Friday, February 17, 2017

Coping with Kirby: Dream Land in an Uncertain Time

You may have seen the recent article about how some are watching the West Wing as a way to cope with this whole Trump scenario. I totally get it. It’s a been a… let’s say “tumultuous” time in American history. We’ve faced a lot of dire straits over the last—Jesus, it’s been less than two months?!

Ahem. At any rate, in order to keep sanity, I’ve found it necessary to retreat into fictional worlds for some semblance of calmness and normalcy on those nights I’m lying awake in bed, waiting for the explosions to start.

It’s no surprise that Nintendo is the arbiter of all kinds of happy fiction that I can lose myself in, from Super Mario, Pokemon, to Animal Crossing, there are plenty of options to keep me smiling and sane until my mind wanders and I become a paranoid, sobbing mess.

No franchise turns up the cuteness like Kirby, though. This adorable little puffball represents all that is good in this universe. He’s always smiling, he just wants to eat some cake, and even the enemies are just cute little balls of fluff. It’s perfect. It’s zen.
No Kirby game quite strikes my fancy like Kirby Super Star on the SNES. I have very fond memories of playing this with my brothers, trying to find every treasure in the Great Cave Offensive, or using a turbo controller with TAC to destroy bosses in seconds, to sitting back and enjoying the moody sounds of the Revenge of Meta-Knight game. It’s truly one of the SNES’s best.

Bitch, I have real problems, like funding that topiary.
So, Kirby Super Star. It’s actual several games in one cartridge. They ramp up the difficulty as you complete each game, so by the time you get to the last boss, you’ve mastered Kirby’s trademark copy ability, which lets him absorb the abilities of his enemies, and you’re ready for anything they can throw at you. It’s a really unique mechanic. When Kirby inhales enemies, they become cute little hats that denote abilities from Sword to Fire to Yo-Yo. Yo-Yo is a favorite of mine because he wears a cute little baseball cap. Not sure what that has to do with a Yo-Yo, but hey.

If "all the food" is just corn, Dream Land has more issues than one.

We begin with Spring Breeze. It’s a walk in the park, wherein Kirby learns the basics of the game while freeing Dream Land from King Dedede. According to the opening cinematic, Dedede, something of a glutton, has stolen Dream Land’s food, so Kirby takes it upon himself to get it back. That’s seems a bit off to me, though, because we see Dedede break into the food vault (?) with a bunch of Dream Land denizens, so it seems like he was sharing the wealth. At any rate, Kirby storms the castle and ousts the king. It’s not very tough, but King Dedede is a lot of fun and you get a trial run of the game’s basic abilities.

Did Dedede do anything else that would make us think he’s a bad ruler? He’s kind of a dick, sure, but Dream Land seems no less happy with him in power. We’ve seen that he is privy to how Dream Land functions in other games. He tried to prevent Kirby from freeing the Nightmare by protecting the Fountain of Dreams in another game. Plus, we know he’s a capable fighter, because he’s always the first one any foreign power tries to take out when they invade. What did he do that was so bad that Kirby would forcibly remove him from his position? Who succeeds him? Kirby? I don’t think Kirby is really known for his political experience.

Um, where was I? Gourmet Race? This one is simple. Kirby and Dedede race through a few tracks for more food. Geez, these two like food. What did Kirby do with all that food after these first two games? The icon for the game shows him just mowing down. Wasn’t there a food shortage? That’s hypocritical. You just removed Dedede from office because he was supposedly eating too much, and now you’re being even more greedy?
Dedede looks REALLY worried.

Game three, Dyna Blade, has Kirby take down an endangered species. After killing the tree, Whispy Woods, back in Spring Breeze, it’s becoming clear that Kirby doesn’t care much for the environment. And this is only confirmed in game four, The Great Cave Offensive, where Kirby goes deep into the ground to dig up treasure, in what is a clear parallel to drilling for oil. There’s also a computer program that he encounters in here, and I can’t prove it yet, but I think it has some connection whoever is doing all this drilling. Why is this third party’s connection to Kirby? Does it have anything to do with the whole Dedede debacle that just occurred? Wait, now that Dyna Blade has been removed from the land she once inhabited, does that mean this same company who carved out the Great Cave for monetary gain can do the same for Dyna Blade’s habitat? At this point in our story I think it’s time someone with the power of checks and balances to step in. And it seems I’m not the only one.

Game five is the Revenge of Meta Knight. Seeing that Kirby has taken over Dream Land and is twisting the law to benefit himself through manipulation of the food and natural resources, Meta Knight steps in to slow him down and figure out just how legal this whole thing is. Kirby, now emboldened by his actions, defeats Meta Knight and his army and sends his ship, The Halberd, plummeting into the ocean. Kirby’s conquering of Dream Land is complete, and there is nothing to stand in his way.

Kirby ponders his new empire.

By now, it should be clear that Kirby, with his political outsider status, disregard for the well-being of those he purported to help, and assertion of control over all branches of the Dream Land governmental system, is a proxy for Donald Trump. That outside influence that paid him off during the Great Cave Offensive is more outside than you may have thought.

Game six is Milky Way Wishes. Not content with ruining Dream Land, Kirby sets out to help conquer other countries—er, planets. It’s only after everything has fallen to ruin that the one who was secretly helping him along the way reveals himself. Marx, the tiny jester, played simple, xenophobic Kirby like a fiddle in order to position himself for a power grab. Just as ultimate power is within Kirby’s grasp, Marx steps in and claims the prize for himself.

Karl Marx wishes to be Ariana Grande's manager

And it doesn’t take a genius to see that Marx, named for the Communist figure, Karl Marx, is a stand in for Vladimir Putin. Kirby has delivered everything to him on a gold platter.  

It’s all right there, plain as day. You see it, right? Everything lines up. And they think they can just do what they want and nobody will notice. Well, we noticed. And it’s up to us to do something about it.

Tell everyone! Before it’s too late!

Friday, September 9, 2016

The Year of the Chicken

How has it been more than a month since I’ve written anything? That seems insane.

Perhaps you’ve been wondering where I’ve been and why you haven’t had any dumb Frozen theories or Final Fantasy close readings to delve into. Perhaps not. That’s fine, too.

Well, I got a job. A real, adult job. A 9-5 with vacation time, weekends off, the works. Unfortunately, that means I don’t have all day to stare at my computer desktop before convincing myself that should click on Microsoft Word, because that’s all it takes to get started. Just do it. It’s not that hard. Why don’t you click it? Click the button, you hack. You can’t call yourself a writer if you don’t write. Do it. Do it! CLICK THE BUTTON!

Starting a new job makes me think of all the old jobs I’ve had. I can name a few good things I took from each of them.

All except one, that is. The worst job I’ve ever had.

To set the stage, I had just moved away from New York City. I love New York. Every overpriced, gaudy, piss-scented, inch of it. It’s a great place with a million things to do, eat, and drink. There’s never a dull moment. Plenty of broke ones, but not dull.

I didn’t want to leave New York. Unfortunately, my friend/roommate was moving out west with her brand new degree, my cash flow wasn’t enough that I could move again on the fly, let alone pay more in rent, and the girl I was talking to at the time and I made plans to live in Orlando and explore more of a relationship. To do that, I would need money, and New York wouldn’t allow that. So I needed to go somewhere much cheaper where I could save up and head south.

That somewhere was the town I grew up in in the Florida panhandle.

Some of you are thinking “Ooh, Florida!” and I want to squash that enthusiasm right away. This is the moist, unshaven armpit of America, tucked right between the meaty flabs of Pensacola and Panama City Beach.  A flat coastal town that is more “Lower Alabama” than “North Florida.” A stretch of land that is better suited as a hurricane buffer to northern civilization than an entity of its own.  It is equal parts meth addiction, racism, and military douchebaggery. It’s where the ignorance of America’s second-worst state meets the lawlessness of its craziest state. As if Mordor and Mordor’s sister had a baby and dropped it down the stairs. Voted the 83rd best small town in America in 2015.

And, I mean, Orlando isn’t much better, but here we are.

I moved back with my parents for the first time in seven years. Just imagine that for a moment. You go to college away from your family, live in the most exciting city in the world, free to do whatever you want, and then travel back to Bumfuck, FL, where the biggest event to happen annually involves some jets flying overhead, to live with your parents. I love my family, but this was a test of character. Additionally, this was post-college, and all of my friends were gone. Some were still in New York, and others were traveling or moving across the country. I was essentially alone. The only thing keeping me going was the thought that I’d be in Orlando, away from all this crap, soon.

I started getting to work with job applications, assuming my clout as a New York city boy manager whose last job pulled in over one million dollars annually would easily help me land a gig at one of these hillbilly establishments where, if we were lucky, we’d see a few dozen people a day. I didn’t get any calls. I was getting desperate. The fact that I sold my car to move meant that I could only get a job within walking distance. It inhibited what was available in a big way. Suddenly, my simple plan to earn some quick cash didn’t look so surefire.

My mom suggested I work at the grocery store, but there was no way I was going to return to my first job, which I had in high school and got fired from, 10 years later with a college degree and life experience under my belt. I’d sooner kill myself.

Shortly after that, I received a call from the girl. She met someone. We were done. No more Orlando.
Shortly after that, I received a slightly worse call. The local gas station/fried chicken store wanted to interview me.

I’ll let that sink in.

With seemingly nothing to lose, I went to the interview. The interior of this fine establishment was pretty much exactly what you’d expect from a place that included the words “gas,” “station,” “fried,” and “chicken.” The d├ęcor seemed to avoid anything white, as to avoid the brown, sticky film that covered everything from showing. Every time you took a step, your shoes made a ripping sound like you’d trudged through maple syrup three days ago and couldn’t quite clean it all off. Everything looked and felt like the back of a used band-aid.

I wore a button-down shirt to the interview, because that’s what one does. It was the middle of summer in Florida, where I’ve described the humidity to be like “living in a bowl of soup.” Now add the greenhouse effect (thanks to the giant windows) and 3-4 deep fryers to that equation. In short, I got the job. I did the drug testing and tried to hope that things would turn around for me.

And yet still came back for a first shift.

The day went something like this:
Arrive and punch in. Now load up the 4-tiered frying cages with all manner or frozen matter, from chicken bits to breaded potato wedges to empanadas filled with raccoon meat or something, to a frozen stick of tomato puree and what they told me was cheese. Also available with pepperoni-flavored meat nuggets. Fry all those bitches up, because the breakfast rush is about to begin, and nothing goes better with a probably-sausage-and-egg sandwich than a pizza abortion trapped in a thick phyllo prison.

Now that everything is frying you should be developing a nice, thick, Nixonian-level sweat on your whole upper body. Don’t worry, the standard-issue polyester polo (known for their breathability) will ensure that you marinate in that lovely combination for the next eight hours.

Once those doors are unlocked, everyone will begin their morning breakfast rush, which, in the panhandle, means cigarettes and Coors Light. After the initial surge of one to two hours, it’s time for a break from the heat. That means you get to bag ice.

Most places have ice shipped in on a truck. Not this one. They had employees bag ice every day (usually without gloves) and fill up the outside cooler. This takes 2-3 trips. Be careful wheeling all that ice, though, because the condensation mixes with the aforementioned grease and makes a delightfully slippery floor.

Once your reprieve from the heat is over, get limber, because it’s time to stock cigarettes!
We’re living in a time when it’s well-established that there is no upside to smoking, and yet the southern legion scoffs at science, often sucking down a pack a day, like they’re toothless, broke Don Drapers with no sense of hygiene and a hatred of all things brown.

Don’t get too comfy, because the lunch rush is about to start. The fryers, which have been running and churning out all matter of artery-clogging treats all morning, are put to the test and stocked to the gills with dozens of frozen chicken parts. Just in time, too, because here come the regulars! The line stretches to the door and the employees know each swollen, sweaty mass by name. They get their twelve pieces and go on their way. But if you’re thinking of going to the bathroom, don’t think you’re free to do so. Every employee is required to stand in the 8x12 sales area slinging dead birds without any breaks, because it’s peak time, and god forbid anyone slow the food-to-face process. And more cigarettes, of course.

Now you can take your bathroom break and try to avoid eye contact with your own reflection, because you just can’t bear to see what you’ve become.

There’s a bit of a break before the lunch rush, so get to know your coworkers! There’s the single mother of two who is barely 20 with no high school education, the woman in her late 50s with a vague foot problem and no high school education, and the overweight guy who thinks he’s hot shit because he has the register key and no high school education. I don’t want to sound like a total elitist, but there is something to be said for people who do this work and are content with it. Who don’t care about striving for more. Whose only concerns are getting home in time to smoke a bowl, eat four or five pieces of the chicken they’re covered in, and, and glaze over while they watch a Sixteen and Pregnant marathon. I don’t have anything to say to these people. We can’t connect on a very basic level. There is a values dissonance, right or wrong.  

By the way, where’s the guy who hired me? Oh, he’s never really there, but he sure likes to review the cameras, so make sure you never stray from the registers at peak time.

Now load up the cages, because the dinner rush is coming, and this is even busier, and dinner means side dishes and side dishes means motherfucking pizza sticks.

I walked home after my first day, dragging the polo, which was now heavy with grease, and I cried right there in the street. This was easily the lowest point in my life so far, and everything was fucking terrible. Why did I bother with college? Why did I move away? What did it matter if I was going to be working with an amalgamation of every TLC reality show that ever aired? What the fuck is wrong with me?

I was a few months into life back in Florida and the Sunshine State and all the baggage that came with it was wearing me down. My time there was the most depressed I’d ever been in my life.
When I got home, I told my mom I couldn’t do it. It was awful, soul-crushing, and beneath me. She countered with “Well, it’s a job,” as if I should be thankful for what I had. As if I should just cruise along like everyone else there. I couldn’t do it. Sometimes you are too good for something. If I stayed there, on top of the rest of the crap and with no escape in sight, I have no idea what I’d do.

I went for a walk.

On the walk, I called the manager. I told him I was grateful for the opportunity, but it wasn’t a good fit. I lied and said I’d found something “more suited to my skillset.” He went off on me about wasting his time and money. How he never would have even interviewed me if he knew I was still going to be looking for a job. About how now he was going to have to start all over again and find someone else.
I told him to have a good night.

That year in Florida was probably the worst in my life. I’ve never felt so defeated and beat down. I kind of understood why some of those people woke up in the morning and smoked and drank things that would kill them sooner.

They say bad experiences build character. I don’t know how true that is, but it at least lit a fire under my ass to leave that terrible stare.

Also, you’d be shocked how quickly polyester burns when it’s soaked in chicken grease. It smells awful, though.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Who Got Lucille'd

I've written about the Walking Dead here before. It's a bit embarrassing to look back on, as I thought the show deserved to be canceled five years ago, but I still stand by the points I made in that post. Many of the problems have been addressed, but a few of the big ones remain. Characters are still inconsistent and tend to change depending on where the plot needs to go instead of vice-versa.

But if you've been watching since then, you probably know about the latest season finale and the shitstorm that ensued. In short, fans allege that the writers (and the network) took one of the most heart-wrenching, game-changing moments in the comic and neutered it for hype and to ensure audience draw when the show comes back next year. What we know is that someone (surprise!) died, and they didn't show who.

So theories abound and comic comparisons and contradictions are launched, and the fanbase plays into the hands of the people making all the money. So I'll do it, too. What the hell? Who died? Who got Lucille'd? Let's go in order of least to most likely candidates. And spoilers for both the show and comic follow, so be prepared.

This is Lucille. She is awesome.

8. Rick & Carl

It's straight-up not them. Negan says, as he begins to swing on his victim, "Anybody moves, anybody says anything, cut the boy's other eye out and feed it to his father and then we'll start." That tells you right there that it's neither of them. Plus, writer Robert Kirkman has confirmed that he never plans to kill Carl. So bam.

7. Aaron, Sasha, & Rosita

This is more of a practical reason. These characters weren't on the receiving end of a beating simply because the audience wouldn't care. Not to say they aren't likable characters. They just don't carry the weight that some of the others do. There's weight to six months of buildup for these characters. If the show came back and it had been Rosita bludgeoned to death, the audience would shrug and move on, and Negan's big moment would be stunted. They're fine.

6. Maggie

If the show didn't have the cajones to kill Judith the baby when she dies in the comic, they're not going to have a fetus beaten out of a woman. Plus, Maggie just got an important haircut that tells us something is on the horizon for her character. Additionally, the baby has to survive so the audience can have something to cling to while my number one choice gets the bat.

5. Michonne

The joke so far is that everyone Rick sleeps with gets killed. Michonne will break that trend. She's one of the long-running characters in the comic, she's stepped into the slot that TV-Andrea left empty, and from a merchandising standpoint, she's one of the most iconic characters. Michonne will be with us for a while.

4. Abraham

Now we get to the controversial picks. In the comics, Abraham is dead by now. That arrow that went through Denise's head a few episodes before? That was meant for Abe. So, as it stands, Abraham is technically on borrowed time. This means the show is free to do whatever they want with him. Do they want him to take the bat instead of the comic's choice? It could work, but for the same reason as the group in my point number seven, I don't think it would carry much weight. Abraham hasn't been around or done much to make the audience really care for him very much. His breakup with Rosita might even make a few people say "good riddance." There was a small detail in the finale where Eugene, Abraham's partner in crime, hands him the "recipe" for making bullets in the newly discovered refinery. This effectively makes Eugene redundant, as this becomes his major contribution for the rest of-- wait a sec.

3. Eugene

--for the rest of the series. Now that Abraham has access to that same knowledge, Eugene can effectively be phased out. What's more, Eugene has quickly become a fan favorite with his awkward way of talking and biting his would-be executor in the nuts. He's also generally an innocent, as far as these characters go. Showing Negan just not caring at all about that would really set him up to be hated. Eugene is one of the few characters that people would really feel anger for, I think. He's also one of the three I can see the wait being worth.

2. Daryl

If you want to make an impact on your audience, you have to do something big. I believe the character that is killed here has to A) Have an effect on the group and B) Have an equal effect on the audience. Daryl checks both of these boxes. We've seen Daryl change since the beginning of the show. He's had several character arcs where he became more empathetic, lost his brother, did a selfless search for a lost little girl, etc. He's the face of the show. This could also be a reason not to kill him, however. Daryl brings in the cash. There are legions of fans who subscribe to the "If Daryl Dies We Riot" mentality, and with the fan backlash after than finale, I wouldn't be surprised if they backed off of him to garner some good will. What's more, Daryl is the single most successful TV show-only element. Without him, the show is essentially a visual novel. Daryl helps the two stand apart. Sure, he just got a new show on AMC, and a new show usually means a departure from the current one, but that could be because of Norman Reedus's appeal. Why not double that exposure? Hell, maybe they'll write him into Better Call Saul, too.
The last few episodes of TWD also introduced a rival for Daryl in Dwight. It could easily be a continuation of the "If Daryl never met the group" narrative that pops up every once in a while, but there's no real reason to begin that story and rivalry if Daryl is dead. Plot decisions affect the next plot decisions.

You know, unless you're Beth and the show makes a big deal out of you sacrificing everything to save Noah, only to have Noah get killed for no reason a couple episodes later. I'm still bitter about that.

1. Glenn

For fans of the comic, this is no surprise. And that's part of why writing this was too easy. Glenn's death is the single most famous spoiler for the comic. Everyone knows it happens, and for good reason. Glenn was with the group since the beginning. He was Rick's first contact after the apocalypse. He was the heart of the team. He was the underdog, going from pizza delivery boy to marrying the hottest lady on the show. That's why it seems like the show would pull a 180 at the last second and fake out the audience. This could be a classic Princess-Bride-never-go-against-a-Sicilian-when-death-is-on-the-line-overthinking-the-scenario move, but wouldn't the fact that everyone knows make you want to surprise the audience? It seems likely.
Unfortunately, even with that in mind, the odds have built up against him. He has a child coming into the world. Sure, Maggie had those terrible cramps in the finale and needs a doctor, but that'll be the miracle that the audience needs to recover from Glenn's death when it happens. Hey, at least his kid survived. There's also a shot when he leaves the compound of Maggie in the rear-view mirror. That's never a good sign when used in visual media. Or how about when they raid that compound? Glenn loses his innocence on screen when he stabs those guys through their eyes while they sleep. That's usually a sign that a character is about to get his comeuppance. Then Glenn comes across a wall of past Lucille victims' photos. That's a pretty clear instance of foreshadowing.
The only thing in Glenn's favor is lazy writing. This season already had a Glenn fakeout death at the midpoint. People discussed his possible death for weeks on the internet before everyone came to the conclusion that he was under the dumpster. Would the show play that same hand again? Would they be willing to mix it up because they just had a very similar situation? Beth's death makes me a little unsure.
Glenn has the right combination of character and audience sympathy. He's important to the story being told, he's an emotional anchor, and he's not very prevalent in the marketing blitz of the show. All of these signs point to a sad end for our Korean friend.

But at least his kid is gonna live, right?

This article was edited on 6/28/16 to include notes about Dwight and Glenn's midseason skirmish.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Facebook Christians React to Trey Pearson

Before 30 minutes ago, I had no idea who Trey Pearson was. What I've gleaned off of the trending topic, though, is that Trey was in a Christian band, harbored gay feelings, tried to pray the gay away in classic Christian fashion, and got married/had a kid before realizing the truth; that he can't just run away from his sexuality. Good for him. The rest of his life is sure to be much happier with that weight off of his chest. Let's see how his adoring fans responded. Come and have a few shots with me as I go through these responses.

I love this one because the woman who wrote it clearly has no awareness. She talks down about this guy who did a really tough thing and says he was deceived by Satan, but then says to "love one's neighbor as oneself."  Seriously? Lady, learn some proofreading. Your conclusion does not match your thesis.

Also, is that a hint of philosophy you're trying to squeeze in there? Don't you know philosophy is the Devil's tool to make you do that thinkin' business?

Christ, everything is a "sign of the times" with you people. "Tornado. Sign of the times."  "Politician got arrested. Sign of the times." "Outta Ruffles potato chips. Sign of the times." Hasn't every "sign of the times" predicted by your ilk been proven to not have come true? You're still here, un-raptured. I assume that would mean something to you. 

I like that this person assumes that selfishness doesn't drive his every whim (He's surely a Trump voter) and that he knows God. Do ya? I thought he was mysterious. What happened to that train of thought?

Finally, someone telling it like Yah would. I wish I was that close to Yahweh that I could just call him Yah. I like "Yah." It's way more approachable. Makes God sound kind of chill.

If someone could tell me what that "world eye" bit means, that would be excellent. Whatever it is, I get the feeling that this person assumes they're above our worldly religions and have a closer relationship with the divine (Fortunately not The Divine because then this person would be way too well-connected for comfort). What a self-important tool. If you're so above it all, what the fuck are you doing on Facebook? Just want to make sure you get an invitation to Blake's 2nd birthday party?

They're wrong right off the bat, because "Christian" and "Gay" have mixed for generations. It's more like "Christian" and "gay" and "allowing the public to know because they'll shame me" don't mix. 

Sure, they tell me to replace my porn habits with Bible study here, but once I'm hogging the Book of Esther all to myself, they'll be singing a different tune.

Is it really so difficult to separate drugs and eating disorders from activities that don't hurt anyone involved?

Wait, "deceived"? He made the music. He didn't promise them music and then deliver bees. They got exactly what they wanted. Also, "Christian Music World"? This sounds terrible. I hope this is one of the worlds hit by Kylo Ren's Death Star.

Hmm, if only Trey had thought to pray to Jesus about this.

This is probably the creepiest thing here. He wants to be on an island with 14 year olds? Someone should contact the authorities about this guy. I bet he's the same kind of guy who says he'd rape and kill if he didn't believe in God because none of it would matter.

Do us all a favor and remain a Christian, sir.

Oh Jesus, are we not supposed to say God? Is this a new commandment? An addendum? Commandment 1-A? "Thous halt not take my name in vain. Or at all. Just don't call me, or write. Or say it. Just leave me alone."

Also, what money? The roaring Christian rock business? Probably not as lucrative as you think it is, pal.

He destroyed gay in Sodom. That's why it doesn't exist anymore and we're not having this talk. G-D is good!

Also, someone should tell this guy (and yes, these are almost all guys concerned with what two penises do, for some reason) why Sodom was really destroyed

They say this, but if this dude came out against homosexuality and said "the gays" should all be executed, his album sales would triple. Hell, he might get the presidential nom. 

Aside from what you read here, most of the Facebook comments were positive. Many people, fans or not, wished Trey well and applauded him. I really had to cherry pick to find this group of assholes.

My favorite post was this one;

And that's how you become not only a good Christian, but, more importantly, a humanist.