I’ve been really enjoying fatherhood lately. I don’t mean to sound like I’m surprised by that; it’s just that, well, my kid is awesome and super-sweet and we’ve been hanging out a lot together over the last few months, and it’s been wonderful.

The two of us started and finished Luigi’s Mansion 3 this weekend, in fact, and while I did most of the controller work it was he who ultimately figured out how to beat the last boss, and when the credits rolled he gave me a huge hug and it was all I could do to not just start crying all over the place.

And then we started recording a rap album, as you do, and that was also awesome. I’ve written here recently about how I’ve been in a creative rut, and yet I was able to turn out 3 or 4 beats for him in a very short amount of time, and he was so happy to be shouting into a microphone.

Anyway. It was a busy weekend.

Finished: Luigi’s Mansion 3, Outer Worlds.
Started: Jedi Fallen Order
Bailed: Death Stranding
Continuing: Dragon Quest 11

Regarding LM3: one of the first “real” reviews I got to write was about Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon on the 3DS, which I was pretty lukewarm about. (Indeed, I never finished it, which made me feel even more sheepish than usual about submitting my final copy.) I’m happy to say that LM3 is a much, much better game in every respect; it’s generous with checkpoints, you never get lost, it’s absolutely gorgeous and chock full of tiny details, and the game feels great to play. There’s nothing quite like sucking up a ghost in the Poltergust 2000 and whomping it all over the place, breaking everything in sight. (Plus: no bullshit tilt controls to worry about.) My kid loved it; I loved it; it’s the second game on the Switch that we’ve played through to completion (after Super Mario Odyssey), and he’s already started a second playthrough (where he’s doing most of the controlling this time around, letting me handle boss fights).

Regarding Outer Worlds: yeah, that game is excellent. Not nearly as janky as these sorts of Elder Scrolls-esque RPGs tend to be, which is probably because the game is wildly reduced in scope; I beat the campaign and finished just about every side mission I could find in maybe 12-15 hours, which is exactly the right amount of time for someone who loves open-world games but doesn’t have a lot of time. There’s no filler; just great writing up and down, lots of interesting people to meet, relatively satisfying combat (though there’s plenty of non-violent options to get through encounters as well, which was in line with how I like playing anyway).

Regarding Jedi Fallen Order: I was skeptical, as everyone was, because there hasn’t been a good Star Wars game in years and I hadn’t been following any coverage. Well, color me surprised, because the reviews were positive and I ended up downloading it and I’m having an absolute blast with it. It’s scratching the much-needed Uncharted/Assassin’s Creed/Tomb Raider third-person action platformer itch that I’ve been having all year. I’m still very early on so I’m not going to heap any more superlatives on it just yet – it could certainly use a performance patch, as the frame rate can hitch up – but I’ve very much enjoyed what I’ve seen so far.

Regarding Death Stranding: I wrote a gigantic thing about my attempts to get through MGS5 for Unwinnable a few years back, and my opinions on Hideo Kojima remain unchanged. My rental copy of DS arrived late last week and so I played the first hour or so of it and while it’s visually stunning, it’s also fucking ridiculous, and life is too short to sit through that much bullshit. (Or even that much absurd in-game advertising for Monster Energy Drinks.) The Twitter discourse seems to agree that the game really picks up speed about 10 hours in, and that is 10 hours that I don’t feel like wasting. You’re all aware that the world is currently on fire, yes? Spend your time wisely.

I also finished Colson Whitehead’s Nickel Boys on Friday, and my GOD, what a book. What a writer. What a horrible, terrible, true story he tells. I’ll have more to say about it when I get my Year of Books post online.

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My wife and I were hanging out the other day, and she asked me what I’d hope to accomplish for myself in 2020. I thought about it for a while, and it occurred to me that the mere act of having to think about what I’d like to accomplish next year meant that I didn’t have a clear goal already in mind. Which felt unusual.

I did come up with an answer, eventually, which was this: I would like to have some sort of reckoning with myself and figure out what exactly I’m doing, creatively speaking. Like I said above, having to think about what I’d like to accomplish is odd, because for the last several years the answer has been the same – I want to finish this album I’ve been working on. Even if it just means taking the 4-5 songs that are almost done and putting out an EP, rather than a full-length album, I still want to get this stuff off of my hard drive and into other people’s ears.

I’m not sure why I stopped, unless it’s just that I can’t trust myself to keep myself motivated. When I was in bands, I had my band mates there to kick me in the ass – indeed, we kicked each other’s asses all the time. Working with other people meant that we could each pick up each other’s slack. We could fix problems that the others couldn’t see/hear. We could support each other when we felt directionless. And if nothing else, we could just plug in and turn up and see what happened.

It’s harder to do music by myself, which I also understand is ironic if only because the downside of working with collaborators is the loss of total creative control. If I know how I want everything to sound, it’s easier and faster to do it myself. It’s just that, these days at least, I don’t know what I want to sound like. I could finish the 4-5 songs that are pretty much ready to go, but I couldn’t tell you if they accurately reflect what I sound like right now. I don’t even know what I sound like right now. I know what artists I listen to that sound like what I’d like to sound like (Tycho immediately comes to mind), but I also know that I listen to tons of different things and all that stuff is quite literally all over the map – my Spotify Discovery algorithm is still pretty good at guessing what’s going to hit my brain the right way, but how it gets from Japanese prog/punk to indie songwriter to Zappa circa 1973 is far beyond me.

I’d thought about doing NaNoWriMo this year, because writing prose is easier than writing lyrics and I’m less inclined to beat myself up during the process and I thought that maybe the simple act of throwing thousands of words out of my head into some sort of coherent order might help me figure out some lyrics; but the thing about NaNo (for me, at least) is that I need to get myself prepared, and I didn’t even really consider the idea of doing NaNo until November had already started. And the last time I tried doing NaNo, I nearly gave myself a nervous breakdown.

So, maybe I’ll try doing the RPM challenge again in February? I can give myself a head start and re-record the songs that are still works in progress in the interim? I can try to settle into some sort of evening routine?

I don’t know. But I need to do something. At the very least, I need to do just enough to be able to go get my taxes done next year and not feel like a fraud by declaring myself to still being a musician.

CURRENT STATUS: Around 12 hours in. Level 16. Running around on Monarch, all companions unlocked.

As much as I love classic BioWare RPGs, they’ve instilled some gameplay habits that I’ve found hard to shake. From KOTOR to Dragon Age to Mass Effect, I always do the same thing; my first time through, I err on the side of good, always picking the supportive/positive dialogue option, always being a good guy. THEN, 60 hours later, I’ll start a New Game + and pick all the bad guy options. I didn’t necessarily feel the urgency of my choices; I only wanted to achieve maximum virtue.

The Outer Worlds has, thankfully, broken me out of this loop, and I couldn’t be happier about it.

To begin with, the world you find yourself stumbling into is essentially a sci-fi capitalist dystopian nightmare; and like the good socialist I am, I try to help people break free from their corporate shackles. And sometimes those people don’t want to be free. They don’t know how to live independently. In short, doing the “right” thing isn’t always doing the “best” thing. Which means that you have a bit more emotional investment in the choices you end up making, because there is no clear “Paragon” path to follow. You do what you think feels right, and then you react to the repercussions.

Freedom of choice is, in essence, what the game is about. And even when I leave the main narrative aside, I’m still very much playing it in my own style. I’ve talked a lot here about trying to move away from playing violent shooters, and as such I’m opting out of combat when possible, just because I’d rather explore my way through something than kill everything. And the game respects this choice, and rewards you just as easily; you can gain plenty of XP from lockpicking and hacking and dialogue options, not just headshots. (This is helpful also because the combat is not quite as satisfying as other, similar shooters.)

That said, my crew and I are fully prepared to wreck shit when necessary. I do try to stay off the main roads whenever possible and sneak around and explore, but if I accidentally catch an enemy’s attention, well, that sucks for them. My companions and I are well-prepared to end threats.

I don’t really know how far into the story I am, and I’m not feeling particularly inclined towards picking up a walkthrough and finding out. For the first time in a long time, I’m allowing myself to truly role-play. (It is for this reason specifically that I wish there was a third-person view, because I’d love to see my character in this world.)

All things considered, The Outer Worlds was the last “big” game on my personal radar for the year. (Everything else either got pushed back to 2020, or is Death Stranding, which I remain extremely skeptical about; I’m sure there might be one or two more indie gems that pop up, too, though I don’t yet know what they are.) It’s certainly one of the best.

And on that note, I’m gonna start putting together my 2019 lists… and then I guess I also have to start putting together my decade lists. Hoo-boy.

What’s this? TWO POSTS IN ONE MONTH?

Well, look: I’ve gotta start shaking the rust off now that we’re approaching year-end season. I’ve got Top 10 Lists to write! (That reminds me, I’ve gotta try to fill in the gaps in my spreadsheets!)

In any event, here I am. And there you are. And so let’s begin.


Maybe I’m just a curmudgeon, or maybe I’m just trying to be realistic about money and time, but there’s not a hell of a lot that’s jumping out at me in terms of big releases before Christmas. Borderlands 3 had been one of the games I’d been looking forward to, but I rented it and found it stale. (Of course, I checked out right at the moment that most of the reviews say that it starts to pick up (i.e., once you leave the first planet), but that’s a lot to ask.)

Basically, this Friday’s release of Outer Worlds is it, as far as my gaming energies will be concerned. I’m apathetic towards Call of Duty, I’m actively avoiding Death Stranding, and I’m a bit wary of Shenmue III. But Outer Worlds looks like it’s gonna scratch my itch for a deep sci-fi RPG. (Early reviews are calling it Fallout in space, and that’s pretty much all I needed to hear.)

There are certainly some indie games that I’m sure I’ll be excited to try, though for whatever reason indie games tend to not show up in release-date lists. Cases in point: I recently rented both Indivisible and Trine 4, and they are both excellent, and I will most likely buy them when they inevitably go on sale.

Oh, and I’m finally playing Return of the Obra Dinn. That is a hell of a game! I have no idea what I’m doing – the gameplay loop is somewhat obtuse – but I’m thoroughly enjoying the experience. As far as the time manipulation / murder mystery / catastrophe at sea / radically minimal graphic design genre is concerned, it’s aces.

I’m also having this weird dilemma common to multi-platform users where I’m torn between what system to play on. I tried the remaster of Planescape: Torment on Xbox last week, and found it quite enticing. (Plus: Achievements! Yes, I still give a shit about them!) And then I considered getting the game on Switch, because portability. And then I remembered that I already own the game on iOS, and if portability is truly an issue then I can play it on my phone if my iPad is too much to deal with.

So I’m an idiot, in other words. But you knew that already.


As far as reading goes, Goodreads says I’m at 78 books out of 80 (I decided to revise my goal a few months back, since I’d easily sped past my original goal). Not everything I’ve read lately has been all that great, but considering how strong the year has been overall, I suppose it’s OK to hit something of a lull. To put it another way, my Year In Reading post will be a lot more detailed than anything else I might put up.

I think that’s all I’ve got for the day. I know it’s not much, but it’s something. And since I’ve been dealing with some unusually wild depression issues of late, I’ll take whatever I can get.

First thing’s first: I bought one of those new iPads, and a keyboard to go with it, so now I can use my personal email again during daylight hours without having to type with my thumbs, which is a thing that I hate. I can also write here, too, without too much concern over my job monitoring my internet usage. I can even sorta get back into social media, which I have mixed feelings about.

Does that mean that I’ll write here more often? Who knows?

I’ve been in a rough way for the last month or so, and as I tend to do during these periods, I’ve been turning inward. There’s been some personal things going on, and while they’re mostly resolved at this point, I’m still trying to get a grip on things. I’m also still adjusting to some slight changes in my medication; mostly I’m just feeling exhausted, and while some of that is the medication, some of it is just being a parent, and quite a lot of it is the news.

Have you watched the news lately?

Re: the news – look, I try REALLY hard to keep my social media feeds as non-political as I can. If you’re reading this and disagree, then at the very least you should know that I still bottle up at least 95% of my news-related thoughts, so the stuff that does make it out is because if I don’t write something my head will explode. I really do try to be sensitive about this stuff. My various social media feeds are almost entirely political, because it would appear that I’m not the only one losing my mind.

Look: I know I’ve said this before but it bears repeating that we are in a super-strange period of time right now, and it’s only going to get more and more fucked up between now and next November – and that’s assuming that we as a country (and, indeed, as a planet) actually make it to next November without completely falling apart.

[And since we’re on the topic, here’s my take on it. 45 is going to continue to act deranged and psychotic because nobody that he listens to (i.e., (Fox News, Mitch McConnell, his cabinet, Rudy, etc.) is going to tell him to shut up. He’s no longer committing crimes behind closed doors; he’s openly asking China to help him get dirt on the Biden family from the White House lawn. And he’s going to continue to act recklessly because as long as he’s President, he can’t be indicted or arrested or anything. So let’s get real here: there will not be a peaceful transition of power if he loses next November. (This, of course, assumes that next November’s elections will be on the up-and-up, which is a dangerous assumption to make.) It’s going to get much worse before it gets better, if it ever does get better.]

Now, more than ever, it is imperative on us to be kind to each other. I know I have some friendships that have been in a weird sort of limbo for a while now, because I’ve been so inward-facing for so long that I’ve kinda forgotten how to reach out. (And, also, there’s been a lot of self-directed depression-inducing issues that make me feel like I shouldn’t reach out, that me reaching out would do more harm than good.) I’m working through that stuff, and I have no right to ask you to be patient with me. I mean, we’re all going through some stuff, I get it.

Anyway. I’m alive and I love you and I’m trying to get better.


Media consumption continues, as per usual. Still reading like crazy, still having trouble staying invested in the games I’m trying to play. Fully caught up on The Good Place, which I should’ve been watching already. I feel less and less motivated to write about this stuff, though, because… who cares? I’m not sure I still care. I have this blog because I’ve had a blog in some form for almost 20 years, and not having a blog makes me feel like I’m missing an arm or something. But I’m having trouble feeling like it’s as necessary as it used to.

I’ll try, though, if for no other reason that the need to justify the iPad purchase.

Thanks for your patience.

It’s that day again, that day where I do everything I possibly can to distract myself from what today actually is. Not because I’m capital-F Forgetting, but because I can’t NOT forget. I literally work across the goddamned street from it. I had to take some anti-anxiety meds just to leave the house today and go to work. I know very well what today is, and what happened, and the truth is that I’ve had some lingering PTSD from it ever since. Like a lot of us have. I know I’m not the only one.

What I’d really like to do – what I’ve been aching to do ever since I started playing it – is to write about Control, which is thus far my Game of the Year. Two big things are keeping me from it, though; for one, I’ve hit some sort of difficulty wall where every single mission I’m playing is just a bit too difficult. For another, I want to slather my eventual write-up with screenshots, but they haven’t yet added a Photo Mode (although I believe that’s coming shortly).

Instead, let me at least link to this really good video essay about Control and Haunted Houses (with a bonus appearance by House of Leaves):

Control is the main reason why I haven’t given Gears 5 a fair shake; I’ve dabbled here and there but I don’t want to get caught up in it before getting as close to the end of Control as I can. (I peeked at a walkthrough and while I’ve still got a bunch of side missions to do, I appear to be at the end of the penultimate story mission.) Gears certainly looks gorgeous, to be sure; but again, its combat rhythm is wildly different from Control, and playing both at the same time means I will get progressively worse at each.

Oh – yeah – so my 6 year old has a youtube channel, and he would love it if you subscribed.

Domino Voss!

So the other day I wrote here about this song lyric that’s been running around in my head for the last year or so, which is really more of a neurosis than a lyric; in any event, I’ve been doing a lot more thinking about it. Hell, I even spent most of my last therapy session discussing the whole idea – because fundamentally, the idea is borne of social anxiety, though obviously a bit more intimate than that – even if the idea itself isn’t strictly limited to romantic partners. The idea of reciprocal feelings is invested in every friendship, every parent/child relationship, every long-distance internet pen pal. Do I matter to you the way you matter to me? It’s the sort of question where you might not even be able to trust the answer, if you were given one.

In any event, one of my internet pen pals posted a meme of an apologetic fuckboy, and I realized: oh shit, that’s me. She wasn’t referring to me specifically (at least, I don’t think she was), but it’s pretty much what I used to be and how I later tried to make up for it. And so now I feel even worse, because my sincere attempt at righting a wrong (or a series of wrongs, to be honest) is really just a walking cliche.

So, yeah. I don’t think I was this obnoxious, but I certainly didn’t realize that this is what my apology(ies) looked like.

I’m gonna go bang my head against the wall for a little bit, now.

A curious thing has just happened, for the second time. I’m at my desk at my office, doing miscellaneous busywork, and somewhere in the back of my mind I start thinking about this particular lyric concept. As I’ve mentioned here before, I’ve been trying to write an album for the last 4 years and I’m still stuck, because I’m at the point where I need to start writing lyrics, and lyric writing has always been the most difficult part. In any event, this idea pops into my head and it’s so strong and so resonant with what I’ve been thinking about lately that I feel compelled to write it down. And so I go to open the GoogleDoc where I keep of all the random lyric fragments that pop into my head, and I see that the very last thing I wrote – which was months and months ago – are the exact same words that I was about to write down. Which are also identical to the thing I wrote before that, which was almost a year ago to the day.

So, clearly, this is a thing I need to develop. The reason why I haven’t is because even though this idea is something that clearly strikes a chord with me, I have absolutely no idea if it’s good. When it comes to the music part of a song, I can usually immediately tell if something I improvised is worth developing further. But with words… I have no confidence. This idea could very well be brilliant; it could just as easily be the sort of thing a stoned college freshman thinks about at 3 in the morning. Hell, it’s probably something I myself thought about as a stoned college freshman at 3 in the morning; I’m sure I could dig up my old notebooks and find something similar to the thing that’s currently still haunting me.

Anyway, after all this time, I still don’t know if the way you felt about me is the way I felt about you.

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