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Archive for "Personal"

February 26, 2009

“Used to be so deep…”

This amuses me.

I was doing a search for statistics on the Guitar Hero and Rock Band franchises for my weekly music-game column over at Green Pixels, and for some reason stumbled on this article about late-’80s/early-’90s punk band Pennywise. I was pleased (if a bit surprised) to learn that the band is still together and performing, but the part of the article that really amused me goes like this:

The band’s punk credibility was boosted by some Sex Pistols-like antics. During an appearance on the syndicated call-in radio show “Loveline,” [guitarist Fletcher] Dragge intentionally vomited on strait-laced co-host Dr. Drew. The interview took place at alternative rock station KROQ-FM in Los Angeles in 1995.

What the article does not tell you is that a day or two later the band played a show at Peabody’s Down Under in Cleveland, Ohio. I happened to be in Peabody’s legendary green room while they were telling the story to a friend of mine — it’s possible my band was actually opening that night, but I honestly don’t remember — and was as aghast as you probably were the first time you heard this story. But then Fletcher did something that in some ways is even worse.

Continue reading ““Used to be so deep…”” »

February 24, 2009

Pączki Day

250px-paczkiSo, it’s Pączki Day. In a tradition believed to have been started as a way of using up all the sugar, fruits, and dough before Lent starts tomorrow, Polish people everywhere are eating absurdly rich donuts filled with fruits, creams, and/or chocolates, called pączki (and pronounced, roughly, “PONCH-key”). This observation of excess is celebrated by Americans of Polish descent throughout the country, but especially in the Midwest, where we’re particularly numerous. I’m Polish. I like doughnuts. This is a holiday made for me.

There’s just one problem: Before a couple days ago, I’d only ever heard it mentioned once in my life. The person who talked about it came from the Detroit area, and I assumed this was something that was local to Michigan. But the other day, my wife, who grew up in Chicago, pointed out a sign on a donut shop advertising Pączki Day. “What’s that?” she asked.

“Oh, huh,” I replied with my customarily sage-like pith. “It’s a Michigan thing that must be making its way here.” And I didn’t think anything of it.

Until yesterday, when she brought a box home from the grocery store. We each had one for dessert. They were delicious. So I hopped onto Wikipedia* to try to track the origin and progress of Pączki Day.

Continue reading “Pączki Day” »

February 20, 2009

A Ziff-trospective, Part II: Mere Anarchy

When last we spoke, I promised to tell you some dirty little secrets about the Bad Old Days of EGM, OPM, and assorted magazines, in their original home in Lombard, Illinois. And I have no intention of shirking my duties.

But trying to hang these all together in some sort of coherent narrative would a.) take way too long, and b.) probably not make any sense anyway. There was a lot going on, as you’ll see, and if I were to try to hem everything up all pretty it would probably come off as some sort of fevered drug-dream. So instead, let’s peek in on some memorable moments, some iconic people, things, and events that represented that whole heady, smelly time.

Let’s start with the Cone of Violence. It’s as good a place to start as any. Now, enough has been said about this device that I’m not going to waste much time describing it except in the simplest terms: It was a full-size traffic cone, heavy as these things are, positioned appropriately next to the Blitz machine… Oh, I haven’t told you about the Blitz machine? Yeah, we had an NFL Blitz arcade machine in the office, positioned directly in front of the main door so that you couldn’t possibly miss it. “Oh, I was just heading down to the break room for a soda, but I guess I could squeeze in one game.” It’s a wonder we ever got any work done. Anyway, games of Blitz could get pretty heated, thanks largely to what has been variously called “CPU assist,” “rubberband AI,” and “bullshit.” See, what happened was, as soon as one player opened up a big lead, the game would start causing him to fumble the ball, throw interceptions, miss easy passes — pretty much do everything but trip over his own shoelaces. This made some people angry.

But it made Crispin Boyer positively livid.

Continue reading “A Ziff-trospective, Part II: Mere Anarchy” »

February 18, 2009

A Ziff-trospective, Part I: The Lombardening

In my most recent post over at 1UP, I started musing a bit about some of the good times I had in my ten-and-a-half years at Ziff Davis Media. With EGM having closed just shy of its 20-year anniversary, there’s a lot of this going around, I understand. Shoe and Crispin did plenty, in written and verbal form; Mielke wrote The Compleat Milkography, Vols. I – XXIV; Greg Sewart rebutted with a different perspective; and C.J. reposted some classic musings of his own. And that’s just a small sampling.

Look, I never claimed to be a trend-setter.

The thing is, I’ve noticed some gaps in others’ accounts. Some gaps that need filling. And by God, I’m just the man to do it.

Plus, I have pictures. Incriminating pictures.

And so, I present to you the first in a four-part series: A Ziff-trospective, Part I: The Lombardening.

Pretty much any story anyone tells about Lombard includes mention of it being the most suburbiest of suburbs. And oh dear lord, it is. (Or at least, it was the last time I was there.) But do you think that mattered to a 22-year-old kid, fresh out of college, new to Chicago, and starting his first day of work at a videogame magazine? No. No, it did not.

It was June 24, 1996. A bit more than a month previous, in anticipation of moving from my hometown of Cleveland to Chicago, I had answered an ad in the Chicago Tribune for “Writer / Game Player” with a resume (thin) and writing samples (laughable). Both, I learned later, had been promptly lost, but my cover letter had stuck around on someone’s desk long enough to make some sort of impression. So I got asked in for an interview, impressed the hell out of everyone by showing up in a tie, and found myself reporting for work at the offices of Sendai Media the following Monday.

Let me tell you what I saw the first time I walked into this place. You drive up on the outside to a very plain, very institutional-looking, brown-brick building. Three floors, darkish windows — pretty much the epitome of the anonymous late-20th-Century office building. (Come to think of it, here: see for yourself.) You open the doors into a modest, tiled lobby, facing a bit of ugly abstract art that’s inexplicably blocked off with velvet ropes. You go up an open stairway to the second floor. Straight ahead is Reception, but if we’re going to EGM (and we are), we’ll turn left. Swipe your card and open the door.

Continue reading “A Ziff-trospective, Part I: The Lombardening” »

January 24, 2009

Speaking of RSS Readers

FeedsI’m pretty sure I’ve tried every single RSS reader for the iPhone at this point.

When I first got my phone, I was fairly new to this whole blog-aggregation thing. I’d dabbled a bit but hadn’t come to rely on it. But with Mobile Safari being slower (and more squintastic) than I’d like, I knew I’d need to get on the RSS train, and fast.

I looked for suggestions. I’d heard so many negative things about the free NetNewsWire that I skipped right over that one. A friend had recommended the not-free Feeds, but when I saw the awful green color I knew he must have meant Web Feeds, which also shows up on your phone as just “Feeds.” So I picked that one up and set up my feeds.

Let me be clear: Web Feeds is a very nice program. Slick and fast and constantly improving. But it was almost too good — that is to say, I started using RSS more and more for work purposes, to catch up quickly on important topics for the various columns and news items I’d been writing. And here’s the problem: Web Feeds didn’t have a way of sharing articles. At all. Which made it a little tough to track down the important things I’d found while away from my desk.*

So I tried out NetNewsWire, which syncs with Newsgator online and thereby allowed me to tag articles for later review. I used that for a couple weeks, before I realized that some blogs I read regularly had disappeared, as though they weren’t being updated…even though I knew they put up something like 40 posts a day. So that went right out.

Right around that time a bunch of readers popped up in the App Store that purported to sync with Google Reader. So I tried them. I tried them all. The verdict?

Continue reading “Speaking of RSS Readers” »

January 7, 2009

An Actual Conversation, About Cats

My brother Matt: I was just trying to get them together.

Me: Jacob and Samantha don’t like each other. He tries to mount her.

Matt: I can see how that would be a problem.

Me: It puts a strain on their relationship.

Matt: I don’t know why, it does wonders for mine.

January 1, 2009

There’s a Story Here

…but wouldn’t it be much more entertaining to imagine your own?

March 6, 2007

And Now, a Story

Back in the day, when my dad was still working funerals regularly, occasionally they would get a family from Brecksville who wanted to have the funeral mass at St. Basil the Great.

Originally, this church was right next to Bosa’s Donuts, right down on 82, just east of Brecksville Rd. (It’s since moved to a newer, bigger location.) Occasionally, after setting everything up for the funeral, the gentlemen would duck out for a quick cup of coffee and a donut at Bosa’s.

One day, my dad and two employees headed over to refresh themselves. They all sat down at the counter, and the young, adorably cute waitress came up to take their orders.

“What will it be today, guys?” she asks.

“Hmm,” says the one employee. “I’ll take a cup of coffee, but I’m not really feeling like a donut today. What else do you have?”

“Well, we’ve got bagels, English muffins, and toast.”

“What kind of toast?”

“White, wheat, rye, raisin…”

“Oh, raisin toast. That sounds great. I haven’t had raisin toast since I don’t know when. I’ll take that.”

So this cute waitress turns to Employee Number Two. “How about you, honey?”

“You know,” he says, “raisin toast actually sounds really good. I’ll have that too.”

So this adorable waitress turns to my dad. “And what about you, sweetie? Is yours raisin too?”

And my dad, without skipping a beat, says, “No, but it’s quivering a little.”

Continue reading “And Now, a Story” »

January 23, 2007

6 Things I Like That You Probably Don’t

Corn Nuts These delectable nuggets of crunchy goodness are delicious, and surprisingly good for you (I mean, as compared to other crunchy fried snacky foods). And while you tend to see them fairly regularly in gas stations and freeway travel plazas, you don’t often hear people talking about them.

Drakan: The Ancients Gates When this game game out on PS2 shortly after launch, it was met with thunderous apathy. To this day I don’t understand why it didn’t become a hit. A free-roaming hack-n-slash RPG with really awesome dragon-riding elements? That is pure gold. I liked the game so much I had Greg Sewart write up a retrospective for OPM. I sure hope you got paid, Greg.

New Model Army This vastly underrated British folk-rock band has been making challenging, provocative, catchy, sometimes heart-wrenching music since 1979, and almost no one in this country has ever heard of them. It’s very, very hard to find lyrics with as much power and artistry anywhere else.

Turning Off the TV This one may seem like cheating, but I really do relish hitting the off switch on the electronic overseer. Don’t get me wrong, I like me a good program every now and then. (And of course, gaming doesn’t count.) But I probably watch less than three hours of TV a week…I just enjoy gaming or reading or feeding my brain with internet junk food so much more. There are definitely times when I find myself sinking into that TV stupor, just watching it because it’s on and I’m not even that interested in what’s showing. At those times, summoning the energy to turn it off and go do something else is particularly rewarding.

Cemeteries Even though I’ve had to see them a lot more than I’d like over the past few years, I still do find something so relaxing and soothing about being in a cemetery — particularly an old cemetery, with its gorgeous headstones, monuments, and mausoleums. Oh, that reminds me:

Harold and Maude My favorite movie ever. It’s about love, and death, and wealth, and freedom, and most importantly: happiness. It’s not a movie for everyone, but if quirky black romantic comedies strike your fancy, I have never seen a better one. There are few movies like it, but if you liked Garden State, for example, I have a feeling you’ll like Harold and Maude.

Your turn. Let me know five (or six, or ten!) things you like that no one else does, in comments or your own blog. (Drop a link in comments if you do it on your own blog, k?)

December 21, 2006

And to All, a Good Night

I grew up in a very large family: I’m the youngest of ten kids. Yeah, you read that right. I have five older sisters and four older brothers — an even 5/5 split. To make things even more surreal, there was an eight-year gap between my youngest sister and my youngest brother, so most of my siblings are at least ten years older than me, with the difference in age between me and my oldest brother clocking in at ten days short of an even twenty years. So even in my earliest memories, my siblings had significant others, and very shortly thereafter, kids. (I now have a niece and two nephews who are married. But I’m not a great-uncle, yet.)

In addition to that, my dad’s biological mother died shortly after he was born, and his father got remarried, which made for five separate and distinct branches of the family tree just two generations back, counting the families of my maternal grandmother and grandfather, paternal grandfather, paternal grandmother, and paternal step-grandmother. And many of them came from big families. (We’re talking about turn-of-the-century reproduction statistics here, mostly for recent immigrants to the country; this was not at all abnormal.)

Anyway, to sum up: we’re a big family. So the holidays were always a fairly substantial production.

Continue reading “And to All, a Good Night” »