Sometimes I Get Crushes on Fictional Women

Maybe you’ve felt it, maybe you haven’t. You’re watching someone on-screen or reading a story, and somehow it pops into your head: “They’re exactly the kind of person I want!” Perhaps you embrace it. Perhaps you’re embarrassed by it. Perhaps you’ve never felt it and are embarrassed for me. It doesn’t matter: here are five types of fictional characters that have caused the chemicals in my brain to betray logic.

(Let’s get something out of the way first: I am not in love with a fictional character. I just find the idea of some of them alluring. Consider this more of a partner piece to The Idea of You.)

Type 1: She’s Broken, but I Can Fix Her!


Examples: Brooke,   Butter  ; Elizabeth,   Prozac Nation  ; Lisbeth Salander,   The Girl with the Dragon TattooExamples: Brooke,   Butter  ; Elizabeth,   Prozac Nation  ; Lisbeth Salander,   The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

Examples: Brooke, Butter; Elizabeth, Prozac Nation; Lisbeth Salander, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo

I’m drawn to the edgy, out-of-control nature of these dangerous women. They’re exciting. As much as I roll my eyes when I see women going for “bad boys,” apparently I do it myself. I’m not just in it for the wild ride, though. I also want to help these lost souls. I want to put their lives in order.

This might seem like an altruistic urge, but I am ashamed to admit it is at least a little bit egotistical. There is a part of me that is a born trouble-shooter and problem-fixer, and that makes me think I can somehow make a damaged person “better”. There might even be a little opportunist in there — as if she’s so messed up, meeting me will be such a ray of sunshine that she won’t see my own flaws.

Regardless of intentions, this is one situation I’ve actually had play out in my real life, and it did not end well. The thing about broken people is you can’t fix them. They have to fix themselves. Of course, they aren’t always as broken as they look, and it’s possible I’m not as put-together as I think I am. I wouldn’t be drawn to crazy if I wasn’t a little messed up myself.

 

Type 2: Enough of a Rebel to Still Fit In


Examples: Enid,   Ghost World ;  Jennifer,   My First Mister ;  Rose Walker,   The SandmanExamples: Enid,   Ghost World ;  Jennifer,   My First Mister ;  Rose Walker,   The Sandman

Examples: Enid, Ghost World; Jennifer, My First Mister; Rose Walker, The Sandman

Authority? Who needs it? These strong-willed women brashly buck trends and snarkily laugh in the face of The System. They might even actively attempt not to fit in, and it just makes them more endearing. They have a sort of nonchalance that echoes the rebel without a cause. These women aren’t broken, though — they have real social attachments and do care about their friends and/or family. Unlike women from the previous category, they realize when they have made a mistake and take steps to rectify them. They may not be fans of the world around them, but they’re at least aware of it. They’re less exciting than “broken” women, but at the end of the day, the rebel is at least consistent.

 

Type 3: Manic Pixie Dream Girl, and I Should Know Better


Examples: Amélie,   Amélie ;  Ruby,   Ruby Sparks ;  Death,   Death: The High Cost of LivingExamples: Amélie,   Amélie ;  Ruby,   Ruby Sparks ;  Death,   Death: The High Cost of Living

Examples: Amélie, Amélie; Ruby, Ruby Sparks; Death, Death: The High Cost of Living

Oh, the Manic Pixie Dream Girl (MPDG). If you’ve never heard the term, just know Zoey Deschanel plays this role in almost everything she’s been in. Quirky, outgoing, and sweeter than a shopping spree at a bakery, the MPDG is basically every introverted young man’s ideal woman. She drags them out of their shell, shows them the world, and is totally willing to forgive their faults and help fix them. An old friend once referred to them as “emo jerk-bait,” and I am always at least a little bit ashamed when I realize I’m enjoying a character that fits into this archetype. But they’re just so cute! And they have such fun adventures! They like great music and are so creative and…

I’m sorry. I’ll try harder.

 

Type 4: She’s Clever, She’s Got Her Act Together, but She’s Not Perfect, So I Still Have A Chance!


Examples: Annie Edison,   Community  ; Willow Rosenberg,   Buffy the Vampire Slayer ;  Kaylee,   FireflyExamples: Annie Edison,   Community  ; Willow Rosenberg,   Buffy the Vampire Slayer ;  Kaylee,   Firefly

Examples: Annie Edison, Community; Willow Rosenberg, Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Kaylee, Firefly

In this category we find women who appear quite perfect on the surface, but have some sort of flaw that keeps them from being unattainable. They’re intelligent, talented, and for the most part have found their niche or are on the path to it. They tend to be confident in their own element, but a little shy when facing something they are less certain about. These characters are usually fairly realistic and well-fleshed out. I like to think that these are the sort of women I should actually date, should I come across one in the real world. Sadly, in the real world, women like this know they can do better than someone like me. Occasionally, they’ll turn their attention toward my kind when they’re slumming.

 

Type 5: She Could Kick My Ass, and I’m Okay with That


Examples: Wendy Watson,   The Middleman ;  Rosa Diaz,   Brooklyn Nine-Nine ;  Samus Aran,  MetroidExamples: Wendy Watson,   The Middleman ;  Rosa Diaz,   Brooklyn Nine-Nine ;  Samus Aran,  Metroid

Examples: Wendy Watson, The Middleman; Rosa Diaz, Brooklyn Nine-Nine; Samus Aran, Metroid

An extension of the clever, put-together example above, these women are bold, tough, and maybe a little scary. They’re the kind of person you wouldn’t dare cross. Though they may be a little hot-tempered, they’re still in control at all times. This type is a bit of a mix of the other categories, minus the MPDG. They’re the anti-MPDG. They would absolutely destroy me in real life, but I might enjoy it for a little while. At least I’d have a good reason to be nervous around them.

 

Bonus: I Don’t Like Buttercup


"I know I used to boss you around, but if it's all the same to you I'll just follow in your footsteps forever now!""I know I used to boss you around, but if it's all the same to you I'll just follow in your footsteps forever now!"

“I know I used to boss you around, but if it’s all the same to you I’ll just follow in your footsteps forever now!”

I swear, I’m not trying to be counter-culture. I enjoy The Princess Bride. As a hopeless romantic, the theme of love conquering all undeniably strikes a chord with me. However, Buttercup drives me up the fucking wall. At the beginning of the movie, she’s clearly a Type 5: she bosses Westley around, and she enjoys it.  I don’t fault her for falling apart when news of Westley’s death reaches her. It makes perfect sense.

What gets me is that she entirely gives up forever. Even when she discovers Westley is alive, she remains a passive wuss. There are hints of the fire she displayed at the beginning of the film, but time and time again she depends on everyone else to come to her rescue. The Princess Bride is all about defying expectations, yet Buttercup is a damsel in distress of the highest order. It’s maddening.

Can a Surface Pro Replace a Tablet and a Laptop?

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A promotional image of Microsoft's Surface Tablets.A promotional image of Microsoft's Surface Tablets.

A promotional image of Microsoft’s Surface Tablets.

Unlike most tablets, the Surface Pro is not running a stripped-down mobile operating system. It runs actual Windows on a laptop-class processor. This means that if you are a Windows user, the Surface Pro will run all the software you’ve grown accustomed to. The Surface Pro is a tablet in shape only. It’s Microsoft’s attempt to merge the best of both worlds. It doesn’t always succeed, but the attempt should be lauded.

On the performance side, the Surface Pro does not disappoint. It’s fast enough for almost any standard computer use. Web browsing is flawless, HD video playback is smooth, and almost any software you want to run is going to. I wouldn’t use it for HD video editing or 3D modeling, but anyone who works in those fields would know better anyway. None of this should come as a surprise. The Surface Pro is an ultrabook laptop in a tablet’s clothing. Sporting a dual-core i5 processor and matching Intel integrated graphics, the Surface Pro really is a powerful piece of hardware. Android and iOS tablets can’t hope to match it in raw power.

That much power comes at a price: battery life. The Surface Pro runs somewhere between four and five hours with regular use. It’s not bad, but it’s nowhere near the ten-plus hours most tablets run for. When doing something processor-intensive, like playing a game or encoding video, that time drops considerably. The newer Surface Pro 2 has much better battery life, but it still noticeably shorter than an iPad or Android tablet.

Like it’s tablet siblings, the Surface Pro is pretty much impossible to upgrade. You can throw a Micro SD card in there to add some storage, and at some point Microsoft promises a keyboard cover with an expanded battery, but these aren’t so much upgrades as stopgap solutions. The Surface Pro you purchase is what you are stuck with until you buy something else.

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The Surface's Touch KeyboardThe Surface's Touch Keyboard

The Surface’s Touch Keyboard

While we’re on the subject of add-ons, the keyboard covers are not great. After testing both models in-store, I decided not to buy either one. The problem is simple: the Surface Pro is too small to have a full-size keyboard attached to it. Both the Touch and Type cover options feature cramped keyboards that will flummox experienced touch-typists. If you are a hunter-pecker, and don’t have the muscle memory to type without looking at the keys, this may not be an issue for you. As someone who hammers away at a keyboard all day, Microsoft’s Keyboard Covers are useless. I’d have to re-train myself to type, and I would be stuck using that smaller keyboard until I chose to retrain myself again. Instead, I chose to pair my Surface Pro to a bluetooth keyboard, which worked wonderfully.

One of the biggest things to draw me to the Surface Pro was the Wacom stylus. As convenient as a touchscreen is, sometimes I long for a more precise input method than my meaty fingers. I’ve played with styluses on the iPad, but because they have to conform to a capacitive touch screen, they aren’t nearly as flexible and useful as the Surface Pro’s pen.

Unfortunately, the pen has an unforgivable flaw: it loses calibration quite easily. I found myself having to adjust it every few hours. The tip of the pen seems to drift slowly away from the center, so over a few hours, where the pen points and where the sensor in the screen thinks it is are millimeters apart. This might not seem like a big deal, but it can become very frustrating when trying to hit the small targets on the Surface Pro’s screen.

Everything in the Windows interface is tiny, and even with the Surface Pro’s default 150% magnification they aren’t easy to tap with your finger. Your options are to constantly recalibrate or switch to using a mouse for standard Windows software. A frustrating side effect of the magnification is that many apps become a blurry mess. You can turn the magnification off (I did), but at standard size, icons and interface elements are too small to interact with via a fingertip.

This is probably where my love affair with the Surface Pro ended. By this point, I was using a mouse and keyboard for everything, and that defeats the purpose of a tablet. It really isn’t optional. If you can deal with the Type Cover, I suppose you’ll have both those things built-in, but I’m not going to make that transition. At this point, the Surface Pro is being used as a laptop, and laptops have better keyboards and trackpads. Windows’ built-in touchscreen keyboard is not bad, but some applications, like games, can’t make use of it. You need some form of external keyboard and mouse.

There also isn’t a lot of productivity software out there with touch support. There are some games, but not many. Media applications, like Netflix and Plex, are plentiful and work fantastically. In fact, I’d even go so far as to say I prefer watching video on the Surface Pro. Its 1080p widescreen display is the perfect resolution and aspect ratio for video, and the tablet’s stereo speakers are great. If all I did was watch videos, the Surface Pro would beat the iPad Air by a wide margin. As great as the display is, though, it simply doesn’t work well when oriented vertically. It’s too thin for reading, unless the text is perfectly formatted or scaled down to fit. The iPad has more useable space when held vertically, and it makes reading books, comics, and web pages much nicer.

For gaming, things get a little complicated. Although the Surface Pro is far more powerful than most tablets, it’s still not very powerful when compared to a PC built with any sort of gaming in mind. The integrated graphics are enough for some games, but graphically intensive ones will not be playable on it. I tested the device with Batman: Arkham City and Portal 2. Both played smoothly with graphical settings at their lowest, and the resolution lowered to 720p. If gaming is a primary concern, the Surface Pro is not the device for you. However, if you just want to play the occasional game on the go, and don’t mind making visual sacrifices, the Surface Pro paired with a controller is a decent enough machine to scratch that itch.

The same issue just keeps popping up: the Surface Pro always needs one more accessory to make it work. Whether it’s a mouse, a keyboard, a controller, or a combination of these things, the Pro is going to require more of its users than a tablet. If you’re going to carry all that stuff with you, why not just get a laptop? For the same price as a Surface Pro, you can get a decent laptop that won’t require the extra purchase of a keyboard and pointing device.

The final verdict? I really want to like the Surface Pro more than I do. There are a lot of great ideas built into it, and the execution, while not perfect, is just so close! Maybe in a few years, when more windows software is designed for touch screens, I won’t feel the need to have all these accessories. For now, though, the Surface Pro is a lot of potential just waiting to be refined.

The Biggest Disappointments of Generation 7


Title Graphic by Christina Rago of  presstartoplay .Title Graphic by Christina Rago of  presstartoplay .

Title Graphic by Christina Rago of presstartoplay.

The release of the PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Wii U have signaled the end of the seventh generation of consoles. With the excitement of new console launches now fading, I’d like to take a moment to look back at what the last generation brought gamers. Here are five of the biggest disappointment of the last generation.

Gaming Gets More Expensive

Ken Kutaragi famously stated that he thought gamers might take on a second job to afford a PlayStation 3. With a starting price of $500, the PS3 wasn’t the most expensive console ever released, but it did fall pretty far on the high end. Sony suffered for their hubris, with the PlayStation brand faltering for several years before multiple price drops finally made the console palatable. The Xbox 360 technically released at the more standard price of $300, but that version was a stripped-down device lacking core features of it’s $400 “real” version. Nearly every previous generation saw the most successful consoles releasing between $200 and $300, with the plunging price of technology staying in step with the rise in inflation.

It wasn’t just console hardware that saw prices increase, though. The standard price of a console game rose from $50 to $60, and the cost of controllers and other accessories also jumped up. Microsoft in particular took to gouging prices, forcing customers to buy proprietary hard drives and WiFi adapters that were often three times more expensive than similar devices for other hardware.

The market spoke: at $250, the Wii became an impulse buy for many families. While the balance of power shifted as time wore on, never forget that the Wii was once outselling the 360 and PS3, despite having a relatively lackluster library.

 

The Hype Machine Goes To 11

The beginning of the seventh generation was all about high definition. Microsoft made a big deal of the 360’s HD capabilities, Sony pushed Blu-Ray as the future of home video, and Nintendo insisted no one would care about sharper graphics. No one really won on these counts. Both the 360 and PS3 often rendered games at far less than even 720p, being HD only by the technicality that they were still more than 480p. Upscaling became a dirty word as games like Halo 3 were derided for not even displaying at the lowest of standard HD resolutions, instead rendering at an in-between resolution and upscaling to a higher one. Nintendo, meanwhile, expected people to believe that Skyward Sword looked every bit as good as a PS3/Xbox 360 game.

Though the argument of “What is HD?” is tied closely to expectations and semantics, the fact remains that style and design will trump technical excellence in the field of visuals. Reducing sharpness to improve other facets of presentation might be worth the trade-off, but developers and publishers should learn that doublespeak doesn’t fool an informed audience.

 

Portables Forget About Battery Life

There was a time when one could play their portable game console for the entirety of a road trip. The original Game Boy could last for a good fifteen hours on a set of four AA batteries. Its successor, the Game Boy Color, lasted nearly thirty with just two! At some point, between backlit screens and rechargeable batteries, that expectation has dropped to two-to-five hours. Portable consoles now have enough life to last two or three bus rides home. It’s technically enough for anything but an extended gaming session, but it is hard not to feel let down by the fact that you’ll have to tether yourself to the wall quite often while playing through The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds.

 

Nintendo Drops Every Ball Possible

Early in the seventh console generation, Nintendo had an unbelievable lead on their competition. They have always owned the portable space, but the Wii was their first home console since the Super Nintendo to hold the lead position in the numbers war. The Wii was immediately flooded with shovelware from third parties, and Nintendo even farmed some of their most cherished franchises to less-than-stellar developers(more on that later). Nintendo has always been a relatively conservative company, but their risk-averse nature worked against them, as hardcore gamers passed on the Wii in favor of the more mature and refined titles found on competitor’s platforms.

As soon as the Wii fad passed, owners were left with a dearth of titles, leaving even the Nintendo faithful a little perturbed. The 3DS, a follow-up to the successful Nintendo DS, stumbled out of the gate. The company attempted to make amends by dropping the price and sending early buyers a nice bundle of downloadable retro classics, but it took a while for the 3DS to hit is stride. Despite the drop in the Wii’s popularity and the stumbling of the 3DS, Nintendo again bungled the Wii U launch, from which it has yet to recover.

 

Metroid Goes to Shit

This may be a more personal complaint than my other points, but there is no getting around the fact that one of Nintendo’s most popular franchises has fallen by the wayside. It’s sitting in a pit next to Star Fox, and the main thing the two have in common is that they fell from grace when their development was farmed out to third parties. Metroid has always been one of my favorite series, and the festering sore that is Other M has yet to be bandaged. There hasn’t been a really good Metroid game since Zero Mission for the Game Boy Advance. Metroid Prime was at least an interesting reimagining of the series, but later games in that line failed to impress as much as the original. Fans have been begging for a return to classic form, and “Metroidvania” style games have become particularly popular on the indie gaming circuit, leading gamers everywhere to wonder just how much the people in charge of Nintendo hate Samus Aran.

 

Want more? Check out five of my favorite moments of this generation at Press Start To Play, and five of important milestones of this generation at Forward Compatible.

The Idea of You

At any given moment, there are two versions of you in the world. There’s the actual you, and the version of you in my head. Sometimes the two line up, but just as often they do not. It’s entirely my own fault. As much as I try to stop doing it, I just don’t know how.

I’m the type of person who lives inside their head. I run through possibilities and permutations of the conversations I want to have with a person on an infinite loop when I can’t have the actual thing. The problem is, sometimes I try too hard to make the person in the real world match the idea in my head. I attempt to suss out the secret meaning on likely innocuous and honest statements, looking for the answers I want instead of the ones that may have already been presented. Any statement that is not completely straightforward can be warped to fit into my idealized you. People are transformed to suit the narratives I imagine: crushes become the ideal relationship, disputants become bitter rivals.

I’d feel worse if I didn’t see it happening all the time around me. People do it all the time. Celebrities are assigned personalities that may or not reflect their true selves. Historical figures are altered to fit into the roles authors, politicians, pundits, and researchers wish them to play. People lie to themselves about relationships, about friends, about themselves, and the world around them. We fiddle with the truth until it fits our needs.

Perception is funny thing. The world around us, seemingly solid and obvious, becomes malleable and ephemeral in our heads. The human brain, intent on seeing order and patterns even when none exist, reforms the world to suit its function, no matter how rational one tries to be. Even one such as myself, convinced there is no such thing as fate, imagines feeling the tug of it from time to time. I have looked for “signs.” Presented deals to non-existent entities. Imagined the wheels of karma. Made completely illogical if-this-then-that correlations.

Of course, nothing comes of it. How could it? Why should one expect that a series of stars over a trillion miles away could have any effect on the tiny lives we lead on a statistically insignificant rock? Rigel and Betelgeuse have as much to do with my existence as our own world has to do with the speculative life on the planets orbiting them. Which is to say: they affect nothing, or at least so little as not to matter.

It can be hard to face the truth. Reality is frightening and inhospitable. Reality tells me I may never achieve even my most pedestrian of goals; that there is absolutely nothing out in the world specifically for me. Reality says that no matter how hard I work, I may never grasp even the lowest rung of the ladder I wish to climb. It says that everything I have achieved has come to pass with at least some element of luck. It is easier to believe that I deserve success because I have struggled and because I am talented — even though that isn’t always the case. I am quick to transform hope into expectation. To say, “This time, things will work, because I have earned it.”

In my head there are libraries of perfectly ordered fantasies. Sometimes you’re in there, and I am sorry to have put the weight of these unreasonable expectations upon you.

Devotion

My Goddess first came to me when I was a young man. I was twenty-five years old, and an outcast. I dreamt of a horrible world, one even worse than the one I already lived in. It was filled with burnt, decaying buildings, and ravenous children hungering to devour me.  They chased me throughout the festering city, clawing at my flesh whenever I stopped to catch my breath. I was so frightened, and then I saw Her.

She stood in the doorway of a ruined building, and beyond Her lied not the husk of a torched home, but a sunlit garden. She took the form of a beautiful woman, both to catch my eye and to comfort me, but I could tell even then it was not Her true form. It was simply an expression of Her essence. I don’t even think my Goddess could be called a She, but my affection for Her is so great, I cannot bring myself to call Her “It.”

Every last part of Her was lovely. The sun shining from beyond lent Her an ethereal glow. A breeze came upon Her, pressing Her light dress against the sensuous curves She’d crafted to set my heart on fire. Her smooth blonde hair shimmered like gold as the wind cast it about. She smiled at me, and the darkness surrounding me melted away. I wasn’t running anymore. I was safe.

She reclined by a tranquil pond, and I rested my weary head on Her lap. She sighed and stroked my hair.

“Poor thing,” She whispered. “This world is not ready for you. They don’t understand you.”

I felt the weight of a thousand burdens fall from me. In the embrace of my Goddess, I knew peace for the first time.

“I will protect you,” She told me, “if you serve me.”

I was excited and frightened at the same time. She knew it. 

“I will make you happy,” She continued. “I will give you strength. I will bring you peace. I will show you love. But you must promise to do My bidding in your world. Be My emissary. Teach your world of Me.”

“You are too great,” I told Her. “How could I ever do You justice?”

“I chose you,” She replied. “You are the only one worthy.”

When I woke, I still felt Her presence, though I could not see Her. I knew without a doubt She was with me.

When I went to work that day, everything was different. I no longer felt crushed by the mass of people surrounding me. My fear was gone. Other men were no longer imposing, pretty girls no longer intimidating. My manager could shout at me about proper procedure for hours, and it would not phase me. What were they in the face of my Goddess? 

As they day went on, I felt Her presence wane, and it worried me. Fear and insecurity poured back into me, into the space she had filled just moments before. Without her light, the truth of my menial job again became a burden. Had I done something wrong? Had I offended my Goddess?

She came to me again in my sleep that night. I closed my eyes, and immediately opened them again in my dream. She sat on the foot of my bed.

“Did you feel Me leave you today?”

“I did.”

“I want your devotion,” She said. “You’ve experienced what I can do for you. My presence will never leave you if you just promise devotion.”

She sensed my trepidation.

“Yours is a stubborn lot, I know. I promise, your devotion to Me will not destroy you. It will make you greater. The truest version of yourself.”

“I’ll still be myself?”

“I would want nothing less.”

I sat up in my bed. “How do I know you won’t leave me again? I couldn’t take it.”

My Goddess smiled, and leaned over to take my hand. “You will have to put your faith in Me, as I have put mine in you. Will you?”

The warmth of Her touch filled me in a way I’d never felt before. I felt complete for the first time in my life. “I will.”

I woke up immediately. The sun had just begun to rise. I was invigorated. Every fiber of my being felt powerful. It was as if a limitless source of energy coursed through me. Where once the world felt like a giant maze, constantly blocking my path and pushing me around, I now felt in control.

It must have been a strange sight to see me smiling as I boarded the train that day. Confidence had never been something I was blessed with, until that moment. Filled with the light of my Goddess, I could feel nothing but strength. Each night I dreamed of Her, and each day I felt Her strength become my own.

After a week, I began to notice things I’d never perceived before. I could see the truth behind the masks people wore. The prudes hiding their lust, the righteous hiding their shame. I could see the lies as plain as day. Gordon from accounting was cheating on his wife with Mathilda in receiving. Zoe was skimming money from the corporate accounts. Andy was selling company secrets to the competition. My Goddess was allowing me to see in a way no man ever had.

The greatest darkness hid inside Shannon, the barista who made my coffee every morning. It took me a moment to see it. Deep inside her, a demon was growing. I saw it, horns already forming on its head, within her belly. I couldn’t believe it, and yet there it was, plain as day.

That night, I spoke to my Goddess about what I saw.

“You have borne witness to just one of the many obstacles in My path,” She confided in me. “The darkness that keeps My light from completely entering your world.”

“What must I do?”

“She must be cleansed of the darkness,” She explained. “You must build an altar to Me, and liberate her womb from that accursed being. Dedicate her flesh to Me.”

Following my Goddess’ direction, I raised an altar in my basement. I consecrated it with my own blood, and went out to collect my first sacrifice to Her.

Picking up Shannon wasn’t difficult with my Goddess guiding me. I invited her out for dinner toward the end of her shift. It’s amazing how quickly people trust a familiar face. I kept a chloroform-soaked rag in my car to keep her from struggling when she realized the truth of my mission.

The sacrifice was difficult. I’d never dissected a person before, and I nicked some of her organs. In Her infinite kindness, my Goddess forgave. “You’ll do better next time,” She told me. She was right.

Since then, six more demons have been purged from our world by my hand. Tonight, I seek the seventh. My Goddess wants to share Her light with the world, and I never do any less than what my Goddess demands.

Restless

I try to sleep. I really do. For a good hour, I make a serious attempt. I toss and I turn, and I even get a few minutes where I’m sure I’m out, but it doesn’t last. A moment later, I’m up again. My brain, despite my best efforts, continues to fire on all cylinders. I try everything: complete darkness, overstimulation, distraction. Nothing works. The gears in my head just keep grinding away.

It’s my own fault. I should know better. I got involved, and I shouldn’t have. I vowed to keep to myself, because it is better for me. I should just let the world keep spinning, but instead I put my nose where it doesn’t belong, and now, here I am. Incapable of sleep, processing permutations and possibilities. I made the vow for a reason. I knew I had to step away, and work on my own shit, and maybe when that was good I could finally be okay again.

Of course, I never follow my own advice. I see the signs of impending doom, and push myself forward anyway. I am apparently destined to repeat this same mistake over and over. I get it in my head that the thing I want is so close. If I don’t give up, this time will be different. If I can just hang on.

She’s asleep in the other room, now. She’s not laughing any more, not giggling with the man she brought home. No more moaning, no sounds of them trying to fuck quietly on the couch while I lay in the adjacent room.

(I suppose I should be thankful she’s trying to be quiet these days.)

I can’t be bothered by the idea of them lying there together, because he’s already left. She’s in that other room alone. Probably feeling stupid and used, like she does every time this happens. Like she tells me every morning after.

She says she’s going to change. I say the same thing. And yet, here we are, two people enabling our own stupid shit. I can’t control her. I don’t want to control her. I just want her to be better, to get her shit together. Because if I can help her get her shit together, maybe I can make mine work, too.

Our problems aren’t so different, I tell myself. I don’t know if I’m lying to myself, or just delusional. She doesn’t want to change. She wants to be carefree and live in the moment. Which is great for a while, until you need to do things like pay rent. Unless happen you find a sucker who will let you stay at their place because they’re sure they can save you.

Of course, I don’t want to change, either. I like who I am. I tell myself that the only thing that’s wrong with me is that I hold on when I shouldn’t. I hold on when it’s long past time to let go. Sometimes, I even believe that’s it.

She’s not saving money. She’s barely even working. And every dollar she makes goes to a new tattoo or a new piercing. She’s still stealing all her clothes, still eating McDonald’s for every meal.

If I tell her to get lost, though, where does she go? Back to bouncing from bed to bed, sleeping with people just so she can sleep at all? How could she work what few hours she does? Kicking her out wouldn’t be a death sentence, but it would hurt her, emotionally and financially. I care about that, even though I shouldn’t.

Part of me wants to go in there and comfort her. I did that once, on one of her first nights here. We talked for a bit, and she told me she just wished someone would love her back as much as she loved them. My heart broke for her. Then she asked if she could lay in my bed with me, because the couch gets uncomfortable night after night. I let her. I held her all night. It felt like she belonged there with me. We kissed, and she smiled. And then we slept.

A few nights later, she brought a guy home. After he left (because, like I said, they always do) she came right to my room and slept next to me. I couldn’t say no. She started sleeping in my room, even when I wasn’t there. Then I found her in my bed with one of her exes. I started locking my bedroom door after that.

I tried kicking her out once. She was out drinking and partying late into the night, so I changed the locks to the apartment. She sat outside on the stoop, crying until I let her in. Not that it took long for me to break.

“How could you do this to me,” she cried, “How can you kick me out on Christmas?”

I hadn’t even thought about the date. I felt bad. I felt like an asshole for doing what anyone else would have done long before. I felt weak. Weak for giving in to her. Even weaker for not being able to help her. I told her that I didn’t think things were working.

“I thought you were happy with me,” she said, “I thought we were getting along.”

She wasn’t entirely off the mark. I am happy when it’s just us. Sometimes she thinks of me while she’s out shoplifting, and steals me a CD. I like that she blasts Less Than Jake and dances around the apartment in her underwear. I like the way she leaves the bathroom door open after she showers, and how she invites me in there as she brushes her teeth and puts on her makeup. I like that she asked me to help clean her most intimate of piercings, and that she regularly invites me to help trim her pubic hair. I am more intimate with her than I was with most girlfriends.

She knows I want to fuck her, and that I want more of a relationship with her, but she also knows I would never press the matter. I even enjoy the game she plays, except on the nights she brings someone else home. Those nights hurt more than almost anything. She lets me get so close, closer than any of these guys care to be, but she won’t let it go to a place she takes everyone else.

So here I lay, unable to sleep. Torn between doing what is right for me, and what is right for her. Trying to find a way to make an impossible situation work, because I know no one else will.

Ignorance and Self-Righteousness: A Rant

I was perusing a popular online dating site the other day, and a woman caught my eye. Her profile was interesting, and she was pretty. The site said we were a good match, so I proceeded to check out her “Important to me” questions. The first question on her list made me quite trepidatious:

Have you ever spent more than 8 hours straight playing video games?

I wasn’t sure which way the question would lead. I am well aware of the fact that women play video games; most of the women I know play them, and of the ones that don’t most at least tolerate them. But I grew up in the 8- and 16-bit video game era. I was mocked incessantly for my hobby. My parent’s generation, and the ones before them, tend to abhor video games. My interest in video games was openly mocked by family members, by teachers, and by classmates. Later, my interests were questioned by employers and coworkers.

There is a universal truth in this: people who don’t understand something tend to dismiss it quite readily. Some people, despite this lack of understanding, are inclined to think they know better than someone who actually does, and tend to outright mock said thing. This is a truth not limited to video games. There is a sort of prevailing ignorance that takes pride in itself and mocks those with more wisdom. You can see it everywhere you look. You will come across it in any comment section on the internet. You’ve probably seen it in your Facebook feed. It’s definitely a major part of television “opinion” news. The worst part of ignorance is that it is entirely unaware of itself.

So I answered the question: “Yes.” Because I have spent more than 8 hours playing video games. There were two other options: “No,” and “No, and anyone who does is a loser.”

Can you imagine asking that about any number of other hobbies? Have you ever spent eight hours straight reading? Watching a TV series on Netflix, or having a movie marathon? Listening to music? Watching sports? At a social function? Because let’s face it: people do that all the time and no one says boo. People spend not only three or more hours watching a single football game, they spend hours before and after watching pre- and post-game analysis. And the only reason they don’t watch more is that most sporting events have a time limit. Don’t believe me? Ask a baseball fan about their favorite double-header.

I’m not trying to mock these other interests, mind you. It’s no secret that professional sports, in my opinion, are the most boring thing ever. However, I get that other people enjoy that sort of thing, and though I tend to dismiss any discussion of the subject fairly quickly, I do not mock people for expressing that interest. I love reading, and going on Netflix binges, so I’m just as guilty of watching a full season of Lost over the course of a weekend. If someone spent an entire day doing something they loved, I’d probably be envious rather than derisive.

The site let me clarify my answer, so I did: “It doesn’t happen often, but it has happened.” What I didn’t say was that those are some of my favorite days. There’s something quite relaxing in becoming engrossed in another world. It’s true, marathon gaming sessions don’t come by often for me, and when they do they tend to be around games that are a big deal: the recent Tomb Raider remake, for example. Or the all-encompassing world of Skyrim. When a game like that comes around, and an opportunity arises? Yeah, I let myself get lost. That sort of thing only comes around a few times a year, and I spend so much more of my time and money on things that are nowhere near as interesting to me. I am out of the house almost twelve hours a day due to my job. Why should I not be allowed to have my fun in whatever way I see fit, so long as it doesn’t hurt anyone?

Her response to the question, as I feared: “No, and anyone who does is a loser.”

I immediately lost interest, obviously. But I also felt a smoldering frustration. It perplexes me to no end when people think it is okay to disparage something they know nothing about, or even worse, have a sort of pseudo-understanding of because they read an article one time, or had a relative/friend/significant other they grew to dislike and happened to be interested in whatever thing they’re mocking. People who reduce something complex to its lowest common denominator and then insist there is nothing more to it.

I shouldn’t have to defend myself for having a healthy interest in something. I am an intelligent, responsible adult. I pay my bills — on time! — and I show up to work every day, as much as I would prefer not to. How a person spends their free time can certainly say a lot about them, but to look at a person’s hobby and declare them a loser seems to be judgmental in a way that should not evoke pride. That’s what calling a person a loser does: it sets them below you. It is as much about elevating the judge and it is diminishing the judged.

I suppose I can take solace in the fact that I am, apparently, a better person. Honestly, though, I’d be happier if the world didn’t seem built around the whims of assholes. If people actually tried to be better, and not give in to nonsense like baseless accusations and off-the-cuff judgements. I can’t say it ever feels like I’m the only one. There are too few of us, though, and we’re not working hard enough to give the scum of the world the lessons they so greatly need.

I realize there are worse things in the world than not being respected by a stranger I will never meet. I probably shouldn’t feel all that disparaged, considering the person who insulted me has no idea how great a person I may be (answer: VERY GREAT). As injustices go, it’s a pretty slight one. I’ve never had to deal with any real tyranny or oppression. On the whole, I’ve been pretty fortunate.

But still: it sucks. It’s disheartening. It chips away at you. It can lead you to question yourself when you shouldn’t. It’s easy to let a little negativity overwhelm you.

Rising above it all is hard, but I try.

Busy.

I’ve got another writing project I’m working on at the moment, and my goal is to complete it tomorrow, if not tonight.

 

It’s been a weird week. Here are some quotes that are on my mind.

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Sandman-No Choice.jpgSandman-No Choice.jpg

Sometimes we can choose the path we follow. Sometimes our choices are made for us. And sometimes we have no choice at all.

— The Sandman: Seasons of Mists(Chapter 1)

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Sandman-Intent and Outcome.jpgSandman-Intent and Outcome.jpg

Intent and outcome are rarely coincident.

— The Sandman: The Kindly Ones(Chapter 11)

Nothing in this world that’s worth having comes easy.

— Scrubs, My Boss’s Free Haircut (Season 4, Episode 20)

(Theodore Roosevelt said something similar, but he’s no Bob Kelso)

Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly.

— The Sandman: Fear of Falling (Vertigo Preview #1)

(a very popular quote, apparently)

 

More ramblings will come. Give me a week or two. My final deadline is pretty much the end of the month.

Ten Reasons I Love The Sandman (Part Two)

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Morpheus is not to be trifled with.Morpheus is not to be trifled with.

Morpheus is not to be trifled with.

I owe you five more reasons. I could have listed more. (If you haven’t already, read part one.)

5. Death

Yeah, I mentioned her before, but she deserves a spot all her own. Death first appears in The Sound of Her Wings, a one-shot that takes place between Preludes and Nocturnes and The Doll’s House, the first and second chapters of The Sandman. She appears again in Façade, where she speaks to a frustrated immortal. In the next chapter, Seasons of Mists, she compels her brother to do the right thing after wronging a former lover.

That’s the most compelling thing about Death: she’s good to her very core. Granted, as the immortal personification of The End, she doesn’t have much to worry about. But she could have been aloof, or uncaring, and she is never those things. She is sympathetic, and sweet, and even when she strongly disagrees with a character, she does it in the best possible way.

Everyone falls in love with Death, just a little bit. It’s part of why she’s so good at her job.

4. Prez

Many of the characters in The Sandman are originally from other DC properties. Most of them make cameo appearances, appearing for an issue or two and then never again. Prez: The First Teen President ran for four issues in 1973 before being cancelled. Neil Gaiman takes the premise of the story — that baby boomers quickly take over politics and rewrite law to the point where an eighteen-year-old can become president — and writes a story so full of optimism you can’t help but feel a little patriotic. The single-issue story, called The Golden Boy, is drawn by Michael Allred, whose clean lines fit the story just right.

Prez was born to be President of the United States. His mother knew it the moment he was born, and named him appropriately. He is level-headed, thoughtful, and charismatic. He’s the perfect candidate. Everyone wants to claim Prez as their own. Politics without cynicism is so rare, it’s almost always refreshing. Such is the case with Gaiman’s reimagining of Prez in The Golden Boy. It doesn’t tell the tale of our America. It’s about a better one, and it gives us something to aspire to.

3. Delirium

In interviews, Neil Gaiman has said that Delirium gets all the best lines. Sometimes funny, sometimes touching, sometimes profound, Delirium is difficult to pin down. She is both simple and complex, alternating between clever and confounding. It is difficult to combine tragic and bubbly, and yet that is what she is.

I don’t know what else to say. I’ll let Delirium speak for herself.

2. Yoshitaka Amano/The Dream Hunters

One of the luxuries afforded Neil Gaiman is the power to choose the artists who draw his stories. Every story in The Sandman has a tone set as much by the art as its script. Although I think this is most apparent in The Kindly Ones, The Dream Hunters illustrates this point quite well.

Written several years after the end of the series proper, The Dream Hunters is written in the style of a classic Japanese folk tale. It tells the story of a Buddhist monk, a kitsune(fox spirit), and a badger(possibly a tanuki). The story was written as prose instead of in comic from to better suit the style of its artist, Yoshitaka Amano. Amanao’s watercolor work is exquisite. His ethereal art style lends itself perfectly to the tale. As a fan of both Gaiman and Amano, it was beyond exciting to see them collaborate

1. The Kindly Ones

I didn’t read The Sandman in order. Most comic book collections(often referred to as trade paperbacks) collect a single story, but each story is typically quite self-contained. This is not the case with The Sandman, but I did not realize this when I picked up The Kindly Ones. It was the first Sandman collection I read, and though it spoils pretty much the entire story, I didn’t mind. I was hooked from the end, which for me was the beginning.

The Kindly Ones is the culmination of eight previous collections, but it can be enjoyed on its own. It’s easier to read the tale from its proper beginning, but not impossible. The characters hooked me immediately, and I had no choice but to seek the beginnings of their stories out. The expressive lines of Marc Hempel perfectly capture Lyta Hall’s descent into madness.

Although there is another collection that follows it, The Kindly Ones effectively ends the story of The Sandman. Very early on, Gaiman points out that it’s important for a story to stop. Nowhere is that more clear than here.

Ten Reasons I Love The Sandman (Part One)

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Yoshitaka Amano's interpretation of Morpheus.Yoshitaka Amano's interpretation of Morpheus.

Yoshitaka Amano's interpretation of Morpheus.

If there’s one thing I love to do, it’s talk about Neil Gaiman’s iconic comic series, The Sandman. Unfortunately, most of my friends are useless and have never read it. I’ve tried to get them to read it, of course, but very few have actually made the attempt.

The Sandman is a long story. It’s nearly 2,000 pages long, all told, and even though its comic book trappings make it a faster read than most books, it is still quite an undertaking to read from beginning to end. Unlike most comics, The Sandman was written to have a proper ending, and so it doesn’t lose itself in the myriad of regular comic book storytelling failures. There is a continuity in the universe and story being presented. Characters aren’t re-written with a need to draw in new readers, or to pull lapsed readers back into the fold. No one is killed to sell a few extra copies of an issue or drive up its projected future value.

I’m not trying to rag on comics. I enjoy a good Batman story, and I have more than a few X-Men trade paperbacks. But while each of these stories is largely self-contained, The Sandman is not. Over the course of a eight years, The Sandman told a single story: that of Dream, a member of The Endless. The Endless are personifications of strong aspects in their universe: Destiny, Death, Dream, Destruction, Desire, Despair, and Delirium. They oversee the domains they are named for, and at the same time define the opposite. For example, Dream maintains The Dreaming, a vast world where the consciousness of all beings go while they sleep. He separates reality from fantasy.

Dream has collected many names and titles for himself. To many, he is called Morpheus. The ancient Greeks called him Oneiros, and an even older African tribe called him Kai’ckul. The residents of one woman’s dreams call him Murphy. Creatures of Faerie call him Lord Shaper.

The recent release of The Sandman: Overture has sparked within me a desire to go back and re-examine my favorite story. I often find myself reading bits and pieces of it throughout the course of the year, but I never really delve too deeply into it. Now, I’m going to. Because this is such a long entry, I’m splitting it into two parts. Expect the next five very soon!

10. Death: The High Cost of Living

It wouldn’t be out of line to say that Death is actually the most popular character in The Sandman universe. She’s certainly a lot more fun that her brother. Presented as a spunky young goth woman, Death is kind and for the most part very laid back. Few people are happy to see her when she comes calling, but no one can say no to her.

Death: The High Cost of Living is a short miniseries focused on the fact that Death spends one day every hundred years as a mortal, to better understand her task. In The High Cost of Living, she becomes Didi, a young woman whose family died in a car accident. She befriends Sexton, a young man filled with ennui. It is a beautiful tale of the sometimes-ephemeral nature of life, friendship, and feelings. It also taught me the wonderful French term “L’esprit d’escalier.”

9. Rose Walker

On the surface, there doesn’t appear to be much to Rose Walker. She’s pretty, and clever, but a bit detached. Of course, there is more to Rose Walker than meets the eye. She plays a minor role in several events over the course of The Sandman. She is tied to “weird shit,” as she calls it, though she isn’t sure why. Unbeknownst to her, Rose is the grandchild of Desire, who created her for the sole purpose of destroying Morpheus. Even after she serves her purpose (or doesn’t, as Desire’s plan fails), the nature of her lineage makes people drawn to her.

Like her grandparent, Rose is fickle and often uncaring. She finally comes of age in The Kindly Ones, when her heart is broken for the first time. She delivers one of my favorite monologues while discussing love with Desire.

8. The Devil Quits and Becomes a Lounge Performer

In the fourth chapter of The Sandman, Seasons of Mists, things take a shocking turn. Lucifer decides he is tired of being the liege of Hell, and hands the key over to Morpheus. It is not a kind act, and the Devil does not suddenly become a good person. He simply grew tired of being everyone’s go-to villain, and decided to be done with it.

Several chapters later, in The Kindly Ones, Lucifer has set up one of the most popular lounges in LA. He has a penchant for performing just the right songs for the audience, though they may not always realize it at the time.

7. The Cereal Convention

One of the most delightfully disturbing things I have ever read, a “cereal” convention takes place during the The Doll’s House, the second chapter of The Sandman. Except it isn’t about a bowl of milk and flakes in the morning. It’s a convention for “collectors” — serial killers. The attendees matter-of-factly discuss their urges and their techniques, have panel discussions on how to proceed if captured and gender equality, and even hold a dance. Collectors like Fun Land and The Doctor are particularly frightening.

6. Hob Gadling

Hob first appears during Men of Good Fortune, a side story during The Doll’s House. Dream and Death visit a pub in 1389, and come upon him. He is insisting to his friends that death is merely something one goes along with, and that, if one is judicious, it needs never happen. Although she is not normally one to play such games, Death decides to grant the man his wish, and lets him live well beyond his years.

Dream and Hob agree to meet every hundred years. They meet at the same pub every time, the environment constantly evolving, as Hob tells Dream what he’s been up to for the previous century. Hob’s life is filled with ups and downs, but he never sinks so low as to want to end it. Even at his worst, he says “Death’s a mug’s game. I got so much to live for.”

Hob appears in four other chapters, twice to meet with Dream for a drink, and twice in wonderful side stories.

Continue on to part two.