I Was Bad at Being a Teenager

Palms sweating, I had no idea what to do. I consciously struggled to keep my eyes glued on the screen. Anthony Hopkins grinned slyly and horribly as his well-known Hannibal Lecter. She leaned against me, my body went rigid. I liked this girl, but I had no idea what to do. My still best friend, two seats over, mouthed to me “put your arm around her!”. I defiantly shook my head “no” as I felt my heart simultaneously race and sink. I was seventeen and, apparently, bad at being a teenager.
I still fight with insecurities, still cave in to the temptations of material comfort. Overall, though, I say I came out a better adult than most likely was projected. I’m not an exorbitantly uptight asshole seeking to make the world a more politically-correct place, nor a drug runner pushing weed cigarettes to make a buck. Sure, I may be a hipster-douche, but, according to my wife, that’s just the evolved form of the nerd. Thank you, Pokemon!
I was that kid with the target on his back. The sensitive guy who people mostly seemed to pity more than actually like, tease more than show respect to. I now realize there were people that were actually my friends and I took most of them for granted, but that doesn’t change the fact that I never, actually until the past two years, felt like I belonged anywhere.
I escaped a lot. I read, drew comics, watched excessive amounts of movies and TV and played video games. I’d even act out stories by myself outside, talking and walking. I rarely was able to have friends over, losing my small neighborhood crew when I moved to a more isolated part of Silver Spring, Maryland.
I see a lot of people around my age trying to justify narcissism, cynicism and trying to be “politically correct” and, apparently, never wrong. Maybe what I went through, and I’m purposefully not telling the whole story, wasn’t all that bad. I think of my still wounded ego and my luck of being married to a wonderful woman whose children love me (and I love them). I don’t feel like I’m entitled or special because I’ve lived and have done things. I don’t feel like I’m always right simply because I have an opinion. I just go on the assumption that trying to make your life the best it can be when you’re an adult is just what one does.
Maybe I was just bad at being a teenager. I didn’t go out with friends at night until Community College. I grew up believing an argument was over when someone was overly offensive or said something like “No, you’re just wrong”. I didn’t go on a date until that event described in the first paragraph. I watched Saturday morning cartoons until I started sleeping in until 11-12. Hell, I still love cartoons.
I feel like I do the best with what I have. I feel happy and mostly content. It could have gone drastically different for me, none of the ways being better. I’m lucky to have the life I do and to be the person I am.

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The Draws of Animation (Or: Looking Over Your Shoulder to Move Forward)

Going back to when I was a whee-lil lad, I loved cartoons, comic books and video games. None of that has really changed, now that I’ve passed the “30” bump, but my life has gotten more complicated and involved, as tends to happen when one reaches adulthood. I’m still amazed by the progression of animation and special effects and appreciate the hard work that goes into it.

As the animation gets more fancy, the explosions more explosiony, the dollar signs sky rocket. Triple-A video game titles are looking to be more of a rarity, as high-end game costs have gone into “Hollywood movie Blockbuster” range. Grand Theft Auto V, just released last week, apparently cost more than $200 mil. to make, making it the most expensive game ever. That’s a lotta Hot Pockets.

Luckily, with all of the impressive CGI shows, movies and 3D model-driven gaming out there, the 2D/ hand-drawn style still shines. Sure, the shows are a lot more stylized now and many from my generation hrrumph at some of the reimaginings of our childhood nostalgia gone arye, but I still like a lot of it.

Animated shows like “Gravity Falls” are good demonstrations in how animated entertainment, even hand drawn, has evolved. There are intricate and dark messages in that show that is best described as a goofier, animated Twin Peeks. Even CGI animation has shown that their stories aren’t some of the best in animated history, but in cinematic history.

2D in gaming comes in many forms. Those few who still play Japanese fighting games are familiar with the intricate hand drawn sprites they control to beat the ever living [snot] out of their opponent. A lot of that has been modernized (3D-fied *snort*), but we still find the ones that continue to be made the old hand-drawn way.

In the indi scene, developers are blessed with having access to cheap game engines and dev-kits to work with. Some of the best, most innovative, games these days are lower-budget projects. Even those who work to build their own engines, like those at The Behemoth (Alien Hominid, Castle Crashers) and Supergiant Games (Bastion) show us that a good way to move forward in the industry is to look over your shoulders at the past. They provide mixes of both new and old mechanics and concepts that show a game doesn’t need to be either all 8-bit pixels, or all demanding 3D imaging.

I remember playing Rayman when I was a mentally troubled teen on my Game Boy Advance, and it was considered a classic even then! Now, seeing and playing Rayman Legends takes me back to that time, not just because it’s the 2nd modernization to send the limbless hero back to their sidescrolling roots, but because of how well everything (well, most things) are hand drawn and animate.

It feels like all of these years later, people are starting to see the potential of story telling through all kinds of animation. Even the Ninja Turtles have been given depth and character I never imagined them having. A lot of it takes maybe too many liberties from the power of “nostalgia”, but the tech, growing knowledge, and what they do never ceases to amaze me.

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Getting lost in “Night Vale”

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Hearing the cool, mysterious and not quite monotone voice of narrator Cecil Baldwin talking about this fictional town sends me spinning in a wave of nostalgia. Every Sunday night, when I was a whee lad, I used to listen to Maryland public radio playing repeats of old serials. No, I am not THAT old. Welcome to Night Vale draws me in as it evokes laughter, caring for its characters and even fear.
Placed somewhere in a US desert, Night Vale is a place where weird, and mostly negative, supernatural events occur and not all of its citizens are human. Inspired by a unique mix of Lynch, Lovecraft and real life paranoia, all are lovingly and carefully melded to create a town that sparks a childhood level of imagination and wonder. Well written cynicism and spot on narration keep my ears glued to my headphones as I can’t help but laugh at some of the obvious absurdity and listen wide eyed when something suspenseful happens.
This is a podcast that requires a good imagination and recommends you listen to it from the very beginning. Wondering what’s going to happen to various town members that become recognizable, including our narrator, and what horror is going to hit Night Vale next has its draws.
Done in a daily local news format, the show moves at a smooth pace and Cecil’s narration is as cool as a news narrator of yore. His lingo even takes me back to listening to some of the old radio commercials, but modern references give it a timelessness akin to something like Edward Scissorhands.
Tales of murdering monsters, brain manipulating glow clouds and obviously inhuman politics makes me wonder and want more. Though some episodes may be slower than others, the intrigue hasn’t been lost on me. I’m impressed with the consistency and want to write the writers and say “What a good job you folk have done!”. It really is that good. All hail the mighty Glow Cloud!

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Welcome to Night Vale is written by Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor. For more information, visit http://commonplacebooks.com/welcome-to-night-vale/

The Ghost in My Head

You may say I’m crazy, I think his name his Alfonse. He can communicate with me telepathically, or at least he did once. He may be the reason I get scared at night. Either that, or my imagination gets the best of me.
He’s from a bygone era. I also think he’s German. He must of been a singer. He showed me images of pamphlets showing a man in front of a microphone, spotlight on him and a magnificent closed stage curtain behind. All in black and white, of course.
I read somewhere that ghosts prefer to communicate telepathically, it may be easier for them. It was just the one time. For me it was enough. Maybe I’m just a lousy medium and he needs someone better suited to tell whoever it is he needs to tell whatever it is he wants to say.
I’m not saying there’s no way it was just my imagination. The flashes of someone’s life could just be my mind throwing away excess images, collections of things that I’ve thought about, seen in movies, dreamt of in an expansive sea of dreams.
On the other hand, I do believe in ghosts. Ghost-centric horror movies scare me the most, probably because I subconsciously find them to be the most believable. I do consider the influences of the movies I’ve seen, the tales I’ve heard. My mind is matured, but I find I can still be impressionable.
I deeply believe I have a close connection to spiritual entities. I feel my fear is a sensor of sorts, an indicator that there is a presence around. This may not always be true and sometimes it just my mind, but other times it feels different. His name is Alfonse, I don’t think he’s going anywhere for a long time.

Blogging Tips

Good advice for us Word Press newbs I reckon

Julianne Q Johnson

Blogging tips

This morning I received a notification that my blog was going to be featured on freshly pressed. I’m not going to act all cool about it. I was so excited that I went and woke up my fiancé to tell him! There are literally millions of blogs out there, and it’s a real honor to be picked.

There are tons of articles out on the net about how to get attention with your blog, but I thought I would share some thoughts with you.

1- Original Content
It’s fine to post a quote now and then, or to post someone else’s blog post that you enjoyed reading. However, if you want to attract readers in this very competitive medium, you need to write your own words. You don’t have to be a literary genius to write original content, just pick a subject and tell folks what you think…

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