Tuesday, March 25, 2008

The Non-Adventures of Ernest and Vernal Equinox

I haven't written entries here much this month. You've been in and out of rehab each week, trying to cope, I know. You figure "hey, I guess he's given up on this thing, I can finally get clean!" But you'd be wrong to think that - as you know - since I've had to babble once a week to keep you hooked on the smack - er, blog. And that's okay. This is America (At least where I'm writing this.), and planet Earth (Gotta be all-inclusive.), and to not have some sort of unhealthy addiction - that wouldn't merely be unamerican, you could say it's even entirely unearthlinglike. You don't want to be mistaken for one of those space aliens, do you? You know, the ones they always say are abducting people and making Sigmund Freud proud. You don't want to be one of those - word is, all they ever do is get high and look at asses. They're the underachievers of the universe. (Which is something, considering that those Earth-creatures haven't even figured out that simple loophole to exceed light speed in space travel. Always forgetting to carry the two, sheesh.)

Anyway, obviously, it's been nearly another full week since that last one, which flopped pretty epically. Ah well. Since then, the Vernal Equinox has passed, and thus, it now spring. Spring! When a young man's fancy turns to love then it turns out just to be lust and things don't last till summer - leaving room for one of those fanciful "summer romances" where you pretend to love each other for less than 100 days, then realize it was just skin cancer because you didn't stay out of the sun! What a glorious time of the year it is, jumping between irritatingly warm temperatures and more pleasant, cooler days at a brain-scramblingly unpredictable tempo. We've seen some nice rain here and there around here, though we're still dealing with drought conditions and no sign of an end to them before summer hits and everything dries out even more. Meanwhile, the weather's been pretty crazy everywhere else in its own way. If New England and the Midwest aren't getting hit with huge blizzards - blizzards that I admit I'm quite envious of, and look forward to whenever I hopefully get up there next year - they're getting drowned by floods, as the Midwest presently is. It's hard to decide if I envy everyone in Illinois and all dealing with that. It'd be fantastic to see an end to the drought conditions here, but a surplus to the point of water damaging everything is, to put it lightly, less than ideal. Though knowing North Carolinians, as soon as we shake off these drought conditions - however many years that take - we'll celebrate by going right back to overusing our water resources and learn nothing from this whole ordeal. But then, most of us don't seem to be learning anything, anyway.

If you've been curious about the reasoning behind my not pummeling you with random entries here this month - and it's not just a matter of feeling uninspired as to blogging topics lately, though granted, that's a part of it - I thought you should know that it's a matter of my being productive in regards to other matters. I don't exactly want to be one of those aspiring novelists who talks about finishing and publishing a novel forever, after setting up a writing blog online like this, and never goes through with it. And I've been working on this novel for over two years now. It's been growing, evolving with its cast of characters and the events they experience aboard the phantasmal train chugging down the Kettenkrad Line. The book has been nearly complete for a good while now, through my usual non-linear writing style - as I tend to jump back and forth between linear and non-linear writing - it keeps things interesting, and my mental processes fresh. I'd say it's preferable to sit down and go through a story from multiple perspectives, to look at it as something complicated and three-dimensional, and a non-linear approach to writing works well that way, I feel. Then you can go back through it and figure out how to best string everything together in a linear manner so that the reader will actually be able to sit down and read the story and actually understand what they're reading. From discombobulated ideas with subtle connections to an ideally rich narrative through which you connect all the non-linear concepts and plot twists. This approach is probably somewhat eccentric, though. In having read other established and aspiring novelists' conversations about their approaches to writing online, this sort of method doesn't seem to be the status quo. At any rate, I've been working hard every night to finish completed packet after packet of chapters for my test readers, with the goal of finishing the novel 100% by the end of April - a goal that is certainly within reach, at the rate I'm going. As such, that has my full attention over coming up with topics to write about here - I'm probably getting to be a bit overdue for another love/relationship musing post anyway, those seem to do well enough, ironically for someone who's only had bad relationships like myself - and I probably won't be writing quite as frequently here until the book is complete and I've begun the agent-querying process by later spring. That's not to say that I won't at least try to write at least one entry a week here, though. I just need to find more inspiration, more interesting topics that I can babble about until you realize "Hey, this guy's a nutjob with nothing interesting to say." Or at least, that most people conclude that somewhere along the way is what my traffic numbers seem to be telling me - not that it's any good to focus on those as a blogger either. Profiticate your blog for moneys! Hold up Google Ads at gunpoint as though you were knocking over a bank while learning how to please your woman with your own Ronco Ultra Death Ray for payments of $29.99 for just 3,127 months! You can't lose!

These seasons, though, they do indeed change. Time passes, and life, for me, is admittedly pretty monotonous until I get this book published - ideally within the year, hopefully reaching my spring 2009 goal, unrealistic as it probably is, given my additional aspirations with what the novel stands for in its dedication - or I at least make it into a grad school Creative Writing program. But I do hope life is more interesting and eventful for the rest of you, those of you who still remember to drop by this dusty little corner of the internets. Hopefully I'll find more inspiration soon - or at least, I'll find something in the headlines that I feel like blogging about - considering how slow and uninteresting these entries have been as of late, no doubt. (I can't exactly blame anybody for not bothering with that last entry. American culture is confused about sex? Politicians are corrupt and love to have affairs!? I may as well have written an entry about how grass is green, the sky is blue, and how Sonic the Hedgehog is not an accurate representation of real hedgehogs.) In the meantime, I'm going to keep working on finishing this novel up so I can get it on shelves as soon as feasibly and humanly possible - depending on how lucky I get - and in the meantime, enjoying Opoona when it hits stores in the next 24 hours.

It's spring, things are starting to warm up again before the foul beast we call summer shows up again to devour everything. Busy as you may be, make sure to take some time out to enjoy yourself. We can't all work all the time, after all. Take some time to enjoy a walk in the fresh spring air, listen to the birds sing, stop and smell the roses, yadda yadda yadda. I'm turning into a stale platitude here, but you know what I'm getting at.


Wednesday, March 19, 2008

That's Concentrated Evil You've got in Those Pants of Yours

America loves many things, many things indeed. But there's little America loves more than a good old-fashioned sex scandal. Underneath the puritanical facade this nation loves to hide behind, America's a dirty, dirty place. Of course, we can't look at a natural aspect of humanity to be understood and embraced - What do you mean it isn't a matter of one right way and many wrong ways!? - that'd be downright unamerican, after all! Don't you know the gays and terrorists are in league with the Mexicans trying to take down Taco Bell!?

In 1998, an epic series of sex scandals no one has yet to match - let alone surpass - erupted around president Bill Clinton. Paula Jones, Gennifer Flowers, and more came out in alleging sexual misconduct from the president - Monica Lewinsky being the most famous of the lot - and in many cases getting admissions of wrongdoing. The Republicans had a field day. We'd never do something like that, clearly the left-wing is immoral! The ever-sleazy Republican lawyer, Kenneth Starr, was appointed to the Office of Independent Counsel, in which he made a career of trying to take Clinton down, ultimately publishing the Starr Report following the Lewinsky scandal, the findings of which led the House of Representatives to impeach Clinton on the grounds of perjury and obstruction of justice. Despite all this and the media circus around Clinton's promiscuity, the American people largely continued to support him. He'd still been a good president, after all.

In 2001, Democratic representative Gary Condit became caught up in his own scandal, in which an intern working for him - Chandra Levy - vanished after they'd had an affair, eventually turning up dead a year later. (Condit was spared further investigative focus in the wake of the September 11th attacks, despite efforts to avoid discussing the subject and exhibiting suspicious behavior - not unlike he was attempting to cover his tracks. To this day, the case of Levy's death remains unsolved, and one has to wonder if there will ever be any sort of justice.) His political career ended in 2003 following a failed bid for reelection, the public not having forgotten his actions nor his hypocrisy, having claimed to be a "pro-family" politician (As is always a popular,
though relatively meaningless label to apply to one's self.), and then cheating on his wife with a woman younger than his own daughter.

Of course, sex scandals are hardly something faced by Democrats alone. On the contrary, we've seen just as much hypocrisy on the right. I couldn't possibly be gay! Look at me ranting about how much I hate the gays and voting against any legislation giving them rights! Are these the actions of anything but the straightest of individuals!? I submit that they are not! What do you mean I've been caught!? In 2007, Republican senator Larry Craig was caught in a sex sting at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, soliciting gay sex in a men's bathroom. Classy. His response to the arrest? Pretty much what you'd expect - utter denial of homosexuality, and claims that he simply "made a mistake." He went on to resign, then in an act of ultimate respectability, decided to make himself look even sadder by withdrawing his guilty plea and deciding to remain in office, rather than simply quietly remove himself from office after losing voters' confidence and disgracing himself in the public eye. Late in 2007, eight gay men came forward to the local paper, including an escort who'd been central to loudly homophobic evangelical preacher Ted Haggard, famous for his appearance in the creepy documentary Jesus Camp, back in 2006.

In 2004, Jessica Cutler - a D.C. intern - kept an online blog about her life in Washington, notably popular for her writing on her sex life. Apparently there wasn't exactly a shortage of men there willing to pay her for sex. The only individual who came forward as one of her lovers (Or "fuckers," if you want to be more accurate in word choice.) was Robert Steinbuch, who worked in the IRS and had, ironically, taught seminars on ethics. He's been rather lawsuit-happy since Cutler's fifteen minutes of fame, trying to both take her down and silence what reminders he can of the scandal. Even the "blogosphere" has helped create Washington sex scandals.

In 2006, Republican representative Mark Foley was embroiled in his own scandal around emails and instant messages that revealed his interest in pursuing teenage boys. Can you feel the family values? In the process of the scandal's investigation, fellow Republican representative Jim Kolbe was also outed for inappropriate conduct with teenage congressional pages. Embarrassing emails and conversations came out, and how did Foley react? It was rehab time. Apparently that classically retarded male fantasy about alcohol making women prone to homosexual activity is true of Republican politicians as well! And in the end, Foley was outed as having been a closeted gay man for a long time, known for the usual predictable reaction of revolt to the idea. Foley ultimately resigned in disgrace.

In 2004, Democratic New Jersey governor Jim McGreevey came out after a scandal revolving around the unusually close relationship he had with his unqualified homeland security advisor, Golan Cipel, and resigned shortly afterwards. His name has recently popped up in the media again, in light of his comments on the most recent political sex scandal - which I'll be getting to in a bit - in a former aide of McGreevey's alleging having had three-ways with McGreevey and his wife on multiple occasions. As of far, only McGreevey's ex-wife Dina Matos has denied these allegations. Politics! Where up is down, gay is straight, and everyone's sticking their junk everywhere else!

In spring 2007, the D.C. Madam scandal erupted around Deborah Jeane Palfrey's prostitution ring, of which several politicians were revealed to be patrons. This lead to the resignation of Randall L. Tobias, ambassador and Bush's former AIDS czar. (A funny combination of words, no matter how you look at it.) Republican senator David Vitter also confessed to being among Palfrey's customers, but remained in office despite his veritable blacklisting by the party.

At last getting to the most recent of these scandals - the obvious prompt of this entry - just last week, Democratic New York governor Eliot Spitzer's political career was effectively ended by his own prostitution scandal. He made a name for himself as a politician hard on crime, from his career as New York attorney general up through his year as governor. He was progressive, and had a lot of good ideas that he was moving forward with. Then he was caught in one of the very acts he'd condemned - patronizing a high-class prostitute. What started as an IRS investigation of some suspicious transactions ended with his outing as a hypocrite. Disgraced, having worked with human rights groups to bust prostitution rings before, Spitzer resigned from office effective as of this past monday, St. Patrick's Day. The human rights groups he'd worked with and some women's rights groups came away with a feeling of betrayal. While many on Wall Street were pleased with the outcome, being that he wasn't exactly well-liked there - none too surprisingly, given the shadiness of that line of work at times.

The prostitute at the center of this scandal, Ashley Alexandra Dupr
é, has had a less than glorious fifteen minutes of fame over the course of the scandal's heavy media coverage these past ten days. She's tried to make herself sympathetic, telling a story of past difficulties at home that seems fairly questionable. Despite claiming not to do drugs, it's been alleged that she's done quite a bit of coke. And that she'd even slept with Charlie Sheen. (And that's a pretty low blow for any prostitute.) Naturally, since her personal life exploded all over the internet and media - complete with plenty of provocative pictures - multiple media outlets - Hustler, Penthouse, Vivid - have sought to get her to pose nude for them. Then to throw a little more acid on her face, Joe Francis of Girls Gone Wild (Everybody's favorite outlet for exploited inebriated college girls, headed by Johnny Douchebag himself. Hopefully we can look forward to him spending quite a few more years in jail over those tax evasion charges he's facing yet.) propositioned her, then withdrew his proposition after finding he'd already recorded her on her 18th birthday. (As he does take pride in his company's efforts to prey on girls on their 18th birthdays in particular - there's a big market for almost-pedophilia content, after all. And not a hint of remorse for his scumbaggery in interviews and cover stories. He definitely seems like some sort of sociopath. And he seems to have learned nothing from nearly a year in prison.) I would imagine that's one of the most painful slaps in the face a young woman these days could receive - especially after making the mistake of going anywhere near the Girls Gone Wild people. In and of all that, it's hard not to have at least a modicum of sympathy for Dupré, even if she brought most of this on herself. And even if her music is unintentionally comically terrible. She's not much younger than me, and with the internet, no matter how much time passes, this scandal will never go away for her. She will always be "that whore Spitzer was plowing." (Even if the average guy online probably wouldn't pass on an opportunity to sleep with her either. Given her background here, I'd pass, personally. But then, I've never been into the whole macho sex focus I'm supposed to, as a guy in his early twenties. I'm one of those good conversation and unrequited love doofuses.) The bulk of my sympathies lie with Spitzer's wife and kids. I can only imagine what they're going through right now. As for Spitzer himself, I agreed with a good bit of his political track record, but in displaying the hypocrisy he has here, my sympathy for him is very limited.

Soon after Lt. Gov. David Paterson was sworn in as Spitzer's replacement - setting milestones as New York's first black governor and the nation's first legally blind person to hold office for the longer term now - it came out that he too had had an affair in the past. New Yorkers just can't win.

Ultimately, obviously, "morals" when it comes to sex and marital fidelity are not an issue either party can proudly claim to represent. (As much as the Republicans would like to - but then, they like to tell themselves that they represent a lot of things, at least, when going after the gullible voters.) It's hard to say what it is exactly that leads to this sort of behavior in the individuals elected to represent us. Maybe it's the corrupting force of power, as people in political office - especially higher up - are used to enjoying getting whatever they want, and as history has shown, human nature is that power rarely goes unabused. It could very well be something more innately psychologically rooted as well - it certainly takes a certain something in individuals to stand up before people and tell them that they deserve to represent you, whether as president, governor, or even simply as the representative for their local voting district. In some cases, it could potentially be something else entirely. But however you look at it, after a certain point, a line is crossed where their thoughts simply become: "Me me me! This is awesome, sex for me! I love this job!" (And who amongst us hasn't had that exact thought? Well, aside from myself.) This sort of behavior is observable in politicians, looking all the way back to our founding fathers, and will no doubt continue as long as America exists as a country. Every so often, the media will have something to get really excited about while the people either get outraged or roll their eyes. American political culture can be - and certainly is, more often than not - an ugly thing. And when there's real, serious political issues worth broaching - as there certainly are these days - what better to distract us from these matters than a good old sex scandal? What do you mean politicians have physical needs too!?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Can I interest you ladies in some dungeons and mayhaps even some sort of dragons?

Feels like it's been forever, eh? (Just pretend.) I've been kind of burnt out and uninspired when it comes to blogging this past week after an unusually productive February in that regard. (Not to mention a rather messy GRE day last week.)

Like most nerds, I've been in a state of mourning of sorts as well - a very special tired tabletop gaming kind of mourning. Last week, geeks of the world lost one of the greats, the influential creator of Dungeons & Dragons, Gary Gygax.

Yes, ever since his death, everyone's been beating those failed saving throw jokes into the ground - including myself. But I'm not going to do that here. For this is a serious blog, and I am a serious blogger. (I'm seriously trying to keep a straight face here, if that counts for anything.)

Of course, beyond that he was a king amongst nerds, there's not much else to be said about Gygax (At least, that's my excuse for not focusing on his personal life here.), but that he was a great influence on the "thinking nerd's" favorite genre of game - the role-playing game. (The kind with lots of character statistics and dice when playing a tabletop one - not the kind of "role-playing" when your ex-husband wanted to keep dressing up like a giant baby in the bedroom. What was wrong with that guy?) This genre is often referred to - particularly among computer and video gamers - as an "RPG." (No, not the gun. How are you not getting this?)

Dungeons & Dragons was Gygax's gaming offspring, taking over nerds' lives upon first launching in 1974, and filling parents with dread. Little Johnny's becoming a satanist! Again! This was a common train of thought back in the 1970s, in part due to the fear of Communism the government had verbally beaten into Americans back then, and in part due to the fact that everybody was still doing acid all the time back then. (They hadn't put enough distance between themselves and the '60s yet.) Gygax left the gaming company he'd co-founded, TSR (Tactical Studies Rules) in 1985 during a management shakeup while he was involved in the production of the mid-80s Dungeons & Dragons cartoon. TSR would go on to create all sorts of abortions (And I'll admit it, I actually own this game, VHS and everything.) of the franchise before they were bought out by Wizards of the Coast in 1997 and they opted to update (See: Butcher) Dungeons & Dragons' core rules for the sake of making the game more accessible to new generations of geeks. What do you mean we don't have THAC0 anymore!?

Inspired by tabletop RPGs, in 1980, Richard Garriott brought the genre to PCs with the original Ultima, his long-running series of adventures in the fantasy world of Britannia, starring the Avatar. (A blatant intentional analogue for the player, a trend we would continue to see in RPGs on the PC and video game consoles/portables, which has taken something of a downturn in recent years.)

Ultima, in turn, would lead to Japanese game director Yuji Horii of Enix to create his own take on the genre, working with composer Koichi Sugiyama and artist Akira Toriyama. (Best known for his Dragon Ball comics and animated series, now being hilariously made into a doubtlessly terrible Hollywood film slated for a 2009 release, with a now white protagonist! ... Stephen Chow, what the hell have you agreed to produce?) This series, Dragon Quest, would launch on the MSX and NES in Japan in 1986 - and later in the west in 1989 as Dragon Warrior. The series continues even today, with its 9th installment slated for a release on the Nintendo DS this year, and a first person spin-off, Dragon Quest Swords, having hit the Wii just last month. Of course, the greatest accomplishment made in this series - beyond introducing RPG video games to Japan - was the creation of one of the greatest gaming mascot characters of all time - Slime. Bow before Slime. He will be your friend. (And you will inevitably spend the first few hours of every game in the series killing lots of them.)

Following the many Dragon Quest clones other companies released in Japan in the '80s, Squaresoft, a game developer failing after an over-investment in Nintendo's unsuccessful Famicom Disk System, released what was to be their swan song in 1987 - Final Fantasy. The game was a hit and reversed Square's fortunes, ultimately becoming nearly synonymous with the RPG genre by the early 1990s. They were enjoyed for their imaginative universes, intriguing casts of characters, and battle system that bucked the Dragon Quest trend, displaying the player's party of characters on screen during battle. Polished by translator and localizer Ted Woolsey, Final Fantasy VI on the Super Nintendo proved to be the series' shining gem, with a cast of (Mostly) well-developed three-dimensional characters and storylines that touched on real world issues - such as teen pregnancy and genocide.

Then Square decided they wanted to take the series mainstream during the shift from the Super Nintendo to the Playstation as the dominant console in the late 1990s. This is where everything went to hell. RPGs had been long enjoyed on game machines largely by a minority of geeks who enjoyed the slower-paced, deeper gameplay that required us to think our way through the game and immerse ourselves in a brilliant new world with new adventures to be had. Final Fantasy VII exploded onto the Playstation scene to ridiculous -and in many cases bankrolled - amounts of praise. (The greatest game ever made, my ass.) The game was a smash hit, bringing the genre to its first mainstream success - without truly making the genre mainstream, as every RPG that didn't have Final Fantasy in its title "sucked" by default to the new generation of kids the game introduced to RPG video games. The gameplay was shallow, the story was nearly incoherent, and the translation was abysmal, Ted Woolsey having departed prior to its localization. Rather than telling an interesting story with compelling characters, it was time to appeal to a new generation of gamers - with attitude. The game's design largely focused around trying to be much "darker" than before. (Which largely amounted to a well designed dystopic city where the game began, and the story falling apart shortly after leaving it several hours in, with the rest of the game's massive world a bland, forgettable place, seemingly an afterthought. The story itself was painful cliche to its core, and its characters amongst the worst gaming has seen - setting a depressing trend. From then on, Final Fantasy was all about moody, effeminate young men for its protagonists, who are neither sympathetic nor likable, yet still played up by fans as some sort of ultimate badasses. Every protagonist from then on would be more of the same. The supporting cast? Two female romantic interests - one who receives little development and is summarily killed off in an effort to provoke an emotional response in the player (At which they fail, horribly.), and another who exists to essentially be a pair of giant breasts - a borderline racist stereotype, a couple of talking animals, and a couple of extra optional characters who add nothing to the story whatsoever. The dialogue? Poorly translated teen angst.) In a matter of a couple of years, Final Fantasy went from intelligent, enthralling fantasy to F-grade teen drama. Ever since, any RPG that features a silent protagonist intended to act as an analogue for the player is immediately berated - why not have an angsty pretty boy whine at us for 50 hours instead? And now, what Final Fantasy stands for - at least in its newest numbered releases, the spin-offs capture at least some of the imagination and adventure of the old days - is just depressing. They're overhyped cinematic messes that have largely abandoned their genre roots in lieu of delivering a shallow, style-over-substance experience for today's ADD gaming generation. Truly disheartening for those of us who grew up enjoying the series when it actually held some redeeming value.

I kind of got off topic as usual, but all these games are, ultimately, a part of Gygax's legacy in many regards. He created the RPG that kicked off the genre before we were even playing games on computers, and decades later, many of us still play in our parents' basements and local comic and game stores.

Farewell, Mr. Gygax. You will be missed, and certainly not forgotten.

Yes, this was the entry in which I inevitably outed myself as the ultra-geek that I am. I feel kind of dirty. In my defense, I haven't played any tabletop RPGs in at least a decade now. (Though granted, that's mostly for a lack of opportunity.)

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Don't Be GREedy

Take a moment to allow yourself to bask in the warming glow of the greatness that is this entry's title. Are you doing it, basking? No, that's not radiation poisoning you're feeling - that's your new super powers manifesting. (Only standing near my microwave - I mean, blog entry - can bring about such a magnificent transformation.) And these new powers of yours? Lymphoma. Luck of the draw, my friend!

At any rate - as you may well have surmised by now from that glorious choice of titles - like most aspiring graduate students, I am preparing to take the GRE - or Gratuitously Radical Examination - in the next 24 hours. Thought you hated standardized testing in your youth? You can learn to hate it on whole new levels in adulthood! Hrmm, is this individual a decent human being, or is he perhaps functionally retarded? Get that man a Scantron sheet, stat! And ask him some questions on subjects most people never need in their daily lives - tell us what a cosine is, you son of a bitch! Do it or we shoot you! Though I suppose I should consider myself lucky that I get to be subjected to most - if not all - of it over a computer. But really, what gets one's blood pumping more than sitting in a room taking a test for four hours? I couldn't be more excited if a piece of that spy satellite crushed me on the way into the testing center!

Naturally, in anticipating this exhausting experience as much as I am, I felt that I should impart some pre-test preparation advice to any and all fellow soon-to-be test takers, in appropriate standardized testing fashion - by which I mean I'll be using letters instead of numbers to differentiate between each piece of advice. Without them, you'd be lost and entirely unable to tell each one apart. It's okay, I understand, we're all a little like that here on the internet - except for me, I'm not like that at all.

A) Cheating - Yeah, they tend to discourage this on standardized tests. (Hell, all tests, if you want to be all "scientific" and "technical" and "shit.") But this is not a rule - it is a challenge. They may be pointing all manners of cameras and rail guns and people staring at you to guilt/threaten you out of cheating the whole time, but if you can successfully cheat despite that, then you will earn the rank of Grand Master. Grand Master of what, exactly, is still a mystery the likes of which no stoned kids and talking dog have yet been able to unravel. But of what is known, apparently an abacus plays a key role in this process. So, yeah. Good luck with that.

B) Insomnia - So, you have trouble sleeping before exams due to stress, right? Right? (Help me out here!) Right. Sometimes, the best way to deal with that problem is not to bother. Coffee's just going to make you crash midway through, too. So basically, you need to train yourself to enter a zen-like trance in which the difference between consciousness and slumber becomes impossible to discern. In this state of sleep-waking, you will achieve enlightenment and easily ace any and all test you are faced with. However, this method poses some risk of simply falling asleep and failing by default. And about 68% of the time, people get their results back and find out that they somehow managed to change their name to "Ronald McDonald" or "The Grimace" midway through the exam. That's never cool for anybody.

C) Frustration - Tests are inherently stressful, with perhaps your entire future at stake - even if you're already a college graduate, let's no pretend that diplomas themselves are worth that much these days - and as such, it's only natural that you'd become legitimately agitated over the course of the test-taking period. This is why you should apply for a Lobster Permit at the testing center well in advance, as so to be allowed to bring a lobster along with you on the day of the test to scream obscenities at whenever you are uncertain of an answer. If you're wondering about the origins of this practice, you need look no further than to the words of Bologna Prophet Oscar Mayer, who once said, "Fuck you, lobster! I don't need you or your money!" Great words from a great man.

D) Self-confidence - It's easy to take on a defeatist attitude before a major test you have little to no ways to study for, in lacking any kind of specific study guide with answers to commit to memory. In cases like these, sometimes it's for the best to simply look inside yourself and - you know, I can't finish this with a straight face. You're screwed and you know it.

E) Study Fuel - It's always important to eat before facing major undertakings like this as well. Your brain needs energy to function. Without energy, your brain will become as lazy and stupid as the rest of you. You don't want that, do you? Put that remote control down and listen to me when I'm talking to you! Anyway, some might suggest that you eat something with a lot of carbohydrates, maybe some protein - general fuel for the human body. But we both know better than that. Granola? A well-balanced breakfast with Count Chocula? Pah. Order the cheapest, greasiest pizza you can find - eat a couple of them in their entirety if you can - and stay away from bathrooms. Relieving important bodily functions might interfere with your concentration! Nothing will help you concentrate on your exams like cheap, greasy pizza eaten 4-5 hours prior to the test. Antacids will also trip you up. Focus on the pizza - become the pizza, live the pizza. Only then shall you know truth.

You learned a lot about test-taking and study habits, no? Of course you did. And it's all thanks to me. You can thank me with a ten-gun salute. Ideally in the vicinity of an old folks' home. They need to relive good memories too, after all.