Soundtrack Saturdays: Professor Layton and the Last Specter Theme (Live)

I love the Professor Layton series. It’s the closest Nintendo – or any major video game company, for that matter – will get to making a Sherlock Holmes-style character. He’s highly intelligent, polite, and solves mysteries of ridiculous proportions. It would’ve worked well enough as a visual novel, but letting you solve hundreds of puzzles along the way makes it so much better. The series is also well known for its extensive continuity and well-written characters; The Last Specter is the fourth installment out of six (seven if you count the Phoenix Wright crossover), but it’s the first chronologically. It’s also famous for its various soundtracks, which are among the best you’ll ever hear on a Nintendo console. While the theme of the Diabolical Box will always be my favorite, this live version of the Last Specter is great for some easy listening.

Good gaming, good music.

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Ryu Teaches More Than The Hadoken

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt is about learning. Specifically, what kind of learning style works best for you. It reminds me of something Ryu once said:

“Every moment gives us a chance to become more than what we are.”

I know it’s geeky taking inspiration from a video game, but still. I try to put it into practice whenever possible. It usually involves reading. I have a fiery, unbridled passion for books. I always bring something with me to read, and not just because I’m an introverted loner. If I stumble across something interesting on Wikipedia, I’ll spend hours learning everything I can about it. If I took my entire library out of storage and stacked every book in my room, it’d probably cover at least a couple of walls from floor to ceiling. I don’t have Angry Birds on my iPod; I have encyclopedias, translation guides, and access to pretty much every public domain text out there. Open Culture and Stanza (before it went defunct, at least) have been instrumental in turning my device into a portable learning tool and reference desk.

However, not everything can be learned from just reading. Take languages, for example. I’m sure I’m not the only one here who had to learn a foreign language at some point. It was a requirement for my bachelor’s degree. I chose Spanish because hey, I’m in California. People were speaking Spanish here before the state even existed. It’s going to be even more important in the country’s future. Learning accents and verb conjugations has always been easy for me, but it wasn’t just because of reading and memorizing text. It was because I practiced. Language is like a sword; when it’s not used or properly maintained, it gets rusty. The same goes with any skill. I incorporated the vocabulary into my normal routine, and I challenged myself to go through the day without speaking English. More importantly, I spoke to other people – and not just my professor – in Spanish. You’d be surprised how effective it can be.

My preferred style is a combination of distanced observation and hands-on interaction. I’m no super-detective like Sherlock Holmes, but sit me in a room and I can make detailed descriptions and conjecture about pretty much everything. For years, I worked in the customer service industry when things were still done the old-fashioned way: face-to-face with an actual, physical person. Yeah, remember that? So quaint. It taught me how to read people’s faces, vocal tones, and other little nuances in a conversation’s subtext. Whenever I review a video game or a book, I always approach it from an analytical standpoint, so much so that I need to remind myself to have fun. You can get a whole new level of enjoyment out of something if apply what you’ve learned; anyone well-versed in Jungian psychology will get a kick out of how Persona 4 plays out. If I can’t figure something out by just observing it, I’ll try to handle it myself. Yeah, I was the kid taking clocks apart and mixing paints together. It may have been messy, but it was worth it.

It still is. Thanks, Ryu.

Daily Prompt: Love to Love You, Or: Curiosity Won’t Kill This Cat

Hey, folks. Today’s Daily Prompt focuses on love. Specifically, what you love most about yourself and your favorite person. This one is kind of tricky for a couple of reasons. I’m hardly social, so I don’t have a favorite person. I’m also prone to deep, dark bouts of cynicism and self-criticism; catch me in a bad mood and I’ll really show you to difference between misanthropy and existential nihilism. It’s not pretty, trust me. The whole “love thyself” thing has always seemed weird to me. I mean, I understand its purpose and its inherently therapeutic nature, but putting it into practice is much more difficult.

My knee-jerk reaction to the prompt is to say intelligence. I love being the Sherlock/chessmaster/philosophical/scientific/bookworm type. And I absolutely love women who can engage me both intellectually and creatively. The best relationships involve teaching and learning from each other. Even on my own, there’s so much potential to be had with it.¬† I can devour books with reckless abandon. I can pick up languages with ease. I can pick up details and read people with a glance.

…Sounds narcissistic, doesn’t it? See, that’s the problem a lot of folks have with intelligence. For some reason, being smart is associated with arrogance, vanity, self-centeredness, etc. Sherlock Holmes is one of my favorite fictional characters ever, but he’d probably be a really aggravating roommate or coworker. Seriously, go read A Study In Scarlet. Dr. Watson is a skilled surgeon and war veteran, but he quickly realizes just how weird his new friend is. Look at the titular character from the House television series. The man is absolutely brilliant, yet he thinks it gives him free reign to be an unrepentant (most of the time) misanthrope. His ego and vices prevent him from reaching his full potential. Even Batman, Lex Luthor, and Doctor Doom, three of the most intelligent characters ever put to ink, are held back by their respective obsessions. The same goes with Kira and L from Death Note. Spock doesn’t lack emotions¬†just so he can play off the better-balanced Kirk; it’s because his character arc is all about developing his humanity.

You don’t even need to look into fiction to see something similar. You probably know someone (or maybe it’s you!) that has a huge library of classics. Maybe they acquired the books for their studies. Maybe they like reading stuff in the original languages. I know someone that proudly displays his Russian edition of War and Peace on his top shelf. He’s never actually read it; he just likes telling people that he could read it. See the difference? I’ve read War and Peace, but my copy is tucked safely down in storage. It would take up way too much room on my shelf. It’s also too heavy to be a practical traveling companion. I own the entirety of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, but it’s all crammed into a section of my closet because I don’t have anywhere else to put it.

…Going on a tangent. Sorry.

The point is that intellect alone is not what makes it appealing. It’s the way such a personality is cultivated that makes the difference. Intelligence not just for its own sake, but the hows and whys as well. Which brings me back to the prompt and my answer: the favorite aspect of myself is my curiosity. I don’t study stuff just because I want to look smarter than everyone else. You don’t have to be a show-off for people to know how brilliant you supposedly are. I study stuff because I want to know how everything works. It doesn’t matter what it is; if it catches my eye and looks interesting, I will try to learn everything I can about it. Questions lead to knowledge and skills, which lead to more perspective, experience, and furthering potential. That insatiable need to seek is a quality I wish more people had. I need to explore, to get lost, and find my way. I can’t just take reality as it is; I want to understand every last detail. And maybe, just maybe, I’ll learn something about myself along the way.

What do you love about yourself, and why? Think about it.