed versus those players that waited for someone to shoot at them first. There were some that ran into rooms with a gun ready or firing and those that looked around corners and listened for music cues or dialogue first. Some only used the rails when necessary- other's went nuts with riding them. Some preferred vigors as their main weapons, few bothered to use the trap function of the vigors or the ability to control equipment in your favor during fights., some just wanted the guns, many just worked with what they had on hand at the time. Not that many cooled down long enough to bother watching Elizabeth's actions. Most were pretty good about listening to voxaphone recordings to figure out what was going on.

And, painfully-yet-amusingly, a lot of people admitted to not knowing most of the historical references.

It was also extremely fascinating to see how much was different from all the teasers and demos that had trickled out over the years. And how different it was from what people expected it to be. Elizabeth's powers changed significantly. I remember people thinking that the roses from the teaser trailer would be something of significance. The way the vigors worked changed. Hell, even the given plot was greatly different outside "floating city, super powers, early 20th century". It seems that the Songbird was to have a larger role, that the Handymen were possibly supposed to have more of a role, the detail of the horses being mechanical wasn't added yet, and the political issues of Columbia weren't quite what they ended up being. I wonder if they originally only kept the "Revenge of the Jedi" moment due to the response it received in the teaser?

So, as for that plot... it has a lot of elegant twists to it. My favorite being "bring back the girl and wipe away the debt", so to speak. The evolution of what starts off as a hokey, "Oh, those crazy racist times of the early 20th century!" and then adds in some levels of how power (and anger) corrupts even the most noble of efforts, how tragedy informs the decisions we make, and how difficult it is to right our personal wrongs.

...And then you go and add on the ability to step into alternate realities and times, which makes it all even more insanely high-concept. I both love and despise time travel- mostly due to paradoxes from time travel. If a story is strong enough, I'll get over the paradox. And, after a few days, I was able to get over the one of this game.

However: As everyone keeps saying, the game is first and foremost, a shooter. But the footage was getting difficult to sit through as it went on. It got freakin' graphic with what your/Booker's victims would look like once you were done with them. I don't know what it is specifically- maybe it was just too many "oh, now Booker kills people again" moments for me personally or just that I wasn't finding footage of anyone that took the time to "smell the roses" between fights. Or, hell, maybe if I was actually playing rather than backseat gaming, it would be a different story- but the violence was a little too chilling to sit through for too long in any given day. And was really difficult to clear my brain of if I tried going to bed right after watching gameplay.

In contrast, consider this: I've been watching 10+ hours of Jennifer Garner kicking ass and shooting guns in ALIAS this weekend without flinching. I don't know if it's some sort of Uncanny Valley equivalent or what, but some violence (usually gun violence, but sometimes car accidents or general graphic/gratuitous violence) just makes me feel sick and dirty. You know that feeling of seeing the immediate pictures of the people that just happened to be on that sidewalk during the Boston marathon bombing? It's like the diet coke of that feeling. And still damn awful.

But just because I feel that way, doesn't mean that everyone does or even should. And the game is still great- both as an individual game and as a milestone in visual storytelling. It's not perfect, but the emotion response gained from many hours of engulfment in the game's world, seeing everything first person, making decisions for what is seen, plus the facts that the game doesn't have cinematics to pull you out of the story on a regular basis and very few loading screens? That out-weighs what any 70-180 minute movie can give you. Even a weekly TV show can't give you that. And it's nice when stories as rich as this one get done in the proper medium.

Final Notes:

- I don't care about the changes in Elizabeth's cleavage from the teaser to the final product.
- I DO care about how there were a few male/female "teams" in the story but that the two most important ones were not romantic pairings. I wish I didn't have to be excited about that, though.
- I'm still torn on the post-credit scene.
- I wish there was more told/explained about the Songbird.
- I wish there were more "stolen" songs.
- Do most police carry whole pineapples in their pockets? Is this just something I'm unaware of?

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Not Quite Right

For almost a year now, I've been dealing with severe pain from my temporomandibular joint- aka TMJ aka my jaw. In a matter of days, I went from having a searing pain in my face to being incapable of opening my mouth further than 11 millimeters between my top and bottom teeth. My face swelled to the point where my vision was getting obscured and I could not turn my neck. Everything between my temple and my shoulders hurt.

It's getting better with the help of a dental splint (24/7 plastic retainer, essentially), time released muscle relaxants, rheumatoid arthritis medication, and now a nerve pain medication. But, also, after 10 months you just sort of get used to it a bit.

In the past month, my TMJ specialist referred me to a pain specialist for the neurological and pain aspects that go beyond his realm- like burning pain and pain in my neck and clavicle area. 

So, I went to the pain specialist and, for some reason, he decided to focused on my actual shoulder. Something that never bothered me too much outside of the whole radiating pain from my jaw and neck.

He sent me for an MRI of my shoulder and I grumbled about how pointless it was- yet another MRI that will show nothing significant. I could cover my living room in films from MRIs, X-rays, CAT scans, and ultrasounds that have shown nothing conclusive inside my body.

Of course, he managed to find something. I have what's called a SLAP tear in my shoulder and some swelling in the ligiments. Essentially, what baseball pitchers get when they blow out their arms.

I've never pitched in my life. I have no idea where this tear came from. I have a great range of motion in my shoulder, just my left arm is weak- as it has been ever since I experienced nerve damage in my wrist and thumb in it 13 years ago.

And I have no real pain that I feel coming from my shoulder... well, at least I didn't until last night.

I might've managed to step out of my car without putting it in park last night. Possibly. And I realized what I did and lunged back into the car to put it in park with just inches before it hit another (parked) car. In the process, my left shoulder managed to get mildly banged up by the car door (as did my right hip on the side of the car and my left ankle on the bottom of the car). So, tomorrow I have a consult with an orthopedic surgeon and will most likely have a bruise on my shoulder that previously didn't hurt.

I have a feeling this is going to complicate things.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013


I don't know if it's because of the whole Girl Meets World internet frenzy or what but suddenly Clarissa Explains It All is back on people's minds. There's a book coming out that will follow Clarissa later in life and Splitsider recently felt the need to dig up the sad awkward pilot of the not-picked-up Clarissa Now spin-off show and tell how it went wrong. And it brought up an old concern of mine.

Clarissa Explains It All was the first TV show I really obsessed about (and the first show that I was sad to see end, but desperate to catch the finale of it), so I think I can talk some-what knowledgeable on the subject.

No window seat. Regular "hung slash" (I think that's the term) window.
Window seat and casement window.
 I wanted the window seat that she had for the later seasons (the Darling house had some major renovations between seasons- including a second stairwell), I shared her love for small weird cars, and I loved all her weird fantasy sequences. And when my family moved (a good five years after the show ended- which when your 15 is an eternity) and I was given a bedroom with the giant sloped ceiling walk-in closet, I immediately thought of how Clarissa had set up hers. Mine never looked nearly as good.

The thing that really gets me, though, is that while Clarissa could've aspired to be everything and anything (and often did!), the writers chose to have her want to be a journalist. I feel like a lot more people on TV end up wanting to be journalists than actual people. Probably because people on TV are written by writers, aka people that wanted to write for a living and now do. Hell, even Sabrina the Teenage Witch went down the exact same road. Maybe Melissa Joan Hart wanted to be a writer?

Clarissa's newsroom in "Clarissa Now"
In both Clarissa and Sabrina, the journalist thing bugged the hell out of me. At the start of Sabrina, she was a science nerd. I really appreciated that and I wish they had kept that her passion.

And as for Clarissa, she could've been anything and was enthusiastic about everything. Wasn't that what the show was saying in every episode? Showing that the possibilities were infinite for a smart girl in the 90s.

Sabrina's newsroom, in the terrible WB seasons
She could dye her hair black and really get that rat tattoo and become the hard-edge Jade. She could start a small business like she and her mom almost did with their Bouncy Balls recipe. Or go into marketing, as she had a clear vision when they were trying to market the treats. She could become a professional thief like when she accidentally stole a bustier. Or a spy, as she loved to pretend to be someone she wasn't and was always up to solving a problem when it was presented to her.And, yes, she could possibly go into fashion. I loved some of her styles. No one else on TV dressed like she did.

But you know what skill Clarissa was obviously oblivious to her talent for? Game design! The girl would quickly whip up a new video game to help her get through almost every conflict. Can you imagine the great games she could've created in the early days of flash and java on the web? They'd be better than what Nickelodeon offered on their AOL site in 1995, I promise you that. And then she'd make a killing with apps! And probably not only do game apps but I bet she'd be pretty good at making a handy productivity app or two as well.

I can't be the only person that feels this way, can I?