Monday, April 11, 2011

A Couple Of Drops For The Bucket List

I've started to feel a little older recently. More mature, more like an adult. And it's not just this random stiffness in my neck that's the cause of it (seriously, what the hell did I do to myself?). I think what I'm mostly feeling is the sense of accomplishment that comes with setting my mind to larger projects, and learning to enjoy the process of getting better at something over time.

To that end, I recently had a few thoughts about some new things I'd like to learn to do (or simply 'do') at some point in my life. Some sooner rather than later, others I'm fine doing while I'm struggling with incontinence in a nursing home in 50 years.

If you know me or have read this blog regularly for a while, you'll probably be surprised to discover I don't have an actual bucket list (meanwhile, my list of video games "to play" grows ever longer), but I've definitely got things in mind. While I've mostly given up on the idea of learning another language (I'm learning more and more every day how much I haven't actually mastered this language yet), and a musical instrument seems sadly unlikely (the stage is my instrument!). But I do have some other things on there that are mostly out of my element that plan on devoting some time to doing at some point.

What are they, you ask? Well, ok, calm down, I was just going to tell you:

Matt Shafeek's Bucket List Additions
(To A Thus-Far-Unwritten Bucket List)

#1: Learn To Dance

So, I don't know if you guys saw this video I posted after my PAX trip a few posts back...

...but I really can't dance. At all, like, not even that well in front of a video game begging me to do simple gestures that are easy enough for an infant to follow.

Let me tell you a story - every now and again my improv team Phooka will come out on stage to the theme from the Mortal Kombat movie. Maybe you've heard it? If you've heard a techno song, you've heard it. Anyways, every now and again, when the mood strikes me (and my teammates don't seem like they hate me at the moment), I'll run around the stage, bouncing around like a kid on crack, flailing my arms and legs around wildy, punching and kicking the air right inside my friends' comfort zones. I'll "throw" a spear out like my favorite character Scorpion would, and pull someone towards me, finishing my opponent/weary-eyed Phooka member with a vicious uppercut as I turn to the audience and finally take our teams suggestion.

I feel more comfortable engaging in this wholly embarrassing display of free movement than I do anywhere on the dance floor. You see, most of the dancing I did through the age of 22 or so was a bit. If I was on the dance floor dancing in any way, it was to make fun at how bad of a dancer I was (or, conversely, how silly I thought the idea of anyone dancing to the music was, which was admittedly a little hard to distinguish from the other bit). I probably got a few laughs doing it, but you know, in hindsight, I wished I just earnestly sucked for a few of those years so I'd have some modicum of skill now. Story of my life!

Anyways, I don't really have a particular dance in mind, but since I already don't speak Spanish, I'd love to not completely abandon any pretenses of my Puerto Rican heritage, and at least learn the basics of how to move my hips and my legs in unison in a non-sarcastic or embarrassing manner.

#2: Build Something Cool From Scratch

I can't wait to put my dirty laundry in here.
I recently discovered that I do this thing whenever someone's doing anything labor-intensive. I slowly begin to gesture like I'm going to help them, hoping that by the time I seem committed to help, they'll A) have already finished the job B) tell me "they got it," or C) get my help with less than 10% of the work left to be done, but still give me the obligatory thanks for it.

Turns out, this was a classic good news/bad news scenario. It did lead to a lifetime of "whew, lucked out!" moments where I didn't have to lift a finger, but conversely, I never learned to do anything with my hands that didn't involve a controller or a keyboard. I'm sure I've told this story on here before, but I got to college lacking a fair amount of basic knowledge, and during my junior year of college I spent easily five to ten minutes trying to figure out how a can opener worked.

So - I'd love to have at least one project in my life that doesn't come out of an Ikea box that I accomplish entirely on my own. I was inspired by this Zelda-themed treasure chest that true to my nature, would be be of little practice use, but would be absolutely adorable to have around. Besides, it's already motivated me more than any shelf, desk, or soap box derby racer ever has.

This is the kind of project I literally can't ever picture myself doing. Which is exactly why I have to do it, right? But I'm sure it'd be immensely satisfying once it was done. More satisfying, I dare say, than scoring 50 achievement points for popping 5 headshots in a row with my sniper rifle in Halo. Though not nearly as addictive, I'm sure.

Anyways, expects hundreds of facebook and twitter updates whenever I do get around to doing this.

#3: Create An Original Game

"You guys: this game is the shit. For reals." - a 9 word review by Matt Shafeek
This one sounds obvious, right? I mean, I love games so much, so clearly this must have always been my dream. Actually, that's totally wrong, and now I bet you're wondering if you ever even knew me at all, huh?

I've never thought about specifically making a brand new game up from scratch, which is what I'm saying here. The story, the rules, the mechanics, the art style, etc. And after several embarrassing displays in computer science classes and one failed C++ certification later has been enough to tell me I'm not going to be programming an actual video game anytime soon. Instead I turn to board games - which, holy shit, if you haven't played one in a while, have come a llooooonnnggg way since I was a kid.

I've mentioned some somewhat traditional games in the past, but some of the stuff I've played in the past year or so kind of blow my mind. A B-movie zombies versus the townsfolk game, where some players play as the heroes, and some get to play as the zombies? A totally-true to the series "are my fellow players Cylons or Humans" Battlestar Gallactica game? A game about building a FARM?!? Ok, I shouldn't have closed with that one. But it's really fun, trust me.

There's a whole new world of amazing games out there, and honestly, there really isn't any excuse to at least come up with a bare-bones template for something if I really put my mind to it. So that's what I'm going to do. I've played hundreds of different games in my life. Surely I must have some idea what makes for a fun game, right? Yeah, definitely! This one's gonna be easy! Should I have even put this on my bucket list? I'll just make it up right now...

Ok I've got it: A game about coming up with ideas for a game! Someone else go first!


Well, that's all for now. Also I totally want to learn to do some video-editing, but I don't have anything particularly interesting to say about it, so I'll leave it at that. Now when to get started on these? Well, I spent all this time writing about them tonight, so clearly not now. And tomorrow's too soon. Plus I've got a thing. Soon, though. Totally soon.


Tuesday, April 5, 2011


"Hey, so, why don't we grab a drink tomorrow night?"

The words had come perilously close to leaving Eric Dunn’s mouth. The lovesick near-suitor didn't quite have the courage to ask out Deidre Hines from apartment 6C, but he was nothing if not well-intentioned.

The conversation had started off pretty well this time. He had segued smoothly from a brief conversation about their respective days, a conversation they'd had in the hallway outside their apartments many times before. Dee (as she liked to be called) was flipping through her mail while they talked, and Eric could sense the conversation was coming to a close, but an offhand line about some upcoming St. Patrick's Day festivities seemed like the perfect opportunity. Unfortunately, instead of saying what he thought he wanted to say, his brain opted for a much safer choice:

“Yeah, heh, it’s too bad, really. I’m actually allergic to green beer. Ugh, if only they’d dye it orange, you know, then I'd be all set!”

Deidre gave Eric an adorable little smirk, added a “you’re funny,” then wished Eric good night as she turned her back and closed the door to her apartment.

Though he had failed, Eric was still mostly happy with how things went. He did make her laugh! Or, at least, he got her to tell him he was funny, which was probably just as good. In hindsight, he figured he probably should have said “purple” beer instead of orange, that would have been funnier. In any event, he'd definitely get it right next time.

Eric was all about practice. Or rehearsals. Or 'attempts', as he’d ultimately label each one. This past encounter was, in fact, Eric’s 27th attempt to ask Dee out. Not every attempt was made in front of her. Most of them weren’t, but regardless of the scenario, she always remained in the dark.

The prior failed attempt, #26, came just two nights earlier, when he noticed her at their local ABC store. After mentally preparing himself for forty five seconds in the chips aisle, he briefly focused all his intentions on a bag of Bugles and delivered what would hopefully still sound like an improvised speech about her 'needing to stop stalking him all the time,' and how 'if she really wanted to hang out, they should just grab a drink sometime.' It was always so easy to script what ought to be said. He approached her wearing a mask of confidence and called her name out from a few feet away so as not to startle her, something he noticed she was particularly susceptible to.

When she turned around to greet him, he noticed her hands doing their best to obscure the box of tampons she had just picked up. Shit. Suddenly his intentions seemed inappropriate. They were in public, she clearly hasn't expected to see anyone - though, even without makeup and wearing an oversized New Jersey Devils sweatshirt, he thought she looked as cute as ever. Calling a last minute audible, he told her he had to run but he was sure he'd see her soon back at their building. He plunged his sweaty hands into his sweatshirt pockets and thanked God he didn’t have to go through with it. He was also thankful that he wasn't there long enough to comment on the fact that his mother used the same brand.

Attempts #18, and #19 were made in the presence of close friend and confidante Emil, who at the time was being less than helpful to Eric:

"Ok, I'll be this girl. Ask me like you wanna ask her." Emil said, turning his back and immediately getting into character.

"No, come on. This is stupid." Eric protested. He was generally up for something like this, but right then he wanted serious advice.

"Hmm? Oh, hi Eric!" Emil said, in a voice 4 octaves higher than usual, "what's stupid?"

Eric grumbled, "Fine. Hi Dee. I was gonna go grab something from that new fish taco place on Center Street, do you wanna come?"

Emil demurely balled his fists and put them together, as he liked to imagine all woman doing when being asked such an emotionally-charged question, "oh - uh, I dunno, is this like, a date? Teehee!"

Eric then leaned back and crossed his arms, "Ugh, she's not gonna say she?"

Emil slapped Eric across the face, shouting: "Who is she?!? Is that another woman!??!?! The date's off!!"

Eric assumed Emil would be taking all of this more seriously if Emil had any clue whatsoever what it was like to be single. Emil was currently married to his high school sweetheart, and hadn't had to deal with any uncertainty with women, or his woman at least, ever. Or so Eric assumed.

"Do yourself a favor," Emil finally said, after a hearty laugh and a large gulp of his beer, "and just get it over with already. No one girl is worth this much preparation."

"What about your wife?" Eric quickly responded.

"You know man, I asked Stacey out just before going outside to smoke pot by the bleachers with the guys. She means the world to me now, but if she had said 'no' back then? I dunno, I would have found the next pretty girl and seen what she had to say. You can't let any one girl dominate your mind like this so soon. There'll be plenty of time for that later."

Eric nodded his head in agreement, while his mind remained stubbornly on course.

Emil then decided to close out his performance. Pressing his hands against his chest, he whimpered: "Eric, baby, I have some bad news. I lost my boobs in a boating accident. Do you still like meeeeeeeee??"

His 5th, 9th, 11th, 16th and 25th time asking her out were done mentally at various times during his commute to and from his job. She appeared in his daydreams frequently, often bringing him back down to earth (relatively speaking) after a brief fantasy about flying through the streets as 'Nic Drune,' a superhero with a name based on an anagram from when he was 11, when he first learned about anagrams ('Nice Nurd' was also discovered, and quickly rejected). Drune had natural super speed, strength and the ability to, if needed, teleport, which Eric decided would always come at a cost - a full day of his life, to make the decision to use this power have a price.

Eric would often imagine Dee witnessing the impossibly handsome Nic performing a heroic feat, or perhaps herself being saved from a tragic fate, and afterward being so impressed that she couldn't help but run up to him to give him a kiss right on the mouth (there was also an X-rated version of this fantasy that you will be spared the details of). It was then that the mighty hero would scoop her up into his arms and tell her not to make any plans for Saturday night, double checking that she still liked Indian food, which was information gathered by his alter-ego.

Nic Drune never had to worry about being rejected, because the idea that he even could be rejected was ridiculous.

The very first time Eric asked Deidre out (but really didn't) was ostensibly no different than the other times, save perhaps for the free space in his mind. During their second meeting in January, he held the door open for nearly 20 seconds while she slowly made her way up the path into their building. She was on the phone at the time, but her smile and "thanks," - said in a quick breath between lines about repaying a loan and a friend who "should never have trusted Clarissa in the first place" - made it entirely worthwhile.

Moments later, in the elevator up to the 6th floor, Eric found himself standing directly across from what currently qualified as the love of his life. Dee briefly made eye contact with him as she listened to her friend expressing a very long-winded opinion. At that moment, she rolled her eyes at her phone, which Eric found incredibly endearing. Her friend was totally boring! He decided to agree with this sentiment immediately, flapping his fingers near his face while mouthing "blah blah blah" over and over. Deidre giggled, and Eric's heart soared.

Right then, because he could, because he feared he might never get to say it for real to her or to any other women this beautiful, and because in his head this seemed like the most logical thing to do at the moment, he changed the words he was mouthing to a much more specific:


He nearly closed this silent statement with "elephant shoes," but he quickly realized that was way too risky, and obvious. Besides, even he knew it was too early for elephant shoes.

Dee responded by putting two fingers to her head and pulling an imaginary trigger.

Eric blinked twice.

Realizing that responding with anything less than a smile would be crazy, he then upped the ante and rounded out the bit by reacting horrified to the imaginary brain matter all over his body. As he picked off an unlikely piece of medulla oblongata from his shirt, they reached their floor and Eric let Deidre get a few steps ahead so he could hear just a little more of her conversation without coming off as a stalker. He was rewarded with the discovery that she was never eating Korean barbecue ever again.

Eric slowly made his way into his apartment. He turned on the lights, dropped off his bag, and went into the bathroom, where he spent the next five minutes slowly replaying and perfecting his favorite parts of the elevator exchange in front of the mirror.

He'd definitely get it right next time.