Thursday, January 31, 2008

Updates on Some Old Posts


Remember that awesome picture that I thought would be perfect for a back tattoo?

Well, I got it half right.Truthfully, it makes even less sense now as to what it is supposed to be.


Remember when I showed you my RA meeting notes that come out of nearly an hour of bickering?

Well, there was not much bickering during this last meeting, so my notes weren't as comprehensive, but there still were some parts slow enough to get my work done. Including some patented "Whimsical-Creep" style!NOTE: That little stick figure that says "me" - and appears to have some extra appendages - was not, in fact, drawn by me, but by someone else who refers to himself as "me"...and can't draw.


Remember how I wrote about that Finnish cello rock band, Apocalyptica, a while back?

Probably not, because none of you paid it any attention.

However! Here's a little game for 11 cookie points (and just like in Whose Line is it Anyway?, points mean absolutely nothing):

Can you name the song that is being covered here? My hints are as follows: 1. It is a fairly well known song by a fairly well-known band. That is to say, it's not obscure. 2. I've never had this song in any way, shape, or form on TLD before, so don't bother searching for any clues here.

So, John Edwards is Out of the Running for President


And I had already cast my absentee ballot for him.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

My Lightn'ed Hair

So, in response to people wanting to see what my apparently "strawberry blond" hair looks like...
We'll see how long it stays this way. There's still plenty of gel, and the ladies seem to like it, but I'm a fickle creature. Who knows, maybe next week, I'll have platinum blond hair! The next, an afro! The next, bald!

What is constant, though, is that anyone who runs their fingers through my hair (when it's not gelled) says its the silkiest hair they've ever felt. As one (slightly creepy) salonist said, "I'd love to have a shirt made out your hair." So if I do ever end up bald, you know where it went.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Fan Art Friday (Tuesday Edition!)

So, I often have a lot of ideas, for stories and such.

Very vivid ideas.

If you could hook some sort of screen that can see into the mind, then you'd be able to see everything I think up, even down to the most subtle cinematography.

Unfortunately, such an item does not exist. As such, I am forced to describe all my plotlines (and, as the focus of this will soon show, characters) either in words, or in picture. And since a good number of my stories have been commented on for being well-suited for graphic novels or anime, drawing does seem like it would be a good way to go.

Unfortunately, I often have a tricky time drawing my own people. I'm in no way a bad artist - I would say I'm about average - but I often fall into some bad habits. Possibly my most common habit, aside from giving every character a full-on six pack, is having them posed with both arms raised for some reason. I don't know, I guess it's just easier, but whatever.

Well, one of my high school friends & off-and-on commenter Alex is a bit more trained in the ways of the pencil than I am. He's also an easy person to share my ideas with. As such, I often get, via internet or via snail-mail, samples of artwork from him related to characters I've created.

Since this may be the closest I'll have to fan art, I thought I'd showcase some for you (with some explanations, of course).

So this first one is actually from a series of pictures I was sent, but this is the one I'll focus on. The two characters shown are The Future and Carlitos del Fuego del Sol (Little Carlos of the Sun's Fire). Now, The Future isn't so much an actual honest-to-goodness character, as he was originally envisioned as a Halloween costume. Click here to see the costume. However, I can see him fitting nicely into any number of my stories as the "silent hunter" type.

Carlitos del Fuego del Sol actually is a character. He was envisioned as the primary antagonist for a series of short stories entitled "The University of Satherton" which is basically a very twisted version of Berkeley. Calitos, who was named after (but in no way similar to) my old RA friend Carlos, used to be an RA, until he was fired after shooting a resident unprovoked (the resident was sleeping). He is now an assassin, and is hired by Satherton's rival school to kill the football coaches son before the big rival match (it's to psych out the coach). He ends up fighting the main protagonist, known only as the RA (a character based on what I wish we could do). Carlitos carries four revolvers, as well as a knife, "in case there are twenty-five people to kill."
Carlitos is spot on. This version of The Future looks a little dumpy, but that could simply be because I was essentially the model for it. However, Alex recently (like, last week) sent me a new, stylized version of The Future (which has a very Sin City-like feel to it), which I thought was pretty awesome). So awesome, in fact, that I did a little tinkering, and this is now my desktop wallpaper.
Now, if I were to make an educated guess, I would say that the character that Alex likes best is Cornelius Webster. And I wouldn't blame him. Cornelius Webster is one of my favorite characters. He comes from a series (that is, a comic or anime series) I call Menagerie. If you want an overview, you can read it here. However, Webster would work fine on his own. Here's his backstory:

Webster was "born" in 801 AD. I put that in quotation marks because he wasn't technically born. He was created. You see, Webster was a golem created by a Jewish mystic to serve Charlemagne the Great, ruler of the Holy Roman Empire. (At the time, he had no name, and was known as simply "Golem".) He called himself the Hand of God, and was able to back it up. He could see into a person's soul to see all their sins. He also has the ability to burn a person from the inside out with what he calls a "holy fire" (he basically grabs their heart and they burst into flame). Also, because he's not human, he's not easily killed. He doesn't even bleed. However, he has a serious complex. He basically despises every human, because he sees them all to be sinners. He carries a gladius with him, and his philosophy is "one cut for every sin." In essence, you could call him the epitome of a religious fanatic.

Anyway, he served Charlemagne for some time in battling the heathens of Europe. Although he didn't respect the Holy Roman Emperor, he thought that the crusade may have had some positive effect. He was invincible on the field, but didn't get along with his fellow soldiers (on account of despising them) save for one, named Remy. Remy was a young soldier, and the only person to reach out to Webster. Webster saw Remy as the sole good person on Earth, though Remy would try to convince him that most people are good, but just made mistakes.

One night, after a fierce victory, there was a large, drunken orgy in the barracks. During this period, some overly drunk soldiers beat Remy, raped him, and threw him from a high loft, killing him. When Webster saw this, he took out his gladius, and slaughtered the whole battalion of soldiers, as well as anyone else who got in his way.

When Charlemagne found out, he exiled Webster. This, of course, angered the golem. He left, but not before passing by the man carrying Charlemagne's goblet. A week later, Charlemagne was found dead.

Anyhoo, for the next millennium or so, the golem went around, fighting demons and the like, until he was contacted by the Vatican (who he had a turbulent relationship with). In the end, he agreed to stay hidden in Rome unless he was needed (there's more to it than that, but I'm trying to sum this up as quickly as possible).

I'm not sure, but I may have actually specifically asked Alex to draw Webster for me. Basically, the main color here is white. Webster wears a white coat, a white hat, and he's an albino to boot. I gave some more details, and these are some of the preliminary sketches that came about.
In the end, though, this was the final picture. He looks a little bit older than I envision him in my mind, but this is still the best representation of the character I have on paper (or computer) at the moment.
While the actual drawing may not be my forte, I can do a thing or two on Photoshop, and so I turned this drawing into...I dunno, a poster. Anyway, this is what it would be like if you saw Cornelius Webster on a dark night, complete with an original Cornelius Webster line!
And, in his most recent submission, Alex created this amalgamation of many different characters. Starting from the left, there's Thenosthenes, a near-immortal Spartan who lives through the centuries as a mercenary; Carlitos del Fuego del Sol, Cornelius Webster, the Neo Deus (who I'll speak of in more depth at another time), The Future, and The Lobotomist's Dream peripheral character Victor Von Killsport.Sensational!

Sunday, January 27, 2008

A Short Note

Can't write much. Must stay off the Internet for another 24 hours to avoid going over UC Bandwidth limits. (Going over = Bad Times)

Before I go, while the hell aren't any of you commenting on, voting for, or even looking at Elderly Apple? (Don't try to fool me; I can tell.) Even if it's not your cup-of-tea comic, it is a significant investment of time and energy and I'd like to see more than 2 page views each time I check Google Analytics. C'mon, I'm literally asking for no more than 30 seconds a day.

Anyway, I gotta log off now.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Fighting Demons of Deception: The "Mass Effect" Story

(NOTE: Get comfortable. Make yourself a cup of hot cocoa. You're going to be here a while. A looong while...)

You know, there are plenty of non-controversial video games in the world. In fact, I bought two this week and am thoroughly enjoying them both. However, aside from some pointless review, that's not interesting enough to post on here. Besides, I think it's a valuable service to my readers to provide a explanation of a story that they probably have no idea about. That's why whenever I seem to post on the subject, something's going down.

And this one, it's a doozy.

So, there's game that came out last November on the XBox 360 called Mass Effect. It's made by BioWare, the same company that made the excellent, excellent Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic games. Mass Effect has been likened as the spiritual successor to those games, and so I'm waiting anxiously for it to come out on the PC (it hasn't been announced that it's coming to the PC, but trust me, it will eventually). The game has garnered almost universal acclaim and has been said by many to be one of, if not the, best game of 2007. So what could possibly be controversial about it.

Well, you see there's relations in this game.

Sexual relations.

Lesbian sexual relations.

Interspecies lesbian sexual relations.

Ruh-roh, Raggy!

However, before you visit the stables to find a high horse to sit upon, let me assure you upfront, it's really not that bad. In 21st-Century terms, I'd say it was actually done with quite some dignity. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Onto the story!

Chapter One - Cybercast News Service

So...Cybercast. Ever hear of them? Of course you haven't. They're a conservative (and trust me, you'll see a pattern here) news and opinion website. On January 11, one of their correspondants wrote an article on Mass Effect, entitled "Sex in Video Games Makes Waves Through Industry." Now, even though I'm likning to the articles, I don't recommend you click on them, because all that would do is generate traffic and, thus, encourage them. However, I'll give some nice juicy quotes, straight from the article.
A new, best-selling video game, Mass Effect, made for the Microsoft Xbox 360 console, allows the characters to engage in explicitly graphic sexual intercourse.
Okay, let's stop right there. That's the first sentence of the article, and already it's showing complete and utter ignorance: ignorance of the game, ignorance of the world we live in, and ignorance of the words he's using.

"Explicit." What does that mean? According to, it means "fully and clearly expressed or demonstrated; leaving nothing merely implied; unequivocal." In other words, leaving nothing to the imagination.

Now, you know what I'm going to do? I'm going to show the exact scenes that are causing this controversy (that is, the entirety of the controversy). Now, there are some definitely-intimate things going on, so this may perhaps not work-safe, but it's really...well, I'll just let you judge:

(Note: I am not in favor of stupid post-coital remarks.)

So there you go. That's 2 minutes and 33 seconds (half of which was spent in conversation) out of a game which can last from 30 to 60 hours. That is the total amount of sexual activity in the game, and it's not even a guarantee that you'll see it (as it only occurs after lots of specific relationship development with the computer characters).

And would you say that was explicit? Hell, I've seen more explicit things on NBC Primetime. Really, it's about as PG-13 as you could get, pornographic only in a world where there's nothing but silhouettes.
The game is "clearly marketed to minors," Cathy Ruse, a lawyer and senior fellow for legal studies at the Family Research Council, told Cybercast News Service.
1. Who the hell is this person?
2. Does she have any facts to back up this claim?

I'll admit that I don't see many TV ads - seeing as I don't watch much TV - but I'm pretty sure they're not promoting this show on Kids WB. What I do see, though, is the Internet, and I have not seen one iota of advertising for the game that has targeted it for minors. If they had even brought up one example, I would have been satisfied, but I guess that was beneath them.
The game is rated "M" for mature, as are many video games...
Oh, because that's not a leading statement.

If you'd like the stats, only 14% of video games sold are rated "M". 49% are rated "E" for Everyone, 32% are rated "T" for Teen, and the remaining 4% are "E10+".
"Mass Effect...even goes so far as to allow homosexuality to be on par with heterosexuality and heterosexuality outside of its proper context of marriage."
"Goddamn queers! Queerin' up da place, tryin' makis all ho-mos!"
"There's no First Amendment right to exploit children ... They're making money at the expense of children in America, and they ought to be vilified for that."
Again, evidence? Do we have any evidence to support these really serious claims? No? Aww...

Really, it's just a bunch of talk with very few facts to validate any of what they're saying. It's almost's almost like they've never even played the game. But this is the conservative news site Cybercast! Surely they wouldn't be so careless!

Really, the only beneficial thing to come out of this article was a hilariously satirical Photoshop (on Kotaku) adding a new option to the after-the-deed banter.

So, we get off that train, only to hop onto another...

Chapter Two - Kevin McCollough

So...Kevin McCullough. Ever hear of him? Of course you haven't. He's a conservative author and columnist on conservative website I would provide you with a link directly to his article (written January 13), but it appears as though it's been taken down, likely due to too much traffic and/or heat. I don't remember exactly what it said, so the quotes I'm going to give you came from other sites. However, the article was entitled "The 'Sex-Box' Race for President." While I would love to compliment him on his clever wordplay, it seems some perverted Japanese company beat him to it. Oh, and how exactly does this play into the presidential race?
[Presidential candidates] all probably assume they have better, much more important, urgent, timely, things to campaign on, but I sure would like to get their individual takes on the new video game that one company is marketing to fifteen year old boys.
Ah! So he must have used Cybercast as his primary source! Wonderful! So basically, he's saying that we should be asking our candidates why they aren't addressing an issue that isn't even an issue, or at least not one that has been verified.
It’s called “Mass Effect” and it allows its players… to engage in the most realistic sex acts ever conceived. One can custom design the shape, form, bodies, race, hair style, breast size of the images they wish to “engage” and then watch in crystal clear, LCD, 54 inch screen, HD clarity as the video game “persons” hump in every form, format, multiple, gender-oriented possibility they can think of…
You don't know how many people made the joke "Wow, I'd pay twice as much for the version that McCullough got. Harharhar." Now, there is a character creation screen for Mass Effect. Wanna see it? Here you go! Hard as I looked, I didn't see a "Breast Size" option anywhere. Go figure.

I like the assumption that the game goes straight into lewd territory the moment you finish the character creation. I also like the assumption that all gamers have 54" LCD TV's to watch their "persons" hump in...format? What the hell does "format" mean in this context?
…And because of the digital chip age in which we live - “Mass Effect” can be customized to sodomize whatever, whoever, however, the game player wishes.
I'm sorry, this made me laugh out loud. This guy must still write with a typewriter if he's going to refer to this as the "digital chip age." But really, the whole "sodomize whatever, however" basically, the game he played is about molesting young boys, or something. And though he did pick up on the fact that there is homosexuality in these sex scenes, he didn't even do enough research to figure out that it was lesbian homosexuality. No sodomy involved.
With it’s “over the net” capabilities virtual orgasmic rape is just the push of a button away.
.....I don't even know what this sentence is even supposed to refer to! Does he think this is some website you log onto and start raping (in a "virtual orgasmic" way)?! This guy must either have the most active imagination ever, or a really, really bad childhood.
How refreshing would it be for a President to… put his pen and signature to a bill that dealt with such simulated sex excess in a way that was punitive to its creators to such a degree that they would never recover from it?
That's right! Obama, McCain, Clinton: listen up (wait, no, not Hillary; she'd actually do it)! We need to stop these orgasmic sodomizing simulators from reaching our kids and put the bastards behind it in prison, America-style!

(Note: BioWare is a Canadian company.)

Now, as you can imagine, there was quite a stir amongst the gaming community. So much so, that the article was floooooded with comments. Thousand of comments. And this is on a website that, from what I've seen in my scan of it, normally has 20 - 50 comments an article. Now, I'm not going to say that everyone was entirely civil; nay, there were quite a number of completely uncalled-for comments in addition to the ones which adequately described to Mr. McCullough how he was wrong.

So, with his toes of his left foot gently tickling the back of his throat, what does this man do? He sticks the right foot directly below the left in his follow-up article "Life Lessons: Gamers 'Rights' to Lesbo-Alien Sex" (see what he did there?). This was his chance to make amends, to admit that he had no idea what he was talking about. Let's see how he fessed up.
If the few who wrote me are indicative of the rest of the gaming universe, we know at least they have passion - for their toy-boxes...
*Facepalm.* That's not a good way to start.
But what was it I was supposed to have lied about? That my friend is the compelling part of this highly emotional drama - if only to one niche of people attached to their X-Boxes.

1. "The most realistic sex acts..." - from the YouTube footage I saw, I still concur, to me these acts are the most realistic put in video games - that I have seen. In the lesbian version one woman's hand appears to stimulate the crotch of the other passing between the legs. Today many of the more perv-oriented gamers took delight in describing for me the detailed description of games they claim are MORE realistic... Ok fine, I'll take them at their word, but for me the statement stands...
So, he's now saying he didn't lie because this is apparently the most realistic sexual acts ever put in a game that he has seen. You know what? I believe him. Because I'm sure the only other video game footage - period - he has ever seen was the first level of Super Mario Bros. However, in his original article, he didn't say "the most realistic sex I've ever seen in a video game." He said "the most realistic sex ever conceived" (emphasis mine). There's a large, day I say "cavernous," divide betwixt those two points. Hence, I still call BS on his original statement.
2. "One can custom design the shape, form, bodies, race, hair style, breast size of the images..." Evidently the only thing I got wrong on this was the breast size, though I would like someone to explain to me how the female characters end up having different sizes again on the YouTube footage I witnessed with my own eyes... But the rest of it was true. race, hair style, color - etc.
I'll grant him that last sentence. Still, when has it been a bad thing to allow players to customize race, hair, and...oh, right, right. It goes against the idea of the perfectly homogenized (but not homosexual) human.
3. "...the video game "persons" hump in every form, format, multiple, gender-oriented possibility they can think of." Again true (not that there are that many combinations of human sexuality to begin with.)
You know, I would say that this is again completely untrue and the man is as bald-faced a liar as any. However, this man was obviously brought up in a very conservative household, and probably only knows of the missionary position (being the "proper church form" and all). Hell, I don't even think about sex and I can think of more "combinations" than are displayed in the game. He then goes on to equate the fact a partner can be a lesbian alien to bestiality. Really, bestiality? That's rather harsh.
4. They also took outrageous umbrage to the claims I made in the column that the game is marketed to teen-age boys. (Though many of those giving me feedback happened to be under the age of 17/18.) The common argument is that because the game is marked "M" that means that no kid under 17/18 (depending on your state) would be allowed access to it. Asinine thinking through and through though. Simply like the fact that movie theaters are this night allowing children underage to purchase tickets, refusing to ask for ID, these games are being sold over the counter by the major chain stores with no enforcement of the age limit suggestions posted on the games themselves. The Gamers act as though the packaging itself is all the responsibility that needs to be taken. Of course they themselves probably started hiding their collection of Hustler Magazine under their beds when they were eleven and have thus a good idea of how the "letter of the law" differs from the "intent." Thus the explanation of why they were so sore with me for pointing out the obvious. The silly "M" label stands for, and accomplishes precious little.
He later recanted - somewhat - this last statement, so I'll give him that. However, I still have yeat to anyone present anything that says anywhere that it's marketed toward minors? Only arguments to the contrary. Even if the ratings system didn't do anything, that still doesn't prove the argument they're trying to make. I mean, do they even know what it means to "market" something? Seriously!
5. The major criticism the Gamers had for me in their reaction was this challenge: "Unless you've spent the 20 hours of game time it takes to get to the explicit scenes, keep your fat mouth shut!" Many challenges stated that unless I played it myself then I had no business pointing out its objectionably content. Would they say the same of a strip club at the end of their block or hookers knocking at their door? Normal people would not. There is an innate instinct that tells us right from wrong, it's called a conscience. Did I play the game? No. Did I talk to some gamers who had and who knew the possibilities of the game. Yes! Does it make the lesbian, alien, hetero, homo sex that a player arrives at in the game a proper thing for teenagers to be tantalized by? Absolutely not!
So the fact that there's an option to experience, or not experience, a segment of the game that makes up .08-.17% of the total package means nothing to this guy? As to opposed to a movie, which literally shoves sex scenes down our throats with or without our approval? This man must honestly believe the game is a hardcore sex simulator. He even compares it to a hooker, for cripe's sake!

So, things kept rolling along. As you may expect, his eloquent words did little to appease gamers worldwide. People wondered why he would continue to bear-bait people like this. One proposal (likely, an accurate one) came from webcomic Penny-Arcade who basically thought that it was his ticket out of obscurity. Because really, the guy is a nobody. Sure, he's written a book, but aside from his liberalism-fighting, he's never done anything.

...Now, there is an ending to this one. McCullough had an Internet Radio show on which he spoke with several gamers about the issues. And, surprise, he learned that he was, in fact, wrong about things, including the fact that ratings actually do things (the percentage of minors successful in purchasing M-rated games dropped from 85% in 2000 to 42% in 2005, and it's likely lower now). He also learned that not all "Gamer-Nerds," as he originally called them, are slobbering idiots who want to sodomize children, but are normal people who care about these issues as much as he does (perhaps more-so, seeing as they actually do research). And so, after 4 days of complete turmoil, the guy - still against the game - admitted that he was wrong on a couple of his original points, and said (in bold lettering, no less),
I DO apologize to the gaming universe!
Ah...all's well that ends well.

Oh, wait.

It's not over yet?

*Sigh* Here we go...

Chapter Three - Fox News

So...Fox News. Ever hear of them? Of course you...have?

So, this is the big one, as well as the most current (that is to say, ongoing).

You know what? No introduction. Watch the clip.

Now, my point-by-point:
1. Again, "SexBox". I think all these conservatives have all the same joke writers - bad, unoriginal joke writers.

2. "A new leaving nothing to the imagination." These people must have small imaginations. Very small.

3. "It features full, digital nudity. Imagine!" I thought we didn't have to, lady! Still, you've seen the clips yourself. I would hardly classify the partial nudity in the game as "full nudity."

4. "The person playing the game can decide exactly what's going to happen between the two if you know what I mean." Yes, because it's so simple to control a cinematic cut-scene.

5. "The game is rated M for mature, but critics say the game is being marketed to kids and to teenagers." ONE EXAMPLE! THAT'S ALL I'M ASKING FOR! Lord almighty, how hard can it be to validate a single sound-byte.

6. Geoff Keighley is a very nice man, and considered the best video game journalists the industry has ever had (and is considered by many one of the best journalists in any field currently). The anchor flippantly refers to him as a "video game expert" (which even sounds contrived) and for the rest of the interview, he's treated like some kind of weirdo. I like how he keeps a stiff upper lip for the entirety of the segment he was in, but you have to feel bad for the man.

7. "Pandora's Box has been opened." Really? Pandora's Box? Those three minutes up there equate to Pandora's Box?

8. "Unless you're hovering over [your kids] every second, they're going to find ways to see this stuff on the Internet." Is she even still talking about Mass Effect? There's plenty worse things on the Internet, lady. A little intergalactic lovin' is the least of your problems compared to - oh, I don't know - child molesters and the like! Just a thought. And you don't have to "hover" around your kids every minute, you just have to be smart about what they have access to.

9. "Let's look at the statistics. Who's playing video games but adolescent males, not their dads." And the stereotypes begin! Yes, Miss Lawrence, let's look at the statistics. The beautiful statistics, which say that they average gamer age is 33. Minors make up only 28.2% of all gamers, whereas 47.6% are aged 18-49, and 24.2% are above 50. Also, a greater portion of the video gamer pie (31%) is taken up by women aged 18+ than it is for male minors (20%). So, given a random sampling or a perfectly heterogeneous group, it's more likely that an adolescent male's mother (or at least older sister) is playing a game than the adolescent male himself. I love statistics...real ones, that is.

10. "You don't see women as being valued for anything but their sexuality." Does she know that in the game, in order to reach these couple minutes of sexuality, you have to go through hours of dialogue, learning the innermost secrets of the characters, what they want to achieve in life, and having to respond in a way that creates a kinship with them? No? Okay, then.

11. "It's a man in this game deciding how many women he wants to be with." How does one encounter suddenly become basis for calling the main character (who can be male or female) a gigolo of sorts. That statement was completely inaccurate, and Geoff thankfully points that out immediately.

12. "Cooper, have you ever played Mass Effect?" "N-n-no." ................*Facepalm*

13. I like how when they show a screenshot from the game, they have an unnecessary large black box around the alien's butt, as if there was anything there but slight curvature.

14. "Geoff, I went on the website for the game to do 'research' and when I tried to go on it there was a little popup that had me enter my age and so I thought it was a scanning process and so I thought 'God, this is gonna take forever' and I enter my age and BOOM you're in! That's a pretty easy screen to get past." World-class journalism there. As far as the "screening process" goes, how difficult do you want it, woman? Do visitors have to give their credit card information to see the site? Honestly, I'm curious to hear how she'd improve the system.

15. Geoff: "One of the great things about Mass Effect - people who've played it know this - is that it's sort of a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Story and the game doesn't force you down any situation. You could actually play through the entire game without the sexual situation ever happeni-" Lawrence: "Yes, and the young boys are going to be choosing not to have sex, that'll be what they choose." This is where I get a lot of my respect for Geoff. Had that woman interrupted me - in a condescending way, no less - I would have gotten royally pissed off. Plus, she makes it sound like 10 year olds are the only ones playing this.

16. "It's not a simple choice. You don't turn on the game and it says 'Do you want to have sex or not?' It's with the evolution of a relationship with characters and the fact that this game has incredible artificial intelligence, and you can actually fall in love in this game, and it's just like modeling a form of your life." I think this one statement digs at the very heart of the controversy. Most of the people who have been criticizing the game have treated it as though it were just a sex simulator. This is basically Geoff's last attempt at reason. The response...?

17. "Darlin'..." If I said I would have been pissed off before, this would have put me over the edge. What an utter lack of respect and professionalism.

18. "I gotta go with the research, and the research says that there's a new study out by the University of Maryland that's out right now that says that boys who play video games cannot tell the difference between what they're seeing in a video and what's in the real world if they don't have a real experience." Yes, Miss. Lawrence does her research, and she gets only the most recent research, right? Well, I scoured the University of Maryland for any study related to video games at all. And, to Miss Lawrence's credit, there was one. It came out in 2005. So much for that whole "new study" thing. The study, which you can read about here, basically says that students find video games to be essentially harmless. Now, these aren't elementary students. Hell, these aren't even high school students. These are University of Maryland students! Where did Miss Lawrence see anything about "boys who play video games." Hell, they only interviewed two students, and one of them was 19-year-old girl. The only talk in that study about the "damaging effects" of video games (which I will admit, to the non-vigilant, there can be) was always in reference to previous studies. That's some damn good research there, Miss Lawrence. Bring up one three-year-old study with ambiguous results and completely (mis)interpret them to suit your final comment. Well played!

19. "Who can argue, possibly, that Luke Skywalker meets 'Debbie Does Dallas' is a good thing? It's not, it's just not good, and I'm definitely not going to let Mass Effect in my house." Thank you, bespectacled random guy. But, since you bring up Star Wars (the original ones, rated PG), don't you think there was already some, y'know, raunchy stuff in that (like, basically everything related to Jabba the Hutt)?

20. "Once you bring it into the house...our kids aren't always supervised...they let themselves in after school, and what do you think they're going to do when they get there? 'I want to play my dad's video game.' And that's dangerous." If that's your problem, hide the goddamn game disc! Problem solved.

21. "I'm not sure why it didn't merit an 'Adult Only' rating which is the highest rating a game can have. This board that rates them all needs to have their head examined." For all intents and purposes, "M" is the highest practical rating a game can have, and because games rated M are pretty much sold to only those over 17, it's pretty much Adults Only. The issue with the AO rating is that the three console makers (Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft) have a strict "No-AO" policy, meaning that a game cannot be sold if it is for Adults Only. Hence, an AO rating is an effective banning in the United States. Very few games ever get it, and if they do, they often tone down whatever their issue is until an "M" rating is procured. The exact same thing happens all the time in movies. The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers was originally rated R, but was toned down just enough to get the coveted PG-13 rating. The ESRB has done an excellent job in my opinion, almost to the point of "overdoing it" (they have a warning about "Alcohol Usage" in games; ain't that adorable?). Someone may need to have their head examined, but the ESRB is doing fine.

22. "This made me feel old, watching this. Whatever happened to Atari and Pinball and Pac-Man?" ..........................................*Facepalm*

23. Some Guy: "At the end of the day, it's up to parents to control what their kids are seeing and doing and playing." Anchor: "It is. Unfortunately, it makes being a parent a much harder job." Yes, because being a parent is supposed to be easy. Why do I have the sick feeling that if I were given a kid right now, I'd still be a better parent than these people? Yes, you're kids can access things all over the place (it may be hard to download Mass Effect by phone, however), but that's just called "living with the times." Put some effort into your children, people! My parents did, and I turned out just fine.

24. I think the saddest part of this whole thing is that Geoff's words seem to have fallen upon deaf ears. He made a beautiful case for the game in the extremely short time he was given, and yet they all still act like it's just pornography.

Well, I guess that's Faux News for ya.

...But wait! It's not over yet!

Electronic Arts, who recently acquired BioWare, sent a letter to Fox News. I honestly can't blame them. After all, their quality game was completely trounced and dragged through its own filth in an unfortunately mainstream news station. You know what that's called? That's slander, children.

Basically, they requested - requested, not demanded - that Fox News corrected many of the errors that they made, including the ideas that the game shows full nudity and graphic sex and that it's been marketed to teenagers. The end of the letter, which I'll reproduce here, tries to reach out to Fox News' supposed good side.

The resulting coverage was insulting to the men and women who spent years creating a game which is acclaimed by critics for its high creative standards. As video games continue to take audiences away from television, we expect to see more TV news stories warning parents about the corrupting influence of interactive entertainment. But this represents a new level of recklessness.

Do you watch the Fox Network? Do you watch Family Guy? Have you ever seen The OC? Do you think the sexual situations in Mass Effect are any more graphic than scenes routinely aired on those shows? Do you honestly believe that young people have more exposure to Mass Effect than to those prime time shows?

This isn't a legal threat; it's an appeal to your sense of fairness. We're asking FNC to correct the record on Mass Effect.
Normally, I would never claim to be on EA's side, but Jeff Brown (VP of Communications, who wrote the letter) is completely right. Think if you were one of the many people who worked on this game for years, and have its name sullied by half-truths and whole lies. It is insulting. It is also ironic that Fox News is in the same empire as Fox, which seems to have exactly opposite morals. Finally, I appreciate the fact that they didn't threaten legal action. They must have learned from my example.

But things weren't so easy. The producer of the show on which the segment was hosted had sent a single line text message to Brown, blowing off his whole request. Brown then commented that he wouldn't let the good people of Canada to have their work and reputation slandered, and that there would be a fight if Fox news did not come clean.

Finally, Fox News did make a statement, but not the one that EA wanted.
Fox News Channel has extended several invitations to EA through a company representative to appear on Live Desk With Martha MacCallum to discuss Mass Effect and the segment which aired on Monday. We have received no response.
So, they're forcing EA to come on to their show to pry out an apology like so many rotten teeth. Isn't a news company supposed to fess up when they make a mistake and/or lie? Well, any with integrity would. I guess that's Faux News for you.

But what of Miss Cooper Lawrence? You know, that obvious feminist who condescends grown men and does research that would make Inspector Clouseau shake his head in disbelief. Well, you may remember that when she was introduced, she was noted as the author of the new book "The Cult of Perfection." Well, I wonder how that book is. Let's check out Amazon.


At it's peak, there were over 500 1-star reviews. As of this writing, there are 382. I'm sure most will be taken down before too long. So far, Amazon mainly deleted those which included personal attacks on the author (name calling, threats, etc.). The rest is fair game. A lot of people are saying things to the effect of "If she criticizes games without playing them, I'm going to criticize her book without reading it," and "She's using her womanly body on the cover for no other reason than to sell more copies of her book. That teaches kids poor morals." In case you're wondering, no, I haven't written a review of the book. Though I do find myself smirking at the situation.

Which brings me to my final point.

If you have any sort of occupation which connects you in some way to the Internet, tread carefully when talking about gamers. Because - and I say this without pride nor malice - gamers own the Internet. It's essentially the same population. And with tools like Digg, news travels fast. Hence, action can be taken swiftly and brutally. It will overload your website's server, it will flood your inbox, and you can be damn sure all your books will have poor reviews.

So, are gamers just a bunch of thugs who will bully anyone who disagrees with them? No, no, no....well, yes, some are. But most are fairly reasonable. Here's an interesting thought: why don't academic institutions that post anti-gaming studies not hated upon (much)? My idea is that it has to do with credibility. These organizations did actual research and experiments to come to their conclusions. They didn't pull things out of midair.

Second takeaway point: when you're watching the news and you see these sensationalist stories, don't take them at face value. Often times, they're based on ignorance and speculation.

So, long story short: if you want to criticize a game, make sure you know what you're talking about! That's all.

Holy hell, that was long. Hopefully, you're still the same age you were when you started reading. I guess this counts as my beginning of semester thesis. In any event, I'm interested in hearing your opinion on the subject. Am I wrong? Have I been downplaying this sexual encounter? Do you have an example of Mass Effect being marketed to children (I'd really like to see one)? Whatever you have to say, sound off in the comments.


***UPDATE 1/26/07***
So, at this point, Amazon has removed all reviews of Miss Lawrence's that were from people who have obviously not read the book. As of this moment, there's only 21 left (though, interestingly, they're still all 1 and 2-star ratings). Additionally, Miss Lawrence has come forth and apologized. Here's the story from the New York Times. (If you don't have a NYT account, I recommend getting one; it's free.) It's worth a read, mainly because it's pretty amusing for a newpaper article, with lines such as "The Internet hath no fury like a gamer scorned." In the article, Miss Lawrence comes clean and admits that even though she was the "expert" for Fox News, she had no idea what she was talking about. Here are the prime paragraphs.
In an interview on Friday, Ms. Lawrence said that since the controversy over her remarks erupted she had watched someone play the game for about two and a half hours. “I recognize that I misspoke,” she said. “I really regret saying that, and now that I’ve seen the game and seen the sex scenes it’s kind of a joke.

“Before the show I had asked somebody about what they had heard, and they had said it’s like pornography,” she added. “But it’s not like pornography. I’ve seen episodes of ‘Lost’ that are more sexually explicit.”

Some have claimed that this is nothing but damage control to try to prevent more negative reviews from sending her Amazon book ratings "into oblivion" as the article author puts it. Personally, I think it's sincere, from a person who was honestly unaware of the far-reaching implications her words would have. Either way, I applaud that she had enough grace and dignity to admit her mistake. We'll see if anyone else (i.e. Fox News) follows suit.

A Hairy Predicament (.....Sorry)

So, in the past couple days, I've been asked if I've died my hair. The following explanation has been cracking up my co-workers. Seriously, at least 3 of them laughed for more than 20 seconds (I counted). I think it's amusing, but not that funny. Anyway, I'll let you be the judge.

Anyone: "Andrew, have you died your hair?"

: 'Well kinda. You see, a while back I bought this new hair gel. It was called 'Lightning Gel' and I assumed that meant that quick-drying, because lightning's fast and it even had a picture of a lightning bolt and everything."

"However, about a week later I realized that something was wrong, and so I looked at the bottle again. I had apparently missed an apostrophe in the word. And so it wasn't 'Lightning Gel' but 'Lightn'ing Gel.'"

Them: *Cackle*

Me: -_-

So, yeah. Right now my hair is....well, it's been described as both "light auburn" to "practically redhead" (I think the auburn description is more apt).

Maybe, if I get some good pictures, I'll show you (maybe if you comment!).

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

My One Year Anniversay: An Announcement!

As I explained in detail yesterday, today is the one-year anniversary of The Lobotomist's Dream.


In honor of this momentous occasion, I would like to announce the creation of....

(Drumroll please...)

Elderly Apple!!!

.........Wait, what?

Well, Elderly Apple is a new project I'm taking on. It's a webcomic. Well, kinda. I guess you could define it more as a web experiment, because mainly, I'm not sure exactly how it's going to turn out. Well, I guess you could also call it an experimental webcomic. But let's not get hooked on semantics.

So the history behind this goes back quite a ways. Years, probably. For a long time now, I've wanted to make a webcomic of some sorts. However, I've never done it. Why not? Well you see, there are a few problems associated with starting your own traditional webcomic. In no particular order, here are some of them:
1. You need to update on a fairly regular basis.
2. If you're doing a normal-style webcomic, you need to think of a good (enough) joke for each of those updates.
3. Not only do you need writing, but unless you're really lucky or good, you also need new artwork.
4. Not only do you always need fresh artwork, you need it for each panel of your comic.
5. You need some sort of angle. And sorry, having two room/house-mates, one bitter and cynical while the other lovable-yet-dumb, has already been done. Many, many times.
6. Seriously, you really need a new angle. Speaking in UGBA 100 (Business Communication) talk, there is too much noise in the channel. If I just do a normal three-panel comic, what will make it special?

In short, the solution is to NOT make a traditional webcomic. It'd be all too much work, and unless I became infinitely better at both art and punctuality, it would be doomed for failure. If you're going to do something and have it stand out, it's got to be something completely different. It has to be a sort of niche comic that can't really be considered a derivative of anything else.

So, I had that stored away in the filing cabinet in the back of my head for a while now.

Then the holiday cards happened.

As I explained in that post, I am known in my workplace for my weird, random drawings that doing really seem to have any point. They're pretty popular with most people. They're unique. They're occasionally funny, and...hey now! That just may work!

And so, the gearwork for Elderly Apple was set into motion. I decided to use Blogger as my host, mainly because I know my way around it, and I've seen a couple other webcomics use it. So, I've been working in (mostly) secret for the past three weeks or so, setting up the site, getting the domain name, getting the feeling right, all that good stuff. And now it's ready, I feel.

Elderly Apple will have a much, much different feel from TLD. While you know me here as quite garrulous, on there I will be very terse. The only commentary I will give will be in the comment section of each post (I even think I have a format nailed down). Basically, the comics are suppose to speak for themselves (which they do). And please note that even though I call them "comics" there is no traditional punchline. I guess a better word would be ideas, as that's what they are. Random ideas that you can do whatever you want with.

I'm keeping the art style purposely childish. I think it fits the feel of the site as a whole (especially because my bio says "I have the mind of a demented six-year-old.") and it's also much, much easier to do than full on computer-drawn stuff (at least for now). So, every comic will be done in glorious marker and colored pencil (I bought over 50 different colors of each).

The name of the comic comes from Pliny, the Elderly Apple. Pliny was actually a very, very close second in my favorite holiday card drawings (I couldn't help but love the pink rabbit's expression in this one) but was my favorite for a while. I also think the idea of an elderly apple sums up the feel of the comic very well. And so, Pliny is the official mascot, namesake, and first comic of the series. However, that doesn't mean he's the star. In fact, if I can keep up with the way I'm going, he'll never be seen in another comic again. As my tagline says "No plot twists. No character development. No sense whatsoever."

Now, I have plans to update the comic daily. Daily. As in every day. For all I know, this may have to be reigned back to "weekdaily" but no more than that! I'm trying to commit to this experiment. Now, I know from experience that it's difficult to think of 10 or more of these random things in a day, but once a day shouldn't be too much to ask. Plus, I have my archive of the old holiday card drawings. I plan to utilize them when I seriously have nothing new to put up. They'll give me about a month of wiggle room, which I really think may come in handy in the future.

So, be sure to visit the site every single day. But don't just do that. I also want you to comment. But don't just do that! I also want you to vote for me! When you look on the Elderly Apple website, you'll see a little button that says "VOTE: Top Web Comics" This is for a webcomic ranking site. It's basically there to give me more exposure. Now, when you click to vote for me, you'll be taken to a page where you'll see a little avatar with a name on it, and three buttons below. Choose the button that matches the picture. That will log your vote. Now, we provide incentives for doing this. Often its some kind of bonus drawing. I don't have the capacity for that at the moment, so I am making my incentive the most precious thing in the world: trivia! I'll find a random page on Wikipedia and then tell you some sort of tidbit about it. Fair enough, right? You can log in one vote a day, and I encourage you all to vote every single day, and make sure the votes go in. Every little bit counts!

In addition to putting the comics on the website proper, I'm also going to be showing them off on deviantART (again, for more exposure) and hopefully build up some sort of following there. So check out my profile there if you want to see how that progresses.

Eventually (this is if the experiment "works") I plan to profit off my creativity. I'll be selling prints of each comic, as well as the original copies of most of them. I may even go so far as to open a CafePress shop and sell t-shirts and other merchandise. Who knows, maybe someone will even give a book offer. Yes, yes, that's looking far, far into the future, but you have to think positive about these things, you know?

So now I've explained pretty much everything there is to know about Elderly Apple. Mainly because there will be little serious explanation on the website proper. Just little quirks.

So anyway, we'll see how this experiment progresses.

But why are you still here? Go to Elderly Apple, and make all our dreams come true!

Monday, January 21, 2008

One Year of Dreaming!

Tomorrow is a special day.

What's that, you say? What makes it so special?

Is it because it's January 22nd? No, although that day is all fine and good.

Is it because it's my first day of the new semester. No, although I suppose that would make it somewhat significant.

No, no, my friends. Tomorrow, January 22nd, is the 1 year anniversary of The Lobotomist's Dream being online.

Think about that. One year ago tomorrow, I went onto Blogger and created a blog for a blog DeCal. In retrospect, I still feel that the DeCal proper was less than a success. There was a bit of flakiness on all ends, and a lot of times, it felt like some people just didn't care. (Keep in mind, though, that DeCal's are student-run, and unless you've put one on, you don't know how difficult that can be). However, it was a success in a few ways. First, it did get me writing on a more frequent basis. Second, I think it allowed people who were curious about blogging to learn whether or not it was for them. I'd say about a good 2/3 of the class stopped blogging either on the last day of class or when they reached their 60-post limit.

I tried searching for as many of the blogs as I could think of, but only came up with the following:
and then you explode - Apparently on hiatus since the end of November. Majority of older posts deleted.
Dimas's Blog [Beta] - Only three posts since last August (one this month).
Think.Kiwimonk - Only five posts since last August (though 2 of them are from this month).
This is the new life. - Seems to have updated relatively frequently since the DeCal ended. I never really followed it, as it was never my cup of tea.
The Catalytic Triad - Never stopped updating.

In the end, the only blog that I still follow out of a class of 15 or so is The Catalytic Triad. Is it because Chris was also an RA/PA and we get along well? Maybe, but perhaps being the only blog that updates with interesting content doesn't hurt, either.

So that's what been up with the classmates since last year. What about myself, though?

Well, my friends, let's take another look back at some of what made The Lobotomist's Dream the blog it is today. Luckily for you, even though I am a horrible navigator, Memory Lane is a place I am intimately familiar with.

It had to begin somewhere...
My first post. And I'll be honest. It sucks. It fails in humor, fails in directions, fails in general. I'd really, really like to think I've progressed quite a bit since this.

An Evening of Wii Boxing
My first good post. While there are a few things I'm not too hot-to-trot on (for example, I occasionally fell into the blogosphere trap of writing in flowery language to make myself seem more intelligent), I think it was pretty good. It was also my first post that I brought into the DeCal for a "thorough critique". By the way, because of all my hard work on Wii boxing, I'm am currently undefeated against human opponents.

A (Quelled) Announcement
My sister had a baby. Oh, wait, no she didn't (at least, not then).

Mini-Blogs, Set One
As evidenced by the title, this was the first appearance of the ADD-inspired Mini-Blogs (which I found to be some of the most fun to write for some reason). The Mini-Blogs have been semi-retired for a while now, mainly because I'm more willing to post short blogs by themselves, rather than worrying so much about making sure each post is a intensive read.

Notice Anything...Different
The post wasn't anything special, but this was (on February 6) the first day in which I had my special tiled picture. When I showed TLD to a friend once, he told me that "That has to be the most distinctive website background I've ever seen." Whether he meant that in a good way, I'll never know. :P Also of note is that I said there were more changes coming up. As far as I remember, I haven't changed a thing (to a major extent) since. I'm not even sure what I was referring to.

Music to My Ears

My first musical post. Some people have asked me how it's legal that I have songs available for listen on TLD. My response is that I am not endorsing the illegal download of any of these songs, and if you download them (as opposed to just listening to them), you only do so because you already own the CD, and want a copy. In any case, I never give out the full CD, instead giving a select few songs (samples, you could say), and encouraging the reader to buy the CD for themselves. Just wanted to, y'know, clear that up.

Required Reading
Still a good resource if you want to read any of my older, non-blog writings.

The Lobotomist's Dream Valentine's Eve Special!

My first holiday-oriented piece. My only real note is that my Aztec-inspired card still makes me smile to no end. Jim's a jerk.

Influences, Part I - The Incredible Quotable Oscar Wilde and His 1890s Companions
Notice how this says "Part I". There was supposed to be a series of posts describing my influences, but that plan kinda sorta fell through. In case you're wondering, The Simpsons was one, as was a short story called "Repent, Harlequin!" Said the Ticktockman. There's a couple more. Maybe I'll get to them one day (probably not). Also, this is the first appearance of my voice on TLD.

A Different Place to Hang My Hat
I believe this was my first real use of blogging as therapy. As an addendum to this, my life at Unit 2 has been just fine. I'm better at adapting than I think I am, apparently.

An (Ad)Sensory Experience
Although they never specified it when they informed me, I'm pretty sure it was this little sucker that got me banned from Google AdSense forever. C'mon, Google! I've learned my lesson! I've learned my lesson!

Haasta La Vista
Nowadays, my presence in Haas is just a matter-of-fact situation. I'm fairly well-known, and almost nobody questions my being in the school. Looking at this reminds me that things were not always so certain. Funny how life works like that sometimes.

An Important Announcement
What makes this April's Fools Day joke so interesting is that I specifically went back and edited several days later so that if anyone ever typed "andrew schnorr gay" into Google, there would be an all-important "NOT" in the very first result.

This Won't Make a Lick of Sense if You Don't Go to Cal...
This post currently holds the record for the greatest number of comments. And for the life of me, I still can't figure out why.

'Shopping Around: A Photoshop Evolution
After all this time, this is still one of my favorites. Not much else to say.

On Beards
Another one of my favorites. If I had to give a Martian a single post to sum up the whole of TLD with, this would probably be it.......and that's so sad, I think I could cry.

The Last 60 Posts: A Retrospective
My first post after completing the blog DeCal's 60 post requirement. In some respects, this was the first of the "real" blog; that is to say, it was the first post done purely for my own enjoyment and salf-satisfaction than for a class. Also, statistics!

Riddle Me This, Riddle Me...That?
My first attempt at creating my own riddles. I think I made many people angry and/or sad with it. I should make more.

Finals Time Cop-Out: A Skit!
The very first appearance of everyone's favorite socially-awkward neuropod, THE_BOLSHEVIK. With special guest appearance by his evil friend, Kris.

Supply & Demand & Nephews & ...What?
Okay, this time I got it right. My sister did have a baby. Although there were pictures in the post immediately after this one, I feel this is the true announcement. I still haven't figured out exactly what kind of uncle I'm going to be. I think that'll have to wait until l'il Sesi is capable of verbal interaction with me.

The first appearance of the "Ugh" label. I never fully explained what this was, mainly due to confidentiality reasons. However, I will say that it was basically referring to me convincing a person not to commit suicide. You'll be happy to know that since that time, his situation has improved greatly, and now he's doing just fine!

Are There Any Witty Quotes on Scavenging?
Besides just being a fun post/collection of pictures, this marks the first instance of what would soon become my internet-famous photo.

In the Past Twenty Years...
Whether you consider this a birthday reflection, a romp into the world of nostalgia, or just the world's longest setup for a mediocre, self-deprecating joke, this is always an interesting read.

My Message to the World
This probably confused more people than my evil riddle. I still expect it to become big one day.

By the Way...
This was just a little test to see how many people from the blog DeCal still read mine. Interestingly, nobody responded.

Comic-Con 2007!!! (Parts 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, & 6)
Without doubt, the most time and effort I've put into any of my blog posts. If you haven't read them, please do so. You'll make my writing nearly 17,000 words so much more worthwhile. And they're fun, too! Guaranteed to make your computer's processor cry!

I'm So Very, Very Sorry About This...
My first attempt at video logging (or "vlogging"). Also my last. Coincidence? (Actually, I might have done more if I had a camera that could record more than 3 minutes of video at a time. We'll see, my friends, we'll see.

Mini-Blogs, Set Seven
The only really important part of this is the fact that it was when I announced that TLD had gone into the big leagues by getting its own domain name. An important milestone, if I say so myself.

Getting My Face Out There (And Winning, Too!) & Postscript on Wedding Dresses
In one of my most shining moments, I was able to convert my toilet paper wedding dress into INTERNET FAME! I still love reading the comments that people gave. It makes me feel all warm and fuzzy inside.

The V8 Chronicles
Warning: Do Not Click on Links If You Are Squeamish About Drinks
About the V8 Incident
Saying Goodbye to an Old Friend
If there was event that will stand out in the minds of the majority of my first-year readers, I'm sure this is it. What can be said about the V8 Incident that hasn't already been said. I've turned more people than I can count off from V8. According to Google Analytics, the "About" post was recently overtook "An Evening of Wii Boxing" in total views. Apparently, it was linked to on some website, and TLD's readership skyrocketed...for a day. Still, hopefully nothing like this will define the upcoming year.

The Lobotomist's Dream Needs You!
This was my plea to get people to use the Alexa toolbar in order to increase my website's ranking in the Intertube Pantheon. Since then, I've moved from 8, 250,000 to 1,980,000 and still moving up. Next milestone: Under one million! And if you haven't downloaded the Alexa Toolbar for either Internet Explorer or Firefox, please do so now to help the cause.

THE_BOLSHEVIK in "The Prank War"
Common consensus, both on and offline, is that this is the best THE_BOLSHEVIK skit thus far. As far as my favorite, I don't really have one. I love them all!

The Lobotomist's Dream All Purpose Holiday Cards
I just love these things in general. I was somewhat disappointed that nobody was able to guess who the mystery man was (and the people most able to guess correctly didn't even try). If you haven't seen these yet, be sure to do so. They may become important one day.


Whew! And that's less than a sixth of all the posts I've done.

All in all, it's been a good year. Even though there were times when I was less than devout in my posting constancy, I still managed to post an average greater than one every other day. I'd call that a success in my book.

And, of course, I couldn't do it without my readers. Comments are my lifeblood. They inspire me to keep writing, mainly because they remind me that people are still reading. Were it not for all my good and faithful readers, I don't know where I'd be. So, to all of you, thank you!

Now, you may be wondering, why am I posting my one-year anniversary post a day before my one-year anniversary? Well, I'm going to be hush-hush about it for the moment, but I will say that it's because I have an announcement tomorrow. A pretty hefty one, too. Stay tuned!

But for now, let us eat, drink, and be merry! Here's to one year of The Lobotomist's Dream, and many more to come. Or, I suppose you could say (WARNING: Bad pun approaching) may the dream never end!

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Thankfully, I Never Once Said "Yee-haw!"

"Call me idle only when my hands are such. Give me something to swing, sir, and you will never think me lazy."
~Andrew Schnorr

So, here's a picture of me from this past Thursday.

Now, I know what you're thinking. "Ah, that Andrew. He doesn't wear clothes, he wears costumes." Ahem. Actually, these were the clothes I was wearing for the day, because that Thursday was the most labor-intensive day of the training week: the service project day.

Now, during the Spring Training of RAs, we always do a little community service project. Y'know, to show that we care. Last year, we had gone to this homeless village (that is to say, a village where homeless people could live and work). Once there, however, we split up into little groups. I was part of a group putting up a greenhouse. One of the aspects of that job was to break up big rocks into little rocks so as to fill some trenches or something.

Long story short, I was one of three guys in charge of breaking rocks (no points if you guessed that it was the three largest guys). The other two had crowbars, and I had the almighty sledgehammer. I tell you, it was intense work, and I enjoyed every minute of it. It made me almost wish that I was in prison (in the 20s, when the chain gangs were used for more than just license plate printing).

What does that have to do with this year? Well, there was a wide variety of options of places to go to this time around. The majority of them were simple gardening trips, there was a theatre that needed to be painted. The one I chose, though, was a park restoration. Why? Because it was "Mortar Rock Park." My logic was that because there was "rock" in the name of the park, there may have been some rocks that needed crushing.

As it turns out, I did get to crush some rocks, albeit accidentally. (Crushing rocks at a rock park known for its rocks is generally considered a bad idea). However, there was more to it than that. This park had become neglected, and so had been overrun with ivy and other invasive plants. While most of the above-ground ivy had been removed, there were plenty of roots that had to be taken out.

And that's where we came in.

We had a variety of tools at our disposals, from spades to shovels to pitchforks. However, none of those caught my fancy. Too mundane, too...passive. No, the tool I wanted was the pickax. Think about it: it was the closest to a sledgehammer that they had, and it matched my outfit. (Now, most of my outfit was practical; jeans to keep my legs protected, an unimportant white shirt to get dirty, and a hat to protect my head and neck from the evil rays of the sun. The suspenders, though? Purely stylistic. They just kind of complete the look, I think.)

Oh, and you better believe I used that pickax. If you know me as some gentle soul who wouldn't hurt a fly (because why wouldn't you), then you would be taken aback. Give me a tool to swing, and a target to destroy, and I am a machine! A monster! And I love doing it.

Now, of course, pulling up ivy roots wasn't the only thing I did. I also pulled up trees! Small trees, but trees with pretty deep roots. We used this little wrench-like grip to get a hold of the trunk and then it was just heave-ho from me. There were a few trees that needed to go. The most annoying of the bunch was this little sucker that, after we dug around it, we found that a nearby, larger tree's roots hadgrown around its own. Basically, the large tree was hugging the the roots (I'm not even going to try to turn that into innuendo). So, what's a guy to do? Well, I put my goggles on for protection, take up my pickax, and hack that sucker until I realize that the larger root branch is over twice as thick as originally thought. And with the angle I had, it just wasn't happening. Had I a normal ax, tough, it may have been a different situation all together).

There were some funny moments in the day. For example, before we found out about the underground root hoochie-coochie, I was simply trying to pry the tree out with my bare (and by "bare", I mean "gloved") hands, using the large tree nearby for support. However, the only good position I had was so that the large tree and I were...intimate? I suppose for the unknowing eye, it looked like there was some above-ground hoochie-coochie as well.

Then, at the end of the day, I was the last person to walk back to the little base camp (e.g. table with snacks). However, it was apparently perfect. I had my hat on and my pickax propped on my shoulder, and I was walking around the corner from this large rock wall with the sun setting at my back. From what I was told, it looked like I just came out of some romanticized Western.

(There should be pictures of both those things, and more. If I ever get a hold of them, I'll post them up.)

The funniest thing was that I kept on saying to my fellow workers, "Oh, we're going to be sore tomorrow." However, I managed to work on a program that very night and woke up the next morning without a sore muscle in my body. I'm not sure if it was because of my recent excercise, but it felt good to not be walking around like a wind-up tin man.

Anyway, I guess the point of this is...I like to destroy things by swinging.

(Oh, and on a completely unrelated note, I think that when I'm wearing my goggles with that outfit, I look like I could be a Coen Brothers character. What do you think?)

Friday, January 18, 2008

Quick Thoughts on Ink

Regardless of your opinion about tattoos, you have to admit that this would make a pretty sweet back-tat.

Not that I'm planning anything, of course.....yet.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

New Music Post: Apocalyptica

As is my way some of the time, I shall now let you in on some of the new music I've run into.

There are weird combinations in this world of ours, which seem to be so different, yet mix so well.

Peanut butter and celery.

Sigourney Weaver and giant, slimy aliens.

Cellos and rock.

...Wait, what was that last one?

Well, it's the style of the band I've just taken a fancy to. Cello Rock. I'm not joking. As for what it is...well, it is what it sounds like. It's rock music (some will call it metal music, but I'll refrain from that, because to me, metal music always implies guys screaming like they're hacking up some phlegm) that utilizes cellos in place of the traditional guitars and basses (or at least complementing them). According to the Wikipedia article, it's been around since the 1930s, but is only really coming into its own in the last ten or so years.

So, how did I found out about this odd subgenre. Funny you should ask (though the answer isn't nearly as funny). It was actually on a Wikipedia binge, with the following path.

Casino Royale (I had just seen the movie) => James Bond (character) => List of James Bond Villains => Julius No => Mad Scientist => Albert Einstein => Germany => Culture of Germany => Music of Germany => Rammstein

Now, Rammstein is a band that I listen to and enjoy, even though I barely know any German (I basically only know as much as their songs say). But what interested me on that last article was the picture at the top, which showed them playing live with another band, made up of cellists (for reference, it's the same picture as in the cello rock article). When I looked at the caption, I saw that this group of cellists was a band called Apocalyptica. The concept of this band intrigued me, so I decided to give it a second glance. And upon further inspection (this is without even listening to one of their songs, mind you), I found the following pros and cons:

-They play rock music.
-They play rock music with classical instruments.
-They are from Finland(!!).

-Apparently, they like to headbang (which I find rather silly).

That's three pros to one con! Looks good! But, will I enjoy their music? Unlike many of my other music collections, I haven't actually heard any of their songs yet, so I wasn't willing to buy their whole discography. But where can one hear whole songs for free (legally) in this day and age? Well, why not just watch their videos? Brilliant!

Here are a few choice selections (just ignore any headbanging you may see and enjoy the music).

Hope Vol. II


The Unforgiven

Well, long story short, I thought that they were quite good (very good, in fact). So, I went onto my usual resource to purchase the songs. But, when I looked at the band's collection, I saw that there were quite a few albums. So, I did a little more research and only got the albums that were neither covers of other bands (I prefer original songs) and weren't "Best Of" albums (I'll choose the best songs, thankyouverymuch). So I ended up getting the albums Apocalyptica, Cult (and its bonus CD), Reflections, and Worlds Collide. If you're interested, but don't want to fork over the money for all of those, then I guess you could just get the "Best Of" album.

The point is, they are a new, refreshing sound, and I'm happy to have learned of them and, subsequently, share them with you. If you like them, you may also enjoy a string quartet band called bond.

Takeaway point: You don't need a guitar to become a "guitar hero."

Monday, January 14, 2008

Ah, the Joys of Being Part of Leadership-Oriented Groups

Greetings from Berkeley! Right now, it's Spring Training, as well as Spring Welcome Week. So, from 10am to 5pm, I have to sit through meetings, presentations, and the like. And from 5pm on, we have to hold programs for all of the residents here! Both of them! (Actually, that's an exaggeration. I have two residents here right now, one old and one new. That's out of 50 potential residents.)

But there's more to so-called "Unit Time" than just meetings and me doodling in my notes. There's also team-building activities!

Question: You know what I love about team-builders?

Answer: The fact that I've already done them all multiple times before!

Scenes from the UC Berkeley Unit 2 RA Team Builder Activities

Scene 1

Facilitator: "Okay, now we're going to split up into groups and do group charades. Your group will have to act out some sort of machine and everyone else will have to guess what it is."
Me: "I hope we're not a washer and dryer. They always do washers and dryers for this thing."
Teammate: "We're a photocopy machine."
Me: "Good. It's not a washer and dryer."
A team goes up. One person stands betwixt two other people. They try to get set up.
Me: "A washer and dryer!"
The team stares at me, incredulous. They finish their charade, disheartened.
Me: "Hehe. Every single time..."

Scene 2
Facilitator: "Okay, now we need you all to line up without speaking. And you're going to line up by....shoe size!"
Me: Moves his size-13 feet to the far end of the line and stays there.

Scene 3
Facilitator: "Okay, now we're going to line up again. This time, some people can speak but will be blindfolded, others have to plug their ears and hum...[edited for time]...and everyone else will just not be able to talk. Now, we need to line up by....birthday!"
Me: Takes out cell phone and types "June 5" into a text message box. Finds place immediately.

Scene 4
Facilitator: "Okay, now we're going to pair you up, and you have to sit back-to-back. One person will have a piece of paper and marker. The other will have to instruct them how do draw a picture we showed them earlier. But they can't say what the picture is of! The drawer can only ask clarifying questions. Okay, go!"
Co-Worker 1: "Okay, first, on the left half of the paper, close to the center, draw a square with sides that are about the length of your pinky."
Me: "Clarification: Am I drawing a house with a tree next to it?"
Co-Worker 1: "Yes."
Me: "Gotcha." Draws the following picture.
[Editor's note: That guy on the right is actually Pliny, the Elderly Apple, as this was the co-worker I gave that card to.]

Scene 5
Facilitator: "Okay, now you all [24 people] have to get into this tiny square on the floor."
Co-Worker 2: "Wait, they never said we had to put our whole body into it! Let's just put in our fingers!"
Me: Puts in ten fingers and begins doing push ups.
Co-Worker 3: "[Facilitator], Andrew's showing off. I think that's a sign that the team builder is over."
Me: "Hell yeah it is!"