Tag: California

Aches and pains

Overall this Winter Break has been strange.

I spent the first week or two sick in bed, and kept the sore throat for some time after.

Figured that was going to be the end of my rainy season hardships. But then it actually started raining hard in SoCal and everything fell apart again.

Just after finishing my Breath of the Wild post yesterday, I’m pretty sure I was hit with some kind of strange bug. I tried to sleep from 5:00 p.m. or so until this morning and honestly had trouble because I couldn’t warm up and all of my joints hurt.

What made it especially strange was that it seemed entirely confined to one night. By the time I woke up this morning, the sensation had passed.

Really the only effect of that brief, yet intense little cold was the fact that it sapped away all of my sleep. I’m sure you’ve all had those nights where you didn’t get any in spite of losing a number of hours laying in bed.

That was me.

Unfortunately, that lack of sleep came back to bite me in the ass this morning twice over.

First when I had to wake up extra early, around 6:00 a.m. or so, to take out the trash since Thursdays are garbage day and I happened to be so out of it that I forgot to pull it together last night.

Then when I had to re-wake up not much longer after to go to my 10:00 a.m. orthodontist appointment.

A few weeks back the permanent retainer on the back of my top teeth broke. I mentioned it briefly in a post where I was venting about a lot of stuff, It was an issue I meant to resolve much earlier, but that big bout of sickness happened to come about right when I had my first appointment scheduled, so I had to cancel it.

Can’t really justify forcing some poor folks to dig around in my mouth while I’m coughing and probably breathing out all kinds of nasty particulates.

Unfortunately that kindness toward the orthodontists was a double-edged sword. Apparently in the few short weeks since that bracket broke, my two front teeth have already started to drift apart. By this point the gap, as relatively unnoticeable as it is for me, was big enough to warrant not moving forward on repairs today.

Instead I’m going to wear my regular retainer 24/7 to try to bring my teeth back into place so we can seal them in place again.

On the bright side, that meant we didn’t have to pay for anything today because no work was done besides cleaning the cement where the old bracket was.

On the less bright side, wearing that thing so much after admittedly not doing so over the last few years makes for a very uncomfortable sensation in my mouth.

Thus it’s been a few days of joint pain and gum pain. As per the advertised joys of being 21.

Hopefully as the rain starts to fade into the weekend, all will start to feel better. That’s all I can ask for with school starting next week.

New adventures (real and fake)

New adventures (real and fake)

So I broke my New Year writing streak yesterday. Unless you want to substitute in that day I did two posts in one, in which case I’m right on track!

But if you don’t count that, I have a good excuse.

It was raining a lot, and that made me lethargic.

Plus I was playing a lot of Breath of the Wild.

That’s right, after talking all about my desire to return to Hyrule earlier this week, I actually went through with my threat and popped the game back in.

Frankly?

After a year-and-a-half break, everything about this open-world Zelda experience feels fresh again. It seems like I’m getting through the map way faster with just as much of a fine-toothed comb.

I actually cleared out two portions of the map in just the last two days, which included finally making my way into Death Mountain…

2019011611042900-f1c11a22faee3b82f21b330e1b786a39

… finding my second Divine Beast…

2019011614561400-f1c11a22faee3b82f21b330e1b786a39

… and destroying the blight inside…

2019011615521500-f1c11a22faee3b82f21b330e1b786a39

… to bring peace to Goron City!

2019011616032000-f1c11a22faee3b82f21b330e1b786a39
Primed and ready to fire.

I think the most astounding thing about Breath of the Wild to me is how easy it was to pick up and play again after so many months.

It only took a few minutes to re-familiarize myself with the controls before I was running all across Hyrule, solving puzzles and slaying baddies with a bunch of very powerful weapons I saved up. Even most of the side-quests came right back to me as soon as I saw brief reminders in the Adventure Log.

For having such a large map, Breath of the Wild actually has a lot of landmarks that made it feel like I haven’t taken a single day off. It’s a bit uncanny, honestly.

Oh and in case that video I put on Twitter didn’t make it clear, I’m having a blast doing neat things. Plus the NPCs are far funnier than I remember!

2019011519121900-f1c11a22faee3b82f21b330e1b786a39

I don’t know who you are random Hylian lady, but you have a great little backstory packed into one line.

So yeah. Breath of the Wild has actually been a godsend for the end of my Winter Break, where I haven’t had too many chances to see my friends. Perhaps it’s less of a godsend for the work on my novel I was planning to finish but…

I’ll get that done.

I swear.

To be fair, BotW hasn’t been the only distraction in my life. I went on a strange adventure with my Mom today.

About a week ago I got a letter from the State Controller of California.

As it turned out, I apparently had some dormant savings account at a bank that isn’t what my family uses. We don’t remember making it or anything, but the Controller let us know there was about $80 in the account — and that if we didn’t claim it soon, the money would go directly to the State.

I’m not one to let $80 slip away that easily.

So I followed through with that bank and went over there with Mom today, assuming she set it up the account considering it has been dormant since 2010.

However, when we arrived, it turned out there was no longer that much in there.

For some reason the information we got from the State Controller just a week ago was accurate to the balance over a year ago? As a result of the upkeep cost, by the time we showed up there was only about $20 to pull out.

Hurray.

Don’t get me wrong, $20 is $20 and I was happy to get a little extra cash in my pocket. It’s just strange that we had gotten such a misleading number from the State.

So… I guess moral of the story is… Get your records together State Controller Yee.

The rest of my afternoon was right as rain — in the rain. Mom and I got coffee, then picked up my sister, came home and I pretty much just played more BotW.

Before stopping to write this post, of course.

I’ll probably be playing Zelda a lot in the next few days, so I’ll try not to bother you all with it unless some really cool stuff happens. It just felt pertinent to give the world an update on how my prior indecision turned out to be a net positive.

Sometimes the world just needs some feel-good stories like that.

Bumblebee a good movie

Bumblebee a good movie

To be completely honest, I’ve never been a huge Transformers fan.

I’ve always liked the franchise, but it wasn’t a line of toys I grew up with. As a result, the recent Michael Bay franchise of films has more or less been my closest connection.

… But even then, I only watched the first two or three. And I would be lying if I said I remembered anything even remotely well past bits of the first movie from over 11 years ago.

So I was hesitant to watch the newest Transformers movie, Bumblebee — in spite of the fact that I knew it was distinctly different from the Michael Bay series. Especially on the insistence of my friend Juan, who is a huge Transformophile.

I suppose I felt a little intimidated about the prospect of going to see this kind of movie with him. Though I’m glad I got over that, because boy did I have far more fun  than I expected to.

Bumblebee is leagues better than any of the Michael Bay Transformers films for a number of reasons: Its character development, dedication to a setting and mood, as well as its visual design.

Disregarding its titular character, Bumblebee is led by Hailee Steinfeld, who apparently had a phenomenal 2018 by showing her prowess in live action here and in animation through Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Steinfeld’s character Charlie is the down-on-her-luck angsty tomboy teenager who finds Bumblebee broken down in a mechanic’s junkyard and becomes his best friend/protector.

It’s a cliché relationship that was essentially the exact same dynamic between Bumblebee and Shia LaBeouf’s character in the 2007 Transformers. It includes all the beats you’d imagine off a story where the girl’s father died and she can’t move on, only to learn the lessons she needs to through saving the world.

However, the clichés don’t bog Bumblebee down at all. If anything, they make the movie better because of how much the filmmakers lean into them.

Steinfeld brings far more chemistry to bonding with Bumblebee than LaBeouf ever did. In one two-hour picture I loved their kind of goofy, mutually beneficial relationship and had no trouble believing she was in the same room as a giant robot.

As hilarious as it was when I realized wrestler John Cena was going to be a prominent antagonist, he wound up pouring so much into the performance that I couldn’t help but love him.

Granted, I honestly couldn’t tell you his character’s actual name because I just saw him as John Cena the whole time. But he was so fun that I didn’t mind.

Another reason Bumblebee succeeded in capturing my heart is because it played itself as an unapologetically cheesy 80s movie. Not only did that give it an identity, but it served as a somewhat clever underlying commentary.

Like the Transformers were literally going back to the time when they were created, both in visual aesthetic and spirit.

After an opening action scene on Cybertron (which, like every action scene, was better choreographed and more visually appealing than any previous Transformers movie), diving into the life of Charlie tells us everything we need to know about Bumblebee‘s world.

Charlie, that angsty teen facing tragedy archetype I mentioned, works at a pierside Hot Dog on a Stick where the full range of 80’s teen comedy cast members appear. The awkward next door neighbor/unrequited lover, the mean high school girls, the jock who takes his shirt off after some awkward hi-jinks.

If it weren’t for the killer robots, you could mistake this movie for something akin to Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. It crafts great characters and loving relationships in this kind of world very well.

You could probably pull out homages to a dozen different movies, with a scene reminiscent to Iron Giant‘s gentle being vs. weapon dynamic standing out to me.

There’s even a really clever joke in the middle of the movie that stipulates some Transformers may have been involved in the creation of the Internet.

If you like that kind of self-aware humor, you’ll enjoy Bumblebee.

On top of that, Bumblebee‘s more classic toy-like Autobot and Decepticon designs allowed for more flowing, understandable action scenes and empathetic moments than the mechanized madness of Michael Bay’s films.

It sounds like I don’t have too many complaints about Bumblebee — and to be honest, I don’t. Some of my major complaints are nitpicks, like the fact that Transformers spoke English humans could understand and knew our vehicle shapes before coming to Earth.

But those are symptoms of the original source material than they are this movie specifically, and don’t detract from the film.

The movie also plays fast and loose with its setting’s time and place until late into the movie (at least from the perspective of someone who hadn’t seen the Golden Gate Bridge in that promotional poster I used as my Featured Image).

On top of that, every plot beat is borderline eye-rollingly predictable because of how much it leans into common clichés. Though to be fair there are moments where the script takes a high ground and doesn’t lean on obviously foreshadowed deus ex machinas.

Frankly, Bumblebee’s biggest strength is just how fun it is. So much so that even if there are bigger concerns, I’ve completely overlooked them. As exhausted as I was with the overwhelming Michael Bay franchise by its second or third installment, I could watch many more movies using Travis Knight’s formula going forward.

Not only was it great for Transformophiles like Juan, who was giddy seeing at least six named characters he recognized within the first few seconds, it also worked wonders for people like me that simply enjoy well-crafted, goofy 80’s flicks.

There were only about five people in our theatre today so I don’t imagine the film will be out too much longer, but I’d recommend going to see it while you can. It’s definitely a ride worth taking.


Featured Image courtesy of IMDb

Bands under the Bob Cole banner

Bands under the Bob Cole banner

As promised last night, here I am to talk about sitting around in Long Beach all day.

Except today there was a much more pertinent reason for me to be there! Instead of just bumming around laughing about how much the campus at Cal State Long Beach looks like an F-Zero track, I got to enjoy the:

img_1795
Cue dramatic choir build-up!

That’s right, after an intensive weekend of frequently driving back-and-forth between Redondo Beach and Long Beach repeatedly, it was finally time for my sister’s official performance with the honors band.

img_1793
There she be.

This was actually, from what I can tell at least, a relatively prestigious little event that she applied for.

Of course I only say that because the bare minimum that I know without further research is that the four-year-old concert featured a few guests with pedigrees including the L.A. Phil Harmonic and John Williams movie scores, as well as the fact that kids apparently applied from as far as Alaska.

So you know. Either it’s a prestigious event or some folks were real desperate to get away from Sarah Palin.

Jokes aside, it was a pretty awesome hour-and-a-half show in a very lovely auditorium. I decided to be that guy who went around taking pictures of the lobby just to let y’all feel like you were there too.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

If that’s the kind of thing you like.

The stage itself was also very nice, enough to be my Featured Image. Not only were the acoustics resonant for the entire audience, I would also argue it’s nicely designed from an aesthetic point of view.

A nice mesh of dark grey and maroon, with the panels of the wall specifically made to be a surprise when some of them were revealed to be doors.

At least I thought it was a cute little surprise.

Now, I’m sure you’re all expecting me to delve into the content of the show itself. I will, but not in quite as much detail as I originally expected to when planning to write about her show today.

I wanted to take a photo of all three groups that were performing, maybe even include some video of the songs. The grand finale that Aly’s band performed certainly would have been bombastic to show off.

Unfortunately they did not allow photography or video of any kind.

So… Threw that idea in the dumpster. Which is a shame considering Aly was basically right in the center of the front row as a second chair flute.

But that’s the writing business for you, I suppose. Adaptation is required.

Instead of a more in-depth catalog, here’s just a brief synopsis of the show’s bands:

  1. The Choir. A very nice set of performances that only helped reinforce the idea in my head that all choirs seem to perform is churchy religious hymns and such. Also helped me realize that my 21st century urges to be doing literally anything with my hands comes out strong when all I have to look at is a bunch of kids standing on stage singing for a half hour.
  2. The String Orchestra. Subjectively, I’d argue this group was my favorite if for no other reason than string orchestras with that keyboard clatter in the background always remind me of medieval castle interior themes. Thought it was really funny that two of the performers were in blue and pink dresses because I believed they just didn’t get the memo about dressing in black, but it turned out they were special guest soloists. Whoops.
  3. The Big Band. Objectively the best group of the night… And I’m not just saying that because it’s the group my sister performed with. They were the most complex and developed in terms of sound because they were a mix of many instruments instead of just one musical theme, and there were tons of nice environmental mood-setting pieces as a result.

Not so lustrous without visual or musical accompaniment I know, but hopefully I can make up for that by sharing these obligatory family photos we took after the show.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Mostly trying our best to cover up the missing “S” on the Conservatory sign.

Extra shout out to the man who took our full group photo before taking a selfie of himself. Don’t know who you are, but you’re a real G.

Overall, I’d say I was really impressed with the show. Considering it involved 100+ high schoolers all meeting each other, learning 4-7 pieces each and practicing them over the span of two days, it was actually phenomenal how well-done all the music was.

If nothing else, I suppose this is proof of how great Aly’s going to be once she gets out into the workforce of quick turn-around performances!

The strange psychology of a Korean BBQ dinner

The strange psychology of a Korean BBQ dinner

I’m officially convinced my pursuit of a Psychology minor has ruined me forever.

Context. After dropping Aly off at Cal State Long Beach this morning (the genesis of this Tweet that made me laugh):

I wound up going out to dinner tonight with a bunch of people from high school. A pretty diverse range of people at that — from those I’d consider good friends I hang out with regularly to some that I literally haven’t seen since graduation three years ago.

There were about 10 people there and I was right in the middle between two Korean BBQ hot plates.

On the bright side, I got to take food from both.

On the not so bright side, pretty sure I got whiplash trying to split my time between two totally different conversations. If not more considering those two major groups were further split into a number of subgroups.

That said, being somewhat ephemeral in each different conversation gave me time to reflect on other things. As I stipulated at the very top of this post, a lot of the things I wound up thinking about were concepts I’ve learned in my psych classes coming up in reality.

For instance: Right when I arrived, half the group wasn’t there. Long story short they were waiting for one person who was apparently out watching Into the Spider-Verse and didn’t realize the timing or something. They wound up being an hour late.

As I’m sure you all know by now, I wouldn’t say he made the wrong choice necessarily.

Though we wound up being at the restaurant for three hours as a result so… Maybe it was the wrong choice from a utilitarian social standpoint?

img_1787
Me incidentally bug-eyed while checking my watch, with Nina caught in the background. Seemed like a good enough place to slip this in.

I’m here to talk about psychology though. Not philosophy.

This one girl and I thought we knew each other from something, but for the longest time all we knew was that we went to the same high school. We couldn’t figure out exactly HOW we knew one another.

It was a very ‘tip of the tongue’ moment up until I finally got just the primer I needed.

Found out that she was studying creative writing, and that pretty quickly translated to my realizing we must have been on the newspaper together at one point. And we were!

Long-term memory retrieval via priming. Classic.

But wait, my nerdiness gets worse.

See the Korean BBQ place we were at in Gardena had a call button for the servers:

img_1786

My friend Nina got pretty obsessed with the button the longer the night went on. Whenever any of us even considered getting more food or water, she immediately hit the button.

It let out a very distinctive chime, like two doorbells ringing in sequence.

After the third or fourth call, one ring seemingly didn’t work. The servers were just busy helping other tables, but Nina seemed to get visibly distressed that the call hadn’t served its purpose.

For everyone else? This was pretty much nothing.

But for me? All I could see was a conditioned response being slowly extinguished by the removal of a response to the conditioned stimulus.

Pavlov would be proud.

I swear, this was 100 percent what was going through my head all night. No idea why, but it definitely happened.

That said it isn’t like all that school leaking in ruined the night. I actually had a great time catching up with some people I haven’t seen in a very long time, and I imagine I’ll probably go out with this particular group more often in the future!

Plus there were some extra added benefits. We actually ran into a totally different group of people from high school who I haven’t seen in years that just so happened to be eating at the same place.

The boba we got after wasn’t half bad, too.

That essentially sums up my day overall. Since it sparked this particular conversation, I guess it would be pertinent to ask all of you in the viewing audience if you’ve had any times where something you learned in school viscerally leaked into an everyday experience.

I’m sure someone has a fun story with that. As fun as school-related stories can be, anyway.

Baffling bathroom decor

Baffling bathroom decor

Got a late one for you, since interesting life stuff happened and that drove me to save my deep, contemplative “complains about Christmas” post for tomorrow.

I promise it’s not as bad as I hyperbole it out to be.

The family took a mini road trip out to Santa Monica tonight — random music mix out of iTunes and everything.

We met up with some of my Mom’s old college friends for dinner at the Plan Check Kitchen + Bar (pictured above) because they’re out here from Washington D.C. for Winter Break.

The table wound up getting split between the four adults catching up and the four kids more or less meeting each other for the first time, and even though I’m in a window that’s well past the high school-age problems all the younger kids were discussing, it was a good time. Food was nice, as were the atmosphere and company with that flashy Santa Monica pier right outside.

Can’t complain overall. In fact, I wound up making this joke out of the menu that killed me because I’m lame:

IMG_1733
“Oyster Power?”

That’s for all you Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle fans out there.

Nailed it.

With all that being said, I wouldn’t want to waste an entire blog post just talking in vague generalities about a cool little family/friend dinner.

Nah, I’ve gotta take this time to talk about the one part of the night that I can complain about.

This place we went to had the absolute weirdest, arguably worst bathroom decor that I’ve ever seen in a restaurant.

It was so bad in fact that I decided to take a picture of it too — no private parts or dirty bathroom things involved.

I promise.

IMG_1734
Unless you count bad paper towel throwing, I suppose…

So let’s break this down. It’s not a particularly large restroom, first off. There’s nothing wrong with a single-person bathroom, but having one means you need to compact the space well.

That said, the fact that this bathroom had both a urinal and a traditional sitting toilet seems a bit over the top for the space constraint.

A single toilet that serves both purposes needed for it would be more than enough.

But then there’s the real… How you say… Je ne sais quoi that got my mind racing about its sheer absurdity in the first place.

Despite having such a small space, they decided to put two mirrors in the bathroom. One of which is a full-body mirror.

Literally right next to the urinal.

To be fair, BOTH the full-body and sink mirrors were essentially surrounding the urinal. I swear, if one of those things was a foot over you would be trapped in the infinite mirror dimension just standing at the head.

Even without the trippy aspect of that, it was still bizarre and seemingly narcissistic to see a bathroom designed to essentially let you look at yourself no matter where you turned your head.

I know that out of all the strange things I’ve nitpicked on this blog, the mirror placement in a Santa Monica restaurant is arguably the strangest.

It just bugged me enough that I figured it would be worth bothering you all on your Christmas Eves over it.

Because you know. I’m literally not thinking about the holiday at all. Celebrate if you are, I’ll just be here thinking about bathroom mirrors.

A change of scenery

When I wasn’t playing Smash Bros., I’ve spent the last two days trying to get a jump on the last four pieces of my fall 2018 commitments. Namely the last essay for my Evolution and Creation class.

Granted, the process of buckling down and focusing has been made slightly more difficult by the constant Discord reminders that most of my friends are officially off because of different schedules… But hey, that’s what distractions and isolation are for.

Particularly distractions and isolation with regards to the headline of this blog post: Changes of scenery.

Don’t you love how masterfully I tie in these themes and draw attention to them for extra padding and lampshading?

My change of scenery for the day came early this morning when Mom asked me to come out to Lakewood with her. While Aly went to school, we brought some of her musical instruments to their usual shop for repairs and upkeep.

After that we hung around at a local Starbucks; a nice, quiet little spot to work on homework.

But also with at least a little bit of Smash Bros. because… Yeah it’s addictive.

I actually just unlocked every character for normal Smash battles and am well on my way to completing the World of Light adventure mode. It’s a blast, even if it came at a very inopportune time.

Anyway though, sitting around Starbucks was productive to an extent. Yet the most interesting part of being there was this Christmas-themed decoration:

IMG_1686

Look at this thing. It’s kind of gaudy and over-the-top, but also aesthetically pleasing in a way that I can understand why it was made.

The coffee cup tree is just trite and inoffensive overall, but the reason I wanted to point it out was because I found it hilarious to see such a blatantly Christ-centric symbol used as decor here when just a few years ago the world lost its shit due to red cups.

The wishy-washy nature of Internet-era overreaction is truly a sight to behold, is it not?

That being said, because my time in relative isolation these last two days has offered me the chance to get a sizable jump on this essay I previously believed was going to be a nightmare, I figured I should talk a little bit about it.

Seems like the least I can do in all fairness after shoving the fruits of my research on the Visual Comm essay down your throats too.

This essay is about Deism, the religious school of thought that considers a God having created the universe only to step back and let everything run on its own accord. It was popular during the Enlightenment especially, and caught my interest handily during my time in AP European History back during Sophomore year of high school.

As a result I decided to focus my research paper on it. Though this specifically dives into contemporary thoughts on the religion post-evolution emerging as a result of good old Chuck Darwin.

One source I discovered talking about Deism in relation to a post-evolutionary “modern setting” (being 1898) had such a fantastic little tidbit that I figured it would be worth dedicating at least half of a blog post to it.

For context: In a journal called The North American Review, an auspicious Walton W. Battershall submitted a short piece as comment to an earlier story published. His comment was about “The Efficacy of Prayer in the Light of Evolution.”

The important aspects of the writing to pull for my paper were his discussions of prayer being a placebo of sorts. Something that provides a positive benefit to the praying individual just because of the possibility that it might receive a response from God, even if it likely wouldn’t. He goes on to undress Deism for distancing God to the point of making that possibility totally unattainable, but you can read the whole thing here if you want.

The important aspects of the writing to pull for this blog post is a line I’ll leave completely out of context just for the sake of how incredible a piece of prose it is.

Screen Shot 2018-12-13 at 10.57.55 PM

Just the thought of this clearly reverent man talking about God’s pitiful, throbbing ‘Fatherhood’ is so hilariously phallic that it made my night when I found it yesterday.

So much so that I felt compelled to share it with the world. Good old 1898.

That’s about all I’ve got for you today, as I’ve got to get back to finishing that essay. Only short breaks for blog writing allowed in the Rochlin house this weekend.

Luckily, after this weekend is three days of finals followed by freedom. Boy is that freedom going to be… Smashing.

Because puns.

A smashing blast to the past

A smashing blast to the past

Gotta love tentpole programming.

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate is officially out today! Even though I haven’t personally gotten my hands on it just yet, by all accounts it promises to be a fantastic collection of all the greatest parts of the series’ 19-year history.

I’m excited to get my hands on this sucker, because I’ve been a pretty hardcore fan of Masahiro Sakurai’s wonderful party fighter games since Melee on the GameCube.

Melee was quite literally a game that defined my young childhood, with many birthday parties spent playing as Young Link on the “Great Bay” stage from Majora’s Mask (many years before I actually played its game of origin).

Brawl was the game that offered my core friend group, from middle school on, to duke it out, find our main characters and test our creativity building our own fields of combat.

Smash 4 brings with it memories of being so excited that I played the demo endlessly during art class in senior year, time that left me proficient in newcomer Mega Man as much as I would be proficient in Lucina — my current main character, passed along from Marth before her.

Yet the fourth entry in the series became so much more. Long nights in the Daily Titan newsroom were more manageable after my boi Aaron Valdez brought his Wii U and we held DT tournaments.

Hell I even have some fond memories of the original Smash Bros., despite the fact that I never owned a Nintendo 64. I distinctly remember going to an animation camp while visiting my grandparents in Florida one summer, and a major highlight of the camp was getting there early to play on some of the consoles available in their waiting room.

My attachment to the series went far deeper than just playing the games with my friends, however.

When Stephen Hillenberg died a few weeks ago, writing my blog obituary for him brought back a lot of memories. One of the most potent memories was attending a sprite animation camp (here in California) over a summer with my friend Mitchell Winn from all the way back in elementary school.

Thanks to that camp, I learned a good many things about grabbing sprites from my favorite games off of The Spriters Resource and using them in different projects.

I took on ambitious sprite projects in the months and years to follow. Including recreating that famous Band Geeks halftime scene from Spongebob with video game characters.

One other project that felt pertinent to today required going back into my old desktop Mac.

IMG_1555

IMG_1554

This dinosaur literally hasn’t been touched since 2012 based on the security update. Thus it has become a crystalized time capsule for 15-year-old Jason.

I had so much fun going through this thing that I’m going to talk more about my discoveries later this weekend.

But for now, the important connection back to Smash Bros. were these desktop wallpapers I made using character sprites from various games and other fan projects:

SSBB Battle Subcon Stage2
The Featured Image, a classic fight between Link, Charizard (sans Pokémon trainer as this was the Brawl era), Kirby and Marth on “Mushroom Kingdom II.”
SSBB Battle Battlefield Stage
Four hatted-Kirby duke it out on Melee’s “Battlefield.”
SSBB Battle Yoshi Stage
Pikachu, Yoshi, Marth and Falco fight on “Yoshi’s Island,” where Marth shows off his Dolphin Slash. A favorite move of mine, clearly.
SSBB Battle Mario Stage
The Mario Bros. take on Link and Sonic on the aptly named “Mario Bros.” stage.
SSBB Battle Final Stage
A slightly askew duel between Samus, Fox, Zelda and a very tiny Captain Falcon on Brawl’s version of “Final Destination.”
SSBB Battle Onett Stage
One of my prouder pieces from what I remember, in which Ness knocks Kirby out of the park in his home turf of “Onett.”
SSBB Battle Mario Stage2
We return to “Mario Bros.” so the Bros. can confront a series of variant Sonics each colored after Chaos Emeralds. Not sure if these are the classic Chaos Emerald colors, but the different poses are sweet if you ask me.
SSBB Battle Temple Scene
It’s a race for the Master Sword between Link and Young Link (clearly set during the Melee era) on the leftmost side of the “Temple” battleground.
SSBB Battle Subcon Stage
Apparently I predicted Smash Ultimate being a thing years ago by pitting the (at the time) Melee-exclusive Mewtwo and Brawl-exclusive Snake on “Mushroom Kingdom II.”

Would have helped if I made them all the same size so they didn’t get stretched out when I rotated them as wallpapers. But hey, eight years ago.

All of these babies were created between May and June of 2010 using Graphic Converter, as I never learned Photoshop or anything.

2010! I know I spent all this time building up 15-year-old Jason, but these specifically are all a product of 13-year-old Jason’s ingenuity.

Now that Smash Ultimate is out, I’m hoping to get my hands on it soon so I can start to make some new memories with that game. Perhaps a few of them will come somewhere remotely close to leaving an impression as strong as the older titles.

Here’s to everyone having a happy Smash Ultimate day!

Blog Analytics

Blog Analytics

I’m sure it seems a bit narcissistic and self-serving to dedicate a whole post to my own blog’s analytics out of nowhere. Especially considering the last time I did this kind of thing when I hit 100 Twitter followers over the summer, I didn’t have 100 for that much longer.

By now I have some number fluctuating around 110 or so, to be fair.

But that’s beside the point. I assure you that narcissism has nothing to do with this.

If anything, to lampshade myself appropriately, this is just a result of having no idea what to talk about to fill today’s gap.

Otherwise my choices would have been the mandatory internship class orientation I attended today (but it was kind of a waste of time and I already complained about school this week), my fluctuating inner conflict over going to the gym tonight (I decided to just go tomorrow on account of my big lunch food coma™ (thanks Mimi) ) or Fire Emblem Heroes (except the new banner comes out tomorrow, so you’ll have to wait a day for that).

For the reasons I stipulated in the parenthesis up there, I decided not to go with any of the above.

However, while doing some soul-searching and just staring at my blog to try to figure out what I was in the mood to write, I came across something that piqued my interest. In traffic analytics, of all things.

I’ve talked about the analytics that WordPress offers briefly in the past, during my 2018 New Year’s Eve post. In that post I looked at the large overall increase in views from 2016 to 2017 when I got slightly more interested in writing blog stuff.

By the end of this year it’s going to be an even bigger story considering the inherent jump that came from me writing a post just about every day. I’ll get to that story in about a month.

Today, however, I’m looking at more of a small-scale moment in recent history. Recent history meaning approximately two days ago.

I’m sure you all remember the silly post I did with Alyson where we opened a stupid “Wreck it Ralph 2” toy in a faux box opening channel style. Had a lot of fun with that one, it was a goofy little experiment. The video part we made has 20 views on YouTube right now too, which is neat. Especially considering that’s about a third as many views as that Sonic on Apple T.V. video I made for the post of the same topic in July.

Boy I know I said this wasn’t a narcissistic, self-serving post but I sure am calling back to a lot of things, aren’t I?

ANYWAY, all of that was to set up the analytics I noticed from that toy opening post.

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 7.19.32 PM

That’s a hell of a sudden spike for that one post.

Sure, we can be cynical and talk about how that’s still only about 40 people when I on average reach about 20 people. But that’s still a 100 percent increase.

I don’t know, I think it’s pretty cool to see.

Plus while I was looking at that, I happened to also briefly look back at the ‘countries’ tab of the analytics. Aly told me she let her friends know that we shot a stupid video, so I wanted to see if it was purely a U.S. demographic that picked up on the post.

What I found was that as of, say, 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 20, 2018, here was the spread of people visiting my blog:

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 7.20.27 PM

Mostly the U.S., as I would have thought. But also Taiwan and France!

Don’t know who’s out there reading this blog in Taiwan and France, but I’d be very interested to know how you all perceive the mad ramblings I embark on.

Oh, but that’s not all folks. I didn’t just look at today’s visitation statistics.

I looked at an entire week’s worth:

Screen Shot 2018-11-20 at 7.21.01 PM.png

Check out the diverse spread of yellow. I know those are just one or two people compared to the 81 individuals in America that came in over the last week, but still.

The fact that a stupid, silly blog some college student in Redondo Beach, California rambles into on a whim can reach this kind of international audience continues to astound me. It’s probably the only thing that has really, truly made me care about things like analytics and search engine optimization.

Everything I do on the old blog here I do for me. But seeing the kind of reach my personal business has is just incredible.

Gosh that definitely came out sounding self-serving again didn’t it?

I’m just going to cut my losses and leave things there. Look forward to tomorrow when I write about Fire Emblem again and probably kill all interest in anyone coming back!

Giving less than thanks

Giving less than thanks

Happy Thanksgiving Break week, everybody!

What a wonderful time it is to start decompressing a bit and spend extra time with your family and friends.

Unless you’re like me this year.

Fair warning, this is a ranting vent post. So if you enjoy railing against people who do terrible things, you’ve come to the right place.

This is the first time in a number of years that Cal State Fullerton has remained open the Monday of Thanksgiving Break. Every other year I’ve been here, we’ve gotten the whole week off.

That’s annoying, but a lot of my friends have never had the luxury of a full week off, so it would feel a bit disingenuous to complain about that alone.

Everything’s relative.

The annoying part comes from the fact that most teachers decided they would either cancel their classes or just offer online coursework today. Because they, too, would rather have the whole week off as it turns out.

My Evolution and Creation professor was very eager to just not have class today. However, my Learning and Memory professor decided to keep the train going.

Naturally his class is the one that offers so much compact material that I knew I’d have to come in for it at risk of falling dangerously behind. Otherwise I would have skipped out and joined my family in Burbank.

To be fair, I also have to come in tomorrow for a mandatory internship orientation, so I would have had school this week no matter what.

The part about today that really bugged me was the execution.

To set the scene: It’s a cloudy, dreary day in Orange County and campus is next to empty (hence my featured image of the often bustling Library). The universe seems to be in agreement that things aren’t right.

Every student who is here seems downtrodden, as if the gloom of coming in during Thanksgiving Break was folding into the gloomy grey skies.

When I get to my class on the sixth floor of the Humanities building, a typically 35-ish headcount of students has been reduced to about 12.

As the professor starts to take roll amid the sound of the 1:00 p.m. clock tower chime, he pauses after a string of missing names.

He says, and I quote: “What, is it a holiday or something?”

Then he offers a cheeky grin to the audience, as if the villainous character in a reality T.V. show’s confessional booth.

How much of a dick to you have to be to crack a joke about how you’ve forced your students to come in when they didn’t necessarily have to? It’s just a cruel, self-aware form of torture.

From there it was an average lecture. Lots of densely-packed information over an hour-and-a-half. It sucked to be there, but at least I felt somewhat justified by the breadth of material.

Plus, I incurred an extra benefit by getting back my research paper final draft considering I turned it in early. It was the paper from this earlier post actually.

I got an A on the final draft. Frankly that’s all that matters.

However… He was somehow even more frustrating by proxy.

On the rough draft, he said my paper was an “excellent start” before giving me a C. It was littered with red marks, to the point where I wondered how he could justify calling it excellent in any respect.

The final draft had this message adorning the front:

IMG_1492

Seems like a great message to accompany an A grade, right?

Unfortunately the message feels very disingenuous when you see just how much the final draft is still littered with red ink.

IMG_1493

I don’t get it, man. The mixed messages are real.

But hey, I never have to think about the paper again. So I can’t complain.

I just wish that my being required to come in wasn’t accompanied by such a frustrating series of events. It doesn’t help that cancelled plans made the drive out feel like more of a waste of time.

That’s not a judgement call on the person I made plans with, since I know they’ll read this ❤

Hence why I’m sitting here in the Library writing this blog post and working on some homework to justify the time.

If nothing else I appreciate seeing campus as empty as it is during the daytime. It offers me the chance to hang out in places that I couldn’t normally.

Such as the seat by this statue’s butt near a Starbucks.

IMG_1491

Could have never gotten that picture normally and I kind of love it?

So long as you ignore my 5 o’clock shadow and devil horns.

I really need a haircut soon. Perhaps I’ll try to do that over the break once it starts.

But that feels like a post for another day.