Reader Relation in John Updike’s “A & P”

If I were a competent journalist, I’d look up what the
“A” and the “P” stand for.

Read “A & P” here.
Read “Hills Like White Elephants” here.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a short story quite like John Updike’s “A & P”. I’ve never even heard of “modernistic” writing before our COMM class was introduced to Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” this semester, and I’m happy to finally have an excuse to stick my nose in a kind of milestone of literary fiction that I otherwise wouldn’t even bat an eye at. Stuff like Hemingway and Updike wasn’t taught in my in high school curriculum, and in a way I’m glad it wasn’t. I don’t think as an inexperienced, self-centred teenager I would understand or even appreciate the kind of “genuine” insight that a story like “A & P” provides between the lines if something like it were force-fed to me in Grade 10 or 11.

By “genuine” I guess I mean this: “A & P”, besides a short story, in and of itself represents a single instance within the many folds of regular, every day life. Sammy the cashier narrates the story of how he and his co-workers are enamoured by a small group of bikini-clad girls (potentially fresh off the beach) who invade the dreary and conservative A & P establishment, which in turn results in Sammy’s subsequent “walk-out” when the girls are chastised for their attire by the grocery store’s general manager.

Sammy relays this story to an off-print audience in such a down-to-earth way that it’s like we the reader are physically sitting with him around a poker table with a couple of beers – or something of that nature. The reason the story has such an impact on the reader is because we’ve all been there – we’ve all been in Sammy’s place: jolted out of the foggy and mundane routine of an otherwise demeaning minimum-wage job, when something we don’t see every day interrupts the pace of the work environment. It’s a glimmer of some kind of hope or amusement that even though the queer instance is one of many seen in the retail world, that it’s something an unmotivated (and possibly begrudging) employee would unconsciously latch onto for dear life in some regard – a reminder of their sanity outside of their cruddy job, maybe.

Some may think the part near the end of the story, where Sammy quits his job all of a sudden, is an abrupt and disjointed way to move the plot forward – but keeping in the perspective of Updike’s language and tone of the story, it’s clear to me that a strong desire to quit his position at A & P was something on Sammy’s mind for a while now. Whether the cashier realizes it or not, his manager’s staunch store policy against the girls’ scant attire is the final pin prick of a countless many that sends Sammy’s disdain for his job from the back burner to the front element, despite better judgement.

In the narration it’s apparent to me that Sammy has since thoughtfully analyzed the stupid decision he made  in his dramatic “walk-out”. Even in the retelling of the event, he realizes the gravity of the mistake almost as soon as he steps foot out into A & P’s parking lot. With a brief flash of desperation to justify what he had just done, Sammy glances around to see if the scantly-clad girls are still in the vicinity – which they aren’t – and then back inside the store window to see his boss working the register in his place in order to compensate for the abrupt rift in daily routine. Sammy knows he screwed up big time, but there’s nothing he can do to make it better.

While Ernest Hemingway’s “Hills Like White Elephants” is ambiguous in its undertones of abortion and human frailty, I feel both it and Updike’s “A & P” bring literature to a kind of realistic and “humanistic” level not seen very often, which readers can relate to: both are brief glimpses into one of many instances of a person’s life, and as soon as the stories end, so too do these brief instances – where they remain in print as such, almost emulating sharp and independent memories that people keep stored in their heads over time.

I haven’t read enough modernistic literature to be too sure of the above “memory” theory, but even if I’m flat out wrong, I think at least Updike’s “A & P” is one of the most insightful, down-to-earth, and realistically-written short pieces I’ve yet had the pleasure to read.

Stop Calling Me That.

WARNING: THIS BLOG ENTRY IS LONG-WINDED, RIDDLED WITH EXCUSES, AND IS INCREDIBLY SELF-INDULGENT. TREAD CAREFULLY, AND PREPARE THE FLAMETHROWER FOR MAXIMUM SURVIVAL RATE.

It’s pretty difficult to offend me. I don’t get angry very easily, and as the ratio stands, it’s more likely that I’ll inadvertently piss you off in the name of over-analyzed social awkwardness, than the other way around. I’m pretty laid back, for the most part, and I give as much of a damn about what people have to say about or think of me as Prime Minister Stephen Harper does the valid complaints from journalists he condemns to “three questions a day” while they stand fenced off to the side from everyone else, as if their existence equaled that of Phil Oakey’s sense of identity.

However — there is one thing that really yanks my fingernails up from their cuticles: when people refer to me as a “dork”, “nerd”, “geek”, “gamer”, or anything else that has anything to do with heated Kirk VS Picard arguments, filler story arcs to some hyper-active, self-indulgent, and intelligence-insulting anime, or frothing estimates as to the cup size of that blue chick from Mass Effect. Even if it’s meant as an affectionate prod, it gets my cheese chapped.

People (ESPECIALLY self-proclaimed nerds, incidentally) consistently call me a nerd or try to convince me that I’m one a regular basis for whatever reasons. I don’t for the life of me understand their thought process, outside of basic stereotypical labeling of a simpleton’s “black and white” view of how the world works, because I flat out don’t identify as ANY of the above.

It’s truly thought-provoking when this guy claims to Hell’s half acre
and back that you’re waaaaay nerdier than he is.

Sure. I like to play video games. Some of the T-shirts I own sport famous Horror genre icons. Hell, even the fact that I outright have an output on Winamp in order to specifically listen to Super Nintendo game music puts me in a corner.

But, as stated above, I really don’t think of myself as a nerd. At least — not in any stereotypical sense. I’m not even very much in the know about anything that could label me as a member of the nerdcore community. I don’t really have much of an interest in  most things that nerds typically would. In a specific sense, let’s break it down:

– I believe “The Big Bang Theory” is one of the worst TV shows on right now. Take away the laugh track and the show reveals how pathetic its characters are and how ham-fisted and unclever the writing actually is, despite its depiction of “ultra genius” science professors, or whatever. It blows me away (though why should I be so surprised) that “Big Bang” is the most popular sit-com next to an infinitely better-acted, better-written, and more humourous “How I Met Your Mother”.

– I’m incredibly venomous towards advancing technology and anyone else who willingly chokes down the shovelful of capitalist consumerism BS that the Western culture tells us we “need” instead of realistically “want” for sake of convenience. I didn’t get my first cellphone until 2006 (a simple Motorola flip-phone), and that was ONLY because I was starting a small business — and I’ve had the same phone to this day.

– I sure as sugar love movies. However, I think Quentin Tarantino is — while excellent at pop culture scrutiny and homage — overrated as an independent director and has far lost sight of what used to make him an original visionary.

– I’m incredibly picky when it comes to video games. I have a lot to say about the gaming industry as a whole, but I’d sooner clap my hands together with satisfaction if (when) a second gaming crash hits the market, and be done with the greed, misogyny, and overall childish nature of both developers and “gamers”.

– While I’m nostalgic for my childhood, I’m realistic about it. I don’t cherish things I grew up with just because I grew up with them — there’s plenty that hasn’t aged well over the years, and I willingly accept that, and the fact that those specific things were geared towards audiences of a simpler mindset (aka, oh I don’t know — CHILDREN?! and NOT  men in their mid-30s?)

I could list things forever and ever amen, but I’d like to think that you the reader gets the point already.

I love this video. So much.

I guess the reason people point me out in a suspect line of dorks, mouth-breathers, and V-card owners, is because it’s an unfortunate fact that we as a society function through judging (sometimes destroying) things we don’t understand, and likewise label the aforementioned into subgroups of stereotype so that we can easily “ascertain” how people work.

At face value I like old video games, anime, literature involving high fantasy, and taking part in drunken snobbery of films below a B-grade rating. On the surface — okay yeah — I’m a nerd. That basic deduction is only part of the natural progression of the fight of the fittest, I guess. But that ideology is still a bullshit cop out in terms of understanding that life as we know it is NOT BLACK AND WHITE.

Whatever happened to that saying mom always used to ram down your throat as a kid?  You know — “Don’t judge a book by its cover”? The same damn thing applies in terms of stereotyping.

Even my brothers think I’m a gigantic nerd (and lazy, for that matter, but what older sibling doesn’t think that of their younger kin?), when in reality, the only reason I know what they’re talking about is because they both were children of the ‘80s, and are themselves nerds in their own right. Being the youngest of three in a family primarily of doodz, I couldn’t help but be exposed to things like Transformers, Nintendo, Star Wars, and Lego.

“Yeah, but you primarily write about video games – retro games especially! You must be a nerd! Only nerds play games from twenty years ago!”

Okay, okay. Yes, I will admit that most of the game consoles I currently have hooked up are at least more than ten years old. I’ve had an NES controller in my hands since the age of three, and even though I’ll go through long waves of disinterest in gaming as a whole, it’s always good to know that the old faithfuls are there, and won’t ever let me down when I need the odd fix.

Only in the last year or so did I finally cave and buy a new console — and part of that stems from my aforementioned disinterest in advancing technology. The rest of that mentality comes from the fact that growing up, I could never afford newer consoles until they were dirt cheap and near the end of their life cycles, and my parents were so sick of my brother constantly selling games and consoles he’d purchase or get as gifts, that they cut the cord short when I took an interest in gaming.

If I wanted a new game or console, I’d have to save up for it myself, or substantially prove why I should have it. From a parental standpoint, I think that was a fair way to handle a habit that demotes the idea of exercising creativity and going outside to burn off pent-up energy with friends — even though I kick myself in the pants now for not being able to wrangle now-rare games when they were easily accessible brand new or recently used, in my youth.

I’m piss poor now, and can’t afford to throw sixty bucks at every new game release that comes out — and when I do, I do it wincing (It absolutely killed me when I had to fork over the cash to buy a new DS when my old one snapped in half from a THREE FOOT DROP — but I did it, only because I was incredibly close to the end of Monster Tale and wanted to finish the game) but deep down I know that the investment is truly going towards something I’m gonna enjoy for years on end.

To be blunt, I had no idea there was even a retro gaming “movement”, up until late 2007, after ScrewAttack reared its ugly head alongside its inbred forum community. I was still attached to my old games because in my mind, it was economically-savvy to seek enjoyment out of something I knew I loved and already owned, which in turn was also conveniently affordable at the time. So for me, discovering that other 20-somethings played Super Mario Bros. 3 didn’t have much of a seismic effect on me other than “Oh. Okay. Cool, I guess,” because I assumed what I was doing was normal; If the games still worked and were still fun, what was the point in tossing out the old to bring in something new and triple the expense?

Because founding one of the most insufferable websites that defined the notion of
having your
own army of Stepford-like followers  gets you all the lay-deez~

Also, the fact that I listen to video game music? People own soundtracks to movies or Broadway musicals they like — What’s the difference? I guess that outright makes my Grannie Edith a nerd because she listens to “Man of La Mancha” regularly — in no way implying the music’s overall quality. WHO’DA THUNK IT?!

“Yeah, b-but!! What about Heiress?! “Master of Monsters” is full of tropes and conventions of ’90s anime! Even the book’s self-titled genre is called ‘Manga-lit’, NEEEERRRDDDDAAAAUUUHHH!”

All right. As for Japanese cartoons, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get a kick out of them from time to time. Hell, you’re right! I pretty much had to invent a whole new genre (the actual name “Manga-lit” coined by my friend and editor, Elfie) in order to cater to the type of writing style in Heiress (which both homages and parodies anime and manga I grew up watching, specifically the whole Magical Girl genre in shows such as Sailor Moon and the awful patch-worked Frankenstein’s creature that is Nelvana’s dub of Card Captor Sakura).

As a whole, however, I haven’t actually sat down to watch a Japanese cartoon or animated feature in about … oh God. Probably AT LEAST a couple of years, I guess? I honestly can’t remember the last one I watched. I got out of the incredibly embarrassing fan base that Japanese cartoons seem to attract as soon as I graduated high school in 2004. I used to be really huge into anime when I was younger, obsessed with stuff like Bubblegum Crisis, Trigun, and Serial Experiments: Lain, but the criminal expense of keeping up to date with the seemingly endless Straight-to-VHS serials and the surmounting “What in the unholy HELL am I watching?” factor became too much of a heavy burden to continue onward.

Dear Japan: It’s probably time to stop.

One last thing I’d like to touch on before we part ways today is the number one reason why I don’t consider myself a nerd deep down … although it may sound like a flimsy excuse, resulting in “that doesn’t make a difference” as a possible outcome.

The thing that sets me apart from the stereotypical nerdcore kids is the fact that they act like their hobbies and interests are a total, complete, and valid way of life — a lifestyle choice. This may not actually be the case (see: “act like”), but the continual blaring of vapid conversations that have no real effect on anything; immature defensiveness when things they like are mortally threatened by someone with a differing opinion only to turn around and call someone else’s mother a whore when a statement like “Hey, I think Kane and Lynch 2 is a good game despite its flaws” is uttered; and the high level of over-exaggerated excitement when popular culture acknowledges their “way of life” (example: The Big Bang Theory) really makes the argument a hard case to refute.

I don’t do any of these. Or at least, consciously, I don’t.

I don’t really talk about the things I like outside of the odd “It’s good,” unless I truly believe my friends would get equal enjoyment — and even then, I don’t really hype all that much, if ever. Here. Here’s an example of something I would say:

“Kane and Lynch 2, despite its apparent flaws, is a good game because I think it emulates the relentless tension of gangster-esque pulp exploitation films, as well as satirizing Asia’s insane censorship laws (which in turn leaves more to the player’s imagination when mutilated bodies in-game are blurred out). I feel like I’m actually there as Kane while I’m struggling to survive the quickly-decimated ammo-riddled wooden crate I’m hiding behind, with only a couple of shots left in my gun.”

Yup. Pretty much.

So yeah. On that note, this entry is more or less an upchuck of something that’s been on my mind for the last little while. Take it as it is (entertaining, I hope!). G’night e’rry body.

The Exorcist: A Look into the Devil’s Keep

A while ago I read one of the most horrifying and controversial works of the literatary world. No, it isn’t Atlas Shrugged, by Ayn Rand (but you were close if you guessed it!), but The Exorcist, by William Peter Blatty.

The novel, though written in short, sharp sentences that string together to create some of the weirdest structured paragraphs I’ve ever seen in my life, is hands down one of the most immersing reads I’ve had in a while (first up being The Omen, by David Seltzer, and last being Twilight, by Stephanie Meyer — and yes, I am serious. Shut up).

However, there’s one aspect about the book that was rather baffling to me. The Exorcist is toted as a horror genre novel. Yeah, that makes sense, but … well, I found myself laughing more times than I was probably supposed to during my readthrough; the dialogue is just so cleverly penned. That, and never once during the novel was I frightened or remotely disturbed (and if you want disturbing, get the book from your public library and read page 215. I warned you).

So, upon constantly hearing that the film adaptation of The Exorcist is a heavy-handed blow to the horror genre, with claims by many that the film is “the scariest movie of all time”, I had to check it out.

A good three or four years ago I tried to watch The Exorcist when it was on TV one Halloween night. I flicked the TV on just as Chris McNeil was passing through the kitchen, and the face of Pazuzu, the demon, showed up against the stove’s range hood. I jumped. Pretty high. And went to flick the light on just as the Pazuzu’s statue face appeared on screen for a quick flash, sending me flying for the TV remote.

“Hi, a/s/l?”

I don’t do well with things that pop up without warning. I think “jump” scares in horror movies are cheap low blows to make up for dodgy writing and directing, and I think the internet “Screamers” you see on Ebaum’s World (wow I’m old) are about the same.

I had a copy of  “The Version You’ve Never Seen” edition of The Exorcist, which I picked up at the Hock Shop a while back, but was too afraid to watch it, based on the experience I had trying to watch it on TV. But I felt compelled to fight off my inner demons (no pun intended), grab my goat, and get some courage. It was a movie, afterall. A thirty year old movie, and — afterall — I loved the book. I owed it to myself to see the movie, right?

So, swallowing down my fear, I took the DVD out of its flimsy cardboard case, set it into the DVD player, and sat back to watch the inevitable horror that this movie was so notoriously known for.

The opening credits roll…

WILLIAM FRIEDKIN’S
THE EXORCIST

BASED ON THE NOVEL BY
WILLIAM PETER BLATTY

And then two hours later, the end credits roll.

I blink, turn off the DVD player, recline against the couch, and think to myself, “What the hell was I so worried about?”

The movie left the exact impression the book did. I was thoroughly entertained, but not at all frightened.

Now, I realize that horror movies don’t age very well unless you were around when they were first released, but something like The Exorcist, which to this day leaves a mark on people, even generations younger than me, should have at least left me just a little disturbed, right? I mean, I’m a devout, God-loving Christian. Shouldn’t I be scared out of my mind because according to my faith, I believe in stuff like this?

“Your mother waits tables at IHOP, Karras!!”

Whether I’m desensitized or not, it’s still obvious that movies of this nature have a very strong effect on people, and I think the reason The Exorcist is so frightening for many is because of the film makers’ use of toying with the audiences’ minds, and the fact that exorcisms and possession are actual documented events.

And I think for that,  I’m glad I have stuff like The Exorcist to keep me in tune with what at least used to scare the wits out of people without the needlessly heavy reliance on CGI that movies of the now thrive on so much (lol cg blood).

There have been a handful of exorcism-related movies over the past few years, including a couple really shoddy sequels to The Exorcist. For my generation, at least, I think The Exorcism of Emily Rose (starring Jennifer Carpenter, of “Dexter” fame) is a great companion piece to The Exorcist, especially in how to play off of people’s fears to create a genuinely haunting film  (despite the fact that the movie is a courtroom drama, for the most part).

“What do you mean my lines don’t deliver?”

Thinking about it, horror movies have more of an impact in the theatre in any case — it’s a proven fact: you’re trapped in a dark room, surrounded by strangers for the most part, forced to stare ahead at a screen of horror that takes up your entire point of vision, and there’s nothing you can do about it but stare ahead or cover your eyes — but that doesn’t stop the deafening terrors that scream in your ears.

I saw the remake of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in theatre, and it scared the hell out of me. However, when I bought it on home video and watched it on a smaller screen with pathetic mono sound, the effect was lost on me; it wasn’t the same.

But … there have been movies that have absolutely kept me up at night when I’ve seen them on the small screen. People can debate from sun up to sun rise about the credibility of the paranormal and extra terrestrials, but the fact remains: the mere idea, regardless, scares people.

And that’s why I think Japanese horror movies, especially modern ones like Ju-On and Ringu, work so well. Not only do they pit the viewers against this world of paranormal activity (that could or could not be real), but amplifies it to the max due to the lack of CGI effects.

Not to make accusations of “Man, the modern age sucks compared to when I was a kid,” but when it comes to movies, I think the point is actually valid. Yes, we can do so many great things with CGI technology, but it’s to the point where film makers don’t even need sets anymore; they just plop the actors in front of a green screen, ala Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow.

I’m going off-track, but I need to say it: Nothing is better than the real deal. Tom Savini, mastermind behind such special effects feats such as Friday the 13th and Day of the Dead, once said the use of visual effects in films is a lot like a magic show: It’s all an elaborate  and organic illusion that leaves the audience both in awe and wanting more.

In any case, if you haven’t read The Exorcist, I highly recommend it — it’s easily one of the best novels I’ve read, both in terms of story and writing skill. Its sequel, Legion, is also very good (as well as the film adaption, The Exorcist 3).

E.E.’s Favourite SNES Games

So, I made a top ten horror movies list after a couple of posts having to do with movies — and having noticed that I made a couple posts about video games, I figured — hey, why not! I’m really weird about top ten lists in general: I’m not entirely sure how you can gauge how one thing is better than something else for very specific reasons — I just tend to like different things for different reasons, unrelated to one another.

I see a lot of “Top Ten SNES Games” that generally all list the same games, without much variety, usually listing either Super Metroid or Chrono Trigger at #1. I decided to step back and make my own top ten video a while ago when I had an online review show and went under the pseudonym of “Lavender”. My other videos at the time were pretty informative and serious — and so the definite shift in tone in this video actually cost me a lot of viewers.

A clear indication to me that a lot of gamers don’t know how to take a joke.

Enjoy.

In any case, if you’re interested in my genuine (and nonspecific) list of favourite SNES games (OF GAMES THAT I ACTUALLY OWN), continue below!

All right, so most of these entries are cliche, but I don’t care. They’re popular games on the Super Nintendo for very good reasons.

What can I say about Super Metroid that hasn’t already been said? The game is visually stunning, the soundtrack is one of the most beautiful (and haunting) on the console, and as far as sequels go, this one takes the cake, building off of the original Metroid and refining it in almost — no, not almost — it DOES — in EVERY single way.

One thing people don’t don’t really ever seem to touch on (or at least that’s what I’ve noticed) when talking about how great Super Metroid is, is the subtle use of a non-textual narrative. Yeah, all right, there’s still that text scroll prologue at the beginning of the game, but outside of that, Super Metroid’s entire narrative is told through things Samus crosses paths with on her journey to the bowels of Planet Zebes.

A great example of the game’s use of non-textual narrative is when you first stumble across Kraid’s Lair. You find yourself face to face with a creature that very much resembles a mid-boss from the first Metroid game, called Kraid. You blow him apart with a couple of super missiles, collect the goods, and head on your way — until you get to the opposite side of the next room, and discover, laying before the door that lead’s to the real boss lair…:


Who is he? There’s no explanation why the corpse is here, or how he died. He could be an astronaut from the downed space ship that Samus later discovers — he could be a space marine bounty hunter, just like Samus. Who knows? — But that’s the greatness of this game: it doesn’t force-feed exposition down the player’s throat, instead allowing a sense of imagination to flow. This was a great implantation, and I think it totally works in this game.

In my mind, he is a  bounty hunter, just like Samus. So every time I see him for the “first time” in Kraid’s lair, I always be sure to have Samus kneel in front of him as a sign of respect. Silly, I know, but whatever.

I love this game. A Link to the Past is by far, hands down, the best entry in the Zelda series after the NES original, and before Minish Cap on the Game Boy Advance. I’m not sure what resonates so well with me about A Link to the Past. I suppose it has to do with the grand sense of adventure that I feel every time I pop this cartridge in. And I think the great atmosphere about this game — that I feel, even now as I write this blurb — has a LOT to do with the game’s soundtrack.

Koji Kondo did a great job capturing the feel of his soundtrack on the first Zelda on the NES in this game, and while I do think gameplay takes precedent in what makes a video game good, I’m not sure how much enjoyment I would get out of A Link to the Past if somebody else other than Kondo composed.

Don’t get me wrong, there are so many other things that makes A Link to the Past an incredible game, such as the solid gameplay, beautiful graphics, and the masterful dungeon design (except for Turtle Rock. Screw that first area. So much magic WASTED trying to navigate those moving platforms properly. Ugh), but the music plays such a huge part in why I love the game.


Role Playing Games (RPGs) were a huge part of my childhood as a … child. Hurf. And when Square made games on the Super Nintendo, I was consistently lost in a world of magic, magic, swords, and monsters. Final Fantasy II, I remember I got very unexpectedly for Christmas one year, and right from the start, I was drawn in by the tragic story of a conflicted knight torn between his duties for his country and the morale of his heart. A story built around the idea of one man’s repentance wasn’t something I saw much in video games back in the day.

Parasite EVE on the Sony PlayStation (also by Square) was toted around its release to be “THE CINEMATIC RPG”, but I highly disagree. Square had been making “cinematic RPGs” long before that time, and I really think Final Fantasy II on Super Nintendo really holds true to that kind of feeling. This game brought out the importance of great story-telling for me, which has played an integral role in my own fiction writing.

You can also find this game, remade, on the Nintendo DS — and the cinematic aspects are even more prevalent there. When the game first came out, I was incredibly excited to get my hands on it, and I feel it was wise for Square to choose Final Fantasy II over the other classic entries in the series to bring to the DS. Just the trailer alone sent shivers down my spine at the time.


Shadowrun is a best known as a table-top RPG (think Dungeons & Dragons and Marvel Superheroes), and has seen several adaptions, in both novel and video game form. There was a version of Shadowrun on the Sega Genesis which was totally different from the SNES game (and fans tote to be superior). I’ve never played the Genesis version, but even so, Shadowrun on the Super Nintendo has to be one of the best Western RPGs I’ve played.

The atmosphere of Shadowrun is what sticks out the most to me. It’s pretty dark and gritty for a SNES game, and while it is very loosely based on the official Shadowrun lore, the atmosphere of the game keeps me coming back. When I first bought the game about a year ago (although having played it briefly a couple times in my childhood), I got really far — until a glitch happened and my file was deleted. Normally, I’d ragequit all together and refuse to touch the game for six months or so — but Shadowrun drew me right back in, and I didn’t at all mind  restarting my game.

Shadowrun is classified as a Cyberpunk RPG, and I think a lot of its inspiration stems from Bladerunner — although I can’t really exactly place any one thing that proves this, but that’s the overall feeling I get. And I guess that’s the most important thing: feeling.

Star Fox was the first game on the Super Nintendo to utilize the Super FX Chip, Nintendo’s basic “Eff You” to other companies who felt the itch to upgrade to more powerful console  resources that could harness the power of three-dimensional graphics. You wouldn’t think a sixteen-bit console from 1991 would be able to harness polygons without an add-on, but Nintendo proved otherwise.

There were only a handful of games on the console that utilized the Super FX Chip and its predecessor, the Super FX Chip 2 (Yoshi’s Island being one of them), and I think it’s safe to say that Star Fox is one of the few (if not the only) fully 3D games on the console that has actually aged well over time. It’s fast-paced, intense, and it’s hard to not get sucked in when you’re faced with not only hundreds of baddies firing at you, but with the task of making sure your allies survive the end of the level.

I always find myself in conversation with Slippy, Falco, and Peppy, almost like I’m actually inside the cockpit (especially on those outer-space first person levels), and I think because of that grasp the game has on me (and other people) it’s no wonder why we’ve seen several Star Fox sequels, as oppose to ANY Stunt Race FX sequels.

There are several other games on the console that really resonate with me for one reason or another — but for some reason, I just can’t think of any one specific thing that sticks out as to why I love these games. They’re amazing all in their own right, and for that, I feel that they have a powerful grip over how I view them. I think in general, if you love something so much that you can’t find the words to describe WHY you love it — that says a whole lot more than a few descriptors you can pull out your ear.

So here we go — for the remainder of this list, games I love just because they’re awesome in their own right:

 

The Super Nintendo: A Retrospective

You can always tell the lasting factor of a console, not only by its durability, but by the games created for it. There were a lot of really great games on the Super Nintendo – maybe more so than its predecessor. I mean, I’m not saying this out of personal opinion. It’s true. Ask anyone who owned a Super Nintendo: the good-to-bad ratio of games was ridiculously high; likely around 75 – 80 per cent, and was something I never saw again until the Sony PlayStation.

Just like in the days of NES, Capcom and Konami were ready at the flanks, but this time, backing the rear was Squaresoft, who tried to make a name for itself on the NES, but was successful only with Final Fantasy. This time around, however, Square was ready to take on anything, and although there were still really annoying things about its games (My biggest gripe being broken AI in Secret of Mana), the company easily made up for it this time around with immersive stories and characters, unforgettable soundtracks, and continnual innovation in the RPG genre. They hit a goldmine with Final Fantasy, and throughout the 16-bit era, stayed with what worked for them best, bringing us classics such as Secret of Mana, Final Fantasy II, Breath of Fire (even though Capcom developed it), and what is known throughout the “hardcore gaming” community as The Masterpiece Trilogy: Super Mario RPG, Final Fantasy III, and Chrono Trigger.

A lot of people around my age say they have fond memories of their “original” Nintendos and say it’s their favourite of the retro systems. But you know, while the Nintendo Entertainment System was also the first console I ever owned, most of my warm, fuzzy memories settle on the SNES.

Man, what a great system. I still remember when I opened it up Christmas morning, in 1992. Instead of most kids who got Super Mario World with the console, my pack-in was Mario Paint – which I always assumed was my mom’s doing, as she knew I was a pretty artsy kid. Alongside that, my brother gave (or rather, I later found out, lent) me some of his own games, such as Super Star Wars and Equinox,

As a kid, it was amazing to come off of Super Mario Bros. 3 – which I got for my birthday just that past April – onto such an upgrade in Super Mario World. Everything about that game just blew me away: rotating walls, giant Bullet Bills, and Goombas that looked kind of three-dimensional somehow in their waddle, in comparison to their NES ancestors. As a six-year-old kid, playing Super Mario World was quite a surreal feeling for me.

The SNES Jr. came out in late ’97, offering parents an affordable alternative
($99.95, packed-in with Yoshi’s Island) to the newer N64 and PSX.

I remember on Boxing Day that year, my dad took me to a place in the neighbouring town. I’m not sure how to describe the store properly, but at the time, I guess it was kind of like a Hock Shop, but I don’t remember there being anything other than video games (but that could be attributed to the fact that all the games were at the front of the store, and that was the only thing I cared about at the time). There were glass cases in the middle of the front area, all lined with loose cartridges – that may or may not have the coveted instruction booklet with them. The walls in the front area were stocked with games that were either in their original packaging, or in the cheap plastic rental cases.

The place had the weirdest name for a store, and it’s always stuck with me:

The Green Door.

It was on that fateful day that I, for the first time ever, bought a video game with my own money: Super Ghouls N Ghosts, complete in the box with manual, for thirty dollars; money from my grandmother.

From that point on, figuratively speaking, a sacred trinity had been: myself, my consoles, and that store – up until The Green Door finally swung shut a good five or so years later.

One of the most incredible things about the SNES, is the fact that Miyamoto was so confident in their current winner of the legendary “Console War of the ‘90s”, that he experimented with going fully 3D through Star Fox, despite three years into the console’s life cycle. For the task, Nintendo created something called the Super FX chip. Only a handful of games in total ever used this chip (and its predecessor), which could harness a basic idea of early three-dimensional technology in console gaming.

And then on top of that, ID and Williams Entertainment announced they were going to port DOOM, a gargantuan PC DOS game, onto the Super Nintendo, through use of the Super FX chip. …And somehow they did it. The game lost a lot of its visual flare, and it controls like a tank, but in some ways, it’s a better port than the 32X version, which came out later. The music in the SNES port of DOOM is great, though – far better than its PC version, I think.

And when I didn’t think things could get any better, I saw this commercial one Saturday morning:

Whoa, are you serious!? Game Boy games? On your Super Nintendo?! At the time, I thought I died and went to heaven. When the Super Game Boy came out, my dad rented it and Super Wario Land for me, and for that entire weekend, I refused to come out of my bedroom.

Although I had a good, healthy relationship with The Green Door, I didn’t have nearly as many games as a lot of people I went to school with. To be honest, I rented games more than actually bought them, and I think my parents used our local video store as a tool to get a good idea of games I liked and what to get me for birthdays and Christmas. And then there was that one time where both Santa AND one of my brothers got me Wario’s Woods. I remember thinking Santa musta been drunk out of his mind for that kind of doosey to happen.

Turns out my dad and brother just don’t talk.

Anyway, I just wanted to pay tribute to what I think is one of the greatest consoles of all time. The ‘90s were what a lot of game hobbyists call The Golden Age of video games. Those of us who grew up in that decade might have been shrugged off by the “glory” of the ‘80s, but at least we did something Ferris Bueller, Teddy Ruxpin, and Stevie Nicks couldn’t for once:

We played with Power. Super Power.


The Middle Man

We constantly hear about the “war” (if you can really call it that) between the distinct parties simply known as the casual and the hardcore gamers (Let it be known that I absolutely hate the term “gamer” with a passion. Playing video games is a hobby, not a life style choice). We know the definitions of both, we know what games both plays, and we even know the average age demographic of both, through general statistic gathering and observation.

But what about the middle man? The fellow who isn’t quite casual, but isn’t very hardcore, either? The “casu-core”, if you will. From what I’ve observed, the casu-core display a deep interest in games, but either very rarely plays them, or is easily distracted by what’s NEW and SHINY, only to toss it over-shoulder a few months to a year later, when something else comes along to dance and parade before the eyes. In general, the Casu-core are very hard to talk to about games, because they’re only feet-deep in the topic, which obviously makes their knowledge limited, despite what they think.

My brother is a perfect example of a casu-core. He’s always been in the gaming scene, I guess. He’s actually the one who got me into video games. I remember being led into his room when I was three, and him sticking an NES controller in my hand, with Metal Gear blaring from the television screen.

Anyway, my brother was always into the gaming scene. As far back as I can remember, he’s always had video games and magazines at his disposal – Games like Contra, and Super Mario Bros. 3, and Super Metroid, DOOM, Final Fantasy VII, Parasite EVE, Grand Theft Auto. Magazines like Nintendo Power, PSM, Electronic Gaming Monthly, GMR…

A friendlier way to … oh.

            In retrospect, my brother had the potential to be a hardcore. No, he SHOULD HAVE BEEN a hardcore. But what went wrong? What came along and made it so he was an unbeknownst (is that even a word?) traveler of the road most avoided?

Lack of funds.

Yes, games and consoles were always coming into the house, but they were also leaving just as fast. My brother, despite having decent paying jobs, was always in a financial bind – to the point where when he ran out of stuff to get rid of, he’d turn to my collection without my knowledge.

This cycle of buy-sell-buy-sell-buy-sell is still going on with him, too. I eventually got sick and tired of him regretfully selling games, that at one point, I forked over the cash just too keep them in the family.

Short story long, my brother spent so much time beating around the bush with video games, he never got the chance to fully appreciate them, I don’t think. I mean, sure he’d get super excited and passionate about a game – but then a few years later, say the game is “virtually unplayable” and/or “ugly”.

Example above, another sign of a casu-core— when they turn their back completely on things they loved when something new arrives on the scene.

Not to have a “let’s pick on E.E.’s brother” blog entry, but in coinciding with what I said above, let’s put this kind of behavour into perspective:

My brother loved Super Metroid when it first came out. He loved it to death. And then he gave his copy to me. A good four or five years ago, he was talking about some Xbox 360 game – I think Crackdown. He was talking to me about Crackdown, and how amazing the graphics look, and everything, and I briefly mentioned I was playing Super Metroid, and how even in today’s standards of updated graphics, it’s an absolutely beautiful game to look at, and how the subtle use of non-text narrative still takes my breath away at some points.

His response?

“Okaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay?”

I expect that sort of response from a kid five years younger than me, who grew up in the PS2 era. Not from a 36-year-old adult who cherished the fuck out of the EXACT. SAME. GAME. when it was released seventeen years ago.

I don’t care how many kids it made go schitzoid,
Polybius is the shit! Casuals be hay’tennn~

            I even get the same response from him when talking about games released in 2000 – just ten year ago! My brother came over one day while I was playing Final Fantasy IX on my PSX. While watching, he casually said, “Dude, you should totally play this on your PS2. It beefs the graphics up.”

He’s saying this once again, about ANOTHER game he cherished the fuck out of (and, hur dur, praised the graphics for) at the time of its release.

Not to mention that anyone who’s really into the gaming scene knows that it doesn’t matter what console you play your PSX games in, they still look the same. If anything, the games load a second or two faster. That’s it.

As mentioned above, this blog entry is not about bashing my brother. It is about the subtle niche of video game players I’ve noticed. People who enjoy video games as much as the hardcore, but know or respect them just as much as the casual. The always-moving, constant-oblivious casu-core.

Those of you who know me could possibly even say that I’m a casu-core game player. Maybe I am, maybe I’m not. I’m extremely picky, and don’t enjoy many newer video games, even ones that are critically acclaimed, yet I own a large collection; larger than the average game hobbyist. I talk more about video games than I do play them (which I’ve gotten really good at reversing over the years.), but I have a deep, deep regard for many older games. I don’t know. And the honest fact is: I don’t really care what you think about me.

In any case, the road of the casu-core is a rather unfortunate one. It really is. There are so many great video games out there, be they two years old, or twenty years old. It really is a shame, but there’s always hope. There’s always, always a shimmer of hope that the narrow eyelids will eventually widen to see the whole picture. Not just quick fixes, graphics, and what’s current.

…Maybe not.

…Probably not.

Oh well.

Seasons Change, Time Passes As the Weeks Become Months, Become Years.

All right, so I’m not particularly in the mood to write anything deep or exuberant at the moment, but there has been something on my mind for a long while now, that I would like to address. And, as I ponder more and more upon this subject, I can’t help but feel more and more like I am slowly sinking into a pit of some sort, and in no way can claw my way out.

Good sirs and ladies, I am of course talking about something that, like most God-given things, can be our best of friends, or our worst of enemies:

Time.

I often think back to when I was a child, at home on a Saturday. It felt like I had so much time on my hands I had no idea what to do with it. I used to sit around at the kitchen table, drawing comics and writing stories all day, and not even give a care what time in the afternoon it was.

Now as an adult, I don’t even feel like I have enough time to tie my shoe laces. Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but a lot of the time it feels like it. I am a naturally slow person; I like to take my time doing things, because if I don’t I will perpetually make mistakes. So why is it that I’m constantly feeling like I’m being rushed?

Well, it’s because I AM constantly being rushed. Rushed inadvertently by my impatient father, rushed by my perpetually-stressed managers (Four of them!), and rushed by fellow drivers, who, instead of acknowledging the Maximum Limit speed signs as, well, the maximum speed, think of them more of suggestions or guidelines.

Hrm … This seems familiar…

Unfortunately, not many people understand – or appreciate, for that matter – my mantra of stopping to smell the roses. I don’t know what it’s like outside of Ontario other than what I’ve heard and what I’ve seen briefly from week-long vacations, but it seems to me like our little province has more in relation with the USA than it does with the rest of Canada.

As far as I know, the majority of the population is made up of adults. I’m just going to go out there and take that guess. And the reason I am going to make that assumption is because it would explain why the world as I know it has the mentality of “GO GO GO”, and “NICE GUYS FINISH LAST”.

What I mean by the above statement is that it seems to be a general consensus that as you grow older, time fleets by at a gradual, but equally alarming rate. But then again, it could also be because we’re under pressure by not only other people, but by the media, which has taught us to be more greedy/selfish/impatient than we already are, into the mentality of speed over quality.

Speed over quality. Hm. I notice this trait in so many things… movies, video games, construction – and the most obvious – fast food.

Isn’t it a shame that even bare necessities, such as food and shelter, are left overturned and hampered by such a simple thing as time?

Unfortunately, there are so many things in life that are against us, the most evident being our own mortality. And that’s why I think it’s very important for us to stop running so much, and start walking. Yahweh, Allah, Vishnu, Diana, whoever created us all – I don’t think He or She intended for us to go about in our short lives constantly weaving in and out of traffic.

Last I checked, the hare lost the race.