Every single paper (more or less) that I wrote in the last four years of college is now online right here. This is probably useful for someone.
June 30 
June 29 
The short version:
Hearts in Atlantis is a very good book. I <3 Stephen King.
The long version:
Stephen King has said that Lord of the Flies is the one novel he wishes he could have written. William Golding beat him to it, but itâ€™s probably for the best, as Kingâ€™s Hearts in Atlantis, his own take on the themes and ideas behind Lord of the Flies (and then some) is far stronger than Goldingâ€™s classic.
Kingâ€™s novel, if one can even call it that, consists of five parts â€“ two long stories, 300 and 200 pages respectively and three shorter stories â€“ featuring interconnecting characters, common themes and ideas, and some sort of relationship to the 1960s. This is Stephen Kingâ€™s Lord of the Flies, and because Stephen King is Stephen King, because he is a writer of popular fiction and because he doesnâ€™t like to leave any of his mysteries as mysteries, King goes to great lengths to make this excruciatingly clear. Lord of the Flies is at least mentioned in four of the stories, and is mentioned a hell of a lot in the first one.
The first story in the collection, titled Low Men in Yellow Coats, takes place in the summer of 1960 as Ted, a mysterious old man who carries his large book collection in paper bags, moves in above the 11-year-old Bobby Garfield and his single mother. Ted and Bobby foster a relationship and Bobby spends the summer with his friends Sully John and Carol, dealing with the neighborhood bullies, first kisses, and the pains of growing up. Like Stand by Me, It, or Hearts in Atlantis as a whole, Low Men in Yellow Coats is a story of the loss of innocence. It is a story of growing older and of learning what separates the adults from the children.
At the same time, it is the story with the most direct relationship with Lord of the Flies. As Bobby reads through Goldingâ€™s novel, he begins to see the events and themes of the novel appear in his daily life. He learns that people do bad things, and itâ€™s easier for people to do bad things in groups, when people who would do good things are unable to act. Because the good and the weak are often times one and the same.
Low Men in Yellow Coats is also the story which the film adaptation of the book is entirely based on. Itâ€™s also the reason I read this book in the first place. You see, Low Men in Yellow Coats could have just as easily been titled The Dark Tower 4.5. The low men, who obviously play a major roll in the story, once again play major rolls in The Dark Tower 5 and 6. Bobby learns of â€œother worlds than these,â€ of the breakers of the Crimson King, of the dark tower, of the beam, and of the rose. Though all these elements are there, the story is much more than just a Dark Tower story. All of Stephen Kingâ€™s stories take place in the world of the Dark Tower, this one just a little more than most. And though at times it feels a little too much like self-indulgence on Kingâ€™s part, it doesnâ€™t really hurt the story, or the book, in any way. Hell, it just wouldnâ€™t be a Stephen King book without at least some sort of supernatural element.
Now is the point where I shutup and start being brief. Just kidding.
The second story in the novel, the titular Hearts in Atlantis, finds Pete Riley and Carol (Bobbyâ€™s Carol) as freshman at the University of Maine in 1966. Pete should probably spend his time studying, because if he doesnâ€™t heâ€™ll find himself out of college and â€œin the greenâ€ of Vietnam, but the third floor of his dorm has turned into a perpetual hearts tournament and Pete is unable to escape the call of the addicting card game. Once again we find the ease which with groups slide into a state of dystopia, and once again we watch as innocence fades (in more ways than one).
Hearts in Atlantis (the story) is just as strong, just as touching, as Low Men in Yellow Coats. Written as a sort of memoir of an aging hippie, we once again get Kingâ€™s take on Lord of the Flies. An actual copy of the book once again shows up in the narrative. These two stories then comprise 525 pages of the 670 page book. They are the meat, baby, the main course, and the remaining three stories are the desert. A better analogy which isnâ€™t an analogy at all: the first two stories rise, the last three stories fall. The climax is obviously in there somewhere.
So, the third story of the book, Blind Willie, takes place in 1983 as Willie (shock), a Vietnam veteran with plenty of ties to characters from the first two stories, leads a secretive triple life. He has not read Lord of the Flies. Willieâ€™s the sort of man who believes in the importance of penance. Heâ€™s very sorry for a lot of things. Heâ€™s the sort of man who has some trouble with the past. A lot of trouble. He just canâ€™t seem to get over the things heâ€™s done, and heâ€™s a done of lot of things, many of them good, but itâ€™s the bad stuff that gives him all the trouble. And itâ€™s the bad stuff, even after all his penance, that just has a habit of finding him again.
The entire story is just 80 pages long, which is extremely short for King, and takes place over the course of a single day in 1983, either December 16th or December 17th, depending on how you do your math, which makes it either six months after Bloomsday, the day which Ulysses takes place, or the day after six months after Bloomsday. Either way, itâ€™s probably not a coincidence, and I should probably look for some Homeric parallels. This time, itâ€™s all about the past, rather than any sort of present, and Willie isnâ€™t the only man with some trouble looking back on yesteryear.
The fourth story in the book, Why Weâ€™re in Vietnam, has Bobbyâ€™s boyhood friend of Sully John attending the funereal for one his squadmates from Vietnam. Itâ€™s 1999 and Sully still sees the woman Ronnie, who loved chasing The Bitch in the hearts games on the third floor of a certain dorm at the University of Main, murdered on one hot Vietnamese afternoon. Sully lost one of his balls that afternoon. Sully hasnâ€™t read Lord of the Flies, but he knows that Bobby has.
At the funeral, Sully runs into his old new lieutenant from the war, and the two of them get to talking. The 60s are gone, Atlantis has sunk, and itâ€™s getting harder and harder not to sink with it. But Sully doesnâ€™t have too much time for talking. Heâ€™s got to beat the rush hour traffic because Sullyâ€™s got a date with ka. MYSTERIOUS ENDING!
The final story, Heavenly Shades of Night are Falling, also takes place in 1999 as Bobby Garfield finally returns to the town of his youth. He still watches for the low men in yellow coats, even if he canâ€™t quite remember the summer of 1960 as clearly as he once could. Bobbyâ€™s made his way back to town because he wants to revisit his childhood one last time, because his relationship with Lord of the Flies isnâ€™t just over yet, and because all things serve the beam.
As a whole, Hearts in Atlantis is Stephen Kingâ€™s story of the 1960s and its aftermath. It has that clean, crude style King is known for: wordy as all hell, vulgar one moment, and profound the next. Itâ€™s tragic, heartwarming, and beautiful, and is exactly the sort of novel most people would never expect from Stephen King. Not horror by any stretch of the imagination, and with plenty of complex subtlety, Hearts in Atlantis is proof positive that thereâ€™s a lot more to Stephen King than probably even Stephen King believes.
June 28 
June 27 
Those days are long since past.
We march on regardless.
All pages on this site are now SHTML files. Again. So update nothing accordingly and try not to use Google to find anything, because you’ll find nothing but 404s.
Speaking of Google, this site now has Google ads. I suck. I don’t intend to turn a profit from this website, I’m smart enough to realize I can’t, but even if they paid for half of this site’s hosting, they’d be worth it. I’ve sort of buried them under the sidebar to the right, so they’re pretty unobtrusive. Click them if you want. I won’t mind. Just don’t click them too often, because Google gets even a hint that some sort of scamming is doing down (I.E. lots of clicks from the same IP, lots of clicks from the same IP over a short period of time) then they shut me down forever. So don’t click them any more than once per day, Justin and Will, whose real names I have used to highlight the importance of not going click crazy. I’m not even allowed to click them myself.
I should feel pretty shitty about sticking ads on this space (and I do), but the Internet’s resident Lady Guardian has plans for doing the exact same thing. Moral comprise is more fun with a buddy.
I might finally get the archive, comment, and search pages up and matching today, but it all depends on if I go buy Battlefield 2 or not. And that all depends on Scott “PopcornChicken/I don’t want to go to CompUSA alone” Brust.
June 24 
I just got back from watching George A. Romeroâ€™s latest zombie allegory, Land of the Dead, with my brother. Iâ€™ve been reading a lot of Roger Ebertâ€™s movie reviews lately. I find them extremely entertaining. Theyâ€™re well written, insightful, and contain just enough personal anecdotes to keep things interesting. Ebertâ€™s the kind of guy who likes Dawn of the Dead (but really, itâ€™s pretty hard not to), but isnâ€™t particularly fond of either Night or Day. If stars earned directly translate to the worth of a film, and they donâ€™t, and Ebert says they donâ€™t, then Ebert ranks Land as somewhere between Day and Dawn. Personally, I found the film to be leagues better than Day of the Dead, and maybe just a little bit above Night of the Living Dead on the George A. Romero Totem of Quality. Romeroâ€™s still yet to top Dawn though, and at this point it looks like he probably never will.
Most of that paragraph was useless and/or irrelevant, but no less true. I didnâ€™t even include any links.
Land of the Dead takes place many years after the events of the original trilogy. An unnamed city has managed to survive the zombie apocalypse and now consists of two worlds: the uber-exclusive Fiddlerâ€™s Green, a utopian society isolated within a lofty skyscraper, and the slums surrounding it. Troubleâ€™s brewing amongst the surviving humans, as conflicts between the rich and the poor escalate and an army of zombies, led by an intelligent, and rather pissed off zombie known only as Big Daddy encroaches on their borders. Guns get shot, stuff blows up, and a variety of people are maimed and killed in a variety of interesting and violent ways. The biggest problem I have with the film though, is that thereâ€™s just too much stuff happening, and it happens much too quickly.
Whereas all of the previous films in Romeroâ€™s zombie trilogy have focused on small groups of people in small, isolated settings (a house, a shopping mall, an underground military base), Land features numerous characters, both important and Mindless Extra Waiting To Die alike, and takes place in a sprawling, if slightly underpopulated cityscape. The plot kicks into gear almost immediately and takes charge of the entire film, leaving little to no room for any character growth. Thatâ€™s pretty much par for the course for a Romero flick, but in this case I was left with the feeling that I barely even knew any of the characters by the time the final credits rolled. Sure, I knew what happened, but I couldnâ€™t really tell you about who it happened to. Because thatâ€™s exactly what happens in Land of the Dead: the plot happens, and the characters are just along for the ride. An extra 30 minutes or so (the film is only 93 minutes long as it is) to more fully flesh out the relatively large cast would have been nice.
Also, the actor (whose name Iâ€™m not going to bother looking up) who plays Big Daddy, the intelligent leader of the zombies, isnâ€™t quite convincing in his performance. He comes across more as a stupid man than a smart zombie and just isnâ€™t as convincing as Dayâ€™s Bub in the role of a zombie with smarts. Bub does show up for a brief cameo appearance though, as does the moustache-brushing looter from Dawn of the Dead. Denis Hopper really steals the show though, even though he only shows up in half a dozen scenes. Every single interesting line from the film comes out of Hopperâ€™s mouth and he generally just hams it up and has a lot of fun.
Because itâ€™s a zombie movie, and because itâ€™s a Romero zombie movie, Land of the Dead features lots of gruesome violence. Most of the effects arenâ€™t CG, which I wholly support, and look really, really nice. The movieâ€™s use of CG is minimal and subtle, used only when more traditional means were an impossibility, such as in rendering a zombie whose severed head bounces and attacks from his back, desperately hanging on through its spinal column. I kinda miss the Day-Glo red paint though.
As a fan of anything Romeroâ€™s made with â€œdeadâ€ in the title, Land of the Dead is a perfectly enjoyable movie. Iâ€™ll definitely pick it up when itâ€™s eventually released on DVD. I think fans of the series will have a hard time being disappointed, especially after 1985â€™s Day of the Dead. And hell, Roger Ebert likes it/Iâ€™m tired of writing.
June 22 
Batman Begins is easily the best of the Batman films, putting Burtonâ€™s shitful attempts to shame. I was honestly impressed by the way they handled 3.5 villains, outdoing the way most superhero movies handle one or two. The only thing I didnâ€™t like about the movie was the fight scenes. Or rather, the way the fight scenes were filmed. I found the cycle of Big Blurry Messes followed by a fist or a dude falling over and another Big Blurry Mess incredibly confusing. It looks nice if you turn your brain off or something, but in the meantime, I have no idea whatâ€™s going on. I had the same problem with Alien vs. Predator (well, I had a lot of problems with Alien vs. Predator), only in that case fight scenes consisted of a Big Blurry Mess followed by a tail or an extended jaw thing. I know itâ€™s fun to hide shoddy special effects or poor fight choreography behind lots of fast cuts, but it sure ainâ€™t fun to watch. Unless youâ€™re not me. Then you probably love it or something.
I finally broke down and bought myself a shiny electric blue Nintendo DS. Now that Super Mario 64 DS, a game I had no intention of paying for, is free with the system, and given the avalanche of titles hittinâ€™ da streetz between now and November, it became impossible for me to resist the sultry systemâ€™s siren charms. The alliteration allows you to more accurately imagine the little consoleâ€™s power over me. I also bought Kirby: Canvas Curse, which is a much less awesome title than Touch! Kirby! (or thereabouts) and preordered Meteos. After spending time with the two games I gotz and looking at screenshots/reading previews/NO HANDS ON EXPERIENCE, Iâ€™ve yet to see a really good use for the second screen. Something justifiable as necessary (hint: more than a map) would be nice. Though thereâ€™s the potential for new, crazy stuff springing forth from the development opportunities two screens provide, I think Nintendo would have been better off just giving us one PSP quality screen with touch capabilities. Because itâ€™s really the touch screen, and not the two screen display that make the console. But enough of that. Itâ€™s time forâ€¦
Super Mario 64 DS is a retooled version of the original featuring three new playable characters (Yoshi, Luigi, and Wario), new levels, new stars, and lots of new mini-games, most of which use the touch screen in some way. Itâ€™s still a fantastic game all these years later, especially with all the added bells and whistles. Unfortunately, itâ€™s basically unplayable. Given that one of the high watermarks set by the original Mario 64 was its fluid control scheme and seamless user interface, itâ€™s rather ironic that the first (non-Chinese) port of the game is virtually uncontrollable. Despite throwing a barrage of control options in the playerâ€™s face, not one of them acts as a suitable replacement for honest-to-God analog control. Trying to move around with the D-pad is imprecise and clunky while the pseudo-analog possibilities of the touch screen donâ€™t make up for the fact that trying to use it as a joystick is both counterintuitive and an ergonomic nightmare. To make matters worse, the game forces you to use the touch screen anyway, even when using the D-pad, as the only way to save or game (or not save your game) is through a touch menu on the lower screen. A touch menu they throw at you ever time you get a star, forcing you to dig out the stylus just to hit one button before you can keep playing. Nice work!
Iâ€™m still playing the damn game though, because behind the rough interface is a genuinely excellent game. And the mini-games are a tremendous amount of fun. In fact, I plan on playing just long enough to unlock all the crazy fun mini-games available. The mere thought of trying to defeat rainbow Bowser using only a D-pad gives me headaches.
Kirby though, is pretty hot. All they had to say to sell me on this game was â€œuse stylus to paint rainbows, watch Kirby spin.â€ This is exactly the sort of new experience I bought a DS to enjoy. Rather than actually control Kirby directly, players draw rainbow lines along the screen with the stylus to act as ramps, bridges, and barriers. Additionally, touching Kirby with the stylus causes him to launch into a spin attack or use his absorbed powers while clicking on enemies stun them and clicking on certain blocks destroys them. Itâ€™s an interactive wonderland!
Thereâ€™s also this boss fight thatâ€™s a rushed connect-the-dot puzzle ala Anticipation.
There really isnâ€™t much else to say. Itâ€™s a charming little game that makes me smile.
June 21 
(vector_black is having the time of his life)
If you visit a site like this, chances are you already know what The Adventures of Pete and Pete is all about. Maybe you didnâ€™t watch it while it was on the air, but youâ€™re probably at least aware of the programâ€™s existence. But for the select few of you who had better things to do in the early 90s than watch Nickelodeon 18 hours a day, Pete and Pete was a surreal little show that existed in one form or another from about 1990 to 1995. Without doing any sort of research to verify my facts, the series began as a handful of 60-second shorts that aired on Nickelodeon during commercial breaks or between other shows. The shorts focused on Pete and Pete Wrigley and the odd inhabitants of Wellsville including Artie, the strongest man in the world and local superhero. Eventually the shorts spawned a few seasonally-flavored specials before being picked up as a full fledged series whose first 8 episodes (plus four 30-minute specials) have recently been released on DVD as part of Nickelodeonâ€™s Rewind series.
Unlike a lot of the shows I watched back then, I can watch Pete and Pete for more than just pure nostalgia because the show is genuinely excellent. It all takes place in a world where everything is just slightly wrong, a world where 24â€™s Dick Cheney is a mad shop teacher secretly building an air conditioner and an evil bowling ball has the power to tear a family apart. Itâ€™s beautifully written and decently acted, though Toby Huss, comedic genius that he is, completely steals every scene heâ€™s in as Artie. Itâ€™s a strange show with a mythology all its own thatâ€™s far smarter than a kids show is usually allowed to be. Given how different Pete and Pete is, itâ€™s really a wonder the thing got on the air at all and a real miracle that it lasted as long as it did. But even those days Legends of the Hidden Temple and Nick Arcade lasted for multiple seasons, so maybe itâ€™s really not all that surprising after all.
Watching the series now, Iâ€™m amazed by just how sad it is. Even the happier episodes have moments of heart-crushing sorrow which seem completely out of place in a childrenâ€™s show. Thereâ€™s a quiet sort of sadness behind the surface of each episode, while episodes like What I Did on My Summer Vacation, about the mysterious Mr. Tastee and his unexpected disappearance, are especially melancholy.
The first season contains a couple of my favorite episodes, Rangeboy and When Petes Collide. The first follows Big Pete as he takes a job at his fatherâ€™s golf range, driving around in a little cart picking up golf balls. Heâ€™s so embarrassed over his career of choice that he dons a bear suit and assumes the identity of Mr. Bear. Before long, all of Wellsville wants to take a shot at him, culminating in a contest which will result in his unmasking. Meanwhile, Artie tries to restore the memory of Clark, a turtle with amnesia who adventured with Artie and Hemingway (presumably the author) on a shiny tugboat in Italy. This episode highlights all thatâ€™s great about Pete and Pete, with its zany characters, fantastic writing, and moving moral lesson. Guess stars like Frank Gifford, with his golf club with a miniature version of himself on the end of it, The Perfect Mom from The King of The Road episode, and Bus Driver Stu Benedict, who finally makes that perfect shot, make the episode and each add their own brand of comedic talent to the mix.
When Petes Collide is the well known episode about Rolling Thunder, the powerful bowling ball which must get passed down to one of the Wrigley boys. While Pete and Pete must fight to win their fatherâ€™s affection and the bowling ball, their dad battles against his own creepy father for command of his house. Meanwhile, Artie must do battle with Rolling Thunder itself in a battle between two of Wellsvilleâ€™s titans. For me, this is Toby Hussâ€™ episode from start to finish. From the moment he first shows up in his porta-home (an outhouse) and begins guarding the Wrigley home, to his showdown with Rolling Thunder and his time spent training Little Pete for a staring contest, the strongest man in the world steals the entire episode. Itâ€™s hard not to laugh watching Artie, dressed in red and blue childrenâ€™s pajamas, leap around the Wrigley yard, stopping just long enough to flex his muscles and contort his face. The battle with Rolling Thunder, as the two of them roll about on the lawn before the ball chokes out the superhero, is especially great and stands as one of the truly classic Pete and Pete moments.
Hopefully this DVD set will sell enough to warrant future Pete and Pete releases. Iâ€™d love to be able to watch other great episode like the one in which Big Pete discovers an extraterrestrial who attends his high school or the episode when Little Pete helps his favorite underwear inspector get back on his feet. Yummy.
June 20 
Iâ€™m home in Vacaville (so I canâ€™t fix the numerous problems that seem to have sprung up from my site maintenance for No God Damned Reason Whatsoever) this week, and last night was the first Nintendo Puzzle Collection/Kururin Squash super bonanza. Nobody likes Tetris Attack/Panel de Pon/Pokemon Puzzle League other than me, because Iâ€™m the only human being with some fucking taste around here. Instead they all love Yoshi no Cookie, as they call it. Bunch of animals. But the real star of the puzzle collection show was Dr. Mario, which magically transforms into a game thatâ€™s actually fun once three other controllers are involved. Rather than being slow, boring, and stupid, multiplayer Dr. Mario is fast, exciting, and fast. The most fun came when we set the number of viruses to the lowest possible setting (4) and the speed as slow as it could go. Because each player has the exact same viruses in exactly the same locations and receives exactly the same pills in exactly the same order, the game becomes one based entirely on speed and precession, where no long term strategy or any sort of complex thought is necessary. It becomes a game of pure instinct, where the winner is often mere milliseconds ahead of his (or her) closest competitor. You see, unlike most other puzzle games, Dr. Mario isnâ€™t some endless affair in which players simply need to outlast each other. Rather, the first player who clears his (or her) viruses gets a pretty yellow star for their efforts. This is fun stuff, kids. Itâ€™s only taken me a decade and a half to figure it out.
Kururin Squash was also hit. Kuru Kuru Kururin was a hit when I bought it for my brother a few years ago. It seems the Kururin games have the sort of goofy wide appeal possessed by the likes of Katamari Damacy and SOMETHING ELSE. Even my mom was entertained by watching four rotating sticks spinning their way through windy mazes, madly honking along the way. Itâ€™s so simple to pick up a game whose only controls consist only of â€œmove,â€ â€œhonk,â€ and â€œspin faster.â€ The multiplayer mode is also fantastically fun, with a huge array of levels (it took us some to time to discover there were more than the initial eight) and the added excitement of trying to navigate through narrow twists and turns while bumping and grinding against a trio of other spinning sticks. The growth/shrink mechanic based on your distance from the rest of the pack and the number of time youâ€™ve died is also pure genius. Everyone Iâ€™ve shown this game to, gamer and non-gamer alike, has absolutely fallen in love with it, despite its zany, quirky nature. Itâ€™s a wonder Nintendo still hasnâ€™t released any of these games in US. Hell, everyone already recognizes the game from its Smash Brothers trophy.
Batman Begins tomorrow? Maybe.
June 19 
Boring website maintaince update go now!
Every link on every page should work now. Vector_black’s MacPherson Household: Subtitle now has a header. I know how exciting this is for all of you. And look! New links under the [Old] section there on the right and a brand new [:-)] section for purely nostalgic indulgence. Wow! Still no SSI or working RSS feeds though. And the comments page is still ugly as all hell.
The Inn Music page also features some new music from Sword of Mana, as well as the return of the all-inclusive zip file (no sit file, because LeadPipe tells me Macs can totally unzip stuff now). And a Winamp playlist! Neato! Why do other websites even exist when the best of the Internet is all right here?
This update contains a mention of Mike Brust.