Tuesday, September 08, 2015

My So-Called Destiny Life: Year One

(Destiny hinted at in Halo 3: ODST in 2009)

Destiny was released 364 days ago.

But, things started even before then.  I remember in February of 2013, when the first video was released for Destiny  (https://youtu.be/EwOUi4JDC4o).  It would take nineteen months before the game was actually released.  Every ViDoc and "Law of the Jungle" trailer that was released, just made me yearn more and more for this epic looking game.

Finally, in July of 2014 I got a spark of awesomeness when I downloaded and played the Beta of Destiny.  I was instantly hooked.  Based on the stealth-like ninja description of the Hunter, that's how I started the first day of Beta and within a few hours, I had already completed everything in the Cosmodrome, and was headed to the moon...  More correctly, headed towards the tease of the moon.  After a few days of patrolling the Cosmodrome for hours, I decided to give another class a shot - and this was when I feel in love with the Warlock.  Five minutes into the first mission with my Voidwalker and I  knew this was my Main Master Class for the future.  It felt so Jedi-Like, with it's melee and nova bomb.  I never wanted to do anything else!

At one point, it had been rumored that Destiny would only be released on Next-Gen consoles, and this caused me to make the decision that it was going to be time to upgrade to a One.  However, once it was revealed that it was going to be released on the Xbox 360, I made the financial decision to stay on the 360 and play with the few friends I still had left over from my Halo days who had not yet migrated over.  Durant, being the turncoat, actually bought the Destiny PS4 - so I lost out on ever playing the game with him.  But I did have a few other friends who all got the game around launch, and we quickly began running missions together.

Midnight, I was at Best Buy.  I got the T-Shirt.  I got the wristband.  I got the game.  I went home, stocked up on Mountain Dew Gamerfuel and Combos - and started into the game.  Because of all of the updates taking longer for some people, we all just kind of played solo on that launch night.  Getting through whatever content we could.  I think I finally got logged in around 1am, and created my Warlock.  Having played the Beta, I quickly made my way through Earth, and got to the moon. I played until 6am, and then decided it was time for a nap.  Four hours later, I was back up and online. 

I had taken a Personal Day at work, so I had the entire day to play.  In those first five hours, I had leveled up my Warlock to Level 7, and while I chugged down my Red Bull, I put on the "Firefly" TV series, and attempted to use the Destiny App for whatever content it had at the time.  In those first 24 hours, I blew through the game and the story and made it to Level 20 before I even got to the final mission.  By Tuesday night, I had joined up with some of the guys to finish the game and start looking into the end game content.

Days after Launch, we formed our Xbox 360 Clan.  There were four of us who founded the original clan - Myself, Steve, Adam, and Josh.  And we were all very passionate about that clan.  After some deliberation over a name - we settled on Hayabusa Corps.  It was an homage to our Halo days.  Adam and I had been playing Halo PvP for many years together.  Josh had played with Adam, and I had played with Steve in the past.  Over the first few weeks, we added some more casual friends, and then Adam and Josh begin using LFG a lot to do larger activities - which resulted in them recruiting many new people into the clan.  I was happy to see their desire to grow the clan, but I also found myself playing with a large number of people I didn't mesh well with.  People whose attitudes I couldn't stand - and I found myself quitting out of activities because I couldn't stand the way people talked to each other.  It just wasn't fun all the time.

In the weeks following, while I still only had my Warlock - I spent a large amount of time shooting aimlessly into the abyss of the now infamous Loot Cave.  Once the game launched, I immediately became aware of the Destiny Reddit, and I don't think I'm missed checking the site since launch.  Each day I go to see what new things people were posting about, and once the Loot Cave became known, I rushed there everyday.  I wanted the Engrams.  I wanted ALL the engrams.  I wanted the Purple Engrams - only to be mostly disappointed when they decrypted into blue gear.  It was a huge waste of time, and aside from raising my Cryptach Level quickly, it didn't really serve much of a purpose - other than the fact that I can say, "I was there.  I shot into that cave for hours each day".  Until it got shut down.

I can vividly remember Xur, Week Two.  Who would use an exotic Rocket Launcher???  Please allow me to buy these Sunbreaker gauntlets!!!  Now, in my defense, I really loved the look of the Sunbreakers.  As I was still getting accustomed to Shooter/MMO hybrid, I cared a lot about how I looked, and not as much about how functional the perks were.  Second, I think I only had 13 Strange Coins at the time - I don't even think I could have afforded Gjallarhorn that week.  In the two years before Destiny, I had been a hardcore player of Star Wars: The Old Republic.  It was my first ever MMO, but it allowed me to be a Jedi and to murder things with lightsabers.  So, I was hooked.  And I spent a lot of my time playing that game.  I am very thankful for that time, because it helped me to better understand MMO game play, including perks and cool downs.  Things that Destiny added to the shooter genre, which could have been confusing without my time spent in a legit MMO.  It didn't take me long to realize that my Sunbreakers were pretty pointless when I was running Voidwalker the majority of the time.

Our Clan wasn't one of the first to enter Vault of Glass.  It was small and slow forming, and only a couple of us were online regularly and Adam and Josh were just so good at PvP that much of their time was spent there.  They did complete Vault of Glass with an LFG group, then eventually took the rest of us through with them.  And on October 14th, after ninety minutes of learning - I got my first Raid completion in the game.

Now, this Raid Completion was not 100% legit.  This was at a point when you could jump out to one of the Hobgoblin Sniper areas, and cleanse everyone without shooting at Oracles, then bomb down on the Templar from high above.  We did legitimately kill Atheon this run - it wasn't until later that we would learn how to push him off with Solar Grenades.  Later VoG HM runs consisted of pushing off the Templar with grenades - and causing the No Teleport Chest to Appear - and then pushing Atheon off the map with Solar grenades.  It got to the point where Adam, Steve, and I would take turns as the Warlock and rotate characters to kill Atheon three times a week - once Adam got the Atheon HM checkpoint from someone else online.  This is how I got my first Vex Mythlocast.

While in the beginning, I cared very much about just getting as much gear as I possibly could, I later came to really enjoy running the raids exactly how they were originally meant to be run.  I was stuck in the "Forever 29" Club for the majority of playing time before the Dark Below.  I actually didn't even get the Raid Helmet until the week before The Dark Below was released.

At the beginning of November 2014, Best Buy ended up having an early Thanksgiving sale, which included a substantial discount on the Xbox One, two Assassin's Creed games, and a free game of your choice.  I decided to take advantage of this, and pick up a new copy of Destiny - which didn't cost me anything extra.  For the months of November and December, I would dual play the game.  Mostly solo on the One, but then jump back to the 360 anytime the clan had a raid set up, or when Steve or Jason were playing - because I wanted to play with my friends.  It didn't take long (in one case only days) before some of my friends were also converting over to the One.

Once I made my way to the One, something happened.  I started playing with some friends I had lost touch with.  Joe - who is a very close friend of Jason's  was telling him how he liked the game, but didn't really enjoy doing everything by himself.  He suggested to Joe to hit me up, and we started playing together regularly.  I also remember the day that my cousin Brock randomly joined up with me, we started to talk and started to play all the time.  Brock and I had never been super close, until this game.  The hours and hours of playing together, we got to talk about all kinds of things in life that went far beyond the killing of minions of darkness.  As of the time I am writing this, I consider Brock to be one of my closest friends in the real world - as we text daily and just spent an entire weekend at Wizard World Chicago together - more on that later.  Moving over onto the One opened up even more friendship doors.  One of my good friends from California - Sergio - has a younger brother Albert who I would see playing.  He had a few friends of his own, but randomly he would ask if I wanted to do stuff with them.  And after a lot of harassing text messages, we got Sergio to finally give Destiny another chance - one that he very much embraced once he had more people to do things with.  We starting building a really good group of guys on the One.

I still found myself spending some random time back on the Xbox 360 - specifically the day The Dark Below dropped.  I remember being online at midnight when we downloaded the patch and Josh, Adam, and myself blasted through the entire story mission together, then killed Omnigul for the first time together.  It felt like that Strike took hours to complete.   We were up until 7am together to knock out all of the new content, and I knew that I had to do it two more times the next day when I jumped on the One with Steve and Brock (and others, I believe) and over the next two days we got everything completed with our alternate characters.

I finally played my last minutes of Destiny on the Xbox 360 on December 26th, 2014.  I honestly can't remember what I did that day - but I seem to remember that was right around the time of the famous hackers taking down the PSN and Xbox Live over and over again.  For whatever reason, I never again played on the Xbox 360, eventually unplugging it for good and even giving away my Destiny Disc.  Looking at stats, I spent 409.5 hours playing Destiny on my 360.

Around the beginning of 2015 I really started paying attention to a YouTuber that I had watched a lot of his videos - Professor Broman - and finally started to learn what this Twitch thing was all about. I watched a number of his videos on YouTube and found them all very informative, as well as humorous.  Every time I was curious about something in Destiny, it always seemed like this Broman had a video for me to watch.  Then, I started just watching them all, and loved some of his reaction videos, like when he got the SUROS Regime in the Vault of Glass chest.  He seemed to truly represent someone like me, with my child-like love and excitement for the game.  I can think of numerous times that I actually jumped up off my couch because of getting a gun or armor drop I had really wanted.  Broman seemed to have this same love for the game, and that drew me back to his YouTube channel - and eventually to start watching him on Twitch.  I remember his first stream I ever watched: January 21st, 1pm EST.  Crota Hard Mode.  I had run Crota NM numerous times - many of them using the Lamp Cheese for the Abyss and the Warlock Self-Rez for the Bridge.  Again, if there are exploits to get gear quicker and easier - I often go for them in the beginning before I actually begin to enjoy the legit execution of the mechanics.  Watching Broman and his Fireteam learn the differences in Hard Mode - as lame as they turned out to be - was a very fun experience and one that got me addicted to watching him on Twitch - and through this raid and watching Broman, I had the pleasure of learning about other streamers like Gothalion, TeaWrex, and Leahloveschief (that British accent is SO much fun to listen to while she plays!).  If I was not able to be playing Destiny, I wanted to watch other people playing.  If I was at home and playing Solo, I might as well watch him and be entertained by him.  Watching his channel was also a good source of information for the game.  People would give tips or tricks in chat and even if Broman didn't attempt them himself, I would always take note so that I could attempt what the poster was suggesting in various situations.  It became a good and educational tool for me in my own game play.

It was also at this time in my life that I started a relationship with a long-time friend, and luckily she knew what she was getting into with me and Destiny.  We had been spending one night a week together for the previous two years, and since the release of Destiny, she had heard a lot about it - and even knew the nights that I didn't make it to hang out were due to the Clan having Raid re-scheduled for that night.  So, once we started spending more and more time together, she saw first hand how much I played Destiny - and something amazing happened: She supported it.  This was a new concept to me, as my ex-wife hated and loathed Halo and often yelled and screamed at me for even turning the game on.  Now, I have found someone who fully supports my love of escapism into this world of Guardians fighting the Darkness.  She supports it so much, to the extent that she has discussions with me about aspects of the game that she witnesses, she knows the raids, she knows I play PvP when Iron Banner comes around, and I typically do Raids on Friday Nights.  She knows the Nightfall strikes and understands the three different burns in the game.  She has been so supportive with the game, and makes me beyond happy.  The highlight for me came when I went out of town for a few days and came home to a large reproduction of the Praedyth's Revenge sniper rifle skill tree waiting for me on my bed.  Why that specific gun?  Because it had the Firefly perk, which went perfectly with my other gift that night.

I am afraid that in the near future, her knowledge may surpass my own.  She has shown interest in reading all of the Grimoire cards to gain a better knowledge of the game.  This came during a Vault of Glass run one night when I told my Fireteam the Story of Kabr while we were on a break.  She said that she didn't realize there was so much depth to the story - and neither did some of the fireteam that night!  So, I should probably get reading more of the Grimoire myself, as it would be quite embarassing if she knew more about this game than I do!

Not too far into 2015, our group of Xbox One friends who had been recruited into Hayabusa Corps. began to vent some frustrations to Steve and myself.  In the Destiny App, the chat for that clan was very active, as more and more people joined - the problem was the majority of them were on the Xbox 360, so all of their talk had no affect on our group and ended up becoming more of a hindrance to them with their phone constantly going off.  So, Steve and I made the decision to form our own Xbox One Clan - a decision that didn't go over the best with our former clanmates, and we were quickly removed as Admins in that clan we had originally helped start.  It was bittersweet, but has probably turned out for the best.

We first went with the name Light of MJOLNIR.  Blending the concept of "Light" from Destiny with the MJOLNIR armor from Halo.  At this point, I was still dead set on paying homage to the game that I felt was what brought us all into this world.  After a few months and the release of "Avengers: Age of Ultron" - I was afraid that our clan name would be seen as Marvel Fanboys, and wanted to change that.  Still obsessed with Halo Lore, we changed our names to Pillar of Autumn Survivors.  A nice nod to the first Halo game, and where we met the Master Chief.  And the "survivors" moniker was an attempt to play on the fact that members of our clan escaped the fate of the ship at the end of game.  That name lasted a few more months until recently.  I finally had an eye-opening moment: The majority of the people I now played Destiny with, never played Halo with me at all.  Destiny was what brought us together and how we all became friends.  Thus, our current clan name has been changed to Golden Age Templars.  Sadly, "Golden Age Templar Knights" was one letter too long, and that was disappointing.  The logic behind my rebranding was that The Golden Age being humanity's last great time period - the guardians of our clan are descendants of those who survived and fought against the Darkness, passing down their knowledge to other Templar Guardians.  A secret society who live in shadows and do the job they need to do.  I am very proud of the Clan we have assembled, and really enjoy playing with all of these guys every single day.

In March of 2015, there was still one weapon in the game that eluded me, much to my chagrin.  Then, I did something kind of extreme.  I remember sitting in the office at work, and went through my friends list, writing down the names of everyone who had a Gjallarhorn.  When I looked over their names I noticed two things. 
One, none of them had any spaces in their name.
Two, every single one of their names were divisible by the number three.  Six letters, no spaces.  Nine letters, no spaces.  Twelve letters, no spaces.

For years before Destiny, my gamertag was Weisser Junge - literally White Boy in German.  This name got butchered all the time by Americans playing Halo.  I didn't want the same thing to happen in Destiny, so the week before the game launched, I changed my name to Jedi Browncoat (my original Gamertag for years was Jedi Whiteboy, yeah super-nerd status).  I loved the name, and I actually got a lot of messages from other Destiny players telling me that they too liked my name.  During LFG raids, it was often talked about.  So, I was happy.  Until that "No Spaces and Divisible By Three" Law came to my attention. So, in Mid-March I spent days attempting to come up with a new moniker to use as my gamertag.  Eventually settling on MegaShanetastic.  "Shanetastic" had been a nickname given to my by friend Heather, and this was at the height of megaman.exe and his Xur revelations on the Destiny Reddit.  So, when Shanetastic only added up to eleven letter, adding the "mega" gave me what I needed to make name that fit into the limitations I believed I needed.  This all sounds crazy, I know.  What was even more crazy was two weeks later, when it worked.  Crota.  Hard Mode.  Ir Yut, the Deathsinger.  Gjallarhorn.  I was speechless.  I was quiet.  I jumped off the couch - where Caitlin was sitting next to me - and shook my fist into the sky out of sheer joy.  Inside my head was screaming and yelling at the top of my lungs - but in the game, I played it cool as I could, while everyone else reacted to it.  I immediately texted Steve a screenshot - as he was not in the raid that night.  It was a rather interesting night.

When I made my Facebook, I neglected to realize that 822 hours were Xbox One alone.  Add in the 410 from the Xbox 360, and it actually took me 1232 hours of playing until I received my first Gjallarhorn.  The funny part, on May 19th, when I started decrypting a massive amount of engrams with Master Ives - I received my second Gjallarhorn and due to his generosity, I always go to him to decrpyt my engrams as I hold a bitter grudge against Master Rahool for the many times he screwed me over.  Finally, on August 14th, I bought my third Gjallarhorn along with millions of other people - when Xur finally sold it for the first time since the second week of gameplay.

This week was Destiny Week #52.
I was not smart enough to do the Nightfall during Week One, so I have only run 51 different Nightfalls with my Warlock.  My Titan and Hunter didn't come along until weeks later, and only saw limited use in the beginning - while I was still spending the majority of my time on my Warlock.  Final Nightfall numbers for me in Year One:
Warlock: 125 runs.
Titan: 70 runs.
Hunter: 52 runs.

Some other numbers that I look at:
2160-ish hours logged between the two systems.
That's roughly 90 days, or roughly 25% of my last year was spent in the world of Destiny.
Vault of Glass: 46 times, 19 of them Hard Mode.
Crota's End: 99 times, 28 of them Hard Mode.
Skolas: 12 times, 7 of them with my Warlock including helping Jason and Sergio kill him in Week 51 to complete their Triumphs.

I have reached Rank 5 in EVERY Iron Banner with my Warlock.
At one point I was able to get my Warlock ranked #99 out of ALL Warlocks in Zones Neutralized - and #991 out of ALL players on the Xbox One.  That was a nice thing to notice.

In the picture, you can also see that my Warlock is in the Top 2% of Suicides.  A stat that I am not proud of.  In an very odd twist, PvP was not my thing in Destiny for the longest time.  I played some in the beginning, and due to my Halo PvP background, I assumed that would be where I would spend the majority of my time.  On the Xbox 360 I did play some with Adam and Josh whose talents carried over, while it felt like mine did not.  Perhaps my two years of SWTOR and almost no Halo had me "rusty"?  No matter what, I was pathetic at PvP and it made me turn to PvE and patrolling on a regular basis.  I would make sure to always play Iron Banner - and I remember the very first ever IB, when I grinded and grinded with no buffs, only to reach Max Rank two hours before the reset. (If I remember correctly, it was Rank 3 for the first event?)  Nonetheless, I purchased the gauntlets very late in the night/early in the morning and have held onto them since then on my Warlock.  As I further progressed in the game and found that the majority of my PvE Grimoire was maxed out I needed to start playing lots of PvP to earn those grimoire.  There would be nights that I found myself playing solo, and then I decided that these would be good times to finally start playing PvP again, mostly Control, and in recent weeks finally branching out into the other categories.  I even spent one terrible night playing hours of Salvage until I got my 20 Relics for the achievement.  I'm not the best at PvP, but over the summer and fall I have slowly been climbing up on K/D.  From a pathetic 0.65 up to a not-as-pathetic 0.82 K/D.  It's a start, and looking on Destiny Tracker, it's basically only been going up and up every time I play.  I'm starting to get the hang of this Destiny PvP, and wish I had made more time to play in Year One.  I look forward to the 2.0 Weapon balancing and seeing how I can hold up in Crucible in the future.

Finally, on August 27th 2015, I accomplished the last thing I needed for my goal of 100% in Destiny.  I still had never done Flawless Raider.  Only two of our clanmates had accomplished it - and Albert helped Sergio, Brock, and myself to get this achievement on our third attempt.  We ran Crota Normal Mode and finally accomplished the last thing I needed, so that I could complete 100% in Year One.

It's been a helluva year, Guardians.
We've seen a lot.  We've dealt with a lot.  We've grown a lot.
I have a lot of memories from Year One...
  • I shot endlessly into the Loot Cave and cashed in hundreds of engrams for days.
  • I used solar grenades on both Atheon and The Templar to beat them.
  • My first fight with Crota involved the LAN cable being pulled.  (This was the only time I was a part of this.  Every other kill was legit.)
  • I checked Destiny Reddit every single day for an entire year - even when on vacations and not playing the game.
  • I ran numerous raids with some really chill and cool people from DestinyLFG, who even accepted me before I had Gjallarhorn.
  • I participated in the First Queen's Wrath Event and still have my Chestpiece and Bond from that event.
  • I reached Max Level in every Iron Banner.
  • I remember when Rep was a Circle, not a Diamond.
  • I remember only having room for Five Bounties.
  • I remember selling Mats for Rep, then being pissed off when I couldn't upgrade my gear/guns.
  • I remember hours and hours of doing circles on patrols to farm Mats.
  • I remember being a "Forever 29.75" for a long time.
  • I remember getting super hyped up for Necrochasm, after watching DrCrispy93 talk about it.
  • I remember buying three Dragon's Breaths the first time Xur sold them, because it was obviously going to replace Gjallarhorn.
  • I remember my first decent into Crota's end, and how scary the Abyss was at first.
  • I remember being taught how to use the exploding lamp to cheese the Abyss and solo it.
  • I remember the Solar Burn weeks of Skolas and murdering him in seconds.
  • I remember my fireteam all dancing together in the tower wearing Glowhoo after we beat Crota HM together, then our mass suicide as we jumped off the edge together.
  • I remember every single last time that I got and dismantled No Land Beyond...  Ugh...
  • I remember buying a fourth Gjallarhorn from Xur, just so that I could make a video of myself dismantling it.
  • I remember being 2,000 miles away from home and finding a Video Game Arcade where I could rent an Xbox One and Destiny so that I could run Crota's End and Prison of Elders with my clanmates.
  • I also remember getting the Bittersteel shader three times, while still never getting Revenant.

Most importantly, I remember the memories I have of doing all of these things with my friends.  With people I now text and talk to on a daily basis.  In August 2015, a few of us all went to Wizard World Chicago together, and the night before we headed up to Chi-town, we had a gathering in Indianapolis.  My cousin was in town from Kansas, Steve had just moved back from Alabama, and we got four other teammates all together for an night of IRL hanging out since many of the guys had never met each other face-to-face.  It was such a good time, to just sit around, drink some beers and laugh and make jokes just like we do online.  The massive Destiny Community has been so much fun to be a part of, and reading what others have done in their Year One caused this lengthy post to be written.  From the massive online community, to the streamers, to the YouTubers, to the friends in my fireteam, it's been an amazing year.

In the final hours of Year One, I made my way to Skywatch, and shot bullets into the former Loot Cave.  I disturbed the remains a few times.  I did a few Pack of Wolves - probably my last in the game.  I did two public events.  Then I ran some PoE 28s with Jae, as I continued to attempt to get a Hopscotch Pilgrim.  We talked about Year One.  We talked about our hopes for Year Two.  We speculated about how different things are going to be tomorrow.  What will be a part of 2.0 and what will have to wait until the 15th?  Almost one year ago, Jae and I were both standing at Best Buy at midnight.  He had his beautiful new Destiny PS4 in his hands, while I held onto a copy of the game for the 360.  Luckily for myself and my clan, he made the change and bought an Xbox One in July.  It was a lot of fun helping him level up and accomplish everything in his Triumph in time for him to still earn the Laurea Prima that he deserves.

I did a lot in Year One.  But, I did miss out on a couple of things.  We never successfully played Trials of Osiris.  The only thing I really wanted was the five wins to get the Hood of the Exile, and those were the only weeks I made sure I at least tried to get people to play.  I did try a few other random times, but without any luck, and never more than three wins.  Needless to say, I have never been to the Lighthouse on Mercury, nor will I be going anytime soon.  It appears that's just a  piece of my Grimoire that is unobtainable for the time being.  I've come to terms with it, and I'm not even upset.  I've still loved everything I've done in the game, and I have a lot to proud of.

Queen's Robe and Bond of the Queen's Guard from the first Queen's Wrath Event in September of 2014 - with Rosegold shader.  With other random armor.

 Full Set of First Iron Banner Gear.  With Goldspiral shader.

 Vault of Glass Gear, with Chatterwhite Shader.
(at the time this was taken, it appears I had dismantled all my gauntlets.  
I have since gotten them back.)

 Crota's End Gear, with Glowhoo shader.

Prison of Elders Gear with The Queen's Web shader. 

Now it's just a waiting game until the Patch drops!

Cheers to Year One, eagerly awaiting Year Two to begin.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Prologue to My Destiny Life

Christmas of 1989 was when I received my Nintendo Entertainment System from my parents, and my video game addiction was born. Super Mario, Zelda II, Tetris, Super Mario 3, Ninja Turtles, Marble Madness, and the list goes on. Playing these games start to finish, over and over and over ad nausea would one day prepare me for the grind of Destiny.

When my buddy Zach got an XBOX for Christmas in December of 2001, it was the first time I ever picked up an Xbox controller and was introduced into the world of Halo, and the obsession amongst my friends would begin. One by one we all got XBOX, we all got Halo, and LAN parties started taking over our weekends. We would all bring our XBOXs to one person's house and rotate in and out of playing - even when someone had to go to work for a few hours, their machine stayed behind and people kept playing all the time. We put two machine in one room and two in another - and the trash taking that took place between matches was epic.

Eventually, the games evolved and Xbox Live changed things forever. We could now play at our residences and not worry about organizing everyone getting together. By the time Halo 2 was released, I was married and living on the opposite side of town from most of my friends. But, on November 9th, 2004 we all logged online and despite the Bungie servers crashing often - we got to play some games together. Almost every night was dedicated to Halo 2 multiplayer. Once my (ex)wife would fall asleep, Shane would ninja himself out of the bed and log into the Haloverse.
By the release of Halo 3 in 2007, I was a diehard Halo Multiplayer - and also recently divorced, just giving myself more free time. By this point, I had a very good core group of three buddies to play with: Jason and Michael who were both part of the LAN parties, Jonathan - a co-manager I worked with. We eventually had another friend, Eddie who would get very serious from time to time. These guys and I played together all the way through ODST and Reach. Killing everything that we could together.

At this point in my life - I was a 100% PvP Player. I would play the Halo storylines once on launch day - get the achievements and never touch the PvE ever again. After I knew the story, it was all killing, all the time. This detail is important, when I finally begin to address my Destiny life.
In 2012, with the release of Halo 4 - something became very obvious to me. Despite the poor story, and the fact that many of my friends had burnt out on Halo and didn't even play this newest game with me - it just wasn't Halo to me. It didn't feel right, it didn't play right, and I thought the story was terrible. I was so turned off, that I never even game Halo 4 PvP much play. According to HaloTracker, I have only played 108 hours of Halo 4. To put that into perspective, I am currently averaging 42 hours a week playing Destiny.

What would later become very obvious to me is the fact that I have always been a Bungie-Loyalist, not necessarily a Halo-Loyalist. Those Halo 2 and Halo 3 days of PvP every night with three of my closest friends was the height of my video game playing days. SWAT, Capture the Flag, Griffball, we played it all and we loved it. Once the Daily Challenges were added to Reach, it became more and more fun to make sure we all accomplished all of them each day and week. The majority of my nights were spent with those guys - and a few other friends I made along the way - playing the game that I loved. As time went on, and Halo 4 came out, and lives changed - people moved, other had children - it became harder and harder to find time to kill with those guys.

Then, Bungie came back into my life. In a big, BIG way.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Chapter One Completed.

Yesterday I wrote the Prologue, a nice 1000-ish introduction to the protagonist and antagonist who will be working together and battling each other over the course of this epic.

Tonight, I wrote a good 1600-ish word Chapter One that begins to introduce the city, and gives you a peek at some of the evil that is starting to brew in this small coastal fishing town.

I'm pumped.  I'm stoked.  I'm excited.
I've got a lot of good source material, and I'm just expanding on it and making it my own from all of the great ideas the three of us came up with fourteen years ago.  I'm enjoying the characters I'm starting to develop in my mind, and I can't wait to get them on "paper".

This could be it.  This could finally be the novel I get completed.
I know I'm in the honeymoon phase with it right now, but the way I'm expanding the twelve episodes into much more has me optimistic that it's going to give me a lot of material to write, play with, and mental screw with the audience.  It's "Twin Peaks" meets Time Travel, and I'm loving it.

Gotta hold on to this passion.  Can't let it slip away.  Gotta keep on myself to write.
I was very happy I wrapped up in time to watch @midnight live tonight.

Now I'm debating on starting Chapter Two tonight, or saving it for tomorrow's writing session.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Prologue Written

So, in my last post I talked about beginning work on "The Hallway".
I have now written the Prologue to the novel, which technically serves as the set up for the final confrontation - yes, as you know, I also like telling storied non-linear-style.

I set up the main character and the antagonist.  And begin to explain a little bit about the city where these events take place.  It's going to be rich with characters, and the main character actually won't pop up for a chapter or two, while some of the other set up begins happening.  So, I wanted to make sure and do this first, so that the audience knows who they will be ultimately rooting for.  Chapter One will start off really creepy and disturbing, and I didn't want that alone to scare people away.  I wanted them to know they were going to eventually meet this man, who is going to be a part of something very supernatural and difficult.  I'm really happy with the 1000+ words I wrote today, and really looking forward to working on the next chapter.

I'm going to take a little slower with this one before I start posting them online, but I probably will sooner than later.  I just wanted to get a couple more chapters done first, and I'm trying to consider the idea of making a Facebook page to post the writing on.  As I've previously lamented about, Facebook seems to dominate the web these days, and if I want this to be easily accessible to people, I might want to take that route for posting the chapters.  We'll see how it goes.  Still going to knock out a few chapters to make sure I'm committed to this, before I start sharing with everyone.  Although, I did send the Prologue to my close friend Claire to get her feedback.  We'll see how that goes...

Felt really good to write today.  Felt really good to be creative.  Gong to spend some time tonight going over all of the notes, piecing some things together and start mapping out the next few chapters - that always seems to help me in my writing process, to know exactly where I am going exactly on what timetable of writing.  Feeling good right now.

Started a New Project

I know its been a few days since I checked in here.
It was a long weekend of work, and then the World Cup Final took up most of my day yesterday - as my roommate and I hosted some people over for a cookout and viewing.  It was a great time, and I was VERY happy to see Germany come out on top!!!

I've had some free time to think over some things recently, and I just kept trying to decide what I was going to do as far as writing goes.  I'm still stuck in a holding pattern on "Perfect Life For Large Price" - which I want to find the motivation to finish, but it is just not there at the moment.

So, I began thinking about what I like, and what I enjoy writing about.  Obviously, if you know me, these things won't come as a surprise: Time travel, relationships, and the supernatural/unknown (like David Lynchian Style).  These all reminded me of a project from back in 2001, when two friends and I mapped out a concept for a Television Series we wanted to do.  It deals with the Occult and lots of supernatural elements including some pretty weird time-travel-like moments.

So, this morning I dug those notes out of my boxes and started reading over them again, and getting a little bit of a passion for this project again.  Obviously, I'm going to make some changes and elaborate on some various things we never addressed, and flesh out a few more characters - but the concept, the tone, the idea, it will all still be there in this epic battle of good vs. evil.  We originally called it "The Hallway" - and in 2008, I attempted to convert this into a screenplay called "What Happened to Stephanie Carlisle?" which I wanted to be GemInI Films next project.  Sadly, that never shaped into anything - which now gives me the chance to once again re-visit it, dust off the ideas, and see what I can turn it into.  Can I even make this a trilogy?  I've mapped out the first few chapters - which is always motivating to me, and helps me write knowing where I am going next.  So, I feel like I will get those done over the next few days.  I've already sat down this afternoon and knocked out the first 500 words of the Prologue.

Now, as I take a break to make some dinner - I keep staring out the back patio and noticing the intense weather going through Indianapolis right now.  Dark skies, lots of rain, heavy winds...  Making me want to put in "Twister".  Hopefully I decide to pick writing more over viewing that movie...

Sunday, July 06, 2014

I Got Words to Write, So Listen if You Like

First, I want to thank a lot of people for reaching out and making comments and the like to let me know that I'm not the only one who starts projects that they never finish.  I never thought that I was the only one, and I wasn't trying to write any "woe is Shane, the only writer who can't finish..." type of post the other night.  I was just merely attempting to address my writing ADHD and how I start off so passionate with an idea that I quickly lose interest in the story.

That, obviously went down the rabbit hole of sharing some personal thoughts and feelings on some of the projects I have had in the past, at various stages.  Perhaps I shared too much, but someone once gave me the compliment of calling me "intrepid" and that something that I have attempted to hold myself up to.  I write/say/do things that I probably shouldn't at times, but it's how I embrace life.  I deal with the consequences later.

So, looking back on that previous post - I want to make sure that people also understand about me:  I am proud of all of the stuff that I have written.  Be it but one chapter, ten chapters, a whole script, or only 33 chapters of a novel.  I love every character that I create in my mind and transfer into the words on a computer.  All of those project did one important thing for me: they made me use my brain to create people, situations, interactions, and dialogue.  It took those synapses and put my fingers to work making the words come alive on the screen.  And I am most proud of the fact that I have completed 33 chapters of a SciFi novel, telling a story that I am very proud of.

Now, as far as "Perfect Life For Large Price" goes, I've hit a tough spot - and this is going to sound somewhat like a cop-out, but it's more just an evaluation of who I am.  I need a driving force, and I've always wanted an "editor" for the novel.  I've always wanted someone to read it after I wrote it, make some grammatical errors and corrections for me, tidy up some of the places where I talk too much, etc...  When I was doing film work, I always had Jason or Zach in this role - "Where's the script?" or "Is the new scene done yet?" - I had people who I did not want to let down, thus it was my driving force.  Same thing on editing those films, "I want to see the next scene, is it cut yet?" - and I would dedicate all my time to getting that done and ready for them to see.  In the beginning of "Perfect Life For Large Price" I had a lot of people telling me there were reading it, I had a lot of people telling their friends to read it.  I was getting some good page hits from all over the US, as people were recommending it on Facebook.  And that drove me.  That motivated me.  The concept of delivering to these people, specifically my close friends.  Everything was going on such a great pace, until the death of one of my best friends.  That just rocked my world, shook me to the core, and made me stop caring about a lot of things.  I lost my way, and it's taken me many years to get back to this point, where I'm more interested in sitting on the back patio, enjoying this beautiful brisk evening, and typing away on a laptop - instead of going out and partying hard with people.  That all being said, and my rejuvenation in passion for words - still brings me to the need for someone to hold me accountable.  I've still got great friends like Claire and Jill who are super supportive and do constantly harp at me for not working more on the novel, but I can't expect either of them, or anyone else to have the desire in life to constantly be reading what I write, edit it for me, and then tell we what I need to work better on - especially not with the paycheck of zero dollars being my highest offer.  Not too long ago, I was spending a good amount of time with a girl who did stage production and script supervising, and was somewhat of book-nerd herself.  I thought that I had found the perfect person to help me, but she just never showed any interest in doing what I needed done.  She offered to read it, but when I told what I was wanting help with, she just seemed to shy away from the idea.  Which, was a quite a disappointment, I felt like she would have been good at motivating me.

I know I need to find self-motivation, and I'm partially hoping that these late-night writing sessions (as after as I can, because life does something still get in the way...) can begin to fuel that fire again, and get me back into the mindset of writing.  The other major problem with "Perfect Life For Large Price" right now is how long I have taken away from it for so long, that I want and need to go back and re-read it all for myself.  The only issue with that being:  I'm finding ALL of the grammatical errors and things that I would be wanting this "editor" to find for me.  So, instead of being able to read my novel and get deep into it again, I find myself re-writing the entire chapter.  I want to reword this sentence, or I can say that in fewer words.  Oh, I know where this is going now, I can do some more ominous foreshadowing with this character's dialogue...  I remember a while ago (well over a year) I told Claire that I was going to get back to work on the novel.  In the first week that I re-worked on it, all I got done was re-writing the first three chapters - and I'm afraid of what's going to happen when I start again.  More changes, more edits.  Yet, that's still more writing.  That's still using words to tell my story, even if it's just altering the story that I've already been telling.  So, I hope that one day I can find that person who just drives me to want to deliver my work to them, while they also help to motivate me with their attempts to making my work better.  I'm sure it will happen someday, but until then, I have to make sure I can build up the desire in myself to do it for me.

I also had a really good conversation with Jason tonight - because I've been looking into some DSLRs and other higher-end camcorders with the intent of attempting to shoot some stuff in the near future.  I told him that I'd like to complete a few short seven-to-ten page scripts that could be filmed with minimal actors and in very short periods of time (one or two days).  Nothing difficult, nothing complex, just some simple stories that will hopefully be we written and we can get some talented people to deliver those words.  Quick projects that I can edit myself and toss up on YouTube.  I'm starting to kick around a few ideas for those.  And knowing me, I'll probably do something that involves a bigger pictures that each short is just a cog in this larger puzzle of a connected world.  Make one characters actions in one story somehow directly (or indirectly I suppose) affect what a character does in a different story.  I tend to try to interweave stories a lot.  Hence, most of scripts/stories always contain a character with the last name of McKenzie.

So, yeah.  I've been failing at writing on here everyday, but that doesn't mean that the creative juices are not still flowing.  I'm still trying to put my brainwaves back on the good path to being productive towards my dreams and not destructive towards my desires.  I will right this mental ship sooner than later.

Talking about writing gets me excited about writing.

Thursday, July 03, 2014

Chapter One and Done???

Based on a recent comment and some personal "soul searching", I have hit a very awkward questioning point in my life.  I have always enjoyed the producing aspect of all of the films that I am worked on - but the truth be told, I always consider myself a storyteller.

I like to tell stories.  I like to create characters and make people become emotionally invested in them.  I love the various story-telling aspects that evoke emotions on different levels.  I love the ability to connect with a reader on multiple plains and garner responses not previously considered.

As much as I love producing films for other people - and making their dreams a reality...  I, Shane M. White, am a storyteller.  I have so many stories that I want to tell.  And ina recent response to a comment, it was brought to my attention where I stand with all of that.

I have so many ideas.  Some good, some bad, some silly, some dumb, some crazy, some ridiculous, some convoluted. I have an odd sense of humor, and much of my love for comedy is not always received by the masses.  I grew up watching "SNL" and "Flying Circus" repeats on Comedy Central.  I watched "Weekend Update" clips more religiously than actual news broadcasts.  I created a ery harbored and sheltered meta-world where my mind lived.

After saying that, I have tons of ideas and concepts that enter my brain every single day.  And most of them are lame, and implausible.  But, sometimes I think I've struck something brilliant, something genius.  A concept that I can run with.  And in a recent comment, I admitted to the fact that I have seven "Chapter Ones" completed.

What does that mean?

It means, aside from all of my other stories - I have seven ideas that I have sat down and written the first chapter of their lives.  I've given the Genesis Device to seven ideas, and let them begin to Terra Form.  I've laid the base-level groundwork for seven attempts at a full story.  Seven times, I have done this - and failed to do anything else.

First up, let's address "Grinchby" - it's three (maybe four?) years in the making.  It is essentially the story of "A Christmas Carol" told through a semi-well-to-do man who learns his local bar is closing, while he is home over Christmas, visiting family.  While he attempts to avoid his family and soak in as much alcohol as he can, two women from his past come through the doors, at the same time that the owner reveals to him that they are closing that night because of being behind on their mortgage.  Benjamin Grinchby then spends the night confronting his demons of past relationships, with his future of potential investments both in the bar and in the girl who got away.  It's a modern day version for the love-struck male.  Women from his past discus their relationship and allow him to reflect on his current girlfriend, while realizing the high school sweetheart who is still an option.  And whie all of his personal drama plays out, he wants nothing more than to save the bar he worked at a decade ago.  It's a story about love, loss, and loyalty.  And one that may never be finished.

I'll take a fe seconds to address one big thing in my life - Cameron Crowe and his works, have forever been a resounding statement in my mind.  Not only for story-telling but for emotional resonance.  The truth, the heart, the emotion, the feelings.  Those are the things that a teenage Shane feel in love with.  I was on a date in 1997 with a girl names Amber at Sony Cherry Tree on Washington Street, when we watched "Jerry Maguire" together, and it changed my perception of so many things - granted it hurt our relationship because she didn't buy into all of the things I felt that I needed to change, but we had a good friendship post-break-up that eventually let to a re-kindling that I ruined - later leading me to revelation that I just refuse to accept any happiness in any relationship.

Even when those relationships should only be considered as platonic, I still managed to over-analyze them into stupidity, and then try to write about it. Which led to...

"Waited on a Line of Green and Blues".
Green with Envy.
Blue with Sadness.
It is the story of a bartender, who every single night, a fellow industry server comes into his bar and she sits down to eat and drink and spend more time away from her boyfriend.  Because that guy, is a douchebag.  He's not a good guy.  He treats her badly and takes advantage of her awesomeness.  Thus, our "hero" protagonist is forced to deal with a quandary each night.  This amazing woman, is selling herself short by being with this lame ass-clown of a boyfriend.  How does he make her realize that she is better than what she is settling for?  How does he convince her that she deserves better from man?  Better...  like him!  And from the female perspective, when do you even consider a guy as as more than friend?  Why does he have to treat you badly to reach that desirable state?

Over the last months I moved into my friend Lindsay's House and have begun a new chapter of my life.  During that move, I threw away A LOT of my past.  I threw away a lot of things that I had been holding onto as dear moment from my past.  Lots of pictures, lost of notes and letters from ex-girlfriends, lost of nostalgic memorabilia from "that Indy 500 that we went to together" or "that Oscar Party we went to together" - it was a major purging of a lot of things.  The one thing that survived it all, was the notes and story ideas that I wrote down from it all.  And there was LOTS of them.  Many ideas/concepts that I had for comedies and dramas.  I always drew from personal experiences when writing.  In the vein of Stand-Up Comedy, I wanted to write things that people could relate to.  If it made you laugh, I wanted it to be funny.  If it made you sad, I wanted it to be because you were reflecting on your own failures and where you could have made your life better.  I evoking emotions on an audiences.  Maybe it is a bad thing, but it's how I want to connect with people.  Let's connect through loss, heart-ache and pain!  Because those are the emotions that eveyone speaks.

In 2000, I wrote a script titled "All Good Things..."
The title was a play on the finale of "Star Trek: The Next Generation" in which Q (my favorite character!) tells Jean-Luc Picard, "All good things must come to an end".  A pathetic idea that I associated with many of my relationships in the early 20-something years of my life.  This script in particular was written about a very special woman in my life.  And it's sad to realize that I was only romanticizing about her.  She was a wonderful woman, and someone that still holds a very special place in my heart.  But at that point in each of our lives - we just were not on the same page.  Despite her amazing passion for film-making (which was exactly why I was so beyond attracted to the mental comprehension of creating a visual medium) we just didn't work out on an emotional level.  And when writing this script, I was very angry and very dejected and attacked a lot of things about her personality.  It was only YEARS later that I considered - "Maybe its time to make this film?" - when I realized, that I sabotaged everything.  And I do not mean the script - I mean our relationship from day one.  I injected an emotional virus into whatever we tried to build together - because that's what I thought I needed.

Case in point:  My first film "Consternate" that I wrote with Jason L. Maier.  My character, the main character, had to get in a few fights with his girlfriend.  How did I accomplish writing that?  I purposely got into arguments with my girlfriend, so that I could take those fights and create dialogue from them.  It wasn't until I crossed the line, she broke up with me, and moved on - before I realized what was going on.  I always thought that I could get her back - but I was very wrong.  Thus, in a very sad - and very pathetic way - the girl who played my girlfriend in "Consternate" was just being an extension of the girl who broke up with me - because I was writing "Consternate" based on our fights.

It brings me to an awkward point in my life - wondering if I am really the storyteller that I have always claimed to be.  Do I rally have stories to tell?  Or are all of my stories simply manifestations of the failed relationships that I have allowed myself to be a part of?  Because, if that's the case - then my next story is going to a very awkward and bizarre tale about losing a good friend over his sister.  And I'm really not sure that's a story I need to make available to world - nor do I think the world would care.

Can I tell a non-personal story?
Can I just create characters and environments for them to inhabit?
Or will I forever be doomed to have such a lack of creativity - that I am reduced to enhancing failed relationships into concepts that people can relate to?  Is every story of mine just a pathetic extension of some female who rejected me?  Can I only write about love and loss?

I have seven "Chapter Ones" written.  Some of them are online, most of them are not.
I have a lot to consider, when it comes to my writing - and what I think I can accomplish.
I have stories I want to tell.
Can I dis-associate myself enough to make them interesting?
Can I actually commit to finishing any of them?

I'm a creature of positive re-enforcement.
"Perfect Life For Large Price" was most productive when people talked to me about it regularly.  I posted all of those chapters to garner interest.  And for a short period, it was there.  Only three or four people really cared, but when they were all texting me and begging me for the next bit of the story - that is what drove me.  I need that motivation.  I need that acceptance.  I need someone giving me positive reinforcement.  That helps me write, and helps me want to deliver for people.  When that desire ceased, so did my passion for writing.  And that's pathetic.  But that's how I mentally function.  I know its wrong, but I cannot fix it.  I wish I could.

Wrapping up, I will address "Forever Got a Lot Shorter".  This was a script I first wrote in 2001, that was a throwback to "St. Elmo's Fire".  At that point, I had just returned from L.A. and was dealing with some personal situations.  My friend Zach's Father had passed away while I lived in L.A., and this was a man who was a second father to me - so i had to deal with not being there for Zach and how that affected our friendship.  On top of that, I returned home to my friend Jason being head-over-heals in love with the bitch who took his virginity.  A woman I didn't get along with, that caused much strife and grief between Jason and I.  So, I started writing a story treatment about feeling like all my friends moved on without me being around.

That script is in hell, and will never be touched again - but I bring it up because of where it plays into my current life.  Zach, is happily married with two beautiful girls, while Jason is happily married with two sons and a daughter.  And then there is Shane.  The guy who rarely gets to ever be a part of either of their lives.  And while I've considered writing "Chapter One" of my depressing story about not only failing at my marriage, the lack of children, and the lack of ability to be present in my best friend's children's lives, I'm happy to have the mindset to know that attempting to tell a story like that, would be as productive as finishing any of the scripts that I wrote when I was twenty-ish years old.

More often than not, it's a better idea to make up something ridiculous and insane for a story - than to pull from real life.  I am not Cameron Crowe, and I need to stop trying to emulate his ability to emotionally invest people in ordinary lives.  I also am not Kevin Smith.  And many of the people named (or insinuated) in this entry will attest to my failed attempts to create scripts that mirrored what he did in his early career.  Basically, I am realizing and accepting that I spent far too much of my life trying to re-create the success of others - but using my own life-failings - and that was just pathetic.

I need to figure out the story I want to tell.
I need to decide if that's a short story, that I need to buy the equipment to film.
Or if it's a new feature that I'm going to have to start over at rock-bottom to produce?
I just realized that I never touched on the "Garage Band" script that Matt Cicci and I wrote, that I later wanted to turn into a stage musical.

I have a lot of notebooks.
I have a lot of stories.
I have to find the one that people will actually care to read.

Why I Didn't Write Yesterday

Technically, there's no real excuse for this, I should have gotten myself onto the computer in the morning, but I was busy getting ready for the day and watching as much of the Argentina match as I could - yep, those are excuses.

But, the reason I did not find the time to write anything in the evening was because I spent the majority of the day in downtown Indy on Mass. Ave. watching the USA v Belgium World Cup Round of 16 Match.

First, here is a picture of what things looked like two hours before kick off...

Yeah, even that early, we were pretty deep into the crowd and it only kept getting worse.  By the time the match started, things looked a little more like this...


So, we got downtown about 1:30pm, made our way to Mass Ave, parked our chairs in the middle of the street, had a few beers, and got to know our new neighbors that we would spend the next few hours cheering with.  We got to watch the end of the Argentina v Switzerland match, which was a wonderful nil-nil draw that went into extra time, and honestly was hoping to see it go into a PK shoot out, but alas Argentina wasn't too keen on that idea.  Which doesn't disappoint me, I really think Leo Messi is the greatest player in the world, and I'm happy to see them move on, despite the fact that they eliminated Xherdan Shaqiri - who plays for Bayern Munich.

We then had some time to kill, which was filled by putting all of our chairs into a nice circle and just hanging out, while also having a few friends stop by on their way to meet up with other people.  It was a very nice and friendly vibe all around, I didn't see anyone out of control or angry or any fights of any kind.  All of the people around us were just really personable and friendly and we all had a really good time and experience.  I really enjoy communal situations like that, and was so happy that things went so smoothly.

It was a sad end to the US run in this World Cup.  I felt like they played really good during regular time, and then I don't know what happened - perhaps heat exhaustion - during the extra time, but it was pretty disappointing.  The first goal was legit, but I feel like the second one should not have gone in, and that would have been a nice goal to tie by Julian Green.  As much I want to place blame on Jürgen Klinsmann, I don't think he did a whole wrong in the match from a coaching standpoint.  Although perhaps some of his choices for the defense could be called into question.  I think whatever gaps the US had fixed in their back line after Germany, seemed to fall apart.  If you want to see a nice collection of all 16 saves that Tim Howard did make, here's a good video...

Post match, a few of us did our best to help clean up the street, because it was pretty trashed.

All in all, it was an extremely long day and I was just beyond exhausted by the time I got home, and was dealing with the humility of the fact that I have some seriously ridiculous tan lines on my face and my arms.  I'm not sure how I didn't process the fact that spending seven hours outside in the sun was going to have serious repercussions on my skin?  Luckily, I did have a good enough base of color, that I'm not terribly burnt aside from my head.  My arms just look funny.

So, there we have it.  That's my story about the lack of writing anything yesterday.

Tuesday, July 01, 2014

World Cup Sketch: Unbeatable Russians Comedy Pitch

Two really good matches were played in the World Cup today, and Germany won!  Which made for a good day.  Tomorrow, I'm heading downtown to join in a block party  viewing party for US Men's National match against Belgium - should be a really fun time.

With all the World Cup watching I've been doing, I have this comedy concept brewing in my head.  The genesis happened when I was watching a Russian match, and it got me to thinking about the Russians of the past:  The 1960s Basketball Teams and the Hockey Teams of the 70s and 80s.  It got me thinking about the idea of in the mid-1940s, the Russian Soccer team loses a match, and then a firing squad comes out and kills all the members of the team and coaching staff.  The Russian Federation then announces that anytime their team loses, their entire team will be executed.  Every match that they play, there is an eleven-man firing squad waiting on the sideline.

For the next 70 years, Russia wins everything that they compete in.  Every Olympics and every World Cup, always ends with a Russian victory, because every other team is afraid of winning and being held responsible for the murders of the Russian squad. This leads to Russian players staying on the team far longer than they ever should.  They end up with fifty and sixty year old players - like a 60 year old goalkeeper, who is almost always out of position and the opposing strikers purposely miss.  It's just a pointless and depressing event to be a part of, but FIFA won't do anything to change it.

Finally, in a complete accident, an opposing goalkeeper attempts to kick the ball clear and it goes all the way down the pitch, bounces over the elderly players and despite his own teammates attempting to prevent the goal - they still score and Russia loses 0-1.  As the tension builds and mounts, the firing squad members just drop the guns and walk away.  Revealing that the entire "We're going to kill our team" was just a Russian Ruse to help this win so many trophies over all the years!  They also reveal that the original murders were all staged, and those members are alive and well, living in a soccer convent where all they do is watch matches and play foosball all day long.

It's a very cheesy concept - but something that I feel was very SNL sketch inspired.
That was my creative brainstorm for today!

Monday, June 30, 2014

Let's Catch Up and Commit to the Future

August 20th, 2011 was almost three years ago.
If you look on my post from that day, it discussed how this blog had expanded to over 2000+ posts, and how I realized just how convoluted the majority of them were, so I cut it down by ninety percent to 200 posts.  I didn't realize at that time, that I also beginning to cut down my presence here all together.  Over the next few months, my only status updates involved when I published a new chapter in my novel (posts which have mostly been removed, because they just don't matter now) or posts discussing the progress of my character in the video game "Star Wars The Old Republic" (posts which have also been removed now, because who really cares?!?).

With all of that said, I've hit a point in my life where I am pretty unhappy - and I don't really have a reason to be like this.  Therefore, in an attempt to change my mental state, I'm attempting to commit myself to writing something everyday - and once again using this blog as a place to do it.  Unlike year ago, I don't mean writing "Bayern Munich scores, Bastian Schweinsteiger was awesome!" and going into match details.  I legitimately mean that I am going to attempt to create some kind of content to post here each day.  It might be a film review, or a discussion of TV series, or a recap of some event that I recently went to.  It might be a bunch of pictures that I go out and take one day, or it might be story concept for books or movies I'd love to create.  Something.  Anything.  Something to make my mind work and my fingers type.  For far too long, I am told people that I was a writer.  I wrote films, I wrote novels (none of which I ever finished), I wrote short stories.  I claimed to be a writer, but then I also feel into the glorified lifestyle I expected from being a writer.  The lifestyle of Hunter S. Thompson or Jack Kerouac, that debaucherous self-indulgent larger-than-life consumption that I thought I required to improve my writing.  Even now, as I sit here outside on the back patio listening to the sounds of the night, I had to open a beer to be my writing crutch.  But it's a double-edged sword lifestyle, because those late night have led to many mornings and days that I didn't want to get out of bed, and just chose to be lethargic and complacent to not accomplishing anything with my day.

I need a change, this is will hopefully be my fresh start.
I need a new place to vent.  My decline in writing blogs was very much influenced by my joining Facebook.  This blog was MY PLACE, my place to put up pictures of my life and where I went on vacation.  I could talk about sports.  I could talk about movies I liked and link to trailers that I wanted to share with my friends.  Every single one of those uses where packaged together and sold to me in the form of Facebook.  One stop shop.  One place to do everything I just talked about - and be ever connected to all of my friends.  While this blog was my place, it required people to go out of their way to hear my voice, or it required me to solicit people to pop their heads in see what I wanted to share.  Facebook didn't require that, it gave the people what I wanted them to see.  And thus, I started using status updates to convey my thoughts, and basically delivered watered-down CliffsNotes versions of what I wanted to talk about.  I've been doing my best to limit my presence on Facebook.  I feel that it's becoming very overwhelming and too much of an addiction.  Twice in the last three years, I've taken sabbaticals from Facebook.  Both lasted less than a month, and in those times I learned how much Facebook controlled my life.  I couldn't see my IMDb ratings - because all 2000+ of them were linked to my Facebook account.  And this isn't an Anti-Facebook thing in any way, this was just a personal moment where I learned how addicted to it I was, and I wanted to step away, back up and make sure I could still live my life without - but it is difficult.

I recently had my thirty-fourth birthday, which was a day that I honestly never expected that I would hit.  I was seventeen years old when Chris Farley died, and in my teenage years, I was a very huge fan of Saturday Night Live.  Comedy Central re-ran the late 80s and early 90s ones, and every Saturday night I would set up the VCR to record the current one.  I was obsessed with Sandler, Myers, Carvey, Spade, Farley, MacDonald, Schneider, Nealon, and so many others.  So, the death of Chris Farley really hit me hard and I didn't know how to deal with.  I felt that at 17, I was having a mid-life crisis, which meant that I too would die at the age of 33.  It was a recurring fear that somehow managed to plant its seed in my subconscious, where it continued to grow and grow for years to come, leading me to make some pretty foolish life choices along the way, thinking that it would not matter in the near future.  I've now crossed this bridge, accepted that my life will still be going on, and I need to start coming to terms with a lot of the fallout from these life choices.  I lack a college education, I lack career that I enjoy, and I need to seriously work on my health.

I've gotten lazy in my life.  Very lazy.  I've been more than happy to come home, pop down on the couch, eat some junk food and watch stuff on the television all night.  That's not to say that I lack a social life, or don't go out.  But, more often than not, I'll spend my free time sitting around doing nothing filling my brain with more and more entertainment value than anything else, and that's a currency that isn't worth very much.  I need to change that.  I recently moved, and the only downside to my move was that at my old apartment, I had come up with a nice four mile loop around the neighborhood for me to walk my dog and listen to a Nerdist Podcast each night - as the four miles took almost exactly an hour to complete, the timing was almost always perfect.  In the last month, I not longer walk those four miles a day.  As previously stated, I spend a lot of time on the couch, watching television or movies while spending hours playing my Star Wars game or Words With Friends, or any other number of iOS based games that were addictive and required hours of my time.  And I was happy with it, so happy that my XBOX rarely gets used anymore.  Every now and then I'll kick it on to knock out another level or two or a game, but what used to take up hours of my night - playing Halo with many of my friends - has almost completely been replaced.  Since my move, I've been cutting back my video game playing, but not replacing the time with anything productive.  That's something that needs to change.

Change.  That seems to be the mantra I'm going for in this post-thirty-four lifestyle.  I need change, and some big ones.  First, is my commitment to this blog, and writing again.  Someday I need to get back to work on "Perfect Life For Large Price".  Sadly, working on it hit a major roadblock at a bad point in my life, and I don't try hard enough to push past that.  I'm also realizing how much I am allowing my current employment to mentally drain me.  It's very hard for me to work with some of the people I have to work with, and that mentally drains me.  I want to be successful, I want to help make my place of employment successful, but when bitching and complaining are all I hear non-stop, it makes it too easy to tune it out and stop caring.  I need to work for positive and motivational people - not people who love focusing on the negative and complain about how things aren't done perfectly to their liking, despite getting the job done more efficiently.  My current place of employment take a serious mental toll on me that it shouldn't - but I was raised with a very solid work ethic, that causes me to feel guilty about not trying my hardest.  I've tried riding it out as long as I could, I really enjoy the company and they take good care of me - but that is something that is in my control to change, and I need to make something happen.  I need to find a job that I'm not only passionate about, but one that can help make me feel productive in this world.

And speaking of this world - I want to travel more.  I was lucky enough to spend my birthday in Arizona with two great friends and even met Nathan Fillion that day!  It was a wonderful time, and so relaxing to be free from the burdens of normal life.  This trip was also something that wasn't as plausible before the move I keep talking about.  I've been lucky enough to move into a house owned by a good friend of mine,and she has two dogs of her own.  I loved living alone, it was very nice and it gave me a serious sense of accomplishment in life, being able to be self-sufficient.  However, the financial burden was taking a serious toll on me, and I had to be extra responsible for taking care of the life of my puppy.  All of that changed with this move.  I now have the luxury of an amazing roommate, who is more than willing to help in the care of my dog, along with her own.  I am also blessed to have greatly reduced my living expenses - which will allow for some more freedom in traveling.

Travel.  Travel.  Travel.  It's what I have always loved, and I've been somewhat inspired by what my friend Mandie recently did.  After being laid off from her corporate job, she packed up to travel the world and BLOG ABOUT IT.  Now, I'm not to think that I could make that same jump at this point in my life, but I have been inspired to attempt to do more to see the world.  I've toyed with the idea of looking into working for a cruise line or an airline.  I'm always a little slow and hesitant with making large life choices - which is odd, because I'll do the most impulsive and insane things in the moment - but something like this I always wade in slowly with reservations.  I'm poking my head around the internet and seeing what jobs are out there, and what I might think I'd like to try to do.  I'm also a person who gets very dejected over rejection, and that causes me to be much more careful and selective in what I attempt to pursue, most likely to a fault.

I have already failed at my 2014 New Year's Resolution.
However, I now am putting for a few new things for me to try.
1.  Write something.  Every.  Day.
2.  Travel.  Visit friends in other cities.  Go to a European country soon.
3.  Find a way to get paid for either writing or traveling.  Make a future built on doing something I am passionate about for a living.

So, hopefully this site will begin to be populated with some original short stories, ideas, concepts, anything I'm thinking about potentially turning into a project.  Or maybe just a quick update on a project of some other kind that I am working on.  There are more definitely going to be film reviews.  I need to exercise my mind and my fingers just as much as I need to get on a bike or a treadmill.

I just spend ninety minutes writing, but I created 2100 words that were previously just floating around in my brain.  I gave them a home.  And the more words I give homes to, the more free space I have to come up with new words to put together.  I hope I can stick with this.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

"We Bought a Zoo" Review

There has always been something special about Cameron Crowe in my life. Since I was a freshman in high school, I’ve had a love of two things: film and music. My romantic youth was defined by the films that I saw, and the actions that I attempted to emulate. What child didn’t grow up fantasizing about Phoebe Cates emerging from their swimming pool in slow motion while “Moving in Stereo” was playing? Epically staged action, such as standing in a driveway with a boombox blasting Peter Gabriel became the standard by which I believed I had to match in order to show affection to women. In December of 1996, I took a girl named Amber on our first date to see “Jerry Maguire” and visual moments like the two of them standing in the street as Bruce Springsteen’s “Secret Garden” begins to really kick in. Unrequited love, grandiose gestures, and the simplicity of the look in her eyes on a first date; these small things became pressure-trapped in me like bits of dust.

I was nineteen when I saw “Singles” for the first time, and for the first time I was made consciously aware of the impression that Cameron Crowe’s music had on my emotional attachment to various cinematic moments. One year later, my mind was forever blown open to the power of music, when I was given the opportunity to attend an advance screening of “Almost Famous”. That was the day that everything changed. That was the day that I realized how badly I wanted to be a writer, and how much I loved music, and the emotional connection it has with people.

The thing that Cameron Crowe has always done perfectly is give me characters that I can relate to and identify with. From Mark’s quiet yearning for Stacy despite her attraction to the bad boy who is just using her to Lloyd’s unfaltering commitment to Diane, no matter how much she pushes him away. I witnessed the good and the bad of young love, and I learned that sometimes too big of an ego could really be a person’s downfall. Finally, I learned the true power of music. Anyone who knows me, if I told you the number of times that I turned off the lights, and listened to “Tommy” with a candle burning – no one would be surprised by the number.

“Elizabethtown” seemed to build on what was originally touched on in “Jerry Maguire” and I further learned that no matter how badly of a screw up one may be – there are always bigger problems in life.

I only have one small blemish in my love of Cameron Crowe. My all-time favorite film is a Spanish film titled “Abre los Ojos” – which was remade into an American film known as “Vanilla Sky”. My all-time favorite film was being remade by my all-time favorite director. A director who had emotionally directed me through the majority of my life, and put me on a musical journey that has prevented me from listening to the majority of the Crap-Called-Music Post-1998. What could go wrong? Sadly, everything. So, If I have it in my heart to forgive George Lucas for the terribleness we came to know as the Prequel Trilogy, then I must have the room to forgive Cameron Crowe for a subpar representation of a film that I am obviously over-invested in.

That’s the short and simple version of my life inspired by Cameron Crowe, which brings us up to the fall of 2011, where I’ve been patiently waiting for five years for anything from the director who always knows how to bring me to a new emotional level. I got a great fill over the past two months. First, I got to see “Pearl Jam Twenty” a few times on the big screen, and have had multiple viewings at home since the DVD was released. I was always a fan of Pearl Jam, but not to the extent of many of my friends. I listened to their music, and I enjoyed it. It wasn’t until 2006, when David Sibley took me to my first Pearl Jam concert in Cincinnati that I truly saw the power this band had on its fans. It’s a show that I will never forget, and I was lucky enough that they performed “Baba O’Reilly” at this show. So, it was another perfect marriage. A band that I really enjoyed was being documented by favorite director, who just happened to be a guy that basically grew up next to them in the entertainment industry. It was enjoyable on so many levels.

So, when I found out about the month-in-advance screenings of “We Bought a Zoo”, I did everything in my power to make sure that I would be able to attend it – and I’m very happy that I did. Whatever bitter taste anyone may have had in their mouth after “Elizabethown” should easily be washed away with this well-made film.

Last October, I had just started back to work in the film exhibition industry, and within my first few days of work, I stumbled across an article discussing the casting of Cameron Crowe’s next film, and I learned it was based on a novel – “We Bought a Zoo: The Amazing True Story of a Young Family, a Broken Down Zoo, and the 200 Wild Animals That Changed Their Lives Forever.” – which I told myself I was going to read before I saw the film. As per usual, life got in the way, and over time I learned that Crowe and his co-writer had made some changes to the story and relocated it away from the British countryside into Southern California. It was at this point, that I decided to not allow my love of British and European culture to become conflicted with the vision of my favorite director – as it had previously happened with “Abre los Ojos”. Without any source material, Mr. Crowe had nothing to live up to in the expectations of my mind. I still found myself in a sad quandary, as my favorite film director was about to tackle one of my least favorite genres of film-making: The Bio-Pic. Ugh. Hollywood has became so overrun with unoriginal ideas, concepts, and characters that they are now forced to remake (ruin) everything from my youth or give me Bio-Pics of people that aren’t truly that interesting. I would very much prefer any documentary who would attempt to give me presentation of the facts, instead of picking and choosing what could best be used for dramatically purposes. It may easily be my least favorite genre, and there are very few of them that I actually enjoy. (Although, sidenote: I’m learning that Gavin O’Connor is the anomaly in Hollywood. I’ve very much enjoyed both of the bio-pics he’s directed, and hated his one scripted film, “Pride and Glory” – which sucks because it was written by Joe Carnahan…?)  [Author's note: It has been brought to my attention that "Warrior" was not a bio-pic.  This is a fact that I knew, however having recently just watched the film, I felt that it had the same look/feel/vibe that made it come across like it should have said "based on a true story".  So, even though I know it is not officially a bio-pic, it might as well have been.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed it, when I didn't think that I would.]

So, like it or not, that’s what Mr. Crowe was going to do and I needed to accept it.

Saturday night, I got to the theatre thirty-five minutes early, doing my best to guarantee that I had a prime viewing seat. Over the course of the next half-hour, I noticed the exceptionally large count of younger children entering the auditorium. Suddenly, it dawned on me that my favorite director had dropped his raw, rough, and gritty examinations of life and love through the eyes of wandering teenagers and mid-twenty drifters. He had made a family film. No longer was it going to be a man searching for the right way to prove his worth to woman, at no expense of humiliation. This was about a man who had already achieved that, and was now parenting his children. As the children came in waves, excited to see lots of animals in a film that was about a father moving his children away from their friends, I wondered what I was actually getting myself into.

Turns out, I was worrying over nothing. Every now and then, in life, there are moments that things just seem to fall into place. It’s like it was always meant to be. This was supposed to happen, so that later on, you would appreciate when this other thing happens.

The main plotline of the film deals with a man, who three months before the start of the film has just lost his wife. In the world of escapism relation, the world is coming up on the one-year loss of one of my best friends, and I know as the day draws closer, it’s getting harder for all of us. So, Matt Damon’s portrayal of a man – Benjamin Mee – who has lost something so important to him, tugs on my heart in ways that it might not to everyone who views the film. The emotional attachments that he has to every restaurant they ate at, and the correlation he puts on many of his personal items that invoke memories is very well handled in the first thirty minutes of the film. It’s very well handled, and culminates in a beautiful scene between Damon and the girl who plays his daughter. On an emotional level, the film dangled the remorse of loss in front of me, to get me interested.

Then, it hooked me with the relationship between Matt Damon and his son. Going back to my personal life, my father and I butted heads thousands of times in my youth. The two of us could just never see eye-to-eye. He was military and had demands, while I was an anti-authoritative adolescent who got put into my place more times than I can remember counting. Despite our rocky youth, I’m happy that over the past ten years, my father and I have managed to become very good and close friends.

Colin Ford, who plays the son in the film constantly impressed me with his subtle nuances that he captured. From the anger and defiance he shows in the presence of his father, to the quiet and defensive attitude he shows towards the girl he likes, while he pushes away all of her advances. Once we reach the moment where Colin Ford and Matt Damon have their “Come to Jesus” speeches with each other, it is such an emotional hurricane, that I was beyond impressed with their deliveries of dialogue, and just in awe of the raw emotion they were both able to draw from. It was probably my favorite scene in the entire film.

The love story is there, but luckily it is never really the main focus of the film. I enjoyed that, as they did a wonderful job building up how much he was in love with his wife, and I would have hated to see that so easily cheapened, by the simple fact that someone like Scarlett Johannson was suddenly in his life. Over the course of the film, as Benjamin Mee discovers just how far he can push himself, and how far people are willing to come with him, it’s nice to watch the glances of the eyes, the quick moments of physical contact, the hugs, the holding hands, the slow evolution of something that wasn’t the main focus of the plot.

The music is – as always – top notch. I proudly own the soundtrack to every film that Cameron Crowe has made, and I’m very disappointed to learn that the official soundtrack for this film is nothing but the music of Icelandic artist Jónsi. Whose music was fine, but I was hoping for an album filled with Temple of the Dog (whose song is played during a really enjoyable scene where Benjamin is getting introduced to the lives of his employees), Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Pete Townshend, and The Rolling Stones. Although, the more I think about it, after a second viewing of the film, I could probably write down all the songs, and will be able to create this mix CD from music I already own. There may be a few tracks I’ll have to buy from iTunes, but Crowe’s musical selections are often already in my own personal library.

The only downside to the film is that does feel long – and with a running time of two hours and fifteen minutes, there’s legitimate reason that it feels so long. The sad part is that it does reach the point where I consciously became aware that it had taken a long time to get to this point – and there was still a significant amount of resolution to get through. I never actually looked at my clock, until the film was over, and that was just to see exactly how long the film was running. However, despite what I just said, I can’t think of anything that could have legitimately been cut from the film. The true test will be the second viewing. After I am no longer engaged by what is coming next, and what I am listening to, but just watching the story unfold. It will be at that point that I can actually determine if there is any fat to be trimmed.

I believe that overall the film will play with audiences, families, and even children. One great part about the script is that there are numerous sight gags – many including Patrick Fugit (“Almost Famous”) and the Capuchin monkey – which had the children in my auditorium laughing at a lot. To some much more subtle “adult” themed humor from the hilariously loud and over-the-top character played by Angus Macfadyen. There’s a nice blend of humor that hits both age groups and it was a pleasure to observe the reactions of everyone in my screening. The majority of the time, I enjoy the solitude of screening films either alone, or with an extremely small group of people – but in this case, I’m very happy that I got to enjoy the film with a crowd.

Love, loss, life-changing decisions, financial and economical troubles, commitment to a concept that turns into a dream, and the power of dedication, determination, and devotion are all topics that are interwoven in this simple tale about how the irrational purchase of a dilapidated state-run zoo changed the lives of everyone involved. It’s emotional, and I’m not just talking about over-dramatized family disputes, I’m talking about the emotional connections that are made between the characters and the animals, and the ability it has to cross-over the fourth wall and force the viewer to make those same connections. It’s tough. I can think of three separate, specific moments in the film where I was forced to wipe tears from my eyes. Part of it was the script, part of it was the acting, but another part of it was amazing ability of Cameron Crowe to make me love and care about anything that he wants me to.

The film ends in a way that many of my favorite films do. “The Usual Suspects”, “Primer”, and “Another Earth” all wrap up their main plotline, they resolve the issues of the journey that you have taken with them, and everything seems to be over. Then, each of these films tacks on one last scene at the end. One last, “before you go” moment. One final glimpse at the lives of you just came to know. The final scene of “We Bought a Zoo” may feel a little out of place, and a little forced, based on what the general plot was. But, on an emotional level, in a wonderful bookend moment, it brings to light the emotional meaning of the journey, which is what the entire film truly was.

One of my new favorite quotes comes from this film, “Sometimes, all it takes is twenty seconds of unbearable courage.” I don’t know if that quote came from Benjamin Mee’s book, or if Cameron Crowe wrote it himself – but those are words I can believe in. Because I’ve been there, as has everyone else. That one moment, where you are scared out of your mind, but you suddenly summon the courage to do something, say something, ask someone something, or just be something. The moment leading up to the eventual decision is probably the hardest and scariest – but you never know what will happen after it.

I highly recommend the film “We Bought a Zoo”. Does it get higher praise because of Cameron Crowe? Possibly. But, despite my “fanboy” moniker, I truly believe this film has a great story of triumph, family bonding, and personal introspection that anyone and everyone can – and should – enjoy.

“We Bought a Zoo” hits theatres on December 23rd. You should check it out.