Two tiny joys that have been on my mind lately

1. It’s Arizona here so that means that for fifteen months of the year I go to sleep with the ceiling fan on. Or at least I used to until earlier this year when I woke up one morning with a mild case of vertigo that knocked me on my ass. The ceiling fan didn’t cause it, certainly, but as I laid flat on my back, eyes tightly shut to the spinning blades above me, I decided that it didn’t help it either.

So sometimes I’ll run it ever so briefly and then kill it until I wake up four hours later with my collarbone submerged in sweat. But after I kill the fan, if the air conditioner also happens to be running at that moment, the circulating breeze from the vent is enough to continue pushing the ceiling fan a while longer. Like, another fifteen minutes. And I will lay flat on my back again and watch the wooden starfish arms twirl above me lazily and I’ll wonder… is a ceiling fan just a mobile for adults?

2. As part of a rewards program at work I will occasionally be told the names of customer’s children and as someone with two siblings I am frankly appalled at how many people attempt to pull of a naming scheme. Usually this is in the form of alliteration — Jason, Jill, and James or Brad, Beth, and Bobby.

Recently I was confronted with my favorite — an almost Ducktales-ian trio of children:

Jayden, Cayden, and Brayden.

Someone buy these kids their Junior Woodchuck Guidebook right now.

Three Articles I Thought a Lot About Today

1. Let’s Listen to This Mixtape a PR Person Sent to Me By Mistake

Waypoint’s Austin Walker adds another timeless entry to one of the internet’s greatest genres of writing: Live-Blogging a Disaster. Not strictly a live-blog, this time-stamped deep-dive into a mixtape accidentally (?) sent to Walker, the Editor-in-Chief at Vice’s new gaming-focused site Waypoint, is a journey through the hip-hop soundscape that only someone with a warez’d copy of digital turntabling software could construct. Like an art scholar critiquing the header image collage you made for your Angelfire Tenchi Muyo fansite with a pirated copy of Photoshop 4.0, Walker is mercilessly understanding. He knows when to shame and he knows when to “same. tbh.” He also knows when to drop a link to…

2. How America’s Surveillance State Shaped The Sound Of Rap

Now my only real familiarity with T.I. was his guest verse on a Justin Timberlake song, so the accusation (or lament (or mere statement of fact?)) that he had “gone pop” was baffling at first. I knew enough about him to know he had gone to prison, but knew nothing about what prison had done to him artistically until now. Reading this article in the break room at work I wanted to turn to any of my coworkers and ask them how such a ludicrous situation could happen, how artistic expression could be so severely state-influenced, but I didn’t think any of them would have any more familiarity with T.I. than I do, or an opinion deeper than a nicer phrasing of “Well, he shouldn’t be rapping about that stuff anyways.” And to be fair I can’t say that for sure about any or all of my coworkers, but I can guess because it’s that gulf between what we feel someone should be doing and what someone should be allowed to do that is where the real darkness of oppressive systems lie. The type of things made explicit in young adult dystopias and science fiction is a very real thing in the real world, just as an implied consequence instead of an actual construction. And even when those systems are thwarted, it’s hard to feel that it’s for the best because…

3. Supreme Court Overturns Conviction in Online Threats Case, Citing Intent

I hadn’t thought about this case in a couple of years, since last hearing about the run up to the Supreme Court hearings on On the Media. And to be clear, I don’t know what the right decision is to make in this instance, though I’m not sure I can fault the Supreme Court for erring on the side of “freedom”. Twentieth century popular songwriting has led everyone to assume a level of autobiography from singers and songwriters that I’m not sure is legitimate. As a listener, I believe Jay Z when he tells me about how he dealt crack so hopefully I won’t have to go through that, but only because believing him when he mentions that (many times) is more enjoyable than listening to him count. I believe Taylor Swift when she sings about love, or when Beck has a breakup album, or when Ben Gibbard of Death Cab for Cutie has a broken heart. But I don’t believe Eddie Vedder knew a kid who spoke in class or that Paul McCartney knew a woman who literally kept her face in a jar. Fiction can be autobiographical, but it is also still fiction, and nothing is less true than a rhyme. Elonis v. United States may be a poor example of that test, particularly because his wife felt the lyrics were very real and credible threats, but I will facetiously point out that I don’t believe Courtney Love or Marilyn Manson ever got their asses kicked by the dude from The New Radicals.

seven days of excuses i’ve come up with to not play rhythm heaven megamix every night since its release

june 15
oh, man, i just went back to work today, i work the next nine days straight, i’m pretty tired, is it even live on the eshop yet, those shops always put up stuff late or the link doesn’t work, what if i tap buy but it buys a kirby game instead well that actually wouldn’t be so bad, epic yarn was nice i never finished that, i should finish epic yarn, i should finish lots of games oh why am i even thinking about buying another rhythm heaven i didnt even finish the other ones ugh fake game guy

june 16
okay i guess its out now i can totally buy it and play it its definitely what i’ve wanted my whole life or at least for a few days now but wait i only have like two dollars on the eshop i need to go to the store and get more prepaid cards because i dont want to give nintendo my cc info thats dangerous remember when sonys shit got hacked ugh no thanks gotta be safe also i get gas points from my grocery store when i buy gift cards there and gas is the new currency in our post-apocalypse well the store is closed because i didnt get off work until 11:30 pm darn

june 17
okay i thought ahead i bought the gift card at the grocery store i’m home from work i can totally buy this game now except i have to be back at work in like eight hours and yeah i have to stay up and do laundry but i feel like i cant really invest time into this game like i need to i’m not going to enjoy it i’m just going to keep thinking about how i have to wake up so soon ugh this is the worst

june 18
oh my god i’m so tired i’m just gonna go to sleep when i get home i can at least buy the game from bed before i fall asleep ok i’m all snuggled in lights out oh dangit i left the gift card out in the living room thats so far away don’t make me get up

june 19
okay i’ve got the gift card i’ve got the ds i’m in bed i’m comfy lets do this I DON’T HAVE A COIN TO SCRATCH OFF THE CARD? this is too much for me to handle i’m just going to try to sleep off my embarrassment

june 20
i’m off work early i dont have to be in to work until late tomorrow this is the perfect time to play rhythm heaven megamix but i’m still going to wait until i’m in bed because, you know, reasons. welp, now i’m in bed, the gift card is loaded onto my eshop account, the game is purchased and its downloaded and now i can play. hm. still have like $20 left on my account though.


whoops i fell asleep

june 21
i have the game its downloaded its on my 3ds which i have *brought to work* for the express purpose of playing it on my lunch break. man its gonna be so good to finally play this, maybe i’ll write about it. haha, i should write about all the times i didn’t play it-oh? lunch break is over? but… ok

The Best Twelve Games Ever Made or Barring That The Twelve Games I Have Memories Of That Seem Worth a Damn

  1. I’m on the playground at Parkwood-Upjohn Elementary School in Kalamazoo, MI. It’s late 1989 and I’m sitting at the top of the jungle gym next to a friend. I don’t remember which. I’m in fourth grade and everyone I know owns an NES. My family has a Commodore 64. I’ve never beaten Super Mario Bros, but my brother has a 5.25″ floppy disk of a clone for the C64 that lets me warp to the last stage. You fight a long, thin, fire-breathing dragon inside a large brick room. I never beat it. I know my times tables, we all learned them years before this, but I still feel like I’ve made a genius point when I say that since Super Mario Bros has eight worlds of four stages each and my C64 clone has 32 stages, they’re basically equal in quality. My friend is not convinced. Neither am I.
  2. I’m behind my brother and his friend Josh K. as they sit in front of the C64 at the desk in the Family Room back in Arizona. It’s before we move to Kalamazoo for a year, I am likely around seven or either years old. The character selection screen for Epyx’s G.I.Joe game is on the tv and Josh K. notices Snowjob and Blowtorch next to each other. “I always get them confused,” he says, “and then I pick Blowjob.” They laugh. I laugh too, but I don’t know why. I’ve just heard my first sex joke.
  3. I’m in Kalamazoo. I’m barely nine years old, I’ve left my friends and classmates and house and now my parents, my brother, my sister and I live in a basement apartment in snowy Michigan. I make friends with the kid who lives across the hall, one apartment down. They have an NES and Super Mario Bros 3. It’s the first video game I ever beat. I make friends with other people in the building, and other kids in other apartment buildings in the complex, but no one has any good games. One kid has a Turbografx-16, but even he knows there’s nothing worth playing on it. The only thing worth playing is Mario 3.
  4. I’m back in Arizona, we’re all back, the whole family in the same house, at the same school, with the same friends. My next door neighbor, Chris, has a power pad that we never set foot on, competing in long jumps by slamming our fists into his carpet. He shows me Mega Man 3. It becomes the second NES game I ever beat and at ten years old it’s the first video game I actually love.
  5. It’s New Year’s Eve 1989 and the ball is dropping. I’ve stayed up the whole night for one reason only and I’m not going to miss it. The Packard Bell 286SX my parents had gotten us as a Christmas gift is on and I’ve loaded up Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego. I sit there at ACME Detective Agency’s lab, watching the real-time date on the Chronoskimmer intently, waiting for the moment when the dial would turn over to 1990. It doesn’t disappoint.
  6. It’s the summer of 1992 and I’ve graduated Pueblo Elementary School. Our 286SX, which felt so new a year and a half before, can’t play the copy of Ultima VII: The Black Gate that my brother has bought. At first it’s because there is a corrupt diskette, and Babbages allows us an exchange. But eventually we realize that there is simply not enough RAM. So Babbages allows us another exchange, this time for Star Trek 25th Anniversary. It pairs well with our home-recorded VHS copies of every single Star Trek episode, but not well enough. Aside from a hint-line requiring trip-up of a Base 10 conversion, we breeze through the game in a matter of days. My brother is disappointed. He returns it to Babbages once more, claiming another damaged diskette, and brings home Indiana Jones and the Fate of Atlantis and a copy of The B-52’s album “Good Stuff”. The rest of the summer is spent whipping vines and putting orichalcum into slots to the sounds of “Is That You Mo-Dean” and “Tell It Like It T-I-S.”
  7. I’m nine years old and on one of many visits to the mini-golf course in Kalamazoo, a place I only remember golfing at maybe once or twice, but that I played arcade games at often. There’s a Playchoice-10 and a Robocop and video poker machines but the only game I want to play, the only game anyone ever wants to play is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. We all crowd around and hot-swap out when someone runs out of quarters. It’s the first arcade game I beat and the first one I beat twice.
  8. I’m in middle school and it’s one of my first times at the apartment of Devon, who will become my oldest friend. We’ve gathered together under the pretense of building a kite for class but instead he is showing us Final Fantasy II (IV). I’m bored watching him walk around the overworld but every time he gets into a battle the bass reverberates in my chest. Years later, during a summer spent volunteering at the library, I bring over a book of Game Genie codes and he, incredulous that I’ve never beaten the game, will use the book to cheat our way to victory in one night. That day at his apartment, however, all I have is the music and as I lay in the grass outside his apartment complex, waiting for my mother to pick me up in the early evening sunset, I think about Mega Man and I think about music and I wonder who gets to make those songs.
  9. It’s Summer 1994 and I am accompanying my brother to some comic book and record stores. Our no-console curse has been broken for a year now, ever since he put up his own money to buy a Model 2 Sega Genesis and CD combo, and we’ve enjoyed Lunar: The Silver Star and handful of other games. He asks me about the Shadowrun video games, because Devon and I do some pen and paper role-playing. I tell him that the SNES game is neat but the Genesis game feels more true to the spirit of Shadowrun. Being true to the spirit of Shadowrun is important to me because I am a teenager and also because the SNES game has a hand cursor and is isometric and that’s too many weird things for a console game. The Genesis game, by contrast, is dark and ugly and I die before I get anywhere. It is very true to Shadowrun. He nods in understanding. By the end of the day he has sold/traded his Genesis and Sega CD and all his games for a Super Nintendo and Super Street Fighter II. I will never quite understand how that happened, but now I can play as Fei Long, so I don’t mind too much.
  10. High school is over and I am regularly bringing my home-built PC over to Devon’s place to play Action Half-Life or Quake III: Arena or Starcraft. I am terrible at every game. I try to play Diablo and fall asleep. When I forget my computer and have to use an old one of his, some misconfiguration makes Half-life crash to desktop when a rocket is fired, presumably because the video card cannot handle the contrail. His housemate is an actual game developer and we try to make things ourselves. Devon succeeds helping code an installer for his housemate’s new game. I have trouble recreating the first VR mission from Metal Gear Solid in Unreal Tournament. I try ditching polygons for Doom map editing, but the monitor I use at his place has convergence issues which makes red and blue grids very difficult to use. I am continually frustrated. I move with my family to the east coast where, one night after work, I call Devon and we hash out a Metroid-themed Bejeweled clone inside a java applet. Years later, I cannot recall exactly what I contributed other than picking up the phone. I keep thinking about Metal Gear Solid. I think about the night I spent at Devon’s, on his couch, watching a terrible nihilistic ultra-violent cyberpunk anime and deteriorating into sickness as the night wore on until finally waking up the next morning to the sounds of torture as Devon attempts to resist Revolver Ocelot. He’s playing off of a CD-R burned from a Blockbuster Video rental and something must be wrong because when Ocelot should stop torturing you, he continues. We don’t know something is wrong. We think we’re just terrible. But I’m still sick, still laying on the couch barely able to open my eyes. Ocelot activates the torture bed once more, one more time than he should and Liquid Snake chides him for killing another hostage. I’m partially delirious. If you die in the game, you die in real life.
  11. It’s Los Angeles, 2004, and I am at the Electronic Entertainment Expo. I’ve been once before, three years prior, on the credentials of Devon’s housemate, but now we are back on brand new credentials, ones we’ve made up ourselves. I find myself in the back corner of Namco’s booth, behind a wall of kiosks advertising Tekken’s Nina Williams in Death By Degrees, in front of a TV below a placard that says KATAMARI DAMACY. The colors are vivid, the music is jaunty, the premise is simple. That fall, when the game comes out, no one believes me when I tell them to buy it. Then they play it.
  12. It’s 2009, I’m in my second solo apartment and I’ve decided to make friends with coworkers because I don’t have anyone else. They’re all good and nice and disgustingly young. We’re in front of my tv, not even on the couch but on the floor, and it’s our 63rd attempt at this N+ level. We’re dead in seconds. We’re laughing. I have to go to the bathroom so I let them make some attempts without me while I do my business. I think about the beauty of movement in that game and how transcendent it feels to have a perfect arc of a jump, a grace of fluidity that is unparalleled. It feels like art. It feels like religion. I head back into the living room to mention this to them and that’s when I realize that they probably were able to hear my farts from the bathroom. I don’t say anything.

8 Things About My Car Crash

Have you ever been in a car accident? Gosh, I sure hope not! I mean, the odds are pretty good that you will be. Probably not a serious one, please. I’m worried about you. What, me? Oh, heavens no, don’t worry about me either! I mean, I was in a car accident just recently, about five weeks ago in fact. I guess that’s why it’s on my mind. I’m the sort of person who only thinks about something once it really affects him. Which is a lie, because I think about the Large Hadron Collider opening a black hole a lot.

1. My expectations were defied.

I’ve been in other car accidents. I’ve had time dilate. I haven’t seen my life flash before my eyes, but to be fair, I was very young. I might have simply missed it. None of that happened this time.

Once I realized that the car that pulled out of the shopping center to my right, trying to make a left turn into oncoming traffic, was not going to move out of the dead stop they were at in my line, I was bracing for the impact. This was really only a second of time, but it only felt like that too. It was quick, it hurt, and the next thing I knew there was an airbag in my face and I didn’t know where my glasses were.

2. I didn’t know exactly what to do. I knew enough of what to do.

I climbed out of the car and staggered over to theirs, meeting their passenger halfway. Oh my god, is everyone okay? They are. She has her phone in her hand. Are you calling the police? I am. Okay, then, I’m going to sit down.

After thirty seconds or so I decided that I probably wasn’t going to make it to work on time despite leaving early, so I called them.

And that’s all I did.

A sharp-minded person probably would have remembered to do more. Take photos of the damage. Take photos of my wounds. Speak to the actual driver of the other car. Properly thank the passing motorist who stopped, ran over, asked if he could help, and then brought a towel and water from the store. I just tried to stay still and calm enough to answer the paramedics questions when they arrived. It was touch and go for about fifteen minutes, but once they loaded me onto the stretcher I was cognizant enough to start making jokes. He’s gonna be okay, doc!

3. My injuries were minor.

As I told people afterwards, I was injured just enough to incur the cost of an ambulance ride. I’m not upset about this; another oft-repeated phrase is that was a crash I could literally live with. It turns out, aside from a banged up knee, the brunt of my wounds are from my left arm flying towards the windshield and punching the glass while the forearm received burns from the airbag. This is not the worst thing in the world. I’m very lucky.

4. There’s cable in the ER.

Nothing profound here. It just takes really take the edge off of wounds that won’t stop bleeding when you get to watch some Adventure Time.

5. No one knows what a car crash wound even looks like.

With stitches in my knuckles and bandages wrapped around my hand and arm, it was obvious to nearly every customer at my job that something had happened to me. Or was it? Because their incredulous questions were never phrased, “What happened to you?” but rather “What did you do to yourself?” Did they expect a bragging tale about a bar brawl in which I was bested by some burly bear of a man brandishing a broken beer bottle? They must have, because it was usually disappointment (and, once in a while, belated concern) that crossed their face when I told them about my sudden vehicular stoppage.

6. I can’t decide between buyer’s remorse and predestination.

It’s in my, and everyone’s, nature to second guess our choices and how the events in our life have unfolded. Sometimes this can be a learning moment, knowing now what not to do again, and other times it’s a futile gesture, like trying to blow back the breeze. But it’s never a good thing to dwell on it, to wish with all of your heart that you could change the past. You never can. I feel like this is something I’m sometimes guilty of.

That didn’t really happen here. My housemate likes to point to the fact that I left early as the culprit, and how I should never do it again. A coworker asked me what song I was listening to when it happened, wondering if it would be forever tainted for me, like the song you first make love to. Maybe it’s the fact that I was clearly and legally without fault that I’m not falling into a woe-is-me despair. I’m not sure.

But at the same time I worry that I’ve accepted what did happen as what had to happen. My turbulent past has been recast as a plan, an event that was scheduled like a dental cleaning. This doesn’t have any real effect on my life, but it’s still a strange thing to realize when I’m planning out my finances for the month and think “Oh I was always going to spend that chunk of money there on a down payment for a car.” Am I the rat in the post-maze interview who, when asked why he went left instead of right, says, “There was a right?”

7. I’m not as interested in cars as literally anyone else in my life

The second question friends and coworkers would ask after “How are you?” is “What kind of car are you going to get?” I know, I know, they’re just trying to engage me in conversation on the events in my life, but the speed with which that question came always felt like an accusation, like I was scamming the insurance company to dump my tiny 2004 Beetle.

But even weeks later, after I’d healed enough to no longer require bandages, I had no idea what sort of car I wanted. “Something that runs,” I kept saying, but that’s hardly a way to go shopping and a real conversation killer. When pushed by the representative from the dealership my credit union is partnered with, I sheepishly pointed to my legs and said, “something that will fit these tree trunks.” So in that respect, it’s unsurprising that I ended up with an SUV.

8. I don’t know when my anxiety will recess to the background.

Some of it is the fact that I’ve been driving a tiny car for five years. Most of it is because I just got into a wreck that totaled that car and could have done more than just send me to the hospital for some cuts and abrasions. But I am predictably terrified of driving now. It’s understandable that I am, but I don’t want to be. I’m a big guy, and I’ve been a big guy all my life, and people tell me I must have played football. But that life has been spent trying to avoid being Baby Huey, obliviously destroying everything in my way. Sure, I run into tables and door frames a lot, but I try not to run into people or fine china and that takes a lot of constant effort. Now that I’m back behind the wheel of a car, one probably more than twice the size of my old one, my insufficient spatial awareness is a storming cloud in my mind, washing away the confidence that eighteen years of basically okay driving had built. I’ll get used to it. We all get used to everything and that’s something I excel at. Right now, though, it’s enough to make me never want to leave the house.