How Do People Find Me?

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The other day I noticed that someone found my blog by searching “necklace heart shaped pendant fuck you.” Obviously not a Titanic fan.

That got me wondering how other people stumble across this dusty corner of the Internet.

It seems that the majority of people come her with some variation on Swamplandia! and the meaning of the red Seth, so I hope my little essay helps them find some meaning in that complicated symbol. However, two people searched “gator hat dollar tree.” Just because it cost a dollar, doesn’t mean it isn’t fabulous.

The creepiest person to find this blog searched “bowser and peach porn xxx.” Regular Bowser/Peach porn isn’t enough for this fella. He needs it to be triple-x strength. Rule 34, dude. I’m sure it’s out there.

Runner-up: “bowser’s penis.” I mean, okay, he has to have one. He has, like, nine kids. Doesn’t mean I want to see it.

Many people get here searching “sesame street book club” or some variation thereof. Now, I know they’re (probably) searching for the series of books that Don’t Forget the Oatmeal was a part of, but I can’t help picture a circle of adults sitting around and having a serious discussion of Ernie Gets Lost. This would either be the most boring book club, or the best book club ever. I’m not sure yet.

The one that made me LOL: “What to do to a pigeon with indigestion?” This probably led some disappointed bird lover to my review of The Pigeon Pie Mystery. (Or maybe Ernie Gets Lost, which features the classic board game Pigeon Land. Who knew I had two tangentially pigeon-related posts?) What I want to know: How would you even know your pigeon had indigestion? And what do you do about it? Pepto-Bismol coated birdseed?

Finally, one person got here by searching “I hate children.” I’m not sure where on my blog this search term leads, but I just have to say, me too. Me too. You’re welcome here.

Please let me know, how did you first find me?

I’m an Author!

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At least, I am according to Amazon. This is funny because the only things I’ve had published have been in my own college literary journals, and those aren’t for sale on Amazon. But they still think I’m an author. Here’s how I know this.

I post a lot of my shorter reviews, mostly book reviews, to Amazon. My House of Holes review disappeared. I’ve talked about House of Holes here before. I just assumed that it went poof because of the content, although I was as clean as a person can possibly be when talking about a book called HOUSE OF HOLES, a book where a disembodied arm feels up a girl IN THE FIRST CHAPTER.

Anyway, it was an outlier. One of the only positive reviews for that book. So I was miffed my opinion was eradicated.

Then, my Ender’s Game review disappeared. My Ender’s Game review was not positive. I hate Ender’s Game.

Here’s the review from my Goodreads, which is basically what I copied to Amazon.

Ender's Game (Ender's Saga, #1)Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Ender’s Game is basically Robert Cormier’s The Chocolate War but in space. Kids are mean! They beat each other up! The plot is virtually non-existent. Ender and co. bounce around in zero gravity for at least sixty pages, training in a banal combat game that doesn’t provide its participants with any useful skills (nor the reader with anything resembling entertainment) to fight the buggers, the stupidly named alien race that almost wiped out humanity decades ago and might wipe us out again. Or something. The majority of the bugger plot, the only remotely interesting plot point in the entire 324-page book, is crammed into the last two chapters.

Card’s writing style is dull and boring. He clumsily shifts between third- and first-person perspective for no good reason. He fails basic Writing 101: show the reader, don’t just tell. Valentine and Peter create online aliases for themselves: Locke and Desmosthenes. The two have lively Interweb discussions. Or at least Card says they do. Not a single article, post, or debate is actually written, so we have to take Card’s poorly written word for it. “They began composing debates for their characters. Valentine would prepare an opening statement, and Peter would invent a throwaway name to answer her. His answer would be intelligent, and the debate would be lively, lots of clever invective and political rhetoric. Valentine had a knack for alliteration that made her phrases memorable.” Perhaps if Card had the same knack for alliteration some of his phrases would be memorable. They’re not. The dialog is bad, the jokes aren’t funny, and the kids sometimes slip into a weird pidgin English when insulting each other. It doesn’t make sense.

Also, all the adults are Bad. “There is no teacher but the enemy,” one of Ender’s mentors tells him. Anti-authoritarianism can make great drama when it has purpose. This just sounds like the long-winded, non-sensical rebuttal of a bratty student who did poorly in school. Probably in his writing classes.

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My 1-star review was fairly divisive, with about 30 people saying it was “helpful” and slightly more saying it wasn’t. This review got the most feedback from any review I’ve posted on Amazon, besides my mostly positive Buffy Season 9 comic book review that prompted someone to post a review titled, “Chance Lee Is an Idiot”, which got deleted.

So, Ender’s Game. That review was deleted last month sometime. Now, this review had been up for almost two years. Wha’ happen? I e-mail Amazon and get this response:

We do not allow reviews on behalf of a person or company with a financial interest in the product or a directly competing product. This includes authors, artists, publishers, manufacturers, or third-party merchants selling the product. As a result, we’ve removed your reviews for this title.

Umm, how do I have a financial interest in this book? Even if I was a published author, it wouldn’t be in the whiny juvenile sub-genre of sci-fi bullshit. I asked for clarification, and received the exact same response, word for word, from their copy/paste customer service checklist, along with this addendum:

We will not be able to go into further detail about our research.

I understand that you are upset, and I regret that we have not been able to address your concerns to your satisfaction. However, we will not be able to offer any additional insight or action on this matter.

My one review doesn’t matter, and I doubt it affected sales of this book in any way. I just find its deletion weird, and wonder that if this is the actual reason, why are any of my reviews still up? 98% of them are for books. Will they eventually disappear? And how many other outlying reviews is Amazon deleting? Again, who cares? I’m just curious.

The Legacy of ToeJam and Earl

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I love co-op video games much more than competitive ones. Sure, I could play Mario Kart for hours on end. I enjoy a good Mario Party as much as (okay, more than) the next guy. And I loved busting caps with the golden gun back in the Goldeneye days. But the more memorable experiences are the co-op ones (at least when I don’t get too worked about winning them…). Maybe that’s because the really good ones are few and far between.

ToejamMy all-time favorite game is Toejam & Earl. (Sometimes I say it’s Lunar, but it really is Toejam & Earl. I swear.) I have fond memories of playing this game through all hours of the night with my cousin during the summer, and I still have the complete cartridge, box, manual set, even though I don’t have a console to play it on. I remember renting the game once and totally falling in love with it. We looked for it everywhere, and my mom asked some random person at Sears of all places if they had it. The woman said she thought she’d seen the game somewhere and found it in some random drawer. I’ve never parted with it since.

Anyway, let’s get off that nostalgia train. Despite my fond fond memories for this title, I have replayed it on the Wii Virtual Console in recent years, and it still holds up. There’s something about it that’s charming and addictive, and revolutionary for its time, in the sense that no game has captured the same co-op experience for me personally. Toejam and Earl still hits all the high marks of what I consider the perfect co-op title.

1. Split-screen. It’s great to be able to go off and explore on your own, if you like, only to go running like hell for your partner when things start to heat up.

2. Friendly fire is rare. It’s hard to hurt your partner in TJ&E. Maybe that’s because of the general gentle nature of the game (effective weapons are difficult to acquire). But there are few “Oh my effing god, you just killed ME!” moments.

3. Strategy. Careful resource management (and a heaping helping of luck) is key to winning TJ&E. Strategizing over money, presents, and when to open them adds to the cooperative nature.

No co-op game I’ve played yet has met each of these three requirements with a four-star rating. Zombies Ate My Neighbors is great fun, but really hampered by being squeezed together on one screen.

One game that benefitted from the lack of split screen was Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles, for Gamecube. However the GBA requirement limited the amount of people you could pull together for that game, and I think I only played it with two characters max. Being pack mule for half the game isn’t fun.

New Super Mario Bros. Wii/U both have the lack of split-screen problem (although I think split screen would not benefit this game), and the chaos that ensues all but ensures that you’re going to accidentally kill your partner(s) multiple times.

dkcr1My favorite co-op game is recent memory is Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii). It lacked split-screen, and platformers generally lack strategy, but it was just a lot of fun platforming enhanced by playing with a friend. The levels were very pretty, too, although I wish there were more of the “silhouette” style levels that were really eye-popping.

LoZ: Four Swords could have been an excellent Wii U game, if there was more than one gamepad involved. Perhaps the next portable Zelda will have a wi-fi version of the game.

The Simpsons Game was a total failure, and I have nothing else to say about the crappy gameplay, horrible camera, and general lack of fun pervading this piece of garbage that had a lot of promise for a licensed title.

I’m sure there are more co-op games, good and bad, I’ve played, but I can’t think of any right now.

Curious as to what the guys behind TJ&E were up to, I was startled to discover that the TJ&E III website from 2004 is still up. And unchanged. I’m one of the eleven people who enjoyed TJ&E III. The tone was off at times, and the addition of combat took away the fun survival element, but it was still the closest thing to the original anyone had done in a decade.

According to this Edge Online article one of the guys behind TJ&E is working on a new DS game. I hope it’s co-op.

I have Trine 2 to play after I finish NSMBU, and I just cannot wait for Ron Gilbert’s (another favorite of mine) The Cave. It’s like a multiplayer Maniac Mansion with a twist. Yes, please, I’ll take two.

Does anyone have a good co-op game to recommend?

Tales from the Miiverse – MrP.Ringle

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Once you pop…

There’s someone posting as MrP.Ringle on Miiverse. Here my three favorite posts:

* “Favorite 80’s show? CHiPs… For obvious reasons” on the Netflix community

* “A Pringle Haiku: POP, the tubes open – Portals to snack wonderland – This was a triumph.” on the Nintendo Land community

* “You can use a Pringles tube to breath [sic] underwater like a ninja. Fact.” on the Ninja Gaiden community

The only game this character owns is ZombiU, and they’ve used the YouTube channel, but other than that, they’re just going around posting Pringles related trivia in all the different communities. They have posts from Scribblenauts to Wheel of Fortune.

Official Pringles social media advertising? Or just a passionate (and little bit nutso) fan? If it’s official, is this the first company using Miiverse as an ad campaign? Whoever it is, I find myself wanting Pringles. Sour Cream and Onion, please.

Wii U Miiverse: Playing with Power Again

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For someone as introverted as I am, the somewhat limited community experience of the Miiverse is perfect. I stayed away from Xbox Live, because the last thing I want to hear is some pre-pubescent twit call everyone “faggot” and make racial slurs.

Plus, I’m looking forward to searching an organic community for help if I get stuck on a game instead of looking up a YouTube video or going to GameFAQs. I really think what Nintendo is trying to do with Miiverse is get back to the classic days of gaming, when people didn’t have hint guides and playthroughs; they had each other.

Last week I picked up the final issue of Nintendo Power. Boy, was that a trip. Included with the last issue is a small poster featured every (almost?) cover of Nintendo Power over the last 14 years. I remember my first one: Volume 26 with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves for NES on it.

Never played the game; never forgot the magazine.

Never played the game; never forgot the magazine.

Later, my mom would get me an Maniac Mansion issue from a K-B Toys (another relic of the past) that never threw out its old periodicals, but this was the first one that came in the mail. It seemed like months and months would pass between issues, instead of just four short weeks, as I eagerly awaited all the new game previews and–more than anything–the monthly Super Mario and Legend of Zelda comics. Man, I loved those, and probably read and re-read the Super Mario graphic novel compilation that came out until it fell apart. I wish I still had that thing…

I’m off track as usual. My point: the Miiverse is the coolest part of Nintendo Power finally brought into the Internet age–the community. Sure there’s still the occasional douche-tard drawing an ugly penis (why are all graffitti penises so ugly? Do the people who draw them also have deformed members?), but they get routed out fairly quickly. The majority of people in Miiverse seem to really want to be there. And that adds a lot of joy to the experience.

NintendoLand: The Next-Gen Plinko Simulator We’ve All Been Waiting For

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Okay, I kid. I honestly *love* Nintendo Land a lot more than I expected to, and have become quite hooked on it. Thanks to the Wii U’s Daily Log feature, I can see just how addicted I’ve become–six hours today!

Anyway, initial impressions were a lot more stunning than I expected, too. For one thing, the game has a very strong Banjo Kazooie: Nuts and Bolts vibe, at least visually. The hi-def looks incredible. Everything in the game is pieced together out of natural materials–fabrics, thread, buttons, iron, steel. Every bit of classic Nintendo minutiae, from rupees to Toad’s hat, has been given a handmade Etsy-style makeover. Plus, this:

Sister and brother from another mother...board?

Sister and brother from another mother…board?

Unlike Nuts & Bolts, Nintendo Land is actually fun. I can see it getting old sooner rather than later, but for now it’s a delightful distraction. All the nostalgia-based rewards add incentive. Honestly, Nintendo nostalgia is wearing thin, what with seven or eight(teen) new Mario-related titles every year, but Nintendo Land’s handmade feel adds to their originality.

I don’t think screenshots or video can do Nintendo Land and the Miiverse experience justice. I was expecting to have fun, but I wasn’t expecting the small value seeing other people’s comments add to the game. Most of them are stupid, but there are occasionally fun, quirky posts, and some incredible black-and-white artwork not seen since the days of PictoChat. Remember that? Who knew that Miis + PictoChat would equal something really cool?

It’s late. I’ve wasted 1/4 of my day riding around in a wooden Yoshi cart. More on Miiverse tomorrow.

 

Golden Oldie: Don’t Forget the Oatmeal! A Word Book, 1980

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Tie a string around your finger and get ready to go grocery shopping with this weekend’s Golden Oldie review of a not-actually-a-Golden-book book from the Sesame Street book club.

Don’t Forget The Oatmeal!: A Word Book by B.G. Ford

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was my favorite Sesame Street book as a kid. I was very excited to find it at a used-book store for $2 a few years ago.
Identifying all the stuff at the grocery store was always a lot of fun. Cookie Monster’s cookies always looked really yummy too, even if I had no idea what the heck a macaroon was as a five-year-old. (I’ll admit it: I don’t think I knew what a macaroon was until I was 20.) I did always feel bad for the grocery store people who had to clean up after Cookie Monster’s mess.
Anyway, the pages without a lot of items to identify aren’t as fun, but it’s still an entertaining story. The end upset me often though, because every time I re-read it, I hoped and hoped and hoped that they wouldn’t forget the oatmeal. But (SPOILER ALERT) they always forgot it.

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Golden Oldie: Ernie Gets Lost, 1985

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My first Golden Oldie review is for an actual Golden book from 1985.

Ernie Gets LostErnie Gets Lost by Liza Alexander
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book traumatized me as a child, because I thought getting lost was a fate worse than death. Once you were lost, that’s it. You’ll never find your home again.

I got over it eventually, and maybe it was with Ernie’s help. I’m glad he found he way back to Maria and wasn’t lost at the department store forever. If he was, then Bert wouldn’t have received that badass Pigeon Land board game for his birthday. Man, I always wanted to play Pigeon Land so bad.

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A Swift Kick in the Gator Tots

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Don't judge a book by its cover.

Our book club recently finished Swamplandia! by Karen Russell. The marketing surrounding this book is very misleading. Blurbs by Entertainment Weekly and Carl Hiaasen lead you to believe that you’re in for a wacky, fun-filled ride. This is true, but you’re also destined for a total kick in the nards of your soul.

Avast! Here be spoilers!

A few of us found that Ava’s loss of the Red Seth to be one of the saddest moments of the novel. (As a sidenote, I don’t know if red alligators actually exist. This is important.) The Red Seth is, at its core, a symbol of innocence. At first, it seems like it might be representative of blossoming sexuality. It is red, after all. Plus, it’s “A tiny, fiery Seth.” (59), and the discovery of it is thrilling. The whole budding sexuality thing is more of a theme in the short story “Ava Wrestles the Alligator.” In Swamplandia! the red Seth ultimately symbolizes a child-like innocence. This is apparent when Ava throws it at the Bird Man in order to escape after she’s been raped by him.

Doing a google image search for "red alligator" only brings up pictures of hideous handbags and shoes.

The Seth is then lost forever. There’s no way for it to survive in the wild. As Ava says when she first discovers it, “I felt very certain that she was going to die. That nothing born this color could live for long in the open air.” (60)

That’s sad enough, but the meaning of the red Seth goes deeper than this. With the red Seth, Karen Russell suggests that innocence shouldn’t even exist. “The red on her skin seemed like a disease I could contract through my fingertips or a spell I could break, a color so pure and unreal that I thought it might rub off.” (59) It’s so fragile, there’s no place for it in the world.

Innocence’s ignorant bedfellow is hope. The two go hand in hand. “This alligator could save our park!” (60) Ava believes when she discovers the tiny red Seth hatching from an egg. She’s too young and ignorant to knwow any better. Nothing will save Swamplandia! from its fate. And as her mom suggests while in the hospital, it’s pointless to hope. “Hopes were wallflowers. Hopes hugged the perimeter of a dance floor in your brain, tuging at their party lace, all perfume and hems and doomed expectation.” (106) What do your hopes get you? Cancer and death.

Hi, I'm Karen Russell. And I hate children. Also, I despise rainbows, sunshine, and unicorns.

Eventually innocence is lost. It’s not just lost, you have to throw it away to defend yourself. And ultimately, after a while, you completely forget what innocence was even like: “When I’m awake, I can’t seem to draw a stable picture of the red Seth in my mind’s eye anymore–it feels like trying to light a candle on a rainy night, your hands cupped and your cheeks puffed and the whole we world conspiring to snatch the flame away from you. But in a dream I might get to see the part of the swamp where her body washed up, bloated and rippling, or where she escaped to, if the dream was beautiful.” (396)

Because of the Red Seth, I found Swamplandia! a deeply cynical novel. This isn’t a criticism. I’m a cynical person. Maybe it’s just my general mood lately, but I’ve been ruminating on this aspect of Swamplandia for a while, and I have to say I agree with it. And that makes me immensely sad.