• Weekly Update: Playing Cards and Audio Dramas

    A few months ago, a very strange man came into the furniture store we work at. He wanted to see a certain wooden sculpture we had, one that he had seen in our store years before. A carving of a log going into a machine of some sort, and coming out the other side a fully formed rolltop desk. The desk was contorted, like it was being squeezed out of a toothpaste tube. And some of the drawers could be opened! It was given to us by one of our builders and not for sale.

    I went in the back room and brought it out. This man was obsessed with it. He turned it every which way, running his hand along the edges and snapping pictures, all the while clicking his tongue. At one point I offered to sell it to him, but he declined, saying he wish he was younger and could take me up on my offer.

    Before he left, he pulled out a pocket knife and did a magic trick for me. It was kind of cringy, but also charming in it’s own way. (He came back a few weeks later, and went through the same thing with a coworker – fawning over the carving, the magic trick.)

    I wanted to know how he did the trick, so I went on YouTube. It was easy to find. I fell into a hole of watching people explain magic tricks. I noticed the deck of cards they were using were pretty cool looking. I started to look up the cards. I found a playing card sub-reddit. So many cool designs! Some were so expensive too. There’s a hype behind certain decks, limited drops, resales, artist collabs – a whole market not unlike sneakers.

    I bought some. At first I just learned some solitaire and I would play instead of going on my phone. A nice activity. (My favorite solitaire game I’ve found so far is called The Bogey.)

    Eventually I tried learning some card tricks and I’m hooked. I’m not really performing them for people (just my kids), nor do I necessarily want to, but it’s really fun to learn the moves and see the brilliant ways people design tricks.

    The most fun part though is just learning different moves, because they keep my hands busy while doing other things. Instead of messing with my phone, I can do some one-handed cuts, or manipulate cards around the deck, that type of thing. Then there’s the whole world of cardistry, which is just doing cool flourishes with the cards.

    In other news, I like listening to Old Time Radio shows. I decided to see if there were any new audio dramas in podcast form, and of course there are a million. I tried one that got some good buzz called “The Left-Right Game”. To be honest, I wasn’t a fan. The acting wasn’t great, the sound design was over the top, and the it didn’t have a satisfying ending. I’ll be trying more, but part of me wonders, is this a lost art? Radio dramas used to be HUGE. Like, a big portion of the country would listen to a single show. Audiences that any TV show would kill for today. They had amazing actors, sound effects, great scripts. Maybe there just isn’t many people skilled in that medium anymore. Well, I’ll try some more and report back.

    Music log:
    Acetone (90s Slowcore) Very cool band. I picked up a book about the band called Hadley Lee Lightcap and it’s pretty good so far. Discovered via the hipinion forums.
    Tiny Mouse (Comfy synth) Discovered via the Comfy Synth YouTube channel.

    Hadley Lee Lightcap
    50 Art Ideas You Really Need To Know

  • Weekly Update

    This week has had some ups and downs. I went to the guitar store by myself, which is a rare thing. I played a ton of guitars. I’m finding lately I’m paying attention more to details, in everything in life. It’s very nice, life is richer, brighter, colors more vivid. It being spring helps! Anyways, I’m noticing more details about the guitars I was trying. Bottom line is, my Jazzmaster is still my #1. I found two very good value guitars that played amazingly. The J Mascis Jazzmaster, and the Sterling Cutlass. I’m noticing things like the contours of the guitar, the knob placement, etc.

    I also bought a new reverb pedal, the humble RV-6. It’s replacing my Neunaber Immerse. I’ve always relied too heavily on reviews, what other people say, and not on my own ears and experiences. So I’m trusting my ears. The Immerse is touted online as a very high quality pedal. But it didn’t hit my ears quite right, especially with my bright jazzmaster. Also, the way it turned down the dry signal as you turned the mix up was not what I wanted. So the RV-6 keeps the dry signal intact as you turn up, and all the reverbs on it are very nice and usable. I hooked it up with a Saturnworks expression so I can toggle between two sounds. It’s perfect so far. I also put a DS-1 on my board for lead tone. It’s a pedal that’s made fun of, but it is so good as a lead tone. I have the distortion all the way down.

    After the music store I met my family at the zoo to watch the eclipse. It was so incredible! It was fun with all the people around getting excited about it. I was hoping the animals would go crazy but they didn’t care.

    My job is winding down, and my future is uncertain. I’m plugging away at school to get my degree which I never got. I just won an award for a paper I wrote, which was a really great feeling!

    Music log:
    7038634357 – Discovered: I bought a book at the bookstore, by Blank Forms, and I checked out their website and they put out records, including this.

    Fallin’ in Love – Hamilton & Joe Frank & Reynolds (1975) – 70s soft rock – Discovered through Operator Radio (they played a version from a very dirty 45 that sounded so good!)

    I started a radio from the above song and found/rediscovered two 70s songs that rip. Jazzman by Carole King and Sail On, Sailor by The Beach Boys.

    Book log:
    Reading The Charisma Myth. So far so good. Like a lot of self-help books, it’s very padded out. It’s a book that could probably be 100 pages. But I’m enjoying it. Charisma is very important in our lives and any help there is useful!

  • Weekly Update

    My favorite incense

    I love incense. I used to burn it a lot as a teenager but haven’t since. I was outside one day last summer and smelled incense coming out of someone’s bedroom window and it took me back.

    I went to the health food store and did some smelling of their extensive incense collection. They had the standard scents, but one scent was named Barack Obama. I bought it because it was funny (not because I like Obama, I’m an anarchist) and it’s become one of my favorites.

    I tried a few different incense holders and none of them could contain the ash and my desk would get all ashy. I finally found a suggestion on the WWW, use a bowl full of sand.

    I had to have the perfect bowl for my desk, so I started looking online. Then I remembered I already had the perfect bowl. My wife got me a pottery class for my birthday one year and we made bowls on a pottery wheel. It’s not a good looking bowl really but it’s a nice reminder of a wonderful date.

    Where do you get sand? All the beaches here are rocky. I thought about going to a playground and stealing some from a sandbox but decided that was outside my comfort zone. Also all that sand out in the real world is dirty and I didn’t want that in my desk. I guess I’d have to filter it though a screen or something to get it nice and clean. This is all a lot of work.

    Michael’s sells sand! They have a lot of different colors. I ended up going with original. Now I have a nice incense holder.

    Some sand from a volleyball court

    Music I’ve been listening to:

    Johnny Brunette and the Rock ‘n Roll Trio (1956) Great rockabilly/early rock and roll. Some say better than Elvis’ debut. Discovered through…it was saved on my YT Music.

    The Breeders – Title TK (2002) I never got too much into The Breeders, and completely missed this album at the time. I heard “Off You” come up on a YT Music radio station and was blown away. This is a really cool, weird album and I feel like it’s time for culture to rediscover this. I feel like it’s surprisingly modern. Discovered through a radio station started from the artist Dirty Beaches on YTMusic.

    Yussef Dayes An AMAZING jazz drummer from the currently on-fire London scene. I’ve been working my way through his discography. Black Classical Music (2023) gets a lot of love. So far my favorite has been the live album Welcome to the Hills (2020) Discovered through r/jazz

    Cindy Lee – Diamond Jubilee (2024) Hypogenic pop, long, a lot to digest but I’m loving the sounds on here. Discovered through places

    I watch a lot of old Disney shorts with my kids. The kids love them! They hold up even though some of them are approaching 100 years old now. Walt Disney knew what he was doing. Here’s a good one I saw this week:

    A cool Disney short called “Bumble Boogie”
  • Comic

  • Weekly Update

    I got an arcade stick this week for playing Shoot Em Ups! It’s super fun to play, and I think it’s increasing my skill a little.

    I’ve been having a good time putting on Gyruss in MAME with unlimited lives and listening to music. It’s just a nice vibe. I’m starting to think I prefer games with a black background. They seem more cozy at night? I may start a collection on here of good games with a black background.

    I haven’t found too much new music this week, which is rare. But I’m digging Big Earth Energy by Cool Maritime.

    Now I’m at an all inclusive resort this weekend. I’ve never been to one before. It’s pretty crazy! I’m relaxing a lot, although part of me feels like I shouldn’t be here. I feel like I’m have more in common with the workers than the other people staying here. It’s nice though – all the loud extroverted party people stay at the pool in the back, and the quiet introverts stay at the pool in the front. It’s funny how life is always self-sorting like this.

    As I was floating around the lazy river, reflecting, I was struck with a thought. This resort is very fake and manufactored, in a way to maximize human relaxation. The plants and palm trees are real – it’s not as fake as say, Disney World, but through the foilage weaves a “lazy river” pool. It invokes the feeling of floating through a jungle river, but I don’t have to worry about crocodiles or anything like that. It’s completly safe.

    It brings to mind something I’ve been thinking about lately. There’s a lot of talk about how much technology is ruining our lives and society. How we need to get back to some past ideal – put down the smart phone and pick up a book. I’ve been very much in this space for the past year – trying to limit my phone use, being descerning with what tech I engage with. I mostly agree, a lot about technology is bad for society. But Gosh, is it also really really good for a lot of things! I’m enjoying being able to relax in the lazy river without piranhas eating my toes, a product of human ingenuity and progress!

    I think too about how quickly I can get into a relaxing flow state with a video game – having a rough day and being able to turn off my mind in 30 seconds is quite incredible!

    I was chatting about all this with ChatGPT and we started to combine it with other topics, mainly God and evolution. I said, let’s assume God is real. Let’s assume evolution is real. Many people think humans were created whole – that the ideal way to live is maybe growing our own food, living in tribes, etc. Even people who don’t believe in God think like this. That we may have  levolved a certain way and technology is disrupting it.

    But what if we’re still evolving and what if this is part of God’s design? If there is a God and evolution is real, then evolving is part of God’s plan for us and we are evolving toward our true potential as a species. Maybe technology factors into this. A way to refine our being and reach out true potential  – like being able to relax quickly.

    ChatGPT informed me that these are not new ideas. It recommended that I read
    Pierre Telihard de Chardin. Also Ilia Delio. A corisory look into these thinkers shows me I have a lot of reading to do!

    I don’t necessarily believe all of this. It’s just fun to think about such things.

  • Weekly Update

    This week: I beat Kalikan on Pico-8. I didn’t have much free time this week, but I spent all of it on this game. It’s opened my eyes to a few different things…

    I really love Shoot ‘Em Ups. They’re what I’ve been looking for in gaming. I haven’t been gaming hardly at all lately. I don’t really have much time these days. Shoot ‘Em Ups are pick up and play – you can do just a few quick sessions. They’re delightfully retro – they can trace their lineage back to Space Invaders, the game that kicked off the golden age of video games. Even newly made Shoot ‘Em Ups have a retro feel.

    Even though they’re easy to pick up, they’re often very challenging. You die. A lot. But it’s a good feeling to experience incremental progress. It puts me into a flow state.

    From here: The term “flow state” describes a mental state in which a person is completely focused on a single task or activity. They are directing all of their attention toward the task, and they do not experience many thoughts about themselves or their performance. Some people refer to this informally as being “in the zone.”

    Tasks that tend to encourage a state of flow often share similar characteristics. These tasks may be: challenging, but not so much that they are impossible. rewarding, meaning that a person gets a sense of pleasure or purpose from doing it. in-depth, involving an investment of some time or energy to make progress.

    It’s nice to shut my brain off but be focused, and have fun. After I beat Kalikan, I’ve been looking at a few other Shoot ‘Em Ups to go to next. DoDonPachi is a popular game in the genre. I really like it. I rotated my monitor so it’s vertical.

    I’ve also been trying out some TurboGrafx 16/PC Engine Shoot ‘Em Ups, as the TG16 is home to a lot in the genre. I spent a little time with Final Soldier and I loved the vibe. I’ll probably be coming back to this. I want to explore more TG16 games – it’s an interesting system. It’s like a souped up NES. The graphics are really nice!

    I also have been playing a lot of Gyruss this week. I remember playing it at a hotel a lot on a vacation when I was a kid. I couldn’t remember the name, so I described it to ChatGPT and found it. I also got my screen rotated for this. This one has been fun to just put on and listen to music and chill out.

    I was using my Switch gamepad but I read that the analog stick is bad for Shoot ‘Em Ups. I switched to my SNES controller. The Internet was right! A good D-Pad is much better. I’m hoping to get an arcade stick soon.

    Music for this week:
    Uncle Skeleton
    Omni Gardens
    I’ve also been listening a lot to PsyTrance. I go in and out of EDM. All the subgenres are confusing. I’ve been trying to make note of the subgenres I like, so I’m starting the list with PsyTrance. I’ve just been finding mixes on YouTube and Soundcloud. Are DJ mixes the way to go when listening to EDM? It seems like it. I like it better than listening to an EDM album.

    Other listening:
    Northwoods Baseball Sleep Radio A “sleep” podcast that’s a fake baseball game. Very enjoyable for background music.
    Hanging Out With Audiophiles A podcast interviewing musicians and going deep into making music. I’ve only listened to half an episode so far but it seems right up my ally.

    This week so super super busy, which has been hard because I’m a low energy person. But I think I’m appreciating winter more these days. I guess it helps that it’s been a mild winter. It’s been nice and cozy though. I even bought a hoodie for the first time in my adult life to help me be cozy!

    I also started a 2024 Moodboard. Maybe it’s just a winter moodboard. Who knows.

  • Music Log

    The Golden Age of American Rock ‘n’ Roll Volume x

    Letting Up Despite Great Faults

  • Arcade Marquees I Would Like To Have

    Maybe they would make a nice decoration, as I don’t have room or the money for the actual arcade game.

    Operation Wolf – this was at my local bowling alley and I was obsessed with it. I don’t know if I ever even played it! I would just watch it. They also had it for NES and it worked with the light gun and I always wanted it but never got it. This has cool comic book style art, although it’s a little scary for me to look at every day.

    Rampage: This was also at my local bowling alley. I do remember playing it. I think maybe someone left a credit in it? I think my friend had it for NES. This marquee looks really cool!

    aGyruss: I had trouble remembering this game for awhile but found it through some googling. I went on a trip with my family, who knows where, and they had this in the hotel arcade. I was a bit older, so I had my own money and a lot of quarters. I played this a ton and got pretty good at it. It was a good memory. I only played it that one time, until I tried the ROM on my computer.

    TMNT Arcade: This was a big deal when it came out. I loved playing this. The marquee is pretty cool, April is the hilghlight here.

    Ms. Pac-Man: One of my favorite games of all time. I got pretty good at it. Very common to find even these days. Love the art here, especially the hairy ghost.

    Donkey Kong Jr: I had this for NES but I always play it when I come across an arcade. I wrote in the NES manual as a kid that this was my favorite game ever.

    Paperboy: I don’t know if I played the arcade until I was an adult, but I had this on NES and loved it. The graphics of the marquee are real nice.

    Here are some other marquees that I don’t really have a connection to but I think look good:

  • Music Log

    Hania Rani

    Pink Floyd – Live at Pompeii

  • The Invisible Seal of Joy

    I had a dream the other night. In the dream I was able to see something no one else could see. In front of everyone who was naturally happy, there appeared a strip of gold leaf, floating in front of their face. I desperately wanted to know how they did it – how they were happy.

    Research has found that around 50% of a person’s happiness comes from genetics. Maybe the vision of the gold leaf I saw was an indicator of those with high genetic happiness. What if everyone could see some sort of seal of happiness on everyone else? How would life be different? Those with the seal would probably be revered. Those with the seal would probably also only reproduce with others who had the seal, producing babies genetically disposed toward high levels of happiness.

    As an aside, in one of the Harvard articles on happiness I’ve been reading, they mention going back to find what made you happy in your childhood. I’ve been having that thought lately too, as I’ve reconnected with a few things that I loved as a kid and have largely ignored as an adult. I used to love animation as a kid. Not just watching cartoons, but I was intrigued by the process behind it. I wanted to be an animator. I’ve recently started watching some animators on YouTube, and it’s brought back that childhood wonder and joy I used to feel.

    I’m going to start keeping a worksheet on things from my childhood that I want to revisit as an adult. It’s a complicated thing – I know a lot of the movies, TV shows, games I used to love simply don’t hold up. And I don’t want to be a man-child who’s obsessed with pop culture from their childhood. Overindulgence in nostalgia can be dangerous. How does one honor their past interests without getting stuck in them? What does it mean to grow and evolve in our hobbies and interests? I want to figure out the essence of what brought me to these things. What about it did I enjoy, and can I update that for my life now?

    A gif of a game from the PICO-8 fantasy console.

    For instance, yesterday I bought the PICO-8 console. If you’re not familiar, it’s a “fantasy” game console that exists as only an emulator, not actual hardware. It’s modeled after an 80s game console. There’s a very active game community for it, and new games are being released all the time. This really scratched that same itch of gaming on the NES when I was little, but in an updated form. The games are very retro, but many have modern concepts. They tend to be more “out there” then mainstream games since they’re developed by either a single person or a very small team. I don’t game much these days, but I very much have been enjoying the PICO-8 and I’ll probably stick with it as my main source of gaming.