The Kid who Knew Himself Too Well

A few days back, I excavated my old VHS-C tapes from the early 2000’s and waded my way through a museum of embarrassment and regret. It was dreadful watching my younger self incessantly give commentary on the things he filmed, trying his damned hardest to be funny. There were surprisingly few sections in the tapes where anything of actual value was filmed — most of it was of an old friend of mine and I squealing like rabid pigs behind the kitchen counter.

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Approx. 10

Back when I was still using an old JVC VHS-C Camcorder, I remember I used to re-watch what I filmed the second I finished filming it. It was always such a treat for me to rewind something I had already once seen — the idea of it blew my mind at the time. Unfortunately, during those times, I had nothing interesting to film. I was a home schooled boy, which led to a more secluded life, and to keep myself entertained, I filmed whatever I could, whenever and wherever. Honestly, I believe I eventually became more enamored with just using the camera rather than the actual content I was filming. This, of course, resulted in hours of wasted tape. Nonetheless, I’d re-watch it all, numerous times to the point where I could recite the entire tape if I wanted to. Literally feeding myself my own shit was the best thing I had at the time. I clearly enjoyed the sound of my own voice — it was a voice that, in a way, became my friend.

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Approx. 13

With my constant recessions into the past, something fascinating occurred; I never felt disconnected with myself. My actions, words and movements were being immortalized within the film. Having the ability to rewind my history made a considerable impression on me and subsequently altered how I perceived the world. Day to day, I would live my life as if I were looking through the the lens of a camera. Everything was being documented in my head for review later, of which I would do religiously. Because of this subconscious practice, I never felt a disconnect with my past self. The past and present versions of myself were always side by side, unseparated by the defining wall of time. And, with the physical videos themselves, I always had a visual comparison of those past and present versions of myself as well. I had all I needed for the longest time to keep tabs on who and what I was for years.

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Approx. 17

But, now at the age of 22, I can finally see a distinct cut-off. From the ages 17 and prior, I cannot identify myself — as in; I can’t wholly remember who I was mentally and physically then. There is finally a disconnect. This boy with three chins and this man with long hair and a grizzly beard are mere relics of the past. I can no longer identify with them, and now that I have this disconnect, it is that much more painful and jarring to watch this old footage of myself.

Did I really used to look like that?

Did I always say those things?

Was that how my voice sounded then?

What’s with that weird laugh?

My past self has finally become an object of unfamiliarity, of which I can look upon and study with genuine and clueless curiosity. While I must grit my teeth and look away most of the time, I do find it overall fascinating — especially the period of time when I was being welcomed into a local church (where I would meet some of my closest friends). The me I was before I became well ingrained into that church’s schedule is very interesting to me, because that’s where my memory runs the driest.

During my time in that church, I remember having a difficult time expressing my true self with others. It isn’t an uncommon thing, especially around the age of fourteen, but my case was a bit more unique. Because I had so intimately kept tabs of who I was through both memory and footage, I knew myself too well.

It seems like most people go through the younger parts of their lives with a vague sense of who they are. It’s easier for them to conform with other people they meet thanks to that, but with me, it wasn’t so easy. I knew who I was, or at least what I didn’t want to be, and I only opened up to those who could understand me. As a result, I ended up becoming quite disconnected with everyone — I became that weird, lone wolf. Oh, god.

But, thankfully, I worked my way out of it and found some friends who I could better relate with, so I wouldn’t have to keep relating with myself.

This was a fascinating realization for me, personally. With most people I know, they live day to day gleefully disregarding their past selves. They don’t remind themselves in excessive detail of the things they said and did the days, weeks or years prior. They don’t keep themselves half-dipped into the past like I do. It is something I inadvertently trained myself to do at a young age, and I still do it to this day. I’ve luckily gotten better at removing my consciousness from the past, but there are times when it is difficult. Reviewing these old tapes has both relieved and troubled me. I’m happy that I can no longer identify with these older versions of myself, but they still exist and are caught on film as evidence.

I’d burn the tapes, but despite the cringe-worthy content they possess, I am too sentimentally attached to them.

But, anyway, that’s the story of a kid who knew himself too well.

Sovernfell Snippet

It’s been a long time since I’ve even touched this project from last year’s NaNoWriM. However, I’ve decided to share a little snippet of it just so those who might be curious can get a taste of it.

I think it’s important that I provide a bit of an explanation about Sovernfell so that this snippet makes some sense.

Sovernfell is snowy, massive hunk of flatland that stretches on for hundreds of miles, and is all kept within a separate realm from our own. Those who live there, known as Sovarians, use magical Ice Keys to enter our world for the purpose of archiving our architecture and its history. The data is collected within their Ice Keys, which they bring back to Sovernfell and install the copy into their own land to be eternally preserved. The Sovarians that gather this data are referred to as Forgers, and they must remain unseen by (or interact very little with) the people on our earth (also referred to as Time Drifters).

That’s about all you need to know in order to understand this snippet, to an extent. Please understand that this is a rough draft and is likely to be heavily edited or completely tossed out.

* * * *

It was a combination of carelessness, bad timing and horrendous luck — that’s what Eka would tell himself after coming to Gerenalt to conduct his duties as a Forger.

It was a cold and windy night in Gerenalt, but for someone like Eka, a Sovarian, cold winds were a staple of his home. He hadn’t been serving as a Forger for very long and anxiety settled awkwardly in his chest as he clung to a wall inside an alley. The winds howled low, whipping through the crevice between the two brick buildings, and mimicked the sound of some fictional monster. He clung to his black cloak as the invisible winds tried to steal it away. He must’ve chosen the wrong alley to regroup his thoughts in, because it felt like he was standing in a giant wind tunnel mercilessly trying to toss him around. Unable to concentrate, he slumped to the concrete and huddled against a dumpster. It sheltered him from the winds to an extent, but the sound of it was still unbearably distracting.

“Where was I supposed to go again?” he questioned himself. He would’ve consulted his map, but once again, the wind would have ripped it out of his hands in an instant if he tried to unfold it. Also, there was hardly any light in the alley to see anything. Angrily, he cursed into the winds, stood and exited the alley. He knew very, very well that he was not to be seen by the Time Drifters. It was of utmost importance. Any interaction with the Time Drifters could be costly, although he wasn’t completely sure why. It wasn’t like time traveling into the past and accidentally stepping on a caterpillar that would bring about the apocalypse… Right? It didn’t matter — the streets were practically void of any civilians. Surely only an insane person would venture out into such conditions willingly.

Taking his advantage of the streets vacancy, he wandered around hoping to find a familiar landmark of some kind. Although he couldn’t conveniently check his map, he did have a reliably innate sense of where most things were — he just needed to find one of those things. Looking out into the distance over the buildings was impossible — the wind cloaked itself in the snow, cleverly cascading itself through the buildings and streets. Eka scowled at the snow, suspecting that it was intentionally working against him. Determined to overcome it, he pressed on and began to manually map out the city in his head. Street after street, he drew closer to the heart of the city where he knew a distinct building stood. If he could find it, he’d then be able to determine where north was and go from there. He clarified the plan in his head once more just before an extraordinarily strong gust of snowy wind plowed through him from the back. His cloak flew upwards and over his head, flipping wildly like a flag as the wind persisted. Quickly becoming intolerant of the mischievous wind, he tempered his cloak and readjusted how he angled himself against the gusts. Out of subconscious habit, he patted down on where the pockets were and realized something was amiss.

“The map…” he breathed exasperatedly, looking to where the wind may have carried it off. Sure enough, the map joyously flipped away in the air, already hundreds of feet away. He’d already abandoned even the thought of chasing after it, but as he watched it teasingly race away from him, a dreadful thought glazed over him and he panically patted his pockets more. He couldn’t feel it. Could it have…? Taking extra precautionary measures, he fumbled his numb, frozen fingers into each pocket. From what his fingers could detect, it was most definitely gone. Oh, but wait! What about his breast pockets? Again, no luck. The one thing he was never to lose had been lost — the Ice Key. It was the worst thing he could’ve lost. Without it, he couldn’t perform his duties of forging new data from the buildings he was assigned with that night. More direly, without it, he had no way of returning to Sovernfell.

Primitive instinct kicked in and he immediately looked at the ground. To further his dismay, the sidewalk and streets were hidden under a swiftly flowing river of powdery snow. There was no hope of finding it, but he had to. He could neither move forward or backward without it. Worst case scenario, he’d have to seek the help of a fellow Forger to get back home, but that would earn him years of humiliation from his friends. But, he couldn’t concern himself with that at the moment — the more time he wasted thinking of the consequences, the more time the key had to get away.

Cluelessly and aimlessly, he began his search with severely dampened spirits. The streetlamps provided very little helpful light and there were so many gutters and dips that it may have fallen into. It was worse than looking for a needle in haystack. If only he had a bit more light.

“Wait…”

Just as that fleeting thought passed by, he noticed that the ground was becoming saturated in light, and rather quickly, too. He looked up to the streetlamps, having suspected one of them got inexplicably brighter, but then his eyes were redirected to something in the sky.

What Eka saw was something he’d never seen before. In the sky, higher than he could imagine, a ball of light careened over the city. In a matter of mere seconds, it bursted into a blaze so bright he had to avert his eyes, and through half-shut eyelids, he could see the stinging white light bleach out the entire city for only a short second, and once that second passed, the city was dark once again. However, with his eyes dilated, it seemed much darker than it did before. It was a brightness he’d never even thought possible, like having the sun only inches from your nose.

“What the hell was tha—”

Before Eka could finish a well deserved question, a loud, forceful and exceptionally powerful invisible force slammed into him, knocking him off his feet and straight back. Windows of the buildings surrounding him shattered and various car alarms sounded simultaneously. The unsettling sounds of shaking electricity poles and streetlamps came at him from every angle. And, oddly enough, the wind had died down exceptionally. However, with the car alarms and growing police sirens, nothing was much quieter.

Any conceivable answer to what might’ve happened eluded him. There were few concepts in his mind of what may have flown overhead and then slammed into him. He considered that it could have been some kind of celestial being that had come to administer punishment. Perhaps it was, as he once heard referenced in school, ‘aliens’? Whatever it was, it was gone; just as quickly as it had appeared. He forced it out of his mind, convincing himself he didn’t have the time to dwell on it.

Dazed and slightly weakened from shock, he continued stumbling through the streets, looking for the Ice Key. Just up ahead of him, he saw some people exiting their apartments. It was difficult to hear what any of them were saying from his distance, but they were most certainly puzzled as well. Before they had noticed him, he hid behind some vehicles and stuck to the shadows as he approached them. The loss of his key slowly started to slip out of his mind — he wanted to know more about what had just occurred.

“What do you think that could have been? A missile?”

Eka came into earshot of the couple that stood out in the cold, gazing up into the sky.

“Perhaps a meteor?”

A meteor? It was a term he’d only heard in passing at school — he knew nothing of it beyond its name. The couple continued their speculation, but none of it sunk in with Eka. After subduing the curiosity within him, he reorganized his priorities and resumed his search for the key. However, at that point, he had absolutely no idea where it could be.

As more people began to flood out of their homes, all curiously gazing up into the sky, Eka was forced to fall back into the safety of the dark alleys once again. Nothing was going his way. Everything seemed to be falling apart, and as more time passed, he became more and more worried over the consequences of losing the key. But, now that the city had been rudely reawakened, he’d have to wait before he could move. And so he did, for hours. Never before had he begun to miss home so much. Strange things were happening in a foreign city he didn’t belong in. The fear of it gripped him tighter with each passing minute. What had he gotten himself into?

After what Eka estimated to be at least five hours, the city folk had finally staved off their appetite for answers and returned to their homes. Eka could move again, finally, until yet another strange occurrence halted him — something else he hadn’t been familiarized with.

In the distance, a very peculiar cry raised its volume and pitch, striking Eka’s ears in a strange way. After a few seconds, more of the same cries arose from different locations. They howled loudly, falling in and out of direct earshot. What were they, and were they related to that light and boom earlier? Out of sheer speculation, he assumed they were some kind of alarm system. However, it made no sense to him that they’d be sounding off five hours after the strange occurrence.

More police sirens blared in all directions, flooding Eka’s alley with a choir of reverberating cries. He went to cover his ears, but loud, strangely hollowed out human voices shouted directions, catching his attention.

“The city has issued an evacuation. All need to clear out of their homes and travel at least three kilometers away from Gerenalt.”

Even more confusion befell him as he listened.

“The nuclear power plant is experiencing severe malfunctions due to damage from the meteorite impact. All need to evacuate immediately.”

“Nuclear”. Yet another word Eka had only heard in passing. As the loud voice made its rounds across the town, more and more people piled into their cars and into the streets. Eka had to stay hidden and could only view the situation through various openings of his alley. Many people were crying and running. Some were maintaining their composure. Others were laughing out of fear.

Eka didn’t know what nuclear meant or what it implied, but these people did, and it seemed quite obvious that whatever was going on was serious. Something disastrous had taken place in Gerenalt, and he was in the thick of it. Fear evolved into terror and injected his body with adrenalin. He despised the idea of directly going against orders, but he knew he needed to walk amongst the people and look for another Forger. He needed to get out as quick as he could.

* * * *

That’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed this teaser of sorts, and I apologize for the abrupt cutoff. The rest was pretty much dogshit. Also, I’m sorry about the awkward formatting. Copy and paste doesn’t work so well sometimes.

Clip Studio Paint — The Best of Three Worlds

In my ongoing pursuit of becoming a better artist and comic creator, I’ve found myself hard-pressed to find a singular program that accommodates all of my needs. But, a while ago, I found Clip Studio Paint.

It boasts a large arsenal of powerful tools, much like the ones you’d find in Photoshop, but also provides extremely intuitive painting tools similar to those found in Paint Tool SAI. That isn’t all, though — along side all of those beautiful utensils, you have access to a whole slew of tools designed for creating comics. Creating things like panels and word bubbles are very simple and easy, but  it doesn’t sacrifice crucial options for the sake of simplicity. This aspect of the program will remind you a bit of Manga Studio (especially since they’re made by the same company).

So, Clip Studio Paint has turned out to be one of the most invaluable programs I’ve ever used, as it essentially combines three unique and powerful programs into one. It does just about everything you’ll ever need for making art.

A commission I did for a friend, all done in Clip Studio Paint.

There’s so much to be explored in this program, such as perspective grids, posable 3D models, a unique layering system for independent panels, highly customizable brushes, tones, common manga materials and so much more. I can’t really put it all into perspective. However, their site, especially their How To and Trial Tour pages, will not hesitate to show off all what this powerhouse can do. You’ll have to bear with some Engrish and undergo a learning curve with most things, but it’s well worth it and still perfectly comprehensible. The site just recently got itself and the program officially translated to English, and I was lucky enough to catch the tail end of a promotional discount on the program. That said, Clip Studio Paint Pro is currently running for $49.99. Think that sounds hefty? Well, considering everything you get with this, it’s not. It’s a steal, honestly. Compared to what Photoshop expects you to pay, fifty bucks is like pocket change.

This is something I highly recommend. I instantly fell in love with how the painting tools push and blend the colors. It’s a heavenly experience.

The Half-Rotted Fox

Not too long ago, I was having a pleasant conversation with my older sister about weird and creepy experiences we’ve had over the years. As we reached back through our history, we touched on a few stories from our old home, which was an old Victorian brick house. One of the last things we discussed about the house was the basement. It was a naturally unsettling basement, as it looked more like a dungeon than anything else. It’s walls were made of stacked slabs of stone, giving it a jagged and cave-like essence, and overhead loomed the creaky wooden floorboards. There were several openings between the floorboards above and the walls, leading to dark crawlspaces that could be used to get beneath the kitchen. I remember my dad had to go in them several times for maintenance.

I told my sister that I never liked the basement, naturally. It was just unsettling, what with the dank atmosphere and the loud furnace that inhabited a particularly frightening corner of the cellar. However, I remember going down there one time, by myself, to retrieve something. As I looked for whatever that thing was, my attention was oddly drawn to the crawlspace near the back of the basement. My eyes fixated themselves onto the narrow void between the top of the wall and ceiling, and my imagination suddenly ran wild. In my head, for reasons I cannot explain, I envisioned two eyes reflecting light within the blackness, and as my imagination went wilder, those eyes slowly crept closer to the opening. Eventually, as it came into the light, I could see mangled fur, a set of canine teeth and exposed muscle. It was a half-rotted fox slowly pulling itself out from the crawl space, with its mouth slightly agape and its anatomy unnaturally contorted. Its condition looked much too worse for it to still be alive, and the more I think of it, it’s movements were like that of a puppet.

Luckily, my vision ended there and I resigned myself from the stifling confines of the basement. As I told my sister about the half-rotted fox I had envisioned, she pushed herself off the couch with utter shock.

“Are you serious?!” she asked. “I had the exact same vision.”

She explained to me that everything I had described, down to how the decayed animal drug itself out from the crawlspace, was exactly what she saw in her own mind while visiting the basement once. We both saw the same  vision of the half-rotted fox, and have no explanation for it.

ComiPo! …Are you serious?

Crunchyroll sent me an email the other day advertising a software download that had gone on sale. It’s a manga-creating software designed to, essentially, take out all the effort of actually creating manga.

…Are they for real?

It utilizes 3D, pre-rendered models, with over a hundred different preset poses, faces and expressions.

Literally everything is already made for you — all you need to do is drag and drop it into your panels.

So many artists, starting off, will immediately toss their utensils to the ground after finishing a piece of art. “My art sucks!” they will insistently declare. However, creating dissatisfactory art should be expected — anticipated, even. Yes, for those who are still learning, their art will reflect their level of experience, naturally. It is all part of growing into an artist and refining a technique.

But, no. “My art is terrible! I can’t draw! It’s too hard!” — NO SHIT. It’s still difficult for those who are experienced. Welcome to creativity.

And so, they flock to things like this — like ComiPo — because it does everything for them. It requires the bare minimum of creativity and promotes unoriginality. It makes me laugh, honestly. They’re ironically worsening themselves as artists. This is like an addictive drug to them. It’s cheaply gratifying, requires hardly any effort and provides immediate results. Really, it is nothing more than an engorged version of one of those dress-up games.

I don’t know what to call the products of this vending machine, but it’s not art, and it most certainly is not original.

The Beauty of Project M

Smash Bros. is something I grew up with as a kid, and the original was by far the most played on my N64. Then, in 2001, my world was rocked when Melee hit the scene, taking the ingenious fighting mechanics of the original and giving it a complete overhaul. My thumbs were sore as I tried to catch up with the intense pace of the game. Needless to say, Melee really reworked my strategies and turned me into a hardened Smash Bros. veteran. And then, in 2008, Brawl came out and once again tore my world asunder, but in a different way.

I’m not going to try and slam Brawl, because I do believe it is a fantastic game, but Project M certainly reveals the potential Brawl could have had. I also won’t take much time to explain what Project M is, as you can find out yourself here, but for the sake of brief convenience, it’s essentially a mod that makes Brawl play more like Melee. Many characters have been tweaked, while some others have been brought back (like Mewtwo and Roy). It is a beautiful and lovingly constructed patch to the game that must be admired.

I have to be honest; I never thought I would, in any shape or form, hack my Wii. Luckily, one of Project M’s biggest features is that you don’t have to hack your Wii for it to work. It simply exploits a security breach in the game, using it to load its own content. Not completely fail proof, but still better than a full blown hack.

Getting to my main point of this post, thanks to Project M’s easily implemented mod, it opens a gateway to so many more applicable mods created by the fans.

The Ice Climbers as the Game Grumps. Credit to Base005.

The Ice Climbers as the Game Grumps. Credit to Base005.

Skyloft Zelda. Credit to AVGanondorf.

Skyloft Zelda. Credit to AVGanondorf.

Marth as Mikasa. Credit to Kyouma.

Marth as Mikasa. Credit to Kyouma.

Zero Suit Samus as Yoko. Credit to BlackJax96.

Zero Suit Samus as Yoko. Credit to BlackJax96.

All of these mods can be found on Brawl Vault (click on the pictures to visit the respective mod contributors). The site is a little wonky and often goes down, but if you can managed to download a character or map mod, it’s well worth it. I can’t tell you how much fun I’ve had having the Brawl characters try out new skins. Some of the models aren’t appropriately synced to the character’s skeleton and do not have animated eyes, which makes them look rather unflattering. However, such isn’t the case for the lovely Yoko Littner (last picture) from Gurren Lagann. She’s possibly the best mod I’ve laid eyes on yet, though she does make a handful of battles lag.

That’s one of the biggest downfalls of Project M and the slew of applicable mods — the game will hate you for it. I’ve had several crashes during play and some matches can become too laggy for real competitive brawling. But, at the end of the day, it causes no harm to the system and is worth the temporary headaches.

Unfortunately, I’m not in the mood for tutorials, but here are some helpful links to get you started.

Get Project M!

Learn how to put in mods!

So, enjoy this magnificent mod created by the devoted fans and rekindle your love for Super Smash Bros. Brawl.

Applying the Brakes

The madness is finally over. I’ve beaten NaNoWriMo on the very last day of the month, and the feeling I have, I must tell you, is quite overrated.

A series of touch and go, like the whiplash you'd expect from someone learning how to drive a stick.

A series of touch and go, like the whiplash you’d expect from someone learning how to drive a stick.

It has arguably been a long journey, as I’m sure it has been with most others, and now that it’s over, I thought I’d be gorging myself in the sweet fruits of this victory, but I’m not. It’s not that I feel undeserving of the pleasure — it’s more of a haunting realization that I have a twenty three mile long shit-smear of words to clean up. Near the end of NaNo, my characters devolved into fumbling stick-figures whose heads were literally sheets of paper with faces hastily scribbled on by crayon. Because I was so eager to just win NaNo and get on with the word count, my initially colorful characters became mindless and I felt like I was playing with Barbie dolls in a toy playhouse. Everything became trivial and menial, devoid of purpose and without definite direction.

But, I will pat myself on the back for the very rare times that something awing pulled through — those times when my fingertips illuminated a bright gold and churned out magic in the form of words. Along my arduous sprint towards the goal, I did manage to accidentally kick over a few rocks and find diamond hidden underneath. Those were the truly rewarding parts — everything else is nothing more than a museum of word vomit. You’ll have to pardon my unsavory pessimism, and please understand that I am happy to have reached this impressive milestone. It’s just that, as I see it, rushing one’s self to the finish line can only carry so many benefits for only so long. If you exhaust this powerup, you’ll find yourself disoriented and delirious — the almighty essence of your precious story could be lost in your motion blurred vision. It’s happened to me many times in my story, which I guess is all part of the mind-frazzling race, but it makes me wonder just how effective and efficient this method really is. I should stop myself here and acknowledge that the results are different for each individual, but even so, how many of you have more piles of shit to clean up than you do beautiful scenes to build upon? Which one outweighs the other?

Either way, I’m not trying to bash on NaNoWriMo — it certainly has helped to breath life into this book of mine, but at the same time, I feel like it’s butchered aspects of it because I was caught in the rush. Slamming down the gas pedal may yield some impressive skid marks, but it’s costly to the overall engine, which takes a lot of time to repair.