#302: The OST

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I love listening to soundtracks, or OSTs. I have a deep fascination in the different songs that games and movies have, and I love listening to them when I can to bring back the memories of those experiences. When I listen to a song from a particular level, for example, it brings me into the situation, and it’s like I’m experiencing it all over again. Nothing will top that initial, first experience, but there’s value in re-experiencing the world and its wonderful moments when you can. I think that’s one of the key rewards of being into soundtracks. Though, it limits the amount of music I can discuss with other people because my recommendations are mostly built on personal novelty and nostalgia, which vary by the person.

As I write, I’m listening to “Chasing Daybreak,” a new song from the Fire Emblem: Three Houses video game. It’s no secret how much I love that game, but I don’t think I’ve talked about its soundtrack at length before.

There’s also “The Apex of the World,” which plays during the final map for each campaign and features a remixed “Fódlan Winds.” It’s intense, and the stakes couldn’t be higher during this encounter. I love when music matches the emotional beats of the level it’s a part of. Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze did that really well with its soundtrack; it seems to be a Nintendo staple to have great music.

Then there’s “Between Heaven and Earth,” another track that plays near the end of each campaign during the battle at Gronder Field. It’s particularly memorable because it plays during a tense, consequential battle, and it features some character deaths on the opposing side of whichever house you are playing as. It’s always uncomfortable to have to see deaths on either side, especially after you got to know these characters.

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#301: The Barber

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I’ve talked on this blog before about going to the barber, in #204: “The Haircut.” But today I’m going to discuss some of the previous barbers I’ve gone to, and the impressions they’ve left on me.

When I was young, I used to go to a barber whose name I can’t quite remember right now. But I can recall his face, the shop, and everything in it. He had a tootsie pop dispenser that I always asked my mom about, and he loved Betty Boop. Betty Boop with a coca cola, Betty Boop with a tootsie pop in her mouth, Betty Boop on a motorcycle. No matter what type of situation you can imagine, she was in it. This barber used to call me rubber neck because I kept moving around during the haircut. I have a hard time keeping my head still in one place without it moving to and fro, usually because I like to relax my head during periods of time where I’m not doing anything except sitting. He also used to call me gorilla neck because the hair around my neck grew in quickly. It’s still like that to this day, and I can recall his manner of speaking and voice so perfectly in my head.

Then there’s George, or Augie. When I still lived in Northford, I visited him frequently. I sometimes would bump into old students when I went there. George was a one-of-a-kind guy, and he always struck up a friendly conversation with me when I went there. He took his time and really accentuated my look, asking questions along the way about what type of haircut I wanted and how school was going so far. When I told him I was moving to Stamford, he asked if I was still going to come to him, but unfortunately I had to decline. Stamford to North Haven is a long drive, and I can’t make that regularly enough to get a haircut there.

#300: The Good Boy

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I’m dedicating blog post #300 to the good boy himself, Ango. He’s been a consistently great part of my life, despite his tendency to be a bit of a butt from time to time, and I don’t write enough blog posts about him. So today, it’s Ango time. Well-deserved, little dude.

Earlier in the day, when Alex and I were about to leave for the gym, Alex had Angus’s kong in his hand with a treat inside, and Angus jumped up and put his front paws on the table, knocking over all the magazines we had stacked up there. We were in the middle of talking about how Angus had been a good boy recently as this unfolded, which was perfectly ironic.

Angus is a wonderful dog, and I’ve learned some of his sweet spots too. If you rub his ears and head and push him towards you, he loves it. He just loves being pet and having rubs all over his head. When he leans into you, and his head is almost right up next to yours, that’s also a sign that he loves it and wants more. He really takes it all to heart. I love when I pet him on a specific spot, and then seconds later he rubs himself on that spot, either with his paws or mouth. It’s like he’s asking for it again but is only able to do a half-hearted job with his own two paws. A shame, but he tries his best and that’s what matters.

If Angus had the ability to pet himself wherever he wanted, he would definitely do so. He’s the type of dog who would definitely do whatever it takes to get there. Sometimes I get the chance to see what that reality would be like when he really gets into the self-petting.

#299: The Kombucha

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I love Kevita’s Master Brew Kombucha. I could drink it pretty much every day. The flavor is fizzy and tart, sometimes bitter, but more often than not it tastes great. It depends on which brand you buy from and which flavor you buy from that brand, but I think I’ve found the jackpot with Kevita. Unfortunately, their kombuchas have added sugars, so they’re not great for when I’m dieting, but right now, I feel great drinking these.

When I used to be a full-time teacher, I would take bottles of the kombucha into work with me and sometimes leave them around my desk. Students would ask me about them and say how they love kombucha as well, though I never asked what kind they drank. I probably could’ve solicited great feedback from them if I tried to. I still have memories of drinking it during class, while students were writing their midterm exams, and enjoying the energizing feeling. I’ve been bringing it to work more frequently, too, as a way of keeping me energized during lunchtime. I need that extra kick to get my day moving, when coffee isn’t enough to do the trick on its own.

Kombucha, and all of its fizzy probiotics inside, is fantastic at helping my stomach digest food. Sometimes I have trouble digesting, for whatever reason, and I need something to fill up the acidic waste that is my stomach. Kombucha fills that void well.

Of course, kombucha is technically fermented. One of my friends and I have been really interested in this new brew called Kombrewcha. Though I’m not much of a drinker, I still love this one. It’s tangy, tasty, and all kinds of good. I might need to pick some more up this weekend to make sure we don’t run out any time soon.

#298: The Minivan

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I wrote a tweet the other day about how funny it is that the main characters of Persona 5 drive a minivan. They’re meant to be these radical, paradigm-shifting vigilantes, and though I have nothing against the minivan as a vehicle, I think the stark contrast between the characters’ attitudes and the general public perception of minivans adds some humor to the game.

The game is normally very funny, and this isn’t the first instance of irony showing up. Each character has a distinct irony that defines their personality; Ryuji is a low-brow, immature teen who bleaches his hair and isn’t afraid of anything, but he also shows remarkable maturity when it comes to understanding how hypocritical and immature adults can be. He has wisdom even through his tactless attitudes. Makoto is an over-achieving honors student and student council president, but she’s insecure about her looks and social status. I enjoy how diverse the characters’ personalities are.

But this blog post is about minivans. Let’s talk about those some more. When I was growing up, my mom owned a minivan, and it was fantastic. It had a DVD player in it and we would watch Disney movies (or Barbie movies, if Miranda was around in the car) and whatever else was around. I’ve seen the first Cars probably a hundred times, along with Finding Nemo. Bella loved Finding Nemo, and who can blame her? It’s a fantastic movie, but on repeat viewings like that, it becomes a bit annoying to watch.

A lot of my childhood memories took place in that minivan, and I remember it pretty well despite not remembering a lot of things from that period of my life. It’s good to be able to look back not in anger but in a sense of quiet nostalgia. It’s very good.

#297: The Vanilla

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The classic experience. When people think about World of Warcraft, they probably think about the original game, the game as it was when it first came out and people flooded the streets of Orgrimmar and Stormwind, recognizable faces polluted trade chat, and Horde and Alliance alike waged war against Ragnaros, Kel’Thuzad, Nefarian, and C’Thun. This age, from 2004 to 2006, is referred to as “Vanilla WoW,” and the most basic (but not in a complexity sense) and fundamental aspects of the game trace their roots to this time period.

I never had the chance to play during this era, so my experience here is restricted. However, recently, Blizzard has released what’s called “Classic WoW,” which is included in the regular, retail WoW subscription price. “Classic WoW” is a separate set of servers that are tailor-made to restore the game as it once was. It preserves this two-year span of history forever in the state that it was at the time. For fans of the simpler days, before sharding took over and when servers had their own communities, this is ideal news. Blizzard’s decision to finally endorse and give in to classic servers was huge, considering their prior resistance to the idea. While I still dip into the retail game from time to time, I don’t currently have a subscription. If I did, I would consider jumping into Classic WoW to get a sense of how things were before probably going back to how things currently are. While I’m not saying the current iteration of the game is perfect, there are certain mechanics and systems to the retail version of WoW that I’m not sure I’d be able to do without, and I just learned flying again too!

Regardless, I respect Blizzard’s decision and the huge wave of support that Classic WoW has received is great to see. I’m a fan.

#296: The Crimson Flower

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Playing through Fire Emblem: Three Houses was an emotional experience. The ending almost made me cry, and reading all the different paired experiences for each character combination gave me just the kind of cathartic feeling I was looking for at the end of the game. Certain characters traveled the world and adventured together, some became romantically involved in unlikely combinations, and other characters went solo for a bit, accomplishing their dreams in their own ways. It was inspiring and made me feel things for my team that I had worked so hard to protect throughout each and every mission. I made sure to keep all my characters fairly overleveled through the repeatable battle missions.

My friend finished the same campaign, but the majority of his cast died in the process in that fateful final battle against the archbishop in her dragon form. The only surviving members of the Black Eagle house were Linhardt, Ferdinand, Edelgard, and the professor. I feel bad for him, but at least it was the final battle and at least he made it to the end after all. I’d feel bummed if I made it that far and couldn’t beat the game after all my effort and time spent building up my team.

The music is bombastic, epic, and over-the-top in all the right ways. It draws you in and gets you invested in the story of each mission, fitting appropriately next to the atmosphere they wanted to create.

The story was engrossing, nuanced, and memorable. It’s one I’ll remember for awhile. I’m also pretty glad I happened to side with Edelgard in this conflict, considering her philosophy was pretty agreeable (besides the obviously questionable parts of it, like waging war against your former classmates to reshape society). But overall, I liked the shades of grey that the story presented and I feel that the designers did a solid job of capturing that.

#295: The Bedroom

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The bedroom is probably Angus’s favorite place in the whole apartment. Without a doubt, he loves jumping on the bed as soon as the door opens, laying his paws down on the blankets, and relaxing his head between them. He is staunch and predictable in his habits. When I come home from work, one of the first things I do is take Angus out, but after that, I’ll open the closed doors in the apartment. Angus will, without fail, jump onto the bed seconds after the door opens. He loves the feel of being atop those blankets more than anything. That’s why we have blankets covering the sectional in our living room; that way, when Angus is home alone for a time, like when both of us have work, he can still relax the way he enjoys. However, it’s not the same for him. If he had to choose between the bedroom blankets and the couch blankets, he’d choose the bedroom blankets without thinking twice, or at all. And we’ve tried switching the blankets around. It doesn’t make much of a difference if the blankets have changed. Angus still prefers the bed, perhaps because of the height advantage, or perhaps because he’s surrounded by pillows and other comfortable stuff to lounge near.

When Angus is off the bed, he likes to rub his head through the ends of the blankets draped near the ground. Sometimes he gets caught in them, and that’s hilarious to watch. When we have company over he especially likes to show off his disappearing magic trick, where he sticks his head inside the blankets and proceeds to run around like crazy. Angus is unintentionally one of the funniest pets I’ve ever known, and I think it’s one of his defining features by this point. Having him around immediately lifts the mood.

#294: The Schedule

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Whenever I return to work for a new year, there’s always stress and pain and suffering related to what my new schedule is going to look like. Who knows what it’ll be? What’s going to be on it? What students will I have this year? What problems will show up because of the unruly combination of students and subject matter?

Even if the ideas are brought up to me in advance, there’s still the underlying fear throughout the summer that something will go wrong, that the plans I have in mind will fall through and my new schedule will pose the same problems as it did last year. I guess the only difference is me, and whether or not I’ve changed enough to make the new stuff worth it.

Teachers are known for saying that it gets better year after year, that, as a teacher, you are bound to feel some sort of improvement over time. I chalk that one up to the teachers themselves. Teachers are inherently optimistic; however, as time goes on, I feel like that inevitably erodes a bit. Not everyone is going to maintain their cheery disposition over the years. But as someone who’s taught for two years now, I still feel an impending sense of dread every time I step into a classroom. I think that’s native to being a teacher, though; if you’re not doubting yourself, it’s hard for you to learn from your mistakes and accurately reflect on what needs to be done differently in the future. With that being said, some people, like me, dwell on their mistakes quite a lot, and that makes for sad situations. All I want is to be comfortable at my job, to not have to worry every year about something new popping up and ruining my year-long groove.

#293: The Season, Part 3

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But the best part about summer, and about looking back on the summer, is the ability to reflect on it later, to think back on the good times and the bad and change for the future. I know I’ll be doing a lot of changing over the course of the next few days and weeks, considering school will have already started by the time this blog post goes up.

One thing I’m particularly thankful for is the fact that I’ve kept this blog running in spite of everything, in spite of not having as many ideas of what to write about because I don’t have work going on. I was worried for a time that I wouldn’t be writing as much, but I’ve managed to keep steady and only drop below 2 scheduled posts I think once or twice over the whole season. I like to keep a long, steady list of scheduled posts in the bank, so that I don’t need to worry about keeping my blog up to date all the time every day. I consider it my 300 words a day, even though I don’t always write every day.

The summer was full of Uber Eats deliveries, long Monster Hunter nights, and Fire Emblem battle grinds during the day. It was full of Hearthstone ladder climbing, dog walks, and the occasional trip outside our apartment’s little bubble. It was full of birthday presents and celebrations, family visits, and family gatherings. I’d like to think that, when all is said and done, this long, eventful 10 weeks was worth it, that in spite of the sunken cost of living during this time period, I was able to make the most of the time I had. I believe that wholeheartedly, even though sometimes I doubt myself. I guess that means it’s not wholehearted then? Oh well.