Tag Archives: nostalgia

Loyal To My Sorrowful Country

Eight years ago, immediately following the first election of Barack Obama, I wrote a blog piece entitled The Great Release. While I had memories of writing it, I hadn’t re-read it in the years since.

The short version of the post: it had been around eight years since I had started this blog; writing was my catharsis, and I wrote to ensure I couldn’t forget the emotions I felt on that night.

Those exact emotions, I had forgotten. Sure, there were symbolic actions (“as the tears came to my eye”) and (now) foolish declarations that the country had “spoken resoundingly” and rejected fear mongering. But the description of those eight years under Bush felt like a repressed memory:

I can not ever forget what the last eight years have done to this country. It has divided us, such that my own relatives feel that calling me a “commie pinko” is acceptable discourse. It has destroyed our good standing around the world. It has warped our values: intelligence and eloquence had become something that we no longer wanted in our leaders.

So. Here we are again. Back where we started, as though the last eight years not only hadn’t happened but had somehow caused us to backslide. Our international good standing is shattered, buffered slightly by the UK beating us to the punch some months ago. Our values have warped farther, where playing to hateful views is not only viable enough to win you the nomination, but the presidency as well. And the “commie pinko” comment from one of my in-laws was not merely said but screamed at my wife last night.

Unlike eight years ago, my emotional spectrum over the last twenty four hours doesn’t feel worth jotting down in detail. Dread, regret, sadness, indignation, exhaustion – they all eventually gave way to knowing the sun would come up and the world around me would try to find a way to continue. (As I grow older, my emotional range in narrowing; less jittery highs and lows, more smooth curves.)

The emotion I do want to focus on is the recurring theme as I check in on my friends: heartbreak and resolve.

There’s the heartbreak of my LGBTQ friends who now will wait in fear for the inevitable rolling back of their rights.

There’s the heartbreak of my married friends who have to find a way to explain this to their kids.

There’s the heartbreak of my female friends who are terrified that birth control will be outlawed.

There’s the heartbreak of my immigrant friends who have had their impressions of what this country represented fractured.

There’s the heartbreak of friends who have to face antagonistic family over the holidays, who now feel empowered to spew hate about minorities, immigrants, and imagined threats.

The heartbreak was pretty uniform, but a collective resolve is showing through soon after. Whether that’s resolve to protest, resolve to work to understand the other side, or resolve to dedicate themselves to a cause, it’s starting to show up in my conversations as much as that initial heartbreak. There’s not talk about “second amendment solutions”, little serious talk about running away to Canada – everyone’s just ready to put in the work. Society can’t change on its own.

As for me: while I need to figure out a path to make a difference on my area of biggest concern (trying to reverse decades of slow-building voter suppression efforts), the thing I’m going to focus on for now is supporting the people I care for. Despite 2016 having plenty of low points, I refuse to lose sight of the incredible group of people I get to call my circle of friends.

So to the older version of myself, who will eventually pull this post up in a future election cycles: remember that you don’t win every time. Remember that what feels like progress can disappear in the blink of an eye. Remember to put in the work. And remember to be there to help with the heartbreak, because that is when you may be needed the most.

When I wrote that piece eight years ago, I chose a fairly deep cut from the LCD Soundsystem discography for the post title. The lyrics may not have worked as well as the title did, but it stuck enough to make it through.

This year’s post comes from a 2003 Ted Leo song. The lyrics work better here, but they’re slightly at conflict with the title of the song:

No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

And I’ve walked from coast to coast
And I’ve seen, yes I’ve seen…
No one’s business but my own
Where I’ve been, where I’ve been…

And no more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

In the days when we were young
We were free, we were free…
Now that Georgie’s reign’s begun
We won’t be, we can’t be…

And no more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

Though I’ve lived my bygone years
In this land, in this land…
I’ll uproot it without tears
And I’ll change it if I can!

And, no more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country
No more shall I be, loyal to my sorrowful country

Last Train To Astroland

One of my favorite pieces of writing is David Foster Wallace’s collection of short pieces called _A Supposedly Fun Thing I’ll Never Do Again_. There’s a piece inside it called *Getting Away From Already Pretty Much Being Away From It All*, a piece that “takes on the vulgarities and excesses of the Illinois State Fair”, if you’re the type to believe Wikipedia. It’s very reflective of the big-city-to-state-fair experience, but there’s one abstract paragraph that I love:

One of the few things I still miss from my Midwest childhood was this weird, deluded but unshakable conviction that everything around me existed all and only *For Me*. Am I the only one who had this queer deep sense as a kid? — that everything exterior to me existed only insofar as it affected me somehow? — that all things were somehow, via some occult adult activity, specially arranged for my benefit? Does anybody else identify with this memory? The child leaves a room, and now everything in that room, once he’s no longer there to see it, melts away into some void of potential or else (my personal childhood theory) is trundled away by occult adults and stored until the child’s reentry into the room recalls it all back into animate service. Was this nuts? It was radically self-centered, of course, this conviction, and more than a little paranoid. Plus the *responsibility* it conferred: if the whole of the world dissolved and resolved each time I blinked, what if my eyes didn’t open?


Continue reading Last Train To Astroland

Jack’s Back, Baby

One of my greatest game loves of my late teens/early twenties was [Jellyvision](http://www.jellyvision.com/)’s *You Don’t Know Jack*. I owned the original, played the ever-living hell out of it – it was the perfect merge of game show and video game.

After the YDKJ line fizzled out (the only really notable release other than the original was YDKJ 4: The Ride, which was extremely twisted in every sense of the word), Jellyvision fell off the map a bit. They became an *occasional search* – one of the many things that pop into my head once or twice a year and I go “Oh yeah, I should see if there’s anything about them online.” (Other occasional searches included [Lamprey Systems](http://vjarmy.com/archives/2006/08/the_fifth_horseman_returns.php) and a song called ‘Blue Illusion’ that was tagged as being an Orbital song but was, in fact, not.)

When I started at Freeverse, Jellyvision did provide me a bit of game design knowledge through their [Jack Principles](http://jellyvision.com/go.php?p=/ici/jp/index.php), which I still think should be required reading for most game designers.

My quiz game hankering was only recently quenched by picking up [Buzz: The Big Quiz](http://www.buzzthegame.com/en_GB/index.html?lanSoundOn=) while over in London. While Buzz is great – and tough, given the European roots – it was missing something. Something Jack-like.

In any case: Joystiq reported today that, at long last, [You Don’t Know Jack has returned](http://www.youdontknowjack.com/), online, in daily Flash bits. Sort of like a game podcast, without the syndication or enclosures or automation.

My world is one step closer to completion. Now to just order this copy of The Ride…

The Wizard DVD Sucks

Ladies and gentlemen, I come to you with important news.

For a number of people in my generation – plus those generations one above and one below me; people roughly between the ages of 18 and 30 – the impending DVD release of [The Wizard](http://us.imdb.com/title/tt0098663/), the 1989 video game opus was welcome news.

I came across a copy of the DVD today, and I nearly squealed in joy to pick it up. The actual release isn’t scheduled until August 29th, and while the store is notorious for breaking street dates, there’s always a rush to get your hands on something early. But something struck me oddly: why was it only $11.99? I turned the DVD over, and noticed very quickly: *there were no extra features listed on the back*.

I bought it anyhow. Hey, $12 for a piece of my youth is chump change – and besides, there might be features on it and they just didn’t list it.

I inserted the disc when I returned home a short while ago and was greated with this menu:

My jaw dropped. Okay, fine, no special features, but…no scene select?

I clicked Languages with the slightest hint of hope. It was quickly eliminated.

So congratulations, Universal Studios Home Video – you had a chance to do some serious cult-market long-tail sales with this film. People wanted commentaries with Jenny Lewis and Fred Savage, making-of information, **anything**. And you blew it. You didn’t get the star.

And if you don’t believe me and my screenshots, Rotten Tomatoes confirms it.

I cannot love this DVD. It’s so bad – in the exact opposite way of the Power Glove. Fellow gamers, heed this warning well – The Wizard DVD will break your heart.

Music To Change Your Life: In Closing

I promised to close the project this week, so here we are.

The iMix of all the songs that were applicable to the major criteria – available on iTMS – is available here:

[iMix: Music To Change Your Life](http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPublishedPlaylist?id=401330)

Before I get going on which track was mine, I’d like to thank (once again) everyone who contributed a song. I really appreciate the honesty and the stories that were shared. I look forward to playing the full playlist on a future VJ Army Radio.

So, my song. There were certainly a lot of songs to pick from, songs that hold special places in my heart and correlate to major events. The song I chose in fact hits three major life points:

One: The first time Katie came up for an extended visit – Spring Break, 1999 – we had a wonderful week together. It was the first time we were together and didn’t really have that trepidation about figuring out if we really clicked together. When time came to take her home, I crashed hardcore almost immediately after leaving the Ithaca airport, so I detoured to the mall and perusing the music store. I honed in on an album by an artist I had been meaning to get into for a while, but I had failed to for years. I bought it, brought it home, and rather than skipping to the singles I knew, I started on the first track – which captured my mood perfectly. It marked possibly the only time I’ve reached out blindly to find music to fit my mood and nailed it exactly.

Two: The purchase of this album bridged what would be my two major musical foci – electronic and rock. Moody, brooding, but still hopeful, the album maintains a sort of musical connection to nearly every other album I still listen to. It’s maintained it’s space for six years – better than almost any other album I have.

Three: About a month ago, I was playing music loudly in solitude and singing along to whatever came on. This song came on, and I realized I hadn’t read the lyrics – so I googled them quickly and going through them, it resonated even more with my life, especially the first two lines of the refrain:

> *Oh, I’ll break them down, no mercy shown / heaven knows, it’s got to be this time*

And so, the curtain falls: the song is [Ceremony by New Order](http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewAlbum?playlistId=777031&selectedItemId=776964).

Help Change My Life (At Least Musically)

Most everyone in my age bracket saw Garden State last year. It was heaped with praise such as “It’s like a perfect pop song — that thing that makes you smile and tear up at the same time,” and “Garden State is nothing short of genius, as moving as it is hilarious.” Who could resist what might be the defining movie of a generation?

Those who have had the unfortunate experience of being with me at the movies will not be surprised that I found it a tad overrated. On the whole I liked the movie – I thought Zach Braff has a good eye as a director and as an actor – but there were bits of writing that murdered my sense of logic. The scene that stood out the farthest was when Zach Braff’s character first meets Natalie Portman’s character, and after some casual chit-chat, Portman forces headphones onto Braff, swearing this song will change your life. The song is New Slang by The Shins, and no matter how many times I’ve tried to listen to it, I don’t feel my life getting changed. Even with the lyrics in front of me, I can’t feel anything for this song.
Perhaps part of my problem is that the writers didn’t give any reason why it should/would change our lives. We sit, staring at Zach Braff’s face, trying to read the appropriate emotional response out of him and the song – and I just can’t. I need to be handed those reasons, or at least pointed down the path with something more than a facial expression.

My trip to San Francisco last week, combined with the vacation the week before, gave me a lot of time to reflect on life. Perhaps it has a bit to do with turning 25 – although on a conscious level I’m not really feeling any different. Still, I’ve come to the conclusion that there’s a lot out there that I’d still like to try; people I want to get to know better; places I want to go; things I want to see; et cetera.

So where is this going? Here’s a total swerve: over the last week, I have received two gift cards to the iTunes Music Store, totaling $30 in credit. While there are a handful of songs I plan on picking up (assorted singles I’ve been meaning to grab for a while), there is plenty of credit that I don’t have any plans for, and I’d like to remove the temptation to browse the store endlessly for music I don’t want.

This is where you come in, dear friends: I want you to force your headphones onto me and play that one song that changed your life – and I want you to tell me why.

The “rules”, if you want to call them that, are very simple:

  • You really need to pick a song that’s available on the iTunes Music Store. Despite some magic powers, I am unable to buy songs using this credit that are not there.
  • There is no limitation to who can make suggestions, but preference will be given to people I know, as is human nature. One suggestion per person, please.
  • You can submit your song and reason one of four ways: a comment on my blog proper, a comment on the LiveJournal syndicated version of the post, an email to me (remy AT the domain of my blog), or via IM if you’re so inclined. Use email or IM if your story is of a very personal nature and you’re worried about the Googlebot picking it up for all eternity.
  • No musical genre or artist is off limits, so long as you justify it.
  • Anyone who successfully tells me why a song changed their life stands a good chance of having the song enter my purchase list. Bonus points will be given if you can explain why it’ll change my life.
  • I reserve the right to politely refuse songs for whatever reason I see fit. This is an unlikely proposition as I’m trying to buy stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise, but always leave yourself an out.
  • All songs purchased will be listed and strung together as a playlist in a future day-long radio session.

I look forward to your responses.