Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Astral Journeys

When I was in high school I had a friend named Gary Clow who had an older sister who was into all things "occult". There is a story about Gary's observation of a Ouija session, which is why I used to call him 'Mr. Ouija Board'. Being the teenage boys we were, when Gary mentioned his sister was trying astral projection, we naturally started referring to it as "ass hole projection". "What does she do? Jut out her butt, extend her sphincter - joop - and she's across the street?" 

"Nope. She sticks a flashlight up her butt and then holds slides up to it."

What do you expect from teenage boys?

I bring up that reminiscence because along the way I started to learn about astral projection and lucid dreaming.

As far as I know I am not proficient at astral projection. Many of my dreams are lucid, in that I am aware while having them. Floating, flying, and doing things like crushing bricks with my bare hands are not uncommon. There are certain places I know well as I visit them often.

It should be noted that dreams come in several varieties. Strawberry, chocolate, and tuna-surprise are just a few. (I'm kidding.) When you first fall asleep, you upload your day's activities to your Higher Self (or the Akashic Records, or wherever you believe your experiences are recorded). Those dreams are filled with sounds and visuals you have recently collected.

Later you may go on astral journeys where your Spirit visits the other lives you are going through while you are experiencing this one. This is when you may receive downloads from your Higher Self.
On other occasions you may find yourself venturing off to exotic astral realms. These journeys can also take place during meditation. 

When I first started delving into meditation in the mid-1980s (years after my Mother took me to talk about Transcendental Meditation - yes, I have a cool Mom, best Mom on the planet) I read that I should find my 'sanctuary': the place where I felt the most at peace. In my mind I went to a dark shore littered with large, flat boulders. The sky was black as was the water that swelled around the rocks. There I met a young man dressed in traditional (at least to me) Chinese garb like those you would see in a martial arts period piece. He wore a blue tunic with matching blue pants and black slipper-like shoes. "Hi," he said, smiling warmly. "I am Quan." We chatted for a bit. I don't remember the full conversation, but I liked Quan and we got along well. Quan has been with me since that time. It was not until I got my Level Two Reiki training, and was asked to connect with my guides, that Quan told me his other name: Yin. I had no idea who Quan Yin was until I looked him up. Later I asked Quan why he always appears to me in his male form as his true form (or the one most people recognize) is female. Quan just smiled and said, "Male, female, we are all both. Learn to integrate the Divine Feminine with the Divine Masculine. Besides, when we first met it was the form you were more likely to bond with, without any "lower chakra" involvement."

Another astral journey took me to star-filled chamber. The path, about the width of a sidewalk (not a double sidewalk), looked like it was made of onyx with golden edges. It wound around a structure that was a hollow semi-circle. (It wasn't exactly circular, but that's close.) When I got to where I could see inside the semi-circle, I saw a "man" sitting in a chair with a tall back. (The chair had the tall back, not the man.) The impression I get now is that he was monitoring dozens of TV screens, but it's been a long time, so I'm probably wrong. He rose swiftly and strode towards me demanding, "How did you get in here?"

"I walked," I replied.

He introduced himself. "I am Thoth." He pronounced his name as 'taught'.

I wasn't really up on my Egyptian mythology, so I didn't know who he was.

We conversed briefly about language and writing. He was impressed that I was not afraid of him, but he still wanted me to leave as soon as possible. So I did.

The last meeting with a 'higher' being I want to relate to you revolves around someone who visited me at my dining room table.

It was Christmas eve 1987. I was alone. No internet. No telephone. No family. No friends. It was the loneliest Christmas I had ever had.

I was sitting at the table with my face in my hands, idly thinking about how alone I was, when a voice said, "There is another who is as lonely as you."

When I looked up I saw a figure sitting in the chair opposite me. It looked like the classic Western interpretation of Jesus.

The figure smiled and I got a vision of a girl I had tried repeatedly to hook up with in the past. "Go to her," he instructed me. "She needs you and you need her."

I looked away and he was gone.

That is when I decided to return to Ontario from Nova Scotia (where I was living at that time). Upon my return, events transpired that brought that girl and I together. On August 13, 1988 we met again. On October 17 of that year we were married and are still married today. Happily. She is my Darla; The Wife, my joy, my happiness, my chew toy. (I'm gonna get smacked for that last one, but even when she is annoyed with me I could not love her more.)

The very last thing I will mention is that all the conversations with the above entities did not take place verbally, although there were times when my brain interpreted them as being spoken. All 'uploads' and 'downloads' took place telepathically. 

Monday, 30 April 2018

When RPGs Aren't

I've always had a passion for video games. I remember when the Pong machines started appearing in malls and shopping plazas. In the early 1980s my favourite game was Robotron 2084. There was one night that a friend and I were really on fire playing the table top version and actually froze the game. We had a stockpile of men in memory and there were so many enemies on the screen that we would die as soon as the screen generated. I managed to dodge and kill a couple of enemies and the game went, "Uh, what?" The screen froze, but I was able to move my player. As the player encountered enemies it wiped them off the battle field like an eraser. The arcade gaming experience was exhilarating.

Jump forward a few years to the time my wife and I purchased our first home video game console (from Consumer's Distributing, which no longer exists): the Nintendo Entertainment System. Naturally, as a fan of arcade games, I wanted Double Dragon; a button-mashing, beat 'em up game. My wife wanted Dragon Warrior. We got both.

Double Dragon turned out to be a frustrating affair. I was used to big buttons to smash and large joysticks to slam. The tiny buttons and direction cross, manipulated solely by each thumb, proved to be an impediment to the enjoyment of the game. (I did get one of the big ball joystick controllers with the oversized buttons at one point, but the lightweight base made the game play even more annoying.)

Then my wife introduced me to Dragon Warrior. After dying between the castle and the first town, my wife informed me that I needed to stick close to town and kill as many weak enemies as possible. We called it "building" the character, as the object of the exercise was to 'build' up the statistics of the character and make it stronger. (These days the kids call it "grinding" because it's so much like work, but seriously this just shows the negative attitude of the gaming community. You're not reducing the character's abilities. You're not 'grinding' them down. You're building them up.)

Dragon Warrior (Dragon Quest in Japan, and now worldwide) is a role-playing game or RPG. It involves following a storyline, talking to people, helping them out, solving puzzles, searching for items, and fighting enemies. 

The fight system is turn-based, meaning you take a turn and then your opponent takes their turn, until one of you is knocked unconscious. It is based on Dungeons & Dragons, which employed sets of multi-sided die to calculate the outcome of encounters. Dungeons & Dragons was the origin of the RPG genre. This turn-based fighting system is as much a part of true RPGs as is the story.
A game without a turn-based combat system is not a real RPG.

The Tales series, Mass Effect, Ni No Kuni, Dark Souls, and all the rest of the "action" RPGs are not true RPGs. "But," you say "all those games have stories and stuff and you're playing the role of a character. Isn't 'role-playing game' just being a game character?" No, it is not. Would you consider Super Mario an RPG? You play the role of Mario. The story is that the Princess has been kidnapped and you have to get her back. You're playing a role, so it must be an RPG. It is not. It is an arcade game. Action RPGs, as sweeping and involving as they are, are glorified arcade games.

Turn-based battles don't have to be boring. They can be more 'action-oriented'. Take the 'Active Time Battles' of Final Fantasy. Try your hand at the battle systems in Mana Khemia, and Mana Khemia 2. The 6-person team battles in Atelier Escha & Logy are amazing. (Side note: Linca rocks.)

This brings me to my final point, which is a message to the developers at Square Enix, makers of the Final Fantasy (so named because it was the founder's last effort to make a profit) and Dragon Quest series. 

The penchant to move Final Fantasy to an action-based combat system will not produce the profits you seek. Think about those who started with the first Final Fantasy and have remained loyal fans over the years. Remember those who jumped platforms after being committed Nintendo aficionados to PlayStation, just so they could continue their love affair with Final Fantasy. Even if those fans started playing when they were 10 years old, they are pushing 40 now. Their eyesight isn't what it used to be. Their reflexes aren't as swift. They want to keep purchasing your products, but their bodies aren't up to the strain of action-based combat. Most of your audience is even older. Are you seriously going to spit on your fan base and tell them you don't need or want them anymore? Will you forever seek only 'fresh meat' in the guise of children who have to ask their parents for money to buy your games? Or will you honour the ancient ones who helped put you where you are today and help teach the new generations the lessons of the turn-based battle system?

Thankfully, the Dragon Quest series has always been and, hopefully, always will be a turn-based RPG. A true RPG in every sense of the label.

Only time will tell if Final Fantasy XVI and the Final Fantasy VII remake become real RPGs or merely arcade game wannabes.

Saturday, 14 April 2018

The Pointless, Plotless Book

The following is an excerpt from my forthcoming work, The Pointless, Plotless Book. (I don't kid myself that it will come in anywhere close to first; hence it is forth coming.) It is so named because it has no plot and there is no point to it. I get tired of hearing how writing is supposed to be done and presented. This rambling writing is a sneak peek inside what happens in my brain.

The Pointless, Plotless Book

“Get out,” she screamed. “You’ll never understand me. We’ll never work it out. You’re just a high school student and I’m a calculus equation.”
Oh, that’s dreadful.
You can’t start a book with dialogue. It’s just not done.
Okay, how about this:
Dense fog engulfed his heart, mired in the miasma of her blackened love.
No, no. That won’t do either. Never start a novel with a weather report. Use more description. Evoke more emotion. Watch your use of grammar. Sit up straight. Eat your vegetables.
Does it need more life?
You can put as much life into it as you like. It’s up to your editor to suck all the life out of your writing.
He glanced at the watch on his wrist. “Goodness, is that the time?”
“Yes,” Goodness replied. “What? You’ve got a watch and you can’t tell time? What a shmoe you are.”
How long is this book?
About six inches. I’ve heard that’s about average.
Don’t believe everything you hear.
Oh, like women arriving and that sort of thing.
With a face like yours, you’re lucky your mail arrives. Exactly. Pure deception.
Like a politician’s promises.
Now you’re getting it.
Yes, I’ve had it.
Last Tuesday, I think, but my memory may be playing tricks.
Better it should play tricks than turn them. What about characters? You can’t have a riveting read without memorable characters.
I was thinking about including celebrities like Richard Burton, Richard Attenborough, and Richard Gere.
Then it would be the Big Book of Dicks. Those have all passed on.
That would make it the Big Book of Dead Dicks then.  Now it seems like a limp idea.
It would be hard to pull off. Although the names you mentioned were all pretty big in their day. The Book of Big Dicks would probably sell.
How about an archaeologist’s search for the Omega Phallus? That would be big.
You mean like ‘Indiana Jones and the Schlong of God’?
Any more knob gags and I’ll have to put a big warning label on this book.
Make sure it really sticks out so people will notice it.
Warning! This book contains words; words that your mind may inadvertently twist in a perverted manner.
I was thinking more along the lines of ‘may contain nuts’.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Nothing To See Here

This is really just a post so my last post doesn't show up as the first thing people see when they visit.

Inevitably someone will read what I have written and take it the wrong way.

That's why I don't blog often. That's why I don't join any groups. That's why I prefer to play video games by myself.

Nobody wants to hear what I have to say anyway. So, why bother saying anything?

Thank you to the 12 people who read this.

Now go on about your day. Nothing to see here. Move along. Move along. Go on about your normal daily business.