Mr. Charlton – Still Gaming

It was a week before I got the opportunity to sit down with my new computer and play a game on it for longer than five minutes. An entire week, plus a day. I got the new computer, in a number of smaller boxes, on Tuesday March 7th 2017. It wasn’t until Tuesday March 14th 2017, that I got to fire up a game and not just stress test my machine, but actually play for a bit and unwind. One very long week.

12 year old Mr. Charlton would (have tried to) kick my ass for leaving a sweet rig sitting around for a week before playing a game.

Twelve year old Mr. Charlton had a lot less responsibility than thirty-three year old Mr. Charlton. Twelve year old me also had a lot less disposable income than I currently do. But this train of thought led to me thinking about exactly when I started playing games.

The earliest I can remember was playing games over at other people’s houses. I remember heading over to the Spehar’s place when I was five to play with Stef. They had a Nintendo, the old school grey box, and they had a couple of sweet games with it (notably Super Mario 3 and Ducktales). I’m pretty sure that after playing the first time, I sped back home and started begging my parents for a Nintendo.

There was a bit of problem with this. Nintendo Entertainment Systems were goddamn expensive. When they first hit the market, they were retailing for $199. Adjusted for inflation, this was about $450. And those were American dollars, so for a brand new Nintendo, you were looking at a pile of money. My parents didn’t have a pile of money lying around, so I never did get a Nintendo Entertainment System. What we did get, in the winter of 1989, was a Nintendo Gameboy, the handheld version of the console. We also got a couple of games thrown into the mix.

Now, this was an incredibly smart move and a really bad move on my parents part, and this was no fault of theirs. It was great because it was cheaper than a big system and could be taken on long car rides, which was a pretty common occurrence when we were children. It was bad ’cause you COULD take it anywheres, which meant I was bringing it with me on every camping trip we ever went on. It was also bad because unlike the system you could plug into the wall, this little punter used 4 AA batteries, so I’m pretty sure my parent ended up spending more on the Gameboy when you factored in buying piles of batteries every other day. The biggest flaw with the handheld device is that it was a one-man operation. So even though there were three boys, there was only one Gameboy. I’d have to ask my mom, but I’m pretty sure we fought over the stupid thing constantly.

Both my brothers play video games. Heck, even my mom is playing HayDay on her IPad. But I’m pretty sure that out of the family, I’m the only one who’d be called a “gamer”. I was, and still am, a fiend. I’d consider getting a ‘Legend of Zelda’ tattoo. I’ve put a Super Nintendo emulator on basically every electronic device I’ve ever owned. I’ve beaten ‘I Wanna Be the Guy’. I played Cave Story before it was cool. Man, have you even played Cave Story? That’s straight Indie goodness at its finest.

Now I’m starting to build games. This has been on Mr. Charlton’s bucket list for a long, long time. I told myself that 2017 would be the year I at least give it the ol’ college try. So I grabbed a couple of classes from Udemy and I’ve been taking the plunge.

Luckily, I’ve got some skills from a previous life that’s making the process of learning a little easier. A decade of drafting has given me a lot of tools for designing, planning, and executing basically anything you throw at me. I’ve been slowly learning to code for the last couple of years, so when I was tasked to learn a new language, it wasn’t complete gibberish I was learning. I’m using Unity for the game engine and development environment, Blender for the 3D modeling, Visual Studio for the IDE, GIMP and InkScape for the 2D art and textures. There’s only one thing I’m lacking…

Music. Sounds. A video game needs some sort of music to fill the space between your ears. That’s the weakest link in the chain, easily. Even though I’m not a great artist, I can manage. Even though my code is rudimentary, there’s a vibrant community who’s willing to answer questions and help a noob. Even though Blender is still new to me after years of having it installed on my machine, I’m picking it up quicker now that I’m allocating time to learning it. But music?

Look, I consider myself a lousy guitarist and an OK harmonica player. But I don’t know where to begin with making music on my computer. I’ve been given some pretty good advice so far, it’s just that I’m so new I might be asking the wrong questions. So if I’m making music on the old PC here, here’s what I need to know. Ignore these questions if you’re not

  1. What DAW (Digital Audio Workstation) is right for me? And when I say right, what I mean is cheap or free. Unity? Free until I make bank with it. Ditto for Visual Studio. Blender, GIMP, and InkScape? All free. I’m going to start out with Audacity, ’cause it’s free. But people keep telling me I’ll have to upgrade eventually. I’m leaning towards Reaper, ’cause it’s cheap and people seem to like it. Keep in mind I’m doing this legit. Don’t fire me a link to a torrent for Fruity Loops.
  2. People, I’ve got no sense when it comes to plugging instruments into a computer. No sense? I might have to steal some of that sense from you. Should I get a keyboard? Or a controller? Can I rock one of these things into my computer via USB? Where can I get some cheap instruments? Where’s the shady guy with a van full of gear that ‘was just left behind in a warehouse’ somewhere? Mr. Charlton is in desperate need of some cheap stolen shit.
  3. All the other programs I’m using make sense to me. Blender is just 3D modeling, and I have a background in that sort of thing. I’m not a great coder, but I know what they’re talking about when they’re asking me to import a library. But this audio shit? Holy Christ on a cracker am I out of my element. I might have to actually sit down with someone and get this sorted out.

So music people, I’m asking you; what the hell are you people doing making music so damn complicated? I don’t need this malarkey. Can’t a guy just hammer on his computer keyboard to make some beeps and bloops for a game? Did you folks make this complicated to pretend like you’re doing actual work? Where’s the MS Paint version of music making?

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Seriously, I am a fish out of water when it comes to music production. Any advice you wish to solicit would help me out greatly.

p.s.s. I ended up going with Reaper. I’m slowly, slowly learning it. The manual is only 500 pages long.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Mr. Charlton – Gamer for Life

“Do we have enough tape? This is important. Everybody, even Grandma, games–meaning checkers, cards, if not now, in the past. Show me even freakin’ nun or a hermit who hasn’t done cards or checkers.”

Adam Wood, from ‘King of Kong’

A couple years back, I can’t remember the exact date, a few years ago, but yeah, a few years ago I was sitting on a friend’s couch, and I was playing a game with Jered and Metal Rob. I’m pretty sure I was playing with Rob, and we were playing ‘Gear of War 2’. Now, the two of them had played this game before but I had not, and I was picking up the game about half-way through the story mode. There was a lot of plot I was missing, but the gist of the story was one of the main characters was looking for his wife. Alien/Demons/Monsters/Baddies had taken her, and you and your friend were tasked with finding her.

I’m just going to point out, if you haven’t played this game or don’t play the big ‘Triple A’ games or don’t play games at all, ‘Gears of War 2’ is not a happy game. It’s set in a bleak, grey world, where humanity has it’s back against a wall. The last shred of our civilization battles an unknown horde, one that has emerge from the ground under our feet. Most people have been drafted into the war, essentially becoming ‘Gears’ in this awful machine. It’s a visually stunning game, but it’s not painting a pretty picture. I mean, your gun has a chainsaw on the front of it so you can saw Baddies in half. It’s that kind of game.

So here I am, playing this game with my friend, the two game characters are battling through this horrible underground cavern trying to find a wife, and we hit the game’s climax. You find her. It breaks to a cut scene.

She emerges from her prison cell. She looks exactly like his memories. She come out and passionately embraces our character. But this is an illusion. The game character snaps out of his fantasy, and sees his wife for how she really is. Incredibly malnourished, missing clumps of hair, hollow eyes. She’s completely catatonic. Whatever soul used to inhabit this body has disappeared completely, and there’s now just a shell of human being. The game character is shattered. With no way to help his wife, he can only help her by ending her life. He takes his sidearm, and while holding the husk of what remains of his wife, he puts a bullet in her head.

Pardon my language, but What The Fuck?

People, I put down video games for a year after I played that sequence. A goddamn year. I told people I was giving up the game, forever. This wasn’t a small statement, either. I loved video games. I used to be able to play with my feet. It wasn’t just something I did, it was part of who I was. But after that jarring scene, I thought I was done.

I went back to gaming, but my views on the medium will never be the same. I grew up in the ‘Mortal Kombat’ period of gaming history, when violent video games like ‘Doom’ and ‘Splatterhouse’ and the aforementioned ‘Mortal Kombat’ were taking the arcades and the home by storm. A lot of people thought these games were obscene. For me, there was always this fat, thick line, between the game and my emotions. I couldn’t see how they’d be offensive, because it was so obvious these pixels weren’t stirring any emotions. ‘Gears of War 2’ changed my perspective forever. I mean, kudos for the medium for stirring emotions in me so greatly I couldn’t touch a controller for a year after that. If there was any question in my mind whether video games could be art, this shattered any doubt.

I went from being a die-hard gamer, to quitting cold turkey, back to being a hardcore gamer.

I’d be lying if I said the only reason I gave up gaming was because of this emotional roller coaster ‘Gears of War 2’ put me through. Deep down, somewhere buried in my psyche, was the notion that video games were a waste of time. And they are. They are totally a waste of time. But sitting down and watching a film is a waste of time. Going to an art museum is a waste of time. Cheering for a baseball team is a waste of time. And yet everyone reading this has partaken in time wasting with games or film or sports.

Which brings me to the quote above. Everyone games. Everyone, every once and a while, likes to blow off steam by doing something irrelevant, like playing crib with a deck of cards, or playing ‘Candy Crush’ on their phone. The moment cave people starting losing their teeth was the moment someone decided to collect those teeth, rattle them around in a coconut shell, and then toss them to see how many they could get right side up.

There’s this weird underlying idea in our culture that if you’re not hustling 100% of the time, you’re doing something wrong. That you should feel a little ashamed for kicking back and taking it easy for a bit. Screw that baloney. You know what people aren’t doing when they’re watching sports? They’re not killing people. You know what people going to the movies aren’t getting up to? Definitely not eating babies, that’s for sure. And you know people aren’t doing when they’re playing video games? I don’t know about you, but I’m definitely not trying to create a low-yield nuclear device in the spare room of my apartment.

All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. If there was only some way of combining work and play into one…

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I am definitely not building a low-yield nuclear device in the spare room.

p.s.s. I made a game. Click on this link to see it. It’s not my first game (nor is it the most complicated), but it’s the first one I’ve been able to upload to the web.

p.s.s.s. This link is only good for 30 days. When I finally stop  being lazy and build an actual website, I’ll put it up again.

Mr. Charlton Builds a Computer

I received my computer Tuesday and after work, chores, making dinner, and a bunch of tasks needing to be accomplished, I finally had time at about 10:30 pm to sit down and put together a massive box of computer pieces. By 2:00 am Wednesday morning, I finally had the damn thing together and running with an operating system. Ran into a couple snags, though…

  • I bought a CPU fan, thinking the CPU wouldn’t come with a fan. It did. So I have two CPU fans. Now, the extra one I bought is most certainly an upgrade, but Christ, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine attaching such a massive and ugly piece of hardware to a CPU. It looks like my processor is being molested by a silver monster.
  • I also bought an extra tube of thermal paste. That’s only because I didn’t expect the extra fan to have some. It did. Now I’m capable of attaching a ton of processors to heatsinks and fans. So I’ve got that going for me, which is nice.
  • I installed the mother board first, which turned out to be a mistake. You see, that crazy monster CPU fan needs to fastened to the BACK of the motherboard as well as the front. I had to take off the sucker and attach this beast of a fan before I could put the motherboard back in.
  • I was going to return the fan, once I realized what a pain in the ass it was. As I was looking up the return policy, I spilled coffee on the instructions for this fan. After a lot of swearing (sorry Kat!), I decided to keep the fan.
  • If you haven’t noticed, basically every problem I had was with this fan. But damn, does it push some heat!
  • Once everything was installed, I went to go install my operating system. Except I didn’t actually buy one. After some digging, I found my old copy of Windows 7. Brand new machine, and it’s running an operating system that’s over 7 years old. I’m off to a great start.

It might seem like two and a half hours is a long time to setup a computer, but remember, this is the first computer I’ve bought in 8 years. I was taking my sweet time, occasionally smelling the cords as I was putting it together. They had that new cord smell. Delicious.

I’ve been slowly adding software to the machine. Slowly. I’ve starting with some basics I use a bunch. Which brings me to a new problem. Because right now I’m satisfied that everything that NEEDS to be installed finally is, and I’m writing this blog at 3:00 pm on Friday. From the time of unboxing to the moment I can finally sit down and feel comfortable using my computer, it has been three days. 2 and a half hours ain’t bad, but 3 days is a goddamn long time to be waiting to use your new toy.

You see, you can’t just start mucking about on the computer the second you have it plugged in. No sir. You have to make sure everything is updated first. You have to update all the drivers for the hardware; the motherboard (you should do this first), the video card, the LAN, the audio. You have to install the latest service pack for Windows. You then have to update Windows. Now you’re going to want to install all the cool software you use on a regular basis; A good internet browser, Skype, Steam, a slew of design program I tell myself I’m going to learn but never do. Once that’s all done, once all of that was setup, I finally installed Skyrim to see how well this computer would run.

It runs at 60 FPS on the highest settings. I mean, it’s a game that’s also 8 years old, but damn, it still looks pretty good.

I’ve been going on such a downloading spree that I had to call my service provider and have them bump me up to their platinum program. If I hadn’t done that, I would still be installing Visual Studio’s 2017 (this program happens to clock in at over 50 Gbs with all the bells at whistles. No joke). I’ve only had this computer for a couple days and I’ve already downloaded well over a hundred gigs of sweet data, and from how it’s going so far, that ain’t going to stop any time soon.

TLDR; Mr. Charlton got a new computer. Mr. Charlton build his new computer. Mr. Charlton is now treating his new machine like a China vase, and refuses to even browse Facebook with it yet. You’ll know the new shiny has worn off when I start downloading crap I shouldn’t be.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I missed a post ’cause I was enthralled with my new toy. I should be working instead of playing, but I just downloaded Batman: Arkham City and SWEET PEARL it runs at 60 FPS with every damn thing turned on. An old game, but this tells me I can at least play some new games if I choose to.

 

 

Mr. Charlton Buys a Computer

Eight years. Eight years wasn’t always a long time for an appliance. Back in the day, it was common to have one phone in the house, and that was the phone you had for years. You had a washing machine until it broke down, and you’d at least try and get the thing fixed before you bought a new one. And kitchen appliances lasted forever, shucks, they still do. My stand mixer is going to be one of those things I will never get rid of. Mr. Charlton ain’t going back to making bread with his hands like some sort of pedestrian.

Computer’s though, that’s something that gets old quick. Not many people have vintage computers. Besides a couple of strange peripherals, you want the latest and greatest. Not only does the hardware get old, but the software for computers is always getting updated. A computer five years ago running Windows 7 won’t be running the same version of Windows 7  today. The software giant, Microsoft, is constantly tweaking and adding things. New features are usually great, but it bogs down the hardware. Unless you go rogue with an operating system like Linux, it’s something you’ll have to deal with.

For the non-techies reading my blog, think of it like this. If I bought a car tomorrow, stuck it in a garage for a decade, pulled it out, how would the car run? It’d run fine. You might have to lube up some bit here and there, but if the room was sealed, you wouldn’t really have any issues, except it might not have that new car smell anymore. A computer’s a little different. You buy a computer, hide it away, and pull it out ten years later? It’s going to be a pile of crap. We’ll take the car analogy again. You store the car away for a while, pull it out for a test drive after a decade, and you find out the roads are now made of steel coated with a strange lubricant. You can still drive, but you’re going to have to slow your ass down. But hey, you decide to go upgrade your car at the mechanics. Maybe they can help you out. No go. Turns out the new wheels use a way different method of attachment. Your car is no longer any good.

This isn’t a particularly great analogy. The gist is computers get old, and they need to be upgraded if you want to use the latest software. I’ve got a little laptop, an old netbook I call ‘The Pony’, and it’s fine for writing words. But it can’t even handle the internet anymore. That’s what I use the Pony for, though. When I want to write stuff down and I’d rather not be distracted.

Enter ‘The Work Horse’. This was a great machine. I mean, it had a Xeon Intel processor. A Xeon! It had 4 gigs of RAM. Big old 300 GB hard drives, and it was one of those new fangled ‘Raptor’ drives that spun at 10,000 RPMs instead of 7,200. You can’t just stick that Xeon in any old motherboard, though, that baby required the special server motherboard. That board was big, too, and it needed a special computer case that could handle the size. I wasn’t pissing around either, this was going to be a multi-media center, so I needed the separate audio card. To top it off, I had a 260x GeForce Video card. A couple of fans to her the Horse cool. It was a work of art. Eight years ago.

It’s basically being held together with duct tape at this point. I’ve done everything I could to keep her going, but it’s been a long eight years. I can’t part with the old gal, though. She ain’t as fast as she used to be, but she can still carry a load, so I’ll turn her into a little home server, add a couple of old hard drives to her and use her as a little storage unit.

I ain’t a car guy, never really saw the appeal, but I get why other people are. I look at computers the same way. My new machine should be getting here tomorrow, and I’m going to love every second assembling her, but I’ll miss things about the one I’m writing on right now. How it basically heats my little office here, or how it won’t boot up if I have a USB memory stick inserted into it.

Tomorrow, the Work Horse is going to be put to greener pastures. After eight years, it could use a bit of a break.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. After the OS, what should I install first?

p.s.s. I now feel like I used to on Christmas Eve. I might not even go to bed tonight.

 

Meta Post – Writers Block Strikes Again

The last time we spoke, which was this Tuesday, I believe, I was on a path to stardom fueled by the sweet embrace of heroin. I’ve run out of heroin, and as I’ve discovered, the only thing worse than failed stardom is failed stardom with massive heroin withdraw. Who would have known that donning a skin-tight spandex suit, learning four chords on the bass guitar, and pumping my veins so full of Moroccan candy that I got addicted wouldn’t guarantee me a place in the rock and roll hall of fame?

So I’m back at the keyboard, putting one word in front of the other. And it’s not going so well this week.

It happens. You get into a rut. Yesterday, I had the privilege of speaking to my writing group about writing comedy. I started off with a joke that fell flat, but the rest of the presentation went pretty well. I made a pretty bold claim near the beginning, though. I said writing, like all other art forms, is created to evoke an emotional response, which are pretty big words for a guy who’s a recovering heroin junkie. Whether it’s writing, or painting, or sculpturing, or making music, the point of these things is to stir something in your peers.

But…

Writing is kinda different. Sure, writing can stir things in people, but it’s a delayed gratification. It takes a while to read a novel. If you hear a song, it’s connecting to you right away. The second those sound waves start rattling the bones in your ear and your brain starts translating the waves to the beats, your butt starts to shake and you’re connected to the primal beast in your soul. If you see a painting, your eyes instantly devour it, the colors and shapes and textures of the paint hitting your noggin immediately.

Put it this way. We’re having a party, and it is off the chain. I mean, drinks are flowing, I’ve got a crazy spread going, and everyone is having a good time. I’ve brought three of my friends to this party; The Handsome Musician, The Stunning Painter, and The Sexy Writer. They show up, and they each start doing their own thing.

The Handsome Musician sees my guitar in the corner and heads over. He picks it up and starts playing some sweet riffs. His riffs are crunchy as all sin. The people around him start to gravitate towards him. Men nod in agreement. The women look at him doe-eyed. He’s not paying attention. His eyes are closed and he’s lost in the moment. Once he’s done,  he receives a small amount of applause. The dude doesn’t even have to tell people he’s a musician.

The Stunning Painter heads over to the snack table and gets himself one of my tasty hors d’oeuvres. A cute lady approaches, which is a bit of a letdown for my painter friend as he’s gayer than springtime. No matter, he’s a gentleman through and through. She asks what he’s been up to recently. He replies that he’s been painting. Before she has time to ask, he whips out his phone and proceeds to show her his work. Her breath is taken away. His work, even though it looks better in real life, is still amazing over the tiny pixel screen.

The Sexy Writer bee-lines it for the bar. He pours himself a scotch, neat. He downs it almost instantly and pours himself another one. He scours the room, somehow looking at everyone but managing to avoid eye contact with anyone. He sticks himself up in the corner and hopes he can drink in peace. He’s approached by a heavy-set man.

“Hey, you’re Sexy Writer guy, Mr. Charlton’s friend. How’s it going this evening?”

Sexy Writer guy tries to look somewhere else. “It’s going.”

The heavy-set man laughs. “It certainly is GOING, isn’t it friend? Tell me, do you have any hobbies?”

The Sexy Writer looks down at his feet as he mumbles. “I write…”

“I’m sorry, my hearing isn’t what it used to be. What did you say you do for fun?” the heavy-set man says as he leans in closer.

The Sexy Writer sighs. “I write.”

The fat man nods. “Really? Do you have anything published?”

Something snaps in the Sexy Writer’s mind. He grabs an empty beer bottle on the table, smashes it and holds it up to heavy-set man’s throat. He speaks, but his voice is high-pitched and shrill, like that of a maniac.

“Am I Published? AM I PUBLISHED?!?! No one asked the HANDSOME Musician if HE’S landed a recording deal, no one questioned whether or not the Stunning Painter had his artwork in the LOUVRE, and you want to know if I’m PUBLISHED?”

Before anyone can react, the Sexy Writer turns the broken glass on himself, stabbing himself repeatedly in the neck. Once again, my party is ruined.

The moral of the story is that writing is hard, and can be sometimes kinda thankless. If you’re going to write, you gotta do it for yourself. And hopefully, you won’t murder yourself at one of my parties.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. Anyime I have writers block, I write about writing. Kinda like jacking off for a scribe.

p.s.s. Most readers don’t get feedback, but I get tons of feedback from wonderful people like you, so pat yourselves on the back.

 

 

Mr. Charlton Learns from the Internet

Every morning, I start the day with some math problems. No joke. I head over to Khan Academy, log myself in, and for anywhere from 15 minutes to half an hour, I either do math problems or watch videos on how to solve math problems. Now, these aren’t difficult math problems. Right now I’m challenging anything from grade 3 math all the way up to grade 8, and once I’ve mastered all of those, I’ll start back into more advanced stuff from the later stages of high school. In the end, I’m hoping to get a better grasp of mathematics as a whole.

mr-charlton-math-score

It just so happens I’m at the quarter mark

What’s really cool about this is the website breaks everything down for you. Fell like you’re ahead of the curve? You can challenge the questions and master the lesson without having to watch a video or practice any problems. Get stumped on some of the homework? You can ask someone about it through the forums. And no matter what choice you make, there are points to be had. Badges to be earned! These people over at Khan Academy have figured out how to get me addicted to learning math!

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PUT THE ACHIEVEMENTS RIGHT INTO MY VEINS!!!

Oh, and it’s not just Khan Academy that’s teaching people new things. There’s Coursera, Udemy, the MIT open courseware (yes, that MIT), I mean, damn, there’s a bunch of websites teaching people a bunch of cool stuff.

The kid in me is ecstatic about learning new things. The cynical adult is a little wary of the whole deal. Because we run into a small issue with many (not all) of the free learning that’s going on over the intertubes; are these skills transferable to the real world?

Obviously, they are, but a lot of these things don’t come with a certificate of any kind. Some of them do offer certification, but then again, are employers willing to….

Willing to….

Oh no. I’m talking about something boring. I read over this and I’m boring the shit out of myself, and I love nothing more than listening to myself talk. Am… am I talking about websites that most people already know about? I mean, at least people who have a regular attention span and don’t spend most of their day drinking by themselves and browsing cat memes.

Christ. Is this what I’ve been reduced to? This is the most interesting thing that’s been going on in my life recently? Oh god, it actually is. Mathematics in the morning has been my little routine for a while now, and that’s the most interesting thing that’s been taking place in Mr. Charlton’s world.

People are traveling the world. I’m seeing pictures of Austrailia, and Thailand, and Denver, and a whole slew of places I’ve never been. Well, except for Denver, I’ve been to Denver. Nice airport. But these people are traveling, and living life to the fullest. The fullest! And here I am, stuck writing about doing morning math problems.

People are having babies. A whole mess of babies! Not that I’m really jealous of that, mind you. Not really a baby guy, never really been interested in the whole ‘trying to replicate part of my genetic strain’ thing. Just not my bag. But babies are interesting, and people seem to be having them. And that’s gotta shake things up a bit. It’s a lot more of a shake up than 15 minutes of arithmatic first thing after a cup of coffee.

You know what? Screw math. I’m also going to shake things up in a big way. Writing is pretty boring to begin with too, you know? Only nerds are reading, anyways, so I’m going to express myself in a dynamic way. Like, like…. music. I’ll become a rockstar. Yeah, that’s sexy.

Can’t really play a music instrument and it seems like a pain in the ass. I need inspiration, some sort of quick fix to make me cool almost instantly and give me the edge to write hit records and become super famous. How did these other rock losers do this? Hold on a sec.

Author’s note: For the next 15 minutes, Mr. Charlton’s house is filled with  the sounds of rummaging, quiet sobbing, the noise a fist makes as it hits a wall, loud sobbing, and a few wild eyed “Eurekas”.

Ok, I’ve got it. It’s heroin. How did I miss that? Instead of an early morning dose of boring old math, I’ll be shooting up some sweet China lily right into the old veins here. It’s what the greats did. People who want to be nerds can do math in the morning. I want to be famous. And it seems like heroin is a great way to start. Screw math. Right now, the only thing going into my body is black tar heroin.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I remember going to see ‘System of a Down’ a few years ago, when their lead guitarist was going through some of his rougher days. Dude was just wigging out on stage.

Dear 90’s Kids; Your Childhood was Stupid

I was born in 1983, which puts me in the category of Millenial, a term used by dumb people who figure generational differences can be neatly divided into decade-size chunks. At the same time, this generation, who’s formative years was in the late 80’s and early 90’s, for whatever reason, thinks this was clearly winning some sort of lottery. Anyone born from 1980 to about 1990 will rant and rave about their childhood, bragging about their upbringing with anyone they have on their social media list. The reverberation from the rest of the internet echoes right back at them. “Remember this?” Everyone nods in affirmation. Apparently, 1990’s nostalgia is the best nostalgia.

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I try not to.

Mr. Charlton is here to tell you that your memory is pretty terrible. I used to be like you, 90’s kid. I used to say things like “Well, this new computer game is pretty fancy, but it’s not nearly as cool as my Super Nintendo”. I too used to swallow the Kool-Aid of 90’s nostalgia, drinking it in like cheap gin. Reality smacked me back in the face when instead of thinking about memory lane, I took a stroll down it. For the first time in over two decades, I sat down and watched my favorite cartoon from my childhood; Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.

It’s fucking awful.

I’m not saying this lightly. I love cartoons. I watch cartoons all the time. I’m not judging a medium here, people. What I’m saying is that objectively, and I say this with conviction in my heart, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the 1980’s cartoon I cherished as a child, is an utter pile of crap. It sucks. The first season of the show is sort of passable, but then it completely goes off the rails. There’s no real character development, there’s no structure, the plot is stupid, and the whole show reeks of lousy writing.

There’s a reason for this, though. You see, kids are smart, but they’re also pretty dumb. It’s just what kids do. Saturday morning cartoons were designed to do one thing, and one thing only. Sell toys. And it worked. Really, really well.

tmnt-actionfigures

Maybe too well.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles came out in 1987, so I was four years old when I was introduced to the show. That’s young. I mean, that’s brain formative, crazy impressionable young. These shows were so effective, a law had to be put in place to let children know when the show took a break and the advertisements began. It was called the Children’s Television Act.

It wasn’t just TMNT that was trying to sell my childhood to me, there was a number of shows that pulled this kind of trash.

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David Koresh couldn’t get this kind of following.

If you’re part of the earlier generations, the Gen X’s or the Baby Boomers, and you’ve always wondered why our generation was so obsessed with weird pop culture like Transformers and Nintendo, well, it’s because that’s how you inadvertently raised us. You sat us down in front of the television every Saturday morning, and let us watch six hours of programming designed to get us to buy toys. And it was done when our brains were spongy and pliable.

Now I’m not pointing the finger at anyone. I’m also not really writing this for the older generations, or my generation either. I’m writing this for the younger generation, for the kids who were born after the naughts. If you’re wondering why mommy and daddy will have an actual argument about which Pokemon is better, it’s because your parents were brainwashed when they were kids. It’s why the adult neighbors will solemnly nod in agreement when they mention how Micheal Bay destroyed their childhood with the new Transformer movies. The adults you’ll have to work with when you grow to get a job will forever be sitting around the water cooler, discussing which Power Ranger they would have been.

If you’re a 90’s “Kid” reading this, there is still hope. The cartoons being made today are spearheaded by the same generation, and they are way better than anything we ever had. If you’re actually a Ninja Turtles fan, then I suggest you go watch the new 3D remake from Nickelodeon that premiered in 2012. It actually has a plot and is well written for a kid’s show. A lot of other famous franchises are getting reboots, and many of them are pretty good.

The kids growing up today have it better than I did as a kid when it comes to entertainment, and that’s a good thing. Cartoons are more engaging and smart, video games are bigger and brighter, and if all else fails, it’s not like the old stuff vanished. Heck, I was playing the old arcade game ‘Asteroids’ on my computer the other day. It’s nice to look back every now and again. You just have to make should you’re only glancing back at the past, not staring intently.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. The Super Nintendo is still fun and all, but it doesn’t compare with playing online against crazy Russian people in CounterStrike.

Mr. Charlton is Fake News

Every once and a while Mr. Charlton makes a bold claim. I’ve been known to say some pretty outlandish stuff. I once told a guy at a bar that one day, one day, I’d become the world’s greatest farmer. Which is strange, seeing as how I can barely keep a houseplant alive. I’ve said that I’m not the second coming, but rather Jesus was a precursor to Mr. Charlton. This is coming from a guy who would burst into flames if he stepped into a church.

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Kat takes care of this thing. If she wasn’t here, this would be dead.

Not too long ago, I made a bold claim; I was going to get to the bottom of this whole global warming issue. I figured there are not enough journalists covering the topic, and I said to myself, you know what? I might as well get my feet wet. Might as well read some books on the topic of journalism. Might as well learn to dig for facts and report out some hard hitting news.

Well…

That was back in the summer of 2016, the halcyonic days where journalism was, at least from my perspective, still being taken somewhat seriously. Then Trump happened, and the world of the Republican fringe spilled out onto the rest of the planet. The newly appointed administration started to talk about ‘Alternative Facts’ and how anything critical of the White House was now ‘Fake News’. It’s only been a month, and it’s been a goddamn shit show.

I’ve always been wary of emotions. I don’t really like having them. They’re a pain in the ass, distorting logic and reason with feelings and sentimentality. I despise it when organizations use emotions to sway others. Trying to make me afraid and not having any data to back it up, in my opinion, should be a crime. It should be illegal to try and stir the pot without having anything substantial in the pot. An incredibly good example is when a politician tries to use crime as a scapegoat, in an effort to seem tough on an issue. Here’s the statistics for crime in Canada and here it is for the United States. Doesn’t matter in either case if the current administration was left-wing or right-wing on the political spectrum, crimes of all types have consistently been on the decline for decades. Arguing otherwise should result in some sort of penalty.

But I’m not here to talk about crime. I’m here to talk about bullshit. There’s too much of it out there, and I’m not helping the problem. I’m not a journalist. I do not have a degree in political science. I’m not an expert on anything. In fact, I know very little about the things many people consider me to be an authority on. The truth is, the more I learn about a topic, the more I find out I don’t know. The amount of ignorance that erupts when learning something new is staggering. When I took a class on wine years ago, I went from thinking I knew a little, to realizing I knew nothing at all about rotting grapes. You could spend your entire life learning about wine and never learn everything.

And here I was, plucky little Mr. Charlton, thinking I was going to set the record straight on journalism. That is some goddamn hubris right there.

Somewhere along the line, I got a face full of humble pie. It could be the fact that I have friends who are actual journalists. Maybe it’s that no one is going to bother to be interviewed for a website that gets five or six hits per post. But maybe, just maybe, it’s because it takes a lot of work to fact check your sources. Writing a post takes an hour, maybe an hour and a half. Proper research (and yes, I’ve done research on at least three of my posts) can take anywhere from an hour to three hours. Now, with all this goddamn journalism and research, my dumbass blog would take anywhere from two to four hours. Man (or woman), I’ve got a life! I have things to do. I have other things to write. I’ve got hobbies. Sometimes I want to just sit back and play video games or watch a cartoon. If I wanted to become a journalist so bad, I’d go back to school to become a journalist, and I’m already trying to go back to school to fulfill my dream of becoming a lion tamer.

My point is, my opinion isn’t fact. Facts are facts, and good journalism seeks out these facts. Me? I’m gonna keep writing, going to keep reaching for the lion taming stars. If you do care about facts, and you want them to be heard, do facts a favor and subscribe to some real journalism. In a world where facts are under attack, the only way to fight back is to support those who are seeking the truth.

It’s easy to rile people up with inflammatory opinion. It’s almost impossible to calm them down with rationality. Someone out there is selling you emotion, and that makes me so angry I could remember everything I just said, calm my ass down, look up the numbers on the situation, realize it’s not as bad as I think it is, and be slightly ticked off someone was manipulating my emotions in the first place.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. I’m going to probably stick to satire mostly from now on, it’s the most fun to write.

 

No. 45 – Presidential Line

“What do you mean, illegal?”

The President leaned up against the desk. The Rookie never saw him sit down at the desk. Occasionally Steve would sit behind the smooth oak, twirling his pen, but Steve had been absent from the Oval Office as of late. It was probably because the media was reporting Steve was running the show, not the President. If there was one thing the Rookie had learned in the last few weeks, it was to never upstage the President. There’s only one spotlight, and the President needs all the light he could get.

Spicer stood in front of the President, trembling slightly. He was stumbling through his words and was looking forward past the desk, into the drapes that had recently been purchased for the Oval Office. They were gold, the President’s favorite color.

The President’s face was perfectly still as he asked Spicer the question. His eyebrows were raised, waiting for an explanation. The Rookie looked down at the coffee cups he was carrying from Starbucks. The President’s cinnamon caramel macchiato was getting cold, and if Spicer didn’t hurry up and tell the President what he wanted to hear, then he’d be handing the President a cold coffee. The Rookie wasn’t about to let this sissy make him look bad.

“Well, sir, it’s illegal. That’s what I mean.” The Rookie cursed silently under his breath. The sissy decided to play the wrong hand and tell the President the truth.

The President grabbed the bridge of his nose and shook his head. “C’mon Sean, you aren’t answering my question here. I get that you’re telling me it’s illegal. My question is, why is it illegal? That’s what I want to know. Why can’t KellyAnne tell people to buy my daughter’s brand? I don’t understand.” The President looked up at Sean. “I’m not sure what’s illegal about telling people your opinion on television. KA said she happened to like a brand, and it just so happened that the brand is my daughter’s. Would KellyAnne be breaking the law if she said how much she liked Louis Vitton? Or Gucci? Never mind that my daughter’s brand is better than those two, I mean they’re good brands, just not of the same caliber as my daughter’s. That’s what I’m trying to figure out here. Because as far as I’m concerned, KA did a great job.” He made his signature ‘A-OK’ sign with his hand. “A terrific job. You telling the press that she’s been punished is a bonehead move.”

Spice stammered and rolled his eyes. The President pursed his lips. “Something wrong, there Sean? You didn’t seem to like what I just said.”

The Rookie felt the coffee. It was still warm, but barely. The sissy was taking up too much time answering a simple question.

“Sir, with all due respect, I didn’t say she was punished, I said she was consoled.”

The President didn’t budge. “You made it sound like she did something wrong.”

Spice’s face went flush. He was losing his cool. “She broke the law!”

The President shrugged. “Maybe. But she did so in defending my daughter.” The President looked away. “Get out of here. Maybe I’ll take you seriously when you’re no longer played by a girl on television.”

Spice didn’t say a word as he spun and stormed out of the room. The moment the door latched the Rookie sped over to the President. “Your coffee, Mr. President,” he said as he handed over the cinnamon caramel macchiato.

The President took a sip from the coffee and looked at the Rookie, nodding in approval. “You got them to add extra syrup, just like I asked. Good job, Matt. I like people who can follow orders,” he said, then sweeping his arm out for dramatic effect. “Not like these god damn judges. Christ. I can’t believe how this place is run. Disgraceful.”

The Rookie nodded. He saw an opening. “I agree one hundred percent, Mr. President.”

The President took another sip from his coffee. “What would you do?”

“Excuse me?”

The President put the coffee down on the desk. “Let’s say you were the Press Secretary. What would you have done differently?”

The Rookie smiled. “You mean if I were in the sissy’s shoes?”

The President’s face lit up. “Hoy-yo! That’s pretty funny. I like it. I’m going to use it. Sissy boy Sean.”

The Rookie thought about it for a moment. “You know what I’d do? I’d filibuster ’em.”

The President pressed. “Filibuster?”

The Rookie backed up, letting his arms swing a bit, bringing them both in front of him. He started failing them about while he spoke. “Yeah, yeah. Filibustering. You ever see one of these senators or congresspeople or whoever do this? If they really, really don’t want something brought up, they do a filibuster. They basically go up and talk for, like, hours. About whatever. You could go up and read a book for twelve hours. And the other people, they get so sick of it, they drop whatever they were trying to pass in the first place. I’d do that. The press asks me a question, I’d be like ‘Hey, my cat did this cute thing yesterday. Let me tell you about it.’ or ‘You know what’s American? Beef Jerky.’

The President chuckled. “I like that idea, Matt. Keep coming to me with great ideas like that, and maybe you’ll find yourself working directly for me.” He gave the Rookie a wink. “Still, though. These founding fathers of ours, of this great nation. They were entrepreneurs, businessmen, go-getters like you and me. Why would these go-getters make it illegal to keep a business when running the country? My wife, beautiful woman, wants to start a new line of clothing. A presidential line. She can’t though. Her dreams, all of a sudden… Poof. Gone. Seems a little strange to me. Seems weird the founding fathers, great men these founding fathers, would hamper any kind of business.”

The Rookie nodded in agreement. “Seems unAmerican is what it seems like, Mr. President.”

The President gave him a finger gun. “Pow. Bingo Matt. I’m going to let you know one thing right now. The wall? Not a huge deal. The Muzzie ban? I can take it or leave it. What will truly make America great again is business, and I’ll be damned if I can’t help the people by making them my employees.”

A smile broke out over the Rookies face. “If… if you could hire everyone to work for you, well, that would solve all the problems.”

The President smiled back. “It would. I know it would. I’m going to make this country great again. Soon, everyone will be cheering my name. Soon, everyone will be working for me.” He grabbed the coffee next to him and took another sip. He frowned. “Hmm. Coffee’s cold. Do me a favour, kid, and grab me another one. Extra syrup.”

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton.

p.s. What will happen next? Will Spicer go crazy? Will KellyAnne start selling Trump merchandise outside the trunk of her car? Does the Rookie have no shame? Find out next week!

 

Let’s Talk About Bells “Let’s Talk”

If you’re not a Canadian, this topic might be a little foreign to you, so I’m going to break it down. Bell Canada is a telecommunications company operating in the Great White North. A few years ago, they started their “Let’s Talk” campaign, which is designed to bring mental health to the forefront of conversation. The campaign takes place at the beginning of the year, and if you are a Canadian citizen, you start to see commercials like these.

Micheal Landsberg is a famous Canadian sports guy.

Howie Mandel is a famous Canadian game show host.

I’m not sure who this is. But she’s probably Canadian.

Bringing up the stigma of mental health issues is a tough one, and I commend Bell for trying to bring this into the public arena. The other day, though, a friend of mine brought up a very important piece of the mental health puzzle faced here in Canada. Specifically, he brought up this guy.

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)

This is Will Baker, formally known as Vincent Li. On July 30th, 2008, he decapitated a fellow passenger, Tim McLean, on a Greyhound bus traveling to Winnipeg. After cutting off his head, he began to cannibalize parts of the young man. As of the writing of this post, Will is living alone, under supervision, in Winnipeg. Will is asking for an absolute discharge, which would grant him total freedom. Currently, his case is being reviewed by the Crown.

Will Baker was found not criminally responsible (NCR) for his actions, as he has been diagnosed with schizophrenia. At the time of the killing, he heard the ‘Voice of God’ tell him to kill the young man or die himself.

Every January, Facebook fills with stories about people wanting to open up and share their own experiences with mental health. I hear from folks about eating disordered, anxiety attacks, depression. It’s both incredibly brave and important because it strips away the stigma surrounding mental health issues.

Understand I’m not here to disparage any form of mental disorder. Depression, anxiety, these are real conditions that affect thousands of Canadians every year. It’s important we talk about them. The problem is Bell using these conditions as the face of mental health issues. While Bell is more than happy to hire successful spokespeople to talk about their struggles and how they overcame them, like the videos posted above, they tend to go quiet about subjects like Mr. Baker.

The conversation changes in tone when we bring up people who’ve committed violent acts while suffering a mental disorder. It slides from sharing videos like these on Twitter, all the way down to locking a person up and throwing away the key. People want to have a conversation about mental health when it’s told by photogenic actors, but the conversation stops when it’s discussing cases like the killing of Tim McLean, or the Calgary Stabbings, where five people were killed at a house party by someone claiming aliens were talking to him.

I’m going to relate my own story here. I spent some time in Golden in the spring of 2015, a few months. It was enough time to meet some of the towns more interesting folks. There was one person, in particular, who stood out. We’ll call him Greg. Now, Greg went to the library a lot. I was at the library every once and a while, as my mom works there. Greg made me pretty uncomfortable because Greg talked to ghosts. I asked some of the other people in town about Greg, including my mom. “He’s harmless,” I was told “and the truth is, we can’t really do anything about him.” And it’s completely true, even though it was clear that Greg was obviously suffering from some sort of mental disorder, there wasn’t anything anyone could do about it. The police couldn’t do anything, as he hadn’t broken any laws. And there’s no facility in a small place like Golden that could have intervened.

Greg made me uncomfortable for another reason. While he seemed friendly enough to other people, the ghosts had beef with me and were letting Greg know. Once, when I was leaving the library, Greg was standing outside. I said hello, and he replied with “They’re saying you’re very dangerous. I don’t like dangerous people.” He also said this while looking right through me with the classic ‘thousand yard stare’. Not long after, he moved somewhere else, somewhere in northern BC.

I’m telling this story because even though it was clear society had a person suffering from head problems on their hands, there was no protocol in place to deal with him. That’s a glaring issue, one that Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign doesn’t address. What would have happened had the ghosts decided I was threat? What would have happened if Greg acted upon the ghosts suggestions?

Bell did raise 6.5 million dollars for mental health, which is a win.  But, if we want to get serious about mental health, we need to do more than just talk about it. We need to start addressing it. Not just addressing what we do with violent patients after they’ve recovered and have been treated, but how to prevent them from becoming violent in the first place. The last thing I want to hear about is a man named Greg committing an act of violence in northern BC, because ghosts were telling him space pirates were coming to get him.

Sincerely,

The Illustrious Mr. Charlton

p.s. #LetsDoSomethingAboutIt