Ambient Humanity

My son turns 5 on Saturday, and that is ridiculous.  There’s no way he’s already 5 years old.

Have you ever fallen in love with a song so much it made you cry?  It happens to me all the time.  And it happened to him this weekend.  He fell hard for this song from the end credits in the Captain Underpants movie – and yes, that is a weird thing to fall in love with, but far be it for me to deprive him of a cathartic response to art; the heart wants what it wants.  We listened to it in the car on the way to swim class, and when I went to get him out of the car I noticed that he was sniffly and sad, and I asked him what was wrong, and he said “Daddy I love you”, and that the song made him “happy sad”, and he said he loved me again and he gave me a big hug and dried his eyes on my shoulder, and my heart melted all over the parking lot of the West Essex YMCA.

We have our basement back!  And it only took 2 weeks!  The longest and most stressful 2 weeks of our lives as homeowners, but still!  I can’t begin to explain how relieved I am to have everything back up and running again.

Of course, there are still some things that need to be replaced.  My computer desk(s) got kinda fucked up during the renovation, and my computers are still busted (though not due to the flooding), and so on and so on.  But the point is, you can hang out down there again.   Which means I’ll have more stuff to write about here.

I’ve been feeling more and more like it’s time for me to finally pull the plug on Facebook, even though it’s really, really difficult to suddenly cut myself off from pretty much everyone I know.  (And my family would kill me if I suddenly deprived them of photos of my kid.)  I’ve sorta had it in the back of my mind that I’m gonna keep my account right up until I finish this stupid album, and I can get the word out, and then after that’s run its course I’ll shut my account down and spend more time over here.

And it’s gonna be a while until this album gets finished.  So there’s no real timetable just yet.

In any event, I came across this Kottke post that resonated pretty heavily with me – not just because I used to be a die-hard Livejournal user, but because even after all these years I’ve never felt quite as part of a community as I did over there.  There’s no question that WordPress is a better platform for creating stuff, but it’s awfully tough to foster friendships and connections here.  Facebook (for me, at least) was never about meeting new people, it was only ever about reconnecting with people I’d lost touch with.  Twitter (for me) is almost entirely about reading what other people have to say, because anything I write there barely ripples the water’s endless surface.

AOL IM 4eva, is what I’m saying.

Anyway, the post inside that Kottke thing is here, and it’s great, and this pull-quote is hitting me exactly where I live.

It is psychological gravity, not technical inertia, however, that is the greater force against the open web. Human beings are social animals and centralized social media like Twitter and Facebook provide a powerful sense of ambient humanity—the feeling that “others are here”—that is often missing when one writes on one’s own site. Facebook has a whole team of Ph.D.s in social psychology finding ways to increase that feeling of ambient humanity and thus increase your usage of their service.

So:  Far Cry 5 comes out this week; my rental copy of Ni No Kuni 2 should be arriving today; I’m continuing to move along in QUBE 2, which is a Portal-esque first-person puzzler that breaks my brain in interesting and very satisfying ways; and there’s some other indie puzzlers that I’d like to get back to, when I have time, which I don’t.  But now that the basement’s back, I can at least make the attempt.

After The Flood

So:  what usually happens when I decide to start writing here is that I’ll have a few free minutes, I’ll start gathering my thoughts and start typing, and then BLAM – huge project arrives in my inbox.  (Or, as another example:  as I typed this last sentence, my boss showed up.)  Last week, I got sidetracked by something else entirely:  a huge storm, a power outage, a flooded basement.

The good news is that we only had about an inch and a half of water, which means that all my instruments and all my gaming stuff avoided getting damaged.  But we lost 3 carpets, a lot of my son’s toys, a whole bunch of luggage that was stored in a utility closet, our Christmas tree, a fair amount of my wife’s tools from her reiki practice, and some other stuff – honestly, the last few days have been something of a blur.

And so now we are going to be several thousand dollars in the hole in terms of renovation and repair.  We were able to find a floor repair service (thanks to our amazing neighbors) and so we’ve had a gigantic dehumidifier and several industrial-grade fans going non-stop since Friday; we have a contractor coming this evening to survey the basement and see about getting the walls/insulation replaced.

My wife and I are exhausted and stressed out, but I gotta say:  the kid is handling it like a champ.

You know what’s been nice, though?  It’s been nice to be away from the internet, and the news cycle, and all that shit.  I desperately needed to unplug, and if it takes an act of God to get me unplugged, then so be it.

Anyway, as you might imagine, leisure time has been non-existent of late.  The basement is off limits, so my wife and I are back to sharing the living room TV.  I’ve been too frazzled to enjoy what I’m reading, and I’ve not had any opportunity to listen to music.  During the power outage, I was actually using my Switch as a shitty flashlight because my iPhone was running out of juice.

That said, I’ve been using the Switch more and more, and I’m suddenly wanting it to get all the indie ports that used to show up on the Vita.  Indeed, I’ve been starting to compile a list of stuff I’d like to see:

  • XCOM / XCOM 2 / Invisible Inc.
  • Mark of the Ninja
  • Fez
  • Something – anything – from Rockstar.  (And yes, I know about L.A. Noire, but that doesn’t quite count.)  Ideally, and I know this is never happening, I’d love to see a port of GTA 4, but with the control scheme of GTA 5
  • The 2.5D Assassin’s Creed games
  • the Oddworld New & Tasty remake
  • Sid Meier’s Pirates, or a port of the console-based Civ Rev game (not the iPhone version)

I also heard about the original Crackdown getting enhanced for Xbox One X; unfortunately my 4K TV is in the basement – and while it was well above the water line I haven’t had a chance to plug it in, so I’m just hoping it still works – but in any event, I can’t really see it in all its 4K HDR glory, but I did find my disc and gave it a quick spin, and yeah – that game is still kinda awesome.

It is awesome in the same way that Burnout Paradise HD is awesome – and yes, of course I bought the remake, and because (for some reason that I’ve since forgotten) I’m a member of EA Access, I was able to play it last night.  Those games are both awesome because you can totally forget about the main path and just tool around looking for hidden stuff, and whether you’re picking up ability orbs or crashing through barriers, there’s a visceral rush that few other games have ever managed to achieve.

(Certain other elements of Burnout Paradise have not aged well, of course:  DJ Atomica can fuck right off.  But they have added some new songs to the soundtrack, including LCD Soundsystem’s “Us v Them” which is one of my favorite songs of all time.)

And in the meantime, I’m still finding myself tooling around in Assassin’s Creed Origins, because that game continues to feel right in my hands in a way that other, better games don’t – not even The Witcher 3.  It doesn’t hurt that even after finishing the main campaign and sinking more than 60 hours into it, there’s still a ton of stuff to do, and a ton of question marks to uncover, and etc.  That game continues to surprise and impress.

Anhedonia, revisited

Hold on just a minute.  Did I really not write anything here during the month of February?

(checks blog)

Goddamn.  I don’t quite know how that happened, but it happened, and so there it is.

I have noticed lately that I have been getting more and more frustrated with my relationship to the internet, and as such I’ll periodically pop in on Facebook or whatever just to say that I’m taking a break, and the break lasts for about 45 minutes, and instead of feeling frustration, I feel shame.  Whereas here, I kinda just… disappear?  I don’t announce anything, it just sorta happens, and surprisingly enough I don’t feel shame when I realize I’ve been away.  This is my private little corner of the internet and if I don’t get around to writing anything, well, that’s on me.

The first paragraph of my last entry (on January 29!) was this:

You ever have one of those weeks where you keep thinking that you have stuff to talk about, but then you start writing it down and none of it seems particularly interesting or important?  That’s where I was last week.  That’s sorta where I still am this week, but the day job is slow at the moment and I need to look busy.  So here we go.

I guess that’s been the order of things here.  Work has been just busy enough to keep me from gathering my thoughts, and when I do gather my thoughts they don’t appear to be particularly noteworthy.

I suppose some catch-up is in order, and hopefully that’ll help shake off the dust and get me back into some sort of a regular writing habit.

In that same entry from the end of January, I’d written how I was experiencing some technical difficulties with respect to my musical endeavors – namely, that my 8-year-old MacBook is falling apart, and my old input device wasn’t being recognized.  I ended up buying a replacement input device, but I’m ashamed to admit that I haven’t taken it out of the box yet.  Why?  Well, for the same reason that I’m often reluctant to go to a doctor if something’s wrong; I don’t want to be told that a toothache is actually a brain tumor.  In this case, if my new device works, I can at least try to continue making music.  But if I hook it up and it’s still busted, then that means I have to drop nearly 2G on a new computer.  Which is a tough pill to swallow.  Which is why nothing’s happened, music-wise, in over a month.  I completely missed the RPM Challenge this year.

Books:  In that aforementioned last post, I was finishing up a mini-George Saunders marathon.  Since then, I’ve read:

  • The Immortalists, which is a current front-runner for Book of the Year;
  • The Sky Is Yours, which I enjoyed, though not as much as I’d hoped;
  • The Infinite Future, which should’ve been right up my alley but was a little too wrapped up in its own poetry to bother tying any of its plot threads together;
  • The Woman in the Window, the latest Gone-Girl-esque thriller of the moment, which turned out to be better than I’d anticipated;
  • The Gone World, which houses an intriguing time-travelling premise but is buried under its own weighty prose;
  • Rock n’ Roll Lies: Ten Stories, a charming little collection that just happens to be written by a new friend of mine that lives in my town; and
  • Red Sparrow, which I gave up on after maybe getting a third of the way through; it’s atrocious and has turned me off from the rest of the trilogy and the movie and everything else.  Ugh.

Currently re-reading The Way of Kings, so that I can then re-read Book 2, so that I can finally read volumes 2.5 and 3.

Games:  I’ve been playing a whole bunch of nothing, which is frustrating, because I did just buy a new sound bar to accompany my glorious new TV.  I’ve been listening to music more than I’ve been playing, basically.  And that’s great!  I like listening to music, especially on good speakers at reasonable volumes!  But by and large I’ll go down to the basement, look at all the stuff I have, and realize I’m not interested in any of it.  I’m kinda hoping Far Cry 5 will shake me out of my stupor, though I’m not necessarily counting on it.  If I have to wait until Red Dead Redemption 2 in order to get my mojo back, well, that’ll make things easier on my wallet, at the very least.

Wouldn’t you know it, I just got busy again.  TO BE CONTINUED?


%d bloggers like this: