On Stagnation and Progress (Or Lack Thereof)

Feel like I am in another rut recently with no clue how to get out of it or make any form of progress toward some sort of foreseeable future. I am trying not to complain or fall into a pit of despair and/or depression, but it is not an easy thing. And frankly it is getting harder and harder. I’ve managed to not go full bat shit crazy with the writing and drawing serving as creative distractions and soul filling activities. The occasional trip to see old comrades and commiserate also helps immensely. Unfortunately, I know that will eventually not be enough.

Basically, I need a major change and have no clue how to make it happen. It seems so simple on paper, right? Want to change something? Just do it. But then reality sinks in and you realize that you have bills, loan payments, rent, and other crap that requires money, time, and resources. Essentially, the whole ‘being a responsible adult with actual life shit’ kind of gets in the way of pursuit of goals/dreams/etc.

Either way, I know I won’t last too much longer. Something needs to change, and soon.

Admittedly, this was pretty much just a weird rant. Anyone have any ideas as to how to get out of a life rut? (I’ll try practically anything at this point)

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Lessons From…Reus (The Game)

I don’t know if you have succumbed to the allure and power of the Steam Summer Sale yet, but I got hit bad last week. If the preceding sentence makes no sense to you and seems like childish gibberish, consider yourself lucky. It’s basically like crack to your close gamer/nerd friends. Right now, most of your gamer friends are probably trying to figure out how many meals they can replace with instant noodles without suffering too much. Have pity on them and maybe buy them a beer.

Thankfully, there were plenty of good deals that didn’t completely bankrupt me. Among them was a nice, inexpensive little indie gem, Reus. Even without the sale, it is still a pretty good deal and well worth the investment of time and money. I highly recommend it. Of course, as I was testing it out, two things stood out about the game and obviously, I had to write a post on the educational potential. Remember, SPOILERS ahead.

Only the gods can speak of secrets...

Only the gods can speak of secrets…

The game is pretty simple. You control (play as?) four gods who are essentially elementals. Each one has specific abilities that you must use intelligently to terraform the planet you are on. However, no one god can do so by him/herself (unclear if the “gods” have genders or not) as each one is limited to a single element. For example, if you want to create forests or harvests for food, you need the Forest Giant. Want lakes, rivers, etc. you’ll need to use the Ocean Giant. In other words, you must use your full team effectively.

It’s an obvious life lesson of teamwork and being able to work with diverse tools, people, and circumstances. Unlike other games, you actually have to understand and use each god/Giant to be able to advance and win the game. Without each one, you won’t get ahead. Most games, and gamers, that have supposed teams and teamwork missions end up simply ordering the non-primaries to complete a mission or being able to advance by just relying on your favorite player. Reus does not allow the player to get off so easy. You must learn the interplay of characters and abilities; otherwise, you lose.

What am I if I command the gods themselves?

What am I if I command the gods themselves?

Another interesting and intriguing mechanic is the inclusion of people in the game. This may seem like a minor detail or element, but in many ways it makes the game. You see, the villagers/townspeople/humans react to the Giant’s actions. They can either praise or revile any of the Giants depending on the actions they perform. The best part is that there is really no way to alter humanity’s interest or perception of the Giants.

You must find the right balance between humanity’s desires, interests, and advances and the Giants’ will to terraform and alter the planet. Like most things in life finding a balance, in this case between nature and technological/economic advances, is tantamount to success. Keep the people happy and nature working. One feeds the other without overtaking one another. Keep the balance; keep the peace.

Look at all the little people. Bow to me as I choose whether you live or die!

Look at all the little people. Bow to me as I choose whether you live or die!

Thus endeth today’s lessons.

Lessons From…Japan vs Cameroon WWC Match

No, you did not misread that title. Yes, I do watch sports. Yes, including sporting events played by female teams. Why wouldn’t I? There aren’t any SPOILERS warning for this one since the match already happened and the image above kind of gives away the ending already.

However, the full match was still rather interesting since it was basically a series of the classic match ups: underdog vs champion, newcomer vs veteran, strength/speed vs experience, Cameroon vs Japan. Ultimately, the result was what was expected, with Japan obtaining victory, but you also see the tenacity, heart, and potential of the Cameroon team. It’s like the first Rocky where there was dignity in simply competing even without the win.

Beyond the impressive athletic performance, the lesson here is simple and twofold: Experience and skill will trump effort 99 out of 100 times. That being said, you can never discount the tenacity and potential of youth and desire. And in those rare and incredible occasions when you can get the enthusiasm, strength, and power of youthful potential tempered by experience, well then you are fucking unstoppable.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.

On Leisure

Do you ever just feel utterly burnt out? As in, you just need a few days of nothing but mindless entertainment and randomness to deal with everyday life bullshit? No? Just me then? Well, then I guess you can stop reading well adjusted person. Go on with enjoying your seemingly blissful life.* For everyone else, how do you deal?

No, honestly. I am reaching a boiling point and it is barely the middle of the year. Frankly, school, at least in the U.S., gives false hope and expectations based on an idiotic and outdated farming system. For the entirety of K-12 education, we would get two weeks off in December and two to three months off in the summer. Pretty much the same, if not more, during college, but as soon as you are done with school, which is supposed to prepare you for the real world, your ass better be doing something “productive” 8 – 12 hours a week or you get nothing.

I really miss the easy, breezy days of summer being able to do whatever the hell you wanted without any real responsibilities. Now, as an adult, I apparently have to do a job and shit. I mean, I guess I could quit and go try to live in the woods away from society or something, but I really like running water and toilet paper. Leaves do not seem like a viable replacement. Even the few hobbies that I have as a means of distraction and leisure are beginning to seem like a secondary occupation.

Seriously. I sometimes fear playing video games because I know that there will be a commitment of time and energy to fully engage in the experience promised through the sweet, sweet graphics and story. Mass Effect, anyone? Hell, I started this blog as a means of continuing to try to write and take my mind off my job/home/work/life goals situation, and now it’s beginning to feel like another responsibility. Granted, it is still something I enjoy doing and sort of feel compelled to do (Not in a bad way or anything. As in, I feel bad if I don’t write and post on this thing on the basis I set up for myself, if that makes sense)

Science, and basic common sense, states that we need to space out and relax, but why must it be so difficult to do so? Thankfully, I am barely feeling burnt out at the moment, and the few luxuries and activities I have still provide a reprieve. Not sure what I will do if that ever changes, but based on previous experience alcohol will most likely be involved.

So, how do you relax and/or let loose? Are your hobbies and passions a side gig or just merely simple relaxing activities?

Lessons From…12 Angry Men

So had the opportunity to finally watch a piece of classic American cinema (thank you Netflix), 12 Angry Men. Amazingly, I had not seen this film before and as a self declared cinephile, I am slightly ashamed of that fact. But it was such a good movie. And not just for its time or place. Instead, it is a film that could, and probably will, stand the tests of time, space, and culture.

Above is just the trailer, but it is enough to give the general idea of the movie without ruining it for anyone; unlike many modern trailers. If you want to see the full movie, you can watch it here. A choice I highly recommend. I was thoroughly impressed with the film and of course tried to find a few choice nuggets to gleam off it. As always SPOILERS ahead.

I wonder how the 12 men would have judged this case...

I wonder how the 12 men would have judged this case…

The first thing that caught my attention about this extraordinary movie was its lack of pomp and circumstance. Seriously, I am trying to think of the last movie I saw, much less enjoyed, that was so simple and unassuming in its approach; even for a drama. There were no fancy cuts or secondary story lines or big movements at any point throughout this film. In fact, it was pretty much a single, small set. And the film could have used different sets like when the men are discussing the scene of the crime or the train or witnesses that spoke. Instead, we, the audience, are stuck with the jury in this single room with no distraction or chance of escape until the terminus. This is the first lesson: Simplicity is best, especially with great narrative, characters, and actors.

Really exceptional actors.

Really exceptional actors.

Bells and whistles are just that and ultimately and little to nothing. Basically, you can make a piece of shit look as nice as you want but at the end of the day, it is still a piece of shit. More importantly, the great artists work within their limitations to draw in an audience to a deeper connection and understanding of the work. (It is a technique used primarily in visual mediums)

In the film, the audience is stuck with the jury and never exits the limited space of the jury room. There are several opportunities where other actors/characters could be shown or new settings could be presented. However, that never happens. Instead, the audience feels the pressure mounting and the limited space of the room further encroaching. The emotional outburst and hot tempers are better understood as the audience experiences those same claustrophobic emotions and tensions; which brings us to the next lesson: Use your resources, no matter how limited, to their full potential.

The fan is a symbol or something...

The fan is a symbol or something…

There is a great scene that fully exemplifies this notion involving the fan. Throughout the film, the jury is suffering from the heat with their only relief (a fan) is seemingly broken. It however begins to miraculously work, thus providing relief from the unforgiving heat, only after the jury reaches a fifty-fifty split and the verdict begins to change. Not many movies pay attention to the little tricks anymore.

Beyond the film techniques, what caught me about 12 Angry Men was the content of the narrative. It deals with issues of racism, justice, duty, anger, immigration, and more universal issues that still plague us to this day. But what works about the film is that even for its time, it is never ham-fisted or overly preachy. Instead, it focuses on developing the characters and making the story play off their interactions and development. The issues the film discusses are not stories from a particular group or person but universal ideas that everyone deals with at some point, if not their entire lives. If you create, don’t create for a specific time or person or event. Instead make something with an emotion, idea, or concept you are trying to express. Those creations are the ones that touch people and remain with us for ages.

One of these is a racist and the other a considerate immigrant. Can you guess which is which?

One of these is a racist and the other a considerate immigrant. Can you guess which is which?

12 Angry Men was an exceptional film that demonstrates why, even in a visual medium, narrative matters most in storytelling and how certain themes and ideas will always be worth examining. While there have been many reimaginings and interpretations, this film is one of the best. I highly recommend you watch it.

Thus endeth today’s lesson(s).

On Selling Out

I won’t go into too much more on this topic since Anna speaks on the more poignant points. Frankly, I never understood the notion of “selling out” when lauded at artists, creatives, or artists. Making money off one’s work isn’t selling out; it’s basic commerce and the basis of the capitalist system.

You make something that people enjoy. You try to monetize it. If your audience is unwilling to pay you for what you make then you have to find other revenue streams like advertisements, product placements, etc. There is this expectation of free content available to the masses, particularly through online channels and sources, but people get that making videos, music, art, etc. isn’t cheap, right?

All those pieces of media that you love took someone to make. It probably required at least a few hours for them to make that particular song, artwork, video. Add to that the cost of supplies and ability to upload and host the content somewhere. Then, add the years of practice and study that it probably took that individual to get to a point in their craft that they were comfortable showing their work to the public.

After all that, are you going to really chastise someone for wanting to eat, pay rent and bills, make money for more ongoing and future projects, or simply make some extra cash for the occasional expense and luxury like a movie or something?

Selling out is not trying to make money off your work. Selling out is compromising your ideals and morals and ethics to make money. If that didn’t happen, the artist just wants to be able to make a living off doing what they love and to have enough to keep doing it.

Really, having the occasional fifteen second blurb or ad at the end of a video or the occasional social media post about something that interests the artist that they think their audience might also enjoy is little price to pay for your “free” content that you enjoy.

Lessons From…The Last (by Childish Gambino)

So, to be fair, I have posted before about a song from Childish Gambino, but I seem to gravitate toward his music. Maybe it has something to do with my admiration of his multiple talents (comedian, actor, rapper, songwriter, etc.) or how I relate to anyone else who happens to be an awkward, nerdy, POC with seemingly predominantly white friends and colleagues. I honestly don’t know, yet here we find ourselves once more.

Here is the song that has been playing on my computer/iTunes/iPod for the last few days and got me thinking way too much about non-school work related stuff.

Really you should listen to whole song, repeatedly, but what has had particular effect on myself has been the last line:

“I’m here for a good, not a long, time”

Considering this is a rap song, most would probably think this refers to simply living a life of luxury, ease, and excess. However, with the lyrics of the rest of the song, you realize it actually deals more with creating a legacy and presence and how such focus, desire, and work tends to end lives early with not many of the standard items of a typical, “fulfilled” life.

It’s the classic choice between quantity or quality, greatness or simplicity, a raging fire or a long burning candle. Do you want to leave a mark in the world and history if only for a moment or would you prefer a comfortable life filled with friends, family, children, and, hopefully, the standard comforts of modern life? Is there an option where both are obtainable or will there always be a divide among the two?

I think how you answer these questions says more about your personal views of artistry and a creative life than the possibility of a singular, true answer. Either way whether you choose the good time, the long time, or attempt some amalgamation of both, it is simply the first step, and it is up to you to still make the most of it. Perhaps, that is the true key of my fascination and admiration of Childish Gambino because he is certainly an individual working his ass off and trying to make the most of his time alive regardless if it is good, long, or both.

Thus endeth today’s lesson.