The Time is Ripe for Pear Puns!

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So, I was talking on the phone with my partner (who loves puns) and then I brought back a pear from the kitchen. What ensued was a series of pear puns from yours truly . . . Something like this:

A-PEAR-ently I have a pear. I wonder if it’s from PEAR-is. My PEAR-ents haven’t had any pears yet. Maybe they would find them easier to eat with a PEAR-ing knife. If you were here, the PEAR of us would have a PEAR of pears!

*Note: For those of you who think puns are an unsophisticated form of humor, well . . . they were good enough for Shakespeare!

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Persona 4 and Persona 5 Games Review

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I figured I should probably update my blog more often, so I’ll give a brief review and comparison of a couple of video games I’ve recently played: Persona 4 (for PlayStation 2) and Persona 5 (for PlayStation 4).

Persona 5, the most recent of the two I just finished playing, seemed like a long game, but then again, so did Persona 4. It’s hard to tell which one I like better, but I think Persona 4 still has a special place in my heart because that was the first Persona game I had ever played. Let me talk a bit about what I liked and disliked about each game . . .

SETTING: P4 takes place in a rural setting, a small island called Inaba. I recall enjoying the quieter, slower atmosphere of that one. I feel that the foggy rural setting enhanced the sense of “mystery.” In P5, everything is louder, brighter, bigger, and more “exciting.” It takes place in the big city of Tokyo and you can go to famous places such as Shibuya, Shinjuku, and Akihabara. I think the game designers did a great job at depicting the setting in a very realistic way, so I’m not complaining, but I still kind of miss the more mysterious, subdued, “empty” atmosphere of Inaba.

CHARACTERS: A few characters I missed from P4 when I played P5 are: Naoto, a detective struggling with identity and society’s gender roles; Chie, the tomboy martial-arts fanatic; the tough-looking Kanji who fears exposing his feminine interests even though those are the things that bring him joy; and Teddie, the teddy bear who turns himself human. I also like some of the non-party Social Links, such as the uncle, Dojima, and the cute little cousin, Nanako. Of course, I do like some of the characters in P5, as well. My favorite two characters in P5 were Futaba, an eccentric hacker who has long hidden herself from society, and Yusuke, whose passions in life are art and enjoying good food (he’s a literal “starving artist”). I also liked the cat, Morgana; and the intelligent, badass woman, Makoto. Some of the non-party Confidants (social links) I found interesting were Chihaya the fortune teller and Takemi (a rogue doctor who dresses in punk-Goth fashion). The player’s character in P5 (Akira) has more personality and is more expressive than the player’s character in P4 (Yu), which is fun (He even talks on occasion!). At some points in the story, however, Akira turns out to be a crappy friend to some of the characters (Spoiler: When Ryuji is kidnapped by a couple of men in the Red-Light District of Shinjuku, Akira doesn’t care. He just walks away as if nothing occurred, Ryuji doesn’t tell what happened, and the player has no ability to ask him. I really hated that part, not just for Akira’s reaction, but also how the only obviously gay men in the game were portrayed as predators preying on high school boys. Ick!).

GAMEPLAY: One of the features I loved about P5, is that you can choose what skills your Personas inherit. In P4, this was left to random chance, which was a real pain in the butt. I liked the feature where you could hide and wait to ambush an enemy, even if that enemy was quite far away. It made ambushing enemies far easier than it was in P4 — where you had to rush up right behind an enemy as its back was turned and hope it didn’t see you before you strike.

MUSIC: After having listened to the P4 OST again, I have to say I like the music of P5 a lot better. P4’s music is good, and there are a few gems I still enjoy listening to, but P5’s music definitely contains more memorable and energetic songs than P4 does.

PLOT & THEMES: Every Persona game has a main theme. The theme of P5 is about rebellion against corrupt authorities, while P4 was about seeking the truth. How well these themes are expressed throughout the game is sometimes questionable. I especially noticed this in P5. For example, right after defeating an adult bully and sexual predator and going on about how wrong it was for this man to have exploited female students sexually, your character and the other male characters in your team seem to soon forget that lesson and try to convince a reluctant female member of the team to strip for some stranger even though clearly she doesn’t want to. This contradicts the message that was just previously driven into our heads, and it’s not the only time when such moral hypocrisy by otherwise the characters, the game itself, or both, occurs.

Also, for a game about rebellion, you sure don’t get many choices to oppose what people (especially in your team) want you to do and a lot of your choices don’t even matter because they don’t influence the plot and outcome of the game in the least. In fact, most of the time what you say to other characters doesn’t even influence the conversation — everyone will say the same thing, no matter what you say. There are maybe one or two BIG choices that you have to make that influence how the game ends, but that’s about it.

Persona 5 and Persona 4 both have their flaws and their strengths, and the more I think about what I like and dislike about them, the harder it is for me to decide which one I like best. A lot of the gameplay in P5 is less frustrating and more fun than in P4 — with the exception of some of the gimmicks in certain dungeons/”Palaces” (I’m looking at you, overly repetitive mouse maze!). In P4, I liked a lot of the characters, palace designs, and how the plot more closely followed the theme. I also thought the murderer in P4 was more shocking and far creepier than the overly obvious “Traitor” in P5 — not wanting to spoil anything, but if you’ve played both of the games, you’ll probably understand the two characters I’m talking about.

So, that’s my review and comparison of Persona 4 and Persona 5. This is the first time I’ve ever done a video game review, so I didn’t analyze the games as thoroughly as someone else might have, but hopefully it was still an enjoyable read and perhaps got some people interested in playing the games. I like media that is both fun and makes me think, and so the Persona games are great for that. The Persona games offer a unique and rich experience filled with mystery, mythology from real-world cultures and history, philosophy, obscure trivia, and LOTS of symbolism (it’s EVERYWHERE!). Go check them out!

No More Facebook Page (Yay!)

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So, I had a Facebook author page this year . . . It was a short-lived experiment.

Before I go into how I ended up caving into the pressure of creating an author page on Facebook, I’ll give you some background on why I try to avoid Facebook at all costs. For the longest time I resisted getting a Facebook. In fact, even though Facebook was very popular when I was in college, I didn’t even know what it was or why I “needed it” (according to others), but I kept getting asked, “Do you have a Facebook?” “No,” I said, “What is that?” The typical reply I’d get was something like: “It’s a social network, like MySpace.” I had seen MySpace before but I had never joined it. Maybe it’s because I’m mostly an introvert, but there was nothing about MySpace or other social media that appealed to me. I figured that if I wanted to talk to friends or family, I’d pick up the phone or meet them face-to-face. Needless to say, I was unpopular, but that was normal.

The first time I had (reluctantly) signed up for Facebook was after I had joined a writers’ group in town. On Facebook, the group had information such as when they would be holding meetings and whether those meetings had been cancelled. The group leader said that I needed to get a Facebook and join the group page for her own informational purposes on group members and so I could stay up-to-date with the schedule. I was annoyed with this, but at the time I wanted to be in the writers’ group, so I complied.

Soon after joining, I invited friends and family, and I shared things I thought were interesting or important. I looked up old friends and tried connecting with them again (they didn’t seem all that interested in chatting with me, which filled me with disappointment). Not too long after I had joined Facebook, however, I had to leave due to stalking and harassment from someone I had met online years ago who tried to make my life a living hell. This person reported me (and my partner) as “fake” so we were locked out of our Facebook pages. I reluctantly and angrily scanned my ID and sent the pic to Facebook to get back in. My partner didn’t even bother trying to get back in because he hates Facebook and how “creepy and stalkery” it is anyway. I don’t blame him.

So I got in, deleted everything, and told everyone I was leaving Facebook for good. The next time I went to the writers’ group meeting I told them the story of why I no longer wished to be a part of Facebook and the group leader allowed me to continue going to meetings even though I was no longer joining them online.

I was happier being away from Facebook and finally started getting more things done. Some of my friends were sad that I was no longer on the social networking site, but I was perfectly okay with having other things to do with my life besides Facebooking. Then, perhaps a year or two later, one friend convinced me to go back Facebook to see some videos and pictures she had posted of her guineas. I didn’t know much about them or what they looked like, so I was curious. Looking back, basing the decision to go back on Facebook because of this seems rather silly, but there you have it. So, I was back and I joined some groups and liked some pages and shared more stuff. Then, I started having problems with the Facebook groups I had joined. I got banned from groups for all kinds of strange reasons that to this day make me question my own goodness and sanity. I started wondering, “Am I really such a bad person? But that’s not what I meant at all! Why do people always interpret my words in the strangest ways and assume the worst? Is it really me? What’s wrong with me? Am I somehow incapable of making my words clear enough so that others can understand their meaning?” There were many sleepless nights where I questioned my sanity, my judgement, and whether or not people saw in me a kind of horrible monster and I was somehow blind to it. Once again, I deleted everything and gave up on Facebook; feeling defeated; feeling like the most unsociable, unlikable monster that ever walked the earth. I felt as if I had hurt too many people and let them down.

That was enough. I had quit forever . . . or so I thought.

Then, after having published Transmogrified, I realized I wasn’t getting many sales. So I started reading up on how to market my books and all the advice I had been reading kept telling me: “You need to have a Facebook author page or else you are depriving your fans of a fan club!” (or something like that). Not wanting to disappoint my potential book fans, I decided to create an author page on Facebook. I was dismayed to find that in order to create an author page, I needed to have a personal page as well. Facebook has a way of sucking me in and draining my time, energy, and happiness all at once. After a while on Facebook, the familiar depression and guilt from those times before came trickling in, little by little. That voice in the back of my mind kept telling me things like, “This is depressing. This is stressful. This constant barrage of bad news is making you sick — literally! Look at how many fevers and sinus infections and stomachaches you’ve gotten this year! You’re wasting your time. You could be doing so many other things! Why did you spend so many hours/the whole day staring at Facebook?! Why do you keep coming back to this place if it’s making you so profoundly unhappy? I think this is some kind of addiction. You’re not getting anything creative done. You haven’t finished playing Persona 5. Look at all these books you have yet to read; don’t you want to get on that? What about typing up those 14 journals you have? What about working on your second novel? What about practicing art? What about spending time with your guinea pigs? Why don’t you call your friends? The chores are piling up. Your parents are going to start yelling at you. You haven’t gotten any exercise lately,” and on and on.

I would have left so much sooner if I hadn’t started that author page. I was worried that if I left, no one would ever see or read my books. I didn’t want to disappoint my fans (and potential fans). But I had to leave. I had to leave for the sake of my mental health.

Maybe my books will never catch on with readers. Maybe readers will never find my stories, and I will go out of this life in poverty and obscurity. That’s a sad thought for a writer and an artist, but I just can’t do Facebook anymore. I don’t care if “everyone else is doing it.” I can’t do it. Not if I want to preserve whatever fragile sanity and life I have left.

Leaving on a happier note, here is how I feel right now: I am finally FREE! Free from the tyranny of creepy, stalkery, “Big Brother” Facebook! Hooray!!!

Yes. There is more to life than “social networking.” Peace!

I’ve been sick

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I’ve been sick with a cough for over a week. I thought it was just a cold, but then I went to the doctor and found out it’s a bacterial infection. I’ve been on antibiotics for 3 days now (out of a 10-day course). I can’t tell if they are working or not because I’m still coughing and rarely get any sleep at night. Now I feel confused from sleep deprivation. Send some healing thoughts my way? Sorry about the lack of new content. I’m just trying to focus on recovering.