January122012

I’ve always preferred to play with myself…

(click “view post” to read more) I am of course referring to my preference of single-player video games over their multi-player counterparts. Any confusion regarding the title is of course due to your own perverse thought process, through no fault of my own. Moving right along…

My first gaming memories, like many people my age, were of button mashing sessions on the Nintendo Entertainment System, or NES. With a library of just about 800 games, a kid’s cartridge collection was like a fingerprint, no two were alike. Crowd pleasers like Contra, Metroid, and Super Mario Bros could be found often, but oddballs like NARC or Chip and Dale’s Rescue rangers were unique to maybe only one or two other gamers that you knew. Scanning a new friend’s stack of games for the first time was an exciting experience.

From minute one, Nintendo knew that there would be a huge demand for multiplayer gaming. The release of the Nintendo Entertainment System was a revolution, and people wanted to experience it together. Nintendo’s flagship “Super Mario Bros” of course included a turn-based 2-player mode, in which a second player could alternate with you, playing as Luigi (Mario’s slimmer, green capped fraternal twin brother).

I enjoyed gaming with others as a kid, but under a pretty specific set of circumstances. I preferred simultaneous 2-player games, as opposed to taking turns. Back then, games weren’t as theatrical as they are now, and story lines tended to be thin or even nonexistent. For that reason, sitting there and watching somebody else play was about as exciting as watching water boil. So, cooperative games were a must. Secondly, my partner had to be able to hold their own. There was nothing worse than your less-skilled amigo kicking the bucket right before a treacherous boss fight. It was for that reason that my sister and I did not often play Nintendo together (She was really good at most other things, as long as she could come up with a way to cheat). So, as long as I didn’t have to take a break, or carry an incompetent “Player 2” on my coattails, I could tolerate 2-player gaming. As a matter of fact, I have many fond memories of kicking ass in beat em’ up games (Think Double Dragon, or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles the Arcade Game”) with a co-pilot.

Although an afternoon shooting up bad guys with a buddy was great fun, in my eyes it could never hold a candle to the sense of accomplishment that came with sending Gannon back where he came from with a well timed swing of the magical sword (not yet called the Master Sword) in the original Legend of Zelda. RPG’s had me from hello. If I wasn’t having a particularly pleasant day in this world, I could jump into a more interesting one where I sometimes felt like I had more control over my own destiny. An average kid could be a hero within minutes just by shoving a cartridge into that dull gray box and hitting power. You didn’t have to wait for somebody else to die so that you could get your turn, and you didn’t have to put your fate in the hands of your partner. In retrospect, it might have been a little bit sad, but I preferred, and for the most part, still prefer to play video games by myself.

With the rise of the internet, multiplayer has taken on a new, supercharged role in the evolution of gaming. Killer apps like Halo, Call of Duty, and World of Warcraft (which, by the way, happens to be the crystal meth of RPG’s), have taken over, and changed the way that we play forever. If only partially, I jump on the bandwagon as well from time to time. The instant high of getting a kill in COD is particularly intoxicating. With one tap of a button, you know that you outsmarted another living, breathing person out there in god-knows-where. The creators of the series have put great effort into creating a feeling that being good at their game will somehow enrich your life. It never takes long however, for some 12 year old slack-jawed yokel that lives on a farm in Kansas to start babbling into his headset, at which point I get taken completely out of the game, and thrust headfirst back into the reality that I’m trying to escape. I enjoy the absorbed feeling you get when you dive into a fictional world. Games like COD just give you too many reminders that you’re still sitting on your couch in a sometimes unremarkable world.

When people ask me if I picked up the latest smash hit, like Modern Warfare 3, I sometimes feel a little old and out of touch when I admit “No, I’m waiting until I finish the new Zelda game, and then I have the 3DS port of Metroid Prime waiting in the wings.” But you know what? It’s my escape, not yours. You can all go and have yourselves a pisser shooting each other full of holes. “Should I use a red dot, or a holographic? Should I use a heart shaped reticule for a sense of irony? What sort of face paint would compliment my arctic ghillie suit?” Go ahead, pretend you’re a commando, crawling around in the jungle, behind enemy lines, wiping your ass with leaves; it’s your right to play whatever you want.

Me? I don’t have time for that noise. I’ll drink the Kool-Aid and get back into first person shooters eventually I’m sure. But for the time being, there’s a sexy little princess in trouble, and she sure as hell isn’t going to save herself.

October162011

The end? Or just the beginning?

I’ve always been fascinated by zombies. While working at a video store when I was around 15 years old, an older employee would always suggest classic horror films, and the original “Night of the living dead” was always my favorite. Most people agree that the idea of zombies in general is a social commentary, and I would count myself among them to an extent.
For whatever reason, (probably my divided attention among my many hobbies) I haven’t had the chance to check out too much of the more recent zombie fiction that has been released. The last bit I enjoyed was a book called “World war Z” which was pretty interesting since it tackled the idea of how zombies would be dealt with on the global level, as opposed to some local yokel from (insert small shit-kicker town here) battling them with a shotgun and an excellent set of wits…
So, other than that short paperback, and an occasional round of nazi-zombie killing on “Black Ops” I’ve been out of the loop for quite some time. In the last week or so however, about a half dozen other zombie geeks have asked me “Do you watch The Walking Dead?” and expressed disbelief when I shamefully replied “No, I didn’t catch that.”
Well, guilt finally got the best of me, and I decided to catch up with my estranged undead friends. I was pleased to find that Netflix streams the entire 1st season. I watched the pilot episode last night, and it blew me away. Definitely one of the coolest sci-fi shows I’ve seen in a while. Also, with such a short 1st season, it will be pretty easy to catch up on. If you like zombies, and you haven’t seen it, you should check it out.
Inevitably, post-apocalyptic fiction in all its forms always gets me thinking about how I would survive if I were in the shoes of the protagonist. Fans of the mythology always talk jokingly about the zombie apocalypse. But I’m pretty sure we have all seriously considered (on some level) whether we would be bad-ass enough to be one of the survivors. As horrible as these portrayals of the world are, I found myself strangely enchanted by them. To be perfectly honest, there’s unquestionably something sort of romantic about it.
But why? How could a swarm of flesh eating monsters possibly seem appealing to anyone? I thought long and hard about it, and I think I have it figured out. It’s the simplicity of the whole thing. The weak and dumb are gone almost immediately. The strong would survive, at least for a while. Eventually, only those intelligent enough to stay alive would be alone in the world. At that point, assuming the general rules of zombies in fiction apply, staying alive would be a pretty straightforward and relatively simple thing. Civilization would hit the proverbial “Reset button.” Traffic jams, wars, politics, racism, religion, and money would all mean less than nothing in an instant.
In effect, every silly, pretentious, unimportant thing that humans have thought up in the last 10,000 years or so would be seen as just that, a silly thing that doesn’t really matter. A Mercedes, with its temperamental electronics, tedious maintenance requirements, and conspicuously shiny paint, would be worth less than a go cart with a full tank of gas and a sturdy set of tires. Shiny little things called diamonds that some people currently kill, and others die for, would be seen for what they really are: useless and utterly stupid rocks. A 5-karat princess stone would be worth less than a 9mm chunk of lead, wrapped in brass. In one quick swoop, all things would go back to their rightful order.
If you need something, whether it’s a pair of socks, a gallon of gasoline, or a bottle of well-aged scotch, you grab your 12-gauge, and you go get it. Wanna drive really fast in a classic sports car down a long abandoned highway? Knock yourself out! As long as you’re smart about it, you will find that you can do a lot of things in the post zombie world that you couldn’t do before. And you certainly wont need to wait in line :)
On a personal level, the zombie apocalypse seems slightly less appealing to me than it used to. Being a father and a husband, I’m no longer just responsible for myself, and although the world is a horrendously ugly place, at least it’s relatively safe. Especially here in the good ol’ US of A. In another time and place, I would gather all of my loved ones, hunker down, and welcome those blood thirsty, knock-kneed bags of bones. Things are different now though, and being able to run to the store for a case of diapers (without boarding up my house and bringing my best rifle with a brick of ammo) is pretty cool.
But if the world has to end tomorrow, I say “give me terminators” instead. Zombies are after all, as dumb as a bag of rocks, and frankly, I’d prefer a challenge. But my love for blood thirsty cyborgs is a story for another day.

September112011

A 9/11 story you probably haven’t heard…

(Click “view post to read more on Facebook)

As I’ve mentioned in the past, I consider myself incredibly lucky in that I am able to spend between 5 and 7 days of each week in the greatest city in the world.  10 years ago today however, I’m happy to say that at 17 years old, I was nowhere near New York City, but rather, in the safety of a 12th grade physics classroom in Huntington Station, Long Island.

Although somebody I once met died that day, I can gratefully say that I did not lose anybody close to me.  For that reason, it has been difficult for me to wrap my head around the magnitude of what happened on that cool, clear September day.  That is, until I got a bit older.

Today, I have been in the building operating engineers union (a mouthful, I know) for 5 years.  We are responsible for the behind-the-scenes repairs and maintenance of all the building’s mechanical systems.  The scope of work in a class-A office building is beyond the comprehension of most people that have not seen it with their own eyes, and every large building has a permanent crew that keeps the building’s heart beating 24/7/365.  As the youngest crew member at all 3 of my commercial office buildings, I have heard dozens of first hand stories from people in my business, and others, that were in the city that day.  Some were in the relative safety of midtown; some were not so lucky and found themselves in the thick of things. 

One of my closest friends was near enough to ground zero that his life will never be the same.  He was the #1 manager personally in charge of a large commercial building across the street from the world trade center.  He and I have spoken several times about his feelings when emergency workers began wheeling in the wounded, and also the dead.  His building was designated as a temporary triage and morgue in the hours immediately following the attacks.  He recounted to me how he used whatever blankets and sheets he and his crew could find to cover the deceased victims that were lined up in rows in his lobby.  In the days after, he escorted FBI agents to his roof where they recovered several aircraft parts that came crashing on top of his building.  One small piece of fuselage that they allowed him to keep sits on a tiny wood shelf in his office today.

I have spent 10 years searching for first hand accounts of people in my field that actually worked in those buildings.  And this morning, I found them.  The story that I link to below is that of a man named Mike Pecoraro.  The article is long, and a lot of the “shop talk” is beyond the understanding of people outside the business, but if you have a few minutes, I invite you to read a bit of it.  You’ve heard the stories of the firefighters and police.  Now, read the story of the man that they turned to when they needed to find their way out of a black dust filled lobby, since they were not familiar with the building like he was. 

This afternoon, I went to the deli around the corner from my building in Queens, ordered a pastrami sandwich, and sat down at the park across the street to eat.  While I enjoyed a staple of NYC cuisine, I gazed up at One Court Square, the titan of western Queens.  Anybody that has ridden the long island railroad into Manhattan has seen that huge, blue-green, 50 story building that holds the title of being the tallest on Long Island. As I look up at it, I try to imagine a building 2 and a half times taller, falling apart around the very engineers that spent 40 hours a week caring for it. 

 4 men from my union, with the exact same job that I do every day, went in for their 8AM shifts in the twin towers on September 11th 2011.  They never made it home.  John Griffin Jr, Charlie Magee, Vito Deleo, and David Williams.  I have not, and will never meet them.  But I feel like I know them well, and I think about them all the time.

God bless, the victims, their loved ones, and all the rest of us that were fortunate enough to wake up on September 12th.

       

Click the link below to read Mike’s incredible survivor’s tale.

http://911research.wtc7.net/cache/wtc/analysis/theories/chiefengineer_pecoraro.html?bcsi_scan_7F203DFF2172CE68=Xd74JbDsiSvFXJUeAKs0xSToSTMNAAAACj6JBA==&bcsi_scan_filename=chiefengineer_pecoraro.html

August232011
August212011

Scare Tactics

I hate political E-mails.  They drive me up a wall.  Seriously though.  There’s zero accountability, and 30 seconds of fact checking on Google usually reveals them to be complete nonsense… It’s not a bad technique though, because most people that hate a particular politician will pretty much believe anything negative that is said about them. 

I love the NRA and pretty much everything that they stand for.  I do NOT love the fact, that they have given my E-mail address to just about every right-wing crackpot that they saw fit.  I keep getting E-mails telling me about how Obama is going to try and take my guns away.  This is a huge fear among gun owners apparently.  new assault weapons bans? maybe.  But a completely unprecedented confiscation of firearms that people already own?  Sorry, but that’s highly unlikely.

I actually got a few chuckles out of this, because as I often do, i created an imaginative little scenario in my head.  I’m sitting on my couch, playing my 3ds, sipping a 15 year Glenlivet with 1 lonely ice-cube, when suddenly, there’s a knock at my door.  I open it up, and before me stands a small-framed African American man in a tailored suit, sandwiched between two secret service agents in smokey glasses.  A jet black bombproof Cadillac limo sits idling in my driveway.  He looks up at me and says “Alright asshole, you know who I am, and you know what I’m here for.”

Get it?  it’s funny because he comes and gets them himself… as opposed to doing it through legislation? get it? HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA. 

All kidding aside.  Nobody is taking anybody’s guns away.

August202011

Life seems to have gotten in the way of my blog… New content soon, I promise!

August122011

Its 5 o’clock somewhere…

August42011

If I Can Make it Here…

Being born and raised in a Long Island suburb, I grew in the shadow of a giant.  New York City, even though it was only about 20 miles away, felt like another universe.  The first time that you walk up those steps, out of Penn Station onto 34th street as a kid and look up, is the first time that many people (myself included) feel truly small.

My childhood and adolescence were sprinkled with occasional visits to the big apple, but they were infrequent enough for “the city” (As Long Islanders call it) to maintain a certain mystique for me.

After high school, having only attended college for 2 weeks (which was really due to a poor academic program choice), I was sort of hanging in the balance, weighing my options without any clear path set out for me.  When I was 19 or 20, I got a call from a friend’s father that, although I didn’t know it at the time; would be one of the most significant conversations I’d have in my life.  It’s impossible to imagine where I would be if my cell phone didn’t ring that day.

I was offered a temporary job in Manhattan working in a commercial office building, more or less sweeping, mopping, painting, and doing the other jobs that my co-workers would rather not do.  That was fine with me, because I was making more money than I thought was possible for a kid my age with no college degree.  I didn’t want to let down the guy that gave me the opportunity, and I worked harder and sweated more than I ever had.  I loved the job, but more than that, I loved being in that colossal city every day.  I loved taking the elevator all the way up to the top floor, and enjoying a smoke while looking over the rail, down at the street 450 feet below, where the huge double long city buses and tractor trailers looked smaller than children’s toys.  Or; I could look up, and see the twice-as-tall Chrysler building (still my favorite, much prettier than “empire cliché building”) which was only a block away.

Every day, I would walk out of that subway exit, crane my neck, and gaze at those iron giants, hanging ominously over me.

 A couple years later, I’m not sure exactly when, I stopped looking up.  Like with anything else, you become a bit desensitized to the beauty around you far too quickly.  You start to pay more attention to the nastiness and self importance of those around you, than to the sense of wonder that brought you to that city in the first place.  The stink of the guy on the subway next to you, or the fact that you can’t get a seat on a long train ride because of the obesity of most of the people taking up two or sometimes three seats, is the only thing that sticks in your head at the end of the day.  Maybe I was beginning to notice that New York City doesn’t always treat you the way that the movies and songs would have you believe, or maybe I was just getting older and more cynical.

For the last 5 years I have had a job in Queens, just East of the rat race.  In Queens, there could still be no confusion that you are in an Urban area, but the more laid back outer borough definitely has a kinder, more neighborhood-like feel.  When I go up to my roof now, I still see the Chrysler, along with every other building in the Manhattan skyline; throwing their tall shadows on the East river.  Maybe absence makes the heart grow fonder, but it now seems like little by little,  I’m starting to feel that wonder again when I look at all those twinkling lights in the nighttime from my building.  Standing only 5000 feet away, but again, feeling so, so distant.  

           

August22011

Disaster averted?

So the default that they tried to make us scared of isn’t going to happen. Shocking. Theres no crisis quite like a manufactured one…

August12011

A Memory Like an Elephant

Some jackass said to me last week “well you know, fish don’t have a memory.” I don’t know why people say that.  It’s one of those things that you hear, and repeat, but you don’t know why.  No reliable source ever said it, somebody you know just said it to you.  And you just repeat it as though you have some sort of proof, which you most certainly do not.

Every day, i reach for my fish food on the shelf.  Do you know what my fish do?  they swim to the top of the tank.  Because they know they’re getting fed.  Because they remember what happens right before I feed them every day.  I reach for the food.  And they know it’s their food.  because they remember.  So there.  “Myth busted” asshole.

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