Tag Archives: playstation

Life Unplugged

Broken Controller

Two months ago, I quit playing video games cold turkey.

Someone near and dear to me let me know that my escapism habits had become unhealthy. I was constantly stressed about not having enough time for the things I wanted to do–writing fiction, keeping up with the blog, taking my girls hiking or to the movies–and the things I needed to do–teaching, grading, running a theatre program, and sundry household duties. So in order to “balance” all this and keep up with my gaming habits, which I’ve always viewed as a gateway to inspiration (look at Descarta, for example), I began getting up early in the morning to play games. I then stayed up late gaming after I had accomplished whatever I had managed to that day, which in retrospect, was probably not much.


This would have been different, mind you, if I had actually been playing new and exciting games instead of replaying Dark Souls for the umpteenth time (my goal was hitting level 712 without cheating!) and trying to stay ahead of teenagers in the Urr Dragon battle in Dragon’s Dogma. Prior to the new DLC, I had done everything there was to do in Skyrim as well.

Hey, I was murdering evil, right? True. But I was also murdering time, my health, and personal relationships. In the meantime, I was writing virtually nothing. My weight was back up to the pregnancy sympathy pounds stage, and I was junking up on energy drinks just to function. I had zero motivation–and this depressed me to no end.

This surprised me. I mean, you’d think with the anthology’s release date nearing and me sitting on Winter Break at the time, I would have been bouncing off the walls. Instead, I was a wreck. Success doth not ensure happiness, especially in the mind of an English major.

This is why I maintain the axiom that all artists–real artists–are either drug addicts or insane. Just like Nicolas Cage.

Nicolas Cage Nuts

This should keep me safe from the bees!

I remember following a much more successful (no hyperbole) blogger/web comic years ago who managed to land a book deal with Harper Collins. After everything seemed like it was going her way, she lapsed into depression. Her last post was about how this had unexpectedly happened to her, and as of this writing, she hasn’t released any new material (other than an interview on reddit explaining her situation to her many fans). I remember being extremely disappointed in her for just falling off the world like that.

Now, to some extent, I understand.

So the games, and indeed my entire outlook, had to go. The trouble is that you can take the gamer out of the game, but you can’t take the game out of the gamer. I’ve been gaming since the Atari 2600, after all. Two of my three books are about gaming in a Sci-Fi sense (the other, perhaps paradoxically, is about technology destroying everything that was once sacred in the world). It took me a few weeks just to stop seeing facets of reality in terms of video game analogies, which I’d found to be comforting in times past. I mean, I was the great knight errant on a quest to redeem the kingdom. An overweight English teacher with a penchant for the dramatic can fall on his face and fail miserably at life, but a knight? Never.

Knight Templar

It’s not that I don’t know the different between reality and fantasy; it’s merely that fantasy–stories, ideas, even romance–help us cope with a reality where things seldom make sense.

What happens when you try to take the game out of the gamer? The gamer will inevitably apply what gaming has taught him/her to reality. Take grinding, for example. Grinding is the practice of leveling up your character before a boss fight to ensure that you survive the encounter. I’ve still been grinding. I’ve just been doing it in a gym. Now that I’ve beaten off the sinus infection that was holding me back, I plan to grind a lot more. I’ve also eliminated my dependency on energy drinks. Taken together, these two changes have helped me cut about 20 pounds so far.

Instead of tailoring a fictional character to my tastes, I’ve been working on myself. After all, this is my story, and I have to deal with all these “cut scenes” of me now. I might as well be a protagonist I can be proud of, right?

I’ve also noticed in the past few weeks that I haven’t been camping my iPhone as much. For awhile, it had become like the One Ring. There was a moment about a month ago when I deliberately tried to walk out the door without it, and the damn thing was already in my coat pocket.


My Own! My Apps! My Precious!!!

I believe that, at least in my case, fixating on my spiffy little handheld computer with all its apps and checking my blog stats and Facebook every few minutes is linked to my gamer mentality. I might be more out of touch with the world than I was two months ago, but maybe that’s a good thing for my own sanity. I don’t need to become Gollum to write speculative fiction, after all.

New stories will happen because they must. My old Royal typewriter was recently repaired, and that shall be the mechanism of delivery for the time being. I’m sure I’ll be keeping all kinds of people up at night with its sweet cacophony of keys and bells, but to hell with it. Enough is enough.

What does my current cynical attitude regarding technology mean for this blog? Honestly, I wouldn’t worry too much, dear reader. Sans the video games and with all this energy from running on the treadmill, I’ve realized that I have much, much more of one thing than I had previously thought–and that is time.


Filed under Family, My Writing, Rants, Reading, Science Fiction, Uncategorized, Writing

Gearing Up for the Holiday Season


I wrote this rant last year around Christmas time when my wages were garnished and the Mayan apocalypse was looming overhead. I decided I’d dust it off and see if I could apply it to this year’s holiday season. While reading it again, however, I found myself amused at how much has changed in a year—and how much hasn’t.

Rather than fictionalizing the truth, which writers NEVER do, I’ve elected to leave it (mostly) intact and write retrospective side notes, which will probably render this post completely unreadable.


Let’s face it: times are tough, and some of us have the Great Recession Blues this holiday season. But in the spirit of Christmas, we should all stay positive. After all, just think of all the life experiences we’ll get to monologue about to our grandchildren when we’re nigh senile and losing that inevitable battle with diabetes. Screw how our grandparents had to live off green bean casseroles and bunny jerky from those rabbit drives during the Great Depression. We would-be survivors of the obesity epidemic are clearly the real victims here.

Below is a list (26 is a nice round number) of my favorite Great Recession gripes this (last) holiday season:

·       Vacuuming the house before guests arrive involves peeling the duct tape off your vacuum cleaner, shaking the dust into your dumpster through a hole in the bag you’re planning to reuse (and all because you don’t want to waste the other piece of duct tape that’s holding it to the filter), and sealing the jury-rigged contraption back together by tying off the original duct tape in your best approximation of a fisherman’s knot. (Yup. This is still the situation. Orecks suck, and those bags must be made of solid gold…)

·       Your Christmas present to your spouse is to promise to pay her medical bills by the end of 2012. (Yeah, that didn’t happen.)

·       Your strategy for putting up the Christmas lights involves signature moves from Assassin’s Creed because you can’t afford a ladder. This might even include trying to freefall head first into a haystack if you get really desperate. (Replace the Assassin’s Creed reference with a Borderlands reference, and it’s essentially the same scenario.)

·       The apocalypse for you doesn’t seem like it should include an alignment of celestial bodies—no, it’s what happens when all your major appliances at your rental property are functioning properly: dishwasher, disposal, refrigerator, washer, dryer, and microwave. You pray for this. (Still praying for this!)

·       You’ve nearly gotten in a car wreck due to mentally debating how someone as mediocre as Frank Sinatra could possibly have gotten so famous, especially half-drunkenly uttering “dupe de dupe and hickory dock” probably due to forgetting what he was singing about in the first place—this is because your kids want Christmas music 24/7, and your only on-the-go entertainment is your stock radio that occasionally flashes Satanic symbols across its digital clock because it is possessed. Your logic train derails, and you draw the conclusion that Frank Sinatra must have made a deal with the devil. (I’ve since discovered that the lounge singer responsible for “The Holiday Season” is not, in fact, Frank Sinatra. I take nothing back.)

·       You’re considering making a deal with the devil like Frank Sinatra. It’s okay if you too have to change your last name to include some kind of vice like avarice or gluttony. Daniel Avaricio. You can live with that.

·       You have to wrap and unwrap your dog before you can play with him. No, he isn’t one of those Japanese robotic dogs that your kids are demanding for Christmas. He just has an infection where his tail was recently amputated due to it being slammed in a door in a failed attempt to escape being dressed in a hoopskirt and put in a fashion show by one of your little darlings. After over a grand in medical bills, you keep flashing back to that scene from Gladiator in which the chiseled African dude puts the maggots in Maximus’ infected shoulder and declares, “They will clean it. Wait and see.” You even bring this up when there’s a fly buzzing around your bedroom one night. Your spouse looks at you like you’re crazy and hands you a fly swatter. Financial salvation is then splattered all over your wall. Normally, you’d be impressed with your critical hit against a flying enemy, but this time all you see are dollar signs… (Mr. Gram has since made a full recovery and is back to swimming on land and rearranging our couch cushions into a doggie fort.)

·       When you go to court over your debt, your creditors sympathize. (Heh. Now it’s just the student loans…)

·       Your desktop computer is old enough to have a name, a backstory, and an invented personality. You may even make excuses for her—I mean it—when it (she!) freezes. (Victoria’s still ticking. Where do you think I found this file?)

·       You still have a desktop computer.

·       You’re able to feel vindicated for continuing to use Netflix despite the price increase because paying for cable seems outrageous. Having your mom TIVO Knights of Mayhem on NatGeo is good enough for you. (I’m over Knights of Mayhem. I tried watching Full Metal Jousting too, but I just felt embarrassed for those guys.)

·       The majority of your entertainment comes from free sources on the Internet that you will never, ever sponsor or even bother to log in and “like”. But you gripe about the ads. (Don’t do this. Take the high road, and let your good example show me the error of my ways…)

·       You’re considering making Christmas presents for your family this year using simple but artsy designs cribbed from Etsy and the clearance rack at Michaels. (Done and done.)

·       You’ve spent more money on your pet’s medical bills in the last three months than you’ve spent on food. Yet you’re still fat. This is because the McValue menu is cheaper than buying groceries.

·       You’re considering going back to school for your doctorate just to avoid paying your student loans. (Taking four Spanish classes to earn my doctorate in English makes for an ironic deterrent.)

·       You’re considering quitting your “real” job and delivering pizzas just to be able to pay back your student loans. Education? Who needs that? But pizza…

·       You’ve yet to replace the gas cap on your piece of crap car. You consider the inaccurate gauge “running on empty” insurance. In a way, you know you’re just punishing your car because it won’t stop screaming… (Wow. This was before my glove box was operated by bungee cord and my passenger side window was stuck in the down position.)

·       You’re so unreasonably upset by a bad deal on Pawn Star that for hours you go over in your mind how you would have handled things differently.

·       Cleaning up your rental’s yard with hand clippers, a rusty wood saw, and a spindly rake is a viable alternative to paying $40 for a landscaping crew. When you finish, you pat yourself on the back with, “I just paid myself $40! That’s like a half a tank of gas!” (A year later, none of this has changed. Especially the gas part.)

·       Your text messaging app on your phone crashes so much that you miss the days of AIM. (Ha! I have an iPhone now! And it’s slowly swallowing my soul!)

·       You work in Florence. (Still guilty.)

·       The other day, one of your students delivered a quintessential statement for the town in which you work: “My dog used to chase the neighbor’s chickens until my daddy beat ‘im with one. That’s how he learned him how not to chase them chickens no more.” Let me rephrase this. Dog training in Florence involves beating a dog with a chicken. BEATING A DOG WITH A CHICKEN. (Sorry, but I’m still not over this.)

·       You work in Florence. (Do you know what I received for Teacher’s Appreciation Day last year? A bottle of Sam’s Club water and a Crystal Light packet. Sure, there was this little paper decal of a knight…)

·       On Thanksgiving, you played bumper cars with a family member’s vehicle because he/she parked you in, but you are still keeping the event under the radar in hopes that he/she won’t notice. (Anybody care to guess who I hit?)

·       Ten years ago, you collected swords and armor. Today, you forge swords and armor in Skyrim. When you’re finished, you bitch about the graphics in real life. Skyrim might seem like a luxury, but you have to consider that it’s 200+ hours of entertainment for $60. This is to tide you over because you haven’t been to the movies, gone on a vacation, or had any kind of outing without your kids in at least three years. In fact, when the Fates conspire so that you take only your spouse to Wal-Mart (or the hospital), you refer to this as “date night”. (Replace Skyrim with Dragon’s Dogma or Dark Souls, and it’s essentially the same thing.)

·       Your favorite bedtime story is Go the %#@* to Sleep! Then you have nightmares in which your creditors write your obituary. (Now I fall asleep to The Walking Dead and have nightmares about my publisher getting eaten by zombies before the anthology can be released.)

·       You’re considering revealing the true identity of Santa Claus to your young children just so they pay you some respect. “Hey, kiddies? You see that robotic horse with the mane made from orphans’ hair that really whinnies and poops plastic turds all over the carpet? Santa and his gender confused little helpers didn’t make that shit. I paid for it out of my recession salary. So who’s magical now? THIS bearded fat guy.” (My eight year old still believes in Santa Claus. She’s pretty much the only kid in the third grade that does. She was devastated the other day because her teacher told her that the toothy fairy should be filed under ‘fiction’ on a genre worksheet. Em says we should have one more Christmas before we break her heart, but considering that little Aurie also believes in Thor, I’m starting to wonder…)


Filed under Education, Family, My Writing, Publishing, Rants, Reading, Writing