Multi-player Shooters are a Different Beast

I’ve moved on from Call of Duty to Killzone Mercenary. Since CoD was my first FPS I pretty much thought it was great. While I still think it’s a great addition and it seems that sales are finally picking up since they drastically reduced the price, it definitely under delivers on the VITA’s promise. Killzone Mercenary definitely delivers as a solid FPS. I enjoyed the single player campaign a lot and was able to complete it at various levels from novice to veteran in a reasonable amount of time.

After running through the campaign several times I finally ventured into multi-player and all I can say is that playing against human players is a different beast. I’m pretty much dead meat and it seems that the most difficult of settings in the single campaign is poor preparation for the multi-player experience.

Suddenly, I was lost and slow while opponents take me out like a clay pigeon from every angle. My reaction is woefully slow and it feels like I’m moving in a freeze frame mode while the enemies are psychic. Now I know that in theory I need to work on my reflexes (to max out what’s left of any minor genetic potential), to know the maps (especially the nooks where people can camp or sneak up on you), and improve accuracy (even when I get the jump on someone, missing a headshot gets you killed).

I avoided playing multi-player after several disasterous forays in CoD. In retrospect, that was stupid because no matter how much you suck, you can only improve. Right now I play on team matches knowing full well that I give a significant competitive advantage to the opponent. I’m also playing some rhythim games (DJMAX on the vita) to improve accuracy and timing (which seems to help quite bit) and also playing more multi-player.

Despite the difficulties, it’s given new life to the game. Seeing how it’s missing the hostile mode (my favorite feature in CoD where enemies are spawned in infinite waves until you die—even though you can go on forever by camping), it’s turning out to be a blessing because I need to venture into multi-player to get that thrill. Killzone Mercenary just has better graphics and feels more like a proper shooter.

I just wish the PS VITA had more shooter games and proper franchise titles to choose from. One great thing about the PS4’s successful launch is that the PS VITA is getting attention as an accessory to the PS4 since it allows you to remotely play PS4 titles right on your VITA. It helps you avoid fighting for the TV and is just convenient because you can play games anywhere in the house. It’s made the VITA like the tablets (which are popular for web browsing around the house) of the gaming world.

In other news, any Playstation owner should definitely subscribe to PS Plus since you get free games every month for less than $5 per month. I’ve gotten Gravity Rush with this and have a bunch of games should I ever buy a PS3. While I enjoyed Gravity Rush, I would have never bought it for full price or a discount even though I enjoyed the unusual game play. I look forward to playing more games that I would otherwise not buy. Also, the ability to back up 1GB of game save data to the cloud lets you manage precious space on the VITA without connecting to a PC.

In addition to shooters I’m playing action games, racing games and some RPGs. I’m not sure gaming is doing anything significant to improve my abilities but I do notice some things.

  1. Mundane tasks like shopping are more fun when you think of it as a game.

  2. I’m more adept at navigating through crowds.

  3. I notice more subtle movements and am more aware of my environment without being more jumpy.

  4. I can remeber a random set of numbers longer (not sure where that came from).

  5. Faster at routine tasks and more likely to react quicker at critical moments.

Only time will tell if there are any spillovers into life and most of this might just be placebo but at the end of the day, I enjoy playing these games and that’s good enough. Despite all the negative press and bad reputation games have with parents, games are really beneficial for a wide demographic (in moderation and balance). For older adults games help to keep your reaction times sharp and fulfill competitive urges that are either overlooked or crushed in every day life (you just can’t take out your boss with a headshot and dance over his corpse).

In recent years lots of journalists and bloggers made a big deal about smartphones displacing console games. The amazing success of GTA V (reaching a billion dollars faster than the movie Avatar) and the successful launch of the PS4 (not to mention anticipation for Xbox One) is indication that gaming is far from dead. Although PS VITA sales may seem dissappointing despite great graphics and PS3-level power, you just can’t beat a dedicated game machine with physical controls when it comes to the gaming experience. I do think that handheld consoles must compete at some level with smartphones and tablets (who wants to carry yet another device). However, the casual games with touch controls on the handheld are completely different beasts (despite some titles making unbelievable amounts of money, like Candy Crush and Clash of the Clans).

Personally, I think smartphone games will eventually spark more interest in consoles (that’s certainly how I found myself meandering back to gaming after a very long hiatus). Console games are far from a dying art. Blockbuster game titles are becoming a cultural force in their own right (great storytelling combined with a player’s ability to interact with the environment is a very powerful experience that no movie can ever replicate, not to mention that game graphics are rapidly approaching Hollywood level fidelity). Also, the median age of games is now in the 30s. That means more disposable income and kids. The current generation of young parents most likely grew up on games and do not have the same hangups about games in letting their children play. It’s just that game developers and console manufacturers need to be aware of the bigger picture (social sharing, downloadable content, etc.) in creating a more compelling experience.

Lessons You Can Learn from Call of Duty and First Person Shooters

There’s a lot of life lessons in first person shooters like Call of Duty. I’ve been playing a lot in between tasks. It’s great for procrastination! I’m not even above average mind you, but coming late to the party there’s a lot of things I can appreciate. Even if the benefits of playing FPS games turns out to be bunk, it’s a great way to take a break. Maybe even too much.

There’s so much you can learn from this game that applies to life.


Try Not to Die

If you die, that’s it. You can’t go further. Your kill streak ends and the mission is not accomplished. You can take some hits but before you go further you need to recover by either hiding or neutralizing the immediate threat. When you get splattered your mobility is limited. Plus getting shot messes up your aim. You need to know which risks are worth taking and assess the trade off of making yourself vulnerable and making a good shot.


Dying Isn’t a Big Deal

So you die. Now what? Play it again! Just because you get shot up doesn’t mean you can never play again. Now in life dying is a big deal but how many things really matter that much in life? There are millions of people killing others or killing themselves for things that in the grand scheme of things aren’t that big of a deal. Lost a job? Broke up with someone that you thought was “the one”? Company went belly up? The list goes on. These are challenges and not life or death situations. There is a way to recover or at least continue to fight the fight. This time take a little something from your last fight and try not to die the same way.



When you’re playing a shooter, you’re faced with lots of choices. You need to choose wisely while getting shot at and/or trying to achieve a mission. You’ll frequently be in a situation where you ask yourself, “do I shoot this guy first or try to pick up the ammo?”, “three hostiles, one behind me, which do I shoot first?”, or “do I throw the last grenade to get out of this bind or try to plough through?”. You can die from making retarded choices like trying to pick up some ammo or not paying attention to someone creeping up behind you. These are all choices. Each choice will affect the next choices available.

You might find yourself shooting at a cluster of enemies while keeping an eye on the map to see hostiles coming at you while the clock is running. You need to figure it out quick!


Don’t Give Up

So you got cornered in a bad place and there’s a whole family of enemies coming at you like zombies and yes you’re running low on ammo. At some point you need to pick up one of their guns and do something if you manage to handle the first five. Now, it’s not a big deal to die in game. You just play it again. However, the whole point of the game is to give it your best. You need to take the game seriously for it to mean anything. “It’s just a game” is a great way to move on but don’t ever let that be an excuse to failure. Many times you’ll find yourself in a bind but manage to find a way out or maybe learn a lesson that will help you avoid getting in that situation to start with. When the situation gets overwhelming try to get out of it somehow. Embrace the adversity. If you fail, do it again but do your best to get out.


Stay Alert

Sometimes you’ll get through a really difficult patch relatively unscathed only to get shot up by some weak loner who was right in front of you. These lapses can come in hairy times or long stretches of waiting. You need to keep yourself alert and at least prepared to respond. Zoning out is rarely a good thing. The game will teach you how to maintain a flow.


Shoot First, Ask Later

If you see an enemy, shoot. If you see a funny shadow, shoot. If you hear something, shoot. There’s rarely a moment where it’s better idea to contemplate the situation. If you don’t know what to do at least run. You always need to be doing something. There’s no way to just sit still and not die.


Set the Tone, Stay in Charge

It sucks to be chased around and running all the time. It’s a lot better to manipulate the enemy and get them in the right position to blast away. As long as you’re the one reacting, eventually they’ll get to you. This is especially true in hostile/survival mode.


Know the Territory

The more you know about the map or sticking points in the mission, the better. Same goes for the guns and their quirks and advantages. Ditto for enemies and their movements. Find an angle that will give you an advantage, sometimes it’ll be a nook where you can take the heat off or a maze-like area you can run and lose your enemies. This knowledge will give you an edge.


Always Have Fun

At the end of the day, it’s about having fun. Shoot em’ up and laugh a little. Don’t get beat up if things don’t go your way. If you get a little bored switch it up. Put yourself in a bit of danger and try to maneuver your way out. Set tougher constraints on yourself and set goals. If all you get is stress then it’s time to quit and find something else. Sometimes I’ll get a chuckle from the dumbest bugs like an enemy running in mid air or their bodies half hidden by a dry wall.


I’m sure there are some others I missed but the fast pace of the game and the high pressure environment provide a great way to release stress while maybe learning a lesson or two about life.

Apple, Condemned to Death by a Thousand Papercuts

Ever since Steve Jobs’ death, Apple pundits and fanboys all around the world began counting down the “inevitable death of Apple”. There can only be one Steve Jobs and he is dead. He defined an era when only an era can be defined. The emergence of the iPhone can only be described as a goldfish swallowing the whale. They say history repeats itself and once again we’re seeing the sequel of “PC overtaking Apple” as “Android overtaking iOS”. Funny how we never learn. Maybe someday Steve Jobs will be resurrected by bio technology and we’ll see this whole drama play out again in the bio field. But I digress.

Apple products are distinguished by the polish and intuitiveness of the interface backed by solid technology in both hardware and software. It’s quite a formidable package and one that is yet to be rivaled. Samsung, Google, and BlackBerry are still chasing Apple’s tail. The brilliance of Apple under Jobs’ second coming is that they made just the right trade offs with open and closed systems. They leveraged open technology to build an OS (OSX), even though I think they bet on the wrong horse (mach kernel) in the long run, and leveraged that for mobile. They created a new market for touch screen devices that created a whole new paradigm and even extended it to tablets.

Like any brilliant invention that revolutionizes the world, once people got hold of an iPhone they soon settle into a state where they can’t image a world without it. It feels natural, almost meant to be. Every time I try to use an Android, I feel like it’s a different beast. My mind locks up when I run into many of its unintuitive rabbit holes that come from logically inconsistent and/or unintuitive interaction designs. I’d frequently find myself forgetting how to access a certain setting or getting lost in an application’s menu. A lot of things just don’t feel right. The battery life was atrocious.

However, at the end of the day, the iPhone is simply a mini computer (that connects to the internet), camera, and media player with phone capabilities. That’s it. What sets it apart is the application eco system and all the innovations it introduced to the market. However, the company is now feels decidedly conservative. There’s no excitement on the horizon. What’s coming after the iPad Mini? The iPhone grande? Or maybe the iWatch? AppleTV as a gaming console anyone?

The app eco system will eventually be the downfall of Apple. They’ve created a culture of fear by acting as arbiters of taste rather than protectors (ensuring that malware isn’t circulated). Take away all the applications from any smartphone and you’re left with the internet, music, and movies for your entertainment; email, sms, and voice for communication. When you get banned from Apple’s App Store you have no recourse (other than public appeal). With Android, their Play store is much more permissive and moreover, users can choose to install non-market apps.

Without a visionary like Jobs, Apple needs all the help it can get with innovation and there’s no greater inspiration than an eco system of third-party developers. Interface improvements like the ubiquitous pull-to-refresh came from outside (apps like Facebook have a nice flick to go back from a picture view which I think should be standard). Also, Apple’s preference for sandboxing all data and more importantly locking down the music and video library is also another weakness that will irritate users more and more. The big issue at hand is Apple tries to control how we interact with our own data in the name of protection. We can’t download and play music or movie files from the internet without going through iTunes or syncing it via PC. Movie files can only be played if it’s in Apple’s mp4 format unless we use third party apps.

The smartphone revolution is far from over, it’s only beginning. As more and more of our lives go mobile, we need newer ways of interacting with the device. There are still lots of improvements to be made, such as text input, before they can completely replace computers. Social interactions are also another area ripe for innovation (I’m thinking device to device communication like Bump and more location-based networks that involve more than just checking in). Payment/point-of-sale is yet another are that will eventually become a major pat of smartphone usage (something with more substance than the Passbook, something that makes use of technology like RFCs).

As technology matures it’s only natural that there are no low hanging fruit to pick and that pushing the envelope involves great risk. However, with companies Samsung chasing them on the hardware front and Google chasing them on the software front, they really can’t afford to rest on their laurels.

Using Gmail/IMAP Backups for Super Fast Email

Anyone who uses email often enough at some point in life will eventually struggle with handling an ever growing collection of email. Email bankruptcy is a very real prospect. My email address is literally a blackhole where lots of messages go to die. Thanks to the “all you can eat buffet” approach to email storage pioneered by Gmail, I never worried once about managing the crazy collection of text. The best features of Gmail are massive storage, filters, search, and labels/folders all in the cloud.

However, ask yourself what happens to your email when things go bad? With Google Reader shutting down, it can’t hurt to have a backup plan. What’s more since your Gmail is tightly integrated with everything else Google owns, any service violation may put all your data at risk. Although unlikely, there are people who got their accounts shutdown due to mixups of one kind or another. Google’s customer support is notoriously slow not to mention the challenge of finding a channel to communicate with them.

The advantages of having a copy of your email on your hard drive not only gives you peace of mind but can also make you more productive when combined with old school email clients like Mutt or Alpine. Marissa Mayer, the CEO of Yahoo, plows through her email with Pine.

Having your email offline allows you to take your email with you on your laptop without worrying about a connection. Read and respond on the train or in a cafe and when you get a connection it’ll all sync up. Another advantage is the search. You can combine it with local search engines to find the emails you need fast or create “smart lists” for email that meets a certain criteria to stay on top of things.

Handling your email in a no frills environment can really help you with staying focused. As we all know, using the web interface of anything can lead us to lots of distractions.

Getting Your IMAP Offline

The great thing about IMAP is that all your folders and messages reside on the server/cloud. This means that no matter what client you set up, everything will be sorted nice and neatly. However, with the typical setup, you need to have a persistent connection since messages are more or less a temporary cache.

So, to get around this, there are several solutions out there to get your email into a Maildir. With a Maildir, basically all the folders on the IMAP server become a folder on your disk and each message resides in its own text file with a unique filename and various flags indicating the state (unread, starred, etc.). The most popular of these is OfflineIMAP.  OfflineIMAP is written in Python and will pretty much run on any platform. There are other delivery agents as well. I’ve mostly used OfflineIMAP until now but it does have some issues. My biggest problem with OfflineIMAP is that near the tail end of syncing my email, it just becomes this monster of a process that eats an endless supply of RAM (I’m talking GBs and some CPU spikes). It would be dangerous to leave it running as I’d have to restart my mac due to having no RAM. It was just getting crazy.

Recently, I migrated to mbsync and I couldn’t be happier. It’s fast and efficient but consumes so little memory since it’s written in C and pretty sound in terms of design. Mbsync also offers a lot of granular controls so you can give certain folders higher priority and also perform particular operations like “pull new” messages. You can simply do “brew install isync” if you use homebrew on the mac or download the source here.

Once you get the program installed you need to configure it. I mostly followed the instructions here, the section on getting the security certificates and ignoring Gmail’s “All Mail” folder (which creates a lot of duplicates) was particularly helpful. This guide is really good for setting up channels so you can specify how you want to sync specific folders.

Channel gmail-inbox
Master :gmail-imap:INBOX
Slave :gmail-local:INBOX
Create Slave
Expunge Slave
Sync Pull
Channel gmail-sent
# we need the double quotes
Master ":gmail-imap:[Gmail]/Sent Mail"
Slave :gmail-local:sent-mail
Create Slave
Expunge Slave
Sync Pull

This can be done for any directory. Mbsync seems to go through all the folders in order so if there are particular folders you want to always have priority, setting up these channels will ensure that quick update is simply a command away.

mbsync important

You can setup a separate cron job since mbsync can have multiple processes accessing the same account. Incidentally with OfflineIMAP, the lock on an email account is global. This combined with excessive resource consumption and the fact that syncs never complete, meant I had to kill the process and start from the top (combined with the auto refresh, it was a bit of a nightmare).

Once you have the syncing setup (syncing will still take time depending on the size of your mailbox), all you need is a good software program to handle your email. You’ll be able to fly through the messages.

Personally, I use Emacs with mu/mu4e which is an awesome combination. Mu uses Xapian for fast and capable search capabilities which can be used like smart folders. There are several combinations out there for using Maildir and IMAP. Old school email clients might seem scary at first but once you get used to them, it’s fast and efficient.

Playing a Bit Too Much Call of Duty

So I’ve been playing CoD for the last couple of days, I think a week or so at least. Every time I get stuck on a level I just consult this guy’s videos. I’m getting mildly better at it, but still it’s just dismal. The levels or “operations” I have trouble on I basically get lucky more than anything.

The emotional reaction and adrenal rush to shooting and being shot has calmed down considerably. In addition I feel less pressure even during time constraints. I still get a kick out of it but it feels more subtle.

Other than that, I do feel more sensitive to moving objects when I’m out and about (pedestrians and cars). I’m not sure how this translates to anything else. One thing I like about games is the clear objectives and time constraints involved in the missions. There’s nothing like games to give you emotional incentives without financial or physical consequences when goals aren’t met. It’s all based on intrinsic motivation stemming from how much you care about getting better.

Playing some First Person Shooters

I’ve started playing first person shooters, Call of Duty on the PS Vita to be more exact. While the debate of how good or bad video games are for you is a perennial debate, we still don’t know that much despite it being a multi-billion dollar industry and the fact that countless hours are poured into it. I’ve always enjoyed games but I gave them up long ago to focus on other things like reading. Then the internet came along and my attention span suffered all the more.

I bought a PS Vita at the beginning of last year. While my iPhone is great for most casual games, I thought a portable game with physical controls would be a great reintroduction to gaming (my work was related to games at the time as well). I missed the boat entirely on FPS games. My staples were mainly platform games like Mario Bros., fighting and racing games of all sorts.

After playing some Marvel VS Capcom, I pretty much let my PS Vita gather dust. However, I recently came across some  articles citing that FPS games benefited eye sight (amblyopia) and after some more digging found some encouraging research about other benefits.

Since I already had a console gathering dust with a handful of titles, I figured that I would give Call of Duty a shot since it was basically the first “real” FPS to be playable on a handheld gaming console.

Coming back to gaming after a long hiatus and as an “adult” who was never that hardcore is humbling to say the least. I had no idea what I was doing with the controls, constantly get killed and have trouble aiming and shooting. Honestly, I have no idea how good gaming is for me but I do know that I haven’t felt an adrenaline rush like this in a while. It was worth it even if it ends up being a complete waste of time.

I’ve played lots of fighter games and even have the Marvel VS Capcom one for the Vita, which I played a lot. Although I’m not particularly good at it, cranking out the combos and what not feels a bit random. I’m not really invested into it. It feels more like a test of how fast I can twiddle the controller. Personally, I think the Vita’s controls are abhorrent to say the least and this just makes it worse.

With Call of Duty, what seemed so fresh to me was the amount of tension, adrenaline and even rage I felt as I played this game. I don’t know if it’s the 3D element of navigating your way through these maps while trying to figure out which target you shoot or the fact that you get bloodied up by the enemy if you don’t hit your targets but something about FPS games gets me emotionally invested. I was really felt mellowed out and matured from getting older but this just jerked me back into a primal state. The typical gamer stereotype doesn’t exactly fit the profile of an alpha male but that rush certainly was something I enjoyed even when I was throwing up my hands in disgust as I failed one of the easiest missions, again.

I’ve been spending a lot of time in the gym and lifting weights certainly gives you a physical rush and requires mental intensity (if done right) but the time constraints and survival elements (kill or be killed) of the FPS game is really something you can’t get from modern life.

At night when I closed my eyes before sleep I could feel the world spinning like it was rotating in 3D and when I go outside I’m a lot more sensitive to moving things. I really think that console games deserve another big revival. They’re certainly better than the crappy freemium games that are all the rage on smartphones and honestly there are limits to game play on a touch screen only. I think Ouya is just the first of many startups to come that will crack open the typically closed gaming console. Even without it the recently announced Play Station 4 is more of a PC than any of its predecessors. However, I think it’ll still be a long while before our main PCs can serve as gaming machines that rival dedicated consoles (unless you’re the kind that builds your own custom gaming PC).

So it remains to be seen whether I’ll become a better driver, more coordinated, see better, make decisions faster, or handle pressure but I’m already having fun and the rush is just amazing. 

Dave McClure is No Devil

The more I read about this the more I’m angered by TechCrunch’s irresponsible reporting on Angel Gate. Unless, and I seriously challenge him to because he can’t, Michael Arrington can produce substantial evidence that collusion did occur he should issue an apology. I have every reason to believe that Michael showed up uninvited to a dinner of friends, got really pissed and hurt because they told him to essentially screw off and then assumed they were up to no good. Of course, that’s being generous. It seems more like he got so pissed he decided to damage their reputations using TechCrunch simply because he has the power to. The only place to find a balanced debate on this is the Quora thread. Then the post an innuendo-laden email bomb from Ron Conway regarding a dinner he didn’t attend.

All I got to say is screw Tech Crunch for writing whatever they damn well please simply because their founder got socially snubbed. It’s Tech Crunch doing the dirty Mafia type hits if you ask me.

End of updated rant. The original article below.

The recent crap storm about TechCrunch’s expose about back room Mafia-style price fixing by angel investors kept taking an unreal turn for the worse. First, I have to hand it to Michael Arrington for doing this. It takes balls to make accusations like this and pretty much turn the entire community against you. He has everything to lose and this is one sorry publicity stunt if it goes wrong. In the UK he’d be sued out of business for libel even on a blog. In some other country, he might never be seen again.

The first guy to fall under the bus is definitely Dave McClure. He was the first to respond and now he really got thrown under the bus. I spent the good part of the day with him last year when he came to Japan. That doesn’t make me an expert on him or make me privy to what he does for business but if does the things that people allege him of doing in this “Angel Gate” scandal this man definitely has the most elaborate smoke and mirrors act I’ve ever seen.

The Dave McClure I saw is generous with his time and despite his bad boy image he’s the most approachable guy on earth. I literally walked up to him in a crowded party, briefly introduced myself, and asked him to attend a startup event happening the next day. He did not know who I was and he did not care. He showed up first thing in the morning and stayed all day. He brought a Japanese startup founder with him, gave a great presentation and mentored people all day. The event was basically a workshop for amateurs throwing around ideas. If Dave was just pretending to be interested or being polite, I must be blind because he critiqued ideas and gave feedback like he was about to invest money.

I don’t know about the intricacies of the allegations or how this situation is going down now that Ron Conway threw down the gauntlet but Dave’s been on the grind. Dave does a lot of things that other people in Silicon Valley don’t like try to connect the Valley with entrepreneurs in Asia and other regions. He works hard, he gets his hands dirty, he’s more accessible than a lot of “classy” investors, and he’ll pick up the phone when you call.

I don’t know who else is implicated but if you look around a lot of people have got Dave’s back. That says a lot. These are the same people he would have been “screwing” if allegations are true. These people are also very smart. I don’t think you can really damage someone’s reputation if they’re the real thing. Dave sure was in the wrong place at the wrong time but the dude’s literally everywhere. If I needed advice I wouldn’t hesitate to ask him and anybody he invests in will get a great deal just because Dave McClure doesn’t do anything half-assed period.

Fire in The Valley, Fire in My Belly… and Yes, Mike, I Have Stopped Beating My Wife. – Master of 500 Hats

So A Blogger Walks Into A Bar…

One Year Without Alcohol

I went one year without drinking. There were three separate occasions I more or less got pressured into pretend sipping or an aperitif but otherwise I was sober the whole time and didn’t really obsess about it. It took a while for friends and people around me to realize I was dead serious about not drinking but once I established the fact, people left me alone. I ended up having a shot of tequila about one week after the anniversary. That seriously messed my head up. The alcohol felt like it got injected into my veins and took me a while to ground myself. For about a week after the tequila kept popping into my head.

Now I know why alcoholics and drug addicts need to stop cold turkey. It’s crazy but you spend all this time avoiding it and you don’t realize how much your commitment and reinforcement of values are doing behind the scene. One one level, you’re freed from all the baggage of keeping your “streak” going. On the other hand, you need to make sure all hell doesn’t break loose and wait for it to pass. I was never a heavy drinker though I always had a tendency to binge. When I stopped drinking my propensity to drink was getting more and more frequent. I abstained from alcohol a couple months before. This time I was slowly getting fed up with myself at how easily I’d go for a beer or two after work to relax, rather than just let the stress go, and then the tipping point came when I had too many drinks and totally embarrassed myself. Something inside me told me that I had to hit the “reset” button. So, I said to myself, “I’m not drinking for at least six months”.

What happens when you don’t drink alcohol? This is what happened with me.

  1. Slept way better.
  2. Felt way better.
  3. Went out less.
  4. Never stayed until the morning train at a party (this being Japan).
  5. People around you drink less.
  6. You manage to socialize with people at parties anyway (you just need to get used to it at first, if you’re shy and use alcohol to loosen up)

I know that recent studies claim heavy drinkers still live longer than people who don’t drink. These studies contradict each other every other month but I wouldn’t doubt the social component of drinking leads to better health. Still, I can’t really deny that I feel a lot better not drinking because the quality of life is way better when there’s no alcohol from last night in your system even without hangovers. It’s a lifestyle choice. Although that tequila shot puts me back on a new journey, I’d rather not go back to drinking although I’m not going to be fanatic about it. Just go with the flow and right now I’m not feeling alcohol.

Hot Tub Time Machine

Hot Tub Time Machine is a mid-life crisis movie. Three friends and a nephew go on a ski excursion when Lou attempts suicide to cheer him up. The dilapidated resort town of their youthful conquests is deserted and run down. As the situation degenerates into a train wreck situation, they find the hot tub in the backyard (where they just found a dead racoon) miraculously fixed. As they drink their way into oblivion the tub swirls them back into the 1980s in their youthful forms though they look young to everyone else.

There were some humorous moments but it’s pretty much a trailer movie, you know where if you see the trailer you saw the movie. The retro 80s fashion was definitely fun to see (and the women looked hot in their hair-spray and heavy mascara) but there wasn’t enough tension or comedic vehicles to carry the film through. It needed some kind of twist. Title was awesome, that’s without question.

Kick Ass

Kick Ass definitely blew me away (but not all in a good way). It takes the classic story of a nerd transforming himself into a super hero and deconstructs it in a modern, information technology-driven society where reality and real life can be blurred by personas created online. Our hero, to be known as “Kick Ass”, is a normal teenager geek that gets it in him to become a comic book super hero. The transformation begins by ordering a super hero outfit that consists of a diving suit and setting up a MySpace page to handle super hero assignments.

Of course, being a nerd, he’s totally unprepared physically and mentally so his first mission ends with him getting stabbed and beaten unconscious. As a result, his bone structure is fortified with plates and he becomes desensitized to pain. In order to hide embarrassment from being found in a super hero outfit, he corroborates a story with the paramedic that he was found naked. This leads to rumors at school that he is gay. The gorgeous girl he has a crush on takes an interest in him once she “finds out” he’s gay and makes him her bff.

Instead of giving up on the super hero idea, now that he has a high tolerance for pain and a taste of the exciting, crime fighting lifestyle, he clumsily forays back into the super hero business. This almost gets him killed and brings him into contact with real avengers (a father and daughter team) who are not afraid to kill villains.

That’s the setup. Any more would spoil it.

Call me old-fashioned but seeing a little girl cuss like a sailor while slicing mafia gangsters up in cold blood really disturbs me. The trailers, by necessity I suppose, really gloss this over. Artistically, it’s a bold move for the director to be faithful to the graphic novel’s depiction of it. However, with all comic book adaptations you have the problem of translating that into the big screen format. As a cross between a novel and comic book, readers are engaged in graphic novels so much that they fill in the blanks or “scenes between the scenes” and embellishing the artist’s rendition with their imagination. Drawings no matter how masterly executed have a way of softening violence and sex while emphasizing other aspects so when you do a literal depiction on screen, it comes across a lot stronger. The execution was well done though the characters needed a little more depth to me. Luckily the Nicolas Cage and Chloë Moretz (to a certain extent Aaron Johnson) brought that depth with them.

To me it was a cross between Super Bad and Chris Nolan’s Dark Knight, awesome depending on your qualms.