Monday, November 30, 2009
I been wanting for a long time to explore noir thematics. This is it guys, a new episodic called Black Sun, which is the last piece of episodic fiction completing the backbone of Dead End Follies. Enjoy and comment!
Every night, when I slept, I saw his face. Every day, when I looked into the mirror, I saw him again. Every time I touched my throat, I remembered him. I never knew his name, but I remember well enough. Eight years after, the details are as clear, even maybe cleared than when it happened. His tobacco smelling breath, the pearls of sweat on his arm and his knife against my throat. My demise had been his success. Slashing jugular vein has been a big enough distraction so he could run away with the few thousand dollars he robbed from the MacDonald’s safe on that night. Eight years ago, I almost traded my life for a Big Mac.
If Doctor Mary Ann Sherwood wouldn’t have had a crave for a McChicken on that night, I would’ve died for that goddamn Big Mac. She put pressure on the gaping wound to keep me from bleeding out with a pile of napkins as she told her husband Dan to go get her first aid kit in the car. Even with that guardian angel on site, I lost around thirty percent of my blood on the floor. I still remember sometimes the fries on the floor, bathing in a pool of my own blood. It’s so intense that sometimes I feel it’s the only thing real that ever happened to me.
That day, October 25th 1984, was the beginning of hard times for the Parker family. Being fifteen years old and all, I couldn’t help but to drag the Parkers into this. Fortunately, my mother didn’t live up to see this. She died in a car crash six weeks before it happened. My dad being dead since I was two, it’s my two older brothers, John and Pat that took care of me. In order to pay my bills, they started doing jobs for Tony Cullen, the local mafia kingpin. Turning to a life of crime might seem like an ill advised choice when your baby brother just got his throat sliced by a petty thief, but they were respectively eighteen and twenty, they couldn’t figure out something better in order to pay my fifteen grand hospital bill. They were not too hyper about it, but the idea of getting me and my baby sister Mona through college drove them into being renowned local mobsters.
Their dream came true. Soon enough, my only ambition was to repay my brothers for what they did for me. Our mother Linda always prone to us the righteousness of the virtue and the advantages of being on the good side of the law. I knew that when they started to work for Tony, they were doing something that was going against their nature, against their instinct. They grew more distant to me, acting more like fathers than brothers. Sometimes they were disappearing for a few days, but I didn’t ask any questions, I just did my best to take care of Mona and to get good grades at my exams.
One of the many things that changed for me after being a victim was that fascination I got with the law. I guess it didn’t help that my brothers decided to step over it to help me, but I had only one thing in mind now, become a cop. I wanted to become the best, most ruthless and honest cop the city of Seattle would ever know. So I just went at it, completely. I started to train at sixteen in order to pass the physical tests of police school and to get the best grades I could. I entered police academy at eighteen years old, proud and smiling. I still have the two pictures on my office wall. One with John and Pat, the other with John and Mona, because there was no one else to hold the camera for us. When John and Pat started working for Tony Cullen, pretty much the whole family turned their backs on us. So when we took these pictures in our living room five years ago, there was no one to hold the camera.
Police Academy was great. During these three years, I felt I found my place on earth. Classes were easy, subjects were incredible and doing research or training were not a task, but something I did out of pure enjoyment. I was first of my promotion for the whole three years. I lived and breathed police work. My teachers were calling me “Chipper”, saying I was the blue chip prospect of the promotion. That period of bliss lasted three years, or almost.
One of the final exams before graduation was an extended psychological test. Not your every day “how do you feel” test. No, it’s too easy to cheat. No one knew about this test, during three days we were going to get pushed by teachers, acting cops and school officials. The goal of this was to see how we could react under extreme pressure. The behavior sought was a calm and collected one, barely different from the everyday life. We were a hundred and twelve in the promotion, but there were only sixty chairs rented for graduation. Failure rate was enormous.
I cracked during a drill at fucking MacDonald’s. A hostage situation. I felt sucked back in time. My pulse went out of control, images started running in my head. I didn’t even do that bad. I just shot the bad guy in the face with the paint guns we were given. I shot him his two accomplice and an hostage (in the shoulder). Two days after, I was called in the principal’s office to be told I flunk the psychological exam and was not going to graduate. They were looking for a peaceful solution to the situation. I was told that I had showed poor negotiation skills and an itchy trigger finger. The robbery was for what they referred as a pitiable amount of money and I should have had convinced them that it was not worth it to throw their lives away for this. Sometimes I think they did it on purpose.
It’s John that gave me the idea of applying for Private Investigator license. “They give PI licensed like hot cakes, you’d be your own boss and you’d be as psycho as you want. There is no psychological test for that.” I listened to my brother and a few weeks after my twenty first birthday, on August 16th , I opened my office : “Mike Parker, investigation consultant”. I didn’t like the term Private Investigator, sounded too Hollywoodian for me. John and Pat helped me to find a good spot to do business in downtown Seattle and Mona decorated the place, it looked very good.
The work of a PI wasn’t that interesting though. The conspiracies, the bad guys, the back alley brawls, it was all fiction. All I had to make a living were estranged wives, seeking to get proof against their cheating husbands. Most of the time, my brother absorbed the cost of rent for my office. I had this investigation once where I had to find a disappearing kid, but I found the poor toddler dead behind the shopping mall a few days after.
Life has a funny way to turn things around though. The Parkers are specially gifted to place themselves in destiny’s aim. I was eating dinner with Mona in my office on October 24th. Chicken we ordered from that barbecue joint across the street. They had the best chicken filet in town. Along with the barbecue sauce, it was like a party in your mouth and everyone is invited. Mona was into one of her crazy stories as usual:
“So, I told that bitch to shove it up her ass you know? Who the hell does she thinks she is, telling me I needed colors.”
Mona had light emotional issues, with anger, particularly.
“Do you treat every salesmen like this?”
“Come on, I know tanning beds are expensive, but it’s not necessary to insult your potential clients into buying.”
My baby sister was one of the things I was getting up in the morning for. I just loved to hang out with her. She was so fired up about everything. Mona was living to intensely that she often made me feel bad for not wanting to try everything life had to offer within two weeks. She was that fun. My job was boring and repetitive, but I got my fair share of entertainment by hanging out with her on week-ends. My sister was the type of girl to dance on the bar at the club, only to smash a bottle of liquor on your head if you touched her somewhere inappropriate. She was backed up by two mobster brothers and another one who had a gun permit and who boxed three times a week. She had no reason not to feel confident. She was also a nurse during the day, but that was beside the point, it was a job for her, nothing else.
I heard a knock on the door. First of all, my brain kind of dismissed it. I told Mona: “So, did she have tanning samples or something?”
“There’s someone at the door dude.” Mona told me, taking a bit of her chicken filet.
“Oh, yeah, the door. Move you feet from my office please, I’d like to look professional.”
“Whatever, Magnum PI”, she said, putting her feet down.”
“And put your shoes back on, your feet smell weird.” I said, vaporizing some perfume in the room.
“Hey fuck you!” my sister answered me.
I opened the door to fall face to face with Karen Tinsley, my ex girlfriend. I had dated Karen for a little more than a year at Police Academy. I was the top dog over there, so the Academy marked my only lucky streak with women. The problem was, I wasn’t very used to it. After the passion settled down with Karen, I started fooling around with other girls. I was stupid because she was a good girl. Hot girl and good girl rarely pair up, but in Karen’s case, it was. She was what I refer to as an A Plan. She was from Olympia and every guy over there saw themselves having children and a family with Karen. I could’ve, but I pissed it away for fake tits and instant satisfaction. She was a regret, but she was the kind of regret I tried to think about as little as possible. When she knocked on my door that day, I hadn’t seen her in three years.
She just stood there in my doorway, with her eyes full of tears, trying to smile to me. She seemed even more petite than in my memories. Her hair was shorter and died paler than the thick black it used to be, it was somewhat brown. It’s Mona that reacted the first. She loved Karen, when I broke up with her, Mona took three months before talking to me again. When Mona loved someone, she didn’t half-ass anything. When she recognized Karen, she pushed me to the side so hard that I tripped over my garbage in and fell. On my back, the only thing I could see was Mona hugging Karen saying : “Karen baby, I’m so happy to see you again, don’t cry.”
I got up, feeling stupid and I pulled up a chair: “Here Karen, sit down.”
Mona pulled up my chair next to her so I sat on my desk.
“Karen, what’s up? Why are you crying like this?” asked Mona.
Karen just let it loose and cried in my sister’s arm for a good five minutes before being able to talk again.
“I’m sorry guys, I promised myself I wouldn’t cry or sound dramatic, I guess I failed pretty bad huh?” she said with a sad smile.
“No problem bab..hem…Karen, tell me what’s going on?”
“I need to hire you for a job Mike.”
“Yeah I figured out that part, but who’s putting you in such a state.”
“Oh Mike, so much went wrong after we broke up.”
Mona gave me the glare of death. Whatever was happening, I knew now that it was my fault.
“Tell me what happened” I told her, handing her a box of Kleenex.
“You know I failed the psychological exam too right?”
That I also knew. Karen was one of the fifty two students which that test had failed.
“A lot of people failed too Karen, hell I failed and I was first of the promotion, there is nothing to be ashamed about.” I said.
“Well it’s not that, I started dating Trevor Greenwell shortly after. Trevor has succeeded the exam and I felt you know I could live my dream through him, as a policeman also he maybe could put a word in for me so I could take that fucking test again.”
I knew she was dating Trevor Greenwell, but I didn’t know she had such selfish motives for doing so.
Neither Mona or me were talking, so she took the cue and continued.
“Trevor turned out to be a very successful cop. He made it through the police ranks very fast.”
I nodded, attentive.
“Few months ago, Trevor started being more distant. I first thought he was seeing another woman, I investigated on it myself, but, every night after work, he went at a bar with his friends Tom and Phil, disappearing at the second floor.”
“Did you find out what they were doing in there?” asked Mona.
“No, after three days of that I got bored and told myself he was probably playing cards and drinking. He often smelled like alcohol when going back home. I didn’t
make a big deal out of it, he was still as nice as he ever was.”
“Until…” I said, smelling her disarray was fresh.
“Until last Friday”.
“What happened on Friday” asked Mona.
“He didn’t come back home before late at night. I woke up from the noise he was doing in the garage…”
I was seeing where she was going with it. Trevor put himself in trouble, she probably didn’t want to throw his career away, she seemed to love him, but she couldn’t sleep at night. My guess was that she probably wanted us to identify the person.
She started to cry again.
“When I arrived to the garage…he was putting a human head in a garbage bag.”
I nodded silently, out of respect for her fear and confusion, waiting for her to tell me what she wanted to do about it. Mona was caressing her back.
“It was Glen Winchester’s head” Karen said before starting to cry loudly again in Mona’s shoulder.
Slowly, blood drained itself away from my face. I could explain why she was scared, confused, disgusted, whatever. She surprised her boyfriend disposing of the Seattle chief of police’s body. I was surprised that she even lived to tell about it. Cop or not, Trevor Greenwell was in deep trouble. You don’t kill a chief of police and get away with it. Glen Winchester disappeared four days ago…the doubts were on Tony Cullen….I would have had to talk it over with John and Pat.
“Are you…sure?” I gathered the strength to say.
“Mike, I’ve been invited to dinner at his house so many times, Glen liked Trevor, he told him all the time he was leadership material.”
I couldn’t say anything coherent. Mona was too stricken with the horror of what she just heard.
“Please Mike, I need to know what he’s doing. Money’s not a problem, I need to know why he did this and what he’s up to. I’m scared for him, for us…Mike will you help me?”
As I already told you about, Dead End Follies is bound to change. A lot. Luckily for you, I won't reveal the entire nature of these changes right now. You guys will see it happen with bewilderment like kids on Christmas evening. Right now, I will announce a few things, that might lead you into guessing what's coming (if you are one of the few who cares):
-First of all, I'm hacking off Voices from the Dead End Follies roster. The weekly stand alone short story section never really lifted off and never provoked much production interest from my part. I came to the decision that stand-alone short stories would be a happening on Dead End Follies. I will post them when I get ideas and inspiration.
-The Specialist might move to the week-end, morph or simply disappear. You guys will decide the fate of it. While it gathered some love, the roll of inspiration is getting thin and I'm currently looking for some new ways to improve it. If I still feel I cannot bring it any further, it's going to be replaced.
Aftershock is bound to take the Wednesday schedule. It's going to bump Roger Spivey and his friend, it's written in the sky. I just don't happen to know what will become of Roger...
-Voices will not be hacked for nothing. It will make place to a new episodic named Black Sun which will made around the noir genre, which I love. Dead End Follies, as you can see is turning it's fiction genre into a steady episodic fiction. That's what I will promote, three weekly episodic: Black Sun, Aftershock and Law Of The Gun. The rest will be accessory, but these three episodics will be the core of Dead End Follies
-One last thing. A few months ago, when I started the whole adventure, I gave myself the challenge of making every episode a thousand words at least. Three months later, a thousand words is not a challenge anymore. Most of my fiction episodes are around 1300 to 1500 words. So I took a decision. My new challenge will be to give you guys two thousand words with every episodes. I hope that this new angle will help you all to bond better with the series. A thousand words is not a lot, two thousand words is around five to six pages, so it's already more interesting.
All right folks, it's all I have to say for now, but stay tuned, it's just the beginning for Dead End Follies. Bigger things are bound to happen soon.
Sunday, November 29, 2009
The further and further I get into mastering the art of written storytelling, the more I realize that there are a lot of misconceptions about creativity. We often hear: "Boy, that writer sure is creative, I don't know where he gets those ideas" or "writers are all poets, they master language to create objects of beauty". Dennis Lehane is a writer that challenge both of these erroneous perceptions every time he writes down a word.
The proud Bostonian's novels are often complex, giving a feeling of a mathematical dissection of the plot, despite turning around very simple thematics. In fact, I'd say Dennis Lehane has only one thematic in his whole work: the human mind. He defies the misconception of the writer as a headless dreamer, because what Dennis Lehane truly is, is an expert of the dark corners of the human mind.
He's billed as a noir writer, which is accurate, but there is a tragedy to his novels that is groundbreaking to the movement. His spirited protagonist Patrick Kenzie has his moments of humor, but you always get the feeling from him that he tries to zone out the horrors he has to deal with from his private investigator work. I would recommend every novel of the Patrick Kenzie\Angela Gennaro novels, but they are all good. Prayer For The Rain is probably the best though.
You don't know what to read? Go to the book store, get Prayer For The Rain, Mystic River or Shutter Island, you will not be disappointed.
Don't know what Grand Theft Auto is? Too bad for you. The family friendly car jacking game had, over the years built what is probably the biggest and most loyal fan base among video gamers. The reason is simple. The product is good. Everything about it is just good, well though and aimed towards a great gaming experience. One of the stand out that always put the franchise on top of the food chain is it's excellent scripting. One of the best part of this scripting is the ability to create likable, over-the-top colleagues for your sociopath protagonist to work with. Who are the best of the best? Let's find out the top 5 non playing characters from Grand Theft Auto!
5-Cocaine Lawyer Ken Rosenberg
Appears in:Vice City, San Andreas
Heavily inspired by a character from Carlito's Way, Kenny man has been one of the most successful reappearing characters in the franchise. Who would've known? The paranoid, drugged up lawyer feels like his days are numbered from the first time you see him. He ends up surviving both Vice City and San Andreas because despite not trusting anyone, he can tie links with the best psychopaths in the business...Tommy Vercetti and Carl Johnson. Ken was slimy, dirty and lovable in every way.
¨I poke my head out of the gutter for one freakin' second, and fate shovels shit in my face!¨ (Vice City)
Do I look like I can intimidate a jury? I couldn't intimidate a child, and believe me, I've tried. (Vice City)
Ken:Just like old'd time heh Tommy?
Carl:Who the fuck is Tommy? (San Andreas)
Appears in:GTA III, San Andreas
You never know how true, warm and psychotic Catalina is before you play San Andreas. I mean you meat her in GTA III, but her appearance doesn`t do her justice. Catalina is a hot tempered distant cousin from Carl Johnson's brother in law Cesar. She's also a dangerous criminal that helps CJ to work his way back to the top after he got booted out of town by Officer Tenpenny. She's all love and guts...really!
Catalina: Are you going to fight for my love?
Carl: No, I can take rejection (San Andreas)
"YOU, I left you pouring your heart out into the gutter." (GTA III)
"Who are these cowboy assholes?" (San Andreas)
Appears in:GTA IV
For those like me who loved the over-the-top crime comedy atmosphere of GTA franchise you probably thought like me that Brucie was a rose in the mud. The whacked out steroid freak had some of the best line in the history of the franchise. Unlike other "friends" of Niko, taking Brucie out on a friendly evening was a ticket to quotable land
"Do I look like I have funny balls?"
"NOT NOW CHIEF, I'M IN THE FUCKIN' ZONE"
Brucie: Niko you can have this car!
Niko: I thought this car belongs to Steve.
Brucie: Fuck Steve!
Appears in:San Andreas
The best thing about The Truth is that you had to endure him all along. The hippie had no real purpose but to procure you a jetpack and to provide moral support. He also had killer missions. The conspiracy theorist often whacked you ears with sayings about the aliens and the government. He was one of the shining stars of San Andreas.
The Truth: Carl, do you know how many satellites the government has in space?
Carl Johnson: No. How many?
The Truth: Twenty-three. Do you know how many biblical artifacts the government is keeping at the Pentagon?
Carl Johnson: No.
The Truth: Twenty-three. Dont you see a pattern here?
Carl Johnson: Man Im seeing patterns all over the place! Get that
smoke out my face.
Jethro:Does polar bears shit in the woods?
The Truth:No, but they've been known to shit in the liquor tent.
Carl Johnson: C'mon, dude, what's all that about?
The Truth: You don't want to know.
Carl Johnson: Why?
The Truth: Do you know what a sub-dermal neurophone is?
Carl Johnson: A what?
The Truth: Exactly. Sometimes its best to stay in the dark, kid.
Appears in:San Andreas
In my opinion, the unsung superstar of the franchise. I was expecting to see him back in GTA IV and despite the disappointment, I'm still expecting to see him appear somewhere. His potential was enormous. Mike was a CIA (probably CIA) agent who worked undercover as a drug dealer. He ended up using Carl as an errand boy for his hard work and they developped a unique kind of friendship. Everything he blurted out was made out of gold. Did I mentioned he was voiced by James Woods?
Carl Johnson: [Toreno is calling CJ on his cell phone] Toreno?
Mike Toreno: Carl, learn to fly.
Carl Johnson: I'm on it, man, I swear!
Mike Toreno: "I'm on it, man, I swear" Same old broken record, Carl. But that?s fine... because your brother's getting a new cell mate tonight ? Horse Cock Harry. And I'm sending a present, little wedding present - a big tube of lube.
Mike Toreno: You know, after what you've done for me, it's like you're a pro now. I got double agents in Panama who want to put a price on your head. A Russian spy - a little, fat, Boris looking guy - he's asking for clearance to interrogate you, Russian style. Calipers on the genitals. Feels good, you'd like it.
Carl Johnson: That ain't nothing cool, man! Just leave me alone. You're bad news!
Mike Toreno: Don't worry about it. The Russians got bigger things to worry about than your genitals, believe me.
Mike Toreno: [sneaking up behind CJ at the airplane hangar in Verdant Meadows] Got you again, Carl! You're half-asleep, I coulda killed you in nine different ways! Wake up and smell the coffee!
Carl Johnson: You need to lay OFF the coffee!
Honorable mentions:Kent Paul, Donald Love, Lance Vance, Cesar Vialpando
Saturday, November 28, 2009
I met my first parking guard when I moved to Montreal from my snow white northern town seven years ago. I was unfamiliar with the concept of hiring someone to protect your parking from getting vandalized. The guard in question looked like he haven`t bathed in days, he had teenage beard, Russian track pants and a huge tractor chain rolled around his knuckles. I understood right away that parking guards didn`t receive any check by the mail for their work.
That`s this kind of deranged psychotic manliness that oozes from Braid, finally coming to the Playstation Network after being such a hit on the XBOX Live Arcade. I was very intrigued by seeing this 2D ugly platformer getting some godly praises with the reviews all around. Knowing not much about the game, I put my PSN pants on a took my love for platforming to give Braid a look.
The story is as thin as it gets, Tim is a dude (for a lack of a better term) who dated a princess (which as no name) from a kingdom (which you know nothing about) and well...things got sour, shit hit the fan, however you want to put it, the princess left you to yourself and your wang. The braid is the last memory Tim has from the princess and the game is his effort to put his memories together and figure out what happened.
The story feels right, it's not the main thing Braid offers, but it's at the right place. One thing I have to say against it beside the fact that it`s thin, is that there is not much incentive to find out what happened. You can get all the written story (did I mentioned it was a bit heavy to read all of this?) at the start and you have to beat the goddamn game to get to know what happened. All in all, it's an OK story, but the game would`ve been as enjoyable, maybe even less frustrating without it. If you get a story to a game, make it count.
What about the much vaunted gameplay of Braid? Well it`s fun...and hard...and inconsistent. There is six levels, which, all-in-all contain around forty worlds, in which you`ll have to solve in game puzzles to get puzzle pieces and get your memories together. The twist to it is, Tim has the ability to turn back time so when you die, you can rewind and do it again until you get it right.
The fun about that game is that it`s based around time. The answer to each and every puzzle lies in turning time backwards. At first, it`s enthralling. The approach is very intuitive and it feels very rewarding to find the answer. But it gets really hard..and frustrating...really fast. For the first levels I thought I had found a soul swallower, I played my first hour and a half of the game completely absorbed to the task...but when I put my first puzzle together and solved a world I realized...nothing...no reward...just a PSN Trophy. I`m a trophy-whore, but I don`t know...I like when the damn game gives me something. The concept is amazing, but it`s pretty narrow for a fifteen dollars title.
Was I the only one that thought it was a little pretentious? I mean, there is not much substance to it. It`s like playing an artsy-fartsy version of Mario. Jonathan Blow the game designer behind Braid was like: ¨Ok, I have a good concept, so fuck the story and fuck the graphics¨. He was right in a sense, because the game sold extremely well. I have to say though that it`s not quite worth fifteen bucks. Ten, maybe, but not fifteen.
All right, I'll admit it, it's pretty and artistically clever, but it feels a little cold and intellectual. I was not struck by the graphics or by the value of what I was sold. It's OK in a retro way, but if you want a good looking 2D platformer go play Bionic Commando:Rearmed.
I'm torn. There is a lot in that game that appeals to the kid in me, but there is a lot that rebukes that kid too. Having to use my head to rewind time and to think my moves over felt really really rewarding, but it was like being in a broken rollercoaster...it stops and goes and stops and goes. There is no feeling of flow, no learning curve. Basically we're sold a concept and the genius of Jonathan Blow. We're not really sold the game.
I wasn't very attached to Tim as a hero, but I wanted to know what happened with the damn princess. The difficulty level of the game knocked me out at the last level though. Maybe i'll pick it up again, but it doesn`t feel good or rewarding. You cannot make a game with only one concept. A thourough game designe is important
-The time manipulation is ground breaking.
-The construction of the world is fun to navigate.
-Tim is a good looking fellow.
-Story feels useless
-No player reward throughout the whole game
This review might seem severe, but Braid was to revered everywhere I went that I couldn`t help but feeling a bit flunked by what I got. There is a lot of pretty things in that game, but the substance falls short. Not worth fifteen bucks. Wait for a sale.
Friday, November 27, 2009
This is the episode guide to Law Of The Gun, an episodic fiction published every friday. It's an action oriented techno-political thriller, which is about a special team formed to counter experiments on human life.
Episode 001 "Walter"
Episode 002 "The stranger in the suit"
Episode 003 "The fat guy"
Episode 004 "Up close and personnal"
Episode 005 "Castles of glass"
Episode 006 "A golden offer"
Episode 007 "Besthesda"
Episode 008 "The recruit"
Episode 009 "The odd doctor"
Episode 010 "Delta force"
Episode 011 "The strike from within"
Episode 012 "The real Dr.Aksoy"
Episode 013 "Can't keep a good man down..."
Episode 014: "Suburban chaos"
Episode 015: "Up for redeployment"
Episode 016: "Crossroads"
Episode 017: "Night Visions"
Episode 018: "Unforeseen Circumstances"
Episode 019: "New Babylon"
Episode 020: "Family Values"
Episode 021: "Strangers When We Meet"
Episode 022: "Breeding The Spawn"
Episode 023: "Circle Of Truth"
Episode 024: "Fall Of Babylon"
Episode 025: "The Infinite"
Walter’s adaptation skills were put to use like never before. Hostile environment took a while to get used to, but at least, he had a frame of reference. Hostile was all he ever knew. Suburbia to him felt like a moon of Jupiter. There was nothing in that kind of life he knew about. The first thing he did was to lock himself up in the three stories house the FBI had given to him, so he could recon the territory from a safe place. Walter spent the first night in his new house in the attic, looking down into the street with night vision goggles, noting down every suspect thing that happened around Murat Aksoy’s house.
The man seemed to lead a pretty mundane life outside his work office. He arrived every night at 11:30 PM sharp, parked his Honda Accord in his driveway, entered his house, went to the second floor, watched T.V took a shower and went to bed around 12:30 AM. Every day he woke up at 7 AM with the sound of his alarm and went to work at 7:30 after a copious breakfast of eggs, ham and bacon. The man has the regulated routine of an old boy. He was boring, but he was doing crazy hours at work. Therefore, Walter’s attention focused on what Aksoy was possibly doing during his work hours. Was he really doing sixteen hours a day of clinical work? It would have been more than a hundred hours per week. That would explain the big house, but it also made for Walter complete loss of interest for what Murat Aksoy was doing around his neighborhood. His enormous house was more of a utilitarian hovel where the doctor slept and ate in between shift, more than a place where he actually lived.
The girl arrived on Monday as Walter was taking on himself to tail Aksoy to work after a week-end of light sleep. He was about to get out the door when the girl arrived with Mason, a brother in arms from the Kossovo war he hadn’t seen in almost ten years. He stopped in his tracks, but was not surprised anymore. The continuous state of surprised he had been for the last few days and the exhaustion he was feeling at the moment shielded him against any kind of possible display of emotion.
“Mason! Man, I thought you exploded on a mine eight years ago.”
“Walter! I’m glad to see you too” said Mason, with his ever awkward grin.
“What’s with the girl? I never knew a reptilian guy like you could reproduce.”
Mason laughed out loud; they always had this eerie friendship. They fought together; they trusted each other with their lives. They saved each other’s life a few times. Mason was one of the best snipers Walter ever worked with. He felt safe to do the boldest attacks whenever Mason was on a mission with him, because he had his back. They never felt like knowing each other outside of work though, their personalities were clashing all the time and both had a bad vibe from each other. Their paths kept crossing though and they both were pretty happy with it. As long as it was work related, they were glad to see each other. They both knew the other guy could get the job done.
“I’m Jill” she said.
“Hem…John” Walter said.
“I thought Harry just called you Walter.”
“Hem yeah, Walter, whatever.”
Walter always tried to stay away from teenage girls. His relationship with women had always been pretty superficial in general, but the teenagers he tried to stay clear of them. They were too complicated with their feelings and their identity crisis. Walter liked simple and straightforward stuff. That’s why he joined the army and that’s why he was good at it. He tried to keep the essential of his relationships to that straightforwardness.
“Jill is your new partner on the Aksoy case Walt” said Mason in his all out grinning glory.
“Fuck you Mason, it’s not funny.”
“Is he always like that?”asked Jill.
“Yes, but he’s very kind at heart” said Harry. “And no, I’m not kidding, Colonel White sends me.
“But I don’t work with girls!”
“Not my call”
“Is she even legal?”
“Legal is irrelevant to the situation Walt, you know it, I know it, it always been like that.”
Walter knew Mason was right. They had done it before. Once, in Kossovo, they had hide in a classroom full of children in order to lure some Serbian soldiers inside. They had killed five enemy soldiers in front of a toddler’s classroom. They felt bad doing it, but they felt even worse when the kids started to applause and cheer. Like little vultures, they looted the corpses of the Serbians, leaving them to rot somewhere in a Kossovar mass grave. Walter knew, in a war situation, there is no such thing as legal or illegal. It’s win or lose, period. He just wasn’t aware that the Aksoy situation was a war situation. He rectified his whole perception of the thing right away.
“She’s going to live with you; she’s going to be your daughter, Abigail Bailey.”
Walter took a deep breath and said: “All right, sure”
“So we should call each other Abigail and John?” said Jill.
“All right, sure.” Answered Walter with a growing unease.
“So, you guys have an appointment at 11:00 AM at Aksoy’s office, if I were you, I would take the time to know each others, you guys can’t screw up.” said Mason, with a jubilating tone.
Before Walter could raise a hand in sign of protest, Mason closed the front door waving goodbye, leaving Jill and her backpack on the carpet. She had that teenage look in her eyes that Walter hated. He felt alien to that whole situation, he babbled a: “Hem…it’s your home too, you should unpack.”
“Eeeh…sure” Jill said. “Where?”
“There’s like a gazillion rooms upstairs, just pick the one you like the most.”
She took her back pack and climbed up the stairs. Walter just lumbered around behind her, not knowing what he should do. Jill turned around swiftly when she reached the top of the staircase and said: “Why are you following me?”
Walter thought it was a good question: “I don’t know..you must be HUNGRY!” he said a little too loud, proud of his idea. Jill jumped a few centimeters backwards from the surprise.
“No, I had breakfast already.”
“Oh I see…” he lumbered down backstairs and sat in the living room couch waiting for Jill to be done with unpacking her things. He damned himself for being that confused by the situation. Things were not ideal, but Jill was nothing more than a partner to him. He should treat her like a partner, nothing else. He decided to adopt the field attitude when she’ll come back downstairs and concert with her on the situation and the course of action.
It took her around an hour to come down. He had time to watch a whole episode of “All my children” on NBC before she came down. When she arrived in the living room, that little something inside that he called “the soldier sense”, told him that she seemed like a good partner. She pulled her hair back and put on some make up so she’d look pale and sick. She put on some darker but nicer clothes and a white shawl on her shoulders, which made her look thinner than an hour before. She looked sick from a very bad disease. It was not just her face, it was her whole demeanor felt resignated.
“How do you like me dying” she said with a faint smile.
“I think you’re dying pretty good” said Walter, with as less emotions as he could.
She winked at him, which made him feel uncomfortable. He brushed it off and continued:
“All right how do you see this?”
“What do you mean?”
“You’ve read the file on Aksoy right?”
“Yes” she said with a look of confusion.
“How d’you want to tackle this thing down?”
“I don’t know, however you feel like. Harry told me you were the expert.”
Walter felt his momentum going: “All right, here’s how I see things. The first report on Aksoy’s activities is pointing out that most people who go to him are in straight up denial. They don’t cry, they don’t plea for his help. They seem to consider him like the only doctor on earth with a brain. I think we should play that angle, but to give it a little hitch, so we could appeal to anything human left on that wacko.”
“What’s that hitch?” asked Jill.
“See, I’m the rich dad, which think his daughter will never die. You’re good at being pitiable, but I need you to be the girl that wants to believe everything her daddy says, but feels like she’s dying inside. I think it would put us a notch over the cynical businessman who thinks he’s over society, so we could get to Aksoy’s easier, since he’s our neighbor and all.”
“He’s OUR NEIGHBOR?”
“Well yes, Mason didn’t tell you?”
“I know, but we’re not exactly dealing with sweet emotions and repentant bad boys
here. Guy is a scum. I’m not sure why, but if Colonel White says he is…well he is.”
“Oook…so you’re supposed to be my dad?”
“How old are you?”
“Twenty eight, you?”
“TWENTY EIGHT? YOU LOOK FORTY AT LEAST!”
“So I’ve been told. How about we hop on the car right now and we arrive early at Aksoy’s clinic? It’s downtown D.C, it’s as bit far.”
“You’re the boss.”
She was a good partner so far. She let him run the show. She had yet to perform under pressure though.
Thursday, November 26, 2009
I'm in a very interesting place right now as a gamer. I'm 27, i'm growing older and gaining some maturity as a human being in general. For the younger readers here who are asking themselves what's that abstraction called maturity, well it's a virus that strikes when you get 25 years old, enjoy youth while you can!
The point I'm getting to here is that I'm growing older a lot faster than video games are. As they have been gaining considerable maturity since the eighties, since the inception of shooter games in the mid nineties, it's been nothing but a long teenagehood for that art medium we all love. From the snappy retorts of Duke Nukem to the high fiving retards of Army Of Two, I don't feel that much have changed. They keep getting caught in the same wars, fighting the same bad guys, but they just act less and less maturely about it.
Thing is, gamers are growing old just like me. There is a lot of kids still playing but the average gamer is in his mid twenties, just like I was two years ago. I was reading a very article by Russell Carroll, a Wii game designer, on his blog and it got me thinking. The Wii, despite all of my attempts to make fun of it, it talking to a different generation of people.A generation which I will soon be a part of, the 35 years old and plus.
That places me in that interesting position I was telling you about. In eight years, will I have to let go of the gun wielding madness and get a Wii Fit? Dear god, if you're around, please strike me down before I get there! I sound drastic a little, but there is this cut made when it comes to older type of gaming. One day, everything seems cool to play...and the other day, you want the Wii Fit to stay in shape and turn your back on the shooters and all these other frantic games. I still want to play video games in eight years so, what will be there for me?
The industry will have to make some choices pretty soon, but these will be hard. Call Of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 just racked up some incredible numbers, but a lot of the core of the gaming community is growing older, our reflexes are slowing down and we get cranky having to deal with all these fourteen years old kids online. The numbers speak for themselves, but how long will it last? Infinity Ward is sitting on top of some very convincing numbers in order to continue doing what they do, but every concept has a life cycle. To make it last longer, you have to create new variables.
The safest variable there is, is us, the already acquired demographic. Despite being in it's all out glory of sixteen years old teenagehood, gaming HAS to evolves. Therein lies the paradox. If you were a gaming executive, what would you do? I'm going to preach to the choir a little bit here and invite them to start producing more mature stuff. Why? Well, Army Of Two and its buffed up jocks can stay, but creating diversity is going to please the almost-thirties demographic and bring new people in, like the Wii is doing.
I can see the argument: ¨Our target customer is an escapist, he wants to leave his reality for a few hours, so we give him an idealized alpha male role to vent his frustrations¨. That might excuse the existence of Marcus Fenix, but that still doesn't excuse Rios and Salem, my two favorite idiots. They are lazy, opportunistic character design and they pretty much embody the problem I'm discussing today.
So, where do we go from here? I've annoyed you guys with Heavy Rain for the last few weeks, but I still have to stress out it's importance in the future of video games. More than a groundbreaking format and narrative, it's trying to nail down mature thematics like no game ever did before. The success of this game will start a tidal wave of ¨Oh damn, I can do that too¨ reactions. So if it nails the box office, we'll experience a structural shift in game design. Games will stop targeting only fourteen years old and it will reach the next step of it's evolution towards getting to be recognized as a mainstream art medium alongside literature and cinema.
But, not all the games have to take that much risks. Some IPs are starting to take smaller steps towards maturation. Kane & Lynch who got maimed for having a terrible shooting system offered the gamer a very interesting story where the hero has to deal with flashbacks, medication and doesn`t take any apparent pleasure in doing his work. Dialogues were pretty vulgar at times, but the characters were strong enough to grant a sequel and I'm pretty happy about it. Eidos invested in narratives and it carried the game on its shoulders. Grand Theft Auto IV also tried to take a more mature approach. It turned it into some king of curmudgeon of a game though. When I beat it, I felt more depressed than anything. Rockstar was a little clumsy at it, but they are actually good at immaturity. They make it fun and not just a series of iconic images on a game that lack substance. Ubisoft Montreal with Assassin's Creed and Splinter Cell also have to be mentioned for offering something more intellectual to its gamer. They replace reflex time by strategic approach to a level. I can't help but to like the games they are doing.
So you can see the problem. Taking risks will eventually be necessary to keep the audience they worked to hard to get. It's easy to close your eyes and to rehash your stuff, saying that you have good sells, but truth is, everything has a life cycle, games, genres...audiences... Just evolve along, the industry will grow richer and more diversified than ever.
Hey readership! As a writer, I get inspired by plenty of things around me. Music, Books, Movies, Video Games, TV Shows, etc. I'm going to start posting them here randomly. Hopefully if might shed a different light on what I do...it not...oh well, I just wish it inspires you as much as it inspires me. It's going to be called, song, book, show-of-the-moment.
Today,¨A Walk¨by Bad Religion. They usually inspire me a lot, but ¨A Walk¨ is the one which struck me the most lately. I put a live version as it was completely impossible to find an embeddable version of the video without having a Limp Bizkit clip at the top of it.So enjoy!
I'm going for a walk
not the after dinner kind
I'm gonna use my hands
and I'm gonna use my mind
and who the hell are you to tell me what to do?
you can't even tie your own haggard shoes
your closet is a mess, and your backyard's falling down
and I have no grand ideas or intentions of sticking around
I'm gonna build a world
independant and exempt
all alone I'll be an empire
with no mortgage and no rent
and I don't need to live in your stinking zoo
you can't even feed the animals donated to you
your storage sheds are ramshackled, flies decorate the walls
and you expect me to die here in this shit-filled tiny stall?
and I know you're watching! everything I do
call me threat to your children call me socially unglued
call me master of insanity, unable to relate
call me lazy, bane, and filthy
call me monstrous reprobate
I'm going for a walk and there's nothing you can do
'cuz I don't have to live like you
so I'm going for a walk
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Hello readership! Here is, for your great (and my great) enjoyment, the Zero Punctuation about Modern Warfare 2. I was glad Yahtzee had exactly the same opinion I had about the game. From now on, if you want to click zero times instead of twice to access Zero Punctuation, well it will be available on my blog every Wednesday at 12:05!
Thanks to The Escapist Magazine and their embedding code to make this possible.
Hello readership! Today we take on Roger in his lunch break with his boys Liam and Hamid. His Team Lead Travis is also trying to relax for a few minutes in a stressful Wednesday
ROGER: OK! WHO'S THE FUNNY GUY THAT CLOGGED UP THE TOILET?
LIAM: Too much information Roger.
ROGER: It's the same story every week. When I'm going on lunch break, there's a bathroom bandit with a colon problem that terrorizes the toilet.
TRAVIS: Just call the security Roger, it's no big deal.
ROGER: NO BIG DEAL? I HAVE NATURAL NEEDS TOO MAN.
HAMID: Pucker up!
LIAM: Eeeew! I'm eating!
TRAVIS: Guys, no toilet talk during lunch break.
ROGER: Excuse me? I'm discussing an important sanitary issue here.
TRAVIS: Damn, just go get the janitor Rog! Let us eat.
ROGER: Don't put your workers in the same sentence than you, you corporate fiend!
TRAVIS: Man, you'll never get over the fact that I got that promotion over you? Maybe if you'd be more polite to clients, Anacom Solutions would have promoted you instead of me. Your issue resolving rate is through the roof.
ROGER: Maybe if I had polite and decent clients, I'd be polite and decent with them. I'm just a tool of the wrath of god man.
TRAVIS: Because you're religious now?
ROGER: Metaphorically speaking.
HAMID: You should stop eating spicy Roger, it's not good for your bowels.
ROGER: You tell me!
LIAM: I can't stand spice. Last time I ate Tacos I had to call off work the next day.
TRAVIS: I'm sorry Liam, maybe I'm just close minded, but I've seen you eating the same exact lunch every day for two years...in what occasion exactly did you eat Tacos?
LIAM: My twenty first birthday.
ROGER: It's true man, too much Tacos really can kill your legs.
LIAM: It was not my legs that got killed.
ROGER: Yeah I can figure that out.
ROGER: What? We're in lunch time, we're unwinding!
LIAM: Yeah Travis. You're my boss on the floor, not in the lunch break room.
TRAVIS: I'm your boss every morning when you put a foot in the building until the moment you leave.
ROGER: *cracks fingers* Oh REALLY?
TRAVIS: Yeah, you got a problem with that Rog?
ROGER: Don't call me Rog, you pompous guy! My friends call me Rog.
TRAVIS: Roger, whatever...
ROGER: It's Mister Spivey for you.
TRAVIS: Bullshit, if I have to call you Mister Spivey, you'll call me Master Goldrick.
ROGER: Master Goldick sounds find with me.
TRAVIS: GOLDRICK, WITH AN R, LIKE ROGER.
ROGER: Don't associate my name with yours Goldick.
TRAVIS: DON'T CALL ME GOLDICK YOU INSUBORDINATE PIECE OF SHIT!
HAMID: Hey, that's not cool! If Roger goes to HR with that, I can testify you called him a piece of shit.
LIAM: Yeah, it's a disrespect of the Anacom Solutions code of ethics.
TRAVIS: OH, BECAUSE HE RESPECTS THE CODE OF ETHICS?
HAMID: Roger is a rebel! Like The Renegade, but on the phone.
LIAM: You kinda look like Lorenzo Lamas Rog!
LIAM: But without the hair!
TRAVIS: I'm sorry Roger.
ROGER: Better be, now eat your sandwich and leave your working force alone.
TRAVIS: How's the VP Hotline doing Hamid?
HAMID: There's no VPs calling.
TRAVIS: What d'you mean? There was twelve calls only thing morning
HAMID: Only people impersonating VPs.
TRAVIS: I don't get it.
HAMID: VPs are nice, what I got on the phone were screaming harlots.
ROGER: Also known as VP assistant *bumps knuckles with Hamid*
TRAVIS: Twelve calls is a lot, what do they call about.
HAMID: I'm not sure.
TRAVIS: WHAT? WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU'RE NOT SURE.
HAMID: They talk so much nonsense I'm not exactly sure what they want.
TRAVIS: What did you do to their machine.
HAMID: You know, the usual, clear the cookies, verify the state of their wireless connection. A little of this, a little of that.
TRAVIS: Were they satisfied?
HAMID: Yes, they seemed so.
TRAVIS: Why did they call then?
ROGER: That's what I'm trying to figure out everyday.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
I always thought the word “desperate” was very hard to use. What would qualify as “desperate times”? When Evie died, I thought I tasted despair. Then Teena and the girls died, with ninety percent of the population of New York. Within a week, it went from nine millions to nine hundred thousand. It’s not like it was something clean neither, people didn’t just vanished. New York quickly transformed into a gigantic, gnarly mass grave. Building became mausoleums that sealed rotten corpses, infection and poisoned water. The American government declared quarantine over New York City. Each exit was barricaded by tanks, soldiers and snipers with gas masks. The toxicity level in the air was too high for them to breathe the same air than us. We didn’t get to wear any gas mark though, we were like leper. We had to stay quarantined and at least twenty meters away from the military; the toxins gave a dry cough that was highly contagious.
Inside Marcus’s place, things were going on almost normally. We sealed the doorways, the windows and installed a homemade filter for the AC. Everything seemed normal minus the fact that both of our lives went down the drain within a matter of weeks. Marcus went from trying to be helpful to almost catatonic within the three first days after the gas attacks. It was Potassium Cyanide, the TV said, the same gas used to kill inmates in the gas chamber, but this time, poured all over the city. One of New York's new attributes...a gas chamber.
Marcus barely ate, he didn’t wash, he was just sitting in front of the TV, watching CNN in a loop, hoping to see the girls pop out of the metro or whatever miracle he was expecting. Meanwhile, I just tried to keep the house as tidy as I could. It was a way to keep my mind busy while minimizing the risks of intoxication. Eight days after Joey Holloway died on our porch, Marcus finally spoke to me: “You know Cliff, I’m jealous of you.”
“Why is that?” I asked, sitting next to him on the couch.
“Your pain is yours man, when you lost Evie, everyone could mourn her and try to make it easier for you.”
I was quite confused, and I thought he was too. There was nothing awesome about losing my fiancée, nothing to be jealous about. I asked for some better explanation, politely: “What do you mean?”
“I mean that I feel bad to mourn. Everyone died Clifford. People are falling like flies all over the city. My loss is not special, I can’t mourn my wife and my kids without having to mourn eight million people. I can't cry my people if I can't cry all people.” he said, looking directly at the wooden floor.
I knew where he was coming from with that. There was something unspeakable about what was happening to New York, it was too big to be sad about, too incredible to be real. If our wives and my nieces would be locked in the loft with us, it could have been like any other day.
“Marcus, here’s how I see things…” I said, not knowing where I was going with it. “You’re my brother and you’re all I got left. Let’s just make sure we don’t lose each other man.”
Marcus did something I haven’t seen him do in many years. He shed a tear and held my hand. My proud big brother finally stopped bottling everything up and let go of a little steam. It was good to have broken the silence he often walled himself up in. Marcus, despite my big brother, was always smaller and weaker than I was. He was the brains of the family and I was the brawns. I had my mother’s genes. My uncles on the side of my mom were all big and strong workers as my dad’s side was more intellectual. Marcus wasn’t small by any means, but he was never an athlete and after I turned ten years old, he could no longer perform big brother protection duties.
He found himself other sources of strength. Self-sufficiency was one of them. Marcus always took great pride from being his own man, his only contributor to his own success. He liked to lecture me on this when I went to dinner at his house with Evie. She hated that, but whatever made my brother proud made me happy. Evie never understood how Marcus felt lonely and inapt for a big part of his life. She knew him on the verge of the opening of “Whitmore Books”. She never knew the other Marcus. I knew him; I lived with the other Marcus for most of my life. It was him that I was staring at, quietly crying in his living room couch, contemplating the ashes of his little kingdom. It was breaking my heart to see what he worked so hard for turned into shreds by what the media called “an unclaimed terrorist attack”. Marcus was right, I had my own pain, but I still had my life and my two feet on the ground. His whole life had been vaporized by a toxic gas attack. His family, his business, everything he worked at was destroyed.
Marcus wiped off his tears and said: “You’re right baby brother. You’re all I have left too. We go through this together or we go down together. Deal?”
“Deal” I said, bumping his knuckles.
“Let’s go read on the internet about Potassium Cyanide” Marcus said, going for the computer. Wikipedia had the answers we needed. What I could gather from the explanations given was that the wide spread of the tragedy was due to the fact that Potassium Cyanide was highly soluble in the water. In fact, we survived so long due to Marcus’s acute tastes for Evian bottled water. Since he was a child he had the aqueduct water in horror.
That and the fact we didn’t wash probably made for us still being alive. Airwave poisoning was pretty dangerous too, at high concentrations; just being outside in the open could get you killed within two hours. Marcus and I looked at each other after reading the article, probably thinking the same thing. There were only two packs of Evian water left. We’d eventually need to go out and replenish on stock. Was that was desperation about? The need to live? We were two brothers, abandoned by life and together, back against the wall, the only thing we could think about was to live a little bit older.
Desperation is not like in the movies, at least not ours. This is an intimate concept. Our whole apocalypse had something very intimate. We had something against the death and destruction surrounding us. There was no more tears, no screams, no panic. Our desperation came in the form of a well planned scheme to find neat food and clear water. Marcus got down to the book store to get one of these maps of Queens he was selling. A big hit, as he always said.
We suspected that Queens was particularly devastated by the attacks because we saw casualties of it way before it was announced on the news. We barred from our list of places to check out the local groceries. They were small and probably looted by the time we’d go out. Marcus pointed out a canning factory and the city reservoir of purified water, which was sealed in the case of horrible cases like the one we were living. Sadly, we hoped everyone before us who tried to access it, died trying. It was a question of survival.
We also improvised gas masks with tissues and scarves. I did that in construction to prevent from inhaling all kind of particles. The important was to put as much layers as we could. Marcus brought bandanas and his nine millimeter pistol. He’d be happy to wield it as he was the only one of us who knew how to shoot. He learned it from the cadets when he was a teenager. One of his many attempts at finding the strengths he so desperately seeked.
There was serenity, almost a joy in our preparation. We were two brothers, preparing to go play outside, like in the old days. Stripped of everything we had, we turned on to the essential, each other. I didn’t really care if I’d survive. The only thing I’d want to live for was to not leave my brother alone.
Outside it was dark. I felt like it was always dark. The clocks were still going on in New York City, but everybody stopped paying attention to them. Time, the abstract construction of human mind had fell out of place. There was no time anymore, no rules, no one. There is only time where there are humans to see it pass by. When everybody dies, it doesn’t matter what time it is. What matters is how much time is left…
Monday, November 23, 2009
Some people have no respect. They kick you down, they drag you in the mud in front of everyone you love and yet, they expect you have nothing better to do than to be in awe in their presence. I used to date that asshole Croat Goran. Even worse, I used to be in love with that guy. He would’ve asked me to go live in Zagreb with him; I would’ve followed the guy. Goran is the kind of self-sufficient asshole that likes to think that girls are stupid. I got news for you big guy; they’re only stupid when they are in love.
The thing with girls and love is that every time it happens, we fall completely into it. We dive into relationships like a scuba diver into Lake Titicaca. We don’t dip; we dive with a passion and love that we can barely explain. When we get our hands on a good looking guy, we think he’s the next big thing, the ultimate truth. When my best friend Karyn introduced me to Goran, I immediately saw myself in his arms. When I kissed him the first time, I could see us moving together. When he moved in with me, I heard the wedding carol and the cries of a baby. It was eight months after I only knew him. What a mistake.
I thought he was so deep and rebellious. He was an anarchist. Not a vain dreamer, but an engaged one, member of the local anarchist movement. I spent countless hours with my head on his chest, his long hair gently caressing my ear while he was reading Proudhon, Kropotkin or whatever intellectual masturbation he was into. I got off on that. My man was going to change the world with his radical thinking. I like to think that every woman can be stupid and date an asshole once in her life. I was stupid and shut my brain down for a whole two years. I kick myself for that.
Goran, despite being brilliant, was not the kind of guy you could discuss with. He was also a member of MENSA, with an IQ of 144. He liked to talk about it and use it as a way to close all argument. He had a hot temper and hated to argue. So like a good girl, I didn’t dare challenge his intellect and shut my mouth most of the time. I remember the time I told him I was going to vote Democrat at the 2004 election he got so angry he took my handbag and a big chunk of my clothes and threw them from the window of our apartment yelling: “NO PERPETRATOR OF A SLAVERY SYSTEM IS GOING TO SLEEP IN MY BED”. He kicked me out of my own house. In November he kicked me out of my own place without my vest or my shoes. He called me a tramp, a whore, everything in the book. He didn’t hit me, but his words were hurting as much. Thank god I had my cell phone and could call Karyn to pick me up.
I stayed ten days at my best friend’s place. Ten days where the only news of Goran I had were through his friend Marko. He’s the guy I should have dated. He was nice and polite. I was coming back from work one day, when I bumped into him. He held me in his arms and told me how sorry he was. For a minute, he got me worried that Goran was dead and like a stupid headless chicken, I started to cry. Then Marko told me: “I don’t know what got a hold of him; I thought you guys were going to get married.”
“Marko, what are you talking about?” I said, with my mascara pouring down my cheeks.
“Well, I saw Goran with Lisa Majesky at the bar last Saturday.”
Like an idiot in love, I ran at Karyn’s crying. That should have been the end of my relationship with the pompous intellectual. He kicked me out, fucked one of my classmates like I don’t exist, what kind more abuse I was ready to take?
Goran came back after ten days, knocking at Karyn’s door, crying and begging me to come back home, that he was missing me, without mentioning anything of the Lisa Majesky story. Fuck, I don’t understand why, but I listened. To the dismay of Karyn, who today no longer talks to me, I just went back and lived with him. I loved the guy, I was submerged by the love I had for him. I couldn’t see anything but the great intellectual leader in him. Oh and I voted Anarchist too. It’s because of people like Goran that George Bush had a second mandate.
Things just got worse and worse. I took six months before mentioning the name of Lisa Majesky. He denied everything. He told me I was a liar, then that Marko was a liar, then when I brought the fact that he kicked me out like a savage, he told me I was stupid to run off because he was going to let me back in a few minutes after I would have apologized for wanting to vote Democrat. I was on the verge of exploding. He kept poking me with his finger, like in a bad cop movie. I had enough.
I smacked his face with a frying pan.
I gave him a concussion, broke his nose, his cheek bone and two front teeth.
And I only hit him twice.
I used to play tennis.
I kicked him in the stomach and…and…left. Crying again, this time out of rage and despair. The handsome, smart, intellectual, vain, self-absorbed Goran had pushed me against the wall. He never laid a hand on me, but he worked so hard at erasing who I am that he almost succeed. My body reacted when he was trying to brutalize my mind.
I was not done with him. Oh no. Two hours after, I was crying my ass off in a coffee shop when the police arrested me. Aggravated assault. I proudly pleaded guilty at the police station and emptied my heart from all the abuse I suffered from this political self-induced wacko. Some of the policemen seem to understand my situation, other thought I was over-reacting.
So did the judge.
I got a month of jail, two years probation, a restraining order and anger management class. The judge told me there was no evidence that he ever been violent with me and he wanted to make an example for domestic violence perpetrated by women. My lawyer appealed, but I had time to do my prison term before he could reduce my probation to eighteen months and replace the anger management by a fine for Goran’s hospital fee.
I dated that asshole for two years, but nearly five years after, I’m still shaking off the effects of that relationship. I just found myself a new job in a call center and I’m saving to one day open my little bakery with my sister. One more year of work and it should be it. I have yet to have another boyfriend or to trust a single male. I have not considered being a lesbian yet, but I do not feel ready to have anyone with a wang in my life.
The only males on my Facebook list are old, overweight and sexually unthreatening co-workers. I have over a hundred friends on Facebook, but under five males. I’ve never heard of Goran after I got out of jail in September of 2005. I paid his stupid bill by the intermediary of his lawyer. He got to me so much that when everything was finally over, I felt like being reborn. Doing things on my own didn’t feel lonely anymore. I was getting the difference between loneliness and solitude. I didn’t need anymore trouble like this, so I enjoyed the absence of trouble sources.
I was going to the movies alone, drank wine and watched a movie alone, went to the restaurant alone. For a little more than three months, it was my idea of fun. Doing things by myself. Then I regained contact with my sister Janice which I lost when I was dating Goran. He had isolated me from my family. We didn’t have the best relationship, but if the trails of destruction of the Croat had one use, it would have been to make me reconnect with my loved ones. Janice and I started talking again, than I moved to New York to be closer to her. She helped me moving in and finding my job and the call center. She became my best friend. Better late than never.
Last Friday I was going through my email, because I was starting to scout locals for the bakery. The only email I got in my box read as follows:
Goràn Zorbrovic has added you as a friend on Facebook.
I wanted to message him and say: “FUCK YOU, FUCK YOU GORAN ZORBROVIC AND YOUR IDIOTIC POLITICAL AGENDA. FUCK YOU AND YOUR INTELLECT, FUCK YOU AND YOUR STUPID MENSA. WHY WOULD YOU THINK I WOULD LIKE TO TALK TO YOU?”
But I didn’t. I looked at his display picture. He didn’t change much. His hair was shorter, he was still as handsome as ever wrapped in a red flag with his well trimmed goatee. He was hot. So hot I was angry. I was angry I let myself being seduced by such a vain idiot. I didn’t add him, didn’t talk to him and blocked him on my Facebook. I refused to let such a destructive person in my life again.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Saturday, November 21, 2009
As Silent Hill:Shattered Memories is about to hit the shelves of our favorite video game shops, one question is tormenting me: ¨Is it a good idea?¨. The re-imaging of a video game can be something that can really get out of hand fast. Take the Resident Evil one they did for Game Cube for example. Who played it? Silent Hill's franchise is sufficiently wobbling as it is, I don't feel there is no need to push it down any further with a useless/bad remake.
What tools do I have to test my point? That's right. I put on my PSN pants again for you readership and I downloaded the original one in the series to be able to see what was to expect from a new imaging of such an iconic title. You guys will have to understand that this is not an usual Manly Video Game Review as I will refer to the actuality of the game and the potential of Shattered Memories quite a few times.
You have to understand that Silent Hill is an extremely manly game. Not the burly-boys-at-war-with-phallic-guns type of game. But more the I-want-to-scare-you-so-hard-your-balls-will-retreat-into-hiding type. Which is the sign of true manliness. When you start the game the disclaimer doesn`t say no parental advisory, no user discretion, none of that crap. Just a flat THERE ARE VIOLENT AND DISTURBING IMAGES IN THIS GAME. No apologies...just the mention that they're going to scare the piss out of you. Play only if you're man enough. That's the kind of game Silent Hill is.
Does it still have something to say? Yes. Does it still say it right? Yes it does. So does it give Shattered Memories a lot to worry about? Hell yeah! Harry Mason is not your usual video game hero. He's not big, not strong and not specially courageous, he's just a loving father, looking for his bastard child in the scariest town in the world. Where every man with half a common sense would've let the mutt to it's fate, Harry keeps reminding the gamer he's a pussy by showing stone cold bravado where you were scared to death. Harry's a man and you're not. That, ten new images of Silent Hill couldn`t change it...only make it worse. Harry has to keep his balls of steel to keep the tale intact.
What can it make better? The dialogues. Man I forgot how terrible the dialogues were. Harry, despite being Clint-Eastwood-cold-blooded has the personality of a cauliflower. All he can muster is 'What?' 'Huh?' and 'What's going on?', forgetting again and again he's trapped in a city where the inner monsters of a little girl are terrorizing the piss out of it's inhabitants. A clean fresh dialogue for Harry, Dahlia, Lisa, Dr. Kauffman, Cybil and all the happy-go-lucky people of Silent Hill would make this tale darker and a little less awkward in the cut scenes. The poverty of the dialogue and the time it takes to put the elements in place only make Silent Hill 2 look like a much stronger title over the years. There is most definitively something to be made about it.
Like every PSN classic titles, it handles like ass. The thing is, it's supposed to. It used to handle like ass before and if the series wouldn't have drifted into the cheap commercial horror genre, it would still do. You're ordinary, alone, scared, you've never wielded guns and you're supposed to fight some terrifying imaginary monsters that came true. You're not supposed to do good. Silent Hill puts the survival in survival horror. You're trying to survive while creatures want to eat your face for breakfast and satanist want nothing more to feed you to them. That's what's so awesome with Silent Hill. You're helpless and you need to survive.
Is there anything that can be done to improve the experience? Oh hell yes. This is where Shattered Memories could shine and this is why I'm going to look at it. The puzzles. Other than the clumsy shooting and the creepy exploration, Silent Hill revolves a lot around stupid puzzles. Solve an equation, get a key, open a door, get another key, open another door, that leads you to a key, that will lead you to a monster,who will give you a key. Over time, it's soul killing. That part didn't age well at all. Shattered Memories promised some new material for the puzzles and I hope like hell they deliver, because it will not be as more attracting than the five dollars old PSN title if you're still a sucker for keys.
This is where Shattered Memories could drop the ball. Ten years and millions of pixels after, Silent Hill still does the job to scare the living wits out of you and the pixels just added a grainy charm to it. I surprised myself having accelerated heartbeat and sweaty palms anticipating the scary parts of the game I knew were coming.
Silent Hill manages to make its gamer experience loneliness and fear. That's one hell of an accomplishment for a pixelated video game. The sound effects of Harry's footsteps in the lonely streets, the screeching on the radio, the flash light radius giving just enough light to hope to get out alive of it's nightmarish streets. The game doesn't try to scare you with cheap thrills, it's just there...the setting, the gloominess of it still works and I think Shattered Memories should stay dead accurate to the form because it's going to be scary as hell to get that revamped for the day.
Well, Silent Hill is awesome in it's own little way. It embodies the places of your worst fears and as the franchise is going on, it's just getting scarier and scarier, just ask James Sunderland. What's awesome behind Silent Hill is the conscious effort to scare the wits out of you. It's a well gauged work made to scare you. The awesome is in the work, which makes the game flow like the best horror movie you've ever seen.
-The town as a whole.
-The pacing is a little slow
-PSN's joystick adaptation
So is it worth it to make a reimaging. It could be. If it's done right, it could breathe a new life into a franchise that two titles and a bad movie had brought to it's knees. The original Silent Hill still delivers, but a new version could beef it up and bring back the actuality of the title.
Friday, November 20, 2009
First day at work always made Brandon uneasy. The work was the same, really, video surveillance. Everything else was different though. The equipment, the target, that god damn suit he needed to be in. House rules, everyone worked in a suit. Dale Sterling brought him to the tailor in order to get him a suit that he felt comfortable in. Uncle Sam would pay the bill. The suit indeed looked nice on him, but Brandon felt uncomfortable wearing anything else than work clothes. For him, a suit was not work appropriate, it was too eventful.
That fellow Murat Aksoy was also making Brandon feel awkward. This skinny tanned fellow with his big scary eyes barely ever blinked. Brandon wondered how anyone could trust this guy who looked like Nosferatu with hair. He understood when the first clients came in. Murat Aksoy’s clinic was not any kind of clinic. When medicine is condemning you, your kids or someone you love, usually, you just went home, read books about life after death and waited for the grim reaper. The luckiest and the richer got someone to slip them a word about Dr. Murat Aksoy.
Brandon had no clue if he was a real doctor or not. He felt the man was more like these scam artists that get busted once in a while in these investigation shows on FOX. He saw two appointments with patients so far and had yet to see what he recognized as a doctor behavior. He’d just sit behind his office with his arms cross and listen to dying people pour their hearts out in front of them, occasionally doing a strange “hun hun”, as you would imagine Sigmund Freud would’ve done. Then, he’d give them a general exam, sign some papers and disappear from the camera. Brandon was no body language specialist, but it looked to him as if he scheduled an appointment with the apparently dying patient.
The first patient of the day was a fat and short guy in a beige suit. He said is name was Frank Penner. He reminded Brandon of a car salesman. He apparently suffered from a kidney condition and the doctor gave him less than a year to live. Frank Penner was talking as if conventional medicine was a load of lies and that he considered Dr. Aksoy the only man on earth with a clue about his condition. When Penner asked the doctor: “Come on doc, do I look like a dying man to you? I’ve barely started my forties. I have a lot of more laps around the ring to do.”
To that, Aksoy only answered : “I do not think that you will die, no.”
Penner was out of the office with his paper within ten minutes. Aksoy then disappeared in a small dead angle of Brandon’s camera for many minutes and reappeared to greet his next client. At the time he wired up the doctor’s place, it didn’t seem important to him to aim a camera at the upper left corner of the room. Corners were corners, a dead end, plus, this one didn’t have any shelf in it, it was a completely naked corner. What was he doing there? Brandon thought Murat Aksoy was slightly deranged. He could understand that the law would like to take down such a danger, but why would the FBI bother? Just a raid in his clinic and everything would be over. There must’ve been more to it, but Brendan didn’t know what exactly. For the first time in a few years, he started to find his job amazing. The takeover of Viking Security by the FBI had been a blessing in disguise.
Brandon couldn’t stop watching. One after the others all the clients had something fascinating about them. They had this fierce refusal of death. They were not desperate or teary eyed, they just refused their fate, they refused that nature gave them an affliction that would put a timer on their life. They refused to live with a timer, these people all seemed to think they were making a bad dream and Murat Aksoy would be the person to wake them up.
It’s Dale Sterling that interrupted Brandon’s stream of thoughts around six PM. His day had flown by as if he was watching a CSI season boxed set. He was living the dream of everyone sitting on their couch in front of T.V, he was taking risks to change stuff. He greeted Dale Sterling with a happy grin and a handshake: “Hey Dale man! Thanks again for this wonderful opportunity, I’m having a blast here.”
“No problem Brandon, I knew you were the man for the job.” said Sterling with a grin that challenged the width of Brandon’s. “So, what have we learned?” he added.
“Oh, hell, a lot, what a wackjob that Aksoy heh?”
“That we knew Brandon, have we learned something else?” asked Sterling, more serious.
“Well, the doesn’t do a lot of medicine for a doctor.” said Brandon.
“What does he do then?”
“He just listens to people vent about their illness and hand them papers. I’m no expert on the subject, but it seems to me that he’s handing appointments or something.”
“Very possible. Most doctors have office days and surgery days. He hasn’t made any examination at all?”
“Yeah a little bit, some general stuff like a check up, but that’s all. He doesn’t even ask them to take their clothes off. He takes temperature, takes reflexes, pressure, the kind of stuff nurses do usually.”
“Anything else?” asked Sterling, visibly dissatisfied.
“Yeah well…one strange thing.”
“Strange things are always the best Brandon. We only concentrate on things that differs from the normal, the routine. What is it?”
“See…when I wired up the place, I put three cameras in Aksoy’s office. It covers ninety five percent of the field, but there is still a little dead angle in the corner.”
“So what’s in this corner?”
“So what’s your point?” asked Sterling.
“He…goes there a lot.”
“Fuck…what does he do there?”
“I don’t know” said Brandon, growing restless of Sterling’s questioning drive.
“I’ll tell you what he does. He does something he doesn’t want us to know. Aksoy is a certifiable paranoid, he probably spot us and keeps it from us. That guy has the survival instinct of a cockroach.”
“So do we need another camera?” asked Brandon, ready to go wire the clinic up one more time.
“No.” answered Sterling, bluntly.
“Because our agents have an appointment tomorrow morning. Go take some rest I’ll tag you along for the night.”
Brandon realized he was exhausted from sitting a whole day in that crammed office with no windows and bad air. He quietly nodded, thanked Dale Sterling once again and made his way out back to his apartment. All evening, he couldn’t help but to constantly think about Murat Aksoy. What a weird character he was, Brandon never met any people like him before and would probably not meet anyone similar anytime soon.
The patients were equally haunting, how could they get around to trust someone like Murat Aksoy. The man looked like a cartoonish mad scientist and these people seemed to much against the idea of dying that they’d just blindly give money to the first spooky looking guy. Brandon knew at his age and weight that it was a question of time before he would experience severe health problems. He barely fit in the office chair he was sitting in today. He’d prefer to die though than to get touched by that guy. That or get in shape.
He went for a late evening walk as he couldn’t sleep. The elements of the day were running circles in his head. He would’ve run back to the office if he could. Sterling would like him to come back the next day well rested though and Brandon wanted to please the person who hired him, so he would quietly wait for the next day and try to sleep a little. He wondered about the agents that would show up the next day. Would he be able to tell them from the usual client of Murat Aksoy? How would they approach such an odd guy?