7/29/12: Water Polo Edition

The last time I wrote blog posts proper may have been twenty-oh-six.  The style of writing has a special reserve in my mind; one where only overutilized smilies and high school meanderings over teenage girls may lie.  My idea of success is to Fake It Till You Make It(tm), however, so in preparation for future writing (future being a writer) I may as well speak in bite-sized chunks concerning my life and opinions.

My quest to find something exciting in the next few weeks before classes begin is making me pack for my parents’ house.  I’ll see family, eat barbecue, and pet cats.  This is where I always end up, I suppose.  A part of me wishes to drive to the other side of the country or to the southern-most tip of the Southern-most America and relieve my bank account on a nightly hotel room when I’m done walking around aimlessly.  But having money now means I am more concerned about its distribution.  If I had a dollar, I would spend it on a candy bar with no problem.  Now there are multiple dollars, and I consider the expense and budget myself.  This seems silly, though I don’t mind being frugal in older age.  Considering some amount is left unspent from old Christmases and birthdays, though, there is also a desire to spend on some random trip where I return to Rock Hill with a hat made of Russian wool and never disclose where I’ve been.  Oh, well.  I’ll have a relaxing time at home.  And I went to a museum and ate at some new restaurants.

My mind has wandered to wrestling, as it wont to do.  The rumored news of Johnny Gargano’s departure from independent Dragon Gate USA to WWE was shot down last evening, though I still have suspicion in me that this is for storyline purposes-only.  Gargano’s reasons include that he needs to help independent wrestling with his star power, and that leaving for the larger organization only leaves a place like DGUSA in a needier state.  Independent wrestling is in a sour spot, but not due to unforeseen circumstances.  There exists a real pettiness in today’s scene, and real-life rivalries between Gabe Sapolsky and Jim Cornette put their own livelihoods at risk.  Each desires “exclusive contracts”, a product of big-time, multi-million dollar federations in heated national feuds.  Independent work is so below that of the old WWF vs. WCW rivalry, and it’s still beneath the modern WWE viewer.  If a viewer of the lone national product refuses to watch anything beneath it, why have twenty other companies competing instead of working together?  My fifteen dollar internet-pay-per-view money is split between Ring of Honor, Chikara, DGUSA, Evolve, Pro Wrestling Guerilla, and more.  Despite some overlap, these are mostly composed of entirely separate wrestlers.  As a result, each one gets a select few “stars” of the bunch, and fill the rest of the card up with filler.  There’s no reason for me to watch Adam Page on PPV.  Adam Page is fine, sure, but he’s a starter.  Caleb Konley has no business being in your semi-main event.  Go back and examine ROH’s old Final Battle cards.  Nearly every conceivable star of the independents is there, working together, all pettiness put aside.  The same shows, the same old shows with overwhelming influence, could happen now if every promotion were to be friends.  But it’s a ridiculous competition for a ridiculously small audience, which is why ROH now pushes Tommaso Ciampa and Mike Bennett: all the Akira Tozawas and Ricochets of the world are locked up someplace else.

So go live your life, Gargano!  I hope you enjoy what you do, and I hope you don’t get involved in petty nonsense.

Speaking of petty nonsense, I listened to Diabolic’s (the rapper’s) album Liar & a Thief.  I received a gigantic pack of independent (because I’m just so indie about everything!) rap albums, which I’ve slowly been making my way through when I get self-conscious about the lack of new music I listen to.  Most have been good, okay but blending together, and some very good.  Diabolic was…he was something else.  A glut of people give rappers props when they have “sickkk beatz”, which is something I found abundant in Liar & a Thief.  But I’m always a lyrics man.  Always have been.  And the album absolutely collapses in on itself when you see the writing and realize who is writing it.  The forced, looking-around-the-room pop culture rhymes are there as they always are, but with it comes a lot of misogyny and a lot of desperate, perhaps unknowing pleas for a mental health counselor.  Here’s the NSFW Self Destruction (Outro), which I think is supposed to sound tough and funny and totally off-da-chaaainnnnnn.  All that runs through my mind is “Boy, with this and mass shootings we should probably advocate for some reform!”

Violent rap music, at its best, is supposed to sound tough.  It’s childish to threaten to shoot someone if they look at your girl funny, God knows the action itself is awful and wrong, but you should actually believe in it.  (Or you could rhyme without threatening to murder people, which plenty of great albums do!)  Diabolic sounds less like Eminem and more like Stan.  Stan is someone you never want to be!

Saints Row: The Third is complete, and it’s fantastic.  There’s a lot to say about it that may not fit here.  Saints Row may be the video game version of Pineapple Express.  The entire purpose of its creation was to have as much fun with as many stupid parts as possible.  A multi-million dollar budget was spent on dicking around, and that’s unheard of from the 2012 versions of gigantic video game publishers.

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Risks

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic‘s biggest success isn’t the gameplay or the aesthetics.  The biggest success is the scope.  BioWare did not set out to pander, but to elaborate.  They chose to alter the mythos at its very core.  I replayed KotOR recently and, despite all its great features, it was the motivation of the game that stuns me.

KotOR was released in 2003.  That’s four years after George Lucas’ Star Wars prequels began.  Four years after Jar-Jar and midichlorians.  One year after rough sand and CGI everything.  As a whole, the series was in a rough spot.  Fans wanted to believe that this was going to pan out, that it would be great, but hope just kept fading.  I like those new movies, still, but only once I looked past all the obvious shortcomings.  All the obvious misunderstandings of what made the original films great.  The first Star Wars, the one with that appropriate name, is my favorite movie of all time.  The past decade has treated the series much more oddly than in the past.  The 2000s put up with it, but lost so much of its fervor.  We don’t laugh when Kevin Smith writes “DO YOU REMEMBER THE SARLACC PIT” anymore, we just groan and tell him to act his age.  Even uttering the first two words (“Hey, what’d you think of St-“) causes a hyperbolic internet nerd to leap in front of your conversation and talk about how horribly the series was “raped”.  KotOR came out at a weird time.

The Expanded Universe is the extraneous Star Wars material.  The canonical spinoffs of books, comics, television shows, role-playing game handbooks, the like.  During and immediately after the original film, there was an enthusiastic creativity coming out of authors wishing to add to the fiction.  It faded, reappeared, faded again.  By the time of the prequels, much of the EU was  a bit too uninterested in truly expanding.  Even when a book was good (or fun for those invested in the world, which is often the case), it seemed odd that the same characters kept being run into.  There’s Boba Fett again.  We get it.  So it’s with a sense of pride in my own “fandom” that I look at Knights of the Old Republic.  It aspired for more.  Sure, they go to Tatooine again, but this time with greater purpose.  The pandering becomes original as long as you keep looking at it.

First off, and before I forgot, I can’t help but applaud them for mostly avoiding John Williams’ classic Star Wars score.  It’s there in the opening and ending credits, but for the vast majority of the game they write new material for a new orchestra.  So many games rehash the same songs that eventually you can’t be swept up in the wonder of the universe anymore.  You just hear “This again.”  KotOR‘s score sounds appropriate to the source material without ripping off or ripping from.

Most of the stories within KotOR touch on issues mostly untouched in other Star Wars material, which is the most amazing aspect of all.  The beginning planet, Taris, deals openly with galactic racism.  The neutral planet of Manaan houses both Republic and Sith with no violence between the two, showing a real uselessness of the ongoing war.   One character reminds me of the perfect, sin-free, church-going person, so wrapped up in their own (correct) righteousness that they forgot to tackle the other dark issues in their heart.  Another has to deal with exile from rejecting the enslavement of its own people, while another questions the motivations of their former lover.  Each character is realistically flawed.  Other questions are posed.  Can non-living things be evil?  What is the origin of humanity?  What came before, and before that?  I hear KotOR II (from different developer Obsidian) asks questions about Jedi existentialism.

These questions or theories or answers all give insight into the greater workings of the Star Wars fiction.  These are all things that George Lucas and the creators of the films never meant to be included.  When “Jawas ride by on their sandcrawler” was being written, I highly doubt anyone asked where the sandcrawlers came from or what the Jawa life was like.  Part of what makes those films work is that the world simply is, and the story starts in medias res.  But the hardcore fan takes as much as they can get.  I read a book that explained Hutt sexuality.  You don’t want to hear it.  It’s super gross.

I absolutely commend BioWare for this nearly-ten-year-old game, for its story and characters and fascinating in-canon theories.  This “in-canon” thing.  It means that the ideas raised are so deep in the fiction that I’m sure they won’t appeal to a casual fan who saw one Star Wars film twenty years ago and thought it was just okay.  Hearing about the origin of humanity in this one particular fictional universe makes me mumble half-formulated suspicions to myself, and I know not everyone will do that.  But Knights of the Old Republic was kind enough to include that extra layer for the committed enthusiast.  That should step everyone’s game up a notch, and let us all continue to groan when Kevin Smith writes “hahaha oh man do you remember the death star”

I do remember the Death Star.  Now give me something more.

The First Sabbath in a While

“If you could describe the sermon in one word, what would it be?”

“Frightening,” I immediately spurt out, so quick to offer up my distaste without considering the feelings of others.  So, he looks at me in slight shock.

“Frightening because of…the overabundance of Christ’s love?”  He laughs at his own remark.  “Really, though, you mean in danger, right?”

“Not in immediate danger, no,” I reply.  “I appreciate the majority of the message, it’s just the extraneous details that bother me.”

“Like what?”

“Like…like the presentation.  The atmosphere.  I don’t see God’s love in that, I see money.  I see the high-definition cameras and the perfect lighting and the colorful sets and the pastor’s wife’s face completely unblemished, and that just scares me.”

“Well, you know, all that fancy get-up isn’t a true replacement for God’s love.  It’s just there to reach more people.  That’s the mission.”

“Right, and.  Well.  I get that, I mean, I’m not trying to target specific people here.  I just think of Jesus Christ unwashed in the sand.  My mental image consists of him down on the floor looking up, not up on the stage looking down.  And flipping over tables, sometimes.”

My mention of violent anger makes him wince for a half-second.  He doesn’t think I’d do anything, but he just met me and isn’t quite sure.

“Okay, well, I thank you for your honest input.  Here, we have this survey you can fill out…” and he takes a little pamphlet from the little plastic container on the large vendor’s table.

“Uh, yeah, man, no problem.”  I click open the church-branded pen.

 

 

————————————————————-

 

 

She gives a little wave.

“Hey, I didn’t know you started coming here.”  I give a polite nod in reply.

“Yeah, I figured I’d stop by and try it out.”  My words are made to be warm, though I keep a cold stare.  Might as well practice what I preach.

“Cool, cool.  So how’s life?”

“It’s been alright.  Still here, worked some menial tasks, and decided to go back to school.  I guess things are okay.”  It’s an honest answer.  The act of forgiveness has occurred, but almost exclusively in my mind, years ago.  I find no reason to jump from my chair and embrace.

“Oh, neat!  So…hmm…”

“Hmm?”

“Well, I hope you had a good time!  I’ve been coming to this place for years.  You really get positive feelings from it, like they really care, you know?  What did you get out of it?”  I won’t be quite as honest this time.

“It was…good.  I don’t have much of a relationship with the place yet, so I can’t say for sure.  But yeah, it’s definitely interesting.”  She gives a little smile, but not one especially endearing, nor forced.  The smile kind enough to get by.  All she has to offer is the sweetness of an apple.  Enough flavor to classify it as a fruit, and not enough to make it a favorite.

“I’m glad you had a good time.”  And she whips her head around and her hair follows and she looks on at her friends standing near the door.  “Maybe I’ll catch you later sometime.  Nice seeing you again.”

“Nice seeing you again.”

I still don’t know who should’ve apologized more.