Voice Actor. Author. Alien. Human

Majora's Mask - A Terrible Fate, Part II AND MOVIE!

If the word “ocarina” immediately makes you think of a hookshot, I think you’re in for a treat.

If the word “ocarina” makes you think of a 90s dance song, please go buy a Nintendo 64 and start playing The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask right now.

I mean, it wasn’t even called the “ocarina.” It was the macarena. You disappoint me.

Anyway, the brilliant and talented Jason Gallaty, also known as Theophany, has dropped a two-run homer consisting of two absolutely incredible fan projects centered around the Majora’s Mask game. I had the privilege to be a part of both of them in different capacities, but even without me (maybe especially without me) these two projects are just wonderful to behold.

First, here’s Majora’s Mask: The Story of Skull Kid. It’s a bit of an origin story behind the tragic villain of the game. It’s made by Ember Lab, which has put out some stunning stuff in the past. I got to play the voice of the Skull Kid himself, which mostly consisted of guttural screams and noises. Which means it mostly consisted of fun.

Aside from being spoonful of visual awesome, it’s a chilling story told with no words at all.

Then, I’d like you to bounce over to www.terriblefate.com, which holds the now two-disc Terrible Fate album. Two whole discs of music from Majora’s Mask, re-interpreted and re-imagined into some of the most gorgeous tracks I’ve ever heard Jason write. He invited me to play some instruments on some of them, and I was, as I always am when Jason comes knocking, happy to help.

In one of the tracks, it sounds like he has like a hundred soprano singers going absolutely nuts. So I asked, “Jason, how did you get it to sound like you have a hundred soprano singers going absolutely nuts?” And he responded “we got a hundred soprano singers to go absolutely nuts.” That’s the kind of awesome that Jason brings to this album.

Go. Listen. To. The. Album. And then go hug a nerd while you both softly cry.

And then go learn the macarena.


Well this became viral way quicker than I expected. Here are some links to stories about this project that you might be interested in:

Majora’s Mask Cartoon Is Real Good - Kotaku

Witness Skull Kid’s Origins in “Majora’s Mask” Fan Film-Crunchyroll

This Amazing Majora’s Mask Fan Film Explores the Origins of Skull Kid - Escapist

Majora’s Mask Fan Video Brings To Life Skull Kid’s Origin Story In Stunning Detail - Gameinformer

I Am Not Your Meme

Yeah, I know, Clausewitz said some shit about war being an extension of diplomacy, and all that.  That's not what I'm talking about.  I'm talking about using the livelihoods and sacrifices of your veterans and active servicemembers to promote one particular line of political thinking; manipulating feelings of patriotism for the purposes of padding an otherwise flimsy argument.  In doing so, you are doing quite the opposite of what you may intend:  Instead of honoring the service of our veterans, you are cheapening it.  I don't like feeling cheap.

I saw something on Facebook today that encouraged me to write this.  The image is below:


The issue is minimum wage, right?  Trying to figure out what a fair wage to pay minimally skilled workers so that they can afford to survive - not thrive, but survive - in a modern American economy.  Right.  So, instead of focusing on whether or not this is a good idea, we've derailed the issue and moved on to comparing burger flippers to what amounts to approximately 5% of the American population - the military.

The argument here could also clearly be "Uh, shouldn't we pay our servicemembers more, then?"  Maybe instead of bashing burger flippers and low-skill job workers, you should be fighting for higher pay for people who sacrifice their lives for freedom, etc.  Fight to lift people up; not keep people down.  Or, hey, here's a fucking wild idea - maybe they shouldn't have to WAIT FOR THE VA UNTIL THEY DIE.  Maybe there should be increased mental care for the thousands of soldiers who tried to figure out whether or not they should shoot the 8-year-old kid who is holding a detonator.   But no, let's take a step back and use them as a prop, instead, for a totally unrelated argument.  Thanks for the 5% mattress discount, by the way.

But what really bothered me about this?  It's completely wrong.  Not only is it utterly derailing, it's ignorant.  Let me break down the math for you.

An E-5 with 8 years in working in the Washington DC area receives the following monthly as a 26-year old.

$3,000 a month base pay.
$2,000 a month (tax free) housing allowance for the DC area (This varies based on locale.  DC is on the high end, but the lower end - the middle of Dustball, Texas, still rides around $1,000)
$350 a month (Tax free) sustenance allowance

My calculations do not include:  Hazard pay, deployment pay, moving allowances, temporary duty pay (business trip pay), enlistment bonuses (sometimes up to $15,000 a year depending on the specialty), and also does not reflect any area that receives a cost of living adjustment or utility allowance (places like Europe).  Including them would boost my point significantly, but these things are so variable that it's hard to nail down anything resembling an average.  But suffice it to say that in many cases, the following analysis is erring on the low side.  

If you do the math, because 50% of their gross income is tax free, they are earning at a rate that is, essentially, 25% higher then a civilian making the same gross income. In this calculation, we have a gross income of $64,000. Not awful, but wait, it's still not the civilian equivalent. Their net income after taxes - given that half their income is not taxed - would be approximately $59,000 after taxes, because the lower taxable income ALSO puts them in a lower bracket (15%)

So, an E-5 civilian equivalent is actually approximately $75,000 a year.  

Is it enough for people who could be called to war? For people who could die?  For people, who, at a minimum, have a life that is built around the sacrifices of moving, 60-hour work weeks, shift work, and having INCREDIBLE skills?  That's debatable - and you clearly don't care, anyway. Is it $35,000?  Not even close.

My point?  Before you use me and my brothers and sisters in arms as a meme, do your goddamn research.  And then DON'T USE US AS A MEME.

Rape Culture and Misogyny Pt 2: Men, Let's Talk For a Second

In part one of this mini series on social issues, I discussed a little bit about winning allies, and how not to alienate the people in whom you are trying to inspire action by being a condescending jerk.  I promised a part two, so here it is.  Before we start, I want to say that women may not relate to some of the things I'm saying, and I'm sorry for that.  We think a little differently from you, so, you'll have to excuse me if I speak the language of the people I'm trying to talk to.

Men, let's talk for a second.  I want to talk to you about the weird social landscape that is developing under your feet, most likely quite unrelated to anything you have personally done or said.  You're increasingly finding yourself in an environment that is different, if not uncomfortable.  Not infrequently, you've probably felt guilty about being a man.  Relax.  That's not what this is about.  This is about a reaction to a very small, but VERY LOUD portion of our male compatriots and the effects its having on our society.  It's also about  maybe taking a step back and looking at how society functions and understanding that there are also larger, more subtle things that need to be addressed.

But that doesn't mean you shouldn't do anything about it.  In fact, as I'm about to discuss, you have an obligation to do something about it.  You're half of the damn human race.  My goal here is to help show men how to do it.

We're all giant balls of ego that needs to be fed.  We might say we're not fragile, or we're thick-skinned, or whatever, but a lot of the time we're lying.  Men are walking manifestations of their own ego, and any blow to that ego can be devastating.  That's, I think, why some men react so harshly to feminist dialog, particularly feminist dialog that generalizes men as dogs.   I don't believe in the mainstream point of view that an ego is a bad thing, only that there are bad ways to feed it.    Bad ways to feed the ego include control and power.  Showing your dominance over someone else by virtue of your physical strength or intellect is a thrill, but it's a cheap thrill.  It requires rapid revisiting in order to keep the ego fed.  Good ways to feed the ego?  Getting appreciation and validation for doing something awesome.

Bottom line?  We men want to be AWESOME.  And you know what?  You are awesome.  Now, choose carefully the way in which you want to be awesome.  Why not choose:  I AM THE GUARDIAN OF WOMEN CHECK OUT THIS CAPE THAT I HAVE THAT SAYS THAT.   If the result is a tempered personality who feels good about himself because he knows he is a force for good in the world, great.  If it's not as tempered, and that man turns into an arrogant man because look at all of the stuff I've done to combat misogyny and aren't I amazing?  Well...what's so bad about that, really?  You've become insufferable, maybe, but I'd rather someone be arrogant about how much they are helping society instead of how many women they've boned.

So, men?  Feed that ego,  but feed it with the organic, grass-fed beef of being seen as an awesome guardian, not the cheap GMO corn of exerting your dominance.

Understand the difference between emasculation and channeling your masculinity.  It's important to recognize that the world isn't asking you to stop being a man.  It's not asking you to stop going to the gym because big muscles are bad.  It's not asking you to give up your stones and have a baby.  It's asking you to take the natural strengths and tendencies that you are equipped with by virtue of being a man and apply them in a way that is helpful, rather than harmful, to women.  Be physically strong! But use your brain to tell you how to apply it, not your instincts.

Slight strength-specific tangent:  I may be over reaching, here, but I think the shaming of the damsel-in-distress scenario didn't do good things for the male ego or the male contribution to the fight.  Every man, I think, wants to rescue someone.  They want to swoop in and be the knight in shining armor - so cliche, I know, but it's true.

No matter how strong, every man has had the uncomfortable opportunity of being confronted by a man who was clearly stronger.  You remember that feeling? ( I've only felt it maybe once or twice in my life, because I am a total  beast and I took a karate class once.)  Women feel it all the time.  That's the feeling (I assume) that women have when they get catcalled on the street, or when someone won't leave them alone at a bar, or when they're simply feeling a little insecure.  That's got to be scary.

This doesn't mean that women are weak, which I think is why many women shy away from this sort of analogy as it can occasionally imply that women are dependent on men, can't take care of themselves, etc.   However, consider the following scenario:  You're walking down the street late at night, and a 130 lbs woman starts following you telling you that you have a nice ass.  How do you think that scenario is going to end?  Now swap the roles.  That's why you, as a man, have an obligation to be one of the good guys.  I don't want to call it superior strength, but  you have the distinct punching-in-the-face advantage.  You wouldn't call a quarterback a bad football player because he can't tackle, would you?  But if you're a 350 lbs lineman, you have an obligation to stop that QB from getting hit.

Setting an example is great, but don't just be one of the good guys.  Be vocal.   If you look at the first article, I talk very briefly about the difference between eliminating misogyny and helping to create an environment where that attitude cannot thrive.  I think the former is nearly impossible, but the latter is definitely achievable.   That means that, as a man, you can't do this in a vacuum.  It doesn't help if you sit in your room and take a Solemn Oath to defend all women from the tyranny of the evil ones if nobody else knows it.   So be loud about it for two reasons.  First, it gives those who are hard-line misogynists pause, because they're seeing an environment that is increasingly hostile to their foolishness.  But second, and maybe more importantly, it lets the ladies know that there are good guys among them.   Recently for World Fantasy Convention, I volunteered to help out with the harassment crew.  But then I also announced it.  Women need to know that there are men on their team.  And, hey, sometimes it's OK to feed that ego by telling someone that you're doing something good (as long as you're not just faking it).

There are lots of ways to become involved.  While I generally shy away from anything that claims to "raise awareness"  (I totally didn't know that men sometimes abuse women!) it does make a statement to the community if you're helping spread stories of BOTH good and bad interactions between men and women.  And on the rare chance when you have a confrontation situation, you can do a great job of feeding your ego by being on the right side of that situation.

Being a bystander can be as harmful as doing actual violence.  Your GUARDIAN OF WOMEN cape looks way cooler when you're flying around with it instead of sitting on your couch and using it as a blanket.  Direct confrontation isn't for everyone, but I'm sure you can think of a way to break up an uncomfortable situation without direct confrontation, too.

Ask questions earnestly - don't pretend you know what's best for women.  This is about dialog and listening, not about imposing what you think should be the status quo.  If women tell you that they don't liked being yelled at on the street, they don't like being yelled at on the street.  Don't be a raging idiot and make a video that undermines what women are trying to say by doing something that is not at all comparable (look back to the street scenario above).  I can't tell you how pissed off I was when I saw that video.  What purpose is there in trying to invalidate women's feelings?  Ugh.  Anyway.

As a man, you have a man's point of view.  There's a sharp learning curve when it comes to understanding what's going on in a woman's head.  So ask questions, but do it respectfully.  Don't do it in a way that makes it sound like a.) you already know what they're going to say and b.) what they're going to say is stupid.  Understand that you don't know everything and ask questions.  I do this in racial matters occasionally; I'm a white male, and I have a white male point of view.  I sometimes genuinely need someone to explain to me why a set of behaviors is offensive (not to justify why I shouldn't do it, but to help me widen my point of view).  Typically when the conversation is over, I understand humanity at large better than I did at the beginning.  Just be advised that a lot of people are programmed to explode during these sorts of conversations, and do your best to highlight the fact that you're being genuine, not trying to manipulate someone into giving a stupid answer so you can say HA!  SEXISM IS A LIE.

And, above all, when there's something cut and dry, recognize it.  When women say they don't like being catcalled, don't argue with them that it's a societal norm and that they should get over it.  When women say that they want the freedom to wear a (totally cute) costume to a convention without heavy breathing following them around, don't argue that they shouldn't wear a (totally cute) costume.

Now that's not to say that you can't have arguments about societal norms that affect both men AND women.  You're not giving up your valuable contribution to how life works; the goal isn't to go from a patriarchal to a  matriarchal society, it's to level the playing field.  I'm just saying that before you do that, try to widen your point of view a bit.

In conclusion, look, guys.  You're fifty percent of this crazy thing we call life.  You have some distinct advantages that have been given to you.  You've got a hungry ego - feed it by being awesome at being an advocate for women.  You've got physical strength that frees you from the fear of physical retribution - use that semi-invulnerability to speak out.  You've got a point of view - widen it so that you can better understand how to apply your  manliness to a good cause.  You've got a cape.  Let it fly.

Yes, of course, women can take care of themselves.  Everyone can take care of themselves.

But nobody should have to.

Gates Everywhere Stage Protest For Being Used as Scandal Mascots

WASHINGTON, DC.  In an unforeseen and bold move by hinge-operated objects everywhere, gates across the United States have staged a massive protest in response to alleged misrepresentation in hundreds of scandals across the world.

"This is a load of bullshit," said Faux-Iron Gate, a tacky knock-off of 1500's artistry using 21st century materials.  "What the hell did we ever do to anyone?  Ever since that guy with the flapping jowls did that 'V for Victory' shit and tried to steal the country, or something, we've been getting a bad rap.  We're tired of it."


The statistics are alarming.  Since the 1970s, there have been nearly a hundred cases of scandals that have used gates as their mascots.  From a gallop poll conducted in 35 states, we discovered that exactly zero gates had ever been consulted in the use of their name as a representation of deplorable politics, racism, sexism, or chocolate bars.

"Just because we can't keep out the squirrels all the time, people think they can walk all over us.  Or through us," said Tasteful Home Garden Gate.  "I can't speak for other gates, but I never advocated sleeping with anyone to gain anything.  And I certainly don't play video games.  Ain't nobody got time for that."


Weighing in on the situation, the Door Anti-Defamation League (DADL) has stepped in, giving solid evidence for what some politicians have dismissed as a "concern without merit" and "an open and shut case."

"It's really a grave injustice," Mark Smithers, DADL spokesman said.  "While the articles of the DADL don't specifically call out gates as real 'doors,' our organization has decided that it's time to value solidarity over semantics.  We will be filing a lawsuit on their behalf against everyone in the world who has ever used or thought of using the term 'gate' to personify a scandal."

"Those racist assholes," said Ineffective Gate with Broken Lock, "they always pull that 'not really doors' shit."

Outraged Twitter users have rallied to the cause with the hashtag #GateGate, which the DADL has ruled as "not at all ironic."

Saying Goodbye to Government Service

For those of you who are unfamiliar with my life path, I'll summarize the last decade or so below using clever ASCII art.

USAF Academy -> Active Duty USAF -> Reservist USAF -> Government Contractor

That's the gist of it.  And now, I'm saying goodbye.  I'm leaving behind the world of suits and uniforms and war and, in a complete reversal that I honestly never saw coming, entering the world of art.  I call it my Starving Artist Trifecta:  voice actor, author, musician, and I've written about it here several times before.  The biggest pillar of that right now is my voiceover career, but without a day job to weigh me down, I hope to strengthen those other two pillars significantly.

This is probably one of the strangest moments of my life. Looking back, when I was a young teenager and I decided to throw myself as hard as I could into the world of military service and worked every day with that goal in mind, I was convinced I would be doing it for the rest of my life.  I'd be a 30 year airman, an officer until they kicked me out, defending the values of American society from "all enemies, foreign and domestic."  I was also going to fly fighter jets and probably pilot the military's first Mechwarrior - two things that never happened.  I had seriously drank the kool-aid.  Hell, I was brewing the stuff in my basement.  I was all about glory and honor and watching Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, duty, honor, country, and those three hallowed words reverently dictated what I could be, what I ought to have been, what I would be.

Go back and tell that guy that some day he would blink his dry eyes, shake his head, and say "I don't want to do this anymore."  He'd laugh in your face.

Sometimes even now I laugh in my own face.  I look in the mirror, wonder what I am doing and tell myself to get a real job, something respectable.  Something that contributes to society.  Something that's bigger than me.  "You're selfish," a voice whispers in the back of my head.  "You don't want to do the hard work.  You don't want to sacrifice.  You're a coward."

It's harder to face than you might think.  To me, it's not just quitting my day job.  It's committing myself to a new life, almost an entirely new worldview and philosophy.  It's saying goodbye to the old life - the life that I spent all the years previous to this one building.  I worked hard to get here.  Really hard.  And then, all of a sudden  I realized that it wasn't the life I was meant to lead.  It was just a prelude, I think, to the one ahead of me.  But that doesn't keep that voice from whispering.

I've done some interesting things.  Some things I've felt great about; others maybe not so much.  I've met a lot of fantastic people.  I've met a lot of shitty people, too.  And, above all, I've learned a tremendous amount about myself and the world.  But, it's time to move on.  I leave it to the next generation of plucky young high-schoolers with stars and stripes in their eyes to figure out what to do about this country and those that threaten it - whether that be by putting on a uniform or by getting their hands dirty helping the poor in places all across the world.

I feel like I'll never really get out all the things in my head about this transition, but this is turning into a ramble as well as a very symbolic representation of what the last year of my life has been like.  It's time for me to stop straddling the line.

So: Deep breath, folks.  Here we go.

Please Learn How To Talk To People Again

I've been monitoring the recent insanity with SFWA and the multiple parties involved in the artillery shelling that is masquerading as a professional dialogue, though I can't say I've been doing it with too much enthusiasm.  I've hinted at this in a previous post about the political/moral arguments that seem to be hanging like a dark cloud over the SF/F genre, and I don't really think I'll rehash those details here.  I'm not going to pick a side or give what I think about the issue or its tangents - at least not at the present time.  But there is something that has been bothering me quite a bit as I find myself being Facebook ambushed by links to blogs and websites, etc.

People have completely forgotten how to talk to each other.

I could go out on a limb here to blame it on the internet, but I think that's overly simplistic.  Still, one cannot deny the phenomenal impact that internet communication has had on the way we interact with each other.  You're allowed sufficient time to come up with witty responses; you're allowed sufficient anonymity if you choose it; you're (perceiveably) allowed immunity from the responsibility to adhere to social norms, in some cases.  You also can't engineer your tone.  You can't accurately guage your inferences.  You can't baseline your interlocutor to find out how he or she might perceive what you are saying.  Worse, you don't care.  You don't care because you're not there to see the fallout.

We need to reinstitute a standard of behavior in the way we communicate over the internet and start treating it like we would any other communication.  If you wouldn't spew the kind of hateful, sarcastic vitriol in person that you are spewing across the internet, then you should probably reconsidering what you are saying.  No, you should probably reconsider HOW you are saying it.  There's nothing wrong with having an opinion, and there's nothing wrong with expressing it.  I think there's something wrong with expressing it like a child who was never taught the meaning of respecting other people.

Worse, the internet and the types of communications I've been seeing involve another dimension that up until now was only present in select circumstances - all your communication is public.  Yes, this means that you should watch what you say, since it becomes etched in stone immediately upon you saying it, but there's more to it than that.  In one-on-one communication, or even communication in small groups, the dimension of pride and ego is much less than in a public forum.  You may have an ego to protect, you may have honor to defend, but the way you're going to handle yourself in a coffee shop - even if you're sipping lattes with people with whom you disagree - is much different from the way you are going to conduct yourself if you were on a soap box in the middle of a crowded forum.  Essentially, that's what the internet has become.  Everyone now has access to a soap box, and almost nobody has any idea how to use it properly.

Communication on the internet is not just public.  In fact, it's not really communication - it's entertainment, and it's become a zero-sum game.  There is no compromise, because compromise is giving up status and ego and pride and concession that maybe you weren't 100% right after all.  Maybe every situation isn't black and white.  There is no discussion, since there really is no listening going on - there are only people stating their opinions loudly.

This is not communication.  It's not healthy from a personal perspective, and it's certainly not healthy from a professional perspective.   SFWA and the SF/F genre have been grievously wounded in a way that is both saddening and embarrassing, but it's not just restricted to that community.  Without a willingness to listen, without a willingness to compromise, without a willingness to accept responsibility for the things that are coming out of your keyboard, there will be no progress in any community.  There will only be lines in the sand, and through the gap it creates will blow a stagnant, callous wind that smells an awful lot like decay.

MAGFest 12 - Some Reflections

If you consider yourself a part of video gaming and music culture at all and you don’t know what MAGFest is, you’re doing something wrong.  Music-and-Gaming Festival (MAGFest) is a yearly festival that has occurred for the past 12 years in the Washington DC area – the National Harbor in Maryland, to be precise, at the Gaylord Convention Center – and it is basically five days of ceremonial worship of the nerd gods.

“Festival” is a bit of a misnomer, though.  It’s really a convention, much like a lot of other fan conventions except that there is that added element of music that is not so much a focus at other cons.  Here you get a brilliant juxtaposition of video games and music that tickles all kinds of nostalgic bones, and is pure awesome – especially for someone like me whose artistic tastes developed in a way that is inextricably tied to video games.  Music practically started with video games for me.

So getting to go to MAGFest for a couple of days this year was a real treat.  I’m relatively new to the scene, for the most part; I’ve spent the last 10 years or so getting bounced all over the world and haven’t had the time or flexibility to really start to become part of a culture.  Now, after being “settled” for over ONE YEAR (gasp) I can feel myself starting to branch out, build relationships, make friends, and experience life in a somewhat normal way again.  I miss traveling, but I think I missed being part of something like this, too.

The highlights?  Well, the really great part about MAGFest was getting to hang out with the OverClocked ReMix community.  If you’re familiar with my blog(s) at all, you’ll know that OCR is a fantastic community of video-game reinterpretation into which I am happy to pour my creative juices.  Aside from a lot of beer and introspective nerd conversation, I learned how to play a couple of new tabletop games, indulged in Magic, the Gathering for a couple of hours, listened to some fantastic concerts (like OverClocked University, Flexstyle’s DJ set, and Those Who Fight), and got to participate in a couple of impromptu jam sessions myself.

You know shit just got real when some guy walks into the room carrying an accordion.  You know shit got really real when he passes it to 3 other people who all also happen to play accordion.

All in all, I find that I learn something about myself every time I go to a convention.  I mean, I’ve only been to a few in my life, but I still feel like I come out of each one of them changed, and usually for the better.  That might seem like a pretty deep inference for what is essentially a giant party, but it’s true.  Sure, there’s partying going on, and sure, there’s nothing particularly deep about an NBA Jam session in which every character is Bill Clinton (YES THERE IS), but I still got to step outside my bubble for a while.  The panels were educational, too, and just talking to people who have a different life experience than me can be really enlightening.  Being an introvert has an unintended side effect sometimes of thinking that there is only one worldview (yours).

So, what did I learn over the last few days?  Well, first, I learned that I have an awesome wife who is willing to go let me geek out for a few days while she takes care of our kid.  I also learned a little bit about fitting in, about chasing my dreams, and about balancing priorities in my life.  I’ve been so busy over the last couple of years (like ten of them) that it’s been hard for me to really sit and think about what I value, what I think is going to help me live a fulfilled life with my family, what I want to do here on this planet.

And I think I might have had a bit of tunnel vision for a while.  I worked so incredibly hard to get where I am right now in my totally non-nerd, non-writing, non-music career, but I’ve sort of come to the realization that all of this might have been a stepping stone and not a destination.  I have stories to write and music to compose, nerds to hang out with.  I’m not sure I’ve been prioritizing my life that way; I’m too stuck in the old fashioned model of family stability and having a “real” job. But maybe the path I’ve been on was just meant to set me up to set me free, if that’s not too gushy and silly to understand.

It’s not very often I get to hang out with huge amounts of people that fall into similar strata of nerd culture as me, and it’s always kind of refreshing and liberating when I do.  To me, nerd culture (I need to find a better word for this) is a sort of ultimate freedom.  What looks like social awkwardness is really just kind of universal social acceptance; you can go to a DJ dance party and act like you’re having a seizure for three hours, and nobody will ever think about how poorly you are actually dancing – only that you are having fun.  You can put on an Altair costume from Assassin’s Creed and walk around looking dead serious, like you literally believe that you’re that character, and it’s cool (unless you try to stab someone in the eye).  Nobody judges.

So, it had me doing a bit of a self assessment, and I think I really needed it.  My wife said to me in a related conversation after MAGfest, “Maybe you and I need to stop pretending to be cool.”

I’m not 100% sure what that means yet, but I’m pretty sure I haven’t yet realized all the implications of that line of thought.   I hope to, soon.  2014 is a brand new year, and I think some exciting things are coming my way in ways I never expected.  I just hope it’s not a pie in the face.  Cuz, I mean, nobody expects that.

Cheers to you, MAGFest!  Until next year.

United Video Game Symphony!

I remember the first time I discovered an orchestral arrangement of a Final Fantasy tune.  I was surfing the web back when MP3s were just sort of starting to come out, and I found a couple of files.  One of them was actually part of Symphonic Suite, and the other one was a crazy samba version of the Chocobo theme.

I literally thought I had found some sort of secret thing.

Of course, it wasn't secret. It was a huge area of fandom that I had yet to discover fully.  There are many orchestral arrangements of formerly 8-bit video game tunes, and many of them are hair-raising fantastic.  Going to the Final Fantasy Distant Worlds concert was one of the best musical experiences of my life.

Buuuut there's always that ONE tune that you wish would be orchestrated, but hasn't been.  After all, orchestras are expensive; you need to hire the musicians, rent the practice space, rehearse, etc.  It's a complicated process.

Until now! (God I hate that line...)

Thanks to the brilliant idea of Thomas Kresge, the United Video Game Symphony is close to being a reality!  In his model, after a Kickstarter funding, a giant group of video game fans like you will get the chance to vote on what you want orchestrated.  After collecting about 18 pieces, the arrangers (of which I am one) will get the voting results and begin arranging.  The concert will be held sometime in mid-2014 in the Washington D.C. area (venue TBD).   If you can't be there in person, you'll be able to watch it live streaming on the internet and buy the CD later.  

If this sounds as awesome to you as it does to me, you must go to the Kickstarter webpage right now and throw your life's earnings at it.  This project is ambitious, but think about what a couple of video game nerds are undertaking here; we want to hire a group of talented, professional symphony members and have them put on a concert at a major venue.

I hope you'll take a moment to spread the word, contribute if you can, and just get as excited as I am about hearing your favorite video game pieces orchestrated by some of the best players in the world.

Go to the Kickstarter NOW!


The End of FFVII - The Web Series

I suppose it’s a few weeks past due that I post something about this, but the Final Fantasy VII Web Series has been cancelled.

In short, it boiled down to a legal dispute we’re having with Square Enix – one that we always knew we were going to have but had hoped that Square would be professional enough to overcome.  Despite attempting to work with them for months through several forms of communication (email, snail mail, phone calls, everything but flying to Japan) they chose to ignore us.  We were open and honest about what we were doing with absolutely everyone involved, especially Square – they knew exactly what we were doing and when we were going to do it for almost six months.  We got media coverage from ridiculously popular gaming online mags like Kotaku and TheWired and Crunchyroll.

But…they still ignored us.

That is, until we tried to use Kickstarter to fund the project.  Then they brusquely came down on us with a takedown notice, said nothing, and continued to refuse to respond to our many professional missives.

We knew we were going out on a limb with this one, but we had (albeit perhaps naive) hopes.  Square isn’t known for being lenient with fan projects, and have shut down several before.  But they also have made deals before with fan organizations like OverClocked Remix.  We hoped that, with all the amazing stuff we had out there already , Square might see this as an opportunity to reclaim some of the fan support they’ve lost through the past few iterations of Final Fantasy.  Instead, they took it as an opportunity to maintain their already scarred reputation and uphold the perception that they’re not very interested in what fans want.

So maybe I’m a little bitter. I think everyone on my team was – and we had a right to be.  Haters gonna hate, of course.  We’ve seen plenty of that, and combined with the outright rudeness that comes with the implied anonymity of internet communication, it was a pretty discouraging time.  Regardless, though, our team of fifty some odd fans got together and tried to do something amazing with the Final Fantasy VII world, and no amount of tactless trolling is going to diminish that.  We know what we were capable of bringing to the fan community, and we know what Square Enix lost by choosing corporate elitism over professional relationships.

The team has moved on to other individual projects, but we’ll all be keeping in touch and pulling on the massive talent pool we’ve accumulated.  For me, it’s time that I start focusing on my writing again; DEATH BEAR AND THE SNUGGLE OF DOOM is in its last edit and Book 1 of THE DEICIDE SAGA is shortly behind it.  And NaNoWriMo 2013 is coming up!  While one dream might be dead, a hundred others are rising up to take its place.  That and I’ve launched my music and voice website, which you can find over at www.renmanstudio.com.  I have several projects that I’m working on that I hope to be able to announce in the coming weeks.

Much love,



Renaissance Man Studio, LLC!

How to Terrify Yourself, by Joseph Zieja

Step 1:  Start your own business.

Step 2:  Post a blog entry about it.

Step 3:  ...Profit!

Ladies and gentlemen, I am proud to present my new website and new business:

Renaissance Man Studio, LLC!

I feel obliged to tell you how I arrived here, but you can just go ahead and click the above link to skip my bullshit and see the glory that is my new website.

When I was 15, I got one of my first "on-the-books" jobs as a telemarketer for a sales company --  Put down that knife!  There's a point to this story, and I promise I only did it for one summer and I never called you at dinner.  I came across some very, um, colorful personalities (and strange last names), one of which was clearly a woman of African descent who began very enthusiastically praising the timbre of my voice.  Instead of buying what I was selling (damn her), she began raving about how nice my voice was and did I sing in a choir and oh what a sweet young man I was!  I hung up and promptly forgot about the conversation for thirteen years.

Then, this year, I decided to try my hand at the voiceover business.  By that I mean: all those commercials and whiteboard animation videos and cartoons and video games have to get their voice talent from somewhere, right?  Well, now, they (or at least a small percentage of them) get it from me.  My recording studio was pretty ideal for giving this a shot, and since February of 2013 I've amassed over 50 clients and starred as a cartoon panda speaking Arabic for a children's game (I know, right?).   It's proving to be very successful for me and a lot of fun.

Then, with the sudden boom I've been experiencing on OverClocked Remix, I thought - hey, why not include music in this gig too?  So I started offering custom music services to my voice clients, some of whom took me up on the offer.  And then I started getting contracts for independent video games and stuff too (visit the new site's blog for more info).  It seemed like the pieces were all coming together.

So I thought I would create the Trifecta of the Starving Artist:  making a career out of three horrifically non-lucrative professions all at once.  I could be a starving author, a starving musician, and a starving voiceover artist all from the comfort of my home.

And so here I am.  A certifiably insane business owner with a bunch of guitars and apparently a pretty good Arabic panda voice.  I'm very excited, very nervous, and maybe I'm clinging to my day job a bit.

This site, josephzieja.com, will continue to remain active as the main conduit for my author career, and will also continue to be my personal blog where I'll post random musings, news, and other such things.  But now I get to manage TWO sites with TWO blogs and TWO Facebook accounts and TWO Twitter accounts.  I feel like a monkey who has just been given a whole new row of shiny red buttons to press.

Many thanks to PJ Icasas  who helped me conceptualize and organize the site, as well as to my wife who came up with the awesome idea for the Da Vinci logo.

Go check out www.renmanstudio.com !

Final Fantasy VI: Balance and Ruin RELEASED!

Skip my bullshit and get straight to the music HERE.  It’s FREE!


I. Love.  Video Game.  Music.  I really do.  It might sound nerdy (it is) it might sound weird (well, maybe), but it’s some of my favorite stuff to listen to on the planet.  Some of my first out-of-my-own money CD purchases were soundtracks from video games – specifically Final Fantasy VI.  It is an instant nostalgia button that evokes emotional responses that I can’t really describe, and I’m not going to try.  It’s an intensely personal experience.

I joined the OverClocked Remix community in January of 2012, just about two and a half years ago, after a lifetime of depravity in not knowing that it existed. An entire community of musicians willing to donate their time and talent for the furtherance of video game music as an evolving, highly creative art form?  It just seemed too good to be true.  And even then, listening to the font of genius that is OCR, never did I really think I could contribute.

Today, OverClocked Remix released FINAL FANTASY VI:  BALANCE AND RUIN.  This album represents the incredibly diverse talents of 74 musicians combined to create 74 tracks of content spread across five traditionally-portioned discs.  It is a gargantuan effort marvelously directed by the incredibly talented and dedicated Andrew Aversa (Zircon) and Michael Vafeas (McVaffe).  This whole thing would never have been possible without them, and I thank them both from the bottom of my heart for creating the opportunity for what has been one of the greatest musical experiences of my life.

Physical copies of the album with artwork and other bonuses were available to Kickstarter backers (sorry if you missed the boat!) but otherwise the album is available 100% free online to anyone that wants to share the joy.  Today a fantastic day for music, and I know it’s a fantastic day for me.


-          Joe (XPRTNovice)

My Tracklist:

Disc 1:   La Montaña de los Caballos Jóvenes
A Fistful of Nickels (Collaboration with Zircon)

Gobble, Snarf, Snap

Disc 2:

Bad Octopus (Collaboration with Fishy)

Disc 4:

Go-Go Gadget Gonkulator

The Narshemellow

Other Links:

OverClocked Remix Press Release

The Boy With the Yellow Scarf: A Video Game Music Commission

I was recently contacted by an artist who has created a character named Reize for the purpose of finding a home for him in a Japanese RPG (JRPG) style game.  He wanted me to do two things: create a theme song for the character and create a battle theme for a possible future game.

He was very happy with the song I wrote for the character, and I wanted to share it with you all here.  You can hear it by playing the YouTube video embedded in the linked page.  Danny's art is amazing as well, so take some time to check out the eye candy on his DeviantArt page as well.

That piece was a ton of fun to work on!  I got to flex some creative muscles that went beyond my normal OverClocked Remix tracks - I wasn't working with any sort of pre-determined melody or within a certain style.  I got to take a look at a character, read a bit about him, and think to myself, "what would be playing in the background for this young boy?"  It was a wonderful experience, and many thanks to Danny for allowing me the opportunity.  I'm excited to finish the battle theme as well.

Do you have a similar project that you'd like some music for?  Shoot me a quick email via the "contact" tab above and we can have a chat.

Team2X Joins the Final Fantasy VII Web Series

Holy crap.  Have you ever seen Jedi Ninjas?

[caption id="" align="aligncenter" width="400"](But you wouldn't have been nearly as good at making it reality) You're Jealous You Didn't Think Of This First[/caption]

There are about 2 million people who have.  And for good reason.  It’s absolutely nerdgasmically awesome  Made by 2XEntertainment (the team is called Team2X), these guys have been destroying YouTube with martial arts, special effects, filmography, and other words that have to do with the movies that I’m not 100% sure what they mean.  They’ve been on-scene with Jackie Chan and his stunt team, on the live stage all over the world doing ridiculous acrobatic shows and martial arts demonstrations, and have had their hand in Jumper, Scott Pilgrim, and the cookie jar (well, probably – chances are they’ll deny it like everyone else does if you ask them).

Well, guess what?  Remember the Final Fantasy VII movie/web series that I’m the musical director for?

Yeah.  They’re doing it.

Seriously, they are.  We’re going to be using their twelve million dollar studio in Canada to do the filming for this series.  And they’re going to lend us all sorts of great special effects equipment, cables, dudes that are on fire, whatever.

Check out this demo reel from TWO YEARS AGO.   Then, I want you to go to the store.  By earplugs.  And then buy earmuffs.  Then a hat.  Maybe some nose plugs.  Because this web series is going to BLOW YOUR MIND.

If you haven’t done so already, I definitely recommend jumping on the Facebook page and following the project.  You won’t regret it.

Final Fantasy VII - The Web Series

Okay. I admit it. I’ve been neglecting this blog. There are a lot of reasons why I haven’t been offering my life story here, lately, but those can come another day.

I wanted to make a bit of an announcement. If you’ve been reading any part of this blog at all, you’ll know 1.) I’m a huge nerd and 2.) I like music. You also probably know that I’m an aspiring writer, and all that. All of these things are true.

As such, I really like video games.  Of all the games I’ve ever played, there are a few that stick out. Final Fantasy VII is one of them. I argue that it was the best in the series (though I might allow for some wiggle room, unless you say Final Fantasy XIII, in which case I will punch you in the face). I loved the characters. I loved the plot. The music was fantastic. To this day, it’s the game I have replayed the most, followed shortly by perhaps a few other Final Fantasy titles. FFVII is simply worth revisiting over and over again for me for a number of reasons.

There was some speculation a while ago that Square Enix was going to do a remake of the game, either in movie form or by porting it to a next-generation console. Personally, having seen what they did with Advent Children, I would prefer them to leave it the hell alone. So far, so good.

But there were other fans that didn’t think that way. Back in 2012, a couple of Italian filmmakers named Gionata Medeot and Mattia Ferraro decided they were tired of waiting. So what do you do when you’re an ambitious pair of Italians that want to make a movie? You make it.

Well, you sit down and have a doppio and talk loudly with your hands for a while. But then you make it.

This trailer was the result.

Now, if you’re not impressed by this, then you should probably just stop here and go back to doing something boring like watching the NCAA tournament. Go ahead and let me know how crazy March Madness is when it’s over. I’ll be sure to turn on the blender while you’re talking.

If you’re not totally lame, you’ll be happy to know that this trailer wasn’t just to blow smoke. Since then, the Italians have teamed up with the Scots and the Brits and the Americans and the Canadians and whoever the hell else I’ve missed on our crew to make:



(Because, shit, Peter Jackson somehow did it to a 275 page book. We can do it to a 60-hour video game)

I can't even begin to emphasize how much this is NOT an average fan production.  Just look at the trailer.  We have VFX artists from Harry Potter, professional screenwriters, you name it.  I'll be one of the composers as well as one of the editors, and who knows what else I might pick up along the way.  I think I'd make a badass Sephiroth, but whatever.

I'll write more later, but for now you should join the ELEVEN THOUSAND FANS who have liked this on facebook.


Awkward Party Jokes

Every once in a while I notice there’s a giant hole in my blogging regularity. Most of the time it has to do with major life changes, since I seem to be keen on packing them into small bundles of time. Now I realize that I haven’t written anything here since the day we were all supposed to die, and I thought that perhaps an update in order, because that’s what you do when you have nothing else to say at the moment. It’s like the awkward jokes told at parties when everyone runs out of things to talk about. Here’s the awkward joke of my life:

Writing: I’m still chugging away at the first book in THE DEICIDE SAGA, and it’s proving to be a much bigger project than I anticipated. The world I’m creating is huge, and requires me to keep large amounts of research data readily available for reference while I’m writing. Sometimes I just can’t remember the name of that city, or what color hair that one lady has. I’ve found myself more than once typing (CITY NAME) into the document rather than looking it up, because it’s hard to port all of that stuff to the multiple places in which I write. The novel is at 150,000 words at the moment, and my plan is to keep it below 250,000. I expect to have the first draft done by the end of February.

I’ve been invited to submit something to an anthology on military fiction for a friend of mine, which I plan on doing. The deadline isn’t until sometime later this year, so I have plenty of time (and plenty of projects to worry about) until then. I am, for example, still submitting to Writers of the Future, though I am one sale away from being too experienced a writer to qualify. The contest is a game-changer for writers, but is only open to those who have stayed below a certain sale threshold for short fiction, one that I am rapidly approaching. In the meantime, I’m still on my quest to get a story into Analog, Asimov’s, and Fantasy and Science Fiction. I’ve been getting some very pleasant rejection letters from Sheila over at Asimov’s, so I might be close to working my way into some of these killer markets.

Oh, and Mythic Scribes, a website for Fantasy writers, is going to be publishing a guest post of mine on top mistakes writers make when dealing with militaries. That’s coming out on January 26th, but you can visit Mythic Scribes in the meantime at – you guessed it – www.mythicscribes.com .

Music: I’ve completely lost my mind. Since my first two tracks came out at OverClocked Remix, I’ve been working on 5 different projects for 5 different directors in addition to collaborating on at least 3 other tracks with other artists. This has put me in my studio for hours at a time getting these mixes ready. They include a carnival piece, gypsy jazz, flamenco, cool jazz, heavy metal, and Rachmaninov-style concerto, topped off with a reggae collaboration and some more requests for my strange talent for whistling.

It’s been exhausting, in a way, and it’s been a Time Vampire, but it’s been some of the most fun I’ve ever had with music. If you haven’t noticed, I’ve added a player to the right side of the page where you’re welcome to listen to some of the music that has been released. I’ll be updating that over time to make it easier to listen to, and of course over the next year that list of songs is probably going to triple.

Speaking of the website, I’m starting to think it needs a bit of an overhaul. I’m not sure quite how I am going to do it yet, but damnit it needs doing. If there are any web designers out there…nah, I’m just kidding. I can’t afford you, and I’m not famous enough to care that much. Ask me in five years when…well, when I’m still not famous, so I can tell you no for a second time.

That’s about it from my end. Of course life is happening in the background right now. I’m still getting ready to be a father, and that has its own level of stress. Maybe someday I’ll sit down on this blog and actually tell you all something interesting about my life instead of just writing a report on my writing and music adventures.

Thanks for reading,


Time's End: A Majora's Mask Remix Album

If you're reading this, it means that Jason Gallaty (Theophany) has released his amazing TIME'S END album, a tribute to the Zelda game Majora's Mask.  Having contributed to "Clocktown" as a guitarist/vocalist/mandolin/flute player, I can say that I make up less than 1% of this album's greatness.  You want to listen to this, right now.  It's completely free, and it will awe you.


My OverClocked ReMix Debut

While my webpage has so far been focused on my attempt at a writing career, since the beginning of 2012 I've also started to expand a bit on the music side of my life.  I won't call it a career, because I really have no intent of making it one.  I've been playing some sort of instrument or another for about twenty years now (my god) and it's always been a part of my life.  In a strange way, writing and music have always been in the background, sort of dancing around while I go through the more tangible aspects of life like school and a job that actually pays me money.

Without retelling stories (I save that for my wife, or so she tells me), I'm a huge fan of video game music, and when I found OverClocked ReMix for the first time I was dumbstruck at the huge community out there that appreciates it as much as I do.  OverClocked Remix is a website dedicated to video game music (VGM) as an art form, where the myriad artists who belong to the site use their free time and personal resources to craft new and innovative ways to interpret VGM.  It was started about twelve years ago by David Lloyd, who goes by the remixer handle djpretzel, still an active member in the community.

If you go there, you'll find a focus on the older RPGs - classics like the Final Fantasy series on SNES/Playstation, Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, and Zelda.  But you'll also find Mario, Metroid, the Elder Scrolls games, and the list is expanding every day.  It's not just a wacky forum where anyone can upload music, however.  Each piece comes on the site in one of two ways:  it is either submitted and judged by a panel of OCRemix veterans or it is commissioned in the form of albums dedicated to a particular game.  Some of the people that contribute to the site are "real" composers, having worked on the MASS EFFECT soundtracks and the up and coming Mega Man vs. Street Fighter, as well as a huge host of independent and mobile games.  I, however, am just a bum with some instruments and some microphones.

It was an honor when, in April 2012, I had my first remix accepted.  Today it was finally released, marking my debut as an official OverClocked ReMixer.  I took  two songs from Final Fantasy VII and turned them into a bluegrass ho down.  Diversity can definitely be found on OCRemix.

You can download it for free and listen to it here.   After you do that, you should definitely take the time to peruse the website.

In the wake of this first remix, I also entered a competition for entry into a Final Fantasy VI album entitled Balance and Ruin, which will be available in early 2013 - again, for free.  I won the competition and then went on to contribute 2 more songs, earning 3 places in the 5-disc compilation.  I'm really excited for that release, and will definitely post it when it comes.

In the meantime, I started getting messages from other remixers who had heard what I'd done, inviting me to other projects.  In the coming year, I'll be on the Secret of Mana, Lufia 2, and Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time albums as well.  And this Friday, I'll be on one of Jason Gallaty's (remix handle Theophany) albums, produced, written, and directed by him.  It's called Time's End, and it's based on the Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask game.  He allowed me to  listen to the album and it's going to be awesome.

I hope you take the chance to listen to the music - all of OCRemix, not just mine - and enjoy it.  It's definitely worth your ear's attention.

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