A shortcut to R&R

In these strange and turbulent times, it is helpful to have an escape route or two.  Sometimes you just need to unplug and disconnect.  Zone out, as it were.

To that end, I would highly recommend partaking of a good-ish amount of your relaxation-inducing substance of choice, put on some good music, and play a bit of Everybody’s Golf, which is essentially candy for your brain.  It is a digital wave of happiness, a gentle endorphin rush flowing over your body.  It’s never too frustrating; the traditional 3-button swing mechanic is easy enough to pick up, and even if you inevitably shank one into the rough, you’ve still got a better-than-good chance of chipping it onto the green.  There’s even a gentle RPG system in place, wherein good performance improves your skills with each club.  A solid thwack off the tee will increase your power with the driver; a close approach will increase your control with an iron.  And so even if you do slice one into the sand, a well-placed shot will improve your wedge skills.  The whole thing is very pleasing and easy to pick up and blissfully stress-free.

I only have two real complaints:  first, I’ve been playing for 2 hours or so and still only have access to the first course.  I don’t actually know how many courses are in the game, but if they unlock this slowly, I might never see them all.  Second, I wish that this game was cross-buy compatible with the Vita; I would love to have this on the go.  (There is a Hot Shots Golf game for the Vita, to be sure, but it’s old, and the new stuff in this game makes the old game more or less obsolete.)


I finished Uncharted: The Lost Legacy yesterday.  Is it good?  Yes, it’s good.  It’s all the best parts of previous Uncharted games tossed into one short campaign.  I mean that quite literally, by the way – remember the train sequence in U2?  It’s revisited here.  The car chases in U3?  Also here.  The gentle banter between two stubborn and strong-willed protagonists, present in every Naughty Dog game since U1?  Here all over the place.  There’s not much that’s new, to be honest; this definitely does feel like DLC rather than a stand-alone game.  That said, it’s nice to play these games with non-Nathan Drake characters, and Chloe and Nadine are a fun team together.


I’ve also finished Pokemon Magikarp Jump, which has been one of the mainstays on my phone for the last few months.  Whenever I get around to my long-ish thing about idle clickers, I’ll write quite a bit about this one; suffice it to say, it’s better than I expected it to be, even if it’s still somewhat aimless.  But that’s the thing with the idle genre; they’re all aimless.  The thing you end up chasing is maximum efficiency, rather than any sort of definitive finish line.

Anyway, look – it’s gonna be quiet here for a little while, and so I just wanted to say hey, I’m alive, and doing my best to hang in there.  Have a lovely holiday weekend, everybody.

A Light In the Darkness

Happy Eclipse Day, everyone.  Just remember, this afternoon’s darkness is only temporary; the political and social climate of the country will remain darkened for (at least) the remainder of 45’s term.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned that I occasionally have trouble getting motivated to continue writing here.  Sometimes it’s just because I don’t have time; sometimes it’s because I don’t feel like I have anything important to say; most of the time it’s because I’m well aware that there are far more important things to be paying attention to than whatever I might write, especially since what I write here is about rather trivial stuff.  That being said, sometimes I find that I need to concentrate on the trivial stuff, if only because it’s a necessary reprieve from the crushing Sisyphean despair that comes from constantly refreshing Twitter to see if the world is still falling apart.  And, also, my mom is back in the hospital for the third time this year and while she’s in much better spirits this time around, it’s still emotionally draining and stressful to be worried about her, especially since there’s not much I can do beyond visiting.

So, then, allow me to indulge in some nonsense.

1. My glasses finally arrived!  A week and a half after they were supposed to arrive, but still!  New specs!  That’s the old look on the left, and the new look on the right.  (Yes, I’m wearing the same shirt.)  Similar-ish style, to be sure, but the new prescription is finally up-to-date and features lenses that are both progressive and transition[al].  I’m still getting used to them, but they’re already making a big difference.

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2.  Yes, I pre-ordered the super-special Project Scorpio edition of Xbox One X.  Don’t judge me.  I think I’ve mentioned this before, but bear with me just in case I haven’t – ever since I went on my quest to break the 100K Achievement barrier late last year, I’ve more or less made the Xbox One my main console of choice, despite knowing that the PS4 is more powerful.  Yes, I’ve played the same games on both consoles; yes, I can see the difference.  Nevertheless, I like the Xbox One’s UI a lot more, and the Elite Controller is by far the best controller I’ve ever used, and since I knew I’d be getting this new Xbox anyway, I figured I’d be able to put up with some performance issues since they’d get patched down the road.  And I have, for the most part.  I don’t have a 4K TV, nor do I feel like I need one, but at least now I’ll be able to justify getting one in a year or two.

3.  I’ve rented and have played a few hours of Agents of Mayhem, the new Saints Row-adjacent 3rd person shooter from Volition, and I think I love the hell out of it?  It’s this weird hybrid that lies somewhere between a single-player Overwatch (in its multiple hero system), Crackdown (in its visual style, as well as its super-powerful characters who defy the laws of physics), and Saints Row (obviously).  But there’s also something…. I can’t find the right word for it, but I want to say that it feels sincere.  That’s a weird thing to feel for an over-the-top open world game where everything blows up all the time, but it’s also true – I get the sense from playing it that the developers were really excited to work on something new, even if Saints Row’s DNA is heavily embedded in it; instead of having to try and out-do the off-the-wall insanity of Saints Row 3 and 4, they just went in a completely different direction.  I don’t know if I’m going to finish it – my backlog is INSANE at the moment and there’s some new stuff arriving shortly that I’m eager to try out, but for the time being it’s a very pleasant diversion.

4.  Regarding that backlog – yeah, it’s rough.  To wit:

  • Sonic Mania (looks and feels so much like the original Genesis games that it’s almost scary)
  • Tacoma (I’ve only played the first 30 minutes, but I’m always down for a Gone Home-in-space thing)
  • Observer (bought this because of some very intriguing word-of-mouth recommendations; I’ve only played the first 30 minutes or so but I’m still very much intrigued)
  • Undertale (Vita)
  • Hellblade
  • Pyre
  • Superhot VR (need to get back to this now that there’s been a few patches; when I first tried it my hands were glitching out all over the place and the game was near-unplayable)
  • a replay of the new and improved No Man’s Sky (I don’t know how much time I’m going to sink into this but I’ve already visited a few planets in a brand-new playthrough and it might as well be a completely new game – if you bought this and gave up on it when it first came out, I’d suggest giving it a look now)
  • Vostok Inc. (I am, as noted, a weird sucker for idle clickers – this is an idle clicker hidden within a twin-stick shooter, which is a pretty interesting hybrid)
  • a replay of Headlander (strictly for Xbox ‘cheevos)
  • Halo Wars 2 (why did I even bother getting this in the first place, I’m allergic to RTS games)
  • FF15 and FF12 

Plus:  this week sees the release of the Uncharted thing, and then there’s also the Horizon Zero Dawn DLC shortly thereafter.

5.  At some point I’m going to write a thing about my fascination with / addiction to the idle clicker genre.  But I did want to at least mention that I have “finished” Crazy Taxi Gazillionaire, in that I’ve gotten every driver up to their maximum level and now there’s nothing else left to do.

 

Subterranean Fallout Shelter Blues

1. Remember last week, when I was excited about getting new glasses and we weren’t living in a constant state of anxiety wondering if our President was gonna livetweet about Crooked Hillary in an attempt to distract us from the coming nuclear apocalypse with North Korea?  Well, my new specs still haven’t shown up, and at this point I’m actually kinda hoping everything goes to shit so that I don’t have to pay off my credit card debt.

Seriously, though, now might be a good time to reach out and say hello to people you haven’t talked to in a while.  Even if we aren’t about to die in a blaze of hellfire, you should touch base with people you might’ve lost contact with.  I’ve been trying to get back into lyric writing, and it occurs to me that an idea I’ve been toying with for years – songs as letters I never got around to sending – might be the key to finishing this goddamned thing sooner rather than later.

2. I’m not as up on current TV as everyone else, but I am happy to report that the wife and I were able to finish the new Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later thing.  And we loved the shit out of it.  It is weird and random and breaks the 4th wall all over the place and Chris Meloni is fucking AMAZING.

3. I’d love to be writing about Tacoma right now, but I appear to be one of the people affected by a nasty bug in which I can’t get past the “Press A to Start” screen.  So instead I’ll offer some very brief first impressions of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which I can load properly.  I am intrigued by it, certainly; I’m a fan of Ninja Theory’s previous work and would give them the benefit of the doubt anyway, and at first glance the game’s presentation is outstanding – both visually and aurally.  The idea of exploring psychosis and mental illness through gameplay is novel, to be sure, and while I’m still only in the game’s opening hour I’ve already seen some subtle yet mind-bending things.  Tonight I hope to get to it while wearing headphones.

4. Hey, whaddya know, Spotify is now available on Xbox One, and it’s about goddamned time.  Now I can feel a little less sad about continuing to play Clicker Heroes, because I no longer have to play it in silence.

5. Kotaku says there is no longer a best time to play a video game, and I agree with most of the points in that link even if my primary concern (Fear of Missing Out / Fear of Being Out of the Loop on Twitter) is still valid.  In any event, ever since I finished Watch Dogs 2 I’ve been in an open-world state of mind, and I’ve been revisiting some older open-world games just to stay with that vibe.  GTA V continues to be the best open world I’ve ever seen, even as the story continues to be repellent and repugnant; Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate continues to be my 2nd or 3rd favorite game in the franchise (while also being a useful refresher for the upcoming Origins) and I’m also finally getting around to giving Mafia III more of a real look.  That game is pretty good, even if all the controls feel backwards.

6. I’ve also had a strange pull towards revisiting Headlander, of all things; I wrote about it briefly last year and while I haven’t gotten far enough to encounter those boss fights, I am still loving the hell out of that game.

7.  I finished Patti Smith’s “M Train”, although I should admit that I kinda skimmed through the back half, as it mostly seemed to be the same as the first half.  I’m happy to read about a real person’s idle hours, watching detective shows and drinking coffee and taking naps, but there wasn’t much more to it than that, and even though her prose remained gorgeous it just lingered on and and on and on, like a very slowly deflating balloon.  Not sure I would recommend it to anyone that isn’t a die-hard Patti Smith fan, though if you’ve got a library card you could do worse than read the first third of it or so.

On Anonymous Blogging

As a former LJ addict, this hit me square in the face.

Tiny Rubies

typewriter

It’s the mid-noughties. I’m at university, London is blowing my mind, and I’m tapping away on my LiveJournal like my life depends on it. I’m documenting all of my experiences, preserving them through writing, and reading the blog posts of strangers around the world doing the same. I’m reading (and writing) about breakups, sex, mixtapes, road trips, family drama, and beautiful vignettes about places visited, or wild nights out, or a feeling.

I treated my LiveJournal as a kind of late night confessional, a place to process and unpick and get things off my chest. There was no Twitter, no Instagram, no Snapchat back then. Facebook was just taking off, the wifi connection in our halls of residence was patchy at best, and everyone still spent hours creating MySpace layouts. People didn’t think about ‘managing’ their online presence. Anonymity still had value on the internet, in fact it was the…

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cigarettes and coffeeshops

Without noticing, I slip into a light yet lingering malaise. Not a depression, more like a fascination for melancholia, which I turn in my hand as if it were a small planet, streaked in shadow, impossibly blue.

– Patti Smith, “M Train”

I’m excited this week, for what I’ll admit is kind of a dumb reason:  I’m getting new glasses on Saturday.  I’ve been wearing my current pair since 2009-ish (thank you, Facebook profile picture album), and I’ve been needing a slight change in prescription for at least the last few years, and these new ones are pretty snazzy (they’re progressive lenses and transition lenses, both of which are necessary) – but I’m excited mostly because I’ve been wearing glasses since junior high school, and they’re as much a part of my self-identity as my hair or my physical frame, and so getting new specs means that, in a sense, I’m getting a new version of me.  This is the me that’s going to be photographed in my brother’s wedding in October; and not to be too dramatic about it, but it’s probably true that this is the me that will feature more prominently in my son’s memories of his father.

As noted yesterday, I am now reading Patti Smith’s “M Train” in which, among other things, each chapter takes place in and around various coffeeshops.  I am reminded of my own coffeeshop years, back in my undergrad and post-undergrad years, back when I lived in the East Village and played in bands and, most crucially, hung out with other people in places that were not my own apartment.  The coffeeshop hours were a special part of my day; they were almost always very late at night, and I always had my journal, a good pen, and a new pack of smokes, and it was generally understood (whether in my group or just by myself) that those hours were for serious reflection and conversation.  It sounds awfully pretentious when I describe it that way, and it probably was, but it’s also true; those coffeeshops were where some of the most important and life-changing conversations I ever had took place.

A lot of these places simply don’t exist anymore; Starbucks has more or less taken over the coffeehouse market, and I can’t imagine that any of my old Greenwich Village haunts could ever pay their rent now given that the average check back then was for maybe 2 cups of coffee consumed over 4 hours.  And that’s really the thing – I go to Starbucks every day (and I must say, the Starbucks in my office building is a super-deluxe fancy-pants Starbucks) but I never hang out there.  I order my iced coffee when I’m still on the ferry, crossing the Hudson River; the entire time I spend in the shop itself is between 30-60 seconds, depending on if there’s a line by the milk and sugar.

I must admit that I miss those days, when I actually had 4 hours to do nothing except drink coffee and write down weird poems in my notebook and just think.  Not to sound too much like an old man, but these were the days before smartphones and wi-fi; if I wanted to be alone with my thoughts, I actually could be alone with my thoughts, and I didn’t have to worry about what I was missing on social media or how to properly photograph my cappuccino for Instagram and such.   I could just enjoy being in the moment; and if, in the moment, I felt disquiet, I would open my notebook and try figuring it out, and if I was lucky I had a new set of lyrics for a song I didn’t even know I was writing.  But even if I simply ended up doodling weird shit, I never felt like my time was being wasted.

There are some very nice little coffee shops in my very nice little suburban town, and on Saturday mornings I’ll leave a little early for my therapy session and hit one of them up, and I’ll sit down for a few minutes and reflect on what I might be about to say.  Or else I’ll just stare out the window and allow myself a few minutes to be quiet and not have to think at all.  There’s two places in particular that serve a very nice gluten-free banana bread, actually, and that’s a perfectly fine way to spend a few morning minutes in and of itself.

Of course, there’s going to be a Starbucks opening up there within the next few months and I’m a little bummed, to be honest; I’d hate for these local places to get pushed out.  And yet there’s only so much I can do; I don’t really have the time or the inclination to hang out in these places the way I used to, either.

In any event, I miss those days.  “M Train” is really good and it’s reminding me of the writing project that I was working on back in November of 2015, when I thought I was going to fool around for NaNoWriMo and ended up working on a new album and also having a sort-of mini-nervous breakdown.  That project was also about my own coffeeshop days, and the people I was with, and what we used to talk about in the very late hours.

 

Good Things

Instead of being all sad and mopey and navel-gazing – AND BELIEVE ME YOU DON’T WANT ME TO GET INTO ANY OF THAT RIGHT NOW – I want to shine a light on some good things I’ve recently come across.  Ironically, a lot of the good things I want to share are kinda sad.  But, be that as it may, here goes:

1.  If you haven’t already seen it, Patti Smith’s tribute to Sam Shepard in the New Yorker is one of the best things you’ll read all year.  I’m going to be honest here and admit that I don’t know Patti’s music as well as I feel like I should.  But between this essay and her humbling, heartfelt performance of Bob Dylan’s “A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall” at the Nobel ceremony last December, I am now compelled to start reading her memoir, M Train, post-haste.

2.  Speaking of books, I just finished reading Killers of the Flower Moon, and while I wasn’t necessarily bowled over by the somewhat dry quality of the prose, the story of the Osage Murders and how they directly formed the foundation of the FBI as we currently know it is staggering.  I can’t believe I never knew about this.  This is a necessary, heartbreaking story and it’s unfathomable that nobody knows about it.  Indeed, if karma is in fact a real thing, then it’s entirely possible that the Trump Presidency is our karmic retribution for our utter annihilation of the Native American way of life.

I…. I think I’m getting woke.

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3.  Today’s song of the day du jour is “itsallwaves” by Enemies.

 

And while I’m at it, here’s a little playlist of some songs that I’ve been enjoying of late – most of them are from Spotify’s Discovery playlists, and others just kinda showed up.  At some point I’m going to write a huge thing about Louis Cole, who’s been blowing my mind ever since “Bank Account” went somewhat viral earlier this year – I’ve been digging into his catalog and I’m continually amazed at how incredibly versatile and restlessly creative he is.  And yes, that is a Coldplay song in there; believe me, nobody is more surprised that I’m recommending a Coldplay song than me.

 

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