Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Album Review: "Born in the USA" by Bruce Springsteen

Bruce Springsteen fascinates me. Why, exactly, I'm not sure. Maybe it's just because of his place in music history; he was hailed as a "savior of rock" in the mid-70's, but he wasn't a punk. He was certainly young enough to be one, and it could be argued that he was spiritually in the same league as, say, the Ramones or the Clash. But Springsteen has always been unique, and much more in love with 50's-styled rock and R'nB than he was with, say, the brutal nihilist rock of the Stooges and the MC5. I think what fascinates me about Springsteen more than that, though, is that his music is unabashedly romantic and uplifting; he has no qualms about putting his heart on the line in every song he writes, and to me, that attitude is exhilarating, especially considering that the cool thing nowadays is to be hip, self-aware and ironic. But hey, maybe that's not true, because for the past few years a surprising about of indie rock acts - a genre almost defined by self-awareness - have taken notes from Springsteen, both in good ways (Badly Drawn Boy, The Hold Steady, and the Arcade Fire, with whom he recently performed) and not-so-good ways (The Killers, The Killers, The Killers). I admire him in the same way I admire Neil Young; he's adapted deftly to changing musical trends over the years (punk, new wave, grunge, uh... crunk) without compromising his values, or becoming a withered old crank.

I guess that brings me to Born In The USA, maybe my favorite album by "The Boss" (and this will probably be the last time you see me calling him that). Then again, naming my favorite Bruce album is not easy. He's done a lot of good over his long and storied career. Before USA all I had was Born To Run, which I picked up about a week before I first left for college. At that point in my life the common trend was to pick up an album a week, usually by a different artist each week unless I really liked something (Bob Dylan being a notable example). Born To Run made a real impression, though; it was passionate, bombastic, and very pretty, and it certainly appealed to me at the time, leaving home for the first time and all. It was still a grower, though, because I didn't know much about Springsteen and I was kinda moving on from the whole "classic rock" thing. It took me a good year-and-a-half of Britpop and punk before I decided to listen to his other "Big Album", Born In The USA. Probably too long of a gap, but it was worth it. If Born To Run sparked a newfound respect for Springsteen, USA is really what got me to embrace his entire catalog.

I love Born In The USA because it's filled with a bunch of immediate, catchy, energetic songs, draped in Bruce's great lyrics and playful humor and driven by the always-wonderful E Street Band at the top of their game. In hindsight, after listening to more of Bruce's other albums before this one, I can appreciate the album in a deeper way. Springsteen does a great job of adapting his tried-and-true lyrical and musical themes, condensing them all into snappy pop songs, and delivering them with inimitable gusto. The title track is infamous, ruthlessly addressing Springsteen's anti-war stance while dressed up with a fist-pumping chorus and synths; "Working on the Highway" focuses on his sympathy-for-the-working-man perspective; "I'm Goin' Down" chronicles a relationship gone sour; "Glory Days" laments the death of youth; "My Hometown" continues his long and troubled relationship with Asbury Park. The big difference between these songs and almost everything else he'd recorded up to this point, however, is that they're fun pop songs. After Springsteen epitomized his dreamy-optimistic phase with Born to Run, he set out to dispel the same over-idealistic myths of youth he himself created; albums like Darkness on the Edge of Town, The River, and especially Nebraska go out of their way to recast Springsteen's characters as sad, repressed people, forced into working themselves to death, raising families, and getting nothing in return. Born In The USA covers these themes as well, but instead of saying "I got my girlfriend pregnant, my life is over," this one says "Life is rough - fuck it, let's dance!"

Of course, it's not to say that Springsteen never embraced fun and good humor before - Greetings from Asbury Park, The E Street Shuffle, and even The River have plenty of it, and his live shows were always a blast. But he'd never released an album with the sheer pulse of USA, an album that bursts right out of the gate and never lets up. "Born In The USA" leads to the disco-rock-stomp of "Cover Me," which leads to the country-rock-hoedown of "Darlington County" and onto the boogie of "Working on the Highway." The only downtime the album has is in "Downbound Train" and "I'm On Fire", both placed conveniently in the middle of the track listing. Both are slow songs, but even they have kind of a choppy, quick backbeat to them. After those two, the wonderful "No Surrender" kicks into your head, and it's a blast from then on out. The album's structure really is wonderful - once you hear one song you love, you'll almost be forced to listen to the songs after them, just from listening to the opening riff of the song. At least, that's the case with me; "Bobby Jean" is my favorite song on the album, but I can never listen to it alone - when "I'm Goin' Down" and "Glory Days" chime in, I can't resist. It's on this album that Springsteen puts the most emphasis on simple, catchy musical riffs, whether they be on guitar or keyboard or saxophone or whatever, and it's a joy to listen to. In his entire career I don't think that Springsteen has crafted an album more direct, fun, and addictive than this one. The closest he ever came to this kind of sound beforehand was The River, which was actually intended to be a single-LP called The Ties That Bind before he decided that the album was "too poppy" and added a bunch of slower, more depressing songs to counterbalance the fun goodtime rockin' tunes. Even if he did release the poppier songs from that album on their own, though, it still wouldn't match the glorious pop wonder of USA.

But you know what, fuck Springsteen's history. I barely knew much about Springsteen before I listened to this album, and what I really love about USA is the songs. "Working on the Highway" is a total joy, maybe the quickest little ditty Springsteen ever wrote and quite possibly the bounciest song ever written about grueling manual labor. "I'm Goin' Down" is a funny, funny take on a dying love, with Springsteen complaining that "Lately girl you get your kicks from just dragging me down." "Glory Days" is even better, telling the story of a bunch of middle-aged friends reminiscing on lost and forgotten youth. It's a real victory for Springsteen; what could have become a stark, embittered song is instead invigorating and funny: "When she feels like crying, she starts laughing, thinkin' bout Glory Days," he sings, a lyric which may well define the theme of the entire album. It doesn't hurt that the song is propelled by a wonderful, wonderful (wonderful) keyboard riff that I would like to learn how to play on a Casio keyboard and annoy people with all the time. And then there's "Bobby Jean". Ugh, god. I love this song to death, and it's my favorite on the album. Lyrically, it's basically an adaptation of Born To Run's "Backstreets," chronicling a narrator who's upset at the loss of a close friend. But where "Backstreets" is angry, desperate and forceful, "Bobby Jean" plays more like a loving tribute, condensed into a beautiful, simple arrangement based around a stately piano riff. Here Springsteen isn't bitter; instead, he just wants to say one last goodbye. Also like "Backstreets", the song features an ambiguous subject of the narrator's affection (only made more explicit with a name like "Bobby Jean"), so it's never clear whether Springsteen is referring to a romantic relationship or a strong, platonic friendship. The difference between the two songs is obvious, though; to put it bluntly, where "Backstreets" ends with "I hated him, and I hated you when you went away," "Bobby Jean" ends with "I'm just calling one last time, not to change your mind / But just to say I miss you, baby / Good luck, goodbye." Beautiful song.

But hey, there's lots of other great songs on this album! Like every other song, for instance! "Cover Me" is uncharacteristic of Springsteen in that it's a hard-rock-dance kind of song, filled with fierce guitar parts and a simple, almost disco-y beat. It's a cool song. "Darlington County" is a great kinda-sorta-countryish romp, with an addictive guitar riff and a great "Sha la la la la la" chanting near the end. "Dancing in the Dark," a huge hit at the time, is not one of my favorites on the album, but it's still pretty great and deserves its radio airplay. "No Surrender" kicks ass and is one of Bruce's best anthems. "Downbound Train" is one of the darkest songs on the album, but it's got a cool backbeat that keeps it afloat and it's evidence that Bruce never really abandoned his experimental tendencies after Nebraska. "I'm On Fire" is lovely, but the closer "My Hometown" is even better, a sad rumination on what I assume is Asbury Park, but it could be about anybody going back to the place where they grew up only to find it in shambles; it kind of puts to rest Springsteen's concerns about his place of upbringing expressed in songs like "Thunder Road" or "4th of July," repeating the line "This is your hometown." There really are no low points on this album. It's a triumph.

It's unfortunate, because nowadays Born In The USA isn't quite as well-respected by modern listeners as much as the albums before it, especially by the hardcore Springsteen faithful. The Onion A.V. Club recently posted a primer to Springsteen's career, and while it's excellent, it barely mentions USA, not even making room for it in their "Essential 5" albums. Entertainment Weekly claimed that Bruce's new album Magic is his "best album since The River," which seemed a little below-the-belt to me (although I do enjoy Magic). Maybe it's due to the stigma associated with 80's pop music; Springsteen designed this album to appeal to mainstream pop listeners at that time, and it shows, with him frequently implementing synth keyboards into most of the songs, especially "Dancing In The Dark." It was also a massive hit, the biggest in Springsteen's career, spawning a whopping seven Top 10 hit singles and turning Bruce into a megastar. But I don't think the subtle backlash against the album is warranted; in my eyes, mainstream rock deserved Springsteen, an artist who could take popular trends of the time and make them his own. To put things in context, the two biggest albums of 1984 were USA and Prince's Purple Rain, both great albums and both of which topped the Pazz and Jop Critics Poll in the Village Voice for that year. It's proof that commercial pop albums can be excessively popular without being dumbed down for mass-market consumption. This is by no means a "sell out" album.

I don't know. There's nothing else I can say; I love this album and I wish everybody else did too. If you have an iota of interest in Springsteen, don't let anybody deny you this album. In my opinion, it's some of the best pop music ever made, and it deserves all the praise and sales it can get.

Also Bruce's ass is on the cover. Ladies.

(A little side-note: Mark Prindle wrote a Born In The USA review that echoes my sentiments exactly, just in a much more succinct way. You might just want to read his review. Hell, read all his reviews. He's great.)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Album Review: "Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too" by The New Radicals

Some time ago I came across a webcomic strip (I forget which, and I'm too lazy to go find it) that claimed that people, no matter how old, are inexplicably tied to the things they loved at the age of 12. I don't know how true this is for most people - everybody has their different opinions about their middle school years. Anyone who knows me even a little will know that I still love my middle school years and have kind of an unnatural fascination with them, so the comic in question pretty much pegged me in the gut. If that makes any sense.

My fascination with my middle school years, though, would only kinda-sorta explain why "Maybe You've Been Brainwashed Too" by the New Radicals has become one of my most-played albums on both iTunes and my Last.fm page. Sure, it came out in '98, right when I started the sixth grade. But I'd never even listened to it until fall of last year; the only song I had any recollection of beforehand was "You Get What You Give," the band's only big hit that, while successful, kept them in a well-guarded "One-Hit Wonder" holding cell that they never broke out of. My sister had the album, but I never listened to it. I wasn't much of an "album" kid, see; even the albums I did buy were only for the few songs I knew from the radio and TRL (mostly the Offspring and Sugar Ray). I was only in it for the singles, and the fact that my sister's tastes also ran from N*Sync to B*Witched (christ, I can't believe I still remember them) didn't help matters. Long story short, I ignored the album.

So it's kind of funny, all these years later, how much of this album I genuinely enjoy. It's a different kind of enjoyment, though, than the kind I get from bands more fitting to someone my age, like Pavement or Radiohead. When I listen to this music, I think to myself, "Jeez, I should have listened to this when I was 12. I probably would have loved it." That's not a fair assessment, though, because that would imply that this is music that I don't enjoy now. And that just ain't true.

Then again, I feel like this kind of music was almost designed to be liked by someone like me. It's pop music, essentially, but it's delivered in a different way; it's socially-conscious piano-rock, but it's produced like mainstream pop, carefully crafted to fit in with Big Emotional Anthems like "Bittersweet Symphony" and "Closing Time" that were so damned popular at the time. Another big selling point was lead vocalist and main songwriter Gregg Alexander, who seemed to encapsulate the band's greatest strengths as well as its most nagging flaws rolled into one. Listening to the album now, I don't know what to think of Alexander's personality. I like his voice, for the most part; he has a tendency to get a little over-zealous about drug use and environmental concerns that seem a tad specious, but when he restrains himself, he has a very pleasant voice. My main problem with Alexander is his obvious ego, something that sticks out like a sore thumb every time he sings; he's one of those guys you can tell is sorta in love with his own voice, using it in every way he can, from background singing to scat-singin' to whatever. He's very, very over the top and emotional, and has a tendency to over-enunciate his lyrics to make them sound more meaningful than they actually are. It takes some getting used to.

I can forgive that, though. Alexander, despite his borderline-annoying personality, knows his way around a melody, which is really the meat and potatoes of this album. Yes, the band treats every chorus as Big and Important and Meaningful - but it works, because the melodies are catchy, and Alexander and the rest of the band know how to sell them. And that goes a long way. It especially works when Alexander goes for a more subdued vocal approach, like on "Gotta Stay High" and "Jehovah Made This Whole World For You Carolina" (an unwieldly title to be sure, but one that is pulled off well in the context of the song). Honestly, when the band works with a simple piano melody and builds around it, it brings out the best in them.

I can't say I dislike the Big Important Anthems, though (I'll stop using that term from here on out, it's starting to annoy even me). Yeah, they can get kind of over-the-top and self-serving in that kind of late-90's way; occasional jabs at the government, plenty of references to drug use and illicit sex, and tons of references to the 60's/70's, specifically involving hippies. You almost get the impression that Alexander has a thing for hippies, actually, which is made pretty obvious in songs like "Flowers" in which he compares his love to "the flowers you smoke to get high" and "Jehovah", which is a somewhat snarky character portrait of a hypocritical female environmentalist ("She screams 'We better think about the O-Zone Layer' / while tossing out a styrofoam cup"). This all stems from the hip 70's nostalgia that the 90's was obsessed with, which probably was part of the album's appeal, and moreso, it's why the album still feels like a total product of its era.

But despite all of that, I just really, really enjoy the sound of this album. "Mother We Just Can't Get Enough," the opener here, brims with enthusiasm, from the neat repeating guitar riff to the simple piano line to Alexander's screeching soul-wannabe vocals (even hearing him belt out an reggae-like scat thing at the end doesn't kill the song, though it's a little embarrassing to listen to). "You Get What You Give" was a hit for a reason - it defined late-90's optimism, from its "one-two-three-OWWW!" opening yelp, to its "Never Give Up" chorus, to its controversy-baiting ending in which Alexander makes some cheap shots at big-at-the-time rockers Beck, Hanson, Courtney Love and Marilyn Manson (Gregg was just as guilty of commercialization as any of them, which he probably knew). I loved this song when I was younger, and while its "message" is transparent as window glass to me now, it still gets a rise out of me and probably always will. "Technicolor Lover", despite some awkward lyrics about pubic hair or something, is a surprisingly cool late-night kind of song (and the touch of grungy guitar in the second chorus is a nice addition). "Flowers", while maybe one of the corniest songs on the album, is very pretty, and the "I love you / You hate me" coda that pops up near the end of the song is wonderful to hear. "Crying Like a Church on Monday," with its lower-octave vocals in the verses, cool guitar solo, and pleasant mellow piano sound, ends the album gracefully. It might sound kind of cheesy, but there's a lot of heart in these songs, and it sounds like they were poured over with the utmost care, and even when that "care" equals "attempted commercial viability", it still sounds impressive.

One thing I will say about this album - and this is offhand - Gregg Alexander seems to be obsessed with drug references. It's kind of bizarre. "I Hope I Didn't Just Give Away The Ending" is the one track that goes overboard in this regard, telling a story about buying coke, snorting coke, mistakenly snorting coke, doing pornography to pay for coke (no joke), and... well, coke coke coke. I don't know if Alexander thought he was a cool dude for writing these lyrics; they reek of a "Hear that, man? I do COCAINE. Yeah, that's right, COKE!" vibe, and it's annoying. Drug references pop up occasionally in other songs on the album, but it's not as explicit. It honestly makes me wonder if Gregg Alexander ever actually did drugs in the first place; these feel like the kind of drug lyrics that only a middle schooler would think was cool - "My mom let me buy this album the other day, and the singer, he sings about COKE! Yeah, that's right! COCAINE!! No joke!"

But whatever. Minor quibbles aside, I still enjoy this album. I know that it'll always be a product of its time, though; hell, you can even tell just by looking at its cover, with its colorful neon-yellow sunburst and Gregg Alexander's cocksure bucket-hat-donning pose (hey, I had a bucket hat around that time too! Well golly gee!). Hell, the band itself seemed to know their days were numbered; after "You Get What You Give" was big, they broke up fairly quickly after Alexander ditched the rest of them and went on to pursue writing songs for Michelle Branch or something. Surprise surprise. This is also an album that flew right under the radar: semi-popular at the time, only one hit song, band breaks up, nobody hears from them again outside of Toyota commercials. It's not an album you'll ever hear a college student blasting from the dorm next door, or the kind of album that'll be given a chapter in the Grand History Of Rock 'n Roll, but it'll remain with me as a personal gem. Ah, the late 90's... how I miss thee. Maybe I'll see if I can buy a bucket-hat somewhere. I used to have a Star Wars Episode I-styled one. What a stupid kid I was.

Oh, by the way, Gregg Alexander does a shitload of cocaine.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Legend Of Zelda: A Rambling, Pointless Playthrough (Part 1)

It does not take much to sweep me off my feet, and the GameTrailers.com Legend of Zelda Retrospective did just that last October, without any resistance on my part. Now when I say "sweep me off my feet" I'm not trying to be clever or anything, I'm referring to a shift in interests pure and simple, because this is exactly what it was. At this point in my life I hadn't thought about the Legend of Zelda much at all recently, at least give or take in the last couple years, when I lazily finished my game of Ocarina of Time more out of an obligation to the incomplete save file than anything else (I love - LOVE - Ocarina of Time so this may not have been the best sign of my personal state at the time). I didn't finish the game because Wind Waker was released, back in March 2003, and of course Wind Waker was so beautiful and fulfilling in its own way that I didn't need to use Ocarina of Time as a Zelda-stopgap anymore. It honestly didn't matter much at the time, though; I loved Wind Waker but not enough to stem the Final Fantasy wave I was shamelessly riding, something I'd been guilty of since I was 12 years old and buggered out over the cool-smooth FMV graphics of Final Fantasy VIII. Man, that blew me out.

I can talk about Final Fantasy later on (you'll have to wait, I promise it'll be real interesting though!). I'm not gonna rag on FF, you know, it's just that it's gonna be the counterpoint of this whole little memoir and it will be important, I promise. But BACK to the Gametrailers.com retrospective. The truth is that, before I actually started watching these videos, I was still riding that same Final Fantasy wave, to the point where Final Fantasies VII and VIII were the only games I was bothering to re-play by around late 2006. I also fell in love with Metal Gear, which lasted half the summer until my house burned to the ground, which could be called a "setback" in gamer terms. After my father decided to salvage everything he could from our 'ol burnt crisp of a house, my video games came with him, which was... well, nice, if not the first thing on my mind (the second, if you must know). I had Final Fantasy VII back, which I was playing through before the fire, and while I did end up finishing that one right up into October '06, it just didn't feel right. It was fucking DEPRESSING, if you must know. I did everything right - got all my character shit-crazy powerful, 9999 holy-grail HP and all that, killed that fucker Emerald Weapon who'd eluded me ever since I deleted my earliest playthrough back in '00 and cried myself to sleep, knowing his green slimy machine body was still sludging through the waters of The Planet or wherever Cloud 'n Friends happened to live.

Shit, you know, Final Fantasy is pretty important in relation to Zelda. For me, at least; I got sucked into the FFVIII turbine right around the time I first finished Link to the Past for the first time. In all truth, my entire early love for Zelda can almost totally be quarantined in a single year: 1999, a decent enough candidate for my personal Best Year To Be Alive. I bought Link's Awakening, the super-upgraded colorized version, and fell in love; borrowed Ocarina from a friend of mine, and fell DEEPLY in love; bought Link to the Past secondhand at my local (now defunct/Gamestop) Funcoland and fell reprehensibly in love until I decided not to even finish the final dungeon and buy a Playstation (oh, the fickle whims of youth... redundant, I know, but it sounds writerly). Wind Waker had a wonderful intervention in '03, during one of my favorite Springtimes (capitalized for Importance), but I haven't played it since due to a lousy kid from high school who I lent it to and who never gave it back (if you're reading, Stephen Callahan - HEY HEY, you're not lousy, just unreliable). Bad luck and broken dreams have come hand in hand between Zelda and myself, and when I saw this six-video Zelda Retrospective on Gametrailers.com in celebration of Twilight Princess's eventual release, all of that 1999-2003 love I had locked away in some obscure brain cell was cut loose, like some great chemical; to call it a drug would be cheapening it. Only two videos were around when I first saw them, but they were enough; here was Legend of Zelda (never played), Zelda 2 (never played, looks a little hard), Link to the Past (two-dimensional video gaming at its peak) and Link's Awakening (ocean of memory) in all of its retroactive glory, being spoken of in near-philosophical terms by the nameless GT narrator, who sounded like he was reading off of slightly-blurred cue cards (or maybe he just hadn't been reading these "game review video" things for very long). The narrator worked, though, because you could see he loved these games, and the game footage spoke for itself; hearing him call Ocarina of Time "one of the finest achievements in gaming" over a video of the Sages of Time swirling together to seal away Ultimate Evil - leading into a great Master Sword shot with bells chiming - just shook my bones. Call it pathetic or nerdy if you want - honestly, you're not even scratching the surface of my great Zelda Spirit. Yeah, part of it is cheap nostalgia, my need to reconnect with my 6th-grade self. I've come to terms with that, and I don't care anymore. It's beyond nostalgia; it's something that I don't want to bother trying to explain. Watching these videos, I just kind of stopped, stared, and said to myself - "Man, I love The Legend of Zelda."

And that's when this whole "playthrough" thing started. I borrowed the Game Boy Advance version of Link to the Past from a friend of mine before my school year started, and there it was, sitting there on my desk, waiting to be re-played. At the time I was starting off Chrono Trigger again (another game I love for its core simplicity, but one that I have failed to play through past that dino-level in about four years), but once I started LttP again, I couldn't stop; once I reached that Master Sword sequence, with Link pulling out the sword in the middle of the Lost Woods for the first time (and, for me, the first time in five years), charging his way through Hyrule Castle, breaking through those god-awful annoying electric-ish barriers and giving Agahnim a good old-fashioned one-two. The music, the suspense - everything fit, and I was hooked once again.
So I guess all I can do is write my own retrospective - how I view the Legend of Zelda series, how it fits into my own philosophical bubble (if that sounds pretentious, that's because it is), and why I think it's the goddamned Greatest Video Game Series Ever, going beyond video games themselves to become one of the finest achievements in ANYTHING, beyond even art itself. Fuck art. Art is something I don't understand and feel no need to try and quantify. Zelda's better than most art I've seen anyways. And I mean that.

Of course, I'm not actually finished yet. I'm currently playing through Ocarina of Time, which is drudging up its share of memories. After that I may try my hand a couple more games I haven't played yet until I finally finish up with a long-awaited playthrough of The Wind Waker. So consider this an introduction - I'll eventually go in-depth on almost every Zelda game I've played in the past year (maybe all of them, if I care enough about it). For now, I'll just have to ride the New Wave. Whatever that means.

Friday, February 02, 2007

Video Game Diaries: Luigi's Lost Languid Lothario


Third day of the "Melee" tournament. No fights yet, since contestants are still funneling in from wherever the hell it is they come from. I have to admit, I can't say I'm feeling as excited as I did a couple of years ago.

Well, okay, maybe that's presumptuous. Things were a little bit more fun for me back in '99, what with Mario Party AND the first tournament kicking off - you know, before then novelty wore off. Back then, it was a privilege, to get all of us together from whatever "universe" we came from to have a little bit of fun. Even during the first Smash tournament, with all of us ripping each other apart, we were having a ball. Even THAT somehow turned into a party every night, with my brother Mario as the grand master of it all. Back when we were all got to know Donkey, Link, and Fox a little bit better - you know, the good 'ol days. There was a lot of promise there, and somehow it just kinda dried up in two years time. None of us kept in touch - I mean, this is the first time we've seen each other since then. So it's kind of... unusual.

Maybe I'm just biased? I don't know. The tournament's included a crapload of new characters and levels but I'm just not feeling it. My absolute favorite place to be during the first tournament was Saffron City - industrious, clean, vibrant, plenty of cool people there. Just a nice place overall - a helluva lot more INTERESTING than, say, the Mushroom Kingdom, which is full of pricks half the time (maybe I just feel that way because I live there??).

But, of course, Master Hand had to get rid of it. Ha ha! He replaced it with... you know, I don't even remember. They had to move the Pokemon levels out of major cities because - and I don't know how legit this claim is - there was a risk of (and I'm paraphrasing) "illicit, rogue, and untrustworthy" trainers attempting to capture Pikachu and/or Jigglypuff and keep them hostage, possibly attempting to sell them on the black market. So I guess they needed damage control.

We're all meeting in a place called the "Smash Plaza" - kind of a tacky name, but eh. They were thinking of hosting it near the back entrance of the Mushroom Kingdom courtyard, but there were complaints that using our world as a hub AGAIN wasn't gracious enough to our fellow Nintendo brethren (as many have called them, despite the fact that we barely ever see these people outside of events like this). Some anonymous contestant (coughcoughkirby'saprickcoughcough) wanted the hub to be in a "more neutral" zone. So now we're in this plaza in the middle of this vast field - blue skies, green grass, sun shining, etc. There isn't even a nighttime in this place. It's like limbo. I don't know how to describe it further.

Rumor has it that we're actually smack dab in the middle of Dream Land. Haha! That'd be ironic. Falcon told me that one, though, so it's probably bullshit. Honestly, I'm just surprised he managed to say something to me that wasn't his own name.

The new characters are... nice, I guess. New people are nice, but of course my brother tries to be buddy-buddies with EACH and EVERY of them, no matter who they are - even with the villains! I mean, really, what's the point of that? If I see someone like Ganondorf or Falco standing alone in the corner, you know, brooding - well, jeez, maybe they don't feel like talking.

Well, okay, Falco isn't a villain, but he's got his own agenda, you know? He won't look you in the eye - I mean, he just doesn't want to have much to do with any of us. That includes Fox, who's known him for years. It's his style. Doesn't deter Mario, though. All yesterday he was following him, asking him about "what he's heard about the Mushroom Kingdom" and how he's been thinking of "getting into space travel." Cute, Mario. I'm sure Falco's SO enthralled, just by hearing you mention his occupation out loud.

What's sad about this is that, well, Mario COULD get into space travel if he really wanted to. Honest. He's got the money. But no, I don't think he's genuinely interested in that. Besides his little trip to the moon in Land 2 (which I think was mostly promotional - "Mario In Space!", that whole schtick) I doubt he'll ever get into space exploration. His money's better spent of biplanes and water pump backpacks (no kidding). He just mentioned "space travel" so Falco would take a shine to him.

Fat-ass chance.

And as for what he's "heard about the Mushroom Kingdom", well... my guess is he's probably heard what everybody else has - that Mario refuses to walk around the castle without Lakitu filming him on a constant basis (from EVERY POSSIBLE ANGLE), and that Toad won't even let you past the front gate without buying his (apparently patented) "Super Happy Mushroom Dude Hat!" It's a mushroom hat that essentially makes you look like him. Apparently it makes him "more comfortable" around strangers.

I've never understood Toad. Ever. But I'll save that for some other time. I could write a fucking novel.

One more thing - and I don't know how this'll affect the rest of the tournament, but it's really cheeky nonetheless - I was called to have a little meeting with the Tournament Advisors late yesterday afternoon. I'd never been to their office, but... well, it was a trip. A single platform, in the middle of a giant vortex. Don't ask me how I got there (it was randomized teleportation, I have no clue how it works - although maybe Mario's studied the matter to get friendly with Samus, who knows), but it's a very private place. So I could tell something was up. I talked with Master Hand (behind a surprisingly undersized desk), Cranky Kong, and - this one shocked me - Pitfall Harry. God, he looks old - I had no idea his career had dried up this badly, taking a job as an advisor for a franchise he has little or nothing to do with. Guy's in his early 40's - younger than me! - and he's very disheveled. Very thin, too - I heard he had to deal with an eating disorder a few years back. Sad, sad.

They felt I was copying Mario too much, with my fighting style. Apparently I'd just been "fighting exactly like [my] brother, just with a less compromising jumping ability". Basically, I was completely outclassing my brother in terms of physical ability, and they don't like people taking a shine to me over Nintendo's Mickey Mouse. So they want me to get "goofier" - you know, jumping at an awkward angle, flailing my limbs around more often, shooting myself forward without any regard to where I might be headed. In layman's terms, they want me to suck worse than my brother.

Jesus Christ, people. Mario and I worked on that move set TOGETHER. Mario recognizes it, and so do I. I mean, I'll admit, he masterminded the whole concept back in '83, but man, it was the two of us! And now I've gotta fuck it all up so I can push the "dottering, awkward younger brother" stereotype. Wanna know why Mario can't jump as high as he used to? He hasn't done jack-squat since '96, that's why!! I've been practicing, he's been golfing. That's just the truth.

Whatever. I don't want to pull the jealousy card here; that's disingenuous. But I'm not the same, submissive little pipsqueak that I was back in the early 90's. I've grown up a bit, and I'm tired of this pity-image thing. But what can I do?

They are giving me a game, though. "Luigi's Mansion." I'd been in talks with Miyamoto about my own 3D platformer, kinda like Mario's - only "zanier." That's the word Miyamoto used. I thought maybe it'd just be like Mario 64 only I'd be getting shot OUT of green pipes, harrassed by Bowser, degraded by Toad with a set of witty quips (as if he were capable of that) after I failed to save the Princess 'once again' - you know, that kind of dumb stuff, but with the same basic gameplay in mind. Turns out that "zaniness" he mentioned consists of me sucking up ghosts with a vacuum cleaner. So it'll be like Mario's Missing, combined with a shitty Ghostbusters ripoff. AWESOME.

This is going to be a Gamecube launch title, by the way. Not Melee. Makes perfect sense! Can't wait to produce the piece of shit.

Lord, I sound bitter.

I need to call Diddy. I don't know why he wasn't invited to the tournament. Problems with Rare again?? Quite possibly. I know he's been getting a lot of calls from Bill Gates recently. Not a good sign.

I'm tired of sounding morose. If you talked to me in person, I'm sure you'd find me to be a very chipper individual. It just doesn't translate on paper. Oh well.

Good tidings to you.



Tuesday, January 30, 2007

On "Random" Humor

I don't know. I think I'm starting to get tired of it.

Well, really, I've been tired of it for a long time. It's been a while since I considered LOL-internet comedy like Animutations and "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" to be the highest form of the medium. Now it's just faddish and annoying. I mean, what is there to "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" anyway? It's zany and whappa-de-doo crazy! That's all it is. And then they add it the words "with a baseball bat" to make it even zanier and MORE RANDOM. OH BOY! SQUIRRELS AND MONKEYS!!!

Yeah... it just gets to a point where people glorify crappy humor like that until it achieves godlike status for no good reason, and you just totally forget about what actually made it funny in the first place. Maybe it's fun when you discover something unusual and "random" when you're with friends, laughing together with a "What in the blue fuck is THAT?!" But it doesn't last long. After joking about it for a few weeks and turning it into some silly inside joke, you begin to realize that it's not all that substantial.

Oddly enough this reminds me of a quote from Wayne Coyne of the Flaming Lips. Far from a comedy band, mind you, but a great band nonetheless. In their early 80's days, the Lips were a craaaazy avant-garde band, one more interested in making their music as bizarre as possible than making it as good as possible. Not that they were a terrible band because of this - the weirdness they possessed came from a very real place - but at the same time, they had a tendency to let it overpower the music. Then came "In A Priest Driven Ambulance", a serious Lips album with an unmistakable edge of weirdness. But the "zaniness" had a point - it made the music more poignant, more unique. As Coyne said, they initially were "convinced that to 'shock' or 'teach' listeners was more important than being real. . . . What fools we were."

Of course, the only 'big' hit the Lips had was "She Don't Use Jelly," a quirky novelty song. People liked it because it was weird, not because they thought the Flaming Lips were a great band. (ahem)

BUT I digress. People love to use weirdness and quirkiness nowadays to gain attention. You know, viral videos and the Star Wars kid and the like. Which is a big 'ol reason why quirky, CRAAAZY "cult" television shows - say, like Family Guy - gain so much attention.

I used to love Family Guy. I kind of don't anymore. Do I hate it? Not necessarily. If I sit down and watch an episode, yeah, I'll give out a chuckle here and there. But I'm not 16 anymore, the show's back on the air after a 3 year hiatus, and it's just not working for me. It's the kind of show that's not concerned about decent plots of well-developed characterizations - it's about quotability, randomness, funny references that you wouldn't expect. The show's writers seem to want people to say, "Haha, what a funny reference Peter just made! I'm gonna put it in my AIM profile!!" So they constantly reference 70's and 80's mainstays like Transformers and the A-Team, or whatever, and throw them in the show for no real reason.

This kind of leads to what I consider to be my biggest problem with the show - the flashbacks. OHHH the flashbacks. Trey Parker and Matt Stone called out FG's writers for this, and they pretty much pinpointed my EXACT gripes with this aspect of the show. "It's like the time I..." Like the time you WHAT, Peter? Tried to fish with rollerstakes on? Played sudoku with the Numa Numa Guy? Had an interview with Dan Rather and discovered he was in the X-Men?? OH GOD, THERE IS SUCH HILARITY IN THESE META-REFERENCES, I MUST ALERT MY BUDDY LIST.

I think Seth MacFarlane was miffed after they did that SP episode. I remember he did something where he put on his Stewie voice and said sarcastically - I'm paraphrasing - "How dare Family Guy writers put in those asides and in-jokes that have nothing to do with the episode - they're trying to be FUNNY! That's something South Park is well above." Something snarky like that.

Seth, the characters in your show are ciphers. I remember in some early episodes of the show, there were some decent (albeit sloppy) attempts at expanding Brian's character that I kinda liked. What happened to those? Now you're got him spouting super-edgy diatribes against such "unexpected" targets like the FCC and Wal-Mart that have been done to death for about two decades now. Stewie, I don't even know who the hell he's supposed to be anymore. Everybody hates Meg, which WOULD be funny if you hadn't already made her seem, you know - human - earlier on in the show. And you know what? Those lovely asides and in-jokes that you say make you funnier that South Park - YEEEEHA!! They ain't that funny. More often than not, you're trying to expand on a joke that doesn't need to be expanded upon, and you end up stretching it out for SO LONG that it just gets tired. You know that episode of The Simpsons where Sideshow Bob keeps getting hit with rakes and grumbles each time? For, like, a full minute? And it's absolutely hilarious? Yeah, Family Guy's been co-opting that kind of a joke for pretty much their entire run.

The difference? The Simpsons did it within a conventional - but still very funny - structure. They've got well-developed characters, a compelling storyline, etc. So when you throw in a one-off joke like that, it's totally unexpected and unusual, in turn making it even funnier. When you make this kind of joke all the time - like Family Guy - it just doesn't work as well.

Okay, I'm tired of ripping on Family Guy. Honestly, the show has made me laugh loudly many times in the past. But because the writing is so all over the place, the show lacks any real kind of consistency. And it's starting to get to me.

Maybe I'm just growing up? I don't know. I can't stand novelty anymore. It feels hollow. I love humor when it's used in a powerful, honest way - which I guess is why I've started to love shows like The Simpsons, South Park, and Futurama even more than usual. I'm beginning to notice the subtleties in humor, the consistently intriguing characters and plot elements that make me laugh even harder and keep me watching year after year. It's the same thing with music - I love bands like the Flaming Lips and Ween for their great musical ability, not for their weirdness. It feels good, to have that kind of genuine love.

There's probably a lot more I could say on this subject - railing against the stupidity of other kinds of "random" college humor, some kind of rant about how the Dropkick Murphys ARE a novelty band and Ween ISN'T... oh, lots of stuff. But I'm tired, and I need to play Zelda. And read.

Have a nice night.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Oh boy what is this

Note: I was in a totally angry mood when I wrote this. Some people might not be able to take my version of The Legend of Zelda series. Well, you can all shove it up the cakehole! This is my artistic integrity and I can do whatever the fib I want. It's called "art." Deal with it, evangelical Christians! While my PARENTS and my SISTER were at church, I stayed up all night and all morning writing this. In your FACE, Amanda! Didn't wanna see your crappy baptism anyway. And you can't even get pissed at me 'cause you're TWO YEARS OLD!!!!!

Also, just to remind you: there is
totally swearing in this story. That's 'cause it's for us ADULTS. M'kay? If that scares the frig out of you, feel free to go here and enjoy watching "Lilo and Stich 7: Still Totally Friggin' Gay" while the 15+ crowd checks out some grade-A badass entertainment. Have fun you FUCKASS!

R+R plz, this is my first story, but if you don't review it well I won't write any more. Shits.


He never asked the boy about the backyard. Indeed, he had noticed the dead grass, the unusual, rotting smell that certainly wasn't just Chu fertilizer, the soil with an appearance of being shoveled to death from some ill-begotten treasure hunt. But to him, it was a negligible change, not worth thinking about too much in the scheme of things; surely, to be alive, to see his nephew once again - was that not the most important thing? Furthermore, to know that his own nephew had saved the entire land of Hyrule in his month-long absence - that the boy entrusted to him by his dying brother years ago, who he raised all on his own, had swam to the deepest depths of Lake Hylia, ascended beyond the bubbling lava pits of Turtle Rock, ventured into the dark bastardization of common life that was the Dark World, and slayed the traitorous Agahnim AND the dark beast Ganon with the power of the legendary blade, the Master Sword - not to mention spreading peace throughout the land with the power of the sacred Triforce, the blessing of the Gods itself! His own blood, a hero! Yes, all this was certainly more important than his own silly worries. The garden behind their humble shack simply must have been neglected while he was away. Young Link was no gardener, after all.

Yes... everything was at peace. That was all that mattered.

And it was a peaceful day, as it had been every day since beauty returned to the fields of Hyrule months ago. By the early afternoon his nephew was still asleep; he had practiced sword techniques the night before, keeping himself limber and strong, and was exhausted from such a vigorous night. The uncle, having awakened at the earliest Hylian hour, had already set out and completed his daily chores. He cleared the gutters, paneled part of the roof, gave the cuccoos their share of feed, dug wayward rupees out of nearby bushes - heck, he even managed to trim the excess fuzz off of his quickly-bushing thickness of a mustache. To his surprise, he hadn't felt this sprightly since his youth, playing in the fields with his older brother so many years ago; even before his injury, he hadn't been this revitalized by the majestic sunrise climbing the tops of Death Mountain, the calls of the chirping birds inhabiting the Lost Woods, the softness of the plain, damp grass sticking to his toes. So energized was he that he resolved to cut his way through the dangerous forests and make his way to Kakariko Village, to hear the daily news-givings and perhaps fetch the week's necessary bottles of fresh milk. Yes - today would surely be a productive day, the herald of a new beginning.

He entered their modest, cozy one-room shack with his natural aplomb, the dirt and scum sticking to his clothing doing not a thing to dampen his loving determination. As he quickly changed out of his work-clothes and into his sweater vest, he made sure to keep quiet as his nephew, almost cherubic eyes tightly sealed, slept soundly. No doubt he dreams of great new adventures to come, the proud uncle mused, smiling with natural content. Yes, the boy had been sleeping quite late in the day recently, which was not something the uncle would allow of him in the past; he'd be up, bright and early, to help his old uncle with chores. But now, after his valiant adventures, the uncle simply attributed this to having seen so much of the world and having the weight of the entire country on his shoulders - surely, even the world's strongest Goron would be exhausted to carry such a load, let alone a young boy! And surely, he deserved his rest.

Satisfied with this sight, the uncle turned to leave. But halfway out the door, it occurred to him - why, he should not forget his trusted blade! Surely he was not thinking of venturing through the deep Hylian forests without his family sword, tempered by the finest blacksmiths Kakariko had to offer many years ago. Swiftly he moved to the closet to fetch the sword and perhaps his crested shield as well, when he noticed that the door handle appeared to be stained with an odd shade of amber, a strange liquid smearing on his hands as he twisted the door knob. Unusual, yes, but perhaps just the heavy sweat dripping from his own hands - he was a hard worker, after all, and hadn't much time to tend to his own hygienic needs. Not thinking twice, he opened the closet door quickly, only to see a pair of cold, lifeless eyes staring directly into his own.

The sight didn't register at first. All he could do was stand plain and still, palms sweating even moreso, staring through the helmet of a dead Hylian solider, his pale face just barely visible through a thick, green, metallic sheen. Before he could even yelp, he was forced backwards as the soldier fell forward, narrowly missing his body as the deafening "CLANG!" of the soldier's once-majestic Hylian armor came crashing to the ground, rotting carcass and all. The armor's sheen had been scuffed and defamed with markings and stains, and not only that, but now plainly visible was the uncle's sword, wedged deep into the man's spinal column, doused in a deep red blood.

"Farore's WIND!" shouted the uncle, grasping his mouth in order to suppress a rising river of vomit that was getting closer and closer to expelling itself. He wasn't sure of what to do - panic like the old fool he was? Call for help with screams and curses? Run away in cowardice?? Of course in this state of desperation he couldn't even notice his own nephew, awakened no doubt by the damning clang of metal and his uncle's girlish yelp, creeping slowly out of bed to see what was the matter. Groggy from sleep and unable to see clearly, the young, golden-haired boy approached his uncle sheepishly, disheveled and still in his nightly pajamas.

"Uncle? What's going on?" he murmured softly, tapping his mentor tenderly on the shoulder.

"Ah-AHH!" the old man cried, turning around to see his loving nephew, confused and half-awake. "Oh - oh my word, Link! Please, don't sneak up on me in such a way. You know I am too weak for such remarkable surprises, especially when - oh, oh my WORD!!"

"But uncle, what-" Link stammered before he saw it for himself - the body, revealed and in its full bloody glory, lying dead for all to see. "Oh, oh..." he said softly, a hint of recognition in his voice but not as much of a panic.

Of course, his uncle, shocked and frightened, did not notice the exact timbre of his nephew's voice. "Link, what's happened here?!" he squealed, thoroughly upset but not quite angry or damning in his tone. "Do you have any idea? My sword - this is -"

"It must've been a lone assailant," his nephew said simply, keeping an eye on the body and walking backwards, ever so slowly, almost attempting to avoid the situation. "Someone must have snuck in here, uncle."

"Yes, but - this is MY sword!" the uncle exclaimed, unsure of what to think. "And surely an assailant would come after one of us - but this is a Hylian solider, respected and venerated! Who would place someone like this in our humble home?? Oh... oh my WORD!"

"Perhaps someone is trying to frame us, uncle!" Link said with an almost dismissive certainty, watching the blue-haired man fall to the ground, getting a closer look at the fallen body. "Perhaps we have new enemies!"

"But... during a time of peace?" the uncle questioned, shaking his head. "Surely, young Link, the peace that you wished for - is it not whole and universal to this entire kingdom? How - how could this HAPPEN?"

Link breathed deeply. "These things just happen, uncle."

"But you had the sword last night!" the uncle exclaimed, almost in a state of non-control - certainly something he was not used to. "It was safe in your heroic hands... who could have..."

There was no response. Link stood next to his bed, staring blankly at the scene, cracking his knuckles as if to quell his own nervous bones. Unsure of his nephew's feelings, the uncle quickly stood and turned around to examine the boy's features, to put a young, human face on the situation. But Link's usually chipper demeanor did not show in his acidic frown, his empty eyes, his clenched fists. The uncle could almost feel his own throat swallowing blood as he watched the boy walk to the body, grab the still-warm hilt of the sword, and pull the blade out of the poor guard, a steady dripping of red sliding down its polished silver. He shook his head solemnly.

"We need to get this out of here," Link said simply, no remorse cracking through his voice. "All of it, every trace, as quickly as possible. And you will help me, uncle."

"Link?" the uncle inquired softly, almost unable to breathe. "Link, you... what are you-"

"Help me, my good uncle!" Link said this in a deep, demented tone, almost comparable to a slave driver, a man with infinite anger within his soul. "You WILL help me dispose of this man. I know you will."

"But- Link!!" the uncle cried, the taste of blood and vomit burning benath his tongue, his lungs turning against the rest of his body. "What is going on here? What's happened here??"

"Oh, god, will you chill OUT?" Link barked, pounding his foot against the soldier's armored head with another deafening CLONG! "Just shut up and help me, uncle! I don't have time for your... weaknesses."

"But what have you done here, my boy?" the uncle winced. "Who is this man??"

"Damned soliders," the boy cursed. "They'll never leave me alone, uncle. Always watching me as I venture merrily through the fields. Damn them to hell."


"They just won't STOP!" Link shouted, swinging his sword around violently and without sense.

"Even when I was saving Hyrule, they accused me of capturing the princess! Without a trial or even any kind of evidence, uncle! And even now, in a time of peace... they just can't leave me alone, can they? They'll never leave me alone."

"What do you mean, boy??" the uncle cried. "What do these soldiers have to do with our business?"

"Come on, man! You know what I mean!" Link looked to the window, as if addressing some unknown entity outside their door. "All those damned soldiers had to get possessed by that... wizard guy. And they came after ME, uncle! I was a criminal, a stupid little kid to them. That is... until I got the Master Sword in my hand."

The uncle, almost unable to stand on two feet any longer stumbled over clumsily onto his nephew's bed, grasping onto the sheets for dear life as the boy rambled on.

"And I saved the world, uncle!" he shouted with demented glee. "I saved every goddamned life in this country! But then - oh, well, I couldn't have the Master Sword any more, could I? Of course not! I had to put my birthright right back where I found it, while those Hylian goons supervised me - King's orders. To preserve the balance of Hyrule, or some shit. My deserved blade, STOLEN from me by that... fat doucherag!!" He clenched his fists angrily and bared his teeth "Now I'm just a stupid little twelve-year-old again, uncle! Dicking around with wooden swords - the Hero of Light himself! And now those soldier bastards can lord over me with their fancy armor and what-have-you... I can't STAND it."

"But my boy..." the uncle said slowly, shocked into sadness. "Surely... this was not called for..."

"Eh, say what you want," Link said dismissively. "He deserved it. They ALL deserved it. Every one of them."

The uncle barely even caught the meaning of his words. "They ALL?" he said sharply. "All of..."

"You old bastard, you saw them!" Link shouted, pointing his sword damningly at his only kin. "You SMELLED them, I'm sure. I took care of all of them while you recovered from that little stomach stabbing you somehow managed to survive from. Which THEY committed, mind you." He laughed heartily to himself, vainly wiping a blond hair from his smug face. "You should thank me, man! I avenged you."

"No..." The old man thrust his face into his hands, the tears spilling down his cheeks almost audible in his voice. "No... how could you..."

Link casually stepped over the dead soldier's body, getting closer to his uncle. "Eh, don't sound so surprised. All those guys in the backyard - they're all a bunch of fuckers, alright? They followed me around, poked at me, made fun of my tunic... jeez. You know they deserved it, man! And what's better-" he said devilishly, smiling wide as he leaned over to view his uncle face to face "-is that you're not gonna bust me on this one. Right?"


"You're NOT going to bust me." Link said in a haughty tone, clutching the bloody sword tightly. "There's no way you can."

"But- Link! You wished for PEACE!" the uncle shouted, unable to control himself. "The Triforce - surely, you represent peace in this world for all of us!! How could you-"

"Ah yes... peace." Link chuckled a bit to himself, unfazed by his uncle's tone. "Well, peace can mean a whole lot of things, uncle. Peace for the land... or peace for ME."

"Wh-what? What do you mean, boy?"

"Immunity, of course." Link stood up once again, taking the sword in his right hand and tracing squiggles into the still-wet red liquid. "So many damned stupid soldiers I had to kill to save this world - who KNOWS what the castle parliament would think! But no... the Triforce took care of that." He smiled widely, looking his uncle in the eyes once again. "That thing is a MOTHER, old man. People never consider what kind of powerful mind control that thing can exert. Instead, we have idiots like Ganondorf, strong enough to FIND the Triforce but always the first to wish for some idiotic, temporary boost in strength or something. Heh." Link wiped the bloody blade clean with one hand, his digits soaked in it. "Good thing someone as smart and heroic as ME got a hold of it. Now... I can do whatever the hell I want, and the government won't even notice."

"My goddess..." the uncle cried, almost praying to himself. "Din, Farore, Nayru save us..."

"Oh, don't give me that god crap. The gods are GONE, uncle!" Link shouted. "They abandoned this shit-hole of a land immediately after they created it. But at least... I was here to take advantage of their stupidly misguided gift to the masses. Too powerful for these simple people. But now - NOW I can do whatever I want! I can drink, I can steal, I can curse... all I fucking want."

"Please," the uncle pleading, "the excessive cursing - I never raised you to-"

"Anything I FUCK-damn-diddly-dick WANT," Link shouted, emphasizing key words. He stared at his uncle devilishly, drawing his sword forward. "And not only that... but I can KILL whoever I want. Even YOU, uncle!"

"No-NOOOO!" the old man screamed, running for the door and just barely managing to burst out of it, the wood scraping against his outstretched palms. Before he could get very far, however, he felt a strong tugging of his veins, his entire body freezing, his lungs filling with nothing. He fell to the ground, crumpled, old and defeated by fate itself; his eyes hung open, but he could see nothing else. He was gone.

Link walked slowly outside, taking note of his uncle almost in disgust. "Poor bastard," he mumbled to himself, sighing in his boyish way. "He had no idea what we could have been together, in this pathetic limbo of a world. Ah well."

Reaching into his large pockets, he pulled out his trusted flute, which he stole from a little dead boy in the middle of the woods. Playing a random tune, he was approached by a small tweety bird, placing its talons on his outstretched hand.

"Hey, Mr. Bird," Link said with recognition.

"Yeah, hi," Mr. Bird said quickly, huffing with disregard. His voice was low in volume, but smooth as milk chocolate. "You don't have to call me 'mister', you know. Or by my last name. I know you well enough by now."

"Right. Well, I don't really know your first name."

"It's Skip."


"I mean, it's not like you ever asked or anything."

"No, but... well, you're-"

"I know. I'm just a bird." Mr. Skip Bird took a quick look around, noticing the comatose body of the old man lying helpless on the ground, a look of profound pain on his wrinkled face. "Uh... he alright?"

"I don't know. He's probably fine," Link said dismissively. "It's probably just some... I don't know. A technique old men use to hibernate."

"He... looks kinda dead," Skip Bird said simply, fluttering his wings in anticipation.

"Well, whatever, I'm not a doctor," Link said with frustration. "I guess he's dead."

"That's depressing," the bird said with resignation. "That's... wow. That's sad."

"Well, yeah. Now you see why I wanna get the hell outta here."

"We can take him to the desert, I guess, and let the vultures take care of him," Skip Bird suggested. "I mean, if you don't want to have to see his corpse just rotting there all the time."

Link raised his eyebrows. "Really? Can you carry that much weight?"

"Eh, for a little while. It's not like the desert's that far from here anyway. Just over that mountain. I think."

"Oh... well, yeah! Fuck it, let's go."

"Alright then." Mr. Skip Bird began to flutter his wings with gusto, but stopped suddenly. "Oh... might as well ask. Anywhere else you wanna go? I'm free 'till around six tonight... so I've got some time to kill."

"Yeah, yeah," Link answered with enthusiasm. "Now that you mention it... take me to the Master Sword. I wanna see it."

The tiny little bird frowned in its tiny little bird way. "Again? This is the third time this month, man. You've just gotta accept that you can't have that thing anymore. I know it's real shiny, but..."

"I WANNA SEE IT," Link barked. "Just shut up and flap your fucking wings, alright? I think the old man just emptied his bowels."

And so he was lifted, high into the sky, over the plains of Hyrule, and past the heavens, where the Gods kept a safe distance from modern society. As Link and the rotting carcass of his dottering uncle rose higher and higher into the clouds with the assistance of one Mr. Skip Bird, the young hero of the land couldn't help but ponder upon a single question.

"Hey, Skip," he called casually to his airborne best friend. "You think I've gone batshit insane?"

Mr. Skip Bird paused for a moment, pondering the question, moving one of his outstretched wings to stroke his birdly chin. "If I had to make a hypothesis... yeah. You are deep in the shit pool."

"Good, good," the boy murmured, clapping his hands and watching pools of red and purple dream waves bursting forth from his palms. "It's all good."