Monthly Archives: July 2009

Twilight – Journey Into the Abyss (Part Eleven)

<Note: If you enjoy this blog and wish to read more of my writing, please visit my new web site: www.zestfulcontemplation.com, for my most recent work and other fun stuff. Thank you.>

TwilightLicense

Note: Many, many thanks go out to my roommate, Bryan, and his significant other, Anna, for obtaining the wonderful item you see in the above photo for me during a recent trip.  I absolutely adore it.

Chapter Nine (continued)

Shattered Dreams: All right, so you know those myths about vampires? You know, every single vampire myth ever? The thing that makes a vampire a vampire and not a weird shiny thing with superpowers that just happens to drink blood like an overgrown mosquito?

Yeah, throw all of those out the window. They’re not welcome here.

Creatures of the night? Nope.

Burned by the sun? Nope.

Sleep in coffins? Nope.

Apparently the Twilight breed of “vampires” actually do drink blood, but that is the single solitary thing I can find that ties them even somewhat to the mythical creature that the rest of the world has been featuring in other legends and pieces of fiction for perhaps hundreds of years.

Well, okay, that and a long, possibly immortal life span.

There, I found two things. Are you happy now?

It really is enough to make one wonder why Steph chose vampires for this ridiculous story in the first place. I mean, I’ve heard of taking a familiar concept and reinventing it, but usually when that’s done there’s, oh I don’t know, some sort of reason for it.

Here it seems totally arbitrary. Edward might as well be labelled a superhero or a mutant or something for the random mishmash of various qualities that have been slapped on him. There’s no apparent underlying philosophy behind the vampire reinvention. She just seems to tack on whatever features are most convenient for her sappy story.

Beautiful slumber: “He hesitated for a moment, and a peculiar tone entered his voice. ‘I can’t sleep.’

It took me a minute to absorb that. ‘At all?’

‘Never,” he said.’”

Well… I sort of can, but only vicariously. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about that. You, uh… you might want to close your windows at night.

Those pesky details: “‘You aren’t concerned about my diet?’ he asked sarcastically.

‘Oh,’ I murmured, “that.’”

Yeah, the tiny little part where the boy sitting next to you DRINKS FREAKING BLOOD AND IS A VAMPIRE.

That part.

This should be fun: Now Mr. Golden-Eyed Dreamboat is attempting to explain why, despite all outward appearances, he’s actually still dangerous.

This should be good.

Well, come to think of it, there is the whole part where he’s a schizophrenic, obsessive, psychic, maniac vampire. That might qualify.

Change the game tape, please: “I watched the headlights twist with the curves of the road. They moved too fast; it didn’t look real, it looked like a video game.”

They looked like a video game: the most boring video game EVER MADE.

Adventures in improper usage: I’ve heard of being “terribly afraid” before. I’ve even heard of being “wonderfully afraid”.

This distinctly marks the first time, however, that I have heard of being “hideously afraid”.

Being both hideous and afraid I can understand (a condition which our little Bella just might fulfill – ba dum tish), but being “hideously afraid” is a state I’m afraid I just can’t wrap my head around.

No kidding: “…openly, the walls between us gone for once.”

Yeah, in nine long-ass chapters. Tell me about it. I’m just as relieved as you are, Bella.

Place your bets: “I realized my eyes were wet, and I fought against the grief that was

trying to overpower me.”

I’d like to place $10 on grief, please.

Come on, grief! Go grief! Overpower her! You can do it! We’re all counting on you, little guy!

Disturbingly unfunny: [Referring to feeding off of animals instead of humans] “‘But animals aren’t enough?’

He paused. “I can’t be sure, of course, but I’d compare it to living on tofu and soy milk;

we call ourselves vegetarians, our little inside joke.”

Hahaha.

Haha.

Heh…

Ummm….

*Gulp*

Woah: Bella: “‘Why didn’t you want to leave?’

Edward: ‘It makes me… anxious… to be away from you.’”

Wow. I knew Edward was a freaky stalker, but that’s way beyond weird.

Whuh?: “His eyes were gentle but intense, and they seemed to be making my bones turn soft.”

LOOK OUT! Edward’s stare gives you a degenerative bone disease! Avoid his gaze at all costs lest you melt into a little puddle of skin on the floor.

And gentle, but intense? Really? Those are, quite literally, two completely opposite states at the same time. I know this dude’s got a lot of powers (including the apparent ability to inflict degenerative diseases by looking at people), but I think this is a bit much even for him.

Snicker: “‘Well, you asked if the sun hurt me, and it doesn’t. But I can’t go out in the sunlight — at least, not where anyone can see.’”

Awww, does poor little Edward have self confidence problems?

“‘Why?’

‘I’ll show you sometime,’ he promised.”

Now this is a moment I really and truly can’t wait for. My sunglasses are at the ready.

You know what they say: “‘Don’t you see, Bella? It’s one thing for me to make myself miserable, but a wholly other thing for you to be so involved.’”

Hey, misery loves company, right? You two would be perfect for each other. Trust me. Go for it.

Role reversal: “‘What are you thinking?’ he asked.”

Hey, isn’t that supposed to be her line? At least, that’s what terrible romantic comedies have told me should be the case.

And terrible romantic comedies are never wrong.

Predictable tears: “‘Are you crying?’ He sounded appalled. …sure enough, traitor tears were there, betraying me.”

Damn those traitor tears.

Damn them to hell.

So cute: Man, I can’t tell you how adorable this scene is. Poor Steph is just trying so hard to write a serious scene with lots of building tension and regret and budding romance not to be.

It’s just so cute how hard she tries.

You can’t blame her for lack of effort though, I’ll give her that much. She really is digging deep into shallow pool of emotional depth to try and make this work.

The fact that it doesn’t is not at all surprising, but reading her failure is just so much fun.

Yes, I’m a terrible person.

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A Third Handheld Competitor, You Say? Madness!

<Note: If you enjoy this blog and wish to read more of my writing, please visit my new web site: www.zestfulcontemplation.com, for my most recent work and other fun stuff, including the first of my iPhone game reviews hinted at in this very article. Thank you.>

I am fully aware that in most hardcore gaming circles, announcing that you believe a phone can be a truly capable gaming device will get you roughly the same type of odd stare as if you announced that you thought the box containing the pizza was just as tasty as the round pepperoni-covered treat within.

Here I stand before you, however, ready to face your odd stares (yes, I can feel them through the Internet – I’m special that way) and announce that I think a phone can be a capable gaming device.

In fact, I’m going to do one better.

I think that the iPhone can provide a satisfying gaming experience on par with or better than the PSP or the DS.

There, I said it. Now let me explain.

The key to this madness lies in understanding that all of these various devices have their strengths and weaknesses.

The PSP is a powerful little bugger. It’s essentially a PS2 in a much smaller container that you can hold in your hands. Its software catalog is a bit lacking and it doesn’t provide you with many experiences you can’t get elsewhere, but it does have some nifty titles and a lot of power in a portable form.

The DS has a much larger selection of titles and an interface that provides for experiences that can’t be had elsewhere, giving you a reason to play even if you don’t travel often. On the downside, it’s lacking in power and most games available for it don’t do much to show off the true potential of its innovative interface.

I fully believe that the iPhone carves out its own little niche in the gaming world that makes it just as viable a competitor as either of these two other systems. It may not provide the depth of gameplay or keep you hooked for as long as its rivals, but that’s why it works – it does something different and it does it well.

Perhaps its greatest asset is simply the fact that, unlike the other portable consoles, you’ll likely have your iPhone with you wherever you go. This makes it maybe even the ultimate portable gaming platform, as it provides a fully capable gaming experience wherever you happen to be without you even having to remember to lug around a separate gadget.

It should be noted that this is less true of the iPod Touch, of course, which is just as capable of a gaming machine, but lacks some of the natural convenience of its phone counterpart.

Why the iPhone works so well as a gaming device is simply that the whole experience revolves around its portability and its constant connection to the Internet.

Most of the games might be more simple than what you’d find elsewhere, but they work fantastically for small, pick-up-and-play chunks, which is exactly what you want on a phone. They’re also much cheaper on the whole (you’ll almost never pay more than $10 for a game, and most are $5 or less) so the simplicity is far more acceptable. If you dig around, it’s more than possible to find a game for under $10 that gives more gameplay value than something you would have bought for $30 on the DS or $40 on the PSP.

Additionally, since the iPhone is connected to the Internet at all times, whether that be through a Wi-Fi connection or the cell phone data network, it facilitates the ultimate in impulse buying (especially when you combine its ever-present net connection with cheap game prices). Simply browse the App Store and download a new game – from just about anywhere – right onto your phone and immediately begin playing it. It’s incredible how addicting this becomes, especially when there’s so much good stuff to play.

Interestingly, both the PSP and DS are putting forth efforts in the area of instant purchase, downloadable impulse buys, but neither comes anywhere close to what’s already available on the iPhone. The PSP Go will bring the ability to download full games to the platform, but their larger file sizes, the higher price of the device, and the lack of much interesting to play all hold it back. The DSi now has a download service of its own, but let’s not mince words here – it sucks. Nintendo has a lot of work to do here.

I’m not arguing that the iPhone is a perfect platform. No gaming device is. Like any successful platform such as the DS, Wii, or PS2, the iPhone has its fair share of crap cluttering the App Store. The fact that there’s no easy way to find the best stuff in the store right now is a shortcoming indeed, as most of my gaming finds are discovered with the help of external sites. Also, like its innovative gaming peers the DS and Wii, many titles try to cram experiences or control types that just aren’t suited for its lack of buttons and the titles that truly take advantage of the platform are somewhat rare.

Still, the iPhone’s focus on control via only touch screen and motion sensors is far from a detriment. Even I was skeptical at first, but the lack of options forces developers to be creative and, when approached correctly, can make for some innovative and fun experiences literally not possible on any other platform. Sure, there’s plenty of titles that resort to a virtual D-Pad (not all of which are bad, mind you), but there are others which use multi-touch, creative touch screen controls, tilt controls, or some of these combined, to make titles that wouldn’t work anywhere else.

Of course, the most important part of any gaming platform is its library of games. No matter how much I try to convince you that the iPhone should be taken seriously, none of it is going to mean anything until I can prove that its great features and convenience are also backed up by things you’d actually want to play.

With that in mind, keep an eye out for many more iPhone game reviews here in the future. I already have a number of them written and ready to go, and many more I want to write after that. I am anxious to prove to non-believers that we have a true contender on (or rather, in) our hands.

It may be different, it may be easy to dismiss as too “casual” or too simple, and it certainly isn’t perfect, but I’ve had more fun and spent more time gaming on my iPhone recently than my PSP and DS combined. Hopefully more people will see the light as I do someday.


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One Man’s Valuable Possessions are Another Man’s “Irrelevant Abundance”

<Note: If you enjoy this blog and wish to read more of my writing, please visit my new web site: www.zestfulcontemplation.com, for my most recent work and other fun stuff. Thank you.>

How do you separate that which is clutter from that which is actually valuable in a society that’s trying to rid itself of meaningless objects? This is something I have struggled with constantly while reading material dealing with the issue of our reliance on consumer goods.

I am simply not convinced that all consumer goods are bad.

To be fair, only the extremes of the environmental movement seem to be arguing anything quite that radical. The problem is that the middle ground is always fuzzy, so I’m never sure which of the products I use on a day-to-day basis I’m supposed to feel guilty for using.

I could easily see where some would define those consumer goods which I consider the most valuable as unnecessary wastes of resources that should be done away with: my new laptop, for instance, or perhaps my video game consoles or my iPhone which I carry around with me everywhere.

But to those who would argue that, I would argue that I consider these objects more than just metal and plastic clutter that is taking away from the real sources of happiness in my life. These devices, which may seem so useless to some, are extremely valuable to me.

With my computer I am able to stay informed and connected to the world around me. I can communicate my ideas to others through blogging and express my own creativity with a word processor much more easily than with a pen and paper. I can read the opinions of those different and more knowledgeable than myself. Indeed, without my computer I would be far more ignorant of our ecological concerns than I currently am due to the sheer amount of knowledge available through the Internet.
My iPhone performs a similar function. Not only is it “cool” and fun, providing many sources of entertainment through the applications I can use on it, but it also helps keep me connected with those I care about. Being a couple of taps away from friends or family, wherever I happen to be standing, is something I value highly. Without this phone, or similar computer programs, there are certain friends I would simply lose contact with altogether, which would be a true shame.

My game consoles are admittedly a luxury, moreso than the other devices I have mentioned, and bring up a somewhat different question. When does personal fulfillment spill over into needless consumption?

Does the fact that I am enjoying the use of these pieces of equipment that I could very well live a reasonably complete life without make me a huge part of the problem? Should I dump them in my quest for environmentalism and instead take up meditation as a more planet-friendly route to escapism?

Or is there perhaps actually some value in them?

There is no question these devices use resources in ways that are unsustainable. There is no question that some people would find them completely needless and wasteful.

But at the same time there is absolutely no doubt in my mind that my life has been made more meaningful by these things.

I have met numerous friends whom I hold very dear through my hobby of video games.

I have experienced many emotions at the hands of video games, the stories they tell, and the gameplay the present.

I have always been fascinated by this medium and the new dimensions it brings to human storytelling. I have no doubt that video games are simply a modern take on the campfire story of yore. They may not yet have the same level of popularity or emotional depth, but even the most basic, button-mashing, mindless video game is a form of escapism just like listening to someone tell a good story.

Like music, like movies, like books, like art, and like the art of storytelling that has been around for centuries, video games are another venue of human creativity that I believe should be highly valued.

Yes they are wasteful. Yes they are technically unnecessary. But they are part of that creative spirit which so wonderfully separates humans from other species.

I present these issues not with some grand master plan or all-encompassing theory on how things should be. Rather, I bring up these issues because they are representative of the changes our society is going through in an attempt to finally deal with our harmful effect on the world around us.

One of the biggest reasons we are so reluctant to shift our ways is because we don’t know where the future will take us or what we will have to sacrifice.

This is a sentiment I can fully sympathize with. I am anxious to move the world into a more sustainable future in whatever ways I can. At the same time, I am nervous that perhaps we might go too far and brand those creations that were actually of some use, of some value, with a negative stigma – a proverbial scarlet letter.

Perhaps W, for wasteful.

I don’t want to see a giant W branded on my MacBook, my iPhone, or my Xbox. While my situation certainly isn’t true for everyone, for me these devices truly bring happiness to my life beyond some illusion of happy consumerism and I do not wish to forfeit them in some blind quest for a perfect world. I’m sure others have their own categorical niches of devices which they find just as valuable; just as fulfilling.

Am I wrong? Am I misguided?

What I do know is that I am confused. I do not want to be the chain dragging the world’s progress backward and denying us our better future, but at the same time I don’t want our future to be so irreversibly altered that others will not know of these wonderful products of human creativity and ingenuity and be able to derive value and joy from them as I do.

This is, I suppose, the eternal quandary of a tech-obsessed, ecologically minded individual. Hopefully the path will become clear to me eventually.

In the meantime, I’m going to go stare at a glowing rectangle, sure to have a smile on my face.


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