Frederick Pohl (1919 – 2013)


2006. I was working as a news director at a radio station, which sounds a lot more important than it actually was. In truth, it was a small network of mostly automated radio stations, and I was the entire news department. I recorded a few 90-second reports every day, working from 6:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., with a two-hour break in the middle. I’ve had a lot of crap jobs in my life, but I consider this to be one of my worst. Not because of anything dealing directly with the job, but because of my attitude. I was 26 years old, lonely and bitter, and unsure if I’d picked the right course in life. I got into a stupid habit of going home for a nap in the middle of the day when I was supposed to be out “gathering” news, and my newscasts ultimately suffered for it. I was a bad employee, and I have no qualms about saying it. I was a crappy employee who shouldn’t have lasted in that job as long as I did. Had I been in charge, I would have fired myself, which is ultimately what happened to me, though I’m not entirely sure the reasons were all my fault, as it happened during a station buyout, and was the result of me making a couple of mistakes when talking to the new corporate overlords, which I suppose you could say was indeed my fault, regardless. At any rate, just know this: I hated the job, and I was fired from it.

During this particularly bad period of life, I discovered Gateway, the first in a series of novels by Frederick Pohl called the Heechee saga. Having grown up reading science-fiction, I was aware of Frederick Pohl, though I had never read anything by him. Before I read Gateway, he was this figure of sci-fi, up in the ranks of Asimov and Clarke. Important to sci-fi, yes, but old and out-of-date. Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t dislike these important figures, but they didn’t really register on my radar. They were there, but I didn’t care.

(I realize, at this point, that I’m not painting myself in a very positive light. I was a bad employee at a job, and I willfully ignored the grandfathers of science-fiction. I can only ask you to bear with me. The piece will eventually turn around. I promise.)

I don’t remember why I picked up Gateway from the library. I had fallen away from most sci-fi throughout college, and at the time, I was enjoying more works of classic literature, as well as a bit of modern fiction. Maybe I wanted to get back into sci-fi. Maybe I wanted to escape for a bit. I’m not sure, but I’m thankful it happened.

I loved Gateway. I devoured it in a way that I hadn’t devoured a book in years. Pohl had a frankness in his writing that I hadn’t experienced much in other science-fiction. The characters in Gateway are far from perfect; on the contrary, they’re greedy, selfish, moody, and self-centered. The main character, Rob, suffers from survivor’s guilt and the knowledge that the woman he loves most likely believes he betrayed them all. It was the future, and we were flinging ourselves out into the universe to seek fame and fortune, but all of that mattered for nothing, because human beings were still flawed and imperfect creatures, and we would never escape that.

But, the characters in Gateway try.

I loved Gateway, but not because I was a lost 20-something who was depressed and wanted to read depressing things. I love Gateway, because even in the face of the imperfection of humanity, the characters survive. They have to deal with raw emotions and guilt and their own personal flaws, but they continue to exist. For better or worse, they continue to live.

I think there’s something beautiful in all of that.

Losing my job at the radio station was ultimately the best thing to happen to me. It wasn’t long after that, that I decided to quit being a journalist, which led to a corporate job, which led me back to school, which has turned out to be the best decision I’ve ever made for a ton of different reasons. I don’t want to give the impression that Gateway pushed me in the direction I’ve taken over the past 7 years, because I’m not entirely sure that would be true. I can tell you that Gateway reminds me of a time in my life that felt dark, but was really the start of the rest of my life. If nothing else, thinking about Gateway reminds me that I have it really good right now, and I need to remember that. No matter what else happens, I have it really, really good.

Rest in peace, Frederick Pohl. You deserve a better tribute than this post, and I’m sorry I couldn’t write you one, but I’m afraid I don’t have much more to say. Thank you for giving me Gateway. I appreciate it more than I can possibly say and certainly more than I can ever write in a stupid blog post.

On Time

3/20/2013, 10:30 a.m.

For my birthday this year, April bought me a watch. As I type this, it’s glaring at me, reminding me of the many things I need to get done this week, Spring Break, and the amount of time I want to devote to them. As I type this, my Kindle is sitting across the room, reminding me that I still have 20-percent of DeLillo left to read. As I type this, I can easily see A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains by Isabella Bird sitting in my bag, reminding me of the book review I need to write for a class different from the one I need to read DeLillo for. All the while, as I type this, my watch is reminding me of how little time I have left to complete these tasks, before I have to go back to class next week. Spring Break is only halfway done, but it still feels like I’ve fallen behind.

Time is not on my side, I think.

I’ve never been the best at time management. As most adults do, I choose to blame how I was raised. I would love to say that my childhood was filled with the need to be everywhere on time, all the time, but that’s not true. My father was a pastor, and I was raised on “church time,” which is inherently ten minutes later than real time and twenty minutes later than military time, or so my military friends tell me. 1 I never went anywhere on time, and I was ultimately okay with that. After all, life’s too short to worry about being on time. 2

Lately, though, I’ve been questioning if that’s the best for me, if I haven’t short-changed myself all these years, by not paying attention to time. I’ve started to wonder exactly how much time I’ve lost, by not being more aware of how the seconds and minutes have ticked away.

This is the reason I asked for a watch for my birthday: I think I need a constant reminder that time is moving, if I want to accomplish anything. Maybe.

 

3/20/2013, 11:05 a.m.

Right now, on Spotify, I’m listening to the new Justin Timberlake record. It’s pretty good, but that’s beside the point. Justin Timberlake is a pretty phenomenal artist, but more importantly, he reminds me of the first time I went to college. Justified was released during that time, and I loved it. 3 Later on, when FutureSex/LoveSounds was released, I was further impressed. Regardless of what you think of his time in N*Sync, he has made a place for himself in pop music with his solo stuff, and I’m sure 20 years from now, people will mention him in the same breath as Prince in terms of artistry. 4

Why am I talking about Justin Timberlake? There is purpose, though it may have gotten lost in the paragraph above. I didn’t intend to write that much, but I did. It’s yet another example of how poor my time management is. DeLillo still needs to be read.

College. Timberlake’s first album came out when I was in college the first time, back when I was a journalism student, ready to set the publishing world on fire, long before the publishing world beat that naïve enthusiasm out of me, with its constant focus on sales and advertising. Back then, I had even worse time management than I do now. I was late for work all the time. I never reserved time to do homework. I played video games and I drank, both things that many would consider huge time sinks. Most of you know that video games are no longer an issue. A few of you know that drinking isn’t much of an issue anymore, either.

But, still, I feel like time is constantly moving past me, leaving me in its dust.

3/20/2013, 2:00 p.m.

I’m trying to chunk my tasks to better match up with my time. Spring Break has been a trial run of that. Before the week started, I sat down and listed out all I wanted to accomplish and then broke that list into easily digestible pieces, assigning each piece to a different day of the week. For example, Monday was a reading day. I read the 2nd third of Isabella Bird’s A Lady’s Life in the Rocky Mountains, and the 1st third of White Noise, the aforementioned DeLillo novel I finished about a half hour ago. So far, it’s gone well. I was a little shy of my goal yesterday, but I easily caught myself up during the first hour of this morning. The first draft of my book review is done; I just need to edit it. So far, I feel like I’ve accomplished quite a bit this week, and I’m actually on task to complete even more. By the end of Spring Break, while I won’t have actually taken a break, I will go into the last month of my semester with a good portion of my work completed. That feels good.

But then, I begin to wonder if I’m becoming enslaved by time, constantly worrying about whether or not I’m being as productive as I could be. Unfortunately, Justin Timberlake’s golden voice is doing little to soothe these fears.

When I was in 9th grade, I came up with the totally and completely original idea that time is a man-made construct, and we don’t have to be limited by man-made constructs. This, of course, is 100-percent false in every sense of the word. While I suppose you could argue that we don’t have to be limited by some man-made constructs, time is definitely not one of them. Time is how we make sense of the world around us. God created the Earth in six days, but what is a day to God? Days have no meaning to God. Days are a man-made construct, but they were a necessary man-made construct for us to understand exactly how long it took God to create the Earth. 5

Still, a part of 9th-grade Christopher exists somewhere in my head, and he is a persistent beast. Don’t give into society’s rules, man! And, when it comes down to it, 9th-grade Chris isn’t very smart. He still thinks Rage Against the Machine was in it to fight the establishment, and in no way financially benefited from the millions of albums they sold they sold in malls around the country.

9th-grade Chris is kind of an idiot.

I need to organize my time, or I’m going to fail in a lot of areas of life, but especially in school. In my undergrad days, I could B.S. my way through a discussion, without having read the material. 6 In grad school, if you don’t make at least an effort to read the material, and at least go into class having something relevant to contribute to the discussion, you won’t last long. 7 If I have things I have to do for school, and things I want to do in my personal life, then chunking my tasks is a requirement. I have to know what I need to do each day to stay on task, or I know I will drown in my todo list, and while I will more than likely ultimately be fine, relief will only come after a end-of-the-semester sprint, during which I will not sleep, only tearing myself away from the computer to teach, eat, and piss, and only then because not doing one of these will lead to unemployment, and not doing the other two will lead to my death, for which I’m definitely not ready; after all, I did just get a pretty sweet watch for my birthday.

And chunking my time benefits me in other ways, as well. As I write this section, I’ve finished my tasks from earlier in the piece, and I’m looking forward to spending a relaxing evening with my wife, eating some homemade macaroni and cheese and watching Deception, or as I like to call it, “Rich People Gots Problems Too.” Working ahead in my semester, which is what chunking my tasks this week was designed to do, will lead to a much less-stressful April. I can carve some free time out to read for pleasure. I can maybe work in some video game time. Heck, I might just take advantage of my new-found free time and get some work done.

3/20/2013, 3:00 p.m.

Justified came out in 2002. FutureSexy/LoveSounds came out in 2006. The 20/20 Experience came out in 2013. Three albums. Eleven years. That’s not a very productive ratio. But, have I done any better in my professional career? Not even close. Maybe Mr. TimberLake and I have more in common than devilishly good looks.

3/20/2013, 3:10 p.m.

I miss writing.

3/20/2013, 7:30 p.m.

Seriously. I miss writing.

Before I decided to go back to school, I wrote almost everyday. I wrote, and I submitted, and I got rejected. Since grad school, though, I’ve found my writing, as with all of my other hobbies, has all but disappeared. 8 I still write, but I write for school. I write research papers and essays. In fact, the piece that got me a bit of notice a couple of weeks ago was actually written for a class last fall. Things like what you’re reading right now are the exception, not the rule. I needed a break from reading, so I chose to write a little bit. Even this section, which I’m writing in the evening, has only really come about, because I’ve put some heat on my lower back and am thus confined to my chair.

I try to wake up early a few days a week to get in a few words, but it doesn’t feel like it’s enough. I miss sitting down for long stretches, outputting thousands of words. I could finish an entire short story in a night. I wrote an entire novel 9 in 30 days, and not a NaNoWriMo novel 10, but a full-length, fantasy epic. My point is, when all I had to worry about was a full-time job, my free-time to write for pleasure seemed limitless.

If I can continue to “chunk” my tasks, as I’ve done this week, I might be able to work in enough free-time to get some real writing done, and I mean real writing. Not 200-300 words, but thousands. That would be wonderful. That would be so, so wonderful. 11

I want to be sure you understand that I’m not complaining. I made the choice to come back to school, and I don’t regret that choice in the least. I’ve learned more about writing from the past two years in grad school than I ever knew flying solo. If nothing else, it’s forced me to study the craft of writing, paying close attention to how other authors do things, and decide if I want to add those things to my toolbelt. Plus, I’ve learned more about the art of writing the essay than I’ve ever thought I wanted to know. Can you learn all of that without going to college? Absolutely, and more than a few people successfully do so. 12 For me, though, it has been much easier to learn from people who have spent their entire lives studying this stuff.

At any rate, organizing my time has made me excited at the prospect of furthering my craft. As much as I love to write about late capitalism in Philip K. Dick’s Ubik, I want to write essays about video games and new watches.

3/21/2013, 9:10 a.m.

This is the reason I asked for a watch for my birthday: I think I need a constant reminder that time is moving, if I want to accomplish anything. Definitely.

I think we’ve lost the concept of time. Few people wear watches anymore; they rely on their phones to tell them the time. The problem with this is that our phones can be used for so much more. We use them to search the Internet, check Twitter, play games, and like pictures of lunch on Facebook. 13 And, unless we need them, we hide them in our pockets or purses, away from our notice. A watch wrapped around your arm is always present. Sure, if you wanted to hide it away, you could take it off and stick it in your pocket, but a watch that is not telling you the time serves no function. It’s a wasted bundle of springs, metal and numbers.

I like to keep my watch on. I like that it sits at the edge of my view, reminding me that time never stops, and if I do, then it will keep moving around me. That isn’t to say I can’t have downtime. I had downtime last night, when we relaxed with some TV time after dinner. But choosing to take downtime to keep from burning myself out is still a conscious choice about how to manage my time. And I think that’s a good thing.

I’m sure that many of you reading this already get it. I’m sure I’m late to the game. I’m not surprised. As I said, I’ve never had good time management. Still, to all of you, who are reading this with a “of course!” look on your face, I say this: Better late than never, right?

Notes:

  1. To be fair, in the era of the “mega church,” which holds two or three services on Sunday morning alone, church time has begun much more rigid, much closer to real time. Still considerably later than military time, though.
  2. I’m well aware of the irony in that statement.
  3. Still do.
  4. Though, to be fair, with considerably less purple and lace, for better or worse.
  5. Of course, some modern theologians argue that the six days in Genesis actually refer to the millions of years it took to form the Earth from nothing. I think arguing over the meaning of “days” in religion is largely pointless. It doesn’t matter, and it in no way affects your beliefs. Hopefully.
  6. At least, I thought I could. As a teacher, I now know that it’s impossible to hide a lack of reading. We’re just more forgiving of it for undergraduate students, who often have a lot more change going on in their lives than graduate students.
  7. Again, there are degrees of this. Along with this requirement comes a skill to read quickly, picking up the important information along the way. And, as with all skills, the more you practice, the better you become.
  8. I’m sure a few writers are out there are now saying, “writing isn’t a hobby; it’s a job!” That’s adorable. Face it. You can treat it like a job all you want, but if it’s not providing you with a living, it will always be lower on the list of priorities than work/school. If it’s not, then your priorities are way off.
  9. A crappy, crappy novel.
  10. I’m not trying to disparage NaNoWriMo, by any means—I think anything that gets you to write is a good thing—but 50,000 isn’t quite a full novel; it’s definitely a start, but you’ll have to expand it to at least 75,000 words to publish it as a novel.
  11. Again, I’m sure there are people who are saying, “if you want to write, all you have to do is make time to write!” Again, that’s totes adorable. If you’re taking time out of your life to write/draw/create, then you are taking that time from somewhere. If it comes from “free” time, that’s great. If you’re taking it from somewhere more important, like work or school, you should again check your priorities.
  12. Anne Lamott, for example, dropped out of college at 19 to write for a living, which she eventually did. Countless other writers never had to drop out, because they never started; they just jumped into the writing deep end.
  13. And, I guess, some people might make calls…

On Comments…

Okay. So, two days ago, Kotaku published an essay of mine, which excites me to no end. It’s my first published work, as a freelance writer 1, and I can’t tell you how ecstatic I was to see my words on display, in front of so many people. I have to admit: I’ve learned quite a bit from the experience — not about publishing or writing or anything, but all about my relationship, and how I’m doing it wrong. I also learned quite a bit about the instant feedback of the Internet, which is what I want to talk about today.

At the time I’m writing this, the article has over 900 comments, both good and bad, which completely blows away any expectations I had for the piece. As a writer, my ultimate goal is to resonate with people in some way, to express a personal idea in such a way that other people are drawn to it. Judging by the stats of the article itself, I achieved that goal. At any rate, I spent a good portion of Tuesday going back and forth on whether or not I should respond to the comments. I eventually realized that if I tried to respond to every comment, I would quickly find myself lost and buried and completely unable to work my way out of the muck. Instead, I decided to just respond to generalized forms of some of the more common comments I read.

For starters, I’d like to thank everyone that responded positively to the piece. It’s one of my favorite pieces, and I’m very pleased to see it published. Thank you for enjoying it, as much as I have.

Let’s talk about some comments:

Why did you pay so much for a wedding?

We didn’t. Our wedding was very small. Despite this, though, planning a wedding is just expensive. Ask anyone who has done it, and they’ll tell you the same thing. April has a pretty good paying job, but she’s still a teacher, as am I. Neither of us make that much. Neither of us come from money. You can only cut costs so much, before you need to start bolstering your budget. This seemed like an easy answer.

Why didn’t she sell some of her shoes/clothes/stuff, etc.?

That’s really an irrelevant question. The piece isn’t about her. It’s about me. If she chooses to write an essay about the things she sacrificed for the wedding, I’ll let you know.

Marriage is an archaic institution. Why are you bowing to society’s rules?

Because we wanted to. Simple as that. We wanted to make that public commitment to each other. We wanted to celebrate that with our closest friends and families. That’s all. If you don’t agree with that, it’s fine. It’s dangerous, however, to assume that your perspective is the “correct” one.

You should never let someone change you!

Who changed me? I changed myself. In “Self-Reliance,” Emerson wrote, “a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines.” Change can be good, guys. It’s a sign of growth.

Besides, exactly how much of my life has changed? I don’t play as many games as I used to? That’s true. But, trust me, as I said in the piece itself, I have many other things pulling for my attention. Besides my relationship, I have grad school and teaching, two things that are very time consuming, not to mention a desire to continue writing. But, isn’t my wedding why I sold my games, you say? Yes. But, what allowed me to sell my games was a shift in my life that began long before I met April.

When you get a divorce, you’ll regret it!

Why is divorce inevitable? What if everything works out? What if we’re happy until the day we die??

I hope she leaves you! 2

Well, that doesn’t seem very friendly.

My situation is different than yours; why are you doing it wrong??

By far, the most common comment on the article has been along these lines. “I married a gamer girl, and she would never let me sell my games.” That’s great. I’m really happy that you found someone you connect with, regardless of where that connection comes from. But, it’s again important to remember that your perspective is not the only (or correct) perspective. I don’t regret the decision I made. I miss my games every now and then, but I’m much happier with April, than I was for the entire 30 years of video games. If my path to that happiness is different than your path, that’s really okay. Your experience is not a universal truth. (Note: I’ll save you the Postmodernism lecture on decentering monomyths. You’re welcome.)

With all of that said, I realize I’m fighting an uphill battle here. Commenting on the Internet hasn’t changed in twenty years; it’s not about to start changing now. And it’s certainly not going to be changed by a blog post from a guy who wrote an essay, which was pretty popular for a day. I just wanted a chance to voice a few of the thoughts that went through my head as I watched the feedback roll in.

Notes:

  1. I worked as a professional journalist for four years. I’ve been published, but this is different.
  2. Note: This wasn’t in the Kotaku comments that I saw, but I did receive it over email. I’m still gonna count it.

Mic Check (Again)

Hmm. At this rate, I think every other post will be one of these, in which I lament the lack of updates, and I tell you all that I plan on updating this site more often. Hopefully, I’ll be able to stick with it this time. At the very least, I hope to finish my thoughts on Terranigma.

I’m sure you’ve found your way here through the piece I will publish on Kotaku.com within days of posting this…

If you have, this is my blog…

I hope you hate it.

Retro Playthrough – Terranigma (SNES) [Part One]

It’s no secret, to those who know me, that I love 8-bit and 16-bit video game music. I think vijyamagames lost a lot, when the common medium shifted to CDs, and makers were given the space to include full orchestral scores. Don’t get me wrong. I think some absolutely excellent music came out of the CD era, but none of it compares to some of the classic tunes of Mega ManCastlevania or even, Super Mario Brothers.

I want to play you something…

10-the-underworld

That’s the underworld theme for Terranigma, a little-known Action-RPG (little-known in North America, anyway) from the end of the SNES’s lifespan. Can you get that level of music from a CD-based game? Absolutely. In fact, it’d probably sound better. But, you would lose something in the process. Modern game music experiences the same process that modern pop music experiences. After it’s composed, it’s recorded and then produced. It’s mixed and tracks are overlayed. Flaws are fixed. It’s produced some more. In the end, your music is perfect, and it doesn’t matter how high of quality it is, because you have infinite space to work with.

But, take that same composer, limit the time he can spend working on the music, the number of instruments he can use, and the amount of space his music can take up on a cart, and you’ll see their true skill. The classic video game music of my youth (and likely your youth, if a Google search for Terranigma led you here) was created under such circumstances. Game composers from two decades ago worked with limited resources and technology, and they still managed to turn out gold. Even the worst video game music from twenty years ago is still decent. Can you say the same about modern video games? Can you even remember the last game you played that had a good soundtrack?

(I can. Castlevania: Lords of Shadow had a stellar soundtrack, which should totes be on cassette tape, if it’s not already.)

I’m digressing. What did I want to write about? Oh, yes. Terranigma. Let me shift gears for a second, and I promise I’ll bring it back around to music in a second. I do have a point regarding the 350 words above this paragraph. Up until this week, I had never heard of Terranigma. I’m certainly not alone in this. Here in North America, we didn’t get the game. Ever. They got it in Japan, Europe and Australia. No North America. Because of this, I was largely in the dark regarding what the game was even about.

That isn’t to say I was completely blind. In my research, I discovered that it was developed by Quintet, the same company that put out The Illusion of Gaia, which remains one of my favorite SNES RPGs of all time. When I found that out, I knew I had to play this one. I had to see if it was as good as IoG. I’m not too terribly far into the game, but I have to say, so far, I’m not disappointed.

The first thing I love about it, which should be obvs by now, is the music. It’s so good, I’m listening to it as I write this. I can’t get enough of it. It has a long way to go to even crack my top ten video game soundtracks list, but it’s on its way. It may make it there eventually, though a lot of that depends on how long the game is.

And that’s where my love of the game seems to slow. I like the gameplay. It feels very SNES-ish. At the same time, though, the way they set up the game feels very… shallow. I shouldn’t be too surprised. Despite my love of it, Illusion of Gaia had its fair share of narrative and gameplay problems. For example, more than once, the story elements seemed a little too convenient. “Oh, I need some weird invention to get to the sky city? What? There’s a hermit inventor near here who might have one? And he shares the same name as my long-lost uncle, who was also an inventor? That was kind of easy…” Despite having a bit of fun at the game’s expense, I do really love it. The ending alone is one of my favorite endings from the SNES era.

And IoG is why I’m willing to forgive some of the early problems I’m seeing with Terranigma. It starts out simply enough. As the brash, young protagonist you are (naturally) sleeping. You wake up to find the love interest telling you you’re sleeping too much. After a bunch of stuff happens (during which you bust down a door by throwing two pots at it) everyone in your town is frozen. When you ask the elder what’s going on, he tells you that you must leave the village to find out. Again, all of this seems almost too convenient. It feels like the only reason I’ve done anything, at this point in the game, is to create a reason for my protagonist to leave town. I don’t feel like I’m actually experiencing the world, here. I’m merely shifting from one event to another, because someone in the game has told me that I have to. The narrative flow does not feel organic.

Anyway, after you follow the elder’s advice, and leave the village, you find yourself (through a sweet mode-7 overworld) entering a tower, for some reason. This was something else the elder told you. You’ll have to defeat 5 towers to save everyone. At any rate, I climbed to the top of the tower, beat the test of the guardian, and restored Eurasia. Seriously. That’s what the game told me. I restored Eurasia. Also, a few of the people back in the village came back to life. And then I saved and stopped.

Now, admittedly, I’m only about an hour into the game. I’m sure some of this stuff will be explained, and I’m hoping the explanation breaks my brain, but it doesn’t feel like I’m actually saving anything. It feels like I’m only going through these towers, because it’s a game, and I know that in order to “complete” the game, I have to go through the towers. Does that make sense?

I’m certainly not ragging on the game. I mean, I am only an hour in.  For all I know, it kicks it into high gear later on, and the story becomes an incredibly complex tale, on par with the great works of the English language. Then again, it might not get better, and I’ll have spent hours playing a game for the sake of playing a game.

If that’s the case, though, I can guarantee my ears will love me for those hours. And that, I think, is definitely worth my time.

Mic Check…

Is this thing on?

It is? Good.

I have done a horribly bad job of keeping this site updated. I know it’s a terrible excuse, but I have been really, really busy. How busy? Well, I finished my first year of grad school. That was insanely busy. Especially last semester. I nearly killed myself in work. I read about 30 novels and 40 short stories. I wrote close to 90 pages. I took three classes, and I was averaging about 50 hours of homework a week. This was in addition to working my normal job to pay the bills.

I survived it, though. And I passed all three of my classes with A’s. So, you know, score.

Also, and this is pretty big news, I found the girl I’m going to marry. I met her in a class. We hit it off, and started dating. Three weeks ago, I asked her to marry me. She said yes. So, you know, also score. We’re planning our wedding for December 20th. Some might say ten months isn’t long enough to know someone before you get married. I say, life’s too dang short to waste time.

I’ve found a girl, who is happy spending the night in, playing card games and trash talking each other.

I’ve found a girl, who laughs harder at Community than I do.

I’ve found a girl, who puts up with all my neuroses, and who actually accepts me for who I am.

I’ve found a girl, who encourages me be a better person, but doesn’t freak out when I invariably fail.

Can I ask for anything else?

On VGA’s (Is there an apostrophe? I don’t know.)

I didn’t watch the SpikeTV Video Game Awards this year. I don’t have SpikeTV. Sure, I suppose I could have watched it online, but that would have taken away from my surfing time, and that surfing time is valuable. It’s alright. According to the people I follow on Twitter, I didn’t miss much. Maybe I follow overly-cynical people (that’s possible), but the general consensus was that the show blew. Again, I didn’t watch it, so I can’t judge, but from what I understand, it was an hour and a half of silly jokes and premieres, with all of the awards shoved into the last half-hour. Judging by the time-stamps on the Twitter posts announcing the winners, I think that time-frame is pretty accurate. This strikes me as odd. I would assume that the “awards” in an “award show” would take center stage, but that didn’t appear to be the case. At any rate, one of the people I follow, Justin McElroy from Joystiq.com, questioned this odd move, and received the following reply from Executive Producer Geoff Keighley:

Um, Geoff Keighley? You do realize that what you tweeted, right there, is the formula for every other award show out there, right? The Academy Awards? No premieres, lots of awards. The Grammys? No premieres, lots of awards. The Emmys? No premieres, lots of awards. Oh, I shouldn’t quite say that. There are some premieres. They just come in between the awards. You know. During the commercials. These companies buy commercial time to premiere their wares; they aren’t a part of the show itself.

Now, I understand that the VGA’s (There is an apostrophe. I just decided) do not have the legacy that the rest of the awards shows have. Those other awards have been handed out for decades; the VGA’s are eight years old. I’m sure they believe they need to do something to attract the attention of both video game developers and players. Without these premieres, would anyone care about the show? I think they would, because my Twitter feed told me something else. When the awards were finally announced, there were congratulations all around. Yes, there were a few eye-rollings, but even those are a sign of notice. The people talking about these awards were the very same people that had spent the first 90 minutes of the show complaining. They watched for the awards, and when they were announced, there was genuine conversation.

These awards are voted on by an advisory council of people within the industry. If a game wins an award, it’s because it’s made an impact. That impact should be recognized, and the VGA’s are a great way to do that. I think the problem is that Geoff Keighley is gunshy, and that’s too bad. Video games have become a valid medium in their own right, and it’s time to recognize them as such. Let’s skip out on the gimmicks and stupid jokes and focus on the games we’re there to celebrate.

I’d take time out of my valuable surfing time to watch a show like that.

Bucket(ish) List…

Last night, I wrote out a list of things I want to do over the next ten years. I’m turning thirty in a little over four months. I never made a “before-30″ list. I feel like I missed out on something. I missed out on the making of a list. It’s not really a bucket list. A bucket list implies that I’m going to die soon. I certainly have no plans on dying before I’m 40, though my weight and family-history of heart disease might say otherwise. At any rate, I’ve decided to do a decade list. Truthfully? I hope to have these things done in the next four or five. If that happens, I’ll make another list. Or I’ll sit at home and wither away, having accomplished everything I could hope to accomplish.

Or maybe not. I don’t know. I’m still hammering out the details.

At any rate, I don’t really want to share my list. I’ll share a bit of general stuff. There are 30 items total. There are some publishing goals on there. There are a lot of travel goals. There are some really off-the-wall goals, most of which are probably less than safe. For some of those, I’ll probably need to find a friend crazy enough to go with me. You know, to keep me from chickening out. There are also a few that have to be done before others. Some prioritizing has to be done.

Anyway, there’s not much point to this. Just thinking about the future.

On Submissions and Speaking…

I did something new today. I submitted a 250-word abstract for one of my papers to an academic forum. If it’s accepted, I will be flying to Michigan in February to speak on comic books in front of a bunch of comic fans and English scholars. In some ways, this will be a very good experience. I’ve never done anything like this before, and this particular forum will be small-scale, compared to other conferences. It will be a fantastic learning experience. On the other hand, I am super terrified of even the idea of presenting one of my papers before an actual audience.

I gave a presentation today in one of my classes. I filled my Powerpoint with puns and jokes, which fell completely flat. I should have expected it. They were really stupid jokes. But to not even get a pity laugh? That’s just sad… I don’t have any jokes in my paper, but what if my claims and evidence fall on deaf ears? What if they look at me as if I’ve completely misinterpreted the text? What if I fly 700 miles to be laughed out of a room?

A few months ago I wrote about trying new things and “trials by fires.” I meant that, which is why I submitted my abstract. I’m terrified, but I’m ready to give it a shot. If I fall flat, I’ll learn what I can from it. I don’t expect it to go off perfectly. I know myself better than that. I expect I’ll fill my reading with a bunch of ‘Ums.’ I doubt I’ll make nearly enough eye contact. When the questions start, I can guarantee my mind will go blank.

Right now, I’m just hoping it goes at least “okay.”

I guess I’ve always been a little scared of public speaking. Actually, scratch that. I’m absolutely, horrible scared TO DEATH of public speaking. It shouldn’t be too surprising. I’m a socially-awkward video game/comic/science-fiction geek. I spend my free time reading. When someone calls me on the phone, I respond in single syllable words until the other person gets tired of trying and hangs up. That’s how I deal with other people, and it’s worked fine for me so far.

Maybe.

I think it’s time to overcome my crippling social-anxiety. I look at my brother and my dad and I’m amazed at how they can walk into a room and control it. They capture the attention of everyone there. I’ve never been like that. I hang out on the edges of the room and silently watch, hoping no one engages me in any way. I don’t want to live like that. I don’t want to be scared of people.

Is that something you can shut off?

I’ve thought about looking into some medication. My mom is very similar, and some anti-anxiety meds have done wonders for her. Maybe it can help me? Maybe I just need to get over myself and affect that change myself. I don’t know. I need a drink…

Composing a Good Christmas Mix!

It’s the most wonderful time of the year…

I love the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The weather is cooling down. Most people start putting up their Christmas decorations. You might even find a snowflake or two. I love all that. Even more so, however, I absolutely love, love, love Christmas music.

Not all of it, mind you. Some of it absolutely blows. But I have a good selection of music I really enjoy, and every year, I like to ring in this season by throwing all of that music into one giant playlist. I’ve mentioned this on T.R.O.A.M.M. before, though I never wrote too much on the subject. I thought, this year, I’d take a little time to explain why I build my list as I do. Ladies and gentleman (and horses) I present the 2011 Super Crazy Train Christmas Mix-travaganza!

I should probably clarify something. My playlist changes from year to year. The 2011 mix shares some tracks with 2010, but I have added and dropped some. The playlist is a fluid beast, which largely depends on a number of factors, such as how nostalgic I’m feeling or what kind of emotions I’m carrying into the season. Alright, enough talk! Let’s get to some selections! Read the rest of this entry »