Just my thoughts. I'm sure you have your own.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Vacations... What are those again?

Next week I'll be on an 8-day cruise with my wife. Our truly official first vacation after being married for 4 years! We haven't gone anywhere (except to see friends in the mountains, but that wasn't really a 'getting-away-from-it-all' type of vacation) since our honeymoon, so I'm looking forward to it. Which means you won't see any updates for the next week and a half after tomorrow. Sorry, but I don't think anyone reads this anyhow--so I guess I'm the only one who will be missing the updates...

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Many Faces of the Sky

Something that just strikes me as weird is how versatile the sky is over a short period of time.

I left my house at around 6:45 AM this morning to a completely blackened darkness, mostly due to the fact that stratus clouds covered every direction as far as the horizon of my 'in-the-woods' house would allow me to see. Said cloud coverage continued up to about 7:10, as I passed my second 'checkpoint'* on my way to work. At this point, I encountered a number of sunrise phenomena.

[* I travel a two-lane highway for some 55 miles on my way to work, passing through no less than 4 'settlements' as I like to call them--small towns where the population can be counted on fingers and toes. I affectionately refer to these as checkpoints.]

First, there was that eerie sepia-tone tint that everything has as the sun crescends over the horizon at such an angle that the light is trapped under the clouds. See, the clouds were starting to dissipate in the direction of the sunrise (East, if my middle school-era education serves me), but the clouds directly overhead and in every other direction were still thick. So, I got to experience that 'I think I'm in the 1940's' feeling driving down the highway.

This is always a fun experience to behold. For one, you experience that invisible wall for seeing complete cloud coverage in one direction, while zero cloud coverage in another--without any gradual smoothing between the two, as if somebody put a giant glass bottle around the clouds and I was actually trapped inside with it. (Fears of crashing through proved unfounded.) Again, you get that cool tone of color as you drive.

Finally, once you get out from the range of under the doom cloud wall, you get that weird 'dystopia' effect--the one where, as you look ahead, things look like early spring: bright, cheery, full of hope; while as you look behind, all you see is the dark, forlorn clouds that you had just left, almost as the sky looks over a destroyed metropolis. (Is it just me, or is it weird that in sci-fi movies, dystopias are in a constant state of rain/heavy cloud coverage? As if to say after complete destruction of a city, they could never have a bright sunny day to take the kids to the park...)

Finally, I get to work, and it was like I woke from a dream. Absolutely no cloud that I could see, save a few whiter clouds to the south. This, of course, makes it all the more strange that I had encountered no rain on my entire drive, but got inside my work building just in time for the rain to come here.

Anyways, that was my adventure today with weather. In case anyone is interested, the computer still is dead and is not looking good for me. On the other hand, I came up with some interesting plot points for NaNoWriMo.

Oh, and yes, it's Final Fantasy Friday--week three in a row. Tackling soundtracks from FFX and FFXII mostly today.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Power of Music

In yesterday's post, I commented on how I had a rough start to the day based off of the fact that I was roused from sleep by one of the most dreckful songs the 80's had the gall to produce. This was sandwiched between other irks, such as an unworkable computer (looking all the more to be a dead computer now) and a dead stop to my NaNoWriMo story idea.

Neither of the two latter situations have remedied themselves; yet, I'm in a much better mood today? Why could this be the case? By an improvement in the third variable--music.

Yesterday, I couldn't get that blasted "Werewolves of London" song out of my head. Today, I woke to Elton John--granted, not a first-string choice of voices to come to consciousness over. Yet, it was one of his better songs ("Somebody save my life tonight") and I actually laid there to listen to it... until my wife reached over me and shut it off. I thought she was an Elton John fan...

Anyways, after this, I grabbed a mix MP3 CD of musicals and proceeded to listen to the Broadway recording of "West Side Story" on my way to work. Haven't heard it in forever, and I don't think I've really liked it more than I do right now (for some unknown reason). Needless to say, I'm all smiles today.

Amazing what a morning choice of music can do to a person, huh?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Computers just make my day...

Can you pick up on the sarcasm? I hope so, cause I intended it to be that way...

This has not started off to be a good day. First, late last night, before I went to bed, I started to seriously question my plot for NaNoWriMo--coming up against some legitimate issues with central points to the plot. Not just plot holes or contradictions--Real, serious issues, such as 'Ok, what do we do now?' To wit: I don't have an answer.

So, that wasn't a good mood to be in. This morning, I wake up to the radio going off (as usual, nothing unusual there). However, one of the most annoying songs that was spawned from the 80's (and that's a VERY high bar to jump) was the song that had roused me from my sleep. "Werewolves of London". Specifically, it came on right at the chorus. My eyes weren't even open yet and already I was rolling them. Needless to say, my radio did not deserve the fierce slap it received at that juncture.

So, how can we cap off such a wonderful trifecta of bad-day-iness? How about a complete computer failure?

My wife openly admits to accidentally getting a virus the other day. Nothing I'll complain about, as I've done this no less than a dozen times throughout my life. However, of all of the viruses to be gotten out there, she got a doozy.

Turn on computer - BIOS loads - Windows splash screen - Instantaneous BSoD.

Won't allow safe mode. Won't even attempt to load Windows before the failure screen. This one's going to be fun to fix. I'm thinking a wipe is going to occur. It doesn't sadden me all too much, as I back everything up on media AND an external hard drive. My wife is quite upset, however, as she is an amazing artist (mostly with sketches) and has been in rare form as of late, scanning everything into the computer and coloring it--spending hours on hours. Very little of it is backed up. (In her case, saved online on an art website she frequents, where she can download them back.) I just know it's going to be quite a bit of work for me to get this thing fixed, and with my shortened 'at-home' time now that I'm working (65 minutes away, so the commute zaps even more time), I'm going to have a very busy week (+ -end)

Ah well, at least I have something to do. I hope the day doesn't worsen any...

EDIT: Spoiler--It didn't. Not a bad day... Onto fight the ongoing battle with technology!

Monday, October 12, 2009

NaNoWriMo, take 3.

For those of you unfamiliar with NaNoWriMo, check this out. NaNoWriMo.org

The National Novel Writers' Month competition is one that I've attempted a number of years in the past, but really to not much avail. (One year, I got about 1/4 of the way through in one week, but then gave it up as Final Fantasy XII was being released. Priorities, man... Priorities.)

When my wife came up to me this year and expressed her interest in trying it this year, this only fueled my determination to give it the ol' college try one more time. I've gotten a good idea of what I want to write about (surprisingly, I was kicking around 5 ideas I had developed in the past, only to put them on the shelf once again for an idea I devised this morning on the way to work). I'll probably post some of my ideas and updates of its development on here as it takes place.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Final Fantasy Friday

(For those of you who are unfamiliar with what 'Final Fantasy' is, I unfortunately recommend you to check out my other postings or to check back on Monday, as there is far too much to explain in the time that I have today.)

I declare this day "Final Fantasy Friday"

I'm going to spend the day (while at work) listening to the soundtracks to Final Fantasy(ies) 4 - 9 (excl. 5). I listened to FF4 on the way to work this morning (long commute, some 65 minutes) and was brought back to some awesome memories in the process. My work computer is firing up FF6 as we speak, where I'll start. FF6 - FF9 should take all the time until I get home this evening around 6 PM, and anything that's left over, I'll work into FFX (of which I actually have the official soundtrack to, not just MIDI renditions as the predecessors.

Check back throughout the day, as I'll be keeping my blog window open and posting my thoughts and updates throughout the day, as listed below...

8:15 AM (Had to get set up with work): Final Fantasy VI begins--Crystal theme and Opening Scene. Crystal theme on this MIDI has a nice left-right panning effect; since I'm wearing headphones, it's like Uematsu's right here in the room, dancing around my head.

- I've listened to these soundtracks a hundred times each, but never with headphones. The surround effects are really good. I keep looking around for a hidden orchestra in this room.

- Listening to the world theme in the World of Balance. Just looked at the total time--almost two and a half hours for this whole soundtrack. I'll be listening until almost 11 AM! Good thing I love the music to this game, huh?

- You know, for being one of the most evil villians in a Final Fantasy, or any game really, Kefka has a very goofy theme... I think it's good that (on this compilation at least) the Empire's eerie music follows...

- The Mountains east of South Figaro, where you fight Vargas. Ugh, the first annoying stage of the game, because of all of the enemies that can poison you... lots of them 'Bats' talked about on the VG trope website. (I'm posting a lot I've noticed... Don't worry, about 30 seconds every 10 minutes should be alright.)

9 AM If you're coming across some sad/serious information during the course of your job, I highly recommend listening to Celes' theme while reading it... Very effective mood music.

- The intro to the Ghost Train music actually sounds like a 1940's cartoon--kinda like that one Popeye cartoon where he rescues his pappy from the island with the weird ogre looking guys. Actually, the whole song does... (I know it seems like I'm doing a lot of typing on here, but in actually, I'm getting a lot of work caught up today--it's been rather really productive.)

- Ugh... the ragtime 'Teach Me' screen... Just... ugh...
- - Saved by the next song - The Serpent Trench.

- Ah, the opera house. I've been listening to a track from 'Dear Friends' that plays the actual opera that gets interrupted during the course of the game. It's called "The Dream Oath" and just furthers the evidence in my case that Nobuo Uematsu is the greatest composer of any field of music for all times. Hearing the MIDI now, though, is more nostalgic than anything, but it makes me want to listen to the Dream Oath live. Perhaps on the way home from work...

- 2nd Ugh of the day - Magitech Factory. Full of some REALLY annoying enemies. At least my workmate ran to the store and brought back a Zero candy bar for me. Thanks, Becky.

10 AM - Relm's theme is such a favorite of mine. Can't listen to it enough... I think she's one of my favorite characters in the game, too. I mean, it's certainly not Umaro...

- Heh, 'The Seal is Broken'... escaping the Floating Continent... This is music (I've learned from experience) you do NOT want to listen to loudly in the dark. (I love playing video games late at night with no lights on except the TV, but this is freaky. Like 'Silent Hill' freaky)
- - But is immediately followed by Celes' theme (or a reasonable facsimile - 'Alone on the Island')
- The town music for the World of Ruin always makes me sad-faced. I know they're ficticious people, but that scene where the city gets ripped in half by Kefka's ray is pretty atrocious, even for a 16-bit graphics game.

- Hoo boy, another potential tear-jerker. Rachel's theme. I swear, I am a man among men, but every time I get Locke's flashback conerning Rachel (in the world of Balance), I just about lose it. The music... it's all the music's fault...

- Already to 'Dancing Mad'?! Wow, time sure flies by. I guess it has been almost 2 1/2 hours. (And yes, I'm still staying productive. I'm quite pleased with myself actually)
- - My, this song is long. Only half-way done after like 4:30. Then there's a 11-minute epilogue. Guess I'm not as close to being done with this as I thought.
- - Then again, the rock organ part just started. Black Mages do a great job with this song.

- Uematsu writes Ending/Epilogue music better than even John Williams. Yes, I said it.

10:40 AM - Wow. It's been awhile since I heard that whole soundtrack. Well, the memories will linger, but the heart and ears move on to Final Fantasy 7, starting now...

- I'll just take a few minutes here real briefly to explain my position on Final Fantasy 7--as the Prologue plays on in my ears... I used to hate it, mostly because I was upset about Sony picking up the rights to Final Fantasy. I refused to even acknowledge it as a game... until I actually played it. I still had a deep love for the SNES games and considered them the best, but the more I played 7, the more I liked it. Then I started to really listen to the music. FF7 is by far the best soundtrack to a Final Fantasy, and perhaps the best compilated album of songs ever recorded--and yes, even though it was written in MIDI format!!!!! You'll hear a lot of praise in this section of the blog...

- Getting distracted by work with this case, but Aeris' Church theme (with the tubular bells harmonizing) brought me right back to the music. Ahhhh....
- - Alright, back to 'automatic' mode, where I can do the work without a lot of deep research into what i'm doing, all to the tune of 'Underneath the Rotting Pizza'.

- And now to Tifa's theme. This is a character (and song) that has increasingly grown dear to me over the 10 years (since I played FF7 the first time... actually, 10 years ago last month was the first time I went through it.)

- (Music break, phone call to the Misses. Besides, I gotta get up and stretch)

- (And now on to lunch...)

12:35 PM I have just a little bit left of lunch, but i'm back to my station listening to music. Getting up the Shinra tower. Great music throughout the game.

- 'Ahead on our Way', leaving Midgar after the Motorcycle + boss. Ahhhhhhhh..........
- - Which of course is followed by the heavenly 'Main (World) Theme'. I could loop this for 10 straight hours and not be tired of it...

- And don't forget 'Farm Boy'... geez, all of these songs make me wanna play 'Chocobo's Dungeon' again...

1:00 PM Already getting to the Gold Saucer. Boy there are some memories and good tunes here. "Interrupted by Fireworks" is both.

- 'Sandy Badlands' - We learn a little bit about Barrett. This music kinda turns my heart, much like Rachel's Theme from FF6. Kind of a sad history with him, playing it out in my head how it goes in the game...

1:35 PM - It begins. The music for the 'Forgotten City'. Beneath the city... towards the altar. J-E-N-O-V-A, and the final piece of music to end Disk 1. It's perhaps the greatest 7 minutes of music I own..
- - And then to couple the beginning of Disk 2, wandering through the snow of the Northern Continent.
- - - (Edit: The music I'm listening to is not wandering around the snow, but prior to that, when still in the city. It's called 'Anxious Heart')

- Just looked at the time, a little over half-way done with this particular soundtrack, meaning I'll be starting FF8 shortly after 3, which will make 8 the last one I listen to today! (I'll only be able to get 4 soundtracks in... what a disappointment!)

- Ah yes, 'The Countdown Begins' - Weapon is first released. Fast bloodpumping strings, anybody?

2:00 PM - Hmm, the music where the team is captured by Shinra. (You know, right after the whole 'Cloud falls into the Lifestream' incident...)

- Oooooohhh... 'Who am I' and 'Who are you'. While Cloud has his 'freak-out' in-his-head event. Love the music here. Eerie...

- What? Already at the end? J-E-N-O-V-A's final form and One Winged Angel. As mentioned above, however, the Epilogue is some of Uematsu's best work, yet again.
- - A great ending to a great game.

2:45 PM - Starting our last soundtrack for the day, and I don't even believe I"m going to get all of it before I leave work. At least the best music of this game is within the first half of the soundtrack...

- Much like with FF7, I've been distracted with some research, but i'm back to paying attention. Missed 'Balamb Garden' and 'Blue Fields'--two great songs, but I was kinda listening. I can always hear them again later.

- FF8 does not use MIDIs in the game--however, I downloaded the MIDIs online to form my soundtrack. The composer of these MIDIs did a great job in compiling them; however, the bass note resonates a full 4 seconds passed the end of the song. It's weird and annoying, especially in tracks like this one: 'SeeD'.

- Although you do have to give it to FF8--catchiest battle music in the series. 'Force Your Way.'

- Squall meets Rinoa at the dance. Nice music.
- - Squall disses Quistis after the dance. Nice music.

- Julia/Eyes on me. Always makes me feel bad I don't play as much piano anymore.

- Familiar tune: 'Succession of Witches'. It's when FF8 starts to go off the deep end with "Huh?" moments....

- 'The stage is set': Preparations for the assasination of the Sorceress at the end of Disk 1. Kind of a cool 'hunting' theme of music for, like, playing a FPS.

- (You starting to notice my lack of enthusiams with my updates? Yeah, it's late on a Friday. They're going to be less... impacty.)

- Heh, but just as I say that... 'Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec'. The chant during the Squall-Edea encounter that ends Disk 1. Gotta love the drama that Sagaguchi builds in his games.

4:00 PM - This Final Fantasy Friday has sure made the day go by quicker. A lot of mood music, really uncertain where in the game it should be. Supposedly these tracks should be in chronological order that they're encountered in the game, but that's not always true. I got the actual track listing from the site as it reflects the OFFICIAL soundtrack listing. They could just be off on the listing (for instance, the ending 'Slide Show' songs are in the middle somewhere).

-Mmmm, 'Ami'. Pretty music... right up there with Julia earlier...

- Got 45 minutes of work left, but I'm going to wind down and just listen casually to the music--getting into a batch of cases with no info in them--lots of research. Thanks for reading.