Defiance

The moon, in the day,

is a peculiar sight.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                   Its beautiful radiance,

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              diminished cadence;

                                                                                                                                                                                                                  the light can not fight

                                                   the truth of the moon’s say.

 

The day, the sun’s domain,

hangs weary upon

the nightwatchman’s guide.

 

Does he not love his bride?

Does he truly wish her to be forgone?

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                     So selfish; a fiery lie inhumane.

The moon does not impose her will

on the night like that of her mate

on the day.                                               A mere presence,

where needed, her pleasance,

given gratefully. So I will await

the signs her beauty instilled,

accepted, in all times.

The Moon, in the day, was a peculiar sight.

Scholarship Contest Finalist

I was recently selected as a finalist for a scholarship. The way it works is through votes that the submission accrues. If anyone out there that actually reads this blog and has extra time, I would appreciate you voting for my submission to help me out. Thank you all, and may the force be with you.

http://www.diplomaframe.com/contests/frame-my-future-scholarship-contest-2014/details.aspx?entryID=66066

One is the Loneliest Number

…and then there was that one time we played my favorite game in the world all night long. You always were so thoughtful of my needs.

I miss you so much. Why did you have to go? Why now? I sit here, all alone, myself and the world. The two of us, we were lonely together.

There are others, but they just won’t do. They don’t fill the void you left. No one can; no one will.

There was that one time that you came back, and you were crying. You were so sad, I could feel it. You said someone had left you. I knew that your inside was hurting bad. I came over and hugged you, consoled you. You felt better. You told me it would just be us from then on out, no one else. Us as one. You played your favorite song over and over that night. I’ll never forget it.

But I know you won’t be back. Not this time. I keep staring out the window, hoping for your car to come in the driveway. I know none of these cars are yours though. I know the sound your car makes from a mile away. I can feel your presence. And you aren’t here anymore.

I’ll never forget the time we shared our most intimate secrets with each other. I never told anyone those things, but I knew I could tell you. You wouldn’t betray me, you wouldn’t hurt me. Even when you did yell at me or told me no, I knew you were mad at something else. I forgave you. I forgive you.

Yet here I lay, torn to shambles. I haven’t moved an inch since you left. Not to go to the bathroom, not to eat, not even to get a drink of water. What if you were to go by the house, calling out for me to join you, and I missed you? I cannot risk it.

The others seem to have been able to get over your death quicker than me. They keep telling me to just forget about you, that I should take my wallowing someplace else. But…

Oh no I said it. Oh dear lord I said the bad word—Death. There it is. There…it…is. I know you are gone, dead. I know it, but I can’t bring myself to truly believe it. I know I will have to though, eventually. We must all move on in life.

I just threw up. I can’t help it. My stomach was hungry but my brain was fixed on your death, and they don’t mix. I think I’ll just go and remember your favorite song and…

Wait, that sound. Is that…yes! It’s you! You’re here! You’re…no, that’s someone else. But I can feel your presence…

It is you! Oh my god it’s you by george it’s you! You were riding with a stranger! I knew I felt you! I don’t know how it’s possible, but it’s you! I was so sure you had died…

“Hey Petey boy. You missed me huh? Woah, down, down! Ok, go get your ball, we’ll go outside and play catch for a bit.”

 

The Obvious Death of Oculus Rift

I know, I know; the sensationalist title is over the top. Still, I can’t help but worry about the future of the Oculus Rift, the “next step in bringing virtual reality to gaming,” and further, the future of innovation as a whole.

If you haven’t heard by now, it was announced that Oculus VR was acquired by Facebook for an estimated $2 Billion. Unsurprisingly, the news of the acquisition sent Oculus Rift devotees, a large portion of them gamers, into a frenzy, many prophesying the oncoming death of their beloved peripheral.

My initial reaction was similar. As a gamer, I’ve become numb to acquisitions, layoffs, and video game companies folding. The video game industry is incredibly volatile and unstable. Electronic Arts (EA) acquisitions are an example of this trend. The mega video game company has made a living scooping up smaller studios and developers and wringing them dry.

The chorus of cries when EA consumes yet another victim is always the same. There’s usually a small contingent of optimists that hold out hope for a peaceful outcome. Then there’s an even smaller group that say they cannot blame the small company for taking EA’s money while they can. Then the rest are just an amalgam of anger, frustration and depression.

If you don’t follow gaming news much, you may be wondering why gamers feel this way. “Isn’t it good that a small company has gotten their ‘just due’ and made money that they worked hard for?” Well, yes, of course. Unfortunately, the small company has entered into the state of “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.”

Here’s an example story: You, your sister, your friend, and a guy from a message board you used to moderate, have all been meeting after work and school for about a year creating a really cool concept for a video game that you had pioneered.

After the year, you realize that your idea for this game is wonderful, never before seen, but unattainable with the few people currently working on it for the few hours that they do. So you head to Kickstarter, create a quick name for your “studio,” and your game idea becomes an instant hit. Within a week, your dream project gets kickstarted, and at the end of the backing period, it has gotten three-times the amount you asked for. The hype is real, gaming blogs and sites have picked it up, and now you can start to make your dream come to fruition.

Then the problems start to mount. Even after hiring three more people, you can’t seem to get enough done. You aren’t paying your team members very much, so they have other jobs and still go to school as well. You quit school for a little bit to focus on the game, since the people who kickstarted your project have backed you with real money and are expecting a product in a reasonable timeframe.

You push back the release date, hoping to not have to eventually do the most dreaded thing in video game development: cutting out features. After the third release date push back, hope is starting to fade. You realize that the amount of money it would actually take to make this game a reality  is not attainable barring a miracle. Crawling under a rock is sounding more and more better each passing minute.

Then EA sends you an email. They say that they have been monitoring your game development and are impressed. They would love to help make your dream come to life. They understand that the costs of game development are ridiculous. So if you send them what you have so far, and they like it, they would be willing to back you.

Of course, your studio would be absorbed into the EA Family, and EA would have final say on all decisions from there on out. Mostly, they want to make sure the game is “Economically Viable.”

No one is when it comes to THEM.

Is your dream economically viable? Are you?

“Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” If you take the offer, you know your pet project will most likely be changed to just a husk of what you saw in your dreams. The gamers, the ones who backed you in the first place, won’t see the vision that you laid out for them. Still, it would be something, and financially you can help yourself and the others on your team, a good amount too. If you don’t take the offer, well, you may never be able to get the game finished. At the very least, it would take many more years to complete, and that’s just crazy to ask of your team and those that backed you.

Worst of all, someone else, possibly even EA, may use their incredible monetary power to bull rush ahead of you and release something similar before you can get yours out the door.


So, as you can see, it’s a tough decision, one I would be loath to make. This is where we stand with the Oculus Rift. They had pushed back production a couple of times already, and coming out this year was never guaranteed. When you add to that the news that both Sony and Microsoft are both doing their own versions of a VR device, you get a small company that may be thinking its time is nearly up. In comes Facebook to save the day.

Unless you are actually Palmer Luckey and have the decision between taking $2 Billion or declining and banking on yourself and your dream project, you cannot say without a doubt what you would do.

Still, if you take the money, the outcome is often the same. That is, your baby becomes a prostitute for the big company. You are rich now, but you’ll always wonder if you would have been rich anyways, but under your own watch and in charge of your own game.

“Thanks for your awesome idea, the check is the mail. We will make a ton more in profits anyways chump.”

So what’s the point of this post, anyways? Well, for one, I’ve been meaning to write on something in the gaming world, especially since my blog is titled “The Casual Gamer.” Two, I wanted to think about the two different extremes of the kind of world we could be living in given a) no one took the mega corporation’s money, or b) everyone took the money.

I’ll talk about that in the next post.

(EDIT: I have decided to not talk about that in my next post.)

 

 

Hogan’s Last Run

It was Wednesday, and that meant waking up early to do his run. He thought about sleeping in. The warmth from Butch, his old mutt, was convenient, but he decided to head out anyways.

After the run, the usual feeling of mediocre accomplishment that largely went unnoticed washed over him. Maybe he did need a running partner after all.

Hogan had read up on the subject. He knew that having a running partner kept you honest, accountable. Any more than one running partner increased the accountability.

On days that people don’t feel like running, when it seems it’s not worth it, such as Wednesdays, having that partner waiting for you, depending on you, giving you worth, could mean the difference between giving in and persevering.

He knew this. Hogan’s problem was that he had always done things on his own, and running was no exception. In fact, he ran to be alone. He knew that no one that he fraternized with on a daily basis actually enjoyed running, neither did any of his friends. The threat of social interaction was remarkably low when he went on a run, which was what he preferred.

He would always head out before dawn, at dusk, or on a trail that wasn’t highly inhabited by other humans. Any time or place that was sure to not attract too much attention was all the better.

“Ma,” Hogan yawned, “I’m heading out for a run.”
“At this hour? It’s raining you know.”
“Yeah.”
“Be careful Hogan.”

Hogan was out the door before his mom could relay this last bit to him.

To Hogan, having a running partner seemed unnecessary. Sure, there were days where he felt like quitting, succumbing to the pain of running on empty, running with no goals in mind, just running regardless. He always found the strength to trudge on through the morass of weariness though. It was a game he played with himself called “When Will The Willpower Finally Fail?”

Remarkably, he would harvest the most willpower in the worst of days. Raining, freezing cold, unknown territory; whatever the world could throw at Hogan, it all allowed him to muster untapped power from within to conquer whatever problem he was faced with on that day. At least he had that.

“I’m sorry to hear about your dad Hogan. How are you holding up?”
“I’m fine.”
“I know it’s not easy to deal with something like this. Do you have everything squared away with the hospital and such? What did the doctors say?”
“Everything is handled. We have our instructions from the doctors. Don’t worry about us Brenda, we’ll be ok.”
“I just know that you are so close to your dad, and…”
“Yeah, I know. Look I’m gonna head out for a run, but I’ll keep in touch, ok?”

The days that threatened Hogan with failure the most were always the easy, patternized, day-like-every-other-day days. What was the point of those days?

The point, he would tell himself, was to build a base. A foundation of miles ran so that he can, in the future, run even more miles.

At least that’s what he had read. It reminded Hogan of everything else wrong in the world. It was the proverbial hamster wheel of life, and we were the hamsters, constantly running for the next milestone in life just because that was the plan that was taught to us. That’s when we realize what a waste it’s all been, spinning clockwise, to the right, always. Then the hamster gets off the wheel and slowly decays by the prison wall.

Soon, even the rainy days became monotonous. The harder it rained, the more Hogan didn’t care. He would just shelter himself with a jacket; a forcefield of polyester, garnering protection from the torrential downpour. He wondered if he was learning how to deal with the rain or merely hiding from the problem. Come freezing cold, unknown territories, or whatever else, he had ways to mask the problem.

Hogan became adept at hiding rather than running. What was the point of any day now?

So Hogan finally caved to his willpower one Wednesday. He figured people probably thought he would quit at some point anyways. He decided he would make this run his last. He would take it nice and easy, try to enjoy it for what it was. If this was going to be his last run, he wanted it to at least mean something.

Dear Mama and Papa,
You won’t find me in my room when you wake up. I know this may be selfish, or idiotic even, but I know that I have to do this. This will be my last run.
I cannot go on another run with no damn meaning. What is the point of it all? The greatest thinkers have asked this very question time and time again, and not one could hammer it down.
Do you know what that means? It means that we really do exist just out of pure happenstance. There is no reason for our existence. There is no reason for me to run except that I do. I cannot run in a world with no reason.
So this will be my last run. I won’t be taking my phone, nor my keys, nor anything else besides my watch and my self.
Please do not fear, nor fret. This has NOTHING to do with you guys. Anyone else really. It’s all on me. I plan to run as long as I can until I cannot go any further. We’ll let nature take its course as they say.
Please take care of Butch, he’s an old dog and needs close watching.
 
See you guys past the finish line,
Hogan

Heading out the door around five in the morning, Hogan decided to do something that he had always thought about, but never had the guts to: run without a plan. He had always structured his runs, meticulously planning them out so that he could get back to his meticulously planned out life. He usually ran with water at the ready, his phone and bluetooth headphones, and music. On this last run, he left it all behind.

The run started out well enough. When he rounded the second corner to the right, he realized he was just running the same route he had always run before. Afraid he had already messed up his last run, Hogan quickly started to look for another path. He saw a small side street on the right that he had passed every day. Hogan always wondered what was down there.

Turning down the dark street, Hogan realized the mistake he made by veering down this path. There were no lights on this street, and at this hour of the morning, it was even difficult for him to see his own shoes.

It was brisk out when Hogan had left his house, but now he was downright cold. Hogan had never really gotten colder on runs since his body heated up within a half mile after starting his run. He got chills from the thought of what kind of sinister demise was awaiting him down this lonely street.

After passing the third house on the left, he saw something move up ahead. Slowing down a bit, he looked back at the comfort of the main road that he had always run on. The allure of going back to status quo was strong. The reliable old route beckoned Hogan to come back, calling to him through the darkness. He actually tried to stop and go back, but then he saw the movement again out of the corner of his eye.

Was it a dog? Or a cat? Maybe a mountain lion? Hogan knew mountain lions have been known to lurk up here on these streets, especially at this hour.

Remembering it was his last run anyways, Hogan kept going down the street, albeit at a cautious pace. He felt a gentle breeze crawl down his back, his shirt, and into his soul. Everything in his earthly body was suggesting to go back to safety.

“Come what may,” Hogan heaved between heavy breaths.

Hogan saw it move again, this time in an awkward, jaggedy fashion. It was definitely something big, like a bear that had quickly stood on its hind legs to impose its strength, and then dropped back down to all four just as fast. It was waiting for Hogan.

Taking advantage of the refreshing morning air, Hogan took in a deep breath and kept going forward. As he got within twenty yards of the mysterious shadow, it jumped up and started towards him. Hogan quickly shuffled across the street and readied himself to succumb to the bloodthirsty beast.

Hogan gulped, swallowing his fear.

“This is it, the end of my run. At least I will die with some dignity.”

Hogan thought about how they would find him: Bits and pieces all over the place, blood smattered throughout the street. Residents would have to try and go to work and school later in the day despite the carnage. Hopefully the coroner would tell his parents that he put a fight, but the beast was just too big and that there was nothing anyone could do.

Hogan closed his eyes just as the Shadowbeast got close enough to mount an attack. The Shadowbeast wrenched upwards, displaying its sheer size for Hogan to fear. Then in a flash, it deflated. Hogan knew it was not of this world. That’s when a faint light creaked into view, and Hogan realized what the Shadowbeast actually was: a torn-up garbage bag fluttering in the wind.

“How foolish!” thought Hogan.

He was so afraid of that garbage bag. In the darkness, it looked like a creature of the night. He was so sure that whatever it was, it would be making sure he didn’t go back on his promise of this being his last run.

Hogan was elated that he was, in his mind, ready to die honorably just a moment ago. That familiar breeze acquainted itself with his back yet again to offer support.

“What had just happened?” thought Hogan. “I’ve never felt that afraid in my life before. Hell, I’ve never felt that brave either.”

“hogan…”

Hogan heard his name in the wind. He stopped running to listen again. He quickly spun around, but no one was there. Except for the moon. And the darkness. And the garbage bag.

Continuing on and heading past the last house on the street, he came to an intersection. He decidedly decided, maybe for the first time in his life, to go right.

Being that it was so dark still, Hogan wondered how he was able to perceive that the garbage bag was, in fact, just a garbage bag. There were no lights on that lonely street; he was shrouded in darkness. Hogan glanced down at his hands. There was a comforting glimmer on them, allowing him to see the blue-green veins on the back of his hands.

The moon was shining down, giving off just enough light to make sure he knew he wasn’t alone. Hogan had always been aware of the presence of the moon, but never paid much attention to it, until today.

The Moon wasn’t always out; some days it would be elsewhere, shining its light on another hapless runner. On Hogan’s last run though, The Moon made sure to be there for him. Hogan appreciated that.

With a new sense of power and courage imparted in him from the company of The Moon, Hogan set out to feel that rush of heroism he felt when confronting the garbage bag Shadowbeast. He looked ahead to see if he could “see” anything again in the darkness. The darkness wouldn’t comply with his wishes.

About halfway down this new street, Hogan heard something. Scratching noises, to the right side and a little behind him. No…shuffling noises, like someone was outside a door trying to get in. Hogan quickened his pace and dared not look back, at least not yet. He would get a nice lead on it, a good distance, then glance back.

The sound was insistent on making Hogan nervous. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t let him out of its sight. It was mocking him, assuring him that he would never outrun it. Hogan wanted to hide, to circle back and go home. He instinctively reached for his bluetooth to call 911. It wasn’t there.

Then he remembered—his watch! His watch had a light on it. Maybe he could blind the murderer that was following him in the darkness.

Hogan gathered himself and devised a plan in his head. He would blind the murderer, then when the murderer put his hands up to his eyes to shield the light, Hogan would kick him in the shin, thus incapacitating him. Then, when the murderer was truly vulnerable, Hogan would kick him in the face, knocking him out and defeating the enemy. It was foolproof.

Slowly moving his right arm up towards his chest, Hogan stealthily slid his left hand over and on to his watch, positioning his index finger over the “Light” button. His hands were shaking, heart was thumping, fingers trembling. Running was difficult, but he managed. He couldn’t stop now. Not now, maybe not ever. Well, at least not while the deranged murderer was gaining on him.

Springing into action, Hogan twisted his body around to face the perpetrator, raised his watch and shone a light unto the murderer’s doomed visage.

The murderer screamed out, collapsed and sprawled out on the ground, writhing in pain. The plan had worked! His watch did more damage than he had imagined.

The light from Hogan’s watch had mortally wounded the murderer. Standing over the heap of agony, Hogan again noticed his old friend, The Moon, had come back to help. The Moon shot a death ray of light at the cold, dark figure on the floor. The murderer, who had haunted Hogan’s every move, was put out of its misery. Hogan high-fived The Moon and, together, they continued Hogan’s last run.

“Hogan…Hogan, we need you…hogan…”

Hogan was invincible. He glanced down at his watch. It had been about an hour since he left his house, and he wasn’t looking to head back any time soon. His “last run” had thus far been an enthralling success. Searching the darkness for a chance to thwart more threats, a shadowy figure materialized ahead on the corner of the street to the right. It looked as if the figure was on the edge of an elementary school.

The human-like figure emitted a bruiseish color, bubbling with dark energy. Hogan could smell the evil even from this distance. It smelled of ammonia and sulfur. This is what death would look like if it had become mortal. This was Death Incarnate.

Hogan knew, without doubt, that there was absolutely no way he was going to let this evil terrorize the world. With the darkness at his back, and The Moon lighting the way, he head forth to confront Death Incarnate.

“Moon, why weren’t you there when I needed you most?”
“I’ve always been here for you Hogan, you just never asked for help.”
“I’ve been on so many meaningless runs.”
“I know. I should have said something.”
“I know you were there. I just took you for granted. I’m sorry…”
“Don’t be sorry Hogan. I’m just glad you are finally realizing the power you have inside you.”
“Power? And what about…”

Before Hogan could ask The Moon about the nature of the darkness, and why, now, he was able to see things that weren’t always there, he realized they had come upon the corner of the street.

Not hesitating, Hogan stepped up to confront Death Incarnate. He had his watch light ready to go. He backed up a bit, drew a breath…then charged. The figure floated ghastly right past Hogan, leaving him dazed.

Hogan followed the figure across the street, but the deathly figure emitted a power that made it difficult for Hogan to keep track. The figure kept floating, leaping, vanishing in and out of existence from one point to the next.

Hogan tried to keep up. Finally, the figure seemed to find a home down the street a bit, in the lawn of a church.

As he charged in with the last of his willpower towards the elusive figure, he shone the damning light from his watch on it. Hogan was met with what looked like a scarecrow, not the evil frame he had assumed.

As Hogan went closer to investigate, a glaring, burning light permeated the entire street, making it look as if the sun had suddenly, finally, realized its power and decided to kill the residents of this planet with its tremendous might. Hogan grasped at his head, his body; it felt as if the light was suffocating him. The Moon was nowhere to be seen. Hogan longed for the darkness.

After struggling for a couple of minutes, the light vanished. The scarecrow was gone. So was The Moon. He was alone, cold, wet. A void had swallowed him. It felt as if he had slipped into a dreamstate. Then, a righteous chorus of voices spoke to him.

“Hogan: Your time has arrived. You must come with us. Only those that have seen the light, felt the heat, approached the shadowy figure, are selected. Although you had plans of making this your last run, I assure you, you will be running again. We need you Hogan, our world needs you. You are absolutely perfect for the job. Our world is dying. It is being consumed by a false light, by lies. Only those that have been able to utilize the darkness, those that are not afraid of the darkness, those that understand the darkness is just as important as the light, can help this world now. That is you. The Moon is counting on you as well. Your imperfection is what makes you so valuable to us. Please, accept our plead, and promise to continue to run.”

“I, I…can’t. I’m tired. I’m done with running, because running is done with me. Why run when it is so much easier to sleep…”

Hogan awoke from his dreamstate back on the street. It was day. The Moon was still nowhere to be seen. His watch with the light on it was missing from his wrist. The school and church were gone. All that was left was the street and the scarecrow, which stood about a football field away from him. Hogan kept his eyes on the scarecrow and slowly approached it. The scarecrow stood looking lifelessly back at him.

Thunder shook the sky. Lightning created intricate patterns of deathly beams that bolted down all around him. A mighty wind and rain started to fall. The elements were all trying to keep Hogan from reaching the scarecrow.

As Hogan slogged fifty yards closer, the world threw the most devastating earthquake it could muster at him. The ground split open underneath him, the street parting like the Red Sea. Hogan tried as best as he could to keep from falling in.

Struggling, he dove for a tree root that was sprouting from under the street, hoping it would be enough to hold him steady until the earthquake subsided. He fell into the crevice the earthquake had created, but the root was just strong enough to keep him from falling in.

The world did not seem to like that. It angrily shook Hogan harder than ever, causing the root to start to come loose. Panicking, Hogan looked around for another way out. He was too far from the surface to get up, and below him was nothing but darkness.

“The darkness!” realized Hogan.

Seeing no other way, Hogan decided to take a final leap of faith into the darkness. Anything was better than dying scared and alone, hanging pathetically onto a tree root. Just before he let go, a shadow befell him from above.

The scarecrow stood above him, looking dead in Hogan’s eyes. Terrified, Hogan froze. He stared at the silhouette looking down at him. The scarecrow twitched a bit, and then started to extend its hand downward, the right arm of the scarecrow growing in length, creeping its way slowly towards Hogan.

When its arm got within a couple of feet, Hogan finally realized who the scarecrow was. It was himself but from before. Decked out in running gear, his past-self had on headphones, a fuel belt, a phone armband, sunglasses. The arm being extended down by Hogan’s past-self housed the same GPS watch that Hogan had just used a little while ago to defeat the murderer.

The light on the watch suddenly turned on, shining brightly down on Hogan, blinding him. The hand of his past-self was within reach. He had a choice.

“Come and take my hand. We will complete our final run, finish what we started. Why do you fight it? Isn’t this what you wanted? We can…sleep…now…”

Thinking of how wonderful sleep had sounded, Hogan reached up and grabbed the hand of his past-self. It was familiar and comforting. It started to pull him up, and Hogan knew it would be ok.

Flashes of his family, his friends, his dog, a woman he had never met before but loved intimately, The Moon…they all flicked through Hogan’s mind. Hogan opened his eyes.

“Sleeping will have to wait.”

In one fell swoop, he let go of the root and let his weight pull the arm of his past-self down with him towards the darkness. As he and his past-self plummeted down, he felt unusually reassured. Hogan looked at his past-self, and saw that it was weeping. His past-self knew that it would die. Hogan knew that he would live.

Hogan landed lightly on his feet back in front of his house, which stood to the left. His past-self fell violently on the street, shattering nevermore.

He looked at his watch. It was 7 o’clock; two hours had passed, and the sun was starting to peek out from behind the hills. He could see The Moon, faintly, tears of relief in its eyes. It was a hell of a run, but at least it wouldn’t be his last.

A gentle breeze reassured Hogan he would be alright. The breeze lifted him from the street and cradled him into his bed. The Moon watched over him, ever so closely. It made sure Hogan knew he always had a running partner waiting for him when he was ready.

All Hogan could think of was getting back to his daily runs, even the Wednesdays. Especially the Wednesdays. He thought of his parents again, his dog, his friends, hell, even Brenda. Hogan closed his eyes to welcome the comfort of the dark.

Apocatastasis

“How wonderful would it be to go back to the way things were? I mean, just keep progressing, but backwards instead of forwards? You know, back to the wonderful days of blatant racism. Back to when gays weren’t even given a closet to hide in. Back when women had a place in the kitchen, not the voting booth.”
—random 70-year-old idiot, stuck in time, hoping to die because they refuse to change.

It all sounds so delightful to some I’m sure. The worst part is that if you ask around a bit, you will find many people that actually agree with this notion, and not just older generations failing to grasp the difficult reality of forward progress.

Take for instance this article: Taking Away the Cheat Sheet

I was recently recommended this article on Twitter by someone I believe to be a very intelligent individual. Being that it was midday on a Wednesday, and I had some time to kill, I dove in for the brief read.

After reading it, I thought of how many times the argument that the author proposes has been brought up, even to me as recently as a couple of months ago.

Now, I have no doubt that the purpose of the article was to pitch the author’s new novel, based on the same premise of the article, and that, overall, the author was presenting the dilemma in a more light-hearted tone. Still, I just can’t help but to play a bit of Devil’s Advocate here and offer up another “What if?” scenario.

If you haven’t read the article yet, I ask that you do read it so that you can understand my own thoughts in regards to it. If you don’t have the time for that, well, here’s a TL:DR of the article’s theme: What if the internet were to be disintegrated? The author believes: “The loss of the Internet would allow us to become someone new.” He also offers examples of how we would connect better with each other by actually having to talk with one another in person, without infinite knowledge at the ready.

I don’t disagree with that. The author’s arguments are sound. My problem stems from the idea that the only way we can better ourselves is to get rid of the internet.

Why must we destroy progress, especially something as vital and important to humankind like the Internet, in order to better ourselves? It’s not just this guy’s opinion of the Internet either.

People have proposed that times were better “back in the day.” Memories flooding their heads with a rose tint, forgetting that not all was so great for everyone back then.

I’m not saying the present, nor the future, is any better. In fact, I believe there will never be peace on earth. There will always be problems, issues and war. They just change with the tides. Our problems now—lack of articulation, over-reliance on technology, willingness to settle for mediocrity, etc.—are just the problems we face today.

These problems may have not existed in the Roaring ‘20s, but the problem of instant communication was prevalent back then. It’s also hard not to think of all the social issues as well. No matter your stance on him, Barack Obama would not have had a chance to even dream of being president of the United States of America in the 1920s.

Getting back to the article, I know the author is not so serious in tone because surely he is aware that the loss of knowledge that he seems to hate so much would be absolutely detrimental to humans the world over.

Would all of the data be lost? No, I’m sure amongst all humans we would be able to piece it back together. But how long would that take? The effort of trying to recover the lost data would impede further progress.

So how about this: Instead of doing the seemingly first human instinct of just destroying and dismissing things we don’t understand, let’s start to work forward and educate our young in the art of conversation, social skills, etc.

The problem isn’t the internet. The internet is a tool, like a hammer or a wrench. Use it wisely, learn what it is capable of, and you will go far. The problem is today’s parents. They need to teach their kids how and when to use tools such as the internet. Just handing them a smartphone or a laptop will surely result in the child doing what they feel best with it, which is understandable.

Bottom line: Parents need to step up and educate their children on the uses of things such as the internet. If they don’t, the child will be subjected to learning those things from their peers. Even Willy Wonka knew who to blame “back in the day”:

We seem to forget how new the internet still is in relation to history. It barely became household accessible in the last 30 years or so, and there are still many people without access to it.

Of course we abused the hell out of it, especially my generation. So much so that, yes, we have become over reliant on instant knowledge at our fingertips. But come on, let’s not be brash and wish for the internet to just be done away with.

As a future teacher, I know that I will face this problem head on when I start to teach. Students will write essays in text lingo, they will crane their necks down to read the last text they just received, they will attempt to look up answers to the quiz on their laptop that they “only use for taking notes.”

I still will not endorse a movement backwards. Can not, will not. Well, except for one exception. I will endorse the progression backward of cartoons that children watch. Because, of course, the cartoons I grew up with were far superior than the drivel nowadays. If you don’t believe me, you can always just look it up on your phone.

Vicious Cycle

If you want to know happiness, you have to be willing to know pain. That’s all that makes sense in this world, pain. It drives and motivates and goes on and on and on. Until it ends, of course. There’s no escaping pain. People run and hide from it; do they not realize it is just waiting to devour, that it is unavoidable?

I learned that the hard way. I continue to learn it. I will never learn. Learn, never.

The most tolerant people you meet have experienced the greatest amount of misery. People who whine and moan about the most mundane things in life are those that have never experienced real pain. They will, but they haven’t, yet. Someone that has endured and survived a holocaust doesn’t complain about a wrong order at the fast food restaurant.

My life has been so hard, the pain so real. I need to learn to trust my own words.

The cost of happiness is pain. That’s what war is: pain for happiness. Suffering for comfort. Everyone endures their own personal war, and people need to realize that none suffers greater than anyone else.

God, how I have learned this. I know already. I can’t help it. Why am I here? Because, you’re losing the war.

If this all sounds so bleak, just remember that it is a truth that has been in existence since the beginning. Abel pursued his happiness, as did Cain. The person that can accept the pain as a fact is a person who can then experience happiness. To experience happiness is to be human.

This IV is killing me. These pills are killing me. This bed is killing me. This world is killing me.

What you need to realize, son, is that I will not be here for very long. You need to move on, before it’s too late. You need to accept the pain as fact; but to more importantly move the hell on. How can you be happy when you trap yourself in a self-induced prison? Trust me, I’ve been trapped in my own god-forsaken prison since childhood. It’s a life of raw rending insanity. Trust me.

You fucking hypocrite. Do you think just saying the words will save your ass now? Your son is as pathetic as you are; actually, more so. Quit it with the pain and happiness bullshit, he’s not even listening anymore. You sure as shit don’t believe it.

Are you hearing me, son? Do you understand me? I fight internally, hourly, and I have avoided the pain for so long. I’m ready to be happy. I want to be happy. Nothing will make me happier than knowing you will be ok. I want the pain. The real pain, not the fake pain I do to myself, but the truthful pain. Please, son, take my hand.

Just stop! Stop stop stop!

Don’t be scared Mijo, I have not been more at peace then I am now. I think I deserve the happiness, don’t you? Please, don’t cry.

Look at him, he is so distraught. Do you want to do that to him? Come back, you don’t deserve it, and you know it. Think of all the horrible things you have done. Why should you get to dwell in happiness? Just come back, get better, and we’ll escape the pain for a bit more longer.

Ok.

Shrek and Christmas, A Story

As I sit here, another Christmas day upon the world, I can’t help but think back to the day Shrek 2 helped teach me the true meaning of Christmas.

Growing up, Christmas was pretty much summed up best by the greatest holiday movie of all time. A Christmas Story epitomizes what Christmas means to kids, but that movie is so much more than just the tale of Ralphie. It is a tale of the meaning of Christmas throughout one’s life.

As a small child, like Randy, Christmas is so much more than just a singular gift. Consumerism hasn’t quite taken a hold on a small child. They are happy to just be where they are, in the moment, getting whatever gifts they get, excited to see Santa just because.

Growing up, we become like Ralphie, letting marketing schemes pollute our minds, turning manic and ravenous in our lust for toys.

Then you have the Old Man. The dad, like many adults, is occupied with the world throughout the movie. Christmas is just another day that he has to take time out for. Gifts really don’t mean much anymore at all; instead, a can of Simoniz is just as swell. He was once a child though, so he thankfully hasn’t forgotten what is important to children like Ralphie. So he gets Ralphie a Red Ryder BB gun, thus completing the cycle of life.

There is no confirmation email, no indicator light to tell you that you have gone from “Ralphie” to “The Old Man.” It sort of just happens. One day, it truly does feel much better to give than to receive.


It was the holiday season of 2004, and working at Hollywood Video, we were quite busy. We always ran deals on previously viewed DVDs: 2 for $20, 3 for $25, etc. The rentals were flying off the shelves as well; movie companies loved to release their home media around the holiday season to maximize profits.

This time of year always brought out the grinch in my coworkers and me. Kids running around; the store a mess more than usual; people stressed because they have family over, they’re broke, they’re tired, and here is this teenage kid telling them that they owe late fees. These people always made work laborious.

The hot movies were usually major blockbusters and, especially, children’s movies. Shrek 2 was the hot movie this holiday season, and as such, was always out of stock. Customers would get legitimately angry if we didn’t have something in stock. “My kid has been waiting forever for that damn movie! Isn’t there anything you can do for me?!” (“Sure, let me wave my Hollywood Video magic wand and conjure up your DVD for you, one sec.”)

The worst was always the customer who swore we had some in stock “in the back,” as if we were hiding the movies from the customer for our own devious reasons, rubbing our hands together when the customer walks out defeated, laughing a menacing laugh that only true evil incarnate could laugh. It’s like they believed, truly believed, that we wanted to hear them bitch and moan.

It was Christmas Eve, and I was working the morning shift. I had requested to work the day on Christmas Eve, and the night, if need be, Christmas Day, since that worked with my schedule. Hollywood Video was ahead of its time in being open for 365 days; a true capitalist pioneer.

At least at our store, it seemed the customers came in waves rather than a consistent stream. After the morning rush, there was a lull around noon. My manager had excused herself to go get some lunch – probably some meal from Carl’s Jr., with a side of extra chicken tenders. Such a perfect meal for someone who was a recent recipient of the famous lap band surgery. The next worker would be coming in around 1 p.m. or so, probably so my manager could leave earlier than her time on the schedule.

As I’m leaning against the middle counter, watching A Charlie Brown Christmas on the TV above, a man comes into the store. I had never seen him before. When you work at a local joint, like the local video store, you tend to remember faces more easily.

I smile his way, a little wave, just a quick acknowledgment of his existence. He smiles back and heads over.

“Hey, uh, was wonderin’ if you got any Shreks left?”

“Sorry man, all out. I can call the other stores if you would like?”

“Oh, uh, none huh? None in the back room there?”

He let out a quick little chuckle with that last question. I wasn’t amused. Still, I told him to wait one second while I check. I didn’t always do that for customers. I mean, what’s the point? I knew there wasn’t any back there. This guy seemed nice though, innocent. Besides, no one else was in the store.

Rummaging through the boxes on the floor really quick, I predictably didn’t find any Shreks. Ready to head back out to bear the bad news, I saw something out of the corner of my eye.

There was shelving in the back where we kept all of the concessions. Often times, we would hide stuff there that we wanted to potentially buy later. I noticed that a box of Dots candy had been torn open. No one ever bought Dots, so this stood out to me. I looked in the box, and, not unlike the scene in Pulp Fiction where Vincent Vega looks in the briefcase in Brett’s apartment, a glowing luminescence filled my face with the glory of a pristine copy of Shrek 2.

I didn’t even think about the possibility that I was potentially about to offer one of my coworkers’ hidden stash, I was just so excited to be able to give this guy good news. I burst out of the room and exclaimed that we did, in fact, have one in the back. His face swelled.

“Is that a new copy?”

“Umm, yeah? It’s a new copy of Shrek 2, never opened. These are hard to get right now! I would suggest grabbing it, it won’t last, I can guarantee that.”

At this point, a couple came in with their kid in tow. They looked exactly like the type to want to steal this guy’s copy of Shrek 2. The dad made his way over.

“Excuse me, would you by any chance have Shrek 2 in stock? Previously viewed or new, it doesn’t matter.”

I looked nervously at the first guy. His head hung low as if he was witnessing the decimation of his kid right there at my hands.

“Sorry, we are all out.”

“Ah shit, really? My little girl has been crying about that fuckin’ movie for weeks now. I figured I’d get it for her for Christmas, and just forgot. I’ve checked all over this side of town, you gotta help me here.”

I noticed the first guy had started to stealthily make his way out of the store. I called out to him to wait one second, until I was done with the other guy. He looked weak, but stood by the drop box.

“Again, sorry. I just checked in the back a little bit ago, and there were none. I can see if we have one in the drop box?”

“How the hell is that going to help me? Babe! Babe, c’mon let’s go! They don’t have it!”

“What! Sonofabitch!”

The lady was rummaging through our previously viewed movies table, making a mess, trying in vain to locate the movie they knew was not there. The couple stormed out with their kid trailing behind. The kid looked at me like she was just happy she wasn’t the one that had got yelled at that time. I then noticed my manager’s car parking outside; she went somewhere else.

“Hey, sorry about that. I didn’t want to give your copy away to them. Why didn’t you want it?”

“Well…I never buy new movies. Too expensive man. Your store’s dope ’cause you have good deals on older movies. It’s okay bro, thanks for lookin’ out.”

Here was a person who had never bought a new movie due to economic reasons. Then, I thought about how cool it would be for that person to get a new movie, the first one ever, and give it to their kid. This had to happen.

“Look, I’ll be honest, the previously viewed Shrek 2’s probably won’t go on sale for a bit since it just came out. Tell you what: You come back tomorrow after 5 p.m.; I work again tomorrow. I can’t do it now, because my boss is coming back. But, come back, and I’ll sell you this movie as part of the deal we have going on for the older movies.”

“Really? Thanks bro. I may not have time to come in though. Is it ok to come in a little after 6?”

“Sure thing man, I work all night!”

With that, he extended his fist for a brotherly bump, and I obliged. I then hid the movie under a stack of other movies under the till. Before leaving for the day, I snuck the movie to the employee bathroom/stockroom/junk closet, and hid it amongst the debris.

It was Christmas Day, and upon arriving at work I was in good cheer. The night before was another fun night with my immediate family, and the day that was just passing was a nice day amongst my Mom’s side of the family. I had forgotten about the deal I made with the Shrek guy, but sure enough, sometime around 6:30 p.m. or so, he came in.

Christmas was always strange to me when working at Hollywood. It got packed, and we always wondered why people were at a Hollywood Video rather than with family celebrating Christmas. I guess it never dawned on us to ask why we were at a Hollywood Video as well (holiday pay, obviously).

I was out on the floor when I felt the timid tap on my shoulder.

“Hey bro, I’m here.”

“Oh, hey! One sec, ok?”

I raced over to get the key for the stockroom, then started over to get the goods. Along the way a woman asked me: “Do you have anymore Shreks?” “No, sorry.” “Are you sure?” sigh “Yes.” I got to the door, and put the key in. That same lady had followed me. “Oh, is that the back room? Is there any Shreks in there?” I wanted to say, “Actually, there is a Shrek in here! And you aren’t getting it! Wooooo!” I just said no, went in, shut the door, and grabbed the movie.

I didn’t know if that lady was out there, waiting for me, waiting to see if I did indeed get the movie, as if she knew somehow that this guy’s copy of Shrek 2 was in there. I peeked out; the coast was clear. I started walking over to the guy, who was perusing the previously viewed movies. It was then that I realized he had brought his daughter with him. Surely the movie was for her, and I couldn’t spoil the surprise, so I snuck over to the counter.

The line was getting pretty big at that point, so I called out to him, and told him to just get in line when he was ready. After wading through customer after customer, the Shrek guy came up.

“So, did you pick out another movie as well?”

“Yeah, figured I’d go with Bad Boys 2, haven’t seen that one yet.”

“Good choice, that was a funny movie. Good action too. I noticed your daughter. Is that who the movie is for?”

“Yeah man, my princess. She was down with the first one. I took her to see this one and now she just wants to have the DVD, ya know? I liked it too.”

After ringing him up, adjusting the pricing in the computer so that it would be about the same as a 2 for $20 deal, and putting the movies in the bag, his daughter came up.

“Daddy, are you done? Can we go home and open presents now?”

“Yes baby, but first we have to go to your mom’s house. She has presents for you too.”

“Aw, I don’t wanna go to Judy’s house! I just wanna go home!”

“Listen, we will be home later, ok? You have to go to your mom’s, you know that.”

I walked them over to the side of the store, past the theft detectors, and handed him his movies.

“Hey bro, thanks again. You have no idea how much this means to me and my girl. Now to go deal with my ex….”

That last statement was filled with an exhaustion only people that have to deal with ex’s can understand. I bade him farewell, and got back to work.

Later that night, I couldn’t help but wonder how Shrek guy’s daughter reacted to opening her gift to see a brand new, not previously owned, Shrek 2 DVD. I like to imagine that the Shrek guy fooled her a bit, put the Bad Boys 2 DVD on top of the Shrek 2 DVD, wrapped it up, and gave it to her. She tore open the gift, was puzzled and a little disappointed at the DVD that lay in her hands, then, realizing there was another underneath, exposed the brand new DVD of the movie she loved more than the whole world, hugged her daddy, begged to put the movie on, and fell asleep half way through from all the hubbub of the day.

Either way, I couldn’t help but realize that the best part of my Christmas in 2004 was when I was able to do something for someone else. Ever since then, I have been so much more pleased giving than receiving.

Santa doesn’t die, he doesn’t ever go away; he lives in all of us. We are taught how to be Santa, and when the time comes, we take up the mantle. That’s what the true meaning of Christmas is.