Welcome to the official website of freelance writer Mark Hill, created because I’m not popular enough to have an unofficial fan page. You can find links to my work and my contact information above, or read my personal work below. Enjoy!
Please note that this review discusses major plot points. In order to keep things as spoiler-free as possible, plot points will be referred to in vague terms, and all characters will be renamed Charles.
Bravely Default is one of the finest JRPGs released in recent memory. With a single game, Square-Enix cut through all the bloat that’s weighed the Final Fantasy franchise down in mediocrity for the better part of a decade. The job system is deep, the combat is sublime, the characters are engaging and the story has the feel of a classic, old-school adventure to just get out there and save the goddamn world. It is, without hyperbole, a masterpiece.
Then the second half of the game begins.
The back half of Bravely Default is a Sisyphian endurance test, if Sisyphus occasionally had to stop and grind for levels. Square-Enix boldly decided to recreate the characters’ suspicions that they’re caught in a repetitive, endless loop by making the player feel the exact same horrid emotions. Each of the game’s four major bosses must be fought five times each, because if there’s one thing that gamers hate it’s experiencing new content. To be fair, Square-Enix does its best to avoid repetition by giving the bosses radical new traits for each fight, such as “more health” or “slightly different attack pattern.”
But you’re not simply defeating the same bosses that you’ve already proven yourself capable of besting several times over—you’re also listening to repetitive dialogue so lazy that characters are shocked by basic concepts that they’ve had previously explained to them on multiple occasions. During this stage of the game, it is helpful to imagine that your heroes have been stricken with the obscure status condition of short term memory failure.
Some conversations do move the plot forward, in the sense that the snail crawling through your garden is moving closer to a vacation in the Galapagos. Charles begins to suspect that Charles has not been entirely honest about their quest or the extent of Charles’ knowledge. And Charles begins to recover his memory, to the point where he first suspects that Charles is not working towards their best intentions, and then fully recalls that Charles does indeed have an ulterior motive.
Faced with this profound, life-changing knowledge, Charles heroically does nothing and allows Charles to continue with his plan unabated. Perhaps Charles, like the gamer, has simply been numbed into a state of catatonic half-life by the sheer repetitiveness of his assigned mission. To challenge Charles would be to challenge the only life he has ever known, for Charles’ memory of a time when he acted differently must be as hazy as the gamer’s memory of when Bravely Default was more fun than staring at an unusually dull wall for hours on end.
By this point in the game you will have likely developed several battle tactics that appear to break the combat system, such as the ability to apply a sword master’s lifetime of nuanced training in the subtle art of the katana to the art of a pirate hitting things in the head with a large ax over and over again until said thing is deceased. The bosses you have already proven your mastery of will fall like flies before you, if to swat flies you had to spend five minutes travelling to one’s location and 10 minutes swatting it over and over again without any fear of failure before it finally perishes.
The revelation that the seemingly inconsequential Charles is actually Charles, a servant of Charles, therefore comes as a blessed relief rather than a shock, both because it signals the endgame and the faintest glimmer of hope for a new experience, and because any gamer that could best a tomato on an intelligence test will have predicted the heavily foreshadowed yet agonisingly drawn out plot “twist” that Charles inexplicably failed to act on his foreknowledge of, perhaps feeling that he would simply follow Charles, a mysterious character who refused to explain who or what they were, got angry whenever anyone asked reasonable questions or expressed even a modicum of doubt about their clearly flawed plan, and see how that played out.
You defeat Charles using the same cheap and dull yet staggeringly effective strategy that got you this far, only for Charles to take a second form and wipe the floor with your party faster than Superman on cleaning day, because even after you are roused from your stupor and recognise the fact that Bravely Default has enacted a true plot twist by becoming a real video game again, your use of what you distantly recall is referred to as “strategy” is useless in the face of the fact that Charles produces really big numbers.
You are then reminded of the fact that JRPGs are essentially consensual hallucinations intended to disguise the fact that you are making your numbers become larger numbers until they are larger than the numbers produced by the computer, and that your entire video game role-playing history has essentially been one large Skinner box gussied up in pretty paint and an amusing story like some cheap whore.
You’ll put this revelation aside, because you’re already upset that one game has wasted time you could have spent becoming a more well-rounded person or being with your loved ones and don’t wish to confront the fact that your entire beloved pastime may be an elaborate lie designed to make you complacent, in an eerie parallel of Charles’ elaborate lie that makes your party complacent in a grand scheme to destroy time as we know it, because your so-called heroes are incapable of critical thought or even idly wondering why the supposed villains they were defeating earlier kept warning them that they were going to doom the world, which is a further parallel to how your parents once told you that you should go do something productive with your life instead of destroying it by playing so many video games. You will instead focus on grinding to make your party stronger, because you’re not going to let a game you no longer enjoy beat you, because you don’t understand the concept of a sunk cost.
Unfortunately, the game has now locked you into a set narrative path that prevents you from visiting areas that made grinding a relatively painless affair. To compensate for this problem, the game allows you access to the bowels of your airship, an early dungeon you had to clear of monsters so you could take to the skies, yet somehow still remains heavily populated by rambling hordes of monsters because there’s apparently nothing amiss about allowing creatures whose sole purpose in life is destruction to wander through the mechanically sensitive areas of a vessel so large and complex that no one actually knows how it works yet is happy to fly around in it.
So your enter the engine room and begin slaying hundreds upon hundreds of monsters in exchange for piffling amounts of experience, all the while accompanied by Charles who, in this alternate timeline you have established, has yet to reveal himself as a master manipulator and sees nothing odd about the fact that you’re postponing the rapturous experience of gazing upon a world you believe you’ve just made whole so you can deal with an engine room monster problem you’ve ignored as inconsequential for an extended length of time, an errand that is, in what must be an utter coincidence, making you stronger and more capable of defeating Charles.
After what feels like eons thanks to your general frustration with the fact that you’ve spent half of the game’s 40 hours wallowing in abject tedium, you will gain access to a skill that allows you to obliterate weak monsters as soon as the battle begins, essentially eliminating the entire concept of Bravely Default being a game and replacing it with the experience of being responsible for making numbers increase by spinning in circles until a fight with a foregone conclusion begins, a responsibility that could be assigned to a small child, or a carefully arranged bobbing bird toy.
Eventually you will also raise enough money to buy an accessory that increases the rate at which you gain experience. This, combined with the ability that transforms Bravely Default from a video game into a spreadsheet with a nice soundtrack, is essentially an admission by the developers that you can set your character’s strength to whatever you’d like, and the only difference between their system and hacking the game is that they will make you sink time into the endeavour in a transparent attempt to maintain the flimsy mutual claim that you are indeed still playing a video game.
Once you’ve defeated enough of your ship’s infinite supply of inexplicably wealthy engine monsters to ensure that your party produces sufficiently large numbers and does not receive sufficiently large numbers in return, you will have the capability to defeat the evil and duplicitous yet exceedingly polite and unsuspecting Charles, providing you can blink away your disbelief that Charles does not immediately vanish from existence like the countless monsters you’ve just defeated, dredge up the vague recollection that the light, sound and numbers box you hold in your hands once contained a video game, and recreate the tactic you once so naively dismissed as cheap and unfair yet now seems like an elaborate game of Go in comparison to the Kafkaesque nightmare you have just endured.
With Charles defeated you can confront the final boss, which is the question of whether it is worth proceeding to the end of a 50 hour game that, if you’re feeling generous, you can claim to have enjoyed half of, and that half is but a distant blurred memory of battles and characters that used to be entertaining before the all-encompassing darkness of the grind within a grind settled in and destroyed any joyful emotions you may have once held. Perhaps the final dungeon will lift the darkness and restore your faith in both Bravely Default and the medium of gaming as a whole, or perhaps it will simply twist the proverbial screw and turn the grind within a grind into a grind within a grind within a grind, or perhaps a grind within a grind within a grind within a grind, where the greatest grind of all is the one you make in your daily life to wade through this virtual nightmare by sacrificing any hope you once held of living a happy and fulfilling life. This question is the ultimate gamble, and neither this review nor any other can help you answer it. The choice is yours and yours alone, and in making your choice you will finally understand the meaning of the game’s seemingly nonsensical title. Will you be brave, or will you default, the game asks, indicating that the developers were well aware of what a miserable odyssey they had spawned all along.
With all of this in mind, I give Bravely Default seven out of 10.
This piece is a column I sold to Cracked that never ran because it was too hot, and also because of boring technical reasons. Enjoy!
If you’re at all familiar with erotic dating video games, you’d probably assume that they’re designed for lonely young men. And, well, you’d be right. But a significant subsection of them are meant for lonely young women, because people of both genders are willing to settle on pretend genitals when no real ones are available. And so, in the interest of what I swear is journalism and not the fulfillment of a weird fetish, I played through several erotic games marketed to teenage girls. Go ahead and place a bet on how many erections I got.
4. Amy’s Fantasies
Amy’s Fantasies stars a high school student named Emi (don’t ask), and co-stars her ridiculous 90s anime hair. You’re forced to make hard hitting decisions right off the bat.
Emi, who’s about to turn 18, has a serious crush on her stepbrother. Unfortunately, so does another student with even more ridiculous hair.
This is the object of our mutual affection:
I swear he’s also about to turn 18 and I’m not virtually seducing a 12 year old. Because they live alone together (their parents are dead, bom chicka wah wah) her constant fantasies are a recipe for sexy disaster. For example, he walks in on her masturbating to a photo of him. Rookie mistake, Emi.
The next morning we stumble across this:
That whore. Emi is jealous, and things only get worse when my dad’s former lover shows up with a deed to all his stuff, which she seems to think includes my vagina until Tomomi stops her from molesting me. The principal is willing to let us continue attending school despite the fact that we can no longer pay tuition, because she’s come up with an… alternative payment system. You could even say she’s going to… make Emi have sex with her. Sorry, I’m bad at subtlety.
Hitomi immediately offers us comfort sex, turning her into the ultimate frenemy. Then we learn she’s the head of an after school BDSM club where she parades the principal around on a dog leash as punishment for her exploitation of me. But I’m going to skip past all of that, because this is the sort of game where after school student/teacher kinkfests are only, like, the 12th weirdest thing going on. Tomomi has gone missing, and I need to save him. The fuck club is impressed by my resolve.
Tomomi is doing work for a sketchy hospital director to help settle the family debt. I get a job as a nurse and meet a boy who looks and sounds exactly like him, yet doesn’t recognise me. Shit just got mysterious. Naturally, I’m assigned to the hospital’s anus division. What’s that, you ask?
All my fellow employees and some of the patients have sex with me, but in-between weird butt stuff I learn that the lookalike boy’s father is… my dead dad. This is turning out to be like an M. Night Shyamalan movie with rimjobs. Stuart Diddle.
The hospital also has a secretive BDSM club, because in the dating game world one of those automatically forms whenever you gather more than three people together under the same roof. During one of their meetings I bone my biological brother from another mother, and the sex is so great he suddenly remembers where brother number one might be. But before he can tell me more, another patient murders him in a jealous rage.
No! The brother I didn’t know I had, and the sex partner I didn’t know I wanted, gone before my eyes. Good night, sweet manwhore. That brings us to the game’s third act, where I infiltrate the hospital director’s house as a maid. Sexy maids and nurses—truly, the creativity of the video game world knows no bounds. So anyway, sex, bondage orgies, yadda yadda.
We finally manage to track down Tomomi, and we learn that he inherited a seductive biological superpower that makes women magically want him. This supposedly explains most of the plot, although to be honest I’m still not entirely sure what the hell is going on because this game was translated from Japanese to English by someone who speaks neither. What’s important is that I finally confess my love to my step-brother.
We have hate sex with everyone else in the mansion before somehow burning it down during our escape.
We live happily ever after, because deep down every woman just wants her sex mutant step-brother’s love, no matter how many corrupt bondage hospital directors stand in their way. Or something like that, I don’t know. To be honest I was mostly focusing on my masturbation.
3. Enzai – Falsely Accused
If there’s one thing I know about women, it’s that nothing gets them going quite like Napoleonic era prison abuse. Hence the premise of Enzai – Falsely Accused, where a petty thief named Guys is railroaded for murder, and yes, that absolutely is a double entendre.
Most erotic games for women actually revolve around cute guys going through personal drama, comforting each other, and then banging repeatedly. The majority are relatively tame… and then there’s Enzai, because some women are secretly into dark, dark shit.
Guys may be busy trying to prove his innocence from within a corrupt system while struggling to stay alive and not succumb to horrific physical abuse and mental trauma… but that doesn’t mean he won’t have time for love. Will I be able to save Guys’ life, or at least get him some consensual dicking?
My time in prison begins with a medical inspection set to a track that could double as Emperor Palpatine’s theme music. I can tell right away that I’m going to get like eight kinds of molested.
That’s Durer, who beats the shit out of me before giving me a welcome to prison rimjob. Then I meet a hot badass named Jose, and the “You Gonna Get It” music immediately starts up again. Ladies, I hate to disappoint you, but pop culture has given you a very, very inaccurate view of how prisons work. I also find it exceedingly unlikely that Napoleonic prisoners waxed their crotches. Or were named Jose.
Guys, by the way, is awfully nonchalant about the whole “I just got raped twice in the span of an hour” thing, probably to keep the game from becoming indescribably depressing. On that note, Durer casually threatens to murder me unless I pee for him.
Let’s focus on the plot now, because otherwise I’m basically summarising a snuff film for a comedy site. In-between all the awful abuse I convince my sexy lawyer, Lusca, to work hard to prove my innocence while the sexy detective that arrested me, Guildias, shows up to torture me because he’s just terrible at his job. Also, Durer drops by to pee on me. That man sure likes his urination.
My lawyer learns that the man I was accused of killing was a detective. Well, isn’t that a shirtless, muscular coincidence? Incensed by the thought of an innocent boy going free, Guildias comes back to remind us of the game’s true purpose: extremely uncomfortable eroticism.
Jumping past the scene where I get wine poured up my ass, Lusca manages to track down witnesses to testify on my behalf at a re-trial. Finally, after all the pain and suffering Guys and I have gone through, the time for justice has come. After Lusca and I get into the legal mood with some pre-trial mutual masturbation (the Napoleonic code was weird), the big moment comes, pun… kind of intended? I don’t even know anymore.
Tense, dramatic music plays. Lusca is on top of his game, a cold-blooded lawyer through and through. He makes powerful, convincing arguments, and after a long and suspenseful trial, the judge declares me… still guilty. What the fuck?
I go back to jail, where Guildias literally licks my tears. Then I get shot while trying to escape in desperation, and the game ends with my dying dreams of a life that could have been. What the fuck?!
To be fair, this was just one of 11 endings. Other possibilities included proving my innocence, somehow proving everyone’s innocence, and falling in love with one of my many rapists. I could have even gotten the true murderer (Guildias) arrested.
So, not only did I just waste several hours of my life playing a women’s erotic male rape game, but I wasn’t any good at it. That thunderclap you thought you just heard was actually my profanity echoing across the sky.
2. Absolute Obedience
Set in West Germany in roughly the 1960s, Absolute Obedience stars two soldiers, Louise Hardwich and Kia WelBehenna, who bond over their mutual hatred of their parents for giving them those names. In their spare time, the pair run an agency to help jilted lovers get vengeance. It’s like revenge porn, but wackier. But as they seduce their way across Germany, could it turn out that their real romantic targets are… each other?
But let’s not reach the climax prematurely. Simply installing the game left me unsettled.
First I have to choose my character. I went with Kia, because he always carry a gun and a German Shepard. Literally—the man doesn’t seem to understand how dogs work.
Here’s my first assignment. It sounds like a tough one:
Kia can barely contain his “raging boner” of enthusiasm (his words, not mine). He’s certainly a hard worker, if you know what I mean. Careful research leads him to what he believes will be the scene of the next robbery, and sure enough, he finds the thief. I confront him and immediately use the ol’ “rip his shirt off” fight tactic. What’s my next move?
I almost seduce Silvio into submission, but his butler appears out of nowhere to cock and justice block me, like a sexier Alfred Pennyworth. Silvio leaves me with nothing but a calling card to remember him by, a piece of paper with the simple, elegant message of “Dumbass!” written on it. Holmes and Moriarty this ain’t.
My first case ended in failure, and I didn’t even get any action. Let’s see if I have better luck as Louise. Our assistant, Gallacher, informs me that we have a new case.
My client is a British spy who wants revenge against a KGB operative who seduced him. I’m not supposed to kill him, just make him “go crazy with lust for another man.” Hey, if I can do it in real life, how hard can it be to replicate in a video game?
I track the target, Zhores, to his cover job at a library. We’re both suspicious of each other, but we play a tomcat and mouse game over a story of Louise looking for books on Russian history. We exchange secret glances and words full of hidden meanings—all the staples of spycraft. Then I basically just yell, “Hey spy guy, why are you such a spy?” and kiss him out of the blue, because Louise is dumb.
Next, I kidnap Zhores and take him to dinner at a fancy hotel restaurant. We’re joined by the British spy, who looks like he’s 16. This is starting to turn into a John le Carré porn parody.
The two spies maintain their stories and pretend not to know each other, so it’s up to me to get this sexy party started. After some innocent dinner conversation, I take Zhores up to a suite. This time it’s Reiner’s turn to murder the concept of subtlety.
The ensuring sex isn’t exactly what one would call consensual, but that’s what Zhores gets for being a communist. And don’t worry, because like everyone else in the porno game world he ends up being way into it.
We then cut to Louise and Zhores at a concert together. Ah, that awkward first post-threesome rape date. Louise catches Zhores making an exchange with another spy, and decides to punish him with some more boning. But the taxi driver taking us to the hotel has other plans, and tries to shoot Zhores. Zhores is quicker and unloads on his face. I’m talking about guns here, to be clear. Zhores then takes the wheel to prevent a crash, and this expert display of reflexes only makes Louise’s dick harder.
But Louise is smitten, and insists on protecting Zhores. So together we team up to, uh, deliver intelligence to the Soviet Union. Hooray?
More men come after them, and not in the sense that they like. But we manage to blow up their car and escape to the hotel for some celebratory sex. Afterwards, Louise leaves Zhores with some parting advice.
Mission accomplished. That’s how it’s done, Kia, you idiot! This is just one of many insane assignments, but we’ll leave the story of “The High-Class Prostitute’s Prank” and “The Devilish Little Gigolo” for another day.
1. Togainu no Chi
Ladies, did you enjoy the Hunger Games but found yourself wishing that Katniss was replaced with a bunch of dudes just simmering with sexual tension? Then let’s play Togainu no Chi and make that premise boil over. No need to thank me, or ever contact me in any way.
Togainwhatever is set in a post-World War III Tokyo, where a gang has made the ruins the home of an elaborate combat game. Our hero, Akira, is falsely accused of a crime (false criminal charges are Japan’s pizza deliveryman with an extra-large sausage), but is offered freedom if he’ll go kick the ass of the gang’s leader.
Akira, the one being given the Bodyguard treatment, doesn’t look like he could beat up the child laborers who made his skinny jeans, let alone an elite warrior. But Japan is a mysterious land, where up is down and effeminate frailty is strength. One thing’s for sure—this is the manliest women’s gay porn I’ve ever seen. Just check out the rocking, balls to the wall intro:
The game’s opening scenes go to great lengths to establish that Akira is a bonafide badass, a champion street fighter who’s also philosophical and aloof and thinks that emotions and friends are for chumps. He’s so complicated.
A couple cops then arrest me without any difficulty whatsoever. Woman Who Will Obviously Betray Me and her sidekick, Evil Phoenix Wright, come bail me out.
I need to beat five people to get a shot at the champ. The first thing I see in the city is two dudes boning, which sets off dramatic music and shocks Akira. Is this a gay porn game for homophobes?
Akira muses on the horrors of necrophilia, and wonders if sex is one of this battle game’s many weapons, which I believe is called “foreshadowing.” He’s interrupted by the revelation that my childhood associate and gigantic wimp, Keisuke, decided to follow me.
I tell him to stick around anyway in case it leads to sexy times. The next morning we meet the happy-go-lucky Rin, because apparently even post-apocalyptic ruins need Manic Pixie Dream Girls.
With an idiot and a twink in tow, I meet a dude who attacks me. Between his effeminate looks and his massive, impractical sword, I’m clearly outmatched. I escape, but I’m immediately attacked by a would-be rapist who I only manage to defeat because he abruptly has a seizure. My benefactors clearly picked the best man for the job! Also, I’ve met like 10 dudes and not one of them has shown me his penis. What kind of porno game is this?
I vent all of my stress on Keisuke. He runs off into the night in tears, because he’s an idiot and Akira’s a terrible person. At this point it’s obvious to everyone except Akira that Keisuke is hot for his bod, which might be cute if his love wasn’t “follow you unarmed into a warzone to endanger both of our lives” level of obsessive.
In my search for Keisuke I come across this charming scene:
I’m then attacked by a guy who’s hopped up on future drugs. He has an important question for me. Thankfully, this guy also has a seizure, and my life is again spared. I’m starting to suspect that this is an elaborate anti-drug PSA for sexually frustrated girls. But my brush with death makes me realise just what a good friend Keisuke has been all these years. I soon find him, but he’s gone crazy… with love. And drugs. Lotta drugs.
It turns out that he’s responsible for the bloodbath we saw earlier. I have no choice but to fight him. I lose and he, uh, rapes me with a screwdriver. But skip ahead and we fight again, and this time…
I somehow managed to get another terrible ending, because of course I did. It’s not like there weren’t better options. I could have subdued Keisuke and lovingly nursed him back to sanity. I could have had an inappropriate romance with the kid. I could have even ended up as second in command of a tyrannical dictatorship, somehow. But nooooo. I had to get my guts ripped out on the sidewalk. I didn’t even get laid!
To be fair, the sex is secondary in Togainu no Surprise Evisceration.There are entire characters and plots I skipped over, like this strapping young man.
Maybe I was wrong, and fans of this genre just like the stories. Maybe the girls who play these games aren’t into all sorts of sick, sadistic shit.
I am a white man. I can walk down the streets of any city in America safe in the knowledge that the police will not consider me suspicious. I have black friends who cannot say the same. What would be a routine, polite encounter with a law enforcement officer for me could end in their unjust death. That simply isn’t right. And that’s why I threw a brick through a window of this 7-11 and am now helping myself to several bottles of Dr. Pepper. I’m quenching my thirst for justice.
There are no easy answers to this problem. Obviously, the racist stereotypes that follow young black men to this day need to end. A black kid isn’t just a thug or a gangster. He’s someone with goals and passions and loved ones. He would enjoy these Twizzlers as much as I would, because we are both human beings.
But we must also remember that police officers are not robots. They are also human beings, humans capable of making poor decisions while under extreme stress. What seems like an obvious act of brutal, race inspired violence can be, at the time, a series of bad choices made while trying to process a flood of strong emotions in a potentially dangerous situation. Don’t get me wrong—any police officer who shoots a civilian should be invested to the fullest extent and, if appropriate, face relevant criminal charges. But we must resist rushing to judgement like I rushed through the shattered glass of this family owned business’ window so I could start shoving things into my backpack, because that’s just another form of stereotyping.
I think all of us, black and white, can agree that the culture of police militarisation in America needs to change. Peaceful protestors should not be dispersed with tear gas. Police officers should not be encouraged to use lethal force at the first sign of trouble. The man who chased me out of the Domino’s Pizza I looted earlier should not be wearing more body armour than a soldier deployed to a war zone, although in this particular case I’m not complaining because it slowed him down and let me make a clean getaway.
We are capable of effecting great change. Protestors of all races with their signs and shows of solidarity are making it clear to this country that we will refuse to tolerate racial discrimination, that we will refuse to tolerate a lack of accountability for police brutality, and that we will refuse to accept that getting gunned down in the street for no reason is a risk black men just have to put up with in life. And protestors like me refuse to let business owners who are probably racist continue to make a profit selling these Cool Ranch Doritos, profits that are part of the corporate system that supports America’s military-industrial complex, a complex which in turn enables police militarisation and disables my right to free junk food.
We are upset. We are saddened. But most of all, we are angry. And we won’t stop until justice is served and racist stereotypes are stamped out, or until the general chaos dies down and it’s no longer safe for me to steal from a totally unrelated business under the guise of a desire for accountability and change. Black America, I stand with you. Would your stand be easier if I offered you a refreshing Gatorade?
Some Shit About Fishing That Doesn’t Feature Sharks Week
A Bunch of Fat Middle-Aged Guys Flip Houses or Go to Auctions or Whatever, Jesus, Who Cares? Week
I Think We Have a Show About Hutterites? No, Wait, They’re Amish. Whatever, Like They’ll Even Know the Difference Week
Everyday Jobs Made Dramatic By Calling Them Cowboys or Something Week
Shows About Cars and Drivers and You Know, Stuff Like That Week
Hey, We’ve Got a Show About Naked People, We Guess We Might As Well Play That a Lot Week
Remember Cash Cab? That’s Still a Thing. Or Maybe We’re Just Running Repeats, We’re Not Even Sure Week
Holy Shit, We Have Two Shows About Bigfoot? Why? Never Mind, Fuck It, We’re Doing Bigfoot Week
And We’ve Got Like Five Shows About Alaska, So Alaska Week Pretty Much Does Itself Week
Factual Presentations Week
Remember Xena? I don’t, or at least, not really. I have vague memories of watching it, probably on days when I was home sick from school or otherwise just bumming around. It’s the perfect sort of mindless schlock for an undiscerning kid to zone out in front of. I must have watched at least a dozen episodes, but I can’t remember the plot of a single one.
I can, however, remember one scene. Xena was interrogating a henchman who refused to talk. Because Xena’s not the sort of gal who takes no for an answer, she hit him in the neck. This was no ordinary rough stuff—she knew a special spot that, if hit hard enough, would cut off the blood flow to the brain. It was now only a matter of moments until this goon died.
He panicked, of course, and started blabbing. Xena wasn’t satisfied and was going to let his brain explode, or whatever, but Gabrielle convinced her to show mercy. So she hit him in the same spot again, which restarted the blood flow.
I’m sure I’m misremembering the details, and because this is the Internet I’m equally sure that a Xena superfan will correct me in the comments section. But my point is that my young, suggestible self was convinced that this was a real technique. This silly fantasy show, which to my adult eyes looks like it was filmed on a budget of quarters stolen from vending machine change trays, had fully convinced me that human bodies had a secret weak point just waiting for someone to show up and exploit it like we we’re all a bunch of video game bosses.
So, what did I do with my newfound knowledge of human anatomy? Did I challenge kids I didn’t like to fights, knowing that I could destroy them with a single well-placed chop? Did I run around warning my friends and family so they wouldn’t fall victim to the terrible scourge of the Exploding Brain Technique? No, my reaction was even dumber than that. I fully believed that even the slightest blow to my neck meant a risk of a sudden and terrible death. My body became a walking bomb just waiting to be set off.
I didn’t panic though, because I knew how to undo the death sentence. And so from then on, whenever my neck was touched, I would immediately hit it in the same place to save my life.
I don’t know why I didn’t ask my parents for advice on my mortal peril. Maybe I was miffed that none of the supposedly responsible adults in my life had bothered to warn me about this obvious risk, like if the parents of a young gazelle hadn’t bothered to mention that those big cats with the manes aren’t trying to chase you down for a fuzzy hug. Or maybe it was simply that part of me knew even then that I was being an idiot. All I know is that I kept hitting myself in the neck a lot.
This mostly occurred when I was alone, because at no point do I recall anyone asking what the hell was wrong with me. I suppose I should be thankful, although had an adult witnessed my routine they could have saved me a lot of grief. I suspect that when I was playing or socialising the part of my brain that kept track of stupid bullshit had to instead focus on more important things.
So that’s why I mostly remember this as being something I did in bed. I would roll over, inadvertently brush my neck and think, “Crap, I’m going to die!” Then I’d hit the same spot. “Phew, okay, I’m good.” “Oh shit, the cat just stepped on my neck! Oh God oh God, okay, I got it, I’m good.” And so on and so on, throughout what has to be the stupidest sleepless nights in history.
The worst was when I was unsure whether the latest hit was a lifesaver or a death giver, because apparently when I was a kid counting to two was hard. So I would have to wait in a tense panic, ready to hit myself again the moment it felt like my brain was going to burst. Somehow this approach always seemed to work out.
What’s especially unusual in retrospect is that I was sure that even the slightest blow to my neck could doom me. Xena gave that guy a vicious chop, whereas a feather touch to my neck was enough to make me rub it again just in case. I suppose it was probably a good thing that I wasn’t winding up and going to town on my jugular whenever I felt it necessary.
The fact that odd and even numbers meant the difference between life and death gave me a general obsession with multiples of two. If I was idly tapping my desk I made damn sure that I did it an even number of times. Bouncing a ball? I had to get that 16th bounce, because only suckers settle for 15. And I’m sure I annoyed the cat by chasing after it to get one last pet in.
I don’t remember when I stopped, just that it took longer than it reasonably should have. I probably forgot to unblock my blood flow a few times, then later realised that I had not suffered a horrible, tragic death. Or maybe I just grew up and got slightly less stupid. My point is that pop culture can influence suggestive minds in very unusual ways.
So for any parents reading this, make sure you sit down and have a talk with your Xena watching little ones about how the show’s portrayal of human anatomy is not entirely accurate. And to whoever wrote that episode I’d just like to say, sincerely and from the bottom of my heart, fuck you.
Hey, have you ever noticed how the followers of Nyarlathotep, they talk like this, but the followers of Dagon, they don’t talk because voice boxes have no purpose in the dark depths of the planet’s unexplored waters? Boy, those Dagon cultists didn’t think that through. Good luck ordering a pizza, am I right?
And speaking of food, what’s the deal with airline food? Seriously, a year ago who would have thought that fistfights would break out over half a pack of Bits and Bites salvaged from a downed airliner? It’s like, if I had known that would be the most nutrition I’d see all week I wouldn’t have used to tell stewardesses that I didn’t want no dumb Bits and Bites. I would have asked for two! Talk about irony!
My wife’s really mad at me for losing that fight, by the way. See, she’s seven months pregnant, and I already see the dads in the audience nodding. They’re all, “I know what that’s like!” But get this, get this. She’s about to give birth to a shrieking, scaly spawn of the Deep Ones, conceived during a blasphemous ritual uniting man and eldritch horror of the sea. And I’m just like, “Man, my human baby was stinky enough!” I work 16 hours a day in the Mines of Misery, I don’t want to come home to no smelly fish baby!
Speaking of kids, my son just turned four. Now, the parents in the audience know that four’s the age that kids start asking “Why” all the time. I’m glad he’s curious and all, but man, give me a break! “Why’s the sky red? Why’s my hair brown? Why did that big worm eat grandma?” And I’m like, “I don’t know, man! Your hair’s got to be some colour, and the old and infirm have to be devoured by something! Now leave Daddy alone, he’s trying to enjoy his half hour of allotted rest time!”
And of course you know what he says to that, right? That’s right, “Why?” Then I’ve just got to play the ol’ “I’ll tell you when you’re older” card. Joke’s on him, he’s so underfed he ain’t living past six!
Not that us adults are doing much better. If any of you saw me here before the Great Awakening you’d remember that I wasn’t exactly a skinny man. So I bet you were thinking, “Whoa, what happened to this guy?” Look at this lady in the front, she didn’t even recognise me!
Well did I tell you about this new diet program I’m on? It’s called “Learning that most of your rations are made from the flesh of fallen slaves.” Yuck, right? I mean, the rations were already stringy and tasteless and barely had enough nutrients to see us through another day of service, but now it turns out we might be eating that guy who got “transferred!” No thank you! I’ll get by on scavenging grubs and maggots from the corpse piles if it’s all the same to you!
Oh, but don’t worry, don’t worry. You don’t have to look so disgusted, lady. Don’t put your fork down just yet. I have it on good authority that the kitchen is serving certified dog meat. Man, aren’t you guys lucky? I’m up here working away and you’re all feasting on dog and fresh rain water. I bet it’s not even irradiated yet! Jeez, whose tentacles did you have to suck to get this kind of treatment?
I tell ya, being a slave ain’t what it’s cracked up to be. Take my life, for example. No please, take it. End this madness and suffering, this endless torment that makes every day nothing but a grim reminder that existence is meaningless and that death is the ultimate release. Thank you, and don’t forget to tip your wait-thing!
In the wake of the Isla Vista killings, severe criticism has been aimed at the so-called Men’s Rights Movement and their aggressive, dehumanising attitude towards women. Well, I’m just one man, but I’m doing what I can to counteract this blatant misogyny.
Ladies, I promise that if you reject me romantically, I won’t go home to seethe with an ever growing hatred of your gender. I’ll probably just have a beer and play a video game while experiencing a slight sense of ennui.
If I try to strike up a conversation and you tell me that you’re uninterested, I won’t react negatively or add this failed encounter to a mental list of perceived slights made by your entire gender against me. I’ll just forget about it and go hit on your friend.
If I express a desire for a sexual encounter and you establish that you aren’t physically attracted to me, I won’t write about the incident in an angry, hate-filled manifesto that blames the complex biological and social factors of the mating process entirely on you. I’ll instead quietly masturbate to the mental image of an idealised fantasy female figure (not an image of you personally). It will be generally enjoyable, but tinged with a hint of loneliness.
If you ever feel the need to express that I am making you physically or emotionally uncomfortable, I will apologise and explain that it was not my intention to do so. I will also do my best to ensure that my public pornography browsing is more subtle in the future.
If you would like to have an intellectual discussion on the role of pornography in society and its effects on the dignity of women, man’s perception and attitude towards women as sexual beings, and/or any other relevant topics, I would be happy to do so. I can’t promise that I won’t have an erection, but if I do it will be because I find the topic both intellectually stimulating and physically stimulating on an abstract level, and not because I am physically stimulated by you specifically. Furthermore, I will do my best to disguise it so you don’t even notice.
If I want to be more than friends, I promise to be open about my feelings rather than hope you will suddenly feel the same way if we spend enough time together. If you don’t share my feelings I will be happy to continue our friendship, and at no point will the term “friend zone” be employed unless it is clearly and unequivocally ironic.
If you’re already in a relationship, I will respect that and wish you both the best, aside from feeling a quiet melancholy ache when I see you express affection for your significant other. I may also idly consider bittersweet what-if scenarios during the occasional long and sleepless night, which I cannot prevent because the vagaries of the human heart are cruel and ever-meandering.
If I feel the need to use a gendered profanity, I promise that the insult will have a non-gendered motivation. For example, I will not call a woman a bitch if she refuses to go out with me. I will call a woman (or a man) a bitch if she or he doesn’t bother to hold a door for me, even though they made eye contact and I was clearly in a hurry.
To my fellow men, I promise that if you are finding yourself romantically successful during a time which I am not, I will not reduce your success and excuse my own failures by implying that you are only finding love because most girls want “douchebags” like you rather than “normal” guys like me. Please note that it is possible I may still think of you as a douchebag, and that this pledge is meant to reflect on the lack of commonly perceived correlation rather than your own personality.
I could go on, but I don’t wish to dominate your equally valuable time. I will simply state that I will do everything in my power to support the cause of gender equality, and that I proudly consider myself a feminist at all times aside from the rare, emotionally trying moments where I pine for the one that got away because I just know I didn’t try hard enough, which concludes with a guilty and unsatisfying ejaculation followed by a period of self-introspection and a reaffirmation of my gender politics.
Bron, we need to talk. I’ve tried to be supportive, but it’s time to accept the fact that opening an inn in a town plagued by dark cultists, the undead, murderous goatmen, the angry spirits of our ancestors and demons in service of the Lord of the Seven Hells himself was not a prudent business decision.
For starters, we haven’t had many guests. I’m guessing that’s because being surrounded by cursed ruins and twisted forests overrun by shadow doesn’t exactly scream “vacation hotspot.” And business travel has slowed to a crawl ever since most of this land collapsed under the screams of endless shrieking hellspawn. But I think what’s most important is that the majority of our prospective customers are now part of the shambling army of zombies currently laying siege to our town. I imagine they’re unlikely to be tempted by your “bring in the body of a slaughtered goat shaman and we’ll cook him for free!” deal.
I know, I know, you “anticipated” this. “But think of what we’ll sell to the guests we do have!” you said. “We’ll supply warriors and mages. We’ll arm and armour heroes!”
Well, I don’t know if you’ve taken a good look at the heroes in town, but I have. And I don’t think the eight-foot tall strongman wielding two flaming broadswords forged from Angelic steel that syphon away the life-force of his enemies to fuel his bloodlust is going to have much use for your grandfather’s old wood axe, unless he’s planning to shave with it. And that light leather armour from your stint in the town watch? The one you said wizards would be all over? Yeah, this wizard is surrounded by a raging winter storm that freezes anyone who gets within five feet of him. Which, incidentally, probably explains why Snuffles went missing.
Then there’s the woman who throws jars of poisonous spiders at her enemies while her undead hounds rip them to shreds, and the monk who punches skeletons apart. Should I ask them if they’d like to peruse our dagger inventory? Some of them haven’t entirely rusted up yet!
Not that it even matters if you make any money, because I’m sick of having to beat off swarms of flesh-eating ice bats every time I go to the grocers. I’m sick of losing guests who don’t believe me when I warn them that if they get too close to the tree around back it will set them on fire and then eat their soul. I’m sick of living in a town where the legions of the Hells outnumber us honest, hard-working folk by thousands upon thousands to one.
Remember when I had to hire an adventurer to escort me to my sister’s farm down the road? And he killed over 200 of the Hells’ undead minions, a trio of giant electrified spiders that could summon meteor strikes, and Lord Dunhyld, the Phantom of Anguish, one of the grotesque champions of Azmodan, Lord of Sin? It’s a good thing a horde of imps devoured all his flesh just before we got back inside the gates, or else we’d have had to take out a second mortgage to pay his hazard fee.
And don’t even think of saying that I should just keep in touch by mailing a letter. You know as well as I do that all the postmen have been eaten by wraiths.
I haven’t asked for much in this relationship. But I don’t think it’s unreasonable to want to live in a place where we’re not in constant danger of dying tortuous deaths that will condemn our spirits to the fiery pits of the Hells for all eternity. Also, I have yet to “get used” to the constant stench of rotting flesh and endless blood rain as you claimed I would.
I love you, Bron, but enough is enough. Either we move, or we divorce. I know divorce is a sin in the eyes of the Gods, but considering that we’re woken up every night by the shrieks and moans of the ritualistic murder orgies held by maleficent covens across the river, I think it’s safe to say that the Gods’ eyes are elsewhere.
I know that keeping inn is your passion, and I want to support that. But let’s run an inn that overlooks the tide of a crystal clear ocean instead of a tide of unrelenting demonic evil. Let’s run an inn where you don’t have to demand gold up front in-case the guests are robbed and murdered by bandits. Let’s run an inn where, instead of hosting recitals of ominous prophecies and triage centres that turn into shambling battalions of the risen dead, we host bingo night. No one’s ever lost a limb or their sanity to bingo night.
Oh, and maybe think of a more welcoming name for your new inn than The Slaughtered Calf. Seriously, what the fuck were you thinking?
Blogger: I am a housewife and/or teenager.
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Social Media Specialist: I dropped out of university because I spent all my time using Twitter and Facebook.
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Anything with “Rockstar,” “Jedi” or “Ninja” in it: I work for a company that will be defunct in six months.
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He was a desperate young man in your area who had just made a strange discovery about women. She was a single mom in your area who was lonely and looking to get laid with no strings attached. Neither of them wanted a relationship, but a one night stand left them hoping for more. Now they’re torn between enjoying their single lives and getting serious. They weren’t looking for love; they just wanted to Meet Sexy Singles.
When a stay at home mom realised that a single weird food would keep her from ever having to diet again, she thought she had struck it rich. Then her husband stole her secret, the fortune that should have been hers, and her son. Convincing the world that her ex is a fraud won’t be easy, but she finds one hotshot junior lawyer who’s willing to go up against his sharks. Together they’ll win back her money, her child… and maybe even her belief in love. Her ex will eat his words in Eat THIS.
When an average local man discovered the cure to cancer, he thought he’d be a hero. Instead he’s on the run, chased by ruthless killers as he struggles to unravel an elaborate global conspiracy between pharmaceutical companies and hospitals that may even reach the very top of the World Health Organization. He doesn’t know why the medical community wants his cure suppressed, but one thing’s clear: Doctors Hate Him.