O Sister! My Sister

Sibling rivalry is a foreign concept to me.

do have a sibling, an older sister, but we’ve never been rivals. Psh, we’ve been the opposite of rivals.

She’s my best friend. No contest.

My sister and I

Her name is Alya (pronounced uh-LEE-uh), and she is about two years older than me. She doesn’t look it, and she sure doesn’t always act like it. She’s more carefree than me. Where I’m the slow, methodical, and stodgy one, she’s the buoyant, spirited, and adventurous one.

Despite our difference, we’ve always been close. We never really had friends when we were little kids, so our go-to person for fun and excitement was each other. Alya was always the “idea” person. She still is, come to think of it. I’m never bored when I’m hanging out with her because she’s always ready with a potential plan for the day. It’s as if her default setting is to be as enthusiastic as possible.

We went to San Francisco about a year ago in order to see Hamilton. It was hella awesome. (You can strike me down for using the word “hella,” if you want to.) But even though this trip involved seeing Lin-Manuel Miranda’s masterpiece of a musical, my favorite part out of the week-long trip was the drizzling morning I spent exploring the city with my sister.

We had breakfast at a diner that served fairly adequate breakfast food, and then we made our way to a coffee shop for some darkly-brewed goodness. (Alya would have gotten herself lost if it hadn’t been for me and my impeccable sense of direction.) Then we went to a furniture store and ogled at all the modern concepts for home decorating. After that, we pranced our way through the misting rain to the Disney Store, where I shamefully got suckered in to buying two Star Wars action figures (K-2SO and Poe Dameron). No matter where we went, we had a blast simply because we were in each other’s company.

Alya shopping

From a very young age, Alya was an artistic soul. Her preschool drawings put my current attempts at sketching to shame. (I stick to adult coloring books now.) Her creativity knows no bounds. She’s an artist in her thoughts and in her actions.

Because of this, I think, she can be wonderfully messy at times. I know this is an artist stereotype, but hey, these things become stereotypes for a reason. Back when we shared a room together, I’d have to slog through piles of her dirty clothing to reach the closet. Now that we’re no longer living together, I kind of miss the mess.

Alya painting

When Alya was in middle school, she suffered the cruel abuses that stupid classmates decided to shoot her way. These prepubescent girls thought it was the height of cool to make fun of my sister for her roller backpack or for the baggy shorts our mother would sometimes make us wear. (Alya and I distastefully called these shorts that reached to our knees and bulged out at the hips the “Puffy Shorts.”) They would laugh at Alya as she passed them by and they would kick her backpack, leaving dusty footprints on the surface.

Girls can be utter dicks sometimes.

She never told me what she went through until we were both out of high school. I don’t think she wanted to appear weak to me. Or unhappy.

But trust my sister to turn the situation around. Almost as soon as she entered high school, she just…blossomed. There’s no other word for it. Her self-confidence skyrocketed. With some amazing inner strength, she bolstered her spirits and disdained to even think about the kind of girls who would make fun of someone else because of their clothes or their backpack.

Honestly, because of this, my sister became the most beautiful girl at school. Seriously. She was/is gorgeous. She grew into the envy of all because she became this pillar of self-esteem.

Alya and I as kids

Alya is the one person who I entrust with the entirety of my being. I can be a flawed human being around her, and she can be her messed-up self as well. We can be goofy, serious, sad, relaxed, excited, scared, enraged, or content around each other, and it will always be a blast.

She’s the one person I miss constantly when she’s not near me. I can tell her anything and expect absolutely no judgment (okay, well, maybe some judgment, but it’s an acceptable level). Plus, it’s impossible to lie to her because she knows me so well.

Her happiness gives me happiness, and I’m certain she feels the same way about me. There’s so much comfort knowing that someone cares about you that much, knowing that someone will always believe in you even when you don’t believe in yourself.

So sibling rivalry? Impossible for me and Alya. How can I be rivals with someone who only wants the best for me?

 

Give Me Some of That Sweet Couch Co-op

I miss couch co-op games.

For those of you who don’t know what a couch co-op game is, let me explain. A couch co-op game is a video game that two friends can play amiably together (cooperatively, get it?) while sitting side by side on a couch. Well, theoretically sitting on a couch. Most of the “couch” co-op games I’ve played with my friends, I’ve played while sitting criss-cross applesauce on the floor.

Saying that developers no longer make good couch co-op games has become a fairly common complaint these days. “Where are the couch co-op games? No one makes them anymore.” Let’s get one thing straight: couch co-op hasn’t vanished off the face of the earth. There are still oldies but goodies lying around. And let’s not forget the indie games that occasionally pop out from the woodwork and can tide us over until a better triple-A title comes along.

My all-time favorite couch co-op games are as follows:

  • Gears of War
  • Super Mario Bros. Wii
  • Battleblock Theater

I don’t mean to leave online multiplayer games out in the cold. Anyone who knows me knows that I adore Halo more than Romeo adored Juliet (hell, a lot more). But this is about couch co-op. I’ll write about Halo and my love of it some other time. (And when I do, it’ll be extensive.)

Playing some video games

My sister was given a copy of Super Mario Bros. Wii when she first got her Wii. We played that game religiously, only stopping until we had every golden coin from every world, including that insane 9th one. We became experts at that game. My sister was so pro. I think her favorite level was the one where Mario and friends can ride a skeleton roller coaster over spurting fountains of lava. She loved picking people up and throwing them off into the fiery abyss.

Battleblock Theater was recommended to me, and it was such a zany experience that I never regretted purchasing it. (Actually, it was a free game of the month, but you know what I mean.) Working together actually mattered in Battleblock Theater, which is what allowed it to carve out a spot in my gaming heart.

I was introduced to Gears of War by a friend of mine. We were ecstatic about playing Gears of War 4. In fact, we were so excited that we decided to make a huge deal about playing it the night it came out. The day it released, after we had purchased the game, we rushed to Wal-Mart and bought frosted animal crackers, Flaming Hot Cheetos, and glass-bottled (as opposed to plastic-bottled) Coca-Cola. Then we rushed back to his house, all aglow with our enthusiasm to play the game.

Innocent (and slightly stupid) souls that we were, we forgot about the downloading time that all new games take when you first insert the disc into your console. We spent two hours waiting for Gears of War 4 to fully load, sadly stuffing our faces with chips and cookies while we stared at the loading bar inch towards completion.

Those were good times.

I guess what I’m actually trying to say is I miss the couch co-op experience itself.

It’s not the gaming industry’s fault; it’s mine.

As I’ve gotten older, my supply of call-able friends has dwindled. (And I was never swimming in friends to begin with because I have the social grace of a flatulent elephant.) Nowadays, there are two people I could readily call up to come on over and play a game with me (a video game, not a Saw game).

I used to think that losing your friends when you grow up was a myth adults made up to try and convince you to not succumb to inevitable peer pressure. But holy shit, they were kind of right. Unless you make a giant, concerted effort, you lose touch with all those awesome high school friends you held so dear.

And honestly, I didn’t try hard enough to keep them.

What this means for my gaming is that I’ve had to rely on single-player experiences. I’ve replayed so many single-player video games, it almost (but not quite) compares to how often I reread favorite books. After playing Bioshock for the umpteenth time, I have a deeper appreciation for couch co-op. (Not that there’s anything wrong with Bioshock; that game is a goddamned masterpiece.)

So the final bit of wisdom (from my supremely unwise mind) that I’d like to offer to whoever is reading this is to hold onto your friends (if they’re good ones) and to play those couch co-op games with them as if there was no tomorrow. Because you never know. Couches may cease to exist in the near future.

Black Panther: “Wakanda Forever” For Real

I recently saw Black Panther in theaters, so I thought to myself, ‘Why not make a blog-post-thing about it, Amanda?’ There’s no reason for me not to, right? (Right?)

I saw the movie waaaaaay later than I normally would. When a super hero movie comes out, I usually try to see the premiere. A premiere in my small town is basically just a seven o’clock showing in the evening with a longer line. However, when Black Panther came out, I was pet-sitting for my sister, so I could not abandon her gorgeous menagerie to see the first showing. And then further postponements occurred, and I saw it about two weeks after it originally came out.

Oh, well.

Anyways, I’m a huge comic book fan. I loved comic books before the movies made them successful. Even so, I have to admit that I’m suffering from slight Superhero Fatigue. There is no shortage of superhero content to dunk yourself into; a year can’t go by without a superhero getting their own movie. I love superheroes more than the average person, but there’s no denying that our summer movie selection is being dominated by them.

All I’m saying is that if you’re going to give me two superhero films a year, you should at least make them stand out from each other. I mean, Doctor Strange was basically Iron Man with magic. Come on, movie dudes. You’re not even trying.

Black Panther has answered my prayers. It was good. I’m officially jumping on the band wagon.

It felt so different from other Marvel superhero movies. Instead of watching a hapless man-child stumble his way to hero-dom by haltingly learning to use his powers for good, we got to see a man (a man man) settle the mantle of responsibility onto his shoulders in an ethical and reasonable manner. (Shout-out to all Halo fans who may be reading this.)

Prince T’Challa may have been following the same story path as Thor did in Thor, but T’Challa handled his rise to power with much more aplomb and grace than Thor. (For one thing, he wasn’t a whiny Norse god with an inflated ego.)

Every actor in that movie played their roles to perfection. My favorite characters were Shuri, T’Challa’s younger sister, and Erik Killmonger, the villain of the story. Shuri was a delight every time she was on the screen. I nearly split the seams of my stomach trying to hold in my laughter when she called Black Panther’s shoes his “sneakers.” (I have an obnoxiously loud laugh; I wanted to be kind to other moviegoers.)

And Killmonger was great! For having not that much screen time, he made his presence felt for even the shortest of moments. Michael B. Jordan played the abandoned prodigal son so well, I felt like I’d received a kick to my emotional lady balls. Hit me right in the feels, I’m telling you.

Let’s not forget the music! It’s been far too long since a movie’s soundtrack has caught my ear and it wasn’t made by John Williams, Hans Zimmer, or Michael Giacchino. Killmonger’s theme was really identifiable, but in my opinion, the best piece comes out during T’Challa’s visit to the ancestral plane, when he sees his father again. Whatever that track is called (I actually think it might be called “Ancestral Plane”), it’s a superb bit of music. Strings play a melody that is fit for the king T’Challa is.

SPOILER ALERT.

The movie ends happily, with T’Challa deciding to reverse Wakanda’s foriegn policy decisions of the past. Instead of remaining isolated in all of their glorious self-suffiiciency, Wakanda will now walk the path of gracious aid and attempt to help those who cannot help themselves.

It’s an extremely positive message of hope to the world. I left the theater felling buoyant as hell. A friend of mine was quick to point out, however, that if you really think about it, the ending to the movie is incredibly tragic.

“Why? I just saw an incredibly happy ending.”

“But it’s not real,” he told me. “There is no hidden technologically-advanced country in Africa that will rise up and help people.”

And he’s right. There is no Wakanda that is going to assist the beleaguered, downtrodden, and mistreated African-Americans of this, or any other, nation to rise above whatever horrible situations they find themselves in. Black Panther paints a beautiful picture of a hopeful future, but it’s based on the past creation of an imaginary place.

I think it’s important to remember that effort needs to go into making that future a reality. We shouldn’t just congratulate ourselves that a movie like this got made; we should focus on actually following the Golden Rule of treating other people how we would like to be treated ourselves, not just in words, but in thoughts and actions as well.

If you haven’t seen Black Panther yet, I highly recommend it.

The Most Wonderful Bird in the World

Froley is currently waddling on the newspaper I have surrounding his cage. He pecks at minuscule crumbs that I can’t see and makes contented little chirps every so often, which serve to let me know that the coast is clear and no predators are currently stalking the living room. His feet make actual pitter-patter noises. Seriously, you haven’t heard a pitter or a patter until you’ve heard a cockatiel’s footsteps.

Froley, as you might have expertly sussed out, is my pet cockatiel. He’s a Normal Grey, which some snobby people consider to be the plebeians of cockatiels, but screw that. I’ll have you know that Froley is quite attractive. His face is the nice yellow of legal pads, and his cheeks are the bright red-orange of Pikachu’s cheek pouches. Here is a picture of Froley’s handsomeness.

Froley on the couch

Gorgeous, isn’t he?

Like all cockatiels, he has a crest that rises and falls depending on his mood. The more alarmed he is, the higher it goes and the skinnier he gets. A relaxed Froley has a relaxed crest.

He’s like a weird mix of a human infant and an elderly man. He needs constant attention and he is really set in his ways. Seriously, he needs a keen eye monitoring him because if you’re not watching his every move he will a) eat something he is not supposed to, b) tear apart the book you have lying around, or c) poop somewhere he wasn’t meant to poop.

He has temper tantrums. If he’s not in the mood to be handled, he’ll open his beak threateningly, prepared to nip at my proffered finger. He’s bitten me before, but he’s never drawn blood. (Because he is a darling angel.)

If his mood swings aren’t enough, I also have to maintain his cage and his food to perfection. He likes to make a mess of his pellets, so in order to counteract this habit, I crush his pellets so he is more inclined to just eat them. He also enjoys it when I rotate his toys out, so he has new, pretty things to look at within his home.

He also can’t control when and where he poops. I always have to be on the alert. I can’t even count the times I’ve sat down on a little homemade Froley surprise. Honestly, bird poop doesn’t even faze me anymore.

Froley on my computer chair

Did I mention that he likes to masturbate on an open hand? Put your palm up, fingers spread wide, and he’ll fly right over and start doing his business. Afterwards, he flies off and leaves you to stare at your hand in a well-what-now kind of way.

I titled this piece “The Most Wonderful Bird in the World,” right?

When I wake Froley up in the morning (after he’s done his humongous Morning Poop), he likes to whistle little tunes in my ear. If he spent the night next to my bed, he’ll hop over from his bedtime cage onto my pillow as soon as the sun’s up, climb his way onto my shoulder, and then take a second nap with me as I try to catch up on lost sleep. When he’s ready to wake up for reals, he’ll slide down next to my face and try to preen my eyelashes.

He likes to look at himself in mirrors. When I do my morning ablutions, he sings to himself and to me.

He misses me when I’m gone. He’ll chirp wildly in a panic when he notices me getting ready to leave the house, until I call out to him, telling him that it’s okay and I’ll be right back. And when I open the front door again, he screeches with joy at my return.

He likes being hand-fed certain vegetables. His favorite is Romaine Lettuce. He’ll make little warbles of happiness while he eats if I call him a “pretty bird” encouragingly.

I could go on and on about him.

Bottom line?

Froley is the most wonderful bird in the world. He is my soul pet. When he sidles close to my cheek and rests his head there, not so subtly telling me he wants me to scratch his head, I sometimes pause and reflect on how lucky I am to have such a pet. There is so much trust between Froley and me; I forget how astonishing it is to have a bird feel secure enough in your company that he allows you to encircle his fragile, little head within your hand as you cuddle with him just the way he likes. My reflections end as soon as he gets annoyed that I’m not giving him an adequate amount of attention. I return to cuddling him, saying, “Good bird,” all the while praising the stars that he’s alive, and I’m alive, and we’re together.

 

 

One of THOSE People

I have a healthy dose of self-consciousness coursing through the neural networks of my brain. Or maybe it’s an unhealthy amount. Who knows. But it’s that hyper-awareness of how my actions will be perceived by others that has always stopped me from doing something like this.

A blog.

Ugh.

It sounds so pretentious, doesn’t it? I don’t want to be associated with the stereotyped lifestyle of a “blogger.” (Good God, just typing that makes me want to shudder.) I don’t want people to think that I won’t be able to stop talking about what I’m currently writing. I don’t want people to think that I’m going to be obsessed with turning every single experience into a blog post. I don’t want people to think I’m a self-absorbed bitch who is only concerned about “putting my thoughts out there.”

But, as a good friend told me (yes, Andreya, that friend is you), I can’t let the spark die just because of what I think people might think about what I’m thinking. And by “spark,” she means my love of writing.

I love writing.

I love everything about it, from the physical actions of writing things down with a pen or hearing the clickety-clack of a keyboard to the mental actions of outlining plots and revising messy paragraphs. I freaking love it more than anything. (Well, anything within reason. I obviously love my family more than I love a pen scratching notes down on a piece of paper.)

So I am going to do this blog-thing (and I’m going to try to stop wincing every time I say, write, or think the word “blog”) and I’m going to like it. Why? Because I love writing and keeping this blog-thing going (shudder, wince, cringe) will help me get my writing out and about. Kind of. Sort of. Maybe. Hopefully.