Monday, January 23, 2012

The End

Well, folks...I've enjoyed writing this blog for the last three and a half years. I've used it to hold discussions about technology, philosophy, politics...but have mostly relied on it to vent my personal woes, and hope that there would be some kind of feedback on what's troubling me.

But yesterday brought about various conversations, and it turns out that freedom of speech can be threatened by those close to you. The idea that I might say something hurtful to those not meant to even know this blog exists will, apparently, be cause for me to experience a world of emotional pain in the future.

I made apologies. I also made promises. And for me, a promise made is a promise kept. That almost no one reads this blog anymore is of no matter. I can't speak my mind for fear of slipping, as that would bring me more trouble than this it's worth.

I gave this quite a bit of thought since I made my calls yesterday. The result was a full-blown reaction from my depression. I slept for many, many hours today, refusing to get out of bed for fear that I might have to think further. This blog has been a rather important journal, in that I can get feedback from those whom I know around the world. You see, many think I'm a wise man. But I thoroughly believe in the philosophy of Socrates, "the Wisdom of Ignorance."

Socrates heard about many a wise man, and would seek these men out and debate them. He would eventually tear their supposed wisdom apart, destroying whatever argument they might have. Eventually, Socrates came away with this though: The only thing that makes me a wise man is that I don't honestly believe I'm all that wise. Since the wisest of us seek wisdom from others, that's what I've tried to use this blog for...with moderate success, I might add.

I've also used this blog to vent my frustrations, and crow to the world about the love I've found.

Those days are over. If I keep this blog, I might slip. If I slip, then "the traitor amongst my readers," (not actually listed amongst my readers, for cowards don't actually like to be known well), might well go running to others, and then I get punished for having spoken my mind.

On a bigger issue, this means that writing The Suicide Note: Memoirs of an Insulin Dependent Diabetic is postponed indefinitely. I can't risk permanent damage to my future because one "man" refuses to grow up and face reality.

So this is it. The end. No more blogging. I'm sorry if this upsets anyone. I assure you that you're not nearly as upset as I am. For those who wish to discuss this further, I suggest you contact me on Facebook, where I know people not under my friends list cannot read my wall, write to me, or complain like overgrown infants (with poor spelling and grammar, too boot). I will not take this down, as there are bits and pieces of my adventures in the world that might be of help to someone out there. That said, with an explanation in place...

BE WELL AND DFTBA!

+Rob

Sunday, January 22, 2012

It's been some time...and stuff

From time to time, when talking to my friend Julie, she would mention that she and the kids have a stomach bug, and I would think, It's been ages since I've had anything of the sort. Oh, I've had me some exciting bowel issues, like the fact that all of my medications are binding. Then there was that parasite I picked up some time ago when I made the mistake of eating airport food on the way to my Dad's in FL. This past week, however, I came down with...something...and I still have no idea what it was.

It took hold of me late morning, after I'd had myself a couple of cups of coffee. My stomach, located closer toward mid-torso, and not lower, where the bowels are. (Many a time have stomach issues been confused between the two.) It was an ongoing ache, neither sharp nor dull, hurting all the time. I immediately when into "stomach virus mode," restricting myself to unsalted crackers and diet ginger ale. Alas, even this simple diet was causing my pain to increase, and so I was ingesting incredibly sparingly.

And I waited. I waited for some other symptom to strike. Vomiting. Or an unexpected run to the bathroom to "vomit out the other end." But there was nothing. It was just my stomach, and I was surprised at how much it hurt. It was the kind of pain that would wake me up, keep me up, and allow me to sleep only when exhaustion hit. It also made me quite the grump, with me occasionally unloading my misery on my beloved Becky. (Sorry, my love!) There was even talk of taking me to the hospital if the pain persisted.

Thankfully, it didn't. I got a little better each day, with the pain receding just a bit more as the time passed. I suffered completely on the 18th. On the 19th, I didn't suffer as much, but was still in just enough pain to remain miserable. I thought I was over it by the 20th, but played it safe most of the day, sticking to my restricted diet until late that night, when increasing hunger made me crave something else. While I took that as a good sign, my stomach wasn't 100% happy with anything else. So it was that I was still taking it fairly easy on foodstuffs on the 21st; I tried having my morning coffee, but digestive complaints made me go back to being cautious until dinner rolled around. (Becky tried her hand at a kind of "stir fried" ("stir boiled?") food, and I didn't want to pass up the chance to eat something more substantial.) Then it was back to crackers and ginger ale for most of the evening.

In the end, I still have no idea of what it was. I know the pain was bad enough for me to prepare in my head the answer to what a hospital staff would ask. "On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the worst pain imaginable, where's your pain?" I was at an 8 on that first day. I was down to a six on the second. By day three, I vacillated between 1 and 2. On day four, I was still getting hints at a one, but nothing major. And there was still no other symptoms; just pain.

I can't even remember the last time I had such a thing. Diabetic ketoacidosis doesn't really cause stomach pain, despite all the vomiting. If my stomach hurts, it tends to be from pulling muscles as I heave uncontrollably. And when I had that lovely parasite, it was my bowels that cried out in discomfort, and even that wasn't that bad...just uncomfortable. Becky feared it was an ulcer, but such pain, according to a quick search online, isn't as persistent, lasting three hours or less. We also tried to make a joke that it was cancer, because, as we all know, when you research a pain on the internet, it can always lead to a self-diagnosis of cancer.

So now I'm on the lookout for a repeat experience. If it happens again relatively soon, (with "soon" being within the next six months), I'll have Becky cart me off to the hospital to have myself checked out. This morning, however, the morning coffee is going down without a single twitch from my gut. All I am is tired, and that's a symtpom of a different color.

* * *
And now some news of our new idiot. I mean, our new neighbor.

We're in an apartment at the back of a house that's been renovated into a number of apartments. We're actually lucky, as some of these places are about as big as a sardine can. The apartment directly opposite us, in the front, has had some real idiots lately. Last year, it was a guy named Matt, who couldn't care less about those who lived around him. He blasted his music whenever he pleased. There was also a point where he was either watching porn or was getting lucky with a VERY loud girl. Whatever it was, we heard Matt's activities entirely too much through the walls. And these walls aren't all that thin. Not that thick, but not so thin as to hear everything a person is doing next door or above us.

Thankfully, Matt is gone. He moved out at the end of December, probably back to mommy and daddy, who were responsible for his bills. (We knew this from all the phone calls made to the landlord.)

He was replaced about a week and a half to two weeks ago by Katie, an older woman who seemed nice enough. I mean, she came by to use Becky's phone while she waited for a land line to be set up. (Like I several years ago, she doesn't believe in cell phones.) She informed us that the landlord had told her all about Matt, and she passed herself off as someone completely unlike him. She also told us then that she rarely has guests, is essentially quiet, and tends to listen to jazz peacefully in her home. She also added that if we have any problems, just come by and tell her.

And we bought it.

Early last week, she had an incredible blowout with...someone. It must have been a "male friend," as Becky pressed her ear against the wall to find out what the hell all the screaming was about. Eventually, I could hear the screaming quite clearly without needing an ear to the wall. In addition to this nonsense, they were shaking the entire house with some kind of violent activity. The was no "knock on the door and tell them to keep it down" kind of situation. No...we called the cops.

End of drama...or so we hoped.

Last night, starting at somewhere between 9:00 PM and 10:00 PM, the raised voices started again. This time, they lacked the house-shaking violence. It was after midnight when Becky and I looked at one another and said, "Enough is enough." We traipsed out into the snow, (we've had a few inches fall), and got an earful of country music as we passed her windows. (So much for peacefully listening to jazz, eh?) I pounded on her door, and when she answered, I said loudly, "If you don't keep it down in here, my next calls are to the cops and the landlords!"

"What am I doing?" she asked stupidly.

"The blasting music and your voices through the wall...?" I replied incredulously.

"That's not blasting," she tried to say.

"The cops and the landlord," I repeated. "Another peep and I make those calls."

There was blessed silence after that...for the most part. Becky and I think she might be a bit of a drinker, and it's obvious that she's a flake from some of what she's said.

The thing is, I have zero tolerance for liars. I used to be quite the "tale-teller" in the past, and I now understand why people would occasionally be so ticked off at me. Over the years, I've developed a "one strike and you're out" kind of attitude. Katie has had her one strike. She advertised herself as one kind of person, and it turns out she's another. I thought we had a human being for a neighbor, and not some spoiled college brat who thinks he/she owns the world. Instead, I'm praying she earns a Darwin Award.

Is that bad of me? >=)

* * *
In much, much lighter news, I am thoroughly enjoying my "pity present." Becky bought me "Skyrim" at my behest, along with the game guide. I delved into the game before the guide arrived, and was absolutely astounded at the amount of detail that went into the monstrous game. I'm also something of a "bad player," because once I learn there are cheats to be enabled in a game, I tend to enable them. But I didn't go insane. I mean, I didn't activate "god mode," but I DID pay a visit to the secret room where all of the items in the game are hidden. I grabbed some of the best armor I could find, as well as quite a bit of items I could use to increase my various skills...

...and then the guide arrived in the mail. (All stores we visited were sold out.) The book is well over 600 pages long! SIX HUNDRED PAGES LONG! Dear G-d, but that's A LOT of game content. I was going to keep going, rushing back to cover a few things that I missed, but...

Well, my computer has been having issues since a new graphics card was put in. Every now and again, in the middle of one game or another, my computer freezes for a split-second, and then I get the BSOD. It happens to fast for me to read everything it's saying, but I did see something about a "data dump." This happened right after I saved a game, and somehow the save file became corrupted. Because none of my older saves were kept, I ended up starting from scratch.

Which, as it turns out, isn't all that bad. I now have a better idea of what I'm doing, thanks to the guide, and so I was able to get myself back to level 11 within a day. (With cheats and two days of playing, I'd gotten to level 16 before.) I still have the best armor, as well as some rather nasty weapons, but that hasn't stopped me from being close to death on occasion. (I'm not a video game player like Cody, who can master just about any game he comes across. (Hmmm...I wonder if he's mastered "QWOP"?)

* * *
And that's the update for the week. I've been distracted from anything pertaining to my mother's death. Good or bad, I'm glad to not be dwelling on such a miserable past.

Be well, and DFTBA!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Can we PLEASE give the man an award?

There's a severe problem with Andy Serkis. The man is a phenomenal character actor. Unfortunately, you never see him so much as you do the digital makeup that's applied to him after his amazing performances.

I believe it started for him in the Lord of the Rings trilogy...the last two films, that is. Andy was hired because he interpreted Gollum's voice as that being similar to that of a cat coughing up a hairball. So his ability to talk like he needs to perpetually clear his throat is what landed him the job. Go go "Gollum Juice!")But then those around him saw how much he was putting into the voice recordings for the role, and Peter Jackson became determined to find a way to seize those performances to get them on film. It was the true birth of "motion capture," with emphasis placed on virtually grabbing the man's face and translating it into a digital representation on film.

His presence on location was essential for other actors. They no longer had to find ways of giving a performance against a tennis ball or a cardboard mockup of a digitally rendered character. As James Franco said, it gave him something that he didn't act with, but SOMEONE TO REACT TO! Especially the eyes. Andy and his thoroughly emotive eyes gave other actors something to which they could respond. It made the job of creating the "human performances" that much easier.

But The Two Towers and Return of the King were just the beginning for Andy. Peter Jackson then employed the athletic Mr. Serkis in the title role for King Kong. Say what you want about the remake, Andy gave TWO performances in that movie that I felt were enjoyable. There was, of course, the very pretty effects of the big beastie...and there was also the amusing role of the cook, Lumpy, who experienced what I felt was the worst of all deaths in the movie. (Who puts teeth on giant slugs, anyway?!?)

Now, to be perfectly honest, I haven't seen much of Andy anywhere else. I mean, I saw 13 Going on 30 at some point, but didn't really enjoy the movie all that much. Andy is the kind of actor who needs heavily emotional and physical roles to stand out...but once he has such a role, he does...and then some digital artist paints over him. That's a shame, because he really does kick some major butt in the acting department. (Look at some of the behind the scenes work for Lord of the Rings and you'll get to see Andy leap around like an animal, wail like a baby not being fed, and...ummm...drool. (Yes, he drools during some of his performances.))

Along comes Rise of the Planet of the Apes, in which Andy Serkis takes on the role of Caesar. I honestly doubt he had to leap around the house as the chimp does while living with the character of Dr. Will Rodman, (James Franco). But there were plenty of scenes in which Andy was, indeed, present. Like this one. (Linked for the video, not so much the article...although that's nice, too.) Watch it. The whole thing. You can see how Andy's performance was translated into what eventually appeared on screen.

He could have approached the entire job in another way. He could have gone in with the thought, It doesn't matter what I do with my face because someone artist at a computer is going to do whatever he or she wants with my expressions. So I'll just go through the motions, and let others do what they will do. No...Andy truly invests himself in the role, submersing himself in it. You can see the pain of abandonment in his eyes. And for his opposing talents, James Franco and Freida Pinto, it made a world of difference. Being left behind...his emotive eyes...made it easier for them to be caught in the moment and also experience the pain of leaving Caesar behind. (Really, if you haven't seen the movie, you should. It was MUCH better than the other "Apes" remake.)

Now, I'm not in control of anything pertaining to the Golden Globes or the Academy Awards, and I doubt Andy Serkis or James Franco will see this plea and thank me for joining their voices in this argument, (specifically the latter actor, as Andy made no such plea, but would certainly appreciate the acknowledgement). But if Andy isn't granted so much as a nomination in the field, he should be given a special award to which only he fits. "Best Performance Under a Heap of 'Digital Makeup'" or "Actor to Take His Role Most Seriously." Something! Anything! Give the man some recognition, other than a paycheck and a pat on the back. (And if they DO see this post, I hope they'll be willing to help me at least get some dental work done.)

We've entered a new age in cinema, in which outstanding computer effects make films from days of old look amateurish. Bring in the makers of the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans and they'd probably want to know what deals with the devil were made to gain such realistic looks on fantastic monsters. (I've always wondered how someone from the 1800s would react if they saw some of the films made today. "And where do these 'Transformers' live, for I would very much like to meet one of them?") Not only to we have some of the most astounding effects in our movies, but some of them throw these effects at us in 3D. Some films, most regrettably, rely on their effects to carry the film. ("Why have a plot when the audience is sure to be in awe of the pretty effects?") Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn't like that. It not only has the amazing visuals, but also some great acting. (Ummm...To Mr. Tom Felton: stop taking villainous roles; you're going to end up typecast for the rest of your career! I was waiting for you the whole time to pull out a wand and shout, "Excrucio!") It told a genuine story, and covered its details nicely, even subtly in some cases. (Did anyone see how mankind was about to become an endangered species?)

And while there seems to be a campaign for Andy Serkis to land a "Best Supporting Actor" award, I would argue that he should be in the "Lead Actor" category, as the story was mostly HIS story.

Ah, but who am I kidding? Fantasy and science fiction rarely meet the standards of the Academy or the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. That Lord of the Rings was nominated so many times, and eventually won, was a miracle unto itself. It's really a shame, because Andy is oh so deserving of some solidified acknowledgement of his outstanding work.

*raises can of diet root beer* Here's to you, Mr. Serkis. May your work be truly recognized...eventually.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

I had to accomplish *SOMETHING!*

This useless feeling? This "being stuck in the past?" Yeah, I had to do something to overcome it. And so I chose to work on gaining every achievement in a video game...and busted my butt to do so.

The game is "Darksiders," AKA "Darksiders: The Wrath of War." I think I may have mentioned it before. It's one of those post-apocalyptic tales, but this one is based somewhat on the Bible and Biblical characters. Here there be spoilers, so go look at pictures of kittens, (I'm sure you can find a FEW out there), or something if you ever plan on playing this, what I consider, amazing game. (That means you, my beloved, unless you want everything spoiled for you. =P )

Heaven and Hell have been embattled for eons. A group known as the Charred Council had been maintaining the balance, using their enforcers, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, to keep things even. Then the race of man appeared, and the Charred Council claimed that "this fragile but cunning race" would play an important role in the End War. Thus, a peace was brokered, with Seven Seals created to represent that peace. At the appointed time, the seals would be broken, and the End War would commence, with the Horsemen riding forth to pass judgment on the good, the bad, and the in-between.

Skip ahead to modern times...The world seems to be under a bombardment from space. Meteors rain down, destroying everything in their path. What is revealed in short order is that these projectiles from the heavens are actually demons and angels locked in battle.

Amongst the chaos that ensues, only one horseman arrives: War. As he engages the combatants, he mysteriously starts growing weaker and weaker. He is close to being completely powerless when he finally encounters the Archangel Abaddon. (He almost gets caught unaware by one of the demons around him, when Uriel arrives to save him.) Abaddon is dismayed at the appearance of the Horseman, proclaiming that the Seventh Seal was NOT broken. War, in turn, asks, "Where are my brothers?"

Well, there's no time to discuss matters, as the gargantuan hand of Straga rises from a pool of magma to crush the archangel, and then, after a brief fight, obliterate War.

Things don't look good. Brought before the Charred Council, War is accused of starting the Apocalypse prematurely. With demons all over the place at the scene of the crime, and the Hellguard (angels) taking a beating, it certainly looked like War had sided with Hell and helped to distract Abaddon so that the archangel might meet his doom. (Uriel certainly thought so.)

But War insists that he answered "the Call," and was there under the good faith that ALL of the Seven Seals had been broken. This is not so, as the Council has evidence that the Seals are intact; there was no call. War's presence at the battle must mean that he brought about the End War on his own...out of boredom? Defiance? You, the player, don't know. But War is determined to clear his name, and demands he be sent back to Earth to find the truth. The Council thinks the idea foolish, and says so...but War argues that if it's truly foolish, and there's no hope of gaining justice, then he'll lose out to the demonic/angelic hordes and they'll still get their judgment against the Horseman. It's a win/win for the Council either way.

Thus, they agree and attach "The Watcher" to War. (The Watcher is voiced by Mark Hamill, and sounds suspiciously like The Joker from the animated Batman series.) The two are sent back to Earth, arriving to find the place in utter ruin.

It turns out that War's been absent for 100 years. Humanity has been wiped out, and the world is now populated by demons and angels that are now trapped there while the war rages on. The Destroyer now reigns supreme for the time being, and there's been quite a shakeup in the hierarchy of demonic leadership. One demon, Vulgrim, has gone neutral. (Vulgrim is voiced by the talented Phil LaMarr.) Using the only currency around, souls, a player can make purchases of all sorts from him. There's also Samael, who seems to have had a falling out with the Dark Prince. Samael is willing to help War get to the bottom of things, but insists that there are four guardians War must defeat first. War must bring each guardian's heart to Samael...upon which he wants to feast.

And so the game begins, with War taking on Hell's Chosen. It starts with Tiamat, represented not as a dragon of any sort, but "the Bat Queen." Next comes the Griever, an insect like monster with a belly covered by a protective crystalline carapace. After her comes the Stygian, a massive demonic worm that was feeding on death and decay in "the Ashlands," but is now held captive by the hellish host in the barren wastes. Finally, there's Silitha, "the Spider Queen," with plenty of creepy-crawlies to keep an arachnophobe steadily unnerved.

Along the way, War runs into a few other characters. Ulthane, one of "the Old Ones," who is also known as "the Black Hammer." He's a giant blacksmith who seems to have played a role in events, as he's seemingly exiled himself to the ruined planet, but said role remains a mystery for some time. Uriel also makes an appearance several times, looking to pass judgment on War and carry out the sentence of death.

It turns out that Samael lied. The guardians weren't actually guarding anything. No...Samael had issues with the company his boss kept, and the two had a falling out. The Dark Prince took Samael's power and divided it up among the four Chosen, and the only way to regain it was by devouring their hearts. Back at full power, Samael threatens War...but also holds up his end of the bargain, transporting a far more powerful Horseman to the Black Throne. There, the last and most powerful of the Chosen, Straga, awaits.

But Straga isn't the final boss to fight in the game. The real bad guy is the Destroyer. Straga just happens to be guarding the Well of Souls, which is feeding power to the Destroyer and his demonic armies. How did the Destroyer gain access to the Well of Souls? Because Azrael, the Archangel of Death, was forced to do so. In fact, Azrael is being held captive in the Black Throne. The player has to free him, solving some of the biggest pain-in-the-butt puzzles in the game, so he can open the path to Straga. Once Straga is defeated, War can move forward to confront the Destroyer.

Here's where the story REALLY unfolds. Abaddon was aware that the universe was sick, what with all the evil seemingly permitted to continue under the rule of balance by the Charred Council. So he got together with Azrael and they arranged to break all but the last of the Seven Seals. This would bring the leadership of Hell into one place - Earth - where Abaddon, Uriel, and the rest of the Hellguard could destroy them in one fell swoop. When the Charred Council sent someone to investigate, they would discover the Seals intact, (with duplicates having been made by Ulthane). And who would the Council believe once they found the Seals whole? Those who reigned in Heaven, or the Prince of Lies? It was the perfect set-up.

Once it's revealed that the agents of Heaven were behind the End War, War tries to walk away from the whole mess, only to have the Watcher yank hard on his harness. War WILL see that justice is done, and the proper parties punished, or he would face his own judgment.

The player finishes rescuing Azrael, faces off against Straga, and is then brought, to all places, Eden. Though Eden was abandoned and faced destruction from lack of caretakers, (what with Adam and Eve getting the boot so early in the game), Azrael decided that the first Gift of Heaven should be salvaged. Thus, he hid it away. How and where is of no consequence, apparently. Just being there, with the Tree of Knowledge still available, is enough. To face the Destroyer, War must go to the Tree to receive its gift...the Gift of Truth...and perhaps information on how to stop the Destroyer. (And he does so alone, without the Watcher on hand, as the Watcher wouldn't be able to enter Eden as such a nasty little creature of darkness that he is.)

Once there, War learns of what transpired with Abaddon's plans to start a false war. He sees Uriel told that she would be needed soon, but not given details. And as a woman in love with her liege lord, as well as a faithful servant, she proclaims that she would follow Abaddon into Hell itself. The Archangel then vows to guard the Seventh Seal himself, ensuring that the Horsemen wouldn't become involved...

...but the Charred Council is essentially all-knowing. They knew what Abaddon was up to, but all they had was the knowledge of it without proof. If they had proof, they could have sent the Horsemen to carry out justice. Instead, such an order would seem like a baseless assassination...

...so they sent out a false call for War, who arrived just in time to take the blame for starting Armageddon. The Council knew that six Seals had been broken, but used the false Seals as "evidence" that there had been no call, and accused War of acting on his own.

Amidst the visions War receives at the Tree, there is also another mysterious player...one with a feminine voice, and obviously permitted to give extraordinary power. War sees Abaddon after his defeat, and his discussion with the mystery woman. She points out to the fallen Archangel that no matter how events played out, he would be brought before the Council and face final judgment. She then uses the famous line, "Would you serve in Heaven, or Rule in Hell?" Abaddon takes the latter choice, and is transformed into the Destroyer! War also sees the only weapon that can stop the Destroyer - the same weapon used to break the Seals: the Armageddon Blade.

After leaving the Tree, War reveals all he's learned with the exception of what he knows about the Council's part in all of this. It's then a bit of running around to find the pieces of the shattered weapon so Ulthane can reassemble it. And along the way, war faces off against Uriel one last time. But for this fight, she declares a death oath. Only one is walking out of there alive.

Played well, you can kick her feathery, haloed butt. Just as you're about to utterly crush her, a cut-scene interrupts and War spares her. He knows just enough of the future to understand that she needs to face off against Abaddon/the Destroyer. He knows she'll be defeated there, too, and that he'll show up to save the day...hopefully.

Right! On with the tale. War gets the pieces, brings them to Ulthane, gathers up any last minute equipment from Vulgrim, and then returns to Azrael to be sent on his final journey to face down Abaddon/the Destroyer.

It ends with the most awesome cutscene I've seen in any video game in a long time. It's the kind of scene that makes a player sit up straight, get goosebumps, and scream, "Dangit! When is the next game coming out?!?" Here...Watch...and try not to scream in frustration for me...or with me.

So...that's Darksiders. And as I said at the very start, I earned every achievement there was in the game. Some, as far as I'm concerned, aren't achievements at all. I mean, if it's part of the story, then receiving "the Cross Blade" really wasn't much of an achievement. The only work I did was to get that far into the story. I didn't have to beat a boss or defeat so many characters to get it.

But when it comes to truly earning an achievement, there was this one - JUST ONE - that was a royal pain to get. There's a point where War jumps on a flying "angelic beast," and you are able to shoot things down as the beast flies along a preset path. In order to earn the "Aerial Predator" achievement, you have to kill 160 critters before you reach your final destination. What was making me nuts was the game telling me I was close to earning it, but never said HOW close. I finally went through that portion of the game over and over again, making notes as to where certain baddies would appear, and then frequently pausing so that I could kill all I needed to get my precious achievement. I also made a note of how many kills I had before the flight started, and compared the end results to the original figure.

Not only did I get it today, but according to the count, I got 161 kills along the way. Ultimately, I'm glad I didn't earn this in the middle of the night, as my , "YES!" would have woken my beloved Becky up.

There...a story told, even if it's not original, with my focus on something other than mortality and a horrific past. I highly recommend Darksiders, as it's a beautifully rendered game, and fun overall. I mean, it had BETTER be fun, having played it three times to earn the achievements for finishing it on easy, normal, and apocalyptic modes.

Be well, all, and DFTBA! =)

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Exhausted, and then some

I haven't been sleeping very well the last few days, for what I believe are obvious reasons. As I lie in bed at night, I tend to think while Becky easily drifts off to sleep. I've essentially become obsessed with the whole "woulda, coulda, shoulda" thing. There's nothing I could have done with her alive, but now that she's dead, I continuously dwell on a relationship that...I don't know...could have been fixed?

No...That's not true at all. There's nothing that could have fixed the relationship between my mother and I...my mother and the rest of the world. Not without her as a cooperative party to said changes. And so I dwell on the impossible. I feel like I'm stuck in this place - this emotional space where I want something so badly, but know there's no way to undo the past.

Had an hour-long chat with my buddy Bryan last night. We talked of the past...of change...of acceptance. Even while in such a bad place emotionally, dark humor was able to rear its head. We spoke of being compared to "the neighbor's kid." My mother did this constantly. "Why can't you be more like (insert specific neighbor's kid who seemed oh so perfect)?" Bryan experienced the same thing, but with a different kid being named, of course. It was at this point that I mentioned how it wasn't made any easier in the 70s with The Brady Bunch airing so often. The perfect family...rich, happy, well-adjusted, successful, and always getting caught in fairly innocent hijinks, complete with "canned laughter" at their essentially innocent jokes. ("Good morning Carol...Mike." Oh, Greg...You goofy rebel, you!) So all kids were consciously or unconsciously compared to the Brady kids, while all parents were compared to Mike and Carol Brady. (And, dangit! Why couldn't we ALL have an Alice Nelson in our lives?)

It seemed to get worse for kids in the mid-80s to early 90s with The Cosby Show. Then kids faced a family that was not only rich, happy, well-adjusted, successful, and always getting caught in fairly innocent hijinks, but they were black. Being in a predominantly white neighborhood, with about 50% of them being Jewish, "Why can't you be more like the verdammt shvatsas?" (This is not MY perspective, but that of the area I grew up, known to many a teenager as "Bagel Bend.")

We live our lives in a realm of comparison. Once upon a time, a man found a good catch when he found a corpulent woman, as being heavy was a sign that she was eating well, which meant she could afford to do so, and that meant a rich wife. Now we want skinny little things with tight bodies and well-rounded breasts, all because this is what magazine covers and most Hollywood productions dictate to us what the perfect woman looks like. And all men should have six-pack abs, a barrel chest, and virtually no hair on their bodies. Anything else on either side of the line is "settling."

I don't know anyone who grew up with a family like the Bradys or the Huxtables. Some came close, but none were oh so perfect. The problem for me are those families that came close. I had living examples of a better life all around me, yet was forced to endure life "in that house with those people."

While Bryan and I were talking, I asked him if he understood why I was disabled now. Did he understand the cause of my not taking care of my diabetes when I was younger? His guess was that I wasn't reared to understand and respect the illness I have, and that's partially true. In fact, I resented being a diabetic most of my life, having been taught to see it as a burden instead of something I could easily live with. (Diabetes is sometimes called "the healthiest disease," as it enforces a good diet and exercise on those afflicted.) But that wasn't the reason for being hospitalized for diabetic ketoacidosis so many times that I lost count. No, the REAL reason was that the hospital was a better place than where I was living. In the hospital, the nurses and doctors actually cared about me, regardless of who or what I was. I was only judged when I truly misbehaved. (And there were more than a few incidents where I deserved what I had coming to me.) But on a regular basis, nurses and doctors didn't yell at me. They treated me with caring and a degree of respect due to a basic human being. I can't say I was loved, but it was as close to being loved as I could possibly get, aside from the occasional teen infatuation.

Part of that blame falls on my mother. Dad wasn't around often enough to be considered a bad influence. It was my mother who drove me into that emotional corner where I felt my best option was to make myself deathly ill. (Did you actually read that Wiki article I linked?) Only later in life did I realize that making myself so ill was MY CHOICE. Now, as I suffer through the complications of diabetes, I often also suffer through tremendous guilt at what I've done to myself.

But what did I know? I was a teenager, and teenagers are invulnerable, right? Lose a leg? Go blind? No, those complications were for lesser beings. And while I might take responsibility for my actions NOW, back then I believe that a fair portion of the blame must be placed on my mother. Because I lived in fear at home. Because I was always driven into a deep depression and a desire to be dead instead of alive. Because I was pushed into an emotional place at least once a month where I thought severe dehydration, labored breathing, and almost constantly vomiting was BETTER than staying in that house. The hospital was like a country club to my youthful perspective, with nurses waiting on me, meals being brought to me, and plenty of other kids (read: girls) with which to hang out.

How influential were my hospitalizations back then? Enough for my very first romantic kiss from a girl to occur there. As was the very first time I fell in love, (although I confessed that feeling rather clumsily AFTER I met the girl in the hospital).

And so...I am tired. My mind is stuck in the past, when I should be here in the present, looking forward to the future. This post...It was going to be a letter to my deceased mother, but then I realized that it would simply be a rehashing of that which I've already said these last few days. My mother was a genetic donor to the children she birthed, then went about turning each into a different kind of monster. The difference between my brothers and I is that I'm fully aware of that which she did, and am making an effort to ensure that the cycle of abuse is broken with me. It's what makes me a little bit better, and less of a monster than I was apparently meant to be.

I'm off to attempt getting some rest of some sort. Be well, my friends, and DFTBA.

Monday, January 9, 2012

And now for the tears

Tears of sadness. Tears of rage. Tears for a relationship that never was, and now can never be. Tears for a woman so filled with anger that there was the possibility that only Stu would be at her funeral, and that I think our cousins took pity on him and are attending as well, just so he won't be standing alone at the graveside.

I believe I failed to mention my father's efforts to have my mother buried elsewhere. Seeing as how she was living in TN, my father believed it would be easier to have her buried there. But Stu argued that the pending payout of our mother's life insurance wouldn't cover the purchase of a burial plot. In fact, her policy is so small that Stu will eventually have to shell out money for a headstone. Said policy is only worth $10,000, and the transportation of her body, the service, the casket, and burial service will all cost $9,000. The headstone will cost around $1,100...or more.

Talking with Becky last night, I commented how our biological mother, (and I'm getting a bit tired of typing that one, so "mother" will suffice for now), had really stuck it to him. He took her in when she had no one else willing to tolerate her, and she made herself unwelcome almost immediately. She was, for all intents and purposes, kicked out of their home and forced to live in an apartment. Then, as she grew older and increasingly ill, she was permitted to move back in with Stu and family. She was given a "Life Alert" necklace, and after one of her falls, lay there for over an hour, rather than use it to call for help. He did all in his power to care for her when no one else was even vaguely interested.

Now she's left him with this tiny life insurance policy to cover all of her final arrangements. He has to endure the stressful ordeal alone, physically, emotionally, and financially. No one that I know of is in any position to be of any kind of help. Even if he and I were closer - truly brothers - I couldn't be emotionally supportive, as we're mourning two different things. He's mourning the loss of who she was, and I'm mourning what she should have been.

Odds are pretty good that that's what I'll be mourning every time someone I'm related to passes. I'll end up grieving what could have been. Because I'm the one who made all the efforts in the past. I'm the one who made phone calls to my relations, only to have them reject me as I became ill. "Snap out of it." "Grow up." And then to be treated as though my disabilities were actually some exotic form of laziness. There isn't a drop of tolerance and understanding in my bloodline, save for me.

And so, in about three hours, my mother will be laid to rest. I dunno...Perhaps she will finally have peace. Perhaps Hades isn't keeping a seat warm, and that G-d will be awaiting her to have a long talk about all she did wrong, and then welcome her into Heaven anyway.

But there are no true answers. I'll never know for sure what could truly have been. All I can do is rely upon my imagination, when what I'd rather do is be able to recall a happy childhood...a happy family...happiness in general.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Processing...processing...processing...

There was once a time when I was the wise man of my group of friends. When it came to down-to-Earth advice, I was the go-to guy. There's just one topic I've never been very good with: death. The closest I ever came was when my buddy Bryan proposed the idea that he'd been responsible for his mother's demise; that he, years before, at the age of 13, should have done something to alter her self-destructive habits. (He wasn't exactly sober when he made this declaration, but I took it seriously nonetheless.) Really, what was a kid who'd only recently officially became a teenager supposed to do?

Now, oh so many years later, it's Bryan turning around and helping me to come to grips with my biological mother's death. He said, and this is a direct quote, "I'm sorry, Rob, not specifically for the loss of your bio mom, but rather what it represents. Her death is a reminder of what her presence should have been." I was swift to correct him on the use of the word "mom." There is a vast difference between a mother and a mom, and the woman who gave birth to me was merely a donor of genetic material. I simply cannot have "mom" associated with the woman who reared me in any way.

But I am mourning, and it's for the exact reason Bryan said. I'm grieving the loss of what SHOULD have been, but never was. And as last night wore on, I dwelled in a dark place where "would've, could've, and should've" played heavily. I've made quite a few radical changes in myself from decades ago, and was always trying. I was still trying when it came to my biological mother, right up until that phone call between her and I when I was going to see Stu in the hospital. I offered her the chance to sit down for a cup of coffee and perhaps talk. Boy, was I stupid, for my offering of the olive branch was met with, "You and I have nothing to discuss."

(To be clear, it had been approximately eight years since I'd last had any contact with her. It's an old story at this point, but my last contact with her was a visit to me in the psych ward, a month after she'd tried to kick me out after I'd overdosed on numerous medications and sliced up my left arm. When she attempted to make her visit to me in the hospital about HER problems, I blew a gasket.)

Just a couple of years before that "fateless" call, I learned from my Uncle Jimmy that my biological mother wondered why her children didn't call. After all we did - all we endured under her tyrannical rule - what was stopping her from making the calls herself? What was stopping her from using Stu to get addresses and phone numbers, to reach out and open up with an apology, and perhaps an explanation? What made her WANT to be as lonely as she was? (And it had to be some kind of desire, because she made no efforts to fix what had been oh so broken for so long.)

Actually, I can answer those questions. You see, she was never wrong. It was everyone else who were the offenders in one way or another, while she was innocence incarnate. And until EVERYONE mustered an apology to HER, she would hang on to her anger for as long as possible. In her eyes, she had nothing to apologize for.

In the wee hours of the morning, I was trying to tire myself out - to make my brain stop focusing on her death - by playing Just Cause 2. When the soldiers in the game were after me, some of them would shout, "You bastard!" So much for finding a distraction, as there had been countless times when my biological mother said those exact words to me. She was also fond of calling me a son-of-a-bitch. (Only later in life, when I was older and smart enough to come up with a response to such name-calling would I reply to being called a bastard, "So you DON'T really know who my father is?" To "son-of-a-bitch" was the reply, "You realize you're the bitch in that equation, right?") When living under the same roof, she never called for her children; she shrieked her summons, and we were always in trouble for one thing or another. We were never good enough. Not ever.

And there was Stu, on the phone with me, making the statement that he was her favorite. Personally, I don't think that that's something to boast about. I mean, who in their right mind would proudly announce, "During the Nazi occupation of so many European countries, I was Hitler's best friend!"

Yes, I am comparing my biological mother to Adolf Hitler. While they weren't exactly on the same level of atrocities, there certainly were a few similarities. Hitler came into power with influential, charismatic speeches that drove Germany to believe he would bring their nation back on the map, so to speak. Well, after so much griping from me, friends would meet my mother and come away saying, "She's not THAT bad," to which I'd reply, "Live with her." She wasn't completely friendless, and was certainly able to con a few people into believing she was a good person. And that's just the thing...She COULD be a human being...or at least pretend to be one.

But acts can only be maintained for so long, and the fact that my biological mother was an unmitigated bitch could not be hidden for decades at a time. People started seeing her for what she really was, and her friends started wandering off to spend time with higher quality company. The reaction Stu seemed to be getting when he called old "friends" of our biological mother was, "Oh, that's too bad." As far as I know, no one asked for funeral information; no one wanted to attend. In fact, Stu said that there will likely be only seven people at the funeral...and it's one of the saddest things in the world to realize that this woman knew so many people, yet only one son, his family, and a couple of her nieces (and their spouses) will see her corporeal remains into the ground. No one else is interested, and I...Well, I gave my reasons for not going in my last couple of posts.

As I mourn the loss of a mother I never had, I'm slowly coming to realize exactly how foolish I truly am. You see, a part of me has been waiting...waiting and hoping that she would become a member of the human race, and that one day I would receive a lengthy letter, stained with tears, explaining and apologizing for the decades of psychological torture she dished out. That she would acknowledge her countless, monumental mistakes, and say SOMETHING in an effort to make things right. That perhaps, as she came to realize her years were waning swiftly, she would realize that she didn't truly want to be so alone as her life dwindled. And that it wouldn't be an act; it wouldn't simply be her seeking solace, but a genuine effort to make amends. I can't begin to imagine how I might have responded to such a letter, but I'd like to think that I'd give her that one last chance - the 1,000th last chance - to see if she had truly changed, praying all the while that it wasn't some kind of act.

Alas, a leopard doesn't change its spots. My biological mother having an emotional epiphany like that would be against astronomical odds. She'd had countless opportunities to realize that maybe - just maybe - she was the offending party, and she never showed any interest in exploring such an emotional avenue. Way back in this post, I spoke of our family therapy. (Ninth paragraph down.) Right then, with four of us seemingly ganging up on her, (my father not quite sure if he should be defending his kids of defending his wife), you would think she'd have one of those aforementioned epiphanies. No such luck. Even after she divorced my father, she went into therapy, but not until she found a therapist who agreed with her that she was right and everyone else was wrong.

I'm a fool, alright. Even now, with my brain still clinging to some kind of hope that she found humanity toward the end, I imagine that a piece of mail might yet arrive - something Stu might find while going through her possessions...that tear-stained letter, begging for forgiveness as she knew the end was closing in on her. And that's as probable as me confessing that I'm currently working on earning my second million dollars, as the first million is too hard to make.

Be well, my friends...at least better than me, and DFTBA.