Friday, December 10, 2004

Just the Two of Us, Ryu and I

Jay's Note:

Okay. This post does have a baseball connection.

Sort of.

About a week ago, I was writing a post over on Always Amazin' concerning the Mets possibly signing Henry Blanco. Without really thinking, I typed out the title "Blanco, Blanco Burning Bright" and dove into my pre-work post. Right before I was about to hit "publish", I re-read the title and paused. Something was wrong but I couldn't quite put my finger on it.

Obviously, the post title was supposed to be a take off of William Blake's "The Tyger" but having Blanco in there really didn't make any sense. On the other hand, dammit, it still sounded right to me. After thinking for another minute or two, it suddenly dawned on me where my cluttered brain pulled the reference from and I started to laugh out loud in the middle of the lab. I eventually changed the post title after realizing that only a handful of people in the world would get the joke.

A couple days later, still chortling to myself, I fired off an e-mail to Matt and asked him if he would be willing to put together a post on this silly little story to share with the rest of you. And so he agreed (bwah, hah, hah). So without further adieu...

There are at least eight levels of procrastination. I'll tell you all about them some other time. For now, I want to concentrate on the most beguiling form of procrastination ever to slip its anaesthetic claws into the soft underbelly of my productivity. Or I could have some chips and salsa. Yeah, chips and salsa would Focus, curse you! Focus on how you used to avoid focusing...

The year: 1992. The place: Shelton Hall, Boston University. The English major, flagrantly dodging a paper on Emily Dickinson, pokes his head around the corner to peer into the game room.

He's in luck. The Street Fighter II machine is unoccupied. This is a boon because the English major doesn't really like fighting other human players. He's not very good, and he's not a very good loser. He can beat the machine, though, while playing Ryu and using only one of the six available buttons. As you might expect, many quarters have been sacrificed in perfecting this strategy. He doesn't want to think about the number of quarters sacrificed, in much the some way he doesn't want to think about Emily Dickinson just now. Nor Walt Whitman for that matter.

He is not alone in his addiction. There's the one guy in Shelton Hall who's smaller than the English major. The smaller guy plays the only female character in the game. He's pretty effective, although the way in which he finds his alter ego quotable (her vocabulary consisting entirely of "Ya-ta!") is, well, creepy.

There's also the guy, one of the better players in the dorm, who carries a cell phone down to the console with him. The 1992 cell phone is so large it should come with back-up lights, but he's developed a knack for holding it in the crook of his neck while he plays. On he chats, never missing a block, never screwing up a combo. The English major suspects that whomever he is talking to on the phone is also, somewhere, playing Street Fighter II.

Most amusing of all is the older Greek guy who can't defeat the machine. He's smelly, and he has an immense stack of quarters perched above his left wrist. He can't beat Vega, the second bonus character, and he's been working on it for a few months. It might be a little sad, really, except for the vociferous swearing in a foreign language. One night he pounds the console so hard that it flips open, revealing the machine's innards. The English major's friend Yuichi finds the switch that the quarters trip, and the entire dorm plays for free for about three weeks. When the English major, a semester later, shows up for a computer science discussion section, it turns out that the Greek guy who can't beat Vega is the teaching assistant.

The English major can dodge that Dickinson paper all he wants, but the truth is that the two major strands of his admittedly limited existence--a devotion to a cartoonish video game and a zeal for poetry--are drawing quietly together. Ryu walks into the sunset, successful again, and the English major heads upstairs, slipping comfortably into another procrastination tactic: forestalling the work of one class by pretending interest in another. To avoid Emily Dickinson, he turns to William Blake.
Something happens to William Blake's words as the English major considers them. They seem to occupy a certain kind of place, or, more accurately, fill a certain kind of shape. It wouldn't be that hard for other words to fill that same shape. And so, the English major begins to idly scribble:

Blanka, Blanka burning bright,
Green fur ablaze in electric light,
What moronic thought could cause
A foe to brave your hungry jaws?

Things get worse from there. Other Street Fighter characters slip into the shapes of other poems. The English major disrespects William Carlos Williams; he skewers e. e. cummings. He rips off Elizabeth Barrett Browning. He even parodies some writers he likes, such as Coleridge and Poe.

Embarassingly enough, the string of cheesy parodies proves to be one of the most popular things the English major writes. Some of his college friends charitably refuse to forget it.


At 4:30 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was great! Laughed the whole way through. Thanks


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