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Kevin-V Blog

Learning to Deal

I have often dreamt of never feeling.

An odd dream to be sure, but most of the pain in my life can be tied to caring about things that I ultimately can't change, wishing for things I can't have, and needing that which can never be fulfilled. The New Year approaches, and once again, it's time to make a resolution. My problem is that I have been offered two pieces of advice: "Do what makes Kevin happy" (from my friend Jeff, who usually has some good advice) and "learn to deal with things like the rest of us." I don't know that at the age of 32, either will be an option - and it seems fairly certain that I can't resolve to do both in the same year.

The kids finally went to their mom's yesterday, giving me and RIch the first night without three excitable boys in almost a week. I had a great time with them, but it was nice to look forward to an evening with him alone, especially when I am still recovering from the flu. When I got home, Rich was playing World of Warcraft, or as I call it, "Twidgeting around," since his gnome's name is Twidget. We had discussed earlier that when I got home, he would help me clean the house, since it was unbelievably messy from a holiday with three boys, but as I began to clean, he made no effort to move - and eventually, I finished things up. When I asked him why he didn't help, he asked what needed to be done (as if it wasn't immediately obvious), but by that point, I had pretty much finished up: the kitchen floor was mopped, the dining room was cleaned up, the clothes were put in the kids' room, the dishes were done, the garbage was bagged, the vacuum was run.

The lesson, as I discovered later, is that if I don't get what I want or need, I have to learn to deal, just like everybody else.

A little later, I asked him if we could spend some "quality" time together that night. He knew I had to work this morning, so I figured since my usual bedtime is around midnight, saying this around 7:30 should be plenty of notice, particularly since he had been playing WoW since about 4:30, several hours before I even got home from work. He never moved from the computer - and finally, at 11:30, I told him I was going to bed. He said, "I know this isn't what you want to hear, but I need to finish this quest. I'll be in shortly." I went to bed, and Rich eventually finished his quest and joined me - an hour later, at 12:30 AM.

Apparently, I didn't learn the lesson from the first time around.

By that point, I had fallen asleep, and while most people can wake right up after 30 minutes of slumber, the medicine I take makes it very difficult to do that. I was also very hurt; I was put off the entire evening for World of Warcraft. I had always assumed that with me, I was the one in danger of making someone a computer widower. Instead, the shoe is on the other foot, and even though Rich knew it would hurt me (hence, him telling me he knew it wasn't what I wanted to hear), he chose his quest over me.

I tried to keep my feelings to myself. I really did. Eventually, they came pouring out of me. All of my insecurities were tied up in being put in second place, and my emotions took hold. I spilled my heart: I felt overlooked and unwanted; I felt as though he put me off on purpose until I had already gone to bed; I was hurt. I guess I am adult enough to know that I will rarely hear what I want to hear, and still stupid and naive enough to hope and wish for comfort anyway, but I had conjured a hope. A simple one, but it was there. I hoped he would tell me he was sorry.

Instead, I ended up being the one to apologize. I apologized for being sensitive, I apologized for keeping him up late, I apologized for crying. I said I was sorry for the same reasons I always say it: because I meant it. I want to truly be a positive force in the lives of the people I touch; if I hurt them, it hurts me to the core. I tell them I am sorry because I am, because I never want to think that my actions or words have hurt them, and I want to make it better.

It seems Rich isn't like me, and in fact, when I finally told him I had hoped he would apologize, he said if he had to apologize for every time I felt bad, he would be apologizing all week long. Touche, Richard, Touche. I suppose I deserved that. I've been sick and consequently sensitive. I went to him because I had hoped he would want to be there to comfort me, but I should have learned by now that Rich is not a nurturer. Yet, the lessons thrown at me must pass over my head, because even now, I still keep hoping he will take me in his arms and tell me everything is ok. That he is there for me, that I am loved and wanted. I need to stop creating ideal scenarios, because it can't happen. These hopes in my head of being comforted when I need comfort - apparently, they are pipe dreams and the product of a self-centered mind that asks for too much and should expect rather little. Eventually, Rich tired of my tears, of my hurt, and after asking for him to hold me and having him do nothing - even after telling him I had hoped he would tell me he was sorry, and never hearing it - he told me that in life, you just don't always get what you want. "You just have to learn to deal with it, like the rest of us."

I suppose he is right. I shouldn't have cared. I shouldn't have been hurt. I did anyway. And yet, I don't know how to distance myself, how to stop feeling the hurt. Rich suggested last night that I need to see the therapist, since he apparently can't tell me what I want to hear - but what shall I do? Tell the psychiatrist I want her to hold me, or to care that she hurt my feelings? I suppose in his mind, I need to learn to deal with the fact that I just can't have what I need. In mine, I just want him to deliver on those needs, but as I learned last night, I will be hoping for a long time, so I suppose RIch is right: I just need to learn to deal.

This must be one of the initiations into middle age, this discovery that the one you love can never really emotionally deliver everything you need. I suppose that it is certain I will be resolving to simply act like an adult, to be strong and deal like evryone else, and to stop hurting if someone says there is no reason to hurt. I always thought my hopes were just the product of a genuinely romantic heart that wanted to share its love and passion, and feel that love in return, in all the ways I know of sharing it. Instead, it seems they are the products of a toddler's immature notions that I should get what I want. I have learned that next time, I shouldn't care, I shouldn't hurt, I shouldn't let the tears flow, and that most of all, I shouldn't hope for the comforting words and apology of a man that doesn't have those things to offer. I need to change who Kevin is - and I don't even know where to begin.

When Pre-Teens Attack

Mamma Mia - Here They Go Again

I am a little behind in my journal postings, but honestly, it has been a hectic week, although I suppose everyone's the better for it. I managed a $100 EBGames gift card, an ABBA 2-CD set (and if you don't like ABBA, you must be a puppy murderer), some new undies, a nice fleece, and a few other odds and ends. The kids made out like bandits: they all got portable DVD players, the computer, loads of video games (and man, they have POOR taste in games; how many ATV Offroad games do there need to be?), and much, much more. Oh - and should I mention the air hockey table that is now filling half of my living room? With three boys, patience isn't just a virtue: it's a requirement.

Rich was right about one thing: Christmas with kids is a completely different experience from the holidays I am used to. I don't mean their looks of joy and wide-eyed surprise, either. They ripped the paper off so fast, I think they broke the sound barrier. Actually, it's the mess that has me most vexed. It's hard enough keeping up under normal circumstances, but with a house filled with new toys, games, and other sh...tuff, it looks like Santa's Workshop after suffering a cyclone. Of course, since there are no cyclones in the Arctic, that may be a bad analogy, but you get the point: I am currently living in clutter. I. Hate. Clutter. To make matters worse, I have the flu, so I missed work yesterday and today, and I am trying to pick up the mess between trips to the bathroom.

Ryan's been the best, so far. He's the 12-year-old brain, so he's been spending almost all of his time playing Age of Mythology on the new pc. 9-year-old Dustyn and 13-year-old Gregory have been a little more trying: Dustyn because, well, he's 9, and Gregory, because he fancies himself a pimpin' hunk of streetball-playing, ghetto fabulous manhood. I shouldn't have gotten him that basketball, because he's playing in the apartment. The third floor apartment. I can't imagine the neighbors below are thrilled, so if they show up at the door, I will herd the children into the living room to apologize one by one.

Gregory Pimps His Fishes

As for me, well, at least I have the games I bought with the gift card to keep me occupied. I got one for each system, although one of them was for Dustyn, who accompanied me to EB. So, while he plays Smuggler's Run on the PS2, I can order my Pikmin around in peace on the GC, battle "onslaughts of vicious enemies" (I quote the game box) in Demon Stone on the Xbox, and delve into a deep conspiracy in Deus Ex: Invisible War on the pc. I have no idea why I bought Invisible War: the demo hardly impressed me, but for some reason, the price was right. I started with Pikmin, and I am glad I did, since it is charming and utterly unselfconscious.

Now, if I could just get Rich to be a better caretaker. His way of nursing me back to health is to play World of Warcraft, and ask me if I want some water every hour or two. When he is sick, he just wants to be left alone. Me, I want to be coddled and catered to. If any of you could bring me some Pepto Bismol, I would greatly appreciate it.

Fruit Cake

Don't you love it when I make fun of myself in a thinly-disguised yuletide reference?

In any case, I know I promised I would do an entry on my top console games of the year, but time is of the essence - and I have had little to spare. I am happy to report that we did get some snow in DC on Sunday night, and it just so happens that we were buying our Christmas tree that same night. I think the flakes and the accompanying chill took everyone by surprise; one moment, it was brisk but bearable, and the next, it was as if a universal air conditioner has been turned on. The wind chill factor made it even worse, and even yesterday, it felt like -9 degrees Fahrenheit in the metro area. Truth be told, I adore this weather, as I mentioned in my last journal entry. I don't necessarily care for driving in drifts of snow, particularly amongst DIstrict drivers, whose skills are questionable, at best. However, I'm still a kid at heart, and there's nothing better than making snow angels on an embankment - although this weekend's snow didn't stick, so I would be stuck making mud angels instead.

We have yet to decorate the tree, since we were waiting to see if the kids wanted to do it. Instead, they have happily given the task to me and Rich, so we will be decorating tonight, the strains of the Mantovani Orchestra filling the air with holiday gems. I also managed to get all of my Christmas shopping done. I won't share my gifts for Rich, since he might see the entry, so instead, I will impart how well the kids did, at least, from my own wallet, if not from Rich's.

  • All four kids (including Rich, the adult child :) ) received a computer for Christmas, which I sorta kinda half-built. I didn't have a lot of dough to spare, but I managed an Athlon XP 2800+, Radeon 9500 Pro, and other odds and ends, which should do just fine for what they need it for. In particular, Rich can play WoW to his heart's content.
  • The children will share a Nintendo DS and a copy of Super Mario 64 DS. Of course, the rule is that the handheld must stay in the house - so I can protect it, obviously!
  • I got Dustyn (9 years old) a skateboard. Sale at Champs! W00t!
  • I got Gregory (13 years old) a basketball and a Juan Dixon jersey. More Champs sale items! W00t X2!
  • I got Ryan (12 years old) a copy of Jak III. I am sure he will be getting the most use out of the computer and DS anyway; he is the brainiest of the three, and most likely to appreciate the big gifts.

I won't get to see my mom this holiday, which disappoints me, but I plan on driving to Pennsylvania after the new year to see her, as well as my grandparents. As for my "dad," well, I haven't heard from him and his family since the summertime, and since I have never actually met the man in person, I suppose it's no great loss. Still, I was hoping to get a chance to meet him for the first time this season, but as usual, he and his current wife Valerie seem to have lost interest, and I am tired of being the one to constantly initiate contact. If he has interest in meeting his first son, it's his turn. I think not knowing where he was and never having contact for most of my life was better than getting in contact and being ignored.

So tell me of your plans. Turkey? Ham? Candles on the Menorah? Pagan chants? I am all ears. That's not to say I have big ears, of course - but you know what they say about those guys. They wear big earmuffs!

Troll The Ancient Yuletide Carol

Don We Now Our Gay Apparel

I had planned to dedicate today's entry to my top console games of the year, but in all honesty, I just don't feel like it. Truth be told, I don't feel like much of anything today, aside from lounging on the sofa and roasting chestnuts on an open fire. Of course, since I don't have a fireplace, I may end up roasting them over a heating vent, so it may take a while.

Don't get me wrong: I love the holiday season, but because we still haven't gotten any snow in the DC area, it just doesn't feel right. I grew up in Warren, Pennsylvania, where the squalls from Lake Erie would blanket the Allegheny National Forest with drifts of gleaming snow. I remember waking up as a child and looking out my bedroom window to see our yard covered with white, icy shimmers, as if there were diamonds embedded in it. Our huge yard was perfect for sledding, too, so I used to create ramps for my circular sled, launching me into the sky and causing a few nosebleeds when I landed with a thud. Without the flakes falling from the heavens, Christmas doesn't feel as magical, at a time of year when I am usually filled with the proverbial glad tidings of great joy.

I also got a substantial holiday bonus, so I am heading out tonight to get some computer parts so I can put together a decent system for Rich, thereby allowing us to play World of Warcraft together - and letting me play other games when he is playing on the pc. Normally, I would want to build everything from scratch, but I plan on picking up a barebones system and sticking in the hardware separately. Once again, for some reason I just don't have that winter energy I usually get. I also wanted to get the kids a DS for Christmas, but the area is sold out, so I will have to wait. To tell you the truth, I will be more likely to buy a PSP after watching yesterday's On The Spot; not only is Rich Gallup adorable, but this is the first time I have ever been genuinely excited about a handheld.

I should be careful about where I shop for computer hardware.

I also happened to pick up Burnout 3 last night, so I can play with a group of friends. Honestly, I am not very good at driving games, but I couldn't resist, and I actually had a lot of fun with it. I can see myself getting quite addicted, so I will have to be careful. It took me a while to get used to it, but soon enough, I was earning silver and gold medals, winning races, and unlocking courses. Is it me, though, or is the radio announcer kinda annoying? He sounds a little too overhyped and acne-prone. I feel bad, though, that I have been so stretched this month, gaming-wise. I have a lot of things I want to play for fun, and work keeps getting in the way. I also have writing droughts, even when I am enjoying the game I have to review. I rather enjoyed Battle for Middle Earth, but writing my evaluation felt like a chore. Once again, it's part of that general lack of energy plaguing me this week. I have an upcoming interview with Funcom regarding Dreamfall, and since the game is the follow-up to one of my favorite games of all time, you'd think I would be excited; instead, I just feel like sleeping! All the things I had to play (and I wish Armies of Exigo had simply not been published) just stood between me and World of Warcraft, Halo 2, and Half-Life 2 deathmatch.

My coworker Greg just brought me my Popeye's chicken, so it's time to eat. It's a good thing it isn't turkey; I don't think my weary body needs any L-Tryptophan.

A 2004 Retrospective, Volume 1: The PC

Well, the year has come and almost gone, and I have already begun to formulate my personal "best of" lists, although I am embarrassed to say that in the realms of music and film, I am far behind. Instead, I want to touch on the moments in pop culture that were most meaningful to me this year. Of course, all things being equal, I will be talking about games more than anything else - and face it: we all love best-of lists! Feel free to shoot me down or back me up, but whatever you do, don't pay attention to the man behind the curtain.

The PC

First and foremost, I am a pc gamer, although I love games across all platforms. As a lover of strategy, western role-playing, and FPS's in particular, the pc must remain my first true love, although I have passionate affairs with all three consoles and my GBA too. Still, it seems apropo that I would ruminate on pc gaming first. I was as disappointed as anyone else with last year's crop of games, although I certainly didn't go off the deep end. 2003 brought a wonderful bevy of wonderful titles, including Homeworld 2, Halo pc, Freelancer, Ghost Master, Max Payne 2, and my personal favorite, Impossible Creatures. Still, there were a lot of niche titles that had a hard time finding an audience, and 2004 went out of its way to be the polar opposite. Quite a few highly-anticipated games came out this year, and most of them ended up being solid, even spectacular.

If nothing else, 2004 was the year of the first-person shooter, and March in particular brought an embarrassment of pleasures with Far Cry and Unreal Tournament 2004. I have easily spent 100 hours on UT2K4, and expect I will spend dozens more. It is extraordinarily fun, elegantly designed, and features the best maps ever produced for an online shooter. It improved upon UT2K3 in almost every imaginable way by adjusting the pacing, keeping the play visceral but making it more tactical, and veering away from the Quake 3-type feel I was worried the series was headed. Far Cry, on the other hand, managed to break open the normally linear maps of single-player FPS's and gave the player entire islands to explore, without ever letting him lose sight of the objective at hand. It was also long; Crytek (and their comrades at id and Valve) not only made a beautiful game, but infused it with urgency and substance. PC gamers, usually so vocal about short games that were all about graphics, finally met their match in a game that was as challenging and fascintaing as it was gorgeous to look at.

Of course, who could forget Doom 3 and Half-Life 2? To some, Doom 3 was a disappointment; to others, a revelation. I felt Doom 3 was excellent, in spite of its relative lack of originality, although there was no doubt in my mind as I played that Far Cry is a superior shooter. After its release, However, Doom 3 fell off the map in favor of Half-Life 2 anticipation, particularly when the mod community failed to really latch onto id's beautiful but sluggish engine. So far this year, it is the UT2K4 engine that mod makers have had the most fun with, although not enough time has passed for us to see exactly what modders will do with Source. Half-Life 2? Brilliant. I said it before, and I will not hesitate to say again that Half-Life 2 is easily the best shooter of this year, and possibly any year. The milieu of Orwellian paranoia, the fantastic combination of scripted encounters and thrilling action, and meaningful physics made Half-Life 2 the most unforgettable shooter of the year - in a year filled with terrific shooters.

On the strategy side of the coin, there were quite a few highlights, although I am afraid to say that while I played most of the year's hot titles, I have yet to play Sid Meier's Pirates. I will note, however, that in the RTS realm, Ground Control 2 and Warhammer 40,000: Dawn of War surprised and thrilled me, not only because they looked fantastic, but because they unabashedly focused on combat, allowing armchair commanders to worry more about battle tactics and less about resources. In both cases, multiplayer ended up being more about rush tactics than I would have liked, but both single-player games were solid. Relic has yet to disappoint me; Homeworld and its sequel, Impossible Creatures, and now Dawn of War: no developer has managed to take the RTS genre and give it so much personality and drive.

Of course, I really should put a plug in for two other fantastic titles: The Sims 2 and Rollercoaster Tycoon 3. I love The Sims 2, but I still can't shake the feeling that it was designed specifically to be expanded, and that bothered me as I played; I still don't know that anyone that still enjoys The Sims and owns every expansion needs to buy The Sims 2. For me, it was a great reason to jump back into the series, and I was thrilled that I did. On the other hand, I am totally enamored by Rollercoaster Tycoon 3, and if there is one title this year with which I bucked the critical trend, it was this one. A few weird bugs aside, no follow-up this year did so much to expand an existing franchise, making RCT3 the Godfather 2 of management sim sequels.

We also saw two online RPG's duke it out for superiority, and after a bloody battle, Azeroth defeated Norrath in a flurry of fantastic quests, polished combat, and colorful environments. I really like Everquest 2, but with all of its gorgeous vistas and detailed avatars, it doesn't feel all that fresh; World of Warcraft is the first online RPG since Anarchy Online to make me feel as though I really could play this game for years. Too bad the Alien Invasion expansion turned out to be so focused on high-level content. Of course, we cannot forget the other MMO's of the year: the fresh and exciting City of Heroes - and the not-so-exciting Lineage 2, currently most well-known for the worst use of the Unreal 2 engine yet witnessed. Did I mention Horizons? Good. I wouldn't have wanted to, anyway (and Dragon Empires - we hardly new ye!)

Honorable mentions go out to Myst IV: Revelation, which was truly a beautiful return to the mind-bending puzzles of yore; Battle for Middle Earth, easily the best film-based RTS created; Painkiller, a throwback FPS of surprising quality; and Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault, a bombardment of the senses and an overlooked shooter in a standout year.

So when it was all said and done, my top 5 pc games of the year:

  • World of Warcraft
  • Rollercoaster Tycoon 3
  • Unreal Tournament 2004
  • Far Cry
  • Half-Life 2
  • In 2003, strategy games dominated my selections. In 2004, it is the FPS. I can't wait to see what 2005 will bring!

I Was Born In The Wagon Of A Travelin' Show

It was with great pleasure that I purchased Rich's first Christmas present this week, and tonight, that gift comes to fruition. At 8:30, we will join an exuberant, energetic crowd at MCI Center in Washington, DC waiting to see their goddess take the stage. I don't worship this goddess myself, but I am confident Rich has a secret shrine hidden somewhere in the apartment. This goddess has long, dark hair, high cheekbones, does a funny thing with her tongue, and once co-starred in a television show with her somewhat homely husband. She is simply named Cher.

And to make matters worse, who should be opening for her but - The Village People! I mean, could the concert be any gayer than that? All we need is an appearance by Bette Midler to make the evening complete. I am not a big Cher fan, although I do enjoy a few of her tunes; as for the Village People, well, I kinda like the campy fun that comes along with miming "YMCA," and tonight I will join thousands as we do it together. I just have to remember which direction to put my arms for the "C."

On the gaming side of life, my Prince of Persia: Warrior WIthin review went up yesterday. I put a lot of thought into that review, and it brought into perspective how I feel about certain aspects of the game reviewing process. I did a lot of thinking regarding the score I assigned, because it struck me that a lot of the basic tenets that made Sands of Time so enjoyable were still there in WW: cool platforming and acrobatics, great level design, and fun puzzle-solving. Had Warrior Within been released last year in the stead of Sands of Time, my feelings may have been different, and that fact was very much on my mind while I wrote my evaluation. The problem is that games don't exist in a vacuum, and neither do my opinions. At first I worried that my thoughts were too heavily influenced by how much I enjoyed SoT, and that I needed to be sure to judge the game on its own merits. Because of that, I tried at first to refrain from making too many comparisons between the two titles, until I realized that that wasn't the right thing to do. Not only should game reviewers evaluate a game based on the current and former state of its genre, expectations on its platform, and other meaningful comparisons, but sequels should be rightfully compared to their predecessors. I liked Warrior Within, but it is a pale shadow of the brilliant Sands of Time. Ubi themselves raised the standards with the first incarnation, and it is by that standard that I judged WW - and rightfully so, in my opinion.

Aside from Cher, I will also be spending some time with Armies of Exigo and Battle for Middle Earth. BfME has really grown on me, although Armies of Exigo has some bugs that are starting to really annoy me, particularly in the sound department. After that, a Dreamfall preview, and the year is over. And none to soon.

So what are your holiday plans? Will you roast chestnuts over a burning yule log? Will you light candles on the menorah? Will you simply hide yourself in a closet until the bustle has ended? Do tell. Just remember that it is not socially acceptable to take a Nintendo DS from someone else's shopping cart and put it in your own when they aren't looking.

Is That You Talking, Or Is It The Parrot?

It started Friday night, when my eye got all bloodshot, and eventually started to feel as if someone had sliced a knife right through it. I went to Urgent Care and was diagnosed with a corneal abrasion, and was to make an appointment if it wasn't better the next day. Well, Monday it felt a little better, but by last night, the entire area around my right eye had become tender, and soon I had broken out in blisters all around my eyelid.

Those blisters around my eye? I have dealt with them since childhood, and countless trips to the doctor for this viral infection have resulted in a lot of useless copayments but no relief, since ocular herpes simplex has no cure. Don't go freaking out on me, or clog my journal with pointless "he has herpes! " comments. Well, OK, just one per person, thanks. In any case, it seems as though the underside of my right eyelid became infected, scratching my eye and causing a corneal ulcer. Like I said, I have dealt with this recurrent infection since I was about five years old, so I am used to it popping out at the worst times. However, I have to be sure it doesn't infect my cornea, because I could potentially lose my eyesight if that happens. This time, I was in a lot of pain, and finally the opthalmologist gave me some relief today. I have to use the antibiotic drop (Zymar) once every 30 minutes during waking hours, and the antiviral drop (Viroptic) every 2 hours.

He also told me of some new research that indicated that sufferers of ocular HSV benefit from long-term treatment with Zovirax. I have taken Zovirax before for this problem, but it makes me very sick to my stomach, so I was reluctant to fill that prescription. Provided everything goes according to plan, I may take that anti-viral for the rest of my life. The upside is that I may become infection-free as a result. We shall see! Er, that was not an intentional pun.

As it is, I am fortunate to not have to wear an eyepatch. When I was in college, I had an outbreak of HSV and conjunctivitis at the same time (can you tell that my eyes have been problematic?), and the campus opthalmologist stuck a patch on my eye to keep it from being irritated while healing. Now, my music history class was held in a small concert hall inside the main conservatory building, and professor Sylvan Suskin conducted it from the stage. I walked into class with the patch over my eye and slinked my way towards an empty seat, which was at the front of the hall. Suskin, bless his frizzy hair and thick German accent, looked down, saw me, and loudly uttered "Oh my Gott!" Let's just say that I have resisted eye patches since then.

In the meanwhile, I am doing my best to stay on top of my reviews in a busy season. I am very proud of my World of Warcraft review, and I felt the text - and the score - point out all the wonderful, unique qualities of Blizzard's new classic, while not ignoring its lack of originality and other small but important features. My review of Prince of Persia: The Warrior WIthin will be up next, followed by The Battle For Middle Earth. I don't want to spoil my review of Warrior Within, but I will say that I was disappointed, particularly since I adored Sands of Time so much. On paper, WW sounds like an improvement in every way, with its higher level of difficulty and spicier combat. In practice, it pales in comparison to its predecessor; the puzzles and acrobatics are still cool, but the glowing charm and soft-hued ambience of SoT has been replaced by a darker milieu that I just don't buy, and I consequently just didn't care about the story or its characters. It's almost as if someone at Ubi decided that the series had to be more like Bloodrayne, and the result, while good, is missing the magic. Hopefully, Prophetjs won't yell at me too loudly.

I have only played BfME for a few hours, and first impressions can be wrong. However, it certainly looks beautiful, and its production values are quite impressive. On the other hand, I am none to impressed by the dumbing down of the resource gathering. Let's see how things go, and if everything else fails, I will call Sean Astin to carry me away. But would Sean shed any tears for me? Somehow, I don't think so, because I don't have that odd, gremlin-esque smile of Elijah Wood. Don't cry for me, Samwise Gamgee.

What Do You MEAN, USPS Does Not Deliver To The North Pole?

Dear Santa Claus,

I have a pretty lengthy wish list this year, but I think I have been a very good boy. I have only spent money on 5 different MMORPG's this year, so that's a plus, right off the bat! I also got promoted at Inside Gamer Online, so I am now an Associate Editor. Pretty cool, don't you think? Apparently my articles are paying off, and I am proud that I am helped get some attention for our small site. I also repaired my credit well enough to get a new car, have managed to become a successful stepfather to three boys, and through it all, I retained my silky smooth complexion! Surely, these things count for something - or at very least, ensure I won't have coal in my stocking this year.

So here is my corresponding list, Santa. I have heard from some nasty naysayers that you don't actually exist. Well, I have proof that you do, because if you don't, then all those dudes ringing bells outside of non-Target department stores wouldn't bother dressing up in red suits, now, would they?

Firstly, I would like you to bring me a portable internet urinal. This handy product is perfect for those long nights of World of Warcraft marathon gaming. I think Blizzard established a system in which we can explore with just our mice, or just with our keyboards, for a very good reason: namely, so we can continue to play without leaving the safety of our computer chairs. I can pee using one hand, while still slaying Orcs with the other. I won't need the handy female attachment, however, unless you can think of alternate uses for that particular device.

Next on my list, I must insist you bring me one of the new PS2's in your sack. You see, Santa, I already have three PS2's, and I cannot convince Rich to buy me another one, so it is all up to you. Don't worry - I can hide it easily, since its slim profile means I can put it between two slices of French Bread and tell Rich it's a salami and olive sandwich. Since he hates salami and olives, he won't get near enough to discover its actual identity.

Furthermore, plane tickets from California to Washington, DC are in order. You see, my friend Carolyn and I are tired of using such communication mechanisms as Xbox Live, AIM, and smoke signal. Instead, I am counting on you to deliver said tickets either to me, so I can visit the sunny shores of - uh - Van Nuys; or to her, so that she can fly to Reagan National Airport, which always makes me wonder what the late Ronald Reagan accomplished in the field of aviation to deserve such an honor. If I go there, however, it is under the condition that I may sing the theme song to the O.C. without the other passengers so much as blinking an eye.

Lastly, Santa, I want a Beer Belt. I don't even drink beer very often, but this growing belly of mine needs explanation. Not only will wearing this belt, complete with Pabst Blue Ribbon, make it look like there is a reason, but I can fulfill my secret dreams of being like Richard Karn. Of course, if I ever fully recover from that whole 99 Bananas Incident enough to actually drink alcohol again, I may be tempted to fill an empty beer can with rum and Coke.

Mr. Kringle, there are other things I would like to have too, like new socks, and a star named after me (can you believe that? Naming a whole star after me? I mean, and so inexpensive too! I wonder if I can get one in Ursa Major? But I digress.) But the above items will do just fine. Those, and a pony.

With Sincere Regards,

Kevin "fiddlecub" VanOrd

p.s. - Do you mind bringing a pooper scooper? It took me days to clean off my roof last year. Thanks.

Unfinished Symphony

Violin by Joseph Heberlein, 1921

I took that digital photo of my violin about 5 minutes ago, and looking at it, it seems to represent my current point in life. The nickname "fiddlecub" has long been a part of my identity, but many of you have probably noticed that the "fiddle" part of that doesn't get much reference, and I suppose it's for reasons both complicated, yet ultimately simple: I haven't played in a very, very long time. About three years.

Thanksgiving is a time of gratitude for many, and I am no exception, as I have many things for which to be thankful. Rich, for his unwavering love; my mother, for her constant support and neverending generosity; carolynmichelle, for showing me that love comes from all directions; my best friend Jeff, for caring in the worst and best of times; and for many, many more individuals that I couldn't possibly name. However, for me, it is also a period of reflection on a life that didn't become quite what I expected, and a time of conflicted hopes and regrets, knowing I can never be who I wanted to be, and yet stubbornly hanging onto my unlikely dreams, which are tenuously bonded by unflinching idealism - and then torn asunder by the dark reality that those dreams will likely remain part of a mythology, and nothing more.

Music is still an enormous part of my life, and I recently got to share some of my favorite works with someone very dear to me. As a conservatory student and young musician, I hung out with like-minded people that could share in my joy for classical music; nowadays, I have no musician friends with whom I can share these things, so making a CD of my favorite music for a friend was such a rush, that I actually recorded 40 minutes worth of commentary on a second disc. The recording included music from Aaron Copland, Franz Schubert, Samuel Barber, Howard Hansen, Beethoven, and more; just choosing which music to include was a chore, but I am confident that the final result was a compilation that best describes who I am, and which music moves me most.

Still, a mental illness I could not control cut my career as a violinist and composer short, and while I am usually grateful that I got to share my talents as long as I did, that incomplete era of my life remains unfulfilled. It is not uncommon for me to have vivid dreams of the Oberlin campus, in which I have returned to get my Master's, but cannot find my way to class, or no one knows who I am, or I have suddenly become a flute major and don't know how to play the flute. That latter one is a common musician's dream: you find yourself on stage, only to find an unfamiliar instrument in your hands, and have no idea how to play. I also occasionally mimic the motions of playing the violin in my sleep; Bill used to calmly lower my hands next to me while I slept if this happened, and I would normally continue to sleep, undoubtedly dreaming of a career I almost had.

So now the holidays are here, and are as bittersweet as always. I love the atmosphere, the snowflakes falling, the icy tree limbs and rosy cheeks, and of course, all the cheery, warm Christmas music that fills the air. In my high school years, the winter brought music festivals, church gigs, strolling choirs and merry fellowship; in college, it brought open-ended winter term projects, intense relationships, and self-discovery. When the depression hit, the holidays meant something else: hospitalization. For two years in a row, I was confined to a psychiatric hospital over the Christmas holiday and New Year, so while I still love the soft dandruff of snow on my shoulders, and the shrieking of excited children, it is always tempered by a dull sense of dread that I can't always shake, almost 12 years later.

So that violin above, with its snapped D-string and light coating of dust - that's me. For years, I insisted I was young, and that I could still have a chance to resume my interrupted career; after all, I had been extremely good, amongst the best, and I had dozens of possibilities awaiting me as an orchestral violinist, or perhaps even a film or television composer. As time wears on, I realize that almost a decade has passed since I drove away from Oberlin for the last time, and at the age of 32, I can no longer say that I have the time, that I am still young, that there is still a chance. I am at a crossroads, both personally and professionally, and not only do I not know to where I am to journey, I am not always sure I know where I have been.

At this moment, Schubert's 8th Symphony (Unfinished) is playing on my stereo. It is an intense and beautiful piece, and yet scholars don't know why Schubert never bothered to complete it. Including that one, Schubert wrote nine symphonies, all of which are stupendous to some degree, but none more introspective than the one he put aside. Some experts believe the first two movements were too good, and that Schubert chose to set it aside because it was impossible to write music more beautiful than that which was already set to paper. I think that the 8th was Schubert's greatest expression of pure emotion, and that composing the symphony transported him to places too deep and too painful for him to sustain the composition.

So, too, is my life a work in progress, but its first half represents Schubert's two initial movements. The question now remains: will I set it all aside and start a new symphony, or will I delve deeper into what I have already experienced, with the hope I can make the kind of difference now that I was able to make then?


It has happened, and a lot sooner than I expected. You see, Rich enjoys games, but he has never strayed from consoles. He has a particular fondness for hack-n-slash action RPG's, so we have spent considerable time together playing Dark Alliance 2 and X-Men Legends, although he enjoys other titles as well. For example, he loves Hot Shots Golf Fore!, and I love hearing him play it, because the caddies have some laugh-inducing one-liners. Sadly, he has never forayed into the deep, dark realm of pc games, simply because he prefers the warmth and comfort of that controller in his hand.

Until now.

Rich has watched me play pc games with varying degrees of interest; he patted himself on the back for solving some puzzles in Half-Life 2, watched me build coasters in RCT3, and wrinkled his brow at Leisure Suit Larry. He also wonders how I can like certain games (such as Katamari Damacy, which he considers to be stupid beyond belief; trying to explain it is like trying to explain a punch line without telling a joke. Either you get it, or you don't). Well, he is no stranger to MMORPG's, since he has watched me play Anarchy Online and Everquest 2. However, I have been playing World of Warcraft a LOT since it's release with the hopes that I can post a timely, accurate review. Friday night, Rich watched over my shoulder with a great deal of interest, and on Saturday morning I left the character selection screen up while I went to go shower. Rich then took the opportunity to create a Gnome Warlock on the Ner'Zhul PVP server and started to play.

Friends, neighbors, and enemies: need I tell you what happened next? Let me just say that I will be buying him a new computer for Christmas. He will not stop playing. He is addicted. I am convinced that he may never need to play another game as long as he lives. In fact, I was planning on giving a friend my second collector's edition CD key, but instead, I will be giving it to Rich once I buy the second computer, so not only will he be able to play, but we will be able to play together.

In the meanwhile, I find myself on the opposite side of the usual coin. I am used to hearing him complain of how much time I spend gaming, and now, when we need to go out shopping, he can't pull himself away. So please, dear friends, I beg of you: create a character on Ner'Zhul (Pacific server) and send a message to Twidget, telling him to give his partner some loving. If you do, I will send you twinkies and Mountain Dew, and if you are really good, I may even give you that CD key - so that you and your significant other can duke it out.