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Jigglyball

I’ve been spending the better part of a decade trying to forget my college years. Recalling that era almost always brings nothing but sorrow and depression, as I’m reminded of all of the time and money I wasted, not to mention how much of a shitty human being I was.

However, once in a blue moon, I can recall a good memory without any remorse or negativity attached to it. This is one of those tales, as it concerns an event that was as ingenious as it was patently ridiculous. I recalled this randomly one day during lunch, with nothing to trigger it; to quote a famous scientist, “It just…popped in there.”

I am speaking of the brutal sport known as Jigglyball.

First of all…get your minds out of the gutter. It has nothing to do with male anatomy, so don’t be disgusting. In reality, Jigglyball was a game created by myself and three other graphic design students in the art building’s computer lab late one night in 1999. (Yes, there was only one dedicated computer lab for art students back then; scary, huh?) We all spent many hours outside of class in that lab, working hard on projects; it was practically my second home, and I’m sure it was no different for the others.

Anyway, we were working late on a group 3D animation project, I believe. When it came to render the whole scene, we were able to use the entire lab as a render farm, vastly speeding up the process. Regardless, it was going to take at least an hour to complete, and we had to kill time somehow. Surfing the ‘net was out, as every ounce of processing power and bandwidth was being squeezed out of the computers to get the rendering done faster. So instead, we had to come up with other amusements, and using a few random items we found around the lab…Jigglyball was born.

The equipment needed for the game is a magazine (ours was likely a copy of Macworld or Adbusters), a styrofoam cup, and a baseball-sized Jigglypuff stress toy.

art by Ken Sugimori
Yes, the pink singing Pokémon that haunts your nightmares.

I don’t know where the toy came from, or why it was in the lab. Maybe it was mine, because I hated the character and could physically abuse it? I really don’t remember. Jigglypuff was annoying enough in Pokémon Red and Blue, but the creature’s appearance in Super Smash Bros. made me despise the little pink bastard with a vengeance. In fact, one of my 3D animation projects was Jigglypuff singing its trademark song, then getting blown up by a cruise missile. (Not the project we were working on that night, however. I don’t recall what that was; clearly it was overshadowed by our new sport.)

But I digress.

The object of Jigglyball is to knock the cup down using Jigglypuff as a projectile. You roll the magazine into a cone, stuff Jigglypuff in the end like a scoop of ice cream, then fling it from the back of the room towards your target at the front. Here’s the catch: the cup must be held by another person, preferably on top of their head. These rules codified themselves fairly rapidly; somehow, it all just came to us at once, with few permutations necessary to arrive at our final design.

As you might imagine, successfully hitting the target took a lot of practice. More often than not, Jigglypuff smacked into a wall. Once our aim improved a bit, we ended up just hitting the person holding the cup. Eventually, we were able to jai alai that shit across the length of the room with increasing speed and accuracy. Overhand, underhand, and sidearm shots were all legal. This kept us quite amused until the telltale beep from the lead computer let us know that our project was done rendering. We checked it over for errors…then played Jigglyball for another hour. The game soon became a staple for those late-night projects. Sadly, our attempts to establish Jigglyball as a collegiate intramural sport went unfulfilled.

I haven’t played the game since, but it’s ripe for a comeback. (Everything from the ’90s is fair game for that retro-nostalgia shit anyway, right?) I don’t even hate Jigglypuff anymore, but I’d start up the sport again without hesitation. I just need to hunt down another Jigglypuff stress toy, and we’ll be good to go.

Any takers?

What Star Trek means to me

image from Memory AlphaTo even a casual reader of this blog, my long-running love of Star Trek should be evident. I grew up watching reruns of the original and animated series, then watched Star Trek: The Next Generation from day one. When further spinoffs came along, I was all aboard for those, too. Movies? Yep, opening weekend for every single one starting with Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home. Toys, comics, books…I even dug into that stuff. Star Trek is clearly my favorite science fiction universe by a huge margin, but I don’t know if I’ve ever articulated exactly why it’s so important to me. (This will also reinforce the fact that I’m a huge fucking dork.)

My father was the one who got me into Star Trek, explaining what it was when I happened upon reruns as a child. From there I was immediately hooked, and it was convenient that the show often aired after school amongst my usual cartoons. I learned about the then-upcoming TNG from magazine covers, I think. Starting with “Encounter at Farpoint,” I watched every new Star Trek episode as it aired all the way through “These are the Voyages…”, the finale of Star Trek: Enterprise. That’s eighteen years spanning my childhood to adult life, from the middle of grade school to many years past college.

It wasn’t just the onscreen action that drew me in, though. The stories that the Star Trek series were trying to tell really resonated with me, and those are much more important than phaser blasts and space battles. As I grew, I noticed the social allegories and morality plays, and those fascinated me; no other show I was watching did anything remotely like that! (They still don’t.) Once the more serialized storytelling of Star Trek: Deep Space Nine rolled around, that challenged my assumptions all over again. Series creator Gene Roddenberry’s vision of a “utopian future” is laughable and unrealistic to many, and I suppose I can understand that. But it gave rise to such amazing stories and characters, and that’s what really matters.

Then there was the science behind the show, both real and proposed. Androids, astronomy, faster-than-light travel, biology, psychology and sociology…I soaked it all up like a sponge. That’s probably why I love the various Star Trek technical manuals, blueprints, and star charts alongside the many behind-the-scenes books. It makes the Star Trek universe seem much more real, because in many ways…it is.

Much ado is made nowadays about geeky stuff being cool and socially accepted, and that apparently includes Star Trek…but I have yet to see it. I know maybe two or three people who like Star Trek among my group of local friends, and even they are just original series and TNG guys more than anything else. By and large around here I don’t see much love for Star Trek. And when I was growing up, it was far worse: Star Trek was most assuredly not cool during public school and college, despite my undergraduate studies taking place during the height of the franchise’s popularity. I knew maybe one or two people who casually watched it, and that was about it.

I didn’t have many friends when I was a kid, and none of them were into science fiction. Often, when I was lonely, I’d make myself feel better by “hanging out” with the Enterprise crew via their televised adventures. Yes, I realize that sounds a lot like Fry’s lament in the Futurama episode “Where No Fan Has Gone Before.” Sad but true, in my case. I sadly remember that I wrote a book report in seventh grade on Howard Weinstein’s TNG novel Exiles. We had to present our reports in front of the rest of the class…and it went over about as well as you’d expect.

I guess I was just used to ridicule at that point, because my classmates’ mockery didn’t affect my enjoyment of Star Trek. Even through the turmoil of high school and the brave new world of college, where being a fan of something like Star Trek was social suicide, I still watched my favorite series on a regular basis. Granted, there were plenty of occasions in high school and college where I wasn’t around to watch the broadcast live, so I’d just tape the show and watch it whenever I got home. It’s a wonder I ever got laid.

As for Star Trek‘s more direct effects on my life, they will probably make you roll your eyes and laugh like everyone else, but here they are nonetheless. The series amplified my already intense interest in science and spaceflight. Mister Spock inspired me to try to approach things — dare I say it — logically. (Which everyone seems to hate.) I gained a new appreciation for the works of Hector Berlioz because of Star Trek: First Contact. I even started drinking Earl Grey tea because it was Captain Picard’s beverage of choice, and it’s my preferred blend to this day. Oh, and after college graduation, I would usually do my laundry around the time that Star Trek: Voyager (and later Enterprise) was airing on Wednesday nights…and I still do my laundry on that same night as a matter of habit. And those few examples only begin scratch the surface!

Most folks complain that I’m a very negative person; I actually consider myself a realist. Life simply isn’t all sunshine and roses, and amount of positive thinking can change that. (Maybe I’m just cantankerous like Doctor McCoy.) However, during my depressing childhood and adolesence when I was really down in the dumps, Star Trek gave me something incredibly rare: hope. If things didn’t improve for me personally, the show still made me feel like maybe, just maybe, humanity could truly end up among the stars. The show sometimes still makes me feel this way, and I’m likely more nihilistic and misanthropic now than I was before. Given the astounding amount of real-world technology that was directly inspired by Star Trek, perhaps we’re on our way already to a better future, piece by piece. Well, one can dream.

Moving on to tie-in media and other stuff beyond the television shows and movies, you might be surprised to know that I was never a huge fan of Star Trek comic books; most of them just weren’t very good, and my meager budget went towards the superhero fare I was more interested in. I read plenty of Star Trek novels, as mentioned before, and I’ll get more into detail about those in a bit. As for toys, even as a kid, I thought that the TNG figures and such looked pretty cheesy. Sure, I wanted the toy starships, but those were way out of my price range! Only much later in life, in the early 2000s, did I start getting a few ships from the Art Asylum line (later Diamond Select Toys). Even then, I don’t have a large collection due to space and price.

More surprises: I don’t frequent Star Trek message boards or anything like that. I learned from a young age that nerds love to argue, and on the Web, fights over the dumbest shit are taken to extremes. Star Trek is no different, but I want no part of that. (I avoid message boards in general for this very reason; I could count the number I visit regularly on one hand.) The most I do is converse with a few authors and fans via Twitter. I’ve never been to a dedicated Star Trek convention! I don’t know if I could handle the crowds anymore. (That’s why I also I rarely if ever attend comic book conventions nowadays.)

Star Trek has been off the air for a decade now, but my enjoyment has not wavered. TNG is still my favorite television show of all time, while Wrath of Khan and First Contact remain two of my favorite movies. I’m not a big fan of the J. J. Abrams relaunch movies, though; the first movie had its share of problems, and I thought Star Trek Into Darkness was horrendous. I’d tie it with Star Trek V: The Final Frontier as the worst film in the entire series. But I can understand that since it’s profitable, then that’s what the powers-that-be want Star Trek to be for new fans: just another action-adventure explosion-fest in space. It’s a shame that it’s fallen so low, but at least there’s still over seven hundred classic episodes and films to enjoy time and time again.

I’ve accepted the fact that the “Prime Universe” — the setting for the Star Trek shows and first ten movies — is never coming back to the screen. That sucks, but them’s the breaks; I just stick with the novels for my classic Star Trek fix when I’m not watching old episodes. The older books generally weren’t so hot due to strict editorial constraints, but there were a few diamonds in the rough. However, since the early 2000s the Star Trek literary saga has been fantastic. Starting with DS9 but eventually encompassing all series, authors were finally allowed to properly pick up where the shows and movies left off, effectively relaunching the properties and giving us the continuing adventures we crave. (Hey, Star Wars did it with their novels starting in the early 1990s, so it was about time that Star Trek got on board.) Not only that, they all reference and tie in to one another just as the shows did. The fact that these books aren’t “canon” doesn’t bother me in the slightest; I’d much rather have a great non-canon story than a shitty canon one, and many of these books are easily on par with the greatest Star Trek televised stories. In particular, works by Dayton Ward, Kevin Dilmore, David Mack, Greg Cox, S.D. Perry, and Una McCormack are nothing short of stunning. Seriously, go read the Destiny or Vanguard series and prepare to have your mind blown.

Just like heavy metal (but obviously in a different form), Star Trek has always been there to get me through the rough patches. It’s one of my many solitary interests, but a lifelong and very important one.

The other side of the coin

This is a companion piece to my post from a last month, “Fanboys ruin everything.” In that entry, I had maligned fanboy hype as it tends to spoil and otherwise ruin far too many aspects of popular media (aside from being incredibly annoying in general).

Well, it cuts both ways. When a hotly-anticipated film or television show or whatever is on the way, fanboys overhype it to death. There’s also a sizeable (if not equal) contigent that only wants to bitch, moan, and complain about it…even if it’s a franchise they usually enjoy!

Perfect examples of this are the upcoming Terminator: Genisys and just about every comic book movie in existence. With the latter, I’ve noticed something disturbing ever since the launch of the Marvel Cinematic Universe with 2008’s Iron Man. Regardless of their actual quality, a special breed of fanboy ire is reserved for any DC Comics movie that’s not Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy, or any non-Marvel Studios films that feature Marvel Comics properties, like the X-Men and Spider-Man flicks (though we’ll see what happens now that Disney and Sony have struck a deal on the latter).

It seems that unless a movie’s part of the MCU, it automatically gets shit on heavily often before it gets a chance. To a lesser degree, I’ve seen this hate thrown towards DC television shows, as well…which is strange, because they’ve absolutely ruled the roost in that department in both animated and live-action form since the 1990s. Whatever floats your boat, I guess.

The point is, instead of all this screaming and shouting…if you don’t like some upcoming movie or show, then just don’t watch it. And if it ends up being terrible…who cares? Unless you’re a shareholder, it shouldn’t mean jack.

Blizzards, apathy, and laziness

UPDATE 3/4/15: Our parking lot is apparently going to be cleared by a bucket loader on March 9th. You’ll notice that’s six fucking weeks after the snowstorms began. We’ll see if it actually gets done this time.

UPDATE 3/9/15: The lot did get cleared today as promised. Good news, to be sure, but again…six weeks.

All right, this has happened far too often, and it’s time for me to blow my stack over it. (In blog form, anyway. My girlfriend and I have already grumbled plenty about it amongst ourselves and others.)

Our apartment building isn’t perfect, but when it snows…living here gets really annoying. The snowplow contractors do an abysmal job clearing away the parking lot, and rarely come around more than once. This is a serious problem when it snows off an on over a day or two. The plows usually only make a single pass through the center of the lot, leaving at least eight to ten feet of snow behind the cars. This is mitigated somewhat by parking in the narrower sections of the lot, but even then, you’ve got about six feet of snow left behind your vehicle. I understand that the plows can’t get too close lest they risk damaging the cars, but this is ridiculous. After the last few storms, the plows haven’t even bothered to put down salt or sand on the lot, so the pavement quickly freezes over with a thick layer of ice.

The atrocious snow removal is unfortunately nothing new. When we had that colossal blizzard in early 2013, our lot didn’t get plowed for nearly four days. I understand that three feet of snow overnight took everyone by surprise and fucked things up statewide, but our building didn’t even clear the walkways or entrances. Myself and a few of my neighbors took it upon ourselves to do it, because we sure as hell didn’t want to get stuck inside if there was an emergency. The recent blizzard at the end of January had the plows out in a timely manner, but it still took a while to get everything cleared, and there were the aforementioned large gaps behind our cars which were a pain the ass to shovel away. With last Monday’s storm, the plows didn’t return until that Friday. Four goddamned days later! They moved most of the larger piles, but the lot is still covered with a few inches of snow, slush, and ice, and there’s no salt or sand to be seen.

As if the poor plowing wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse. You see, a majority of our fellow residents are lazy pieces of shit who refuse to clean snow off their cars and shovel out their spaces. It’s made quite clear in our leases that doing this is your own responsibility, but there’s few of us who actually follow through with it. Even if you’re not going anywhere right away, it’s just a good idea to remove the snow from your car and your parking space; it makes it a hell of a lot easier when you do need to leave for work or whatever, and it helps get the entire lot cleared faster. Everyone wins that way.

But nope, these fuckers leave their cars sitting under piles of snow for days and days on end. To make things worse, if they do decide to move their cars, they often barrel out of the spots without clearing them (even after heavy snowfall)…and then park in spaces other people have cleared when they return, leaving the snowdrifts and piles in their old spots for someone else to clean up. When I get home from work, I’m lucky to get the same space I had in the morning! There have been times where I’ve come home after a long day at the office and had to shovel out a space again while my car sits in the lot with the hazard lights on. That’s really fucking irritating.

After last week’s storm, I cleaned off my car and shoveled around it later in the morning when there was a break in the snowfall, then did it again in the evening after another eight inches or so had fallen. That was annoying enough, but I can’t blame anyone for the weather. Who I can blame for what came next is the crappy snowplow job and the lazy residents. The snowplows did an awful job clearing snow, and since so many residents left their cars buried, it was difficult to even turn out of a spot. I nearly got stuck, and my girlfriend did get stuck. Some shithead even honked his horn at her because her car was blocking the way. How much do you want to bet that douchebag didn’t even clear out his own space?

There were even cars parked across the lines this time; that is, one car taking up two spaces. If someone was slightly on or over the line because they couldn’t see it, that’s one thing, but this was clearly deliberate: I saw at least two or three cars that were parked squarely on the center of the line so they’d have plenty of space on either side. That screws other people out of getting a space! Case and point: my girlfriend came home late from work a few days later…and there were no open spaces. Between people parking across lines and the terrible plowing job (entire spaces were still filled with piles of snow!), she had to drive around the lot five times! Eventually, she squeezed into a tiny space by the road (which may or may not have been safe), but this is the bullshit we have to deal with.

Management constantly posts notices reminding tenants that we are responsible for clearing our own spaces, but most residents just ignore them. I suspect this is because there’s no apparent penalty; if there is, I’ve never seen it enforced. Aside from that, how do these lazy bastards get to work? Do they work from home? Do they even work at all? Who knows. The point is that they should still get off their asses and help out.

It’s a lose-lose situation. These dipshits don’t clean off their cars because there’s no consequences; and they also know that eventually, another plow may come by, or a contractor might clear a spot with a snowblower or Bobcat many days later, or they can just nab another resident’s cleared space. Thus, why bother cleaning off their cars or giving a shit about other people?

The powers-that-be are apparently reluctant to do anything about any of this. We’ve complained more than once, but all we’re told is that they’re doing the best they can. I understand that bringing in contractors for extra snow removal costs money, but that’s what we pay rent for. Once in a blue moon, we’ve been able to park in a large business parking lot next door while our own lot is cleared, but that’s always dependent on a deal struck with management. I’ve got a feeling that the business charges a lot for this kind of favor, hence the oppportunity being rare.

I’ve had to miss work on too many occasions because I couldn’t get out of the lot due to the lack of proper snow removal. Do you have any idea how embarrassing it is to have to call out of the office just because your parking lot isn’t plowed, or because your neighbors suck?

If it were just one of these two issues — either poor plowing or lazy residents — then maybe this would be tolerable. But the combination of both is infuriating. These problems would be solved completely if we all had assigned parking spaces. This is something else that we and other residents have suggested to management, but to no avail. I doubt they care.

I wrote this post over the weekend, but by the time it goes live, it’ll be snowing heavily once more. Who knows how long it’ll take the lot to get cleared this time, but given the crappy plowing and those goddamned lazy tenants, my expectations are not high.

We’ve made complaints, but since that’s had no effect, there’s really nothing we can do save for moving out. This snow removal bullshit coupled with a few other notable problems (which could fill another blog post) means we’re going to start apartment hunting once more. We’re hoping to find a new place to live within the next year or so, but non-crappy housing within our price range is very hard to find.

I suppose things could be a lot worse; we found out after moving in that the building was a drug-infested dump up until the mid- to late 2000s, when new owners purchased the property, cleaned it up, and evicted the riffraff. I wasn’t living a life of luxury at my previous apartment, but we never had to deal with nonsense like this. (That complex rightfully threatened to tow people who left their cars snowbound!) Am I asking too much?

In the meantime, at least we have a place to live. I can be sucky, but it’s home.

Fanboys ruin everything

I’m getting sick and tired of fanboys ruining television shows, movies, et cetera with an overabundance of hype, live-tweeting, hashtags, and other such spamming.

A classic example of this took place during the premiere of Marvel’s Agent Carter last week. I don’t have cable, so I don’t watch TV live. But when I signed on to my computer that Tuesday evening, my Twitter feed and other outlets were absolutely spammed with people talking nonstop about the show, complete with play-by-play commentary and fucking spoilers. (I can only imagine how much more awful it would’ve been if I used Facebook.) And these are adults, mind you, not teenaged social media junkies!

In the case of Twitter, I fortunately use a client that can mute hashtags, so I was able to clear out a considerable amount of the crud. (If the client didn’t have that hashtag-muting functionality, I likely would’ve sworn off of Twitter many years ago.) Unfortunately, there were still plenty of people who didn’t use hashtags to spam about the show, so I was forced to scroll through seemingly endless nonsense just to find tweets that I was interested in. The only solution would be to unfollow the offenders themselves, and these are friends of mine!

As a result, this fanboy behavior has completely destroyed any interest I had in watching Agent Carter. They’ve ruined it for me before I had even seen a single episode! You can be damned sure it’ll happen again this week, and every time it airs in succession. The same thing happens with Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.; I wasn’t interested in that show to begin with, but the spamming got so bad during airtime that I’ve since dumped people off my Twitter feed. There was a similar case last year with Guardians of the Galaxy. It was a fine film, sure, but vastly overhyped and not the best Marvel Studios flick by a long shot. (Especially since it was for all intents and purposes a carbon copy of The Avengers, but in space.) And again, the same thing happened with Frozen. I don’t like musicals, but I still respect and generally enjoy Disney films, and I’d heard great things about the quality of animation and such with that one. But so many adults — not kids, adults — wouldn’t shut the fuck up about the damned movie that it’s irritating just to see Frozen products anywhere now, let alone the film itself.

Fanboy enthusiasm for movies and television shows are the worst offenders, especially among the Marvel crowd. Which is odd, to be honest; I know just as many people who are hardcore fans of Gotham, Arrow, and The Flash, but they don’t spam my feed with live-tweets and such. Neither do friends who watch The Walking Dead or Game of Thrones, arguably two of the most popular shows on television. Why is the spamming a Marvel thing?

But I digress. The whole mess has been bleeding into more mainstream pop culture as well. Latching on to popular memes while retweeting and spamming them ad nauseam with more and more hashtags added is making me despise them just as you’d despise any product if you were bombarded by ads.

I know there’s a lot to be said for ignoring what others think and just enjoying what you want to enjoy. (That applies to 90% of my interests, as it is.) The problem is that it’s gotten to the point where this fanboy behavior is so annoying that it’s the only thing that comes to mind first whenever I hear about Agent Carter or whatever else they’re spamming that day. It’s like how Star Wars got so goddamned irritating during the prequel era that I swore off the franchise entirely for years. And before you defend this deplorable behavior, imagine if I did this kind of bullshit with my interests: how would you like it if I live-tweeted the latest Napalm Death record, fuckers? Or posted fifty pictures in rapid succession of a Gundam model? Yeah, that’s what I thought.

I’m not trying to “show” anyone by passing on watching Agent Carter and the like, nor do I think I’m “better” than these fanboys, nor am I hating something just because it’s cool and popular. (Do I look like a hipster or punk rocker to you?!) I just don’t want fanboy spam polluting my enjoyment of life, and it’s time to once again put my foot down.

Those cocksuckers had better not ruin the Daredevil Netflix series for me…