Posts tagged ‘pirates’

What’s In a Screen Name?

I’m not sure if it’s because I’m fascinated with words that I am a writer, or whether it’s because I’m a writer because I’m fascinated with words, but both are definitely true for me. After mentioning my name in my last post, and searching for something to write about today over the course of a weekend where my brain was nearly non-functional, I decided to veer off-topic to explain the origins of the screen name attached to this blog, as well as most of my web-based ventures. Truthfully the story’s not quite as interesting as I’d like, but I do think it will tell you a little about me and hopefully that’s interesting enough.


And if Kiera Knightly is one of them...well, let's just say it's a pirate's life for me.

Clearly there are many benefits to a life of piracy...

Like most good things, this tale starts with a simple, seemingly random statement: I like pirates.


Since I presumably already have your attention I’m going to take this chance to clarify something. Pirates are often thought of or remembered for their infamous acts of villainy and selfishness. However, like many historical and cultural tropes, pirates have more than one significance as a symbol. For example; knights are known as valiant, heroic figures upholding virtue and chivalry, yet they also committed vile acts in the name of a righteous cause during the crusades.


So when I create a pirate persona (admittedly a flimsy one, but the cause for concern remains) on the internet, I don’t want people to have the wrong impression of what I stand for. Sure pirates were murderers, rapists and thieves, but they could also be cunning rogues fighting or defending against corruption or even just overly ambitious fortune hunters with a morally ambiguous compass. A lot of people like the image of pirates as awesomely cutthroat villains living by a code of honor among thieves, emptying their pockets of gold to fill their bellies with rum. While I do enjoy these depictions in stories, I have a very particular take on what makes pirates great.


Still, these monsters are nothing compared to some of the weird stuff the Japanese have thought up and marketed in various animes over the years.

The very fact that actual maps of the time depicted seas monsters among the oceanic paths that captains might sail is a testament to the sense of wonder that still prevailed.

For one, I must admit, I simply like the pirate aesthetic. This includes not only a world full of crews traveling wherever the winds and their captain dictate as a rag-tag, makeshift family but also the sense of adventure that accompanies the idea of a world that’s not yet fully explored. Who knows what awaits the crew the next time they weigh anchor? Naval combat, flamboyantly dressed rogues and a lifestyle where anyone could become rich if they dare brave the ocean and the perils native to any unknown shores…it’s a very entertaining, albeit certainly romanticized concept for me.


But then comes the main reason I like pirates. When I think of pirates, I feel like there are two major branches of defining characteristics (with definite room for overlap) that define their image. The first is one I’ve already discussed briefly; the rum-soaked and ruthless pirates who will do anything for treasure and revenge. The second is the one I identify with, however, sailors seeking to strike out on their own and live a life free of the expectations and grind of society. I’m talking about the adventurers, one who may not even expect to become fabulously wealthy, famous or powerful, just people who don’t quite fit in with society and go to live on the sea where the only rules are their own. People seeking real freedom, freedom to simply live life however they want.


Pirates of the Spanish Main - Sample Contents of a Pack

Set sail for cardboard island, so we may plunder its vast wealth of plastic doubloons!

There’s one other, much more specific aspect of pirates that I really enjoy, and that does legitimately factor in to my lengthy, circuitous story, and that thing is the constructible strategy game that was once their namesake, before they slightly rebranded the game.


If you’ve never played or heard of Pirates of the Spanish Main (later known as Pirates of the Cursed Seas), then I’m sorry to say you’re missing out. This game was the best, and if you happen to live near a Target or Wal-Mart that isn’t in reasonable commuting distance to where I live, you stand a pretty good shot of being able to pick some up in hefty quantities for cheap.


Basically it was a tabletop game of naval combat strategy, exploration and treasure hording. The pieces come in game packs similar to booster packs for other card games, but you punch out the plastic pieces and get to build really awesome looking tiny boat models with which you also play the game. It’s pretty amazing and you should seriously check it out if you can.


Pirates of the Spanish Main Online - Sample Screenshot

In addition to providing a consistent, cheap supply of the notorious "blue screen of death", Sony's pirates online came fully loaded with a library of generic piratey phrases like "ramming speed" and an arsenal of naval combat sound effects.

Back during the game’s heyday I was big into the game, despite having few people to play with, luckily the game grew popular enough to launch an online client for playing the game, and though it was buggy beyond reason and frequently crashed my computer, few things have made me as happy as Sony’s Pirates Online. Between strategy discussions, rules questions and bug reports, I had a presence on at least three major PotSM-based forums at that time.


Of course to access such things you need to have an account and an online handle. Early on I ported over a generic screen name I used in high school and for one of my earliest e-mail accounts, but it just didn’t feel right. I had pirate fever (cabin fever if you prefer, or are a big Henson/Muppet Treasure Island fan) and I wanted something that represented my love of both the pirates and the game.


One day while browsing the forums I came across a discussion of actual, historical pirates of note, and actually misread someone’s comment regarding Vasco Da Gama as referring to Vasco Da Gamer. At first I felt silly, but then I felt AWESOME! Not only did this name encompass my love of pirates and gaming, but also incorporated a witty pseudo-pun. It was everything I could hope for from a screen name.


Sure it may not be the most exciting story in the world, but I do think it gives me an excuse to answer an unasked question, as well as to talk about pirates on a day when I can’t wrap my head around very much of anything productive.


Feel free to share stories about the origins of your own screen names in the comments below.



For the latest news about the Cove and my various personal projects, be sure to follow me on Twitter @VascoDaGamer (of course)


Dragon Ball Z Kai – The Adaptation Anomaly


So as it turns out, despite having the notes for the update I had planned for today, my ability to focus is drastically undermined by the crash I’m experiencing from an abundance of productivity over the course of this week. As a result, I’m going to go off topic again to discuss something I find both strange and intriguing.


Come to think of it, a lot of DBZ's villains parallel Superman's in some way. I smell an international lawsuit!

Man, if you thought the origin story of Superman was weird, wait until you get a load of Japan's take on it.

Dragon Ball Z Kai.


Now for anyone who’s not a member of my generation, I’m going to start by trying to explain vaguely what Dragon Ball Z is. Woof, this is going to be tough.


Well Dragon Ball Z is an anime from the late 80’s that was dubbed into English and became popular here in America during the 90’s. I’d venture a guess that it caught on to main stream American culture more than nearly any other anime. This guess is based largely on the percentage of strangers I’ve talker to who are familiar with the series to some degree, but all things considered it seems like a reasonable test.


Anyway, the story of Dragon Ball Z picks up where another anime, Dragon Ball Left off. Dragon Ball was largely an action-adventure anime with some strong martial arts influences. It was the story of an unusual boy (with a tail) who was found by a farmer Clark Kent-style and raised by him. After his caretaker’s mysterious death, he’s found by someone hunting for Dragon Balls, magical spheres that can grant you one wish from a dragon if you gather all seven of them together.


The one constant about Dragon Ball Z villains is that they're gross-looking and you're glad they're not real.

Alien, robot or alien-robot? You decide!

Dragon Ball Z itself focuses much less on the Dragon Balls and more about the characters. The protagonist from the last series (named Goku) discovers that the reason he had a tail was because he’s actually an alien. Goku discovers ways to tap into his alien heritage to increase the arbitrary number (called a power level) that determines how intimidating you are to boastful villains. With some minor help from friends he gathered along the journey of the first series, as well as a villain who eventually discovers a heart of…silver maybe, Goku defends the Earth against aliens and robots.


So for anyone who tried to watch this series as episodes were being released, you’re probably familiar with perhaps the most annoying feature of this anime. The incessant stalling. You know how on reality shows like American Idol there are results shows that drag on and on, stretching one fact you want to learn into a painful hour of television? Yeah, Dragon Ball Z invented that. I distinctly remember a part of the story where Goku was supposed to show up and help his friends not die at the hands of an alien tyrant and his army and someone stating “he’ll be here in five minutes”. It took him no less than three episodes to arrive. Maybe now you’ll look at Ryan Seacrest in a new light…nah, who am I kidding?


However, within the last few years, whoever is in charge of Dragon Ball Z had a very interesting idea. They re-edited and re-released the series under the name Dragon Ball Z Kai. You’re probably wondering, “What changed when they edited it?”. To be honest? Almost nothing.


I hope you like shirtless, grunting men, because that took up a ton of time before Kai happened.

There's an old joke that goes, "How many Dragon Ball Z characters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "Just one, but it will take them five episodes".

Let me clarify, the story doesn’t seem to be altered in any significant way, but they cut out all of the unnecessary stalling bits so now the show is almost pure action, excitement and story.


It’s a really interesting idea, and I wonder if it will ever have any merit for American television. I mean, they already have recut versions of movies here in America. Seriously, how many distinct versions of Blade Runner are there?


Since I’m already in tangent town, I’ll say what I’m really thinking about the concept of “Kai” editing. I would like to ask my hero, Eiichiro Oda, to consider releasing such an edit for one of my all-time favorite shows, One Piece.


Great, now I have to explain One Piece…no, you know what, explaining One Piece is super easy. One Piece is about pirates who have super powers. They’re mostly all trying to procure money and/or fame, some by finding the deceased king of pirates’ hidden treasure, but honestly pirates with super powers is the gist of what you need to know.


Honestly, I’ve never seen a TV show on this epic scale. Eiichiro Oda has created an actual entire world populated by unique islands, cultures, technologies…it’s almost like he traveled to another world, came back and made an anime based on his notes. It’s preposterously immersive.


Not to mention the fact that One Piece has some of the most creative uses of super powers I've ever seen.

If the idea of "pirates with super powers" doesn't make you at least vaguely interested in watching a show, then you and I probably won't be very good friends.

Now that I’ve penned a few verses for my love song about One Piece, it’s time to tie up this mess of an entry. You see, I had the good fortune of getting into One Piece on the ground floor. I was a Shonen Jump subscriber and read the manga (aka Japanese comic book/graphic novel) on which the show is based as it was first being translated into English. Because I love the show so much, I’ve often tried to get my friends interested, but I’m usually met with some resistance.


I can understand why, even setting aside the fact that to be current on the show you’ll have to watch in Japanese with subtitles, which can get tiring even for people who can deal with subtitles, there’s the issue of length. As of this writing, there are 537 episodes of One Piece. Assuming an average runtime of 22 minutes, that’s almost 197 hours of that show, which has just passed a self-imposed halfway mark.


As much as I love One Piece, I have to admit that there’s an awful lot of filler, recap, clipshows and just generally unnecessary material along the ride through its 537 and counting episodes. Someday I think it will be best for everyone if we trimmed some of the fat and made this great series more streamlined and accessible for the masses.


Then I can finally make my friends understand all of my obscure references! Nah, who am I kidding?