bloggin’

So this New Yorker article popped up in my Twitter feed and got me thinking about “the end of blogs”, although my perspective is much different than the essay’s author.  Her piece is about the failure of the blog (specifically The Hairpin and The Awl) to generate self-sustaining revenue, and as such, it is becoming more and more difficult for the most interesting writing on the internet to find a place to live.

Whereas I’ve never blogged for money, or exposure, or really for any other reason than I enjoyed keeping a diary, and was amused by the idea of making it public.  And LiveJournal was just getting underway right when I started feeling this way, and so since 2001 I’ve been blogging in one form or another.   I left LJ in 2009, moved to blogger for a little bit, and I’ve had 2 or 3 blogs here at WordPress, each with a different focus.  This one has become my default, though, and so it’s here where I’ve decided to post this.

I’ve never been under any illusions that my writing was worth anything.  I’ve said this before in other places but it bears repeating here:  I have something of a Salieri complex – I imagine myself a better writer than I know myself to be.  This used to bother me a great deal, but now I just accept it as fact, and in the meantime I try to get better when I can.  The beauty of blogging, though, was that it was never about how good you were as a writer; I was naturally drawn to good writers but I was more inclined to read about people with similar interests, similar senses of humor, similar points of reference, and who could write honestly about what they thought about.  I made friends through LJ, real friends, and it wasn’t bullshit; I still love those people, and even if our LJ community is gone, we’re still in each other’s social media bubbles, such as they are.

I guess the point is that the word “blog” means something much different to me than it does to other professional writers, and our purposes were never aligned, and yet the feel of a blog is still something necessary and vital.  For me, I find that the writing on the internet that I most enjoy has a personal feel to it, where it might be rough around the edges but it feels authentic because it’s not bullshit.  Its driving force is honesty, not cleverness.  I’ve always been envious of people who can be clever while also being honest, and lord knows I’ve tried to do that, too, though I’ve never been particularly successful at it.

In any event, this is going to be a more traditional blog entry for me, rather than what I usually post here.  Feel free to skip; or, alternately, feel free to keep reading.


I also felt compelled to write about blogging because the tweet directly following the New Yorker link was one of these personal list-type things – in fact, these were the sorts of things that I used to call “memes”, rather than whatever they are today.  I ‘m gonna do this one, here, because why not.  It’s been a while since I took any personal inventory out here in public, and the afternoon is a bit slow.

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1.  I have two Twitter handles, as it happens, but the primary one is @couchshouts, which I’d started in an attempt to boost this blog’s visibility (and also to keep my personal twitter feed and my videogame feed separate).  I’m sure the name explains itself.

2. Who inspires me?  Hmm.  This is a tricky one.  I guess the context matters; I have musical inspirations, writing inspirations, general “being a better person” inspirations.  I don’t honestly know if I can answer this one at this particular moment in time.  I could’ve answered it in college in about 10 seconds, but my life and my perspective have changed so radically since then that I can barely recognize my college-age self.  If I’m honest with myself, though, and ask myself who inspires me to be a better person?  Well, that’s my wife and my son.

3.  Do I care what others think about me?  Not nearly as much as I used to, because I’m not trying to impress anybody.

4.  What am I most looking forward to?  This one’s actually pretty easy – I can’t wait to see who my son turns into as he gets older.  He’s a super-sweet almost-5-year-old boy, but who he’s going to be at 8, 11, 14, 18… I can’t wait.  Even though I never want him to grow up.

5.  One life rule that I follow:  I alluded to this in the intro, and it’s something I’ve said a lot here and elsewhere, and it’s something that my high school English teacher said somewhat off-handedly, perhaps not realizing that he was about to drop a seismic charge on me:  it is better to be honest than clever.

6.  My dream job:  I would’ve loved to have been able to pay my bills through music.  And if I were me, now, but 25 years younger, I would’ve wanted to at least try to break into game journalism (especially since I could live on a shit salary back then).  I don’t have a dream job now; I just need something stable and secure and something I don’t need to take home with me when I leave.

7.  Which fictional character do I wish I could meet?  Hmm.  When I was younger I had developed a fierce crush on Becky Thatcher from the Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer books, but it’s not like I would’ve known what to say or do with her.  Nowadays I suppose I’d be very interested in having an elegant luncheon with the titular character of “A Gentleman in Moscow.”

8. As a child, I wanted to be an actor.  I got lucky in that regard; I knew I wanted to act, and I was good enough at the time to get good enough parts to make me think that I could actually do it as a real job, and I got into college to study it, and then, of course, I gave up on it.

9.  If I were a cartoon character… I never watched enough cartoons to have a good answer.

10.  What skill would I like to master?  I wish I could draw.  Like, at all.  The best late-night stoned doodling I ever did was still just stick figures.

11.  In what situation would I feel most out of place?  Well, you’re talking to someone who still struggles mightily with social anxiety – who still takes half an Ativan just to leave the house in the morning – so you might say that I feel out of place every time I leave my house.

12.  An artist that I really like but rarely admit to liking?  Well, if you look at my answer to #3, I don’t really care what other people think.  My first answer would be Genesis, but I think I’ve talked about them a lot.  Can I say that there are a few songs on Pete Yorn’s first album that I still, to this day, adore tremendously?

13.  What gets me fired up?  There are several ways to interpret the context of this question.  Politically, my #1 hot-button issue is gun control.  But if I need to get super-excited about something in a hurry – like if I’m about to perform on stage – I’ll take a shot of ice-cold Jagermeister (don’t judge me).

14.  I am not a part of any fandoms that I’m aware of.  I am a 42 year old man.  I like what I like and I don’t need to commune with other people over that stuff the way that I used to.  If I really need to talk about something, chances are pretty good I’ll talk about it here.

15.  What do I do to get rid of stress?  Well… I play video games and listen to music and read books and also I smoke pot, often.

16.  The idea of this question is what caused me to have a very, very bad mushroom experience in college, and it’s why I have a hard time watching “Groundhog Day”.  But if I were to get stuck in a loop and relive one day over and over again, and I was able to not be freaked out, I’d pick a day early in my relationship with my wife, back when we were carefree and could sleep in and would spend whole days at a movie theater sneaking into other screenings and then having a lovely dinner.  Or, alternately, I’d pick a day from one of my childhood summers at a music camp in Maine, which were some of the best days I ever had.

17.  How quickly do I jump to conclusions about people?  Almost immediately.

18.  If I were a doll, what accessories would I be sold with?  A Kindle, a game controller, and a guitar.

19.  What have I done in my life that’s given me the most satisfaction?  The easy answer would be that I’ve married my best friend and we’ve had a wonderful kid together, but the more truthful answer is that I’ve done a ton of work to make myself a better person to better appreciate my relationships with my wife and kid, because for the longest time I was trapped by anxiety and bad stomachs and insecurity and everything else, and I’m not like that (that much) anymore.

20.  The worst thing to put in a pinata would have to be soiled diapers.

21.  The biggest waste of money I’ve ever seen is literally everything that Donald Trump has ever been a part of.

22.  A common misconception that I hate hearing repeated as fact is that Donald Trump cares about anything beyond himself.

23.  The best place to go to meet awesome people?  You’re asking the wrong person, dude.

24.  What food do I crave the most?  Well, let me tell you – I had to go on a gluten-free diet a few years ago and so even though the GF industry has taken great strides in recent years, I am sad that I will never get to experience a real NYC bagel ever again.

25.  I don’t care enough about TV to re-watch anything with any interest, although my wife and I do occasionally call up certain episodes of “Arrested Development” just because they’re so goddamned funny.

26.  Among my friends, what am I best known for?  I have literally no idea what my friends think of me, if they think of me at all.  I don’t mean that in a self-pitying way; I just mean that I have absolutely no idea what they think of me.

27.  Who of my friends is most like me?  Hmm.  Well, my wife is nothing like me but I’m positive that we can communicate telepathically; we finish each other’s sentences all the goddamned time – hell, we start each other’s sentences because we think the same way.

28.  The most traumatizing moment of my life?  Toss-up between my parents getting divorced, my aforementioned bad trip experience, and the breakup I had in early 2000 before I started dating my wife.

29.  The best lesson I’ve learned from a work of fiction?  Don’t eat mold.

30.  Something I’ll never do again?  Any drug harder than pot, that’s for sure.


I don’t watch Twitch streams and I don’t really listen to podcasts, but I had an idea for a Twitch stream wherein I’d play some sort of game that didn’t require sound, and then I’d put on my favorite songs from that week’s Spotify Discovery playlist and talk about why each song feels necessary.  But apparently this is an awful idea, already done to death by a billion obnoxious bros, and so I’m not gonna.


At some point I’ve gotta talk about the Aziz Ansari stuff, because of all the horror stories that have emerged since Harvey Weinstein, the Aziz story is the one that I recognize.  I don’t know that I was ever that forward with girls that I used to be with, but I know I was more forward than I should’ve been, most certainly ignoring signals that couldn’t have been more obvious, and I still feel disgusted with myself all these years later for not acknowledging them and backing off.  I owe a lot of people apologies for that.  (I have apologized to some of them over the years, and some of them have forgiven me, and some of them have used my apology as the basis for a stand-up routine literally a year after I originally emailed it, and it is what it is.)  My son and I will talk about this stuff as he gets older, and I will do my absolute best to make sure he doesn’t act the same way.  I’d like to think that he sees my relationship with his mom as a good place to start from; that’s all I can hope for, at any rate.

tidying up before a brief intermission

Just a note that I’m going to be pretty quiet this week, if I post here at all; the wife is going to be out of town, and so I’m going to be at home, working on music and hanging out with my kid and, yeah, probably just finishing up the various odds and ends in The Division.  If I post at all, it’s going to be elsewhere.*

Regarding The Division:  last week I wrote that I was struggling to stay motivated, and also that I will eventually need this game to end.  I kept assigning various goalposts to reach, just to give myself something to look forward to, and I’ve pretty much ticked off all the items on the to-do list:  I’ve seen where my office is supposed to be (as I expected, it bears absolutely no resemblance to the real thing); I hit level 30; I’m almost done with all the main story missions (I wiped out on the final boss in the final mission a few too many times last night, and it got too frustrating and the hour grew late, and so I turned it off).  All I plan to do now is to get all the wings in my main base up to 100%, which most likely means I just have to finish all the side missions and encounters (since I finished all of the main missions, save that last one).  I might screw around in the Dark Zone, too, but I don’t particularly care for PvP, which is not news to anyone.

I’m about halfway through Matt Ruff’s “Lovecraft Country“.  It’s got an interesting structure; it’s less of a novel and more of a connected set of short stories that are arranged in chronological order and contain the same characters, though each story is from a different POV.  With a title like Lovecraft Country, you’d expect there to be a fair amount of dreadful, otherworldly weirdness – and there certainly is, though it pales in comparison to the real, true horror that is American Racism.  I get far more terrified by that stuff than I do the occult business, and I suppose that’s because (a) the racism stuff is true, and feels very real, and as such (b) it works much better than the Lovecraftian stuff that exists within it.  Again – I’m only halfway through, and so I’m still not quite sure where it’s going.  But I’m enjoying it quite a bit.

Finally:  even though we bought the BluRay, we couldn’t help ourselves; and so, because our families were in town this weekend for our son’s 3rd birthday party, we watched the digital download version of Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and GODDAMN I will never get tired of that movie.  I don’t care that it’s basically A New Hope retold, because it’s done so goddamned well.  (And if you haven’t already seen this shot-for-shot comparison of Eps 4 and 7, well, you should fix that.)

EDIT:  I knew I was forgetting something:  I played that Final Fantasy XV demo this weekend, and… was it supposed to be totally underwhelming and janky and kinda shitty?  Because it was totally underwhelming and super-janky and definitely kinda shitty.

Also downloaded the Doom beta, and attempted to get into a match (which took about 10 minutes just to find a lobby), but then I remembered I don’t give a shit about multiplayer, and so I deleted it, and that’s that.


 

* I started a new, personal, private blog last week.  I’m not going out of my way to publicize it, though I suppose even mentioning it here is doing the exact opposite of not publicizing it, but, I mean, look: blogging is weird.  If you want to read it, contact me privately and I’ll email you an invitation; no hard feelings if you’re not interested, though.

 

a trip through the archives

Before I get into whatever this post is about, I must make mention of three excellent iOS games that I’ve picked up this week.  Firstly, there’s Rayman Fiesta Run which came out on iOS last night.  It’s absolutely fantastic, and probably somehow better than its excellent predecessor Jungle Run, and if you have $2.99 lying around you should pick it up.

Secondly, I should also mention that Tiny Death Star is out, being a Star Wars-themed version of Tiny Tower, and I’m kinda glad that I burned out on Tiny Tower so that I don’t have to succumb to Tiny Death Star, even though it’s adorable, and I need to remember to adjust my iPhone’s notification settings or else I’ll never see my loved ones again, even if we’re sitting in the same room.

Thirdly, I’m also kinda heavily addicted to the new (and free) Deadly Bullet, which has an art style very reminiscent of Hotline Miami and which has you playing as the titular bullet, mowing down gangsters, and using a control scheme that takes a bit of time to master but is quite engaging once you get the hang of it.

 *     *     *

I’m now officially working on my “farewell to this console generation” post, which will most likely need to be broken into at least 2 posts, because I have a lot of navel gazing to do as far as this generation is concerned, dammit, and I intend to do it.

Anyway:  in preparation for this epic post, I’ve been going through my old Gamespot blog, which is where this blog originally lived (back in 2004) (?!).

I’ve always gotten a little kick rummaging through my blog archives, even though the writing was worse than it is now (which is not to say that my writing now is where I want it to be).  Those old entries remind me not just of forgotten games, but of who I used to be and what I used to think about.  They tell me where I’ve come from, which also helps me figure out where I seem to have gone off to.  (They also show that I’ve probably started at least 80% of my posts with apologies for not posting, so I clearly haven’t changed all that much.)

I’m a little bummed, though, because there’s an unexplained hiatus between 2005 and 2006, and so it seems that I never wrote about the purchase of my (first) 360.  But I did find my original reactions to that Chuck Klosterman piece about the lack of a Lester Bangs of video game criticism, which can be found here (1, 2).  It would appear that I’m still in disagreement with good ol’ CK, even if my reasons have changed.

I do miss those Gamespot days.  I was part of a tight community there, and I made a lot of great friends in the forums, and it’s where I started figuring out what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it.  I haven’t really found anything like it in the years since I left, though it’s not for lack of trying.  I’m happy to be an independent voice, for sure, but I miss the feeling of being in a community.  To be sure, there’s a number of great WordPress game blogs that I follow and engage with, but WordPress doesn’t quite do the “community” thing the way a dedicated game site does.  I suppose this should be my call to arms to start a WordPress game blog group, though I suspect I’ve probably got the smallest audience out of the blogs I’d want to court, and so who am I to lead?

Anyway, I’m suddenly full of nostalgia for the mid-00’s, which is a weird era to be nostalgic for, and so that’s what’s going on with me.  I have no idea when this farewell post will go up.  It seems silly to me to feel like I need to rush it out, though, considering that I’m not buying a new console until next spring, and I want to make sure that it’s not redundant with my Best of 2013 post, and I kinda also want to make sure that Assassin’s Creed 4 isn’t the best game of the generation before I start making lists and such.  (Oh, did I forget to mention that I directly contradicted my previous post, and ended up pre-ordering the PC version?  With a Season Pass, to boot?  Have I mentioned that I have no willpower?)