What’s Up? (12/12/2017)

New York, New York

So, it’s been 2 weeks since I’ve been back in Pittsburgh after about 12 days in New York. I meant to write this immediately upon my return, but, a little time away to think doesn’t hurt. I do struggle when thinking about New York conceptually; it is where I’m from, it is my first home, but I don’t want to gush about it too much. My friends and family there are great, and it’s really easy to be surrounded by the sights of the city and become infatuated by them, but then there’s Pittsburgh, my chosen home. And when I’m away from Pittsburgh and I’m in the house I grew up in, I don’t know, it feels wrong. It feels too much like coming home from college, only different, like I went to college and never came back and that’s resented. It’s weird being a stranger in the house you grew up in — you can’t help changing while you’re away, and you spend enough time away from everyone that they’ve changed too (like, when did your brother get into Kendrick? I wish I was there for that).

Every visit to New York brings feelings like these; you’re glad to see everyone, but the ways in which you’ve changed sometimes leads to unexpected results. Sometimes that’s good, sometimes that’s bad, and the whole thing feels very melancholy.

Cleaning Haus

In the 12 days I spent in New York, I spent a pretty significant amount of time just cleaning my old room. It’s unrealistic to expect this room that hasn’t been mine in 6 years to reflect who I am, but I can at least bring a few touches of the new me to the room. Something the Pittsburgh version of me is really into is tidying, and in tidying I probably threw out 2 garbage bags worth of old crap. Old drawings, notes from as far back as my sophomore year of college, and useless trinkets were all over the room, scattered and taking up space. It gave the impression that someone lived there, with all of this media lying around, but whoever it was hadn’t lived there in quite some time.

The room went from wearing the trash of my past, to accessorizing my past, fashionably. Some good drawings from high school are now propped up, some decorations my dad purchased, and even some toys from childhood make an appearance. With another round of cleaning in December it might start to feel more and more like my room again (or something I at least had a hand in designing).  

Focus

I will say this about being in New York — every second that I’m not in Pittsburgh reminds me of who I am and what I want to do in Pittsburgh. It gives me a focus and a drive. I long to return to my work, to return to my apartment, and to work hard to improve both.

Obit. for a Tree

Today when I returned to work, a four-story tree that stood outside my apartment all three years that I’ve lived here, was cut down. I didn’t even get to say goodbye, so I’ll write my farewell here.

That tree gave me front-row seats to so many birds, from tiny chickadees and hummingbirds, to red-tailed hawks. That tree and I went through the seasons together, and I’m going to miss seeing it outside my window. Peace out tree, it’s been good.

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What’s Up? (10/1/2017)

  1. Lingering. After a fantastic week with my family in Pittsburgh, I need to hit the reset button on my apartment, there’s some lingering differences. Guests have been gone for a week, but there are still guest towels in the bathroom. Small things like that.
  2. End of Summer. I get the feeling I’m surrounded by people who are like “I love fall” or “I love autumn.” Like, sure. I like autumn things as much as the next — foliage, apples, pumpkins… etc, but I don’t live for this season. Halloween? Yes. Cold temperatures? No.
  3. New Retro Arcade: Neon: Again. Next to Pokemon, there’s probably no game I’ve talked about here as much as New Retro Arcade: Neon. On some level, that’s because NRAN is almost more about the games inside of the game. (I can talk your head off about SEGA’s OutRun… and I just might.) On another level, the amount of work I put into NRAN outside of the game, is what makes me want to spend time inside of the game. 40 in-game hours are probably matched by 20 hours spend in Photoshop, creating, arranging, and fine-tuning arcade cabinet art so that it is exact to real-life cabinets, or at least visually appealing. Sharing that effort with the NRAN community, so others can enjoy my cabinet art, is also a nice bonus.
  4. SEGA’s OutRun. For the first time since picking up OutRun back in February, I made it to a third level. OutRun can be both extremely relaxing, and extremely tense. I’d say for the first few hours of playing, I was casually cruising through its pixely beaches without caring much whether I saw a second level. Now, I feel like any run where so much as a single mistake is made on the first level, might as well be trashed. There only so much that’s under your control though, and that’s probably what makes OutRun such a good quarter-stealer. You can be great at lifting on the gas through corners, you can be great at driving and all of that, but the traffic on the road is different every time, and sometimes, brutal. Still, celebrating a small victory in making it to a third level after months of on-and-off practice.
  5. Signing Off. Look how close the end of the year is approaching. Soon enough, I’ll be recapping my year in movies again. The end of the year makes me melancholy in a way that the summer never does. The end of the year is loaded with expectation and tradition. Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years; things you have to get right because they only come once a year, and family, and all of that.

What’s Up? (9/6/2017)

  1. I ran to Southside early in the morning on Labor Day. Early enough to see waitresses from Hofbrauhaus step out of their cars in full dirndl uniforms (think Oktoberfest) and walk into work. It was like seeing Disney behind the scenes.
  2. I made that run to Southside in under 40 minutes. Really pushed myself to do it, but it was good.
  3. Logan Lucky was a good time, with a unique genuine wholesome-ness that I rarely feel in movies anymore.
  4. I rewatched the Mayweather/MacGregor fight, and it’s kind of nuts how much leeway they gave MacGregor since he didn’t 100% grasp the rules of boxing… I guess? I wish I wasn’t sucked into the extravaganza the first time around; I lost my head, and a few bucks, over nothing. On top of all that, a serial abuser did make a lot of money.
  5. Logan Lucky has me listening to John Denver, what the f-
  6. On this full moon, I’m going to be thinking about the autumn and winter to come, and how I can best end 2017 on the best possible note. What do I do at home to make me happy? How do I dress to create happiness? How do we keep summer vibes around after the summer is gone?
  7. For years I’ve thought about participating in NaNoWriMo, this thing where people practice writing by cranking out a whole novel during the month of November. Sounds like a lot of work that could be therapeutic.
  8. Hoe gaat het met uw? Met mij, ga het goed.
  9. The ending of Twin Peaks has my heart in a knot. If you love 90% of a thing, but you can’t reconcile with the final 10%, then I don’t know if the other 90% matters all that much.
  10. I wish I had more to say at this time.

What’s Up? (8/8/17)

Where the hell have I been?

Downtown Run

June (6/11/17) marked the first time I ran from my home in Squirrel Hill, to the neighborhood of South Side. A straight run from Point A to Point B? No, but I’m running a good 75-80% of the way. July (7/30/17) marked the first time I took that run a bit further, stretching all the way to The Point, Downtown. I suppose that makes it all a 5 or 6-mile adventure. Maybe more.

Altogether, it’s really amazing to sit by the huge fountain at The Point after such a long run. To stick your tired feet in a freezing cold pool, and get misted by this geyser shooting water two stories in the air. To be in an entirely different place than you’re used to because your body carried you there.

Change in a person is so gradual. I know people can tell I’ve lost weight; heck I can tell I’ve lost weight too, but I don’t look the way I imagined a runner to look.

Battlegrounds

Player Unknown’s Battlegrounds lives up to the hype. Quickly put, this game is Battle Royale / Hunger Games on a huge scale. 100 Players enter, only one gets the chicken dinner. I’ve made the Top 10 a few times in my 7 hours; but even the matches where I die early are exhilarating, and each match memorable in its own way.  If I die in the first 5 minutes because I bring a pistol to an assault rifle fight, or my fists to a gun fight, that’s fun. If I smoke 4 dudes with a shotgun, and run over 2 with my car, that’s fun.

But the fun is mostly in hindsight – in the moment of playing the game I am anxious, alert, and really trying my best not to get murdered and sent back to the lobby. I think that’s why, for a game I love, I’ve only played 7 hours; I’m almost afraid to boot the game up because I know my heart will be pounding, my hands sweating, and my ears perked trying to listen for footsteps.

It doesn’t help that the game’s bugs and quirks sometimes lead to serious frustration. Murdering some fool for his jeep gives me an intense rush; dying because I jumped out of that moving jeep then completely ruins it. Killing someone who has better armor and guns then me through sheer tactics makes me feel amazing; dying because I couldn’t escape the force field makes me feel like an idiot.

It’s worth playing, I think the whole of the internet knows that now, and everyone who isn’t playing is experiencing the fear of missing out – I know I was. But while I can appreciate Battlegrounds for the narratives it spins just by playing it, I don’t think I have an appetite for the white knuckle “kill or be killed” gameplay. I do and I don’t… I guess what I’m trying to say is I love this game, but man do I “hate” playing this game.

Mid Century Modern

Someone once said, “where did you get all this Mod furniture?” I think that was the first domino. The furniture I had was the furniture that fell into my lap, hand-me-downs and things my parents bought for me. I never noticed how heavily it leaned into a certain style; the Mid-Century Modern look. Noticing was damnation, because once I noticed what fit the style, I noticed everything that didn’t. If it was Mid-Century it belonged, but everything else had to go.

For months now I’ve been caught in a sort of shopper’s hell, spending dozens of hours shopping on Etsy, Ebay, Wayfair, Overstock, etc. for Mid Century Modern furniture, decorations, knick-knacks and junk. Hours that normal people probably spend watching TV, you know? Or reading a book. But I can’t get over how stylish, garish, or kitschy some of the stuff made in the 1950’s-1970’s was. And I think it makes me happy, surrounding myself with this aesthetic like a blanket. “Look at me, I’m surrounded by Mid-Century things! I know what I like and I’m sticking to it!”

But this also scares the hell out of me. Maybe just a little bit… because my apartment looked nothing like this in May. And I keep telling myself “once I get this one last thing, then the apartment will be complete.” But where is that line? Am I ever going to stop and be satisfied with what I own?

It’s an overreaction to an overreaction. Redecorating my apartment is not hell, it’s not a problem like an addiction, and I’m being responsible about it — but I also didn’t need to do it so quickly, cutting out the old furniture root and stem in a month or two. Change should be gradual.

What’s Up? (6/18/17)

South Side Run
Panther Hallow. Junction Hollow. Eliza Furnace. Three Rivers Heritage. Hot Metal Bridge.

Two weekends in a row this is the new path I’ve been running, and it’s hard, tiring, and incredibly rewarding. Last Sunday, (6/11/17) I ran to South Side, probably 4ish miles, and snacked up at Crazy Mocha, grabbing a banana and monkey mocha before going on another run which added a little over 1 mile. Ran all the way out to the 10th street bridge! I also made stops to an H&M that was sadly going out of business, and the Hofbrauhaus which opens its doors at 12PM on Sundays. After a significant amount of running and sweating, let me tell you, some beer and pretzels really hits the spot.

This Saturday (6/17/17) I repeated the first leg of the run, but this time I called it a day after getting breakfast at Crazy Mocha. I’m not going to do myself any favors if I get beer and pretzels after every 4-5 mile run.

Still, this is such a rewarding trail to take. Running the Panther Hallow Trail brings you to a small “Panther Hallow Lake” which is quaint, and you can also catch the Cathedral of Learning over in Oakland. Running all the way out to the Hot Metal Bridge is such a bigger reward though… it’s like you break out of these thin woods and BAM, there’s the Pittsburgh skyline, and you’re running over the Monongahela River. In time, I’ll make it all the way downtown on a run. That probably requires an early morning start though. You probably want to get out at sunrise before peak heat and all that.

A part of me still can’t believe this is part of who I am now. Running.

What’s Up? (5/29/17)

Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2
Let’s keep it Tweet-sized.

“Did for me what Fast Five did for F&F. The family element finally works, I got emotional & I had fun. A personal adventure for the gang. 5/5”

I’m glad I saw the first one, even if I didn’t like it very much, because it set up something special in Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2. Instead of setting up how the team met each other (wasted time, really) you just get to jump in an enjoy their chemistry this time around. The soundtrack is again used to great effect in this movie, with some songs putting butterflies in your stomach – like Fleetwood Mac’s “The Chain.” I’d say one more thing about this movie… if the “fun” in the first one just didn’t connect in the first one, I very much actually felt the fun here.

Twin Peaks
Twin Peaks is back and I’m incredibly obsessed. It helps that “Twin Peaks: The Return” aka Season 3, is good. It’s new, shot well, and in high definition, telling an equally eerie story that continues exploring with very little in the way of retreading. I need to rewatch the original series, but a part of what I think I loved about show is its utterly realistic blend of horror, sorrow, humor and charm. “Utterly realistic?” Yeah, life does that. Life is scary and tragedy strikes, but it’s full of heartwarming characters and comforting routines like coffee and pie.

24
The twenty-fourth birthday was marked by a long weekend of events. Baseball on Friday, a house party on Saturday, racing on Sunday, and here, on a Monday off from work – new Steven Universe and the start of the Stanley Cup Finals. It was a good, if crowded birthday weekend wherein you’d be forgiven for forgetting some details (absinthe was consumed, after all). Yet, one of the best moments in the last four days was simply running to the park today, listening to my funky disco playlist, and laughing as two dogs chased each other into the pond. I’m fortunate to have people to bring to PNC Park for a Mets vs. Pirates game… to invite me to a house-warming party for a night of Jackbox… to sit next to me during the Monaco Grand Prix, and drink with me while we order Domino’s… but being alone has its upsides too. It was really nice to just get some necessary things done with this day off. Maybe most important of all is just, this, talking with myself. Figuring things out.

What’s Up? (4/3/17)

Everything Old is Still Old, It Turns Out: Emulation and the Nostalgia Chase

No coincidence that the longest thing I’ve written in months, is a review and love letter about the arcade I never had, something that itched a nostalgia for something that wasn’t even a memory for me – old arcades. The nostalgia chase is something you can be constantly frustrated by, or learn to live with. I think I’ve managed it well. It comes in waves. In high school I lived and breathed chiptune music, and discovered Gameboy Emulation. I rediscovered Pokemon cards early in my college years, and I got deep into 1980’s vinyl and Nintendo 64 games in my later college years. At the start of “real life” years, I think the Nintendo 64 stuff was wearing off, though I was happy to build a solid collection there.

Here of course, it helps to have a web blog like this, with which a record (however embarrassing) of my nostalgia chases come and go. Thousands of words written about Pokemon games litter the distant past, while a few dozen about the decidedly nostalgic Vaporwave and Future Funk musical genres color the recent past. The part that becomes frustrating is wondering how in-control I really am sometimes. When I find myself playing an emulation of an 18-year-old Gameboy game, the dopamine-joy-chasing part of me is happy, while the critically thinking part is asking “this again?” But I guess, where some people have that album they listen to once a month or that movie they watch over, and over again — I have this.

Mass Effect

Something else I also can’t seem to escape, no matter how much I want, is thinking about Mass Effect. The original game instantly gripped my attention 10 years ago when I saw a best friend of mine playing it. Without really having an understanding of the worlds of Mass Effect or Star Trek, I instantly made a comparison between the two. In a way, I felt like I was being introduced to my version of Star Trek. I felt like I was there on the ground floor of a new sci-fi universe that might survive my entire life-span, much like how Star Trek was there before my birth, and will survive long after my death.

Unfortunately, its a sci-fi universe who’s best story is told between three very different games. The first of which, while it might have the best story, has the worst gameplay. The sequel, Mass Effect 2, is by far my favorite, with a darker feel, cyberpunk vibes, and the best characters. The downside of this being the best game? I’ve played for 160 hours, more or less milking it of everything it had, making replays hard to fathom. And finally, Mass Effect 3, the game with the best gameplay of the series, but an utterly disappointing story. If Star Wars: The Return of the Jedi ended with Luke Skywalker in a room with Darth Vader and three buttons, one which killed Vader, one which made Vader a good guy, and one which made Luke turn into Vader, you might start to approach what made the ending a complete fustercluck.

Upon the release of Mass Effect: Andromeda, which is for all intents and purposes, a reboot of the entire franchise, I can’t help but look back and feel stuck as a Mass Effect fan. Behind me are three games; one that kind of sucks to play, one which I’ve played to death, and one that I know ends in an incredible unsatisfactory manner. Ahead of me is a new game, that is broken, poorly received, with none of the charm that pulled me into the original. I want to traverse and experience Mass Effect again, but not with Andromeda… not until that experience doesn’t come at the cost of $60.