14
Jun
21

Happy Birthday, Emily Graslie!

****

Today is June 14th and Emily Graslie’s birthday!

Who? Emily Graslie, a very nerdy, fairly charming, occasionally comical and perpetually easy-going gal; a big kid with long blonde-ish hair, blue eyes masked by big eyeglasses and an odd need to wear big dangling jewelry in some of the most rough outdoor places; a Gemini Earth Snake, essentially a desert dust tornado, who hosts the PBS show called Prehistoric Road Trip (among other projects).

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I don’t know much about her, yet. But, she seems to be more of a paleontology/archaeology/geology enthusiast than an expert; she just likes talking with people about scientific matters and has an aura about her which screams, “She and Writingbolt would make great travel buddies!” She makes me unafraid of being completely at ease with myself. I may be wrong, but I feel like I could burp, fart or even pick my nose around her, and she’d just take it in stride. She reminds me of Laura Dern’s character from Jurassic Park, who was at ease digging through dinosaur poop. [Yet, underneath that goofy, smiling, earthy façade are some sensitive waters which could get a lil moody and leave victims in pain from her snake bite.]

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That about sums it up. I only had to watch a few episodes (of Prehistoric Road Trip) to feel sufficiently comfortable in her company. And, as the comforting feeling grew, along with a remote attraction, I felt compelled to create this birthday post.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, EMILY!

You subtle charmer, you. Drop a letter in my mailbox, please. I wish to speak with you…and then some.

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11
Jun
21

Bad Luck Bros; How Do You Respect Your Brother?

*****

I’m not quite sure how to start this piece. But, I’ll get right to the point. I have a brother who has been more trouble than good in my life and continues to haunt me. [A recent dream and mishap have lit a match to write this.] While I feel sufficient reason to distance myself (if not just forget him), certain “tender ties” remain a concern; even the Golden Rule has tapped me on the shoulder and told me to be more forgiving.

From the dawn of my time (in this life, anyway), he was there and looking to cause mischief (not the playful sort). While some siblings might withdraw completely or try to get rid of the new kid in the family, my brother has had a curious way of making me feel wanted as a friend while taking actions that say just the opposite and leave me hurt. I guess that makes him a “frenemy?” You could say he’s the Loki to my Thor…though I don’t exactly see myself as a magic-hammer-wielding muscleman…but if Thor is comparable to Hephaestus, then I could see a similarity in craftsmanship.

Anyway.

As a kid, I looked “up” to him as a mentor and example of how to be “cool.” He KNEW things (or, at least, said he did). He has always been one of those guys, the sort who claim they know everything there is to know about something; and you’d be a fool not to follow him wherever he goes. When, in truth, I feel a fool for listening to anything he has said and wonder how my life might be better without getting involved in his interests.

I chased after him and emulated him until I was punished (by my parents). And, even then, I sulked in punishment, feeling I would miss something important by not being with him and his friends. [Soon after that painful time, I learned the importance of having friends separate from family. I knew, later, I was invading my brother’s “safe space” away from family restrictions. But, if he hadn’t lured me into playing with him, if I had just continued occupying myself with whatever my parents provided…which wasn’t much, at all…I might not have found myself in trouble or feeling deprived.]

I think back to my youth like the Big Bang. I was an enigmatic blob of gas and electricity. Then my brother stuck his finger in the cloud, and BAM! I started taking shape. When most of my family was too busy to give me the time of day (and too quick to tell me everything I wanted to try was too dangerous or out of my range of ability), my brother was there to offer me activity. He was a human activity book. Unfortunately, many of those activities did not help me.

When I started writing this, I felt like the protagonist in that Christmas movie who gets the chance to see what the world would be like if he never existed. On that note…

Without my brother, here’s what I’d be missing:

@ COMIC BOOKS AND THE ENTIRE MARVEL UNIVERSE (and some of the DC Comics universe, as well, though he showed no interest in it)

I probably would know nothing about all the characters upon which chunks of my life have been built. The more time I gave to those comic books, the more I associated myself with those characters. I began to see patterns the way astrologers connect the stars and placements of planets. Without my brother, I might not have “met” Jack Kirby and Stan Lee.

At the time, I thought my brother was sharing his interest. He handed me my first taste of comic books and left me wanting more (like a drug dealer, perhaps). I clasped those first comic books like they were the Dead Sea scrolls, some secret to the universe I had to preserve. I spent a chunk of the first money I ever earned on comic books, hoping to both expand my knowledge and improve my sibling relationship. [But, as we grew older and, slowly, apart, I noticed my brother being more concerned with protecting his comic books as an investment. He cared less and less about what they said and more about what they might be worth in the future. Soon, I was told to keep my hands off his comics, once they were bagged and filed in a cabinet.]

@ STAR WARS, STAR TREK AND DOCTOR WHO

[I’m just going to lump those three together.]

Now, sure, I might have heard enough about them from some other source to take an interest. But, without my brother, I’d probably know less and never would have become obsessed with spaceships, alien creatures, light shows and cool costumes. Who else would have shown me those things? The rest of my family had other, more practical and dated interests (like old TV shows about some dusty polka band and dancers and music that just put me to sleep). Kids at school didn’t talk about this stuff. Maybe one rich kid had Star Wars merchandise. But, there were plenty of other cartoon crazes to pursue. Science fiction was not on their radar.

“The best of times” was when my brother and I would challenge each other to design (draw) cool spaceships. It was during that time that I honed my infant drawing skills. In fact, without my brother’s interests in comic books and science fiction, I would have far fewer concepts to draw/emulate.

At an early age, I was taught the benefit of emulating other artists…even though my efforts left me frustrated and discouraged…and the only support I had was a growing number of people who told me I had talent and wanted a piece of my work. I spent as much time trying to reproduce comic-book images and drawing lessons from books found at the local library as I did drawing things from my own imagination. I’d draw inspiration from the cartoons and other TV shows I used to replace time with family who were too often unavailable or too tired to spend time with me.

[Here’s a little fun fact about my branch of the family. It seems every one of us has tried to do something as well as someone already getting famous and paid for it. But, our efforts almost always come up short and leave us discouraged. And, despite the lesson, we keep finding new “models” to chase. You’d think, eventually, we’d become smart enough to avoid such pursuits.]

@ TRAINS

This isn’t as big of an impact as the previous two, but I probably would have less interest in trains and train travel if my brother didn’t have a toy train and a strong interest in collecting them. It was he who lit a fire in my head which made me take a serious look at the craftsmanship of trains and the little places that appear along a train track.

@ DUNGEONS AND DRAGONS

Now, here’s a subject which will likely sort the kids from the adults. I don’t know who still plays this “old” role-playing game, the original one that required paper and pencil and some sort of booklet that tried to tell a story by having people roll dice and play along; as if a story could become a board game. It spawned a number of video games and, at least, one “copycat” called Dungeon, a board game my family happened to purchase, though it’s clearly something my parents would not approve (if not for my brother’s power of persuasion).

If not for my brother, I might not have taken any interest in a seemingly boundless world of creatures and costumed characters. I might not have been so bold as to page through a number of books about the subject matter, spending countless hours learning about “clerics,” “black pudding” and “yellow mold.” I was taught, at an early age, that there might be something sinister and even deadly about participating in such games. But, that didn’t stop me from studying the creatures and characters. And, none of that would have happened if my brother (and his limited circle of friends) didn’t say or show me some part of the closet craze.

It might very well have been Dungeons and Dragons that sparked my interest in fantasy, in dragons, unicorns, wizards, etc. There was no risky gameplay involved in my imaginative pursuit. I was an artist, not a player. I loved the artwork but hated anything scary or dangerous. In way, the interest has been like playing with fire.

@ LEGOS

If you watch TV, lately, you might have seen a show about some odd pairs of people competing to build amazing things out of the infamous plastic bricks…though not every LEGO is a brick shape. There have been LEGO movies and countless displays of jaw-dropping work, hours upon hours spent turning tiny plastic pieces into giant sculptures of everything you might imagine. [It would seem LEGO has become as dominant as certain other companies seemingly bent on owning every other company.]

All of that conjures reflections of that time in my life when I thought (or, still, think) I could make something as good as someone else did. And, they remind me of a time when my brother and I worked with the most meager supply of “bricks” to build crappy, boxy “simulations” of things we liked. Our LEGO creations did not have curves or figures with wavy hair and accessories. Our accessories were made from antennae and “laser guns.” That’s it.

You might pity or laugh at us, but our “lack” DID cultivate one thing that seems to be increasingly lacking in this world…imagination. More and more, you see “convenience” providing you with everything you might think of (so some would say) to do as you please…or as those who made the things you use would be pleased if you used them. You don’t have to use your brain as much to make something rectangular or pyramidal look like something familiar. But, you may have a more difficult time finding those particular pieces you desire if you become disorganized. And, you might have a more difficult time making decisions, with so many options at your disposal.

LEGO blocks, strangely enough, have become a sort of perpetual metaphor for life and certain parts of my life, in particular. They are both potential for creativity (though a very complex, somewhat backward sort of creativity, using small blocks to build something that would come together easier by simply using larger and/or more functional parts which could be crafted a number of ways) and a source of frustration which created difficulty in…I guess you might call them delicate social interactions. They helped me bond with my brother and, later, a sister. And, if life was more fair, maybe one of them would pair up with me and appear on that current TV show or at any one of the contests that have been held over the years. [But, maybe, LEGO just isn’t the “fame” I need to pursue.]

But, they also became a reason to dislike a classmate of mine who seemed bent on being a “frenemy” (not unlike my brother). This particular classmate was OBSESSED with everything LEGO and would talk at length about the matter, even after I explicitly said I wasn’t listening. All you ever had to do to activate this kid’s “static cling” was to say a single word about something he favored. Poof! There he would be, relentlessly gabbing at your side and salivating like some restless dog. And, the more he voiced his obsession, the less I wanted to be involved with anything LEGO. [I didn’t even want to hear those waffle commercials in which someone always says, “LEGGO OF MY EGGO.”] LEGO became the fungus that kid was carrying on his skin; and I did everything I could to stay clean.

END OF LIST

….That’s a rather short list. Yep. That’s about it. Because, after a certain age, the concepts that bound us together started to fall apart. Soon enough, I found myself in a very scary, unpleasant place and frame of mind. And, as I clawed my way out of “the pit of doom,” I found myself liking less and less about my brother and his ongoing pursuit of questionable interests. I no longer tried to emulate him and did everything I could to steer clear of him, in case I went down with his ship. Yet, I couldn’t rid myself of the “stains” I had already acquired; certain elements of those past interests had become woven into my tapestry…and I couldn’t shake them.

*************

Now, let’s look at what I would have AVOIDED if I had less contact with my brother…

@ THE DESTRUCTION OF MY OWN CHILDHOOD COLLECTIBLES, PARTICULARLY HOT WHEELS CARS

There’s a sort of echoing, rippling lesson in my life that is both informative and vexing…more vexing than informative. It has become a thorn of attention to some hypocritical force of denial stemming from, most likely, my mother’s side of the family. According to this lesson…

A) What works for one person will not work for me, no matter how I try.

B) What someone else can get away with will almost assuredly cause trouble for me.

and

C) If I refuse to partake in something out of concern or fear of failure/trouble, I will be bombarded with groans and negative speech about my cowardice. [If nothing else, my family is adept at laying on heaps of negative, unproductive, discouraging speech.]

[I’ll give you an example of how this “hypocritical force” works in my family. If my mother says you cannot do something (meaning you lack not just the ability but also her approval)–before you can even say you tried–she will do everything she can to stop and/or discourage you. If YOU say you cannot do something (because, now, you have fallen for her discouraging rants and doubt yourself), she will harrass you for being a coward. But, if you say you need money or other resources to do anything, she will bombard you with grief and complaints about the cost of life before she makes any helpful contribution, IF she makes any such contribution (which is never certain). If you tell my mother she should try something, she will reject every prod until SHE decides to feel fit and ready (which could be eons after you said anything). If you say she IS or ISN’T something, anything, she will deny your assessment with such force that you might withdraw your claim and wish you never stepped into the courtroom. And, however this makes sense, she will struggle to laugh at what you find humorous in a comic strip (because she is too obtuse to see the humor) yet laugh at something you find discouraging or shocking.]

The first taste of this lesson might have been my brother’s disrespect and blatant abuse of my precious toy cars. Everyone has their favorite childhood toys. Sometimes, those toys are so rare and precious because you know your parents cannot or will not readily replace them. So, when my brother decided to use my few precious toy cars in some experimental destruction exercise, stuffing them with firecrackers (from his “friends”) to watch them explode and melt, I had sufficient reason to cut ties with my brother…but I didn’t.

As much as my tiny, naive brain might have wanted to take revenge, before it ever found my “voice,” it couldn’t think of anything to satisfy the urge. [This was years before I took revenge on one of my sisters for knocking me off my first bicycle and scarring my knuckles.] But, I DID think I had certain rights to tinker with my brother’s collections. I DID so desperately want to play with his “hazardous” Micronauts toys (which he, himself, damaged carelessly). I DID want to page through his (now bagged) comic books and handle delicate figurines he got from some relative I’ve already forgotten. As the lesson dictates, doing so only got me into trouble. And, there was no court which could justify my decisions; I was a helpless lamb on the wrong side of family law.

[Those poor little metal cars…]

[I could add an item to this list but think I will just lump it under this one.]

As a “side effect” of much childhood trauma from collecting toys (and obsessively watching TV shows that promoted them), I began “toy hunting” as an adult. This created another HUGE rift with my family (as if I had turned my back on religion and spat upon the faith of my parents). And, possibly, it only became a problem because of what happened in my youth. The combination of my brother’s mischief, his prompting of my interest in comic books and certain movies/franchises and my parents’ inability to afford all of the things in which I took interest…might have resulted in my somewhat foolish “need” to invest in toys as an adult. Without those influences, I might have focused on my art skills and more productive interests.

[Yet, without comic books, cartoons and toys, I would not have had many sources of inspiration and would have relying purely on my own imagination. Just imagine how different your world would be if you had no exposure to TV and comic books (if there was no Marvel Entertainment or Lord of the Rings in your life). Maybe I’d craft my own fantasy world and spark my own fan craze.]

[Tell me if you know this to be true. If you had plenty of toys as a kid and plenty of happy experiences with family, did you still feel compelled to collect toys as an adult?]

@ MY DISLIKE OF TOMATOES (WHICH, NOT UNTIL 2004, WAS “DISGUST”)

One my brother’s infamous pranks took place at a fragile time in my youth when my family prided itself on growing garden tomatoes. I remember eating them like apples…ya know…if my family HAD a tree that produced edible fruit instead of trees that produced countless, useless things that only gave my parents grief and the relentless urge to tidy their yard, labor which took its toll on my parents and made them less friendly during “family time.” I remember loving tomatoes…until my brother tricked me into eating a hot pepper (which he jabbed into one of those tomatoes). The pain my tongue experienced scarred me for many years. Though I retained a growing interest in ketchup, I could not hold or eat a raw/fresh tomato without the urge to vomit. [And, as a kid, I gave into that urge far too often.]

Unlike some kids, including my own mother, I was not a picky eater. I did not revolt at lima or kidney beans. I was definitely…adventurous. I wanted to know the taste of everything (safe to taste). And, during painful times in my youth, I used experimentation with food to tease family and steer thoughts away from my own misery. There were few combinations I could not eat. And, the number only grew from the influence of family and peer pressure.

In 2004, I made a desperate effort to add a valuable footnote to my life’s story. And, returning to my discouraging home after that trip, I was STARVING. I had been exposed to foreign foods, some of which I had never tasted or even dared to try. And, while most of this food was good…in fact, some was VERY good…I couldn’t eat my fill because I was cursed with seasickness. In desperation, I found a familiar restaurant and ordered “the works.” Whatever was on that sandwich, I would eat. And, I did. And, for the first time in a long time, I ate raw tomato. [I feel the urge to cry, just thinking about it.] I recalled that first taste I had as a kid. I was instantly transported back to my youth, sitting on my plump, stumpy legs, holding a plum tomato. And, it was okay. I wasn’t going to puke.

[If you know the recent history of actor Robert Downey, Jr. (circa 2008), you might say that was my sobering Iron-Man moment and one more “link” to those old comic books I prized. Both of our lives were changed by eating a hamburger.]

Now…I STILL won’t bite into a tomato like an apple. But, I can eat tomato chunks in salads and slices on sandwiches (while my family and others persist in pestering me about my obsession with ketchup). That’s more than my more finicky sister can tolerate.

@ A LINGERING CASE OF LOW SELF-ESTEEM FUELED BY DISCOURAGING DIALOGUE ABOUT MY OVERALL APPEARANCE AND BEHAVIOR

This one actually spawned after the following item on this horrible list. As I grew to dislike the very person I tried to emulate, his knack for finding fault with me became increasingly apparent and annoying (to say the least).

Probably, as a kid, I took his criticism as a lesson plan in being cool. I was being taught what to do and what not to do to “fit in” and make friends. Yet, despite my brother’s inconceivable ability to attract “acquaintances,” he did not exactly have a great circle of friends. [‘Great at making “connections” and drawing attention to himself, but lousy at establishing trustworthy relationships.] And, no matter what I did to follow his advice, it did not benefit my life. Instead, I felt like a fool and continued to suffer humiliation.

At the most fragile time of my teens, I shifted from following his advice to being bothered by it. I couldn’t do anything right. My choices, my preferences, were always wrong. I smelled bad. I dressed poorly. I couldn’t comb my hair the right way. [I might as well have been the “dumb” brother of Trump, Jr.] Everything I said and did in public was a mistake…according to him. And, the more I tried to “hang out” with him, the less I felt good about myself.  And, before long, every opportunity to hang out with my brother came with a list of chores I had to complete before I was approved to join him.  If time was too short, I had to put up with his complaints about my appearance.

My brother–well, let’s be honest, my whole family–hasn’t exactly been the sort to stand by me at times when I suffered emotionally and/or mentally. [And, even in some instances when I suffered physically (and, possibly, permanent damage to my body), there has been a lack of support, sympathy, understanding, respect, etc.] Instead, I get more of the “push” to do something before I look back and see my “support” has vanished. [There are no pleasant endings to those “trust exercises” in my family.] Sure, when I’m feeling down, he or another family member might tell me I’m foolish for feeling that way; they might even give me a list of things I could do to take my mind off my “problem.” They might even prod me to do something with them which only makes me feel more uncomfortable. And, if I refuse, I’m called something unpleasant; I’m a hopeless killjoy.

Eventually, I just stopped trying. I refused to go on trips with him, big or small. I rejected his interests; I “poo-pooed” his Star-Wars obsession. I couldn’t take one more night of going to bed with the nagging feeling of being a smelly social outcast. [I’m still a bit of a smelly social outcast. But, I don’t need my brother around to tell me that or make a scene.] And, truth be told, this goes farther than my brother; other members of the family can be just as bad. Thus, I am…rather lonely.

Sure, maybe this one isn’t entirely my brother’s fault. It could very well come from my parents…or their parents…or go back through generations of horrible mentors…and paint my family as something other than the good people I want to believe they are. All those years in school, when other kids thought my family was a bit “snooty,” when I was convinced we were a good lot who didn’t bully or cause trouble, my family just may have been…may be…something I’d rather not respect.

@ THE WORST EXCUSE FOR A CATHOLIC (HIGH) SCHOOL

I won’t go into much detail here. But, the worst time of my life–when I was forced to find my “voice” and nearly died (again)**–happened, essentially, because of my brother’s influence. Before I had any reason to hate him, I bought into reputation and advertised status. I listened to commercials. I was told it was the best “school” in town and convinced myself I had to be there; not just because my brother said it was “cool.”

**Death and I have done this little dance more than once (to make a long story short-er). I’ve had numerous experiences in life that could have killed me. But, for some strange reason, something out of a comic book or movie, I’ve survived.

Adding to the persuasion, I was going through a tough time with friendships, particularly my best female friend, someone I have yet to replace. Peer pressure was driving us apart. I loved her but couldn’t love her the way I wanted because others saw as as incompatible, the jock and the nerd (me).

A part of me thought going to this particular school would help me focus on my education and become a better adult, instead of being tempted to “fool around” with girls and drugs. I thought, later, when I graduated, I’d find more time to focus on HER, when I had a diploma and a satisfactory career. I thought I’d still find time for her…just not as much as I had THEN, when it seemed the more time I had with her, the more people pestered us like sassy crows. And, that may have been a huge mistake.

I am still not entirely sure…but her decision to date a “frenemy” of mine and say we would “just be friends” might have happened AFTER I made my decision to go to that ridiculously expensive school. If so…if that’s why she said what she did “in the end,” I would just crumble and cry, right now…and not know when I’d stop. Even all these years later, though I know, now, she has married and has, at least, one child, I still have this tiny little dream of her and I, as a couple, starting a family and traveling the world together.

She and the “frenemy” (who was once my first “best friend”) went to different high schools yet managed to date briefly. After that failed relationship, I lost touch with her and her best friend, someone I thought might become more than a friend for a time until she, too, made a lousy school selection and I no longer wanted to be associated with (that place) her. Ironically, shortly before graduation, I ran into the “frenemy,” again; we barely spoke, and–clearly–there was no trace of the friendship we once had.

Surprisingly, the benefits I thought would come from one (lousy) school choice never materialized. It was all a sinister façade. The education wasn’t worth the price. Drugs, bullying and violence were as much a part of that pompous “castle” as they were at every other school. And, for the first time in my life, I encountered what I viewed as true evil.

As I did everything I could to purge my life of that horrible time, my family rejected my behavior and became opponents to my desperate need for emotional and mental security. Others were “signing up for more” and thus becoming people I felt a need to avoid. At that time, all the good in my life seemed to be slipping away like sands in one half of an hourglass. [And, whoever or whatever was reaping the remains remained a mystery.]

AND, BREATHE…

If that’s not enough reason to distance myself from my brother, I don’t know what else I could say to convince you.

Forgive and forget…some might say. Sure; if it were that easy. But, like I just said, my own family became my opponents. Everything I think sound to wiping the slate clean…they think foolish and waste plenty of our time together arguing against. There is no happy compromise.

So, here I sit, typing out my thoughts, one more time, sulking like a sot at some smoky bar, sitting in a dark, dank corner, reluctant to finish my souring drink. And, I think of recent events. Every time this brother of mine crosses my path, something bad seems to happen…more often to himself than me.

As if throwing me back to my youth, a LEGO project I remotely prided myself for completing, using that same old limited supply of “bricks” we kids had, preserved by the same parents who keep pressuring me to get rid of stuff I still treasure while hoarding their own “monsters,” was hastily destroyed by my brother’s foolishness and one clumsy nephew. Having grown a thick skin over many years of disappointment and that old clash I had with the “LEGO kid,” I did my best to “shrug it off” but would be lying if I didn’t feel some remorse for the time spent assembling that theater.

Why was my creation destroyed? Because my brother thought I was being selfish by not sharing those LEGO blocks with our nephews…who could have “made do” with a supply of unused blocks or gone home to fetch some from their already HUGE supply. And, like I said, a clumsy nephew…took a spill, and there went my hard work, scattered across the floor as if it was worth nothing.

[Grow up, man! They’re just plastic toy blocks!]

[Sure. Grow up and give in to demanding children with their own lack of emotional support, discipline and participation from family (other than my own contributions). Cater to their every whim without any concern for what might be an alternative, better solution…and sacrifice everything I build.]

Other mishaps include car crashes (not mine), health scares and other property damage which could probably have been avoided with better judgement, less haste and far less negative dialogue among family. But, all seem to have some link to that brother who is looking more and more like a black cat while I feel like the black sheep of the family.

Am I…

Is all of my suffering stemming from contact with my family?

Is it just this one brother that’s causing my (family’s) troubles? Is it because, in a number of ways, he and I are polar opposites? Even astrology seems to point at how we clash.

And, while some might say it’s wise to put as much distance as I can between me and these “negative” people/influences, understand…this is my family. I would like to think all would better if I had a good circle of friends and only had to see my family on rare occasions, but I cannot say that. I don’t have those friends. Similar to one of my first clashes with Death, I am sitting at the bottom of a pool, submerged in family time. It’s one of those situations in which you’d rather be somewhere else but not alone. You’ll…put up with lousy company because you think the alternative will only make you more miserable (or take action you’d later regret, if you’re still alive to regret it).

There’s an old saying…

Misery loves company.

I just didn’t know, as a kid…nor do I wish to think that way now…

That my own family, the Hypocrites, might actually be a branch of the Misery family.

04
Jun
21

Global Equality and Happiness; Philosophical Meandering, June 4, 2021

*****

thinker-statue-fadedforestbackdrop-closeup-2

I caught something on TV the other day about Elon Musk’s girlfriend? promoting a form of communism.  She said something about eliminating work, using more AI to run the planet and everyone benefitting from this shift.  And, someone responded by saying they could see some logic in the young woman’s presentation.  [Though I couldn’t help raising an eyebrow to the markings on her face (pre-surgery, I presume) and wonder what in state her mind actually was.  When you’re prepping for surgery, your mind can say and do strange things.]

This wasn’t the only stimulus for today’s pondering (or meandering).

I’ve been bombarded with so many thoughts in the past few days, some of which have sparked ideas for rants that never took shape.  I’ve also been feeling exceptionally distressed and depressed for no particular/new reason.  

Now then…

Can you imagine a world in which no one has a job or requirement to pay taxes and such and can simply live off the land as everyone pleases?  I’ve seen something close to that on certain versions of Star Trek.  And, sure, we forget some of the details of “reality” when watching just about any movie, TV show or, the current trend, online videos which could be uploaded by just about anyone for any reason and altered with a variety of computer/video tools (to mess with our heads).  But, is such a world possible?  That’s, essentially, my question.  And, feel free to contribute your thoughts below.

While I aspire and long for such a world, I have lingering doubts it could ever exist.  And, I will tell you why in a minute.

The longer I live, the angrier I get at humanity as a whole.  I know it’s not good to throw all your apples in one basket.  There ARE good apples…as well as bad ones.  But, it’s difficult to sort them out and getting more difficult each day.  Just when you think you have a good apple, something crazy and/or disappointing happens.  And, there are a number of possible reasons/influences for this.  [But, I won’t overload your brain with those, now.]  But, bad apples spoil the bunch and make life miserable for everyone, including themselves once they hit a discouraging dead end, a point when all the gold in the world isn’t making them happy, whether they admit it or not.  Or, they just die and hand over the wealth to the next generation of entitled fools.

Actually, that ties into what I’m about to say.  

Why is a peaceful world enjoyed by all, equally, so impossible to achieve?  And, why are all our efforts to achieve…well…anything “good” in vain?  Because there will always be a “sense of entitlement” or some other variation of that phrase that drives certain people to be less charitable than others.  At least, I don’t see how it can change for the better.  

You’ve probably seen some of this in movies, too.  Someone comes up with a solution for the fossil-fuel problem, and, whether or not it becomes public knowledge, someone in a high seat swoops down on the invention to “capitalize” it.  One minute, you’ve got fresh air for everyone; the next, the air is being bottled and sold at your “convenience.”  It’s not convenient to turn the world into one big outlet store.  It’s not convenient to slash a price from $400 to $40 when the item isn’t worth anything other than what humans stamp on it, when the item is available to all if we’d let it be.

Right now, bottled water is all the rage.  Every cotton-picking flavor and type imaginable is being advertised.  And, everyone has their gimmick to sell it.  SELLING WATER.  Isn’t that the beginning of the end?  Isn’t that one step from The Lorax?  Come on, people!  Wise up!

The world is perpetually one step away from a Moonlight Madness Sale.  Someone presents a crisis or craze, and the sheep, cattle, dogs, rodents…all of them go running in all directions, trying to get a piece of the action.  Someone shouts fire or virus, and people panic.  Someone shouts FREE ___!  And, people rush to get the bargain or catch the T-shirt or jump through flaming hoops to get a prize which requires some paperwork and payment of taxes. 

THIS is sharing?  Well, you might say, “Nooo.  That’s not it.  That’s not the level of equality we can yet reach.”  But, I think it is.  I think those without the status and power to delegate and trickle down the benefits from their high seats are always going to be chasing and wasting and competing with others, regardless of their status.  And, even those “at the top” surely have their competitions for “more” and some false sense of security.  Because, let’s be honest, does ANYONE really feel anymore secure than they can justify with some artificial support?  Doesn’t everyone boast some nest egg or financial support system of some kind to secure their status, their lifestyle, whether you are a welfare case or living at Park Place?

Now, you might be of the mindset that you are a good person.  But, how good are you in that mob scene at the big sale on some holiday weekend?  What are you doing there if not running with the bulls to get a rare bargain?  What do you have to experience to be reduced to the mentality of something like The Hunger Games?

If you take a long, hard look at yourself, you might find a darker shade to your light.  I’ve seen it, myself.  I try to be a good guy.  But, there are moments…  And, I cannot guarantee something wouldn’t eventually turn me. 

But, if you DO take that long, hard look…and you only see good…well, either you are full of yourself (and something soft and brown and smelly) or you are one lucky individual.  Well, luck is subject to opinion and definition and could just be the enemy of the ego…but…

So, how can the world ever be free of its current state of quarreling rights and economies if we all cannot part with our “status” and “entitlement” and share the world’s resources? 

And, by share, I don’t been buying shares of a company.  I don’t mean sharing the burden by paying more fees and taxes to have some of what the other guy has.  I don’t mean renting the services and resources we need the rest of our lives just to slave away to feed some higher, wealthier ego and then listen to the praises of said ego and his wealthy status. 

Oh, please, sir, tell me more of your mansions and car collection and plans for universal domination.  NOT!

Here’s today’s philosophical metaphor for ya.

If you had a big, frosted cake and had enough for everyone in the world, would you divide it evenly and be satisfied?  Or, would you–even for a second–think you should stash away more of that cake for yourself and divide the remainder among the rest of the world?  Could you be content with your own equal-size piece?

But, here’s my cynical, skeptical kicker, right below that.  If someone told you they were giving you a piece of the cake everyone is sharing equally, would you believe they were giving you your fair share?  See.  That’s another problem…or shade of the same problem.  Trust.  There is very little trust in the world.  And, those who DO trust too often get swindled.  I’ve been swindled quite a bit, and it has made me so bitter; my own obtuse family gets tired of me.

Yet, it’s possible someone could offer you your fair share and be holding out on you.  But, how would you know?  And, how would you verify…anything?

Now, you see?   You see why I cannot take my heavy egg-shaped head off my tense fist and rigidly bent knee.  

If you need me, I’ll be on the stump…er, toilet…ridding myself of today’s crap.  ‘Got any Thought Paper?

  emptyTProll-650x400-2

 

 

02
Jun
21

How Many Memorials Do You Need to Cover a Planet?

*****

That is my essential question.

If you watch enough TV, you see plenty of stories about REMEMBERING, preserving memories and erecting memorials to EVERY tragedy under the sun, big or small.  Someone died?  Make me a memorial.  A ton of people died?  Make  another memorial.  Someone did something really bad somewhere and trashed the place?  Make a memorial.  WE CANNOT FORGET WHAT HORROR HAPPENED HERE…OR ANYWHERE.

What sparked this focus?  Well, let me tell you a story…a rather long story.  So, you might want to get comfortable…

I found a weathered antique that I thought must be valuable…because it’s an antique…and people made a whole “Roadshow” about finding value in such things…sometimes values in the hundreds and thousands. It turns out the item is part of a terrible time in human history, a time when my ethnicity was dragged through the mud of ridicule and stereotypical abuse. [Then again…that sort of talk is STILL happening.] It gets a low auction rating/value, according to an appraiser. But, I’m told to display the item as if it were in a museum, to never forget that horrible time in history….

[Disclaimer:  The above story is true but not about myself.  It is my perspective on something I saw on TV.]

WHAT IS WRONG WITH HUMANKIND?!?!

BURN IT! BURY IT! DESTROY IT! DON’T PUT IT IN A GLASS BOX!

You know what typically happens in the movies when people put horrible things in glass boxes or on pedestals. Some dumb archaeologist or thief decides to take it and causes a catastrophe.

I’d ask the rhetorical question. Are you nuts? But, clearly, many if not all of us are if keeping the worst of the past alive to remind us all of the horrors is considered–by anyone–a good idea. So many damn memorials to tragedies, disasters and deaths of large quantities of people. How does anyone expect to see the sunny side of life if we are surrounded by and bombarded with tragedy and horror?

Where are the memorials of the good humans have done? Is the best example of good just the religious statues of supposed gods, saints and prophets? People we, who are currently living, probably never knew or can clearly say existed, yet we pray to and believe in them; we cherish them like a kid with his favorite stuffed animal. Where are the memorials of triumph and survival? Not trophies from sporting events where lots of money is passed around by those with greater resources while the athletes risk their lives on display. Not monuments made to men in high offices who may or may not have served their country well. Some…signs of good human nature and values. I cannot even name one, right now. Is there such a thing? Are they all hogwash, now?

I have a disfigurement that may or may not be associated with my parents’ neglect. I do not preserve it as a badge of honor or something to show people when I want to tell–one more time–how I no longer respect my parents the way I did as the “good little boy” I once was trying so hard to be. The only reason I haven’t had it fixed is a combination of sheer terror at the diagnosis I was given and some twisted self-therapy notion that I hope people will accept me for my personality and not be so concerned with my tragically flawed physique. Heck. I was flawed at birth because my parents let some doctor tell them I had to be born NOW, not later. And then, that same doctor said I should have surgery on my skull to prevent brain damage…damage he caused by pulling me out in haste.

I don’t want to show of my disfigurement and recant the painful stories of my youth over and over and over again. I’m sure as heck not going to stand naked on YouTube and talk about the horrors of my past. And, if there was a better way to fix the “problem” (than what I have been told and the cost I anticipate), I’d get it done.

But, I get it. Those who want this hot mess are angry and upset and sticking it to those who caused the hardship and those who turn a blind eye to crime and other troubles.

Yet, there are probably just as many who would like to live their lives in peace who had nothing to do with the trouble and are not so well off that they are trampling the victims of the past. Just because someone is “white” doesn’t make them a supporter of slavery or racial abuse.

As much as I might like to shake a furious finger at my parents and hope others share my scorn, that attitude is not going to help me get on with my life. I’m not going to be a better person by harboring resentment and toting the painful memory. Nor am I going to feel better 20, 30 or even 50 years from now, looking at that history in a book or museum. I’m not going to see that horror and say, “Mmm. That was tragic. It’s good I preserved the memory. Now, the world can relive my pain.”

Sure; it might be good to know if you were a “fan” and wanted to know the intimates of my life. But, who can predict the existence of such historians? And, who preserves every bad thing that happened in their life so future generations can learn about it?…considering, among those generations, there will be plenty of “bad eggs” who would misuse the information. History certainly shows how people can twist a story and use it for evil. Ask anyone who is skeptical about the history of popular holidays.

I think back to my school days. I had teachers trying to cram tons of–well–useless information into my young brain when what I really needed to learn was how to function in the modern world, how to take care of myself and fit in with people both younger and older than me. Instead, I received a diploma in all sorts of historical matters that might be good to replay in a museum if I was giving a tour…but otherwise are just skewed stories on rotting paper.

I am a fairly religious guy and give adequate respect to religious texts and places of worship. But, even I can tell the Catholic/Christian Bible is not a documentary on ancient Christian people. Many of the stories are more like fables than diary entries. Yet, the Bible is one of the most talked about and preserved books in human history. WHY? [Maybe people just looove storytelling.]

Now, imagine what is happening right now or even all the stories we’ve heard about things that happened in the 1960s…a few thousand years from now…being recanted in schools and museums. Do you really think any of this will matter? What if history repeats itself? What if humans continue to be ignorant and learn nothing from the abundance of history they are provided?

People today are not learning from the history I was force-fed. They aren’t much wiser. The weapons just get more destructive and sophisticated. Heck, the planet pays every day from past use of radioactive materials and chemistry that harms the environment. No museum necessary.

WHY WASTE THE TIME AND ENERGY ON PAINFUL HISTORY?!

[In April of 1986, the Chernobyl disaster happened, and, to some extent, it’s still there, still tragic.  In June of 1987, Peter Parker married Mary Jane Watson in Shea Stadium.  Yes!  There was a live staging of this blessed moment in comic-book history!  And, if you’re lucky, you’ll find a footnote in some book or on some website about it.  [I faintly remember seeing a blip on some morning news program about the wedding, as a kid who was just starting to like comic books.]  Is there a statue of Peter and Mary Jane anywhere near that stadium?  Does anyone talk about the wedding?  Probably not as much as they will talk about countless disasters and memorials to them.  You hear more about the tragic end of Princess Diana’s life than you hear about Pete and MJ.  Sure, go ahead and criticize me for favoring fictional characters.  😛 ]

We don’t have to glorify the fools of the present, either. But, we sure don’t need to carry all the horror behind us. If you were struggling to travel across a hot desert and could only carry so much on your back, would you take the pain you and your “family” experienced or just the essentials you’d need to survive the trip?

You’re alive. You made it through. If your family and friends were impacted, I’m not saying forget they suffered. But, don’t erect a statue for every person who died. And, even if you experienced tragedy, don’t let it stop you from living a good life. Don’t shove it in the faces of others who may not properly process the information, either.

Not everyone will respect your sorrow or understand. Eventually, the planet WILL run out of surface space. Even graveyards get run over by new generations and new developments. Did anyone erect a memorial for my favorite dinosaur when the meteor hit Earth? I don’t think so. And, as far as I know, no one’s working on a park exhibit to bring “her” back to life and protect the endangered species. I’d really freak out if anyone tried; and not in a good way.

So…I’m watching this episode of that “Roadshow” and seeing a famous person talk about a collection of historical items which are not doing any good for anyone and probably should not be discussed or displayed anywhere. If you knew nothing about the pieces, you might say, “Oh. Those are unique ethnic figurines.” But, once you hear the story behind them–if you have a conscience, at all–you might wince and wish to look away.

WHY do we need to preserve every bad thing or bad incident for future generations to replay? Is all of that really going to make a good impact on “kids” so they make smarter decisions? With the way the world is sinking into an abyss of technological distractions and everything coded under the silicon sun, who are we expecting to take a look at all of this painful history and make good on it?

What good is expected from preserving these nightmares and bad days in our history? More museum ticket purchases? Yes, please, take my money and let me stare for hours at tragedy and horror. Show me more people dying, suffering and being mistreated so I never forget.

I think my days in school with ancient history about the barbaric practices was quite enough to know humans can and have been quite horrible and probably should never cross paths with life from other planets, unless those lifeforms are as bad or worse. And, if they are worse, then we are all screwed, anyway.

SCREW YOU WHO FAVOR MEMORIALS OF EVERYTHING TRAGIC AND HORRID! You want to weep? Then weep and make peace with what happened before moving on with LIFE. Otherwise, you can spend eternity carrying a boulder up a slope before it pushes you back down to start the climb, again.

It happened. But, the rest of the world doesn’t need to relive it or review it the rest of their lives. And, Heaven forbid someone tamper with the evidence so the history becomes skewed. Oh no…humans would never alter history to make it appear different in future school books. [Can you detect my sarcasm?]

Stop preserving every little piece of painful history you find and LIVE your life or be buried and rotted with your STUFF you refuse to let go. A hundred years from now, what you value or refuse to leave behind won’t matter to anyone but the few descendants born with either miraculous memory or the acursed desire to hoard your past. If you feel the need to tell stories, you don’t need models and charts. That’s school and courtroom bullshit.

But, I get it. Ultimately, “to each their own.” I just don’t want to be bombarded with the horrors of mankind the way these rampant drug ads with horrific side effects keep dominating my TV time. Just because I know mosquitoes can be deadly doesn’t mean I need to hear it every day or year. Teach me how to protect myself, truthfully, don’t just tell me how horrible they are and what I should buy to feel safer (as if). Bring back those remotely charming “mascots” of commercial history and retire those F’n toilet-paper bears, already.

I’m not Andy Rooney, but, if you’ve read everything I have to say, you’ve probably been here 60 minutes, give or take.

Who’s Andy Rooney?

I dunno. Google it, maybe?

Tick, tick, tick, tick…….

02
Jun
21

Stink Bugs! You Little Stinkers!

*****

If I had a nickel for every time, as a kid, someone said, “You little stinker!”……..

Well, actually, I only heard a few older folks call me a stinker.  And, it wasn’t often.

But, STINK BUGS!  A pox on humanity intertwined with karma, out to teach us all some kind of lesson.

What exactly does a stink bug look like?  I’ve had ideas ever since I was a kid.  I’ve seen two versions in Animal-Crossing video games.  But, the ones I’ve seen close to home are nothing like those.  They are certainly not green or yellow with faces on their backs.  No.  These stink bugs–and most stinky bugs of this sort–are roughly shaped like a shield with a tapered butt end, six legs and two prominent antennae sticking up off their flat shoulder section.  There is a sort of diamond/triangle shape between the head and base of the spine which helps conceal a pair of deceptive wings which, in some species, have ridges on them which make the bugs appear prickly.  I need to confirm the particular species my dad unleashed upon his home.  But, they appear to be brown and speckled in a way that makes them easy to hide on wood surfaces, especially tree bark.  [Find pictures and more at Pests.org.]

And, quick tip.  DO NOT SQUASH ONE INDOORS!  DO NOT USE YOUR HAND OR FOOT!  The smell (oil) is toxic (although, only if you intake a large sampling of it…whatever that may be) and will linger/spread.  So, unless you enjoy their foul coriander scent, avoid indoor slaying.  Take them outside.

Here’s my story…

A few years ago, a branch of my family visited an aunt of mine who had a modest infestation of some sort of sun-loving beetle.  They were ALL over the exterior walls and slipping indoors to pester us like flies.  I forget the name someone mentioned…something arboreal…….anyway.  They’re not the green menace that’s devouring trees but just a clustering pest.  My dad, who drove, parked the car in his garage, and we thought nothing about the bugs, other than how they rattled our nerves.  

Weeks…months went by with no sightings.

Before winter arrived, my dad decided to move some cardboard boxes from the garage into his basement.  These boxes contained toys he planned on giving some kids who either didn’t exist or were not old enough to use them, yet. 

[My dad likes to pick up things for other people, without a direct gifting plan.  He just likes being the giver and will seek out someone to receive stuff they don’t even want or appreciate.  If you gave him a bottomless sack of toys, he’d spend the rest of his days handing them out to people who just don’t care; he might frown at the lack of a happy response but will keep going until he croaks. ]

The toys sat in that basement corner for more than a year.  Meanwhile, as he does every year, my dad tried to raise a garden of vegetables and herbs.  He’s particularly fond of tomatoes.  

Guess what stink bugs love…TOMATOES!  [Everybody now…ATTAAACK…OF THE KILLER TOMATOOOOO….BUGS.]

[And, corn, and other crops I won’t list, right now.   Just, basically, they’re drawn to juicy crops.]  And, as I just found out, they move indoors when cold weather nears.  Dad lives in a part of the Midest, USA, that is victim to all seasons, especially cold, damp winters.  Wait for it…

Finally, Dad found kids deserving and old enough of the toys in the basement.  What a wondrous surprise; when the kids opened their wrapped gifts, they discovered a fright worthy of horror movies.  STINK BUGS!!!!  They were storming out of the packages like a Nazi army.  Hut, hut, hut went the little pests.  Everyone got up and raced to toss the boxes outside. 

[You know that scene in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, when the family freaks out over the wild squirrel in the tree?  Yeah.  That’s how this looked.  But, with about a hundred stink bugs on the loose.]

But, it was too late.  The pests had scattered to corners of the house.  Now, they could be anywhere.

And, since that fateful holiday nightmare, they have been popping up and seem to reappear as fast as you send them outside or down the toilet, as if one good extermination deserves a return on the divestment. 

Karma.  I am telling you!  But, what brought this pox upon my family?  And, how will it be stopped if my dad insists upon living in his own very modest Bush Gardens?  The man loves his flora.  But, he’s lousy at pest control.  And, he will try anything!  He will spend a fortune trying every remedy in the book if you let him!  Nothing seems to work….other than ignoring the pests til they go away….if they go away.  And, maybe that is the lesson or mantra of my family.  It seems to be that way.  I have a history of bullying.  And, the bullies sort of vanished once I stopped giving them a response.  When they could no longer bother me, when I did my best not to react, they stopped trying.  Maybe that works with these stink bugs, too.  

Wanna hear the strangest bit?  The part of this story that makes me think these things are alien visitors of higher intelligence than we give them credit?  A real Men-in-Black moment?

One night, I’m watching TV, alone, and one of these stink bugs appears on a nearby door. 

[My family’s mandate is to squeal like a girl and stomp out every insect, bug or other pest you find.  But, that’s just not me; not the current me, anyway.  Normally, I’d get a bug jar and try to scoot the pests outdoors.  Normally, the pests in my bug jar resist returning to nature; so I have to leave the bug jar outside and let nature take its course.  If I’m lucky, I can retrieve the jar and save it for another pest-y day.]

So, I ignore the bug…until it decides to get warm off lamp light (heat) and buzz across the room.  [I didn’t know they could fly!  And, they are fast once they are warm!]  I shake off the sweat and nerves and focus on the TV.  I hear a curious sound and turn my head to see the most startling sight.  That little stink bug was WATCHING TV with me.  It perched itself on the far end of the couch and raised itself on two rear legs (like a tripod or folding table), aiming its antennae right at the screen.  I may be wrong, but I’d swear that’s what it was doing…watching TV, trying to figure out what had me so hypnotized.  It didn’t fly to the TV screen in hopes of gathering more heat/light.  It didn’t return to the lamp.  It stayed right there, fixed arm of the couch, until I turned out the lights, said “goodnight, young one” and went to bed.

You tell me.  Was it watching TV or just basking in the warmth of the room?

I just found a heap of hopefully useful information from Pests.org. 

Here’s to clearing out the pests in favor of a healthy garden (year).  But…if they ARE intelligent life…if they are alien visitors…just imagine…  It’s hard to eradicate some “pests.”  Ya know?

 

01
May
21

May Birthdays, updated 2021

*****

MAY

TAURUS (APRIL 20-MAY 20)

MAY 3

Pom Klementieff (lovely actress who played Mantis in Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy:  Vol. 2)

Taurus Fire Tiger

MAY 4

Erin Andrews (sportscaster and former Dancing with the Stars hostess)

Taurus Earth Horse (Surprisingly rather compatible with moi)

MAY 13

actress Candice Accola (who I know from TV’s The Vampire Diaries)

Taurus Fire Rabbit

MAY 16

Tiya Sircar (actress from TV’s The Good Place; she plays Vicky, the bad-place bossy-pants who tries to upstage Michael and, in the final season; she gets to coordinate the architects)

Taurus Water Dog

actor Danny Trejo (who has appeared in more films than I can count; how does he do it all?)

Taurus Wood Monkey

actor Pierce Brosnan (best known–to me–as one of the better James Bonds, someone I’d rather not picture singing in a musical; I first saw him as Remington Steele)

Taurus Water Snake

actor David Boreanaz (who I know best from his days as Angel on a couple of shows involving vampires and some blonde named Buffy)

Taurus Earth Rooster

Tori Spelling (blonde actress probably best known for having a daddy who has had his name attached to many, many TV shows…oh, and she had a role on a late-1980s TV series called Beverly Hills 90210)

Taurus Water Ox

Melanie Lynskey (lovely New-Zealand actress who I first fell in love with on a crappy TV show about two men, a boy they raise, their nanny and a hoard of loose women with their own load of problems; she played the invasive but charming neighbor, Rose)

Taurus Fire Snake (HOT partnership potential with yours truly)

Megan Fox (actress who has had a mix of scary and questionable roles; she was fortunate to star in two movies about favorite toy lines from my “youth”…you know…even though they were directed by a lousy risk-taking guy who messed with the perfectly fine origins of the stories)

Taurus Wood Tiger

Debra Winger (icy-eyed beauty who had some of her brightest moments during the late 1970s and early 1980s; I first fell in love with her as Wonder Girl in the live-action Wonder Woman TV show with Linda Carter)

Taurus Wood Sheep

GEMINI (MAY 21-JUNE 20)

MAY 22

Molly Ephraim (actress who played the first/original Mandy from TV’s Last Man Standing < with Tim Allen>)

Gemini Fire Tiger

MAY 24

Daisy Edgar-Jones (a lovely Brit. I spotted early in her acting career, from some TV show called Ordinary People)

Gemini Earth Tiger

MAY 25

Esme Bianco (In Game of Thrones, she was a lovely redheaded “prostitute” named Ros, very shapely and bubbly; she’s also apparently been a neo-burlesque performer, model, voice actress and DJ elsewhere)

Gemini Water Dog (VERY compatible with moi)

MAY 30

actress Rachel Sterling

Gemini Fire Snake

01
Apr
21

April Birthdays, updated 2021

*****

APRIL

ARIES (MARCH 21-APRIL 19)

APRIL 3

Sofia Boutella (Algerian-French actress who was a lovely white-haired alien in Star Trek: Beyond and a similarly endearing rebel in Fahrenheit 451; she also has apparently danced in many of Madonna’s videos? Sometimes bleach blonde, sometimes brown haired; unique eyebrows)

Aries Water Dog

APRIL 5

Lily James (In Downton Abbey, she played the pale-haired, young and adventurous Lady Rose; yet she regularly? is a dark-blonde gal with a semi-sweet frumpy smile)

Aries Earth Snake

APRIL 8

Ana de la Reguera (Anabell Gardoqui “Ana” de la Reguera, Mexican actress from Nacho Libre, Cowboys vs Aliens and The Book of Life)

Aries Fire Snake (a tad short for me but VERY compatible)

APRIL 10

Conor Marie Leslie (actress who plays Donna Troy/Wonder Girl on Titans, an internet-TV show about the Teen Titans of DC Comics; in some pics she’s a stunner who resembles Norah Zehetner from Heroes)

Aries Metal Sheep (Rather compatible with moi, minus the “metal”)

AJ Michalka (actress from TV’s The Goldbergs, Lanie, Erica’s friend, Barry’s girlfriend, voice of Catra in the 20XX She-Ra reboot cartoon on Netflix)

Aries Metal Sheep

Daisy Ridley (actress from Star Wars 7-9, among other roles)

Aries Water Monkey (surprisingly very compatible with moi)

Jenna Jenovich (GORGEOUS Russian model…don’t ask me how I located her :P)

Aries Fire Rabbit

APRIL 14

Julia Taylor Ross (actress from of Saving Hope (TV))

Aries Water Pig

APRIL 18

actress Chloe Bennet (who I first met and fell for on TV’s Agents of SHIELD)

Aries Water Monkey

Virginia Gardner (actress from TV’s The Goldbergs, Lexy Bloom, the hot, popular girl, the one Barry wanted to date)

Aries Wood Pig

APRIL 19

Marta Milans (lovely Spanish actress who played the foster mom who adopted the Shazam kids, Shazam! movie 2019)

Aries Water Dog

TAURUS (APRIL 20-MAY 20)

APRIL 22

Cassidy Freeman (red-haired actress who played Grace Mercer on CW/TV’s Smallville)

Taurus Water Dog

APRIL 24

actress Shirley MacLaine/MacLean Beaty (Someone I’ve known a long time but only recently became a huge crush once I started watching a number of her films; be sure to check out my special birthday/letter posts to her.)

Taurus Wood Dog (in this life)

Melinda (Patricia) Clarke (Actress from such TV shows as the OC, Gotham, Vampire Diaries, Eli Stone, Chuck, etc.)

Taurus Earth Rooster

Josephine Jobert (French actress from Death in Paradise, after Sara Martins left the series)

Taurus Water Ox

APRIL 25

Talia Shire (lovely brown-haired actress who I only, truly, know from her role as Rocky’s love interest in those ol’ boxing dramas; I once saw her on the Johnny Carson show, and she was purely delightful)

Taurus Fire Dog

Hank Azaria (actor of a million voices…at least, on The Simpsons; he has also played a few annoying characters in films like Run, Fat Boy, Run)

Taurus Wood Dragon

Gina Torres (dazzling, deep-voiced African-American actress who has stolen the spotlight in so many minor roles; I think I first saw her on Kevin Sorbo’s Hercules: The Legendary Journeys…before Cleopatra 2525, Firefly and so many others)

Taurus Earth Rooster (Dangerously sexy)

Renee Zellweger (somewhat meek and modest blonde actress with the distinctly sour-like face who had me at Bridget Jones)

Taurus Earth Rooster

APRIL 30

Gal Gadot (Israeli actress who most recently played 2017’s (and 2020/1984’s) Wonder Woman; she has also appeared in the Fast and the Furious film series and was the voice of a lovely street racer in the second Wreck-It Ralph movie)

Taurus Wood Ox

24
Mar
21

Talent VS Temptation; the On-Going Conflict with Modern Female Vocalists

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To be talented or to be scandalous?  That is the question.  Reframe the question.  What does it take to earn award-worthy status and fame?  And, is that golden record worth a loss of respect as an artist?

Have you ever noticed a stark contrast in female vocalists?  I’m talking about (young) women like Dua Lipa, Taylor Swift, Megan “Thee Stallion” and Alicia Keys.  [Wait.  Don’t jump to conclusions.  I’m not lumping those women together into one category.]  I’d throw in Katy Perry, but, the more I think about it, I feel Katy walks the line or bounces from one side to the other, as does Lady Gaga, and the latter sure has gone through a progressive evolution in recent years.

Maybe it’s just me and my unique perceptions.  And, maybe, what I have to say will just make some readers bristle or respond angrily.  So be it.  If I get any “flack,” I’m used to it.  Shame on me for speaking my mind.

But…

Have you ever noticed how some women are VERY talented–or, at least, creative–and yet give stage performances in which they look…slutty?  While, others, who have the same right and chances to awards of all kinds, dress with far greater class but lack the…well…vocal talent to produce a full album of music I’d call favorable listening material?

Now, this is a bit of a stretch for me.  I don’t even know Megan “Thee Stallion” that well, haven’t heard more than one or two of her songs and seen as many stage performances.  But…there is something about the full-figured woman that suggests both creative potential and stellar activism.  YET, when I see her perform, there is an overwhelming urge to turn on a red light and bring up stripper poles.  And, it irks me.  I hate to see people with great talent/potential flaunting themselves as if they…well…had nothing else to offer.

Do you need to flaunt yourself to get credit or notice of your messages?  And, will people actually hear what you have to sing if you “flash your goods?”  At a time–though it has been going on for a LONG time–when women are striving for respect and equal rights (again), why do you want to wash out great potential and talent with strip shows?

I grasping for comparisons but drawing blank from the internal distress this topic causes me.

Mention the name Tina Turner, and you’re sure to get as many people doing an impersonation of her typical hasty dancing as you would reference to any of her better songs.  The same might be said for Mick Jagger and his “rooster strut;” thankfully, he never struts around in his underwear.

Again, I hope I do not offend or cause too much upheaval with my opinions, but…

Taylor Swift and Alicia Keys are BEAUTIFUL, GORGEOUS (young) women.  The former, in my opinion, has greater musical/creative talent and potential.  Both, often enough, dress with class and carry themselves like “ladies.”  [Not all of the time; I’ll admit that.  There have been some atrocious “red carpet” outfits.  Blame designers seeking fame and hasty scheduling.]  However, can I name an album by either artist which I’d listen to regularly?  Nope.  I can name a few songs by Tay I enjoy.  And, she is VERY clever and creative in packaging her work.  [Sorry, Alicia.]

Dua Lipa and Megan “Thee Stallion,” coincidentally born the same year and relatively new “flashes in the pan,” both present potent music just showing its worth but take fashion-model risks with their stage attire (and…ugh…background dancers).  Part of my primary reasoning for writing this is from a recent performance I watched in which masked background dancers looked like slutty nurses at some strip club, making a scene to promote vaccines.  [No, that’s not why they were…performing.]  It made me think of all the horror movies that involve homicidal nurses and other doctor-like people.  No thank you.  And, what a shame.  Because, I can see the potential, the talent and powerful voices.  [But, then again, Lady Gaga started out wearing everything under the sun, including a dress made of raw meat.  And, look at her now; she’s practically…lady-like, getting her share of classy duets with the like of Tony Bennett.  So…maybe…just give these newcomers time to mature?]

Rihanna is a gorgeous face and still-budding talent I’m struggling to place among this lot.  She has had a few catchy songs and a mix of outfits, some better than others.  I cannot categorize her output, in part, because I haven’t seen/listened to enough of it; I haven’t heard anything, yet, that deeply offends or bothers me.  But, I remain a minor fan.  [I get the feeling she will take up some cause other than music and be more powerful with it.]

Beyoncé has somehow been given “queen” status, yet I see no reason for it.  I’m sure it’s a term thrown around in the secret-society-business she inhabits.  But, it makes no sense to me.  [Don’t get me started on who is the most beautiful member of the former Destiny’s Child.  Okay.  I favor Kelly.  All right?]  I suppose she has walked the fine line between flaunting and female empowerment.  How do I classify her?  I am not sure.  She’s had good songs (with Destiny’s Child) and some I could do without or don’t fully understand.

Katy Perry (Hudson) stands out as an exception to whatever I am trying to convey here.  While, yes, she has had some wild, scandalous looks and visuals, I can listen to just about any song from her One of the Boys album and find reason to enjoy it.   I can feel myself carried away to a whimsical place where crazy things can happen; and it’s okay.  I don’t have to dwell on the sexual/innuendo aspects of it.  I am not complaining about drug references, nor wealth or mistreatment of women.  She is a perpetual fountain of creativity with no limits of range or genre.  But, even she pushes buttons, now and then (mostly in her videos).  [I cannot be sure if she is a positive force for female rights and empowerment without chaos.]  I am not a 100% fan.  [Maybe 95%.]

I’m not even sure how any or all of this affects receiving (not earning, because earning isn’t honestly a factor) awards.  And, this has been going on since the first trophies were handed out on stage.  What other than some secretive arrangement off-stage results in receiving an award?  Audience attendance?  CDs sold?…or, should I include CDs handed out at some public function, some write-offs?  I highly question the quality and/or judgement of the product that produces these awards.  And, just think of all that goes into those award shows…the dresses/suits, the setting, the interviews, the following-day gossip and tabloids…and all for what?!  WHAT IS THE POINT?!  WHERE IS THE RESPECT FOR ACTUAL TALENT AND CREATIVITY?!

I consider myself an artist.  But, I will not reduce myself or resort to “appealing to the masses” to acquire fame.  My talents speak for themselves.  Either you like my work or you do not and move along.  I may work on commission, but I won’t create something that goes against my morals and/or personal limits.  I am not here to amuse you, but I enjoy amusing, when I can.

I speak purely out of concern and dismay.  I hate to see talent and potential wasted in a way that only compounds the problems we continue to face.  Women want respect for their talents and abilities?  They won’t get it by flaunting their “goods.”  That may sound like the words of an “old man” or a “prude.”  But, it’s the truth.  Men (and anyone attracted to such appearances) will only give the lowest of responses to such displays.

You will not steel yourself against the slime and scum of this world in your underwear, even if you have amazingly toned buns of steel.  You may parade your womanhood and shout, “Girl Power!”  But, you’ll get only a fraction of the respect you’d likely receive with all of your clothes (on).  It’s not a job interview, but, maybe, think of it like one.  Are you applying to be a stripper?  Do you want more for yourself than the life of the runway model who gets tossed aside if she shows an ounce of cellulite or steps one inch off her mark?  You can do better than ending up on some celebrity reality-TV show about people watching TV or a short-lived talk show added to the pile of failures.

Rise up.  Perk up.  Be respectful to yourselves and others and continue to blaze on with the talents you possess.  Do NOT contribute to the mass output of those who submit to the lesser trends of our world.  We don’t need more talk of riches, drug use and mistreatment.  There are plenty of songs about relationships gone wrong.  You can do better.  You all can.  Let’s transform the face of music, make it something we can enjoy without cultivating unpleasant and endangering thoughts.  And, if the “business” is keeping you down or steering you a bad way, change it…or walk away from it.  Find a path of light that best presents your talents, whatever they may be.  [Not everyone is cut out for the music industry.  But, you can still be passionate about singing/making music.]

I speak out as a heterosexual man and lover of women who is long past tired of the on-going conflicts they face.  I am tired of hearing about mistreatment and marches with fuzzy pink hats.  I don’t think the marches and protests are doing anything for the cause.  I think it comes down to what those involved put out and how they represent themselves.  And, any contribution to the salivation of lesser men is only compounding the risks women continue to face, causing increasing numbers of women to mentally fracture.  I am not a conventional feminist but am beyond tired of the submission/domination norm that persists.  I’ll break the glass ceiling if you stand with me.

[And, if you think I am nuts or some sort of opinionated jerk, move along.  ‘Nothing to see here.  It doesn’t affect you.]

22
Mar
21

Bend It Like Rocket League; a Nintendo-Switch Gamer Review

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RL-Screenshot-redcar-leaping-soccerball-inflight-goal-1

Do you feel the need, the need for speed? Do you like fast cars and the engine noises they make? Do you like remote-control cars and enjoy driving recklessly without the risk of losing your life? Do you like video games in which you can customize your “character” and change the music to suit your mood? Do you like soccer…er, futbol (for those who don’t accept the other sport name)…ice hockey, basketball, American football and the concept of using rocket-powered cars to play those sports?

If you answer yes to any of those questions, Rocket League, essentially a high-powered soccer/futbol game, designed for international internet interaction by Psyonix, may be good for your collection. But, this is just a review from the perspective of a Nintendo-Switch player who has been sampling the fast and furious action for about six months, since the game went “public” and expanded its membership to the Nintendo Switch, last summer. The PC origins of the game and its earlier fan base are beyond my limited, non-premium comprehension.

For readers who are among the average lot of players, this review may be too long and too much for you to handle; so you might as well forfeit and bail, now. It’s probably 4:20, somewhere. Go smoke some weed and write “poop” a thousand times, which is about as much as you can say in the game before you get filtered, disconnected and/or banned, though you can name yourself everything horrid and vulgar under the sun. When you’re done, maybe the game will let you play, again; you know; when the ban is lifted. [No. I will not say “Sorry” for those “Savage” words. You know who you are. And, trash talk, limited as it may be, is permitted.]

Now, for those who I have not ruffled with that statement, please, continue reading if you are interested in knowing more about this game and how it plays on the Nintendo Switch (not the PC or any other gaming system which runs the software).

With the Switch, you gain the advantage of connecting with other Switch players, with relative ease, and are able to alter your profile information, most importantly your profile picture and in-game name, allowing you to customize more than just your car, game settings and player anthems. [‘Lots of customization options, including the car’s frame, wheels, engine sound, exhaust stream, tire streaks, colors, decals and antenna decorations. But, many you’ll have to earn by entertaining the masses, like a gladiator in the ol’ Roman Coliseum.]

Other (non-Switch) players appear as either “AIs,” artificial units supplied by the game makers with names, apparently, taken from the movie Top Gun, or “Epic” (user-controlled) icons with some sort of coded identification. AIs fill in for teammates who leave a game before its end (for reasons I have already touched on and will touch, again, soon enough) and play with varying skill. Some AIs seem to play better than the average player and win games for the inept. Others appear to be just as lousy as their teammates or even worse and make costly mistakes in the faces of those trying to avoid one more loss in their “career.” [You can thank your “wingman” Goose, ignore Iceman or bicker with Jester for contributing to your loss.] On a good day…er, night…a pair of AIs will come to my rescue and play better than the players who left me because the team was down one point and they could not score (not to mention defend a goal or drive) to save their lives. [But, what fun is that, playing with “people” who can’t talk back? Oh. Right. That’s what most video-game players have been doing for decades before the age of internet gaming.]

Nintendo-Switch players are free to use short or long…er…colorful names, even symbols for those too shy or not creative enough to craft names. “Epic” names seem to be a given, something provided by the game, and are separate from the players’ chosen in-game names. “Epic” names also seem to be rather odd, random combinations of letters, numbers and words. [PC players might see things from a different perspective. I have not heard enough from any of them because chatting with other players remains a challenge, especially when they have 0 patience to stall their adrenaline rushes as well as greed for “swag” and pointless titles. Perhaps, they see Switch players the same way I see them, as faceless, colorless, odd names and numbers.]

[See my list of complaints below for other problems with chosen and Epic names.]

There is a WIDE assortment of cars to drive and customize. Lovers of car shows and/or movies like The Fast and the Furious and Back to the Future (well…for THE car) are sure to get a thrill. But, when you first start playing, your choices are very limited. As I’ve said before, you have to earn your treats and whistles. You are joining a league of gladiators who use cars to fight their battles and score goals in an arena run by emperors who wear Bluetooth wreaths upon their heads.

Your initial options include a boxy A-Team van called the Merc (which, unfortunately, I could not decorate to LOOK like the actual A-Team van), a reject Hot Wheels racecar called the Breakout and a common RC car called the Octane (which seems to be the most favored and an exceedingly annoying show-off in the hands of adept players). Each has earned some favor with previous players, and you can find videos from real people who will talk at great length about the matter. [I’ll try my best to spare you the expense.]

[Speaking of expense, if you feel so inclined, you can improve your playing experience by “subscribing” to a “premium account” which gives you far more freebies (as you gain rank) and allows you to trade things you don’t want (anymore) with other players. If you’d rather not invest actual money too quickly, you have the option to play the “free version” (as I have) and take your chances with unlocking anything that may interest you in investing more time and energy into this heavy-metal grudge match and geometry test.]

As you…er, progress…through the game, enduring losses, fighting feverishly for wins, earning and losing pointless rankings in the blink of an eye and putting up with teammates of varying skill and attitude, you’ll unlock more and–in my opinion–better options. Though, it seems, the ability of the car and its parts rests upon the player. I’ve seen players do amazing things with the car and parts I thought were useless. It also seems a car can improve its usefulness with investment of time and practice; a car or wheels you use for the first time may suddenly prove a sluggish challenge after spending countless hours with another model.

The average game consists of three players on two teams, orange and blue (though you don’t have to LOOK orange or blue), competing to score goals by driving and, sometimes, launching their cars, like rockets, in a spacious stadium with a dome and numerous glowing pads that provide extra “boost” to help you speed around and perform airborne stunts (you know, if you possess such superhuman skill and like to annoy players who struggle with motion sickness from 3D games). You can also play Doubles and one-on-one Duels, if you prefer less competition and more control; you can even customize the colors and other elements (like gravity and swapping the common ball with a cube) of a game to suit your interests.

[I find myself struggling to control the ball, when I am alone, and do not see much enjoyment in being pitted against no one or just one other player who cannot speak beyond a few restricted text messages. But, to each their own.]

You not only score points by hitting the ball (or puck in the ice-hockey variation) into the goal (or hoop in the Hoops/basketball variation); you can also earn “ping” (audience enthusiasm, I presume?) and participation points which can give you VIP status, potentially earning you a special prize…most often some lame “blueprint” that you’ll get multiple times and never pay to use because it’s not worth the price. Other prizes include new car models, wheels, profile “banners,” methods of painting your car, etc., etc. [I have yet to win a “goal explosion;” so I presume that is just for “premium” players?]

Every week, new challenges are offered to earn an XP (or EXP, aka experience, for you older players) boost and/or unlock a new something. [Don’t get your hopes up.] There are also tournaments you can host and/or enter, some which earn you official “tournament winner” status banners you can proudly display to annoy and scare off other players, though you might not have done anything to earn them in the company of some jaw-dropping gamers who seem born with the ability to send a toy car spinning like a tornado through the air, soaring directly from one goal to the other or bouncing a ball off a wall at such an angle that geometry teachers around the world would cry blood in amazement. [If only the players’ math grades were as stellar.]

There is also something called a “season” which consists of numerous challenges in blocks. Each time you complete a necessary number of challenges in a block, you unlock the next block and the chance to earn certain ranked prizes, including a new metallic finish for your car, like earning a bronze, silver or gold medal in the Olympics. [I reached Silver status in the first season.]

Once in a while, often for a special holiday (season), the game offers special arenas, game formats and/or “swag” you can earn by completing various tasks. There is a concept called “Rocket Labs” in which the makers provide unique arenas, sometimes with unique skills/tools you can use, for a limited time; which is unfortunate when you try and quickly find yourself attracted to a particular game format/arena. The recent Chinese-New-Year, Super Bowl and Halloween (Ghostbusters) events were particularly entertaining.

[On a personal note, I’d like to ask the makers of Rocket League to consider adding the American football variation to the “Extra” menu, to round out the sports options which already include ice hockey and basketball.]

When you need a break from intense, infuriating play, there are options to communicate and trade items with other players. BUT, first you have to add them to your “friend” list. [I know; challenging your anti-social, introverted comfort zones. Right?] Then, you have to PAY for a means of earning “credits” which you will need to trade/buy certain (not all) items and “build” blueprints, turning a crappy hologram into something you can use. I’ve been told there is a “starter package” for unlocking the trading feature, an expense of about five American dollars (in the USA). Chatting is free for those who have become “friends” (Epic or otherwise) and tragically disregarded by most players I’ve encountered; people are more interested in driving recklessly and wasting time against better players than getting to know their teammates and, maybe, working on strategies! [‘More on this in my next section.]

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PERSONAL DIFFICULTIES AND COMPLAINTS

# Often enough, some sort of interference causes the controllers to fail.

Suddenly, my car is moving jarringly on its own and no longer sensibly participating in the game, allowing my team to lose and my rank to plummet as if I was playing blind and dumb. I do not know if this a means of player hacking to disable opponents or a game glitch. Perhaps, too much internet interaction is causing a jam like proton streams crossing in those old Ghostbusters movies. There is no swift way to convey to teammates that my controls are jammed; I’ve tried texting the information, but that risks me being kicked from the game, anyway, because I have to stop driving to type more letters than the average player ever uses. [A headset communication option (and alert/icon for every player who has it active) might be helpful, if everyone I happened to pair up with had one…but that’s a hoop dream.]

# There is the option of activating something called “ball cam” (which my one nephew insists should be disabled) to keep an eye on where the ball (or other target object) goes.

This is an attempt to replace your own human ability to follow the “ball” with your internal compass, turning your head and ears in that direction. Though the game has fairly good sound quality, meshing audience noise with engine sounds and background music which comes and goes in volume for various reasons, there is a lack of natural, instinctive motion awareness, being able to detect something beside or above you. Turning off “ball cam” leaves you with just whatever is in front of your car and whatever surrounding space you can see from the forward viewpoint; the only values I see in this are:
1) Reducing motion sickness from constantly shifting camera angles, sometimes throwing your view above the car where, hopefully, you can keep track of the “ball” in motion (as it soars past you into your goal) and
2) Allowing you to chase down annoying opponents and “demolish” them.
In either case, gameplay is challenging and, sometimes, nauseating, which pushes me to cease playing. There is just no substitute, it seems, for real, outdoor sports, perhaps, without a VR interface and space to play such a game. [Hmm…]

[I personally prefer the ball cam to be on. This seems to add to the controller/signal problem(s) I previously mentioned, but it’s better than not being able to use your peripheral vision and instincts.]

# Other players too often…well…suck. [This is not something the game’s makers can actually fix. But, it deserves to be said.]

When you play for the first time, maybe for a few weeks, you’ll soon realize–unless you were (dare I fuel anyone’s ego) “born to play”–you are “out of your league” and forced to learn how to control yourself as quickly as possible (or get out of the traffic jam). But, practice a bit more, and you’ll soon feel yourself improving and notice how much other players are a waste of your time and energy. [No offense…but…it’s true. And, I am far from what I’d call a “pro.”]

HOWEVER, what makes matters worse is when players turn cowardly in an instant, usually when the team is down by a single point, and decide to leave the game before it ends. Now, in any rational sport with an audience and teams of more than three players, you could not do this. But, in this game, you can. And, when you bail on a game, if it is a “ranked” or “competitive” game, you may lose your prized rank and be banned from playing the game, not just the round you were enjoying? a moment ago, any Rocket League game you wish to try within a set amount of time (if you are not banned completely from all RL usage). That’s right; there are penalties; and, occasionally, you get penalized for mechanical failure outside your control (as I have been).

Now, you, yourself, might want to leave a game before its end because, well, your team sucks. Maybe you are doing all of the work (or think you’re that hot) while your teammates can barely drive or hit a ball in the right direction. Maybe you are earning nothing while one teammate is creaming the competition, whether or not they flaunt their prowess with crowns and flashy moves. Maybe you just hate losing (or are a sore loser). Fine. But, it comes at a price. You might get away with some of it in the non-competitive “casual” arenas. But, you’ll have the gaming police on your tail in the ranked games. If you find your team sending a red SOS vote to forfeit and disappearing from your sides, you can be sure they will either pay or not be playing, again, for some time. But, while that’s their justice, you are still left to pay the price of facing a better team on your own! [And, that royally sucks.]

[So, I ask you, makers of Rocket League, is this justified punishment? Is it fair to be punished by losing rank and/or the ability to enter another game when a player on your team leaves the game, by his/her choice or technical failure? I am sure you tried to establish some kind of law system. But, it’s still not fair (or working fairly). I think players who stay with the game and lose, regardless, should not suffer a loss of rank, even if their team (or what’s left of it) loses. If not this, then there should be no banning from play for those who leave early; let those who are brave (or dumb) enough to stay in play, and let the cowards leave. And, if some glitch causes technical difficulties, it should NOT result in a ban and/or loss of rank, as I have suffered. That’s just cold.]

# Extra-personal peeve: I tire of players who call themselves some variation of “poop” and/or “faze” and either play horribly (and bail) or play so well that I almost feel humiliated for being beaten by poop. [It’s also really annoying playing someone who has a name like NOTAPRO who then plays like a pro and leaves you wondering why you bothered entering the arena. I hate “sorries” and most falsehoods. I also do not get along well with “420s” and any variation of an advertised drug abuser. Nor do I enjoy seeing people who give themselves very vulgar, sometimes horrific names (involving body parts) when players may very well be small children (who cannot drive or adequately hit a ball), leaving parents and relatives to answer uncomfortable questions.] I also despise the abusive use of the Octane car, which looks like nothing more than a common lightweight toy car, which too many players embellish with the over-used crowns and trophies, flaunting their supposed skill. There is A LOT of “posturing” in this game, and it quickly gets annoying.

# Players confuse in-game/Switch names with Epic names.

I, myself, did not realize the problem until someone I teamed up with freaked out over seeing a different name under the car of the person who “invited” her to “team up.” I also found someone who failed to find me on the list of people you “previously played with” to add as a friend. She received an invite from me, but from my “Epic name” which I did not even know I had until I puzzled over what she last said to me before leaving. It took me a long time to reconnect with her and clear up the confusion.

[You might give your Profile the name WinkiFace (which you will see in the games when you score or assist) but send an invite under the name CrookedPanda921 or PreviouslyBanned612.]

Oh; that thing in the corner by the Epic logo…what the heck is that name and who picked it for me?! No wonder they freaked out; even I could not say I had two names. I didn’t know until it was too late. Foreigners REALLY have a problem because some names don’t even translate into the English (or whatever that quasi-English alphabet is) format; they just come out as lines of white squares. Sigh. Such is the life of the game.

# Texting/Chatting is HORRIBLY filtered.

This is a HUGE issue for me, in part, because, often enough, what seems like an ordinary string of words is lumped together as something offensive and BLEEPED OUT, causing the recipient to wonder what horrible thing I just said, denying me from having a civil chat. YET, players are allowed to use awful, immoral, disgusting names…and that is NOT filtered or prohibited. What sense does this make? I feel like some “holy” boy band and their promise rings are running the chat service, banning text they feel is “poopy” or not “pruuudent.”

You could take the chat option away and save players some grief, but then a fair amount of the joy, from connecting with others around the world, would be lost. However, I am sure, fowl language, perverts and the like would not (be lost).

You have a limited variety of phrases and whatnot you can program to keys for use before, in and after a game. But, these ARE LIMITED and not to everyone’s interest/taste. I do not feel SAVAGE! or SORRY! (especially the way some people misuse that word) satisfies my texting needs. I’d love the option of custom text messages with the same key options, but, I’m equally sure, some players would abuse this to flash vulgar and otherwise disturbing messages. So…there seems to be no way to satisfy everyone.

Also, some players “spam” provided text messages until, at some point, the game finally bans them from using the feature (temporarily, I presume). This is (dare I repeat myself…also) annoying. You can adjust chat options to block one or both teams’ messages, but this ruins the opportunity to communicate with teammates, which, I like to think, is part of being a team! Otherwise, you’ve got tape over your hands and faces and can only scream silently when your teammate turns the wrong way, collides with you and/or ruins a chance to score/defend.

[I guess…I choose silence over annoying, repeating messages AND TEAMMATES WHO CHEER FOR THE OTHER TEAM, WHICH PLAYS BETTER THAN MY TEAM (BAILING AND/OR FAILING TO DEFEND/SCORE) AND DOES NOT CHEER FOR MY TEAM. What is up with that?! My sister says it’s good sportsmanship. Did it ever occur to her that a better (though less friendly and sociable) team might keep comments to themselves and not lick the boots of other players?…they just play well and gloat silently? Oh please, master player, let me praise you, so that you might add me to your Epic friend list and let me be on that S2-Championship-Winner team, with which I may earn a useless banner to flaunt and intimidate (or annoy) other players! Oh no! That guy is a S2 Championship Winner!…who did nothing but watch his stellar teammate do all the work, merely spinning through the air when every goal was scored. No one praises me like that, by the way, even if I thought I was that good.]

# Prizes are often underwhelming, and rankings are seemingly pointless. [At least, for non-premium players, I presume.]

You want a free blueprint or set of oddly colored wagon wheels (wheels only some Steam-Punk pothead might enjoy)? I’ve got plenty. If you want a new car model, profile banner or car topper, you’ll have to…uh…earn it as I have. The thing is…how you earn these rewards is sketchy. I could have a really great few games and get nothing. I could have one lucky shot, lose the game and get a prize. And, the value of the prize is also randomized, it seems. You could do very little to earn a wonderful prize and play your best to earn a lousy one. The whole dynamic is a bit like a claw machine; you deposit your time and energy and, hopefully, come out with something, without knowing if that something is worth more or less than what you paid.

[Here’s the most recent and most discouraging “kicker.” I completed the necessary tasks to finish “Season Two” and earn the triple-prize package. That is a LONG list of achievements to complete for three measily surpise eggs. But, the colors of those surprise eggs seemed tempting enough; I mean, they aren’t the lowest of prizes…right? Except…they sort of were/are. When I opened the coveted prize boxes, all I received were a duplicate of a car I had already won “at random,” a lousy set of wheels I’ll never use and a “decal” which I’d consider okay at best. THAT was my big reward for all I had done? THAT SUCKS! What was the big point of completing a season? To get gold paint for my car, like every other season? Or, maybe they will offer some annoying song EVERYONE has to play every minute to show their “status”…or a new crown/trophy you have to flaunt on top of your toy time bomb…er, car. Crap. Or, should I say, 420, 69, Big-Daddy, Faze-ing, ninja, supersonic, UN-lucky monster poop. What does it take to get a decent “goal explosion” like the “Titanium White Overgrowth,” the super-cute robotic bunny-woman DJ or the roaring T-Rex that makes me want to perpetually quote Jurassice Park?]

[Months before this, I completed another bigger-than-small challenge and collected 5 “golden presents.” I was advised to leave them shut and sell them as surprise eggs, next year, when they would (somehow) gain value like stocks or rare unopened packs of Yu-Gi-Oh trading cards. But, another voice prodded me to open them. When I listened to the latter, I was sufficiently disappointed, again (or…for the first time). One of the five prizes I’d call decent. The others I could have probably earned randomly through regular play; most I did not even plan on using. ‘Some reward. Psh.]

Similarly, you earn ranks of various kinds based upon performance AND completion of listed tasks. If you play well enough–psh, that’s asking a lot of a team that hasn’t already given itself a unified name and share the same internet service/server and/or room–you work your way up the list of ranks, including bronze, silver, gold, platinum, etc. If you lose well enough, down goes that rank (and, sometimes, your ability to enter certain tournaments and use other modes/features). But then, there is this other numerical ranking system that determines some of the prizes you receive and a status I don’t understand. It’s that little number that appears with a glowing bar under your picture and name. What is that? Whatever it is, you can improve this by completing tasks which award you XP bonuses.

I’ve had players see that numerical rank and sound astounded as if I was an ace player. That’s not how that works! It does not mean anyone is an ace by any means! All it seems to mean is that I have played enough and served up enough dog tricks to earn those XP bonuses which elevate the number. So, what is the point of calling that a level? I guess, it’s a level of dedication to gameplay? It shows how enslaved I am? It says Writingbolt is so addicted that he stuck around for X number of hours, not including the time spent customizing cars and trying to find music that doesn’t annoy him?

Which brings me to…

# The music is okay if you like Grand Theft Auto and/or moody techno/new-age tracks.

I can see myself playing those old, awful games, stealing vehicles and listening to various tunes while committing other crimes. One out of five songs is tolerable. I can count on one hand how many I like. [I’m partial to the vocals of Morgan Perry, but the videos that go with those songs are fairly inane, like old ads for Axe body spray without the humor.] Last “season,” an artist known as Slushii had a catchy tune I picked as my favorite, but it, too, has moments of annoying repetition and high-pitch grating. [To each their own. I WOULD like to receive/use the “goal explosion” with the robotic bunny-woman DJ, though.]

# Trading duplicate and/or unwanted prizes remains a challenge.

What adds to my annoyance is when teammates who fail to help you win a game decide to waste precious time by TYPING “TRade?” or “RTade wit me.” There are definite cases of dyslexia among those who play. Why would I want to trade with someone I can barely speak with (for numerous reasons) while in the middle of a game I am trying to win so I don’t lose rank? If you want to trade with me, first, offer friendship and try to get on my list; second, be sure I CAN trade; third, find out if I have any duplicates or unwanted items worth trading (I probably do not); and THEN we can consider a trade or two. But, don’t try talking trades in the middle of a game; I did not enter to have a fashion show.]

When you are playing with people who use computers or other gaming systems, there is, likely, a conflict of information exchange. There may be an inability to trade/transfer across “platforms.” [I have not confirmed this, yet.] So, if you don’t want to get “too technical,” enjoy what you can get and do not bother with trading. [However, if I could trade some duplicate crap…er, items for something like a goal explosion (I’ve been coveting), that’d be greeeeat (Office Space).]

****

I suppose an FAQ webpage, somewhere, might provide answers to many newcomers (and those who struggle to learn no matter how long they have played), but who, “these days,” would read it? 🙂 People barely take the time to read legal statements, manuals and warranty information.

****

In short, what you expect or hope to achieve or win is never guaranteed. Enjoy customizing the shiny toy guns…er, cars…and good teamwork, if you can establish it. Make real friends or quit before you waste too much of your precious time. That is, if you’re not so “baked” that you are still aware of time and space.

Why do I continue playing? Perhaps, an undying hope of connecting with players around the world and establishing some sort of valued friendship. It’s not likely the intended or main goal of most players (nor of the game’s makers), but that’s my SPIN on it. Without the friendships you COULD achieve (or should have to play with a solid team), the game is a futile chase of balls and other things among insulting, immoral and sometimes deeply troubled players who could round out a rogue’s gallery for Batman.

If you want my pick, I say learn how to flip (sideways, backwards and forwards), collect plenty of “boost” and go with the Dominus (until I discover a better model). The Octane, I’ve already insulted (above). The Merc has its charms when playing defense, as does the Road Hog and Marauder (all good for Ice Hockey but lousy in terms of speed). And, many of the other models you may “unlock” are colorful alternatives with no clear advantage. I’ve won a few that are so “short;” they can barely reach the ball in motion unless I drive directly forward/into the ball. They might as well be clown cars from Japan. The Dominus is fairly balanced, sufficiently heavy and looks slick in most of its “clothing;” you just need to adjust for its lack of height by honing jumping and flipping skills. [And, work on aim…oh, my horrible aim.]

Oh, who am I kidding? [I’m not being paid to write this.] Make REAL FRIENDS (even if you have to meet them online, first) and get outside, once in a while! Get fresh air and play real soccer…er, futbol…if it’s your thing. You can go shopping for stickers of flashy sportscars, some other rainy day, and fill a whole sticker book no one but you and fellow sticker collectors might appreciate.
01
Mar
21

March Birthdays, updated 2021

*****

MARCH

PISCES (FEB. 19-MARCH 2O)

MARCH 2

actress Nathalie Joanne Emmanuel (In Game of Thrones, she played the enslaved translator of the slaver who almost took one of the three baby dragons in Season 3, later falling for the head of the Unsullied army; she appears in the ninth? Fast and Furious film)

Pisces Earth Snake

MARCH 3

Camila Cabello (lovely, enchanting and rather petite vocalist and Cuban beauty who departed from Fifth Harmony, a musical group of young women from a few years back)

Pisces Fire Ox

Aarti Mann (Indian actress)

Pisces Earth Horse

 

MARCH 5

vocalist and actress? Riki (Erika) Lindhome (the blonde half of Garfunkel and Oates)

Pisces Earth Sheep

 

MARCH 6

actress Amy Pietz (lovely, enchanting and fiery lil actress who wanted so badly to be part of the musical Cats, in TV’s Caroline in the City; I continue to have a huge crush on her)

Pisces Earth Rooster

 

MARCH 16

actress Alexandria Anna Daddario (who I first saw in the first Percy Jackson film, then White Collar and the Baywatch spoof movie (2017); she has very fiery/icy blue eyes)

Pisces Fire Tiger (surprisingly compatible with moi)

 

ARIES (MARCH 21-APRIL 19)

MARCH 22

actress (and wonderful vocalist) Constance Wu (Korean/American actress from TV’s Fresh Off the Boat, delightfully sweet voice, gorgeous face and refreshing honesty)

Aries Water Dog 

[A “gify” web page says she said the superpower she would want is to know what people look like under their clothes without them knowing she is looking?  Is this true?  And, her favorite childhood toy was a stuffed Raja tiger from Aladdin?]

 

MARCH 25

actress Maribeth Monroe (In TV’s The Good Place, she plays Mindy, the woman who lives alone in a “mid-place” house apart from the good/bad places, obsessed with sex and drugs)

Aries Earth Horse (surprisingly VERY compatible with moi)

 

MARCH 26

Paige Spiranac (GORGEOUS blonde golfer; she appeared on some season of The Bachelor…and some radio show holding an Iron Man comic book and taking a selfie with an Iron Man outfit?)

Aries Water Rooster

MARCH 31

actress Angela Marie Dotchin (New Zealander, gorgeous blonde, one of many bit parts from Hercules/Xena shows, including a mermaid that paired up with one of the Ioalus-es)

Aries Wood Tiger

Kate Micucci (vocalist and fabulous voice-over actress; the petite brunette who has appeared or supplied her voice to shows such as TMNT 2014-ish CG series  <Irma>, the Scrubs medical comedy TV series, the reboot of Duck Tales <Webby>, the musical duo Garfunkel and Oates, etc.) [See Riki (Erika) Lindhome, above.]

Aries Metal Monkey




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