Brother in Arms

May 2, 2009 at 7:28 am | Posted in Life, Television, Video Games | 1 Comment
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An excerpt from a blog called “A Life Well Wasted,” wherein Ken Levine, critically acclaimed video game director, offers this glimpse into his mind…

“There was a time when I could get on a plane with a magazine or two. Now, unless I’ve got my DS, my PSP and my iPhone full of apps, Kindle books and movies, I get a bad case of the heebie jeebies.  I’m an ADD baby in a world that’s finally caught up to my inclinations. The ability to get on a plane, or go on a trip with literally thousands of hours of entertainment in tow is something that makes me happy.  There’s a part of me that wonders if it’s making me dumb, that I wouldn’t better off contemplating the universe, watching the sunset or talking to my seat mate. And then I pop in Final Fantasy Tactics A2 and forget all about those kind of questions.”

An ADD baby in  a world that’s finally caught up to my inclinations. Something about reading that sentence felt like putting on a warm pair of slippers that I’d been looking for all day.

No sleep ’til

January 9, 2009 at 9:10 am | Posted in Movies, Music, Television, Video Games | 2 Comments
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I write this blog while drinking my second coffee of the morning, meant to stave off the exhaustion brought on by a continuing, and increasing, amount of sleep deprivation. I’m getting 4-5 hours a night right now. This is by choice, but when saying that, understand that it is in fact choice brought on by necessity.

I fear that I am suffering from content overload. There is simply too much media available to me these days and I cannot find time to consume it all. Well, I can, but other things (sleep, sanity) are suffering in its wake. I realize that this, on its face, sounds a bit whiny and absurd. I recognize that there are people in the world that can work all day, come home, eat dinner, go to bed and begin the process anew the following day (well rested, even).

I am not these people. I suffer from an overwhelming desire to spend some amount of my time each day doing something, anything, that I find interesting and that makes me happy. I’ve seen studies that suggest that this is some kind of generational thing; Baby Boomers tend to identify themselves primarily based on their jobs, while we Gen X’ers identify ourselves more via what we do with our personal time. That being the underlying assumption of our collective psyche, it’s not hard to make the leap of logic that allows you to understand the following:

If I arrive at my sense of self based almost entirely upon what I do with my free time, I cannot in good conscience spend the majority of that time sleeping.

So I don’t. I work for a solid portion of the day, attend school on some evenings, and then I  consume. Video games (of which there are always new, ever longer experiences available), blogs (upwards of two dozen now), traditional news (NYT, WSJ), podcasts (this deserves a post all of its own), books (both prose and comic), movies, and television (my TiVo has 20 hours of content on it right now – and that’s the lowest level its had for the past four months).

Where you get upside down is when someone introduces some new piece of media to you that you’ve somehow missed. Because now you are behind.

I don’t know that there is a solution here. I may simply be doomed for life. I remember, years and years ago, reading Jack Welch’s autobiography, where he reveals that he only slept about five hours a night and read up to three newspapers a day. At the time I found that concept to be quite intimidating.

Now it seems a bit quaint.

Up for Air

January 7, 2009 at 11:01 pm | Posted in Music, Video Games | 2 Comments
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It has, I realize, been quite some time since you’ve seen me here. I could blame vacation. I could blame year-end business activity. I could blame the holidays, the dog, or my very, very social neighbors.

Those would all be lies.

256px-fallout_3_cover_artThe truth of the matter is that I have lost a few weeks of my life to a magnificent piece of media called Fallout 3. The little shiny disc encased in this package represents not the norm, the typical. This is no mere game. This is, rather, a commitment. I will shamefully admit that the little timer in the menu of the game informs me this evening that I have thus far logged 53 hours of playtime since December 26th. Lest you think there is some type of mad video game conversion going on, allow me to clarify. Fifty-three earth hours.

I am at this point only 60% through the game. Yikes.

I have in the mental blog gestation phase a post regarding the best new bands that I discovered in 2008; having not yet developed enough accompanying metaphors, allusions, and snark, I will continue to percolate that particular topic. I offer you instead, in penance for my absence,  what I believe to be  my first good musical find of 2009.

They are entitled Faded Paper Figures and are, in my opinion, neither faded nor mere figures (though they may be paper, I haven’t actually met them).

I discovered Faded Paper Figures (and their album, Dynamo) through one of my favorite podcasts: The KEXP Song of the Day. Before discussing the band, a word on the KEXP podcast. If you are not currently subscribed to this podcast, you may in fact be a crazy person. You would have to be, as it is delightful and surprising and free. Maybe you have some kind of ethical issue with free. Perhaps free stole your milk money in the second grade or licked a cookie that you were about to pick up one time. Maybe free borrowed your car and returned it with the gas tank on E, or didn’t show up to help you move after they had already commited. Irregardless, for this podcast, you must forgive free. ‘Tis that good…but I digress.


The topic at hand.

fadedpaperfiguresThere is an obvious comparison to be drawn in regards to the music on Faded Paper Flowers’ first album. Often being a fan of the coy and subtle (and also the soy and cuttle), I will instead say that their music has echoes of both The Notwist and Cloud Cult. It has an electronic base to it with some light vocals from both a male and female lead.

Realizing that recommending an album by comparing it to a German Indie band first and a local Minneapolis band second is pretentious at best and downright douchey at worst, I will now present you with the obvious comparison. 

They sound like The Postal Service mixed with Belle & Sebastian.


I do not like this world we live in. This world wherein all new music produced with a synthesizer and electronic sounds is immediately likened to The Postal Service (my man-crush on Ben Gibbard notwithstanding). I resent that based solely on the presence of two different sets of naughty bits within a band these days we must  force a comparison to the lovely Belle & Sebastian. But these are the cultural touchstones we are surrounded by, so I will use them. Begrudgingly.


Tracks one and six (North by North / Metropolis) are my favorites so far, but the entire album is rapidly growing on me. Check them out, if only as a thanks to them for rescuing me from my XBox based exodus long enough to offer this missive to the world.

Arrested Development

November 12, 2008 at 11:27 pm | Posted in Video Games | 1 Comment
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I am typically a solitary gamer. I spend my whole day dealing with people to some degree or another, and so when given the chance, I tend to enjoy more lonely pursuits. I don’t want to meet people online, or quest with people online, or raid a cave with people online (truth be told, I don’t think I’d be interested in raiding a cave with you in real life, either). To be honest, the whole thing just seems kind of strange to me. There is a game, though, for which I will break this rule: Gears of War 2.


Gears of War 2 asks the age old question, “What would happen if you mounted a gas powered chainsaw to the end of a machine gun?” I think we can all guess the answer, and for this I will venture online and allow the denizens of the internet access to my home via my little plastic headset. I have lost entire evenings to this game’s prequel without even noticing it, and by evenings I mean that I look up at 3am and realize that my family must have gone to bed some time ago.

Problem is, though, I lack the inherent flair necessary to be a true online gamer. When forced to give myself a “gamertag” for my XBox Live account, I chose the ever so original “Michael9906.” Yeah. That’s my first name. And that’s my wedding anniversary. That’s all I had.

When the matchmaking system (more on that later) is making up teams, my gamertag always looks kind of silly plastered up there on the screen with such stalwarts of online gaming as MrDixiNormus69 and DropBawlsinJaws. Even the less offensive gents don’t tend to make the modest choice, so rounding out my team will be a SrgtGalactus or a SgtScreamzz. When the game begins, I dare say that I am already at a bit of a disadvantage. Michael9906 is not an intimidating fellow. GhettoGhandi? Now that is a terrifying image.

In any case, I play this game online, and have been for the past weekend. I won’t claim to be very good at it. My wife picks on me because every time she sits down to watch, I’m usually getting shot or chainsawed or someone is in the process of sticking a grenade to the back of my head. I die a lot, and don’t seem to be getting any better. I do still enjoy playing, though, and I think that it has a lot to do with the people that I meet online late in the evenings. 

When you log in to play, XBox will attempt to “match you with players of similar skill.” Between the hours of 6pm and 10pm, this apparently refers to racist british nine year olds, but by around 10pm, the crowd settles down, and I find myself playing with other (I assume to be) thirty year old working people. They get offline because they have an early meeting, or they need to walk the dog…not because their mother made them. They leave, and this is my favorite, to put their kids to bed, which gives me great hope.

You see, after spending the past twenty years of my life trying to secure the means to consistently enjoy this hobby of mine (this ever-more-expensive hobby of mine), I live in constant fear that I am going to have to stop someday. That I am going to have to grow up. And I don’t wanna. 

I don’t wanna I don’t wanna I don’t wanna.

It is for this reason that I love meeting these few, these proud, these video game dads. They give me faith that I can continue to be an immature man-child well into my twilight years. So, if you are a gamer, and you are not nine years old, and you are not a racist (british is still ok), feel free to look me up. I have a big round head that you may enjoy sticking a grenade to the back of. I promise that I won’t complain.


October 26, 2008 at 9:36 pm | Posted in Video Games | 2 Comments
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In space, no one can hear you scream, but on my living room couch, this game makes me yelp like a scared little girl.

God I love video games.

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