Wednesday, September 30, 2009

No post this week

No post this week, my loyal readers. The Missus just had our second child last night, and I don't have the time right now to write anything amusing.

Perhaps next week will I will have something for you.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Savant so good

When you look at a DVD collection as extensive as my own, you can’t help but notice patterns and trends here and there. For example, you’ll notice that my comic book movie section (yes, I categorize my movies by genre, and yes I have enough movies based on comic books to make a whole subgenre) has a whole lot of Incredible Hulk movies. You’ll also notice that I like Star Trek enough to own the complete series of TOS, TNG, DS9, all six original series movies, and all four Next Generation movies, but not enough to own Voyager or Enterprise on DVD.

Just because I’m a rabid Star Trek geek doesn’t mean I lack standards, for goodness sake.

If you turn your attention to my TV on DVD collection, you’ll notice another trend: I have a thing for savants. Especially dysfunctional savants. Monk, The Pretender, House, Nero Wolfe, Due South—my DVD collection is loaded up with people who have borderline superpowers when it comes to perception and intelligence. But that superpower never comes without a price, and that’s where the dysfunctional part comes in.

Adrian Monk is nearly crippled by OCD. Gregory House is literally crippled, as well as emotionally detached from everyone. Nero Wolfe is a voluntary agoraphobe. Jarod is trying to recapture a stolen childhood, and Constable Benton Frasier is Canadian.

The protagonists of these shows are virtually incapable of functioning in normal society. So they function abnormally, and society has to deal with them. Some make it easy on society, like Constable Frasier. Others make it harder, like Gregory House. The unifying theme is that they’re so good at what they do that society bends around them.

This is, I think, power fantasy for nerds and geeks alike. When a person usually thinks of power fantasies, they look at anime like DragonBall Z, in which steroid-addled monkey-men turn bright yellow and kill everything in a three mile radius except the one thing they were trying to kill in the first place. But power fantasies are not the exclusive domain of pre-teen boys without strong father figures. They’re for everybody, but everyone’s is different.

Nerds and geeks share at least one thing in common, and that’s practicality. Sure, it would be nice to be able to throw planet-destroying fireballs that fail to kill your enemies, but honestly how much would you be able to use such a skill in a given week? On the other hand, you can be smart all day long. So when you speak of geek/nerd power fantasies, you have to think of Henry Kissinger and remember that Knowledge is Power. That’s why heroes like Jarod appeal to us. He’s like a superhero, but his power is that he reads really fast. If that were the power granted to an X-man, Stan Lee himself would appear in his introductory issue (Ultimate X-Men #426: Enter THE READER!) to kill him on the splash page, because it’s really lame to draw someone who’s good at studying.

If you’re a geek or a nerd, your supreme career goal is to be so good at your job that you don’t have to be pretend to like your coworkers. Admit it. That’s why so many of you go into IT. You’re already good at it, and everyone else stinks at it. You don’t have to be nice to that idiot who disabled the firewall so he could send an executable file to himself and left the door open for the server to get crashed by a DNS worm.

Look at him, sitting there. He doesn’t even know what he did wrong.


So we really get into characters like Dr. House, who never met a person he couldn’t insult, or Nero Wolfe, who can berate high ranking public officials for interrupting him while he tends his orchids. These are men who are so good at what they do that they get to make up their own rules.

The most interesting part is that the thing that makes each of these geek heroes a social misfit is the very thing that makes them effective. That’s something that is never explicitly acknowledged by the writers, and is frequently misunderstood by the other characters inhabiting their worlds.

House’s coworkers are constantly haranguing him to be nicer, to be more humane, more normal. The thing they don’t realize is the thing that makes House is so insufferable is also what makes him so effective. If he were to become more like Wilson or, heaven forbid, Cameron then he would cease to be House, and he wouldn’t be able to separate himself from his patients enough to make the kinds of decisions that save their lives. It’s a game for him because he couldn’t win if it weren’t.

Likewise with Nero Wolfe. He never leaves his house, or at least very rarely, and when he does he makes a point of making sure everything is as he wants it. Why is that? Because his brain is a precision machine working at a very high speed. A little friction and the thought process flies apart.

And consider Monk, who is perhaps the best example of this phenomenon. He catches criminals that nobody else could catch because he is so anal retentive that little, niggling details that nobody else even sees stand out to him like seven foot tall talking bananas would stand out if ever such a horrifying thing existed.

So getting back to our IT professionals, the thing that makes them socially awkward is the very thing that makes them good at their jobs: If they had friends they wouldn’t be so good at fixing computers.

By the way, I don’t mean to pick on IT guys. I’m just trying to pick a real world example that jibes best with this superhero-by-way-of-knowledge motif that I’m discussing. And make no mistake about it: The kinds of things IT guys do strike awe into the hearts of people who are paying attention. It’s just that not enough people pay attention, and a whole generation of people have grown up not having to know what “10 HOME” means because Bill Gates and Steve Jobs have turned computers into something that any nitwit with a few hundred dollars can use.

At least, they can use it until their first BSOD, at which point they probably buy a new computer.


Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Don't beat the bell curve, join it.

I have a confession to make.

I hate Mega Man.

There, I’ve said it. There’s no taking it back. I hate Mega Man. I hate his little 3-credit-card jumps (a term coined by my father, to describe the height to which he could be expected to jump: Three stacked credit cards). I hate the fact that he has to tackle enemies in a specific order, but they don’t tell you which order. I hate that death sends you all the way back to the start.

I’m also none too fond of Warcraft 3. I hate the fact that they spend the first few levels teaching you how to build bases and develop resources, and then send you out into the world with a scout, a tank and an archer and tell you to kill everyone else on the map.

Devil May Cry 4? Bleugh. Why does the main character carry a nerf gun around to do battle with mystical demon hordes? Honestly, the game should have been called “Devil May Shoot, but it won’t do a damn bit of good.”

And don’t get me started on The Sims. Oh, Mr. Wright, may I please have a game where I have to tell my character to pee, make him wash his hands, and also spend 75% of the time waiting for him to finish working or sleeping so I can interact with him? Why yes, yes I can. But why would I? Why would anyone?

What do these games have in common? Four words, or at least three words but one of them comes up twice: Ten out of Ten.

Game scores don’t get much love, and there is some merit to the hate. Every video gamer brings a unique perspective, a unique set of experiences that frame his or her gaming experience and affect how that reviewer views a given game. How do you legitimately take all that emotional baggage and boil it down to a fraction of ten?

Well, if you’re Eidos, you buy large amounts of ad space and make the reviewer give you the score you want. But what about everyone else?

It’s preposterous, really. You can’t take something as subjective as personal opinion and convert it to something as unforgiving and objective as math. It’s like if someone asks you how you’re doing and you answer “3.”

Nonetheless, review scores are very useful tools if you understand how to interpret them. The thing to remember is that you need to calibrate the scale in such a way that you understand what a given number means to you, personally.

Take me, for example. When I see a game review with a score between nine and ten (out of ten), I realize that I’m probably not going to like that game. It took a lot of years, and a lot of wasted money, but I finally figured that out when Warcraft 3 came out. I had played other RTS games at that point, and I wasn’t overly fond of any of them. But the reviews surrounding Warcraft 3 made me wonder if there was something about this game that was different from those other ones.

So I bought it. Then I played it. And then I uninstalled it. Then I tried to trade it in at Gamestop, only to find they weren’t accepting PC games anymore. Then I gave it to a friend. He hasn’t emailed me in a while. I hope he doesn’t hate me now.

To me, a ten-out-of-ten review score means “People who are not you will like this. Move along.”

There are exceptions, of course. I played the heck out of Fallout 3, for example. And I found Bioshock as fun and interesting as other people said I would. But a good 90% of games that earn 90% or better are games that I just don’t like. You might think that makes me some kind of jaded, impossible to please jerk; the sort of guy who goes to an All You Can Eat Buffet and complains about the size of the plates. But such is not the case. I’m actually very easy to please from a video game perspective. All I really want is to blow stuff up for points.

Consider five of my most favorite games from the last ten years:
Mercenaries 2 (PS3)
Spiderman 2 (PS2)
Chile Con Carnage (PSP)
God Hand (PS2)
Gungrave: Overdose (PS2).
What we see from that list, other than the fact that I’m an insufferable Sony fanboy, is that none of those games broke the 7 out of 10 mark (NOTE: I’m using gamespot’s scale here). Or, if they did, only barely. None of them approached eight out of ten. I could list another dozen games that I played the heck out of that got mediocre reviews at best. I can count on one hand the number of critically acclaimed blockbusters that I got more enjoyment than annoyance out of.

The term I like to apply to myself is “B-minus gamer.” I like games that would earn a C or a B-minus if they were graded on a letter scale instead of a numeric scale. Just like my weather, I prefer my game review scores in the mid sixties to low seventies.

This has upsides and downsides. On the downside, I miss out on a lot of the New Hotness, because whatever game has people soiling themselves is a game that I know I probably won’t like. Occasionally a high-rated title will catch my fancy, and I’ll make sure I do a whole lot of research before plunking down any money. Fortunately, there are great forum sites like Gamers with Jobs where I can get multiple perspectives and temper the hype a bit. I bought Sins of a Solar Empire primarily because the GWJ podcast crew spent something like two solid months raving about the game in the “Games You Can Play Right Now” segment of the podcast (and Mr. Borges, if you’re reading this, you are the filthiest enabler of them all when it comes to this one) and I have been very happy with the purchase, even if I haven’t yet summoned the courage to try a solo comp-stomp against the AI set above Average. (My failure to engage in battle against other humans has more to do with my schedule than fear. I’m simply not available to play when other people I’d be interested in playing with are. And now that the Entrenchment expansion has dropped, I’ll never get to a point where I could be competitive anyway)

Likewise, I bought Plants Versus Zombies for the same reason. As someone who likes tower defense games, but only the simple ones, PvZ scratches an itch that games like Desktop Tower Defense (INSERT LINK HERE) only sort of scratch. Desktop tower defense is too easy for me on easy, and not easy enough on medium. PvZ is just right. Plus, there’s nut bowling.

The upside of being a B-minus gamer is the fact that I get a lot of value for my gaming dollar. Every game I’ve bought that was rated between six and seven has seen more play than all of the 9-out-of-10 games I’ve ever played combined (with the possible exception of Fallout 3, which is obscenely large.) I played Gungrave: Overdose from start to finish six times in a row before I started thinking about playing other games again. And I didn’t even use the alternate characters. I beat God Hand twice in one day, and only stopped playing it the third time through because I had to eat and go to work.

And the thing is that 6-out-of-10 games are cheap, because they see price drops way before 9-out-of-10 games do. Ratchet And Clank, Tools of Destruction was still an unconscionable $60 on Amazon in December 2008, yet when I played it and beat it I couldn’t trade it in fast enough. I spent a good seventy percent of that game just being annoyed at it, and I only beat it because I kept waiting for it to get as good as everyone told me it would get. What did I get? A freaking (SPOILER ALERT!) cliffhanger!

Meanwhile, I just got Ghostbusters and Call of Juarez: Bound In Blood for only about $20 more than it would cost to get Ratchet and Clank brand new, and I’ll probably enjoy them more than I enjoyed R&C:ToD.

In fact, I’ll go you one better. I got more fun out of playing the Iron Man movie tie-in than I did playing R&C:ToD, and I’m not ashamed to admit it. Ripping the turrets off of tanks, then flying up into the air to catch incoming missiles and throw them at helicopters never, ever gets old. Even if Robert Downey Junior delivers his lines like he’s reading a phone book.

In addition to the value, there is a lot more selection out there if you actually prefer games that rank between six and seven on the ten point scale. There are only a dozen 9-and-up titles per year, but the market is saturated with average games. If you can enjoy a moderately well done licensed game (like Ghost Rider on the PSP), or a workmanlike beat-em-up (Like Vikings on the PS3 or Xbox360) then you have a whole lot of games to choose from.

I’m not sure why the B-minus games fit me so well. It might be that I can’t stand hype. Maybe it’s because the flaws in B-minus games are more thoroughly examined in the text of the reviews than the highly rated ones. For example, the stability issues present Knights of the Old Republic were barely touched upon in all the glowing reviews I read, yet the game ran so poorly on my computer (which I bought almost a year after the game was initially released, and met the tech requirements) that I was able to convince Best Buy to give me a refund for an open PC game. True story.

How a game that runs like a slide show on a PC that’s newer than the game due to known driver issues that the developer failed to fix in the gold edition of the game can get as high a score as KOTOR did, I have absolutely no clue. If the game had rated more poorly, perhaps someone would have discussed the horrible stability and bugginess of the game. But even the folks at (warning: NSFW) congratulated Bioware on making the first Star Wars game since Tie Fighter that didn’t stink.

Incidentally, I’m running Sins of a Solar Empire on the PC that KOTOR wouldn’t run on, and it runs smooth as glass even when the fleets of ships start exploding and my Novalith Cannons start demolishing enemy homeworlds.

But I digress. Another possibility for why I prefer B-minus games is fact that my expectations for B-minus games are lower. Instead of being disappointed because that “perfect” game wasn’t so perfect, I end up being pleasantly surprised by the little game that could. There’s a lot to be said for reducing your expectations.

This is not the same as lowering your standards, by the way. Lowering your standards means you can’t tell the difference between filet minon and a pile of fresh monkey poop. Reducing your expectations just means you aren’t disappointed when you specifically order fresh monkey poop and fail to get filet minon by mistake. It’s the same principle behind enjoying Michael Bay movies. I can still enjoy something by Alfred Hitchcock, but the fact that I don’t expect Michael Bay to be Alfred Hitchcock means I can walk out of Transformers completely satisfied with the experience.

At any rate, that’s how I game. Give me something that critics think is average at best, and I’ll be happy as a pig in excrement. But once you start telling me a game is the greatest thing since silicon wafers, and I’ll probably just go back to playing Chile Con Carnage

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Paul Blart Deserves Your Respect

The action movie is something if a dying art these days. The golden era of one man in the wrong place at the wrong time taking out an army of terrorists using only his wits and the environment is largely a relic of the 1980s. Today’s action movies tend to fall into two categories: Espionage thriller and superhero movie.

The espionage thriller has your Jason Bournes, your James Bonds, and your Vantage Points. Typically the hero is someone who spends the first part of the story thinking he’s working for the good guys, then changing his mind and dealing with the repercussions.

The superhero movies are self explanatory, but this is a blog and I’ve got to fill pixels dadgummit! Your typical superhero movie is an origin retelling, a reboot, or a thoroughly disappointing conclusion to a trilogy. (If Disney buying Marvel means they could go back and make Spiderman 3 not suck, I’d be all for it.) These can be good movies, but they are not pure action movies in the Chuck Norris/Arnold Schwarzenegger/Bruce Willis mold.

Oh, sure, we occasionally get a video game movie which comes close to being a real action movie; Max Payne springs to mind; but frankly I find it hard to take anything seriously if it contains Marky Mark AND Mila Kunis above the title on the marquis. Ms. Kunis has her charms, but whoever made the decision to cast her as Mona Sax when Andrea Parker is out stalking the wild needs to have his head examined by a proctologist. He can go right after whatever nitwit decided to make such a gritty, noir inspired game into a movie rated PG.

But for the most part, the action movie is gone. There is hope, however, and it came from an unexpected place: Great Britain. The wheels for this started turning back in the wee years of the 21st century, when Simon Pegg got together with some friends and produced Shawn of the Dead. Speaking as someone who doesn’t even like zombie movies, I have to say I enjoyed the heck out of that one. But that’s not an action movie, so why bring it up? Well, because a few years after Shawn killed zombies by throwing LP record albums at them, Simon Pegg returned with the same team to do for action movies what Shawn of the Dead did for zombie movies: Hot Fuzz.

Hot Fuzz was not as well received as Shawn of the Dead. The most frequent complaint was that it wasn’t spoof-y enough, and that by the end it turned into your typical action movie shootout. I was puzzled by this response. After all, Shawn of the Dead eventually devolved into your standard Zombie movie just in time for the climactic battle. But then I realized that the critics don’t actually like action movies, and the underlying fault they found with Hot Fuzz was that it wasn’t mean enough in poking fun at the genre. The problem was, at the end of the day, that the movie was a loving spoof. Just like Shawn of the Dead was a loving spoof. Action movies deserve scorn, and Hot Fuzz didn’t scorn them. For those of us who love the action movie, though, Hot Fuzz was a breath of fresh air.

And now we end the history lesson five hundred and sixty four words in. But as a dear friend of my father once said, it’s important you should know these things. And yes, I did actually count the words.

Kevin James has carried on the torch lit by Simon Pegg with Hot Fuzz. He co-wrote and starred in an underappreciated gem of a movie called Paul Blart: Mall Cop. The story is pure 1980’s action movie: Dedicated mall security guard (excuse me, security officer) winds up the only free denizen of a mall taken hostage by a well armed and well prepared band of thugs on Black Friday. He has only his wits, his knowledge of the mall, and his Segway to fight back with. The odds are stacked against him, and he very nearly skips the scene undetected, except that the woman he’s harboring a major crush on is among the hostages.

Now, every great action hero must have a liability that will nearly cost him victory and must be overcome. McClane was barefoot in a glass tower. Dalton had a checkered past that would come back to haunt him. Riggs was suicidal and unstable.

Blart is hypoglycemic, which means he has to keep his blood sugar up or he passes out.

This is where the comedy comes in, and some of it doesn’t work so well. The most notable example is an embarrassing scene in which Paul Blart gets his clock cleaned by a gargantuan woman in a Victoria’s Secret store. But such painful moments are few, which is a blessing given the recent trend in “sucks to be you” comedy wherein an otherwise likable character is humiliated repeatedly to the amusement of mean people in the audience.

For the most part, however, the comedy fires on all cylinders. Physical comedy is hard to do well, and Kevin James is very good at it. Much sport is made of his stature, but like another brilliant, heavyset film comedian, he is surprisingly agile and light on his feet. I don’t, however, envy him the bruises he must have gone home with every day, as he clearly did a number of his own stunts.

The setting also provides much of the humor. While malls are no stranger to action movies (let’s not forget that nearly every movie Arnold Schwarzenegger ever made has at least one scene where a mall gets trashed) Kevin James was able to wring a lot of comedy out of setting an action movie in one. The scene where Paul Blart emerges from a ball pit like Martin Sheen in Apocalypse Now alone is worth the price of admission.

As I mentioned, the story is pure action hero fare. One man against an army who’s better equipped, better prepared, and quite frankly in better shape than he is. But in the end, a cool head and an intricate knowledge of the terrain defeat youth and skill. Once the fat jokes have all been spent, and the Segway ceases to be an object of ridicule and morphs into an implement of justice, all that remains is the action movie. Our hero crawls through ventilation ducts, uses toy robots from The Sharper Image to misdirect his foes, and eventually blows up an entire Rainforest CafĂ© (after a brilliant homage to Predator) in his efforts to take out the bad guys and rescue the woman of his dreams.

But will he succeed? Will he stop the bad guys and get the girl?

Well I’m sure as heck not going to tell you. Go watch the movie. It’s only $5 at blockbuster, and most of you have Netflix accounts already. Put it in your queue. You won’t regret it.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

I'm not in love with Joss Whedon, but I do want to have his babies

I feel I would somehow be remiss in maintaining a blog about geekly pleasures if I did not take the time to say a few words of sickening praise for Joss Whedon.

Joss Whedon is the man behind such television phenomenon as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly and, more recently, the Dollhouse.

I haven't seen the Dollhouse, so for all I know Mr. Whedon has lost his touch. But I just got done watching the commentary for Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Weblog on DVD (It's ten bucks, people. A trip to Starbucks costs more than that.) so I'll assume he hasn't.

I will admit, however, that Buffy the Vampire Slayer never grabbed me. I've seen a few episodes here and there, and while the charms of Ms. Gellar are not completely wasted upon me (though I do wish she'd eat something, for goodness sake) I wasn't able to get into it. This is not a knock on the show-- I can most assuredly respect anyone so praised for his dialog that goes ahead and makes an episode where absolutely nobody talks. And anyway, Buffy has been lavished with praise enough to make anything I'd add even if I were a fan redundant.

No, what I'd like to talk about is Whedon.

The man is certainly passionate about what he does, or at the very least he does an excellent job conveying passion in interviews and making-of documentaries. But what is the root of his appeal? It's certainly not universal, but among geeks Whedon is a king. Why is that?

The obvious answer is his dialogue. Whedon is frequently praised for writing "real' characters. His dialogue rings true to his fanbase. The problem with that explanation is that Whedon's dialogue is not realistic. Not even a little.

Consider this excerpt from Dr. Horrible's Sing Along Blog, hereafter referred to simply as Dr. Horrible because I'm too lazy to type in the rest of the title:

Penny: Unexpected. He’s a really good looking guy, and I thought he was kinda cheesy at first...

Billy: Trust your instincts.

Penny: But, he turned out to be totally sweet. Sometimes people are layered like that. there’s something totally different underneath than what’s on the surface.

Billy: And sometimes there’s a third, even deeper level and that one is the same as the top surface one.

Penny: Huh?

Billy: Like with pie…

Or this exerpt from Firely:

Kaylee: I'd sure love to find a brand new
compression coil for the steamer.

Mal: And I'd like to be king of all
Londinum and wear a shiny hat. Just
get us some passengers. Them as can
pay, all right?

Kaylee: Compression coil busts, we're

Mal: Best not bust it, then.

People don't talk like this. Not even in fantasy worlds where cattle rustlers fly spaceships, or nerds build freeze rays in their basements to impress quiet redheads at the laundromat.

I submit that Joss Whedon does not right realistic dialogue. So why does he get praised for doing so? The reason is that, while he doesn't write things people would actually say, he writes what people wish they actually said.

Whedon's writing is too sharp, and that's the appeal. He appeals to geeks, and as geeks we like to feel clever. But, as geeks, we tend to trip over our own tongues more often than not. If I had a nickle for every time I thought of a biting retort to a disparaging comment while laying in bed hours later, I would be the king of all Londonium and wear a shiny hat.

Whedon fulfills that fantasy for us. He puts the biting retort in the character's mouth right there in the heat of the moment, sometimes even a little before and one character will interrupt another character with something snarky or clever or both.

People think they want to be like Mal or Jayne. Actually, they want to be like Wash.

That's why some people love him and some people hate him. If you're not a person who was ever at a loss for words, or if you're satisfied with how characters on other shows or movies handle the situations the writers present, you're not going to get the appeal. But if you've ever wished you'd thought of saying something, or if you'd wished you had the guts to say something you did think of, then Whedon's characters are going to ring true to you.

Another thing Whedon's got going for him the the uncanny ability to write nuanced archetypes. A nuanced archetype is like one of those people who don't get enough air. Yet Whedon writes them. I'm not entirely sure how.

Take Jayne, for example. Jayne is probably the least complicated character on Firefly. He's big, strong, not overly bright but cunning. He's a bit too confident in be abilities of his guns to get him out of trouble that his mouth causes, but there's good reason there. He is, first and foremost, a mercenary, but he's loyal to people he respects. In the hands of a different writer, Jayne would be a cardboard cutout. Just a big, muscular brute O-D'ing on testosterone and cordite.

But he's not. He's sentimental, just about different things-- Vera, for example.

He's less complex than Mal, but he's not all that different from him. He's Ajax to Mal's Achilles (Yep, I went to the Iliad and compared Whedon to Homer), which is to say he has all of Mal's core qualities, just boiled down a bit more. Mal is more subtle than Jayne, and more rational. He's also more dangerous to have as an enemy, though you wouldn't necessarily get that from your first meeting. That's why Mal is the captain, and Jayne is the muscle-- even if Jayne doesn't necessarily understand why.

Another thing that makes Whedon’s work so watchable (and rewatchable) is the themes he hits on. The most frequent theme is the person who wants something that he can’t have. Buffy wants to be done with vampire hunting. Dr. Horrible wants Penny. Malcolm Reynolds wants to be left alone. The stories revolving around those characters show them striving toward that goal, and usually failing.

The failure wouldn’t be interesting except for the reason behind it. Whedon, as I mentioned, deals in archetypes. The thing about archetypes is that they can’t change, and the only thing that would help the hero get what he (or she) wants is to change who they are. Buffy can’t walk away from vampire slaying, because she is the vampire slayer. Even if she could turn her back on it, it would just come back and bite her from behind (Yeah, bad pun. No, not sorry). Mal will never be left alone, because he’s too honorable; he won’t walk away from situations that he could wash his hands of, because walking away would be wrong, so he ends up hopelessly outclassed in a sword fight to preserve the honor of a woman he makes a point of calling a whore. Dr. Horrible can’t have Penny, because he is the villain, and villains don’t get the girl.

Whedon’s heroes don’t get what they want because they’re too busy getting what they need. That’s something I think everyone can identify with.