Archive | December 2013

When more becomes too much

Over the holidays, we usually prepare for the influx of toys the kids get by taking a big bin of existing toys and taking them to the dungeon basement. This year, however, I noticed that we have quite a few bins of toys. We decided that we’re gonna go through the toys and lean down, in order to prevent the overload of toys we typically have.

We decided this, but we didn’t do this because of the mess, no matter how overwhelming said mess tends to become. There’s something I’ve noticed about myself, and it seems to be the same for the kids. Too many options causes problems. When the kids go to play with toys, they have difficulty choosing due to an overload of options. They get frustrated with the indecision, and that seems to translate into problems acting out and whatnot. Reducing the overload of options seems like the best option.

I have the same problem. The best example I can give is with video games. I literally have thousands of games I can play at pretty much any given time, and when I get the chance to play video games I have a difficult and frustrating time choosing what to play. To me, this sounds like such an obnoxious sort of “rich person” problem (most of my games are emulated, which means free), but it definitely explains a lot. More becomes excess rather quickly, apparently. I remember some of my first gaming memories, with my NES. I only had a few games, and the lack of options made it much more satisfying. My individual psychosis about this relates to my guilt. I feel guilty about not giving each game its due, as if I’m insulting or letting down the game itself or the makers of it by passing it by in favor of another. I know, I know, I’m batshit crazy. However, for me, this kind of shit drives me nuts. I experienced it again last night when I went to play some games on my multicade, which currently houses 3000+ arcade titles on it. I wanted to play so many, wanted to experience as many as I could. I think about what it must have been like in the early 80’s, when there weren’t anywhere near as many arcade games to play. People would play the shit out of individual games over and over again. Now, with so many options, the compulsion to play a different game ends up being too great, which frustrates the crap out of me. It happened before, when I switched over to an MP3 player from using CDs. The option of having everything at my fingertips doesn’t lead to happiness. Who’d have thunk?

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Chasing ghosts of the past

I’ve been self analyzing a lot lately, and much of it relates to the past. Reminiscing about the past has always been a bittersweet endeavor for me. On one hand, I smile and feel good about good times I’ve had, and on the other hand I feel down that those times are past and can never be relived. This came into much more focus recently, when I started scrutinizing the reasons for my arcade obsession, and I realized a fair amount of things. I’m sure much of this is common knowledge, and I did know this all to some extent before, but I’d never really focused on it until now.

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Dude who wrote this obviously didn’t go through high school…

I constantly romanticize the past. Even the bad times, I know look back at with nostalgic feelings, even though the times reflected upon were sometimes the worst of the worst. I get the whole “they made me who I am today” thing, but they just remind me of when times were supposedly simpler, a fallacy that I eventually realized. My life back then was not simpler to me back then, since my perspective was much different. Now, in retrospect, I see how much simpler they were compared to times now, but ONLY when compared. Let’s face it, being a kid can suck. Sure having the latest fashion or toy or whatever doesn’t mean shit to me now, and doesn’t affect my social relationships now, but it sure did back then. Little shit was SO important, which is something I think parents lose sight of sometimes. We write it off as if it’s of low importance due to our perspective as adults, not thinking to employ a bit of empathy and put ourselves in the shoes of a child. Anyways, I’m getting off topic. Stupid stream of consciousness. Turtles!

Soooo…yeah, my realization about the past in general was this: It isn’t that the past was so much better and the present sucks, it’s that I only think about random occasions in the past vs my recent memory of present. When thinking about good times had, I may think of perhaps a dozen days, not realizing that there were a few hundred days during that time span that were virtually uneventful. Sure, youth is exciting when people are finding themselves and experiencing new things, but there’s also a shitload of downtime and trial and error. That shit doesn’t get remembered. So I’m given this illusion of the past being a magical place full of excitement and wonder, which is driven by the fact that I’m presently not doing anything cool. Most of the time I’m at work, which blows. It’s not like past me was doing awesome shit day in and day out, and when it all boils down to it, I have just as much fun and good times now as I did back then. It’s all about perspective, I just feel like a stupid ass that it took me this long to figure that out.

Another thing I realized, which is more specific, has to do with my arcade obsession. As you probably know, I’ve been building a collection of old arcade games, putting together a small arcade in my basement. I now have 7 dedicated arcade games in various states of functionality, 2 multicades, and 3 pinball machines. I’m hoping that I’ll have everything completely functional by the end of the winter. That being said, I’ve been thinking about why I’m doing all this. Sure, I love arcade games, and having them is awesome, but I could’ve just settled for my multicade and left it at that.

So why do it? Well, I figured that out too, and the answer made me a little sad. See, I want to recapture my love of arcades from my youth. I loved going to arcades, playing games, hell even just walking around and watching other people play games. It represents some of the best and happiest memories of my childhood, even though I had no money and barely played them as a kid. I knew I wanted to recreate that experience, but didn’t realize the missing piece until yesterday. I was reading through some arcade forums, and came across a thread about what everyone’s preference is, to fully restore machines and make them perfect, or leave them as original as possible to preserve the machine’s history. In that thread, the answer was in a post that really rang true to me.

 I like the stories that cabs tell with their scrapes, well-used fire buttons, old operator name/telephone tags. Sure, the specific stories are unknown, but there’s the same general outline – quarters lined up on the bezel or marquee, getting a laugh from your buddy as you fall just short of a two player high score contest, small crowds gathered around the new game in the arcade, etc.

If I actually had the skills and talent to restore, I would definitely have examples of minty fresh in the game room, but I would also have original 80s survivors of New Wave and Glam Metal, just like me.

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The way we were….

My missing piece, it turns out, is people. The thing that made arcades so awesome was that it was filled with other people, playing games, talking about games, talking mad shit to each other, arguing over Chun-Li’s cheap ass block and throw strategy, etc… I can play games all night, and not get anywhere close to the same level of enjoyment I’d get from playing one game for 30 minutes with a friend. I wouldn’t be surprised if, at some subconscious level, this was partially driven by a desire to be the center of attention, that people would want to hang out with me more if I provided something awesome they couldn’t really get elsewhere. I hope that wasn’t it, cuz if it was, it didn’t pan out. I’m older now, people have lives that don’t allow for an entire night to be blown driving to bumblefuck to play outdated video games they could download and play on their computer. This is also the main reason I sold the boards for my Mortal Kombat games. Sure, they’re a blast to play, but the real fun was always had when playing an opponent,with a group of people crowded around, quarters lined up on the bezel for those waiting in line for a shot at the current champ. The social aspect is what I miss most, and that’s not something I’ll ever be able to faithfully recreate in my basement. I’ll still enjoy what I have, and try to put up some killer scores to compete with other people in my arcade group, but in the end I’m still left with a small empty spot, and there are no more pieces left in the world that fit it.

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Truly awesome….and a little sad in its emptiness…

Tis the season to be shopping

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“cuz I know I’d trample a pregnant lady for a $10 DVD player.” – Rifftrax

I spent much of my morning today shopping online for Christmas gifts working…ahem…. Anyways, I wrapped up shopping for the Lish, the main person I shop for. Sure, I take delight in shopping for my nephews, especially since I can’t shop for my niece anymore due to her being a teenage girl and me being the “old guy” who’s severely out of touch, but she represents the bulk of my efforts. Over the years, with the rising popularity of online shopping, I’ve done more and more of my shopping online. Most of this is because of the deals online that tend to be much better than in store deals, with the exception of Black Friday. I’m not a Black Friday shopper, mostly cuz they call it Black, and that’s fucking racist! 😉 I did the BF thing for a few years many moons ago, but it wasn’t for me. Too cold and too cut-throat.

 

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b-but, I makes it speshul for you!

Anyways, most years I split it up, getting half of the gifts online and half in stores. This year was the first time I can remember shopping exclusively online, and it actually made me sad and depressed. It ended so quickly, and was much less satisfying (HAIYOOOO). I think a big part of that is the social aspect and ritual of going to stores, interacting with people, talking about products/gifts, joking with other patrons about the holidays, etc… When shopping online, it’s reduced to stiff product (haiyo) pages, forums, and people saying the same shit bitching out the holidays by  every year on Facebook. People just complain about the commercialization every year, failing to realize that it only ruins your holiday if you let it. Celebrate in your own way, and don’t buy into the commercialization and you’ll be fine. Back to my point: This whole online trend does get it done, but it just feels so…cold. Colder than it is outside right now, which is pretty fucking cold. The warmth of the holidays, to me at least, is joining other people shopping for gifts for their loved ones, trading occasional pleasantries, and feeling like I actually made a concerted effort to obtain a gift for someone I love more than anything. Maybe it’s just me that feels this way, and that’s fine, but I just want the gifts to have real meaning and I want those I give to to feel the warmth in my heart that I felt when getting it for them. By getting everything online, and feeling the creeping in of the digital winter coming from my monitor, I find it hard to believe they can feel that from me. I’ll probably just return something and go get something in a store, or maybe I’ll make something myself. After all, to me, it was never about the quantity of items given, or the overall money spent, but the amount of thought and love that went into it. Believe it or not, I’d be much happier with a handmade gift that cost 10 bucks than a PS4 or new arcade machine or whatever. Anyways, just wanted to get that down on paper…err,….ah fuck it…

Hail to the king?

Avenged-Sevenfold-Hail-to-the-KingA few months ago, I picked up the most recent Avenged Sevenfold album, Hail to the King. I gave it a good listen, and must say that I wasn’t impressed. Their previous albums were kick ass, with heavy riffs, awesome drumming, and killer vocal hooks. This album just seemed to be missing….something. I’m not sure if it’s the fact that this is the first album that the Rev didn’t collaborate on or not, but something definitely changed. I put it on the back burner, and left it alone for awhile.

About a week or two ago, I started listening to it again, since I forgot much of the album and couldn’t remember why I disliked it. I’d been listening to a lot of Maiden recently, newer Maiden that is, and that’s when it hit me. The new A7X sounded a LOT like newer Maiden. This is both a good thing and a bad thing, in my opinion, and I’ll explain why.

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Seriously guys, what the fuck happened?!

First of all, I’d like to start by saying that Iron Maiden is, and has always been, my favorite band. I’ve seen them a dozen times, both with Bruce and with Blaze, I own every album legally, and easily half of my tee shirts are Maiden shirts. I have so many shirts that I cycle them out in a yearly rotation. I love most of their albums, but some are really not that great, and one is downright horrible (Yes, I’m looking at you Virtual XI). There’s a history to follow here, and I’ll sum it up as best I can. Bruce Dickinson, their singer, came on board in the early 80’s to replace Paul DiAnno, who sang on the first 2 records. He reigned until the late 90’s, when he left the band to pursue a solo career, which released some amazing albums. They replaced him with Blaze Bailey, who wasn’t a bad singer, but he wasn’t a true replacement for Bruce. He did 2 albums with them, and in the early 2000’s they welcomed Bruce back and started cutting new records with him again.

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This record is the SHIT!!!

The first of these was Brave New World, which is fucking incredible. Then they did Dance of Death, which was also pretty awesome. The next one, A matter of life and death, was a big step down IMHO, and much of it was wholly forgettable. Their latest, The Final Frontier, was kinda meh as well. I know many Maiden fans will disagree with me, but trust me, I’d like nothing more than to absolutely LOVE these albums. I think the problem is that Steve Harris, the bassist and main songwriter, has run out of ideas. Many of the riffs are recycled, taking older riffs and changing them slightly for a new song. This breaks my heart, since I’d rather they end off on a high note, rather than slowly sink into mediocrity. They still put on a fucking phenomenal show, and are incredible musicians, but the songwriting is getting tired and worn, and it’s showing.

 

Now, back to Sevenfold. I feel the Maiden their new album sounds like it sort of a mix between Dance of Death and A Matter of Life and Death. It’s not full of wicked hooks that kick your face in, it’s more like very subtle parts that eventually grow on you. Sometimes this is a good thing, and after listening to it for a few days I must say that I do like the album a lot. It’s just a noticeable change of pace from a band who has consistently been kicking me in the face (in a rather pleasant way) for the better part of a decade. If you didn’t like it at first, give it a few more listens. You might end up really enjoying it, or you might hate it just as much and then blame me for the extension to your agony and disappointment. Either way, you gotta admit, it certainly isn’t worse than the last Disturbed album, Asylum. Boy, did THAT suck.

As for Maiden, I do hope they freshen things up and get struck with some new inspiration, but I fear that Harris is too set in his ways as a songwriter to recapture that magic from the 80’s and 90’s. He still has his moments, but they only seem to last a few songs instead of entire albums. Regardless of that, though, I’ll always buy their albums and listen to them, because even their bad albums are still better than 80% of the other shit that gets released these days.