Monday, December 31, 2012

Things of Interest: TGWTG

I have been pissing and moaning about a lot of stuff lately, and I suppose it's time to offset that with something positive. With that in mind, I love That Guy With The Glasses. The site, not the guy himself (although Doug Walker is a pretty cool guy). I don't know why, but there's just something about the format of a Video Review Show that I enjoy. Maybe it is the same part of my brain that enjoys wading through TV Tropes pages, the part that loves analysing fiction and finds great value in well crafted stories. Maybe it's the way these people can take a bad movie, a bad videogame, a bad comic, and create quality entertainment based on these things. In short, I am a sucker for internet reviews.

But you are surely educated people, dear readers, and I don't have to tell you about a site that has already been around for over four years. Instead, I would like to just gush about two of my favorite reviewers on the site. Most of the shows I watch regularly are the big ones, the ones that basically everyone watches. The recently concluded Nostalgia Critic, Atop The Fourth Wall, site affiliates Angry Video Game Nerd and The Spoony Experiment. But there are others, as well.

The first man I want to talk about is Kyle "Oancitizen" Kallgren, the host of Brows Held High. What I like about this show is that Oan focuses on arthouse movies, a subject very few people dare to tackle, and manages to do so without sounding too much like a snob. Well, except when it's intentional for the sake of a joke. The reviews are informative and funny, drawing heavily from the concept of a high-brow critic watching medium-brow movies. Kyle is also a great singer, probably the best on the entire site, and a magnificent actor - of particular note is his chilling performance in the special hour-long review of Melancholia. I highly reccomend his work. Kyle Kallgren doesn't have his personal website yet, but you can check his work out his section over at TGWTG.com.

Next up is probably my favorite person on the entire Internet, Nash Bozard, host of the Live365.com-based Radio Dead Air and creator of several TGWTG shows: What The Fuck Is Wrong With You?, a look at the stupidest and most insane stories taken from real newspapers; Musical Chair, favorable reviews of Nash's favorite lesser-known musicians; Classic Doctor Who Reviews, a recently concluded review series and its successor, Here There Be Dragons. I think the main reason why I like thiss guy is his frank, no-bullshit approach to comedy. His on-screen persona is that of a bold man, not afraid to tell anybody what he thinks (unless there is a threat of bodily harm involved). He pulls no punches and doesn't shy away from poking fun at anybody, including himself. I must admit that when I first saw his TGWTG introductory episode of WTFIWWY?, I just had to go back and watch all 17 previous episodes, too, (twice) and his Doctor Who reviews are at least partly to be blamed for me getting interested in the series proper. If you are interested in Nash's work, you can find his shows on his section at the TGWTG website and information about Radio Dead Air (including the Monday night live show that is home to the Live version of WTFIWWY?) on his personal website. Go check them out, you won't be disappointed.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Nothing is my middle name

I come from a culture where middle names don't really exist. All you have here is a first name (which also cannot be anything, like in the more idiotic parts of the world - but that's a topic for another time) and a last name and you better like it, buddy boy. And here's the kicker: it works. Sure, our laws permit having more than one first name, but almost nobody does that, and I think the only person I've ever met in real life that had more than one was from Saudi Arabia. Great guy, by the way. So as you can imagine, I don't understand this whole culture built around middle names, why, I'd even go as far as to say that they're stupid and useless. I am, however, a progressive little kangaroo, so I set out to do a little research (read: a five second Google search) on the matter before dismissing it completely.

Middle names, as this page tells me, have first seen major use in the 18th century by aristocratic families before spreading out among the plebian crowds, until the end of the 19th century, when nearly every baby was given one. Well, at least in the USA. So, in other words, middle names are the product of the upper class's attempts to be different from the middle and lower class and their attempts to be equal to the upper class. Lovely.

When I asked Jacob about the "why" of middle names, he said pretty much what this Wikianswers page says: Middle names are means to "honor" your ancestors or other important people. I suppose I see the point of that, but really, if you want to give your son your dead grandfather's name, just give it to him as a first name.

However, most of the reasons to give your baby a middle name that I found come from this article over at FamilyEducation.com. The article itself lists five reasons, though it's more like two reasons, one of which is really stupid, for the reasons I shall outline below.

1. It's commonly accepted. Right off the bat, we have the stupid argument of "you should do it because everybody else does it" that permeates the whole list. Isn't this something the stereotypical TV mother warns against? "If everybody else jumped off a bridge, would you do it, too?" And don't give me shit about how "everybody else is wearing clothes, does that mean that I should go outside naked?" If people do it because they have a good reason, you should do it because of the "good reason" part, not the "people do it" part.

2. It fits on most legal forms. Now bear with me, because I'm going to lay some pretty heavy logic on you. It fits on most legal forms because everybody has one because everybody does it. See? This is just like reason 1, except rephrased and more stupid. "omg theres a spac 4 it on dis form, i must hav 1"

3. It prevents your child from receiving the middle name Nmi. The article explains how computer programs in the past were coded to recognize exactly three names, and if you didn't have a middle name, it would file you with NMI (short for "no middle initial") instead. So, not only is this pandering to bad programming practices, which by the way are practically nonexistent nowadays, but it's also just a rephrased reason 2, which itself is a rephrased reason 1. Jeez, it's like Stupidception in here. "We have to go dumber."

4. It gives your child more flexibility when it comes to deciding the name he or she wants to be called by. This is the only reason on the list that isn't just "you should do it because you should do it", and while it does have some logic to it, it still feels pretty lackluster. For one, it can be applied circularly, as in "why should your child choose from two names when it can choose from three" and so on, and for another, it feels like something that arose from the common-having-of-middle-names thin in the first place. As I said before, I come from a culture where people don't usually have that choice and I have never encountered anybody having a problem with it. You just get used to it, I guess. Plus there is such a thing as a "nickname".

5. Not giving your child a middle name can set him or her apart from the rest of the kids, just like an unusual or an uncommon name can. Little kids are shits and will make fun of each other for absolutely anything, so if you don't have a middle name, you will be ridiculed for it. Does that mean that if you do have one, you will be spared? Hell no! They will tear into you no matter what it is, and if they can't find anything wrong with it, they'll latch onto something else. You can't escape it. Also, the smarter of you have probably already noticed that this is another one of those "everybody else does it" reasons. If you can't see why, I'm not going to explain it to you. Use your head.

So yeah. My first hypothesis of "middle names are dumb" has not been disproved so far, and I doubt it ever will be. But don't let that stop you from permeating their use, I guess. After all, we have to be tolerant of the stupid people, too.

Don't know why, though...

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

I am a sentimental sissy

We have recently started a new Tekkit map. For those of you who don't know it, Tekkit is a popular mod, or rather a compilation of mods, for Minecraft that includes advanced machines useful for automation and very powerful alchemy stuff. We have always mainly used the alchemy part in the past, so this time Jacob decided we'd try working with the machines instead.

The beginning was pretty standard. We punched a few trees, wandered away from spawn and found a place to start mining. We set up a camp in a cave on a small island near a larger continent, which we later upgraded into a house on the island's surface. We mined some materials, created a portal to the Nether, crafted a Philosopher's Stone and a few basic alchemy machines, just to make getting materials for the IndustrialCraft machines less of a hassle.

This is when Jacob started branching out to the Industrial District, as I have named it, first placing a few Coal Coke Ovens there, but later adding a Blast Furnace and an automated Quarry. I have meanwhile started experimenting with the Automatic Crafting Tables, ultimately designing an assembly line for Low Voltage Solar Arrays (a nasty piece of work, that requires about eleventy zillion other crafted items just so you can get the components for one array).

It was at this point when we split the work between us. After installing a protective forcefield in the house, Jacob has taken over the Industrial District, eventually renaming it to Industrial Wasteland, as he slowly constructed giant concrete buildings to house our machines, and I have stayed at the headquarters to supervise the production of building materials. The two outposts were connected by a long railroad track, so at first we drove a minecart whenever any of us needed something from the other place, but then I figured out it would be much easier to just send a chest cart back and forth. Using Skype to communicate also helped. As Jacob noted, it was almost like doing actual work, but I thought it was fun.

But eventually, the headquarters became obsolete. Most of the hard work was being done at the Wasteland, and the parts that weren't were easily movable, so after Jake finished the housing for the machines, he came back to the headquarters and we started to gather the materials to at least upgrade our machines while we were moving them. That part was very hectic, particularly obtaining 10 diamonds, even with the help of our alchemical equipment. But eventually, that was done and we started packing up everything from the headquarters to move it to the Wasteland.

I think it was me who first noted that it felt like leaving home to go live in a different city. And even though it didn't have any right to, it did feel like that. We took the pipes and cables from the basement, we took the beds from the master bedroom, we took the torches and the chests and everything that was in them. In other words, we took everything we would need so that we wouldn't have to come back for it later. We turned the forcefield off for the last time, not just the projector, but also the core. We were ready to leave for good. We exited the house, got into our minecarts, said one last good-bye and embarked towards the Wasteland. And then a skeleton ruined the moment when it shot me on the way there.

Jacob later commented, or rather complained, that it was a genuinely sad moment, and I can't help but agree, although I'd say it was the good kind of sad. And I'm not exactly sure why. Maybe it has something to do with what a TV Tropes page that I can't currently find says, which is that "the worst thing a piece of fiction can do is to make the viewer feel nothing", and it was the feeling of feeling that made this "work" for me. Maybe it was the fact that the sadness signified a major step forward. Or maybe I'm just a sentimental sissy. All I know is that I'm glad I've gone through this. It just goes to show that even games like this are capable of producing beautiful moments.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Disgrace to Sherlock

I liked the CSI series when it first came out. It was innovative in its incorporation of the latest technologies in crime-fighting and in the way it told the story of the Crime of the Week (TM). I distinctly remember a scene from an early episode where two characters... well, investigate the crime scene, and as they piece together what happened, ghosts of those events happen around them. For instance, they mention a car going out of control and a ghost car drives through the scene.

In other words, it was a gimmicky mess of a show.

Long before I stopped watching TV, I started getting bored with all these "police procedural" shows, not jusst CSI, but Law & Order, NCIS and I don't know what else. They just all looked the same to me, not just shows, but different episodes of the same show started blending together. They were all going by the same plot: they find a body, uncover some forensic clues, talk to some people, there's a twist, more clues, more people, until they arrest the guilty guy. I kow that I'm not being exactly fair here, after all that's how all detective stories work. I'm just trying to illustrate here how boring these shows were to me. Somewhat paradoxically, too, since I'm a casual fan of detective stories.

I only discovered what exactly my problem was much later, when I was doing a little research on Agatha Christie's stories (for totally unrelated reasons, I swear) and noticed the main difference between old-school whodunnit novels and modern crime shows. The novels place much greater importance onto the story, the relationships and fates of all the people influenced by the crime. For the most of the story, the detective's investigation only serves as a framing device to tie these stories together, uncover past plot details and occasionally push the story forward himself. It is only in the final summation that his work becomes important, when he uses everything he has learned to reveal the final twist and resolve the conflict that has started the story in the first place - the culprit's identity.

My problem with the "police procedural" shows lies within this term - that is, they focus less on the story and more on the procedures the protagonists use in order to find the truth. They do usually have some small semblance of a story with at least one twist per episode - maybe the victim was sleeping with his friend's wife or borrowed somebody a large sum of money - but those are all minor tired clich├ęs pushed into background to make space for all those shots of pretty people in labcoats looking into microscopes. The main question becomes "How exactly are they going to catch the criminal?", but unfortunately the answer is "The same way they always do." If you have seen, and let's be generous here, one season of any such series, you've seen them all.

But you know what they say, Tropes Are Not Bad, and I would be remiss if I didn't point out that even this sort of show can be good. Take Columbo, for example. The whole series is about the detective's journey to the crime's solution, to the point that the first scene actually shows you whodunnit. After that, the story is less about what exactly drove the killer to his awful deed and more about Columbo's bumbling around, driving the culprit into a false sense of security and letting them construct a pile of lies so large he can take it apart with his one final move. My point here is, if you write a story about how a detective catches his man, make it entertaining, not repetitive.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Do not buy HP laptops

My first laptop was an HP Compaq 6730s. I distinctly remember the day I got it - I had to travel to the nearby city to pick it up and after bringing it home I immediately set it up and started obtaining necessary software. Y'know, browser, file manager, that sort of stuff. I was so happy.

What a stupid kid I was.

The main problem with HP machines is that they're overpriced compared to pretty much all the other manufacturers'. Some people say that they're of much higher quality than the rest, which justifies the price. I have to admit, I don't see how that would be true. A few months after I got that laptop, I had to have it serviced because the touchpad started acting up. I know, I know, that was just a part defect and those are bound to happen; after all, the replacement touchpad works well to this very day. That doesn't excuse the obscene lack of the very useful "Turn Off Touchpad" button, though.

Where HP really fucked the dog with this laptop, however, is an issue that has surfaced recently. Just so you understand, I have since moved to a new laptop, Lenovo G560, a frankly superior piece of work, and given my old one to my father. Problem is, with a laptop this old, the cooling fan has become really dirty and ineffective. "So what? Just clean it," I hear some of you say. But the more knowledgeable among you know what the real problem is.

Just clean it, you say?

...

What I just linked to are instructions on how to access the fan in that computer. Did you read through all of that? If not, congratulations, you have a brain. But let me sum it up for you. In order to access the fan in HP Compaq 6730s, you have to remove the DVD drive, monitor and motherboard. That sentence alone should elicit a reaction of "WHAT THE FUCK HP" among the tech-savvy crowd.

Why would you bury the fan under all that shit? There is literally no good reason to make cleaning the inside of your computer into an excercise in advanced computer assembly. Why couldn't you just include a separate fan cover on the laptop? Is removing dust build-up really something you want people to bother your licensed technicians with? Or, in a word, THINK!

As I have stated before, I am now on a Lenovo machine and I absolutely love it. It has no noticeable drawbacks like the Compaq, and all you have to do to clean the fan is remove the motherboard cover on the bottom. Unscrew the cover, pop it off, unscrew the fan and go to town with it. There's no monitor removal involved.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

So who exactly is the player supposed to be, anyway?

This one will be short, mostly because it's not some profound truth, but I still think it's a concept worthy of discussion.

I'm not sure who actually came up with the idea, but I have to give at least partial credit to Jacob. When he was screensharing his Dwarf Fortress session with me over Skype, the question surfaced what exactly was the player's role in that game. It couldn't be the colony leader, because that's just another unit inside the game. That's when we came up with the term Abstraction of Collective Executive Power. Simply put, every one of the player's decisions is a decision of a dwarf, not necessarily the leader, but any dwarf that can make that decision. This can be applied to other games as well, for example FTL: Faster Than Light or the Jagged Aliance series (in which you play as a guy hired for mercenary job, but there is still no realistic way you could coordinate the fights the way you do).

This revelation resulted in unintended hilarity when we realized what promoting Jacob's mayor dwarf to the title of Baron must have looked like. For those of you who don't know, every in-game year your outpost is visited by a caravan of traders from your home civilization and with them comes an outpost liaison who meets up with your leader dwarf (outpost leader or mayor) to discuss various stuff, and after you fulfill certain requirements, one of those things is that your outpost has become a barony and you are given the option to choose one of your dwarves to become a Baron. So choosing your current mayor is akin to him answering the question "So, do you have somebody who could be the Baron here?" with shifty eyes and "Uh... yeah. Me."

Although, who wouldn't say that?

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

The Bass-Base Fiasco

English is not my native language. I have had to learn it over the course of many years and I still haven't exactly mastered it. However, I absoluetly adore it. I can't help it, you could say that I'm somethig of a language geek, to the point of slight Grammar Nazism. I love the way it sounds and looks, and I appreciate that it has terms and phrases that my native language lacks, which makes it easier for me to discuss certain topics (mainly tropes). There is only one thing that I hate about English.

This is what I call The Bass-Base Fiasco, after a particularly bad case, but you probably know it better associated with the word "ghoti". For those of you who still don't know what I'm talking about, this post is about my frustration with the absolutely butt-fucked relationship between spelling and pronunciation of words in the English language.

What's my problem with it? It makes no goddamn sense is what! I could give you examples, but chances are that you can think of at least three cases all by yourself. Generally speaking, this problem mostly manifests in instances where either two words or parts of words are spelled the same but pronounced differently, or they're spelled differently and pronounced the same. The example that I like to give regarding this phenomenon are the words "bass" and "base", obviously. "Bass" (kind of ghoti- I mean fish) and "bass" (musical instrument) are spelled exactly the same but pronounced differently. On the other hand, "bass" (aforementioned instrument) and "base" (foundation) are spelled differently, but pronounced the same. That's what my name for the phenomenon stands for - you can never be sure how it's pronounced if you see it written down, and you won't know how it's spelled if you hear it spoken out loud.

I like to compare the English spelling-pronunciation system to the German one. I studied German for a few years back in primary school; I can't speak it all that well, but I do know the basics. This particular comparison concerns the letter groups "ie" and "ei", which exist in both languages, but their rules are radically different. In German, their pronunciation is fixed, so (barring compound words) all "ei" are pronounced [eye] and all "ie" are pronounced [ee]. In English? Anything goes. Because I've never seen An American Tail, this has caused extreme grief when I encountered the protagonist's name for the first time. And the second. And the fourth. In fact, I still have problems with it.

I'd liken the two languages to chairs. German is a normal kitchen chair. It has rough edges and doesn't look all that well, but it does the job and that's what's important. English, on the other hand, is an art deco monstrosity that may look good, but you need someone to explain how exactly to sit on it, and even after that it's not at all comfortable, because you still constantly fidget around, trying to find a position in which you are jabbed by various bumps and edges the least. Meanwhile, Russian is a weird thing that you can never quite figure out, but its constructor will swear it's even better than German once you learn how to use it.

I have mentioned the word "ghoti" in this post. I will not waste time explain it here, just say that it's an alternate spelling of the word "fish". For a better explanation, please use Google. I would, however, like to point out this page. I just love how the guy explains how the ghoti phenomenon makes no sense while absolutely missing the point. Let me ask you a question, asswipe: What do you think is better - a language in which the pronunciation of written letters or letter groups is dependent on their position in the word, both absolute and relative to other letters or letter groups, the time of day and the position of the Moon in relation to the Orion constellation, or a language in which the pronunciation of written letters or letter groups is dependent on what those letters or letter groups actually are? Think about it.

In conclusion, I would like to propose that any time someone answers the question "How is that spelled?" with "Exactly what it sounds like", they shall be replied with a hearty "Fuck you" and a kick to the face.

Edit: In a fit of synchronicity that is not really too unusual for me, Cracked.com's Chris Bucholz has released a frankly superior article on the same topic. I swear I only read it after hitting the "Publish" button here, but I would not forgive myself for not pointing this out.

Link: 4 Reasons to Forgive Yourself for Being a Bad Speller

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Shitty old board games you've probably never heard of

At one point in my life, I was particularly invested in creating board games. They weren't anything special, after all, I was still in Secondary School at that time, but they were fun. So today, I'd like to share with you two of my most successful entries in the genre. Note: If there's anybody out there who makes board games for a living, feel free to steal these, make 'em better and sell them.

The first one was called Horror. It was inspired by slasher movies and focuses on a group of people of indeterminate age, who are locked in a house and stalked by an unknown killer. What you need for this game is a floor plan of a house with highlighted rooms, a set of room cards (three cards per room) and a bunch of differently colored figures (two figures per player). At the start of the game, put all figures in the entrance hall (or its equivalent on your map), shuffle the cards and divide them into three decks, laid face down next to the board. Each turn, everybody moves their figures around the map and then one player draws a card. The room indicated by the card is visited by the killer - all figures in that room are considered dead and either laid down in that room or simply removed from the board. The game ends once all three cards of any one room have been drawn. Players gets a point for each figure of theirs that has made it to the end alive and the game is started over. The first one to reach five/ten/hundred points wins.

I realize now that this game was largely based on luck - you can't influence what room is going to be drawn in any way, except when it's your turn to draw, you can choose one of the three decks. Nevertheless, this was probably the most popular game among my friends. I think what made it so fun was, at least in part, the "art design" by a friend tasked with creating the board and cards. The house was shadowy and had a lot of neat little touches, like a bloodpool on the bathroom floor, and the cards had little illustrations on them, like a corpse in an armchair on the Living Room card or a jar of pickled eyeballs on the Pantry card. And yes, you could hide in the pantry in this game.

The second game was called Fortress. It takes place on a stone fortress in the middle of an ocean (yeah, I don't know either). You're going to need a number of building blocks - we used a set of 55 wooden cubes, but you can use anything you can get your hands on; a 0-9 set of domino blocks can work really well - and one figure for each player. At the beginning, pile the blocks into columns - our fortress had a rectandular 4x4 grid, but again, you are free to make your own; hexagonal grid may work just as well. Players then place their figures onto the fortress. One block is considered one space - multiple figures can stand on the same space, but one figure can't stand between spaces.

After all that is done, the game begins. The players take turns in a fixed order and a turn consists of two steps. The first step is moving - you can move your character to any adjacent space of the same height. Ascending or descending during moving is strictly prohibited. The second step is removing any top block from any column - you can remove the block under your figure under any circumstances, but you can remove any other block only if there's nobody there. Both steps are compulsory - if you can't perform any one of them, if you fall into the water by removing the very last block from under your feet or if you yield, you lose and your figure is removed from the game. The last person still in the game wins.

This was a more tactic-oriented game, and perhaps that's why it was so enjoyable. We loved to pit our minds against each other. Oh, and here's a freebie tactic: It was discovered by a friend, actually the same friend who made the board and cards for Horror, and we called it "kamikaze". It basically consisted of moving onto the space with every other player on it and trapping them all there. Since nobody could move after doing so, and since the player who performed the move was the last one to have to move again, he would stay in the game after everybody else had been eliminated and thus win. After the discovery of this tactic, our games devolved into everybody attempting to be the first one to pull it off.

Friday, November 2, 2012

The Two Episode Rule

Here's a little piece of wisdom that I figured out on my own some time ago. I call it the Two Episode Rule and goes something like this: To decide whether you want to watch a series, watch the first two episodes. If you liked them, chances are, you'll like the rest, too. A corollary to this rule states that multi-parters only count as one episode.

I actually discovered this rule on accident, thanks to a sitcom that most of you have probably never heard of, Comeback. A few years ago, when this series first aired, my family and I watched about the first ten seconds of the first episode and then switched to another channel in disgust. But then we decided to give it another chance, and actually watched the full second episode. I have remained a fan of this series ever since. Now, our skipping the first part was actually a very fortunate thing, as later, when I watched it, I found out that it was pretty lackluster, compared to the rest of the series. I think that had we not skipped it that first time, we would've not tuned in the next week and thus missed out a lot of the later Comeback goodness.

Over the following years, I have put a lot of thought into this phenomenon and eventually arrived at the Rule in its current form. Here's the reasoning behind it: The pilot episode will invariably be different in tone from the rest of the series. Not only is its goal to introduce the viewer to the universe, but also to provide an exciting start to the overall story to rope the viewer in. The pilot is also often a two-parter, which is the reason behind including the corollary. Keeping that in mind, it is easy to see that the second episode is actually the first "normal" episode the viewer will see, which makes it a better indicator of the things yet to come.

One weird thing that I've noticed since I formulated the Rule is that the second episodes are often among the best ones - take for example Red Dwarf's "Future Echoes". It's as if TV makers are aware of this phenomenon and live by the rule "put all the exciting stuff in the pilot and all the good stuff in the second episode". I'm not sure whether that would prove the Rule or invalidate it, but it'd certainly lend credence to the logic behind it.

Now I know what some of you are thinking: "But T-Jack, wouldn't it be easier to just ask a fan of the show to recommend an episode and base your decision on that?" And I know that because that's what a friend of mine said when I explained the Rule to him. Well, you could technically do that, but that method has a few drawbacks. First, a fan of the show is almost certain to point you towards his favorite episode, i.e. the best one, which is not exactly representative of the whole series. Second, you'd have to be wary of spoilers. And third, this method is not easily applicable if you can't contact a fan, maybe because the show is really obscure or just starting out. For that matter, this is what the Rule tries to emulate - a viewer's reaction to a new show. You are being introduced to the series exactly the way the creator intended.

I should note one more thing, though: Don't forget that this is only a rule of thumb. In every show, episode quality can fluctuate wildly even within one season. It is usually safe to assume that after five good episodes the quality won't go down the toilet, but it can happen. The Rule can also give false negatives - some shows are known for getting better along the way, Growing the Beard as it is called in tropese. So I guess don't rely only on the Rule to tell you if a show is good. Remember, it is only supposed to be the first indicator of many.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

On the meaning of dreams

My dreams are a mess, and I believe that most other people's are, too. I hear that there are some who have tiny little organized dreams that follow the three act structure, but when I drift off into the slumberland, I am greeted by a chaotic clutter of ever-changing locations, people that I don't know and yet I remember them from my past and items that randomly appear and diappear off-camera. Only problem is, the human mind is incapable of accepting such chaos, and so we've had centuries of people trying to uncover the meaning of dreams. Do they tell us our future? Or do those things actually happen in some distant land? We don't know. Not even modern science can tell us what exactly causes these visions. So, as some poor schmuck with a blog, I am contractually obligated to explain what exactly they are.

Okay, don't expect anything groundbreaking from me. I'm going by the most commonly accepted hypothesis that dreams are the product of our brain sorting out all the thoughts and knowledge gained during the day. As such, I don't believe that your dreams can't tell you anything about the future or any voodoo bullshit like that. They can, however, tell you about yourself.

This is something that I figured out a few months ago after dreaming about my brothers threatening to put gum in my dolls' hair. Did I mention how fucked up my dreams are? I don't have any dolls and only one of my brothers is still living with me. However, I soon noticed that this dream could very well represent a specific thing I had been obsessing over around that time, and that's probably why I could remember that particular part of that particular dream. In other words, my hypothesis is that if you can recall a dream well, it is a metaphorical representation of something that is very important to you.

Now, the bad part is that it is a metaphor, meaning you have to decode it first. The good part is that the metaphor was made up by your very own brain, therefore it should be easy for you to do that. Therefore, I fully encourage you, dear readers, to try this at home. Take a dream you can recall and decypher its meaning. Or at least think about it real hard. If the dream really has a hidden meaning, it should come to you naturally.

What got me to writing this post was the dream  had today, or at least the part I can remember. I, and a whole bunch of other people, went to my friends' wedding, but when we got there, it turned out to be a bit of a prank on the wedding goers. It was actually my wedding. Now ignoring the setting of the scene (seriously, why can't I ever have a night of mindless action and violence?), the thing that stands out the most is the trick played on the audience, and what I think it means is holding secrets as a storyteller.

I consider myself a sort of a showrunner for The Bell Tree's ongoing adventures, weaving complex stories into the narrative through varios means. And since we often work on the albums as a group, that means that I have to dispense information to the other members carefully, to make sure that I don't reveal how the story's going to end prematurely, while still providing enough foreshadowing so that they can figure it out themselves, and for a long time now I have been fearing that maybe I'm not giving them enough material to do so. But that's a topic for another day.

So I guess what I'm trying to say here is that if you obsess over something too much, your brain will take it, scramble it up into an incoherent mess and throw it back at you at night. That sneaky motherfucker.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Hello, world!

My name is T-Jack and I have decided to write a blog. It will not be a thematic blog, or a super-duper personal diary blog, it will just serve as a place to store and publish my various thoughts and ideas as well as a practice grounds for my non-existent writing skills.

What led me to creating Illegal Alpaca was my recent departure from the position of a reviewer at xkcd-sucks blog (the good one). The main reason for my retirement, as I state in my goodbye post on that blog), was that I felt like I had nothing more to say on the subject and that I was just repeating myself over and over again. However, my urge to write and create remains, which is where this blog comes into play.

That is not to say that Illegal Alpaca is the first thing I've ever done. A long time ago, I was a member on an ancient Cave Story fansite forum, where I not only wrote a few little things that are best kept forgotten, but also met a fascinating fellow who goes by the name Jacob. It was through him that I joined a small group of friends called The Bell Tree. We try to tell stories through scenes posed in Garry's Mod (just a note for those who will look at those albums: I am not a brony. I just know insane amounts of them), even if we're not exacly successful. Also of note is the only fanfic I have ever written, What Now?.

I am also an avid gamer and troper. I enjoy sci-fi and fantasy, especially when coupled with British comedy. I am a board game enthusiast, to the point that I used to make up my own. Oh, and I have a USSR flag on my desk. I got it in seventh grade when I was on a school trip to Austria.

Well, that should be enough about me. I promise that future posts will not suck nearly as hard as this one does. Oh, and I apologize for the corny title.

Actually, no. I don't.