|Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain
||[May. 31st, 2005|12:15 pm]
|||||The Mars Volta - Cassandra Geminni||]|
Bum bum bum, so at the request of a few people, I've decided to update again. A bunch of stuff has happened since last time, and I probably only remember about half of it, haha.
Like I said before, the killer class this quarter is the Organic Chemistry Lab, which pretty much consumes all the other time that I should be spending studying for other classes. Initially, I thought my lab TA this quarter(who is Russian), was a stupid douche, but he's actually turned out to be a really cool guy, and the whole class loves him. He's also a lenient grader, but that's something that we definitely deserve considering the timeslot that we have. And the other three classes, which I had been told by various people were easy classes, are.. a lot harder than expected. But I'll manage. Maybe.
Anyway, the major thing that has happened is that my parents adopted a kid. Yes, you heard right, adopted. Well.. not really, but my parents had to sign and do all the paperwork for this kid, stating that they were his legal guardians and stuff like that. Here's the backstory. Apparently, this kid's parents are in Taiwan, and since they're the owners of this fancy hotshot business or something, they claim they don't time to take care of their kid, so they sent him to America to live with people to have an opportunity at a good education. So the kid(who's named Jacky, I know, stupid name) already had people taking care of him, but the mother and Jacky told us that those people weren't very good guardians, as they never took him out to eat and stuff, made him do all the chores, and the father actually physically abused him. I think my Mom is acquaintances with one of the kid's parents, so they eventually come to offer us to take care of him, in exchange for Jacky's parents paying enough money to cover my college tuition and housing. Sounds like a great deal, so we go for it. This turned out to be a humongous mistake. See, he's around 16 years old, but his English level is around that of a Kindergartener/1st grader. He has a bunch of private tutors and a school that he goes to, and his parents keep pressuring us to help him get his English level up to the High school level so that he can go to some college. That means that we only have about 2 years before he loses his chance. The problem is, is that he's lazy as hell. He doesn't do any of his homework, nor does he study, and instead he just plays Warcraft III all day. How someone can have such a low English level but still be able to play Warcraft III is beyond me. He's almost like an IB student, except that he's not in the IB program, and is taking classes that a 3rd grader could easily pass, so he has no excuse to slack off. He also showed me his music folder once, and I saw that he only had a bunch of stupid Chinese songs, and the only American music that he had was something by Lindsay Lohan. Yuck. The main problem with the kid, though, is his personality. Initially, we only heard Jacky's side of the story about his former guardians, and we completely neglected to ask them about anything. It turns out that the kid is bipolar, and is spoiled to death due to his parents being rich bastards. So his emotions are always in a bunch, like he has PMS or something, and he's always demanding stuff like we turn on the air conditioning for him, since we're in Southern California. And then we found out that he abuses our dog. Initially, when he came over, he came over to play with our dog in the backyard every day, and we all thought, "Okay, cool, so the dog finally has some regular company." but then my Dad decided one day to observe what he was doing and saw that he was doing stuff like shoving and slamming our dog against the walls and doing all sorts of violent stuff. So pretty much after that, we've pretty much decided that we're not gonna keep him. However, we're getting good money for this, so I think we're gonna keep the bastard until the end of June. So when I went home this weekend, the entire time I was thinking, "Oh god, I'm living with a bipolar loser Asian douche who plays Warcraft III all day, what has my life become?" Thank god he'll be gone soon.
So then, fast forward to Friday the 13th of May, which was Wesley's birthday. As expected, we play a bunch of AOE this day, and we end up having trouble deciding which restaurant to eat for dinner, since the dining halls are actually serving good stuff this night. We eventually decide on a Japanese sushi restaurant in Westwood, which I think is called Tomadatchi or something. Anyway, on the way there while we're walking through Westwood, we're talking, and then all of a sudden, Aakash goes silent and freezes, turning his head to the left. I wonder what's going on, and immediately realize what it is. It's this beat-down Mexican fast-restaurant that happens to be serving cheese burritos. In other words, it's the Aakash's White Castle. So he ends up buying a bunch of burritos, and eats those instead of the sushi at the restaurant. Anyway, we find the restaurant, and go in, and order a bunch of different sushi plates, and when we get them, they're like all gone in 5 minutes. So we're like, what the hell, and we order another one, only to have it get consumed at the same rate the others did. Then we get the bill, and find out that everyone has to pay $17. Wow. Anyway, it was worth it, as it was my first time eating real sushi, and it was a lot better than I expected. After this, we go back to the floor, and decide to play some Poker. Since it's Wesley's birthday, I decide that I have to play as stupidly as possible, and purposely lose to Wesley so that he can take my chips and win the Poker game, since it's his birthday, after all. So all throughout the game, I am raising and going all in on hands that patients at the ICU ward wouldn't go in with. And for some reason, I'm winning. Eventually, Wesley goes all in with a fairly sizable stack pre-flop, and I look at my hand. A 3, 4 offsuit. That is probably the 2nd worst hand in Poker, so I call his all-in, and grin, congratulating myself on a job well done. The flop and river come up, and I end up getting a pair of 4's, but no problem, he must have something much better to have gone all-in. Wesley turns over his hand, and he has.. the only hand in the game that's worse than mine, a 2, 3 offsuit. Jesus. So I end up taking Wesley out of the game, and I feel guilty about it for the rest of the game, since I was supposed to let Birthday boy win. Anyway, I end up eliminating three people from the game, which is a record for me, but I lose eventually after my playing style of stupidity catches up to me.
Then the next day, May 14, is Fire & Ice, the formal dance, or as everyone else called it, the dormal. Since we're all just freshmen, and not seniors, I end up wearing some piece of crap formal shirt and some black pants, nothing special. Anyway, so a few hours before the dance, Wesley calls me and asks me to join the AOE game that just got created. So wow, imagine this, playing computer games before a dance. Priceless. After dinner, I get to his room, and Prashant and the others decide to have a couple of drinks before going to the dance. The logic in that still escapes me, as you would think that you'd get drunk after, but okay. Wesley had vowed to get drunk on his birthday, but didn't, so he decided to make up for it today, so we go in to Prashant's room. Prashant has some 99 proof alcohol, and our drinks are prepared by mixing it with some orange juice. Since this is my first time seriously drinking something(I had before with German beer, but it doesn't really count), I drank really, really slowly, finishing the first full cup in about 15 minutes. I'm such a scaredy cat. It tastes just fine, and leaves this weird warm sensation in my stomach, but no drastic personality changes, lol. So I end up drinking a full cup, but Wesley only drinks 1/3 of one, which is weaksauce, but he would eventually make up for it later. Mendez, Prashant, and David are insane, though, as they end up each having like 4 shots each. Now, some people, when drunk, experience strange changes in their personality, and end up doing funny(dancing on a table, singing along to mushy girly pop, making fun of everyone in sight) and stupid(listening to FM radio, hitting on friends, watching Oprah) stuff. For Prashant, Mendez, and David, though, they experienced no personality change, but what happened was that they become like 5 times louder. And let's assume, that most of the time, they will say 60% of what comes to their mind, and decide not to say the 40%, but with the alcohol.. they said 140%. I know, that makes no mathematical sense, but yeah. Anyway, Linda then arrives, and I note that she looks like Princess Zelda, except without the blonde hair. With everyone assembled, we then take the group pictures, which takes a few attempts because of the drunken ones. I also noticed that most people in our group wore blue, which is cool, since it fits the Ice part of the theme, but where was the fire? Lol. Eventually, we arrive, and I immediately note that it's waaaay too dark. See, one of the best parts about going to a formal dance is recognizing people you know and seeing how awesome or ridiculous they look in their formal outfits. But it was pretty much completely dark on the dance floor, and there were no lights or candles outside where the tables were either. So basically, the only light that's provided is the flash of camera lights as people take pictures. As expected, the DJ there really sucks, as I don't think he even plays one noteworthy song for the whole night. Anyway, at one point on the dance floor, Wesley gets bored, so he goes over to the walls and takes out one of the balloon clusters that was glued there for decoration. It consists of four balloons all attached to one center point, and he goes to me, and says, "Hey, guess what this is? Tetrahedral!" and of course, I laugh, but I'm also hitting myself in the head for the nerdiness of it all. Mendez eventually gets word of this, and frustrated by the fact that we're talking Chemistry at a dance, he takes the balloon cluster and bites into it, popping one of the balloons. Wesley then takes it, and says, "Trigonal planar!" At this point, Mendez then just takes it and tosses it into the crowd. Lol. So our night is pretty much dictated by Linda, who literally drags us on and off the dance floor depending on what song comes up, haha. At one point, that awful "Hey Mickey" song comes up, and I'm trying to remember that stupid cheerleading routine for it in the video, but Linda seems to know it, along with all the words, so I just copy what she does. Then comes Hollaback Girl, and immediately I say, "No nonono there's no way I'm dancing to this, I'm absolutely not, I refuse to support Gwe.. OKAY FINE" after they keep nudging me to keep on, so I then just look at Matsumoto and copy what he does. Lol. Next comes a Justin Timberlake song, and immediately Linda groans, and goes "Okay, we're definitely not dancing to this, so let's go." and leads everyone out, and I am thinking "Thank god someone agreed with me here." But then, just as quickly, a sappy Backstreet Boys song comes on, and immediately Linda squeals and brings us all back. So I go:
"You can't be serious. You love the Backstreet Boys, but hate Timberlake?"
Linda: "Yeah, N'Sync sucks, the Backstreet Boys are soooo much better."
Me: "Oh god. You know that they're all the same, right? They are not even musicians, they're just all corporate sponsored karaoke champions that want your money. Don't give in to their brainwashing!"
Linda: "But, but... they're gooooood! And they're better than N'Sync!"
Mendez: "Yeah, that's like saying you made a movie that's better than Lizzie McGuire. It means nothing."
Linda: "But, but, but..."
And this goes on for like 10 minutes. Lol.
Anyway, a bunch of the guys leave the dance early to play Basketball.. while drunk. Me, Mendez, Linda, and Wesley eventually leave, and as we're heading out, we go to the balcony, look down, and oh my god, see someone down there that is none other than Luis Ching. What the hell's he doing here? So we go down there and talk to him, and apparently, he came with Angie, and is now just resting downstairs. And all the while, he's talking with Mendez and Wesley about basketball and Diablo II. Hahah, great to see him just like his old self. Anyway, we went back to the dorms, and expecting some more alcohol for the afterparty, we were sorely disappointed to see that it had all been consumed :(. So for the next hour or so, we sorta just loiter around in the hall, all tired, and for some reason, we end up getting into a huge conversation about IB, the nerdiness of it all, and the weird teachers that we had in high school(and there were many). Lol. So, pictures of this event are available on my Yahoo photos account, but Linda and Jinfae's journals have a bunch of pictures too.
So then two days after this was Monday, which was the More Friends concert for Final Fantasy at Universal Studios. Since I didn't have the convenience of having my Dad provide the ride like last year's Dear Friends, me, Ben, and Wes had to take a series of buses to get there. So then we arrive at Universal Studios, and since we have no car, we have to walk there. It's around 7-ish at this time, and we're all getting hungry, and none of us has eaten dinner. Immediately we notice that we have to ascend a huge hill to get to the park, so I then notice the brilliant psychology behind it all. They make all their visitors climb up the huge hill to get them all tired, and once they're in, what's the first thing that they see? BAM, a steak house that also happens to serve shrimp. Luckily, though, we resisted against the corporate propaganda and pushed through. So anyway, fast forward to the concert. The concert hall used this year was decent, but it was nowhere near as awesome as last year's newly built Walt Disney Concert Hall, which provided superior acoustics and sound quality. We take a look at the people around us, and notice that there are actually some cosplayers. There was one person dressed up as a Black Mage, and I noted a few White Mages as well. Me and Wesley also noted that a lot of guys brought dates here, so they were all wearing formal clothing and stuff, like they were going to the prom. I guess going to an orchestral concert is a great date location, haha. So the first half proceeds, and most of it is stuff from 20020220, except for two songs, the "Opening: Bombing Mission" piece from FFVII, which is nicely done, although I think the orchestra was kinda choppy on some parts. The other new piece from the first half is "Swing de Chocobo" of FFX, and it brings a huge audience reaction due to the video monitors showing footage of Chocobos starting from FFII to the newest one. It's interesting to note that for FFII-V, there was mainly laughter in the audience from the really primitive graphics, but starting from VI, the laughter turned into cheers and applause, reaching its peak at the FFXI footage. We also noticed the appearance of an awesome instrument on "Don't Be Afraid" of FFVIII: the carpetroller. The name is self explanatory. This is quite simply all sorts of awesome packed into one instrument. Oh yeah, there were a bunch of technical difficulties in the first half, that would also persist into the rest of the concert. For some reason, on the first song, the speaker from the back kept making this popping noise, getting progressively louder until it honestly sounded like a firecracker going off. Luckily, they fixed this quickly. A lot of the mic's kept getting cut off, specifically the conductors and the MC(who was the same as last year, James Arnold Taylor), and the guys who were operating the spotlight were atrocious, as numerous times they would shine the spotlight on the stagehands, or it would just totally be off cue. Anyway, so the second half begins, and this is where things truly get interesting. The Black Mages come onto stage, and kick it off with "The Rocking Grounds". This was one of the best tracks on the new album, and including it in this concert was a great decision. I do notice, though, that the sound isn't really mixed well, either that, or the concert hall isn't sufficient enough. The lead guitar is way too loud, the drums are mixed in perfectly, but the keyboard and bass guitar are buried too far in the mix. Which is weird, considering that Uematsu is the keyboardist, you'd expect they'd make him the strongest in the mix. Then comes "Maybe I'm A Lion", of FFVIII, which is a piece that I never really liked, but the version of it on the album has one mindblowing part that gets me every time: the insane keyboard solo. Uematsu pulls it off without fail, and although it isn't mixed correctly, it doesn't disappoint. The keyboard solo is probably the part in their performance that got the most audience reaction, haha. So anyway, they finish, and the third phase of the concert begins. Rikki then appears on stage in a cute little kimono, and the orchestra proceeds to play Suteki Da Ne, of FFX. Just like in 20020220, Rikki's performance is rather strained, as she can't seem to hit a lot of the high notes in the song(and there are plenty). Not to mention that at one point, the camera totally zoomed in on her and focused on her when her singing part ended, while the orchestra took over. I mean, god, when the singing is done, and the orchestra starts up again, you'd think that they'd focus in on the orchestra, but nope. Rikki looked really, really nervous throughout the entire performance, but yeah, gotta give her points for effort. One thing that I've always noted is that Suteki Da Ne doesn't really work well as an orchestral piece; the original version of it with the regular band is just fine, and the orchestral version lacks a lot of the punch that the original provides. So then her song ends, and she goes offstage, and Emiko Shiratori appears onstage, and proceeds to do "Melodies of Life" of FFIX with the orchestra. Now, Melodies of Life is my favorite vocal piece for a Final Fantasy, but like Suteki Da Ne, it's another one of those songs that works better with a regular band than with an orchestra. Shiratori does not disappointment, as she doesn't look nervous at all, and pretty much executes the song flawlessly, and me and Wes also noted that she improved her English quite a bit, haha. Ok, so before I go on to the next section, I should make note of the merchandise being sold at the concert. They were selling More Friends shirts for $20, program booklets for $25, and two CD's for I forgot how much. Our group only buys the shirts, as seriously, $25 for the program is just ridiculous. So since we didn't buy the program, none of us have any idea what songs are gonna be played. So the next one is the biggest surprise of all for me. So James Arnold Taylor comes on stage, and says "Well, we've covered orchestral, rock, and pop tonight. What haven't we done yet? Oh yes! A night at the opera!" At this point, my brain explodes, as I suddenly think that they are going to play Bohemian Rhapsody, which would be totally awesome, if not unfitting, but I suddenly regain my senses as I see three people sharply dressed heading to the orchestra, and the MC then announces that the next piece is gonna be The Opera Scene, "Maria & Draco", which is basically the Overture + Aria de Mezzo Carotene of FFVI. I think when I first heard him say that, I said "oh my god" like 20 times. For those of you that don't know, the FFVI Opera Scene has only been redone twice, once on the Grand Finale album, which just had a small part of it, Aria de Mezzo Carotene in Italian, which while well done, doesn't do enough, and the other being the one performed on one of those Japanese orchestral video game performance CDs(I forgot which one), which is performed in Japanese, which while is also very good, doesn't have a good vocalist for Maria's part. So anyway, the three vocalists come up, and I note that the girl doing Maria's part is a very hot blonde, haha, which is very fitting. The orchestra then launches into it, and wow, this is probably the most alluring 13 minutes ever. They used the English lyrics for this, and all three vocalists were perfect and right on target. The orchestra didn't miss a beat, and just the experience of hearing this piece live basically made the night for me. This would probably be the best song of the night, if it weren't for the next one. So The Opera finishes, and I probably give my longest standing ovation ever. Uematsu then comes on stage, for more applause, and he gives his speech about the concert and his work. One thing that I noticed about More Friends was that Uematsu was a lot more subdued this time around. One of the best moments last year that totally made Dear Friends was how spirited Uematsu was, leading the audience in a cheer and making fun of the hot translator girl. This time, though, Uematsu didn't do the whole cheer thing, and we had a different translator, who wasn't hot, and had a heavy accent(the one last year spoke perfect English). I dunno, I guess he's tired or something, lol. Anyway, he finishes his speech, and then the translator asks, "Since we have time for one last song that we can do for you tonight, we'll let you decide. Will it be rock, or orchestral?" And of course, the audience goes wild at this moment, shouting all sorts of stuff, but predictably, she then answers, "Well, according to my ears, 50% of you guys said rock, and the other 50% said orchestral. So why don't we just do both?" The choir then begins to gather at the side of the orchestral pit, along with the Black Mages getting their equipment up on stage. They then start the song, but get off to a weird false start, upon which they play The Three Stooges theme. Haha. They try the song again, and get off to another two false starts, and I'm really not sure if this is deliberate or not(the false starts), but one thing that is definitely apparent is that the Black Mages' sound equipment isn't working. So Uematsu sprints offstage, followed by laughter from the audience and a bunch of funny comments. I think one person in the audience even yells, "I want to have your baby!" Anyway, after a few minutes, I guess Uematsu fixes up the sound problem, and they start the song. It is none other than One Winged Angel, of FFVII, and oh my god, it is all sorts of awesome. Actually, the way they played it was more like 90% orchestra, 10% rock band, but hearing the piece played in this way just upped its kickassness level to heights I never thought possible. They even added a guitar solo, followed by a drum solo into the song, which was awesome. The only problem, which was the same problem that occured with all other versions of One Winged Angel played before, is that the choir is drowned out like mad. See, before, the choir would get drowned out quite a bit from the orchestra, but this time, you have the orchestra, plus the rock band, so at times, the choir would be completely inaudible. But besides from that, the last two pieces are absolutely the highlights of the concert, and are what made it worth the money. So that was the end of it, and the audience gave another huge standing ovation to this, probably bigger than the last one. All in all, I would say that the setlist for More Friends was a lot better than Dear Friends, the performances were about the same, but the technical difficulties and the choice of concert hall were kinda bad, lol. After this, we go back, and note that our bus is gonna arrive really soon, so we sprint down the long hill, and make it to the busstop, at THE VERY LAST SECOND. I mean, seriously, we're looking at the streetlight, and we notice our bus inching closer and closer, and the light turns yellow at exactly the right time, allowing us to make it across the crosswalk. We would later find out that not buying the CDs that they were selling there was a good decision, as they didn't contain the orchestral recordings of the songs, but rather, the original game samples.
Fast-forwarding again, the 24th was the Super Smash Brothers Melee tournament. The rules were that it would be teams of 2 versus another team of 2, stock 5, with friendly fire on, items on, and all stages available. Which is kinda BS, since there's definitely some stages that should be banned in tournament play(like Flatzone). Anyway, so we found out about the tournament a few weeks before it started, so we trained like crazy. Me and Mendez were planning on being a team, since we're basically considered to be the two best players in our group, and of course, Mendez would use Falco, and I had basically narrowed down my choice character to be either Marth or Peach, leaning more towards Peach because I end up damaging my own teammate a lot with Marth, because of the huge range. Eventually, though, I found out that the tournament was on a Tuesday night, which is exactly when I have Organic Chemistry Lab.. so I couldn't go, which sucks. So Mendez and Aakash became a team, with Aakash using Fox, effectively making them Team Starfox, and Wesley and Wenbo would go as a team too, with Wes using Jigglypuff and Wenbo using Link. Now, since I've seen a lot of tournament videos in the past, I expected pretty much everyone in this tournament to be using Fox, Zelda/Sheik, Captain Falcon, Marth, and Dr. Mario, since there's a lot of pro gamers here at UCLA, and most of the people that are really good at SSBM use those characters. Instead, though, it was like girl power all night. There were a lot of Marths and Foxes like I expected, but they were basically all C-stickers, but everyone who used Peach and Zelda/Sheik that night was really good, which was cool, since a lot of people tend to overlook Peach. So Mendez and Aakash managed to make it into the finals, but they got defeated by a Sheik/Peach team. Anyway, good job guys, and I look forward to the one next year, if we're still playing the game by then(and we probably will, lol).
That'll be it for now, as it's time for me to do some more studying. Good luck on finals, everyone!