It's been a while since I've been around these parts, so I suppose I'll provide inquiring minds with a bit of an update.
I've been employed at a hostess club now going on 6 months and the money/perks may be decent, but I am exhausted. Dealing with unruly drunks and selfish little girls on a daily basis has gotten to me...but I suppose I should at least be used to the drunks by now because I've been bartending for years. Oh well...quitting isn't an option, I've been down that road too many times before. I might inquire with the owner of the club about other opportunities however...I feel like I could be doing something more useful to the company than just parading as the token white man. Granted, my race does seem to put a smile on people's faces...but the daily racism has gotten old after all these years in Japan. Is this the most sheltered country in the world or what? I can't go a single day of work without explaining my life story and how I ended up here to at least 5 people.
Meanwhile...I had a great 4 days off for New Years. A life-long friend came to visit for 3 days and my wife's birthday was on the last day of the vacation and we went on our first date in over 6 months...it's hard with these work schedules...
I finished Uncharted 3 a few weeks after receiving it for Christmas and was a bit torn about it. The sequences with the pirates were pretty epic, but on the whole it was rather meh. Ranked best to worst, the series goes 2, 3, 1 with a significant drop off from 2 to 3. I just had this feeling that I wanted to explore some more but was forced to bypass that exploration to maintain the story's frantic pace. And the drugged up parts...gag. Who ever decided that hazy dream sequences are a fun game aspect should be shot. I don't really remember why the baddies near the end had super powers...something to do with the water or something? Oh well, the 3 games had a lot of missed opportunities as far as I'm concerned. Oh, and that blond woman from the first game was back...ugh.
I am part way through Skyrim (it's not so much on the back burner as I just want savor it over the months as I take care of other, shorter, business along the way). Skyrim is so massive it's a bit overwhelming at times. My character is a Khajit archer highly skilled in stealth. I am almost always moving in stealth and with the 3.0x bonus on stealth damage (plus all the bonuses from my gear) I am pretty unstoppable with just a bow. Even in cramped spaces with multiple targets I can usually remain unseen in the middle of them and wipe them out with one-hit kills. It always perplexes me when people run all over me looking for me...but I guess that's why it pays to put skill points into stealth. I am not into magic and really never have been in most RPGs I've ever played...that said this is also the first time I've ever made a ranged character, so there's a first for everything I guess. Another first---no bugs or glitches whatsoever! A MIRACLE!
I am also part way through Rage (which I am currently focusing on). Rage really is beautiful (and disgusting) with a lot of shared aspects of Falllout and Borderlands. As all the reviews say, it doesn't top those games but it is still an excellent bit of fun. Definitely recommended if you find it on sale. I am playing on normal, but there is significant challenge to be found here, especially against melee opponents and mutants. Gun toting enemies can be easily dispatched with well placed shots, grenades, RC car bombs, etc...but the melee baddies are fast as hell and usually come at you in a zig zag pattern to avoid fire. They also bound over obstacles and swing from low ceilings or through doorways like hellbent monkeys or something...and when they get up close and personal they can kill you pretty swiftly if you're not careful. Receiving damage causes the edges of your screen to turn red like many shooters out there, and sometimes you resort to firing blindly because things are so frantic. That's why the shotgun is a man's best friend...and is always the gun I turn to when faced with melee attackers. They are usually just too fast to kill before they are right in front of you. Then it's SPLAT! Exploding brains cover your vision as you fend off these beasts of hell!
Anyhoo...yeah, Rage is pretty awesome even if I am nervewracked by all the mutants. Bandits I don't mind...but those vile abominations are really horrifying...
So I guess that's a peek at what's up around here in Hamamatsu. Just some good old fashioned disgruntled-ness at work and a way to take out that RAGE on some wasteland scum.
And how might you be, people?
1) An update on my drive to get fit...
Since May 4th I've run/walked over 75 miles through 30 workouts and burned about 8500kcal. I've only dropped from 212 to 208lbs in that span, but for the sake of motivation I'm going to believe that the reason I haven't lost more is because I've developed a lot of muscle (especially in my legs) and we all know muscle weighs more than fat. My goal is a "ripped" 195-200lbs...so simply dieting won't be enough to make it there. I need to start lifting weights if I want to build more upper body muscle, but all in due time.
Two weeks ago I began serious dieting. I count every calorie, gram of fat/carb/sodium/protein/etc. I've finally figured out how to successfully keep myself under 1800kcal, but it's not easy. Images of pizza, beer, pasta, french fries, milkshakes, ramen, gyoza, curry rice, and hot dogs flash before my eyes every night. Still, it has to be done. You'd really be amazed at how much sodium we poison our bodies with everyday. Sodium is the one category I can't seem to lower to the healthy range, even though I cook all my own food and don't add any salt. Even raw lettuce and cabbage have sodium...what a pain in the ass.
Recently I've come to discover that mental and physical wellness go hand in hand. Keeping fit and healthy is a major key to living a happy life. A friend of mine is in his early-40s and has already lost a leg to diabetes and recently was told he only has a few years left with his kidneys. I won't let myself go down the same path.
2) No luck in the job hunt. The guy who offered me a job has been less than forthcoming with further details. We've met on several occasions but either he's talking out of his ass or Japan just moves at a snail's pace. It has now been 4 months since I quit my job and luckily I had enough saved to survive this long (in addition to my wife's salary), but things are quite difficult now. I am going to tell the man with the job that I am moving on and go back to staving off racist employers looking for work. Staving or starving. Ugh.
3) My unbridled and often unparalleled negative view on life has once again reared its ugly head. I am displeased with much of my world (and that at large) and wonder if I might not be better off living alone in the forest in the spirit of Thoreau's Walden for a time. I would like to spend some time away from face-to-face human interaction, playing both the role of scientist and rat by studying my own struggles to survive without many of the amenities considered essential today. Unlike Thoreau however, I would be required to make lodging in the Japanese wilds, where hand-sized spiders rule as kings of old. Perhaps my previous blog title is a more apt one here. Arachnids...my most feared and hated enemy.
I've broached the subject of simple-living with a motley assortment of my fellow conspirators, but it seems like something that the general population scoffs at and dismisses as lunacy. My theory however, is that humankind was not meant to dwell like bees and ants---on top of eachother in cubicles condensed into a city (or nest/hive). We are also not meant to commute like drone bees to an office 5-6 days a week and toil for some bloated and unseen queen.
How I convert this negativity into rational thought and later, action, still remains to be seen. Though I use the word "negativity" to descibe my thought-process, it is admittedly labeled so by others. It may appear spirit-draining (and will really be so without action), but I think it's an idea all should adopt. A true life-revolution must take place, but the earth is already plagued by over-population that simpler times may be just something from a distant and healthier past. In this case, then yes, I am a negative person that will never find happiness.
I've already begun my journey towards healthy living by eating right and exercising accordingly (now to clear out unneeded belongings). The next step will be discovering a means of living comfortably on basic necessities (with a few games for good measure ;)) while working as little as possible, or better yet, working towards something (like growing crops and building things). Money is just paper...something I both despise and crave. But why should we crave it? Because it costs money just to breathe in this godforsaken world.
With much regret I must bid thee farewell for now, dear reader. Housework awaits.
No, this blog has nothing to do with a book known as The Hobbit, nor does it have anything to do with Bilbo Baggins or spiders (especially not those vile denizens of Mirkwood's inky depths).
It's summertime and the living ain't so easy. It's hot already in Hamamatsu and I am done with the season. Aye! Tl'be a scorcher I'd wager! These old bones'll crack under this hellish heat b'fore long.
So what does one do to "beat the heat?" Go swimming I guess. My good pal just bought himself a brand spankin' new speedboat and it's almost time to take her out. I need to keep up with my running so I can get in shape for those beach BBQs with all the hot hostess girls. Here's a bit of my album from last year's secret beach rendezvous: Forgive My Goofiness.
In other news, it's hot...oh wait, I already covered that.
TV Shows I am interested in and waiting to continue:
The Walking Dead
Game of Thrones
AMC, HBO, AMC, HBO...what a coincidence! I am most interested in Mad Men---easily the highest quality show I've seen since The Sopranos (HBO again!)
Video Games I am waiting for (or HOPING FOR as it were):
Assassin's Creed Revelations & AC3
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim
Chrono something-or-other (I can dream)
Lately I find myself less and less attracted to role-playing games...there just haven't been many in recent memory that I really had fun with. Fallout 3 was good despite the bugs...as was most of Oblivion...Borderlands yes (though I hesitate to use the RPG label)...and then I draw a blank. Mass Effect 2, DA: Origins and DA2 were a waste of money for me...as was the criminally bugged New Vegas. Tales of Vesperia & Eternal Sonata were just plain bad. That being said, I hope Skyrim doesn't fully turn me off of RPGs...something's got to bring me back.
So I guess I've gotten the most enjoyment this generation out of open, sandbox-type games. Assassin's Creed 2 and Brotherhood were excellent, Mafia II was spectacular, Red Dead Redemption was outstanding and I already mentioned two open-world RPGs: FO3 and Oblivion.
Here's hoping for one more decent RPG this generation.
Unemployment has provided me all the time in the world to play games and write reviews, but I seem to have trouble writing freely these days. All my life I've loved reading & writing (perhaps more than gaming) because they are wonderful (and quiet) escapes from everyday life...but where once I could take up my pen or splay my fingers across a keyboard and instantly create something magical, now I've lost the power to concentrate...
It is for this reason it has taken me so long to churn out another game review. Recently I attempted to write reviews for Fallout 3, Red Dead Redemption, and Borderlands...but to no avail. I just couldn't get started...
...which makes my new reviews for Heavy Rain and Fallout: New Vegas all the more remarkable.
How can one properly put into words the feeling of utter helplessness in the face of this horrendous disaster?
Just moments after the magnitude 9.0 earthquake struck the northeast coast, tremors were also felt by myself and many others here in the city of Hamamatsu. At first I was sure I must be light-headed or something of the like, because I couldn't find my balance while standing in the kitchen. A swaying motion, not unlike that of standing on a boat or moving train, made the apartment slowly roll, though luckily not enough to cause damage. It was then that I turned my television to the news to see if there had been any seismic activity and discovered, to my horror, that a giant earthquake had just rocked the Tohoku region. For such a massive earthquake, I was a bit surprised at the relative absence of structural damage. Not to say that nothing was harmed, but one expects something more disastrous than what was shown by the video footage. It was then that the tsunami warnings first appeared on the screen…
Fast-forward to Monday.
A beautiful place, once familiar, is in ruins, the people displaced or dead. In one fell swoop Japan's coast has shifted 8 feet and the earth's axis as well.
I am haunted by the images of roaring water and fleeing villagers. We've felt aftershocks here in Hamamatsu but it's the imaginary ones that have been bothering me most. Every time I am sitting quietly I can't help but feel vibrations whether they are there or not. Last night I even had a nightmare about being in a quaked-rocked building. How can one escape this horror? I can't turn on the television without breaking down into tears…but not turning it on could potentially mean missing life-threatening information about a nuclear meltdown.
This situation is unlike anything I've ever experienced before and is truly frightening. I wish I could be there today, helping find survivors and bringing supplies to refugees. I feel helpless here in my home and guilty that I even a home.
I am confused and not quite sure what I wish to say. In a strange way I wish I had been there to experience the disaster, though whether that feeling is sincere or not is beyond my comprehension. I think we all have a selfish need to "play the hero," and I wonder if my immature attitude toward the situation doesn't fit this theory. The one thing I do know is that this is going to be hard.
Since this is a games site, I will mention that I've been trying to turn away from the news by playing Heavy Rain…not the light fare I should probably be focusing on, but a bit less disconcerting than what I was in the middle of, Fallout: New Vegas. Without work I am trying to find anything to pass the time. I am trying to figure out how to go up to the disaster area to assist, but until things are made safe people like me are not allowed in. I hope there is something I can do.
They say catastrophe brings out the best and worst in people. I've seen and felt a bit of both. Only time will tell how this situation will change Japan, but I don't think there's any question that it will come. I hope it is for the better…and I hope I am here to see it.
I was born in Boulder, Colorado and lived my first few months on this planet in a little town by the name of Nederland. Not long after my mother took me to live closer to family in NE Ohio, more specifically the Cleveland metro area. We spent time in a number of communities, but just before I was to enter high school we opted to move to the west coast to be closer to those mountains she loved so much. Portland, Oregon was a wonderful place...beautiful mountains within driving distance, a gorgeous coastline, mysterious rainforests, it was an outdoorsman's dream. In high school I moved even farther away, to Nagasaki, Japan, where I spent a year studying nothing and having fun away from home. I would go back to Portland for another year after that, but quickly returned to Japan for what I hoped would be eternity...
...Visa complications would sideline that plan for the time-being and I was forced to return to the US...but to where? I chose to go back to Cleveland for a little while to see what was up with the relations...and ended up staying another 3 years. In that short period I reaquainted myself with the hometown teams, the Indians, Cavs, Browns, and Buckeyes...and became that which I'd always feared: a rabid fan.
People ask me how I have the energy to cheer for teams perpetually in the cellar and to them I reply: Cleveland is home. The city I love is mocked across the US for having a high crime rate, a dirty image, a cursed sports scene, and just simply because people have never gone there. I love it though. Sure it doesn't have a nightlife like New York, a hot beach like Miami, the glamour of Hollywood...and you know what, I don't care. Clevelanders are a hard-working people. We break our backs to support families and like to take a load off afterwards with our beloved teams. We have barbeques with friends and family on the weekends, grab a cold one after work at the local hole-in-wall bar and live honest lives.
I don't live there anymore, but I love Cleveland. I cried uncontrollably when my Tribe gave away game 7 in 1997...and again when Visquel's tear-filled face was plastered on all the newspapers across the country. Again the Indians got me in 2007 when they gave away the ALCS to those Red Sox after holding a commanding 3-1 series lead. A match-up with the lowly Rockies in the World Series was a championship lock as far as I was concerned.
2009 represented the first year I truly believed Cleveland's once abysmal basketball team, the Cavs, had a chance at greatness...and were stuck with the worst match-up possible in Orlando. LeBron's heroics couldn't save the squad from elimination...and left them with too much doubt heading into the next season, the last of LeBron's contract.
Aside from those of you living under rocks, or foreign countries...you probably know how it turned out. We lost in 2010 to an aged Celtics team and LeBron bolted for the sunny shore of Miami.
To clear up a misconception, it's not the fact that he left his fans in the lurch...it's the cruel method by which he made his "decision." With absolutely zero heads up for the owner that gave him everything he wanted for 7 years, the players that made their careers as LeBron's teammates, and the fans that supported him since high school, he announced to the world on national television that he's hitting the road. I felt like I was punched in the gut and stabbed in the back...how could we not?
The truth is we were foolish. We should've seen this coming 2 years ago, afterall LeBron did. Though at this point it's nothing more than an assumption, I am convinced Reilly, Wade, Bosh, and James had a plan in place as far back as the Beijing Olympics. Why collusion on this level is accept by Stern is beyond me. This is on a bigger level than ref fixes...this is the inmates running the asylum and no one being able to do anything about it. I pray to whatever deities are out there that Dan Gilbert's investigation finds what it needs to and puts a stop to this madness...but that's a topic for the coming months.
In the meanwhile, we Clevelanders must pick up the pieces and realize James was never one of us. James can claim he was never a Clevelander, that's fine. He rooted for the Yankees, Cowboys, and Bulls as a lad...a frontrunner through and through. Akronites however, are Cleveland sports fans. James is no Akronite either.
What separates us from LeBron (aside from the millions he earns) is loyalty. We are loyal to our state and not afraid to admit it. We try to defend Ohio from the slings and arrows of the New York media (ESPN) and though we can't fight them all, we never give up. This is a city of winners, because winners never quit. LeBron James quit and there's no way around it. He stopped playing for the Cavs even while he was still on the payroll. If that doesn't deserve Dan Gilbert's scorn, I don't know what does.
So it's almost 2011. I'll be 26 in less than two weeks and might be 46 before another Cleveland team competes on a national scale. I am resigned to my fate because I love Cleveland teams and would never root for another.
Just a game? Perhaps. But it's also a love...a passion...something that brings NE Ohioans together and affects the economy in a big way. To marry my wife I left Cleveland behind...essentially breaking up with my teams and only being there in spirit. Today it feels more sad than it ever has before...because Cleveland needs it's fans. We're down but not out. 3 teams stuck in a rut and I cant be there to cheer my guys and boo the opponents. It brings a tear to my eye.
I miss my hometown and am having a hard time adjusting to life away from sports...and I'm probably the only jackass you know that actually cries at the end of Major League.
Like most of my friends I love music. I listen to rap, rock, jazz, trance, enka, and more...though lately I've come to the realization that I haven't listened to anything new in years. I like some Lil Wayne and T-Pain, but certainly not as much as anything older. All the new stuff I've heard is just...boring. I can't turn on a tv anymore without hearing some CRAP from another dime-a-dozen J-POP boy/girl band, and I stopped listening to new American music back in the 90's (except the aforementioned).
So what do I like?
I know you don't care, but here's a list of my favorite bands/groups/singers.
(In no particular order)
Compton's Most Wanted
Yes, I love gangsta rap. I listen to Eazy E, Dre, Snoop, whatever...but Compton's Most Wanted is my favorite by far. If I was ever going to commit a driveby, I think these guys would be playing in my car. :lol:
Wu Tang Clan
Wu...TANG...Wu...TANG! Love these crazy mofo's. I carved a Halloween pumpkin back in elementary school with the Wu Tang "W". Protect Ya Neck, CREAM, Triumph, Ice Cream, etc...There are a lot of Wu Tang songs I learned to rap by heart back then...in fact I used a verse from Triumph for a poetry project in high school. The teacher was a little taken aback...
The only Japanese music I really love. Misora Hibari's voice is otherworldly...and her songs, timeless. Kanasii Zake, Ringo Oiwake, and Tokyo Kid are some of my favorite songs. She served as my introduction to enka (Japanese blues) and now enka is my genre of choice at karaoke. One of those once-in-a-generation talents...
An American icon and one of the world's most recognizable voices. St. James Infirmery is my favorite tune, but I listen to everything this man has done. If you've got a chance, listen to some King Oliver and his Creole Jazz Band for a bit of Satchmo's roots.
Another of those angelic voices...Gloomy Sunday and Blue Moon stand out for me, but I listen to all of her stuff. For a great movie you should try and pick up New Orleans starring Louis Armstrong, Dorothy Patrick, and Billie Holiday. Great stuff!
What I like to listen to when I'm in a bad mood. I also enjoy forcing others to listen to the same stuff, so I roll down my windows and blast some Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap or Thunderstruck for the Japanese people walking down the street. Love me some AC/DC.
A good game with solid gameplay and a poorly written story...
I really love the soundtrack and all around atmosphere of this game. The music is so quirky and spot-on that I constantly find myself humming these songs in my head (eventhough they aren't memorable songs per se). The music alternates from electronic to bossanova to pop to harmonica to classical to metal so seamlessly it never gets old. In particular, there is a mountainous area you do a bit of adventuring in that rocks to a elevator-music type jazz beat. It's so bizarre but it just works perfectly.
The voices are done equally well, though I can see people having problems with a few of them. I'm sure there'll be plenty of you that complain about Vanille's voice and personality but I think it's great...we need more happy-go-luck girls oozing optimism and good vibes. Hey---they beat the introverted, pouty broads (I'm lookin' at you Polka!).
On the other hand, Hope is about as hopeless as it gets. He is such a typical Japanese character I cannot stand him. Afraid of everything and getting in everyone's way most of the time, then gaining confidence and wanting to take on the world...but you can always hear the doubt in his voice no matter what. Everyone but Hope oozes confidence. This kid oozes idiocy.
Luckily you don't need to use some characters once you get to the middle of the game. In case they do need to come off the shelf at some point, they still accumulate CP the same as everyone else so it doesn't matter if you use them or not. I've actually played with the same party for the last 20hrs or so. Lightning, Vanille, and Fang are my dream team and there is no reason to change.
One thing that still boggles my mind is the absolute absence of armor, and the utter lack of weapon variety. I've collected maybe 4 weapons for Fang after 55hrs and she's still using the 2nd one I found. I am used to shopping for weapons, trying to get rare drops, looking for treasure chests, etc...but FFXIII does not utilize the methods most RPGs do. Rather, the physical attack points that you get in the Crystarium make up your total attack basically (for example, Fang: physical attack=1217, weapon's phyiscal attack=34). It doesn't matter which weapon she uses, her attack won't change more than 10-20 points total. Some weapons do however possess attributes like automatic protect/shell when battle starts and stuff like that...but nothing to get excited about.
In that respect, FFXIII is a bit "off it's rocker" compared to other titles of the genre.
I am still a good week or so away from beating this thing because I have a lot of grinding to go before I can tackle some of these tougher missions. That gigantic Cactuar is a pain in the ass...not to mention beating an Adamantoise...
At this point I am glad I made this purchase, but also surprised by many things both good and bad. I guess I had my hopes up in a certain direction after the masterpiece that was FFXII...which is unfair to this game because it's a very different experience.