A Little Perspective From Tom Church

Posts tagged ‘list’

Ten Must-Read Short Stories

Hey guys! How’s college, you ask? Not bad, thanks.

Let’s get down to business though! Or actually, let’s get away from the formality and talk about short stories. One of my personal favorite literary mediums, I’ve got loads of short story collections at home and have brought a few with me. I can’t get enough. Sometimes I’ll say “that’s enough poetry” and stop reading poems for at least a few good hours. “That’s enough of Greek plays for a while.” “That’s enough philosophy…” Some subsections of literature make me feel queasy after a while.

But it’s rare that I ever get fed up with short stories. Perhaps it’s because I know where to look. I’ve got all my favorite guys nearby all the time–my Lovecraft, my King, my Vonnegut, my O. Henry–and needless to say, the Internet helps sometimes if I don’t technically own what I’m reading.

Today I am in an awfully literate and musical mood. I am feeling as poetic as ever. And I wanted to give you guys the low-down on what some of my favorite short stories are; the select tales that stand out in my mind as being truly spectacular. For each story I relate, there will also be a song; perhaps the song is what the story reminds me of, or vice versa. Perhaps playing the song while reading makes the experience all the more sublime. I will be sure to elaborate, don’t worry.

And four more things!

1) For your convenience, I will be sure to label the story in question as being relatively “short,” “medium,” or “long,” emboldening whichever one the story in question happens to be. That way you know what you’re getting into. These stories all take less than twenty minutes to read, and some take even less than five. Trust me, they’re bite-sized. But they will (hopefully) fascinate you, just as they fascinated me.

2) I will have you know that this is indeed a “list” post, meaning that I will be listing these things in order from least-appreciated to most-appreciated. However, don’t take that to mean that these are my top ten favorite short stories of all time. That list is ever-changing. These are merely ten stories that I hold in very high regard for some reason(s) that will hopefully be made apparent upon a read-through.

3) I will not use more than one story per author, to spice things up. And the stories (and songs) will be linked within their respective places in this post, so that you don’t have to search frantically all over the Internet.

4) The blog only allows so many Youtube videos to be embedded on the page, so some will show up merely as links, you may click them and be taken straight there.

Enjoy!

10) A Rose For Emily — William Faulkner

short | medium | long

This story is chilling and peculiar. It can sort of be classified as a “thrilling” read, but I wouldn’t say it’s a horror story; it’s just not something I’d really expect from Faulkner after trying to understand The Sound and the Fury.

Now, hold on a second. I know that I just recently wrote a post about scary Internet stories, but you can trust me when I say that I have my reasons for including any scary short stories on this list (there are a total of four, counting this one). I am generally a fan of scary stories and concepts, so this one got my attention and has held a place in my mind ever since. I can’t name many stories written in the first half of the 20th century that are so absolutely strange. This story is unique, both as a styling of Faulkner and as a work of literature during his period in history. As far as I know, people regard it well.

http://xroads.virginia.edu/~drbr/wf_rose.html

This link will take you straight to the story. It reads in a bit of a formal fashion, but stick with it and I’m sure the ending will surprise and interest you.

A Song to go Along

If you’re reading a creepy story, you’ve gotta be listening to something slow and edgy, perhaps a little haunting. That’s where this Margot & The Nuclear So and So’s song comes in: it’s called “A Journalist Falls In Love With Death Row Inmate #16.” It is about just what it says, and it is both strange and somewhat endearing.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

9) Little Drops of Water — Kurt Vonnegut

short | medium | long

This story is a step in the opposite direction. There is something magical about Kurt Vonnegut’s stories, and I don’t know if I could ever really pinpoint it, but one of the best ones I’ve read by him was “Little Drops of Water.” It deals with an older man who often has loose romantic flings with his younger piano students; but one of those students decides not to be taken so lightly, and the events that unfold are a stroke of genius.

https://pantherfile.uwm.edu/jenor/ADS/HarpersMagazine-2009-06-0082535.pdf

Above is the link. Like I said, this story is opposite to “A Rose for Emily;” it made me happy when I finished.

A Song to go Along

This story put a skip in my step, and naturally I’d pick a song that does the same. I’d go with an upbeat Coconut Records song, particularly “It’s Not You It’s Me”…

It’s a feelgood song worth dancing to!

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

8) Uncle James — E. Nesbit

short | medium | long

Out of the millions of children’s stories on the planet, some of my favorite have been by Seuss, Milne, and Nesbit. Edith Nesbit wrote fantastic childrens’ stories, lots of which involved dragons. Her style is reminiscent of Lewis Carroll, but perhaps a little more grounded in reality, because many stories involved young, princess-and-commonboy protagonists.

“Uncle James” is one of those stories. Tom, the gardener’s boy, is in love with the young princess Mary Ann. They live in Rotundia, a world where things meant to be big (elephants, whales, etc) are small, and things meant to be small (guinea pigs, rabbits, etc) are big. The story is wonderfully written and even admits at a few points to be skipping over the more boring details of what occurred.

http://www.online-literature.com/edith-nesbit/book-of-dragons/2/

Read it and enjoy! And then go back and read the stories that will never fail to make you feel like a vulnerable little kid again.

A Song to go Along

Listen to “White Daisy Passing” by Rocky Votolato. It’s a pretty, Elliott Smith-esque song that turns a normal walk into an endlessly pleasant experience. And I’ve always associated children’s stories with nature and comfort, wonder and tranquility.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

7) The Boogeyman — Stephen King

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Reading this story for the first time was terrifying. I couldn’t sleep well for weeks. Maybe I was merely young and impressionable, but honestly this story is masterfully creepy and awesomely surprising. It’s a must-read, absolutely, for any horror fan.

http://loloyd.homeip.net/ebooks1/Stephen%20King%20(Bibliography)/1970’s/1977/Short%20Stories/Stephen%20King%20-%20Night%20Shift%20-%20The%20Boogeyman.pdf

 

This story is guaranteed to deliver.

 

A Song to go Along

Well, I actually have two. The first one, “Haunted” by Radical Face, is a primer. It gets you in the mood, makes you feel haunted and eerie. It’s like wind blowing down a subway tunnel, or climbing into bed with the lights off. It’s just the right atmosphere to instill before reading a creepy book. Immerse yourself dammit.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uoCiyB8dMPk

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

Then listen to this song while reading. It’s from the Dead Space video game original soundtrack. It’s actually pretty horrifying and yet also unobtrusive, because it has no lyrics. Give it a try.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mfbV6sSrn_4

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

6) I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream — Harlan Ellison

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This story is truly mortifying. It’s an astoundingly dark take on the progression of robots and computers, set in some strange future, where a handful of humans live together, taunted and tortured by a merciless Artificial Intelligence. The narrator is one of these people, and he talks about who they are, and who they all used to be before the machine systematically wiped out humanity. It seems that the only reason they are still alive at all is to be treated as playthings, because a computer with no test subjects apparently is capable of growing bored. The ending is strange and may be pretty shocking, but it’s a story that deals with one of many possible futuristic outcomes. And while it’s a little bit hard to foresee happening, it’s still brain food in a way. It gnawed at my mind for days.

http://pub.psi.cc/ihnmaims.txt

Read it, dwell on it, curl up in a ball.

 

A Song to go Along

The song “Anthem” by Emancipator is, in my mind, a perfect fit. It has that synthetic, futuristic, tech feel that this story offers. It’s kinda slow, dark, and fosters a contemplative mood. Try listening to it while reading and see what you think.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3PEGDGxZdzA

You will be a changed human.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

5) The Last Leaf — O. Henry

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O. Henry stories have always been the best. They have plot twists, which in my eyes is a sign of creativity and intelligence. And they’re not cheap either, they’re genuinely clever. And mostly they tend to be meaningful, which is something I can easily appreciate. “The Last Leaf” is one of my favorites.

http://www.online-literature.com/donne/1303/

It’s witty, it’s quick, and most of all it’s touching.

 

A Song to go Along

A song to go along? How about the song that hasn’t left my iPod since sophomore year: “The Past and Pending” by The Shins. No matter how many times I listen, there is something so compelling, so soft, so soothing and intimate about this song that makes me want to listen again. Most songs dry up and go away, but I will always listen to this song when it comes on.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e6dYB35lF_0

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

It’s fantastic and it’s calming, and it fits well with the story. CHECK IT OUT!

 

4) Pygmalion and Galatea — Edith Hamilton

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Now, this story isn’t actually the written property of Edith Hamilton. She’s just the Greek historian who managed to simplify it from poem form and basically synopsize it. But no matter what form it takes, I will always love this story. It’s about a man who detests women and decides to create a female sculpture in order to expose all the flaws of the gender–what happens next is not worth spoiling. I’ll link you guys to the Hamilton retelling of this story but encourage you all to read Ovid’s 10th poem in Metamorphoses, which fully accounts for the supposed experiences of Pygmalion.

http://www.dl.ket.org/latin/mythology/3fables/love/pygmalion.htm

It is one of the more touching love stories I’ve read before.

 

A Song to go Along

I like soft love songs, and so I’ll let you guys give this a listen:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5aZh261KZWI

It’s one of the prettier songs I can call to mind, and it makes me feel sad and in love at the same time. And while the song may end on a bit of a morose note, and while certain parts of it may seem flaky and too honest, it just reinforces my own notions of true love and of keeping promises–in any case, it’s a pretty song, and I recommend giving it a listen. It may make your read a bit more interesting, and hey! It sounds like the narrator of Lua is disillusioned with the idea of love, just like Pygmalion.

 

 

3) A Calendar of Tales: August — Neil Gaiman

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If you have not yet read Neil Gaiman’s Calendar of Tales, go do it! Or better yet, have them read to you! Just pick a month and give it a listen, they never disappoint. Gaiman decided to connect to his audience by asking them what ideas they had about all of the months of the year; then he handpicked certain Twitter replies and wrote stories about them. It was a fantastic and generous idea.

My favorite of them all is August, closely followed by April and then July. But here’s a direct and obvious link to August:

http://keepmoving.blackberry.com/assets/desktop/pdf/neil-gaiman/august-story.pdf

This one is all about forest fires, and also the kinds of misconceptions humans have and perhaps the false sense of security they sometimes have in the face of danger. Ultimately, though, it’s just really poetic, and made me feel good at the end. It made me happy.

 

A Song to go Along

This song. Red Right Ankle by The Decemberists. It’s beautiful and charming, just like the August story. It makes me feel like sitting outside on a stoop, shooting the shit with someone close, watching things happen in the heat of August.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYwkmPKsctQ

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

2) The Yellow Wallpaper — Charlotte Perkins Gilman

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This story is probably the greatest psycho-thriller story I ever hope to read. It was the most insightful and interesting look into the mind of a psychotic I’ve ever seen, written by someone who may or may not have ever been this sick. Without spoiling it for you, I will just go as far to say that the narrator in the story, a woman on “holiday” with her husband, who is a physician, is afflicted with some sort of mental issue which causes her to become depressed. The rest is warped.

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/literatureofprescription/exhibitionAssets/digitalDocs/The-Yellow-Wall-Paper.pdf

It is a bit long, but honestly it is perhaps the most rewarding “long” short story here. I promise.

 

A Song to go Along

I can’t even really think of a song to match what kind of eerie feeling this story manages to purvey. Here. Listen to the sounds Jupiter makes via electromagnetic waves. It’s the creepiest thing I’ve ever heard.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e3fqE01YYWs

You’re welcome.

Listen to this “song”:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

1) The Green Morning — Ray Bradbury

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This story is right out of The Martian Chronicles. Brief aside, of all the things and people I owe my relationship to Erin with, Bradbury is probably number one. We bonded over him quickly and excitedly because every story, every single story we’ve ever read by the guy is fantastic. He’s imaginative, creative, brief, simple, and yet so thought-provoking it’s ridiculous. We can never get enough of him.

Normally I’d go on and on about “Usher II” which is Erin’s and my favorite story in The Martian Chronicles. That story is absolutely fantastic, especially if you know your Edgar Allan Poe. But I decided to go with a story that wasn’t scary, and that didn’t require too much prior knowledge to certain things to appreciate the story. So I went ahead and chose “The Green Morning,” which is by all means spectacular.

http://anton.shpigunov.com/2011/07/the-green-morning/

And for your further enjoyment, if you appreciated that, you can read the entire book here. Pick a story and go with it, they’re all short and all fantastic.

 

A Song to go Along

A good song? Hmm… how about “Broken Afternoon” by The Helio Sequence?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FYOEm_H5nQA

This song is vocally powerful but instrumentally soft, as if the singer is preaching or proclaiming his ideas. It’ll make you think of Johnny Appleseed when you read the story, or Benjamin Driscoll rather: the Johnny Appleseed of Mars.

Listen to this song:

before reading | while reading | after reading

 

 

Well, I hope you guys enjoyed! If you ever want more musical or literary recommendations, be my guest and ask me. I will absolutely give you guys some pointers.

Thanks for reading!

 

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Top Five Reasons You Should Watch Attack on Titan

Hey guys! Guess where Erin and I are now? You guessed it: college. And it has been quite a time for us both–since we’re both separate we’re keeping in touch as best we can, and with schoolwork in between we’re making do. We plan to see each other soon, and I dunno about you guys but I’m pretty good when it comes to sending Erin all things, all the time. God bless the internet.

Admittedly, I get a little bit down from time to time though, because I miss Erin and my friends and my family, and I’m sure that’s normal. And one of my methods of self-recuperation (besides talking to Erin of course) is to watch videos.

They’re sometimes funny, sometimes weird, but mostly they’re just distracting! And boy, do I like distracting. Long day of school? Watch some Netflix. Sick to your stomach? Watch this guy read you stuff. Feeling like a li’l shit?

Watch Attack on Titan.

You know why? Because the main character is the angstiest li’l shit I think I’ve ever seen. And you won’t feel like half the li’l shit you felt like after watching him yell this.

“Does he have character development?” you ask. “Is he a likable character?” “Does he grow on you?” “Is he romantically involved?”

Sort of. To all of those. He is sort of everything.

And sort of freaking batshit crazy.

Here ya go: the top five reasons you should watch Attack on Titan.

5) It’s Unique

“But lots of shows are unique!” you whine. “Every show is unique!” Well this one takes the cake. This show is not even your typical action-anime show, it’s pretty much in a realm of its own as far as I can tell. Between my brother and I, action-anime shows have been watched in my household, and none were like this.

Is it one of the bloodiest I’ve ever seen? Yes. Around 18,600 people believe that Attack on Titan (aka SNK which stands for Shingeki no Kyojin–the show’s Japanese name) uses blood like other anime shows use cherry blossoms, which is a nearly unbearable amount. But is it thrilling? Absolutely. Are you engaged and on the edge of your seat the entire time you watch? Pretty much. Do people die lots of devastating deaths? Let’s just say it’s not normal to go an entire episode without watching someone get killed.

That’s the other thing: characters that are introduced and characterized are literally shown being killed before your very eyes, and it’s hard deciding if you’re more physically appalled or emotionally detached now that they’re gone. But, points for originality. Right? Wouldn’t want the good guys to just kick ass all the time. That wouldn’t be fun. It’d be pointless.

Humanity gets whooped all the time in this show.

4) The Fans

Take this reason with a grain of salt: there is no show on the planet where all the fans are completely sane. Not even Jeopardy. And admittedly, I will often find tumblr posts about Attack on Titan that do not appeal to me at all, involving alternate universes and stranger-than-strange fan fiction, etc. I’m sure anyone with a computer knows what I’m talking about. There are always going to be the oddball fans.

But with that disclaimer, I must say that the *funny* Attack on Titan stuff is absolutely hilarious. Some people are creative and some people have lots of time on their hands–and some people have both of those things. And they spend it making beautiful, AoT art.

ImageImageImage

This is the tip of the iceberg. And while you may think “huh, creative” or smile a little, ya gotta realize–watching the show opens up an entire world of jokes that I don’t want to spoil for you. NO SPOILERS. I promise.

Oh, and here is a site devoted to drawing one-minute depictions of the main character, Eren Jaeger.

3) The Characters

Action-anime shows (especially ones with this much blood) tend to have characters that place emphasis on being badass. That’s cool, I understand. But Attack on Titan is a strange offshoot–it is full of cowards.

There are funny cowards. There are funny idiots. There are heroic idiots. A lot of these people die. But when it comes to the way in which the characters combat the titans, it’s honestly incredibly realistic in the sense that they aren’t all hack-and-slash and awesome; the people are genuinely scared. Even the people in charge are scared. There are multiple points in the show where you’re thinking “are people going to rebel? Will people leave the fight to save their own skins?” I won’t tell you the outcome, but the people who are truly talented and badass warriors are few and far between.

I won’t tell you what kinds of backstory is offered on main characters and what their personalities are in general, but I can assure you that at least I am satisfied with what kinds of cool decisions they make and how they move the show along.

2) It’s Artistically Original

The show itself is really interesting. If you compare it to other styles of animation, it just kinda has its own feel. The characters feel more outlined and defined, the colors are kind of dark most times for effect, and the expressions on their faces are versatile, but never typical. Some shows animate their characters in a non-realistic way sometimes to illustrate (in a usually funny way) the way that they’re feeling, but AoT never has to do that. It really helps bring you into the world of the characters a little bit more.

Also interesting is the realistic take on a by-gone age. The show takes place in a strange and undefinable era that can only be described by me as “the Middle Ages with a higher degree of technology”. The people eat bread in mess halls and wear tunics. There are cannons, but apparently guns do not exist. And yet they are able to travel via Maneuver Gear, which is basically like hip-mounted cables that act much like Spiderman’s webshots. They cling to nearby buildings and allow gravity and other factors to build up a certain momentum for the user to travel swiftly about their environment. It’s certainly a really cool concept. Also, they’ve got swords.

Pretty original, right?

Oh, and the titans are freaking horrifying.

1) The Premise

Alright, so you’ve gotten this far through my post and you’re probably like “why in the hell have you only given me vague hints as to the premise of this show?” The reason is because it’s the best part. It’s just a really, really cool idea. Honestly whoever conceptualized this show is a creative genius, because in my opinion, few shows come close to the level of awe that this show inspires merely by thinking about it.

It’s a show about a human population that exists within massive walls. A century or more ago, mankind was nearly eradicated by giant humanoid monsters, but they all mysteriously vanished, and mankind was left to repopulate some, and even prepare for the next unpredictable wave. The show begins right when the titans return, and wreak havoc upon the citizens within the outermost portion of wall. Within the wall are more walls, so that external towns kind of act as barriers and buffers against attacks on the interior.

Mankind knows almost nothing about how the titans; their anatomy (they have no genitalia and I’m pretty sure they’ve never seen a baby titan), their weaknesses, and their level of intelligence are all strange mysteries. But the main character Eren, after witnessing something particularly unforgettable, vows to learn to combat the titans, and to kill them all for the sake of humanity.

Sounds neat right? Well there have been more than a handful of twists along the way, and this show is definitely more than it seems on the surface. Add that level of depth, and you’ve got a show you probably can’t stop watching.

Enjoy.

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-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

Top Ten Cartoon Pigs

I recently came to the realization that I can potentially make a top ten list for literally anything. Potato recipes, torture methods, even methods of insulting your elders. But today’s list will focus on cartoon pigs, and my personal favorites.

Keep in mind that these pigs are ones I’ve grown with and loved. I won’t list a pig if I don’t know jack about it, so I (regrettably) can’t talk about Porco Rosso, Natalie Porkman, or “Treat Heart Pig” from the Care Bears animated series.

10) Nago, Princess Mononoke

Most animated shows or movies tend to go with the “cute” pig approach, but Studio Ghibli went ahead and spun that around for their (relatively) edgy release Princess Mononoke. Nago was a giant, wild boar who rampaged into town and was eventually subdued by the locals. It was revealed that Nago was aggravated because he’d previously been shot by Lady Eboshi. His rage caused him to literally become somewhat demonic, setting the stage for the movie.

Nago is a tribute to badass pigs everywhere. He shatters the cutesy pig stereotype, and even helps represent the primeval and retaliatory side of nature in the movie. Come to think of it, he’s probably the only pig on this list with any depth at all. Cute pigs are just better.

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9) Card Wars Pig, Adventure Time

This one is important because of its tangible strategic value. No other pig has had this much tactical importance before, and I think that after this episode of Adventure Time aired, a kind of global understanding of a common pig’s tactical usefulness was suddenly conceived. This pig occurred in an episode called “Card Wars,” which was all about a holographic card game mimicking todays’ Magic: The Gathering or Yu-Gi-Oh and the like. When Finn “floops” the pig, it eats all of Jake’s corn, which translates to Jake losing vital energy and support for his troops; ultimately, this episode’s blatant wisdom led to the Pig Flooping Act of 2013, and the world witnessing a drastic decline in world hunger and street crime.

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8) Inoshikacho, Dragon Ball

This porcine selection is actually part boar, part deer, and part butterfly, all in one. Its name comes from the card game Hanafuda: Koi Koi, where it is possible to match up all three of the aforementioned animals to achieve the Boar-Deer-Butterfly (Ino-shika-cho) combo. But in Dragon Ball, it’s just a big conglomerate of all three animals. In the show, Inoshikacho was actually a cute little purple pig, but it was raised under the negative influence of Master Shen, and grew up to be a rampaging douche. It just makes me wonder how it would’ve turned out with a little care and nourishment. All of us are products of our environments–even pigs.

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7) Peppa, Peppa Pig

Peppa is from a kids’ TV series that hails from the UK. And while I am not particularly familiar with her show, I am familiar with her personality and her way of handling particularly displeasing situations. I feel like Peppa has a very humanistic and sassy side to her that not many pigs have attempted to, or accurately, portrayed. Watch the video below to see what I mean:

6) Hen Wen, The Black Cauldron

Hen Wen is an unlikely sidekick on an epic adventure. The Black Cauldron is just a fantastic movie, and Taran and Eilonwy by themselves are great characters, but I’m sure you’re already aware that things go better when they involve pigs. While she’s not with Taran for the entirety of the movie, she does manage to be especially helpful: she is oracular, meaning she has the power to prophesy certain events and view Taran from afar. Coolest damn magic pig I’ve ever seen.

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5) Spoink, Pokemon

How could you not love Spoink? Erin fell in love with Spoink the minute I gave her Pokemon Ruby Version for the GBA. On her travels, she came across a gray-and-purple pig with a spring for an ass and a little pink ball on its head. And the way she doted on it caused both of us to fall in love with it (I was falling in love all over again). Spoink is cute, bouncy, and he’s also psychic, which to me is the most badass Pokemon move type. Spoink is the ultimate pig Pokemon, beating out Tepig… and… Mankey? A pig monkey? And… Swinub? A… small… uh…

5spoink

4) Pig, The Legend of Zelda Games

The pigs in the Zelda games are special. They don’t… do much, really, but they’re special nonetheless. They’re cute, and they’re funny–one of the villagers in Windfall Island actually says that one of his pigs is “special” and doesn’t respond to human contact by running away. The definition of “special” can kind of be interpreted as… negative. Ultimately, I viewed the pigs as fun-loving, perhaps small-brained, additions to the scenery, and it was always fun trying to catch one by crawling around and sneaking up on them. They were also very useful sometimes because tossing bait caused them to dig a hole and unearth very important treasures. Fascinating little creatures.

4zeldapigs

3) Piglet, Winnie-The-Pooh

We can never forget the classics. I love Piglet. He’s a worrisome and tender little fellow who would follow Pooh to the ends of the earth. That kind of loyalty and devotion is unparalleled by any other pig in the entire cosmos. A wonderfully gentle and surprisingly quaint little fellow, Piglet is a fantastic pig.

3piglet

2) Tonton, Naruto

Tonton is an amazing pig in my eyes. She’s not only Shizune and Tsunade’s sidekick–she’s like, their mutual best friend. She’s an adorable little pig with a little sweater and even a pearl necklace and she can sniff out danger and aid in the combat by running supplies and medical equipment around on her stubby legs. She works so hard that sometimes Shizune even has to patch her up. She’s a spunky little pig.

2tonton

1) Waddles, Gravity Falls

We love Waddles. Everyone loves Waddles. The pig practically embodies the image of a cute, lovable, cartoon pig. It’s small and silly and it’s the perfect partner for Mabel, who likes to be goofy and weird and throw parties with Waddles and stuff. The episode where Dipper gives up a shot at dating his crush so that Mabel can keep Waddles is a truly glorious moment in the show’s history, and the addition of Waddles to the show is nothing short of brilliance.

MABEL, WADDLES

There you have it! Some truly awesome pigs. Here are some runners-up:

Babe (Babe)

Oolong (Dragon Ball; bit too pervy and humanlike for my taste)

The Pig character (Adventure Time; Erin says his barritone voice ruins it… but I like him)

Porky Pig (Looney Tunes)

That’s it for today. And while today’s top ten list was suited to a very specific niche in the broad spectrum of human interests, I assure you there’ll be more to come–perhaps ones that are even more general.

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

The Top 10 GBA Games I’ve Ever Played

Hey all! It’s been ages since we’ve last written and the universe hasn’t imploded, so we’re all okay. Lately I’ve had another hobby shift. I go through these often, Erin can tell you all about it. In any case, ever since the Summer began I’ve been playing games. I’ve been working too, certainly, but in my off time I play games. Old games and new ones, on any console I manage to dig up.

I have a DS and a wide variety of old Gameboy Advance games at my disposal. I’ve found a lot of old favorites that I’m super relieved not to have sold like an idiot when I was twelve. And playing these things has only jogged my memory and made me remember which games were the best, and which ones were clearly the worst. Right now, I’m gonna go ahead and list the absolute best ones I’ve played–and that means played in their entirety, not a halfass thirty minute hit-and-quit. I mean I spent lots of my precious time kicking these games’ ass. I’ll save the best for last.

10) HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN 

A lot of knowledgeable gamers tend to avoid video games based off of movies. Before I myself developed this (unfair) movie-to-game prejudice, I liked this game. A lot. I didn’t really realize it at the time, but I was essentially playing Final Fantasy, but with Harry Potter protagonists, items, etc. Another FF-clone game I had was Eragon, but it was nowhere near as good as Prisoner of Azkaban was.

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Playing through this game the first time was challenging, almost overly so for a preteen boy. But strangely, playing through a second time allowed you to stay the same level you were when you last completed the game. The first time I beat the game, I was something like level 20, and the Whomping Willow was the hardest sonofamother in the whole game. After beating the game five times, I was level 70-something and the tree was my bitch.

9) POKEMON FIRE RED / LEAF GREEN

These games were great for many reasons. Opinions differ on Pokemon games these days, and that’s okay. But I enjoyed the Kanto region of Pokemon much more than I did the Hoenn. Pokemon Leaf Green (my own personal cartridge) offered the Vs. Seeker, which solved the stupid problem of not being able to rebattle trainers whenever I damn well pleased. As a result, the game was easier and lighthearted. I felt that the only way for me to beat Hoenn games was to choose Torchic and power raise him to level 70, leaving no experience for the other Pokemon in my party (they were all HM slaves).

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Pokemon was our favorite RPG before we knew what the acronym stood for. These games got tiresome after a while, but I will say that I’d never anticipated a handheld game so much as I did with Pokemon. While they’ve lost a lot of their magic (old and new games alike, to me), I’m still overcome with weird, tingly senses of nerdy nostalgia just thinking about these games.

8) ADVANCE WARS 2: BLACK HOLE RISING

Here’s a bit of a disclaimer to start us off: I’ve never beaten Advance Wars 2. But in terms of gameplay hours spent chipping away at this stubborn game’s story mode? It’s on par with some Pokemon games. Oh my jeezors, is this a tough game. Lots of Internet fans like to announce that this game’s easy, and that it’s their favorite and they’ve beaten it loads of times. Well it’s not. It’s tough, buddy. So shaddup.

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From the get-go, you just kinda know this game is gonna take all of your smarts. Like, all of it. Because the tutorial levels themselves are a little bit rough around the edges. There are ways to screw the tutorials up, and they’re not at all obvious. Once you get into the main game, though, no one’s helping you anymore. The strategy is not predetermined; it’s up to you to create and assign your units, and if you do it wrong, you suck and you die. It’s a killer turn-based-strategy game that makes eight-year-olds cry. Regardless of its difficulty, it is still a very impressive game and deserves its place on this list. It is one of the few brilliant games that brought me into the world of thoughtful, decision-based gaming.

7) POKEMON MYSTERY DUNGEON: RED RESCUE TEAM

This game was as unique a Pokemon game as ever. It was released alongside Blue Rescue Team, which was for the DS. Because all I had was a GBA, I bought Red Rescue Team, curious to see what kinds of weird changes in gameplay I’d see. In all honesty, there were some things I like more about this game than all of the other Pokemon “version” games. Rescue Team, Conquest, Gale of Darkness, Colosseum, Ranger — all of these are Pokemon titles that have experimented in other facilities than same-old, battle-to-battle gameplay. And in my opinion, Red Rescue Team did a very good job in its own right.

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This game was a new take on Pokemon, with an entirely new formula. It incorporated side quests, dungeon crawling, unique bosses, and limited Pokemon access until much later in the game. I enjoyed being a Pokemon (the story goes that you are an amnesiac human in the body of a Pokemon… hmm…), and having a partner who helped balance out your battling dynamic was definitely a good choice on the developers’ part. It was a great game with great franchise potential, but I don’t think we’ll be hearing any more from it. Recent Mystery Dungeon titles on the DS have scored very poor ratings with critics, the main problem being that people tend to label it a shameless copy of ChunSoft’s “Mystery Dungeon” series, just with Pokemon. While that may be true, the gameplay didn’t hurt a bit.

6) KIRBY’S NIGHTMARE IN DREAMLAND

The Kirby series gets an absurd amount of praise, and I’m not complaining. People seem to like the fact that Kirby, who can copy other monsters’ abilities by swallowing and digesting them, can pretty much do whatever the hell he wants. You can beat a level by swallowing a sword guy and slashing dudes to death; you can finish a level by breathing fire on dudes; you can finish a level by jumping repeatedly, floating up by the ceiling over all the enemies’ heads, straight to the door that exits the level without ever killing anybody. No one effs with Kirby.

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Kirby is a lovable-as-hell, one-of-a-kind platformer that is chock full of bosses, fun powerups, and creativity. The music was great, the combat was great, and the story was… interesting. Might I mention that the myriad of bosses you fight are typically easy as shit, while the final boss is unbearably difficult? It’s like playing Pong, and then suddenly getting dumped into a Mega Man boss fight. Wow!

5) DRAGON BALL Z: THE LEGACY OF GOKU II

This game improved upon many of the obvious flaws in the first Legacy of Goku. And to be honest, the first game was still pretty cool. But it needed work. The second game was awesome. In the first game, you could only play as Goku. The second game gave you five characters, four of which eventually became Super Saiyan badasses that destroyed evil ass. Saving was made much easier; the clunky item system was revised by pretty much removing it entirely; the storyline was better (the first followed Freeza’s story roughly, the second covered Cell); and a great level system was implemented which let you polish the characters you liked best.

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The ass-kickery was noteworthy and the casualties (theirs, not yours) were many. This game was good enough to draw you into the series; I learned much of what I know about Dragon Ball from playing this game.

4) MEGA MAN & BASS

Here’s another one of those “I ain’t beat that shit yet” games. The key word is “yet,” because I still play it… but honestly the phrase that comes to mind when considering Mega Man & Bass is “I ain’t gonna beat that shit ever.” This game is hard. The first tier of bosses is hard. No matter how many damn lives you have, this game is hard.

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But if this game gets any awards from me, it gets the “Most Time Spent Playing in Vain” game award. I played this game to death, and even though I rarely ever beat the levels I was stuck on, it was still somehow fun and fulfilling. Nowadays, I spend my time on Youtube watching “Mega Man ‘Perfect’ Runs” — people beating whole levels of Mega Man & Bass without taking any damage at all. And here I am, getting my ass handed to me. Son of a–

3) SUPER MARIO ADVANCE 4: SUPER MARIO BROS. 3

Super Mario Advance is a line of GBA games that are basically old games that are put into GBA cartridges and sold all over again. If any old Mario game deserved to be resold, that’d be Super Mario Bros. 3.

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This game starts out fun as hell, and then becomes frustrating as hell. But all the while, I think, I enjoyed it. The reason is because when I die, I know it’s my fault. The physics of this game are pretty much flawless. They’re like set-in-stone laws that dictate your exact movements, especially so later in the game. Timing gets to be very crucial, unless of course you wear Tanuki suits all the time in which case you can do whatever the hell you please. You’re a freaking Tanuki. This game is one of my favorites.

2) FIRE EMBLEM: THE SACRED STONES

Somewhere, at this very moment, someone is holding a GBA, playing this game for the very first time. “Holy shit!” they exclaim. “What a compelling story!” That assertion is correct. Fire Emblem is the mafia mob boss of compelling stories. Interesting and commonly known fact: Advance Wars and Fire Emblem are developed by the same group, Intelligent Systems. There are similarities between the two: both are turn-based strategy games. Both typically portray their protagonists in anime-style. Both game series deal with battles between good and evil.

The similarities pretty much end there. While Advance Wars is the more strategic of the two, Fire Emblem retains a lesser level of difficulty that is offset by its myriad of characters, always-interesting plotline, and crucial tweaks in gameplay mechanics. In Advance Wars, you gain resources which you use to churn out new military units. In Fire Emblem, each unit is special. You can’t create them, they just join forces with you; if they die, they’re gone forever. There’s no replacing them.

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Of the two Fire Emblems to ever come out in the US for GBA, I like Sacred Stones the best. The reasons are as follows: because it’s a bit easier (no shame); because I like the characters better; because of the system of characters choosing their classes. As an example for the latter, Amelia the Trainee can choose to become a cavalier or a knight. Your choice in the matter is both pleasing and strategically advantageous. It’s a damn near flawless game.

1) THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: THE MINISH CAP

It’s a wonder that more people don’t stop to appreciate this game. The fact that Capcom, the developer of Mega Man, was the first team to step in and make a brand new GBA Zelda game–and make it correctly–baffles me. But the music was brilliant, the playing was familiar, the bosses were awesome, the items were both old and familiar / new and innovative… I mean seriously! How in the hell did people forget this so quickly?

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Nintendo rarely ever lets third-party developers goof around with their golden adventure series, and when they have, it’s usually ended in disaster (like that weird-as-shit Zelda: The Wand of Gamelon CD-i game that Nintendo is trying to forget about). But Capcom did so, so well. The story itself was new and innovative–none of that Ganon shit, in Minish Cap there’s Vaati, a wizard jerk who sucks. It was the first handheld Zelda game that actually made me feel compelled to advance in the story because I wanted to know what happened.

And the overhead gameplay? Finally done correctly. It felt awesome. It almost makes me feel like the original game–The Legend of Zelda–deserves an updated, HD remake with better storytelling and graphics and all that snazzy stuff.

Almost.

RESPONSES

Thanks so much for reading my opinions. Chances are, if you’re reading this, you own a GBA, or you’ve owned one before. Here’s a little secret: I have in no way, shape, or form played all of the games available for GBA. If you believe that there are games that easily outrank some of the ones on my list, please list them in the comments and I’ll be happy to try playing them. I may have even played them a little before, but I haven’t beaten them or gotten the full experience!

-Thom
aestheism, not atheism.

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