My Double Life as a B/Vlogger

Greetings, fellow WordPressers, I have a confession to make. I’ve been living a double life and having done so, I have done you and myself a giant disservice. While I do value the work I do on here in terms of presenting to you inspiration for writing tips and self-knowledge, I have another passion you might not be aware of; and that’s dissecting film and literature to their philosophical core.

Coming to you from YouTube Land is Book Shelf to Big Screen Reviews! Where I review novels that get adapted for film in order to get a sense for what’s hot in our current market and seeking to understand what all these stories have to say about our current state as a species and society.

Being an aspiring author, I have the goal to educate through entertainment, injecting my stories with philosophy and universal themes such as love, kinship, personal actualization, adversity and triumph, and much much more–hopefully one day getting my novels massive appeal through film adaptations that can and will capture, if not improve on the source material.

I started this journey two years ago and shelved it for a while, but now I am back and determined to bring philosophy to the masses through my dissection of film and literature. Most reviewers will talk about how amazing plotlines and action sequences are, and I will do the same, but also so much more in addition to that. I want my reviews to uncover the veil and rip away the surface of these stories in order for others to see that there is so much more going on in stories than mere entertainment.

There is education to be found amidst all the cliffhangers that keep you at the edge of your seat and turning the page. So without further adieu here is the intro to my channel as well as the first episode ever I did a couple years back near the highest end of Twilight’s fandom–a novel that swept the world in more camps beyond Edward vs Jacob, but also good literature vs trash.

If you enjoy my content, I would appreciate if we could open a discussion on the deeper aspects of all these stories that are making it big in the mainstream and seek to understand with me why they are creating such massive appeal in the first place. On top of that, I would also appreciate if you could share these videos with the people you love and cherish who love and cherish film and literature as much, if not more, than I do.

Sure I’ll make the crass joke here and there, and maybe even praise the surface aesthetics of certain stories, but at the end of the day BSBS Reviews isn’t just about me goofing off and geeking out about what I’ve read and watch (and on occassion ranting about the ones I’ve disliked). It’s about giving film and literature their deserved attention in terms of what they all have to say about us as viewers and consumers of these stories, and driving the market toward better content.

In the upcoming days I will be starting from square one sharing my videos from the beginning up to the most recent ones, and eventually as I create more videos, share those as well here. Let’s connect. Follow me on WordPress and subscribe to my YouTube channel if you feel as I do in recognizing that there are more to stories than mere entertainment.

Advertisements

Gamer, Know Thy Self: Part 3

maxresdefaultGamer rage is such a common phenomenon that there’s a YouTube character dedicated to everyone who has lost their shit at a video game. The Angry Video Game Nerd (one of my influences for BSBS Reviews) embodies the vile, cathartic, and sometimes embarrassing expression of our inner most rage. His portrayal of an adult man playing the games of his childhood and getting angry at them has resonated with many gamers of today because they can relate to the frustration of losing control over something that was meant to be fun.

Whether playing alone or with others, playing games of your youth or current generation games, it can be debilitating to feel unskilled and helpless as you see your virtual avatar get pounded by the difficulty of the computer or human opponent. While not every expression of frustration with games is not as extreme as defecating on a game cartridge (or disc since who puts games on cartridges anymore?), cursing at your screen, or even cursing at someone over Xboxlive, PSN, or TeamSpeak–you do not have to let your emotions get the best of you, thus preventing you from enjoying what you’re supposed to find enjoyment in.

Respecting Emotions

mentorIn addition to gauging your opponent’s skill level, I think it’s important to gauge their emotional reaction to your superior skills, if you have much more familiarity and skill in a game. Some people prefer that you go hard at them so they are forced to pick up the game faster, while others prefer that you take it easy on them so that they have room to try out different moves and strategies.

I think gaming can have a huge effect on your capacity for empathy when you are significantly more skilled than someone else. If someone is playfully cursing your skill and laughing at their own losses, then you know that they are okay with losing, whereas if they are cursing your skill and getting angry at their losses, you can provide the option for you to ease up whether implicitly or explicitly. You can just as easily ease up a bit and play less aggressively, or just talk to them about what they would prefer–and of course, ask if they want any feedback on how to improve.

Recently, a friend of mine has noticed me playing Brawlhalla on Steam every time we were both online and took an interest in playing it as well. It was quite a different experience to be direct about what he would prefer, and since this approach to gaming with someone less experienced with me is new, I am constantly surprised by what people prefer. In either case, it is a pleasure to have the offering of feedback accepted because another value I found out of gaming is getting to mentor someone who is willing to learn.

Like me befriending people online who are galaxies better than me at the game, my friend was open to learning the nuances and techniques that can help him gain a better understanding at what the successful players know how to pull off in order to increase not only their skill level, but also the level of fun they experience. I don’t know about you, but personally for me, I feel a sense of badassery when I can execute complex and technical abilities in the good ol’ vidya.

Whenever you feel frustrated, I would suggest taking a moment to become fully aware of how you feel and what you’re thinking of at the moment. Was there something you can do better or is someone playing too aggressively? While not every superior player will be as friendly as me or the other guy I mentioned as to lend a helping hand for you to improve, I think it’s important to gauge right away what kind of player they are.

You do this by asking for feedback, and if they give it, AWESOME, but if they don’t, and instead add insult to injury FUCK ‘EM! Move on, do not engage in a troll war because getting into a heated exchange with another player is a giant waste of time. That time could be used for playing another match, getting advice, reading or watching strategy guides. These are much better alternatives to letting your blood boil and burn you up inside.

Video-Games-are-Good-for-you-e1426083812512Always respect your feelings when gaming and know that you need to stop, take a break, and do something else whenever you feel overwhelmed by any crushing losses you experience. Check in with yourself and see if your frustration has anything to do with something else in your day, harsh words from other players, or if you’re just really not in the mood. Ponder on your motives for playing because if you’re playing to win and expect nothing else, it can obviously be aggravating.

Another thing that helped me undo the personalizing of my losses was remembering a time in my childhood where my cousin destroyed me in Mortal Kombat 3 to the point where I couldn’t even do a single move. I was so excited to rent and play this game for the weekend and he just totally rekt me then when straight to dinner with my brother and the rest of the family.

Me? I stayed in my room, played two player alone, using the character he picked as a training dummy to just beat on. I was really upset back then and I recalled this memory somewhere deep in my psyche when I had a serious fit losing at Soul Calibur IV. Knowing that this instance may have been what created a trigger in me in an early age has made me more self aware about how I react to gaming.

While I can’t say I’m fully chill about getting rekt in a game, I have much better anger management having realized that a lot of my anger had to do with that childhood memory–and of course adapting the new approach of requesting feedback on improvement.

So if you’re no longer having fun and just mashing buttons away, expecting your blind rage to get you a win, and then of course end up getting destroyed even more, remember that you don’t have to keep playing if you don’t want to. Who says you have to? Put the controller down, take a break, relax, and maybe even journal about what’s going on for you.

Yeah it sounds weird at first, but I think gamer rage is so common that it’s time people address how destructive it is for your health and enjoyment of a game (or lack thereof). If more gamers, if not everyone of them, can start developing self-knowledge through video games and respecting the gaming tenants I’ve covered in this blog series, there could be less gamer rage and much more fun as video games were intended for.

454509-video-games

Self-Knowledge Through Video Games: Part 2

ggos

While it’s customary to be a good sport, you don’t have to say GG or pat your opponent on the back for a game well played. However, whether you do or not, depending if you win or lose, says a lot about your character.

I don’t suggest handing out participation trophies for everybody, but the acknowledgement of someone doing their best is always worthwhile, especially when the game is something they want to get better at at some point.

One way to help someone improve is to provide constructive criticism in place of the usual shit talking that is commonly known in online gaming. It’s just so much easier to do it when there’s no face in person to do it to, you’re safe behind a screen. We can talk about keyboard warriors some other day, but for now let’s jump back into achieving self-knowledge through video games.

Respect For Opponents and Skills

All of the best games, whether it’s a sports game or a video game, are the ones that include equally matched opposition. They challenge each other to their limits and dish it out. I am instantly reminded of one of the fights that made UFC popular today which was between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar when they fought for the The Ultimate Fighter Season One prize of getting a contract with the UFC.

These guys slugged it out at such a consistent pace and traded blows so equally that it made for one of the most entertaining fights in history. They didn’t hold back, they put all their blood, sweat, and tears into the fight because not only did they want to make use of their time training for this moment, but also because they respected each other to know that the other guy would be doing the same thing: giving it his all.

So what happens when there’s a disparity between two different parties? There’s a few ways to go about it and I’ll share with you my less extreme. While I will never step into a caged octagon and slug it out in a bloody bone cracking mixed martial arts fight, I learned the value of practising skills from the safety of my couch playing video games.

Yeah, how dare I compare the rigorous training regimen of a UFC fighter to me playing video games in my sweat pants? Get a smug ass look from Patroklos for a moment…

Smugtroklos

aaaand we’re back!

As I said before, I used to play a ton of Soul Calibur IV and V, but more recently I’ve put in a ton of hours in an online battle arena game called Brawlhalla. It’s a free to play game on Steam and is a ton of fun being really easy to pick up, and decently tough to master. It’s basically like Super Smash Brothers with mythical legends instead of Nintendo mascots.

I used to have this mentality of chasing people down in the online rank mode, swearing revenge on people for beating me to a pulp, but I have since changed my approach. I have now adapted one that I think is more beneficial to my growth as a Brawlhaller, some of which I was starting to adapt late into my Soul Calibur craze just before giving up on the game to move on to bigger things in life than just pure gaming. (More on this as well later if anyone’s interested)

What I learned lately is that when people complain about certain tactics they lose to, I theorize that it is their implicit way of asking for help on improving their game. I used to find myself complaining about people using certain tactics and calling it cheap, and unless they do something that literally breaks the game coding that you can’t counteract it, chances are that you can poke holes in people’s seemingly impenetrable strategies.

Say-NO-to-SPAM-325x321.pngSo there I was saying “all this guy does is the SAME move,” to which us gamers refer to as “spamming.” Spamming is easy to counteract when you get a sense of your opponent’s patterns and the rate they spam a certain move, and if you’re aware of it all, it becomes extremely easy on learning how to not get caught by it.

In Brawlhalla, someone I faced complained about my character choice and how cheap her moveset was, but instead of doing the typically douchey thing as to tell him that he sucks and that he’s a n00b who should go cry to his mommy–I gave him pointers.

I like to give compassion to those who complain about losing rather than add salt to their wounds since I’ve been trying to be a better person lately. I actually gave him specific tactics on how to counteract some of the easily punishable moves and strategies I was employing and it disarmed him from wanting to shit talk to me.

Likewise when I get my ass handed to me in a game, I try my best to approach the loss with some humility. I’m starting to guage when someone is really good at the game or when they’re aggressive at it because they have a chip on their shoulder. If it’s the former, I will humbly ask what I can do to improve. They’re better than me, and if they beat me, they must have an upper hand in knowing the game so I ask what I can do better.

More often than not, they are nice enough to give me the honest feedback I need to know where I’m lacking in skill. If they’re not helpful and want to be a salty player then I say FUCK ‘EM! I don’t want advice from people who play to win and take the game personally. It has a tendency to rub off on you so try not to engage with salty players. That goes for winners and losers.

I find tremendous fun in continuously improving my skills and I have more fun when I get better at certain games. I feel a sense of growth when I can move past my losses, not take them personally, even if–or I should say especially when–someone shit talks to me whether I win or lose. It’s their baggage to deal with, not mine.

How I Conceived the Idea of It Starts at Home

bully-6“My life sucked when I was in high school, so how much worse would it have been if I was a girl?” That was the important question I asked myself after I finished reading Damned and Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret.

When I was a teenager, I got into heaps of trouble due to talking back at teachers, retaliating against bullies, and on some occassions I became a bully myself. The kind of bullying that I experienced and carried out fell on the masculine side of bullying. This included, but was not limited to, physical violence and intimidation.

And so due to society’s propaganda against us males being thoughtless violent brutes, I used to think bullying was only a male thing, but no, our supposedly gentle birth giving and nurturing counterparts are not exempt from this behaviour. I am speaking in generalities of course, since typically it is boys who get into fist fights, but the form of bullying girls are capable of can be as equally destructive. It’s just more subtle and harder to spot.

To understand the female psyche, and more importantly that of the teenage female psyche, I took to reading more young adult novels with female lead characters, as well as talking to my female friends, cousins, and co-workers to ask about their experiences of having been teenagers.

50-race-attacks-schools-day-picturebullyingpreventionnow-comI learned about how feminine bullying consisted more of psychological tactics. They employ more verbal abuse through passive aggression, spreading gossip, and public humiliation, thus resulting in the destruction of their victim’s self esteem. By recognizing their victim’s personal vulnerabilities such as their body image and emotional issues, female bullies exploit those weaknesses in order to gain a sense of power.

Why would anyone want to command and demand power in such destructive ways, especially when there are healthier ways to feel and be empowered? The answer is quite simple, but also very difficult to accept. High school students are made to feel disempowered, not only by the prison like structure public high schools consist of, but also by the maltreatment they receive at home.

This is why it’s important for parents take the time to connect with their children as opposed to control them. To use their hands and their words to guide and comfort their children, not to strike or intimidate them. Otherwise, where do you think this behaviour comes from? Children are sponges. They only learn what they live, and devoid of any self awareness or intervention from peaceful people to point out the dysfunction, they will often bring their home life out into the world, particularly at school.

child-abuse

If you are bullied at home, you are likely to become a victim and/or perpetrator of bullying. Either you will walk down the school hallways with slumped shoulders, head bowed in hiding, and sticking close to the walls as to avoid detection, or you will attempt to regain the power you are robbed from at home by mistreating the former.

It’s not set in stone, teenagers do have the choice and capacity to act virtuously, as well as develop the self confidence and healthy support groups in order to ward off bullying–but studies have shown that maltreatment of children sets them up to exude anti-social behaviours and aggressive tendancies later in life.

So why write through a female perspective for my book? Threats of meeting another boy at the flagpole to beat the shit out of him is already such an obvious and apparent form of bullying, but bullying takes on several other forms. Society and the media will usually only touch upon the effect, but not the cause, because fundamentally…

Bullying…starts at home.

Being a Decent Human Being is Hard Work

Conscience Just Ahead Green Road Sign with Dramatic Storm Clouds and Sky.Please forgive me, I’m very new to this whole “being a decent human being” thing. Really, I am. After a decade of intensive self work, I am still prone to lapsing from time to time, and thus will do or say things that are out of line.

I’m not trying to excuse myself from being offensive or sometimes outright shitty, but old habits die hard, and some ingrained habits of mine include saying some outrageous and shocking things. This also includes, but is not limited to being an asshole and insulting someone directly or indirectly.

For instance, when my first writing group criticized a sex scene in my adult contemporary novel (2nd novel I wrote called Me, My Self and Who Am I?)–a fellow writer told me, “they say write what you know, so maybe you should get some experience before you write a sex scene.”

And I replied, “experience? Wanna come over and smell my sheets?”

My college professor placed an arm down on her desk and said, “this is the line,” and then crossed her other arm over it saying “and this is Marlon.”

Everybody laughed, and I got off from it. Yes, pun intended.

I get it, some situations and certain people are open to it, but overall, it may or may not be appropriate in others. I’m left wondering if this part of me is worth keeping alive. It’s been a big part of me and one of the ways I’ve humoured people.

Keeping it or ditching it…that’s something I still need to figure out, but ultimately, I will commit to learning how to put on a bit of a filter for myself around those who may not be able to stomach it or just may be more mature than myself.

I think the reason why I make dark, cynical, and explicit jokes is because being plain ol’ me never got me that much attention. I want to grab at attention by saying shit that shocks and disorients people. It’s fun to see what limits and boundaries I can break sometimes and I wonder to what degree that kind of attention is even healthy for myself or others.

I don’t know…

I constantly wonder if trying to be a better person might include lessening or completely removing such behaviour because I do feel an immense joy in simply being kind, generous, and empathetic, instead of acting like a character from some adult sitcom.

(You know, that kind of character you love watching offend people and laugh your ass at, but would never want to associate with in real life, ie. Sheldon Cooper and Barney Stinson)

Being a decent human being is hard work, but hard work is often associated with having a high reward, and I think it’s even more true than with anything else. You can work hard at running a business, doing your job, or studying for school etc., but I think the hardest work anyone can do and have the highest reward lies in being a decent human being.

Not only are they in high demand in this world, for they/we are very rare, but really do make the world a much better place to have empathetic and understanding people. People who can own up to their actions, self improve, help guide others into similar behaviour (but in their flavour), and overall make the world a little less cruel and disgusting one interaction at a time.

So hey, I’m not perfect. Not yet anyway. And as I write this, one of my favourite songs has popped up on my iTunes by Kacey Musgraves. After everything is all said and done, having done my best to be the most authentic version of myself, “you can’t be everybody’s cup of tea.”

This is me embracing the duality of being genuine and douchey all at once. Take it or leave it.

How I Got Into Young Adult Novels Through Chuck Palahniuk

damned-headline-hi

I used to think that Young Adult novels were lame, because I assumed that you weren’t allowed to cuss or discuss dark and gritty topics. Of course, that’s what happens when you assume things; you make an ass out of u and me. Now that I’ve actually read a ton of YA novels, I am hooked!

And I actually owe it all to Chuck Palahniuk!

Although he writes mature adult novels–full of excessive vulgarity, disgusting details, and overtones darker than the night itself–I got into YA thanks to him. Most of his novels do feature adult characters getting into adult situations, most of which involve some awesome plot twists (Fight Club, Invisible Monsters, Snuff), but there’s one book of his that features a fat 12-year-old dead girl in Hell.

Damned follows the story of Madison “Maddie” Spencer, the daughter of two Hollywood big shots who are constantly too stoned out of their minds to give her any genuine attention or affection. She apparently dies of a mairjuana overdose, and is sent to Hell where she meets a group of other damned souls who become her posse of misfists.

The book is often described as The Breakfast Club meets Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret in Hell because each chapter begins with “Are You There, Satan? It’s Me, Madison,” and she shares the coming of age struggle Margaret faces in Judy Blume’s book.

Now, I’ve watched The Breakfast Club several times in my life and have always connected with the universal themes of the teenage struggle, but never once have I ever read a Judy Blume book. Why would I anyway? Aren’t her books written for little girls?

Apparently not!

Don’t get me wrong, I love Damned, but the sequel Doomed, felt a little overwritten compared to its predecessor. The narrative voice felt too intellectual and masculine to be that of a 12-year-old girl’s, but I read it anyway because I highly enjoyed the overall adventure of Maddie’s goal to confront Satan and find out why she had to die early and be damned to eternal torture.

(Chuck Palahniuk’s idea of eternal torture includes walking on hills of toenail clippings, passing by rivers of pimple puss and rejected human fluids, and my personal favourite; working at a telemarketing office to troll the people still alive on Earth)

So I got curious about Are You There, God? It’s Me, Margaret just so I can see how much of it actually inspired, or at least reflected the content in Damned. Aside from the chapter openings and having a 12-year-old protagonist, there was obviously a stark contrast that astounded me.

Gone were the supernatural elements, gross descriptions, vulgarity, drugs, and violence etc.

What I got instead was a story about a middle grader feeling left out because she’s the only girl in her class who hasn’t gotten her period yet. That made for a great a surface theme–since I’ve never considered what the female puberty experience was like, though it was a welcomed surprise–but what really captivated me about the book was Margaret’s struggle with her religious beliefs.

It surprised me immensely when I started noticing the bigger picture. Margaret was raised without religious affiliation; her father is Jewish and her mother is Christian–but pushed  neither religion on her–and so Margaret’s internal struggle, on top of her desire to get her first period, was trying to find religious singularity.

[spoiler]There was this epic scene where her grandmother and her parents argue about what religion she should conform to, but she gets so frustrated and cries out about how no one even is stopping to consider what she wants to believe in.[/spoiler]

Although I prefer to read more mature YA novels with older characters who do cuss and discuss dark topics, Judy Blume single handedly diminished my assumptions about YA. Now I have absolute respect for it because it’s now that I understand the appeal to it.

Being a teenager is an intense time in anyone’s life because it’s when we begin to truly begin to question our identities as individuals separate from culture. Our hormones and emotions are the most sensitive and although it’s such a small amount of time in our overall lives, they are the most intense, bringing with it the growing pains that shape us. The teenage experience is universal for anyone who has survived it.

Stay tuned for How I Conceived the Idea of It Starts at Home…

Music as a Milestone Marker

Music-is-the-fire-in-my-heart-music-35607170-471-458For the first decade of my life, I actively avoided music, but now I can’t go a day without listening to it. In the past month, I have spent $100 getting new albums from Rock bands I recently discovered. I. Can’t. Stop.

When I was growing up, though, everybody listened to Rap and R&B. I kept hearing the same songs everywhere and I couldn’t stand the lack of variety beyond the top hits. I have nothing against these genres– in fact, I actually have phases where I’ll listen to nothing but Rap and R&B–but it just wasn’t for me at the time.

The only music I ever enjoyed came from TV shows, movies, or video games. Otherwise, I never sat down and listened to anything for its own sake. But then came one of my favourite video games from my childhood, Donkey Kong Country 2: Diddy’s Kongquest. There was a level called Bramble Blast where most of it consisted of shooting Diddy and Dixie Kong through a bunch of barrells and the background music for the level was incredibly relaxing! Perhaps to contrast the chaotic nature of the barrells.

I was so enamored by this well crafted composition that I paused the game and listened to the song for about an hour. To this day, listening to Stickerbrush Symphony still captivates me with its simple and catchy melodies. From that point on, I had much more appreciation for the rest of the game’s music score, which I believe is still one of the best OST’s in gaming history.

David Wise, thank you for pushing the SNES’s 16-bit instrumentation capabilities!

When I beat the game and stopped playing it, I was left without music once again. It wasn’t until I stumbled upon a music video featuring an animation with the art style of Todd McFarlane, the artist and creator of my then favourite comic book character Spawn. That music video, my friends, was for Korn’s hit single Freak on a Leash.

That was when I realized Rock music was my natural element. I just love how the combination of guitars, bass, and drums can produce so many different styles of music alone. Whether the guitarists use clean channels and/or distorted tones–or in Korn’s case, a crap ton of FX pedals–I’m always up for a rockin’ riff that gets me headbanging. Especially if the band’s got a great vocalist who can belt out the power vox! Can I get a “hell yeah”?

I’ve since listened to other genres of music throughout my lifetime from Dubstep to Lounge, Trip-Hop, Pop and much much more, but the music I always find myself listening to is some sort of Rock. This could range from Metal, Mathrock, or even Pop Punk–WHATEVER! I’m not here to impress you with the long list of bands and genres I’ve listened to.

The point is; I’ve listened to a kaleidscope’s variety of stuff lo’ these past two decades or so.

Each and every band, and genre, is associated with a certain point in my life, and I am instantly reminded of those eras of my life whenever I go back in my collection and listen to something I haven’t listened to in a while.

Korn reminds me of my early teen years battling with anger and depression, the DnB, Trip-Hop, Lounge, and Ambient music reminds me of when I learned to relax a little more in my early 20’s. Fast forward to today, the vast collection of new Rock albums I bought recently will remind me of this particular time in my life where I’ve finally become comfortable with myself having delved deeply into self-knowledge and greatly improving my life circumstances.

I see music as a way of marking milestones in your life. When you spend enough time listening to a certain artist during a high or low point in your life, you’re training your brain to associate those tunes with that specific place in time.

After all, the media we consume is a reflection of who we are, it’s a piece of us. It’s how we identify ourselves in the world. By empathizing with the expression of art, we let it speak for us when we don’t want to explain ourselves, or we let it embellish our inner most thoughts and desires. Why do you think so many songs are about finding love?

Our particular tastes and preferences in music, art, and literature all have something to say about us. This is why we enjoy sharing these things with those we love. Understanding what others are entertained by is a quick way to understanding how they think and feel about themselves and the world.  All you gotta do is ask why it moves them so much, and they’ll tell you everything you need to know about them.

Do you have any favourite artists you’ve listened to consistently throughout your life? Or on and off for any particular reasons?

Do you continuously seek to expand your music library? Do you have any favourite artists that invoke particular memories whenever you relisten to them after taking a long break?

For anything else music related and how you relate to it, let me know what you think in the comments below!