Monday, August 14, 2006

God Only Knows

By and large, I can't stand Beach Boys music, but I've been listening to Pet Sounds for the better part of a week now, and I can't stop.

My ten-year high school reunion's coming up, and I've been having trouble coming up with a cover identity. There are really precious few people who know what I've actually been doing for the last ten years, which comprise of jack and shit, and so I've been thinking about the episode of Mad About You where Paul and Jamie are at a party and they just start lying about what they do for a living, because nobody's going to know.

Now, the way I figure it, the secret probably lies in subtlety, as it does with any good lie. I mean, you don't tell your boss that you can't come in because you've been abducted by aliens and they have a probe scheduled for 10:30. No, of course not, you sniffle a bit, tell the guy you've got a temperature and a raging headache, and your eyesight, though blurry, only returned ten minutes ago. So you tell them things that there's no possible way they can verify you're lying. Right now, the best I can come up with is that I took my federal service exam, got my clearance credentials, and now I can't actually tell them what I do, other than that I work for a part of the State department. I could probably sell this pretty well if I invented a light European accent that I could claim to have picked up while on the job, but am unable to provide further specifics, because if I did, good men could die.

Of course, you have to alter the story to fit everyone else, which is to say that you can't play your cards until they've played theirs. This is to say that if you're talking to someone who works in the Sears Tower, you have to go to your backup work location, because they'll start asking what floor you work on, and possibly want to have lunch or dinner at some point. And then you're backed into a corner. And then it always helps a great deal to have sparse, useless little details about your place of work, like the coffee shop across the street, where they seem to be completely unable to make a triple tall mocha taste like anything but what you'd imagine the pavement probably tastes like after a car peels out.

At the same time, though, it's about ninety bucks to go see people that I really haven't wanted to see at all in the last ten years. I've managed to stay in contact with most of my friends, and could probably find the others fairly quickly through a series of internet searches, most notably through that evil creation that is Myspace. I prefer blogspot/blogger because it provides me with a certain degree of anonymity, which is further obfuscated by the fact that my profile says I'm from Burundi. At this point, were I to alter it, I'd probably choose Burkina Faso instead. It's just more fun to say.

So, yeah, I don't know if I'm going to go or not. I mean, the real draw is seeing the cheerleaders and prom queens and so on, because you know they're not particularly good-looking anymore. I mean, that's just how it happens. The girl voted most likely to succeed probably put her dreams of curing cancer or inventing the longer-lasting light bulb on hold so she could take care of her alcoholic, factory-working husband. So, that's the nice thing about not having anything expected of you: Any success is a huge success.

Which gets me back to subtlety. You don't want to be a huge success. Claiming that you directed the last Pirates of the Caribbean movie is a bad idea. There will inevitably be someone who knows that's not true, despite your backtracking, claiming that Gore Verbinski stole the credit from you in a DGA arbitration hearing. However, if you claim to have directed a small independent film with some people who played secondary roles on WB shows that nobody watched, your classmate might buy that, especially if you claim that you're still shopping around for a distributor, because your post-production financing fell through when the producer ran off to the Caymans with a woman who wasn't his wife; so, now you know why even small, independent films that are shot for less than half a million dollars need completion bonds.

It's tempting; it really is, just to see how far lies can be taken with people you actually know, though not that well, anymore. And the real question is, who's bullshitting you while you're bullshitting them?

AIM: therbmcc71

Saturday, August 12, 2006


To recap what's been going on prior to this week, I picked up the VH1 Behind the Music: The Go-Go's Collection disc off of iTunes; a whopping $7.99 for eighteen tracks. I'm always quite happy when I find a deal on iTunes, and I certainly was in this case, because Belinda Carlisle was the first great love of my life, at the age of six. Girls in bands are just cool; oh, it's true.

This week, my friend and I went halvesies (halfsies?) on Dead Rising for his Xbox 360, because we were both terribly curious to see a zombie-survival game that takes place in a shopping mall. Think Grand Theft Auto 3 meets Resident Evil meets Dawn of the Dead (the original, mind you; not the recent remake) and you've got a pretty good idea of how it all breaks down. I've got some minor complaints about the game, such as the fact that it's fucking hard, the human A.I. is just as bad as the zombie A.I., and the play controls tend to be a bit wonky. Beyond that, though, is a veritable cornucopia of zombie-killing implements which, unlike Resident Evil, can often be utterly fun. Let me tell you this: The first time you kill a zombie with a shower head, you'll laugh for a good ten seconds. And the lawn mower? You bet it's just as fun as it sounds. Too bad the difficulty (which is not adjustable) ranks right around Metroid Prime, which is the only game that ever made me so mad that I threw my controller in anger.

So, this week, my truck decided that it was going to fuck up. I take that back, it was last week, but it was only this week that I was able to get it into the shop. Anyway, the symptoms basically entail driving the truck for a seemingly-arbitrary distance without any issues, until such time as the idle suddenly decides to get rough and it has problems with acceleration, with the RPM's oscillating anywhere from 1000 to about 3000 RPM, as the truck takes about twenty or thirty seconds to get up to ten miles an hour in first gear. Stopping the truck results in the idle RPM's dropping to 750 or lower, at which point the truck basically stalls out. The first time this happened, I restarted the truck about ten seconds later, and everything was behaving fine again. Okay. Maybe it's a glitch. The second time, the truck decided to wait about thirty seconds before it wanted to restart, and then it's running fine again.

So I take it into the shop this week, and it runs fine, getting it to the shop. They do a ninety dollar diagnostic, which I'm fairly certain entails hooking up a computer to the computer in my car and fixing whatever it says is broken, which they did to the tune of about $200, which means I'm down about $300 overall to fix the throttle position sensor.

So I pick it up on Thursday and drive it out to work, so I can pick up my copy of Dead Rising, as my store seems to be the only place for at least ten miles that still has a copy, and right outside of my place of work, the truck decides to go back to the problems I listed above. For three-hundred dollars, they didn't fucking fix my truck. Apparently, in the automotive industry, diagnosing a problem involves turning on the engine, looking at it briefly, then looking at a computer, and turning the truck off, replacing a part or two, turning the truck back on, looking at the computer, looking at the engine, shrugging, and then taking the majority of the money I have in my bank account.

For the trip home, I put a bottle of Gumout in the three-quarters full gas tank, which means it's going to take a long time to work through the system. As I write this, I'm fairly certain it's probably a placebo, because it ran okay the fifteen miles back to my friend's house, but after my several hours of running over zombies with a shopping cart, my truck fired up and barely made it the 400 feet back to my house.

So now I can't get the truck back into the shop until Monday, because I had to work on Friday and didn't feel like walking three or four miles home from the shop, only to have to go to work afterward, and they're not open on Saturday. To make matters worse, on Monday I'm going to have to get it towed to the mechanic, which is only going to cost me more money, unless they decide to do the nice thing and waive the towing fee for not fixing my car. And I'm not paying the diagnostic fee again.

I'm sure the throttle position sensor probably was going bad or something, but the real culprit's probably something that actually requires physical inspection or some form of a test drive. Not that it's driving anywhere right now, because the engine now sounds like it's choking to death, trying to idle at 750 RPM, when normally it's around 1000. It's probably a vacuum leak in the intake, which runs counter to my initial thought that it might be a clogged fuel filter, because the effect from that would be more noticeable at high speeds than low, and I never noticed anything until the truck tried to idle or accelerate from a stop.

I couldn't tell you if it's knocking or not, because I have no idea what a knock sounds like. Is it like a knock on a window? A knock on a wooden door? A metal one? ... I know it's not pinging, because I know what a ping would sound like, but there's about eight billion different kinds of knocks in this world, although the one that I'm currently most familiar with is the hard-knock life that I'm living right now, because I don't have anyone to scam money off of to get this fixed, in the highly likely event that it costs more than I've got. Sure, Friday was payday, but I took a day off two weeks ago so the check is noticeably lighter than usual.

In short, I'm really mad right now, so I'm going to cook myself a Tombstone pizza (yes, at 6:30 in the morning), and watch a movie that involves a great deal of senseless violence. Really, I'd like to watch Se7en, but I can't find my nifty double-disc copy. Instead, I figure I'm probably going to settle for Matrix Reloaded, followed by a helping of Unforgiven, because you have to balance out the mediocre with the good. ... Maybe I'll watch V for Vendetta again, because, yes, it's that damn good.

And then I'm going to sleep, and then I'm going to wake up, and then I'm going to sit around and mope, because I really don't have the money to do anything more extravagant than that, because I dread what it's going to cost to fix my car... provided they actually fucking fix the goddamn thing this time. ... I'm so fucking mad.

AIM: therbmcc71

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Living After Midnight

I have to work in four hours. Stupid days off screwing up my sleep schedule. I've spent the last forty-eight hours doing as little as humanly possible, with the exception of watching movies, eating, and playing videogames. This is how everyone should live, but, sadly, I must go back to work. Stupid work.

V for Vendetta was pretty good, though I'd have never pegged it as being a Wachowski Brothers production if the marketing people hadn't shoved that down my throat. As it stands, it's really how an Alan Moore adaptation should be done, despite the fact that Moore's name appears nowhere in any of the credits, by his own request. As such, should anyone ever make a Watchmen movie, he might want to think about changing his lack of a title-credit to something more along the lines of 'Not based on any sort of work by Alan Moore; do not believe anyone who says otherwise.'

I've also been playing MLB 2k6 for my friend's Xbox 360. Playing it on a widescreen 19" LCD, it's pretty obvious that there are significant graphical improvements over the current generation of consoles, but it mostly gets lost when being output to NTSC. Given the fact that it's going to be six or seven years until I can afford a high-def television of at least twenty-five inches, being able to output to an LCD monitor is certainly a welcome thing, but it still tacks another two hundred dollars on to the pricetag of a unit that's already four-hundred. Top that off with the fact that the games cost sixty bucks a pop, and you're looking at a significant dollar investment that I'm not personally willing to make. Bring on the new system, Nintendo.

I've been playing Simcity 4 again, and I've no idea why. The game is totally devoid of any fun, whatsoever. It's gone in fifteen or so years from being a game to being a full-blown urban-planning simulation. And, while it's certainly interesting to monitor funds, lay out streets, and place various city services, it's simply not fun. It's as though my brain says, "I need a workout, so just think of boobs for a while as I decide optimal placement for this commercial district."

Finally, I'm really excited about the next episode of Half-Life 2, for the simple reason that the Portal movie I saw a couple weeks ago is a marked improvement on Half-Life 2 as it is. Shooters, by and large, are similar to the point where they're just reflex-exercises. Portal, on the other hand, appears to turn the Half-Life 2 engine into almost a puzzle-game, which piqued the hell out of my interest. I note this, because Joystiq (and later Slashdot) pointed the way to an interview over at IGN (excuse me while I vomit, briefly) with Kim Swift of Valve. I'm not sure which I found more interesting: Portal in general, or the fact that this is proof that women actually work in videogame development in roles other than marketing, clerical, voice-acting or anything else along those lines (note: you cannot use the Stevie Case card against me, because she's not in the business anymore). One can only hope that eventually we'll get back to a sort of Sierra-esque heyday, where women will be back in lead design roles, but that day ain't here yet.

Very Nearly a Postscript: New Nina Gordon album on the 8th! Four songs are up for listen at her Myspace locale, so you should go check that out. Maybe you could be her friend... God, I hate Myspace, but I've mentioned that several times before, but I can't totally hate it as long as Nina Gordon's on there. Yeah, also like I've said before, I'm a sucker for girls with guitars.

AIM: therbmcc71