March 30th, 2010

Mark!

Recursive Luggage

Not five minutes before I walked out the door to head for the airport, I learned that the US terror alert system was set to Medium Ochre, which meant I would only be allowed to take one carry-on with me to Boston. Thinking quickly, I stuffed my Special Forces tote bag inside of my backpack. Two days later, I was searching for my brand-new 2300: Ruined World shirt, and found it inside one of our Fangamer handout bags in my tote. For a moment, I toyed with the idea of repacking the tote with the bag in the backpack, thus creating a sort of luggage-turducken, but by then I had too much stuff to justify lugging it all in one massive strained package.

Sorry, I'm still a little bit in motivated salesmanship mode. I'll try to knock it off.

By now, it's not a secret that I subtly altered my Twitter account. I'd like to say "it was a social experiment" but really it was just something I thought of on the spur of the moment, and then realized was a nifty idea: a good excuse to mix up my layout and an opportunity to befuddle at least a few people. Judging by the reactions I got, I'd say I succeeded to a small degree, which was all I really wanted. See, I feel like I spend too much time using Twitter as a glorified chatroom -- when I'm just @replying to people and yelling into the void, I post a ton of messages. But when I'm putting vague pieces of what feels like a large and mysterious narrative on the table, I want it to flit in and out of my followers' collective consciousness, like scraps of a dream. And that necessitates holding out for an hour or two between tweets.

Grandma's funeral was okay. Thanks for all the kind words. I'm still trying to sort out my thoughts; I keep writing sentences and then backspacing them away again.

Have you played Cave Story? Don't listen to the hataz who keep hatin' on it. The new music isn't bad, just kind of different -- although I do kind of feel like they wrecked the Plantation theme, but the Outer Wall tune is still my favourite, and the background of the empty Mimiga village is even more poignant this time around. The new graphics work mostly because a TV screen is more distant than a computer monitor, although that also makes the case for playing in original mode too. But best of all, cavin' it up rocks with the classic controller.
Mike vs. Acid Tim

my Loser Crisis at PAX

So I found a minute to have a look at what people are saying in the wake of PAX East, and it's bothering me. This isn't about the normal post-con depression that everyone gets (yes yes I miss you guys too, let's do it again real soon). This is just me.

A number of folks apparently took this comic quite to heart. Hell, I ranted about it at length in 2006, putting me firmly ahead of the curve in the department of "nobody cares." I shook a ton of hands and hugged a lot of people, some of whom I didn't even know, and I didn't get sick at all this year. Everyone's just freaked out because they got sick during a flu crisis (imagine that!) or they're severely introverted in the first place. I theorized to a few people on the last day that this was why gamer culture in general was so screwed up; it combines the terribly shy with the horribly outgoing in an inescapable situation. Put a little heat under that sucker and everyone goes crazy.

My own personal problems start when I hit the fine balance between these two moods. Last year it wasn't so bad, I just caught myself wondering why I was spending so much time in the free play room, so I left and went back to the hotel and things were fine. This year I was coming from the hotel, planning to go to the Saturday concert, except I couldn't find my friends. Wasn't sure I wanted to stand around on my own. Started wandering, trying to figure out what I did want to do. This was when I started noticing the people asleep on the hallway beanbags, the small groups lined up for the public Rock Band stage in the corner, the people in the theatre who were honestly, earnestly getting into Jonathan Coulton's music. The most symbolic event I witnessed was a group of five young men who had alternately piled themselves belly-down in between beanbags, making a sort of towering human-beanbag sandwich, while someone else took a photograph.

(Although I should also put an aside out for Coulton here, because this story does eventually end with me listening to him for a good long while and realizing that most of his lyrical content involves one of two subjects: how much it sucks to be a nerd, or how much it sucks that society expects it to suck to be a nerd. So that also made me feel bad, but by then I wasn't doing as badly overall, and it didn't stick with me the same way. It also made me feel a little bad that I felt bad because I really liked the music and the arrangements and such; he reminds me of the singer-songwriters of the late 60s, even though I only experienced Woodstock through a movie screen and thus may come off as a bit disingenuous when I go on about Arlo Guthrie or whatever.)

At that exact moment I was overwhelmed by the sense of just how far detached I was. I couldn't see myself being one of these people, trying too hard to be nutty in a bid for originality, to fit into a sample group where the first rule is to be as unique as possible in whatever narrow way you can define it. And at the same time I couldn't just walk back out on the street, into a culture that didn't mesh with me, where nobody was more than peripherally aware of the subjects that really interested me. And I was jealous as hell of the guy whose girlfriend, or at least lady-friend, was dressed in a pikachu-bikini. And I was pissed at myself, because out of all the security-guardian types I'd been accosted by that evening (which is a whole other but vaguely related story) I'd gotten sassy with the one who least deserved it, and never had the chance to find him again and apologize for being such a dick. And I'm a Loser, with a capital L, and if I just walk over to that escalator then it'd be pretty easy to hoist myself up and over the handrail. Hell of a headline that'd make. But I decided not to do that. I went down the stairs instead, stopping halfway to sit on the windowsill and feel sorry for myself for a bit, and then I figured I should at least give it one more shot at the concert hall instead of giving up. Found my friends after all and was there for the back end of the show.

The point is, I don't think it's worth it to lose a valuable yet simple way to connect with someone over the chance that you might contract a short-term sickness. You're going to feel bad anyway, what with all the sleep you're missing. We're all of us Losers. We're already at a disadvantage, because our medium of choice tends to cut out a large portion of our non-written communication: facial expressions, body language, physical contact. Why anyone would want to divorce themselves further from those when they're actually available is beyond me.