Random Blog Post

Hey, gang.  Apologies that I haven’t been posting as regularly.  I’ve been surprisingly busy.  I can’t complain about it.  It’s a good thing for my career if I have a bunch of projects going on.  It’s an exciting time to be me, and I guess that means if you’re a fan, then it can be a little bit exciting for you too.  Or not.  I don’t expect you to live vicariously through me.  Though you’re certainly welcome to try.

Anyway, I’m still working on my top secret project I’m not allowed to talk about.  So why bring it up?  Because what’s the point of working on a top secret project if you can’t mention it?  This is probably why I’d be a lousy spy.  The details will remain undisclosed, but I’m optimistic at this stage that this could be awesome.  I could be wrong.  It’s happened once or twice before.

But while I have a free moment, I figured I’d drop by, confirm that I am still alive, and maybe share some random thoughts.  People do seem to like that sort of thing.  Maybe because as a sort of famous person, they’re under the illusion I have something interesting to say.  Or maybe we all have something interesting to say, and I just happen to be lucky enough to have an audience.

So I’ve been playing Skylanders on my Wii.  If you’re unfamiliar with it, it’s a video game with a gimmick.  You get a wireless “portal” device that connects to your system and when you put the Skylander figures onto the portal, they appear in your game as characters for you to control.  Think of it as Pokemon, but without having to capture the damn things and instead just going out and buying them.  It is a gimmick, and psychologically, it should be annoying that you’re basically paying to unlock things that are already in the game.  But it’s a tremendously charming game with a lot going for it.

For one thing, the game is a bit old school and aimed at a younger audience.  It’s not tremendously difficult and most of the levels are straightforward, even if there is a bit of puzzles here and there.  For some reason, Skylanders reminds me a lot of that old classic Gauntlet.  Only instead of running around in a dungeon with four characters to choose from, there are 32 different Skylanders (if you should happen to buy them all).

What elevates this beyond a gimmick for me is that the game is genuinely fun to play.  And each character has their own unique style.  They aren’t just interchangeable with different special effects.  Trigger Happy carries a pair of pistols that shoot gold coins and can spray the screen with a deadly barrage.  Meanwhile, Terrafin is a landshark who can swim through rock and punch the enemy with tremendous force.  The more you play the game, the more you unlock on the characters.  It’s all a very elaborate system of enticement, but so cleverly done that it seems rewarding rather than manipulative.

It’s the difference between a game with a gimmick and a gimmicky game.  Skylanders is certainly designed to sell collectible figures, but they went above and beyond to create a fun experience that continues to reward me.  If I were less secure, I might feel weird admitting how much I’m enjoying a game aimed at kids, but I’m a professional novelologist.  And I fear the day I can’t see the beauty of playing a game where I can be anything from a rock dinosaur to a cyber dragon to a very angry tree who spits out giant spiked acorns that he rolls over the forces of evil.

Meanwhile, I’ve also been enjoying Castle Empire Online, a free online game that’s about managing a small kingdom.  It’s a different animal than Skylanders, but fun.  Worth checking out, if you’re so inclined.  I play under the name EmperorMollusk.  Send me a friend request.  Maybe I’ll trade you some fish for coal.  (I’m always short on coal.)

But what about the real world?  What’s going on there?

How quaint of you to ask.

Got that secret project thing.  Hush hush.  But it’s coming along.

Working on Helen and Troy’s Epic Road Quest, my next manuscript (prob out in 2013).

Oh, and that Mack Megaton story…it’s still coming.  I promise.

Finally, I’d like to offer my thoughts on the topic of skepticism.  The problem with your average person’s view of skepticism is that it seems to mean “Non-Believer”.  When I say I’m skeptical of ghosts, for instance, it’s often assumed I don’t believe ghosts exist.  In point of fact, I am a genuine skeptic when it comes to the paranormal.  I remain unconvinced but open to it.

And, yes, I understand there there is “evidence” for the paranormal.  It’s just not very good evidence.  And it certainly isn’t very convincing evidence for any particular claim.  This isn’t to say that those claims are wrong.  It’s just that they remain so ill-defined as to honestly admit they are specious at best.  The difficulty I have with “the paranormal” is that no one who believes it genuinely seems to be investigating it in an open way.  Instead, they have their pet theory that they are trying to prove.  That’s just bad research.

For example, perhaps electronic voice phenomenon is a real thing, and we are managing to record the voices of invisible beings around us.  This could mean a hundred things though.  Perhaps there are alien entities from another dimension trying to make contact with us.  Perhaps mischievous imps are playing tricks on us.  Or perhaps they are psychic imprints created by the will of the living investigators.  When it comes to the paranormal, none of these explanations seems unreasonable to me.  Or they could all be wrong.

This is why I am skeptical.  Even if you capture a genuine EVP, it could be something we haven’t even thought of yet.  There are so many possibilities, the only genuinely honest thing to do is to record the result and keep investigating.

Inevitably, someone will tell me I am being too closed minded.  But it’s actually the opposite.  I’m so open minded about what it COULD be that I have a hard time just declaring what it is as if I actually knew.  The believer is often the one who seems closed minded to me, willing to stretch any and all evidence toward their pet theory, ignoring any possibility outside of that.

As an experiment, I suggest watching different ghost hunting shows.  What’s most surprising about the shows isn’t that they find “evidence”, but the type of “evidence” they find.  Each show tends to find the kind of ghosts they’re looking for, regardless of their location.  The less dangerous spirits of Ghost Hunters never seem to cross paths with the more terrifying specters of Ghost Adventures.  And the outright malevolent forces of Paranormal State never seem to show up in any episodes of Fact or Faked.

Skeptically, it could be argued that perhaps that’s the way the supernatural works.  Perhaps different facets of the paranormal respond to different people.  Perhaps my very skepticism is what prevents me from seeing any evidence for myself.  Or perhaps it’s all just our primitive imagination responding to spooky sounds and unfamiliar locations.  Or perhaps we’re all just brains floating in a giant shared simulation and some people have their experience settings dialed to monster.

That’s skepticism.  Far too extreme to be practical, of course.  But just want to put it out there.

My general rule is that if the evidence could just as easily apply to leprechauns, then I remain unconvinced.  Lights in the skies could be alien spaceships.  Or the fey folk playing tricks on us.  Until we actually have a flying saucer or a faerie in our possession, we can’t know for sure.

Although I do still believe that Bigfoot is just Chupacapbra in a suit.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,

Lee

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10 Comments

  1. Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

    Skylanders is the game I wished had been around when I was a kid. It’s genius to me, on paper – I’ve yet to experience it yet. I may just do that eventually…

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted November 11, 2011 at 6:38 pm | Permalink

      I think I’ve been so burnt out by so-called “mature” games / comics / movies that take the fun out of everything that I’m in the perfect place to enjoy Skylanders. It just seems so refreshing and enjoyable. I think I actually enjoy it more than if I was a kid because of my current perspective.

      • Posted November 11, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

        Hopefully some kind of Black Friday sale involves this game as I’d love to get it and try it out. Renting just wouldn’t be applicable here…

  2. meAgain
    Posted November 12, 2011 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

    I forget what it’s called, but it’s when you trick your mind into believing random gibberish is meaningful. For instance, hearing words in non-back masked reversed music. Or, hearing voices, code, or other such communication in white noise. Or madness such as, convincing yourself that lottery numbers were actually cryptograms using a cipher, and you put effort into converting the numbers into different systems. I mean, you might go as far as convincing yourself that since Powerball had an option of 59 numbers and the SIXBIT character code system also has 59 characters, then that proved the numbers were attached to letters. Then you used every cryptanalytic tool at your disposal to break the code, using the Vigenere cipher, and the Beale cipher (using a program that makes comparisons, which you run for two years) and other cyphers…

    But since you believe, you start seeing different words such as, eklo- Latvanian for Zeitgeist–in the code. And that seems more than convincing, despite the fact you have made something out of nothing.

  3. meAgain
    Posted November 12, 2011 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    It’s not mere juxtaposition, it’s another word– a clinical term. We all have it. Some less than others. Anyway, people go mad trying to believe the thing and then they try to convince others of its truth. It was once equated with schizophrenia, but they determined that any rational person in a rational state of mind could come to such a solution in the right circumstances.

  4. Posted November 13, 2011 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

    most evp sounds are just radio signals being picked up by the recorders. i set up some speakers one time that weren’t even plugged in and they picked up a radio broadcast of darkside of the moon by pink floyd. it just happens because the signals are strong and just the right positioning.

    • Posted November 13, 2011 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

      I used to have a stereo speaker that regularly picked up the walkie-talkies that the construction folks in my neighborhood were using. It took me years to figure it out, because usually I only heard bits like “Ok, back it up, more, more, stop.” “Left dammit left” and the likes. It wasn’t until I heard it in conjuction to them pouring concrete across the street did I know what was going on.

      Of course, never did I think it was EVP. I always figured there was just some rational but weird explanation.

      But as for whether my skepticism keeps me from actually running into real and extant malevalent spirits, then I think I’ll keep my skepticism just as it is. Maybe those folks in Poltergeist could have used a little more of it.

  5. Austin the Ninja
    Posted November 16, 2011 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

    Must say after reading some more on skylanders im really wanting to check it out. Ill just have to wait until i can finally get a job and then ill probably consider getting it and figure out what figures i want to try to get.

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted November 18, 2011 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

      For what it’s worth, I’m still really enjoying it. In particular, I’ve discovered that the versus mode is surprisingly fun. Especially the more you play and understand the character you choose.

  6. Posted June 15, 2012 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    I enjoy going through this blog.I will continue to focus on it.Thanks!

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