No man is an I LAN.

Are LAN parties dead? A relic of 56K modems? Left in the dust by Steam’s handy functionality? X-Box Live supplanting the need for proximity co-op gaming? Do we sound the keening bell in lament of fond memories? Of late nights and tired eyes? Of Red Bulls and caffeine pills? Of companionship born out of necessity? All laid to rest at the altar of a new age.

Without sarcasm, I can say that LAN parties were some of the highlights of my teen years. I’d pack my bulky desktop computer and CRT screen into a large rubbermaid and bug my parents for a lift to a friend’s place. Typically their parents would be out of town. While other kids would be conducting Risky Business, we’d get hopped up on sugar and play video games until our eyes bled.

It was the natural evolution of sleep overs, but with added ixnay on the sleeping. You’d maybe catch a couple of hours if you were lucky, optimal downtime to leech video games, movies, music and anime off others. If your computer was gonna be out of use for three hours, why not let yourself recover? Much like sleepovers, LANs offered the optimal outlet for a good D&M (Deep and Meaningful chat) about who you had the hots for, typical teenage gloating and all sorts of angsty shit. Unless a game was in progress, of course.

What games? Whatever was in the nerdcore zeitgeist, in as much as we could all run it. We tended to cater to whoever had the lower spec’d rig (usually me). Starcraft was a common favourite, making sure we evenly divided skill level across teams. A few years later Warcraft 3 was Le Jeu Du Jour. We’d mess around on Heroes 3, Counterstrike (NO FUCKING AWP CAMPERS) or if I begged enough we’d give the much maligned Ricochet a try (I mainly loved the death sound). Star Wars: Jedi Knight was awesome. While we began by tearing apart one another with guns, eventually we learned how much fun it was to go HAM at one another with lightsabers and force push/pull. You could deflect bullets and turn opponents’ attacks back on themselves. Who wouldn’t want to play a recurring game of stop hitting yourself?

Aliens vs Predator 2 was possibly one of the best multiplayer experiences I ever had, primarily because one of my friends Lost His Shit Constantly. We’d play survival mode, in which we started out with one xenomorph and everyone else was human. Whenever you died, you became a xenomorph and hunted down the humans in a pack. Our friend would constantly be in a palpable state of terror, literally screaming and borderline hyperventilating. I think he enjoyed it, though clearly not as much as we did.

As we aged, contraband got folded into the equation. Someone would always have an older brother or lax parent. LAN parties continued to help us unwind, while also resembling very real parties. We’d trade silly Newgrounds videos and obscure internet phenomena. If someone was temporarily absent, we’d go through their computers in search of their hidden porn stash. Or anything else equally incriminating. There was rarely any bullying, but friendly ribbing was a mainstay. Functionally it allowed a bunch of us to spend a large block of time together without having to part ways.

I don’t know what modern experience would emulate LAN parties. Do kids these days hang out with tablets? Does Nintendo Switch fill the void? Or do they get their kicks at their respective homes all playing Overwatch? As an adult, this seems like a hard sell. People enjoy going home to their beds and pets. Friendships seem emotionally closer, but less time intensive. Would people want to spend that long in a basement, huddled around computers? Or does that remind us too much of being at work?

Because of course I’d have no skin. I don’t know how you do it.

I wouldn’t bet on any cohesion today. So with that out of the way, let’s get into it.

As a teenager I resented that I wasn’t a good enough artist to masturbate to my own sketches (oh, and if you’re reading this mum, hi!). I’d look at boobs in T-shirts and think that doesn’t seem so complicated. IT WAS. My first mistake would always be starting with circles. Silly teenager, boobs look like teardrops, not circles. There was also that thing where boobs in a tight shirt would have these three or four parallel lines. Never in my teen years (or let’s face it, still) could I figure out how those lines sat. Was it something to do with nipples? Or certain shapes of bra? No fucking idea. I didn’t even bother trying to draw labia. I’d have as much luck as if I were blindfolded sketching an Escher. I persisted with my drawings of women and consistently had no idea of proportions. I’d scribble away on little pads, pages ripped from books. Then I’d get shitty that I wasn’t better, scrunch my drawings into paper balls and aim for three-pointers into the rubbish. This was a two step process, since I was about as skilled at basketball as I was with a pencil. I’m probably lucky I couldn’t free my own porn. What reason then would I have to leave my room? Once they pried open the sticky cumwebs sealing the door, they’d see a skeleton amongst pages of lewd, oddly proportioned drawings of Cameroon Diaz. Nobody deserves to walk in on that.

Listening to The Strokes today cast my mind back to one of my university projects. We had sub ten minute mini-docos to make. Our group went with my idea to look at online gaming and the rise of virtual communities. I remember so clearly believing that I wasn’t going in with an agenda, but with the benefit of retrospection it’s easy to see just how biased I was. I think the big pull to make the video in the first place was this short montage I’d envisioned in my brain based on The Strokes’ “The Modern Age”. I had a friend who played World of Warcraft. There’d be a side shot of him sitting down at his computer, a shot from behind as he switched on the screen. There’d be an overhead shot of the CD drive opening and his hand putting in the WoW CD, a shot of the screen opening the game then one from behind of him with the title menu. Then a couple of in-game action shots.

The funny part was how little of it came together. We couldn’t get the top down shot of the CD drive that I wanted, which was my favourite part of the montage. I think we did it at some dumb angle instead. Even sillier was that the game was loaded to his computer. He only needed the CD for installation. The camera also wasn’t configured to tape screens. It recorded those horizontal lines continually scrolling down the screen. Bullheaded, I wasn’t ready to give up on my vision. We made it work and I told myself I’d shot what I’d wanted to shoot.

Then came the bias. A couple of us in the group were gamers and we clearly had an agenda. At this point, online gaming still carried a bunch of stigma. We wanted to put forth that the interaction and camaraderie within online communities helped form meaningful friendships. That while most saw these games as antisocial loner behaviour, they were anything but. We interviewed two of my friends. Our central character played a ton. He had regularly scheduled raids and a bunch of friends in game. Our other character had stopped playing a while back. Thing was, once we’d done our interviews we discovered that the guy who’d quit actually had a much healthier outlook on the game. He’d gotten out because it stopped being fun. He found that a lot of his time involved logging in to mine gold. Not super interactive or exciting, but the economy was important to his ability to play. What was the point in playing a game he didn’t enjoy? He had more than enough other ways to kill time. Our central character, on the other hand, was addicted. He’d forgo other social engagements to log in and leave his character performing mundane activities. He admitted that he wasn’t enjoying the experience as much as he used to, but that he’d sunk so much time and money into it that he felt obligated to keep playing. This really didn’t gel with our hypothesis.

So we took creative license and selectively edited the footage to make it look like the roles were reversed. We “proved” our theory by creating our own truth and in doing so, learned the most important lesson of all: You’re not wrong if it looks like you’re right.

I really thought they were getting somewhere too.

I bet Guile from Street Fighter watches Friday Night Lights. He just seems the sort. I’ve never seen the show, but it feels like it’d revolve around camaraderie, triumph against adversity, hot tempers and dealing with the foibles of youth. In my mind’s eye I can see the golden mohawk’d jock clutch a red white and blue pillow to his chest, tears streaming down his broad face.

I was eavesdropping on a group chatting on the subway. They were discussing dinner plans and spanning the world while they were at it. “Should we go for Korean or pho?” “Well they’re both good, I don’t care.” “What about pizza?” “Pizza’s great, but I had it for lunch today.” “You could eat pizza twice a day, right?” “Of course. But what about sushi? We could go for all you can eat.” “So, unlimited low quality sushi?” “Pretty much.” “We could try Captain’s Boil.” “We could.” “Is that a no?” “Well have you considered grabbing low key kebabs?” “Oooh, I could go for falafel.” “Oh wait, what about ramen?” “I had ramen on Monday.” “Have you got some once per week ramen rule?” “Nah, ramen’s the best. Except…” “Except what?” “Korean would be pretty boss.” “You’re right. Korean? Korean?” “Yep.” “Yep.” “Alright. Korean it is.”

I was sitting on the bus, waiting for it to head north. A kid (honestly, he was probably 15, but everyone younger than 20 is practically an infant to me now) sat in the empty seat beside me. His friend sat on the seat in front of him and turned sideways. I offered to switch seats with his friend so they could sit together. He said thanks. We switched. They started chatting about something. They were talking about haircuts and the guy next to me turned around. “If you’re shaving some, you’ve gotta be careful about how much. If you get it wrong you’ll look emo and everyone will start talking to you about Dashboard Confessional. Wait, are they still considered emo? I’ve never felt so out of touch.” We chatted about the evolution of emo and how much of a cultural touchstone it was in the mid 2000s. We talked music classification, deviations between emo, post-punk and post-hardcore.

We discussed our own pathways between genres and how they blended. He piped up. “You know, after listening to emo in my teens I needed something darker. I found it in the blues.” We talked blues, rock and roll and the white acculturation of black music. “You know,” he started “it’s been accepted that rock and roll was invented by black people, but people seem to forget it was Sister Rosetta Tharpe who started the whole thing. She’d play at train stations because they were the only places black people were allowed to gather. A gay black woman. White men spent generations shitting on each of those aspects and she was the trifecta. For years it was accepted that rock music was the domain of white men. Because that’s how history goes. It’s even in the name: HIStory. People argue with me and I ask if I really need to spell it out for them.” As I reached my stop and stood up, the dude asked me if I was Kiwi or Aussie. “Kiwi.” I said. “Thought so” he replied “I used to live by Timaru.” A woman on the seat in front turned around. “Oh, my dad’s a Kiwi.” I smiled and turned around as I left the bus. “Choice. Well kia ora folks.”

Don’t get all giddy on the kindness of strangers. On an earlier train some white dude yelled racial epithets at an old Asian woman until she left.

The teacher who taught us Green Day’s “Good Riddance” thought he was the coolest. He was.

I used to love singing. Absolutely adore it. In primary school I joined the choir and cherished it to bits. At the time it didn’t get a lot cooler than “In the Middle of the Night” by Billy Joel or that Friends theme by The Rembrandts. Harmonies seemed on another level. I couldn’t conceive how different melodies could blend together to create something fuller and more robust. It blew my six year old mind to pieces. I’d proudly sing in the shower or in talent contests. We had school choir concerts that I coerced my parents into attending. I was one of the few nerds that enjoyed singing assemblies, where we stood in the hall and read lyrics projected by the OHP machine. Those were the days.

Here’s the thing. Much as I loved it, I knew I was no prodigy. Don’t get me wrong, I wished I were one. I so wanted to be an amazing singer, but knew that I didn’t have the X factor. This was before the show too. I envied anyone who took to it naturally. I could carry a tune, but I couldn’t lift a crowd off their feet. I dipped my toes into choirs in intermediate and college, but lacked the commitment and drive to make the uphill climb. I still loved singing, but illusions of grandeur were far from my vision. To this day an audition for a college talent quest stands as one of my most cringeworthy experiences. My meagre range missed so many notes and I saw just how the crowd saw me. If I’d had an ego, that would’ve killed it and stabbed the corpse for good measure.

Still, I had karaoke on my side. A couple (read: not blackout, but not a safe distance off) of drinks with mates and we’d rent a karaoke room for an hour or two. I’d belt them out with impunity. We all sucked, so who cared? Fun was the goal and we were scoring big. When I came to Canada, all of my friends seemed to be musical theatre geeks. Karaoke evolved into this big public spectacle in a bar. People getting up with pre-selected songs. No longer was it about having fun goofing off, it was performative in a big way. There were crowds, for fuck’s sake. You can only see disappointment in so many faces before you walk the other way. I can safely say, it felt like being back at that talent show. It was evident that I didn’t have enough. I’ve pretty much steered clear of karaoke for the past few years, it felt that bitter and personal.

Last night I went out for karaoke with friends. We hired a room for two hours. Most people were all manner of loaded (day drinking does that). You know what? I had a fucking blast. There were no egos, just a celebration of giving it what you had. No matter who sang, no matter how it went, the fact that they’d done it was a cause for celebration. I was unsure at first. There were a few songs where I seriously contented with whether or not I’d be able to commit. Then I thought back to improv class. The instructor telling us that standing back and not participating makes everyone lose. You’re not supporting your team mates, but you’re also putting a wall between you and the activity, as if you’re too cool. Half-assing is like being worried a ship will sink and leaving pre-emptively. If you stayed behind, you would’ve been able to help with the bail out. Maybe it wouldn’t have sunk. No, I didn’t think my friends would’ve crashed and burned behind the mic without me, but why wouldn’t I yes, and… to the notion of letting my lungs loose? Make no mistake, I shredded my throat something chronic. Those muscles haven’t been stretched in some time. I did, however, remember just how much I loved singing. If I don’t do well, but have a great time, have I really lost anything?

Dignity was never high on my list of values.

I’m a long way from Tipperary.

I miss how I used to listen to music. Anyone who knows my burning hatred of physical media should understand that I’m not directly talking about the little red My First Sony Walkman I got for my 6th birthday with a “Simpsons Sing the Blues” cassette (though that was several layers of bitchin’). The way I miss music listening is on a more abstract level. I miss how personal music listening used to feel.

Music hasn’t changed, I have. The distribution methods have. Perhaps it could simply be a case of scarcity. With the advent, nay proliferation, of streaming technology there’s no reason why you wouldn’t be listening to whatever you want whenever you desire it. The sheer quantity of music is limitless. Artists’ entire discographies within a few clicks. You can go from never having heard of a musician to devouring everything they ever produced in a number of hours. The framework now gives you more music than you have time to absorb. It’s easier than ever to explore new music, but if you’re anything like me, that brings with it guilt over repeated listens in order to know a new album inside and out. I’m willing to admit this is most likely a personal rather than widespread issue. I’m not even sure it’s an issue in the first place.

At age 14 I “discovered” music listening and it awakened something in me. Imagine one day discovering that eating was something humans did and becoming instantly famished. I was ravenous and desperate. These were the days of Napster, so I begun downloading tracks like crazy. I’d latch onto bands I liked and seek out others with a similar sound. I made mix CDs with pretentious names and had them on constant rotation. I knew track orders by heart. I experimented with sculpting  ebbs and flows. Making tracks together shape moods. I got into albums, enjoying the cohesion of tracks stacked in a deliberate fashion, as to curate a listening experience. Through rote, I knew every single track by heart in order, knew all the lyrics. I devoted so much of my brain to music archiving that I’m surprised I had any room left for school work.

This issue has less to do with the availability of music than it does an economy of scale. Let’s not pretend that I committed all 60GB of my first iPod to memory. You could just as easily tie it to shifting values with age too. At 30 the social capital of encyclopedic music knowledge has plummeted, especially when we all have pocket computers. I’d kill for that earnest enthusiasm though. The excitement that came with a new album release, dissecting and analysing the song composition, lyrics, track structure. These days there are several new bands each week, plus 2018 seems to be when all my favourite 2008-2010 acts are putting out new albums. It’s not possible to keep up and the thought of doing so is so daunting that it doesn’t feel worth trying. How did I have the time? I kept up with TV shows, video games and was always on top of the freshest music. What didn’t I have in my life then that I do now?

Oh, that’s right. I was single and barely slept for most of my early 20s. That’d do it.

Time will tell as it did in the past.

March 12th 2010. Within the first couple of rows at Vector Arena rocking along to The Pixies. I mean, I was getting into it, but tepidly. According to Setlist.fm they were just finishing up their fourth track, “Manta Ray” from their Complete ‘B’ Sides collection. In short, I didn’t know it so my enthusiasm was more manufactured than authentic. Didn’t matter, I was seeing THE MOTHERFUCKING PIXIES. They finished up, we all clapped and from the stage I heard the opening chords of “Debaser”. Involuntarily, my fist launched straight into the air. Unfortunately, the fist of the dude next to me did too, but at an angle that sped straight for my watch. The strap-holder snapped and my watch fell to the ground. I picked it up, forlorn, then crammed it in my pocket and went back to having a transcendent time at THE MOTHERFUCKING PIXIES. Later in the night my boss pissed on a tree then shook my hands without washing his. Clearly karma was in full force.

I tried fixing the watch. I took it to a jewellery store who glued it all up and put a new pin in. A month or two later the pin fell out. They put another pin in. Then the watch strap-holder cracked again. I wondered whether it was worth repairing again if its destruction was inevitable, or if I should settle for a new watch? I asked a friend of mine. “What about not getting a watch?” He asked. “At this point, having a watch is a fashion decision. You work at a computer. You carry a cellphone with you everywhere. The chances of you not having the time when you need it are relegated to those moments you’re trapped on a desert island and even then you can just whip up a handy dandy sundial.”

He was right. That day I stopped wearing a watch and I’ve never looked back.

The other day my iPod Classic broke. I thought my headphones were buggered, because that’s a thing that happens with alarming regularity. I grumbled and looked for solutions. Friends chipped in with some good ones (like this glorious idea to relieve tension). Then I did the logical thing and tried a different pair of headphones. Once again, my iPod shat the bed. I think that was my third or fourth iPod. It’s the fourth to ultimately die to the same issue. The bloody headphone jack. The right audio channel on my first iPod died. My previous one had issues skipping, pausing and playing through the jack. Then after that was fixed, it suffered the same fate as my first. This most recent one has also faced the same audio channel issue. I could spend $50 to repair it. Now I need to decide what place an iPod has in my life.

The last time I was having this discussion, Spotify wasn’t a viable alternative. If I did skip the iPod for streamable music, I’d be paying $10 a month. Keep in mind I use Spotify at work and home too and enjoy the service. However, I was just about to dump it because I didn’t use it enough. There are alternative services (sadly my beloved Grooveshark is no more) I could use, but not without ads. That’d save me $120+ a year though. Not chump change. Given my shitty phone internet and limited hard drive space, if I went with the phone I’d have to rely on intentionality. I could download a few albums when I was on WiFi and listen to those until I got to another WiFi spot. The iPod on the other hand has an absurdly large catalogue that’s available at a scroll. I can switch it up without having to worry about limited inventory. Spotify does have a huge library, but I’d need to be selective, choosing what I desired for that particular day. The iPod is better for the gym and running, but I’d a) need to pay to get it fixed (with a 6 month guarantee) and remain a two device asshole (looks really dumb on the bus clutching a phone in one hand and scrolling with the other. Hands that is, not cheeks).

Do I stubbornly hold onto something that works, knowing that it’s not a viable option forever? Do I wait until technology catches up (e.g, internet speeds and phone hard drive capacity) to my needs and jump ship then? Or do I thrust my fist blindly into the air knowing that it could hurt in the short term, but work out in the long run?

Guess you’ll have to watch and see…

If I cast far enough, shit might get reel.

Sometimes a moment of clarity will just strike you from out of nowhere. Like a bolt flung from the hands (or tentacles, let’s be real here) of a deity, an epiphany. While I was voicing yesterday, somebody from the station dropped into the studio to hang out. When I came out of the booth, she introduced herself. She asked me my background and what I wanted to do. Without skipping a beat, I replied.

“I want to make podcasts.” I said. “It’s something the opposition does, but we’re really lacking behind.” Someone else chipped in “We have them.” I nodded and replied “we do have them, but the breadth of subject matter is pretty limited, which seems weird considering the vast Intellectual Properties we have access to and our company’s push for consumer engagement. If having a social media presence is so important, why not offer them cause to spend time with us while they work? Give them even more reason to engage with our brands. It’s an intimate, personal medium. Selling the idea to consumers that we’re their friends? It’s hard to buy that kind of marketing. Why not do that?” I stopped ranting. All three people in the room were quiet, nodding.

Where the fuck did that confidence come from?

I’ve had vague ideas about professionally producing podcasts before, but haven’t given it a whole lot of serious consideration. Then all of a sudden that torrent came tumbling out of my mouth. Who would pay me to do it? Where would the funds come from? Today though, I’ve been thinking about it more. Who better than a large corporation? It’s not like they’d have to invest in infrastructure. They have the equipment, the hosting. They can handle traffic and would have umpteen ways to promote it. They have on-air talent. They have content that invites both discussion and promotion. We know that there’s a market for it, given the near ubiquity of podcasting. All it needs is someone to go to bat for it.

I’ve been struggling a bit lately in multiple areas. Aside from near constant impostor syndrome (though I assume this is a universal part of the human condition), I’ve been feeling really down on myself. For years I had a fire burning, mantra of Make it Happen running through my head. I felt indomitable and pushed forward constantly. The past few years have felt like a rut professionally and I’ve started to doubt whether or not I’m a capable person. It’s been harder to get motivated and excited about things. Self-esteem has given way to recursive negative self-talk and I’ve started to stop believing that I deserve opportunities.

This past weekend was spent in the constant company of friends. A couple of them were people I’m quite close with, but most were casual acquaintances. I had an amazing time, but one thing stuck out to me. Almost universally, people there saw me as quick witted and down for anything. They assumed I took chances and opportunities, that I was creative and hard working. Good-natured, compassionate and funny. They saw me as the kind of person I want to be, a person who boldly follows their desires and makes things happen.

I feel like I used to be him. That if circumstances align, I become him again. I realised just how much I want to be as my friends see me. I want to take risks and be okay with failing. I want to put in effort because a lesson learned is the worst outcome. I want so badly to believe in myself again.

If others do, what’s stopping me?