in the idle hours

Well, I haven’t lost WordPress access just yet, so… here we go.

I started this post last week, but couldn’t finish it because of work stuff.  I was gonna work on it yesterday, but yesterday was awful and I felt silly for bothering with this sort of post.  Today, however, I am doing my best to engage in self-care and so I’m gonna take a cue from kottke.org and do a little rundown of all the various media I’ve taken in lately.

Ann Leckie, Imperial Radch Trilogy.  This has been on my to-read list forever, and now I’m finally getting around to reading it, and it is just as good as I’d hoped it would be.  And let me tell you, when the world is falling to shit and you can barely keep it together, there’s nothing quite like knowing you’ve got a good book to wrap yourself in.  It’s a security blanket for the soul.

Stephen King, The Bill Hodges Trilogy (Mr. Mercedes, Finders Keepers, End of Watch).  I’m gonna give this a solid B.  It’s not top-shelf King, but it’s crime fiction rather than supernatural horror (at least the first two books are, anyway), and he does a pretty good job of keeping the pages turning.  That said, the main three protagonists are utterly forgettable, and while the villains are compelling and memorable, they’re also rather stupid, which deflates a lot of the tension; you’re never worried about the ending.  And as noted above, the first two books are grounded in the real world while the third book goes off into a telekenetic/mind-control thing, which creates a weird paradox; on the one hand, it’s probably the best book in the series because it’s the one that is closest to King’s strengths; on the other, it totally upends the very grounded reality of the first two books.

The Matrix.  I don’t know what it is, but I feel like everywhere I look, people are talking about The Matrix again.  And pretty much everything the wife and I have watched together recently has reminded us in some way of the first Matrix movie, and so we decided to just re-watch it.  And you know what?  It still holds up, for the most part.  Yeah, some of the dialogue is hokey, and the love story simply doesn’t play, and the visuals are a bit dated (if only because they’ve been copied to death).  But every single shot in the film is iconic, and the film itself is so radically ambitious, and it’s still as entertaining as it ever was.  I’m philosophically opposed to reboots, but if the Wachowskis wanted to re-make this film with current technology, I’d be OK with it.

The Matrix Reloaded.  You know, if you edit out the stupid cheesy bullshit, this is a pretty kick-ass film.  It’s not nearly as unwatchable as I remember it being.  Though I’ll always fast-forward through the end-of-the-world disco sex party, because that is just straight-up ridiculous.  And yeah, the scene with the Architect is a bit too wordy for its own good, even if the ideas discussed are interesting.

Math Rock.  I am a huge music nerd, and every once in a while I fall off the deep end into a heavy-duty obsession with old-school prog rock.  (When my son was born, this changed slightly and I became OBSESSED with live Frank Zappa from 1972-73.)  Now, it seems, Spotify has decided that I’m due for some modern math rock, and, once again, Spotify is correct.  In particular, I’ve been listening to a shit-ton of a band called Feed Me Jack, who I think I just read are no longer together, which is a bummer; in any event, they made a rather sizable amount of music in a very short amount of time, and it’s all really good.  And here is another playlist of some of the better stuff I’ve found via the Discovery playlist:

 

By the way, my Spotify Time Capsule is HILARIOUS.  I got a little inebriated the other night and considered live-blogging my reactions to this mix, if only because I haven’t heard some of these songs in 20+ years and the me of 2017 is so completely different than the me that listened to these songs over and over and over again when they were new.  I could give you 500 words on my reaction to hearing “Right Here Right Now” alone.

As for games… eh.  I’ve got a huge backlog and there’s a bunch of stuff coming out soon and yet every time I sit down to play, I’m totally unable to relax and stay involved.  Maybe I need a break.

I’m considering signing up for NaNoWriMo this year, because I need to get my brain’s writing gears moving again, and if I’m ever going to finish the lyrics for this album I should probably just get in the habit of stringing a whole bunch of words together anyway.  A couple years ago I had a great idea for a book, and I even took some writing classes to flesh some of it out… I still really like my first chapter, even if the rest of the story fell apart on me.  And then I was going to write a memoir-ish thing about my college/band years, and I could probably fictionalize that enough to keep myself from having another nervous breakdown like I did the last time I tried it.  So even if I’m not writing here as much – and I’m gonna be trying to reduce the amount of time I spend on FB and Twitter and such – I will do my darnedest to keep the words happening somewhere.

I hope you’re well.  We’re gonna get through this, somehow.

the devil in the details

Inspired by my previous post, I’ve decided to re-read It, for the however-many-nth time.  It’s comfort food, albeit a very strange sort of comfort food.  But these are weird times, after all.  To paraphrase a joke on Twitter from last week – I may not believe in the end times, but these last few weeks certainly feel like a dress rehearsal for the real thing.

It’s been several years since my last venture into Derry, and in the intervening years my reading habits have changed rather dramatically – being a Kindle convert will do that to you – and so even though I’ve read this book a zillion times, I was startled to discover a few details I’d not noticed previously.

I literally just finished re-reading the very first chapter – the sad saga of Georgie and the newspaper boat – and somehow never noticed that, in his desperate search for the paraffin in the dark basement (and the VERY RELATABLE terror of being a small child in a dark basement), he stumbles across a box of Turtle wax and is transfixed by the image of the turtle on the box.  He feels that he’s seen that turtle before, but in a different context, and he almost loses his train of thought in trying to remember.  Now, if you’ve read the book, the turtle is rather significant, but it doesn’t show up for another thousand pages.  I’ve read this book a gazillion times and yet, somehow, I never connected the dots until just now.

For those of you who’ve seen the movie – is George’s brief venture into the basement filmed?  I mean, the main thrust of that chapter is what happens at the end, not at the beginning, but I’m genuinely curious to see if they bothered to film that.  It’s a very small detail, but it’s the sort of detail that makes the book experience so rich and vibrant.


I’m not yet ready to talk about Destiny 2.  I’m only level 8, with a light level somewhere in the mid-70s or 80s.  I’ve been playing solo, and as such I’m allowing myself to grind here and there so that I can be a bit over-leveled for each actual mission.  And yet I’ve only completed 3 or 4.  I’ve seen a very tiny fraction of what the game apparently has to offer.  I think I’m enjoying it – certainly a lot more than the first one – and I look forward to getting some co-op in, as I think that’s where the game will truly shine.

I do have to share my friend Greg’s annoyance that you can’t truly pause, which is the sort of thing you have to worry about when you’re a parent.  I’d say the vast majority of players I’ve run into are all level 20, and so clearly they have way more time on their hands than I do.  That’s fine and good; I was never going to hop into the Crucible anyway.


I feel like I should say something about PewDiePie’s latest racial outburst, though there’s nothing I would say that hasn’t been said a lot better by people with much bigger audiences.   He’s apologized, though that’s not even really the point.  The reason why I don’t hop into Destiny’s Crucible or GTA V’s multiplayer or really any multiplayer is because, for the most part, playing with strangers online is an excruciatingly awful experience.  You hear that sort of language all the goddamned time.

It’s just that PDP, who has an audience of over 50 million people, helps normalize this sort of language and validates it for other people.  They might not consider themselves racist, but if you choose to use the n-word (or really any type of slur), you’re saying that you’re OK with racist language.  And it’s shitty, and awful, and negligent.  My 4-year-old is eventually going to get into videogames, and I’m sure he’ll be watching YouTubers, and while I will endeavor to guide him towards the right way of doing things and teach him not just about bad words but also about the power these words have, I’m not going to be able to hover over his shoulder forever.  And at some point he’s gonna hear some jackass use these words, and he’s either going to be offended, or he’s going to think it’s cool.  I only hope he makes the right choice.

free association

Sometimes I write here for you, whomever you might be.  I want to relate my experience playing a game or listening to music or reading a book, and maybe you’re experienced those things too, and so we can compare and contrast our separate experiences and sort of virtually pretend we did them together.

Sometimes I write here because I’m bored and have nothing else to do and so typing away at my desk makes me look busy.  This happens more often than not.

And sometimes – like now – I write here for me.  I have too many thoughts in my head and I need to get them out, and this is one of the only places I have, and whether or not you read this is immaterial.  Which is not to say that you reading this is irrelevant – I’m correcting typos and trying to make sure this is readable – but, well, look.  I’ve got stuff I’ve gotta figure out.


I’m stressed, man.  Depressed.  Mood swings all over the goddamned place.  My mom is back in the hospital less than 24 hours after getting released from the hospital, where she’d been for 3 weeks recovering from a broken pelvis – this would also be her 4th hospital stay this year, after a broken femur and a frightening bout of sepsis.  My dad and his family are in a somewhat hurricane-proof area of Jacksonville, Florida, preparing to receive whatever Irma has to dish out by the time it gets there.  I appear to have developed plantar fasciitis, which is a delightful perk of getting older and which makes walking around rather painful.  I’m stressed about money, which is a whole other thing that I’m not gonna get into right now.

Basically, what’s happening to the US right now – 2 major hurricanes, the west coast being on fire, and a steaming gold-plated turd in the White House hell-bent on making the worst possible decisions for no other reason than hating Obama – is a rather good approximation of what’s happening in my brain.


There’s some really good music out, at least.  Today sees the release of The National’s long-awaited new album, and Deerhoof have also released yet another brilliant collection.  The new LCD Soundsystem is hit-or-miss for me but it does contain the best lyrical couplet of the year (“You’ve got numbers on your phone of the dead that you can’t delete / and you got life-affirming moments in your past that you can’t repeat”).  I haven’t even had time to process the new Iron & Wine or King Gizzard or The War on Drugs or Grizzly Bear or Everything Everything or Rainer Maria, because I’ve been too busy listening to my Discovery playlist.


I’m not sure if I’m going to see the new It movie.  I’ve only seen bits and pieces of the Tim Curry TV series, as well.  Here’s the deal – It is, for me, the definitive Stephen King novel.  It’s the book I’ve probably read and re-read the most.  Other people prefer The Stand, or The Dark Tower, or whatever; It has always been the book for me.  It’s the reason why I’m attracted to big books.  One of the reasons why the book is so successful in instilling dread is specifically because of its heft; it literally weighs you down as you read it.  (Well, maybe not the Kindle version, but you get my meaning.)

I don’t need a movie version.  I don’t want a movie version.  The scene between Henry Bowers (the bully) and Patrick Hockstetter (the psychopath and arguably the single most creepy character in SK’s entire output) will always be more horrifying in my mind than it would be on screen – and considering what happens in that scene, I can’t possibly imagine it ever being filmed.

I suppose I’m glad to hear that the new movie is getting good reviews, but that doesn’t necessarily make me want to see it.  I’d rather just re-read it again.


Speaking of books, it’s been a while since I ran down what I’ve read.  I read Leigh Bardugo’s two Six of Crows books, which were great fun; I just finished the final installment in N.J. Jemisin’s Stone Sky series, which was astonishing.  I’ve started reading Bryant & May and the Burning Man, and I’m enjoying it even if I’m not 100% sure where it’s going.

I did complete my (admittedly low) Goodreads reading challenge, so I’m feeling a bit more relaxed in terms of what to take on next.  I think I need a break from trilogies and such; I could use just a one-off every now and then.


I wasn’t going to play Destiny 2, and yet, well, I bought it.  Of course I did.  I’m barely into it – indeed, I got stuck in a too-hard section and gave up last night – but it’s Destiny, all right.  Still arguably the best-feeling shooter I’ve played in a while, though I’m not necessarily the best authority on that front.

Do you ever have games stuck in the back of your mind?  I do.  For the longest time I had Max Payne 3 lodged in there, for reasons I can’t possibly begin to fathom; right now it’s a cross between Bioshock Infinite and 2016’s DOOM.  I don’t know what makes me think of them; they’re just there, like bits of a song that get looped in my brain.


OK, that’s enough yakkin’.  I gotta close up shop.  Have a good weekend.  Thanks for reading.  I think I feel better?  I think I feel better.

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.

francine-pascals-had-elizabeth-been-privileged-the-wokening-paperback-paradise-17911572

 

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.

 

The Sense of an Ending

Still going through some weird emotional ups and downs.  These things happen; sometimes it’s a chemical thing and sometimes it’s politics and sometimes it’s a bunch of bad personal/family/friend news and sometimes it’s just out of the blue.  At this specific moment, it would appear to be a bit of everything.  So I cope as best I can; I play with my son, I turn off social media (for little bits here and there), I engage in retail therapy and accumulate credit card debt.  I feel like I’m repeating myself.  My wife is out of town tonight and I’m throwing the world’s smallest pity party.


I have to assume, in this day and age, that game developers can keep track of how people are playing their games, even if it’s just from looking at Achievement/Trophy unlocks.  It would follow that devs have a relatively good sense of how many people actually finish a story-driven game.  As I’ve noted here and elsewhere, games are a unique medium in that, unlike books or albums or films, it is common practice to spend 10-20 hours with a game and never get anywhere close to the “end”.

I bring this up because last night I finally finished the Watch Dogs 2 campaign, and the ending was possibly the most half-assed, anti-climactic snore-fest I’ve ever seen.  Indeed, the only reason why I know it was the final mission is because the credits rolled afterwards, and I got an Achievement.  Otherwise, I’m honestly not sure I would’ve known the game was over.  And it’s entirely possible that the devs didn’t think anyone would get that far, considering how dumb that ending is.

I maintain that WD2 is, on the whole, a rather enjoyable collection of compelling gameplay ideas trapped in some sort of focus-tested narrative hellscape.  Unlike the thoroughly unlikable anti-hero of the first game (not that you’d ever have guessed that the devs intended him to be unlikable), WD2 has a diverse group of “good guys” that are still unbearably stereotypical and dumb and desperately “cool”, and as part of the hacker collective they have a Robin Hood-esque ethos – screwing over the rich and powerful to better show the unknowing masses how little control over their own lives they have – but the game also gives no shits about you killing dozens and dozens of people.  You can’t have a game about morality and ethics while also being totally unethical and immoral – it defeats the whole point.  Why would the unwashed public care about a bunch of hacktivists who not only steal private data but are also domestic terrorists, inasmuch as the murdering of “bad guys” actually means anything?  Say what you will about Wikileaks and Anonymous, but I’m pretty sure those guys haven’t murdered hundreds of heavily armed security officers as they infiltrate a private HQ – or murdered police, on the way out of the building.  Anyway, the bad guy gets arrested at the end, but who even gives a shit?


I don’t know what else is on my gaming plate, beyond the usual combo of backlog/replays/cheap-as-hell indie titles picked up during summer sales.  People seem to be enjoying the Destiny 2 beta; I’m staying out of it for the moment.  To be honest, I’m not sure what system I’d play it on, or if I’d play it at all – I liked the original game well enough but preferred the solo experience, such as it was.  I’m not necessarily feeling the same itch this time around.

 

a sort-of cure for the hopelessness blues

I have been feeling somewhat weird lately, for lack of a better word.  (As I look at the titles of my most recent blog posts, I realize that they’re all a bit down-trodden, to say the least.)

I continue to be politically despondent, and I don’t know how to combat that.  As I’ve noted before, my day job has turned off a great deal of internet access but I still have Twitter and the news, and the TV in the kitchenette is turned to CNN, and every time I look up something horrifying is happening and, just as horrifying, nothing is being done about it.

So I turn to – what else – retail therapy.  I went a wee bit bananas during the Amazon Sale.  I now own a Bluetooth record player, some very nice Bluetooth headphones, and a Kindle Fire (for some reason).

It’s funny – when I’d heard that the iPhone 7 was doing away with the headphone jack, I, like most people I knew, was pissed off.  And now that I actually own an iPhone 7+, I was confronted with the realization that using wired headphones was a pain in the ass.   So now I am free from the tyranny of small wires and dongles.  I got these bad boys and they are delightful.

The record player… well, you knew that was coming.  We got it set up last night and christened it with two of my favorite albums – my mother-in-law’s original copy of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bookends”, followed by my sister-in-law’s copy of Yes’s “Fragile”.  [EDIT:  I have just been informed that it’s actually my wife’s copy.  Sorry, dear!]  And as my wife and I sat down on our couch and the music started playing, I realized that it was the first time we’d both sat down and listened to music in years.  And that’s kinda the awesome thing about actual, tangible records.  There’s a ritual to getting an album set up to play that simply isn’t there when you’re firing something up on Spotify.  You browse through your collection to find the album you’re looking for; you remove the disc from its sleeve; you carefully lay it on the platter; you press “Start”, and in this case the needle automatically finds its way onto the record.  You sit down, you get comfortable, you listen.  You also have to pay attention because you’ve gotta flip the record over, which is something I hadn’t had to pay conscious attention to since I switched from cassettes to CDs (say, 1992-93).  And then you consider the album as a whole, rather than as a collection of songs; you pay attention to sequencing, how the end of Side 1 and the beginning of Side 2 are their own definitive statements as well as the songs that bridge the album as a complete thing.  (Yes, I might’ve been a little stoned.)

Anyway, I bought the Sgt. Pepper and the OK Computer reissues today.


I have finished Part One of Five of the massive new Neal Stephenson novel “The Rise And Fall of D.O.D.O.“, and it is exactly what I wanted to read right now.  (Until David Mitchell gets around to releasing his new one, whenever that may be.)  I’m a little surprised that nobody’s talking about it; I did notice that it’s unusually pricey, even on the Kindle side of things, but I had Amazon credit and bit the bullet.  It’s easily one of the best things he’s done in years, and that very well may be because it’s co-written by Nicole Galland.  In any event, the sci-fi stuff is very cool, but the characters are also very cool, and as Part One came to a close I found myself very, very excited to know that I still have another 600 pages to go before I’m done.


Why did I buy a Kindle Fire, besides that it was on sale for like $50?  I don’t know.  I already have a Kindle Voyage, which is the best e-reader I’ll ever own.  I also own an old iPad 3, which I haven’t really been using but which at least has a ton of apps on it.  It was an impulse buy driven by anxiety, and so if nothing else I get to offer the first “Thanks, Trump” of what will probably be many.  I only hope that the world ends before my credit card debt is past due.

 

Anxious and Scatterbrained

I used to have 2 similar anxiety dreams.  In the first one, it’d be opening night for a play and not only did I not know my lines, but I’d never received a script in the first place; in the second one, I’d show up to a school with a completely foreign layout and I’d be taking a final exam for a class I’d never attended.

I had a new one this morning, and it was interesting to see how it took shape.  I was about to go on stage – but this time as a musician.  Half my equipment was missing, but that was OK; I didn’t know the songs we were about to play, but I wasn’t worried about that either – I figured I’d be able to fake my way through it.  No, the anxiety didn’t manifest itself until I turned my keyboard on and realized that all my preset sounds were gone, replaced by weird and dissonant blurps and bleeps – sounds that are useful in certain contexts, but not in the one I was about to play in.

It wasn’t a nightmare, to be sure; just a sudden sense of alarm, and then I tried to make adjustments on the fly.  (Of course, in the dream, the keyboard’s knobs and sliders weren’t in the right place and weren’t making the changes I wanted them to make, but at least I had some semblance of control over trying to fix them.)  This is, actually, a sort of progress for me.  Normally I’d just panic.  At least this time I did my best to work with what I had.

I’m not sure where the anxiety was coming from, though it is true that I had somewhat of a minor panic attack yesterday afternoon – and even then, rather than letting it devour me, I did what I had to do to manage it.  It’s not good to fight these things, so I left the town festival where we all were and took a 30-minute walk back home and let my brain free associate itself into something approaching stillness.  The weather was nice, and the walk was pleasantly exhausting.

Now, I know I’ve just described an anxiety dream and a panic attack, but I want to stress that I’m in a much better place now than I’ve ever been before in terms of dealing with these things.  I took whatever control I could to improve my situation, and I was never in the sort of skin-peeling discomfort I used to have when these sorts of episodes would crop up in the past.  Hell, in the past I would’ve never left the house in the first place.

These are tough times, you guys.  Do what you can to take care of yourself.


Here’s where I would say that playing games is a form of self-care, and then I’d tell you what I’ve been playing, and that would be the next part of this post.  But honestly, I’m sort playing half-a-dozen things at the moment and I’m not particularly invested in any of them anymore, and I find that as I’m distracted by politics and the health of my dogs and my kid’s domino obsession, I’m having trouble staying focused.

I have a weird little routine now.  First thing I do is check in on my Xbox save of Clicker Heroes, which… look, at some point I’ll write up a long thing about idle clickers and why I’m so addicted to them.  This is not that time.  The point here is simply that checking in on Clicker Heroes – doing a little maintenance here and there, making sure everything’s leveling up appropriately – this is a nice, easy way of centering my attention.  I can also continue to check Twitter and such while the numbers continue multiplying in the background, but in any event it’s an easy way of gradually shutting off the distracted parts of my brain.

And then, once I’m at a point where I can’t make any more adjustments, I’ll switch over to something else.  I’m still primarily playing Watch Dogs 2, though I must admit that I’m starting to lose interest.  I was sorta dipping my toes back into Shadow of Mordor, of all things, and I also started a new Necromancer in Diablo III.  Was also thinking about starting a New Game+ in Horizon Zero Dawn, though I’m not sure I’ll keep on with that.  And there’s all the other little indie stuff I picked up in the various Xbox and PSN summer sales – stuff like RoundaboutI Am BreadAdrift, and etc.  And then there’s all the other backlog and replay stuff I want to mess with – like replaying Assassin’s Creed Syndicate to prepare myself for Origins, and Wolfenstein: The New Order to prepare for the new sequel (and also to kill Nazis, which, of course, is our patriotic duty), and then sometimes I also have a weird impulse to fire up the newish Doom, and and and… well, you can see how it can be difficult to sit down and stay engaged in something for more than 15 minutes.

I didn’t even know that the Final Fantasy XII remake was coming out this week.  I’ve never played it; I’ve read nothing but glowing reviews of it, but I also know that I’ve barely touched FFXV, and I don’t know how I feel about starting another endless JRPG when I’m already so scatterbrained.  In any event, I presume my rental copy will arrive on Thursday, and we’ll see where we are at that point in the week.

Maybe I’ll take some time off from gaming completely and get back into writing music?  That’s a novel idea.  Who knows.

scenes from a mild mid-day panic attack

OK – I started this post last week and never got around to finishing it.  It’s not a particularly difficult post or anything; if nothing else it’s a collection of scattered E3 thoughts that I was trying to write down before my short-term memory said “fuck it, you don’t need this.”

Today, as I attempt to write this, I am feeling very anxious.  It’s the sort of anxiety that I’m recognizing as if it were from a bad dream – I feel like I’ve forgotten something terribly important, and there will be terrible consequences if I can’t remember it.  This feeling could also just be due to me drinking a very large iced coffee and taking a Claritin-D for allergies – so my heart is racing and yet I’m feeling spaced out.  For whatever it’s worth, as far as I can tell, I haven’t actually forgotten anything; today is my wife’s birthday, but that’s already been sorted out – gifts received, dinner reserved, etc.

So I don’t really have any E3 thoughts, as it turns out.  All the big press conferences happened when I was unable to watch them – I mean, I did watch a little bit of the beginning of Microsoft’s presser on Twitter on my iPhone, because I needed to get some Scorpio info – but that was probably about it as far as paying direct attention to the event itself.

Before you ask:  yes of course I’m getting an Xbox One X.  I’ve been saving money in a special savings account ever since it was first announced for that very purpose, and by the time it comes out I might even be able to pick up a 4K TV, too.

I’ve been spending most of my gaming time on the Xbox One lately, as a matter of fact; during their last big sale I ended up buying a bunch of games I already own on the PS4, because I’m an idiot who has started to feel the burn of Achievements again.  Truth be told – and I may have already said this here, but I’m too lazy to go back and check – I really do prefer the user experience of the Xbox far more than the PS4, even if the PS4 is the technically superior machine.  (Will I get a PS4 Pro if I do end up getting a 4K TV?  Probably/eventually, if it gets a price drop, and if I can easily swap in my 2TB hard drive.)

And as it happens, if you were to ask me what it is I’m playing these days, I’d be hard-pressed to give you a quick answer.  I’m kinda playing at least 10 different things all at the same time, some new stuff:

  • Dirt 4: kinda ugly, and has an unusually shitty UI (which is especially odd considering how glorious and pristine previous Dirt UIs have been), but very fun and contains possibly the best rumble technology I’ve ever felt – I mean, you can feel the curved grooves in the road.  It’s extraordinary if only for that specific reason.
  • Lego City Undercover: I bought this hoping my son would play it with me.  He’s sorta interested, sorta not.  As far as the game itself, it’s Lego GTA, and it’s quite charming.  It suffers from the same horrific platforming bullshit that has plagued every Lego game since the dawn of time, and it has a weird tone issue wherein it’s clearly aimed for young kids, but filled with references to movies that no young kid would ever go near.  But whatever.  Sometimes you just want to screw around in a consequence-free environment and break stuff into littler stuff, and this game does a really good job at that.
  • RIME:  Alternates between being a beautiful, serene exploration game and a frustrating, obtuse platformer.  I’d like to see this to the end, but who knows.

as well as a bunch of backlog stuff:

  • Assassin’s Creed Syndicate: because I got a little jazzed seeing the forthcoming Origins and wanted to remember what those games feel like; this is the first time in a long time that I can remember actually looking forward to a new AC game.  I remain hopeful that the 2-year break served the development well.
  • Fallout 4: because I stumbled across a fantastic video analysis of the game by Joseph Anderson, which does such a remarkable job of articulating everything I hated about FO4 that I kinda want to go back and play it again.  No, that does not make any sense, but does anything make sense these days?

 

I have more to post, I think, but I’m not quite in the navel-gazing mood at the moment and I’d prefer to save that stuff for a different time.  In any event, I’m alive and the Ativan has started to kick in.

(exhales)

Moody in Manhattan

Serious, heavy-duty case of the Mondays going on here.  I came this close to taking a mental health day, except my son was also having a serious heavy-duty case of the Mondays, and if I can’t set a good example for him, then what am I even doing being a parent?  So here I am, twitchy and over-caffeinated, just trying to make it through the day, one endless hour at a time.

I have a bunch of random, scattered thoughts littering my head this morning, so, look out:

1. I don’t know what else to say about 45 other than I’m exhausted and feeling like I’m approaching some sort of breaking point, where I’m going to have to forcibly remove myself from the news in order to maintain some sort of equilibrium.  This quote from Josh Marshall says it a bit better:

The terror attack in London is not Donald Trump’s fault of course. But his response to it is hard to fathom even for him… Actually, I wouldn’t say it’s hard to fathom. It’s not even surprising. We’ve known and seen this withering deficit of shame and grace before when he tweeted out “appreciate the congrats” in response to the Orlando club massacre last year. I’m not even sure what the word is or if there is one. But the one I am struggling to find is the experience of not being remotely surprised by the President’s action and yet marveling that the expected action – or transgression in this case – has managed to find a new depth of awfulness to penetrate and explore.

Emphasis added.  I spent most of my therapy session this weekend trying to get this stuff off my chest.  A lot of my anxiety issues in my 20s and 30s – back when I was actively avoiding therapy and medication – were because I felt out of control, or that things were happening to me that I was unable to control, or simply that if I couldn’t exert some form of control over what was happening to me, then I was doomed.  I’ve gotten a lot better in the last few years with this; if things are out of my control, then I am (for the most part) able to accept that, and I can instead try to step back and be objective about whatever it is that’s bothering me and take stock of what I can control, and then deal with the rest when it finally happens.  The thing with Trump, though, is that it would appear that nobody can control the nonsense that flies out of his mouth or fingers, and his insanity will have a very real and tangible effect on my life and of my child’s life.  Every day it gets worse and worse and it feels like the worst kind of nightmare.  I do try my best to keep it together, and if nothing else I indulge in every form of self-care I can think of.  But as I said above, it’s exhausting.  I don’t know how this circus can continue.

2. You know what’s good?  Music is good.  I haven’t written about music in a while.  I haven’t written any music in a while, either, but that’s a different story.

I’ve been listening to music a lot lately – or, rather, I’ve been listening to music with great intensity lately.  The new remix of Sgt. Pepper?  Holy shit, it’s incredible.  (And I say this mostly through listening via Spotify on my shitty work headphones.)  If it’s not too much to ask, I’d very much love it if all of the pre-Abbey Road albums could get the same sort of 3-dimensional stereo support that this Sgt. Pepper album got, because it’s amazing.

Sgt. Pepper isn’t my favorite Beatles record – that distinction gets tossed around between Abbey Road, Revolver and The White Album, and I must confess that Magical Mystery Tour is up there, too – but there’s also a mythic quality to Sgt. Pepper that those other albums simply don’t have.  When I think of my favorite Beatles songs, I tend to gloss over the Sgt. Pepper album just because they all feel connected in a way that the rest of their catalog doesn’t.  But goddamn, this remix makes it feel vital in a way that it simply never has before.  “Getting Better”, in particular, is staggering to behold – I don’t think I’d ever appreciated just how magnificent the arrangement of that song is.  One can start to see, now, how mind-blowing Sgt. Pepper must have sounded when it was first released.

Another album that is also blowing my mind, in a completely different way, is Elder’s “Reflections of a Floating World.”  I’d never heard of these guys before last week, and I acknowledge that they’re a bit more on the heavy stoner-metal side of things than what I normally listen to, but whatever – it’s awesome.  Listen to “The Falling Veil”, if nothing else.

3. E3 2017 is next week and I am surprisingly apathetic about it.  This may simply be because I expect that most of what will be announced will be stuff that isn’t coming out until 2018 at the earliest.  Indeed, a lot of the most exciting-sounding stuff from last year’s E3 was for games that still haven’t come out yet.  I may or may not live-tweet the press conferences; I’m not really sure I have the energy to sit through everything.  I don’t even really know what it is that I’d like to hear, beyond a reasonable price for Project Scorpio (and that Scorpio will improve performance to existing Xbox One games the way that the PS4 Pro does for PS4 games).  That’s really all I’m hoping for.  I’d like PSVR to get some new stuff, too, though I’m not necessarily holding my breath.

OK, it’s lunch time.

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