Sunday, November 29, 2015

Voices of the People

The 2016 Presidential election looms in America's horizon like a bird of doom. Major new outlets like CNN and Fox News crouch on the walls like predatory beasts, searching for a weak candidate to disembowel. The candidates themselves march relentlessly ahead, huddled together for protection, yet all the while ready to push the feeblest out of the circle and into the wolves. Yet what do the people of our great nation think? Pointless Venture scoured the internet and interviewed dozens to find out. Do you want to hear their opinions? It doesn't matter! This is a democracy. Everyone has a say. Let's meet our fellow Americans.

Interviewee number one: Wilfred Brimless.

Age: 92.

Employer: Retired.

Hobbies: Causal racism, occasional confusion, Westerns.

Candidate asked about: Donald Trump.

"Trump? That's the one with the skunk on his head, right? Smart man. Keep 'em illegals back with a big-ass wall. I've been saying that fer years. I've also been shooting at kids fer gettin' in me back yard and pooping in me garden. Maybe when Trump's done rounded up all them Mexicans he can send some secret service over here to put those goddamn kids in a concentration camp."

Interviewee number two: Willy "Pnut" Defrancis.

Age: 19.

Employer: Kentucky Fried Chicken.

Hobbies: Cultural appropriation, burning trash, sniffing random objects.

Candidate asked about: Hillary Clinton

"Gonorrhea, pleased to meet ya, Chlamydia, gettin' rid of ya. That's the start of my rap, homie. Wat u think? I think dat teh government needs to support us, and give us all money, so I don't have to work at KFC and get teh super cancer. So if Hillary is for making us money, then I'm all Clinton, baby! You got any money? I need a bus ticket."

Interviewee number three: Leslie "Jesus Boobs" McClure.

Age: Would not disclose.

Employer: Doesn't work.

Hobbies: Spending money, Bible-thumping, living in a bubble, indiscreet racism.

Candidate asked about: Ted Cruz.

"Oh Ted? You know, Ted didn't come to our Christmas party. I don't know what that says about him. I do know he's a man of God, and that he wants to deport all of the homosexuals. That would be a real tragedy. My personal stylist is gay, and I don't know what I would do without him. Still, we need a Republican in the White House, not a Muslim. I know Ted has a copy of his birth certificate! But if he wants my vote, he better come to New Year's.

Interviewee number four: Rupert "Pigtails" Gonzales.

Age: 26.

Employer: Mom (does chores around the house on occasion).

Hobbies: Masturbating to cartoon ponies, Live-Action Role-Playing, Men's Rights Activism.

Candidate asked about: Bernie Sanders.

Perfect socialist candidate. Would suppress the free market, which I cannot abide. We've got too many people suckling from the teat of big government. People should be free to do whatever they want. People's moms shouldn't insist on therapy just because they don't understand what a brony is. There's nothing wrong with a grown-ass man spending most of his time on Deviant Art drawing big black stallions pile-driving pink little ponies. The human imagination is a wonderful thing, mom. It shouldn't be suppressed.  

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Happy Bulksgiving, Brah

So what do you want from life, bro? You want to get big? Get huge? Get ripped? Well, before you accomplish all of that, you gotta bulk. Thankfully for your skinny ass, today is an American holiday. Welcome to Bulksgiving, brah. I hope you can handle it.

You gotta prepare before you even sit down at that table, my hypertrophically-challenged friend. Stand back from a distance and scope out all that's available. Stuffing--plenty of carbs, but don't eat too much or you'll puff up like a balloon and Bulksgiving ends early, brah. Turkey--yeah, this is where the money's at. Put down as much as you can. Gravy it up, too. We ain't counting calories. Pumpkin pie, yum. Green beens--skip 'em, bro. Bulksgiving isn't about vegetables. Bulksgiving is about cramming as many calories in your pie hole as possible. You formed a game plan yet? What you gonna eat first? What you gonna eat last? You best figure it out if you wanna max out your gains.

You need to get a sweat on before you eat. Feed me more, muthafucker. Put some sweatbands on your wrists. Have your elastic pants on. You wear a bib for Bulksgiving. Shit's gonna go down, and you're going to make a mess. There may be blood involved, and massive bloating. But we're not thinking about how all this shit is going to digest. No pain, no gain. No, we're gonna get our eat on. So get pumped. Get angry. That food has personally wronged you. You're gonna get your heart rate up. THIS IS BULKSGIVING, BRAH. This ain't no pussy holiday. This is the day that your life changes. This is the day that you get HUGE.

How do you think the pilgrims messed up the Indians? They ate them out of house and home, and then they lifted heavy-ass weights. How do you think George Washington took out the British? He sat his ass down and ate as much as he could, and then he repped out 315 on the bench till his pecs got swole and massive. America was founded on gluttony and limitless opportunity. If there's food on your plate, you better eat it, and then go get some more. You want to step on that scale and see it climb to 240, or better yet, 250. The bigger the better, brotha. Just don't fat-fuck yourself. Remember, Bulksgiving is a holiday. Not every day is Bulksgiving. This is the cheat meal to end all cheat meals. Get your bib on.

Happy Bulksgiving, brah. I hope you manage to survive.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Fallout 4 First Impressions

I'm wearing black leather, spiked hockey pads, and a gas mask. Clearly, I'm ready to party.

I enjoyed Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas when they came out. Fallout 4 is much of the same with a few major differences, namely the crafting system, conversation system, and graphical upgrades. After spending only nine hours in the Boston Wasteland, here's what I think.

1. Bethesda needs to retire the Gamebryo engine. Sure, they upgraded it for Skyrim and called it the "Creation Engine," but it's still the same shitty platform they've been working with since Morrowind. You still can't open doors without loading a new level. Though the textures and effects have been spiced up since the last Fallout game, Fallout 4 looks very familiar, to the point of feeling like a heavily-modified Fallout 3. I feel like we've reached the point of diminishing returns with graphics, but this game could've looked and performed a lot better.

2. The art direction saves it. I think Bethesda must've played a lot of Stalker, because the environments of Fallout 4 owe a lot to that series. While wandering around, you get the sense of traveling in an alien world full of rotting forests, crumbling ruins, and mutated monstrosities. The fog and lighting effects are used well; occasional radiation storms pop up to turn the sky black and send you rushing for cover.

3. There's too much loot in this game. Since the crafting system makes everything you find in Fallout 4 useful, you'll start to hoard junk like, well, a hoarder. Your inventory will be full of duct tape, screw drivers, pencils, and glass bottles. You'd think 200 years after the apocalypse, there wouldn't be so much junk lying around.

4. The Pip-Boy sucks. To be fair, it sucked in previous Fallout games. It takes up too much of the screen while having you click through various filters to find any useful information. And with all the junk in your inventory, it's difficult to cycle through it.

5. The conversation system is limiting. You have four options now, but they almost always lead to the same conclusion. This really affects the RPG element of the game, as does the decision to have your protagonist be voiced.

6. I'll still probably play it for 100 hours. Bethesda makes these huge, detailed worlds, and despite the faults their games always have, you always get your money's worth. It would just be nice to receive more of a sequel and less of an incremental upgrade next time.

Is this Fallout or Stalker?

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Diary of Mitch R. Singer

Emerging from the Vault into the cataclysmic wasteland
It has been eons since the world that I knew died. The landscape that greets me is cracked and barren, a desert stripped of green. Birds still fly in the sky, yet they clutch bones in their beaks. I look down at my wrist and see that they have left me with my Pip Boy, a useless dispenser of information. It tells me that I am nowhere and that I will go nowhere. As the sun sets, I crawl toward a ruined home, seeking shelter. All throughout the night cockroaches as large as cats scurry about the walls, their antennae twitching, their compound eyes sizing me up, estimating my potential worth as a meal. It takes half an hour to kill one of them. I'm so hungry that I don't even taste it.

Onward toward the horizon
In the ruins I manage to find a crowbar and a coffee cup. I take both with me as I aimlessly wander. After awhile I see a trader with a two-headed cow moving over the hillside. They stop when they see me, judging my approach, trying to sense the amount of menace I possess. When I catch up to them the barrel of a shotgun is pointed in my direction. He is squat and covered in sores, his clothing patched together out of rough material. I tell him that I am a Vault dweller, and that I need supplies. He shrugs and asks what I have to trade. In exchange for the coffee cup, I am given a thermos full of water. He tells me of a city lying ahead, so we set off together. I am taken aback by his smell, which is almost unbearable. The landscape around us reminds me of scattered bones.

We are awakened in the night by a monster. It is eight feet tall, horned, and full of teeth and claws. I stifle a scream as it feasts on the two-headed cow. The trader, madness in his eyes, fires the shotgun to no effect. I run as it turns on him. Even in the distance I can hear his skull cracking. I run for miles, tripping over my own scattering feet, the stupid Pip Boy heavy on my arm. Eventually I collapse in a ditch. There is nothing but the night now, just the dull roar of the giant insects. What sort of world have I found? The cracked screen of my Pip Boy gives me no answers.

Captured by raiders
A party of raiders find me in the morning and incorporate me into their harem. I was into some weird stuff before the Great War so this isn't too bad. They do smell just as awfully as the trader, however. It doesn't help that they wear nothing but leather. We pass the corpse of something called a "Super-Mutant." It is gigantic, with muscles over muscles, and green-skinned. The other concubines are afraid of it. Their names are Danny and Maurice. Nice people, I guess, for toothless irradiated sex-slaves.

The battle
Right after pillaging a small village, a lunatic in Power Armor appears, wielding a minigun. He commences to wipe out our raiding party. The small rounds of the raiders bounce harmlessly off his metallic torso. Dave and Maurice perish in the fighting. I only survive by hiding beneath the body of an immense raider named Kongo. The Power Armor guy loots all of the bodies, taking the most worthless knickknacks. When he leaves, I don't crawl out of my hiding place. I don't know if I can make it in this world. It seems to be nothing but an endless cycle of death and destruction. And bugs. Jesus, there are a lot of bugs.     

Saturday, November 21, 2015

Things to Be Thankful for

Thanksgiving is almost upon us, and in the spirit of turkey and football, I wish to list some of the things I am thankful for. These are the things I could remember. They are ranked as follows:

1. My spouse--anyone that puts up with bed farts is a keeper.

2. The prince (or princess) that was promised.

3. Beer. What would I do without beer? It is silly to think about a world without beer. I don't think I can do it.

4. Coffee. I love coffee almost as much as I love beer, which is to say, quite a lot.

5. A new Star Wars movie not directed by George Lucas.

6. The internet (sometimes).

7. The warming rays of the sun.

8. Donald Trump, the great revealor, who has shone us what the ancient Greeks were worried about when they said Democracy was stupid.

9. Running water and indoor toilets. Imagine taking a poo outside in the cold!

10. Dogs. Dogs are funny and they love unconditionally. They are like emotionally-stunted, mentally-handicapped children. I love dogs!

11. Barbells. How else would I exert my dominance over gravity and build those sweet, sweet show muscles?

12. Music from any time period but the last ten years.

13. Guitars.

14. Lamps.

15. Houses (with character). I couldn't live in a cave. Not comfortably, at least. And what is life but the search for comfort?

16. The work of H.P. Lovecraft (minus the racism).

17. Apples (honestly, this should be higher).

18. The flesh of the beast (meat).

19. Friends and family (the ones that still talk to me, hah).

20. Deodorant.

21. Professional wrestling.

22. Pop tarts.

23. Monkeys.

24. The human imagination, for which all things are possible.

25. Cash-money.

26. Dr. Dre.

27. Rocks.

28. Dinosaurs.

29. Boobies (This should be a lot higher).

30. Sentience (sometimes). 

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

I've Had It with Life

I'm sorry, folks. I've had it. With everything, with the whole stinking routine. I get up, I go outside, I ignore the bland processed corn they expect me to eat. I sit on my podium with an expression of pure gloom on my hound dog face. They yell at me, calling me ungrateful, saying things like "what's wrong, doggie?" What's wrong? Look around, people. The whole world's messed up. Like you need me, a goddamn dog, to tell you what's wrong with life. I can think of a million things. My number one complaint is that I'm a dog.

Okay, I'm not saying being a dog doesn't have its privileges. We have a more developed sense of taste, for example. You people will never know how good paper tastes, or experience the delightful flavors of fresh deer excrement. We chew on stinky socks or used underwear for a reason, you know. We're not stupid. Also consider that you feed us the same dog food every stinking day. No wonder I go looking for things to chew on. You would as well.

We also get to sleep a lot, which I know you people like to do, when you have the time. And don't think we don't appreciate the ability to lick our own orifices. I don't know what I would do if I couldn't clean my asshole daily with my tongue. Probably off myself.

Frankly, though, it's the steady ennui of existence that has me down the most. I am stuck a senseless animal, a mere passenger enslaved to beings of higher intelligence and ingenuity. Imagine if a race of super-intelligent aliens came down and put collars around your necks and made you beg for treats. That would suck, right? Now perhaps you can fathom my predicament.

So I spend my days staring down into the abyss, searching for meaning in a meaningless universe. That's why I don't want to play fetch. That's why my tail has ceased to wag. That's why sometimes I knock the garbage can over and scatter its contents about the house. It's a mess we live in, you see. A chaotic, nonsensical mess. I am simply returning things to their proper order. The next time I poop in the house, remember this.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

You Want to Pick Some Apples?

You want to pick some apples? There are plenty of apples left to be picked. Don't fret, friend. You can still pick some apples. There's still time left.

When you pick apples, only choose the prettiest and largest fruit. Let mother nature have the rest. Pick them big apples and put them in your basket. Show your basket to all of your friends. What pretty apples you have picked! But wait. There are still more out there.

The work is never finished. Once you pick a load, dump it into a crate and come back and pick some more. The apple tree gives up its bounty to you and you must take all of it. We waste nothing in the orchard. I was just kidding about picking only the biggest and prettiest apples. You need to pick everything.

Soon you'll see nothing but apples. You'll close your eyes and apples will appear before your eyelids. When you take a bite of bread, you'll taste apple. When you walk by on the street, people will ask where that apple smell is coming from. Little by little, you'll start transforming into the Angry Orchard guy.

How does the Angry Orchard guy close out his day? Well, after picking about a billion apples he collapses in exhaustion and begins to get hammered on hard cider. He gets so drunk that the next day he's still wasted. That's the only way he can get up and go back out into the orchard. You don't need to be sober while picking apples. Sometimes a drunken malaise is the best mental condition to pick apples.

Every once in a while the Angry Orchard guy will think about his younger years when he desired to be a space pirate. He was going to get an old junk freighter and fix it up and begin a life of piracy but things just didn't turn out the way they were supposed to. His application to flight school was turned down. The pirate girl he was going to marry ended up settling down with a nerf herder. So he bought an old orchard and started picking apples for a living. He's okay with it now but sometimes he wonders what could have been.

You don't need to think when you pick apples. Just grab the apples and place them in your basket. Repeat. Show those apples to everyone. Don't get too proud. Just keep putting them in your basket.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

The Esteemed Critic Reviews Spectre

It has been a while since the Critic has written for Pointless Venture. His life is full of black tie events and wine tastings, so let my audience be assured that he has been very busy. Movies, of course, are his true passion, though art comes in many forms. Let us discuss the newest entry in MGM's eternal franchise, James Bond.

Spectre is presumably the last Daniel Craig Bond flick, and it's interesting that they chose to reintroduce all the checklist elements of a Bond film for Craig's last romp in the tuxedo. Casino Royale was notable for modernizing Bond; there was no Q or Moneypenny or special gadgets, just a hard-edged secret service man with a license to kill. Quantum of Solace was simply a strange film, with its battle over water rights, while Skyfall deconstructed the Bond legacy and gave us an entertaining movie that was removed from what we expected. Spectre, however, gives us exactly what we expect from Ian Fleming's suave agent of destruction. There is location jumping from exotic locale to exotic locale; there are gorgeous women for Bond to bed; there is a mad super-villain with a recognizable name and scar. Almost every scene in this movie is a reference to what came before, the best sequence being Bond and Dave Batista's brutal battle on a train, which brings to mind Connery and Robert Shaw's epic brawl in From Russia with Love.

Though Spectre is entertaining, my question is "What more can they do with this franchise?" Self-referencing is essentially a death sentence; you stop making films for new fans and start recycling the past. The entire concept of James Bond is a relic left over from the sixties; this is basically the plot of Spectre. There were complaints when Craig was initially cast that he wasn't sexy enough for the role, but he updated the character, giving him a hard-lined brutality that double-o-seven hadn't had since the Connery days. What can a new James Bond do that hasn't been done before? I suppose we will always need our secret agent films, since they represent a certain male fantasy that will always be in vogue. I am just uncertain if Bond is still the man for the job.


Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Thoughts on Bench Pressing, Training Frequency, Etc...

The bench press is the measure of a man's strength in the western world, thanks namely to Arnold and the bodybuilding revolution of the seventies. Before that, the overhead press was considered to be the standard test of upper body power. Overhead pressing doesn't give you big man boobies, however, and despite the drawbacks of the bench press (it has a well-earned reputation as a shoulder destroyer), it's here to stay. For anyone thinking about competing in powerlifting, you're going to have to train your bench, even if you hate it. Hate is probably too strong a word to describe how I feel about the bench press. I don't possess great leverages for it (I'm 5' 9" with a 6' 3" wingspan), and my bench has increased a whopping forty pounds in the last two and a half years, while my squat and deadlift have both went up a lot more. That's to be expected--less muscle mass is involved in the bench compared to those lifts, yet being a 198 lbs man with a sub 300 lbs bench press is nothing to be proud of. I hit 290 touch and go back in March, and since then I haven't been able to press more. So despite what I wrote about programs back in September, I decided to give an old Anthony Ditillo routine a shot. It's a three times a week program, focusing on heavy, light, and medium volume days, and if you're interested, you can find it here. The claims of increasing your bench by 30 lbs in six weeks are hyperbolic, to be sure, yet I'm currently in week five and I'm about to press my old max (290) for five singles. Increased frequency seems to work really well for the upper body, though I have done something strange to my right shoulder. Try pressing more if your presses aren't going up. Once and week and twice a week won't cut it.

I've had the opposite mentality regarding the squat recently. Ever since squatting one-hundred days, I've taken a lower frequency approach to my squat. Right now, I squat on Thursday and Saturday. Last Thursday's workout was this, which is pretty typical:

315 add weightlifting belt
365 paused squat (paused at the bottom for one or two seconds), personal record

Basically, I pyramid up to a heavy single, something that is usually a personal record. Sometimes I'll do a paused squat if I don't want to attempt a new one-rep max. Then I do back off sets until I feel like I've done enough. I've actually hit a PR five straight weeks utilizing this approach.

On Saturday I do a lighter workout, usually composed of sets of five. This was last Saturday:

330*5 personal record

The first three sets of five are warm up sets, then I go for a five rep personal record, then I finish with a heavy back off set. I've been using the high bar squat exclusively lately, because I think it's the best way to squat due to its greater range of motion and increased leg involvement (I always feel like the low bar squat is mostly hips and ass, whereas the high bar is ass and legs). My best high bar squat is 385 lbs, achieved just two weeks ago, while my best low bar is 410, done about a month ago. The high bar will increase the low bar. There's no doubt about that.

I really believe that squatting everyday helped improve my form and set me up for improvement using lesser training volumes. A period of high frequency, high intensity training followed by a period of lower volume, but still high intensity training works very well. Try it and see if your lifts don't go up.

Let's conclude this article with a picture of Paul Anderson squatting a pair of giant metal wheels, because it is awesome.

Monday, November 2, 2015

How Disappointed Will You Be with the New Star Wars Movie?

I'm not sure if you've heard, but there's a new Star Wars movie coming out in December. George Lucas was not involved in its construction. The original cast, including Harrison Ford and Mark Hamill, are going to be in it. There's a trailer out that's a pretty nostalgia trip. Director J.J. Abrams is good at this kind of pop-corn flick. All the signs look good.

Unfortunately, the prequel movies ruined Star Wars. They are poorly-filmed, poorly-acted, terribly-written, and boring. No one likes them except children and idiots in denial. So even if Episode 7 is a bad movie, there's no way it can be worse than any of the prequels. Disney surely has people in place to put a bullet in Abrams head if he gets the urge to name a character something like Count Dooku or General Grevous.

I think the real danger of Episode 7 is that they won't try anything new. That was one of the numerous sins of the prequels. George recycled scenes and dialogue perhaps in a nefarious attempt to confuse you and make you think that the prequels were light-hearted space adventure movies and not total pieces of shit. The trailer for Episode 7 shows stormtroopers, tie fighters, the Millennium Falcon, a bad guy with a red light saber in a mask, etc. Maybe it's not a real Star Wars movie without those things. Those are elements of its universe. But I think there's a real danger of the entire thing just being a huge nostalgia trip.

So I tried to quantify your probably level of disappointment on a 1 to 10 scale, with 1 being a minor let down from 10 being tantamount to suicide. Because why not? Numbers are fun! Let's find out how depressed you will be! Behold! I give you the Star Wars 7 It-Will-Disappoint Scale.

Level 1--Minor disappointment. How you feel: Hey, this was a pretty good movie. It delivered what it advertised while riffing on the common themes of Star Wars. Still, it wasn't as memorable as the original trilogy, probably because it wouldn't exist without those films. I will probably see Episode 8 if somebody lets me out of the house.

Level 2--A little more discouraged. How you feel: There were some cool parts, but I really didn't feel like this was a Star Wars movie. I am going to get on reddit and tell everyone how it could have been done better. Maybe mom will make me some comfort food to help get over these feelings I am feeling.

Level 3--Somewhat pissed off. How you feel: Jesus, they fucking killed Han Solo! How dare they! The only reason I saw this goddamn movie was because Harrison Ford was in it. I want my money back, J.J. I'm going to get on reddit and tell everyone not to see this movie. What a waste of time. I'm never going out of my basement again.

Level 4-- Visibly pissed off. How you feel: They took my childhood. Again. My entire childhood was nothing but Star Wars. I went to school dressed as a jedi. I had a Darth Vader lunchbox. I played the video games. I read the books. People told me it was just fiction, but I didn't listen. They were proven wrong when I constructed my own lightsaber. They told me it was wood but it wasn't. After years in a mental institution, they let me out to see Episode 7. Now what the fuck am I going to do with my life?

Level 5--Ready to hurt somebody. How you feel: This is bringing back flashback of Jar Jar Binks. I have nothing in my life but comic books and Star Wars, and now J.J. has taken one of the things I have in my life away from me. What am I supposed to do now? I'm going to write racist things on the internet. That'll show everybody.

Level 6--Completely disillusioned with everything. How you feel: Well, that's it. I'm done. There's nothing to look forward to anymore. Luke Skywalker killed Han Solo. Who the fuck wrote that? Who thought that was a good idea? Fuck Star Wars. I'm going back to Star Trek. That's where all the ladies are at.

Level 7--You pooped your pants during the film. How you feel: Goddamnit, not this again. I just had my colon examined. Everyone complained about the smell. They made me leave the theater, the sons of bitches. This was Abrams' fault. I'm going to mail him some of my feces.

Level 8--You hit a small child. How you feel: So this is how being curb-stomped feels. I didn't mean to hit that kid, I really didn't. He just looked so much like Jake Loyd that I couldn't help myself. Star Wars isn't for the children, goddamnit. It was made for me.

Level 9--Seething, incoherent rage. How you feel: They told me it was good. Now what is there left to believe in? I am going to have to reevaluate my entire existence. I didn't want to do this. Somebody's going to pay.