A different take on "writer's block."

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After a long day of school or work, I often come home wanting to write something about my day.


But what? There's nothing to write about. If I did force myself to write everyday, I'd have page after page of the exact same thing. I don't know what that says about my life, but one of the absolute worst things for a writer is to have nothing to write about. A boring person makes a boring writer. 

At least I have my imagination?


This has been my shopping routine lately...

 




So I was rummaging through my old things and guess what I found? My old Playstation 1 video games! Wow, what a blast from the past! Naturally, I thought it would be fun to share with you guys.

I played these games with my older brother while we were in grade school. (Shoutout to all the younger siblings who were always player-2 like me.) There were no fancy consoles like the Wii or anything like that invented yet — just the good ol' Playstation 1! These games were such a big part of my childhood, it made me super nostalgic to see them again. :)

So anyway, here are the TOP 10 PS1 games I used to play a lot as a little girl:

(also please ignore my carpet... some professional photography, I know)

10. Megaman Series

Megaman! Personally I liked Zero better because my 8yr-old self was convinced he was a girl (see them long blonde locks), but these games were awesome! I'll never forget the little robot hamburger enemies in the factory level and that one stingray boss... ugghhhh! And who could forget Sigma and his many forms???

The only reason Megaman isn't higher up on my list is because of how much I freakin' sucked at it. I kid you not, I was probably the worst Megaman gamer on the planet when it came out. I spent half the boss fights climbing the walls on the sides (especially for that lava dude) and stayed my happy butt there. I remember my brother screaming at me a lot, although in his defense I was a pretty bad sidekick. My aim sucked balls and I relied on random-panic firing, which was not the best tactic, let me tell you. (But also, I was like 8 ok???)

I'm pretty sure we had more of these games, but the only one I managed to find were Megaman 8 and X4.


9. Monkey Magic

 Mon-kaaaahy! I will never forget the many hours I spent on this puzzle/action game. I loved it though! I thought it was super creative because up until then, I had never played a game where you could turn yourself into ice or gold (or was it stone?). Basically, from what I remember, you collect these floating peaches and learn awesome new monkey karate moves while freeing other trapped monkeys all around the world. I hated the battle arenas very much though. I remember the dojo at the very beginning with the monkeys you had to go up against. So much fail! (On my part!) There was also this factory level with toxic green acid and you had to climb all these things to the top, only to have a cage fall on you, underground-wrestling style, forcing you to fight against these... what was it? Rats? Bandit karate monkeys? Something like that!

I did get pretty far in this game. I remember getting the nimbus cloud and my super awesome stick weapon. For some reason, I can't remember fighting the boss. Probably because I never did.

My favorite part of Monkey Magic (besides the hilarious transition of the victory screech,"Mon-kaaaahy!" to "MONKEEEEY!" as you get farther into the game) is definitely the puzzle aspect of it. There are times when you have no choice but to jump off the screen and die because you messed up the level. You have to get the puzzle just right! If you want to play Monkey Magic, but want something solid to compare it with, I'd have to say it's sort of  similar to Rayman.
 
Rayman was another game I used to play, which was SUPER SUPER difficult for my little-kid self. His large disconnected hands freaked me out a bit, to be honest, but he sure is one cool dude. The first few levels were alright, but when I had to swing vines and avoid mustachioed men in the jungle just waiting to shoot me with a pistol, that's when things started to get really difficult. I didn't make it far in Rayman 1 (see: rage-quit), because my kid-self could not handle it, but after playing the newer Rayman games as an adult, I can say that they are equally as awesome and challenging!


8. Pacman World


This is not your average pac-man game. It's three-dimensional, for one thing, and there are different worlds you can visit. Plus, Pacman can jump, barrel roll, and even swim! However, the premise is similar— there are places in each world where you see the yellow dots Pacman loves to eat and your favorite pastel ghosts guarding them. There are also boss fights with a galleon pirate ship, shooting cannon balls at you. It's actually pretty fun! My favorite world was definitely the beach/pirate one. You could shoot cannons!

On another note, I also played Bomber man a lot, which I could not include in this list as I could not find the game. I would say Pacman World is definitely comparable to Bomber man.


7. Magical Racing Tour


Normally, I hate racing games. I don't like playing them because my anxiety shoots through the roof and I just get really stressed out for some reason. Racing games are just really not for me... But boy, did I loooove this one.

You can pick from 13 different Disney characters and choose which raceway (each based on Disney World theme parks) to race on. Splash Mountain and, of course, the Haunted Mansion were my favorite raceways. You could collect and shoot different objects at your competitors and there were hidden trophies to collect in each place. For example, looking at a specific mirror in the Haunted Mansion will get you a trophy, but will certainly lose you the race. Each track also had different Disney-themed music to jam to.

It sounds pretty lame, but it was the best thing ever back then. There was no Wii in the 90's, okay?! No fancy-shmancy consoles. Just this plain, gray, playstation that was the most awesome invention ever created. To compare, there were also the much-loved Crash Bandicoot games, (I rocked the pogo-stick challenges, for those who know what I'm talking about) but those racing games were a little too intense for my 8yr-old barbie-playing self.


6. 40 Winks


So I don't know where I got this particular version of the game from, as most of my games were bought second-hand, but this one comes with two racing games (boo!) and a multiplayer scrabble (...why?). The only one I really played on this disc was 40 Winks. And damn, did I play that hard-ass game!! Maybe it would be easier for me to play now, but I am not kidding when I say that this was the HARDEST. Game. Ever.

I absolutely love the design of this game. Kind of creepy and gothic, like Tim Burton-esque. Lots of ghosts and monsters. I was always played the girl character and absolutely owned with my teddy bear-weapon. But I was also horrible with the morphs (too many buttons to press) and also died way too often because I panicked every time enemies saw me and rushed at me. I was also a little bit scared of the game itself... it was creepy, ok!

Biggest regret: never beat that stupid cackling witch at a race, 28/40 winks for life. ;_;


5. Casper






Who knows this game and has played it? I'll be really impressed. I think this is one of those really obscure games that just got buried under the video game boom.

But it's so good! You might look at it, roll your eyes, and be super duper skeptical. Because seriously... a Casper game? But don't knock it 'til you've tried it. It's a really cool old-school puzzle game where you play as Casper, all alone in his really big maze of a mansion. You have to find and earn hidden jigsaw puzzle pieces to put in specific frames around the maze-like mansion (a good memory will help you tons... otherwise, you'll wander for HOURS). When you complete a picture, you are granted a new ghostly ability, such as being able to go through vents for fast access to other rooms as well as secret hiding places, and turning into a ball in order to fit through narrow spaces. The map is huge. The more abilities you unlock for Casper, the more places you'll be able to access. There is also a lot of puzzle-solving, such as moving furniture around to unlock doors and looking behind picture frames to discover hidden buttons. So if that's your thing, you'll definitely love this game.

Meanwhile, Kat and her father moves into the house, and parts of the mansion becomes battle dungeons for each of your mean ghost uncles. You have to defeat each of them three or four times at different points in the story and you must be properly equipped for it. For example, I spent ages trying to defeat Fatso in the bathroom and figured out all I needed was the camera! (And I had to find that first too.) If you don't have what you need to beat your uncle, you can leave the dungeon and go back later. Little by little, you discover the mystery about your father and begin the final mission to find and put-together the Lazarus.

Definitely a game you can play to relax. Nothing too hardcore— it's really casual gaming. It does involve a lot of memory and puzzle-solving skills, but nothing should be too hard. There are ways to 'cheat' (like moving out of the screen and into a different part of the map without having the ability to access it yet), but it's really much more enjoyable trying to figure out how to do things the 'right way.' Absolutely love this game.


4. Tekken 3


An all-time classic. While I'm not a big fan of too many action games (I hate shooter games), I do love one-on-one fighting games like Tekken! I remember playing Tekken 3 a lot because I wanted to collect all the backstories you get when you win with a character.

I always played as Ling (LING FOREVER!) when on multiplayer because I was so good with her combos! I also liked Gon and Panda, just because they were so cute. Loved that panda. (Is that where Kung-fu Panda came from?) Nina Williams was another character I loved to play. Of course, little girls want to play girl characters... so that was me! But all those combos! It was a bit too much for me to try and remember back then, so while I played Tekken A LOT, I much preferred....


3. Marvel vs. Capcom


Chun-Li forever. FOREVER. (Ling who??) I also liked to play as Venom and Strider. I have no idea why I liked Venom so much because his moves were gross, but I remember if I wanted to take a break from playing Chun-Li, it was almost always Venom. And I always had Saki or Anita as Capcom partners and Jubilee or Rogue for Marvel.

Iron Man was really good too, but I didn't like how he looked so I mastered Chun-Li instead. Looking back on it now, it seems like I mostly focused on aesthetics in games back then. I occasionally played Morrigan as well, but I remember worrying a lot about my parents seeing her outfit. Haha!

Gameplay is super simple: you have one character to choose from and one sidekick— the equivalent of an assist in MVC3. There are three rounds and it's basically just one-on-one all the way.

  Also, I did get MVC3 as soon as it came out and I was obsessed for the first couple of weeks. This is my ultimate team in this exact lineup: Dante (of course), Deadpool, and Amaterasu. Occasionally I switch out Deadpool for Wesker or X-23... that girl's got some fast moves! My ultimate team almost never loses, with Amaterasu as my "last resort" ultimate character (I've totally mastered his skills) and Dante as my strong start. Yayaaa! Bold cancels ftw.


2. Spyro the Dragon


Spyro was my absolute favorite game to relax to after a hard day of elementary school... ha! I could literally spend hours charging at those little green monsters and turning them into butterflies for my trusty dragonfly friend to eat up. Or otherwise chasing those mysterious little dudes with the dragon eggs for ages.

The main plot of the game is that all the dragons have been crystallized all over the world and it is up to Spyro to bring them back to life. Sounds pretty simple... but it is so much more than that.

I spent SO much time on my Spyro games that if it was a pie chart, my 9-yr old social life would only show Spyro. I remember being so psyched when I progressed to a different world because the places are so visually different from each other and it was just so amazing to look at. Compared to games out on the market now, the graphics are pretty bad, but it was really cool back then. It's still pretty darn amazing to me now. It's not too hard to play once you figure out all the basics, but there are some challenging monsters that don't make it too easy.



One of my favorite parts has to be the bonus 'free flying' levels, where you control Spyro as he goes through loops and collects as many goodies as he can... kind of like flying the Kingdom Hearts gummy ship when traveling between worlds. I also just like cruising and flying around. I'd waste time just climbing up to the highest point I could reach and flying down, collecting treasure chests. So much fun.


1. Tales of Destiny


 And presenting my all-time favorite PlayStation1 game in the world! No surprise it would be an RPG. Many of you would be appalled to know that I did not discover the Final Fantasy series until later on in my life, so while all of my future friends binged on Final Fantasy 7, Tales of Destiny was my jam. And I was so freakin' obsessed. OBSESSED. (yes, I really needed to emphasize that.)

It's about Stahn, a stowaway aboard a flying ship, who comes across a 'Swordian' (basically a talking, living SUPER sword) named Dymlos. Not too long after that, a bunch of stupid Zubats and barbarians start infiltrating the ship— turns out that they are after the talking sword. Here's where it gets all Harry Potter: the Swordian chooses the user and Stahn has been chosen by Dymlos. They manage to escape the flying ship and not too long afterwards meet a bunch of other Swordian-users (aka, chosen ones). They band together to, of course, SAVE THE WORLD!


It sounds corny (it probably is), but it sure was epic. There are SO many things you can do in a city, for example, and so many hidden 'secrets' that you have to discover on your own. I played NiNoKuni recently and thought that the dragon-flying thing was totally ripped off from Tales of Destiny! And the world map: Tales of Destiny! And the ship: Tales of Destiny!!! Basically, all I could see was Tales of Destiny in that game... that's obsessed I was. (Still am, tbh.)

I've played through this game beginning to end more than five times and pretty much know all the secrets and extra things you can do. For example, there's a way to save Mary's husband. There's also a way to bring her back to your party later on (not worth it, in my opinion, as she is extremely weak). Also, when you're being invaded by the pirate ships, collect all your mackerels. Don't sell them and never put them in the food sack because it'll poison everyone. Just keep them— you'll need them much later for a dragon named Gourmet and you can't get them anywhere else. (I will forever have this bit of info in me 'til the day I die— just in case anyone's wondering why I'm talking about saving mackerels on my death bed in the future.)

Pretty much just an old-school RPG game, ToD just has priceless sentimental value to me. It's a LOT like Final Fantasy 7, except it's by Namco so the style's a bit different. If I played Spyro "all the time," then I played ToD "all the time"x100. Just sayin'.


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Some honorable mentions: 
 
 
    
Raise your hand if you've ever felt this way.




Anyone ever have these moments where something so ordinary becomes incredibly difficult for some reason? It is so frustrating. This happened to me the other day. I really wanted to go to class but for some reason—and it's hard to explain—I just couldn't. It was just not possible at the time. It was like there was someone (or something) inside me yelling frantically, "NO! DON'T DO IT!" 

Weird, right? What's so scary about going inside a classroom? In fact, I actually really love that class. It is one of my favorite classes! My professor is great, my classmates are great, etc. So what was my deal?

If you've ever had anxiety before... you know. Having it creep up on me for the strangest reasons is just something I have to live with. I've been dealing with very bad anxiety (or worse than my usual) for a few months now and I cannot imagine having to deal with this for much longer. I seriously sympathize with those who have been dealing with major anxiety for much longer than I have.

I just don't understand how something intangible— a feeling— can physically hold me back from doing something. I mean, I guess I can understand it, seeing as how I've experienced it (and continue to experience it) firsthand. It's just hard to wrap my head around.

Anyway, this is what I've been dealing with on a daily basis as of late. :( Much sadness.

If you're looking for fun, refreshing, lighthearted summer reading, then look no further. Here is a summertime favorite of mine.

The Summerhouse by Jude Deveraux follows the lives of three women: Leslie, a promising ballet dancer; Madison, a gorgeous, up-and-coming model; Ellie, a spunky, aspiring writer - all of whom share the same birthday. The women meet for the first time at a DMV while waiting to renew their license and a unique bond develops between the three of them.
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Twenty years after their once-in-a-lifetime chance encounter, Ellie - now a famous romance-mystery novelist suffering from depression - decides to contact Leslie and Madison, even though the girls have not seen each other since their fateful encounter at the DMV.
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Due to some questionably strange supernatural circumstances, Ellie, Madison, and Leslie are given the chance to "re-do" the climaxes of their lives, and thus change their futures for the better...

What I liked about The Summerhouse is that for the first half of the book, the plot is focused on the current, miserable lives the women grew to live as they recount to each other all of the mistakes they've made and the regrets they've had to live with. The women's banter have a worldweary wittiness about them that is refreshing to read. Though at times cliche, this book is the perfect, lighthearted go-to read for some heartwarming summer reading.
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There is a supernatural element in this book that feels a touch out-of-place, but gives a unique flavor to an otherwise run-of-the-mill coming-of-age story. The greater mysteries of this supernatural occurrence are never elaborated upon, but it works as a great plot device all the same.
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I'm sure that a cursory glance at the cover is enough to judge this as a "chick lit." However, I wouldn't be so quick to dismiss it. There are absolutely no graphic sexual encounters in it at all. (I either sold it to some of you just now or ruined it.)

 

Rather, The Summerhouse focuses on the hardships of these three, unhappy adult women and their slow epiphanies about life. It really is sort of like a late bloomer's coming-of-age story. There are numerous lessons and worthwhile reminders to be found in this book and though I feel that it is certainly geared towards a more adult audience, I think a quite mature thirteen year-old would be able appreciate The Summerhouse for what it is. 

 

Deveraux's evident love for her characters shine brightly on these pages, making them quite memorable. They are described and told with care, as though hearing about them from a doting mother. There were many times when I felt like Ellie, Madison, and Leslie could have been my own friends.
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All in all, I was pleasantly surprised when I first read this book. I must admit, I didn't have high expectations of it, but I ended up enjoying the book more than I thought I would. I hope you give this refreshing story a chance; it may surprise you.



Okay, so hear me out. 
 
I've always been a die-hard fan of the classics. I love Coleridge, Wordsworth, and Keats. And yes, I admit it— I was that kid in AP English classes in high school. I actually read for the fun of it. I loved reading so much that I went on to get a B.A. in English later just so I could read some more in college. (Ironically, this university grind was the very undoing of my love for reading... but more on that some other time.)


But even for a die-hard fan like me, there are some classic works out there that I just can't get behind. Of course, this is just my opinion, but I'll be damned if anyone can tell me honestly that they loved reading any of these books. I firmly believe anyone claiming to do so is a liar. (I said what I said.)


That's not to say that I don't respect the artistry of these works. On the contrary, I'm grateful for them. Without these pieces of literature, I would have never been able to so clearly define a bad classic. Without further ado, let me introduce the top 5 high-school curriculum books I hated so much, I'm writing a blog post about them.

 
This should go without saying, but there are spoilers ahead.


 1.  The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

 

Here's a book I had to read three times. That's already one time too many. I didn't know it was possible then, but each read-through made me loathe the book even more than the last. On my third and last reading, I read and re-read several passages several times for several hours before finally chucking this into the after-hours drop-off box at my local library (no, it was not a library book).

I'm sure that most people are familiar with The Scarlet Letter, or at least have heard of it at some point. The story is simple yet intricately done; set in the seventeenth century, protagonist Hester Prynne is released from prison with her newborn daughter whilst wearing a red "A" pinned to her clothes. The symbol marks her as an adulteress, yet Hester refuses to divulge the identity of her lover out of some pseudo noble ideals and misguided devotion.

The plot itself is compelling enough to keep a reader interested. However, Hawthorne's meandering descriptions and rambling attentiveness to the most minuscule details do the plot a great disservice. It's not hard to lose interest every so often when the setting is observed several pages at length. I had to pause time and time again, flipping ahead through the pages, just to see how long the descriptions would take before the plot got moving again. I could be wrong, but I don't think that's what a reader should be doing.

Having said that, one could argue that Hawthorne's signature exhaustive narration is what really complements the story as a whole. I guess. Or do I just have a really short attention span? No doubt a millennial drawback of growing up with ever-advancing technologies.
 
Another thing I am greatly bothered by is Hester Prynne herself. Talk about pathetic. She has all the makings of a tragic heroine, yet still somehow falls short. She does not ask for any sympathy from her neighbors nor her readers, but her self-induced martyrdom is insufferable to the point of being obnoxious and stupid. Had she been a girl friend in this time and age, I would have dragged her out for a much-needed girl's night intervention — you are better off without him, woman!

Anyway, all I know is that I will not be opening this book again. Sorry, Mister Hawthorne.


2.   Snow Falling on Cedars by David Guterson
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This is very Inherit the Wind meets To Kill a Mockingbird.
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Snow Falling on Cedars focuses on a discriminated Japanese war-veteran, Kabuo Miyamoto, on trial for a white man's murder. The story takes place around the time after World War II, with many people feeling antagonistic towards the Japanese due to the bombing of Pearl Harbor.
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The tale also follows Ishmael Chambers, the editor of the town's newspaper, who is covering the case and dealing with his own moral struggles. Ishmael is torn between his bitterness towards Kabuo (due to both his anti-Japanese sentiment and unrequited love for Kabuo's wife, Hatsue) and his conscience as he suspects that Kabuo may be innocent.
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Truth be told, the story itself is not so bad, though maybe a little underwhelming. I think what bothered me the most was the absolute shoddy detective work done by Ishmael - which I can only describe as Sherlock Holmes on acid - and how the "mystery" of his evidence was unraveled, Scooby-Doo style, at the end of the book in front of an awestruck jury.
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What a meddling kid!

 
3.   The Turn of the Screw by Henry James
 
First: I hate the title, symbolism be damned.

Anyway, talk about a headache. The only screw this book turned loose was the one in my head. Honestly, I'm a sucker for unreliable narrators, but I was not a fan of this one. I was so annoyed by the author's writing style that I had to put the book down several times.

It sounds mildly interesting at first: a governess caring for two eerily perfect children, mysterious deaths, rumors of ghosts haunting the place, etc. I was expecting (or hoping) that it would be something like Jane Eyre, but I was so wrong. After a few pages in, it was perfectly obvious that everyone was on crack - from the governess, to the kids, to the uncle, to the staff. Everyone was clearly tripping on something but no one was sharing.

There was also a very strong vibe of predatory attraction from the governess that could be felt in her over-the-top adoration for the kid, Miles. She was really into the kid. It's weird and disturbing, but only in a flat and pointless sort-of-way. Why on earth would a young and well-to-do governess be pining for children? None of it makes much sense.

The kiddos gave infuriatingly vague dialogue throughout which the governess questioned, but never directly asked about. What sense does it make to not have children make their meaning clearer? Is it so hard for an adult to comprehend the meaning behind a kid's words? Granted, you get the impression that the governess was not the sharpest tool in the shed. She preferred to psychoanalyze the kids' brainless babble with the depth of a needlepoint rather than have any meaningful conversation with them. I have to say, for a hundred-paged book, it sure felt much longer. The ending was as unsatisfying as the rest, leaving behind more questions than answers.
 


4.    A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens
 
It was the best of times (not reading this book), it was the worst of times (reading this book).

Charles Dickens is an acquired taste. His works always takes some work getting into, but not all of them are worthwhile investments. Unfortunately, I did not love this classic as much as I had hoped to.

I am aware that given the time constraint that I had to acquaint myself with this book (about a week, with a lengthy essay due at the end), I was probably not in the best mindset to be reading a Dickens novel. I have since found that when read with patience, Dickens is quite enjoyable to read. In the light of a deadline, however, he's quite annoying.
 
Dickens loves his caricature characters. He creates tons and tons of them, squishing them all into two hundred pages with hard-to-remember names and rather insignificant little details and giving them two or three lines of dialogue in the entire book (which you will be quizzed extensively on). How the hell am I supposed to remember who little whatshisname is when was banished on page 1 and never mentioned again until his surprise reappearance on page 546? Inconceivable!

A Tale of Two Cities takes place both before and during the tumultuous era of the French Revolution. The main story revolves around the discrepancies between the French Aristocrats and the peasants and bourgeoise, the central focus being on doppelgängers Charles Darnay and Sydney Carton and their rather perplexing interest in the garden variety Lucie Manette. Her one-dimensional goodness bears zero internal conflict and is the epitome of a Mary Sue.

All in all, I think I'm willing give this book a second chance, now that I won't be reading it for schoolwork. Some books do get better as you grow older. 


5.   Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier 
 
Never again. Not only did I have to read this book, but I also had to write a twenty-page paper on it. Can you imagine writing twenty pages about a book you didn't even like? Probably wasn't my best work.
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Many may disagree with me. Hell, this book even got a movie adaptation starring Jude Law and Nicole Kidman, which earned numerous accolades - including the Academy Awards and the Golden Globe.
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Well, the movie was fine. The book is another story. Techinically speaking, Cold Mountain is a great book. It ticks off all the right boxes. It is well-researched and impeccably detailed with genuine American history; not a single detail out of place and factually neat as a pin. I am impressed with how historically accurate Frazier's work is - from the era and spatial setting, down to the little things like household items and their functions.

However, it is this same greatness that undid it for me. At times it just went on and on and on. It was a vicious cycle of plot and details - the author incorporating as much of his research into the story that it became tedious to read.

After doing a backbreaking amount of research on the book, scrutinizing every letter of every word of every line in each page for possible hidden symbolism and subtext and basically just forcing myself to read the damn thing without falling asleep, I developed an anti-Cold Mountain sentiment that I am sure will last my lifetime.
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I also found both female protagonists, Ada and Ruby, to be insufferably annoying. I feel as though I should love Ruby, as I'm all for women's empowerment and such, but I just didn't connect with her overdrawn character. And Inman, the main male protagonist, served mostly as the relationship piece for that dolt, Ada.
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I did enjoy all the picturesque imagery of the setting. I could really picture it in my head, the beauty of Cold Mountain. But then it just went on and on and on.


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Some 'honorrible' mentions:
 
As I lay Dying by William Faulkner
The Awakening by Kate Chopin
Ethan Frome by Edith Wharton (if I have to read this book one more time, somebody will die.)
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer
The Crucible and Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
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