Monster Hunter, or: Video Game Movies That Set Themselves Up for Sequels Are Either Lazy or Painfully Lack Self-Awareness.

I never planned on watching Monster Hunter but insomnia and Amazon offering it for free conspired to have me at least play it in the background while I did something else. That’s the level of attention required to experience a film like this without feeling like you missed anything important.

Video game movies are only ever tangentially related to their source material and this was no exception. I’m not very familiar with the franchise as I find Japanese role-playing games and their fans to be a bigger than small percentage of what’s wrong with everything in the universe. If you’re not familiar (and I hope you’re not, for your sake), JRPG’s have banal plots inspired by the worst teen romance films you can picture and consistently deliver the most derivative gameplay in the industry. The fans are the type of fedora-wearing neckbeards who insist (in novella-sized walls of text on Reddit and elsewhere) that the nonsensical, dare I say stupid settings and narratives are actually “brilliant, you just don’t understand Japanese culture”.

But since you’re not a weeb, you know that you don’t need to understand Japanese culture to know that even the average Japanese person likely thinks these games are embarrassing representatives of their people’s creative spark. How many times can you rewrite a story about an angsty loner pining for an aloof princess who gets captured by a demon/general/giant robot and still expect Americans to buy millions of copies of it? That number approaches infinity, apparently.

But I digress, this isn’t about the game, it’s about the movie. The movie is worse. Far, far worse.

I admit that I only payed attention to collectively twenty minutes of the… I don’t know… let’s call it 2 hours… of the movie’s1 runtime. Still, stuff just happened without any explanation or logical preconditions. In that way I suppose it is pretty faithful to the games. Milla Jovovich, pushing 50, plays the same character she’s played in every movie she’s been in since The Fifth Element: vanilla female bad ass whose one-liners would embarrass even Bruce Willis. She only has one expression; I’d blame botox but she’s had that expression since she was 20. It’s like half confused, half almost mad. Like she’ll be mad in a few minutes but she’s not there yet. Her battle cries actually sound just as shitty and forced as the bargain-bin voice acting JRPGs use on their English dubs. Another point for accuracy to source material.

I won’t go into a ton of detail about the plot of the movie partly because it’s the plot of every mid-budget fantasy action movie that has ever been made and partly because, as I said, I didn’t really pay attention. To give the briefest rundown (and I doubt anybody cares about spoilers as you can’t really spoil something everyone has already seen a dozen times) some Marines are in the desert because Marines are always in the desert. As far as I can remember that is literally all you get as an explanation. Some flashing lights dazzle everyone and then there in another desert and it’s immediately obvious that it’s not anywhere on Earth but it takes them like 800 hours to realize they’re not in Iraq anymore. Even when they see the ribcage of an animal the size of downtown Chicago they just say “woah I ain’t never seen that in no museum!”. No shit. Fortunately all of these idiots die pretty much right away except for Mila. I suppose that’s only semi-fortunately. There’s sad music and she mourns for about 30 seconds which is actually appropriate because these characters had no personalities and I doubt anyone watching this movie gave a toss about them any more than she appears to.

Here I should note that at no point in the game series are their United States Marines from Earth teleported to the game’s universe but I guess the writers needed a reason to recycle 90s bad-ass dialogue.

So then the monsters show up. Well I guess they already did because they killed all of the Marines but you know what I mean. Then they really show up. The monsters in Monster Hunter are the Godzilla variety, not the horror variety. There are only three as far as I can remember which is interesting because Monster Hunter (the game(s)) involve hundreds of different species, but I get it. Money’s tight and the CGI sucked enough as it was. There are two dinosaurs and some giant spiders. Really just dredging the creative pool on the creature designs here. One of the dinosaurs is a dragon so I guess that’s different than a regular dinosaur.

Many, many rounds of anti-tank ammunition are fired at these monsters with no effect. Just when all is lost, a stranger WITH A GOD DAMN BOW AND ARROW comes and starts injuring the monsters. I never thought I’d see something more retarded than superheroes shrugging off atomic bombs only to be punched to death but here you have it.

So here’s where the thin thread of plot this movie hangs from enters the picture. This is, as you may have guessed, a parallel universe. There’s a magic stone tower that’s been abandoned for an unspecified amount of time which occasionally pulls people from Earth over here to get eaten by dinosaurs. The natives of this planet have Spanish galleons which sail on sand (seriously this is just so fucking Japanese Role Playing Game I couldn’t keep myself from cringing when I saw it) and I guess they’ve been fighting these monsters for millennia from God knows where because there’s not a single house in this entire movie. Even worse, for people who have been living with these giant creatures eating them for possibly thousands of years, they really suck at fighting them. Everything goes pretty bad for them the whole time until they find Mila who is the only person in the entire multiverse who can aim an arrow into a mile-long monster’s gaping mouth. Eventually. She misses a lot too.

At the end of the movie, the three companions (aside from Mila and The Stranger, Ron Perlman shows up 4/5ths through the movie and does nothing at all) brace for an attack from the dragons and the movie ends. Well holeeee shit. This is where I can’t figure out if the director actually believed he’d be offered a sequel for this dumpster fire or if he realized there weren’t actually any loose ends to tie up because there is no plot, so he couldn’t figure out how to end it. Honestly if they had just had a UFO come down and turn everyone into frogs it would have been a satisfying enough ending.

And as you likely guessed by my title, this is a problem all movies based on video games share. Very, very few make it to the sequel and it’s usually all down to timing. There’s nothing good about the Resident Evil film franchise; the first one was interesting enough for a directionless artistic abortion, but they kept pumping out sequel after sequel and they only got worse (as they always do regardless of whether the franchise is based on a game or not).

Warcraft was actually somewhat watchable and even that didn’t get to tie up its cliffhanger. Granted, Warcraft is extremely true to the lore of the games so anyone who plays them knows what happens next. But if even a movie that is decent can’t get a sequel, I don’t see why these hacks insist on ending everything on “the heroes jump toward the thing that is evil, cut to credits”.

The world sucks.

1 I prefer the word “film” but I don’t feel right using it here, not least because film isn’t really involved in the production of movies anymore.

Sustainability & Ethical Waste: Week 3.

I’m writing a longer, well thought out piece currently and it’s taking several days so I thought I’d take a break from that for a moment to just get something posted for the sake of habit. You might recall that I started to focus more on sustainability at the end of May. I joke, as I am wont to do, that I only do things like this to prove I’m better than everybody else, but as I said this is a joke. I do care about being a good person / man and I don’t feel that barreling through life without any concern for what we waste is what a good man does1.

Perhaps it’s sobriety, perhaps it’s age, but I find myself sticking to these plans much more easily than I used to. I’ve dabbled in veganism and vegetarianism what feels like 100 times without making it a full week. Now, I don’t care about those two lifestyles in the slightest these days but to truly dive into a sustainable lifestyle meat is a rare luxury. Not only does its cultivation dry hump our ecosystems, have you ever bought meat from a market and not received it wrapped in plastic? I’ve only encountered one shop in my life that didn’t use plastic to wrap everything. Humorously, even “organic, non-GMO” suburban MILF food is double wrapped in polymer resin.

So it should make sense that I’ve been eating a lot less meat lately. Not zero meat and definitely not zero junk food; this is a process and people who try to be perfect on day one are usually the ones who quit immediately (like 25 year old me). I have a nasty addiction to diet soda which, of course, usually only comes in plastic. I’ve been trying to switch to homemade coffee but coffee is pretty harsh after noon2.

I believe I’ve cut down quite a lot on the amount of garbage I’m putting at the curb every week but it’s difficult to tell because I still live with a bunch of codependent, addicted narcissists who only eat takeout and consume a small island’s worth of sand in glass beer bottles every week. Those are recyclable but I’ve come to have very little faith that the people taking our recycling are not putting it in a landfill anyway.

Closet cleanout is on hold a bit because I joined a program for it that starts in July. I’ve organized everything and put aside the things that I definitely will never wear again. These will either be recycled or donated to places I can be sure will not ship them off to a third world country to be landfilled (which, it turns out, is where most of the clothing you donate ends up. Cool right?). There are services such as the American Textile Recycling Service that will take and attempt to repurpose clothing that has outlived its useful days, but I can also turn them into rags or more reusable produce bags (not my socks of course).

Most of my toiletries are recyclable or biodegradable now. I have a set of bamboo toothbrushes; although nobody has invented biodegradable bristles yet, throwing those out is much better than an entire plastic toothbrush. I have some bottle-less shampoo and I use a straight razor (which I actually have to get sharpened because I didn’t do enough research and the “American” company I bought it from just imports cheap Chinese junk, stamps their name on it, and ships a dull razor-shaped hunk of metal to you) instead of the razor subscription service I was using. I finally ran out of Old Spice this week and ordered some deodorant that comes in a biodegradable cardboard tube but it won’t arrive until next week so I’m rather foul smelling in the interim. I’ve been washing my armpits 3 times a day this week. At least I know I’m clean.

1 And also good women, I suspect.
2 Recently I listened to a lecture in which someone went over the half-life of caffeine and proved to me that drinking it past noon is a terrible idea. It’s almost certainly the reason I sleep so poorly and wake up tired every day, thus needing even more caffeine. I’ve made an effort to quit drinking it after 12PM but, as I said, it’s a process. I managed to abstain 3 days in a row last week and I felt amazing. Unfortunately, when I feel amazing, it’s cause for celebration (with caffeine). This was actually a habitual cycle with alcohol pre-sobriety; quit drinking for two days, feel great, hey might as well get drunk since I feel so good.

On Fox News’ Recent Spate of Articles on Yeonmi Park

Original text here and here.

I meant to write about the second link initially, which is an article I read earlier today. When looking for it on my computer later, I found the first link which isn’t the same article but provides more context. It’s actually much more “journalistic” and worth reading than the second. The second is just funny.

I’ve heard a bit about Yeonmi Park through the limited media channels I consume. Jordan Peterson interviewed her a couple weeks ago; a few friends have read her book (not an affiliate link). I hadn’t yet gotten around to reading it myself (or, more accurately, buying the book and putting it in my closet). In a later interview with Bari Weiss, Peterson talked about Park with her a bit and paraphrased some of the things Park had said about American universities. It should come as no surprise that he’s taken an interest in her if you’re at all familiar with the disgust he describes towards American colleges, their Humanities departments in particular, for allegedly indoctrinating children into the “Woke-ist” movement of actually super racist antiracism.

Now, I should say I’m aware that debating a Fox News article is like telling a meteorologist that the sky is blue… everyone knows what Fox News is. It’s not so much the subject of the article I have issue with, though, it’s how the author of my second link un-comedically calls himself out for being an illiterate knob.

A North Korean speaks: Yeonmi Park’s fierce desire for freedom

The first paragraph is so rife with hyperbole and conjecture that it would be pointless to actually go into detail about it: “North Korea is called the ‘worst place on earth(sic)’ for good reason. Thousands of people are tortured. Some North Koreans eat rodents to try to survive, and many starve anyway. In winter, they freeze. No one but the dictator has any true freedom, and no one is allowed to leave.” Some of that is factually incorrect (many people are allowed to leave North Korea) and a lot of it is likely exaggerated, which I’m assuming you would expect (although I can’t prove it’s exaggerated any more than one could prove that it isn’t… it just feels rather sensationalist to me). I’m not here to defend North Korea, I agree with the general consensus that it’s not a cool place to live and their leader is a dick.

The sixth paragraph is actually quite funny. In Parks words: “I watched the movie ‘Titanic’ and I was shocked. Like, how could this kind of ridiculous film exist? I’d never seen people dying for love, except dying for the regime and the party.” It stands out more for me, perhaps, because I’ve recently listened to a particularly great lecture on Romanticism and how its core dogma is horseshit yet continues to pervade all of Western film, music, and other artforms. The idea that the universe will conspire to bring two people who are meant to be together through all manner of obstacles and trials so that they can live their best Instagram lives is the crux of Romanticism and, of course, completely ridiculous. I suppose the ending of Titanic is slightly more poignant because (spoiler alert) like in real life, the universe doesn’t give a shit about Jack and Rose’s feelings and sends Jack to the depths to be an extra on Pirates of the Caribbean. But then it pulls back the realism and we’re meant to believe that Rose loved a man she knew for a week so much that she stayed single for the rest of her life. Yeah right.

Wow. Tangent. Okay…

North Korean defector says ‘even North Korea was not this nuts’ after attending Ivy League school

Look, I know you weren’t born yesterday. You can read that heading and you know without continuing that the author cooked up this fecal buffet 2 hours before he had to turn in his work and while nursing a hangover from his barely contained alcoholism. Still, what Park mentions within is poignant stuff worth thinking about and if they had just let her write an essay and opted to forego the editorial commentary, it probably would have been respectable.

The author points out a few times that Park says Americans aren’t taught critical thinking skills and thus are spiraling into a Hell of propaganda and culture war nonsense, which you know is a premise I have agreed with since I was a teenager. Park says this creates an anti-American ideology where our citizens whine about being slaves and living in an evil, unjust society while being blind to the fact that the society they live in is precisely the mechanism by which any of them have obtained a measure freedom.

Sahakian does prove her own premise quite well, although not in a way she’d prefer, I would imagine. Throughout the article she punctuates carefully chosen phrases from Park with his own totally unbiased opinions about the “left” (as if right or left even truly exist in this cluster fuck discussion anymore) which trod an easily identifiable but unpaved and pothole laden road to his closing thought (also a Park quote): “That is what is happening in America,” she continued. “People see things but they’ve just completely lost the ability to think critically.”

How perfect that an article void of reflective, insightful thought ends on such a note! The disregard for craft might make a more conspiratorial thinker entertain the idea that this is just a ploy to keep the vitriolic dick measuring contest between lefties and righties going for another 24 hours news cycle. Park raises great points; it’s a shame that they’re conveyed on toilet paper. None of the news outlets of the corporatocracy party even covered these comments as far as I can tell so at least half of the country (but obviously a whole hell of a lot more) will never even hear or read them. Not that they’d take the time to wonder if any of this applied to them if they did read her interview; that’s basically her point.

And it’s a damn good point. Get off the internet and go read some Plato until tomorrow.

Aggregated References

Back to 71.4286% of Normal Life

Living life pre-COVID on 5 out of 7 days of the week. That’s three days in the office full time, two days working from home, and the weekends haven’t changed. This is my second day working a full day in the office with other people and it only took me this long to remember why I wanted to quit so badly prior to shutdown. All of the toxic bitching has returned; I have to have inane conversations about the weekend (wow, Sally, you watched TV and ate too much food again. You are really unpredictable), and our new codependent trainee is a carbon copy of our last codependent trainee… telling me when she needs to go to the bathroom, talking about her alcoholic offspring, etc. To make matters worse, I left my AirPods at home.

That’s just the negative side though; it’s no surprise I don’t enjoy being around chaff. It’s an in-your-face reminder that I squandered my 20’s and 30’s. But being stuck here with essentially no work to do, I’m easing back into a good routine of getting my studies and homework done far ahead of schedule. I may even start bringing a keyboard to work to practice piano.

Funny as it may sound, that brings up a pleasant note about this type of “adult” work. In my previous lives working restaurants and retail, you always had to find busy work lest your boss find something even more mind-numbing for you to do. That’s not an issue here. When you don’t have anything to do, you don’t have anything to do. Your boss can’t give you extra work because that would encroach on someone else’s job classification and that’s a big no-no in union-world. As a consequence, my supervisor can walk by and roll her eyes as she sees me watching Netflix and writing an essay, but there’s nothing she can do about it because I’m still far better at my job than literally anyone else in this entire county (that used to be a sarcastic thing I said but now I fully believe it).

By getting homework done at work, I have a lot more free time after work. It’s been nice, and as I said it’s only been two days (although I worked from home Monday and Tuesday, I was reinvigorated by knowing I would be in full time the rest of the week so I was very proactive those days as well). With more time to fill, I’ve started practicing piano and drumming again. I purchased a paddle board (don’t worry it’s just an inflatable one, not a $1600 epoxy board) and will probably go to the beach most days after work because it’s nearby. I might get a tan for the first time in my life1!

Many of the bad habits I’ve developed during lockdown have evaporated already. I haven’t ordered delivery since last week because I’ve been meal prepping again. I’ve drastically cut down on my caffeine consumption, although that is partially because I’m trying to waste less and use no plastic whenever possible. I also read about the half-life of caffeine so I try to stop drinking it by noon so that I can sleep and so far that change has done wonders for my energy and mood.

Slowly, the habit of writing every day is returning. I’m still not very motivated but getting things done rarely requires or even involves motivation. I need to rebuild the habit of doing this every day, even if I don’t post something. I’d like to write in a more narrative style instead of these disconnected paragraphs on things I love and hate (mostly hate, right?). That will be something to learn as it doesn’t come naturally to me at all.

1 As a life-long computer nerd, I have flawless skin in comparison to the basic bitches I associate with who have been using tanning beds for 30 years. I can afford sun damage for the remainder of my life.

Cast of Characters

(note: this is a work in progress and will be a page on my actual website… it’s not really what I’d consider a blog post but I can’t seem to find the option that doesn’t send this to all of my followers’ feeds. Sorry!)

I attempt to write this blog as if it were an unfolding story comprising 75% truth and 25% fiction. The fictional bits are mainly for comedic effect; the meat is all true. As I’m fairly set in my ways and don’t “get out much”, this story’s cast of characters is written in stone at the moment. More names might be chiseled in later on but not any time soon! Aside from myself, real names have been omitted. There’s always the sliver-thin chance that one of the mongoloids (I am aware this word is offensive and it is precisely what makes it such a poignant insult) in my life learns how to use Google and finds my blog.

Brian

Me. I was born in ’81 and I hope to live long enough to have to put the “19” in front of that for specificity. I’m a musician, writer, painter, illustrator, programmer, gamer, and a million other things I’ve tried at least once but am not actually any good at.

Mother

Equal parts codependent and narcissistic, she’s the bane of my current existence but has also raised me to be completely dependent on her (most men my age have toxic relationships with their mothers because all of the women from the Boomer generation are megalomaniacal inebriates).

Fugie

One of my brothers and generally the only one worth writing about. Fugie stems from “The Fugitive” which was his original moniker amongst my friends because he once got drunk and crashed into a parked car, fled the scene, and disappeared from existence for 2 years. He returned on his knees, begging my mother to take him in. Against the advice of literally every person in her orbit, she agreed. He continues to drink, steal from me, and occasionally break essential components of our house.

Work Wife

Not really one person but an archetype and not a mentally healthy one, to boot. Regardless of where I’ve worked there’s always been an unavailable woman who has attached herself to me as some sort of back-up plan / guy who knows how to fix her computer parasitic relationship. I don’t really get anything out of the arrangement other than the vague wishful thinking that some day they’ll inexplicably end up with me but as anyone who isn’t completely braindead knows, this never happens.

BFM

BFM, or Best Friend ______, is as you might expect my best friend. We don’t talk as much as we did when I was drunk, vulnerable, and extremely clingy. We dated very briefly many years ago and neither of us has romantic feelings for the other anymore. Strange for me, because she’s gorgeous and the old me would pine for her until she got fed up enough to cut off communication with me. Somehow through sobriety and self-improvement I’ve managed to grow up a little bit though and can actually have genuine friendships with women.

Judge

My other best friend, who is also a woman (I am aware of my inability to befriend men and it is a common theme here don’t worry), is a lawyer. I call her Judge as a joke between the two of us and as a compliment because I believe she is actually intelligent enough to be a judge but also intelligent enough to not want that job. You might wonder how someone could have two best friends; well, BFM lives on the other side of the country and we only chat via the Internet but she still knows me better than anyone currently in my life. Judge is more of a physical best friend whom I could theoretically have coffee with but never do.

Joyful Sadness. Melancholy?

The English language isn’t very useful for describing emotions. Perhaps that’s why native English-speaking countries are full of materialistic robots (myself included, I’m sitting on 4 maxed out credit cards and I have no regERts). John Vervaeke mentioned in his lecture on Marcus Aurelius how over-used “love” is in our language. We love fries. We love our children. We love sunny days. You don’t have to be an expert on semantics to know that those three versions of love aren’t the same thing.

Unless you want to eat your children and put fries through college.

I’m experiencing what I used to label “depression” again for the first time in almost two years. Since just before THE PANDEMIC (placeholder for ominous graphic text dripping like an 80’s slasher title) I’ve been taking Adderall. First it was 10mg twice a day which was okay. I could take it or leave it. My psychiatrist didn’t like that, apparently, so he increased my dosage to 20mg twice a day and 10mg in the afternoon to “wind down”. Needless to say, I haven’t slept in a year. I’ve also been on a cocaine buzz for all that time.

Likely another effect of the pandemic, my psychiatrists appointment calendar is exploding, so I was handed off to a nurse practitioner. She immediately lowered my dose while making it sound like she wasn’t lowering my dose. 20mg of extended release Adderall twice a day. “You’ll get about half the effect right away and then the rest will slowly release over 6 or 7 hours, so if you take one at 7AM and one at 1PM, you should be pretty balanced through the whole day.”

Yeah, no.

I slept pretty much all last week but I’m finally acclimated for the most part. I’m not upset about this; I’m glad. I had talked to my psychiatrist three times and my therapist many more than that about how I felt empty and zombified all the time; that I was exhausted from 5pm til I went to bed but then couldn’t fall asleep. Upon waking I couldn’t get myself out of bed. I’d taken to masturbating in the morning because at least then I’d have to get up to clean myself off (even I am not gross enough to just lay there in my own dirt).

With the lowered levels of whatever the hell Adderall does to my brain, my ever-present cloud of emotional aporia has returned. I don’t even know if aporia works in that context but I wanted to use it anyway. WordPress’ dictionary doesn’t even recognize it as a word (it also doesn’t recognize WordPress but I guess that’s because the ‘p’ is also supposed to be biggie sized. You learn something new every day, I’ve heard). You’ll have to let me know! I suppose I could say “fog of sadness” but that sounds dark and pretentious simultaneously. I’m not “sad” all day any more than one “loves” their children and freedom fries the same way. I don’t think it’s depression. It can cause depression if I allow it, but the two aren’t directly connected. I may be more prone to fantasizing about horrible things like losing my job, falling in love and then being betrayed, and so on, but I’m aware of that enough to somewhat control it now. And when I don’t control it… well… sometimes it feels good to think that way. My life is pretty awesome right now so I don’t really believe those things will happen. It’s more like a reminder of what could happen in the worst possible scenario. Maybe to defend myself against it? I don’t know. I don’t understand what causes a teenager to start thinking that way and then carry those thoughts with him his whole life, minus crazy-fun-stimulants times.

So, I welcome the return of my old friend (as someone else put it in a lovely read). Life feels more real now. Tangible, I suppose. It seems like my last two years were spent staring at my computer monitor like a zombie. In just the past week I’ve sorted out my garden in preparation for planting (late, I know, but what can you do), cleaned the house, and started drawing and making music again. All I did for the however-many-months prior to that was play video games and watch movies I can’t even recollect.

I’m happy that I’ve never been one to abuse medication because I definitely feel a longing for that high. I still have a full bottle of 20mg Adderall (be careful who you tell that to by the way, holy shit there are a lot of pillheads out there that you’d never even know about) but haven’t even come close to doing a bad thing. I plan on getting rid of it the next time I talk to the nurse because I’m going to be open and honest and tell her all of the bad things that come with this lower dosage as well as the good things. Truthfully, though, I don’t see myself asking to return to the old levels. I feel too human now.

This happens every time, too, doesn’t it? If you’ve been reading this blog long enough, you know that I’ve tried more or less every antidepressant mankind has invented as well as several ADHD medications and it’s always the same story: I feel great for a month, then I start to think “hmm… I feel kind of hollow”, and then I either stop taking them myself or my medication gets changed and I feel so much better than I had been feeling. Maybe drugs aren’t the answer but who am I to say? I’m told that sometimes pills are the only solution for people who are genuinely suicidal. Perhaps. I’ve never met someone like that. Is it uncouth to say that living in the state I was in for your whole life doesn’t seem to be a whole lot better than being dead? I got about the same amount done as a dead person would have. That’s not true, even remotely. Sorry.

So here’s what I think happens: I’m obviously the kind of person who looks for the easy solution to his problems. Studying for college and setting aside time to practice piano take so much effort. Then my psychiatrist says “well lets try this pill it should give you a lot more energy and then you will magically just want to do everything without even thinking about it!” That is never how it works. Instead, I get a bunch of energy and sit on my ass all day (even more than I was without the drugs) but now that I’m high as fuck, I feel good about it instead of feeling like I’m being a bit of a loser. But if a pill is offered to me, I have to try it. Something in me says “this could be the one”. I’m let down every time, sometimes catastrophically (Lamictal made me actually suicidal for the first time in my life and I never want to feel that again).

But I’m old now. Wiser. Some people scoff when I say that and say “pah, you’re still young! Just a kid!” but it’s not that I’m not old, it’s that they’re super old. My mortality has been a more frequent point of interest while lying in bed. I’m finally faced with the reality which has always been true but young people pretend isn’t: there isn’t enough time to do everything I want to do. Not in a day and not in the rest of my life. That’s not a good or bad thing it’s just a fact of life. I think I’d have been a lot happier if I’d known that my whole life; I could have picked a thing to care about and master. I don’t really have the time left to master something. Of course, none of us knows how much time we truly have left. I could die tomorrow. I wonder about that more often than I should as well (I have had this strange sensation in the side of my head for years and I’ve convinced myself it’s cancer but my doctor laughs at me so I’ve never gotten an MRI).

As you may have noticed, if you pay attention to such things, my ability to write has slowly returned as well. I could not sit down and write more than a few paragraphs on high doses of Adderall. It’s supposed to make you focus but I wouldn’t call what it does “focus“. You can sit still and do one thing for 8 hours, yes, but in my experience that thing usually isn’t one that requires a great deal of focus. I could play a video game for an entire day but if I was doing homework, for example, my attention would constantly hone in on minute details which really didn’t matter and it would take me four hours to finish an assignment I could have done in thirty minutes. Too much Adderall. I think right now the way I feel is the perfect level. I’m not a zombie and I don’t yell embarrassing things to complete strangers, but I’ve retained some of that attention to detail. That’s always been a personality quirk of mine, though. It’s why I did so well as a manager… sweating the small stuff is a positive thing in that field.

I could go on and on here. It’s been so long since I’ve written anything substantial that there’s a lot I want to say, but I’ll leave it for another day. Maybe I’ll get back into a morning blog post routine now that I’m about to go back to work full time. I equally dread and love that.

My First Three Months with VR: Is It Worth the Money?

I gave my initial impressions on the Oculus Quest 2 a short while ago but I still hadn’t spent much time with the headset. Indeed, the biggest problem I have with VR is how exhausting the idea of using it feels sometimes. You have to be in the mood for VR and for someone who can much more easily play objectively better games while sitting at his desk, it doesn’t tickle my fancy very often.

However, in May I turned a bit of a corner with the system. I found myself using it with friends and family (my niece and nephew particularly) more often. I found a few games that could be played sitting down that got me to use the system more often.

I know that sounds unintuitive… why would you play a VR game if you were sitting? Well, if you’ve ever spent a couple hours in a very physically demanding game you know how much of a chore they are to play. I’m not just talking about the amount of sweat the games create (and it is a lot) but the joyful feeling every person who’s played Gorn has experienced of swinging your hand full-force and punching a wall you were sure was behind you. The Oculus has a “Guardian” system which is supposed to warn you when you’re approaching the border of your “safe zone” but I’ve found this fails more often than it succeeds unless you draw a very restrictively sized zone (and at that point you may as well be sitting).

Steam VR is a thing and the Oculus interfaces with it perfectly, but I have barely used it. For one, it requires you to be in the same room as your PC; there’s a WiFi connection that is in beta right now that some people have had success with but in my experience I either can’t connect at all or it’s so incredibly slow it’s not playable. Fortunately, there’s a 16′ USB cable you can buy for $80 (seems expensive but that’s a pretty good price for a 16′ USB 3.2 cable) which gives you plenty of room to move. The problem with this method, though, is proximity to your computer. Like many players of physically demanding video games, I have accidentally doused my desk and wall with Diet Coke after an errant swing of my virtual broadsword sent an uncapped 2-liter tumbling through the air.

Some of you may not be gamers so I’ll remind you of the 1st Law of Thermodynamics that PC gamers are all too familiar with: Energy can neither be created nor destroyed which means that a gaming PC is basically a spare furnace, depending on the CPU and GPU load. Since VR games are extremely hardware intensive, playing a VR game in the same room as your PC is like going to a dance party in the Sahara and nobody thought to bring water. No amount of box fans can mitigate that level of thermal output, in my experience. In the summer, as it is now, it’s simply not mortally possible to play Steam VR games.

Oculus games are reasonably priced, for the most part. Most range between $10 and $20 but some reach for $30 or more which is a bit too much for a VR game. They’re simply not as long or good as PC or console games at the same price point. I suppose as with any newer tech, you’re paying for the experience and not necessarily quality. I’ve played some dirt cheap games which were amazing and I’ve been burned by pricey games with big studios behind them which were absolute hellscapes of misery (anything related to Star Wars; trust me).

As it stands, VR is more of a niche thing to show your friends. The novelty wears off pretty quickly and without the “wow it looks so real” effect you get for the first week or two, it’s just not as fun as playing a typical sit-on-your-butt game. I’ve also noticed it makes my eyes tired pretty quickly. Everything up close causes your eyes to go screwy and everything blurs. Finally, the implementation of some of the technologies behind it can be downright frustrating at times. You’ll see something done brilliantly in one game, such as hand tracking, but every other game on the market will do it so poorly that it’s more of a let down than anything. This will surely improve as the years go on but right now it causes more head scratches and sighs than hooray’s.

I Also Have Insomnia.

It’s 4AM. I went to bed at 11PM and have to “get up” for work at 7AM at the latest (unless I want to forego breakfast and coffee which is rarely a great idea). I haven’t actually slept one moment tonight. My usual ritual of fantasizing about 19-year-old girls’ feet just didn’t knock me out this time.

This happens every night before the start of my work week; I’m not sure why. I’m not anxious, I’m not excited, I’m not stressed. I go to bed feeling just as sleepy as usual and I lay there until I decide to give up and just play some video games until the alarm clock goes off.

Last week I started to see a new psychiatrist because my usual doctor is too busy these days. Apparently batshitophrenia is spreading like mad this year. I complained to this new doctor (who isn’t actually a psychiatrist but some sort of nurse who can write prescriptions… I don’t care either way) about the things I’d already talked to the last one about… not being able to sleep at night but being exhausted the second I wake up, and not being able to get out of bed. My previous doctor prescribed an SSRI to help give me energy in the morning. This had a fatal flaw, however. If you need to take a pill to be able to get out of bed in the morning, you have to get out of bed to take the pill.

She (the new doctor/not-doctor) changed my Adderall prescription to be extended release instead of the 20mg all-at-once cocaine sociopathy I’ve had for the last year and a half. I don’t like it so far. Not only am I not more rested in the morning, I’m now exhausted all day as well and my depression and self-loathing has returned with a vengeance. At least now I know that the only reason I ever stop hating myself is because I find something to distract my mind with. That’s kind of the trick to depression in general, isn’t it? People who are chronically depressed always seem to be the people who think about things way too much. I’ve never thought this was a disease and these findings (can you call poorly documented self-reflection “findings”?) seem to support that in my mind. I’m not genetically broken or chemically disabled. I was simply raised by parents who weren’t very active and didn’t think it was very important to teach me to be active. So I sat around and thought about why I’m such a loser all day, every day, for nearly 40 years when the simple answer is because that’s what losers do.

I watched a YouTube video while I was failing to sleep titled “5 small habits that will change your life forever!”. You can tell just by the title that it’s going to be pop-psychology nonsense that has never helped a single person but those kind of videos actually get my click because I have to prove myself right. Sure enough, the first small habit was writing 3 things you’re grateful for every morning. All of you self-help bloggers out there really need to stop spreading this garbage! I did this shit for over a year (I actually helped run a “gratitude focused” company) and observed literally zero change in any aspect of my life other than periodically being annoyed that I had to struggle to think of 3 things I was happy about at 5AM.

I don’t really know how to end this post. So… that’s it.

4 Things 4 Years of Sobriety Taught Me

Hey! As I approach my four-year anniversary (still a couple weeks off) I inevitably think about how much my life has changed in this short time. There are always things I need to improve on but it’s even more important, for our own sanity, to remember the things we’ve gotten so much better at.

1. Discipline is the Most Important Thing

If you’re a fellow addict reading this, whether you’re in recovery or not yet there, you’re very familiar with “I don’t feel like it right now”. One of the things that unites all addicts, I’ve found, is a toxic family structure which emphasized feelings and manipulating those feelings over discipline and practice. Sure, my parents furiously insinuated that I should probably do my homework instead of playing video games all day, but kids learn from what they see, not what they’re told. My parents were just as lazy as I was and always moaned and complained about “not feeling like it” when it came time to do something that needed to get done.

The most revolutionary realization over my past four years was how important discipline is in every aspect of life. Discipline is one of the foundational “human things” that separates us from the rest of the animal kingdom. We can control our base urges, sacrifice the present for the future, and commit ourselves to mastering a craft. Unfortunately, much of the modern world is focused on exploiting the lack of discipline we have so we’re fighting an uphill battle. It can be won though.

2. Everyone is an Addict

Me, as a self-important alcoholic piece of shit

Okay, okay, not everyone. I’m prone to hyperbole to say the least, but living a sober life brings all of those toxic behaviors I used to exhibit to the front of my mind so that I can consciously make sure I don’t do that shit again. Having these behaviors front-and-center all day both fortunately and unfortunately helps me to see just how many people out there (middle aged men in particular) have these same toxic personalities. While it’s true that some people are simply pieces of shit, I’ve found that in almost all cases these personality types are strong evidence that somebody is an addict. We’re in the midst of an enormous and complex addiction crisis which isn’t addressed in a scale even remotely close to suitable. Any child born today, regardless of upbringing, will most likely have one addiction problem or another by the time they’re my age (39). Self-aggrandizement, overwhelming pessimism regardless of the environment and situation, an insatiable craving to argue baseless rhetorical positions with anyone who happens to be in the vicinity… it would take chapters in a book to describe all of the character flaws indicative of addiction, but there’s a good chance that if you’re reading this you’re quite familiar with what I’m talking about and have already thought of several people you know who fit the mold (possibly even yourself… and hey, no judgment… I was a pretty big piece of shit myself).

3. I Can’t Do Everything

This has been a difficult one to come to terms with. I was an information addict long before I was an alcoholic and it took me almost 40 years to learn that information and knowledge aren’t even remotely the same things. I’ve read numerous dozens of books and watched hundreds of hours of tutorials on uncountable subjects which I still know nothing about. My younger, more idiotic self believed that there was something wrong with me and perhaps my memory was broken. In reality, this just isn’t how memory works. You can’t read something once or watch a few tutorials and know how to do a thing for the rest of your life. This is why people who have been working in a field for 20 years are prized more than those who just started an internship. Not only have they cemented the information in all those little folds of their brain, they’ve also learned all of the implicit information and skills that you can’t read about. I’ve been trying to teach my nephew how to catch a baseball lately because he is absolutely terrified of the ball. Those of you who are parents know… you can tell someone how to catch and throw until you’re blue in the face but this does relatively little to help them learn how to do it. So why did we, the first real “Internet generation” grow up believing that we could learn to play the drums by watching a YouTube video? I suppose the answer is actually somewhere in that question.

4. Don’t Ask for Help If You Don’t Need It

I know this runs contrary to a lot of advice out there; don’t be afraid to ask for help millions of therapists have told their stoic baby-boomer clients. I think those of us who struggle with addiction ask for too much help, but only for the things we don’t need help with. We’ll never ask for help with our mental health or ask for life advice from our best friends, but we’ll ask total strangers on the Internet how to fix our car despite there being so many repositories of information on every subject imaginable that we should never have to ask another human being for technical help again. I’m not claiming that asking a professional or expert for help when you’re stuck is bad; quite the contrary. But that’s not who we ask and when we ask we’re not actually looking for help. Often we’re looking to brag that we’re doing something by pretending we need some feedback on it from other people who are doing the exact same thing. This is basically the foundation upon which Reddit and Quora were built. If you go to either of those places and actually try to help someone they get angry with you for not telling them what they want to hear (just like I used to).

This didn’t exactly stop with my sobriety; I was still doing this up until about a year ago. I slowly realized that every time I talked to friends online, I left feeling angry, drained, and defeated almost every time. Upon looking at what was going on, I saw we weren’t talking to each other, we were verbally jacking each other off to try to get kudos and show everyone how cool we were. Around the beginning of last year I resolved to stop doing this and to only talk to my friends in a genuine, adult manner and… well… they aren’t my friends anymore. 😂

The End

Any of you sober boys and girls out there have one to add to this? I thought coming up with “FOUR LIFE LESSONS” would have been easy but this is the longest I’ve had to think about a post in a while! There are plenty of other little things I’ve picked up here and there but they aren’t very interesting to read about. Perhaps I’ll figure out a way to condense them into another post in the future.