Christmas Thoughts: Round 1

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Yeah, I know, it’s only November 30th. I shouldn’t even be allowed to talk about Christmas until at least tomorrow. Perhaps the soft colored glow coming from the Christmas tree is already getting to me…

The stores around East Texas have been screaming, for over a month now, that Christmas is here. Little things like Christmas trees in Hobby Lobby, joyful Walmart workers working away, and neighbors stringing up Christmas lights before Thanksgiving only serve to confirm that Santa Claus is coming to town. Standing as an icon of obesity, Jolly Saint Nick ushers in the holiday dedicated to mass consumerism, Christmas. A holiday where more is not enough and presents have an entry point of at least $250 for an 10 year old child.

What Nightmare Is This?

As a father of a toddler, I have found myself constantly thinking about what example I want to set for my son. Do I want him to think that Christmas is all about:

  • Gifts.
  • Gifts.
  • And heck, let’s call it what it really is, LOOT!

My mother-in-law was recently telling my wife and I that as a kid, she would only get one gift for Christmas. Contrast this with the three (3) Christmases I experienced as a child –Mom, if you’re reading this, I’m thankful, I am!– and you find yourself at sort of a junction point. I remember getting so many gifts when I was younger that I would discover some of the gifts once again a month or two later.  Now, there is nothing wrong with how many presents I received as a kid. Especially when you factor in relatives whose love language is giving. I just think that there has to be a happy medium that doesn’t include going broke in order to please others.

As my wife and I wade through figuring out who and what we want our family to be, I want to encourage you to do the same. You don’t have to get caught up in this Christmas game… even if it is debt-inducing fun.

More thoughts to come, stay tuned!

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SEGA: The Soundtrack of My Youth

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  • Red Hot Chili Peppers poster on the wall? Check.
  • Drum set with dirty clothes stuffed in the bass drum? Check.
  • Bed unmade? Check.
  • Exposed carpet nail strip that you stepped on each time you entered the room? Check. Ouch!

Welcome to my childhood friend’s brother’s room. It was here that I discovered golden axes, dolphins that echoed, and a faster than fast hedgehog. Of course, I am talking about the pinnacle of the 16-bit era, the SEGA Genesis.

When not outside playing with G.I. Joes or swimming in the pool, my friend Greg and I would often sneak into his brother’s room and take turns playing Sonic the Hedgehog. I remember thinking that the game was incredibly fast. As advertised, Sonic was a lot faster than Nintendo’s Mario. SEGA. One of our most favorite games to play on the Genesis was Golden Axe. What is sad is that we were both terrible at it. I remember getting mad at each other for accidentally hitting the other person’s character. Whoops! I also recall typically playing as the muscled-out he-man. Greg would play as the dwarf with the long white beard. Sad to think that we never beat the game, especially after all the hours we sunk into it.

My experience with SEGA systems goes even further back than Ryan’s aromatic room–dirty laundry mixed with deodorant–. I remember my cousin Casey introducing me to the 8-bit SEGA Master System. I must have spent the afternoon with her playing Alex Kidd. She had all the cool toys, even Mario Paint on the NES. Beyond Casey, my friend Andrea also had a Master System– what is it with girls having all this video game goodness?–. I don’t remember what games I played over at Andrea’s house, but I do remember the distinct packaging of the Master System games.

The 16-bit era is probably my most favorite when it comes to video games. These are the games that I played late into the night when I slept over at friends homes. SEGA games play like a soundtrack to my early childhood. Highlights include:

  • Beating Vectorman while hyped up on Vicodin.
  • Hours of playing Road Rash.
  • Airline Tycoon.
  • Feeling of claustrophobia from playing Echo the Dolphin.
  • Never beating Sonic the Hedgehog. (I can admit that the underwater portions always did me in.)

Seasons of Zelda

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The next door neighbor boys growing up, Jeff and Joe, first introduced me to The Legend of Zelda when I was six years old. I remember their shiny golden NES cartridge; I also remember my Mom not letting me play the game due to its villain being referred to as the “Prince of Darkness”. Little did I know that seventeen years would go by before I’d ever touch another game in the series again.

The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time was really my first Zelda game. I was terrible at it. Eventually I’d have a friend come over and help me beat it. In fact, I told him to get to the last boss and then just let me play. Tom Sawyer would have been proud. My friend ended up playing through the entire game and did come and get me to play the end…after he had played it through. I remember the final boss battles being spectacular. Especially the one that took place on the floor that you could fall through. Using the hook-shot to climb back up to where Ganon was standing was very Batman-like. The scope and size of the Nintendo 64 entry to the series was simply awesome at the time. The music is beyond memorable.

In college, I met the woman who is now my wife. One of my evil ploys was to get her into playing video games. So, in addition to buying her a Nintendo DS, I also left my GameCube at her house for awhile. Turns out, she really liked The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker. I have fond memories of playing through Niko’s Pirate Challenge with her. Nothing like swinging on lanterns to prove your pirate mettle.

My wife and I have played The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hourglass since those days in college. Both of us found the game to be hard with it’s repeating Temple of the Ocean King segments. I have also personally played a chunk of The Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. The game was slow but pretty looking. I also disliked the “wolf” portions of the game. The Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past, is a game I have logged a bunch of hours into but never finished…

All of the above makes me realize that I have never truly beaten a Zelda game. Sure, I have played a good portion of them but never have technically beaten one. Odd.

Found a marketing video from Nintendo this morning that shows a guy playing Zelda games throughout the various stages of his life. Reminded me of how the Zelda series has always been a part of my life. With The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword coming out soon, I have no doubt that it will continue to follow me through my adult years.

NaNoWriMo: Day 1 – Oseania

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Oh come with me now children to a land not so far away, where a kingdom of old dwells amongst the seas frothy spray. The islands of Oseania, nestled by the sea, are but a page away, make haste now, and turn there with me.

So It Begins –

The night was black and the seas were churning as Henry Von Denton struggled to escape the pounding surf. To and fro the waves battered him, threatening to take him into their depths. Henry’s strength was quickly failing him. He knew that he had to reach the shore or else death would soon come. As he was about to give up hope, Henry suddenly felt earth beneath his feet. Adrenaline coursed through his body, he was going to make it. From the sound of the waves crashing onto the beach, Henry knew that the shoreline couldn’t be far off. He pressed on until he finally collapsed from exhaustion on the beach.

The storm ended sometime the next day but Henry did not awake. Two more days passed and yet he did not stir. Henry Von Denton was not dead, however, but lost in a fevered dream. Time no longer had meaning.

–  –  –

“Henry?”

The voice that called to him sounded familiar. The light warm winds that blew against his face reminded him of another time and place.

“Henry, are you okay?”

Henry opened his eyes and was instantly blinded by the glaring sun. Above him stood a man that looked a lot like him. Built like a Viking of old, Eric Von Denton, his father, looked at him with some concern.

“That was some hit to the head you just took. You alright?”

Henry slowly reached for his head and winced over the lump he felt on his right temple. He could feel his heart beat within it.

“What happened?”

“Well, you just got smacked in the head with a falling sail.”

What had happened to the rough sea and the slave ship, Henry thought. Hadn’t he just made the swim of his life? Henry stood up and instantly felt the ship’s sway beneath him. Of course, he was on his father’s ship The Ottoman.

Eric continued to look at his son with great concern, ”You sure you’re okay? You seem a bit out of sorts.”

Henry decided in this moment to just embrace whatever was going on. The nightmare of his time in the mines on Breakwater and his subsequent escape from the slave ship were experiences he was glad to let go.

“Yes father, I’m fine.”

“Well good,” Eric said not believing. “Why don’t you go below and lay down. Captain Tiberius and I have things under control.”

Henry smiled reassuringly and headed below deck. Perhaps his year of living in a nightmare was but a dream? Settling into his hammock, he was soon lulled to sleep by the ships gentle rocking.

–  –  –

When Henry awoke, he no longer felt the ship moving. Instead he felt cold, wet, and feverish. His nightmare had been real.

“Please, do not move,” a deep voice said out of the darkness.

Startled, Henry opened his salt encrusted eyes and found that he was lying upon a hard surface. The room was dimly lit, and he could barely make out the figure of the man who had just spoken.

“Give me just one moment to get this fire going.”

The Stranger’s voice echoed off the walls. Where ever Henry was, the place was cavernous.

“Where am I?”

The Stranger cursed, ”Stupid matches… ah yes,  you are… give me just a moment and the light will answer your questions.”

An unnatural fire suddenly sprang to life in what was a very large fire place. The sparse room was now illuminated in dark blues and sparks of orange. The Stranger moved across the room and placed his hand upon Henry’s forehead.

“You are burning up.”

Henry began to shiver violently as if on cue. The Stranger skillfully helped him remove his wet clothing and wrapped him in a blanket. Sitting now by the fire, dry, Henry asked once again, “Where am I? The last thing I remember was being on my father’s ship.”

“Henry Von Denton, where you are is not important. What is important is where you are going from here.”

“What does that mean and how do you know my name,” Henry asked questioningly. As warmth from the blanket and fireplace enveloped his body, he began to stare at the Stranger, “Who are you?”

“So many questions…so many questions… my name is Christopherson, I am a monk and the last of the Order of Aletheia.”

Henry looked at him in disbelief, “You’re a monk? You look so young.”

Christopherson chuckled, “I thank you for your compliment but assure you I am quite old.”

The crackle of the fire and the smell of pine permeated the room. The monastery was silent, seemingly empty.

“Where are we?”

“The island of Grace.”

–  –  –

Author’s Note: Didn’t write as much today as I would have liked (about 889 words). But I do think I am off to a good start. Drop me a comment and give me some feedback. Thanks.