Monday, November 30, 2009
Jessica’s brain hurt, and it was probably just her head throbbing even though it felt more like an orgy for quadriplegics than anything else. She was going to remonstrate herself for such an inappropriate comparison but slowly opened her eyes instead. The world was, mostly, draped in relative darkness, so it had to be nighttime, because Jessica’s cheap JC Penny blinds could only manage to block out the distant streetlight -just barely- while the sun would have pierced through such flimsy barriers with ease. She was in bed nonetheless, and an unmistakable stench of bleach permeated the air. The scent crept within Jessica’s nostrils and it reminded her of cleanliness. No, make that super cleanliness.
The veiled world that swam around Jessica wasn’t entirely alien, inasmuch that it wasn’t blurred beyond the slightest recognition, implying that she must have fallen asleep without removing her contact lenses. Her eyes weren’t ablaze from a lack of oxygen, however, meaning that she hadn’t been asleep for very long, which perplexed Jessica’s already addled, palpitating brain (it was most definitely her brain that ached) even further. If she had been so utterly exhausted as to fall into slumber without discharging her contacts, waking up so prematurely seemed unlikely, as to wear them beyond ten hours a day was an arduous task indeed.
A blinking, digitally induced light which emanated from atop her night stand indicated that the flow of electricity had been interrupted at some unknown juncture, and that thirty-two minutes had passed since time had been obliterated. Jessica rubbed her eyes voraciously and tried to conceive of some reason to have fallen asleep, but nothing became apparent, or reliable; she had difficulty in recollecting what she’d even been doing prior to her lapse in consciousness.
Jessica dug into her groggy, pounding brain to gather the events of the day: she recalled being at work till six; a gentle, kindhearted boy with rain-soaked blonde hair that had made several endearing queries into the nature of Dragonball Z, to which she provided no verifiable answers since action figures weren’t her department; going to dinner at Perkins with her coworkers (she’d ordered the breadbowl chili but the cook hadn’t thrown enough cheese on top, which on the one hand was no big deal, but on the other, kinda-sorta ruined her meal); some vague reference by Kris to Ghostbusters that was wholly unsolicited; and a preponderance of the color blue.
There had been something else just prior to consciousness, a vagrant dream deemed too easily retrieved for comfort, which penetrated the murky, disoriented mind of one Jessica Palmeri. In this misbegotten vision, there was another person, a man, that squirmed in a swiveling chair of some kind. This man, as best the image reverberated within her skull, had been in his early twenties at most, with a shock of wiry black hair, Asiatic features, and healthy physique. Jessica knew, almost inherently, that this unidentified man, this illusive figure, had not been some whimsically phantasmagorical caricature of any particular acquaintance. He was some unknown entity, a persona devoid of worldly reference, but the man was most certainly characterized by a suffocating pain that caused Jessica harm by imagery alone.
The poor guy had been choking on some preposterously glutinous mixture of rice, chicken, and refried beans; it was a Taco Bell signature item, the Grilled Stuft Burrito, a taste that she was intimately familiar with, but this had been different. This was the flavor of deadly consumption, of life sequestered. Throughout this dreamy recollection, Jessica felt as if she had been watching the unnamable man’s vitality drain away, his face turn a horrendous shade of purple-grey, his body contort and contract with ravenous ferocity, but that she had done nothing; she sat at some indefinable distance, merely watching as his buoyancy settled into inanimation, his body slumped onto an adjacent table. Other, obviously unrecognized figures, rushed to his aid, albeit too late to make any manner of difference, while she had remained glued to her chair, detachedly sipping Wild Cherry Pepsi from a straw as she sat beside some tawny compatriot who vaguely reminded Jessica of herself. An old Martika song had been playing in the background, but it was being filtered through a deficient Taco Bell sound system and the lyrics were mostly in Japanese, so it had been a total wash.
Jessica removed her hands from her eyes and began to massage her skull, with each strand of long, wavy, chestnut hair like a shred of sandpaper against her flesh. She couldn’t believe that she had endured the horrendous dream; to conceive of such a terrible vision disheartened her, and that she had -though subconsciously- done nothing to help (no, even further, been so nonplussed as to continue eating during the ethereal ordeal) caused her greater pain than her brain continued to inflict. She sat upright in an attempt to collect her wayward thoughts and somehow alleviate her discomfort. It was at that point that Jessica felt the distinct, unsettling displeasure of torn cotton flowing against flesh, and fear overcame disgust, with fright second only to the underlying bewilderment.
She gazed down upon her slouched body, and for the first time noticed that her nightshirt, an oversized, virescent Savage Garden concert T-shirt, had been sliced from the neckline down to her diminutive navel. Her meager breasts remained sheathed, covered faintly by the drooping cloth, but Jessica felt as if she’d been violated; not irrevocably, as her viridian Umbro shorts remained intact, and her somatic instincts dictated that she remained virginal as a whole, but there was a sinking, creeping impression that she had been subjected to some form of desecration. She pulled her lacerated shirt as close to her flesh as she possibly could, and brought her knees up to her chest, but-
Had she been granted more time to ponder the issue, Jessica would have contemplated just who, improbability notwithstanding, could have been nefarious enough to slip some manner of drug into her chili. Jason had a kid coming, and his girlfriend kept track of him quite nicely. Dave was too naive to know how to buy, let alone employ, any kind of sedative. Kris had never displayed any inclination toward women, so she seemed an unlikely culprit. Steve, well, possibly, but he wasn’t the brightest candle on the cake, so she had to rule him out as well. But why? Or how? Or?
-there was a scratching sensation as Jessica’s knees rubbed against her exposed skin that could not be ignored. It wasn’t a painful feeling, but awkward and unexpected, like much of the past thirty-six minutes had been. She wanted to cry, to crawl up into her own body, and remove herself from the outside world of her very own bedroom, a place that should have been a sanctuary, that should have been a haven from oddities altogether, but there was that inopportune scratching sensation that wouldn’t leave her alone. In the muted, caesious light bestowed by diminutive sources, Jessica scanned her knees to ascertain whatever it was that had been adding to her disorientation. Miniscule, pallid bits peppered her knees and, upon further inspection, she noticed that her torso was showered by what looked like cookie crumbs. Snatching a granule between her thumb and forefinger, Jessica rubbed it gently, and took note that it was most definitely not a cookie of the chewy variety. This was yet another perplexing development, as Chewy Chips Ahoy! were the only cookies allowed in the Palmeri household (okay, apartmenthold), and despite such recent amnesic lapses, Jessica was most certain that she was all out of delightfully squishy treats. This macabre development troubled her as all other recent, disjointed occurrences had done, but there yet another disturbance, something nebulous which seemed apart from the supposed norm. Something incorrect.
Jessica could, without a doubt, easily make out the flowery asymmetry depicted upon the Massive Attack poster which adorned the southern wall of her bedroom, next to a closed door that led to the rest of her apartment. The flashing alarm clock, a small, efficient Sony Dream Machine, was pointed toward the opposite direction of the poster, and the light seeping in through the blinds, while facing the south wall, was surely insufficient to illuminate the greater area. A great many things were problematic -and downright terrifying- but this was immediate, and though she was trembling profusely, Jessica forced her feet down upon the trampled carpeting and shuffled toward the door to flip the adjacent light switch.
A faint hum accentuated the return of luminosity, and it was mildly reassuring, but she quickly tapped the switch again for comparison. Bright. Azure. Vivid. Vague. Right. Wrong. Blue. Jessica flipped the switch one last time, allowing light to bathe her uncertainty, and rubbed her eyes once again, as there was a predictable blur of vision caused by sleeping with contact lenses affixed to her eyes. She looked downward again, at the bits and pieces strewn about her upper body. They were flecks of whiteness not unlike the color of her bedroom walls, and definitely not food of any kind. Taking another shred of the unknown substance between her fingers, Jessica examined the coarse shrapnel and although she was no expert, it looked almost as if -she inhaled deeply, knowing precisely what it looked like- it were something dislodged from the ceiling. The color and consistency of the flake yielded no other conclusion, and thus she nervously shifted her gaze upward. The ceiling appeared entirely normal, which failed to alleviate her suspicion because that was whence the flakes came, if she were to place faith in her power of deduction. It answered nothing else, and there was so much else to worry about.
The bed was wrong. The issue of Entertainment Weekly that lay beside her bed was wrong. Sitting upon the floor, at the foot of her bed, there was something wrong. That the door to her bedroom was closed was wrong, too, in that she never liked to close it. For a scatterbrained person, this was a precarious situation. Fearful of what lie before her, but even more horrified at the prospect of what lie beyond the closed door, Jessica considered her options haphazardly, but there was a morbid curiosity that attached itself to the torrential dread. Gingerly, she inched toward the foot of the bed, because it was, ostensibly, the easiest thing to comprehend.
There was an opened box of donuts sitting upon the carpet. Jessica immediately recognized the familiar brown, red, and white Donutland color scheme, and there was an assortment of delectable pastries contained within; she hated herself for doing so, but counted the donuts, ten in total, as if it were some piece of the puzzle. Wait, ten? That meant two were missing. Three cherry, two orange, two glazed, two chocolate sprinkle, and a maple glaze. Lapse of memory notwithstanding, she’d always hated fruit-flavored donuts.
The bedspread. Yeah. Jessica didn’t know what to think about this new addition to her mattress. Given the peculiarity of her situation, Jessica hadn't given the bed much thought, but now, bathed in light, the bedspread was particularly distressing because it wasn’t hers, and because it wasn’t a bedspread whatsoever. It was also pretty dirty as well as torn in a few places. The color, originally a pleasant beige, had long since become a vaudevillian tapestry of putrid discolorations, each of which probably had a story that none wished to experience firsthand. Jessica dared not get much closer to the cloth, which seemed not unlike a flowing window fixture, but reflexively tried to look behind her shoulders, as if to check for swarthy remnants where her body had once touched the hideous cloth, yet to no avail.
The issue of Entertainment Weekly itself was of little surprise to Jessica; she remembered quite clearly that it had arrived in the mail two days ago, and that she often, as always, relished reading it within the comfort of her bed. The lives of the famous and their preoccupations didn’t interest her dearly, but the subscription had been a gift from her sister, and Jessica didn’t really mind the diversions of popular entertainment, although the insight of movie critic Owen Gleiberman was something that she could do without; she was a Siskel kind of gal, and his untimely death saddened her immensely (like most any manner of death, for that matter). It lay open to a page depicting the stars of the forthcoming V for Vendetta, Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman, posing dramatically for the camera. On the facing page was an interview with the pair -advocating the film, of course- and nestled between the two pages, there lay a worn, scratched photograph that was torn at the upper left corner. Before she had even crouched down for close inspection, Jessica recognized the photo; it was a ghost from years prior, something that she once felt unruly about losing, and the tattered corner had most assuredly resulted from it having been ripped from the thumbtack that once moored it to a bulletin board outside her dorm room halfway through freshman year. Upon its theft, she had been so flustered as to place a handwritten sign in the picture’s stead which stated “Don’t steal my pictures, jerks!,” and someone had the gall to respond with a “Sorry...” written in deep blue ink, as if the superfluous punctuation somehow made the thief’s actions defensible.
The picture wasn’t anything special, just a photograph of she and two friends, Kayla and Becky, people that she roomed with her first year at UNI. She just hated the notion of people stealing something like that. Why anyone would elect to pilfer such a memento had always baffled her, and now it was back in her possession, so to speak. Jessica crouched, momentarily adrift in thought about the three women depicted in the photograph; who they once were, who they were now, and who the thief had been, but more importantly, it wasn’t quite the photograph she had remembered. In this simulacrum, she herself appeared mostly intact, though her figure was a bit too shapely, while her friends bore considerable variations from reality. Becky’s fingernails had been painted red, and if there was one color Jessica had never seen Becky use, it was red of any shade. Kayla, meanwhile, smiled up at Jessica with a blazing set of pearly whites, and Kayla had always been one to smile with her mouth closed. To Jessica’s best recollection, Kayla had donned a white tank top the afternoon the photo was taken, yet here she wore a top the color of wilted jonquils.
All things considered, it would have taken an additional ten seconds -at the very least- for the question of how this slapdash fabrication became Jessica’s possession to pop into her addled brain, but that’s not how events transpired. So mesmerizing was the concept of flawed reproduction that she barely noticed a faint crinkling noise, akin to that of a pork cutlet being fried in grease; and even then, so focused was she that a fleck of dislocated plaster falling upon the glossy photograph was required to rattle her morbid fascination. Perturbed, Jessica’s gaze drifted slightly upward, only to note that it was...snowing. She tilted her head in disbelief, and yet, despite her better judgement, Jessica’s widening eyes inched heavenward till they reached the source of her discomfort, only to see that which is, perhaps, best left unseen by humanity; something that made her jaw drop wide open.
Posted by Kmork at 8:59 AM
As far as I know, it started on November 16, 2003. It may have happened earlier (probably had, in fact), but the sixteenth of November Oh-Three is the day I'll remember as when my problems began. They got worse -- a lot worse -- in the days and months that would follow, but even then things were pretty bad.
I got up at my usual time. I used to religiously set my alarm clock for seven AM every night before retiring, and unless I was dead tired I never failed to wake up at least five minutes before it sounded. GOOD MORNING! the clock would insanely chirp on days I failed to wake up before it bleated its annoying call; Fuck, I'd answer instinctively, too tired to be mindful not to wake my sleeping wife, who'd punch me in the shoulder reproachfully before turning over and falling back asleep on the mornings I did wake her. That was when I had a wife. I still wear my wedding ring, but it's been nearly four years since we divorced. Because of my problems, you see.
The clock's glow-in-the-dark face read ten to seven. That time of year, I should have been able to see what time it was without the luminescence, so I supposed rain (or possibly snow; the temperature had been hovering at just above freezing for the past couple of days) was the temps du jour. I got into the flannel pajama bottoms I'd somehow emancipated myself from overnight, and, in spite of myself, gave a great, loud yawn, the kind of yawn my grandfather used to give when he sat down to breakfast after a night of watching baseball and plowing through half a case of Coors.
My first thought was, I shouldn't feel so damn tired. I'd fallen asleep shortly after making love to Ellen, and it couldn't have been past midnight. I knew this because we'd turned off the television just as Letterman started into his opening monologue, just after I'd come inside of my bride of six months.
But my languor that morning was nothing compared to the awful churning in my gut. After going downstairs and putting on a pot, I unplugged the Braun coffee maker my cousin Tamara had given us as a wedding present when I felt my bowels tighten wretchedly. My teeth hurt, too, and my mouth tasted of metal. I also felt nauseous. What'll it be, Door No. 1 or Door No. 2? I thought. Because I had (key word: had) an acute fear of vomiting -- known medically as emetophobia -- I prayed for Door No. 2.
My prayer was, unmercifully, answered.
I felt my colon tighten to block what felt like a tidal wave of diarrhea. My spine as straight as an arrow, I ran into the first-floor bathroom and dropped trou without bothering to close the door. Another cramp hit me and rang like an abject tuning fork within my intestines, and that's when the proverbial levee broke, testing the small bathroom's white ceramic-paneled walls' acoustics with a symphony of bodily sounds even I'm too shy to translate into onomatopoeia.
Five minutes sitting on the bowl turned to ten, then twenty. My abdomen screamed, and I was wracked by cold shivers. As a third-year med school student, I certainly knew what gastroenteritis was, but until then I had never come face to face with that evil harpy's long claw. Sweating profusely in spite of my shivers, I was sure that's what it was. What else could it be?
I was soon to find out.
Ellen, perhaps stirred from her slumber by my anal jam session, came downstairs and gasped louder than I'd ever heard her do before. The bathroom door open, I knew by her footsteps that she was in the dining room, which directly faced the stair bottom; but I had no idea the source of her astonishment.
"Blake," she said dully, as though she were reading my name on a theater playbill. "Oh, Blake."
Soon after, I heard her walk into the hallway, and even though I knew how foolish I would look when she saw me with my pajama bottoms around my ankles, the bathroom door open, and the fetid smell strong enough to poleax a Spartan phalanx in one fell swoop, I was in too much discomfort to care. This, honey, was what Reverend Thompkins meant when he said "in sickness and in health." "Take It or Leave It" by The Strokes played in the cruelly associative part of my brain.
"God, Blake, what happened?" Ellen said. Her hair was a mess and her face was pale, but opposite her shitcan-bound husband she looked positively angelic.
"Dunno," I tried, and then a staccato fart escaped me. "Stomach flu, I guess." I had explored nearly every conceivable part of this woman's body with hand and finger, tongue and penis, but still I blushed. Here was a road neither of us had been down, and from her expression of uncomfortable shock, I ventured it was one we were unprepared for and, likely, always would be.
"Blake, the turkey."
Turkey? Was she calling me names? The look of bewildered horror on her face indicated she wasn't, but I had no idea what she meant. It was as though she was speaking a foreign language. I wouldn't have been more nonplussed had she said, Blake, driftwood back spasm golf swing; and again, in spite of myself -- Everything this morning is in spite of myself, I simultaneously thought -- I grinned, imagining Ellen as a beat poet.
I hate to say it, but that image never fails to elicit a similar smirk. Whenever I think about Ellen, the good times we had come first (Coney Island on Christmas Day, throwing snowballs at each other and laughing like jackals), then fading memories of torrid sex (how her thighs practically suffocated me during cunnilingus), then her words that day. But on November 16, 2003, it was no laughing matter. This was clear enough when the stark reality of those words finally made sense.
"Close the door, El. I'll finish up and be out in a sec," I said, although the fire coursing through my body's lower half had no such plans; wanted, in fact, to keep this party rolling, maybe forever.
After Ellen closed the door I wiped until my rectum bled -- or so I thought; for the blood, I later discovered, came from further within -- and pulled up my pajama bottoms. Wiping sweat from my forehead with the back of my hand and the sweat on my chest with my palm, I opened the bathroom door with a nervous tremble that ran from head to foot and accentuated itself, like a cymbal rush, in my fingers and toes.
I found Ellen in the dining room. She was sitting in the chair closest to the bay window, holding her head in her hands and looking like the weight was going to topple her to the floor like a reverse Weeble. In front of her and to my right, on the table, was a half-eaten, half-frozen twenty-five-pound Butterball turkey, its juices staining the dining room tablecloth like an ink blot on paper in slow motion, its plastic wrapping torn open in a volcanic shape and pooling water at its base. Ellen and I had purchased the bird the Sunday prior; she was going to cook it on Thanksgiving at our place, her two aunts, their husbands, and the eleven children all four respectively parented in attendance; but if that was still the plan (and I knew then it probably wasn't), another turkey would have be purchased to take its half-devoured cousin's place. This turkey's goose, as it were, was cooked.
"Blake, what happened?" Ellen asked me, raising her face and wiping tears from her cheeks. "I just don't get it."
Neither did I. But I had a suspicion, and it wasn't good. If my border collie, Truman, hadn't died from heartworm two weeks after El and I moved into our new place on Lipton Road (what a great view of the lake it had), maybe I could have pegged him as the culprit, even though that would have been ridiculous, what with dogs lacking opposable thumbs and all. But Truman was dead and buried; and even if he wasn't, can a dog eat half a frozen turkey? Maybe. I didn't think so, but maybe. But there would have been a mess. A big one.
This, I realized as my bowels creaked and whined again for eruption, was of my own doing. Somehow, impossibly, I had gotten up in the night, crept downstairs, wrestled the prodigious bird from its cold tomb in our freezer's bottom drawer, and gone to town. That would explain my stomach ailment perfectly, and my sore teeth, the only question being how I avoided to leave any evidence on my person.
But for that I had an answer, albeit a damning one. My pajama top was slung over the dining room's head chair, the chair's back touching the table so closely a thread of dental floss couldn't slide between the two. The table itself was askew, its cloth drooping noticeably on the right side. As though someone had leaped upon it.
So, I guessed as the numb memory of my ravenous orgy rang in chorus, I sat naked on the dining room table, eating a frozen turkey like a kid bobbing for apples.
That made more sense than anything, and when I rushed upstairs to weigh myself on the bedroom bathroom's scale, leaving Ellen in utter disbelief and further shock in the dining room, it made even more.
Because I had gained thirteen pounds overnight.
This, I think I've mentioned, was the start of my problems.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 3:28 AM
Sunday, November 29, 2009
Corn on pizza? Fine. Bring it on. Sweet potato latte? Whatever floats your boat. French fry-encrusted corn dog? More, please. Cherry tomatoes on top of a cake? Fight the good (fruit) fight. I don't often complain about or disparage Korean fusion food (what J. Scott Burgeson once humorously dubbed "confusion food"), but even I have my limits. If there's strawberry jam on that sandwich, ma'am, it better be accompanied by peanut butter, not with ham and cheese. And if you wish to avoid my amateur* culinary critique, you'd be wise to avoid creating the colossal brainfuck of an appetizer I was served last night.
I attended a wedding yesterday, and the drinking (makkoli, beer, soju, whiskey, more beer) started early, but I was sober enough to recognize the pure abjectness of what I saw. After an early wedding feast, a friend and I opted to pass on noraebang shenanigans** and instead wound up at Mad Dog's in Seohyeon. Of the myriad pubs in Seohyeon, Mad Dog's is unquestionably one of the worst. The wait staff is as friendly as a cat at a mouse convention, and the food can either be described as "terrible" or "piss-poor." Still, I'm an easygoing man who's willing to suffer through pretty much anything***, so when my friend suggested the place I gave a nonchalant shrug and said, "Sure." I've mentioned that I was kinda intoxicated, right?
We ordered nachos. Kinda hard to fuck up nachos, but Mad Dog's did its best. The chips were brittle and nearly burnt; the mozzarella cheese was globular and tasteless. Yes, I was surprised and pleased by the half-moon slices of pepperoni that topped each nacho, but my enthusiasm was quickly killed by the cold dabs of ketchup applied underneath each nacho's cushion of cheeserubber. These were not nachos; they were individually prepared triangles of awfulness.
Yet that's not what ruined the plate. I can stomach pretty much anything, and like I said, I was kinda drunk. I could probably eat a shoe heel slathered in mayonnaise under such circumstances. No; it was the cheese dip (quick question: Should nachos require cheese dip? Um, no.) in the plate's center.
It was covered in candy-coated chocolate sprinkles.
Cheese and chocolate. Who does that? Trust me, I've thought way too much about it, and the only reasonable (yet still profoundly idiotic) explanation I can come up with is that putting CANDY-COATED CHOCOLATE FUCKING SPRINKLES on cheese dip was more about presentation than anything. But the only thing I wanted to be presented with in this case was a barf bag. I've told Kmart that I'll try anything save for anal sex and hard drugs once, but that list has to be amended, because if you think I'd ever eat cheese dip with chocolate sprinkles then you, sir, don't know me very well. I'd sooner eat a golf ball.
Dreams are only dreams, but occasionally they're eerily too close to reality. I've twice had dreams about airplane crashes only to wake up and read that a plane had crashed. I don't put much stock in synchronicity, either, but I've had some truly bizarre experiences in that regard, the best example being the time I joked to coworkers that, during our vacation in Thailand, we'd run into a former coworker who had skipped country a few months prior. What do you know, we did.
I try not to attach any significance to such occurrences, partly because How Dids and What Ifs can lead to a long road of contemplative lunacy, but mostly because the outcomes are essentially meaningless. So what if I was just considering going to Burger King for a Whopper and a Burger King commercial comes on TV a short time later? Is that going to profoundly alter my life****? This phenomenon, at least for me, is pretty mundane. It's certainly not Final Destination or Sliding Doors-level impactful. Regardless, when I had a dream last night about Kristy Swanson dining in Hell's Kitchen***** it came as a bit of a surprise, to say the least, when I was watching Season Six of Gordon Ramsey's predictable-yet-addictive show via YouTube this evening and saw the one and only Kristy Swanson sit down to dinner******.
Does this mean anything? Of course not.
At least I don't think it does.
(By the way, and I don't want to alarm you, but did you know that the Swanson company makes turkey TV dinners, and it was Thanksgiving in the States this past Thursday, and Kmart made a Thanksgiving-related post featuring none other than Kristy Swanson? This can't be a coincidence. It can't.)
* Remember, I'm the same man who goes into fits of excitement when presented with a SPAMwich, the same man who eats Cheetos and Snyder's of Hanover pretzel pieces with a spoon.
** I sing like cannonballs float, the cold reality of which has always saddened me. As a consolation, the Lord blessed me with an eight-inch cock and a killer smile. I think I'll live.
*** My ex-wife terrorized and abused me for four years, and the only reason I initially stuck around was because she had great tits. Later, it was for the sake of our daughter. Boy, what a mistake that was. As a consolation, I received custody of the 18th Letter and got remarried to a sane person. Win!
**** I'm not, however, saying it wouldn't. For I honestly believe in the redemptive powers of The Crown.
***** Why hasn't a chicken hof named Hell's Chicken been opened yet? Seriously, why?
****** She looked damn good for 39, too.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 3:45 AM
Saturday, November 28, 2009
Back in 1996, Crystal Dynamics released a bloody homage to The Legend of Zelda entitled Blood Omen: Legacy of Kain that pleased many gamers eager to immerse themselves in a detailed, macabre world of vampires, demons, and ultra-violent top-down action. At the conclusion of the game, the player, acting as the titular character, was given the option of pursuing one of two entirely different paths: the former being the salvation of Nosgoth, the latter its seemingly irreparable transformation.
Regardless of one's choice, the game came to its inevitable end with nary a hint of continuation. As fate would have it, the game became a moderate success, and as is the case with popular media, a sequel was contemplated, though a dilemma arose for the publisher. The title's developer, Silicon Knights, had ended its relationship with Crystal Dynamics and, subsequently, there was a calamity regarding just what to develop, as well as the question of how to develop a follow-up for a potentially lucrative franchise.
Given that Crystal Dynamics retained the rights to use Kain and his world (despite some iffy legal battles between the publisher and its erstwhile developer), they decided to go with what the knew best, and by that, I mean by utilizing the format of their mainstay, Tomb Raider as a template for the forthcoming sequel.
I should mention in passing that I'm no big fan of Ms. Lara Croft or her games; they're not terrible by any means, it's just that the motif has never held much appeal to me, and at the time, the news of the coming game's similarities proved worrisome, which is to say that I loves me some Zeldaesque gameplay, and the thought of it dissolving into yet another TR clone dissatisfied me immensely.
Despite my trepidation, Crystal Dynamics soldiered on to release Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver in 1999 (Playstation version), and sure enough, I picked up a copy because I'm a sucker like that, but needless to say, I was immediately impressed with their offering.
Taking place 1500 years after the first game, Soul Reaver follows the path of Kain having chosen the darker path of selfishness and all that lies beyond. Playing as Raziel, the fallen comrade of Kain given new 'life' by a mysterious benefactor, you set about a mission of vengeance against your previous coterie, all while solving numerous maddening puzzles and vanquishing countless foes of varying degrees of monstrosity, and when I say maddening, I imply both the frustration of the puzzles themselves, and the obligatory self-abasement following their completion.*
For its time, Soul Reaver featured phenomenal graphics, atmospheric soundtrack, and noteworthy voice acting. Sure, it was Tomb Raider, but with vampires! So it worked out quite nicely in the end. Speaking of ends, one weak point that need be mentioned is the decidedly anticlimactic ending of the game. It literally just...stopped at one point. No horseshit, Soul Reaver ended with Raziel chasing Kain through a portal, and that's it. In hindsight, it served the purpose of leading gamers toward the upcoming sequel, and in that sense it's kinda like the The Empire Strikes Back of the series (in more ways than one, considering that the next game, while good, was a bit of a letdown), but still, what a kick in the teeth, yeah?
Anyway, Legacy of Kain: Soul Reaver is the first (only?) game on our list released for the Sony Playstation, and what a spectacular game it was.
Posted by Kmork at 11:57 AM
Friday, November 27, 2009
Ernest Hemingway was a good writer. He was very good. Yes, he wrote like people with concussions think, but he was still a good writer. He was very good. Really.
Or was he? This entry is a bit of a concession, make no mistake, because I find Hemingway boring like mogwais turn into gremlins when they're fed after midnight; but his impact
(on kids with autism and drunkards who feel emancipated in front of a typewriter/keyboard*)
is undeniable. It is undeniable. Hemingway wrote stories. I've never read a biography of the man that didn't include bulls in Pamplona or hard drinking**, but I'm sure he typed with two indexes, as I am doing now. As homage.
And I'm doing it out of respect.
Simple, yet effective. This is essential to Hemingway's legend. Crucial. While I would argue that it's harder than a criminal to write long, flowing prose in the vein of Melville, it's similarly hard*** to write short, effective prose. Damn hard. And nobody save for Cormac McCarthy and his novel, The Road****, has come close since. That's a long time.
A long, long time.
So here's to you, Ernest Hemingway. You bore me to tears, yet I admire you. Not because you wrote well, but because you wrote efficiently well, if that makes any sense.
Stop influencing people with no skill for the English language to cite you as their inspiration as a writer and I'm willing to call it even. Cool? 콜?
* 88.9 per cent of the Internet, by my figures. And I should know; I created the damn thing.
** Shit, why don't I like Hemingway? It's probably because his legend overshadows his works, much like Hunter Thompson and Anne Landers.
*** like two-day-old donuts
**** McCarthy trumped Hemingway by omitting all that pesky punctuation. If you want to teach young adults how to write, trust me, don't have them read The Road. They won't get it. They'll feel emancipated. Because of Messenger and youth's inherent instinct to follow the shortest road, as it were. The Road is dangerous in a young person's hands. Dangerous.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 8:42 AM
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Cold, cold eyes upon me they stare. People all around me, and they're all in fear. They don't seem to wonder, or they won't admit, I must be some kind of creature up here having fits.
From my body-house, I'm afraid to come outside; although I'm filled with love, I'm afraid they'll hurt my pride. So I play the part I feel they want of ME! And I pull the shades so I won't see them seeing me.
Having hard times, in this crazy town; having hard times, with no love to be found.
From my body-house I feel like me, another; familiar face and creed, and a race, a Brother. But to my surprise I find a man corrupt! Although he be my brother he wants to hold me up.
Having hard times, in this crazy town; having hard times, with no love to be found.
[So many hard times...sleeping on motel floors...knockin' on my brother's door...eating SPAM...and Oreos and drinkin’ Thunderbird, baby...]
(glasses crashing, plates breaking, redemption, Holy Apocalypse, anal sores)
WUNGH-WAHHA! ~~In this crazy town; Having hard times, with no love to be founnnd.
I'm sick and tired of paying dues, baby.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 11:37 AM
I've never been a huge fan of Thanksgiving as far as holidays are concerned. The food is good, the family stuff is fine, and the day off from school/work/life is grand, but the day itself was never exquisitely memorable. Thanksgiving, as far as our family viewed it, was just a day to eat together as a group; beyond that, it was a day for my sister to listen to New Kids on the Block tapes while she hopped up and down on the trampoline in the basement (don't ask), an excuse for my brother to spend additional time with his high-school sweetheart's family (they got married, and subsequently divorced several years later, wee!), a brief reprieve from the midlife crisis gripping my father's consciousness, extra work for my mother, and more time for me to spend with my favorite babysitter, the television (but only when my parents were home, mind you). All in all, nothing spectacular, yet nothing atrocious, either. Standard fare, if anything need be said, though my brother usually took the time to run me down to the video store to rent a horror movie or two, as Thanksgiving, like any holiday, was the perfect excuse to further engage what brought me the greatest pleasure. Americana at its finest, if I do say so myself.
Upon experiencing said moment, my initial reaction had been:
Posted by Kmork at 9:48 AM
Buldak is translated into the vernacular as "fire chicken," and make no mistake, it's hot, like the hood of a Pontiac Firebird on a late summer day in Arizona. Our other dish is a crispy chicken salad (again chicken, always chicken) served over leafy vegetables. No complaints here. None.
I have a half dozen Chinese beers in my belly and another couple working their way down my digestive tract. And it's warm, so warm right now; and I might kiss this waitress. I keep trying to stand up to do it, but my acquaintances (friends, colleagues, Werner Herzog) keep pulling me back. I know she's got bright pink lipstick and cute cheeks, so why won't they let me kiss her?
Someone grabs my hair from the back and pulls me to the floor. Hard. Gravity? Gravity. That harpy. I suppose I'll never have fun again.
Thanks, gravity. You always win.
Posted by Harrison Forbes at 9:40 AM
The beat'em-up genre has been mentioned before in the PK27, so it stands to reason that gritty tales of urban decay and revenge appealed to a dumb, cornfed punk from Iowa, and indeed they did, though having said that, there was plenty of room -in my mind!- for developers to expand upon the notion of what characterized a beat'em-up without sacrificing the core theme: justice (or, for those willing to get picky, vengeance) in a messy world.
Game No. 20 is but one example of how the genre augmented itself in an effort to stay hip, while other titles such as Streets of Rage 2 demonstrated that even dilapidated cityscapes could still appeal to jaded thirteen-year-old gamers, if they were produced with enough flair,* though flair itself is scarcely capable of carrying a game all on its own (take Sega's rendition of Michael Jackson's Moonwalker, for example).
Contrary to popular opinion, though, the fact is that assaulting nearly-limitless volleys of palette-swapped baddies does become tiresome, no matter how many drumsticks* there are to consume, pipes to wield, and scantily-clad femme fatales to slap around.***
How do you improve upon what's been done a thousand times over? I mean, one can polish a penny all they want, but at the end of the day, it's still a goddamn penny, and it's not as if Honest Abe will miraculously begin sportin' a fedora just because you want him to be as cool as your father, correct?
Well, some developers opted to venture into (pseudo) 3D territory, and that proved to be a nearly-total bust. Others, such as a team of enterprising ex-Konami employees known collectively as Treasure, spent less time pushing the envelope graphically, and more on incorporating aspects of another burgeoning genre, the RPG -experience points, fantasy setting, zany characters, convoluted story, multiple endings, magic spells, semi-autonomous companion, whimsically Japanese soundtrack- and applying them to the tried-and-true beat'em-up formula.
The result? Guardian Heroes (
* And believe you me, or at least, believe you someone else; I know about flair. I'm Flair Guy!
** Insert random food here: apples, ice cream, pork chops, turkey dinners, baby food, PCP, etc.
*** Relax, ladies! You know I'm joking, right? Women constitute roughly 82 (81.532) percent of Psychedelic Kimchi's readership, and I wouldn't dare bite -off- the hand that feeds.
Posted by Kmork at 3:05 AM